August 17, 2018
It was long ago – just last week! – when I had a drink here on the Spiked Punch featuring Louis Raison French Cidre, or cider, made in France, by the Raison family who’ve been making such since 1923. That drink was called The Puget Seine (being a drink that used ingredients from hither and yon), and if you missed it, go back in time and drink it up.
It was so good, that I wanted to try another cider cocktail (or cidre cocktail) right after, going in a different direction, to see where I might land. And I landed with Brightly Rouged Cheeks! What, I hear you ask, is that? Not a cosmetic, I assure you. But a completely different cider drink, one’s that’s also swell for August, using some summer favorites, including mezcal. That’s right, mezcal and apples, and you know what – delicious! This time, I used Louis Raison’s Rouge Delice cidre, made from bittersweet and Rouge Delice apples (you may have guessed the latter). It’s a stitch redder in color (you may have guessed that, too), with a floral, apple, plum flavor, a hint sweeter than other Louis Raisons, but not sickly sweet like some “ciders” out there.
I decided a splash of zing and heat might be nice (sometimes, spiciness in a hot way mingles memorably with the high mercury days of summer), so brought the world’s finest ancho chile liqueur – perhaps the only, but oh so great, and such a favorite of mine – into our party, Ancho Reyes. Everything was going well, but the drink needed something more. Voila! Bitters. And is so often the case. The time, it was The Bitter Housewife Aromatic bitters, whose cherry, ginger, spice, bitter nature brought the needed flush. A wedge of lime, and we’re all set for a sunshine day.
Brightly Rouged Cheeks
2 ounces Montelobos Mezcal Jovan
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur
Dash Bitter Housewife Aromatic bitters
Big ice cube
3 ounces Louis Raison Rouge Delice cidre
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the mezcal, Ancho Reyes, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Add a big ice cubes (or a few pretty big ice cubes) to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix from above into the glass.
3. Top with the cidre. Stir to combine. Squeeze the lime wedge above the drink and drop it in. And start sipping.
PS: Want to learn a bit more about Montelobos Mezcal Jovan, check out the Fire on Popocatépetl cocktail, which is, if I can say it, amazing.
July 27, 2018
Okay, don’t be upset with me, but this drink contains an ingredient that is not only made in Washington state (so, un-local for some – though, really, come on out here, where the whiskey is fine), but may not even be on the market completely in Washington state yet. See, I received a bit of an advanced sample – again, don’t be upset with me. I can’t help the luck! That ingredient is Medusa!
And, because I liked this Medusa, an American whiskey from the Cadée distillery out this way on Whidbey Island, so much I just had to make a drink with it. A straight bourbon whiskey that’s been matured in 10-year-old Spanish Madeira wine barrels, Medusa, unlike the creature it’s named after, it won’t turn you to stone, though you may be struck by happiness for a moment when you take sips, thanks to its gentle nutty caramelly sweetness, and some intriguing emerging red stone fruit layers (ripe cherries, especially).
With the latter notes in mind, my first partner for it was another lovely local product that also is fruity (in the best way), Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur. Sidetrack grows all the fruit used in their liqueurs and other products on the sweetest farm you’d ever want to see, right outside of Kent Washington, and their Blackberry is the essence of summer. Well, one of them, because I also added muddled up Rainer cherries (the essence of early summer) here two. So much summer! And then, to round things out, a little Peychaud’s bitters. All together, a treat whether the sun is bright or has gone down. It might be hard to track all the ingredients for some, but trust me, it’ll be well worth it.
Requiem for Summer
4 Rainer cherries (could use another variety, but these are the tops), pitted
2 ounces Cadée Medusa American whiskey
3/4 ounces Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur
Dash Peychaud’s bitters
Big ice cube (or a few not-so-big)
1. Add the cherries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Fill the shaker up halfway with ice cubes. Add everything liquid. Shake well.
3. Add a goodly-sized ice cube to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the same glass. Revel in the revelry.
July 6, 2018
Rosé (the wine, to be clear) is now a celebrated part of many people’s summers. With good reason, due to its light, easy-going-but-flavorful natures (in most situations, that is). Actually, it’s connected so closely with summer, it’s almost a cliché – but what a tasty cliché! However, rosé cocktails aren’t so en vogue, which is a shame, because with the right rosé, you can make a layered, lovely, drink that also fits summer like a well-made bathing suit. I recently received a bottle (I know, lucky!) of Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé to prove this theory (well, is it a theory, if I’ve already proved it? I guess now it’s a rule? A law? Something along those lines, but I don’t want to get too sidetracked). A subtle glowing pink color, this rosé has the wine’s refreshing characteristics and an approachable crispness, with attractive fruits notes on the nose and tongue – both citrus and strawberries and more.
It’s worthy when the sun’s out all on its own, but also a perfect plaything when mixed with others. In this case, those others began with Sipsmith London Dry gin, a classic dry gin with just the right juniper surrounded by botanicals and citrus. Then, thinking of our rosé French history, I decided on another French favorite, Pineau Francois white pineau, an aperitif that has a grape-and-hints-of-orange-citrus delightfulness. With that trio in place, the drink was solidly sippable, but not to the heights I wanted. So, I brought in a fourth player, Scrappy’s unbelievable Black Lemon bitters (if you don’t know Scrappy’s read all about Scrappy’s), which brought an earth lemon-ness that rounded everything off. All together – yummy, and a hit for any summer party.
1-1/2 ounces Sipsmith London Dry Gin
3/4 ounces Pineau Francois white pineau
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
3 ounces chilled Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass hallway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, pineau, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain the above into a white wine glass. Add the rosé. Stir, gently, to combine.
June 22, 2018
Hey, did you realize, the first day of summer was yesterday! On the calendar, it told me so, and so I thought I’d better have a Captain’s Blood to celebrate. One, because in summer, everyone is a Captain. Two, because the real blood in this drink is rum, and rum and summer go together like Captains and big hats – or big shields, if Captain America. Three, because the secondary blood in here is lime juice, which also goes so well with summer (like Captains and good catchphrases), and as a bonus will help keep the summer scurvy at bay. Four, because the tertiary blood here in orange bitters, a classic for summer and any time of year, and also a healing liquid I feel, and in summer of course you want to be healthy, Captain or not. Fifth, because this drink is easy, tangy, and boozy, all important components of summer drinks and of Captains (Captain America only the latter when not saving the galaxy naturally). Captains!
Oh, also, I used Washington-made Skiprock Distillery’s Belle Rose Amber rum, aged in used whiskey barrels; it boasts a caramel, vanilla, and sugar rum-ness accented by traces of tobacco and whiskey. I also used Washington-made Scrappy’s Orange bitters, because I love the locals, sure, but also cause it’s a beaut of a bitters, using fresh and bitter oranges and peels, and a nice orange-and-herbal flavor.
2-1/2 ounces Skiprock Belle Rose Amber rum
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Giant ice cube
Lime slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice cubes. Add the rum, two dashes bitters, and lime juice. Shake, brave Captain, shake.
2. Add your giant ice cube to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix through a fine strainer over the cube into the glass.
A Note: You can – and I have – have this up. But if it’s really sunny, get that ice cube going.
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.