You know how people who hike the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail take trail names? My husband's trail name is The Trail Assassin, because everyone - seriously, everyone - who hikes with him thinks he's trying to kill them with his pace and route.
By contrast, I'm a super-easy-going hiker (trail name if I ever hike long distances: Uphill Both Ways). Gentle slopes, cool weather, and plenty of pauses to "admire the view" make my perfect hike. So no surprise that I enjoy armchair hiking.
This week saw us enjoying a book about hiking, some cake made for picnics, and a cocktail we scribbled "perfect beach drink" next to in the margins.
1. Picnic cake (no picnic required)
Oatmeal in a cake? I kinda thought it sounded icky, but gave this recipe from Betty Crocker a try. I like being wrong about things delicious, and I was wrong. It was delicious.
This one-pan cake comes together really easily, and it keeps well. I skip the coconut and pecans and still like it just fine. Pack it up in foil for your next hike, even if that hike is just around the neighborhood. Hey, that's hiking if you carry a backpack and pause to enjoy the view.
2. Armchair hiking
I've entertained wild fantasies about long-distance hiking with my Trail Assassin husband. So far I've never acted on these fantasties, at least in part because my husband is far too sensible to listen when I suggest it. But that doesn't keep me from enjoying stories of couples on the trail.
A Blistered Kind of Love fits the bill for summer reading: light-hearted, engaging, and adventuresome. Plenty of humor. Wispy ideas about "I could do that!" that you never actually have to implement in real life. And good to read one-handed while you eat picnic cake.
3. Perfect beach drink
You may not realize it, but trust me, you need this excuse to drink bourbon in summer. I often find brown liquor too heavy for hot weather, but this cocktail from the must-own Big Book of Bourbon Cocktails (ignore the silly name, it's a great book) managed to convince me otherwise.
We like a spicy bourbon for this one, like Pritchard's or Michter's, and we reduce the grenadine in our version below. Something higher-proof would probably work, too, but I'd steer away from the caramel-y bourbons. Is that the technical term? Let's say it is, just between us.
Who might like this? Anyone who likes mai tais or fruity beach drinks, but hates cloyingly sweet beverages that make your teeth hurt. Or if you like sweet, up the grenadine and you'll love it. Also, bourbon drinkers, Manhattan drinkers, and Boulevardier drinkers will find this one worth a try. Probably two or three tries.
Scofflaw Summer-in-a-Glass Cocktail
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce grenadine
2 dashes orange bitters
Combine everything but the orange peel in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain over ice into your glass of choice. Garnish with the peel.