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.
October 13, 2017
It’s October, which means we have one eye on the upcoming glistening holiday season, and one still on the summer that’s passed, and one on Halloween of course (I’m taking it for granted that each of us has three eyes – it is near Halloween). This position in the party calendar year makes this the ideal time for sweet sparkling wines. Well, really, I’m okay with them anytime, but as they are both ideal for summer (when served nice and cold) and winter (when they match those holidays parties you’re waiting for), then of course, they’re doubly ideal now. That’s my logic. Lucky for me then, a bottle of Castello del Poggio sparkling moscato showed up in the mail recently. Don’t hate me for my luck!
A delicate, lovely, fruity wine, this moscato is a delight. Castello del Poggio is located in Piedmont (in Italy, if that wasn’t obvious), and makes for a pretty sipper from the peachy aroma to the sweet fruity kiss of a flavor, with lots of notes to dwell on. Pear? Sure. Peach? Maybe a bit of strawberry? I thought so, but your palate may differ. There’s a consistent effervescence, too. All combined, makes for a memorable aperitif, or a dessert accompaniment.
It also makes swell sparkling cocktails (you probably knew I was going to go there, cause you’re smart)! When using it in this drink – called How Silver-Sweet, from R&J, because the sweetness – I wanted to balance it while aligning on the fruit. So, I started with a favorite local spirit, Sidetrack Distillery’s Strawberry brandy. A really, classic, fruit brandy, it’s dry, strong, and carrying the pure essence of the fruit – fruit harvested from the farm where Sidetrack is located. To umph the fruit even more, and rounding out the basket, I also added Pierre Ferrand’s orange curaçao. And then, a final touch, some herbal undertones provided by Peychaud’s bitters. The end result is a layered drink that boasts sweetness and light and lots of flavor.
1 ounce Sidetrack strawberry brandy
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
3-1/2 ounces Castello del Poggio sparkling moscato
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the brandy, curaçao, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a wine glass (or flute). Top with the moscato. Stir briefly. Sip sweetly.
September 29, 2017
Like you, some nights (not many, but say one or two or three a lifetime) I find myself just browsing The Calvert Party Encyclopedia (1960 edition). It is “Your complete guide to home entertaining,” after all. Not to mention being,“the party book that gives you the power to please.” Now that’s power! But all joshes aside, it’s a better version than many company sponsored books (and worse than some as well), with a bunch of drink recipes including their products, and some others not, and some food ideas, and general party ideas and tips, and bar set up stuff. Not a bad little browser. And when browsing, I came across the Up-to-Date – maybe again? Maybe I’ve seen it somewhere else? I was intrigued, no matter which or what, and decided to give it whirl. In the book/manual/novella, it’s made with Calvert Reserve, but to keep it really up-to-date, I decided to sub out the Calvert Reserve (sorry Calvert!), with the latest bit of WA-state deliciousness to show up at my house: Epic Sht Gin, from the fine folks at Cadée Distillery on Whidbey Island.
It’s not as big a switch as you might think – being that the Epic Sht Gin is of the barrel-aged gin variety, so shares a kinship with whiskey as you might imagine. It’s a nicely-layered number, with the botanical notes of the gin still there, but also notes of spice and wood and a little nuttiness from the barrel, with a vanilla undertone, too. It’s not easy to get outside of the distillery as of this writing (but the distillery is well worth visiting), but hopefully by the time you’re reading, it’ll be more available. Also, its particular character I thought would go well with sherry – and I was right! Me and the fine folks at Calvert, that is! Try the below and see if I’m right (tip: I am).
1-1/2 ounces Cadée Distillery Epic Sht Gin
1 ounce Tio Pepe fino sherry
1/4 ounce Grand Mariner
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add it all. Stir in a party manner.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Get up-to-date