October 22, 2021
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.
The Whip of the Conqueror, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1 -1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Lime twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Fernet Branca, apricot liqueur, and lime juice. Shake while longing to be the conqueror.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the twist.
October 1, 2021
It was, say two months ago, basil season (I take it to be late August, though your basil-ing may vary), which is a fragrant green season indeed. Usually, one thinks: basil, an herb, used in cooking, see pesto, etc. However, I (and maybe others, too) also think: basil, an herb, used in making liqueurs and other drinkables, see Basil Grappa, etc. I first made Basil Grappa way back in the halcyon days of writing a book called Luscious Liqueurs (I originally saw the idea in a small Italian language pamphlet of liqueurs, and then tweaked it up a tiny bit), and it’s featured in said book, and I’ve been making it fairly regularly ever since – including this very year! It’s a straightforward recipe, just basil, grappa, simple syrup, and a little lemon juice for balance, and one that’s a little less sweet than some liqueurs. Why? Cause while I love the basil, I still wanted to let the grappa shine through, and not have its grappa-ness (that lovely grape-ness, vineyard-ness, and wine’s-older-brother-ness) completely smoothed away. This liqueur is, for those grappa neophytes, an easy path into the world of grappa by the way, grappa being a spirit that is mostly misunderstood here in the US, but one also that has many varieties (as many as wine itself, I suppose). While not always super available here (if you are US-based, that is), I’m finding more grappas around, but if you can’t track down a bottle, hound your local liquor store until they bring some in!
Basil Grappa Liqueur
1-1/2 cups fresh basil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups grappa
1/2 cup simple syrup
1. Add the basil and lemon juice to a large glass container. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle them together cozily.
2. Add the grappa to the container, and stir well. Put it in a cool dry place, and let everything get acquainted for two weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Add the simple syrup to the container, stir, and put back in that cool, dry place, once again, swirling.
4. Strain the Basil Grappa. I’d suggest once through a fine mesh strainer, then through cheesecloth – into a glass bottle, or a number of small bottles if you’d like to share (sharing is nice)!
September 24, 2021
It is (please don’t shun me), pretty rare that I get itching for a drink (well, that’s not rare, this next bit) and decide what I really want is to pour ingredients over the back of a spoon slowly, one at a time, so they make pretty layers, Pousse-Café style. Not that I don’t believe there are many drinks made like such that are wonders, because there are and I do, with each layer’s spirit or liqueur delicately (usually) unveiling itself, mingling slightly with the former or next layer, a little more, then a little less. It’s a memorable experience, but one that sadly I’m just not that awesome at making. I probably need to make more! But because of such, the rarity mentioned above is the norm on most days. But not today! Today, I woke up dreaming about an Eve’s Garden, and spoon-back-pouring skills or not, that’s what I’m having.
This particular pousse-styler comes from one of the legends in the bar firmament: Charles H. Baker, Jr., who wrote two classics: An Exotic Drink Book and An Exotic Cookery Book—first released by Crown in 1939 as A Gentleman’s Companion. In the drink book, there’s a section called “Ten More which Are Not Called Angels,” right after a section called “First a Brief Company of Six Angels,” which is where you’ll find our Eve, and of the drink he says “This sort of thing only goes to show what grown men will do to keep from devoting their time to something constructive in life.” It takes, friends, a steady hand. But in the end, is worth it, as the ingredients do their mingling on the tongue when sipped slow. One of the ingredients, by the way, is Crème Yvette, which for years wasn’t around. It is around more, now, but if you absolutely can’t find it, you could go crème di violette. Baker won’t mind, much.
1 ounce Damiana
1 ounce Crème Yvette
1 ounce Cognac
1/4 ounce heavy cream
1 sour cherry, for garnish
1. Add the Damiana to a cordial or other similar attractive glass. Slowly top it with the Crème Yvette, pouring over the back of a spoon if needed—you don’t want them to mix, because layering as much as possible is desired as alluded to above a bunch.
