May 27, 2016
Okay, I can hear many groaning at me right now – listen, yucks, just chill out. I know that Ardbeg is a super delicious Scotch. And that tomorrow, May 28, is Ardbeg Day. That’s right – it’s such a dandy Scotch distillery that it has a day named after it. Be sure to celebrate. And perhaps the best way to celebrate is by trying, slowly and reverently, the new Ardberg Dark Cove. The darkest Ardbeg ever and one that’s only being released in a limited way (as they do on Ardbeg Day), Dark Cove takes its name from the smugglers who used to utilize the caves in the rocky hills near the Ardbeg distillery – and they weren’t using said cave for makeout spots (at least not too much). It gets its signature taste from maturing the whiskey in ex-bourbon casks, and the hearts in dark sherry casks. That’s right – two cask types! And that taste: a little raisin and date and spice up front, followed by charcoal and wood, and ending in a singular savory-ness and a little coffee and toffee. Good stuff indeed, and it goes on sale tomorrow (I got a little advance sample), so get some.
But back to the groaning you’re gonna make. See, though you really should sip this solo, I couldn’t resist (this is how my mind works) using it in a cocktail. I wanted one that really let it shine, but then also had one or two other pals along, to see how it played with others. So, I went for the Thistle. An old cocktail, really a Scotch Manhattan of sorts, you often see this with equal parts sweet vermouth and Scotch. But in some old tomes, you see double the Scotch or other slightly different ratios. I’m going even farther here, to give the Dark Cove a little more space. I’m also bringing in a serious sweet vermouth to play its role (the Banquo to the Scotch’s Macbeth, except not a ghost), Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, based on a blend of Barbera and oak-aged Moscato. Amazing stuff. And this is an amazing. Try it, and stop your groaning.
2-1/4 ounces Ardbeg Dark Cove
3/4 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add it all, except the twist.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
PS: Yeah, this is very close to a Rob Roy. You can groan about that, too. While I’m having fun drinking.
May 24, 2016
Anthony Trollop and I hang out, usually over some port. It’s a swell time, and as a long-time reader of this blog (which you are, right? Right?), you probable already know this, cause of past Trollope Cocktail Talks (which I know you’ve read, right? Right?), and my general fawning over him. I recently just re-read the first of the awesome Palliser novels, a book called Can You Forgive Her. Not the tops of that series of his (to me, the Phineas books are best), but still amazingly good. And it has this quote, which tells about how a good whiskey drink is a swell mood-changer.
And when he got to his club the waiters found him quite unmanageable about his dinner, which he ate alone, rejecting all proposition of companionship. But later in the evening he regained his composure over a glass of whiskey-toddy and a cigar. “She’s got her own money,” he said to himself, “and what does it matter? I don’t suppose she’ll marry her cousin. I don’t think she’s fool enough for that. And after all she’ll probably make it up again with John Grey.” And in this way he determined that he might let this annoyance run off him, and that he need not as a father take the trouble of any interference.
–Can You Forgive Her, Anthony Trollope
May 20, 2016
I’m not usually a sugar-on-the-rim guy, or a salt, or any of that jazz. Unless it’s done really well. Which it sometimes is! So now I’m contradicting myself. But also sometimes it’s done poorly, with the spice in question all on the inside of the glass and overwhelming the drink’s flavors, instead of complementing them. But once in a while, I do go that route, especially when I’m making a drink that suggests it where the drink is also from Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion, my favorite book published in 1941. And if that wasn’t enough, this has a fantastic name. If you can name a drink this swell-ly, then let me know about it, and I will make one of these for you. Really!
Mrs. Solomon Wears Slacks
2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1. Put a good helping of sugar (but not a mound or anything) on a saucer. Wet the outside rim of a Champagne flute (I used a lemon slice, but you could also rotate it through water on a saucer–just don’t get any water in the glass). Carefully rotate the outside rim of the glass through the sugar–but you don’t want to get any sugar on the inside. No, no, not a grain. So, be careful.
2. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the brandy, curaçao, and bitters. Stir well.
