October 9, 2015

What I’m Drinking: Fires at Dawn

I’m not afraid (of anything except spiders, robot gorillas, driving tests, the dread Dormammu, and old lemons). That means, I’ll try to make cocktails with all kinds of ingredients. Recently, I was lucky enough to get some fermented probionic “tonics” from Seattle’s Firefly Kitchens. And I made a delicious cocktail using one!

If you don’t know, Firefly Kitchens makes raw and naturally-preserved fermented foods, which are freakishly healthy due to the good bacteria proliferating during fermentation, producing lactic acid, keeping the goods naturally fresh, keeping out bad bacteria, creating enzymes and more good bacteria or probiotics. What’s that really mean? The Firefly kimchis, krauts, and more are good for you. Really good! And now, they’re also producing Probionic Tonics, made during the fermentation process (they also have a book, Fresh & Fermented, you should get so you can learn more).

The tonics are where I came in – specifically in this case the Emerald City Kraut tonic. Zesty! Brine-y! Organic! This tonic is great as a daily shot, dressing, marinade, all things you’d expect. At first, it might (between us) seem too powerful and personality-filled to play well in cocktails. But after a fair amount (between us, again) of testing, I found a mix of ingredients that’s not only full of flavor, but I’m thinking healthier than you could imagine. The key was realizing the tang would go good with lemon, and perhaps better with juniper than other, more obvious spices. Well, that and deciding to go all local! Local things seem to play better together.

You might have to work at it, but track yourself down some Emerald City Kraut tonic, some Kur gin, and some Letterpress limoncello. And start your day right*!

Fires at Dawn

Cracked Ice
1-1/2 ounces Kur gin
1 ounce Letterpress limoncello
1/2 ounce Firefly Kitchens Emerald City Kraut tonic
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Shake well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the twist.

*Not only good in the morning! Also in the evening. And midday. And before bed.

October 2, 2015

What I’m Drinking: Welcome Back, Weary Traveler

A couple years back as many know, my wife and I loaded up the dogs and we moved to Italy. It was great (of course), and if you want to know more, go to my Italy blog and start at the beginning. But when moving back, I needed a drink to take the sadness down a little, a drink that brought me back while reminding me of the Italian hours. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see the Seattle pals and sights and bars I also love. But hey, sometimes coming back is hard, and you need the right drink to accompany it. And this is that drink! Why am I having it again today? Well, October 2nd was the very day we flew out to start our adventure, those years ago.


Welcome Back, Weary Traveler

2-1/2 ounces bourbon (I used the new Woodinville Whiskey Co. Straight bourbon)
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
Orange twist, for garnish (I like a wider orange twist here)

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ie.

2. Add the bourbon, maraschino, and Fernet Branca. Stir well.

3. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist and drink as happily as you can manage.

September 25, 2015

What I’m Drinking: The Morning Call

I am very sorry, dear readers, for what’s to come in the next few sentences. The kids these days call it “venting,” and I shouldn’t do it here, but we’re all in this together, and trust me, the payoff is good. So, tally ho! To all those who feel that they need to have early morning work meetings where they can be totally self-centered, churlish, idiotic, preening, demanding, aggressive, annoying, smelly, rude, obnoxious, piggish, full of sophomoric one-up-manship, self-absorbed, beastly, un-jovial, un-jolly, un-jiggy-with-it, grabby, grandstanding, stinky, vainglorious, un-fun, stoopid and stupid, pompous, jealous, vindictive, douche-y, territorial at a level way beyond petty, pushy, primpy, powermad, and just plain fatheaded, to all y’all that fit that – please, just let me know far, far, in advance when you’re scheduling your morning meetings, so I can make a Morning Call, or two, and thereby just ignore your sorry ass.

The Morning Call, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces absinthe
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the absinthe, maraschino, and lemon juice. Stir well, and hang up the phone.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass.

PS: Sorry about the rant. But the drink is worth it, one hopes.

