March 3, 2017
You know this, I know this, everybody knows this – I believe good drinks should have good names, and when creating drinks you need to create names too. Okay, that’s out of the way. But here, really, the change is so minor! The Cactus Berry is a favorite spring-and-early-summer drink of mine, from Wine Cocktails, and as I was dreaming of spring recently, I decided it would be a perfect fit for today. But, it usually uses Merlot (along with tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice), and I didn’t have such. But I did have a bottle of Donini Settegrappoli, which is an Italian red, rich, lush, full of body, perhaps I think the best red wine in the world. If I can go a little overboard (admittedly, Donini is my favorite winery in the world, too). So, I thought it might be perfect. And guess what? I was right! You can be right, too, if you try this drink.
The Italian Cactus Berry (mostly from Wine Cocktails)
1-1/2 ounces Donini Settegrappoli Italian red wine (or another amazing wine)
1-1/2 ounces tequila (blanc, usually)
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Lime wedge, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the wine, tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. Shake well.
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass through a fine strainer. Garnish with the lime wedge and serve.
February 24, 2017
There’s no need to yell at me – I realize with the title here, I’m nearly breaking my own soapbox (to stretch a metaphor to the breaking point), or favorite soapbox, as admittedly there are many I like to stand upon. But this one, it’s the one where bartenders make up new drinks and then just name them some bastardization of an existing classic drink. C’mon bartenders, be creative! Though, in this case, bartender heal thyself, as this drink name is partially a play on the classic Negroni. But it’s also a play on my favorite Italian winery, Donini, and really, The Doninoni is so much fun to say! And changed enough (as opposed to, oh, the numerous Strawberry Margaritas I made in college, or something like the Appletini for gawd’s sake) to make me not too egregious, right? Right! If you disagree, drink two of the below and call me in the morning.
1-1/2 ounces Nat’s gin (I used the gin wife Nat made at Scratch, cause she did such a good job – read more about making gin at Scratch)
1-1/2 ounces Donini Tarragoni (if you sadly can’t get this, another slightly-dry but full-bodied Umbrian red could suffice)
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1/2 ounce grenadine (go homemade or go home)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Add a few good ice cubes to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix into the glass and over the ice.
February 17, 2017
I was recently lucky enough (don’t be mad at me – I like to share) to receive a bottle of Novo Fogo Single Barrel cachaça – it was from barrel 152, to be precise. If you don’t know Novo Fogo, well, you should! They’re an organic-certified, handcrafting, recycled-glass using, zero wasting cachaça distiller (from Brazil naturally, where all cachaça is made), incredibly focused on sustainability and using processes that are going to deliver high-quality spirits, sure, but also make it possible to do this over the long term without destroying their neighborhood. That gets a RIGHT ON! from me.
With all that said, I need to drink more cachaça. It’s made from fresh-pressed sugar cane, and there are loads available there days, many solid versions and a lot of variety in taste and such. But now back to the matter at hand. Barrel 152 has a good history – aged for three years in oak, it’s a sip-able representation of Novo’s locale (coastal mountains), with a hint of the sea in the aroma, along with cream, and a flavor of toasted coconut, walnuts, more cream and butter, and oak. Neat or over a single ice cube, it’s something to savor.
But also something to put in cocktails (in my mind). It came accompanied by a little history/recipe book, in which I found the below recipe, in the barrel-aged cachaça section. When reading it, I got thirsty. Usually, I like to play around and create my own concoction (or rescue one from long ago) when I receive a new bottle, but here, I figured, the 152 was aged, so I’d give this recipe a try using it. I suggest you do the same, cause it’s a lovely, layered drink, with the herbal notes from our other players mingling perfectly with the Barrel 152 savory notes. It gets a RIGHT ON! as well.
Rabo del Galo
1-1/2 ounces Novo Fogo Single Barrel 152 cachaça
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce Cynar
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
Wide swath of orange peel
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the orange. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Spritz the orange over the drink, so the citrus oil is expressed. You can add the peel to the glass, too, if you want.
January 27, 2017
Earlier in this blog’s lifetime, I had a Cocktail Talk post quoting (as they do) from the Margery Allingham book Tether’s End, and in said post I mentioned that I thought that title would be a good name for a drink. And I was right! And this is that drink. Not cause this drink is an “end” of anything (though it like all drinks will have an ending sip), but just cause I thought the name was neat. But when making up a drink to match the name, I did want to at least align with the source in a manner or two, so I started with gin, it being an English favorite and all (and I went with Boodles, an English gin, naturally). For the next step, I browsed the liquor-shelves-of-doom, and decided to use (symbolically, and to add a delightful randomness) the very last bottle currently on the very top shelf – the end of one’s tether is often a time when you feel you’re at the very edge of a very high ledge. Lucky (and this was random) that bottle was Amaro di Toscana, an amaro now available over here stateside (when I first had it, years back, in Italy, and when I first brought a bottle back, it wasn’t). To add a final homage into the drink, I wanted something sort-of tethering – by that, meaning, an anchor, as a “tether” can be a cord (or cord-like item) that anchors one to a fixed object. So, as you might guess, I went with homemade grenadine, tethering everything to my own home. Isn’t that lovely? Well, if you don’t agree, you will agree the drink itself is lovely, I’ll bet. Try it, and see.
2 ounces Boodles gin
1 ounce Amaro di Toscana
1/2 ounce homemade grenadine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add all three tethers. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink to the last drop.
