July 17, 2020
In the middle of summer, the heat is naturally on, but so is the barbecue-ing, the backyard smoking, and, one hopes, the sitting on the porch/picnic table/deck/backyard, consuming the edibles of the labors that have happened over the flames. Yummy, right? But not as yummy without the right drink to have not only with the consuming, but also afterwards, as you and your stomach are mellowing down. There are many worthy options for this summertime moment, but I’d like to throw another in the mix, one called At Once to Ashes, which I created. Really! See, a pal of mine (I am lucky in pals) gifted me some small bottles of smoked simple syrup recently, and while that sounds like she must have used magic to create it, she assures me it was not spells. Now, I don’t know how she (non-magically) made it, but do know it sure is delicious. I can’t ask her if you want? The syrup’s smoky-sweetness is crying out (listen, you’ll hear it) to be had after smoky eating, and also, I believe, crying out to be had with another smoky-ish, earth-y-ish favorite: mezcal. Which is what I’ve done here – I wouldn’t ignore the simple syrup, would I? No! But I wouldn’t stop there, either. I’ve also added Grandeza, a lush orange liqueur made here in WA. Its orange flavor really pops, and it also adds another sidge of sweet, too. You can sub another orange liqueur if you’d like, but Don Ho will not sing of it. But it’ll still taste good! I wanted to balance the sweetness a bit, and also wanted to add a few herbal notes, and a hint of a hot spice kick, so our final ingredients here are Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and Scrappy’s Firewater tincture. If you like heat (habanero heat), then Firewater better be on your radar pals, cause it brings it. End result: At Once to Ashes is smoky-spice-citrus-sweet loveliness in a glass. Enjoy!
At Once to Ashes
2 ounces mezcal
1/2 ounce smoked simple syrup
1/2 ounce Grandeza
Dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Dash Scrappy’s Firewater tincture
Big ice cube (or a few good-sized ice cubes)
Cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the liquids. Shake well.
2. Add a big (really big) ice cubes to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with a cherry. Rainer if you have it!
July 3, 2020
This lesser-known (but awesome) drink from days of yore feels appropriate in many ways for this weekend (named after the sound bombs made and all that), and it is incredibly tasty (and sorta surprising when you look at the list of ingredients), and a drink if you haven’t made you sure should try, but, but, but, listen, I don’t want to soapbox, but I really am not a big 4th of July fan. Not the, oh, sentiment I suppose, but going overboard with the fireworks. As a long-time dog owner, and as someone with the belief that dogs are, actually, a higher species than humans (in the main), and knowing how said fireworks can drive, and do drive, dogs insane, then you can see why I don’t enjoy the holiday, or the days around it.
On the other hand, this is why I need a good drink, and why I’m having a Whizz Bang. A curiously explosive number, this time I’m starting with Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon, which is local (support your locals!), award-winning, and tasty. I’ve had this drink made with a smooth Scotch, and that’s not a bad idea. However, it being the fourth and all, wanted to stay more American, and the Woodinville is a treat. Next up: dry vermouth. You don’t see enough whiskey and dry vermouth combos, and even rarer (I think? I could be wrong) is that combo with anise-y Pernod! I believe this may have originally been made with absinthe, before the big silly oh-no-scary-absinthe moment in history, but I’ve grown to love the Pernod here, so we’ll stick with it. And we’re still going! Next up: grenadine. This drink only works with really good grenadine (it somehow brings it all together), so make your own, or have a friend make some good grenadine and convince them to give you some. That’s what I did! Our final sparkly addition is orange bitters, for those herbal undertones. I went with Scrappy’s orange bitters, cause it’s, well, sparkly! Altogether, the Whizz Bang’ll make any weekend shine. Maybe have one or two, with some pals, and skip exploding things and terrorizing pups? Just an idea!
The Whizz Bang
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pernod
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and give your dog a pet.
