June 8, 2018
Recently, I was on a trip – the actual physical kind, mind you – that took me away from my home bar and home region, and led me, let’s just say, to a different state, and while there I was really craving Brancamenta, and couldn’t find any anywhere. Anywhere! What kind of place or region or locale or spot doesn’t have this Fernet Branca sibling, which adds Piedmontese peppermint oil and a little sweetness to the legendary bitter-and-herb digestif?
Well, I was missing the minty mint-ness indeed by the time I got back, especially as we’re heading into summer and Brancamenta is a summertime hit of special proportions, especially with soda, and even moreso when mingled with dark rum (another summer fav) and a few other choice choices in the below drink. Try it and see! And if you have to travel anywhere that might not have Brancamenta, even just maybe might not have it, take your bottle with you. You don’t want to run into the situation I did, believe me you.
The Mint Meridian
2 ounces dark rum
3/4 ounces Brancamenta
1/4 freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Chilled club soda
Mint sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with ice cubes. Add the rum, Brancamenta, lemon juice, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball or closely comparable glass up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass through a fine strainer.
3. Top with 3 ounces club soda. Stir. Garnish with the mint spring. Enjoy your afternoon.
May 18, 2018
When a bottle shows up at your door wearing a sort-of a leather sheath, stitched up the back like a very cool (and very tough) boot, and having a grinning bronzed skull bottle topper, first, you very safely, very slowly, and maybe a little clandestinely, peek outside the door to ensure it wasn’t delivered by someone a bit more menacing then the local postal person. If it wasn’t, then (if you’re me), you take a sip.
If (again, if you’re me) it was a bottle of Padre Azul Reposado tequila, you don’t get the burn or serious kick you might expect from said presentation (though really, it’s a shout out to Mexican Day of the Dead culture), but instead a smooth, layered, sipping tequila, made by hand from 100 percent select blue agave, and aged for eight months in French oak casks. The flavor unfolds beautifully on the tongue, too, with a swirl of vanilla, a little nuttiness, a light herbal-ness, and a hint of smoke. Really, it’s one to have neat or over ice, at least to begin with.
If (a third time) you’re me, however, you can’t resist trying even a tequila or other spirt this fine in a cocktail. At first, because of the leather-jacketing-and-skull-grinning, I thought I’d go the more hard core route, and bring in some serious heat. But then, thanks to that vanilla and other notes, my brain exploded in another direction entirely – chocolate. I actually think tequilas of the right kind make a nice match with chocolate, and here, it’s a lush pairing. A little Cointreau made another swell attendee. I couldn’t completely let go of the spice idea, but wanted it clean and crisp and not annoying, and in that situation only Scrappy’s Firewater habanero tincture will do. One more magical ingredient – Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters, which somehow brings all of the other ones together – and we have a dessert drink fit for a king, no matter what they’re wearing.
2 ounces Padre Azul Reposado tequila
1/2 ounce crème de cacao
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater tincture
1 dash Bittermens Xocolati mole bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy, sweets.
March 9, 2018
There are bad days, then there are good days, there are days a little mundane, and days like chocolate ice cream. Days like a wasp sting and days like really good cheddar cheese, slightly sharp. First days, third days, last days. And then there are days when you gain the nickname Lucky, because you received a bottle of Flor de Caña’s Añejo Oro rum in the mail, like I did recently.
Flor de Caña’s Añejo Oro gold rum is a rum aged four years, which has won a big handful of awards, including 2005’s Best in Class award at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, and which has a pretty amber coloring and – even more pretty – a flavor of caramel, cane, coconut, pepper, and all the island memories that you could want. It goes well with a big chunk of ice, or a big glass of soda, but also in cocktails with a few well-matched and well-balanced ingredients.
The balance is important, because you don’t need to overwhelm this rum when it’s used as a base, more accenting it around the edges, which is the direction I went, just bringing in a few supporting players. Starting with a local hit, Lucky Falernum. You might not think island-style would sprout outside of Seattle, but this Lucky’s crafted by broVo Spirits (a distillery that’s also in Woodinville, just outside of Seattle), and is a high-proof falernum bursting with spice and fruit addition. My next step was another island cuddler, Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao, a dry, citrus, legend.
