January 23, 2018
Our trip (we’re taking it together, I feel) through some of the Charles Willeford oeuvre, via Willeford Cocktail Talks
, is almost done, and ending with a second from the Floridean funky mess (among other things) Made in Miami
, originally called Lust is a Woman
, which isn’t actually as good, or as accurate, a title in my mind. You’ll need to read the book to see why! And also read the Made in Miami Cocktail Talk Part I
, if you haven’t. You’ll dig it. The below quote isn’t drink specific like many of the Cocktail Talks we have here, but is a great view into bartenders of a certain time period. Or perhaps how some people view or viewed bartenders. You decide.
Ralph sat down on the bench to smoke while he waited for Tommy. Two bald middle-aged bartenders entered the lock room from the back and began to change their clothes. Ralph examined their dour faces with the dawning realization that all of the bartenders he had ever known looked exactly like these two. Not that they were all bad, although most of them were, at that, but their expressions were all alike. All face, like character actors in the movies; expressive eyebrows, small chins, and large liquid eyes. Ralph pictured these two men later working behind the bar, changing their expression to match the mood of each customer at the busy half-price cocktail hour in the Rotunda Lounge. But right now, in repose, their characterless expressions oddly reminded Ralph of the ex-Presidents born in Ohio.
–Charles Willeford, Made in Miami
January 16, 2018
The earlier Cocktail Talks from the Charles Willeford book Pick-Up
(read Pick-Up Part I
, and Pick-Up Part II
if you missed ‘em) alluded to me diving into the Willeford canon lately – deeper, that is, than the Hoke Mosely books I do so love (read all the Willeford Cocktail Talks
to learn more). The dive included the dark, really, lesser-known book Made in Miami
, which is a fast-paced, hotly-focused, a bit (for the times, and maybe even now, in inflection) saucy and tawdry, and finally fairly bleak look into a shady side of Miami. If that sounds intriguing, it’s well worth tracking down. And it has – it’s hot in Miami – some nice cocktail talking.
Maria unzipped her dress at the back and carefully slipped it over her head. She draped it lovingly over the foot of her bed while she looked for a coat hanger in the closet. It was the only really decent dress Maris had brought with her and she took excellent care of it. The silk dress was much too good to wear in a Rotunda Room full of women while she drank Tom Collinses at sixty-five cents apiece, the waiter expecting a dime tip every time he brought another round.
–Charles Willeford, Made in Miami
January 12, 2018
Earlier in this wonderful month (just a week ago! If you’ve forgotten), I featured a drink here on the Spiked Punch, In The Treetops with Delamain L’Aigle XO Cognac. If you missed it, go check it out, or be sad – you don’t want to be sad, right? There, I talked about Cognac-as-cocktail-ingredient, and then, when thinking it over, decided I should back up the talk with a few more cocktails boasting Cognac as a base, and decided also to go next with one of the definitive Cognac cocktails, the classic Sidecar. Created overseas during Prohibition, the Sidecar was either first crafted at a bar in Paris or by an army colonel who drove around with a sidecar often. Or someone else entirely!
There are two Sidecar schools, but I lean towards the one that leans heavier on the Cognac and is less sweet. This road works even better when you’re able to use Hine Bonneuil 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac (a bottle of which I received in the mail recently, bless my lucky stars). Made from Ugni Blanc grapes only grown on the Hine vineyards, this limited-edition (track it down, if you can) Cognac has a great fresh grape, fig, orange, and herb nose, with more fig, and then apple, spice, honey and oak on the tongue, with an echo of pineapple and citrus. Scrummy stuff.
And, a perfect Cognac for the Sidecar, able to stand up to the lemon and mingle mightily with the requisite orange liqueur – here, I used a new one, made in my own Seattle, by Bernie Garcia, the owner of Moctezuma’s restaurant (it actually launches next week, but I figure you can wait a few days). It’s called Grandeza, and it uses bitter orange peels, agave nectar, and a bit of vanilla in a memorable manner. All together, this trio combines into a cocktail that you won’t forget, one that begins with bright citrus and spice, buoyed by fruit, herbal, and more. Oh, I know that many (maybe even myself in the past), have said that using a really fine Cognac like Hine Bonneuil 2005, in cocktails, even classics like the Sidecar, is foolish. However! I think once in a while, high-rolling your cocktails at home to lift them into legendary status is a good idea. You only live once, after all.
2 ounces Hine Bonneuil 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac
1/2 ounce Grandeza orange liqueur
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything. Shake gently.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Don’t ride a motorcycle while drinking, but do sit in a sidecar attached to a parked motorcycle, if you want.
January 9, 2018
Decided on thinking it through that I needed one more quote from Charles Willeford’s one-time underground classic (still classic, just not really “underground” as you can pick it up easily enough, and you should), Pick-Up
. Be sure to read the Pick-Up, Part I Cocktail Talk
, and then come back – if you already haven’t read it, that is – and catch the below quote, about a drink called The Dolphin Special. Which I’ve never seen on a menu, but which sounds pretty neat, and boozy.
“Just bring us two of the Dolphin Specials,” I told him
He nodded solemnly and left for the bar. The Special is a good drink; it contains five varieties of rum, mint, plenty of snow-ice, and it’s decorated with orange slices, pineapple slices and cherries with a sprinkling of sugar cane gratings floating on top. I needed at least two of them. I have to build up my nerve.
–Charles Willeford, Pick-Up
January 5, 2018
It’s a smidge odd to say about one of the world’s revered sippers, but Cognac (especially in the states, I suppose) gets a little short shrift. Especially when it comes to cocktails. But consider this, friends – Cognac was a key player in the early days of cocktailing, and used as the base spirit in many classic drinks (the Sazerac, for one, but also a bunch of others), including ones that shifted for one reason or another to a different base. Both the shifts and the lack of Cognac-ing in modern cocktails is a shame, because the layers of flavors that unfold in good Cognacs when paired with the right pals make memorable drinks.
