February 23, 2018
I wish I could say with certainty that this drink was named after Mercurio, the 4-D Man, a fella from the planet Gramos who fought Thor and the wacky Warriors Three, as well as a bunch of other heroes and such in the mighty Marvel universe, utilizing both fire and ice powers. However! I don’t know that this drink was named after said alien, or the Mexican wrestler of the same name, or the Chilean newspaper. My guess? A misspelling of a Willy S character, or after the planet Mercury. When all is said and done, though, does it matter? This is a swell sipper for around 10 folks, one that’s a bit bubbly, a bit brandy, and a big grape-y. Great for the end of February, when you’re just starting to feel spring might someday happen, but still chilly. Heck, they even like it on Gramos.
Mercurio Punch, from Dark Spirits
Block of ice, or ice cubes
16 ounces brandy
16 ounces purple grape juice
8 ounces Bénédictine liqueur
8 ounces simple syrup
One 750-milliliter bottle red wine (go for a Cabernet here, one with robust body)
One 2-liter bottle chilled club soda
1. Add the block of ice to a large punch bowl, or fill the bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, grape juice, Benedictine, and simple syrup. Stir well.
2. Add the red wine to the cast, and stir again.
3. Smoothly add the club soda, and stir a final time (or maybe a few final times—you want to get it good and combined). Serve in punch glasses.
February 20, 2018
Just last week I talked about Charles Williams, Stark House Classic Noir
, past Charles Williams’ Cocktail Talks
, and broken glass in the Nothing In Her Way Part I Cocktail Talk
. Don’t miss it – or be the one person on your block who missed it, and then feel bad for weeks. Weeks! And then pick up the book Nothing In Her Way
(which comes with the also-swell Williams’ page-turner, River Girl
). You won’t be sorry. Just check out the below quote for evidence, where the double-crosses and easy fibs are rolling already (it’s a book about conning folks, after all) as is a classic cocktail:
Was Charlie lying to me, or was she lying to Charlie? Since there was no known record of Charlie’s ever having told the truth about anything, the answer would seem to be obvious, but I wasn’t too sure. Dullness had never been one of her faults.
We sat down again, and she ordered a Ramos fizz. She was on Charlie’s side of the table, directly across from me, and when the drink came she leaned forward a little and said, wide-eyed, “I do hope you’ll help us, Mr. Belen.”
— Charles Williams, Nothing In Her Way
February 16, 2018
I’ve had a few cocktails on the Spiked Punch already featuring awesome Ardbeg Scotches – heck, if you haven’t seen them, you should check them out. Recently (I guess I was born under a lucky star!) I received one of their newest numbers in the mail, the mysteriously named Ardbeg An Oa.
Named after the Mull of Oa, a very dramatic point on the cliffy pinnacle of Oa on Islay – where Ardbeg is as well – An Oa is a little dramatic, too, in that it’s spent time in the new Ardbeg Gathering Vat which boasts whiskies from multiple casks – sherry, virgin charred oak, ex-bourbon – all hanging out. There has to be some drama, right? Of the best kind, as is obvious in the end result here, a Scotch that’s an approachable sipper with a fair amount of smoky and peatiness, but also sweetness on the nose and taste, as well as citrus and spice in the former, and black tea, chocolate, citrus, and a savoryness in the latter. Overall, a great Scotch, solo or over ice.
But also one I had to try in cocktails (‘natch)! But what to pair it with? I wanted an end result that had some umph and retained the Scotch’s personality, but also with a few other notes and notices. After trying a little of this, and a little of that, went with just two more pals from hither and thither. Starting with Cynar, the legendary Italian artichoke liqueur, which is now much more available and renowned (as it should be) than the first time I had it, thanks to the herbal and slightly sweet taste that goes well before and after dinner and in cocktails. The third ingredient is lesser known, Sásta, a tea-based liqueur from Four Leaf Spirits, based right outside of Seattle. Might not be the easiest to get right now if you’re not in WA, but hey, come visit! Sásta is well worth the trip, with a citrus, mint, chamomile, and rooibos tea combo built over a cane spirit base and local honey. This liqueur isn’t that sweet, carries a bit of a kick, and has layers of orange, spice, and herbal moments.
The above trio delivers a cocktail with lots of umph, smokiness, and a ridiculous amount of flavors. Not one to throw back, but one to let linger on the tongue some, where those flavors can come on out to be noticed.
2 ounces Ardbeg An Oa
3/4 ounces Cynar
1/2 ounce Four Leaf Spirits Sásta tea liqueur
Orange 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, and garnish with the orange twist (notice there is no twist in the photo – well, I tried this without, and with, and the with was better, but I forgot to photo it).
February 13, 2018
I love the Stark House
Noir Classics series – thanks Stark House! They take some legendary noir/crime/mystery/all-the-good-stuff writers, some looked over, some not, pick out some of their (often lesser-available) books, and often package two books in one volume. Which is amazing! Recently, I became the proud possessor of another in the collection, a book combining two hits from Charles Williams – Nothing In Her Way and River Girl
. That’s some combo!
