April 9, 2021
You know (well, if you don’t, I’m about to tell you, and in some ways this is a rhetorical question just to set up the drink we’re going to have as this week’s Friday Night Cocktail) that some drinks get sadly relegated to only being had on very specific occasions – paired in a type of liquid wedlock, if you will – and not enjoyed year round. Take this drink, the Blushing Bride, whose name has led me to only suggesting it be had at weddings and wedding-related events. Which is sad, cause this delicious, multi-base-spirit drink is a treat (and a rarity, in a way, with brandy or Cognac and vodka together), with enough heft to get you through a chillier day (or a long relationship!), but enough fruitiness to make a summer day dawdle by in the best possible way, and then a cuddle of sweet that matches, well, springtime, as it is right now. So, take my advice, and have drinks you like any day of the 365, no matter if they carry a particular daily connection.
The Blushing Bride, from Dark Spirits
6 fresh raspberries
3 lime wedges
2 ounces Cognac
1 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1. Put the raspberries and 2 of the lime wedges into a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, vodka, and simple syrup. Shake very well.
3. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass through a fine strainer. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.
April 6, 2021
There is nothing quite like discovering a new book you enjoy, and when you add that it’s written by an author you haven’t yet read? Well, you get to feel a bit what the great explorers and their crews felt right before they yelled “land, ho!” approaching a new piece of earth. Let’s hope they treated the inhabitants as well as you treat said new book and author! I recently had this experience with a book called The Widows of Malabar Hill, written by Sujata Massey. Taking place in Bombay in 1921 (and, it turns out, Bombay and other spots in India in 1916), it features the city’s only female lawyer in that year, Perveen Mistry. The mystery around said widows, and a murder, and the history surrounding them and our lawyer is all well laid out, with chapters that take place in different times alternating in a way that keep character history and the main story both moving while drawing you in. All good, right? But what makes the book even better is its incredibly evocative descriptiveness of the time, the culture, the food, the streets, the smells, the religions, the laws and legal processes, the colors, the sounds, which brings a place and place in time I didn’t know much about to bubbling life. Not to mention it ends with a drink (see quote below)! I can’t wait to read more by Sujata Massey – and I suggest you do the same.
Smiling at him, she said, “I’ve just a few questions. I’ve heard this magnificent hotel was founded to allow equal hospitality to Indians and foreigners. Is that really true?
He nodded. “It most certainly is.”
“To allow male guest alcohol – but not the female guests – runs against the idea of equal hospitality, doesn’t it?
“Well, I – you don’t say, but –” He had no further words.
Five minutes later, Perveen had a frosty gin-lime in front of her, and Alice had her whiskey-soda.”
— Sujata Massey, The Widows of Malabar Hill
April 2, 2021
I must admit (or partially at least), I stole this title from Ed (the best poet in the world) Skoog. Or think I did, as I had his latest book Travelers Leaving for the City next to me when I was trying to come up with a title for a new drink I’d made, and so I picked up his book and randomly opened it up, and picked the first phrase I saw, but then my mind wandered, as it does, for a moment, and “Work By Lamplight” was what I remembered when fingers finally met keyboard.
And, you know what, it works well, as, though this tipple could be tipped earlier in the day, I feel it’s best later in the hours, after dinner. It can serve, in a way, as your after-dinner coffee and a dessert all in one glass. How, you ask? It starts with Tia Maria, a newly-designed bottle of which showed up neatly packaged on the porch recently (I know, I’m lucky!), and which reminded me of how it’s made with 100% Arabica coffee beans and Madagascar vanilla on a base of Jamaican rum, and in the popular cold brew method. That’s good, yes? Yes! It’s a touch sweet (but so am I), but the coffee-ness comes through smoothly and it melts on the tongue in a swell way. And coffee goes with more other bottled beauties than people give it credit for. Tequila, for example, which is the base for this cocktail, goes deliciously with coffee. In some ways, those two together in the right ratios might be okay all by their paired-ness, but we want better than okay, right? Right! So, in come two delights near-and-dear to all good drinker’s hearts. First up, Pierre Ferrand’s orange curaçao, which bring what you think of curaçao to another level in the same way this drink brings what you think of coffee cocktails to another level (if I may be so bold). And then, Scrappy’s Chocolate bitters, which utilizes organic toasted cacao nibs to add chocolate and herbal notes, without which the drink would feel ridiculously underdressed. And then, a mandarin orange twist, whose citrus oils cut the sweetness charmingly. Altogether, a layered number you’ll want to sip slowly as the evening turns. If you want to read poems while drinking, all the better.
