October 12, 2018
The other day, decided to browse around the drink library while watching Hammer House of Horror as one does, and was flipping through Jacques Staub’s simply-called classic Drinks from 1914 and came across an intriguing number called The Clifton. At the same time, I was trying to think of a drink to have with Gold Bar whiskey, a small bottle of which had just shown in the mail.
Gold Bar is a blended American whiskey made from three grains: corn, rye, and barley, aged in French oak, and, as they say, “matured by the sea” in San Francisco. I love a good ocean-going yarn! It’s also in one of the more amazing packages, a golden box with a brass Lady of Fortune (illustrated by an artist) coin pressed into the front for good luck. All of which would be only a good story if the whiskey didn’t taste good – luckily indeed it has a friendly taste as well as the shiny gleaming container. Very smooth, very approachable, with a little vanilla and spice and melon scents unfolding into more spice, apple, and vanilla on the tongue.
Its amiable nature made me think maybe it would be good in the Clifton, though that drink originally called for rye, with an equal part of dry vermouth. Along with a dash of Angostura and a dash of “brown” curaçao. I’ll admit, I’m not sure on the latter, and I wasn’t really happy about how the equality-of-vermouth was going to go. So, I went with Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao (the finest available in modern times), and just started playing around with the amounts of our main ingredients. And, voila, we took home the gold. And by that, I mean it all came together into a bright, light, drink, with herbal and botanical hints and a smooth whiskey hum underneath.
1-1/2 ounces Gold Bar blended whiskey
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
Dash Angostura bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, or a glass with an appropriate amount of gilding to match the whiskey. I went the latter route, as it seemed a better route. But you’ll make your own luck.
October 9, 2018
Be sure to delve into our first Black Angel Cocktail Talk post
, to dig into more about why I like Cornell Woolrich, and what you’ll be in for when you (as you should) read his books and short stories. He doesn’t have a lot of cocktailing always (though I’ve had some past Cornell Cocktail Talks
), but in The Black Angel
, I found one of my favorite bar descriptions – I love a good bar description – as well as the earlier post (which, funny enough, takes place in the bar being described). I want to go to this bar:
“That’s it, then” he said. “Now I’ll tell you where. I know a little room, a midget cocktail bar, just around the corner from the Ritz. Can’t miss it. It’s called the Blues-Chaser. And it’s like that, really. There’s never too much of a crowd there, and that way we won’t have to run too much interference. We have a date now, don’t forget.” “All right, we have a date.”
. . .
The place itself was intimate, confidence-inspiring, made to order for just such a rendezvous as ours. A regular postage stamp of a cocktail lounge; I’d never yet been in one as small. Heavily carpeted and hushed, but hushed in a relaxing, cozy way, not depressingly hushed. It was a little gem of a place, and I wonder now if it’s still there.
–Cornell Woolrich, The Black Angel
October 5, 2018
Usually, I try not to have favorites in booze categories. Meaning, I wouldn’t say I have a favorite gin (I like too many, too well), or amaro, or vermouth. Or white wine. However, I might say I have a favorite red wine (other red wines, please turn away now). Or, at least a favorite red wine grape, that being Sagrantino. Growing only around Montefalco, in Umbria (lovely town, by the way, the Falcon’s Mount, also referred to the balcony of Umbria, and worth a visit – great churches, great museum, a few mummies, and more, and the wine, naturally), real Sagrantino di Montefalco uses 100 percent Sagrantino grapes, is aged 37 months at the shortest, and has a deep, rich, color (dark purple) and taste of dark stone fruits. Memorable stuff!
But here’s something I recently found out (thanks to a bottle coming my way). There’s also a Montefalco Rosso wine. It’s a bit like Sagrantino’s more playful younger sibling. Aged just 18 months and blended with 60-80% Sangiovese. The specific bottle I tasted was Tenuta Alzatura Montefalco Rosso, which is 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sangrantino, and 15% Merlot. It’s a beautiful wine, with a light ruby coloring, and also a lighter nature than Sagrantino, probably more approachable for a larger percentage of people, with a fruity nature (red fruit, juicy ones), and hints of spice on the nose and taste, but with a softer finish than its sibling. A nice red wine for a late-summer or fall day. And also, a nice one for making into a wine cocktail.
