Look, look, lookieeee! A new year has started. Which is good, cause, between us, last year, well (excuse my expressioning expression), sucked. Really! Not that there weren’t good and tasty and cuddly moments, I hope, for all, but it wasn’t the finest year IMHO (as they say). So, here’s hoping this here year will be better, and to help it on its way, I’m going to drink this lovely drink, called Three Wishes, after its three tasty ingredients: dark rum (I’m going with Diplomatico Reserva, which is so delicious), Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb (a beauteous blend of rums, bitter orange, and sweet), and amaretto (for me, wishing usually has an Italian component – I’m using Lazaroni). How will me drinking this help? Well, lesser-know fact: when you drink this, you can actually make wishes, and all mine will be for a lovely 2022 for us all. Yeah, I’m that way, but the good part is, you can have one of these and also wish for the same!
Can you believe it – it’s nearly Halloween! It’s Halloween weekend, with the day itself just hours away, and all the ghouls, goblins, witches, skellingtons, and whatever the kids are wearing these days, are about to arise (thinking safety-first, of course). And (even more important) the Warlock cocktails are about to flow, as they do this time every year, changing spooky drinkers into happy zombie magicians, thanks to the sorcerous combination of brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. You’ll see the process (and learn how to make the drink if you’ve somehow missed it on past Halloweens) in the video below.
I have a deep fondness (I know, this is, oh, a little patting-yourself-on-the-back-y) for some of the headnotes (the intro paragraph/graphs before the recipe, though you probably knew that) in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz. Including the one for this drink, which is short, but still I hope fun, and introduces the players and such. So much so that I’m going to just do the ol’ cut-and-pasting of said intro right here:
Featuring the bracing and bountiful bam! of Italian digestivo Fernet-Branca over a layer of rumbling dark rum and a lovely lash of apricot liqueur and a tiny tang of lime, the Whip should be unveiled only when attempting world conquest (in the board game Risk, that is) or having a marathon video game session when the games are medieval or oriented earlier (such as Prince of Persia, say) or having a double elimination (’cause every player needs a second chance) shuffleboard tournament where the winner triumphs thanks to the singular method of ricocheting the puck off the sidewalls to hang gracefully on the board’s edge—without falling over. A conqueror indeed.
Strawberry season is super swell, sweet some might say! Heck, I might have said it not so far back in Spiked Punch history when extolling the virtues of the homemade strawberry liqueur I made, Strawcurranterry, also not so far back. When it rains strawberries up this way, it really pours (if I may stretch metaphors to the breaking point of sense), and so not only did I make said liqueur, but also tossed some fresh-picked-by-my-own-hand strawberries into other big jars with other tasty things – including gin! I didn’t alter the concoction any further than that, though, just took 2 cups of Sipsmith London Dry gin and added it to 2 cups muddled strawberries, and then let them get acquainted for about a month, afterwhich I strained it through cheesecloth and voila! Strawberry gin. Delicious, by the way, over ice on its own. But also delicious in cocktails, including The Stoni. The clever among you (which is all of you, as I’m sure anyone who reads this is clever) will probably guess that The Stoni is perhaps a Negroni, made with said strawberry-infused gin, and you’d be right! I felt that calling it a “Strawberry Negroni” violated all my diatribes about creative naming of drinks, but did want to reference the antecedent, as nothing else has changed (outside of the garnish). So, it’s not overly strawberry-y, and still carries the Negroni balance and beauty. But altered with fruity undertones that add a hint of summer and orchard or fruit farm. Interesting? Yes! Delicious? Indeed! Easy, and worthwhile, provided you have good fresh strawberries and a month to spare? Darn tooting.
It’s funny (to me, if no-one else) to have a very tough drink name like “Fugger’s Revenge” for a light-bodied, friendly, vermouthy (in a way, though I’m not calling this vermouth, cause I don’t want the vermouth board after me), aperitif-style sipper (the aperitif board is much less ferocious). But the backstory really is not so tough, but is one of my fav wine stories (one that some people say isn’t true, is just apocryphal, etc. Some people are also fuddy-duddies and no fun to have a drink with. Avoid them). Anyway, it starts early in the year 1111. A forward-thinking German bishop named Johann Fugger was getting ready to travel to Rome for the Holy Roman Emperor’s coronation (this one was Henry V). Because he was forward-thinking, Fugger sent his assistant along the road first, to scope out the local wine, chalking the pubs or bars or 12th-century what-have-yous that had good wine with the word “est,” which is Latin for “there is” (the full phrase he kept in his wine journal was I believe “vinum est bonum” or “wine is good” basically). When this intrepid wine scout came into the town of Montefiascone, he so enjoyed the wines that he A: had a lot, and B: wrote Est! Est!! Est!!! on the bar’s outside wall to show his enthusiasm. I believe bishop Fugger himself liked these particular wines so well he never made it to the coronation, just stayed in Montefiascone drinking wine, and is buried there today. And, the white wines designated Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone are still made and enjoyed. And (here’s where it also comes back around), this particular homemade aperitif uses an Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone wine as it’s base! Neat! Awesome! Story!