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September 18, 2015

What I’m Drinking: A Classic Martini

The other day, some whippersnapper said something like “but you’d don’t like Martinis, do you?” If I wasn’t a gentleman of the old school, I would have shown them the back of my hand, all close up like. I may not have Martinis that often, but of course I love them (when made right and all that)! Martinis are lovable. Since I don’t have them super regularly though, I try to make my Martini-ing a memorable affair. When at home, that means I use a gin that’s really going to bring some personality. Today, that’s Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin, which is bursting with a host of flavors: juniper, spice, botanical, berry, monkey. You can read more about it in this post on The Lord Suffolk (a worthy drink). But let it be said that when connected amiably with Dolin dry vermouth and a lemon (I’m a lemon guy, like all right-thinking people), that’s a memorable Martini, friends. And I loved it. You should try the same, and if any silly person has the temerity afterwards to intimate that you don’t like Martinis, punch ‘em in the snoot.

The Martini

Cracked ice
2-1/2 ounces Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin
1/2 ounce Dolin dry vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish

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

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.

September 11, 2015

What I’m Drinking: The Bowling Roberto

There are nights when inspiration hits like lightening, or like a very fast snake on the prowl, or like bowling ball dropped off a tall, tall building. On nights like that, you, if you’re like me, realize that if you subbed Ancho Reyes (the ancho chile liqueur, which I go much deeper into in the recipe for the Summer Near Puebla, if you missed it) for sweet vermouth in a Bobby Burns, you’d have a drink of genius. Of genius! Especially if you perhaps twisted the proportions just a little, and then added a dash of Peychaud’s bitters, and served it over a giant piece of ice. Double genius! Don’t believe me? Try the below recipe, as you watch for lightening, snakes, and falling bowling balls. After one sip, you’ll realize how lucky you are and forget all the rest of that stuff.

Oh, one thing. I used Speyburn 10 year old Scotch here. Its slight fruitiness and balance and friendliness make it a good match. It’s also not super expensive, so you won’t feel bad mixing it up with other powerful personalities.


The Bowling Roberto

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Speyburn 10 Year Scotch
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Big ice cubes (or a couple sorta big ice cubes)

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything but the second piece of ice. Stir well.

2. Add a big piece of ice to an Old Fashioned or such glass. Strain the mix over the ice.

September 4, 2015

What I’m Drinking: Summer Near Puebla

So, it’s September I suppose, and like the very earth itself I can sense the approaching Fall in my bones, and in my drinks too – though admittedly, I’m still leaning in those drinks towards summer-ish mixers. But the drinks know the weather is changing! And the drinks themselves are changing, with new ingredients showing up on my shelves (which are sturdy, I must say). A recent addition which I’d been pining for, and which is now almost in need of restocking, is Ancho Reyes. A lovely, perhaps the lovely, chile liqueur, made of course from Ancho chilies. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying it, I can hear you, in my mind, muttering to yourself about how most spice-ily flavored booze-y items are either just freaky hot or taste like chemical fire. Hold on to your chairs, though – Ancho Reyes is different. Full-bodied, rich, holding an underlying spice that isn’t bite-y, but flavorful, with cinnamon, chocolate, fruit, and herbs mingling with the chili, Ancho Reyes is to be savored, solo or in cocktails.

And savoring it is what we’ve been doing, here at the home bar, as the weather begins to think about changing. I’ve made a number of cocktails with it, but Summer Near Puebla, the cocktail below, is ideal for this time of year – still refreshing in a summer way, but with enough flavor and umph to fortify you for the following fall and winter-y months. And the taste! I am going to be a little obvious here (I mean, Ancho Reyes is made in Puebla, Mexico, from local chilies, in a handcrafted manner that’s rather swell, and award-winning Vida Mezcal, another key ingredient here, is from San Luis del Rio), but this drink goes awfully well with Mexican food. Or by itself, as you soak in some of that sunshine while you can.


Summer Near Puebla

Ice cubes
2 ounces Vida Mezcal
1-1/2 ounces Ancho Reyes
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Cracked ice
2 ounces chilled club soda
Lime wedge, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker up halfway with ice cubes. Add the mezcal, Ancho Reyes, curaçao, and lime juice. Shake well.

2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with cracked ice. Strain the mix into the glass.