3. Strain the mix into the flute. Slack up.
May 17, 2016
Seattle’s swell Italian spot Artusi is always worth a stop (especially if you’re missing Italy like I am), and recently I stopped in to chat with amiable bar manager Connor O’Brien and to taste up the Carreras Cocktail, which has a lovely taste and globe-trotting pedigree. And then I got to write about it for Seattle magazine. I’m lucky indeed – but you can read it and feel lucky, too.
*See all Seattle magazine pieces by me
May 13, 2016
This drink has one of the truly adorable classic-y drink monikers in my humble opinioning. Well, the original does, meaning Maiden’s Blush, the first. That coy cocktail (if you don’t know) features gin, orange curacao, grenadine, and lemon juice, and is a mixture surely fit for most maiden’s a-blushing. Which may be all, as I think maidens and young ladies (and perhaps not-as-young) do blush a little, even in these rough-and-tumble days. However, my lords and ladies and maidens and non-maidens, today we are sipping on, and blushing about, the lesser-known Maiden’s Blush #2. Actually, I think the name is just as good, as it calls to mind that second maiden, the one that’s a tad overlooked at first, because she’s a bit bookish, and not so la-de-da, and she wears her hair back, and her gown isn’t cut up the thigh, and she has a pair of cat’s eye glasses on. I sorta like her. And I like this drink, though admittedly it’s not for all, due to the decent-sized dollop of Pernod in it, alongside the gin and grenadine. It works, though, if you sway towards things like Pernod, as long as you use decent (and by that I mean: homemade) grenadine, which has a tangy berry-ness that balances everything. If all that wasn’t enough, the famous Harry Craddock (famous in an early-19th-century-bar-star way, plus the author of the Savoy Cocktail Book) said about this drink, “on the principle that if you first don’t succeed, cry, cry again.”
Maiden’s Blush #2
1-1/2 ounces gin (I say use Seattle Distilling Company gin)
1 ounce Pernod
3/4 ounces homemade grenadine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Begin the blushing.
May 10, 2016
I recently had a fun time learning about and drinking up Chinese spirit (and most consumed spirit in the world) Baijiu, at swell Seattle bar Lionhead – and got to write about it for Seattle magazine! I had it solo from a number of brands, and in a refreshingly layered drink called the Jade Pagoda, all courtesy of friendly bar manager Veronika Groth. Expand your baijiu knowledge by checking out the article.
*See all Seattle magazine pieces by me
May 6, 2016
Hey, the Kentucky Derby is tomorrow! I’m guessing you have your hat and outfit picked out, and that you’ve slaved over the list of horses racing in the big race, and are ready to make your pick, place your bets, show off your hat, and eat your Derby pie. But do you have the right Mint Julep makings ready? I sure do, cause that’s what I’ll be having tomorrow. And this year, I’ll be using Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon in it, and feeling pretty awesome about the idea (I did get a bottle in the mail – don’t be jealous). It’s a fine, fine sipping whiskey, with some rich, smooth flavors and aromas: fruits, spices, hints of maple syrup. I nearly feel bad about having it in a drink! Except that it makes such a darn good julep!
Four Roses also has a good story – and every drink is better with a good story. It starts with founder Paul Jones, Jr., who was enthralled by a particularly beautiful Southern girl, and so sent her a proposal of marriage. She replied that if her answer to him was yes, he’d be able to tell because she’d be adorned with a corsage of roses at an upcoming ball. She showed up with a corsage of four red roses, and his love for her was so great, he named his whiskey after those roses. Add telling that story to your Derby traditions!
1 ounce simple syrup
Fresh mint leaves (4 or 5)
3 ounces Four Roses single barrel bourbon
Fresh mint sprig for garnish
1. Take one mint leaf and rub it over the inside of a metal julep cup (if you have one) or a highball glass. Be sure the mint touches each inch of the glasses inside. Drop the leaf in the glass when done.
2. Add the remaining mint leaves and the simple syrup to the glass. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the leaves and syrup. You want to be strong, but respectful.
3. Fill the glass halfway with crushed ice. Add the bourbon. Stir until the glass gets chilly.
4. Fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice. Stir once. Garnish with a mint sprig.
A Note: To be traditional, you must crush the ice in a cloth bag. But if this is too much work, just start with crushed or cracked ice.
A Quote: “A Mint Julep is not the process of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients, and a proper appreciation of the occasion.” –S.B. Buckner, Jr. in a letter to General Connor, 1937.