There aren’t a wide range of these whites available here, but Pietro Est! Est!! Est!!! tends to be available, and it’s what I used. Light, apple-y, dry, and very refreshing, it provided the perfect platform for building this summertime aperitif (and it won’t set you back too much). The other flavorings almost all came from my yard, including white currants (want to know way more about my white currant bush? Check out the Currant Current liqueur, Strawcurranterry, a white currant strawberry liqueur, and A Particular Friend, a white currant mint number), fresh mint, and fresh marjoram. A little gentian root because life is bitter (but not, one hopes too bitter most days), a little vodka to im-proof things a bit (but not too much, as this is a very light-on-its-feet charmer), and a little simple syrup to round our edges without making it sweet. Altogether, this late summer aperitif rises to the level of the wine story with delicate herbal and fruit notes. Pretty swell on its own, chilled or over ice, but also a pleasant pal in cocktails (heck, though it is not a vermouth, it would make a mean Martini-esque drink when paired with a London-style gin).
Let’s just be open about it: today is Friday the 13th. For some (how many I wonder, actually listen deep in their brain to the old luck lore?), today is a potentially very unlucky day, one in which all are prone to accidents, downer deeds, bad juju, and the potential for potentially poor potentiality. I certainly don’t want to argue with other’s deep held beliefs on this blog, so if you’ve a worry about Friday the 13th, well, do what you do. I will say that I believe you can balance out a bit of potential bad luck by drinking something tall and refreshing and named to be lucky. It’s all about the balance! Here, the balance begins with a WA-state treat: 3 Howls single malt whiskey. Made out this-a-way with Northwest brewing specialty grains and traditional Scottish peat smoked barley (a lucky combination if ever), it’s a lush number, vanilla-y and caramel-y and smoky in a friendly way. Good solo for sure, but also good here, mixed with, first, legendary Italian, Sicilian specifically, amaro Averna, whose sweet-bitter herbal and other tastes (citrus, juniper, rosemary, sage, and more) goes in a lovely manner with our single malt. And also with apple cider, the non-booze kind. Apples and our above two players are quite a lucky thing. I’m going with nice and straightforward Tree Top 3 Blend cider, but you can experiment a bit. A sprig of mint in the manner of an extra stitch of summer funtime luck, some ice, and we’ve moved from potential into perfection, balancing out the day’s bad luck lore with some darn good sipping.
Ah, the Negroni. You kids probably won’t believe this, but I remember way back when when I had to describe to even good, reliable, knowledgeable, wonderful bartenders how to make a Negroni, what was in it, soup to nuts, as they say. And now there are probably 348,651 variations, many of which are happy to use the name, or some bastardization of such, attached to a drink that might not have much if anything to do with the original. But hey, people, you be you. I may bemoan the lack of naming creativity, but certainly won’t turn down a good drink no matter the name. But, as a classic song told us, ‘there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.” So, today, we’re taking it classically, in the one configuration that really deserves the name: Gin, Italian (or rosso, or sweet) vermouth, Campari, over ice, with a … lemon peel? Well, I somehow was out of orange, which I’d normally go with. So, I myself have now undercut the above sentences, in a way. Let’s pretend this never happened, and instead talk about The London Nº1 gin, which I’m using here. Pale-blue tinged with juniper, savory, bergamot, licorice, lemon and orange peel, cinnamon, iris root (which I believe delivers that blue-ness in coloring), and more used in the making, and based on a spirit made from English wheat. Together, they deliver an earthiness the smooths into citrus and floral notes in an enticing manner. Our next component: Mancino Rosso vermouth. They themselves say that this vermouth is of “exceptional quality and refined organoleptic characteristics,” and as “organoleptic” is my new favorite word, I couldn’t agree more. 38 aromatic herbs combining into a lush mixture that delivers spice, sweet, forest-at-dusk-with-flirty-druids-dancing notes (helped along by vanilla, rhubarb, juniper, toasted wood, myrrh, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, and the like). And then, Campari. What can you say about something that, if it wasn’t in the world, the world would feel lacking at a spiritual level? Nothing does the love that is Campari justice. Just know that without it, birds would stop singing and bunnies stop hopping. I am very excited for this Negroni. You will be, too. Heck, you’ll even want to give me a hand when you have it.
Summer proper (first day of summer and all that) is still over a month away, but I can feel it creeping up with every sunny day, temperature rising, refreshing fruity drinks bubbling, flowers blooming, gardens growing, sweat sweating, outdoor meals aromatizing evenings, and did I mention the drinks? We had a precursor summer day recently, one of those days that provides a preview of all that sun and such just described, and I just had to make up a new drink to accompany said day, and had to name it after summer, and had to transport my mind into a summer mindset, and between us, I (humbly), think I did a fairly decent job, and that Theros would approve. Oh, what’s in the drink? I started with rum (a summer favorite), white rum, that is, and then upped the rummy-ness with a little Stiggins’ Fancy rum, which is a referred to as “pineapple rum,” but for summer’s sakes don’t take that to mean chemically-induced or saccharin-y or against nature, as (if you haven’t had it), Stiggins’ is none of those, instead, wafting a perfectly roasted pineapple aroma over a dark flavorful rum. If you haven’t had it, try it now. Then, to round out those rummy siblings and to underline with citrus, herbs, caramel, sweetness, and lushness, I added some Montenegro amaro – one might not think of amari as summer standbys, but one also might be foolish, as these flavor-packed pals can bring just the right layers to hot weather treats, when mixed with the right partners. Like rums! And, like pineapple juice, our next ingredient. And, like Scrappy’s Lime bitters, which delights with lime and lighter herbal notes (remember kids: bitters makes it better). Finally, ice, club soda, mint, and here we are, summer, a month or so early. Enjoy it now, and then.
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