Those who have visited Spiked Punch before (and really, who hasn’t?) know that I have a love of Anthony Trollope books, as there are a number of Trollope Cocktail Talks underlining that love. Please, go read them all! But I haven’t yet had one I don’t believe from Castle Richmond, one of five of his novels set in Ireland, a place where he lived for a good chunk of time, working for the post and kicking off his writing career. It’s perhaps my favorite of the five? Perhaps. Taking place at the beginning of the Irish famine, it has some harrowing moments and insights into that tragedy, though the core story itself is of a more personal family tragedy, or mystery, or both. Tragestery? There are the normal Trollopean well-developed characters a’plenty, mostly of the upperish class or want to be kind, but with enough others sprinkled in to keep it interesting. As well as the main did-she-or-they-or-didn’t-they kind of plot in a way, with enough side plots and history sprinkled in to keep it fresh. And of course, or we wouldn’t be here, a nice Cocktail Talky quote or two. At least two. Maybe three? Come back and see! Our first starts at a bar-rooming-house spot, where two of the more disreputable, shall we say, characters are living at for a chunk of the book. Living and drinking at, that is.
“You are cold I suppose, governor, and had better get a bit of something to eat, and a little tea.”
“And put my feet in hot water, and tallow my nose, and go to bed, hadn’t I? Miss O’Dwyer, I’ll trouble you to mix me a glass of brandy-punch. Of all the roads I ever travelled, that’s the longest and hardest to get over. Dashed, if I didn’t begin to think I’d never be here.” And so saying he flung himself into a chair, and put up his feet on the two hobs.
There was a kettle on one of them, which the young lady pushed a little nearer to the hot coals, in order to show that the water should be boiling; and as she did so Aby gave her a wink over his father’s shoulder, by way of conveying to her an intimation that “the governor was a little cut,” or in other language tipsy, and that the brandy-punch should be brewed with a discreet view to past events of the same description. All which Miss O’Dwyer perfectly understood.
It’s Gizmo time again friends and neighbors and all who have perhaps had a wee bit too much Thanksgiving munching this week, or those who have some leftovers to deal with in the nicest way, or those who just are looking for a drink and like cranberry sauce and gin! All are welcome at the annual Gizmo party, which takes places the day after Thanksgiving here in the US at those spots that are in the know (which hopefully covers many many spots), and which has taken place ever since genius Jeremy Holt came up with this beloved drink, bless his boozy soul.
2-1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce homemade cranberry sauce
1/2 ounce simple syrup (optional)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin and cranberry sauce, and syrup if using. Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up, Thanksgiving-style.
Have we had enough Cocktail Talking from the Dickens’ classic Barnaby Rudge? I doubt it! But we are going to turn the last page – or have the last quote – for now, calling last call with the below (be sure to learn more about the book, as well as enjoy more Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talks by reading Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV! And why not read all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks? There is no good answer to that question). This snippet takes us back to the Maypole, the bar parts of the book revolve around, and is such a dandy description of the place, I wish I could dive right into the page and be there (the bar, that is, not the page). What a spot! And, what a book.
Old John would have it that they must sit in the bar, and nobody objecting, into the bar they went. All bars are snug places, but the Maypole’s was the very snuggest, cosiest, and completest bar, that ever the wit of man devised. Such amazing bottles in old oaken pigeon-holes; such gleaming tankards dangling from pegs at about the same inclination as thirsty men would hold them to their lips; such sturdy little Dutch kegs ranged in rows on shelves; so many lemons hanging in separate nets, and forming the fragrant grove already mentioned in this chronicle, suggestive, with goodly loaves of snowy sugar stowed away hard by, of punch, idealised beyond all mortal knowledge; such closets, such presses, such drawers full of pipes, such places for putting things away in hollow window-seats, all crammed to the throat with eatables, drinkables, or savoury condiments; lastly, and to crown all, as typical of the immense resources of the establishment, and its defiances to all visitors to cut and come again, such a stupendous cheese!
