We, spooky friends, are very very very close to Halloween (a few paltry days)! While it falls on a Monday this year (which nearly seems unfair, though I feel that you can make any day of the week eerily jolly), it doesn’t mean that it’s not your scary duty to unleash a Warlock cocktail and while enjoying the delicious sips, transform into a zombie magician. Which is what everyone wants on Halloween. Spooky good! So whip up this brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters treat, my favoritest Halloween special, utilizing the handy, helpful, horrific video below!
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book by Magdalen Nabb, too long, it seems, as I’d forgotten how enjoyable they are. But, I was recently in Florence, where her (detective and mystery-y books, not the kids books as far as I know) books take place in the main, and felt I should revisit one of them in honor of the Florence revisit. Did that make sense? Blame the jet lag if not! Anyway, I went with Death of the Englishman, the first of her Florentine mysteries, featuring Marshal Guarnaccia (along with other reoccurring characters, some of whom get more time than he in some books. It’s neat, and incredibly well-done, how she balances out the various narratives. Very skilled without being showy). There’s a murder and a mystery and some thieves, too, all goods stuff, but the best stuff is the detailed look at Florence, the streets, the smells, the food, the sights, and especially the people and the routines and experiences they go through. If you love Florence, Italy, or mysteries well-written that transport you, then you should be in on these. Especially if you also like wine, grappa, or vin santo (like me).
“Well, try and get some rest, anyway, and drink plenty of fluids.” Both of them noticed at the same time the almost empty whiskey bottle standing by the parchment lamp. “Not that stuff.”
“I’ve never tasted it.” The Marshal drank half a litre of red every day with his evening meal, never more nor less, and a drop of vin santo on Sundays.
“And no wine, either, while you’re on this.” The professor was reading the Marshal’s mind as he wrote.
It’s the middle of September! Hard to believe my friends. Time, it flies by like a flock of Peregrine Falcons (meaning: fast)! Not only are we in the back half of 2022, but we are also nearing October, which for me means fall trips to Italy (I hope for you, too), and truffles, and pasta, and art, and well, you know. It also means Italian drinks, wines, limoncellos, grappas, Italian beers, and of course amari. It’s funny, in a time flying way, and in a “sometimes things do change for the better” way, how many more of the latter, the amari (and other digestif-y and aperitif-y Italian brothers and sisters, not the grappas, sadly), are available now in the US than when I first made this here drink, Good Luck in Pisticci, like 7 years ago. Amari explosion! And if you expand that time frame (short in the overall realm of time) to the first time I went to Italy when I had my first amaro (I believe it was Montenegro), like 25ish years ago, well, it’s a big bang style explosion! An herbal, bitter and bittersweet, and lovely explosion!
Without which, I couldn’t make this drink, itself herbally rich and flavorful, but also citrus-y, bubbly, and jolly, in a way! It leans heavily on a particular amaro, Amaro Lucano created in 1894 by cookie baker Pasquale Vena (an aside: amari and chocolate chip cookies are a pleasant pairing) using an herbs and spices. Eventually, it became the sipper of choice to ancient ruling family the House of Savoy, which is neat, and it’s swell to sip solo, but also swell here with a few WA ingredients, Kur gin (delicious – read more of me talking about it) and Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters (if you aren’t aware of how awesome Scrappy’s bitters are, then you have a wonderful future finding out), and classic orange stalwart Grand Marnier, and soda, and mint. Good Luck indeed!
Is today, the 2nd of September, the ideal time to drink an Americano (the Italian stalwart and precursor, perhaps, to the now, perhaps, better-known Negroni, a drink, the Americano, which used to be known itself as the child of the Milan-Torino, or Milano-Torino, which boasted Campari and Punt e’ Mes vermouth, sometimes other vermouths, perhaps, but skipped the soda, which itself was added and then the trio, Campari, Punt e’ Mes, soda, became a favorite of American servicemen, and then became the Americano), the very moment when one should drink this drink? Perhaps! I say so due to the fact that while it’s refreshing with the ice and the soda and the bubbles, making it good-or-more-than-good when the sun’s out, it also has those lovely rich herbal-and-bitter-and-botanical notes from the Campari and vermouth. Those notes point to the fact that fall, and then, always, winter are coming no matter the sun. So, to me, this Friday, the 2nd, seems to straddle those moments in a way, much like the drink can straddle the seasons, in taste, sure, but also in feeling. Drinks are about more than just taste, after all.
