October 21, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Italian Evening

At some point this month, I myself will be in Italy, and I can’t be happier about it (having lived there once, it’s easy to see that I am a big fan), and in a way this drink is a bubbly celebration of that happiness. Though, it’s also perhaps a more serious number (not in a bad way, at all) than some bubbly Italian drinks. Howso? It starts with grappa, which I love, and which is of course a cousin to wine, and as you probably guessed by the “bubbly,” this also has Italian sparkler Prosecco. Let’s hold on that for a second, to talk about the third ingredient, Cynar. A member of the digestif amari family, Cynar is crafted from artichokes along with 12 other herbs and plants. It’s a wee stitch bitter, but has a great smooth herbal-ness and a small comforting sweetness, too. It’s swell solo, but also in drinks, and plays well with the strong grappa here. But back to the Prosecco – to hold up to those other two strong personalities, you need a bubbly with its own strong sense of purpose and flavor, and here I went with Zonin Black edition (a bottle came in the mail recently – yes, I was born under a good sign). It’s a slightly spicier Prosecco, with cardamom hints alongside apple and a little floralness. Combined with our other two Italian imports, this makes for an effervescent drink that can be had both before and after dinner, and perhaps savored more than most.

italian-eveningThe Italian Evening

Cracked ice
1 ounce grappa
1 ounce Cynar
4 ounces chilled Zonin Black edition Prosecco
Lemon twist

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the grappa and Cynar. Stir well.

2. Strain into a flute. Top with the Prosecco. Stir to combine. Garnish with the lemon twist.

October 14, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Burst of Feeling

This is a globe-trotting flavorsome sipper, which actually uses ingredients from three different continents. Really! I think. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think I’m right, though with the teutonic shifting, well, you never know what’s changed in the many years since my geography classes. What I do know is that it’s a swell mix, thanks in large part to the addition of Bundaberg ginger beer (some of which, lucky me, showed up in the mail not too long ago. Don’t hate me cause I’m lucky). Out of Australia, Bundaberg makes a variety of tasty beverages, but is at the moment best known for its ginger beer, a n/a version made from all-natural nature-y things (roots, spices) and being a very smooth drink, with a hint of sweet and good underlying gingerness. Here, I pair it with two other flavorsome friends: Peruvian brandy Pisco, and a little Euro insertion thanks to old chum Italian aperitif Aperol. As a trio, at first glance, they may seem oddly matched, but everything brings a little this, a little that, a little of their own personality. Lots of flavor, while still being refreshing.

burst-of-feelingThe Burst of Feeling

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces pisco
1/4 ounce Aperol
Ice cubes
4 ounces Bundaberg ginger beer

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the pisco and the Aperol. Stir well.

2. Fill a smallish highball or a good-sized Old Fashioned-y glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass.

3. Top with the Bundaberg. Stir well.

October 7, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Last Gasp of Summer

It’s only fitting to have legendary Italian favorite Campari as a core ingredient in a drink that’s all about love for those days, sometimes in September, sometimes in October, which bring a more summery-ness to fall – extra sun, an extra digit or two on the temperature, or just that feeling summer has. Why Campari? Well, Campari, if you didn’t know, is all about love. Created in the 1800s in Italy by Gaspare Campari, at first Campari was only available throughout Italy, where it became very popular. Then, Gaspare’s son Davide was born, grew up, grew to love the liqueur named after his family, and starting working at their café, the Café Campari in Milan, where he spread the legend of the liqueur. One day, when the stars where shining through the bottles filled with red in the shop, Lina Cavalieri walked through the doors. Lina was a popular opera singer, and she and Davide got along smashingly, and they started to become more than friends, if you know what I mean. Then Lina had to move to Nice, France, for an opera part. Davide was crushed, but had a light bulb moment – why not begin exporting Campari, starting with Nice? Then he would be able to bring the liqueur to those in need around the world, and also be near his lady love. That, friends, is a summer-y story, and this is a summer-y drink that’s ideal for fall (or anytime, really).

The Last Gasp of Summer

4 strawberries
3/4 ounces simple syrup
Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Campari
3 ounces chilled Prosecco (I went with Zonin Prosecco White edition here, cause of its floral fruitiness, which matches everything swell here)

1. Add 3 of your strawberries and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well, but carefully.

2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Campari. Shake well.

