October 20, 2017
There are two, no, wait, three problems with Sangria. One: too often when you get it out, it’s an ugly mess that’s been sitting in some bar fridge, aging in a way that kills the brightness and mucks the flavor. That’s the biggest problem, but also easily solvable (make your own! Or go somewhere that makes it with care). The second problem is that most folks restrict it to only the summer months, but a rich, red-wine-based Sangria in the fall (and even winter) months helps deliver citrus and taste and a refreshment that adds a smile to the season/s. Third, when people do make Sangria at home, they don’t use this old family recipe of mine. Too snooty of me, saying that? Maybe. You can either tut-tut me, or make this recipe – I think you’ll act properly. Because you’re a problem-solver!
And while you’re thinking, put your peepers on this groovy Sangria photo from my pal Sara. If that doesn’t get you craving Sangria, well, I’m not sure what to think of you.
Sangria, recipe from Wine Cocktails
1 orange, cut into wheels
1 lime cut into wheels
1 lemon cut into wheels
6 ounces simple syrup
4 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 bottle dry red wine, a Pinot Noir works well, but experiment
6 ounces brandy
Other fresh fruit for garnishing (oranges, limes, lemons)
1. Place the orange, lemon, and lime wheels and simple syrup in a large glass pitcher. Muddle well with a muddler or wooden spoon.
2. Add the orange juice and lime juice, and muddle just a touch more.
3. Add the red wine and the brandy, and stir well (bring a guest stirrer in if needed). Place the pitcher carefully in the refrigerator for two hours or more, but no longer than a day.
4. Add ice until the pitcher is full, and stir slightly. Pour into six stemmed wine glasses or goblets and garnish with fresh fruit.
October 17, 2017
Trollope, how I love thee, let me count the ways . . . okay, that would take too long. But just check out all the past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks, and you’ll read about my swoons until you are blue in the face. Or at least a light shade of pea flower. Anyway. The Way We Live Now is for many THE Trollope book, the big one, the masterwork of all his masterworks. Me, I love it. But it’s not my favorite. But I see where they’re getting to, as it’s a big book, and incredibly insightful, and less happy (which many like) than some of his others, less friendly, more calling-people-out. Which makes it the perfect book for today’s world, in some way. Really, re-reading it (third time? fourth time?) I was struck by how relevant and right on target it was considering the, oh, self-interested spot we’re all within. I strongly suggest it. Though reading it, you may well (as Lord Nidderdale below) find yourself needing a bottle of bubbly. Hopefully you have more luck than he:
“A bottle of Champagne!” said Nidderdale, appealing to the waiter in almost a humble voice, feeling that he wanted sustenance in this new trouble that had befallen him. The waiter, beaten almost to the ground by an awful sense of the condition of the club, whispered to him the terrible announcement that there was not a bottle of Champagne in the house. “Good G — — ,” exclaimed the unfortunate nobleman. Miles Grendall shook his head. Grasslough shook his head.
“It’s true,” said another young lord from the table on the other side. Then the waiter, still speaking with suppressed and melancholy voice, suggested that there was some port left. It was now the middle of July.
“Brandy?” suggested Nidderdale. There had been a few bottles of brandy, but they had been already consumed. “Send out and get some brandy,” said Nidderdale with rapid impetuosity. But the club was so reduced in circumstances that he was obliged to take silver out of his pocket before he could get even such humble comfort as he now demanded.
–Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now
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.
August 18, 2017
At this point in the summer, it’s best to be sure you’re surrounded by pals and easy-to-build drinks that are scaled for more than just you. Summertime, late summertime especially, isn’t the time for quiet solo contemplation after all. It’s time for simple and swell parties with the below mix (also good to have fruit juice, to ensure you don’t get sick during these late summer weeks, and brandy because, well, brandy needs you and you need brandy – but that’s as much contemplation as we want). Oh, this’ll serve around eight, depending on how hot it is. If it’s really hot, might want to keep it to, oh, six, seven max. And get extra ice.
Power to the People, from Dark Spirits
2 peaches, pitted and sliced
2 apricots, pitted and sliced
4 ounces Simple Syrup
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
One 750-milliliter bottle chilled Prosecco
Orange slices for garnish
1. Combine the peaches, apricots, and simple syrup in a sturdy pitcher, the kind you use when outdoors in the summer. Using a muddler or long wooden spoon, muddle the fruit and syrup well.
2. Fill the pitcher halfway full with ice cubes, and then add the brandy and orange juice into the pitcher’s melody. Stir well.
