October 16, 2020
You know I like to make drinks, and I know you know, and you know I know you know, ad infinitum. However, I have to say – I also like drinks made for me. This is perhaps obvious for those who followed my past escapades writing about Seattle bars (the finest bars in the cosmos), but here I’m not talking about professional slingers and shakers and strainers making me drinks; instead, I’m talking about home-bartending pals. Now, due to our circumstances (sucky, circumstances, that is, so do your part to help) it’s not as easy as hopping off a whiskey barrel to have fine drinks made by said pals. However (part II), I was just lucky enough to have a nice socially-distanced evening in the lovely back yard of two pals. Julie and Leroy, and during said evening Leroy made me an absolutely tasty Aviation. I hadn’t flown the friendly Aviation skies for far too long, so it was a treat on multiple levels. It’s such a swell cocktail, the gin base botanicals mingling with the lemon tang, maraschino nuttiness, and crème de violette’s bouquet. Pretty, too, though my pic does it no justice. Forgive me, but I was more interested in distanced-chatting that in picture taking! Now, I didn’t watch up close how Leroy made his high-flying Aviation, so for the ol’ Spiked Punch blog, I’m going to use the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz. It might not soar to the same heights, but it’ll get you there!
The Aviation (using the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz)
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur
1 teaspoon crème de violette
Maraschino cherry (as long as you can get a good one, from Luxardo for instance), for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette, and shake well.
2. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry.
September 15, 2020
Not too long ago (if you consider the amount of time within all of time, for sure) I had a couple Cocktail Talks from a book by Martha Grimes called The Man With a Load of Mischief, a book I liked pretty well. Not sure why (as this often happens) I didn’t search out more books by Martha G at the time, but, well, I didn’t. However, recently (being at home more and thereby reading more) I was scouring the shelves for a book to re-read, and I picked up said Load, and liked it again. It – as it seems all her books starring Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury – is very pub-focused, which I also like (pubs, that is! and pub-focused books), and so decided I’d keep my eyes open for more. And, low and behold, with open eyes I found one, called The Dirty Duck. Now, Grimes in the book-back blurbs gets compared at times to Agatha Christie, and while she isn’t anywhere for me as good as the best Agatha, she may not be as bad as the worst Agatha either (cause when Agatha goes off the mark, it can be far off). With that said, The Dirty Duck isn’t a bad read. It’s a little, oh, lazy at times, and a little dated for being 1984 (though that was, now that I think about it, a ways behind us in time), but it’s also a lot of fun, has some pretty neat twists and a good mystery, and is very readable. Best of all – it takes place in Stratford Upon Avon! At least for the main, and you probably can guess that means lots of Shakespeare, which I’m always for, and also the main pub (the Dirty Duck pub, that is) is one I know, and one that features mightily (under the name The Mucky Mallard) in the tv show Shakespeare and Hathaway, which I am mightily (two “mightily”s!) fond of. If that wasn’t enough to get you going, the Thomas Nashe poem “Litany in a Time of Plague” provided key clues, and is not only a swell poem, but incredibly apt right now with our own plague. And if that wasn’t enough, there are some good drinking quotes in the book, starting with the below.
One of these Americans, Miss Gwendolyn Bracegirdle, who had never had more than an ounce of sweet sherry at a time on the veranda of her huge pink-stuccoed house in Sarasota, Florida, was standing with a friend in a shadowy corner of the terrace getting sloshed.
“Oh honey, not another! This here’s my second – what do they call it?”
“Gin.” Her companion laughed.
“Gin!” She giggled. “I definitely couldn’t.” But she held her glass in a way that said she definitely could.
–Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck
September 1, 2020
You’ll be forgiven if you dive in here thinking, automatically, that they’ll be a murder and a portly Belgian detective within this here Cocktail Talk, cause m’lady Christie’s book that shares the two words of the title is rather a big deal, but nope! Today, we’re Cocktail Talking with gregarious Graham Greene, which is also rather a big deal of course. But while his Orient Express isn’t the best known, or most highly thought of, book within Greene’s healthy and unmissable canon, it was the first of his (to use his own phrasing) “entertainment” books, and one written specifically with the movies in mind – though it begs, in many ways, for an updated film or tv treatment as there isn’t a good one that I know of. While not the top of the Greene list, the book’s a rollicking read in many ways, dated in some ways here and there, but moving at a fast clip, and with characters you begin to really care about, or, if that’s too fancy, become involved with, their stories, that is, and a few you might be happier to do without. Read it, if you haven’t, to see if you agree. And for now, enjoy the below drunkenness.
‘Oh, for God’s sake, come on, Mabel,’ Janet said.
Miss Warren’s mood changed. She straightened herself and barred the way. ‘You say I’m drunk. I am drunk. But I’m going to be drunker.’
‘Oh, come on.’