Work By Lamplight
2 ounces silver tequila
3/4 ounces Tia Maria
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
Dash Scrappy’s Chocolate bitters
Mandarin orange twist
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full of cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well, but be mellow about it, cause it’s the evening.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the mandarin twist (if you only have a non-mandarin orange, that’s dandy, too).
March 30, 2021
It’s been just over two years (what a two years though!) since I last posted my only-other-so-far Cocktail Talk from Cyril Hare, the early-to-mid-last-century English writer and judge – be sure to read that When the Wind Blows Cocktail Talk to discover his real name! – who was known for his subtle humor, classic stylings, and draw-you-in-mysteries. I just picked up, as I slowly find more and more of his work, Untimely Death, which starts on a vacation to Exmoor, and picks up his sometimes-used Inspector Mallett (retired here) along the way. There evocative landscape and character description, a murder (‘natch) that isn’t solved until the last chapter, twists, turns, and memorable characters. You’ll like it! Especially if you like sherry (and surely you must), as it’s a book that should be sherry accompanied – both when reading the below quote, and the rest of the book.
“I’ve been having a chat with the Detective Inspector,” he said. “Luckily we’re on fairly good terms.” He filled three glasses with sherry and handed them round. “Inquest’s on Thursday, it seems. At Polton. Your very good healths, sir and madam.”
The sherry was of a quality to command Pettigrew’s respect, but for the moment his mind was on lower things.
“What else did he tell you?” he asked.
–Cyril Hare, Untimely Death
March 26, 2021
It’s a familiar and beloved story with an alluring gravity: you are walking by your liquor shelves (or cabinet, or bottle stash, or near-toppling table, or bar cart, or horse’s buggy, or pie safe, or wherever you choose to keep your booze) and you catch, from the corner of your eye, a little wink from a gin bottle. Wink-wink, you think you saw, and knowing how flirty gin is, you stop, and peer at the bottles (in this scenario you have more than one type of gin, which I’m sure you do), and try to decide which gin is calling you over, wink imagined or not, because by now all this gin-ing has made you thirsty for a gin drink.
Well, I am here to help, with The Earth’s Attraction, a drink I made with Bluewater’s Halcyon gin, made up this way in Everett, WA, and “distilled by open flame” as they say. It brings a layered London-style, with reliable juniper backed by citrus and spice (a little angelica, orris root, and cinnamon). Yums. It provides the gravitas and base here, with our secondary players being dry vermouth (for the botanical and lighter herbal accents), Giffard’s Crème de Pêche de Vigne (for the vineyard peachy-ness we all desire, a wee bit of sweet, and nuttiness, too), and Scrappy’s Orange bitters (because bitters makes it better – plus orange layers and deep herb and spice notes). Oh! And a twist of lemon, whose heavenly citrus oils bring it all together, like Saturn’s rings. Celestial enough? I think so!
The Earth’s Attraction
2 ounces Bluewater Halcyon gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce Giffard’s Crème de Pêche de Vigne
Dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twisty twist.
March 19, 2021
You ever wake up and think to yourself as the mists of Morpheus (hahaha, that’s deep yo) roll away from your ever-loving brain, “what I really want to do today is have a Stinger?” I’m sure you, as most, do. Because, though this might be too, oh, lace-doily-y for many at first glance (crème de menthe not having that renaissance that many liquids have been having oh these last 20 odd years), when that “many,” or most of many at least, realize the hefty shot of brandy this is based on, one hopes they take a second look, realize not every drink needs like 6 or 10 obscurities to be tasty, then follows that up with a realization that maybe some of those lace-doily lovers had a good idea of a good drink, and then these smart people make one of these, love it, and at a future date go through the morning ritual described above. At that point, the only question is: at what point in the day should you have said Stinger? And the answer is: right now, friend, right now.
