May 29, 2020
Y’all know the song “Simple Life” by Skepta, right? “It’s the simple life that I’m dreaming of . . .” and all that? I feel that way on many days, even as I love complexity, too. I’m confusing! But today, I’m leaning towards the former, the simplicity, probably cause I’m missing lazy Italian afternoons under the (not too hot) olive oil sunshine, feet propped on a hundred-year-old stone fence, Umbrian hills unfolding, nothing really to do and no desire to do it, dogs (in my dreamlife, all the dogs) chasing rascally lizards or stretched within petting distance, cheese and taralli, and of course a Campari and Soda. While I can’t have all of that right now, or, perhaps, ever, I can have a Campari and Soda. So, that’s what I’m gonna do. I suggest you do the same.
Campari and Soda
2 ounces Campari
3 ounces club soda (see Note)
Orange twist, for garnish (see Note)
1. Fill a large Old Fashioned or comparable glass three quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Campari, give a quick stir.
2. Add the club soda, and the twist. Or two.
A Note: As it’s a bit warm, going more soda than Campari. Your ratio can change according to your mood. Also, I waver on the garnishing – sometimes I like lemon (which some think is weird), in slice or twist form, and sometimes orange, also in twist or slice form. You be you, but keep it simple.
April 17, 2020
If you didn’t know (and hey, why would you, unless you’re stalking me – you aren’t are you? Cause I’m really boring and feel for you if so), I recently, due to current events you know about, had an Italian vacation cut short by coronavirus. Said cutting short involved some radically fast packing (I mean, I’m a good suitcase arranger usually, but this was a mad dash), and that means quick choices about what to bring back, what you can fit, all that. One of the things I did bring back was a little bottle of Mazzetti Bitter, a deep red flavorfully-bitter aperitif with hints of rhubarb and lemon from the well-known grappa makers. Just like a week before the packing I purchased said bottle at my favorite north-Umbrian shop, Enoteca Lo Sfizio, which is a combination beautiful booze store, gift store, wine store, condiment-y store. It’s not huge (which is great cause huge stores scare me), but dreamy. So, ingredient one packed. One of the few other bottles I managed to squirrel away in said suitcases was a lean bottle of Donini Grappa (Donini being the finest winery in probably all of Umbria, owned by the nicest folks around), a monovitigno (one varietal that is, here being Sangiovese) grappa, very crisp and fragrant, that doesn’t forget that cozy grappa kick. Ingredient two packed. For ingredient three, I had to go out of suitcase – cause a rushed packing job sometimes has gaps. Luckily, on a past trip to Italy, I had packed in a smoother manner, cool-like, and managed to fit a bottle of Donini’s delicious Dono Di Dio, a vino liquoroso, or aged dessert wine that’s rich, lush, and needs to be tasted to be believed. If you’ve been Tuscany and had Vin Santo at a restaurant, think of that but like 10,000 times better. Yummy stuff. While I was sad to leave the Italian vacation, due to the wackiness of the travel (and cause once a trip is started, it’s always nice to be coming home), I was also very happy to make it back to Seattle. Which leads to: ingredient four in this here drink, Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. If your dream vacation is cut short unexpectedly by a world pandemic, a drink featuring the always-spot-on Scrappy’s and some ingredients reminding you of the vacation, well, it’s not going to get you over the experience, but sure makes thinking about it easier.
Forty Minutes Ago on the Balcony
1 ounce Mazzetti Bitter
1-1/2 ounces Donini Grappa
1/2 ounce Donini Dono Di Dio
Two dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass three-quarters full with cracked ice. Add everything but the orange. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or something that helps your day travel easier. Garnish with the orange.