December 30, 2016
Bubbly cocktails are good all the year round. This is an incontrovertible fact. However, if you wanted to make the point that bubbly cocktails are even finer this time of the year, because of the elegant effervescence they bring to the season, well, I wouldn’t argue. Which is why today I’m sipping this Italian-inspired sparkler from Champagne Cocktails. Because I don’t like arguing. No, no, it’s because it’s a darn tasty drink, a bubbly number that’s a little different, intriguing, yummy-licious.
The Pensiero, from Champagne Cocktails
1 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 ounces Punt e’ Mes
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Chilled Brachetto d’Acqui
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the orange juice, Punt e Mes, Campari, and simple syrup. Shake thoughtfully.
2. Strain the mixture into a flute glass. Top with Brachetto d’Acqui. Garnish with the lemon twist.
December 23, 2016
I was recently able to re-taste a tasty trio (they call it the Ultimate Range) of Ardbeg Scotch Whisky
, 10, Corryvreckan, Uigeadail, thanks to a friendly postal person (how nice they sometimes are!) delivering them to my door. I could go deeply into a review of each one, but honestly there are many spots you can look at for reams (do people still use the word “reams” in this way in the digital age? I hope so) of words on these Scotches. Cause they’re delicious, and you should try all three. If not right now, then soon. However, even when I’m sipping such swell sippers, I always get the urge in the back of my throat or mind to try them in a cocktail – even when most would only have such swell sippers solo or with one dash of natural spring water, or maybe a small perfect ice cube. Call me crazy. You won’t be the first one.
Here, I went with Corryvreckan
. Its lush aroma (blackcurrant, cherry, vanilla, pine, and brine) and even lusher taste (more blackcurrants and other forest-y fruits, dark cherry, pepper, almonds, smoke, a hint of honey, an intriguing echo of the sea), just called to me. It could
be the legendary and dangerous whirlpool it’s named after, too. Cause I am a sucker for a legendary whirlpool. With such a layered and memorable nature (and admittedly a price tag that’s not crazy, but not low end, either), I always want to be extra careful in what I mix it with, and want to let it really shine, just adding small amounts of ingredients that will accent and meld nicely.
I decided first on Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, which itself comes from a blend of Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and which boasts rich fruit tones and a little sweetness. The only other ingredient is one I’ve wanted to slip into a cocktail for as long as I’ve had a bottle: Breckenridge Bitters. Made as you might expect in Breckenridge, CO, it isn’t a “bitters” in the traditional sense of the word, more an aperitif that uses local alpine herbs in a magical manner – it’s also a tiny bit sweet, but balances it beautifully with a bitter, herbal loveliness. It’s available in many spots now, and I strongly suggest it.
That’s a powerful trio! And this cocktail is a powerful one – so full of flavor it’s hard to be believed. It’s a force of nature. Like whirlpools and mountains.
All Mountains Are One
2-1/2 ounces Ardbeg Corryvreckan
1/2 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/4 ounce Breckenridge 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 glass, or something comparable and neat. Garnish with the twist.
A Note: Is this close in nature to other Scotch cocktails, including perhaps the most famous of them all? Sure! But every good drink deserves its own good name, even if only one ingredient changes. Really, even if an amount of an ingredient changes. Be creative yo!
December 9, 2016
Admittedly, I’m usually (as anyone who knows me knows, or, even if you don’t actually know me in an in-person way, if you read this blog you probably know) a staunch soapboxer about drinks-that-borrow-names-from-other-drinks. Meaning, I think a drink name should be as creative as a drink, and that even a small ingredient change needs a new name. So, inis, ritas, olitans, all those, make me sad, as does the recent proliferation of Negroni names. Jaysus, bartenders, be creative!
However, this Dry Negroni is pretty darn swell, and so I can step off my soapbox while I’m sipping. For some reason I’d never even thought to try the subbing of dry for sweet vermouth, cause I am silly. And, I picked up the recipe and idea from rollicking Rob Chirico’s new book, Not My Mother’s Kitchen: Rediscovering Italian-American Cooking Through Stories and Recipes! Rob has a host of good books you should pick up, and his latest is both funny and tasty. It up-ends the hoary tradition of so many cookbooks, where the cook/writer has learned the craft at the side of some family elder, because it turns out Rob’s mother was a terrible cook, and he had to learn in spite of it. It’ll have you laughing and have you making delish dishes all at once, thanks to the combination of funny stories and helpful recipes, the whole of which is written in a wonderful convivial style. There’s even a short chapter on Italian libations, and that’s where I picked up this recipe.
Dry Negroni, from Not My Mother’s Kitchen
1 ounce gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, dry vermouth, and Campari. Stir well.
2. Fill a cold old-fashioned glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with the orange slice.
December 2, 2016
Sometimes, a holiday week can feel like you’ve been on a trip. Sometimes a fun trip! Sometimes a filling trip. Sometimes a tiring trip. Sometimes . . . well, you get the idea, right? Right! Even with a wondrous trip, you still may feel a little weary after it, and that’s where this drink comes in (it was created after my return from my longest trip, seven months living in Italy, hence the Italian-American-ness of it). I’ve used a number of bourbons when making this but most recently used the new-ish Backbeat bourbon, from Seattle’s swell 3 Howls distillery. It’s got a mix of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley and is finished in French Oak. Smooth, with a little honey-ness, spice, and oak, it mingles swell-ly with maraschino and old pal Fernet-Branca here. Try it and see! You’ll feel less weary, I’ll bet.
Welcome Back, Weary Traveler
2-1/2 ounces 3 Howls Backbeat bourbon
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1/4 ounce Fernet-Branca
Wide Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice.
2. Add the bourbon, maraschino, and Fernet-Branca. Stir well.
3. Strain into a cocktail glass. Utilize the twist in the proper manner.