A little simple syrup to round the edges and make everything cozy, and we almost reached the beach (or, to tie it back, earned the nickname). But I felt just a bit more, something was needed, and after trying this, and trying that, I went off the sand somewhat, while still keeping the sun shining, adding a few dashes of Scrappy’s Orleans bitters. Scrappy’s Orleans Bitters is a New Orleans style bitters as you might surmise. Another Seattle standout, Scrappy’s Orleans carries a spice (anise, cinnamon, citrus) and floral suitcase that proved ideal for our island vacation. Now, you just need to decide on that nickname.
Enjoy the Nickname
2-1/2 ounces Flor de Caña Añejo Oro gold rum
1/2 ounce broVo Lucky Falernum
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
1/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orleans bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add all of the liquid ingredients. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
March 2, 2018
There was time when if you wanted a little fire in your drink you had to do it all yourself – infusing your own something or other, which is fun, but also can take time, and ensuring consistency is hard. Now, though, it’s easy to fire-up your cocktail, and in a tasteful and amazing way, thanks to some amazing global booze producers. One of my favorites is Ancho Reyes, the ancho chile liqueur based on a recipe from way back in 1927, which has a fair amount of heat, sure, but is also complex, with layers of spice, too, including cinnamon, and cocoa, tamarind, and a little nuttiness. Dreamy stuff, really.
Another lovely firebreather is Scrappy’s Firewater tincture (Scrappy being the amazing bitters-and-such maker from right here in Seattle). Made naturally from habanero peppers, and also carrying some fresh floral notes, it delivers a load of kaboom, but used responsibly adds a lovely clear clean heat to drinks.
When thinking about using the above, well, go crazy! You know what’s best for you. For me, my first thought was mezcal, specifically Montelobos Mezcal Jovan. Admittedly, I had gotten a bottle of it in the mail (lucky, I know!). But also, cause it’s a 100% organic agave-based spirit, made by the same family for five generations, and made in the shadow of the mountain of wolves (Montelobos means mountain of wolves even). Really! And as you and I know, good stories make good cocktails. The fact that this mezcal has a smoky flavor buoyed by hints of lemon, rosemary and pepper, and grilled jalapeno is also crucial. It’s certainly sippable solo, but makes an ideal base for cocktails, too, thanks to the approachability of the flavor.
A good starting trio, I rounded it out with some fresh orange juice – that citrus burst and sweetness provided a balancing flavor for all that heat and smoke and savory. And then we were close to the top of our cocktail climb, but a little something extra was needed: and that extra (extra vegetal, extra chile, and extra stand of flavor) was St. George Spirits Green Chili vodka. I know, doubling up on what we call base spirits is odd, for some, but this vodka’s made from a basket of California-grown peppers, including jalapenos, serranos, habaneros, and red and yellow bells, and it delivers a bright peppery, zingy, cilantro-y, citrus-y flavor.
All together, if I can say this while being humble, this is a delightful (really, amazing in cold or hot weather, and a mighty accompaniment to a Mexican meal) cocktail. If you aren’t scared of a little heat and a lot of flavor, you should climb this mountain.
Fire on Popocatépetl
1-1/2 ounces Montelobos Mezcal Jovan
1 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes liqueur
1/4 ounce St. George Green Chile vodka
1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater tincture
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything outside of the twist. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the wide orange twist.
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.
December 1, 2017
I don’t actually have a tipsy Italian uncle that I’ve named this after, and because of that, I wake up sorrowful every day. Okay, that’s not true! I did receive a bottle of Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey in the mail recently though. That’s true! I know, getting whiskey in the mail should make me happy – and it does. True!
Uncle Nearest has a great story. It was made in honor of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a former slave who as the story goes taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Amazing! While it was launched in Portland, OR, it’s made in Tennessee using at least 51% corn, filtered via sugar maple charcoal, aged in new American oak, and bottled at 100 proof. That proof gives it a nice sturdy backbone, mellowed by vanilla and rounded out with hints of sesame and cinnamon in the flavor. It’s a sipper, for sure, and one that’ll warm you and your uncles.