Let’s take this one, In The Treetops, for example! I was lucky enough (don’t curse me for it, especially not this early in the year) to receive a bottle of L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac recently. The Eagle (L’Aigle equals The Eagle) is a delicious Cognac, aged in Limousin oak casks near the Charente River, and one that can be – and maybe should be! – savored solo, thanks to its bold-yet-graceful and complex-yet-approachable nature. It delivers floral and citrus essences on the nose, with a few nutty notes, too, and even more lush orange and fruit with a little chocolate and nuttiness in the unfolding flavor. It’s really as good as you’d expect from Delamain, who, if you don’t know, have been making renowned Cognacs since, oh, the 1600s. Or thereabouts!
When deciding to mix a cocktail with a Cognac this swell, I think keeping it fairly simple, letting the Cognac shine, adding only a few others players, is the way to go. I first thought I’d go with a drink from another lesser-known classic, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion (from the early 1940s), a drink called Rock a Bye Baby. And, admittedly, which you might guess from the title of this cocktail (if you know your nursery rhymes), I didn’t stray far from the original. I kept the same ingredients, Cognac (well, Crosby used brandy), sweet vermouth (I used Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, made from Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and with lovely fruit tones and a smidge of sweetness), and Bénédictine. But Crosby (who will forgive me I’m sure), had equal parts Cognac and sweet vermouth, and less Bénédictine. I wanted to let Delamain’s L’Aigle fly higher, so boosted the Cognac, drifted down the sweet vermouth, and upper the Bénédictine some to herbal-ize the edges more. The end result is a layered, sophisticated-in-the-best-way, cocktail, one that is a special treat, sure, but don’t you deserve to be treated? I think you do.
In The Treetops
2 ounces L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy life’s momentary luxuries.
January 2, 2018
All of you long-time readers of this Spiked Punch know that I am very fond of Florida’s finest crime writer (may he rest in punch-y peace) Charles Willeford
. Especially of the Hoke Mosely books, but recently I also dived back into some others of the Willefordian back catalog. And a fruitful dive it was, full of the Willeford pacing, declarative brilliance, short and concise writing and insights, and a general dark noir-ish quality – though not all fit that definition perfectly. Pick-Up
, a worthy read and then some, for example, is more about art and love in a way, and drinking in a bigger way, and a mood, in a way, and suicide, than the criminal and police-ical. Lots of cocktail talking, as you might expect, in Pick-Up
, including the below allusion to hot gin punch. Good to remember, not only is it the holiday season, but the cold and flu season.
I fished the two one dollar bills out of my watch pocket and smoothed them out flat on the counter.
“I think I’m getting a slight cold, Mrs. Watson,” I said, coughing into my curled fist, “and I thought if I made a little hot gin punch before I went to bed it might cut the phlegm a little bit.”
“Nothing like hot gin for colds.” Mrs. Watson smiled and got out of the chair to cross to the liquor shelves. “What kind?”
“Gilbey’s is fine – I’d like a pint, but I don’t think I have enough here . . .”
–Charles Willeford, Pick-Up
December 29, 2017
Let’s face it – we’re not getting any younger. Really, nothing is, I suppose. But wait, as the year rolls out into the sunset, and as a new one rolls in, let’s not get all down-in-the-mouth, and think about getting older. But instead, remember all the many wondrous days, and all the ones happening now, and how we can be youthful all year round, and many other things one might find on a card – hahaha! Or, skip all that, and sip a Happy Youth instead.
The Happy Youth, from Champagne Cocktails
1 ounce Cherry Heering cherry brandy
1 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Chilled extra-dry rosé sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cherry Heering, the orange juice, and the simple syrup. Shake youthfully.
2. Strain the mixture equally into a four flute glasses. Top each with the sparkling wine.
December 22, 2017
Washington State distillers are dreamy (you probably have realized my feelings in this already, as I do go on – but they are awesome!), with so many worthy bottles out already, and more continuing to be released regularly. The latest example? Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon. A follow up to their highly-regarded 20-month aged Greenhorn bourbon, Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon is aged 3-1/2 years, and made from sweet yellow corn and soft white wheat from Grant County, WA, and the distiller’s proprietary wild-yeast strain harvested from a local apple orchard. If that wasn’t enough, though, the real sets-it-apart-thing here is that the aging takes place on a boathouse floating on the Puget Sound – from what I’ve been told, it’s the only whiskey in the world aged that long on the water, where the waves and tides speed up the aging (that’s the theory, at least). End result? A darn tasty tipple, with some nice sweetness from the wheat, and a mingling of sea-salted caramel, toffee, fig, orange, and chocolate.
It’s dandy to enjoy as a solo act, but of course I also wanted to try it in cocktails, and after trying this and then trying that, liked it best in The Hounds They Start to Roar. That drink has a bit of a history, which we won’t get it to too much here (you’ve already read the full story in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz anyway, right? Right!), but I will remind you that the name comes from a Tom Waits’ song, as do the ingredients, in a way. Said ingredients are bourbon, naturally, but also St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (the spice flavors contained therein, cinnamon, clove, and others, go wonderfully with the Chambers Bay bourbon mélange), brandy (which helps balance everything out), and Peychaud’s bitters (which adds another herbal tint or two). Together, it’s a drink fit for any sailor, dog lover, song-singer, or person reading this blog, which means you. Take it out for a walk or a sail and see if I’m right.
The Hounds They Start to Roar, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon
3/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce brandy
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole bunch of ingredients. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable.