Here's something you probably weren't aware of: when she's not being the outspoken host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow is an amateur bartender. I realized this when I decided it was high time I learn a bit more about the fine art of cocktail mixing, and found a lengthy series of videos on YouTube featuring Rachel slinging liquor behind a bar. Now, she's not a master bartender by any means, but her explanations are so clear and cogent that I found them really helpful. I'd read about twenty explanations of how to make an Old Fashioned before I saw Rachel's description, and suddenly it clicked -- duh, it's really simple. So this Late Movies is dedicated to you wannabe cocktail-heads out there. I hope these help you as much as they helped me!

Rachel lays out the basics of the Jack Rose, and gives us a little history lesson about applejack along the way. It was the original American liquor, back when we had more apples to ferment than corn-cobs!

Here's how she makes an Old Fashioned -- the original cocktail, from before cocktails were called cocktails. (Fun fact not included in this video: the cocktail was originally meant to be a hair-of-the-dog morning drink, cock-tail having something to do with cock-a-doodle-doo and waking up and all that.)

Champagne + sugar = super-bubbly fun cocktail. Not just for girls anymore!

The sidecar, one of my favorites. A close relative of the Negroni.

A brief respite from the recipes -- apparently on Rachel's show she has segments called "Cocktail Moments," though I can't really tell what they have to do with drinking (are you supposed to be drinking along with the show at home?) -- other than that RW loves cocktails.

A "perfect" cocktail, with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. (I have hated dry vermouth for years -- and recently realized this may be due to the fact that I have kept my bottle of dry vermouth in the cabinet rather than the fridge. Apparently vermouth can go bad! I fear many of us are accustomed to the taste of rancid vermouth.)

The gin sling is also a vermouth-based drink. Fun fact: a "sling," like a "fizz" and many other types of drinks, was a separate category of drink completely apart from the cocktail. Only in the 20th century did "cocktail" become a catch-all for mixed drinks.