April 26, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Brovo Pretty Vermouth and Tonic

Hey, guess what? It’s the heart of spring (more-or-less), which means the sun is coming out more regularly (hopefully, at least, but hopefully also not so much as to make us enjoy it less), and also that summer is about to rear its sunshiny head, which then means that you and me and all (who are consumers of drinks utilizing booze) need to start to think about refreshing drinks that don’t make you sweat to make them, which are easier to make then this very long sentence. One perfect solution here: XX and tonic. The XX is not a warning, but generic so-as to remind that many things go well with tonic, and end up delicious. Gin, naturally. But many other liquids, too, including other base spirits (rum and tonic: yummy), aperitif-y things (Lillet and tonic: yummy), and one of my favorite “and tonic” things: vermouth. With the right vermouth and tonic, you have an easy to make, wonderful to drink combo. To ensure I have the right vermouth, today I’m reaching for WA-state-made Brovo Pretty vermouth. A blanc vermouth based on Pinot Gris, it has a balanced and beautiful fragrance and taste, backed by hints of spice, vanilla, lemon, and floral notes, it makes a swell partner with tonic. As I had a bottle at hand (and as it’s one of the best of the bottled varieties), I’m going with Fever Tree tonic. I am sadly out – I need to go to the store! – of my local WA tonic syrups cause they would be great, too.

Brovo Pretty Blanc vermouth and tonic

Brovo Pretty Vermouth and Tonic

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces Brovo Pretty Blanc Vermouth

3-1/2 ounces Fever Tree tonic

Lemon slice, for garnish

1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice. Add the vermouth. Then the tonic. Still briefly.

2. Garnish with the lemon slice. Oh, and add more tonic as/if desired.

April 12, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The R56 Sparkler

Hello springtime! Hello sunshine! Hello flowers (sadly, hello allergies, too)! Hello brunches! Which isn’t to say you can’t have brunches and/or late lunches where you feel like it’s brunch even though it’s 1:30 (or 13:30 if on a 24-hour clock system) any time of the year, but somehow spring sunny days seem ideal for brunching. And for brunch drinks! Of which there are many, or many plus one, as I’m adding this here drink the R56 Sparkler to the list, as I made it specially for a brunching/late weekend lunching situation, one in which I needed a specially special drink as said brunch was a birthday occasion, too, and birthday occasions demand special drinks (the birthday-er in question’s name starts with R and I’ll give you a guess what birthday it was). Demand them!

But how to have it be special? Well, for me, I started with Brovo’s new-ish American Aperitivo, a made-in-Washington treat that combins a host of delights – hibiscus, bilberry, Schisandra berry, grapefruit, lemon, orange, and Gentian root – into one flavorful, but light and bright and friendly, sipper, one that’s balanced, accessible, and still has a cheeky quick bittery kiss at the end of a sip. It seems they designed it to pair with tequila, but here I’ve let it shine without a base spirit. But with a few partners! First, Salish Sea’s Ginger liqueur. For some really sad and tragic reasons, it can be hard to find (though I think it is still out there — grab any you see). I’ve kept a couple bottles in reserve for special occasions because it’s the best ginger liqueur I’ve had. Luckily, there are other good ones you can sub in, because the hint of ginger goes swell here. As does Scrappy’s amazing Black Lemon bitters. The finest – or most intriguing? – cocktail bitters being made currently? Perhaps! To those three freakishly good friends, I also added some fresh orange juice (one of the standards in brunch drinks), and a little soda to bring it all together. The end result is a seriously sippable number, one whose citrus and spice notes pair perfectly with brunching – and with birthdays!

The R56 Sparkler, a drink with American Aperitivo, Black Lemon bitters, ginger liqueur, oj, and soda

The R56 Sparkler

2 ounces Brovo American Aperitivo

3/4 ounces Salish Sea Ginger liqueur

1 dash Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters

2 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice

Ice cubes

3 ounces chilled club soda

1. Add the first four liquids lovelies to a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Stir well.

2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the soda, stir carefully to mix, enjoy!

April 5, 2024

What I’m Drinking: How Does Your Garden Grow

I believe there are people, industrious, good people, who garden well all year round, and have yards and gardens in much better shape than mine. For me, the gardening starts soon, usually late April/early May. And even then, to be honest (as we are here), I’m not a stupendous gardener, and find myself putting it off more than putting on the gloves to get everything in order. However! I have found that one of these here drinks helps make the gardening more palatable. Pull a weed, take a sip! You should try it. One warning: this here cocktail, when you look at it, sounds an odd pairing, like putting nightshade next to your pea patch. But the three ingredients actually go swell together! There’s gin, to start, and I’m using Copperworks stellar gin here. And then Sidetrack Distillery’s one-of-a-kind Shiso liqueur, made from the Asian herb it’s named after, and delivering an herby, botanical beauty one must taste to believe. Then, and this is the odd side, as you might thing the Shiso and this would go well, the third ingredient is the orange-y and teensy bitter-y aperitif, Aperol. It’s a magical match, honestly, and perfect planting of three different tasty items (planted into a shaker and then your mouth, that is), and makes even the most boring yard work a more palatable affair (no mechanized yard tools when drinking, please).  