2. Pour the Cognac on top of the crème Yvette, again pouring over a spoon if needed so that they don’t mix.
3. Slowly spoon the cream on top of the cognac, and gently place the cherry on top of the cream.
A Note: In Mr. Baker’s book, this is garnished with a green cherry, but I like the sour cherry (and am a bit wary of the green cherry). But if you want to substitute the green for authenticity, I won’t stop you.
August 6, 2021
One of the invaders (in the best way) of summer into our yard is mighty fine mint. We have mint that’s been planted by us, years past, but either it’s spread or we’ve also had wild mint find it’s way into the yard. Though I wouldn’t be sad to be responsible for a mint invasion, I think I’d like it even better if there was wild mint propagating hither and thither randomly. But back to the point I’m meandering my way into making: we have a lot of mint! Not a problem to induce tears falling in any manner, but one that does mean searching for drinks that make fine use of mint, and eventually finding my way back to this particular potion: Iollas’ Itch, which I hadn’t made in a number of years. Not because it’s not delicious (it is), but because, well, there are loads of delicious drinks in the world and sometimes one forgets one or two. Anywho, this cocktail, though rye-based (yum), and with heady sweet vermouth (yum), I believe still beckons during the hotter months due to the addition of apricot liqueur, whose sweet fruitiness is very much sunshine-y (and, yum), and naturally that summer favorite that brought this paragraph on pointe: mint.
Iollas’ Itch, from Dark Spirits
3 fresh mint leaves, plus 1 fresh mint sprig for garnish
2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce apricot liqueur
1. Rub (carefully but firmly) the 3 mint leaves all around the inside of a cocktail glass. Then discard them.
2. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, apricot liqueur, and vermouth. Shake well.
3. Strain into the minty glass from above. Garnish with the mint sprig.
July 30, 2021
Poor tangerine, always jealous of it’s more famous citrus siblings, even during summer (which is when tangerines start showing more on shelves, start showing off a bit, and start becoming a part of people’s mind palaces). I like them, even with their jealousies, tangerines, that is. Like many this sunny time of year, I picked up some lately, and have been loving them, and used them in this sunny-time sipper. The slightly sweeter (than oranges, at least) juice makes a swell addition to drinks, especially, perhaps, with rum in summer? Is that recency bias? Perhaps! But in this tangerine-y bubbler, the white rum and juice go particularly well, especially with the addition of two more citrus cousins (we’ll put the jealous aside here), in the form of Scrappy’s lovely (and singular, I think) Lime bitters, which is lime-y and lightly herbal, and another WA-state made product, Grandeza orange liqueur, boasting a rich orange-and-vanilla-ness (you could sub another orange liqueur here, but while it might be good, it might not be great). While tangerine juice has that sweet nature, I felt a touch more was needed, so also added some simple syrup. And then, as the sun is shining and the mercury is risen (I’m typing here in summer, you know), some chilled club soda and ice, and finally, one more addition to give our old jealous tangerine the last word, here, at least: a tangerine twist. A wide one, I suggest.
The Tangerinian Defense
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed tangerine juice
1-1/2 ounces white rum
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 dashes Scrappy’s lime bitters
1/2 ounce Grandeza
5 ounces chilled club soda
Tangerine twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the tangerine juice, rum, syrup, bitters, and Grandeza. Shake 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.
2. Add the soda to the glass. Stir carefully, to mix everything nicely together, but no need to get wacky about it. Garnish with the twist.
July 23, 2021
Once, I, and some athletic and newsworthy and hilarious and thirsty and running pals made a very silly Class of the Race video, which you should watch cause you like fun, and you like drinks (or why would you be here). But you can watch it without a pen in hand to write down the recipe for the drink had in the video, The Class of the Race that is, because I have the recipe directly below. It’s a swell sipper, too, one worthy of any race winners, and, though bourbon-based (well, bourbon and bubbly-based), one that I believe can be had in summer, due to said bubbly, chilled. A little simple syrup, to sweeten things up, a little Benedictine, to add those monastically-herbal notes, and a little Peychaud’s bitters to underline it all, round the drink out and make a worthy finishing line for your July Friday.
