Here’s something neat you should know about (hopefully you already do, but just in case), every year, the Woodinville Whiskey Co. from up here in Washington has a special Harvest Release. I wrote about the 2018 Harvest Release and how fans and whiskey devotees line up starting the night before in an article for Seattle magazine, if you want to get the flavor of the event surrounding the releases. The actual Harvest Releases, the whiskies, are only available at the distillery, giving you a perfect reason to visit that lovely space, and our lovely state, if you aren’t already here in W-A. However, this year, the Harvest Release stretches out-of-state, too, in a way! See, this year’s release is Woodinville’s Straight Bourbon Finished in Ginja Casks!
If you read “Ginja” and aren’t sure what it means, don’t feel silly – took me a minute of brain-wracking myself before I remembered that Ginja, or Ginjinha, is a brandy-based Portuguese liqueur made with ginja berries (those being a type of sour cherry, also called Morello cherries in some locales), as well as cinnamon and sugar – a liqueur like so many first made by a very thirsty and enterprising friar. Amazing! Woodinville Whiskey took their bourbon made with grain grown for them exclusively on the Omlin Farm in Quincy, WA, then distilled in Woodinville, and then aged over five-years in Central WA, and when it was good and ready let it spend some time in casks (or barrels, as you may say) that had been used for that very Ginjinha liqueur. I’m gonna say it again – amazing!
And not just an amazing process, but the taste of this Harvest Release – wheeeee! On the nose berry-y as you might expect, and jammy in the best way, with notes of same surfacing in the taste, which boasts a smooth approachable sweetness as well as swirling fresh and dried cherry, cardamon, and cinnamon. Very very drinkable. I heard Woodinville distiller Brett Carlile said that sipping this bourbon was almost like sipping a Manhattan, and I completely agree – the whiskey’s honey-cherry-ness echoes that famous drink. Dandy all on its own, or over a cube of ice, this is one harvest/Portuguese favorite not to be missed. So, I suggest you pick up a bottle (even if having to fly in. It’ll be worth it)!
The “and Tonic” family of drinks is a wide one, and getting wide as people happily realize the breadth of tasty choices. Though still utilized mainly in summer and the sunnier months (especially the grandmother and matriarch G and T), don’t get stuck into thinking that a tonic number isn’t going to treat you rightly during other times of year, too (though cold winter nights can be a tougher sell, you can go for a vocational vibe in those situations). In the current fall time, which bridges summer months and fall months, I find an Apricot Eau De Vie (or fruit brandy) and Tonic especially nice. If you have the right Apricot brandy naturally! I’m using Oomrang’s version, which is a delight thanks to being based on apricots handpicked at the peak of ripeness, with the absolute perfect ones de-pitted, for a robust flavor of apricots tree-ripened in the summer sun. One note: this delicious apricot fruit brandy is not to be confused with some “Apricot brandies” out there, which are actually liqueurs, and tend to be treacly ones. I used Q tonic for that side of the “and,” but others could work, and tonic syrup would be a treat. I was just out!
Just a week ago, I had a drink, The Ciliegia (a sort-of cherry-Negroni-influenced sipper, if you missed it), which featured Oomrang Cherry eau di vie, or fruit brandy, which is delicious, and, today, I’m following it up with another drink featuring another delicious Oomrang fruit brandy, this time their Blueberry Geist – featuring it in this drink, The Blueberry Cobbler. Whew, that was quite a sentence! And the Oomrang brandies are quite good brandies! About this time last year, I was lucky enough to be able to write an article about Oomrang (there are two umlauts by the way, in the name, so imagine them there) for the sparklicious Sip magazine. I don’t think it’s online as it was for subscribers only, perhaps, but research it up, see what you can find. Abbreviated version: Oomrang is a distillery and winery outside of Stanwood WA, and is a remarkable place, where they make lovely wine utilizing lesser-known German grapes: Mueller-Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Kerner, and Sylvaner. They also make fruit brandies – the real stuff, not the sickly sweet things sometimes marketed under that name. They have two kinds, the more traditional eaux de vies (when I say “more traditional” I mean in like Europe, as we aren’t as used to them yet in the U.S. – sadly) and geists. Because I don’t want to rewrite the whole article here, I’ll just quickly say that in eaux de vie the fruit is fermented, distilled, and bottled quickly, whereas with geists first you macerate the fruit in alcohol for a fair amount of time – Oomrang uses an alcohol made from grapes, and macerates a month – then distill and bottle it. Both brandy versions are strong spirits that taste yummy. I find the geists a wee bit more fragrant featuring an orchard-late-in-season vibe and fruit scrumptiousness. Which – we’ve finally gotten around to it – goes swell in this here drink.
