It may, at first glance, not seem for much of the world to be the season for walking outside, no matter how nice your greenery is. However, I find a brisk walk on a chilly-but-sunny day to be invigorating, especially if you do it while sipping this cocktail, and then end it with some nice, hearty, slightly sweet, baked goods. How does that all go together? Well, really, it’s thanks to Everett’s (that’s up here in the W-A for those who don’t know) Bluewater Organic Distilling, who just released their Wintersun aquavit. An organic spirit (like all of theirs), it’s a shout out to distiller John Lundin’s Swedish heritage, and with that has an essence much like the traditional aquavits you might have encountered (though there are tons), but with a distinctive balanced aroma and flavor bringing together caraway, anise, and orange.
I (don’t be jealous – it’s the holiday season) recently got a bottle in the mail and after trying it out solo (which you should too, as it’s worthy all alone), had to try it in a cocktail, too. Because that’s what I do! After playing around with a little of this and a little of that, I found some swell in-the-shaker dancing partners, starting with another Northwest hit, broVo spirits’ (from up here in Woodinville) delicious award-winning cherry liqueur Boomerang. It has a lush cherry-ness combined with a little vanilla, walnut, cinnamon, apricot, and citrus. You can – until you try it – dream about how this would combine perfectly with the Wintersun, and why the baked goods are a good idea. However! That wasn’t it. After much liquid hemming-and-hawing, I felt a little bit more of this and that was needed. And the this was old pal maraschino liqueur, and the that was Scrappy’s legendary Cardamom bitters. They rounded that spice and fruit level out to eleven. The shrubbery will feel overjoyed to have you walking through it with this mix – and you’ll be pretty happy about it, too.
Though, admittedly, there are a fair amount of decent ones out there now-a-days, I’m still a little wary of flavored vodkas. Don’t get me wrong, unlike some, I like a good vodka, one with a crisp clear taste – but have just been scared off by pre-flavored vodka nonsense in the past, where the chemicals used to created said “flavor” rule the bottle roost, so to speak. However, CA distillery Hangar 1 is pretty reliably high on the standards, and their Mandarin Blossom, especially is an old fav. So, when I recently (I know, I’m lucky!) received a bottle of their latest in the mail, I was inclined to be welcoming.
But it was a rosé vodka! Which I’d never heard of. However (again!), I am nothing if not adventuresome, so, combining that with Hangar 1’s rep, I decided to dive in (metaphorically), and – I was glad I did! Here’s the skinny: it mixes Hangar 1’s vodka and California rosé wine. That’s it. Neighbors combining together, without anything else. It has a clean, floral, apple-y nose, and an also a clean, fresh taste, with a real rosé-ness, with more floral notes and a bit of fresh berry, and a nice dry finish. It’s good all alone over a little ice, a hit for spring and summer when you want something that’s smooth, but which has a little umph. But it’s a smart choice in fall and winter, too, when you want a dream of spring and summer.
But, as you’d expect from something made with two good neighbors, it’s neighborly playing with others in cocktails – and I didn’t wait long to start playing around with it and others. Because of those floral, botanical notes, I ended up traveling down a bouquet-ish road after trying a few things, bringing in some delicate and delicious crème di violette, and wine-based delicately herbal French aperitif Lillet Blanc (a distant cousin of sorts to our vodka, due to the wine connection). The final part of this flowery fête was a few dashes of Scrappy’s lovely Lavender bitters. All together, you’ll take many looks with One More Look, as the layers of floral fun are sure to be a hit.
Hey, guess what – yesterday was Thanksgiving! Wait, you knew that? Then perhaps what I’m about to be telling you is something you’re already aware of, as it’s as much as Thanksgiving tradition as turkey. That’s right, I’m talking about the post-Thanksgiving (either day of, or day after, that being today) Gizmo, which utilizes the leftover cranberry sauce. This one (you probably know this, too, as it’s part of the legend of Thanksgiving) comes from Jeremy Holt, from way back to the 1600s, or thereabouts.
Okay, yes, you caught me. I’m having a Golden Frog, and Italian-ing it in name. I’m apologize, but I just returned from Italy (or maybe I’m on my way back still, sometimes when traveling and taking time away it’s nearly dreamlike, and time does strange things to you, especially in Umbria I believe, when you’re on a hillside and the sun in bright and the air is crisp and you have a drink of vodka, Galliano, Strega, and lemon juice, and everything is so gold, gold, gold), and am craving a little more Italian vacation in my day, and so here I am with a La Rana d’Oro and you’re hassling me about the name? You probably won’t get one, then.
I’m just gonna quote one of my favorite headnotes here (I know, I know, vulgar to quote myself, but what the heck), from Good Spirits:
“It’s as if I never left. In a canoe. On the longest river in Europe, the Volga. Ice in every direction. Bears and bear-like animals along the banks. A storm railing against that canoe for every one of the 2,300 miles. Crazy birds circling, waiting for the canoe crash to pick the remains clean from splinters. Water splashing over the sides like a curse. And then the sturgeon with their beady eyes tracing my progress from the deep pockets. The banks birthing jagged rock after jagged rock, taunting me with possible capsize after capsize. But did I worry? No sir, and no ma’am. I poured a Volga and sat backed and smiled. If you’re every stuck on a long river, I suggest doing the same.”
Maybe I’m missing summer, maybe I’m a bore (get it? sure you do!), maybe I’m feeling tropical amidst the descending days of winter, or maybe I’m heading to San Leo tomorrow – whichever the I’m I am, I decided I needed one of these today. It features an Italian tamarind syrup (any good molasses-y textured tamarind syrup will do, and if you can’t find one, him, try a pomegranate syrup and call this a Sleeping Cinghiale’s Bikini) and other jolly pals.
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
3/4 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeeze lime juice
1/2 Carlo Erba Tamarindo syrup
Lime slice, for garnish
Pineapple slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, juices, and tamarind. Shake really well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass, or whatever good glass is nearby. Garnish with the lime slice and pineapple slice.
If you’ve forgotten (though how could you, marketing being the horror that it is), tomorrow is Halloween! I’m guessing you have your costume set, but what about your drink? If not, then remember the Warlock! It has brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. It will, when consumed, turn you into a zombie magician as the below video shows. But hey, it’s Halloween, that’s what you want!
Here’s a haunting favorite I hadn’t made recently – which was foolish of me, because it’s a Halloween hit that’s good year round. But, especially due to the headless nature of the eerie moniker, it’s a chillingly good choice this time of year. Luckily, it’s not scary to make, and the taste isn’t scary at all, and your spooky party pals will love it. Heck, they might even say it’s boo-tiful. Hahaha!
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