Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Airmail Cocktail

Airmail Cocktail with lime garnish

A “champagne daiquiri” from the golden age of flight  

Airmail? When I heard the term, I pictured special delivery at Hogwarts. Then I remembered: Airmail used to be a big deal, back in the day.

A few decades ago (when this cocktail was invented), airmail was the most reliable way to deliver important documents quickly. Fed-X didn’t exist. Long-distance telephone did, but it was pricey (and many people didn’t have phones). Email, IM, Skype? Sorry, no interwebs then.

The Airmail Cocktail recalls an era when planes were at the technological cutting edge. Fortunately, however, no advanced technology is needed to shake up this refreshing mix of rum and champagne. And like the airmail of yore, it delivers.


Airmail Cocktail with lime garnish

Recipe: The Airmail Cocktail

The Airmail (sometimes spelled Air Mail) Cocktail contains amber rum, lime juice, honey, and champagne—or sparkling wine, which is what most of us will use (more on that in the Notes).

This is a hefty drink, both in size and alcoholic content, so it requires a good-sized glass. The usual choice is a tall (Collins) glass filled with ice. Served this way, the drink lasts a long time—making it a nice slow sipper.

Garnish is optional for this drink. Years ago, bartenders sometimes pasted an airmail stamp on the glass (hey, I’m just the messenger here). Nowadays, many people like a garnish of mint. I prefer a lime wedge—or no garnish at all.

This recipe serves one, and takes about 5 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces golden (aka “amber”) rum (see Notes)
  • ½ - 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (I prefer 1 ounce, but see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ~5 ounces champagne (or sparkling wine; see Notes)
  • lime wedge or wheel (optional)
Procedure
  1. Add the rum, lime juice, and honey to a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake for a good 30 seconds to mix the honey (if you add ice at this point, it’s harder to incorporate the honey).
  2. Now fill the cocktail shaker half-full with ice, and shake again until thoroughly chilled—20 seconds or so.
  3. Strain the drink into a tall glass filled with ice cubes or shaved ice. Top up the glass with champagne. Garnish with lime wedge, if you wish, and serve.
Airmail Cocktail with lime garnish

Notes
  • For this drink, I prefer a 2:1 ratio of rum to lime juice (i.e., 2 ounces of rum to 1 ounce of lime juice). But many people prefer a 4:1 ratio. If you’d like to try that, use just ½ ounce of lime juice.
  • Some drinkers also prefer 2 teaspoons of honey in this cocktail.
  • It can be difficult to mix honey into drinks. So if you’re planning to make this drink often, you might want to make some honey simple syrup, which is easier to incorporate: Just mix equal parts of honey and boiling water, and stir until the honey dissolves. Pour the mixture into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate it. When you mix up the drink, substitute the syrup for honey—but use twice as much as the recipe calls for (because you’ve diluted the honey with water).
  • Any decent amber or golden rum works in this drink. Barcardi is fine, but there are loads of other good amber rums out there.
  • Some people insist that the best rum for this drink is añejo (aged) rum. It’s definitely a great choice, but also an expensive one.
  • Under European law, only sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of northeastern France (and is bottled under certain conditions) can be sold as “champagne.” 
  • Champagne gets its characteristic bubbles because it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle—a technique called “méthode champenoise.” By European law, that wording can now be used only to describe sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region. Other sparkling wines made in the same way must use the nomenclature “méthode traditionnelle” or “fermented in the bottle,” or the equivalent. 
  • It’s difficult to find true champagne in the US for under $30 a bottle. But most of the decent sparkling wines made in the US (and all the cavas made in Spain) are fermented in the bottle. Many of these sparklers rival champagne in flavor. 
  • For an American sparkling wine that’s inexpensive, I suggest Korbel brut or Domaine Ste.-Michelle. Both cost in the low to mid-teens. If you can spend a bit more, Mumm’s Napa offers good value. 
  • Spanish cavas can be even less expensive, often selling in the $8 to $9 range. Cordorniu and Freixenet are two brands that can be found in most grocery stores. 
  • My favorite un-champagne in this price range is Saint-Hilaire (the full name is Saint-Hilaire, Blanquette de Limoux), which is made in a Benedictine Abbey in southwestern France. This wine actually predates champagne and is in fact France’s oldest sparkling wine. Thomas Jefferson loved it, and served it to guests when he was president. It typically costs $13 or $14 in the US (though friends tell us it can be had for $10 at Costco). 
  • Lots of options here. My advice? Drop by your local liquor store and ask the sales people what “champagne” they recommend for cocktails (in the price range you prefer). They’ll usually have several good suggestions. 
  • How this drink got its name is a mystery (as is the date when it originated). The recipe seems to have first appeared in print in the 1949 edition of Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts. But some say the cocktail actually dates back to 1919; this story says the drink was invented in Cuba, supposedly to celebrate the arrival of airmail to the island. True? I dunno. But I do know it’s delish! 
  • I’ve heard this cocktail described as a mix between a French 75 (which is gin, lemon, and champagne) and a Honey Bee (Jamaican rum, honey, and lime or lemon). 
  • The Honey Bee is actually quite similar to the Classic Daiquiri (although the Daiquiri is more often made with light rum, and simple syrup instead of honey). I like to think of the Airmail as a Champagne Daiquiri.
Airmail Cocktail with lime garnish