February 21, 2020
I recently had a wonderfully wonderful (if I can say so in all humbleness, which I think I just did) drink on the old Spiked Punch called Boldness Be My Friend, which featured not one, not two, but three lesser-known (in the States, at least, and other countries outside the one they were birthed in, at least, and maybe even there) liquid lovelies from Italy. If you haven’t seen that, check it out, yo! Or, it Italian, dai un’occhiata a yo! And now that you’re back, think about the simplicity and simple pleasure of a good vermouth and tonic. The gin and tonic, of course, is more well known, but a good vermouth and tonic is in need of more recognition. With the right vermouth, it’s a flavorful, refreshing, fruity, herb-y, treat that more sippers should savor slowly. I’m sad I haven’t yet managed to track down the distillery where Ippocrasso vermouth is made, in Gubbio (a memorable Umbrian town to visit, by the by), but the vermouth itself is singular, both in Boldness Be My Friend in a V&T. As mentioned in the other recipe, this vermouth is built on a base of Cantina Donini red wine (a memorable winery, in Verna, Italy), and has a bold fruitiness, with a delicate overall persona that’s just right for matching with tonic on a sunny late afternoon or early evening, or, if you’re feeling it, even into the evening as it goes along. I suggest a lemon twist as the garnish, by the way. The tartness of the lemon oil plays perfectly with the vermouth and tonic. Try it, and tell me I’m right.
Vermouth and Tonic
1-1/2 ounces Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso Vermouth
4 ounces tonic
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth, and then the tonic. Stir.
2. Squeeze the twist over the glass, and then drop it in.
February 7, 2020
So, the other day I had an urge for a Garibaldi cocktail, and then I had an urge for a Screwdriver (as one does, on both, when the sun in shining, especially, I feel, when the sun is shining on a chilly day during the winter and surrounding months, which always makes me feel that orange juice would be the treat, fresh orange juice naturally, and both of our previously-named drinks are oj-centric, naturally), and so I went to the refrigerated cabinet and checked the orange supply and, dagnabit, it was low. Not empty, mind you, but darn low. Eh gads! I thought. What am I to do? Well, since I was already thinking of the above two drinks, I made a sort-of of hodge-podge of sorts (in the good hodge-podge way) all on my very own, with just a splash of the orange juice (say that nice and slow), and some other players from those drinks, or close to it. The end result (this very drink) ended up quite lovely, full of flavor, with some fruit, some herb, notes. A swell sipper indeed for a type of day and night as described above.
1-1/2 ounces vodka
1-1/4 ounces Martini Bitter Aperitivo
1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
More ice cubes
Orange wedge, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything (except more ice cubes). Shake.
2. Fill a highball or comparable halfway full with other ice cubes. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the glass and over the ice. Garnish with the wedge. Enjoy, any time of year!
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!
January 3, 2020
Gin. Geeeeeen. Gin. I remember when I first started making drinks with gorgeous (mostly!) gin, way way way back in the dawn of time, moreorless, a darker age in many drink ways. Back then, we only had a few gin choices, and even less choices in other boozy things. But we’re talking gin here friends, ol’ junipally gin. So, back then, again, I thought of gin in a probably more regimented fashion. But, like many (and many more each day, one hopes), I’ve learned as time has passed, and the imbibing world has changed. Jumping into our time machines (you have one, right?) from those way-back-then days of few gins to today and BOOM, gins-a-popping. All kinds of variations on the gin theme. Which leads to today, where I’m drinking a wonderful gin distilled in Italy, a gin called PiùCinque. Now, I love gin. And I love Italy. But I didn’t know that, as in many spots, Italy’s long and distinguished distilling and delicious-tipple-making scene had embraced gin, too – but it has! PiùCinque utilizes ten specific botanicals to give it a very individual taste, but one that stays true to the gin roots, with a nice even juniper-ness. One that’s partnered with nine intriguing friends (which gets us to ten, see), including I think sage, ginger root, wormwood flowers, angelica, Seville orange (if I’m reading things rightly), almond, the earthy mysterious zedoary, orris root, and lemony, springtime bergamot. That latter really brings this gin into its own, starting the taste off with light citrus notes that then smoothly move into the grounded, herbal, nut, root notes. Definitely worth a solo sipping over a cube or two.