‘You are going to have one more drink with me or I shan’t let you on the platform.’
Janet Pardoe gave way. ‘One. Only one, mind.’ She guided Mabel Warren across a vast black shining hall into a room where a few tired men and women were snatching cups of coffee, ‘Another gin,’ said Miss Warren, and Janet ordered it.
–Graham Greene, Orient Express
July 21, 2020
Well, this should surprise no-one who knows me in the littlest, but I’ve been re-reading one of Charles Dickens’ legendary books (that category of “legendary” covers all his books, more-or-less), as I do on regular occasions. This time, The Old Curiosity Shop, and as with every time I re-read Dickens, I found more to love that I had forgotten, re-read passages I remembered and loved, and was reminded of the glorious humorousness of Dick Swiveller, the big horror of Quilp and the lesser (though still a horror) horror of Grandfather, the sturdy Kit and his bouncy pony, the mighty small Marchioness, and of course the sweet sad Little Nell – and about a million more! Not to mention the many Cocktail Talk moments, as Dickens (I hope you know this) loved his pubs, tipples, and consumers of beverages cold and hot. Actually, I’ve had two Cocktail Talk posts from The Old Curiosity Shop already, so be sure to read Part I and Part II to start things off with the right flavor (not to mention, though I will, all the other Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks). And then come back, so you can reach this quote about the above-mentioned Dick Swiveller, one of my (many many) Dickens favs, and about “rosy wine” which sounds a bit like Pink Gin in practice!
“’Fred,’ said Mr. Swiveller, ‘remember the once popular melody of Begone dull care; fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine.’ Mr. Richard Swiveller’s apartments were in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane, and in addition to this convenience of situation had the advantage of being over a tobacconist’s shop, so that he was enabled to procure a refreshing sneeze at any time by merely stepping out upon the staircase, and was saved the trouble and expense of maintaining a snuff-box. It was in these apartments that Mr. Swiveller made use of the expressions above recorded for the consolation and encouragement of his desponding friend; and it may not be uninteresting or improper to remark that even these brief observations partook in a double sense of the figurative and poetical character of Mr. Swiveller’s mind, as the rosy wine was in fact represented by one glass of cold gin-and-water, which was replenished as occasion required from a bottle and jug upon the table, and was passed from one to another, in a scarcity of tumblers which, as Mr. Swiveller’s was a bachelor’s establishment, may be acknowledged without a blush.”
–Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop
March 27, 2020
So, I was not too long ago in the lovely Italy (in perhaps the loveliest part – to me – northern Umbria), and though much madness was happening (I don’t feel the need to delve deep as you know what I’m talking about, and really, you can get all you want on current worldwide issues elsewhere), was loving it until I had to unexpectedly make the decision to leave. The night before said decision was made, though, to accompany me as I caught up on current worldwide issues, I made a drink that was – if I can say so while being still thought of as a little humble – pretty darn swell. And that drink is this drink, if you know what I mean, called L’Altra Sera.
It started with an Italian gin I’ve mentioned here on the Spiked Punch before, PiùCinque, which boasts a unique and smooth flavor coming from ten botanicals: juniper, sage, ginger root, wormwood flowers, angelica, Seville orange, almond, zedoary, orris root, and bergamot. Altogether, it’s a citrus, herbal, treat. Here, I combined it with another absolute treat (just typing the name makes me salivate), Del Professore Classico vermouth. The fine folks at Del Professore make two other delish vermouths, too (Rosso and Vaniglia), and both are dandy, but let’s stick to Classico here. Made on a Muscat wine base, with herbs and magic things from the hills around Turin, Italy (including gentian, mace, vanilla, cloves, lemon, and more), it has a light but aromatic and flavor-packed nature, and is worthy all on its own over ice, with or without a lemon. But it also plays nice with others, and went especially well with the PiùCinque here.
But not so well that I didn’t bring in a third pal to play with, and I went to a different content for it: Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters, made in swell Seattle, WA. If you haven’t had this exceptional elixir, you should, as it’s magically in its own right, earthy, citrus-y, amazing. Get it, get the above, and have this not on a last night, but tonight.
2 ounces PiùCinque gin
1 ounce Del Professore Classico vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, vermouth, and bitters, and stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable, and garnish with that lemon twist. Enjoy the lovely.
