August 19, 2016
The name of this drink sounds a bit like a dance move beloved by those who tend to wear mostly black, listen to moody tunes, and shake their fist at all and sundry (I’ll admit to that phase at once point, so I’m not judging here, oh no). But, it’s in reality nearly the opposite, a blended drink that’s really not all that bitter, and is sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who drinks it.
Where, then, does the name come from? Well, the wonderful Fernet-Branca, of course! Here’s the scoop. Not long ago a bottle of that essential elixir showed up in the mail (I know, I couldn’t believe my luck either), with a little bit of a challenge – come up with a blended Fernet-Branca drink. At first, this seemed like a conundrum, due to blended drinks being usually either extra fruity or extra frothy and Fernet-Branca shading heavily towards what some people call “bitter,” though I think that’s just one part of it, with the other being its magic mix of herbs and spices and such. But, you know what? It turns out that with the right aligning of other ingredients, Fernet-Branca plays perfectly in blended form, and provides a nice rich bedrock for an icy, creamy, frothy, summertime treat, one perfect for the hot weather. Those other ingredients here (I’m guessing there are many more possible permutations) include gin (I used Voyager, which is swell), whose juniper hints mingle well, and Bénédictine, whose sweet herbal goodness also mingles well. A little actual cream, a splash of simple syrup (it is a blended drink!), and loads of ice, and we have the Bitter Shake. Which may actually make you want to dance, but with joy, instead of with your head down, mumbling.
The Bitter Shake, for 2 (never drink a blender drink alone – that’s foolishness)
2 ounces Voyager gin
1 ounce Fernet-Branca
1 ounce Bénédictine
1-1/2 ounces heavy cream
1 ounce simple syrup
Ice cubes (you’ll want a lot, like a whole tray’s worth)
1. Add everything but the ice to a blender. Swirl a little.
2. Add the ice cubes. Blend well (I used a combo of ice crush and smoothie settings on my blender – you want it well combined, smooth, and frothy). Drink and chill out.
August 16, 2016
We don’t have a lot of comic book Cocktail Talks around the Spiked Punch parts, which does, I suppose, make sense, as not too many comics have drinky, cocktaily sections or such. Though, on the flip side, I read a fair amount of comics, so it should balance out, and today it does! With a power-booze-packed panel from Milk and Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad. If you haven’t read Milk and Cheese, well, a warning: it is about a carton of milk and a wedge of cheese, who happened to be the badass-est dairy products, and who revel in violence, drinking, ranting, and all that, in a way that’s serves up a dose of hilarity and spite-ful-ness. It’s sorta hard to describe, really! But when they celebrate birthdays, they do it like the below (around messing up people, places, and things):
–Evan Dorkin, Milk and Cheese
August 12, 2016
I know, I know, it’s the middle of August, hottest month of the year for most of us stateside, and so for many not perhaps the right time of year for a whiskey forward (very so, classically so) cocktail. These folks think that this should be a winter, or maybe fall choice, and they in some ways are right. But in other ways, they’re wrong. Exhibit A way: when you’ve received an absolutely choice bottle of single malt whiskey in the mail and decide you must have it in a classic drink. This, friends, is that exhibit. Or story. Or some such.
Let’s back up. Recently (and yeah, don’t hate me cause I’m lucky like this), I received a bottle of Paul John Brilliance single malt whiskey. An Indian – maybe the Indian – single malt, it’s made from ingredients, including a special six-row barley, grown at Himalayan foothills, and aged for five years in the tropics of Goa, India. This tropical climate makes for a fast maturation, in American white oak. The end result has won awards all over the world already, but just recently become available here. It’s a very distinctive whiskey, one that, by all rights, you should sip solo and let the demerara and barley fragrance tempt you and the spice and vanilla taste and intriguing cocoa finish with just a hint of orange linger (maybe a splash of water or a single ice cube for the second glass, just to see how it goes).
But, if you’re me (and of course you aren’t, cause that would be an existential pickle that would be, oh, too much to go into now) or like me, you can’t stop at that, even with a whiskey of this level. No, you have to try it in a cocktail. And now I’ve gotten a little weird with pronouns. Let’s stop that. I decided on the Rob Roy, one of the legendary Scotch cocktails. A single malt and a Scotch are of course, at least cousins, maybe siblings, in the grand scheme of things. And I wanted a cocktail that would really let the Brilliance flavors come alive, and provide some proper cocktail partners – here, the otherworldly Carpano Antica vermouth, and Angostura. The end result is dreamy. Any time of year.
The Rob Roy
2-1/2 ounces Paul John Brilliance single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Brilliance, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
August 9, 2016
I’ve had a few Cocktail Talk posts from George Simenon featuring his Parisian detective Inspector Maigret. Not too surprising, as Maigret’s been known to have a drink (like all good detectives, or most), with a number of favorites. I could tell you about all of them, but really, there’s already a whole site that does it so much better, called Maigret’s Drinks. It breaks them out, explains, has tons of quotes, even some tables and such, all very educational and done right. I don’t know Simenon or the Inspector nearly as well, but recently was reading The Grand Bakes Café, which takes place by the sea instead of the city, and revolves around the death of a ship’s Captain. Lots of seaside folks figure in the story, and it takes some twists and turns, and spends a fair amount of time in a café/bar. Also, it has the below quote, which I thought would fit nicely here:
‘What are you having?’