June 12, 2020
Having a good drink on your birthday is (if you’re a drinker, and of legal age in the country you choose to live within) a treat, and should be something everyone gets to enjoy. With that in mind, I made up the below drink for an old pal of mine (I’ll bet you can’t guess his name) for a recent birthday, bottled up a few, and gave them to him in the appropriate manner for the times. But, because he is a such a rad dude, I didn’t feel I could just come up with any ol’ drink, but wanted it to have a little bit of a backstory. That might be, you’d think, difficult, but said fella has been a traveling man here and there in his time here, and so the lightbulb moment was “hey, how about using some ingredients from where he went in his life” or where he did “go” so to speak. And if I also made Bingo boards around said birthday, well, that’s just me. Back to the drink. It starts with a little smooth and friendly Barsol Peruvian pisco, as our base. Then, traveling back here to the states, we go to Indianapolis, where some lush limoncello is made by Hotel Tango Distillery. And then, right back here to the W-A where birthday boy lives now, with Sidetrack’s amazing Strawberry liqueur (made on the world’s swellest farmer, just outside of Kent), and Scrappy’s unbelievable Black Lemon bitters, made in Seattle. Altogether, get your go on with the Shango! On your birthday, or anyone’s birthday!
1-1/2 ounce Barsol pisco
3/4 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Strawberry liqueur
3/4 ounce Hotel Tango limoncello
Dash Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything, and stir. Go, go, go!
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink around the world.
May 19, 2020
Well, I know what I’m doing today: waiting around watching my mailbox, sidewalk, and street for the postal person who today is supposedly delivering to me the new book of poems by Ed Skoog, called Travelers Leaving for the City. At least, I was told it would arrive today, when I ordered it. Hopefully you are doing the same thing – unless you’re lucky enough that your copy has already been delivered? – but if you aren’t, then for gosh sakes make your life better by ordering now. If, by some strange and cruel twist of fate, you aren’t already acquainted with Skoog (feels that should be all-capped, SKOOG, but I’m resisting. Or not), then let me tell you, not only is he a genius poet and writer, but also a champ banjo player, snappy dresser, fleet-footed dancer, and more, but also one of the swellest bar companions you could ever desire. While I’m waiting to spend many hours devouring his newest, I thought I’d ramp up my synapses by re-reading one of his poems from In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems About Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers. He has two poems in there – both awesome – as well as a few translations (also awesome), which he can do cause he is, as mentioned, a genius. In the feeling of community, I felt you also might want to read a snatch of Skoog if your copy of the latest hasn’t shown, and so here we are with the below.
The Last Saturn Bar Poem
Around the art barn, Mike Frolich’s bar-tab
bartered paintings hang the hell that rose with him
from the Gulf of Mexico floor too fast, torturing
blood with air: maniac fish, demon in a diving bell,
and then from cadmium sunset through marsh comes
the boat bearing forward in grand roving the name
O’Neal, our bartender. Theirs are the dreams we enter,
entering the Saturn Bar’s owly heat re-tooled for unlovely
loss, the rattled corner leaning away from Chartreuse, neat,
and when I’m able to dream jukebox damaged warbling,
a Saturn-like-thing opens within me, but this is the last
Saturn Bar poem–I’ll try, I’ll try–to stop singing
shadows of St. Claude and Clouet on security camera
pavement grays we keep talking about with increasing
reluctance, ready to move on to fresh bewilderments,
spiraling neon, neon that lights up my nameless shot.
