October 19, 2018
While not all of you live in wondrous WA, I don’t want you to feel I’m taunting you (you could come here and explore our distilleries, should even) by having a drink that features an ingredient you have to be here to pick up. C’mon over! And pick up a bottle of Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s 2018 Autumn Release, a Toasted Applewood Finished Rye. See, every year, the fine folks at Woodinville have an autumn release, and it’s quite an event – folks start lining up the day before to get a signed and number bottle in a commemorative wooden case. And, of course, to get the limited-edition whiskey within. This year’s takes the distillery’s 100% Rye Whiskey and adds toasted Applewood staves. Which brings out lovely apple notes mingling with the rye’s caramel and spices: cinnamon, clove, and more, all at 100 proof. It’s a great fall whiskey, and one that you might like to sit and sip solo – or with a few drops of water, or an ice cube, as the case may be – as the temperature chills.
But, it’s also a whiskey that can add beautiful background and flavor to a winter or fall cocktail, and recently I came up with a memorable one using it. For the first partner in this drink (again, don’t be upset those not living here – as you’re coming out for the rye, you can load up on a bunch of local lovelies), I went with another fall and winter favorite, Raft’s Cranberry Five Spice syrup. Raft products are made all-naturally in Portland, OR by the same folks who make the Bitter Housewife bitters and such. While “syrup” often equates with “sweet,” this one is only subtly sweet (and has no preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, or any of that nastiness), and leans more into tart, thanks to the addition of Starvation Alley (a farm in Long Beach, WA) cranberries. Beyond the cranberry, this delivers more holiday spices: ginger, star anise, cinnamon, cloves. It seemed the ideal match for the rye. And it was!
But we needed to invite some more friends to this fall party-in-a-glass, and I wanted to keep it local, and bring even more of those spice notes, and so added Italian-by-way-of-Seattle Letterpress Distillery’s Amaro Amarino. Carrying a little of that traditional amaro bitter, but also more baking spices and a hint of orange, it fit right in. Our final player is Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters, which underlines everything with a final herbal and spice touch. Altogether now! This is an ideal drink for before Thanksgiving or any fall or winter holiday, but perhaps an even better one for after the meal. When sipping it, it introduces itself with the whiskey festival of grain, oak, and the beginnings of the spice, transitioning into apple and fruit and more spice, and then finishing on a little tang from the cranberries and a kiss of sweetness from the syrup – with spices throughout. One to savor like a good meal, and one to savor with good friends.
The Hero of the Fall
2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Toasted Applewood Finished Rye
3/4 ounce Raft Cranberry 5 Spice Syrup
1/2 ounce Letterpress Amaro Amarino
2 dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add all our northwest heroes. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy the bounty.
November 17, 2017
This is not a spelling error (not that I don’t make those a lot); if you didn’t know, there really is a drink called The Zazarac. It wants you to know that it, while not renowned and legendary and all that, it in its own way is also worthy of your attention, much like its very distant cousin (though maybe not the same amount of attention, admittedly). It has a rare rye and rum combo, some friendly supporting players in anisette (go Meletti) and absinthe and Angostura and orange bitters (go Regan’s), and takes the edges off with a splash of simple, and tops things with a twist. Will it have you stopping your Sazerac consumption? Nope. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a sip.
The Zazarac, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce white rum
3/4 ounce anisette
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce absinthe
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, rum, anisette, syrup, absinthe, and both bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a large cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist and a nod to all the lesser-known family members.
November 10, 2017
It’s November here in Seattle (haha), which means the sky has shifted to grey, there’s cold rain in the wind, and people are looking longingly at their calendars. But, it’s also the time of year when whiskey takes more of a center stage spot (not that it’s ever off-stage, mind you me). Why now? Well, it’s warming for one! Also, it just adds a level of brown comfort to a cold evening. At least that’s what I thought when needing a drink for this chilly night. And luckily (lucky me!), I recently received a swell bottle of whiskey, Billy rye whiskey, in the mail, and wanted to take it for a cocktail drive.
Coming from Oregon’s McMenamins (known best for their series of creative bars, but also expanding as a distillery), Billy rye is a sibling of Billy whiskey, and is a limited-availability number, but one worth tracking down. Aged four years in American oak, it has a deep and cuddly and toasty molasses, oakiness, and caramel nature that’s begging to be sipped, and felt, to me, that it’d pair perfectly with some nuttiness. So, I went with the green-walnut liqueur nocino. I used local Sidetrack Distillery Nocino, which is a rich, strong, version of nocino, one I love. To add some undercurrents to our cocktail story I doubled up on bitters, with a bit of both Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters and Fee Brothers West Indian orange bitters. But, it felt unfinished, so I traveled even farther up the west coast, and brought in Sons of Vancouver’s (a distillery in North Vancouver, CA) No. 82 amaretto as our second to the last character – a big orange twist is the final one. Inspired by their mother’s canning recipes it has just five ingredients (apricot kernels, Bourbon vanilla beans, orange peel, Demerara sugar, and blackberry honey) and like our nocino is well worth tracking down.
And the plot all came together, letting the rye lead, but with a host of flavors swirling: nutty, herbally, a smidge of sweet, tiny hints of citrus, it took my mind right off the weather outside. Oh, if you don’t have Sidetrack or Sons of Vancouver in your backyard, well, I feel sad for you! You could sub in other nocinos and amarettos, sure. Won’t be exactly canonical, but still readable – or drinkable.
