October 25, 2016

Cocktail Talk: Nicholas Nickleby, Part IV

nich-nickWell, it did end up being a full month of Nicholas Nickleby Cocktail Talk posts! I’m sure Dickens himself would be happy, and I’m sure happy about it, and hopefully you are, too (and if this makes no sense, please read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our tour through the drinks, and drinking quotes, from Nicholas Nickleby). This final quote comes from a charmingly crazy older man who is the Nickleby family’s neighbor for a while. And while this last Nicholas Nickleby Cocktail Talk is the shortest, it contains one of my very favorite lines.

He did not appear to take the smallest notice of what Mrs. Nickleby said, but when she ceased to speak he honoured her with a long stare, and inquired if she had quite finished.
“I have nothing more to say,” replied that lady modestly. “I really cannot say anything more.”
“Very good,” said the old gentleman, raising his voice, “then bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew.”

— Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

October 21, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Italian Evening

At some point this month, I myself will be in Italy, and I can’t be happier about it (having lived there once, it’s easy to see that I am a big fan), and in a way this drink is a bubbly celebration of that happiness. Though, it’s also perhaps a more serious number (not in a bad way, at all) than some bubbly Italian drinks. Howso? It starts with grappa, which I love, and which is of course a cousin to wine, and as you probably guessed by the “bubbly,” this also has Italian sparkler Prosecco. Let’s hold on that for a second, to talk about the third ingredient, Cynar. A member of the digestif amari family, Cynar is crafted from artichokes along with 12 other herbs and plants. It’s a wee stitch bitter, but has a great smooth herbal-ness and a small comforting sweetness, too. It’s swell solo, but also in drinks, and plays well with the strong grappa here. But back to the Prosecco – to hold up to those other two strong personalities, you need a bubbly with its own strong sense of purpose and flavor, and here I went with Zonin Black edition (a bottle came in the mail recently – yes, I was born under a good sign). It’s a slightly spicier Prosecco, with cardamom hints alongside apple and a little floralness. Combined with our other two Italian imports, this makes for an effervescent drink that can be had both before and after dinner, and perhaps savored more than most.

italian-eveningThe Italian Evening

Cracked ice
1 ounce grappa
1 ounce Cynar
4 ounces chilled Zonin Black edition Prosecco
Lemon twist

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the grappa and Cynar. Stir well.

2. Strain into a flute. Top with the Prosecco. Stir to combine. Garnish with the lemon twist.

October 18, 2016

Cocktail Talk: Nicholas Nickleby, Part III

nich-nickFor our third Nicholas Nickleby Cocktail Talk (don’t miss Part I and Part II), we’re going to have a quote that starts at least with some words from one of the most fun, most jolly, but also most hard-to-read secondary characters perhaps in all of Dickens, John Browdie, the big Yorkshoreman with the serious accent to match. He likes his eating and drinking and joshing with his wife as much as anyone, as well as liking our main hero, and working to ensure he’s kept with a full glass.

With these words, John Browdie opened the door himself, and opening his eyes too to their utmost width, cried, as he clapped his hands together, and burst into a hearty roar:
‘Ecod, it be the godfeyther, it be the godfeyther! Tilly, here be Misther Nickleby. Gi’ us thee hond, mun. Coom awa’, coom awa’. In wi ‘un, doon beside the fire; tak’ a soop o’ thot. Dinnot say a word till thou’st droonk it a’! Oop wi’ it, mun. Ding! but I’m reeght glod to see thee.’
Adapting his action to his text, John dragged Nicholas into the kitchen, forced him down upon a huge settle beside a blazing fire, poured out from an enormous bottle about a quarter of a pint of spirits, thrust it into his hand, opened his mouth and threw back his head as a sign to him to drink it instantly, and stood with a broad grin of welcome overspreading his great red face like a jolly giant.

— Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

October 14, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Burst of Feeling

This is a globe-trotting flavorsome sipper, which actually uses ingredients from three different continents. Really! I think. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think I’m right, though with the teutonic shifting, well, you never know what’s changed in the many years since my geography classes. What I do know is that it’s a swell mix, thanks in large part to the addition of Bundaberg ginger beer (some of which, lucky me, showed up in the mail not too long ago. Don’t hate me cause I’m lucky). Out of Australia, Bundaberg makes a variety of tasty beverages, but is at the moment best known for its ginger beer, a n/a version made from all-natural nature-y things (roots, spices) and being a very smooth drink, with a hint of sweet and good underlying gingerness. Here, I pair it with two other flavorsome friends: Peruvian brandy Pisco, and a little Euro insertion thanks to old chum Italian aperitif Aperol. As a trio, at first glance, they may seem oddly matched, but everything brings a little this, a little that, a little of their own personality. Lots of flavor, while still being refreshing.

burst-of-feelingThe Burst of Feeling

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces pisco
1/4 ounce Aperol
Ice cubes
4 ounces Bundaberg ginger beer

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the pisco and the Aperol. Stir well.

2. Fill a smallish highball or a good-sized Old Fashioned-y glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass.

3. Top with the Bundaberg. Stir well.

October 11, 2016

Cocktail Talk: Nicholas Nickleby, Part II

nich-nickWe’re going to jump right in and continue Cocktail Talking with Mr. Charles Dickens and Nicholas Nickleby, in honor of me recently re-reading it. If you missed our Nicholas Nickleby Cocktail Talk Part I, be sure and go back to read it. For this one, we’re going to head to one of the villains of the piece, and one of the great names that Dickens is so famous for: Mr. Squeers, one of the worst headmasters (vaguely, at least) in fiction, and one who is fortifying himself with “raw spirits” in the below quote.

It’s pretty nigh the time to wait upon the old woman. From what she said last night, I suspect that if I’m to succeed at all, I shall succeed tonight; so I’ll have half a glass more, to wish myself success, and put myself in spirits. Mrs Squeers, my dear, your health!’
Leering with his one eye as if the lady to whom he drank had been actually present, Mr Squeers–in his enthusiasm, no doubt–poured out a full glass, and emptied it; and as the liquor was raw spirits, and he had applied himself to the same bottle more than once already, it is not surprising that he found himself, by this time, in an extremely cheerful state, and quite enough excited for his purpose.
What this purpose was soon appeared; for, after a few turns about the room to steady himself, he took the bottle under his arm and the glass in his hand, and blowing out the candle as if he purposed being gone some time, stole out upon the staircase, and creeping softly to a door opposite his own, tapped gently at it.

— Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

October 7, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Last Gasp of Summer

It’s only fitting to have legendary Italian favorite Campari as a core ingredient in a drink that’s all about love for those days, sometimes in September, sometimes in October, which bring a more summery-ness to fall – extra sun, an extra digit or two on the temperature, or just that feeling summer has. Why Campari? Well, Campari, if you didn’t know, is all about love. Created in the 1800s in Italy by Gaspare Campari, at first Campari was only available throughout Italy, where it became very popular. Then, Gaspare’s son Davide was born, grew up, grew to love the liqueur named after his family, and starting working at their café, the Café Campari in Milan, where he spread the legend of the liqueur. One day, when the stars where shining through the bottles filled with red in the shop, Lina Cavalieri walked through the doors. Lina was a popular opera singer, and she and Davide got along smashingly, and they started to become more than friends, if you know what I mean. Then Lina had to move to Nice, France, for an opera part. Davide was crushed, but had a light bulb moment – why not begin exporting Campari, starting with Nice? Then he would be able to bring the liqueur to those in need around the world, and also be near his lady love. That, friends, is a summer-y story, and this is a summer-y drink that’s ideal for fall (or anytime, really).

The Last Gasp of Summer

4 strawberries
3/4 ounces simple syrup
Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Campari
3 ounces chilled Prosecco (I went with Zonin Prosecco White edition here, cause of its floral fruitiness, which matches everything swell here)

1. Add 3 of your strawberries and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well, but carefully.

2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Campari. Shake well.

3. Strain through a fine strainer into an enchantingly summerlike goblet. Top with the Prosecco. Garnish with that last strawberry (put a little slice into it, so it fits cozily on the rim).

