July 28, 2015
I have to admit; sometime I pick up pulps and pocket books for the covers – or the titles. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes not so good. But I just can’t resist! Such is the case with this little upstate New York thriller/mystery. I mean, it’s called The Groom Lay Dead! It all revolves around the killing of a rich jerk, which I’m sorta good with, too, and there’s a fair amount of imbibing – and the first murder (there is never just one) takes place in a winery! Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover.
It was dark when we came out of the tavern and I drove along until, somewhere beyond the two lakes we’d passed, I noticed a place on the side of the road that had a neon sign. When I saw it said: Wines and Liquors, I turned in.
Linda didn’t offer a thing. She got out of the car and we went into this place. There was a small bar and booths along one wall and at the end, a tiny dance floor and a big juke box. There were three men at the bar and about a third of the booths were occupied. I ordered two Old Fashioneds at the bar and carried them over to the table Linda had picked.
— George Harmon Coxe, The Groom Lay Dead
July 24, 2015
I decided I needed a break from summer cocktails – even though it’s still sweaty time here in Seattle. But even during these sweaty times, some days, darnit, I’m not feeling bubbly. Say it’s the job (it’s the job), or just the first song I listened to today, or that malaise that creeps in like weeds on even the most jolly of us (I am the most jolly), but even in cut-off wearing summer, there are days like this, days when you need something that’s packs more umph, and delivers a respite to the world and the woes. For me, today, it’s the Oriental.
If you haven’t heard me mention it before (as I’ve written about this drink in a couple spots), I originally found the Oriental in the classic Savoy Cocktail Book, and love the drink’s balance, underlying strength, and story. Which goes, as said in that same book, like this:
In August, 1924, an American engineer nearly died of fever in the Philippines and only the extraordinary devotion of Doctor B. saved his life. As an act of gratitude, the engineer gave Doctor B. the recipe of this cocktail (the Oriental).
So, it’s a lifesaving drink – as well as a bad day saver. Get in front of a fan, forget about all the sunshine, laughter, and summertime kicks outside the window, and start sipping.
1-1/2 ounce rye (Woodinville’s nice)
3/4 ounces sweet vermouth (I used Punt e’ Mes)
3/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker half way full with cracked ice. Add everything. Shake well (as Rick reminds us in the comments below).
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass.
July 21, 2015
From personal experience, I can say that never has there been a more accurate title. Hah! Having never actually committed a murder, I’m actually not super sure about that, really. But what I have done is read a lot of Cornell Woolrich, the master of the darker side of the noir world of the middle of the last century. I’ve had some Cornell Cocktail Talking before, here on the Spiked Punch, but when I find new books of his I haven’t read, I always want more. More! And recently I found a collection called Four Novellas of Fear containing some of his moodily awesome work, including one called, as you might expect by now, Murder Always Gathers Momentum. It’s a bit grim, but so well-paced, and so wonderfully inevitable. And it calls out a classic whiskey brand, too.
Paine fought down the flux of panic, the ultimate result of which he’d already seen twice now. Any minute someone might come in from the street. Someone sober. “All right,” he breathed heavily, “hurry up, what’ll it be?”
“Thass more like it; now you’re being a reg’lar guy.” The drunk released him and he went around behind the bar. “Never anything but good ole Four Roses for mine truly –“
Paine snatched a bottle at random from the shelf, handed it over bodily.
– Cornell Woolrich, Murder Always Gathers Momentum
July 17, 2015
The Princess (created by my wife, Princess Nat) is one of my favorite summer drinks. It clicks all the hot weather boxes: super easy to make, super refreshing, super tasty. Just super. I suggest having one right now, if your locale has temperatures that have risen above, say, 75. Make a bunch, have some friends over, and kick up yer summertime heels. Just don’t forget the suntan lotion. Oh, wait, one thing! Originally, and usually, the Princess has raspberries, but as you’ll see in the below picture, today I’m making it with blueberries. Because they looked better than the raspberries! Hence the Princess B moniker. You can go either way and be assured of loving this drink. Trust me, friends, trust me.
The Princess B (using the recipe from Good Spirits)
1-1/2 ounces limoncello
5 or 6 fresh blueberries
Chilled club soda
1. Fill a Collins glass (or another glass – don’t sweat about it, just adjust the amount of limoncello if needed. You’ll know) three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the limoncello.
2. Fill the glass to about a half-inch from the top with the club soda. Add the fresh blueberries. Stir slowly, but with purpose. Don’t be afraid (actually you’re encouraged) to bust up the berries a little. You want to stir until every ingredient is well combined.