Of course, as you know, I have a hard time not experimenting with any ingredient I have at hand, and while a glass of this Montefalco Rosso by itself is dreamy, it plays well with others, too. Here, I brought in some Italian favorites, starting with light, slightly citrus, aperitif, Aperol. To match up with that and to balance some of the wine’s fruits, a few dashes of Fee Brothers Orange bitters added to the party – not Italian, but we do have another Italian fav, too. See, I wanted some strong undercurrents, too (sometimes in fall there’s a chill in the air), and wanted to stay Italian-style, and so brought in an underutilized cocktail ingredient: grappa. Specifically: Marolo Grappa di Amarone, which is aged in oak, and which has cherry notes, along with an adaptable nuttiness, that go with the wine perfectly. Altogether, this is a cocktail that’ll have you fantasizing of Italy – and savoring every sip.
On the Road to Montefalco
2 ounces Tenuta Alzatura Montefalco Rosso
1 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce Marolo Grappa di Amarone
2 dashes Fee Brothers Orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Bella, bella.
October 2, 2018
I have a fair amount of books by Cornell Woolrich
(writer of Rear Window and many other memorable noir-y numbers, though criminally under-read and under-known today, and also a fella who had a not-very-peppy life, for being a big seller, to say the least), and go through phases where he’s a favorite – well, maybe he always is, but I have to be in the right mood, if that makes sense, or ready for the right mood. His books are very edge-of-your-seat in a way that’s all his own. Not the breakneck pace of some, not the catchy lines and characters of others, but his leads are always in a depressing, serious, jam of some sort (I’m underselling with “jam”), and slowly, with the tension every-increasing, trying to find a way out. Take The Black Angel
. The lead lady has a husband, who’s been cheating and who is on death row for the death of his mistress, but our wonderful lead believe he’s innocent and so goes through a serious of super harrowing sort-of undercover escapades to try and find the real murderer – and it gets more nerve-wracking and ultimately depressing from there. But the atmospherics and language are all amazing. And there are some really good bar scenes, too, including the below, about cocktails and dating:
“There’s no good reason for getting stuck, really. It’s the simplest thing in the world. You see the thing through past the cocktails. I meant, a cocktail will get you through practically anything, anyway. If it’s the face that bothers you you’ve got an olive to look at instead. Then with the soup, you step outside a second to buy a pack of cigarettes. You pick some brand you’re dammed sure they won’t be able to bring to your table, in case there happens to be a ciggie girl in the place.”
–Cornell Woolrich, The Black Angel
September 28, 2018
As September rolls into October, it feels we should have one Last Word for it – hahaha! Really, sometimes I just feel like a classic, and this is one of my classic classics, brought back to the world, after nearly slipping into the mists of history, thanks to legendary Seattle bartender Murray Stenson, who launched it into modern bar culture. It was, legends say, originally created by Frank Fogarty way back in the Prohibition era, though he wasn’t a shaker and stirrer. Instead, he was known as “the Dublin Mistral,” and was one of the leading vaudevillian monologists of his time. Give a toast to both, and to September, when having this.
The Last Word
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, maraschino, Chartreuse, and lime juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass and don’t forget your toasts.
September 21, 2018
Trends at times seem to come out of nowhere (probably because I am not as knowledgeable as I should be – I can admit that!), and one that has shown up in the last few years is various yuzu – the rough-skinned lemon-looking citrus fruit popular in Asian countries – items in cocktails. However, I hadn’t really found a yuzu-based ingredient that felt made for cocktails. Until this summer, the summer of 2018! When Sidetrack Distillery (the wondrous spot on a farm right outside Kent, WA here in WA) unveiled their new Yuzu Liqueur. Now, I know how good all of the Sidetrack Liqueurs are, made using fruit, produce, and other items grown on the Lazy River Farm where the distillery resides. So, I had high hopes for their Yuzu – and it delivers. Citrus-y in a way that straddles lemon, grapefruit, and little mandarin orange, it has orchard aromas for days, and then a rich taste that trails off with a bit of kick, balancing the liqueur’s sweetness. Great stuff and made locally to boot– but what to do with it?
