June 28, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Ballets Russes

Tamara Karsavina

Here’s a nice old drink from like 100 years ago or more (at least as far as I can tell), which carries a swell story, too, as it was named after a legendary ballet troupe. How often do we have drinks named after ballet troupes today? Not often enough friends! It’s a dancing combo of vodka, crème de cassis, and lime, which I think is a dancing combo indeed for summer, which we are within, a little fruity, a little citrus, a lot of umph. I also think this should be served extra cold if you can, which means some serious shaking, as if you were in the shape of a prima donna ballerina, like, say Tamara Karsavina, who was one of the main dancers from the Ballets Russes, and who I have a little bit of an impossible crush on. Impossible unless one of you readers designs a time machine, which, if you do, might come in handy for other things besides impossible crushes (though they are very important). Just something to mull while you sip this drink.

Ballets Russes

Ballets Russes

Ice cubes

2 ounces vodka

1 ounce creme de cassis

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vodka, cassis, and lime juice. Shake well, until your hands are too cold to shake more.

2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Drink up, time traveler.

June 7, 2024

What I’m Drinking: A Smoky House

Here’s a nice smoky, citrusy, smoothy, pepper-y number that’s ideal for the Junes, the time we’re residing within as I drink this. It all came about thusly: for reasons unknown (outside of me getting old, maybe having two many bottles around, those two things, or maybe it was alien interference in the atmosphere, which can be quite a problem on clear early-nearly-summer evenings), I forgot for a moment that I had a three-quarters full bottle of Ancho Reyes, the delectable ancho chile liqueur based on a recipe from way back in 1927, a liqueur delivering a hint of smoke and heat alongside a balanced spice array, cinnamon, cocoa, tamarind, and a little nuttiness. Amazing stuff. So, when I discovered this bottle I’d misplaced in my mind for a short time (very short, compared to the universe’s bdays), I knew I needed to make a drink with it immediately. I first thought “tequila!” as one does, but then my hand when removing the Ancho Reyes brushed again a bottle of Peruvian Pisco, the grape-based brandy beloved in certain South American spots (and by me in Seattle). I felt it’d go grandly in my proposed drink. Then I played around a bit, and ended up desiring some orange-y notes. Voila! I grabbed Brovo’s Orange Curaçao, crafted with care up here in the WA via three types of dried orange peel. It’s a treat of orange mysticism that also brings a smidge of sweet (Brovo’s Orange Curaçao and Ancho Reyes go so well together they both feature in a drink called the All the Devils cocktail). However! Even though these three stalwarts made a swell sipper themselves, I wanted to take it up to another level entirely, and felt some fresh citrus notes, nothing overwhelming, might do it. And, I was right (I say, modestly). A small amount of fresh oj, with it’s bright notes and vitamin C, did the trick. And there you have, a drink destined to make your June jolly.

A Smoky House cocktail

A Smoky House

Ice cubes

1-3/4 ounces Bar Sol Pisco

3/4 ounces Ancho Reyes ancho liqueur

1/2 ounce Brovo Orange Curaçao

1/4 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add it all! Shake well.

2. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass or wine glass or goblet or whatever suits you. We’re not gonna glass shame here, friends.

April 12, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The R56 Sparkler

Hello springtime! Hello sunshine! Hello flowers (sadly, hello allergies, too)! Hello brunches! Which isn’t to say you can’t have brunches and/or late lunches where you feel like it’s brunch even though it’s 1:30 (or 13:30 if on a 24-hour clock system) any time of the year, but somehow spring sunny days seem ideal for brunching. And for brunch drinks! Of which there are many, or many plus one, as I’m adding this here drink the R56 Sparkler to the list, as I made it specially for a brunching/late weekend lunching situation, one in which I needed a specially special drink as said brunch was a birthday occasion, too, and birthday occasions demand special drinks (the birthday-er in question’s name starts with R and I’ll give you a guess what birthday it was). Demand them!

But how to have it be special? Well, for me, I started with Brovo’s new-ish American Aperitivo, a made-in-Washington treat that combins a host of delights – hibiscus, bilberry, Schisandra berry, grapefruit, lemon, orange, and Gentian root – into one flavorful, but light and bright and friendly, sipper, one that’s balanced, accessible, and still has a cheeky quick bittery kiss at the end of a sip. It seems they designed it to pair with tequila, but here I’ve let it shine without a base spirit. But with a few partners! First, Salish Sea’s Ginger liqueur. For some really sad and tragic reasons, it can be hard to find (though I think it is still out there — grab any you see). I’ve kept a couple bottles in reserve for special occasions because it’s the best ginger liqueur I’ve had. Luckily, there are other good ones you can sub in, because the hint of ginger goes swell here. As does Scrappy’s amazing Black Lemon bitters. The finest – or most intriguing? – cocktail bitters being made currently? Perhaps! To those three freakishly good friends, I also added some fresh orange juice (one of the standards in brunch drinks), and a little soda to bring it all together. The end result is a seriously sippable number, one whose citrus and spice notes pair perfectly with brunching – and with birthdays!

