May 22, 2015
If you aren’t up on your ancient Greek history (shame on you – or, on us, as my memory keeps getting worse, too, making my ancient Greek, not to mention last week, a little hazy at times), Iollas was the son of a Macedonian general, and a royal youth at the court of Alexander the Great. Heavy. The story goes, when Mr. Great (as he was called) was murdered, many wanted to ascribe it to poisoning, and writers (as they’ll do) laid that serious poisoner-of-Alexander tag on Iollas, who carried the royal sipping cup during the emperor’s last sickness. How does that all tie into this drink, which isn’t poison at all, but a nectar of deliciousness? Well, for one, it utilizes mint, which was a favorite of the Greeks (still is, I suppose), and used to help folks transition into the afterlife. So, that’s a tie in. But also, I tend to think (as many do, nowadays) that Iollas wasn’t actually a poisoner, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which means he deserves a strong drink in his honor, and this beauty is that drink.
Iollas’ Itch, from Dark Spirits
3 fresh mint leaves, plus 1 fresh mint sprig for garnish
2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce apricot liqueur
1. Rub (carefully but firmly) the 3 mint leaves all around the inside of a cocktail glass. Then discard them.
2. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, apricot liqueur, and vermouth. Shake well.
3. Strain into the minty glass from above. Garnish with the mint sprig.
May 15, 2015
Friends, the weather is heating up. The ol’ Mercury is rising. The sunshine is taking over its annual spot as the meteorological top dog. The sweat is starting to tickle you just behind the ear (well, maybe it’s not that steamy yet, but you get the idea). And when that starts happening, I know one thing for sure. It’s Americano time!
Since 1860, when Gaspare Campari served it at his bar, calling it the Milano-Torino in honor of Campari (his bitter red liqueur from Milan) and Cinzano vermouth (from Turin), this has been a hot-weather hit. The name was changed thanks to the large number of visiting Americans (especially soldiers, at the time) who fell in the love with the drink. Being an American that visits Italy yearly, I love that story – as well as the drink.
The Americano (using the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz)
2 ounces Campari
2 ounces sweet vermouth
Chilled club soda
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Campari and vermouth. Stir gently.
2. Add club soda to the glass until the glass is almost full. Garnish with an orange slice.
May 8, 2015
Recently, as I do, I decided I wanted a new cocktail – and often for me that actually means an old cocktail, an unburied treasure in a glass that I haven’t yet had. This time, the first older book at hand was Patrick Gavin Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual (1940 edition), and as I browsed through this worthy tome of libations, I came across The Lord Suffolk. With a name so regal, I figured the drink must be regally awesome (oh, an aside – I haven’t yet had time to browse the library and see where this drink first came from. Sue me). And I figured right!
However, it’s a drink with a sizable wallop of gin, which then mingles with much smaller amounts of maraschino, sweet vermouth, and Cointreau. Because of that, I knew it needed a gin with a fair amount of personality, one that brings layers of flavor to the table. I went with the newish (to me, at least), and award-winning Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin, and darn if it wasn’t perfect, thanks to the smooth juniper flavor, sure, but even more the accompanying notes: citrus, spice, pepper, and an intriguing stitch of botanical and berries. It’s tasty stuff, and named after a monkey. That says it all.
And here in this cocktail, with just enough nutty maraschino, sweet and orange-y Cointreau, herbal vermouth, and lovely lemon oil coming along for the ride, the gin is allowed to blossom and not get lost. This is a helluva drink folks. And hopefully, somewhere, Mr. Duffy is smiling that it’s in a small way back in circulation.
The Lord Suffolk
2-1/2 ounces Monkey 47 Schwarzwald gin
1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino
1/2 ounce Cocchi Torino sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Cointreau
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the twist. Give a toast to the past, and then the future.
May 1, 2015
Well, sometimes there’s nothing that needs to be said. The Manhattan. Damn right.
2-1/2 ounces bourbon (I used Woodinville Whiskey Bourbon. It’s great.)
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. Pause a moment, in honor of all the Manhattans drunk before yours. Then stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
A Note: I suggest Angostura bitters with a Manhattan, but if you’d like to experiment with Peychaud’s or an orange bitters, I surely wouldn’t caution against it. Though really, I wonder if that would then need a name change?
A Second Note: I used bourbon here, cause I was feeling it today. I know many of you like a rye Manhattan, and I do myself, too. I would probably switch the vermouth in that case.
A Third Note: Here’s a bar challenge to throw out when ordering Manhattans. Who know in what year the now-lost film “Manhattan Cocktail” was released? I believe only a 1-minute sequence from the film survives today, so this can be a bit of a doozy.