Well, my first thought was a gin that has a whisper of citrus, and, you know what (I say humbly)? It was a very good thought. The gin I went for was Wildwood Spirits’ Kur gin, also made in wonderful W-A, with local wheat, jumping juniper, various other delights, and a bit of Seville oranges. Then, our drink didn’t need much more, just a hint of brightness and botanicals from some Dolin Blanc vermouth, and a little spice and some light undertones from another local, Scrappy’s Orange bitters. Altogether, a (as you’d guess from the title) delicious drink, one with a nice backbone and a full strata of delicate and more forward citrus and spice, a drink that’d be a fine pre-dinner, during-dinner, or post-dinner accompaniment.
You, Sue, Are Delicious
1-1/2 ounces Wildwood Spirits Kur gin
1 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Yuzu liqueur
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in. Oh, be sure you’ve tasted that Yuzu liqueur on its own, too. Or you’ll be sorry.
September 18, 2018
Our re-visit to the Trollope late-period romantic comedy Ayala’s Angel continues (be sure to dip your toes into Part I, as well as our first Ayala’s Angel Cocktail Talk from years ago, so that you get a little more background on the book, as well as adding a few more smiles and cocktail-ing to your day), with a little sherry and bitters and some nice ranting about sherry and bitters.
Sir Thomas went on, with a servant at his heels, chucking about the doors rather violently, till he found Mr. Traffick alone in the drawing-room. Mr. Traffick had had a glass of sherry and bitters brought in for his refreshment, and Sir Thomas saw the glass on the mantelpiece. He never took sherry and bitters himself. One glass of wine, with his two o’clock mutton chop, sufficed him till dinner. It was all very well to be a Member of Parliament, but, after all, Members of Parliament never do anything. Men who work don’t take sherry and bitters! Men who work don’t put their hats in other people’s halls without leave from the master of the house!
—Ayala’s Angel, Anthony Trollope
September 14, 2018
While we aren’t really into fall (theoretically, the season starts the 22nd), it still feels like we’re oozing into the time of year when bourbon is in the air. Here, in this drink, it’s the sea air, in a way, as the base we’re working with is a new release from Chambers Bay, a distillery here in Washington which ages their whiskey on a floating boathouse (on the Puget Sound, which eventually connects with the sea). The specific whiskey is Chambers Bay’s Straight Bourbon (I received some in the mail, lucky me), Batch #3, which was bottled in late July after being aged in oak barrels a minimum of 3-1/2 years. Due the boathouse movement, however, the aging process actually feels (tastes?) as if it was aged longer. They also make the bourbon with grains (corn, white wheat, barley) from Grant County, WA, and use a wild yeast from local orchards. What’s it all mean beyond the swell local-ness? A bourbon with lots of depth, and a flavor that’ll make you skip with happiness: caramel, and a little fig, nuttiness, oak, and other spices – plus a small hint of salt and sea air.
All of which equals a nice whiskey to sip, but also a nice one to mix with, especially with other spice treats. Here, I started the mingling with an award-winner: Raft Cardamom bitters (which was named 2018 Product of the Year by the Specialty Food Association), a great savory and spice bitters that’s going to add some depth and add to the pack of flavors we’re bringing together. One note: these bitters are also under the Bitter Housewife brand, but don’t get confused, it’s a sibling of Raft. It’s made in Portland, OR, by Genevieve Brazelton, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Portland, Oregon’s Improper Goods, the overall brand Raft and the Bitter Housewife live under, along with a great group of syrups, bitters and cocktail kits made with care. Yummy stuff.
But the bourbon and bitters aren’t’ the only yummy stuffs here. I wanted to keep building on the spice notes, and bring in some complimentary pals, too. Enter, one Italian-influenced local favorite, Sidetrack Distillery’s memorable and delicious green-walnut-based Nocino, and one favorite actually from Italy: the divine Meletti Anisette. These two have been parts of many drinks I’ve made due to their fantastic flavors – as well as being favorites when sipped solo. All together, this is a layered, memorable, fall drink that you’re sure to want to make for all your friends.
Pup In A Blanket
2 ounces Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon (Batch #3)
3/4 ounces Sidetrack Nocino
1/4 ounce Meletti Anisette
2 dashes Raft Cardamom bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Cuddle with the dog of your choice (without spilling your drink, naturally).