A drink which is part of the Cobbler family, a family tracing its liquid lineage back to the early 1800s, when the Sherry Cobbler kicked off and kicked into gear, and then it and the Cobbler famile gained international name recognition when ol’ Chucky Dickens (as I called him, you may be more formal and all him Charles Dickens) included the drink in one of my favs, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, in 1842. At one point, in 1888, bartender and writer Harry Johnson wrote “This drink is without doubt the most popular beverage in this country, with ladies as well as with gentlemen,” and though its popularity waned, the Cobbler is picking back up as more and more discover how swell it is for summer. Which leads us to the blueberry-rific Blueberry Cobbler, featuring Oomrang’s lush Blueberry Geist, a little simple, a little lemon (I feel Cobblers need both sweet and tang), a splash of soda (taking us off perhaps the super traditional Cobbler path, but it needed it, too, to me, especially when the sun’s high in the sky), and lots of crushed ice. It’s a summer hit, even if to get there you’ve now read a small novel.
1. Add the 10 blueberries, lemon juice, and simple to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Add ice cubes to about the halfway full point, then the Blueberry Geist. Shake.
3. Fill a wine glass (or goblet) up with crushed or cracked ice. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the soda, stir briefly. Add more ice if needed. Garnish with blueberries and mint.
You know (cause you’re you) that I’m a big fan by a country mile (as the saying says) of coming up with a new original amazing (or at least new) name when you concoct a new drink, even if said drink only changes one ingredient from an existing drink. That’s the way our bartending foremothers and forefathers did it back in the cocktail day (in this instance, meaning late 1800s, early 1900s) I believe, and if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. However! Sometimes, when the drink is really close, even I am tempted to just add an “ini” on the end or “insert word here + existing drink name” as the name and call it good. But I, even when lazy (which is most of the time) try to resist! Here, for example, I almost just said “Cherry Negroni” but then decided (still, lazily) to call it instead, The Ciliegia, which is Italian for cherry! But really, it’s mostly a Negroni (slightly different portions) with delightful Washington distillery Oomrang’s (in your mind, insert umlauts over the Os) delightful Cherry eau de vie in place of gin.
If you haven’t had it (you should!) Oomrang Cherry eau di vie, or fruit brandy, is made from natural Washington black cherries, picked at the peak of ripeness, at which time the finest of the fine have the stems removed, as well as any leafage, and then they’re rapidly turned into brandy via the joys and wonders of distillation. Fruit brandies (the real ones, not the fake ones – of which there are a lot, especially I think a lot of “cherry brandies” which are really just cherries muddled with vodka or another neutral spirit and a lot of sugaring agent, ending up oversweet and yucky) if you haven’t delved in are straight spirits, which – as demonstrated in this very drink – boast clear, crisp, flavors that catch the essence of a fruit in a way that’s wholly unique, and tasty. Here, the cherry notes mix a treat with the herbal sweetness of the sweet vermouth, and the bittery beauty of the Campari, without sacrificing the gin’s umph, as this real cherry brandy has the same ABV as the average gin. Heck, it’s a good enough combo that I’d drink it even if you did call it just a Cherry Negroni.
I sometimes feel a tiny bit of a Washington Tourist Board shill, as much as I talk about our awesomely awesome local distillers (and bartenders, and bars, and such). Which would be weird, if, well, they all weren’t so awesome! But they are, and so I’m happy to tout their lovely boozy products, and try to woo drinkers into trying them, sipping them, loving them like I do – and coming here to check the distillers out in person when possible. Really, we are spoiled with all the tipsy options being made this-a-way. This single drink is an example, and a good way to try multiple ones at once, as it features Skip Rock Distillery’s Belle Rose Light rum, a swell cocktail rum, aged in white wine barrels, soft, vanilla-y, oak-y, Brovo Spirits Jammy sweet vermouth, which is a merlot-based vermouth that’s rich with cherry and chocolate notes (very jammy indeed), and Sidetrack Distillery’s legendary Blackberry liqueur, which is lush and boasting deep berry flavors (which comes from growing the best blackberries in the world and then turning them into a liqueur on the same farm they grew on). Altogether, this cocktail shows off the delights from up here in a layered, lush, mixtures that’ll have you singing the WA distiller’s praises as much as me. And then we can both get a kickback from the tourist board!
