This lovely number is an ideal dance partner (or, to put it another way, drink) for the snazzy winter season that is upon us. Pretty, tasty, and pretty tasty, it two-steps gin and Lillet Blanc and then cuts in a small twirl of Angostura and orange. Just a swirling of light herbs and spice and citrus (oh, I’d go with a flavorful gin, here, one with a juniper smooch and not a juniper punch). While this December’s celebrations may not be at the scale as past years, there’s no reason not to enjoy a drink this fine no matter what the celebration entails. You deserve both it and a Great Secret. Really, you do!
Great Secret, as featured in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz but originally, I found it in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual (the Alta 1934 version).
2 ounces gin
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
Dash of Angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish (optional, used instead of above twist)
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Add the gin, Lillet, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and then drop it in.
Well, tomorrow is once again Halloween, often one of the finest funtimes of the year, but in 2020, one of the lamest (not to mention tragic on many levels) years, Halloween like so many other things is different, let’s say. But what’s not different is your scrumptious duty to make a Warlock and turn into a zombie magician. Got it? Spooky good! If you’ve forgotten, the Warlock contains brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters, and is my favoritest Halloween special. As you can see below (and you can also learn how to make the Warlock, too)!
As the air chills and winter phantoms start to haunt the hills (rhyme!) our (mine! yours! everybodies!) tastes begin to turn away from lighter things to alight onto more serious matters. In this case, to take away the high-flaunting language, I’m try to say that brown cocktail season is upon us, or nearly so (though, admittedly, I’m all for hanging on to sunlit days a little longer, and, really, I’m happy to drink whiskey or brandy or other darker-spirited cocktails anytime, but let me go with this). Which means dust off the Scotch, bourbon, Irish, Indian, Japanese, Washington, and other whiskeys – it’s time to warm up from the inside out. Starting with one of my favorite tipples in this vein, the Scotch-y/single-malt-y Rob Roy. It’s absolutely ideal for when the temperature gauge begins to plummet, with a hearty dollop of the base spirit (Scotch, that is) combined with the herbally loveliness that is sweet/red/Italian vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a waft of lemon. Ah, what a treat, not only in my mind. The creatures see of flood and field / And those that travel on the wind (thanks Wordsworth)! For the Scotch here, I’m going with Auchentoshan 12-year-old Scotch, partially cause I had a bottle on the front of my shelves, but moreso cause its smoothness and vanilla/citrus/nutty notes go so well with our other ingredients, especially to me with Carpano Antica, which I’m using for the vermouth and which I love due to its rich, lush, herbal goodness. Dive on in! Oh, wait, before you don your face paint and start drinking, here’s one fun idea: switch Angostura bitters for Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and sip a Highland Cocktail. Or have both!
I gotta admit straight up front that as I’m typing this my dog Ainsley is licking my ear. I also have to admit that this drink is a variation of a drink from Dark Spirits called The Serpent’s Tooth, and while we’re admitting things (or at least while I am), I’ll admit that I can’t quite recall where I first found said Serpent’s Tooth, and while I could go to the library-of-booze-books and look it up, that would then wake up said dog (who has gone from licking my ear to napping), and, well, she needs her rest. So, there we are!
However, I can tell you that this is a some odd assortment of ingredients in a way, and I ended up making it for a Friday Night Cocktail partially because it’s good, but also partially cause I was doing a bit o’ liquor shelves organizing (which can be daunting, between us), and found a couple bottles with just a sip or splash or small stream or two in them, including a bottle of Combier Kümmel. Kümmel, if you don’t happen to know, is the caraway, fennel, cumin (in the main) liqueur that kicked off in Holland way back in the 1500s, and went on to become an Eastern Europe, parts of Western Europe, UK golf club favorite. It hasn’t seen the meteoric rise in the US yet as other once-obscure liqueurs, but I have a fondness for it (along with most things boozy I suppose), a fondness not evidenced by the fact I forgot I had this particular bottle on the shelves nearly empty, but a fact evidenced by me instantly taking a sip and then making this drink with it.
A drink where our nearly-orphaned Kümmel is mixed with an array of items: Irish whiskey (this time, The Quiet Man), Italian vermouth (this time, Punt e’ Mes), and aromatic bitters (this time, The Bitter Housewife). All those ingredients are also in The Serpent’s Tooth, unlike the next one: club soda. As it’s summer, and heated, wanted to turn this into a cooling cooler type of cool, and soda and ice did it. Oh, went with a lemon twist, too, as opposed to the original tooth’s lemon juice. Lighter lemon, I suppose, and it worked a treat. Lots of flavor in this one, bubbling under the surface like an anaconda (with a toothache, if you want to take it there), while still having those, well, bubbles to refresh.
