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?
May 24, 2019
Some drinks just really get you – or, get me, as I’m typing, but I don’t think I’m the only one this happens to, so went with the “you” to encompass the world of people (like you) who like drinks. Does that make sense? If not, well, I understand. I also understand that this drink gets me, due to have just two ingredients, which line up with the two places I’ve lived in the last, oh, 23 years, Washington state and Italy. I’m cheating a tiny bit on the last one, cause the Italian ingredient is the legendary Meletti anisette (an all-time favorite of mine), which is made in the Le Marche region, where I didn’t actually live (I was in north Umbria pals), but I’ve been there, and I love this anisette, so let’s go with it. The other ingredient is made right here in W-A, and right outside of Seattle – it’s (spoiler alert) Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s swell bourbon. So, that’s why this drink gets me, cause of that combo. It also gets me cause of the wonderful taste. Now, what drinks get you? And does everything finally make sense (here’s hoping!)?
The West Coast of the Le Marche
2-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
1/2 ounce Meletti Anisette
1: Filled a cocktails shaker or mixing glass with cracked ice. Add the bourbon and the anisette. Stir well.
2. Fill an old fashioned or comparable glass with a couple fat ice cubes. Strain the mix over the ice. Get it.
May 3, 2019
A cosmopolitan affair, I found the Portofino in an Italian drink collection called Cocktails Classici & Esptoco (Demetra, 2002) which I picked up in a bella Florence (Italy, that is) bookstore. It’s an intriguing combo with English liqueur Pimm’s – specifically Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, which is “made to James Pimm’s original recipe from 1823, a closely guarded secret known only to 6 people,” a recipe of gin, herbs, and a touch of fruitiness. It’s the main Pimm’s variety today (at one time there were six, made on bases of gin, Scotch, brandy, rum, rye, and vodka) though you can find Pimm’s Winter Cup, based on brandy, spices, and orange peel, if you look. The second main ingredient is Italian favorite Aperol (the light, orange, and barely bitter dream that’s taking everywhere you can imagine by orange-y storm). Portofino, the city this is named after, is located on the Italian Riviera in the Genoa province and according to reports (that go all the way back to Pliny the Elder, and why would he lie?), the town was settled by the Romans and named Portus Delphini, which means Port of the Dolphin, due to the dolphins that frolicked in the gulf around it. Amazing, am I right?
2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
1 ounce Aperol
Chilled ginger ale
Orange wedge for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Pimm’s and Aperol and stir briefly.
2. Fill the glass almost to the top with ginger ale. Stir again and garnish with the orange wedge.
April 12, 2019
Here’s something that’ll be no surprise to you, pal (as you’ve read this blog for years and years, and know me so well, and all that): I’m not opposed to a good dessert drink. Actually, I’m a dessert drink proponent, and feel that in our modern must-be-brown-and-bitter (I like brown and bitter, too, by the by) culture, sometimes people frown at slightly creamier and sweeter sippers – but not me! Anyway, the king of the dessert drinks, and an overall classic since 1916, is the Alexander, and I’m a big fan of its perfectly-balanced balance. I’ll have one fairly regularly (like, every six months or some such), but recently I was craving one and realized – GASP! – I was out of crème de cacao! What’s a boy to do? Well, I’m not one to sit around and not have a drink at all just being due to one missing ingredient. Instead of making sorrows, I make solutions! And really bad sayings, hahaha. In this case, my solution was subbing in another component that has the crème de cacao’s sweetness and flavor to the drink – though a different flavor as instead of chocolate, see, I went nutty, with Dumante Verdenoce pistachio liqueur. Really! Made with care in Italy using Sicilian pistachios, it’s a lush sipper and goes perfectly with gin and cream here. Perfectly I say! The combo retains the original’s smooth velvety-ness, with the gin accents and now some nutty nuttiness. Lovely! Especially when topped with a shake of cinnamon sugar, which I did!
1 ounce gin
1 ounce heavy cream
1 ounce Dumante Verdenoce pistachio liqueur
Shake of cinnamon sugar
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add our trio (gin, cream, liqueur). Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Give a little shake of cinnamon sugar over the drink. Yum it up.
December 21, 2018
The holiday season can be lots of happiness. It can also be lots of hectic-ness. And lots of jolly. And lots of a word that starts with “j” but means “nutty” (why can’t I think of such a word? can you?), as sometimes they get that way. Luckily, it’s more of the former in those two sentences, and less of the latter, but as the latter can creep in, and as at least as I write we’re in the thick of holi-things, I’m going to not even come up with a snazzy name for the drink I’m having (or a classic name, for those classically-named things), but just going to keep it straight: Cynar 70 Highball. Which is okay, really (even for a naming snob like me), cause it gets to the point. The Cynar 70 point.
Cynar, if you don’t, is an amaro, really (those Italian digestifs the kids are in to), made from artichokes and 13 herbs and spices starting in 1952, though it really took off in the 60s, thanks to some commercials starring Ernesto Calindri, an Italian movie and television star and a perfect Italian gentleman, who in said commercials usually in the middle of some chaos (an energetic family, a busy street) sipping Cynar, or Cynar and soda, without a care in the world. Cynar shades a little on the sweeter side, and was an only child until recently when Cynar 70 was released – to the happiness of the world! It’s, as the name gives away, 70 proof, so about double the umph of the original with a slightly more bitter-y and earthy nature, while still bringing the herbal goodness and just a hint of sweet. It is dreamy in cocktails, and by itself. Even in those simple cocktails you might want when the holidays get bustle-y, and you want to not have a care in the world.
Cynar 70 Highball
2 ounces Cynar 70
4 ounces club soda
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Cynar 70, and then the soda.
2. Garnish with the orange twist. Relax.