The R56 Sparkler, a drink with American Aperitivo, Black Lemon bitters, ginger liqueur, oj, and soda

The R56 Sparkler

2 ounces Brovo American Aperitivo

3/4 ounces Salish Sea Ginger liqueur

1 dash Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters

2 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice

Ice cubes

3 ounces chilled club soda

1. Add the first four liquids lovelies to a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Stir well.

2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the soda, stir carefully to mix, enjoy!

April 5, 2024

What I’m Drinking: How Does Your Garden Grow

I believe there are people, industrious, good people, who garden well all year round, and have yards and gardens in much better shape than mine. For me, the gardening starts soon, usually late April/early May. And even then, to be honest (as we are here), I’m not a stupendous gardener, and find myself putting it off more than putting on the gloves to get everything in order. However! I have found that one of these here drinks helps make the gardening more palatable. Pull a weed, take a sip! You should try it. One warning: this here cocktail, when you look at it, sounds an odd pairing, like putting nightshade next to your pea patch. But the three ingredients actually go swell together! There’s gin, to start, and I’m using Copperworks stellar gin here. And then Sidetrack Distillery’s one-of-a-kind Shiso liqueur, made from the Asian herb it’s named after, and delivering an herby, botanical beauty one must taste to believe. Then, and this is the odd side, as you might thing the Shiso and this would go well, the third ingredient is the orange-y and teensy bitter-y aperitif, Aperol. It’s a magical match, honestly, and perfect planting of three different tasty items (planted into a shaker and then your mouth, that is), and makes even the most boring yard work a more palatable affair (no mechanized yard tools when drinking, please).  

How Does Your Garden Grow, a cocktail with gin, Shiso liqueur, and Aperol

How Does Your Garden Grow

Cracked ice

2 ounces Copperworks gin

1 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Shiso liqueur

1 ounce Aperol

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. Garnish with the orange twist.

March 15, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The Leaping Drive

Well, I apologize – I really should have had this cocktail up on February 29, as that was leap day and this is a leap year and this drive, or drink, is leaping (with flavor! And in the name). It’s not the Leap Year, which is another drink, but somewhat related, and, well, just would have been good to have on or nearer to the actual leap day, though I suppose I’m still having this drink within a month of it, and darn it, the drink’s still good (and related in little ways to other drinks like the Sidecar and various other gin and Cointreau and vermouth and lemon drinks, so if you like that or those drinks, then you will be fond of this I’ll bet, maybe even leaping over things to have it), and sometimes that can weigh even more than an appropriate story, though as I’ve told you time and time again, good stories make good drinks even better. So, maybe pretend it’s still leap day? Having a couple of these tangy, botanical, citrusical, drinks might help with the leaping, or lead to both leaping and jumping. Maybe skipping too! Which would be fun.

The Leaping Drive cocktail

The Leaping Drive

Ice cubes

2 ounces gin (I used Washington-made Kur gin, and it served me well)

3/4 ounces Blanc vermouth (I used Dolin, and it was a reliable delight)

1/2 ounce Cointreau

1/4 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Shake well.

2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass (or comparable). Garnish with the twist.

March 1, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Full Moon Over Washington