Happy Holiday

“This was the perfect drink to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “After all, he delivered the original airmail packages.”

“True,” I said. “And he deserves one of these after wrestling all those presents.”

“And keeping those reindeer in line,” said Mrs K R. “I bet they can get out of hand when they sip from the wassail bowl.”  

“Yeah, I suspect they steal a little nip while Santa is busy scooting down chimneys.”

“Absolutely!” said Mrs K R. “Now you know how Rudolph got that nose so bright.”

You may also enjoy reading about:
Kir Royale Cocktail
French 75 Cocktail
Seelbach Cocktail
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Bellini Cocktail
Mimosa Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

98 comments:

  1. Hey John. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family! :)

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    1. Hi Ray, thanks, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

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  2. I love these glasses! What a great cocktail, thanks John! Merry Christmas to your and your family!

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    1. Hi Kristi, isn't this nice? I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

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  3. The Airmail sounds delicious, John. So was your remembrance of airmail. I remember my mom and grandmother putting on extra postage and writing airmail on the envelope when they were sending something to relatives in California. Otherwise, the letter would have been on the train for days, apparently. Happy holidays to you and Mrs. Kitchen Riffs.

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    1. Hi Terry, airmail (mail) used to be a big deal! Thanks for the greetings, and I hope you and Marion have a wonderful holiday celebration.

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  4. I'm thinking Airmail is before my time but somehow, I vaguely remember it. I think because we had an uncle who lived in Italy which we often sent mail. I do have a few airmail stamps hanging around here. They are way cool! As is this Cocktail, John. I haven't bought my "bubbly" yet this year. I was almost thinking of skipping the whole Champagne at Midnight thing this year but, you now have me curious:) Maybe I better pick some sparkly up just in case:) Thank you so much for sharing, John. I'd love to look into the history of this drink one day. A Very Merry Christmas to You and Mrs. K.R. It has been a wonderful year getting to know both of you via the language of food:)

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    1. Hi Louise, I'd be interested to hear what history you could come up with for this. I did look into it, although not too deeply, mainly because I just wasn't finding much (which happens too frequently with cocktails). Anyway, if you like rum, this is a terrific drink! Merry Christmas to you! And isn't the language of food so much fun? ;-)

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  5. Hi John, the champagne daiquiri sounds great!!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Michael :-)

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    1. Hi Michael, it's a really great drink! Thanks for the holiday greeting, and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  6. Funny to hear some comments (above) saying that 'airmail' was before their time.' I remember when regular postage cost 2 cents (image of Jefferson on it) and airmail was 4 cents. With Christmas now over with, I'm now gearing up for New Years- I'll have to try your cocktail. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, John!