I love the song Mood Indigo, especially when Ella Fitzgerald sings the Duke Ellington tune with Duke playing. It’s moody, though, in melancholy sense, which for me makes it not a perfect brunch accompaniment (brunch being more of a sunshine-y affair). You know what it a good brunch accompaniment? This drink, Mood Lavender, named with a nod to the aforementioned song. And yes, that was the most random connecting of two ideas a drinks blog has ever had, but I couldn’t resist! I also couldn’t resist using the newish Unicorn vodka (a bottle of which recently showed up in the mail – don’t be mad at my luck, friend) to make a drink that had a color in the name.
Why, you might ask? Well, I’m here to tell you why! It’s because Unicorn vodka is infused with butterfly pea flowers, naturally. What does that do? First, it makes the vodka a deep cobalt-y color. Second, it means the vodka changes color when mixed into a drink with certain other ingredients. Like magic! Drink magic. It’s also infused with a touch of tangerine and rose hips (and based on corn if memory serves). None of the botanicals are so prevalent to take it into flavored vodka realm (a realm which can be dangerous), but do add an echo of the botanical to the taste and aroma. It’s a smooth sipper, too, a vodka you wouldn’t be sad to have solo, perhaps with a cube of ice or two.
But how (I can hear you from here), how does the magic work? The bottle itself says on the back that if you add a squeezed lime wedge or some soda it changes to purple, and two lime wedges or more soda changes it to pink, and that is true and a simple way to test your own sorcerous powers. Other ingredients can have the same effect, however, opening up the options. When working up my own Unicorn vodka cocktail idea, I found lemon a nice match (which also adds that acidic citrus umph to assist in the color changing) with the vodka, so started there. More pals to bring to our cocktail party did prove challenging, in a fun way. See, there’s a flavor component, as always, to think about, but here also a color one. I know color and the visuals are important no matter what, but felt here, even moreso. I wanted to keep the vodka’s color front and center, see.
Which led to some testing, but eventually I went with four more ingredients. First, I felt a true (meaning, not with extra sugar and stupid stuff added, just the pure distilled fruit) fruit brandy would be nice. And another Washington distillery, Oomrang, makes a delicious Donut Peach eau de vie, one that has that layered donut (or Saturn) peach flavor and a dry sweetness. It’s a beauty of a brandy, and a gold-medal winner, and went wonderfully. Two base spirits can give a lot of umph, so rounded out the edges with simple syrup. Good, so far, but needed another layer, and decided, rightly, to follow along the peach road, with a good dash of Fee Brothers fragrant Peach Bitters. A pretty yummy drink right there, but as I was serving it at brunch, decided to lighten it up a touch with club soda. I though long about going with brunch favorite Champagne, but felt the drink had enough punch and enough sweetness, so: soda!
And, if I can say so humbly, it’s a joy of a drink, light, layered, nice on the nose and tongue. And so so pretty! The lemon juice and perhaps the soda took Unicorn’s cobalt hue down a few notches on the dark scale (perhaps the brandy and bitters and simple pitched in as well), but as all but the lemon were clear in color, it kept a radiance that I quite liked. You might, too!
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vodka, brandy, lemon juice, bitters, and simple. Shake.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a thin stemmed flute-ish glass, or another glass if you so desire.
3. Top with the soda. Stir briefly, gently. Add an ice cube if you think your soda isn’t chilled enough. Or if you want to. It’s all about the cool, and that means keeping your cool, too. Garnish with a duo of butterfly pea flowers.
Note: I had butterfly pea flowers around (they also came in the mail), and they made such a pretty little garnish I couldn’t resist using them for such. If you don’t have them, don’t fret. You could also go with a lemon twist. It would add a touch more lemon, but that wouldn’t be bad, I don’t think.