But also, a fine ingredient for cocktails! I was sitting in some unexpectedly warm December sunshine considering gin, all the gins I’ve had, and especially this new-to-me gin, PiùCinque, and decided I wanted a refreshing mix, and something simple (cause I’m sometimes lazy, you know) and decided on an old, old friend, the Dragonfly. This basic mix of gin, ginger beer, and (usually) lime is a dandy manner to take a gin new-to-you out for a walk, so to speak. However! I only had lemons. And I was using this Italian gin for the first time! So, I changed up the name a slight bit, as one does. Anyway! The lemon actually worked a treat with this gin’s lighter, high end citrus notes, and the gin itself brought all those botanicals to the party, and, well, the drink was delicious. End of gin story! Now, I just have to figure out how to fill my suitcase when in Italy with Italian gins, so that the Italian gins can cuddly up on my gin shelf with my other gins! Gin!
1-1/2 ounces PiùCinque gin
Approximately 4 ounces ginger beer (Fever-Tree and its genuine ginger soul worked a treat)
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or other glass (that fits the scene) three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the gin, gently.
2. Add the ginger beer, and stir in a manner that’s not too wacky, but does combine well. Squeeze the lemon over and drop it in. Drink up, with a nod to Italy (unless you’re in Italy, in which case, just be happy you’re there).
November 19, 2019
My Scott-Jordan-ing re-reading continues (see the Tall, Dark and Deadly post below for more on this lawyer-ing hero from the 1950s pockets-and-pulps) in nearly as fast a manner as Jordan gets in scraps, woos the ladies, sips the drinks, slings the punches and the smart remarks, and solves the murders. In this one, he’s about to provide some lawyer-ing help to a rather wealthy young lady/heiress, one with an artistic bent and a penchant for headlines and bad marriages, when she turns up murdered. Oops! The tag here is “How the other half dies” dontcha know. It’s a swell read (so much so that I’ve had a So Rich, So Lovely, and So Dead Cocktail Talk already), moves quicks, turns and twists, and stop for drinks at the right spots, and, perhaps the only time I’ve seen this in an American book from the 50s, likes grappa. You can see why these books are worth re-reading.
We were in the mood for Italian food and I knew just the right place on Thompson Street in the Village. It was unpretentious and seldom crowded, but the cooking was superlative and the house wine fair. Between courses we read the paper.
“Anything special we’re looking for?” Susan wanted to know.
“Just keep your eyes peeled for news about any of the principals in the case.”
We kept at it after espresso and a shot of grappa.
— Harold Q. Masur, So Rich, So Lovely, and So Dead
October 4, 2019
Okay, hopefully this isn’t annoying (too much), but I’m going to lay out a perfect chilly-fall-night drink, but it has not one, but two ingredients that might not be easy for all to get – however, they are worth getting, so get on your buggies (or whatever you use for transportation) and perhaps time machines (or whatever you use to travel through time). The first is from the swell sweethearts at Seattle Distilling Company, a whiskey made from Washington-grown rye (the best rye, I’m guessing), called Brockway Hill, which has a lovely rye spice flavor and umph and is well worth sipping solo as well as in this cocktail. However! That’s not the end of the story, as this delight was named for a Vashon Island bootlegger from back during the sad time called prohibition. Does that story make it taste better? Yep, yep it does! Our second ingredient alluded to above is another WA-made delight: Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. A seasonal Scrappy’s (hence the harder to get, and maybe the need for time machines), it as-you’d-expect utilizes Seville oranges, the peels specifically, and delivers cozy marmalade and winter spice action. Watch for it as the snow falls. Our last ingredient in this Manhattan-y trio is actually more available now than it was – because it’s fairly new and wasn’t available at all in the dark days of the past: Cynar 70. If you haven’t had the amazing and fairly-legendary Italian artichoke-based amaro Cynar, then shame on you. Have it now, and then have its higher-proof sibling, Cynar 70. The latter still brings the herbally goodness, but with a bit of a stronger kick, a kick that can be nice to have in cocktails such at this one. Drink up (but not when driving that buggy).
Rye on Earth
2-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company Brockway Hill whiskey
1/2 ounce Cynar 70
2 dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Blackberry, for garnish*
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ices. Add our trio of stalwarts. Stir well.
2. Add your blackberry to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix into said glass.
*You could go a cherry here. But blackberries are cool. And you wanna be cool, right?