April 29, 2016
It may have been eight years since I’ve sipped this particular refresher – that’s a long time and a long number of drinks. But we’ve had a bit of northwest spring heat wave lately, demanding that something effervescent like this be unveiled, and I was reading Justice Society (okay, I’m making an Hour Glass to Hour Man leap, but you get me, I know), and, well, one thing led to another. It’s a good drink, too, interesting without being affrontive. If you feel badly about Cognac-ing here, then I’d say don’t be so darn stuffy. Haha, but seriously folks, feel free to sub in a nice brandy as you will. Whatever doesn’t overheat you, friend, and whatever makes the hours pass in a lovely manner.
The Hour Glass
1 ounce Cognac
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce absinthe
Chilled club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Cognac, Cointreau, and absinthe. Stir well.
2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mixture over the ice, and then fill the glass with club soda (unless it’s a large-ish highball, then just go up three-quarters of the way).
3. Squeeze the lemon twist over the glass and drop it in.
April 26, 2016
Our final Fredric Brown cocktail talk (in this run at least) comes from a story called “The Wench Is Dead,” which was later expanded into a novel. It’s about a genial drunk (who used to be high society), and murder, of course! And mishaps, and, as you’ll see below, Manhattans. Be sure to check out Part I and Part II to expand your Brown-ing. You’ll be happy you did.
‘Let’s drink our drink and then I’ve got a room around the corner. I registered double so it’ll be safe for us to go there and talk a while.’
The bartender had mixed her Manhattan and was pouring it. I ordered a refill on my whisky-high. Why not? It was going to be my last drink for a long while. The wagon from here on in, even after I got back to Chicago for at least a few weeks, until I was sure the stuff couldn’t get me, until I was sure I could do normal social drinking without letting it start me off.
–Fredric Brown, Miss Darkness
April 22, 2016
Don’t, I tell you, don’t take the name of this drink overly seriously – if you’re not finished by midnight, it’s not like you’ll turn into a gin-y pumpkin, or a lovely stepsister, or a candle nearly burnt out. But hey, sometimes the midnight oil doesn’t need to be completely burned out, right? And really, just start earlier!
I started here with the new (if you haven’t seen my drink An Elusive Memory, and my write up on Boodles gin proper, don’t miss it. Don’t, I tell you) Boodles Mulberry Gin, which I’ve heard is the first mulberry gin to reach the shores of the U-S-A. More of a standard in Britain, mulberry gin (and of course sloe gin liqueur, a sort-of relative) is a UK standby, a little more light on its feet usually than you’d believe with some of the syrupy fruit liqueurs you may have grown up imbibing before you knew better.
Here, the Boodles Mulberry is quite delicious, made with natural mulberries and other natural things, and the end result is more dry-ish than expected, but blooming with flavor, berries, currents, and the gin’s rich botanicals. It’s nice and complex, and worth sipping over an ice cube or two all by itself. But it makes a dandy cocktail ingredient, too. You don’t need too many dancing partners (or other ingredients). No need to weigh things down if you want to make it to midnight – or beyond.
Finished By Midnight
1-1/2 ounces Boodles Mulberry gin
1 ounce La Quintinye Vermouth Royal blanc
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Mulberry gin, blanc vermouth, Pierre, and set the clock back an hour (haha, kidding). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with twist – wide if you can.
April 19, 2016
Our second Cocktail Talk from the collection Miss Darkness: The Great Short Crime Fiction of Fredric Brown comes from the story “The Jabberwocky Murders,” which does indeed have a Lewis Carroll strain running all the way through it – just as you’d expect from a literary yarn spinner. Be sure to check out Part I of our little boozy run through the book. Here, not a specific drink, but a great line about drinking and reading:
But with a bottle in my pocket and good company waiting for me there, my old tried-and-true friends in the bookcase. Reading a book is almost like listening to the man who wrote it talk. Except that you don’t have to be polite. You can take your shoes off and put your feet up on the table and drink and forget who you are.
–Fredric Brown, Miss Darkness
April 15, 2016
Some days, some nights, some mornings even, you just want a good drink, like you want to see an old friend, to just talk happily with, without getting all serious and pompous and braggy and posturing and . . . oh, all that stuff that old friends don’t usually do, but so many people do, sadly. The Negroni, now, of course is a superstar, with many variations that are boringly named (really – people, we don’t call the Negroni a Gin-icano, or a Gin Americano, etc, etc), and people all over-board and over-boorish about it. But to me it’s still comfortable like an old friend, and some days, like today, I just feel like sipping one, without all the accompanying sass.
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Orange slice, or twist – go crazy
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the three amici. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix over the glass. Garnish away. Enjoy, yo.
PS: Some people serve a Negroni up. I wouldn’t turn that down. However, I often want it over ice, the way you’ll get it in the Italian countryside.
