January 13, 2017
Here’s a super cool knowledge nugget I would like to drop on you. There’s a company that’s dedicated to producing Scotches that are modern interpretations of long-lost whisky. They are reincarnating, as they coin the phrase, in a delicious manner, these Scotches. See, many distilleries had to close during the century previous to this one, due to things like prohibition, globalization, and other economic issues, and the founders of The Lost Distillery company decided that it would be tragic (and I agree!) for the whisky those distilleries were making to be lost forever. Now, they’re re-making the whisky, using blends, with a range that travels all five Scottish whisky regions. That’s super cool, right!
I recently was able to taste their Benachie Scotch, which is called Jericho in other spots in the world, and which is based on whiskey made from the distillery of the same name, a Highland distillery that ran from 1824-1913 near the town of Insch (go read the full story). It’s a friendly dram, with an approachable malty, peaty nose that has a hint of sweetness, and a flavor that’s oaky and nutty, with some fruit accents and accommodating pepper and spice. A fine Scotch to bring back to life! And one I couldn’t resist using in a lesser-known number from days of yore called the Mickie Walker.
The Mickie Walker
1-1/2 ounces The Lost Distillery Benachie Scotch
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/8 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 ounce homemade grenadine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Don’t get lost while drinking.
January 6, 2017
Still thinking about what that perfect resolution for 2017 might be? Wavering between tired old standbys like losing weight, writing letters, wearing cooler socks, and reading more? Okay, wait, those are all great – do all of those. But also, let me propose another righteous resolution. Drink more vermouth. Vermouth, so often relegated to a sidekick or less, is making I believe a comeback, or in-roads, in a more serious way in the U.S. of A. Get on the train now, before the train is out of the station with all the vermouth in it. And a terrific way to tot up your vermouth-ing is with this very cocktail, The Trocadero, which uses both dry and sweet vermouths. It was never so easy to hold to a resolution.
The Trocadero, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1-1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1-1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
Lemon twist for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vermouths, bitters, and grenadine. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
December 30, 2016
Bubbly cocktails are good all the year round. This is an incontrovertible fact. However, if you wanted to make the point that bubbly cocktails are even finer this time of the year, because of the elegant effervescence they bring to the season, well, I wouldn’t argue. Which is why today I’m sipping this Italian-inspired sparkler from Champagne Cocktails. Because I don’t like arguing. No, no, it’s because it’s a darn tasty drink, a bubbly number that’s a little different, intriguing, yummy-licious.
The Pensiero, from Champagne Cocktails
1 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 ounces Punt e’ Mes
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Chilled Brachetto d’Acqui
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the orange juice, Punt e Mes, Campari, and simple syrup. Shake thoughtfully.
2. Strain the mixture into a flute glass. Top with Brachetto d’Acqui. Garnish with the lemon twist.
December 23, 2016
I was recently able to re-taste a tasty trio (they call it the Ultimate Range) of Ardbeg Scotch Whisky
, 10, Corryvreckan, Uigeadail, thanks to a friendly postal person (how nice they sometimes are!) delivering them to my door. I could go deeply into a review of each one, but honestly there are many spots you can look at for reams (do people still use the word “reams” in this way in the digital age? I hope so) of words on these Scotches. Cause they’re delicious, and you should try all three. If not right now, then soon. However, even when I’m sipping such swell sippers, I always get the urge in the back of my throat or mind to try them in a cocktail – even when most would only have such swell sippers solo or with one dash of natural spring water, or maybe a small perfect ice cube. Call me crazy. You won’t be the first one.
Here, I went with Corryvreckan
. Its lush aroma (blackcurrant, cherry, vanilla, pine, and brine) and even lusher taste (more blackcurrants and other forest-y fruits, dark cherry, pepper, almonds, smoke, a hint of honey, an intriguing echo of the sea), just called to me. It could
be the legendary and dangerous whirlpool it’s named after, too. Cause I am a sucker for a legendary whirlpool. With such a layered and memorable nature (and admittedly a price tag that’s not crazy, but not low end, either), I always want to be extra careful in what I mix it with, and want to let it really shine, just adding small amounts of ingredients that will accent and meld nicely.
I decided first on Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, which itself comes from a blend of Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and which boasts rich fruit tones and a little sweetness. The only other ingredient is one I’ve wanted to slip into a cocktail for as long as I’ve had a bottle: Breckenridge Bitters. Made as you might expect in Breckenridge, CO, it isn’t a “bitters” in the traditional sense of the word, more an aperitif that uses local alpine herbs in a magical manner – it’s also a tiny bit sweet, but balances it beautifully with a bitter, herbal loveliness. It’s available in many spots now, and I strongly suggest it.