–The Last Saturn Bar Poem, Ed Skoog
May 15, 2020
Well, as you know (if you don’t, welcome back from Mars I suppose), we have been and still are in the thick of some mad times. Said times keeping most around the world at home many more hours than usual, which has led many to muscular feats of home-organizing as a way to while away the time, or to catch up with projects that once seemed perfectly fine being set aside. If you have a fair amount of bottles of brown, clear, red, green, grey, blue, yellow, bottles glittering with the promise of delicious deliciousness, bottles that when opened have the capacity to unleash tongues in song while loosening the chains on the soul (if you’ll allow me a little hyperbole), bottles filled with spirits, liqueurs, bitters, and beauty, that is, if you have these, then, like me, those bottles fall into a “home-organizing feat” normally put off. But, due to said mad times, my wonderful wife took on this herculean boozy task (I get too distracted), and organized the shelves. When doing so, she found a few bottles that seemed to have just a sip here or there left in them, and moved them frontwards, enticing me to drink ‘em up. That, friends, is all preamble to the below cocktail, which at first glance may seem an odd combination: cherry brandy, rye, and allspice dram? But being trapped at home can take you down some paths that may at first appear odd. In this case, however, the path ended so pleasantly, I’m probably going to have to go to the store to restock the shelves so I have all these ingredients. But if you look them over and say to yourself, “what the hell,” step back, and think “what the lockdown leftovers?” Cause that’s what this tasty treat really is.
What the LL
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. rye
1/2 ounce St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce It’s 5 Cherry brandy
3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces club soda
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, allspice dram, brandy, and oj. Shake well.
2. Add one big ice cube or a couple decent-sized ice cubes to a chalice of some glittering kind (no need to turn into savages). If none is at hand, an Old Fashioned glass, big one that is, can work.
3. Strain the drink through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the club soda. Stir carefully to combine.
May 8, 2020
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, great drinks are even greater with a good story – and a great story takes it to even another level. Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of McConnell’s Irish Whisky in the post (what a nice thing! Especially in these stay-at-home times! So, don’t be jealous, I’ll share). And what a great story to go along with such a dandy whisky. Here are the basics – McConnell’s started producing whisky way way back in 1776, a year famous here in the U.S. for things other than whisky, though I’m sure a lot was consumed here at that time, too, hahaha. The whisky was made in Belfast, but soon being sipped all over the world by discerning sippers. But then! Tragedy, in the form of a vast fire that destroyed (so sadly) 500,000 gallons of whisky and a chunk of the distillery itself. Persevering, they rebuilt, and whisky flowed. But then! Tragedy, again, in the form of prohibition, which really put the damper on long-distance imports to the U.S., a monster-sized consumer – and that sad event destroyed the distillery, like the fire, but worse. Until this year, when it rose the economic and literal ashes, like a tipsy phoenix.
Of course, a good story like that (and distilleries coming alive and alive again are good, good stories) doesn’t mean as much if the flavor doesn’t rise to the tale. McConnell’s is a swell tipple, however, so the tale is ripe for more telling. A blended whisky, it’s aged five years in American oak, and as other friendly Irish whiskys, it has an approachable (not annoying) sweet nature. Beyond the lovely bottle, it sets itself apart thanks to a singular vanilla, nutmeg, spice and hint-of-smokiness taste. Yummy. So yummy, you could be forgiven for only consuming this recovered-from-history hit solo, or with a splash of water, or maybe a cube or two of ice as the mood descends on your day. Heck, I drank a lot of it that way myself, and only felt happy about it.
However! I also just can’t resist combining spirits and liqueurs I like into cocktails – and the welcoming, flavorful nature of McConnell’s is a bountiful base for a cocktail that lets it shine, while introducing a few friends that can stand alongside proudly. Today, I went with the classic, if not super-widely known, Tipperary. This version (there’s a separate cocktail carrying the same name from a few years earlier) goes back I believe to the 1922s, if memory serves, but don’t take me to task on it if I’m confused. To go with our mighty McConnell’s, the drink brings another legend to the mix, herbally, mystical, Green Chartreuse, along with sweet vermouth – I’m going with Punt e’ Mes here, which is just a touch drier than some, while still delivering more lush herbal notes , alongside a gentle bitter. Altogether, this cocktail delivers amazingly. I mean, it’s amazingly delicious. So, so, delicious, and just the right one for celebrating McConnell’s coming back on the booze scene.