I’ve Cocktail Talked Charles Williams before – a fair amount, go check them out – and am always happy to find a yarn of his I haven’t read (thanks again Stark House!), which is the case here times two. He’s known for his sea-set books best, perhaps, but also for his unflinching look into his characters, who all carry flaws, his usually-right-on plotting, and a couple movie adaptations, including ocean-bound Dead Calm. Neither of the books in this two-books-in-one powerhouse takes place aboard a boat on the ocean like that one (though as you’d expect from the title, River Girl includes a river), but both are worth diving in to. I liked Nothing In Her Way a bit better of the two, because it’s a grifters story, and, well, I like reading about the cons and the cons who try to con. Also, it has a number of Cocktail-Talk-able quotes, so we’re gonna feature two here, starting with the rum and accidental-glass-breaking (or is it?) number below:
It was one of those dim places, with a black mirror behind the bar, and while it was doing a good business, I hadn’t known it was that crowded. I’d just put my drink down and was reaching for a cigarette when I felt my elbow bump gently against something, and then I heard the glass break as it went over the bar. I looked down at the spreading Daiquiri, and then at him. It was odd. There’d been plenty of room there a minute ago.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “It didn’t spill on you, did it?”
“No. It’s all right.” He smiled. “No harm done.”
“Here,” I said. “Let me get you another one.” I caught the bartender’s eyes and gestured.
“No,” he protested. “I wish you wouldn’t. It was just an accident. Happen to anybody.”
“Not at all,” I said. “I knocked it over. I’ll get you another one.” The barman came up. “Give this gentleman another Daiquiri. And charge me with a glass.”
–Charles Williams, Nothing In Her Way
February 6, 2018
Hello rummies! I recently was lucky enough to write about top-rate tiki bars in Seattle and Tacoma – at least some of them – for the grass-skirt-shaking Seattle magazine. The tiki movement is back in full swing up here (and, really, most spots), and it was sweet to be able to sip and sip some more island style drinks. But hey, don’t listen to me blather on – go check out the tiki talking right now.
February 2, 2018
I’m what you might call a creamtooth. What’s that, you ask? Well, you’ve heard of a sweettooth naturally, and a creamtooth is like that, but someone who’s pretty fond of cream things – like drinks with cream, or parfaits made with cream, or cream scones. But especially drinks made with cream things. I know, I know, creamy drinks are sort-of frownie with some of the toughies that make up the modern cocktail scene. But the mighty Alexander is one of my all-time favs, and well, that kicked it off. Which leads to this drink right here, the Shipboard Moon, made with a new cream liqueur that showed up at the house recently (I know, a bit lucky is me), specifically SomruS Alphonso mango cream liqueur.
That’s right – mango cream liqueur. If anyone was going to pull off a good mango cream liqueur, it’d be SomruS, whose flagship cream liqueur blends five Indian spices and nuts to give it a memorable flavor – well, that and the pure milk and run base. For the mango extension, they were inspired by the traditional Mango Lassi, also from India. To get to a mango flavor that made folks smile, they use the Alphonso mango, the king of mango, as it’s called. End result? A creamy treat that has a natural, smooth, mango flavor, much different from the normal chemically-mango’d booze bottles. Served chilled, it’s a treat all on its own.
But also one that pairs perfectly with other boozes in cocktails, especially those (as you might expect) with a bit of a tropical bent. At least I felt that way when picking a few other ingredients to play with. After a little experimenting, I went with Cruzan’s nice and dry aged light rum, which has some vanilla notes that go well with the cream, and the amazing Stiggins’ Fancy pineapple rum from Plantation. If you haven’t had the latter, you’re in for a treat, as it has a plentiful pineapple aroma and strong-but-tropical flavor that’ll have you dreaming of beaches. Altogether, this trio combines into a drink that’s creamy, sure, but also with backbone and layers of flavor. I topped with a sprinkle of cocoa powder, because, well, it seemed right, and because Valentine’s Day is around the corner.
1-1/2 ounces SomruS Alphonso mango cream liqueur
1-1/2 ounces Cruzan aged light rum
1 ounce Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy pineapple rum
Pinch of cocoa powder
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full of ice cubes. Add everything but the cocoa powder. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Dust the top with the cocoa powder.
January 26, 2018
Funny, that this drink is mixed, with the title and all! But really, said title is from Pickwick (Pickwick Papers, I mean), and you know it goes so well, in a way, as this drink is very happy – and you will be, too, when drinking it. And by starting the year, more or less, with some happiness (we’re still new to the year, I feel), then you’ll continue along the same lines. Aw, but I’m rambling a little, as I’m prone to do, any time of the year. The real important notes here are Scrappy’s unmissable Black Lemon bitters, named for the spice used in Middle Eastern cooking, two vermouths, dry and the sweeter-and-lighter blanc, and a base of local Kur gin. Drink up – happiness awaits.
A Moment of Unmixed Happiness
1-3/4 ounces Kur gin
3/4 ounces dry vermouth
1/2 ounce Dolin blanc vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the twist.
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 locker 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 faces, 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