July 14, 2015
Hey, I think everyone in the world knows this, but if you’re one of the few that don’t, well, I am here to tell you – I love me some Anthony Trollope. I wonder where I rank, now that I’m pondering the whole thing, on the world’s list of Anthony Trollope fans. I’ll bet I’m in the top 100! Really! I’ve read nearly everything (and that’s saying something, cause he was one prolific mid-1800s English writer) and many things twice. I’ve read so much Trollope I’m amazed when I find one of the few books I’ve missed. Amazed and happy, as when I picked up John Caldigate recently. Most of those I haven’t read aren’t considered “major” Trollope works (whatever that means), but damn, I believe John Caligate should get some consideration. One of the more epic Trollope’s I’ve read, it has a huge cast of characters, a sea voyage, some time spent in the Australian gold mines, a bigamy trial, and lots of the English countryside-ing that Trollope is so known for. I loved it. And not just because of the below quote, which describes how a certain farmer drinks his wine.
Then the tray was brought in with wine, and everybody drank everybody’s health, and there was another shaking of hands all round. Mr. Purvidge, it was observed, drank the health of every separate member of the family in a separate bumper, pressing the edge of the glass securely to his lips, and then sending the whole contents down his throat at one throw with a chunk from his little finger.
– Anthony Trollop, John Caldigate
July 10, 2015
Hey, remember a week ago, when I had a special summertime cocktail featuring Amaro Lucano? The drink was called Good Luck In Pisticci, and was pretty darn amazing (if I can say such without being called someone-who-pats-themselves-excessively-on-the-back). If you missed that post, somehow, go back and read it now. It has lots of info about the particular amari called Lucano, and more. Go on, go read it. Okay, now back to this post, where I’m not going to say anything except that I ended up making two special summertime cocktails with Lucano, and this is the second. It’s also a wine cocktail, for those who understand that wine cocktails are awesome. But enough of this – make the below and be happy.
2 ounces dry red wine (I used Terragoni, from Donini, my favorite Italian winemaker)
1 ounce Amaro Lucano
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur (from right here in WA)
3 ounces chilled club soda
Fresh blackberries, for garnish
1. Fill a goblet or other awesome glass (a highball works) three quarters full with ice cubes.
2. Add the wine, Lucano, and Sidetrack Blackberry. Stir briefly.
3. Add the club soda and a few fresh blackberries. Stir again, briefly. Enjoy the sunshine.
PS: The name of this means “off track” in Italian, a reference both to the fine folks at Sidetrack, and the fine Italian ingredients in this.
July 3, 2015
I’ve been lucky in life, in that I’ve had a fairly large share of amari (the Italian digestif of herbally goodness everyone loves now), and been a fan for a while, and have brought a couple neat obscure ones back from Italy. I feel like I’m bragging – please don’t throw a tin can at me! Here’s one thing that will balance it out. I haven’t had a bottle of Amaro Lucano in the house before! Before now, that is (hah)! I’d tasted it before, and liked it, but until a bottle showed up, as they sometimes do, I hadn’t spent any real time with this particular amaro.
If you don’t know, Lucano has been around since 1894, when a well-known cookie baker (really! I love these stories) named Pasquale Vena blended up mysterious herbs and spices and boom, deliciousness. It really kicked up the fame, though, when in 1900 it became the drink of choice to ancient ruling family the House of Savoy, whose crest is on the bottle. Neat, right? The amaro is a tiny smidge to the right on the sweetness scale for amari, with a strong caramel-ness, though containing a rich bitterness as well, and nice floral, citrus, and spice accents.
Anyway, it’s the kind of thing you tend to have after dinner, and not what you think of as a summer treat. Which is why I challenged myself to make a summer drink with it – because I am like that, and because I like bitter sodas, and because what’s the world for if you don’t challenge yourself? All that! So, I paired it up with some usual and some unusual suspects, tried a little of this, and a little of that, and came up with the below. It’s effervescent, it’s got a host of herb and spice and citrus notes, and it’s darn refreshing and flavorful all at once, like a bubbly Tilt-a-While for your tongue. Try it – and then thank the Vena family. And me (well, why not?).
Good Luck In Pisticci
1-1/2 ounces gin (I used Kur gin)
3/4 ounce Amaro Lucano
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
2 dashes Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
4 ounces chilled club soda
1. Add the gin, Amaro Lucano, Grand Marnier, and Scrappy’s to a mixing glass. Stir well.
2 Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Pour the mix from step 1 into the glass over the top.
3. Top with soda water. Stir briefly. Garnish with the mint sprig.
PS: Yes, that’s a Don Ho glass! I am very lucky indeed.