This treat at first glance may not seem super June-y, if you just look at the first few ingredients: red wine, and the herbally Amaro Lucano (which, by the by, has been around since 1894 when cookie baker [!!] Pasquale Vena crafted it with a secret mix of herbs and spices, bitters and sweeters; it’s also been the house drink since 1900 of the House of Savoy if that floats your ice cubes). But look deeper, summertime drink seeker, and you will see that there is a bubbly helping of chilled club soda, along with made-here-in-WA (but even if you don’t live here, you should have a bottle) Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur, the embodiment of summer in a way (that way being traced to blackberries – very summery in my mind – and here said blackberries are grown on the same farm where the liqueur is made). There’s ice, too! Altogether, this is a drink that can, and will, and is to, be beloved in summer, but one with some underlining deep, rich, notes mingling with fruit and summer’s fanciful notions. A yummy one, you’ll see!
Last week I went on and on about brunching and brunch season and brunch drinks and then put down the recipe for a new brunch drink Good Morning Sunshine, and all of that and you know what? Not one of you invited me to brunch. Well, my dog Ainsley did, but she’d eat all the time if it was up to her, hahaha! So, just for that, here’s another brunch drink, one from an old (but still bubbly, if I may be so bold) book of mine called, simply enough, Champagne Cocktails, said drink being called The Pensiero (which is Italian for “thought” making this drink “The Thought” which is just so deeply silly), and as you’d expect one influenced by Italy and featuring delicious Italian stalwarts Punt e’ Mes vermouth and Campari, as well as fancy frizzante ruby-esque red wine Brachetto d’Acqui (a brunch treat if ever there was one). Now, I’m just gonna sit here and wait for my invitations.
Does it feel like brunch season to you? It does to me! Spring when springing always sings out “brunching time is on” in my old ears for some reason. More sunshine, perhaps, or the blooming of things equates in my brain having pals over for meals that aren’t really breakfast, but aren’t yet lunch either. Bascially: brunch! Great idea, brunch, by the way. Not that I don’t like brunches throughout the year, between us, but brunching in spring is best. Perhaps because you can, after a long winter (for many), have said brunch outdoors again if you want? Perhaps because by spring the days are longer so you can work up more of a brunch appetite (lots of weeding to be done in the morning, too)? Who knows! But in honor of, let’s call it, brunch season – which of course demands more brunch drinks – here’s a new effervescent cocktail for you, the Good Morning Sunshine. I like my brunch drinks bubbly in the main, and a bit fruity, while still having a smooth kick to help ease you into afternoon napping! That little rubric leads to the ingredient list here: two kinds of juice (oj, pj), the citrus-ish lightly sweet beloved of the nation (currently) Aperol, Aperol’s tight pal Prosecco (bringing the bubbles), and then a bit of a brunch surpriser: tequila, which adds the underlying strength while also bringing a hint of smoke and vegetalness. Quite lovely I have to admit. Brunch lovely, even!
It was just hours ago (a week’s worth of hours, that is) that I was sipping some Stambecco and Soda, and in the post about it right here on the Spiked Punch, I went into some detail about Stambecco amaro (be sure to read up), which is made curiously-enough from maraschino cherries, along with a host of botanicals, spices, magic, and goats (well . . .) like any good amaro. It’s a very singular kind of a sipper, tasty, sure, but singular. While this drives it towards being something that’s swell solo, and (as demonstrated in said earlier post) with soda, I couldn’t wait when it showed up to try it mixed with a few other choice pals in a cocktail. Some experimenting of this and of that and here we are drinking How the Rogue Roar’d.
Oh, first, let me say that this cocktail isn’t roguish in the manner of a 17th century thief boosting a coach and four on a dusty road at midnight. But it does roar with a very layered flavor, and has a roguish (the twinkly-eyed lovable rogue way) combination of ingredients. But, mostly, I’ve wanted to have a drink called this forever (it’s a line from Henry IV, Part I, as well as the name of a Shakespeare and Hathaway episode), and here is one that finally deserves this very moniker. So, what’s in it? Stambecco, naturally! And, Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus. You can read more about this gin treat in the The Suspended Palace with Drumshanbo Gin recipe, but I’ll say here that it boasts a host of regularly-used and rare botanicals and citrus (as well as Gunpowder Tea – which is quite roguish, if not as explosive as you might guess at first read). And, our rogue also features dry vermouth of the Dolin variety (probably needs no explanation), as well as a dash of the delectable Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and, to top it all off, a strawberry. Stambecco goesy, as you might guess, well with cherries, but the strawberry seemed so fitting a top hat for this drink, as there are oodles of fruit and spice notes, while maintaining a dry nature that the slightly sweet strawberry bounces nicely off of, and if that’s not enough, it’s April, so we can dream of summer easily, which means dreaming of strawberries. So, rogue, roar with this cocktail!
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