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.
June 26, 2015
Summer is now fully upon us – time to drink bubbly things. But, but, but, I feel like Scotch, and most people don’t think about Scotch and bubbly drinks together (except the Scotch and soda, which is indeed sometimes lovely in its simplicity). Which is a shame, when drinks like the Tartan Swizzle, a bubbly Scotch-y treat, are around! Don’t get stuck in your ruts, pals, especially in summer because those ruts can get sweaty, and sweaty ruts are the worst. The worst. Anywho, I picked up this recipe from my old pal Jeremy Holt, a fine man and a fine drinker. He’s introduced me to loads of swell drinks over the years, and this is certainly on the list, and also certainly a swell summer sipper. Try it, and test me out!
The Tartan Swizzle, using the recipe from Dark Spirits
2 ounces Scotch (Jeremy suggests something like Dewar’s, J&B, Cutty Sark)
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Chilled club soda
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Scotch, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Fill a Collins glass or the like three-quarters full with crushed ice. Stir the ice briefly to chill the glass, then strain the mixture from the shaker over the ice.
3. Fill the glass almost to the top with club soda. Stir a bit, to get a little frothiness.
June 23, 2015
Hah! I told you there’d be three Cocktail Talk posts from Dashiell Hammett’s hard-hard-boiled book Red Harvest, and now we’re up to the third (and really, I could do more!). If you’ve missed Red Harvest Part I or Part II, then go catch up if you know what’s good for you. But don’t miss this one! Where a few of the key characters in the book sip on Martinis – in the way they probably did at the time the book takes place, meaning they have some orange bitters in the mix. Which is delicious!
When I came back she was mixing gin, vermouth and orange bitters in a quart shaker, not leaving a lot of space for them to move around in.
“Did you see anything?” she asked.
I sneered at her in a friendly way. We carried the cocktails into the dining room and played bottoms-up while the meal cooked. The drinks cheered her a lot. By the time we say down to the food she had almost forgotten her fright. She wasn’t a very good cook, but we ate as if she were.
We put a couple of gin-gingerales in on top of the dinner.
–Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
June 19, 2015
I found this Scottish affair in an excellent little bound book called A Guide to Pink Elephants, Volume II (Richards Rosen Associates, 1957). It’s fairly close to a few drinks that are perhaps more famous – the Rob Roy of course, which has Angostura bitters instead of orange bitters, and a slightly different vermouth to Scotch ratio. As well as the Bobby Burns, though a little farther afield in cousinhood. But the taste here, because of those differences, is slightly sweeter and with a different bitter-and-herbal-y hint. It may seem an odd one during June, but, hey, I’m an odd one! I like a strong drink in summer sometimes, as well as the bubbly refreshing ones. Also, having a drink I found in a book with pink elephants in the title is never bad. Never.
The Highland Fling
2 ounces Scotch
1 ounces sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Scotch, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass.
June 16, 2015
Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest is a pummeling of a book, where the fists, bullets, and drinks are flying (read more in the Red Harvest Part I Cocktail Talk post). Because of this, I sure couldn’t have just one post – so here’s the second (and I think they’ll be one more)! This one’s one of my favorite quotes of the moment, and maybe one of the really swell lesser-quoted quotes about being tipsy. Or at least part of it is – see what you think, and if you can guess what part!
“All right, Mr. Knowitall,” she said, “I’m going to play with you. You can think it’s not going to cost you anything, but I’ll get mine before we’re through. You think I won’t?” she challenged me, peering at me as if I were a block away.
This was no time to revive the money argument, so I said: “I hope you do.” I think I said it three or four times, quite earnestly.
“I will. Now listen to me. You’re drunk, and I’m drunk, and I’m just exactly drunk enough to tell you anything you want to know. That’s the kind of girl I am. If I like a person I’ll tell them anything they want to know. Just ask me. Go ahead, ask me.”
–Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest
June 12, 2015
During the summer months (and really, even though we’re not officially in summer, let’s call it summer, okay? June feels like summer to me. Go with it), it’s tempting to have a drink called The Snowball – right? Right. But, there are so many! There’s the one with advocaat (the liqueur made from egg, sugar, and brandy) and sparkling lemonade. There’s another with brandy, simple syrup, an egg, and ginger ale. Both have their moments. But today, this particular day, I’m going with the below, which is wonderful on an early summer’s night, and of which famed drink explorer Harry Craddock said, around 1930, “This is women’s work.” Hah, I’ll show you Harry.
The Snowball, with the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce crème de violette
1/2 ounce white crème de menthe
1/2 ounce anisette
1/2 ounce heavy cream
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, crème de violette, crème de menthe, anisette, and cream to a cocktail shaker. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
June 9, 2015
I recently did some Cocktail Talk posts featuring the quotes from the Dashiell Hammett book, The Glass Key, a fine read of politicking, rough-housing, drinking, and plot twists. It’s one of my favs! I also recently re-read the Dashiell Hammett book Red Harvest, and while I don’t love it as well as The Glass Key, it’s still a fun read – a little more of a punch in the face then a tightly plotted yarn (though it does have its share of twists and turns), with a high, high body count, and a whole city boiling over with the rat-a-tat-tat of the tommy gun as The Continental Op (Hammett’s cowboy with no name, in a way) tries to clean up Poisonville (or at least that’s what the residents call it). As you might expect, there’s a fair amount of boozing that goes on, and that’s where we come in! Starting with the below:
Robert Albury, the young assistant cashier of the First National Bank, was sitting in the lobby when I returned to the Great Western Hotel. We went up to my room, had some ice-water brought, used its ice to put chill in Scotch, lemon juice, and grenadine, and then went down to the dining room.
–Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest
June 5, 2015
It was just 3 days and 133 years ago when Giuseppe Garibaldi passed away, after being one of the most formative figures in Italian history, as the general who was largely responsible for unifying one of my two favorite countries. His army, if you didn’t know, was often referred to as the “red shirt” army, thanks to reasons you can guess from the name! And, if all that wasn’t enough, he has a dandy drink named after him, The Garibaldi, which you should be drinking this week in his honor — and also because it’s a citrus-y, tangy number, with a slightly beautiful bitter hint, thanks to Campari (another fine Italian figure).
2 ounces Campari
5 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1. Fill a highball glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Campari and the orange juice.
2. Stir well.