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.
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.
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.”
It’s May, which means this is the perfect time for some Maigret-based Cocktail Talks (because both words start with M – seems like a great reason to me). If for some absolutely insane reason you don’t know who Maigret is, well, friend, you’re in for a treat. He’s the Parisian Police Inspector who stars in many, many mysteries written by the prolific George Simenon. I’ve read a fair amount of Maigret stories and novels, and yet I feel there are still a whole bunch yet to discover – I’m in for treats, too! This particular book revolves around some Paris police and judiciary intrigues, a very proficient and friendly burglar found dead early in the morning, and a series of hold-ups. As well as a series of drinks – Maigret being fond of a number of liquor’d libations (read more about it all here). There’s enough good Cocktail Talk-ing in this tale that I thinks I’m going to have to have multiple quotes, starting with this one (where, funny enough, Maigret isn’t drinking at all):
“Haven’t you anything to drink?”
“No. It’s for you. I’d like you to take a nip of something.”
He remembered she was fond of her glass, and at this, sure enough, she went to the dining-room sideboard and brought out a bottle of plum brandy.
Even at such a moment as this, she could resist cheating a bit.
“I was keeping it for my son . . . He sometimes took a drop after dinner.”
I would never ask the question (being happily married with the bestest wife in the whole wide world – the universe, even) from which this drink takes its name. But Crosby Gaige sure would. Not sure why, and sadly I can’t ask him, as he’s currently tippling (with his wife, perhaps, for all I know, or husband, or alien companion, if we’re getting universal. I’m sure no species-ist) in that great big bar in the afterlife. See, this comes from his book (a jolly one, by the way, if you ever see a copy) from way back in 1941, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. This particular drink is from “The Department of the Charentes or Brandy Department” chapter, and I was looking for a brandy a drink the other day, and realized, hey, I’d never tried this, and so even though I know many good answers to the drink’s name, I made it anyway. And it’s an interesting mix, because really (oh that joker Crosby), it’s a gin drink, with brandy (and Cointreau, and lemon juice) playing smaller parts. It might have just a stitch too much lemon juice for most modern palates, but I found it refreshing, and like the way the brandy sidekick’d to the gin, with that Cointreau underneath really, and the lemon bright up top. No matter what your views on material status, give it a whirl.
1-1/2 ounces gin (dryer the better)
1/2 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Shake well (yes! I know this all goes against traditional ice/shake/stir/mumbo/jumbo. But this is how Crosby did it, and it worked for me, too).
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Drink up. Then walk down that aisle!
It’s spring right? I mean, according the calendar and all, spring started way back on the 20th. You’re frolicking right? In a meadow? Please tell me you are frolicking. FROLICKING! It’s spring, after all, when meadows should be begging to be frolicked in, as well as various other springtime spring-y-nesses. If you haven’t started your frolicking engines, then I suggest you drink a couple Ognams. They start the spring frolicking in a perfect way. Try it out – but be sure you have your frolicking clothes on.
Well, you play that tarantella, all the hounds will start to roar
The boys all go to hell and then the Cubans hit the floor
They drive along the pipeline, they tango ’til they’re sore
They take apart their nightmares and they leave them by the door
Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
Deal out Jacks or better on a blanket by the stairs
I’ll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
And send me off to bed for evermore . . .
That’s Tom Waits, friends. Lyrics from the song “Tango ’til They’re Sore,” naturally. The inspiration, that song, and the record it’s on, for this very drink. You’ll need to listen to the whole thing and the whole of Rain Dogs, now. If you weren’t already.
The Hounds They Start to Roar
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce brandy (Spanish, of course)
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole bunch of ingredients. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or goblet. Sing Tom songs, of course.
Well, it’s nearly Halloween, and that means it’s time for one of the traditions here at Spiked Punch, the one where I drink a Warlock cocktail and turn into a zombie magician of sorts. Oh, the Warlock is a good drink, too, well worthy of your spooky celebrations, with brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. I can’t wait to drink it, consequences be darned. You should take the same stance this October.
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