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.
May 4, 2021
For our last (for now . . .) Cocktail Talk from the sixth collection of stories written by Day Keene and published way back when, published in the detective pulp magazines which once ruled newsstands, said collection called Homicide House, we’re dropping in on a case with one of the standby Keene characters, private detective Tom Doyle (who also appeared in one novel, as well as other stories). In typical Keene/Doyle fashion, this story has plot aplenty, moves quick like a stolen car, gives some time to Doyle wife and kids (at least off-stage), and puts him in quite a pickle: shot at, knocked out, blamed for murder, all of it. And slugging back a fair bit of booze, too! Be sure to catch all the Day Keene Cocktail Talks by the way, or I might stick detective Doyle on you!
His examination concluded, he grinned, “Too bad. But outside of that mark on your temple and banging your puss on the walk, you seem to be okay. Durable Doyle, eh, Tom?”
“I’m wearing thin, Mike,” I admitted.
I picked my gun off the walk and was dropping it into my pocket when Max pushed through the crowd making like a St. Bernard with a quart of rye.” You took your sweet time,” I reproved him. “Also, a drink.”
— Day Keene, “Three Queens of the Mayhem”
November 17, 2020
Well, when I earlier (as in last week pals) had a “Trouble is My Business” Cocktail Talk post, I’ll bet those of you who bet made a bet at your local bookie that I’d have another one on its heels, and, well, here we are! I feel we’re gonna spend a few weeks with Mr. Chandler and Mr. Marlowe now that we’ve opened the tab. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Today, we’d still in the story “Trouble is My Business,” and we’re still in Scotch land – not a bad land to be within.
He opened the door, went out, shut it, and I sat there still holding the telephone, with my mouth open and nothing in it but my tongue and a bad taste on that.
I went out to the kitchen and shook the Scotch bottle, but it was still empty. I opened some rye and swallowed a drink and it tasted sour. Something was bothering me. I had a feeling it was going to bother me a lot more before I was through.
–Raymond Chandler, Trouble is My Business
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.
January 14, 2020
We started our Framed in Guilt Cocktail Talk-ing in Part I earlier this month – if you missed that, go check it out – with a first quote from the Day Keene classic reprinted in one volume along with another fine novel, My Flesh is Sweet. Here, protagonist and Hollywood writer (and murder suspect) Robert Stanton and lady friend are having a few drinks while not going to London, hahaha!
Fortifying himself with a double rye, he made a Tom Collins for Joy and joined them. “And where have you been,” Joy demanded.
Sitting down beside her, Stanton handed her the glass. “It wasn’t to London to see the queen. Scram, will you Bobby? I wouldst talk with my betrothed.”
–Day Keene, Framed in Guilt
October 4, 2019
Okay, hopefully this isn’t annoying (too much), but I’m going to lay out a perfect chilly-fall-night drink, but it has not one, but two ingredients that might not be easy for all to get – however, they are worth getting, so get on your buggies (or whatever you use for transportation) and perhaps time machines (or whatever you use to travel through time). The first is from the swell sweethearts at Seattle Distilling Company, a whiskey made from Washington-grown rye (the best rye, I’m guessing), called Brockway Hill, which has a lovely rye spice flavor and umph and is well worth sipping solo as well as in this cocktail. However! That’s not the end of the story, as this delight was named for a Vashon Island bootlegger from back during the sad time called prohibition. Does that story make it taste better? Yep, yep it does! Our second ingredient alluded to above is another WA-made delight: Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. A seasonal Scrappy’s (hence the harder to get, and maybe the need for time machines), it as-you’d-expect utilizes Seville oranges, the peels specifically, and delivers cozy marmalade and winter spice action. Watch for it as the snow falls. Our last ingredient in this Manhattan-y trio is actually more available now than it was – because it’s fairly new and wasn’t available at all in the dark days of the past: Cynar 70. If you haven’t had the amazing and fairly-legendary Italian artichoke-based amaro Cynar, then shame on you. Have it now, and then have its higher-proof sibling, Cynar 70. The latter still brings the herbally goodness, but with a bit of a stronger kick, a kick that can be nice to have in cocktails such at this one. Drink up (but not when driving that buggy).
