September 23, 2016
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.
September 16, 2016
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
3 ounces club soda
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
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
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
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 and Tonic
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.
August 26, 2016
Did you know, National Whiskey Sour day is the 29th of this very month? Knowing you, you may already know this, but if not – how awesome if that? I believe that, as every day has a sunrise and sunset, every day in the modern world is the celebration of something. Today might be National Striped Sock day (which would also be awesome – I love striped socks). I’m all for these celebrations, cause then there is just an endless number of reasons to pal up with pals and start celebrating! Woo-hoo-you! And really, the Whiskey Sour deserves a day – I mean, it goes back to the 1800s (who knowns exactly when? Not me), and its basic formula of booze, citrus, sweet is the bedrock of at least 1,564,348 drinks, and probably more. Sometimes, there’s the extra addition of some egg white, but today, in honor of purity and because I’m out of eggs, I’m making it in middle-of-the-road style. And, I’m making it with Four Roses bourbon, because roses are celebratory (I wrote more about Four Roses in an earlier post – check it out!), and because its apple-caramel flavor (with a little nutty and oak-y happening, too), and slight spice finish, are a fine pick for a nice, solid, regular, wonderful Whiskey Sour. Which is a mighty fine way to celebrate.
The Whiskey Sour
2 ounces Four Roses straight bourbon
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.
August 19, 2016
The name of this drink sounds a bit like a dance move beloved by those who tend to wear mostly black, listen to moody tunes, and shake their fist at all and sundry (I’ll admit to that phase at once point, so I’m not judging here, oh no). But, it’s in reality nearly the opposite, a blended drink that’s really not all that bitter, and is sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who drinks it.
Where, then, does the name come from? Well, the wonderful Fernet-Branca, of course! Here’s the scoop. Not long ago a bottle of that essential elixir showed up in the mail (I know, I couldn’t believe my luck either), with a little bit of a challenge – come up with a blended Fernet-Branca drink. At first, this seemed like a conundrum, due to blended drinks being usually either extra fruity or extra frothy and Fernet-Branca shading heavily towards what some people call “bitter,” though I think that’s just one part of it, with the other being its magic mix of herbs and spices and such. But, you know what? It turns out that with the right aligning of other ingredients, Fernet-Branca plays perfectly in blended form, and provides a nice rich bedrock for an icy, creamy, frothy, summertime treat, one perfect for the hot weather. Those other ingredients here (I’m guessing there are many more possible permutations) include gin (I used Voyager, which is swell), whose juniper hints mingle well, and Bénédictine, whose sweet herbal goodness also mingles well. A little actual cream, a splash of simple syrup (it is a blended drink!), and loads of ice, and we have the Bitter Shake. Which may actually make you want to dance, but with joy, instead of with your head down, mumbling.
The Bitter Shake, for 2 (never drink a blender drink alone – that’s foolishness)
2 ounces Voyager gin
1 ounce Fernet-Branca
1 ounce Bénédictine
1-1/2 ounces heavy cream
1 ounce simple syrup
Ice cubes (you’ll want a lot, like a whole tray’s worth)
1. Add everything but the ice to a blender. Swirl a little.
2. Add the ice cubes. Blend well (I used a combo of ice crush and smoothie settings on my blender – you want it well combined, smooth, and frothy). Drink and chill out.
August 12, 2016
I know, I know, it’s the middle of August, hottest month of the year for most of us stateside, and so for many not perhaps the right time of year for a whiskey forward (very so, classically so) cocktail. These folks think that this should be a winter, or maybe fall choice, and they in some ways are right. But in other ways, they’re wrong. Exhibit A way: when you’ve received an absolutely choice bottle of single malt whiskey in the mail and decide you must have it in a classic drink. This, friends, is that exhibit. Or story. Or some such.
Let’s back up. Recently (and yeah, don’t hate me cause I’m lucky like this), I received a bottle of Paul John Brilliance single malt whiskey. An Indian – maybe the Indian – single malt, it’s made from ingredients, including a special six-row barley, grown at Himalayan foothills, and aged for five years in the tropics of Goa, India. This tropical climate makes for a fast maturation, in American white oak. The end result has won awards all over the world already, but just recently become available here. It’s a very distinctive whiskey, one that, by all rights, you should sip solo and let the demerara and barley fragrance tempt you and the spice and vanilla taste and intriguing cocoa finish with just a hint of orange linger (maybe a splash of water or a single ice cube for the second glass, just to see how it goes).
But, if you’re me (and of course you aren’t, cause that would be an existential pickle that would be, oh, too much to go into now) or like me, you can’t stop at that, even with a whiskey of this level. No, you have to try it in a cocktail. And now I’ve gotten a little weird with pronouns. Let’s stop that. I decided on the Rob Roy, one of the legendary Scotch cocktails. A single malt and a Scotch are of course, at least cousins, maybe siblings, in the grand scheme of things. And I wanted a cocktail that would really let the Brilliance flavors come alive, and provide some proper cocktail partners – here, the otherworldly Carpano Antica vermouth, and Angostura. The end result is dreamy. Any time of year.
The Rob Roy
2-1/2 ounces Paul John Brilliance single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Brilliance, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
August 5, 2016
It’s August, which means even way up here in Seattle we have some warmer weather happening (and in some spots, I know it’s even moreso), which also then means that refreshing drinks are on the menu (though, admittedly, sometimes I like to play devil’s advocate and have what seems like not-as-refreshing-drinks when it’s hot. Today is not that day!). Luckily, I recently received some Hard Frescos (yeah, I’m lucky), which are very refreshing numbers, and lend themselves to refreshing drinks.
Brewed right in Washington State (in Stevenson), and based out of a love of Mexican fresh-pressed juices, if you don’t know them, Hard Frescos are a malt beverage, but one made with real fruits and botanicals, cane sugar, and yeast. Like a fruit beer, though they also use Mexican Fruit Cider as a name, which to me works a little better, because it points to their very unique nature – fruity, flavorful, but also with a slight underlying beer-y/cider-y-ness, with an end result that’s really different, in a good way.
There are four versions currently available: Tangy Tamarindo, Citrico, Juicy Jamaica, and Cola Buena. In this summer drink, I used the latter to delicious (if I can say that and sound humble) results. I don’t drink much, if any, cola-of-the-soda sort, so playing around with Cola Buena, which use Kola Seed, and has a bit of that cola taste, but a bit more bitter and fullness was good stuff. And as you might expect, goes well with rum! As it does here, but I’ve also added another local ingredient, broVo’s Lucky Falernum, which is higher-proof than most falernums, and which has a swell subtle spice and citrus taste. You could sub in another falernum, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good. And who wants that?
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Lucky Falernum
4 ounces Cola Buena Hard Fresco
Lime wedge, for garnish
1: Fill a cocktail shaker just under half way with ice cubes. Add the rum and falernum. Stir well.
2. Pour everything into a highball or comparable glass (a green goblet works nice, if you have one). Top with the Cola Buena. Stir carefully.
3. Top with the lime wedge.