‘Not hot chocolate, that’s for sure. A kümmel.’
What was that if not a declaration of war? When she mentioned chocolate, she was staring at Marie Leonnec’s cup. Maigret saw the girl flinch.
— George Simenon, The Grand Banks Café
August 5, 2016
It’s August, which means even way up here in Seattle we have some warmer weather happening (and in some spots, I know it’s even moreso), which also then means that refreshing drinks are on the menu (though, admittedly, sometimes I like to play devil’s advocate and have what seems like not-as-refreshing-drinks when it’s hot. Today is not that day!). Luckily, I recently received some Hard Frescos (yeah, I’m lucky), which are very refreshing numbers, and lend themselves to refreshing drinks.
Brewed right in Washington State (in Stevenson), and based out of a love of Mexican fresh-pressed juices, if you don’t know them, Hard Frescos are a malt beverage, but one made with real fruits and botanicals, cane sugar, and yeast. Like a fruit beer, though they also use Mexican Fruit Cider as a name, which to me works a little better, because it points to their very unique nature – fruity, flavorful, but also with a slight underlying beer-y/cider-y-ness, with an end result that’s really different, in a good way.
There are four versions currently available: Tangy Tamarindo, Citrico, Juicy Jamaica, and Cola Buena. In this summer drink, I used the latter to delicious (if I can say that and sound humble) results. I don’t drink much, if any, cola-of-the-soda sort, so playing around with Cola Buena, which use Kola Seed, and has a bit of that cola taste, but a bit more bitter and fullness was good stuff. And as you might expect, goes well with rum! As it does here, but I’ve also added another local ingredient, broVo’s Lucky Falernum, which is higher-proof than most falernums, and which has a swell subtle spice and citrus taste. You could sub in another falernum, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good. And who wants that?
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Lucky Falernum
4 ounces Cola Buena Hard Fresco
Lime wedge, for garnish
1: Fill a cocktail shaker just under half way with ice cubes. Add the rum and falernum. Stir well.
2. Pour everything into a highball or comparable glass (a green goblet works nice, if you have one). Top with the Cola Buena. Stir carefully.
3. Top with the lime wedge.
August 2, 2016
Well, it’s that bubbly time again, where I walk you through recent Seattle magazine pieces and posts that you may have missed (which would make me sad – maybe it would make you sad, too?). There is so much awesomeness going on here in the Emerald City bar and booze scene; it’d be a shame to not delve in a little deeper. So check out the below:
*See all Seattle magazine pieces by me
July 29, 2016
You might think, to yourself, “A Manhattan-y cocktail is not quite the thing, old boy, for summer.” You would be wrong. Sorry! Exhibit A: The Tranquil Hills. How does this rough-and-tumble rye beguiler manage to hold its brown likker umph while still navigating the higher temperatures of summer? Well, I’m glad you asked. First, it’s just a good drink, and good drinks are always good. But, it’s helped along by using a key summer fruit, the blackberry, here in the form of Sidetrack Distillery’s lovely Blackberry liqueur. The rich berry taste covers for the Manhattan’s regular sweet vermouth, bringing enough depth, but also the very core of summer along for the ride.
Sidetrack’s Blackberry liqueur also mingles in a manner most wonderful with the rye I used, Templeton’s The Good Stuff rye. A rye made with the idea of matching the taste of an old prohibition recipe, one that was once, as legend has it (and nothing is better than drink legends) loved by Al Capone himself, Templeton has a spiciness, and a combo of dried fruits and caramel, that hit the spot here and now. A little of Scrappy’s Orange bitters (Scrappy being Seattle’s favorite son, and now an international bitters of renown, because, well, they’re great), and you have a whiskey cocktail that can help you survive the summer in fine fashion.
The Tranquil Hills
2-1/4 ounces Templeton rye
3/4 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry Liqueur
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well, but don’t get sweaty.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink it up.
July 26, 2016
Hey, look at this, a Cocktail Talk post from an author I’ve never featured before! That’s cause for a drink. Hold on. Okay, I’m back, with drink in right hand as I type with the left. Anyway, I haven’t read all the Margery Allingham Albert Campion books, just a handful. Most of them, pretty solid (admittedly, I got into them first by watching the late-eighties British teevee show based on them, starring the charming Peter Davison, and so now I picture him as I read the books, which is pretty swell), though she slips into a boring-in-today’s-light classicism too often, and an awful casually-racist-in-any-light moment once or twice. Skip the books that hit the latter, and try to forgive the former. But this particular book, Coroner’s Pidgin (published as Pearls Before Swine in the US), set during WW II, has the time period, which is interesting, a good mystery, Campion at his best, and the below quote, which is quite apropos:
He paused for his announcement to have the right effect. Nothing so forceful as a dramatic effect, but one in which just the right element of surprise and interest was as carefully blended as in, say, a very good Highland whisky.
– Margery Allingham, Coroner’s Pidgin