The Plot Begins
2 ounces McMenamins Billy rye whiskey
3/4 ounces Sidetrack Nocino
1/2 ounce Sons of Vancouver No. 82 amaretto
2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1 dash Fee Brothers West Indian orange bitters
Wide orange twist, for garnish
Big ice cube (or a couple decent-sized ones)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist (it’s that kind of story). Stir well.
2. Add a big ol’ ice cube to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix into said glass. Garnish with the orange twist, and a happy finish to the plot.
October 6, 2017
Some old poet said something about good fences and good neighbors – and maybe it was sorta astute in a way. But even moreso is the well-known phrase, “neighbors who bring you booze make the best neighbors.” You remember that one, right? Well, we have some great neighbors – Steve and Diane – who proved that recently by bringing us back a bottle of Crater Lake rye (from the Bend Distillery) after a vacation. Crater Lake being in Bend, OR, and not here in WA. This rye is made from 95% rye grain (and 5% malted barley, if you’re curious) and has a nice spicy peppery-ness and cinnamon, softened a touch by a toffee and honey sweetness and rounded out by a little oak. A neat sipper.
And also (and you know I can’t not try a new bottle in a cocktail), it mixes well with the right neighbors. I decided to go with all Italian neighbors (having lived in Italy, I still feel I have lots of neighbors there), thinking that some of the herbal notes in things like Averna amaro, Punt ‘e Mes sweet vermouth, and maybe even maraschino might work? Could I be right? Would these combined be the finest neighborhood in town – pretty darn close! This meets you smoothly up front, and follows with an assortment of subtle herbal hellos. A good neighbor indeed.
The Good Neighbors
1-1/2 ounces Crater Lake rye
1/4 ounce Averna amaro
1/2 ounce Maraschino
1 ounce Punt e’ Mes
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Give a toast to the good neighbors, and the finger to the bad ones.
May 5, 2017
Lumbering across the ice, across the minds of those in its path, driven by a hoard of idiots, all the way from the Nordic realms all the way across Canada, all the way down over the northwest coast, and all the way farther down the coast, farther, farther, the Walrus lumbers, leaving havoc in its wake. Of course, that’s a different Walrus than this drink, which is actually a stitch sweet, in a way, perhaps too much so for some (though it is only a stitch, and anyone who says it’s too much is one of those people who probably think they have something to prove because of inner turmoil around how people perceive them. Yawn), but also well savory, and citrus-y, too, all thanks to how the ingredients come together in a convivial manner. It’s a Walrus to visit again and again. Much different than our original Walrus, who maybe, just maybe, just needed one of these drinks.
1-1/2 ounce rye
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes vermouth
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the tusks. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, while looking towards the stars.
February 10, 2017
There’s a delicate hint of hanky panky (not the classic drink, but the activity) in the name here, for me, at least (but I am an incurable romantic, and also like things like delicate hints, and gently bawdiness, as opposed to outright lewd-itity, I suppose. Most times!). Which is why I think this drink can cover the whole “Valentine’s Day” drink need just as well as some sweeter-in-taste, more traditionally romantic-y, numbers. Though this does have a little sweet, admittedly, along with a little citrus, and a lot of rye. In my mind, that rye is for lovers, too. But like I say, I’m an incurable romantic!
Up In Mabel’s Room, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 ounces simple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy.
November 18, 2016
While some may think of Thanksgiving’s upcoming table as an enchanted field of food, well, I understand where you’re coming from, but we haven’t gotten there yet, food-loving friends. So, instead, have this Enchanted Field now, and then that one later. Really, we all may need enchantments now, or now and then, but especially now. I’m typing a little bit like I’m enchanted, and maybe in a field, too, at the moment. But hey, you have a couple of these, see how it goes – you’ll want to type enchantingly your own self.
The Enchanted Field, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Strega
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, orange juice, Strega, and simple syrup. Shake enchantedly.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the orange twist clockwise over the drink, then let it sink in.
July 29, 2016
You might think, to yourself, “A Manhattan-y cocktail is not quite the thing, old boy, for summer.” You would be wrong. Sorry! Exhibit A: The Tranquil Hills. How does this rough-and-tumble rye beguiler manage to hold its brown likker umph while still navigating the higher temperatures of summer? Well, I’m glad you asked. First, it’s just a good drink, and good drinks are always good. But, it’s helped along by using a key summer fruit, the blackberry, here in the form of Sidetrack Distillery’s lovely Blackberry liqueur. The rich berry taste covers for the Manhattan’s regular sweet vermouth, bringing enough depth, but also the very core of summer along for the ride.
Sidetrack’s Blackberry liqueur also mingles in a manner most wonderful with the rye I used, Templeton’s The Good Stuff rye. A rye made with the idea of matching the taste of an old prohibition recipe, one that was once, as legend has it (and nothing is better than drink legends) loved by Al Capone himself, Templeton has a spiciness, and a combo of dried fruits and caramel, that hit the spot here and now. A little of Scrappy’s Orange bitters (Scrappy being Seattle’s favorite son, and now an international bitters of renown, because, well, they’re great), and you have a whiskey cocktail that can help you survive the summer in fine fashion.
The Tranquil Hills
2-1/4 ounces Templeton rye
3/4 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry Liqueur
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well, but don’t get sweaty.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink it up.