April 12, 2016
I recently received the book Miss Darkness: The Great Short Crime Fiction of Fredric Brown. I hadn’t had any experience with Mr. Brown before, which is a shame as he’s pretty darn good – smart, funny, able to write both super short stories and longer pieces, obsessed a bit with chess and Shakespeare and a few other choices things, like drinks. He also made a name for himself as a sci-fi writer (maybe even moreso) and I believe had a few movies made from his work. This collection is a monster of sorts, just in that it’s 726 pages, so hard to read on the bus (but not impossible!). A worthy monster to attack though, as it’s jam-packed with crime-noir-y goodness. And if you like circus sideshows, well, don’t miss it. I’m going to run a couple Cocktail Talk quotes from it, because Mr. Brown also enjoyed the tipples, as I’ve said. This one’s from the story “Good Night, Good Knight,” and has cocktail and bartending and acting and blackmail fun.
He got the haircut, which he needed, and the shave, which he didn’t really need — he’d shaved this morning. He bought a new white shirt and had his shoes shined and his suit pressed. He had his soul lifted with three Manhattans in a respectable bar — three, sipped slowly, and no more. And he ate — the three cherries from the Manhattans.
The back-bar mirror wasn’t smeary. It was blue glass, though, and it made him look sinister. He smiled a sinister smile at his reflection. He thought, Blackmailer. The role; play it to the hilt, throw yourself into it. And someday you’ll play Macbeth.
Should he try it on the bartender? No. He’d tried it on bartenders before.
The blue reflection in the back-bar mirror smiled at him.
–Fredric Brown, Miss Darkness
April 1, 2016
I’m pretty blessed to live in a state full of swell distilleries: big-ish ones, little-ish ones, medium-ish ones. And so many of them are doing their own, interesting bottled thing – it’s awesome! And during the course of one recent evening, I wanted to celebrate this particular WA-blessing by making myself a drink using all local booze. It wasn’t hard really (due to the many choices intimated at above), outside of narrowing it down – cause I like so many of them! Another night, it’d be completely different. This particular evening I was feeling rummy, though, and went with Skip Rock’s Belle Rose rum, the light-ish rum version, which was aged in white wine barrels, and has a nice vanilla-oaky-ness. I introduced it (hopefully not for the first time in history) to broVo spirits’ wonderful new-ish Lucky Falernum liqueur (especially good today). A lot of falernums available are a little cloying to me, but Lucky is higher-proof and more mighty than cloying, without losing its underlying ginger, lime, pineapple, star anise profile. Those two locals together is a good start, but I wanted a wild card, something to bring one more zing – I went with Salish Sea’s Hibiscus liqueur, made from Egyptian red hibiscus flowers, and carrying a lovely tangy tartness. Together, they made for a wonderful Washington evening indeed. No fooling!
The Course of the Evening
The Course of the Evening
1-1/2 ounces Skip Rock Belle Rose light rum
1 ounce broVo spirits Lucky Falernum
1/2 ounce Salish Sea Hibiscus liqueur
Orange wedge, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the trio of Washington-state delights. Stir well (I really wanted to say “just right” there).
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze the wedge over the glass, then drop it in.
March 25, 2016
Okay, let’s start with another drink – the Martini. Don’t worry, I’ll get to widows. But recently I received (poor me!) a bottle of Ransom Gin and a bottle of Ransom dry vermouth in the mail. If you don’t know (and, if so, why don’t you?), Ransom is a farm-to-glass distillery and winery in Sheridan, OR, started up by owner and distiller Tad Seestedt. With the f-to-g earlier, you can probably guess that they use local ingredients by the bucketful, including in the gin alone, hops, marionberry, coriander, fennel seeds, and chamomile all produced on the Oregon farm where the distillery is, which is fantastic. And the vermouth also features wine and brandy made on the farm, using OR ingredients, too. That’s pretty darn awesome, and means these old pals (gin and vermouth, that is), in this situation are old, old pals, down to the ground. So, when one (if you’re one like me) gets a bottle of gin and a bottle of vermouth from the same spot and sharing the same agricultural legacy, the first thing that happens is opening the bottles. Then making a Martini, of course.
Mine are made in old school style, 2-1/2 parts gin to 1/2 part vermouth, with a twist of lemon. The end result here – darn delicious. Hints of herb and spice, but with a really lovely smoothness overall. Everything, as you’d expect, plays so nicely together. Of course, me being me and all that, I couldn’t just try the Martini, I had to push the envelope beyond the obvious with a lesser-in-the-road’s-middle cocktail. And that cocktail was the Merry Widow, which I’d recently re-discovered (I can’t remember if this is where I saw it first, honestly) in a fun book from 1936 called Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes – a fine read if you can find it. Anyway, the Merry Widow lets the vermouth shine a bit more (which is good here, because the Ransom vermouth is very drinkable all alone, with an balanced herbal, citrus, combo), and also introduces just a hint of a few other players, all of whom played well. Give it a whirl, and see if you can taste that good Oregon terroir coming through. I served a round to some pals, and they all could – and thought the drink would make any widow get up and dance.
The Merry Widow
1-1/2 ounces Ransom gin
1-1/2 ounces Ransom dry vermouth
2 dashes Absinthe
2 dashes Benedictine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Now, bring that twist to the OR party.