March 24, 2020
When you’re sorta, oh, staying at home for an extended period as some are at the moment, it’s good to have a big, big book (or many). If you’re looking for a good big, big book, may I suggest what I’m reading, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries? Cause it is very big (700 plus pages in the version I have), and very good (I mean, it features tons of heavy-hitters covering many genres), and very holiday-y, which brings a nice feeling these days. Christmas and winter holidays are mystery-story hotspots, if you didn’t know, probably due to balancing the cheer out with murder. That’s a guess, but I’m just happy there are so many good stories here! Including one by Robert Barnard called Boxing Unclever. I have to admit, I didn’t know Mr. Barnard well before this story (I know, I probably should!), but one of the fun things about a big anthology like this is discovering the writers new to you, alongside your favorites. And this story is an intriguing one, a story within a story, and one with some nice – and murderous! – cocktail-talking, in the form of the below quote:
And so it was time for a second round of drinks. I decided on that as I saw toiling up the drive the figure of my dear old dresser, Jack Roden. My once dear old dresser. I poured out a variety of drinks including some already-mixed cocktails, two kinds of sherry, some gins and tonic, and two glasses of neat whisky. There was only one person in the room with the appalling taste to drink neat whisky before luncheon. Pouring two glasses gave that person a fifty-fifty chance of survival. Depending on how the tray was presented. With my back to the guests I dropped the hyoscine into one of the whisky glasses.
— Robert Barnard, Boxing Unclever
March 20, 2020
Well, the world is in a mad place right now as you I’m sure you know. But not too long ago (honestly, the world was in a mad place then, too, just not as much, perhaps), I was in the U.K. (or “ol’ blighty” as was once said), having a fine time as one does when there, and also as one does, tasting a wide range of delicious gins, mainly in delicious Gin & Tonics. So many great gins are being made in the world; we should feel lucky for that, if nothing else. While, as mentioned, the range was wide, one of my favs – and now one of many folks’ favs, as it’s made phenomenal inroads worldwide since the first time I had it like, oh, five years ago? My memory might be wrong there, as sometimes happens – was and remains Sipsmith London Dry. As the madness continues, I find sipping a nice Sipsmith and Tonic, while not removing the madness, sure makes a day it taste better. Hopefully wherever you are, the supply lines of Sipsmith (and other great gins) haven’t been slowed down. Oh, the below pic as you’ll see, has a cucumber garnish – and that’s a treat! But a lemon is also, just in case you’re cucumber-less. And a lime is, if you’re both-less.
1-1/2 ounces Sipsmith London Dry gin
4 ounces tonic of your choice
Cucumber slice (or lime or lemon)
1. Fill a highball glass or comparable three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the gin, gently.
2. Top it off with tonic (I think 3-1/2 to 4 ounces is nice, but adjust according to your desires). Stir briefly. Garnish with the cucumber.
January 24, 2020
Earlier this month of January, I had a drink I was drinking called the The Libellule (basically, a classic Dragonfly but with lemon), in which I utilized the lovely PiùCinque gin, a gin made in Italy with 10 botanicals. If you haven’t read that post, for gosh sakes, where have you been? Nah, I kid, I kid, I know you’re busy, what with the this-and-that’s. But do go read it now, to get more info on said Italian gin. Okay, back? See, wanted you to catch up on that there, cause in this drink, I mix PiùCinque gin with a few other Italian bottles: Anonima Distillazioni’s Ippocrasso vermouth from Gubbio, and Zafferaneto Di Corciano’s Safra Amaro all Zafferano from (as you might guess here) Corciano.
As you might guess, for those unlucky souls not visiting Umbria in central Italy, those two ingredients are probably not on your local liquor store shelves – yet at least! Who knows what tomorrow brings; one hopes. The fourth ingredient is orange juice, but that’s easy, so let us focus on the other two, both of which are delicious, in their own way. Ippocrasso vermouth is based on a red wine from Donini (my favorite winery in the world I’d say), so it starts in a wonderful place. It’s on the light side, but still lush, and has a bountiful fruitiness that sets it apart from many Italian vermouths, and a little less sweetness perhaps? Perhaps. Some friendly herbal and bitter notes bring up the rear. Safra (there’s an accent over that “a” by the way, but it’s annoying to type) Amaro alla Zafferano is one of the few – if not the only – amari I’ve had that sets itself apart with saffron. It doesn’t have a saffron-y coloring, but the smell and taste both benefit from saffron’s florally-honey-coaxingly-bitter-y nature, here backed by other herbal notes, friendly ones. On the amari scale, this leans a smidge on the sweet side, very approachable.
So, with our gin, we have three amazing Italian ingredients, all crafted with care from what I can tell, and all worth tracking down. Will it be easy? Perhaps not super easy, but hey, as our drink title tells you, just ask boldness to be your friend. Will it be worth it? Yes, for sure! Both to have each separately, but also to have in this cocktail, where they combine into the liquid equivalent of, oh, a painting by Perugino – one of the darker ones, as there is a rich, deep, herbal and fruit taste here, but also one that’s savor-able and approachable. Get your tickets, today!
Boldness Be My Friend
1-1/2 ounces PiùCinque gin
3/4 ounce Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso vermouth
1/2 ounces Zafferaneto Di Corciano Safra Amaro all Zafferano
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Enjoy your Italian night!