You might guess, after looking at the title here, that this drink is named after a particularly feisty pup of some sort, or one who swears like a doggy sailor, and knowing how much (as you know me so well) I love dogs, it’d be a good guess! But, sadly, a wrong one. Really, I just fancied up a name (as I am fancy) for a whiskey and ginger-y combo I made recently (Whiskey And Ginger – WAG! Hilarious, right?). Not whiskey and ginger ale, which is a wonderful classic combo especially in spring and early summer, and not the Whisky Mac, which is a Scottish classic combo of whisky and ginger wine that I like to have when visiting the UK. Instead, this whiskey ginger mélange utilizes Portland Syrups Ginger Syrup, a bottle of which I was lucky enough to receive not many moons ago (along with a few more delicious Portland Syrups)!
This Ginger Syrup has a very fresh, strong ginger flavor, one accented by the addition of Japanese chilies, which gives a nice bit of heat mingling with the ginger spice on the tongue at the end of a sip. It’s not overly sweet, either, but well-balanced. It’s also brewed by hand in Oregon (as the name might have you guessing), which is just south of me, so neighbors really. I’m excited to try it just with soda as well as with classic ginger-y mixes like a Moscow Mule, but for the maiden voyage wanted to keep things simple, so just mixed it with Seattle Distilling Brockway Hill whiskey, a yummy whiskey made from Washington-grown rye, and one with an amiable-but-strong-in-personality rye spice flavor. This was, I am sad to admit, a small batch whiskey release, so might not be easy to find – sub in your fav rye, or bourbon, and I’ll bet you’ll still end up with a spiced boozy treat you’ll want to have twice!
A few short weeks ago, I had a Friday Night Cocktail that was actually a homemade aperitif called Fugger’s Revenge. Based on the Italian white wine Est! Est!! Est!!!, with herbal and fruit accents, I suppose it could be nearly thought of as a vermouth, though not so much so that I would do it. I’ll stick with a white wine-based aperitif moniker, thank you very much. Anywho, it was pretty neat-o, and I’ve enjoyed it over ice nicely. And hopefully will again, while also trying it out in cocktails, starting with this one right here in front of your peepers, a drink called Martin’s Folly. If you go back to the Fugger’s Revenge, you’ll get the full story, but let me abbreviate, until such time as you have time to do such browsing. There was a jolly (I may be making that part up) German bishop, Johann Fugger, who was traveling to Rome, and wanted to be sure he hit up the best wine at the best bars on the way, so he sent along his pal (one hopes) and assistant first, to scope out the wine score, and one particular wine was so good, said adjunct wrote in big letters on the bar with this good wine, “Est! Est!! Est!!,” or “there is.” Good wine here, that is. And that wall-writer and wine-searcher’s name? Martin!
In the Martin’s Folly, I mixed the Fugger’s Revenge house aperitif with Wildwood Spirits’ Kur gin, a favorite gin of mine made here in WA with local wheat. It carries a robust gin flavor, highlighted by juniper (‘natch), spices and such, and a hint of Seville oranges. I didn’t want to get too far afield from our original bishop’s journey, outside of the gin, and didn’t want to add too many more ingredients, either. So, I fiddled with a bit of this, a splash of that, and didn’t find the right choices until I decided to tie back to the wine – with grappa. The grappa-grape-ness (or grappa-ness, to be technical) worked wonderfully, as did the final part of the folly, a lemon twist.
It’s a familiar and beloved story with an alluring gravity: you are walking by your liquor shelves (or cabinet, or bottle stash, or near-toppling table, or bar cart, or horse’s buggy, or pie safe, or wherever you choose to keep your booze) and you catch, from the corner of your eye, a little wink from a gin bottle. Wink-wink, you think you saw, and knowing how flirty gin is, you stop, and peer at the bottles (in this scenario you have more than one type of gin, which I’m sure you do), and try to decide which gin is calling you over, wink imagined or not, because by now all this gin-ing has made you thirsty for a gin drink.
Well, I am here to help, with The Earth’s Attraction, a drink I made with Bluewater’s Halcyon gin, made up this way in Everett, WA, and “distilled by open flame” as they say. It brings a layered London-style, with reliable juniper backed by citrus and spice (a little angelica, orris root, and cinnamon). Yums. It provides the gravitas and base here, with our secondary players being dry vermouth (for the botanical and lighter herbal accents), Giffard’s Crème de Pêche de Vigne (for the vineyard peachy-ness we all desire, a wee bit of sweet, and nuttiness, too), and Scrappy’s Orange bitters (because bitters makes it better – plus orange layers and deep herb and spice notes). Oh! And a twist of lemon, whose heavenly citrus oils bring it all together, like Saturn’s rings. Celestial enough? I think so!
The Earth’s Attraction
2 ounces Bluewater Halcyon gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce Giffard’s Crème de Pêche de Vigne
Dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twisty twist.
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