3. Strain through a fine strainer into an enchantingly summerlike goblet. Top with the Prosecco. Garnish with that last strawberry (put a little slice into it, so it fits cozily on the rim).

September 30, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Presidential

This, oh, topical drink goes far back for me. I created it for my very first drink book, Party Drinks, way back in 2003. In hindsight, it’s really just mini-variations on about 10,000 other drinks, starting with the whiskey sour and moving forwards, sidewards, and backwards. But I still dig it, and still love calling it the Presidential cause it’s such a boon to election seasons when you sometimes need a drink with a bit of a wallop underlying strong citrus and some sweet to make everything more cuddly.

However, to do it right, you need a bourbon you believe in (hey, I also sound election-y). I had mine this time with WA-state Heritage Distillery’s Duel Barrel Bourbon (which is only available at Total Wine & More, but that store is nearly nationwide, so track it down). It’s aged in charred new American oak barrels first, then in whiskey barrels that have held small batches of pure vanilla extract. As you’d expect, it has some vanilla notes, but not annoyingly so, and also some nice spice and oak. It really mingles well with lime, which surprised me for a second (until remembering that rum, lime’s cocktail partner on many occasions, often also has vanilla happening). Here, it all comes together. Trust me!

You may find this drink helpful over the next month and so. I suggest serving it in a tennis-themed glass, as elections are sometimes, oh, tennis-y as things are batted, knocked, and hit back and forth.


The Presidential

Ice cubes
2-1/2 ounces Heritage Distilling Duel Barrel Bourbon
3/4 ounce freshly-squeeze lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup (you could easily go less if you wanted, and older me might even suggest it, however after a big presidential debate, for example, I often feel I deserve the extra sugar)
Lime slice, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, juice, and simple. Shake well.

2. Add a good amount of ice cubes, or one or two really large cubes, to an Old Fashioned glass. Strain the mix through a fine strainer over the ice. Garnish, turn off the TV, and drink happily.

September 23, 2016

What I’m Drinking: Current Currant Liqueur

Many many many years ago (I can’t remember when, it was so dratted long ago), wife Nat talked me into buying a white currant tree (plant? small tree? shrub? I’m not sure which to go with) when we were at a garden store in Portland. We drove it back up to Seattle, put it in the side garden, and there it stayed, seen by few (as the side garden’s facing the alley), but a nice little plant, getting a stitch bigger every year in a slow-and-steady manner. It gave us a few stray white currants, then a few more, then a few more, then this year a solid harvest. Eating them isn’t for everyone – not a ton of fruit, a little bittery – but I like them fairly well. But I liked them even more when we decided to pick ‘em all and make a liqueur. It started like this:

with a harvest of currants in a big glass jar. Then time, spirit, sugar, and water took over (and some serious filtering), and we ended here:

At first, I wasn’t sure how it was going to come together. Mid-way, still wasn’t. But once all was strained and such, the end result is tip top – a little citrus, light, a little grape-y, and a small small bitter nudge. Delicious stuff, especially served up cold. I wish I had twice as much. C’mon little currant plant! I’m excited to try it in some cocktails, too. I know white currants aren’t just everywhere, but if you happen to be near a plant with some, harvest those up, and try them in the below.

Current Currant Liqueur

2 very full cups white currants
2-1/2 cups vodka
1 cup simple syrup

1. Add the currants to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle slightly. Add the vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.

2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup, and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.

3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.

4. Enjoy!

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September 16, 2016

What I’m Drinking: Sir Teddy’s Tonic with Aperol and with Blanc Vermouth

It’s a swell age for tonics. Heck, we have at least two good ones made here in Seattle (Bradley’s and & Tonic), both being tonic syrups you then add (usually) soda too, along with your spirits and such. There are also a number of worthy bubbly pre-bottled tonics – though be sure to give these non-pre-bubbled tonics a try, as they bring loads of flavor. With all the tonics, I’ve been drinking a lot of gin and tonics, as you might expect, and other things, like Sherry & Tonic. Recently, thanks to all-star pals Jon and Nicole, I tried another new tonic, Sir Teddy’s, from Wilks & Wilson out of Indianapolis (which, funny enough, is where Jon and Nicole are from), a company that calls themselves “purveyors of fine elixirs.”