Whoa, summer is already deep into its summerness, and I feel I haven’t had nearly enough bubbly sparkly shimmery (while still cooling) drinks yet. It goes so fast! Could be that with all that’s happening in the world, having a celebratory effervescent mix seems, oh, off a bit? But that’d be silly, cause there is still so much to celebrate, every day, if I can be a little starry-eyed. Maybe I’m just lazy (far more likely)? Or maybe I haven’t had the right mixing option?
Luckily, at least for the latter open-ended (potentially rhetorical) question, a nice selection of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s new line of wine in single-serve aluminum bottles recently showed up in the mail (see, that’s something worth celebrating), and the selection included the “Bubbly” white wine variety (or varietal, if you will, hahaha). All of the four different options have screw-top caps for those that don’t finish in one go – but at 250 ml, I can’t see that happening for you! – lovely artsy decoratives (I made that word up!), and come in a 2-pack. The non-Bubbly choices include a crisp, citrus-y Pinot Grigio and a summer-y and strawberry-and-currant-y Rosé that I’ve tasted, and a Something Sweet white wine blend I’m excited to taste.
But back to Bubbly! It’s made from a bountiful blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Muscat Canelli, and Gruner Veltliner, and delivers a nice apple core flavor, with a little spice, a hint of summer, a dry enough nature, and a clean inviting bubbly-ness. Well worth having chilled all on its own under the shining sun (though I suppose some might be too much in the wine snob category to sip something from an aluminum container – let’s pity them, shall we?), Bubbly also is convivial enough to serve as a solid base for a classic Champagne Cocktail or other sparkling-based cocktail. And the 250 ml size makes it ideal for making two drinks, which is what you’ll want to do so your paramour, bestie, spouse, sanitized neighbor, or other personality doesn’t feel left out. It’s what I did! With that very-legendary and mentioned-above Champagne Cocktail. Side-non-Bubbly-note: I suggest you choose Scrappy’s Orange bitters for your bitters here. Because it has a rich, herbal, bitter-y flavor that goes perfectly (so well that I just ran out of my bottle. That’s the opposite of an occasion worth celebrating).
Okay, to be clear, I’m not telling you that you should ignore the sun’s heat, and not take necessary precautions for safety when the big ol’ yellow ball is high and hot and the Mercury has risen to precarious degrees. Be safe, friends, in all ways! However, I do think Fear No More The Heat O’ The Sun is a delicious name for a delicious summertime, heated weather drink, and if I can say so without sounding like a jerk, I think the below unveiled liquid number fits that bill like a perfect pair of summer shorts. So, now, preamble over.
This particular summer drink is made possible by the postal service – cause it was from their hands a lovely delivery of Diplomático Mantuano rum showed up at my house one day. This is a nice rum, in my opinion (as the kids say) at least. A blend of rums aged up to eight years, it’s fairly mellow, smooth, flavorful (with fruit notes – dried and fresh oranges, plums – vanilla, oak, and spice), a little sweet, carrying a bit of a kick, and pretty darn tasty all on its own, solo, singular, alone. I almost didn’t save enough to try in a cocktail, but those fruit flavors begged me to, and, as hot as it is today, I felt that maybe it’d be temperature-worthy to ice and tall it up some. But what to mix with it?
Well, I wanted to keep the summertime fruit flavors flowing, so my first choice of pals for the rum to play with was Sidetrack Strawberry liqueur. A perfectly wonderful distillery on a farm where all the fruit, spices, herbs, and such used to make their array of must-taste products are grown, Sidetrack has a bounty of fruit liqueur choices, but Strawberry went ideally (as it does with summer). Next up, more fruitiness, this time fresh from the orange’s mouth – meaning, fresh squeezed orange juice for a welcoming citrus burst. But the fruit doesn’t stop there, oh no! I also added a little Fee Brothers peachy Peach bitters, and a hint of simply syrup, which isn’t fruity, but which brings our rummy fruit salad together. You could try without, and I wouldn’t swear about it. Then, it’s on to ice and soda to keep things cool and hydrated, and voila! A sunshine’s-out-sensation!