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    1. Hi Fran, I actually remember those Jefferson stamps! Don't remember 4 cent airmail stamps, although I doubt if we ever sent (or received) very much airmail at that time. Thanks for the comment, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  7. Hi John , 'The Airmail Cocktail ' sounds wonderful and a must try . Thanks to you I have lots of drinks I can serve , thanks so much for sharing . A very Merry Christmas to you and Mrs. K.R. and looking forward to visiting you all of next year , from my family to yours .... Nee :)

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    1. Hi Nee, this is a fun one! Of course I think they all are. ;-) Merry Christmas!

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  8. What a lovely looking drink and I haven't heard of it before but I've certainly heard of air mail. I remember when it was oh so important. I think we all had a lot more patience back then with regards to understanding how long it would take for a letter to get delivered and then for a reply to be air mailed back. Merry Christmas to you, John and Mrs Riffs xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, I agree our expectations were much more reasonable back then regarding how much time it took to deliver stuff. Now if it doesn't arrive immediately we get impatient! Merry Christmas!

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    1. Hi Lizzy, I hope you've had a happy, happy Christmas!

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  10. Hi John, Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

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    1. Hi Dawn, Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  11. Gorgeous glasses filled with such a delicious cocktail :D
    Delicious Christmas drink!

    Happy Holidays
    CCU

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    1. Hi Uru, isn't this nice? And so appropriate for you with all your recent (and forthcoming!) travels. Happy Holidays to you!

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  12. Smile. This is the perfect drink to leave for Santa...and for Santa's helpers too :)

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    1. Hi Monet, Santa appreciates a nice drink now and again. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Happy Holidays John. The conversation between Mrs KR and you is so funny! If Santa did sip this Airmail, he'd have a hangover today! Thanks for this gorgeous drink!

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    1. Hi Yi, thanks! Those conversations are my favorite part of each post. Isn't this a nice drink - so tasty. But hefty. ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy Holidays to you.

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  14. we love how you click your every post especially cocktails...they look so glorious and party perfect...this sip is no different...beautifully pictured and sip perfect concoction,thanks for sharing :-)

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    1. Hi Kumar, thanks for those extremely kind words - I appreciate them. And of course your comment, too! Thanks.

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  15. Oooo a champagne cocktail nice, and very festive - happy holidays!

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    1. Hi Shikha, isn't this nice? We love it! Thanks for the comment, and Happy Holidays to you!

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  16. Oh you two are at it again. I'll bet Santa left you good things because you left that gorgeous cocktail. I left crackers and beer - I've been robbed!

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Hi Maureen, we're always at it! ;-) I'll bet Santa was really thirsty when he hit your place, so the beer was much appreciated! Merry Christmas!

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  17. May this Christmas marks the beginning of a wonderful year for us. Have a joyous Christmas!

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    1. Hi Candy, thanks! And I hope your holiday season is wonderful.

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  18. As always, great cocktail pictures, John! I hope you have had a great Christmas. Wishing you a happy 2014!

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    1. Hi Denise, thanks, and I hope your holiday was wonderful, too, and that next year will be terrific!

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  19. Perfect for New Years! I love using honey simple syrup!

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    1. Hi Debra, isn't honey simple syrup nice? This is great for New Year's! Thanks for the comment.

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  20. Simple syrup, part one of becoming a bartender!
    I remember this.
    Been years since I've revisited bartending.

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    1. Hi Dawn, simple syrup is always in our refrigerator! Can't make drinks without it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I have leftover champagne in the frig from yesterday. Maybe I'll give this a try to celebrate the quiet in my household after all the family celebration yesterday. It's all wonderful, but pretty exhausting. :)

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    1. Hi Kristi, leftover champagne? Is that legal? ;-) This cocktail would be a great use of that - the ice actually helps enhance the bubbles. Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Ah yes, airmail. When I lived in Italy, the only real communication with my family was by airmail because, as you said, the phone was so expensive. How times have changed! Rum was always my drink of choice but now it is forbidden on the low FODMAP diet because of its high sugar content. I am eternally sad for this.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, I used airmail too, to communicate with those back home when I lived overseas after I graduated from college. Bummer about not being able to drink rum - it has such lovely flavor, as you well know. But better to take care of yourself. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I love nice size drinks that I can linger over all night. This is another amazing cocktail from you!