It is not a full moon today, but that does not mean you can’t drink this delicious drink – really, you can have it any day! It’s that good. I say ‘umbly. And, also, you may not be in the Pacific Northwest today – you can still have this drink if not, though I should warn you it is a very PNW drink, as all of the ingredients are made up this way (actually all are made in WA state proper, but as we’re – me typing in WA now – a part of the PNW, thought I’d stretch a bit). But most I feel are available outside of these hallowed longitude/latitude coordinates, luckily! What are said ingredients? I am glad you asked. First up, is Browne Family Spirits Bourbon, a hit in the late-winter, looking-at-spring days we’re currently in, due to its campfire-echo and oak aroma, wispy smoke-and-pepper finish, and lovely browned-buttered sweetness (it carries a nice warming 90-proofness, too). That taste goes lovely-like with a seriously individual amaro here, Brovo #14 Amaro, whose recipe was created by Mike Ryan and combines singularly Guatemalan chocolate, thyme, cinnamon, sarsaparilla, angelica, and vanilla. One of a kind! With all that choco-buttery-goodness, it only felt right (and tasted right, after some testing) to bring in some orange-ness, and here that’s coming via another Brovo hit, Tacoma Punk, made from half unsweetened Brovo Orange Curacao and half of their Amaro #4, with the end result’s slightly spicy orange flavor mingling mightily with our first two ingredients. But one more note felt needed, to me, when designing this moony number, and following along the theory that if you have four or more ingredients one should be bitters, the last addition is Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters. Made via an herb maceration, this classically-styled bitters is ideally balanced and adds a bit of herb and spice goodness that bring the drink together. A treat, I tell you, no matter what the moon looks like above you when drinking. But as it is called Full Moon Over Washington, I’ve added a cherry for garnish to stand in for the moon, in case, to cover all phases, so to speak (oh, the cherry goes perfectly, taste-wise, too).

Full Moon Over Washington Cocktail

Full Moon Over Washington

Cracked ice

2-1/4 ounces Browne Family Spirits bourbon

3/4 ounces Brovo Amaro #14

1/2 ounce Tacoma Punk orange liqueur

Dash Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters

Maraschino cherry, for garnish

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktails shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the moon. Wait, I mean all but the cherry. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, add the cherry, carefully. Howl, if you must.

February 2, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Thy Noble Father

February is here, a month known for hearts and presidents and the birthdays of famous dog-owners (the last very subjective). As the presidents in reference here, in this month, calendarically are those who kick-started or had serious impact on the US, we’re talking males, fathers or father figures or both, and perhaps bourbon lovers (conjecture, unless time machines are on offer), and historically sort-of noble (naturally history is written by those who, well, are able to write it, and without the aforementioned time machines hard to declare nobility – which is a hard word to define anyway – in a way, but go with it, okay), which makes this the ideal month for this drink. A noble drink, I may say, especially if you live in and love WA state (as I do, in the main), as nearly every ingredient here is from WA – oranges excepted. We’re talking some seriously tasty state stalwarts, too: Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s delicious straight bourbon, Brovo Spirits’ bouncy Orange Curaçao, and Scrappy’s uniquely awesome Black Lemon bitters. Plus, a dollop of Seattle Distilling Company’s beautiful brandy – if you have it. That latter is hard to come by, unless you hoarded (like me) a last sip from a limited-release bottling. If you weren’t so lucky (or forward-thinking), then sub in another reputable brandy, please. It shouldn’t make the drink too less noble. It is a swell sipper, for February – or any ol’ month in the year.

Thy Noble Father cocktail with Woodinville bourbon, Brovo curacao, Scrappy's Black Lemon bitters, and more
I originally made this for NewDay Northwest, as evidenced by the snappy wallpaper behind the drink!

Thy Noble Father

Cracked ice

1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Straight Bourbon

3/4 ounce Brovo Spirits Orange Curaçao

1/2 ounce Seattle Distilling Company Brandy

Dash Scrappy’s Black Lemon 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 or coupe glass. Garnish with the twist.

December 1, 2023

What I’m Drinking: The Morning Call

Well, it’s December. A lovely month in many ways, indeed. But also one where, here in the northernly hemisphere, at least, the mornings can get dark and chilly, and then darker and chillier, making them not always the coziest, especially when one has to take the dog out for their walk first thing after the alarm bells ring. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have a dog, and even if you have a fire blazing, I’m guessing you have a few chilly dark mornings where you want to call morning out for not being more charming. This drink is a tasty way to do that, and to wake up (it also provides a spark to brunches when the cold air has caused a slowing of movement and conversations). Partially, the base of absinthe and its kick combined with spice. Partially, the nutty maraschino (mornings are nutty), whose sweet side helps round the absinthe’s sharper corners. Partially, the hearty helping of lemon juice, whose tang is sure to get the brainpan rocking (sidenote: that much lemon might be too much for some modern tastes. If that’s you, feel free to pull back a bit on it). Combined, these three are a trumpeting cocktail sure to balance even a morning that’s mostly bereft of good cheer. In short: this’ll wake you up and then some.

The Morning Call cocktail

The Morning Call, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz

Cracked ice

1-1/2 ounces absinthe

3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur

3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the absinthe, maraschino, and lemon juice. Stir well, and turn off the alarm.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Rathbun on Film