The Tipperary Cocktail
1-3/4 ounces McConnell’s Irish whisky
1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
A Note: I’ve seen this with a lemon twist as garnish (heck, I’ve even had a great one that way), but with this particular trio, I didn’t think the brighter citrus notes worked. But if you do, do.
May 1, 2020
Well, we’re the midst of spring (as well as being the midst of some other things, but hey, for a moment, let’s just skip those things, shall we? I mean, take our minds off of them with a nice drink, say), and with that, need to be thinking of refreshing moments, like diving into a mountain stream without socks on, or sucking on a peppermint while drinking ice water in a walk-in fridge, or having white wine cocktails, which in the main tend to be refreshers. Take this one, for example, one that utilizes, hmm, is it my favorite white wine? Well, I don’t like to have favorite boozes (cause the others get jealous, ba-dump-bump), but I will say that Orvieto Classico whites tend to agree with me quite comfortably.
Admittedly, there is a range of sorts within this DOC, but they all do I believe have to use Grechetto and Trebbiano – usually, I again believe, a blend of the two in some sort of proportions, but again, can be a range. They tend to be crisp and light, but with intriguing (as opposed to annoying I suppose) fruit notes, like peach and apple. See: refreshing!
Lovely on their own, I also am not opposed to trying to utilize them in a cocktail or mixed drink (as they say), demonstrated in this here circumstance. For this wine cocktail, I used Roio Orvieto Classico, 2018 version, which is reasonable to pick up, and has those peach and apple notes mentioned above, with a welcoming crispness and dry clean finish. It leans I believe heavier into Trebbiano, and has some Malvasia and Verdello grape action going, along with Grechetto. So, nicey nice! And to play with it, I decided on some pals that go smoothly with the wine’s flavor profile, starting with Purus vodka (made in Italy, so an ideal match, and you can read more about Purus here), moving into Fee Brothers Peach bitters, which is fruity on the bitters scale (ideal here, and a treat as a side note just with soda by the by), and then Rothman and Winter’s Orchard Apricot liqueur, which has a lush fruitiness along with a little sweetness (and ties into the stone fruit stuff). Altogether, you’ll want to be young, run green, all that.
I Should Classicoco
1-1/2 ounces Purus vodka
1 ounce Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
3 ounces Roio Orvieto Classico
3 or 4 good-sized ice cubes (see note)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vodka, liqueur, and bitters. Stir briefly.
2. Add the wine, and stir a bit more.
3. Add the ice cubes to a big Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the drink into the glass. Start the coco-ing.
A Note: This would be dandy up, but it was sunny when I was drinking and so I went over ice and really, it was enchanting.
April 14, 2020
Okay, okay, okay, I have to have one more Cocktail Talk from the bountiful holiday bounty that is The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. If you missed the first two winter-holiday-in-spring Cocktail Talks, then roll back in time with Christmas Mystery Cocktail Talk #1 and Christmas Mystery Cocktail Talk #2. Good? Cheerful with holiday cheer? Good? Then it’s time for a little Santa bartender thanks to Rex Stout, his legendary detective Nero Wolfe, and the story “Christmas Party” – at this Christmas party, there’s some merriment, and then some murder, as you’d expect. And some Pernod! You probably didn’t expect that, but see the below (and get The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries).
“I can stand a sip, Al.”
“But you won’t enjoy it. Wait.” Kiernan put his glass on the bar and marched to the door on the left and on out. In five seconds, he was back, with a bottle in his hand, and as he rejoined us and asked Santa Claus for a glass I saw the Pernod label. He pulled the cork, which had been pulled before, filled the glass halfway, and held it out to Bottweill. “There,” he said. “That will make it unanimous.”
“Thanks Al,” Bottweill took it. “My secret public vice.”
— Rex Stout, Christmas Party