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    1. Hi Laura, this drink really can last a long time - as it's delish all the way to the end! Thanks for the comment.

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  24. With all that rum and sparkling wine, I think one sip will definitely have me flying. Airmail, indeed! ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, you'll think of mail in an entirely new way! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Great cocktail recipe! always love learning of new ones!

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    1. Hi Sarah & Arkadi, this is a fun drink that most people don't know - you can surprise your friends with this! Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Hope you and Mrs. KR had a terrific Christmas! You've given me so many incredible ideas for a special New Year's cocktail!

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    1. Hi Liz, we had a wonderful Christmas, and hope you had the same! Glad to give you some ideas for New Year's drinks! Thanks for the comment.

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  27. I seem to be thirsty all of the sudden. Gorgeous drink! Thanks for the recipe.

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    1. Hi Karen, I get thirsty all the time! ;-) This really is a fun one. Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Airmail cocktail...what an interesting name and history! This is so easy to make and looks so good! I am sure, it tastes great too! John, wish you a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance! :)

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    1. Hi Purabi, it's a really nice drink. And I agree the name and history is interesting! I hope you're having a wonderful holiday season, and thanks for the comment.

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  29. What a fun post to read. Airmail Cocktail sent me thinking about Hogwarts too! Chuckle!

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    1. Hi Ansh, isn't the Hogwarts connection fun? And the drink is even better! Thanks for the comment.

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  30. I remember when we had our first phone. No one from my friends had one at home, so I had no one to call. I also remember black and white tv and just 3h of program per day. Wow, thank you for this. And for a drink idea for NYE as well.

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    1. Hi Marta, those B&W TVs were something! As was the limited broadcast schedule. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. you've been making so many cocktails lately. love this one... makes sense, since nye is around the corner. :-)

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    1. Hi Honey, this is a good one for NYE! Or for all of our friends in the Southern Hemisphere enjoying summer - this is a nice thirst quencher. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Loving this cocktail (I have fallen away from cocktails for ... well decades). This begs to be made - not just for taste - but I am from the "airmail" generation. I remember when you bought special air mail paper and envelopes because they were light-weight and cheaper to mail... I remember .... well - lets just say, a few sips of this cocktail and I will be remembering lots of things. Happy New Year! May it bring luscious things.

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    1. Hi Claudia, those gauzy airmail envelopes and pieces of paper were something, weren't they? I had forgotten about those until you mentioned them! Also that special sheet of paper that you wrote on, then folded up and it became the envelope - so important to cut down on weight for airmail in those days! And yes, this cocktail will bring back memories. Or maybe create a few. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Do you remember the familiar pattern around the edges of the red/blue airmail envelopes? Aaah, the good ol days :)
    This drink looks so refreshing, beautiful colours and photos as usual

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    1. Hi Nazneen, how could I forget that pattern?! Except,until you mentioned it, I had forgotten it! But now the memory burns bright. ;-) Thanks for the reminder, and the comment.

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  34. Although I remember air mail -- "Par Avion" -- I know nothing of Airmail cocktails. I don't recall ever tasting a cocktail of rum mixed with any kind of wine, sparkling or otherwise. This is the time of year for sparkling wines and champagne, maybe I'll get the chance to try one. Thanks for the lesson.
    I hope you shared a wonderful Christmas and wishing you both a Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi John, I'm not aware of that many cocktail that mix rum and win or champagne. It's awfully good, though, We had a great Christmas! I hope you did as well, and have a wonderful New Year! Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Un brindis exquisito para celebrar saludos y.. Feliz Año Nuevo,abrazos y abrazos.