In this case, at least, the product completely lives up to the billing. But I didn’t know this at first, cause you can’t believe everything you read, so I had to, you know, try it! I was going to go just straight G&T, but in the interest of being interesting, I decided why not try some other items and this tonic? And it was a good decision! The day was sunny, the mood was experimental, the time was in the aperitivo hours, and so I went with classic Italian aperitif Aperol (which I’m guessing everyone has had, but if not, it’s like Campari’s younger sister, meaning a hint bitter, but more citrus and a smidge sweet), and blanc vermouth. In this case, La Quintinye Vermouth Royal blanc, which is a light, herbal, scrumptious vermouth ideal for sunny days.

And then Sir Teddy’s of course, which has a swell taste – the quinine you’d expect, plus lime, spices, and a nice bitter current from gentian – and really a swell story. Turns out (as this legend goes – by the way, kudos to Wilks & Wilson for the stories, really good stuff) Sir Teddy after having a life at sea was known as the “Gentleman of the Night” as he doled out his famous tonic on the street of NYC. But go read the whole Sir Teddy story as you’re sipping one of the below. Both came out wonderfully. Each had its own personality, but I can’t say which I liked better. Luckily, you can make each and then make up your own mind. I’m just going to have to do more testing.


Aperol/Blanc Vermouth & Sir Teddy’s Tonic

3/4 ounce Sir Teddy’s tonic
1-1/2 ounce Aperol or La Quintinye Vermouth Royal blanc
Ice cubes
3 ounces club soda
Lemon twist

1. Add the Sir Teddy’s and your Aperol or vermouth to a brandy snifter (or highball, as the case may be). Stir briefly.

2. Add a goodly amount of ice to the glass. Top with the club soda. Stir well, but carefully.

3. Garnish with the twist. Drink. Then make whichever you didn’t make the first time.

September 9, 2016

What I’m Drinking: My Heart Stood Still

Sometimes, writing about drinks takes its toll (well, not really, but it’s giving me a convenient out, and also reducing the grumbling about how awesome writing about drinks is). Recently, for example, I somehow forgot that I’d already had Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum, before a bottle showed in the mail. See, my memory is failing! And I even wrote about it here on Spiked Punch. But seriously, the very distinctive bottle reminded that of course I’ve had it – it was, for gosh sakes, probably my favorite rum in a long time.

It’s a molasses-based rum distilled in copper pot stills and aged for 12 years, and boasting an array of awards. If you haven’t had it, get it (if you’re in Venezuela, where it’s from, should be a snap – though it’s widely available, so no-one should have any problems). You’ll catch the complexity from the first smell, with caramel, nuts, orange peel, vanilla, nutmeg, and allspice all hanging together, and the taste, where they all come back together with a little more spice forwardness and just a hint of sweetness. Tasty.

Tasty enough that if you’re not going to have it by itself, you should have it in a cocktail that really lets the rum shine. I went back to one of my old favorite books, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion, to re-discover a cocktail that has both a great name, and which lets rum take center stage: My Heart Stood Still. If you want to quibble (which is sorta sad for you), this is a rum Manhattan with a little heavier pour of vermouth, or perhaps some other things, none of which are named as lovely as the current name. And the drink itself is so lovely, too. The Diplomatico brings so much, but the vermouth here – Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, the 150th anniversary edition – also delivers a nice layered flavor to our heart-y party. Try it. Love it. Thank me later.

My Heart Stood Still

Cracked ice
2 ounces Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum
1 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Savor and sip. Sip and savor.

September 2, 2016

What I’m Drinking: Sherry and Tonic

Not too many weeks ago here on the Spiked Punch, I talked about making a swell drink with golden-hued Tio Pepe Fino sherry. That drink was the Gleanbriar, and if you missed it, well, go back and check it out. Neat, right? But sherry, being a lower-alcohol, not too heavy, really, the opposite of heavy, sort-of a ballet dancing booze in a way, is so nice in summertime that I wasn’t going to have just that one drink. Oh, no! My momma didn’t raise no fools. So, I’ve also been delving into other sherry drinks, including the easy-and-classic-y Sherry and Tonic. What a perfect summer fix. Have one today, trust me. Easy, tasty, summer-y, sherry.

sherry-tonicSherry and Tonic

Ice cubes
2 ounces Tio Pepe Fino sherry
4 ounces tonic (I used Seattle-made Bradley’s tonic cause it’s great)
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a highball, Old Fashioned, brandy snifter (I sorta like this idea), or other glass about half way (depending on glass) with ice cubes.

2. Add the sherry and tonic. Stir lightly, but seriously.

3. Garnish with the twisty twist.

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