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Photo by Jessica Bryce Young

The Billy Manes, a cocktail fit for Orlando's most devoted nightlife icon 

Billy Manes, once Orlando's most devoted nightlife icon, passed away last week. Those of us who knew him well are heartbroken, and everyone in the city is suffering the loss of the fierce fighter for justice he became.

If you knew Billy (or even if you didn't), you know he liked a cocktail or three. What you may not have known is that he was incredibly picky about what he drank. After years of being strictly a screwdriver guy, his doctor told him all that OJ was irritating his digestion. Around the same time, he tasted Van Gogh Vodka's açai-blueberry flavor and an unswerving bond of loyalty was formed, to the point that he traveled with a fifth of the stuff if he was going to be out of town for more than a couple of days.

So vodka-soda it was, no matter what else was on offer. (Billy was a true creature of habit, another trait that might surprise those who only knew his party persona.) For years I tried to tempt him with more sophisticated cocktails, mixing him Negronis and Gin Rickeys, but he'd have none of it. He would always say, "Pretty girls drink vodka soda," and since he was usually the prettiest one in the room, I always relented.

Part of me thinks I ought to have tried this blueberry-and-vodka Remix while he was still around to enjoy it, but I know what would have happened: He'd have taken a few sips to be polite and then returned to his kindred spirit. But this is what I'll raise in toast to him.

classic billy:

1 bottle Van Gogh Açai-Blueberry vodka

1 bottle seltzer


Pour a good slug of blueberry vodka into a tumbler half-filled with ice. Add seltzer until drink is the proper shade of lavender. Sip while watching HGTV, MSNBC or Lady Dynamite, and continue refilling (adjusting ratio to correct hue) until it's time for bed or the bottle is empty, whichever comes first.


3 ounces Tito's Handmade vodka

2 tablespoons blueberry jam

1/2 teaspoon Chartreuse

fizzy mineral water

lemon and sage leaf to garnish

Put the spirits and jam in a Mason jar, close tightly and shake until jam is dissolved. (We used Smiling Goat Jams' excellent blueberry-port jam.) Reopen, fill with ice cubes and top with fizzy water. Garnish with lemon wheel and sage leaf. Make it look pretty.


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