The Class of the Race, from Dark Spirits
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Benedictine liqueur
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, Benedictine, simple syrup, and bitters. Shake well (but not so well that you expire from the effort).
2. Strain the mix into a Champagne flute. Top with the bubbly.
A Note: Pheidippides was the original marathoner, running from Marathon to Athens after a battle in 490 B.C. without stopping once, announcing, “We have won,” and then reportedly dying. I feel this is something you should know when having this, but don’t let it flatten your bubbles.
July 9, 2021
Oh, the life of a 1500’s explorer and colonialist, traipsing around under the sunshine, and probably never having this drink. I mean, without a time machine, I’ll admit, if I knew where and why this particular drink was attached to this particular explorer, I can’t remember it. There is a nice French and the Caribbean tying-in, as the drink features the boldness and beauty of both Cognac and rum, so at least there is some here-to-there-ing happening (though Ponce was from Spain, but let’s bring the Euro together today). However! The drink also contains Cointreau, which naturally came about a little later. And then there’s grapefruit juice and sparkling wine, which might imply a little globe-trotting. It’s a little elegant, which could be like the curve of a conquistador’s helmet, if you want to go along that particular flight of fancy. But overall, I think it’s that if you drink a couple of these, you may decide to go exploring, or at least meander in your mind hither and yon, or at least sit on the couch and watch a program that takes you on a exploration. However! If you want to just enjoy this layered, effervescent, citrus-y, number on a sunshine-y day without worrying about how our explorer name ties in, I certainly wouldn’t hassle you about it.
The Ponce de León, from Dark Spirits
1 ounce Cognac
1/2 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, rum, Cointreau, and grapefruit juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into saucer-style Champagne glass or cocktail or coupe glass. Fill the glass not quite to the top with the Champagne.
July 2, 2021
Those, like you, who have been reading this blog for the last 10 years know that I have a white currant bush that I’m a tad bit obsessed with, and which I usually use the fruit from to make a white currant liqueur called Current Currant, which is darn delicious, and then also last year made a white currant and mint liqueur called A Most Particular Friend. See, the currant bush is now large enough that it has fruit usually for two batches or so of liqueur, unless making a very big batch (it can be devilish tricky to pick the currants, as they tend to fall off easily, and bounce around, and are fairly small for one with thick old fingers, but it’s worth it, I feel, to get that white currant taste, which is a bright citrus-y June-y taste all its own). Recently, I actually picked the first round of currants, as not all the little balls of joy ripen at the same moment; hence the first round being ready, well, first. Anywho, I wasn’t sure what to do with them, as I didn’t think there were enough for Current Currant, and so I decided to try something new – strawberries and currants (I had some strawberries around)! Check them out:
The sweetness and summer-ness of strawberries felt a good match for the tangy burst (with the barest hint here and there of bitterness) currants deliver. And, this time, I was right! The final liqueur-ing has the kissy nature of a good strawberry (I doubled down on the strawberry-ing by making a strawberry simple as our sweetener), but then the above the cloud citrus notes of the currants lingering. Dare I say, it’s summer in a glass? I dare, I dare!
Strawcurranterry, Strawberry and White Currant Liqueur
1/2 cup white currants
2 cups chopped strawberries
3 cups vodka
2 cups sugar
2 cups chopped strawberries
2 cups water
1. Add the currants and first back of strawberries (2 cups) to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Add the sugar and second batch (2 cups) of strawberries to a medium-sized saucepan. Muddle briefly, mellowly. Add the water to the pan. Raise the temperature to medium high and heat to a boil, stirring regularly. Reduce the heat a touch, and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes, stirring here and there. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
3. Open the jar from Step 1 back up, add the simple syrup, strawberries and all, to the jar, and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
4. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.