3. Carefully add the Prosecco and orange slices. Stir again, well. Serve in wine glasses, getting a slice of orange in each glass.
A Note: There will be some leftover fruit here – you should eat it! Or, if that kind of thing makes you icky (well, it shouldn’t in summer, but who am I to judge), you could actually strain out the bigger bits, early in the process. But I wouldn’t.
June 27, 2017
I earlier had a Day Keene Cocktail Talk (there are many Day Keene’s here on the Spiked Punch, cause he’s grand in the pulp way) from the story collection Death March of the Dancing Dolls (one of a series of collections of his pulp mag stories and yarns and legends and tales). But guess what – one was not enough! I almost forgot about the below beaut, which reminds us how long two of my favorites have been coupling in glasses and people’s minds. Sadly, the gent rolling it out isn’t, oh, the most lovable of narrators, and . . . well, you’ll have to read the story!
The only bright spot in the picture was Connie. She’d been a hasher when I met her, and a good one. She took to the job in the joint across from the City Hall like Benedictine to brandy.
–Day Keene, Mighty Like a Rogue
June 16, 2017
It’s morning, and nearly the beginning of summer, which means I (as I always do) am going to sit myself down and have a Baltimore Bracer and read Thomas Osborne Davis’ “The Sack of Baltimore:”
The summer sun is falling soft on Carbery’s hundred isles,
The summer sun is gleaming still through Gabriel’s rough defiles;
Old Innisherkin’s crumbled fane looks like a moulting bird,
And in a calm and sleepy swell the ocean tide is heard:
The hookers lie upon the beach; the children cease their play;
The gossips leave the little inn; the households kneel to pray;
And full of love, and peace, and rest, its daily labor o’er,
Upon that cosy creek there lay the town of Baltimore.
Well, at least that first stanza. Hmm, I sorta think I may be reading at least one word differently than he meant it.
1-1/2 ounces brandy
1-1/2 ounces anisette
1 egg white, preferably organic
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the brandy, anisette, and egg white. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
May 26, 2017
As all know, I am fond of many local WA-state distillers, and one of my very favorites (you probably know this too, having been reading this blog for years and years, correct?) is a distillery on a farm – farm and distillery all the same fine folks – in a valley outside of Kent, WA, a distillery called Sidetrack. Not only do they deliver fine products using produce grown on their farm, but they also have a beautiful event space in a refurbished old barn. Super swell stuff. While they get a lot of deserved plaudits for their liqueurs (from fruit to walnut-based Nocino to more exotic fare like my favorite Lemon Verbena), they also make clear, European-style, fruit brandies. Delicious, strong, and hopefully liquids more Americans will start sipping. I think my favorite Sidetrack brandy – though I like them all – is Strawberry. It’s like the essence of strawberry, the Platonic ideal, while being robust and umph-y. It is a spirit, after all. I like it so much that I wanted to create a drink with it, but it was tough (as it can be with many fruit brandies) at first, due to user error. Hahaha. But I kept at it, and eventually went with a favorite dessert inspiration, the king of dessert drinks, the Alexander. Then, after a bunch of tweaks, the below emerged, and is lush, layered, and if I can say while being humble, pretty darn wonderful. Good after dinner both because of its hints of dessert and because of its strong backbone.
1-1/2 ounces Sidetrack Strawberry brandy
1 ounce Depth crème de cacao
1 ounce heavy cream
1/2 ounce maple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake really well. Really well!
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Dream of orchards.
A Note: An actual strawberry would make a fine garnish here, but sadly I was strawberry deficient.
May 16, 2017
If you missed our first bout of May Maigret Cocktail Talking, and want to learn more about the burglaring, then by all means, please go read Part I. I’ll wait.
Back? Awesome! Let’s get into our second quote, which is taking place in a small bistro, with Maigret questioning the publican (or, here, I suppose, bisto-lican), who relates a story of said lazy burglar and his desire for . . . well, just read it, why dontcha.
“I was busy with the coffee percolator. I didn’t hear any footsteps. And when I turned round, there he was, leaning on the bar. It gave me quite a turn.”
“That’s why you remembered it?”
“And for another reason, because he asked me if I had any real Kirsch, not the fancy stuff. . . We don’t get too many orders for that. I took a bottle from the back row – that one there, with the German words on the label – and he seemed pleased. He said:
“‘That’s the real thing.’”
“He took the time to warm the glass in his hand, and drank slowly, looking at the clock. I realized he was wondering whether to ask for another, and when I held out the bottle he didn’t say no.”
— George Simenon, Maigret and the Lazy Burglar