When mixing with it, I wanted to keep that umph and personality, but take a little edge off, and bring some herbal helpers into the party. And I went Italian (as I often do), with Montenegro amaro (which lies on the sweeter side of the amaro scale) and Punt e’ Mes vermouth. Also brought old pal Peychaud along, too. End result is robust, with layers and layers of flavor. I think tipsy uncles everywhere would be proud.
The Tipsy Italian Uncle
1-1/2 ounces Uncle Nearest whiskey
1 ounce Montenegro amaro
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole family. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make a second for your uncle (or in his honor, at least).
November 17, 2017
This is not a spelling error (not that I don’t make those a lot); if you didn’t know, there really is a drink called The Zazarac. It wants you to know that it, while not renowned and legendary and all that, it in its own way is also worthy of your attention, much like its very distant cousin (though maybe not the same amount of attention, admittedly). It has a rare rye and rum combo, some friendly supporting players in anisette (go Meletti) and absinthe and Angostura and orange bitters (go Regan’s), and takes the edges off with a splash of simple, and tops things with a twist. Will it have you stopping your Sazerac consumption? Nope. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a sip.
The Zazarac, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce white rum
3/4 ounce anisette
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce absinthe
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, rum, anisette, syrup, absinthe, and both bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a large cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist and a nod to all the lesser-known family members.
November 10, 2017
It’s November here in Seattle (haha), which means the sky has shifted to grey, there’s cold rain in the wind, and people are looking longingly at their calendars. But, it’s also the time of year when whiskey takes more of a center stage spot (not that it’s ever off-stage, mind you me). Why now? Well, it’s warming for one! Also, it just adds a level of brown comfort to a cold evening. At least that’s what I thought when needing a drink for this chilly night. And luckily (lucky me!), I recently received a swell bottle of whiskey, Billy rye whiskey, in the mail, and wanted to take it for a cocktail drive.
Coming from Oregon’s McMenamins (known best for their series of creative bars, but also expanding as a distillery), Billy rye is a sibling of Billy whiskey, and is a limited-availability number, but one worth tracking down. Aged four years in American oak, it has a deep and cuddly and toasty molasses, oakiness, and caramel nature that’s begging to be sipped, and felt, to me, that it’d pair perfectly with some nuttiness. So, I went with the green-walnut liqueur nocino. I used local Sidetrack Distillery Nocino, which is a rich, strong, version of nocino, one I love. To add some undercurrents to our cocktail story I doubled up on bitters, with a bit of both Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters and Fee Brothers West Indian orange bitters. But, it felt unfinished, so I traveled even farther up the west coast, and brought in Sons of Vancouver’s (a distillery in North Vancouver, CA) No. 82 amaretto as our second to the last character – a big orange twist is the final one. Inspired by their mother’s canning recipes it has just five ingredients (apricot kernels, Bourbon vanilla beans, orange peel, Demerara sugar, and blackberry honey) and like our nocino is well worth tracking down.
And the plot all came together, letting the rye lead, but with a host of flavors swirling: nutty, herbally, a smidge of sweet, tiny hints of citrus, it took my mind right off the weather outside. Oh, if you don’t have Sidetrack or Sons of Vancouver in your backyard, well, I feel sad for you! You could sub in other nocinos and amarettos, sure. Won’t be exactly canonical, but still readable – or drinkable.
The Plot Begins
2 ounces McMenamins Billy rye whiskey
3/4 ounces Sidetrack Nocino
1/2 ounce Sons of Vancouver No. 82 amaretto
2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1 dash Fee Brothers West Indian orange bitters
Wide orange twist, for garnish
Big ice cube (or a couple decent-sized ones)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist (it’s that kind of story). Stir well.
2. Add a big ol’ ice cube to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix into said glass. Garnish with the orange twist, and a happy finish to the plot.