The Stinger (using the recipe from Dark Spirits)
Ice cubes or cracked ice (depending on if you’re stirring or shaking, see Step 1 below)
2-1/2 ounces brandy (or Cognac, if the bottle and desire and daring is nearby)
1/2 ounce white crème de menthe
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy and crème de menthe. Stir well, or shake. Honestly, I like to stir here, in traditionally manner. But, I also think this is one drink that needs to be well-chilled. So, do what’s best.
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass. Bee-lieve it!
March 16, 2021
I have a tear in my eye, as while I could probably have a fair more Cocktail Talks from the Charlie Dickens collection of essays The Uncommercial Traveller, for now (but perhaps not forever), this will our last one. If you’ve missed any of the previous four, then be sure to read The Uncommercial Traveller Cocktail Talks Part 1, Part II, Part III, and Part IV, and while you’re in the reading mood, check out all the Dickens Cocktail Talks. Don’t read so much that your eyes tire, however, as you won’t want to miss the below quote. From one of the laugh-out-loud-ier pieces in the collection (and there are many funny scenes throughout, so that’s saying something), called “A Little Dinner in an Hour,” the below quote is just a small part of a regrettable dining experience Dickens has with his pal Bullfinch, when they are traveling for some business and decide to book a meal at a local spot that once was rumored to be worthy. But now leaves much to be desired! Ah, I wish I could have been there to watch it all unfold (if not to actually partake in it). A fine end to our Cocktail Talk tour through the book. Sherry, please!
‘It’s quite impossible to do it, gentlemen,’ murmured the waiter; ‘and the kitchen is so far off.’
‘Well, you don’t keep the house; it’s not your fault, we suppose. Bring some sherry.’
‘Waiter!’ from Mr. Indignation Cocker, with a new and burning sense of injury upon him.
The waiter, arrested on his way to our sherry, stopped short, and came back to see what was wrong now.
‘Will you look here? This is worse than before. Do you understand? Here’s yesterday’s sherry, one and eightpence, and here we are again two shillings. And what the devil does ninepence mean?’
This new portent utterly confounded the waiter. He wrung his napkin, and mutely appealed to the ceiling.
‘Waiter, fetch that sherry,’ says Bullfinch, in open wrath and revolt.
‘I want to know,’ persisted Mr. Indignation Cocker, ‘the meaning of ninepence. I want to know the meaning of sherry one and eightpence yesterday, and of here we are again two shillings. Send somebody.’
The distracted waiter got out of the room on pretext of sending somebody, and by that means got our wine. But the instant he appeared with our decanter, Mr. Indignation Cocker descended on him again.
— Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller
March 12, 2021
There are days when you want to unbury a drink from an old book or pamphlet, a drink that hasn’t been sipped for many years, and other days when you want to make up a whole new drink, one that you’ve created for your very self for the very first time, and then other days when you want to try and recreate a drink you had out (or as take-out, in currant circumstances) at a local watering hole, made by a talented drink-slinger, and then other days when you just want to have a classic Manhattan, one made with Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon. Today is that day! For me, at least, as I recently received a bottle of said Early Times bourbon – lucky me! – making it all possible. Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon has a long and interesting history, including being lost to all from I believe the 1980s until a slow re-release that started in 2017. Aged 4 years, and at 100 proof, this tipple treads an approachable path, with some umph beneath, swirling a sweetness on the nose that lingers through a citrus, caramel, vanilla flavor with spice hints popping up, and then popping up more and more through the finishing moments. Overall, just a delicious, friendly bourbon that everyone I know enjoys sipping slow as the sun goes down. But that approachability also means it’s a dandy cocktail base, too, and the Manhattan is a swell cocktail to base on it. As it has that little sweetness, I went with Punt e’ Mes as the vermouth, because it’s a little drier with beauteous bittery herbal notes – a good choice, I have to admit! And for the bitters themselves, I picked Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters, which is an ideally-balanced spice and herb bitters in a classic style, superb here.
2-1/2 ounces Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters
Cherry (I used a Rainer cherry I’d had mulling with mates in some bourbon, but a good Maraschino would work a treat, too)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Add a cherry (or two!) to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into said glass. Enjoy.