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    1. Hi Rosita, this really is a great drink for a toast! Happy New Year to you, and thanks for the comment.

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  36. I love the frosty orange color, as well as the name. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Jeanne, the color on this is great! Thanks for the comment, and I hope you have a terrific New Year!

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  37. Boy does this look good!! Love the color! Happy new year to you!

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    1. Hi Ashley, it is really good! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

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  38. Who needs a garnish. It would just up the tariff, right? GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, LOL! Those grams do count when you send things airmail! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. The flavor combo sounds fantastic - I have to try one of these!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, it's truly a nice drink; really worth having. Thanks for the comment.

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  40. What a great story!!
    You always come up with interesting cocktails that I have never known about! I love the second image, it is so striking! Well done!!!
    ...I would love to see a pic with the airmail sticker.

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    1. Hi Julie, a picture with an airmail sticker would be fun, wouldn't it? Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  41. This sounds divine... wanna post one my way John? ;) I've never heard of an airmail cocktail but I do love the sound of the ingredients. Delicious! I am a huge fan of rum and lime, and I do happen to have some leftover champagne in my fridge after Christmas lunch... hm, I know what I'm making tonight! Thanks for the fantastic inspiration. Hope that you and your family enjoyed a gorgeous Christmas, have a very happy new year next week!!

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    1. Hi Laura, your leftover champagne will soon be gone! We had a great Christmas and hope you had the same. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

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  42. Oh I remember the days of airmail and the excitement of receiving something that had been airmailed. It was a really be deal back in the days. :) I wasn't planning on buying champagne or sparkling wine this year because neither Bobby nor I are big champagne drinkers, but I am a big fan of a sweet cocktail sipper and of rum. This cocktail is right up my alley! Thanks for the note on the honey simple syrup. I love honey with hard liquor but it's so hard to get it to dissolve completely so I've switched to agave. I'm not as crazy about the flavor, so your honey syrup is a perfect solution. Thanks! Hope you and Mrs. KR have a very Happy New Years!

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    1. Hi MJ, wasn't airmail something back in the day? It really was exciting getting something that had been airmailed. This is really a nice drink - I think you'll like it. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year to you and Bobby!

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  43. I think I would love a stamp on my glass, how fun would this drink be! I think I'd only be able to drink one of these, but it would be the most heavenly long slow sipper.. perfect for holidaying!

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    1. Hi Barbara, that stamp idea is fun, isn't it? I should try that some time! Thanks for the comment.

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  44. You make the best cocktails! HAppy New Year!

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    1. Hi Vicky and Ruth, thanks! And Happy New Year to you!

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  45. Hi John, your cocktail look really delightful and refreshing. Love the combination. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    Best regards.

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    1. Hi Amelia, this is a really fun drink - very refreshing. Thanks for the comment.

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  46. I hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas John! Thanks for sharing another fabulous cocktail with us. :)

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    1. Hi Anne, we had a great Christmas, and hope you had the same. This is such a fun drink - worth a try sometime. Thanks for the comment.

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  47. Mixing rum and champagne together never crossed my mind. A great twist to the traditional sip of champagne (of which I'm not a big fan). But this one is worth trying John!

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    1. Hi Paula, I thought the mix of rum and champagne a bit odd, too, when I first saw it, but it works wonderfully well. Really a good drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  48. Well, they serve champagne here but I think they are all fakes and most probably prossecos (or similar?). Not that I am a alcohol connoisseur, it's just I know the tricks they use for a bigger margin lol Your airmail cocktail would suit my husband, he loves mixing and drinking them =)

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    1. Hi Helene, there's a lot of good sparkling wine that's better than many true champagnes. And in this drink I use sparkling wine rather than true champagne - it's cheaper, and the flavor is still quite good. Thanks for the comment.

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  49. Now THIS sounds like a drink for me. I'm loving the rum, lime, champagne combo and the reference to days of yore when airmail was king.

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    1. Hi Amanda, this really is lovely. And perfect for the warm weather you're enjoying! Thanks for the comment.

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