That’s a powerful trio! And this cocktail is a powerful one – so full of flavor it’s hard to be believed. It’s a force of nature. Like whirlpools and mountains.
All Mountains Are One
2-1/2 ounces Ardbeg Corryvreckan
1/2 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/4 ounce Breckenridge Bitters
Wide orange 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, or something comparable and neat. Garnish with the twist.
A Note: Is this close in nature to other Scotch cocktails, including perhaps the most famous of them all? Sure! But every good drink deserves its own good name, even if only one ingredient changes. Really, even if an amount of an ingredient changes. Be creative yo!
December 16, 2016
Oranges, you know, are big in December. Historically, it’s because they used to be a rarity used as a present in stockings hung by the chimney with care, because they were a great winter Scurvy preventative, and because people thought they could protect them from the snow demons. Today, I still find them a wonderful seasonal treat. Especially when mixed with some smoky. Like mezcal. If you think agave spirits are only for the summertime, well, friend, you’re wrong! Take this drink, which uses Sombra Mezcal. Made of Espadin agave that’s raised and processed by hand with ridiculous care in small batches, it has a wonderful smoke and citrus and spice flavor, light on its feet while still carrying enough umph to take the lead role in cocktails like The Superficial Resemblance. Try it over the colder months, and feel the orange/smoke healing powers.
The Superficial Resemblance
2 ounces Sombra Mezcal
1 ounce Pineau François white pineau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the mezcal, pineau, and orange juice. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist (I know, it feels at first glance maybe an orange twist would be neat-er. But trust me, you want lemon, for balance).
December 9, 2016
Admittedly, I’m usually (as anyone who knows me knows, or, even if you don’t actually know me in an in-person way, if you read this blog you probably know) a staunch soapboxer about drinks-that-borrow-names-from-other-drinks. Meaning, I think a drink name should be as creative as a drink, and that even a small ingredient change needs a new name. So, inis, ritas, olitans, all those, make me sad, as does the recent proliferation of Negroni names. Jaysus, bartenders, be creative!
However, this Dry Negroni is pretty darn swell, and so I can step off my soapbox while I’m sipping. For some reason I’d never even thought to try the subbing of dry for sweet vermouth, cause I am silly. And, I picked up the recipe and idea from rollicking Rob Chirico’s new book, Not My Mother’s Kitchen: Rediscovering Italian-American Cooking Through Stories and Recipes! Rob has a host of good books you should pick up, and his latest is both funny and tasty. It up-ends the hoary tradition of so many cookbooks, where the cook/writer has learned the craft at the side of some family elder, because it turns out Rob’s mother was a terrible cook, and he had to learn in spite of it. It’ll have you laughing and have you making delish dishes all at once, thanks to the combination of funny stories and helpful recipes, the whole of which is written in a wonderful convivial style. There’s even a short chapter on Italian libations, and that’s where I picked up this recipe.
Dry Negroni, from Not My Mother’s Kitchen
1 ounce gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, dry vermouth, and Campari. Stir well.
2. Fill a cold old-fashioned glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with the orange slice.
December 6, 2016
Canlis is one of Seattle’s restaurant gems, and I (and wife Nat of course!) recently got to stop in and sit at the re-designed bar and sip and chat with friendly bar manager James MacWilliams and bartender José Castillo. One of the sippers was the Ouroboros, a mezcal-based delicious drink that José came up with. Then, I got to write about the drink (including the recipe for it) and the place and the people for Seattle magazine. You should read about it now. Then head to Canlis yourself.
December 2, 2016
Sometimes, a holiday week can feel like you’ve been on a trip. Sometimes a fun trip! Sometimes a filling trip. Sometimes a tiring trip. Sometimes . . . well, you get the idea, right? Right! Even with a wondrous trip, you still may feel a little weary after it, and that’s where this drink comes in (it was created after my return from my longest trip, seven months living in Italy, hence the Italian-American-ness of it). I’ve used a number of bourbons when making this but most recently used the new-ish Backbeat bourbon, from Seattle’s swell 3 Howls distillery. It’s got a mix of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley and is finished in French Oak. Smooth, with a little honey-ness, spice, and oak, it mingles swell-ly with maraschino and old pal Fernet-Branca here. Try it and see! You’ll feel less weary, I’ll bet.
Welcome Back, Weary Traveler
2-1/2 ounces 3 Howls Backbeat bourbon
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1/4 ounce Fernet-Branca
Wide Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice.
2. Add the bourbon, maraschino, and Fernet-Branca. Stir well.
3. Strain into a cocktail glass. Utilize the twist in the proper manner.