October 4, 2016

Cocktail Talk: Nicholas Nickleby, Part I

nich-nickPublished originally in 1838 (that’s when it started publication, at least, as it was a serial as many books were back then), Nicholas Nickleby hasn’t yet been featured in a Cocktail Talk post, which is a little surprising, since I’ve had a fair amount of Dickens Cocktail Talking. While it’s not my favorite Dickens, and maybe is considered second tier, that just means it’s amazing. It’s a little more romantic in a way then many Dickens books, and has a more Trollopean ending (if that makes sense), but I sorta like that. It’s a long read, too, which for many today in our rush-rush world is tough (wimps), but well worth reading, and sticking with, as it really starts to roll and then you get completely involved with our eponymous hero and his family, and enemies. But while it’s here, of course, is because like most Dickens (all, probably, would be safe) books, there’s a fair amount of times in pubs, at punch bowls, and just folks sipping this and that. Enough so that I’m planning a number of quotes from it here, maybe even the whole month! Let’s see how it goes, shall we? Dickens would be happy about it, I think (he’s probably one of the most, be-fun-to-have-a-drink-with authors throughout history). I’m going to start with one from a fair of sorts, where there’s a tent with a rouge-et-noir table with a loud barker, bringing people in to play with the promise of bubbly and more.

‘Gentlemen, we’ve port, sherry, cigars, and most excellent champagne. Here, wai-ter, bring a bottle of champagne, and let’s have a dozen or fifteen cigars here–and let’s be comfortable, gentlemen–and bring some clean glasses–any time while the ball rolls!–I lost one hundred and thirty-seven pound yesterday, gentlemen, at one roll of the ball, I did indeed!–how do you do, sir?’ (recognising some knowing gentleman without any halt or change of voice, and giving a wink so slight that it seems an accident), ‘will you take a glass of sherry, sir?–here, wai-ter! bring a clean glass, and hand the sherry to this gentleman–and hand it round, will you, waiter?–this is the rooge-a-nore from Paris, gentlemen–any time while the ball rolls!–gentlemen, make your game, and back your own opinions–it’s the rooge-a-nore from Paris– quite a new game, I brought it over myself, I did indeed–gentlemen, the ball’s a-rolling!’

— Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

September 30, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Presidential

This, oh, topical drink goes far back for me. I created it for my very first drink book, Party Drinks, way back in 2003. In hindsight, it’s really just mini-variations on about 10,000 other drinks, starting with the whiskey sour and moving forwards, sidewards, and backwards. But I still dig it, and still love calling it the Presidential cause it’s such a boon to election seasons when you sometimes need a drink with a bit of a wallop underlying strong citrus and some sweet to make everything more cuddly.

However, to do it right, you need a bourbon you believe in (hey, I also sound election-y). I had mine this time with WA-state Heritage Distillery’s Duel Barrel Bourbon (which is only available at Total Wine & More, but that store is nearly nationwide, so track it down). It’s aged in charred new American oak barrels first, then in whiskey barrels that have held small batches of pure vanilla extract. As you’d expect, it has some vanilla notes, but not annoyingly so, and also some nice spice and oak. It really mingles well with lime, which surprised me for a second (until remembering that rum, lime’s cocktail partner on many occasions, often also has vanilla happening). Here, it all comes together. Trust me!

You may find this drink helpful over the next month and so. I suggest serving it in a tennis-themed glass, as elections are sometimes, oh, tennis-y as things are batted, knocked, and hit back and forth.


The Presidential

Ice cubes
2-1/2 ounces Heritage Distilling Duel Barrel Bourbon
3/4 ounce freshly-squeeze lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup (you could easily go less if you wanted, and older me might even suggest it, however after a big presidential debate, for example, I often feel I deserve the extra sugar)
Lime slice, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, juice, and simple. Shake well.

2. Add a good amount of ice cubes, or one or two really large cubes, to an Old Fashioned glass. Strain the mix through a fine strainer over the ice. Garnish, turn off the TV, and drink happily.

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