3. Top it off with the club soda. Stir briefly. Garnish with a lime wedge.

September 1, 2015

Paul Clarke’s The Cocktail Chronicles Is Out – And You Should Get It!

paul-clarke-2Paul Clarke is a swell guy. I once compared him to an Anthony Trollope quote and he never complained (it was quite a good quote!). He writes a blog, and has since time began, more or less, called The Cocktail Chronicles, which I read a lot, but was always too shy to comment on – and he still says “hello” when I see him at local Seattle bars. He also is now editor-at-large for the insightfully-tipsy Imbibe, and has written for most of the good mags, online and off. Through all that, he’s been a witty, learned (in the best ways, like, say Dr. Johnson, but with drinks instead of dictionaries), educating, tasteful, and bespectacled voice throughout the cocktail resurgence and renaissance. And now he has a book! It’s called The Cocktail Chronicles (which is logical, as it feels a very thorough extension, in a way, of the blog): Navigating The Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker, and Glass, and it’s darn good. It has enough history-of-booze-and-drinks to satisfy the history buffs, and enough humor to satisfy the humor buffs. And enough drinks for a whole year’s worth of parties, and then a few more on top.

If you, like me, are a home bartender who actually, you know, likes to read, you’ll love this, and find much to make your evenings more enjoyable. If you’re a pro bartender, then, well, I consider you a failure of sorts if you don’t devour this book as part of your professional education (oh, buy one of mine, too, cause I need new shoes). If you can’t tell, I think it’s a darn fine book. And I didn’t even mentioned the design, which has a certain 1920s style all its own, with fine drawings and layouts and balance as opposed to over-wrought stylized foodie shots. Which is refreshing.

Not sold? Hmm, maybe you should read the below excerpt, a drink recipe for the Blood and Sand. You’ll understand my enthusiasm once you do, trust me.

The below is from Paul Clarke’s The Cocktail Chronicles: Navigating The Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker, and Glass

Spoiler alert: the recipe includes neither.

Some legacies deserve permanence, while others could use a little cleanup.

On the permanence side there’s Rudolf Valentino, the actor who, in 1922, starred as an ill–fated matador in Blood and Sand. In 1926, just a few years before the advent of talkies would destroy the careers of many of his co- stars, Valentino shared that Blood and Sand was his favorite of his films; a few days later, he was dead from peritonitis, leaving only the legacy of a dashingly handsome star who would never age, and whose voice would never be heard.

The Blood and Sand cocktail, however, has a less–illustrious legacy. Its print debut was in 1930 as an equal–parts recipe in the Savoy Cocktail Book, but following its revival during the cocktail renaissance, the Blood and Sand began to suffer from its own imperfections. Fact of the matter, the Savoy’s Blood and Sand just isn’t all that great. Oh, it can be nice when made well, but “nice” isn’t the same thing as “holy hell, that’s scrumptious.”

But craft bartenders like to tinker, and many have taken a crack at the Blood and Sand’s formula. Some boost the whisky’s profile by increasing its volume in the drink as well as by utilizing smokier, burlier styles. Others tweak the orange juice’s insipid contribution, either swapping in the juice of blood oranges or adding lemon to the mix; and others just chuck three of the ingredients down the sink and drink the whisky on its own without all the fanfare.

Nothing against straight Scotch, but the Blood and Sand’s legacy is one worth preserving. Tip one to Valentino, and don’t view the recipe specs with anything resembling rigidity.


1 oz. blended Scotch whisky
1 oz. orange juice
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
3/4 oz. Cherry Heering

Glass: cocktail
Garnish: cherry
Method: Shake ingredients with ice to chill; strain into chilled glass. Garnish.

Tips: Give the whisky’s power a jolt by bumping the Scotch to 11/2 oz.  and dropping everything else to 3/4 oz., or keep the above proportions and instead swap a blended malt like Great King Street or a single malt like Highland Park 12 for the blended Scotch. You can also add a teaspoon of lemon juice to give it a little more pep, or substitute blood–orange juice for the OJ. And if you put a slice of orange in the shaker before mixing, it’ll give the cocktail an added—and welcome—dimension.

August 28, 2015

What I’m Drinking: Behold, The River

behold-the-riverA late summer number if there ever was one – Behold, The River is refreshing, full of summer-y flavors without being near treacly, a nice color, and not too hard to make. If you’re actually having it alongside a river, well, you get bonus points for that! Not sure what the bonus points get you however, except a good time, and some undying gratitude from those you make the drink for, and my high esteem. Which may be worth something?

Behold, The River

Ice cubes
1-3/4 ounces vodka
1 ounce Sidetrack Distillery blackberry liqueur
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Four ounces chilled club soda

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vodka, liqueur, and lemon juice. Shake well.

2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the soda. Stir carefully, but thoroughly.

A Note: Having trouble finding Sidetrack Distillery blackberry liqueur? Well, you may need to take a trip to Washington, oh intrepid one!

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