Sometimes, you can both help out and enjoy yourself – and this is one of those times! As we’re in the season for giving, I wanted to whip up a drink that in itself helped out a cause I believe is a good one, and Snow Leopards at Dawn is that drink. It starts with Snow Leopard vodka, which is the world’s first vodka made from Spelt grain, a rarer grain, and one grown without pesticides and such. Spelt (plus natural spring water) gives the vodka its taste, too, which is crisp, clear, and slightly nutty. All cool stuff! But even cooler is that 15% of all profits from the vodka are given directly to Snow Leopard conservation projects through the Snow Leopard Trust. That’s awesome! Snow Leopards are endangered, and can use the help. All of which leads to having the below cocktail. Drink up, help out. That’s a pretty darn swell combination.
First: no ducks are actually used in this drink. If you were worried. Second, it’s Friday the 13th, and you have enough to be worried about without worrying about ducks. I mean, it’s a day renowned for bad luck (especially if you’re camping) and all that. However, this drink is sure to balance out any bad luck, so I suggest you make one double quick.
Why is this particular drink lucky? I’m glad you asked. It starts with Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac. Armagnac isn’t as well-known at the level it should be. Distilled once, but aged more than most spirits in barrels, it leans towards warm, full flavors, and is usually made by smaller, family-owned producers who’ve been Armagnac-ing for hundreds of years. Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac is aged in oak for 3 years, and is lovely, with toffee and bread aromas followed up vanilla, oak, and more. It’s well worth sipping solo, but also makes a fairly magnificent base for cocktails.
Especially when added to just a few other key ingredients. Here, the first is Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino Sherry (Sherry, by the way, is another ingredient not enough think of for cocktails, though it’s thankfully on the rise). Delicate in color, this Sherry is made by one the preeminent Sherry-making families (they’ve been making fine Sherries since 1835) aged for four years, and is quite dry, but with a light almond aroma, and a nutty taste with just a few fruity hints. It’s also quite nice by itself, with food, but brings an individual note to drinks. And if those two charmers weren’t enough, enter old pal Green Chartreuse. Which also brings a very signature style and flavor to any drink. And a little umph.
All together (plus a tiny bit of simple syrup to round out the edged), this is one seriously swell drink. Rich, layered, elegant (in a way that only certain drinks can be), but still approachable. If you can swing it, change your lucky to the better by tracking down these ingredients and making this before the day ends.
The Lucky Duck
2 ounces Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac
1/2 ounce Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Armagnac, Sherry, Chartreuse, and simple syrup. Stir well.
I’m not sure why this sort-of Manhattan-on-a-island cousin (which I first saw in Here’s How: A Round-the-World Bar Guide, Signet, 1957–not the Here’s How cocktail book with wooden covers) isn’t better known. Made with the right rum and right vermouth, it’s a should-be classic. And delicious.
In my case recently (and in what should be your case, if you can make it happen), the right rum was the memorable Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum. Holy cow, this is a rum! From Venezuela, distilled from molasses in a copper pot still, and aged for 12 years, really, it’s a sipper in most cases. However! If you are bold, and let it shine as the main player in a cocktail like this (not overwhelmed by too many ingredient), well, feel darn special cause that’ll be a great cocktail (speaking of special, this rum arrived to me via the mail. Don’t be mad). It’s won like 20 awards, and has a serious aroma: caramels, nutmeg, nuts, allspice, hints of orange, vanilla, and more. And all of those aromas come out smooth into the slightly sweet, but nowhere near sickly, taste, with even more spices. Yummy.
Picking the sweet vermouth for the below recipe was tough, due to wanting to really find something that went with that fantastic rum. I decided on La Quintinye Vermouth Royal rouge, made with 28 spices, plants, and magical items (like all vermouths), on a base of white wines, interestingly enough, and Pineau des Charentes Rouge, and it was an ideal decision. The vermouth’s flavor also has some vanilla notes, and fruit and spice, which is why it mingles so well with the rum. Try it – you can thank me later.
This is the day before Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, everybody make a Warlock, drink it down till the neighbors gonna die of delight; it’s your drink, everybody scream, on the day before Halloween.
Okay, as you know, every year near Halloween I do three things – sing the above song, have a Warlock (made with brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters), and turn into a zombie magician. This year is no different.
This is a nice fall number, with a bunch of umph and layers upon layers of flavors sure to make the chill recede and the happiness take its place. It has some intriguing players sharing the spotlight, including Woodinville Whiskey’s newly-released straight bourbon whiskey, Salish Sea (a distillery on the edge of Lacey, WA that makes a whole host of really awesome liqueurs) Ginger liqueur, which has a whole lot of wonderful ginger kick and not too much sugary-ness, Alessio Chinato vermouth, made with Cinchona bark and other herbs, and a tiny bit of orange legend Grand Marnier. A combo I’m guessing you’ll love, but hey, there’s only one way to find out for sure.
This drink comes from one of my favorite old cocktail books, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. If you can track it down, it’s well worth investing in, as it’s jovial as a good cocktail party, and it has some random but delicious recipes that I haven’t seen elsewhere. One of those is this one, Headlong Hall.
It’s really a distant cousin of the Martini, as it’s heavy of gin and half-as-heavy of vermouth, but then taken down a curvy boozy road by the addition of two whispers: one of Bénédictine, and one of absinthe. Which gives it a personality all of its own.
Of course, with the main players being such to the front of the stage (wow, I am all over the place on the metaphors and such), however, you need some serious actors – or, seriously flavorful gin and vermouth. Recently, I was in the UK, and in the lovely city of Bath, in a lovely little wine and liquor store, I picked up a bottle of Psychopomp Wōden gin, which is made at a “micro-distillery” in Bristol, not far from Bath. The gin is singular – don’t get me wrong, it starts with a rich juniper, but that’s backed by a mingling of coriander, grapefruit zest, angelica root and cassia bark, and fennel seed, the last of which really delivers on the back end when sipping. If you’re in the UK, track it down.
To go with it, I picked La Quintinye Vermouth Royal, the extra dry version (full disclosure and bragging – I received this in the mail not too long ago). Made in the Charente region of France, La Quintinye extra dry vermouth is crafted from 27 plants and spices on a base of white wines and Pineau des Charentes Blanc. Lush is a good way to describe it, with floral and citrus notes all coming together and delivering a result that’s fantastic in cocktails (especially I think matched with a flavorful gin), but also dandy before dinner over one or two pieces of ice. Combined with the Wōden gin and our two whispers in this drink? Well, try it, but I sure found it all fantastic.
2 ounces Psychopomp Wōden gin
1 ounce La Quintinye Extra Dry Vermouth Royal
1 teaspoon Bénédictine
1/2 teaspoon absinthe
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, but not in a headlong manner (no matter the title. Sorry Crosby).
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*!
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.
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