For our fourth (but not our last!) visit within the pages of the Charles Dickens delight, the criminally under-read Barnaby Rudge, we get a view into some family relations, here between the, I’d say, villain of the piece, or one of such (perhaps the most villainous, though also well admired by many), and his son – who is, by curious ways and means, one of the heroes of the piece. While Mr. Chester, the father, may not be one who induces admiration within a reader (or not many of such), you can’t fault him for his views on wine in the below. Which goes to show that few are totally irredeemable. One hopes at least. Avoid being such yourself by reading the Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III (and really, checking out all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks will probably make you heroic, too).
“My dear Edward,” said Mr. Chester at length, with a most engaging laugh, “do not extend your drowsy influence to the decanter. Suffer that to circulate, let your spirits be never so stagnant.”
Edward begged his pardon, passed it, and relapsed into his former state.
“You do wrong not to fill your glass,” said Mr. Chester, holding up his own before the light. “Wine in moderation — not in excess, for that makes men ugly — has a thousand pleasant influences. It brightens the eye, improves the voice, imparts a new vivacity to one’s thoughts and conversation: you should try it, Ned.”
“Ah, father!” cried his son, “if —”
“My good fellow,” interposed the parent hastily, as he set down his glass, and raised his eyebrows with a startled and horrified expression, “for Heaven’s sake don’t call me by that obsolete and ancient name. Have some regard for delicacy. Am I grey, or wrinkled, do I go on crutches, have I lost my teeth, that you adopt such a mode of address? Good God, how very coarse!”
When the weather is cold and getting colder (as it is for us here in the northwest), it’s best to look towards those creatures who might be more used to the chillier temperatures than us puny humans. Take the Walrus, for instance. Large-tusked, able to navigate icy waters as if they were a warm bath, singing Walrus songs the whole time, and willing to shake up this warming cocktail between dips. You may not have known that not only does the Walrus provide the title here, but in addition created the delicious rye, sweet vermouth (Punt e’ Mes is my choice), Cointreau, simple, orange bitters (I used Scrappy’s, naturally), combo. I may, between us, be making that up. Not the delicious part, but the walrus creation part. But how cool if I’m not! Either way, this’ll keep you warm while you ponder the idea.
We are back at the Maypole (be sure and see the Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talk Part I for more on the pub in question – lovely place that it is – and more on the book, and while you’re at it, check out the Barnaby Rudge Part II Cocktail Talk, and for that matter, all of the Dickens Cocktail Talks) for our third installation of tipsily delightful quotes from Dickens lesser-read, sadly, but still classic novel. This quote centers on the flip. Not the acrobatic movement, but the drink, very popular at one point in history, but not seen as much today, which is a shame, as you’ll see in the below that it isn’t just delicious, but also changes the whole atmosphere in a swell manner.
Nay, it was felt to be such a holiday and special night, that, on the motion of little Solomon Daisy, every man (including John himself) put down his sixpence for a can of flip, which grateful beverage was brewed with all despatch, and set down in the midst of them on the brick floor; both that it might simmer and stew before the fire, and that its fragrant steam, rising up among them, and mixing with the wreaths of vapour from their pipes, might shroud them in a delicious atmosphere of their own, and shut out all the world. The very furniture of the room seemed to mellow and deepen in its tone; the ceiling and walls looked blacker and more highly polished, the curtains of a ruddier red; the fire burnt clear and high, and the crickets in the hearthstone chirped with a more than wonted satisfaction.
It’s nearly Halloween, the hauntingest holiday of the year, so gather round my ghoulish tell-tale heart tipplers, and let ol’ uncle Spiked Punch spin you spooktacular story about brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters, a soulclencher (in the most delightfully demonic way) of a witch’s brew we call the Warlock. See below video for details, but one warning: watching may make you thrill-seekers thirsty as a vampire at midsummer. Second warning: consuming Warlock cocktails can turn you into a zombie magician. Now you know!
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More