April 24, 2015
Sometimes, I even surprise myself when making drinks. This is one of those times! When I started messing around with the three ingredients in this drink, I was all, “there is no way these will come together,” and then, “yowza!” they worked better together than Sonny and Cher. During their good period. It started with Sidetrack Distillery’s new Shiso liqueur, which is made from the Asian herb it’s named after, and which is a singular, herby, botanical elixir that must be tasted to be believed, and which has a brilliant color to match its taste. I figured (rightly, as it turned out) that it would go well with gin, but I needed a gin that had a solid juniper taste, but also a little citrus, and some botanicals as well – and Copperworks gin is just like that (and it’s local to WA, much like the Shiso, so that was nice). But the third ingredient is a wild card – the Italian orange-y and a wee bitter-y aperitif, Aperol. I just worried the cocktail would get muddled with all those flavors, but dang, instead they all just shared the spotlight in a way that let the flavors shine. This is swell spring drink, and if you can track down these three, give it a whirl.
How Does Your Garden Grow
2 ounces Copperworks gin
1 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Shiso liqueur
1 ounce Aperol
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. Garnish with the orange twist.
April 17, 2015
Okay, I know it’s only April, but dang, we’ve had some serious spring days out this-a-way, with that good ol’ sunshine bringing the light and warmth – and the need for bubbly, refreshing drinks, like the good ol’ Gin Fizz. If you’re in a locale where it doesn’t feel springlike (and admittedly, we’re still having days where it seems anything but spring), well, you should still have a Gin Fizz, because when sipping it you’ll feel the sense of spring, even if outside your window it’s anything but.
The Gin Fizz, using the recipe from Good Spirits
1-1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Chilled club soda
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix into the glass through a fine strainer.
3. Top off the glass with soda water. Garnish with a lemon slice.
A Variation: Add the white of an egg to the shaker along with the gin, syrup, and lemon juice and you have a Silver Fizz.
A Variation: Add the yolk of an egg to the shaker along with the gin, syrup, and lemon juice and you have a Golden Fizz.
A Variation: Add the white of an egg to the shaker along with the gin, syrup, and lemon juice and you have a Royal Fizz. And breakfast.
April 10, 2015
This is one of those moments where I wonder about my own sanity. I woke up this morning, and thought, “I’ve never had the Bijou recipe on the ol’ Spiked Punch blog. And the Bijou is one of my all-time favorites, at least in the top 20, or 25, somewhere in that range for sure, and a drink I travel back to again and again because of its balance and herbal-spice-nice combination, and cause it’s called the Bijou for Bruce’s sake, and what am I doing not having it on the blog?” So, I thought all that, got up, and instantly made myself a Bijou. You should do the same.
Bijou, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1 -1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish (sometimes this is skipped, but I sorta like it)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, Chartreuse, and vermouth. Stir well.
2. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in.
April 3, 2015
You might think if I told you that I made up this cocktail with a cherry-ish liqueur and also Merry Cherry Bee Knee’s (whatever that might be) that it’d be sweet in all the wrong ways, and make your teeth hurt. Well, pals, you’d be wrong! But don’t take it too bad, cause really, you probably didn’t know that the cherry liqueur in question was Boomerang, the new release from Washington’s broVo Spirits, which was created in conjunction with Micah Melton, beverage director at Chicago’s Aviary, and which isn’t just cherry, but cherry mingled with apricot, walnut, cinnamon, orange, vanilla, and peppercorn. So, savory, and not too sweet at all.
But that’s really just the half of it! The Merry Cherry Bee’s Knees is also the kicker, and really what gives this drink the umph that I (and I’ll bet you) love so well. Bee’s Knees, in this situation, means a spirit distilled from mead, the honey-fermented-and-fruit-beverage that probably makes you think of Vikings, or Renaissance Fairs. However, jump back from that thought. These Bee’s Knees are made by the Hardware Distillery, also in WA, and while they take characteristics from the mead and fruit (beyond Merry Cherry, there are Peachy Keen, Fig, Raspberry, and Plum varieties), they’re still a spirit, and aged in oak, and have the heft and personality of a whiskey.
So, what’s that all mean? Come to WA (or, if you’re here, stay here), get these ingredients, and try this drink. Then you’ll see what it means. And be happier for it. Also, if you can tell me where the name comes from, I’ll buy you three drinks.
Like to a Double Cherry
2 ounces Merry Cherry Bee’s Knees
1 ounce Boomerang liqueur
1/2 ounce Cocchi Torino sweet vermouth
Rainer cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything except the real cherry. Stir well.
2. Add the cherry to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix into the glass and over the cherry.