How Does Your Garden Grow, a cocktail with gin, Shiso liqueur, and Aperol

How Does Your Garden Grow

Cracked ice

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.

March 1, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Full Moon Over Washington

It is not a full moon today, but that does not mean you can’t drink this delicious drink – really, you can have it any day! It’s that good. I say ‘umbly. And, also, you may not be in the Pacific Northwest today – you can still have this drink if not, though I should warn you it is a very PNW drink, as all of the ingredients are made up this way (actually all are made in WA state proper, but as we’re – me typing in WA now – a part of the PNW, thought I’d stretch a bit). But most I feel are available outside of these hallowed longitude/latitude coordinates, luckily! What are said ingredients? I am glad you asked. First up, is Browne Family Spirits Bourbon, a hit in the late-winter, looking-at-spring days we’re currently in, due to its campfire-echo and oak aroma, wispy smoke-and-pepper finish, and lovely browned-buttered sweetness (it carries a nice warming 90-proofness, too). That taste goes lovely-like with a seriously individual amaro here, Brovo #14 Amaro, whose recipe was created by Mike Ryan and combines singularly Guatemalan chocolate, thyme, cinnamon, sarsaparilla, angelica, and vanilla. One of a kind! With all that choco-buttery-goodness, it only felt right (and tasted right, after some testing) to bring in some orange-ness, and here that’s coming via another Brovo hit, Tacoma Punk, made from half unsweetened Brovo Orange Curacao and half of their Amaro #4, with the end result’s slightly spicy orange flavor mingling mightily with our first two ingredients. But one more note felt needed, to me, when designing this moony number, and following along the theory that if you have four or more ingredients one should be bitters, the last addition is Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters. Made via an herb maceration, this classically-styled bitters is ideally balanced and adds a bit of herb and spice goodness that bring the drink together. A treat, I tell you, no matter what the moon looks like above you when drinking. But as it is called Full Moon Over Washington, I’ve added a cherry for garnish to stand in for the moon, in case, to cover all phases, so to speak (oh, the cherry goes perfectly, taste-wise, too).

Full Moon Over Washington Cocktail

Full Moon Over Washington

Cracked ice

2-1/4 ounces Browne Family Spirits bourbon

3/4 ounces Brovo Amaro #14

1/2 ounce Tacoma Punk orange liqueur

Dash Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters

Maraschino cherry, for garnish

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktails shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the moon. Wait, I mean all but the cherry. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, add the cherry, carefully. Howl, if you must.

February 2, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Thy Noble Father

February is here, a month known for hearts and presidents and the birthdays of famous dog-owners (the last very subjective). As the presidents in reference here, in this month, calendarically are those who kick-started or had serious impact on the US, we’re talking males, fathers or father figures or both, and perhaps bourbon lovers (conjecture, unless time machines are on offer), and historically sort-of noble (naturally history is written by those who, well, are able to write it, and without the aforementioned time machines hard to declare nobility – which is a hard word to define anyway – in a way, but go with it, okay), which makes this the ideal month for this drink. A noble drink, I may say, especially if you live in and love WA state (as I do, in the main), as nearly every ingredient here is from WA – oranges excepted. We’re talking some seriously tasty state stalwarts, too: Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s delicious straight bourbon, Brovo Spirits’ bouncy Orange Curaçao, and Scrappy’s uniquely awesome Black Lemon bitters. Plus, a dollop of Seattle Distilling Company’s beautiful brandy – if you have it. That latter is hard to come by, unless you hoarded (like me) a last sip from a limited-release bottling. If you weren’t so lucky (or forward-thinking), then sub in another reputable brandy, please. It shouldn’t make the drink too less noble. It is a swell sipper, for February – or any ol’ month in the year.

Thy Noble Father cocktail with Woodinville bourbon, Brovo curacao, Scrappy's Black Lemon bitters, and more
I originally made this for NewDay Northwest, as evidenced by the snappy wallpaper behind the drink!

Thy Noble Father

Cracked ice

1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Straight Bourbon

3/4 ounce Brovo Spirits Orange Curaçao

1/2 ounce Seattle Distilling Company Brandy

Dash Scrappy’s Black Lemon Bitters

Wide 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 or coupe glass. Garnish with the twist.

September 29, 2023

What I’m Drinking: Woodinville Straight Bourbon Finished in Ginja Casks

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!

Woodinville Whiskey Co. 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)!

September 22, 2023

What I’m Drinking: Oomrang Apricot Eau De Vie and Tonic

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!

Oomrang Apricot Ear De Vie and Tonic

Apricot Eau De Vie and Tonic

Ice cubes

2 ounces Oomrang Apricot Eau De Vie

4 ounces Q Tonic (or to taste)

Apricot slice, for garnish

1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Apricot Eau De Vie, and then the tonic.

2. Stir, but gently, and garnish with the apricot slice.

July 21, 2023

What I’m Drinking: The Blueberry Cobbler

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.

Blueberry Cobbler using Oomrang's Blueberry Geist fruit brandy.

The Blueberry Cobbler

10 blueberries

1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

2 ounces Oomrang Blueberry geist

Ice cubes

Crushed or cracked ice

1-1/2 ounces chilled soda water

Blueberries and mint spring for garnish

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.

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