Sometimes you just have to say, damn the torpedoes, I’m doing this (“this” can mean a number of things, but I usually take it to mean I’m doing something that may be worthy, but also perhaps a bit foolish, or something most might not do, lacking the courage and/or foolishness, depending on your perspective). Often, for me, it’s something with, admittedly, very little real world consequences, revolving around using a snazzy base spirit that should probably be just sipped solo in a cocktail, or having what many consider a more serious spirit-forward drink in the heat of summer. Well, “I yam what I yam” as a famous philosopher once said. Today, said happening revolves around the scrumptious (people should say scrumptious about whiskey more) Four Roses Small Batch Select bourbon, a sample of which arrived in the mail recently (I know, I’m lucky).
Crafted by a mixing of six of the Four Roses bourbon recipes – said six all aged six years by the way, and lucky there’s not one more six in there or I’d be worried – and hitting a hardy 104 proof, this bourbon is a shining example of scrumptious. Hah! I am going to force the usage of scrumptious in! Scrumptious from the very first small, with oak, baking berries, and spices (including, I felt, a nice nutmeg, which is one of my favorites, and a soupçon of cloves and cinnamon). When it hits your mouth, there’s more fruit – summertime fruitiness, really – oak, a little pepper, a little vanilla, all of which trails off with a lingering sweeter vanilla, spice, and toasty oak. A lovely, dare I say again, scrumptious, sip, and then more sips.
However! As alluded to above, I couldn’t leave it at that, or even with just a cube of ice (nice!) or drops of water (also, nice!), I had to do a little mixing. Or, in this case, I had to have my whiskey-loving pal Jeremy do some mixing, as he was sampling too – from a safe distance and with proper safety stuff of course. With a bourbon this good, though, you don’t want to go too far afield; you want to let it shine and all. So, kept it to the classic, legendary, Old Fashioned. Now, I have to say, cause of distancing and sipping, I didn’t actually see Jeremy make said Old Fashioneds, so I’m not 100% sure if his recipe is the same as the below, which is mine – but it tasted darn close, and tasted, well, scrumptious! The little bit of extra sweet mingled in a most mighty manner with the bourbon’s sweetness, and the herbal from the bitters paired with the bourbon’s spice oh-so-pleasantly. Or, if you’d like, scrumptious-ly. I’d try it if I were you. You deserve it.
1. Put the sugar in an old-fashioned glass, of course. Add the bitters and the orange slice, if you wish.
2. Using a muddler or very solid wooden spoon, muddle up the sugar and bitters, along with the orange slice.
3, Place a couple of ice cubes in the glass. Add the bourbon, slowly and with reverence.
4. Stir briefly. Think about scrumptiousness.
A Note: The hoohaw about the garnish on an Old Fashioned can go on forever. Today, orange slice. Tomorrow, cherry. The next, day, who knows. My take is always no fruit salad (meaning, don’t go overboard). But I’ll admit to switching my fruit alliance on occasion, and you can swear at me if you want, just don’t take my drink.
In the middle of summer, the heat is naturally on, but so is the barbecue-ing, the backyard smoking, and, one hopes, the sitting on the porch/picnic table/deck/backyard, consuming the edibles of the labors that have happened over the flames. Yummy, right? But not as yummy without the right drink to have not only with the consuming, but also afterwards, as you and your stomach are mellowing down. There are many worthy options for this summertime moment, but I’d like to throw another in the mix, one called At Once to Ashes, which I created. Really! See, a pal of mine (I am lucky in pals) gifted me some small bottles of smoked simple syrup recently, and while that sounds like she must have used magic to create it, she assures me it was not spells. Now, I don’t know how she (non-magically) made it, but do know it sure is delicious. I can’t ask her if you want? The syrup’s smoky-sweetness is crying out (listen, you’ll hear it) to be had after smoky eating, and also, I believe, crying out to be had with another smoky-ish, earth-y-ish favorite: mezcal. Which is what I’ve done here – I wouldn’t ignore the simple syrup, would I? No! But I wouldn’t stop there, either. I’ve also added Grandeza, a lush orange liqueur made here in WA. Its orange flavor really pops, and it also adds another sidge of sweet, too. You can sub another orange liqueur if you’d like, but Don Ho will not sing of it. But it’ll still taste good! I wanted to balance the sweetness a bit, and also wanted to add a few herbal notes, and a hint of a hot spice kick, so our final ingredients here are Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and Scrappy’s Firewater tincture. If you like heat (habanero heat), then Firewater better be on your radar pals, cause it brings it. End result: At Once to Ashes is smoky-spice-citrus-sweet loveliness in a glass. Enjoy!
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