Rye on Earth
2-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company Brockway Hill whiskey
1/2 ounce Cynar 70
2 dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Blackberry, for garnish*
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ices. Add our trio of stalwarts. Stir well.
2. Add your blackberry to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix into said glass.
*You could go a cherry here. But blackberries are cool. And you wanna be cool, right?
March 15, 2019
Okay, there has to be a drink named this, right? It’s just too good not to have been utilized by some creative bartender (of which there are millions, lucky us), and so whomever has done so, my apologies. And if really there isn’t, than, wheee! Anyway, as you might expect from this name I’ve been mulling over, this is a rye drink, and one that hews close-ish to a rye Manhattan, which I think is a good place to start.
Another good place to start is the rye I’m using here, Clyde May’s rye. Clyde May’s is made by the Conecuh Distillery and is named after Alabama’s most famous bootlegger/moonshiner from days of yore (meaning, days when we had moonshiners, and not liquor stores one could trot into, or fire up online). I had their bourbon in a Mint Julep not too long ago, and you can go read about it. But now, it’s rye time, cause, as the drink name tells us, Rye Not?
The Clyde May’s rye is aged a minimum of three years and rolls off the tongue at 47% ABV. On the nose, it delivers some spice, caramel, and flowery notes, which unfold when sipping into a little stone fruit (apricots, I say!), and more spice and rye goodness, and a hint of pepper and sweetness trailing. A nice sipper, but also nice in cocktails like this one, where I – after due consideration – follow up on those apricot notes I parsed out above, by mixing it with a little (don’t want to overwhelm) apricot liqueur, as well as a little peach bitters, and to bring us all home, some Punt e’ Mes vermouth. All together, a swell drink for right about now, where there’s chill still in the air, but perhaps a dream of spring coming closer every day.
2 ounces Clyde May’s rye whiskey
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
Big ice cube (or more little ones)
1. Fill a mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything except more ice. Stir well.
2. Add a big ice cubes or some smaller ones to an Old Fashioned style glass. Strain the mix into the glass. Sip up!
January 11, 2019
Ah, the new part of the year, here we are. And here we go with 2019! At this time, it’s good to use some new ingredients to match the New Year, but (I’m not getting deep here, really, but just trying to roll things into the recipe in some sort of fun way. Fun!) also to use some ingredients from the past year. Which leads us to this here drink, and a duo of lovely products from the Woodinville Whiskey Co., from out here in the W-A. Specially, their limited-time Autumn release from last autumn, which was their rye finished with toasted Applewood staves – learn more about it in the Hero of the Fall recipe (which you’ll like, I’ll bet). That, though, is the last year component, while the new is just “new” to me: Woodinville’s maple syrup. I am ashamed to admit that I opened my first bottle only recently, because it’s delicious. They start with grade-A dark maple syrup from the eastern US, which is aged in empty Woodinville bourbon and rye barrels, adding caramel, vanilla, and woodsiness to the syrup. Yummy! Maple syrup isn’t used in drinks enough, and, admittedly, it can take over – but dang, this is good stuff! And matches that Woodinville rye wonderfully, especially with a last addition: Peychaud’s whiskey barrel-aged bitters. More whiskey-barreling! Those deep herbal bitter notes are a third treat here, in our Manhattan-y mixture. It’s a great drink for toasting both the past and the upcoming year (or anything else you need to toast).
Oh, one note: you might want to pull back to the maple syrup to 1/2 ounce. I was feeling it, and went for 3/4s. You get the rye first, with a hint of the syrup, then that syrup comes on, with the bitters and barrely stuff finishing it off. However, it could be a stitch sweet for you, so go as you go.
New Trees, Old Trees
2-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Toasted Applewood Finished rye
3/4 ounce Woodinville Whiskey Co. maple syrup
Dash Peychaud’s Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the cherry. Shake.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry, cheery.
A Note: I don’t think I have to tell you to use a real Maraschino cherry here, and not one of those neon-red-colored numbers, do I? I sure hope not!