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.
February 16, 2016
I’ve had a number of Cocktail Talk posts here from Day Keene, from his novels and short stories. Most of the latter I’ve read in the series from Ramble House, which does a fairly fine job of reprinting all of his stories that appeared in pulp mags in the 40s – and there were a lot of them! He was ridiculously prolific, and kept the quality bar really high while doing it. I just picket up the third volume, called Death March of the Dancing Dolls, which has seven longish stories, including one called A Minor Matter of Murder, which is where this post’s quote comes from. It also contained one of my favorite non-boozy lines in a while: “to hell with that heifer dust!” Drop that in your next meeting.
I guided her on into the bar and one of the wall tables. “There’s been some trouble at the office. But if you faint, I’ll fire you.” I ordered two double ryes and waited until they were served to tell her than young Schermerhorn was dead.
–Day Keene, A Minor Matter of Murder
February 5, 2016
I was browsing through Crosby Gaige’s Standard Cocktail Guide (which is a smallish book, much smaller that his Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion, which I love mostest), the 4th printing from 1944, and came across a cocktail called the Boomerang. I’d seen this version before (that’s a name that has probably been used for at 67 different drinks), but it’d been a bit, and fit the What I’m Drinking bill perfectly, because the base is rye, and I had a new rye I wanted to try in a cocktail.
What rye? I can hear you asking, and I’m glad you asked. It was Spirit Works Rye, from Sonoma CA (it came in the mail, I’ll admit). Spirit Works is a “grain-to-glass” distillery, which means that grain is milled, mashed, fermented, distilled, and bottled all on site. That’s neat! The rye is a small-batch number, aged for a minimum of two years in 53-gallon, charred, new American Oak barrels. It’s a rich rye, with nice woodsy-and-baked aromas, and a little spice (nutmeg and hints of clove) on the taste mingling with vanilla and more. Very approachable and mixable.
However! This drink also has a decent helping of Swedish Punsch and Sweet Vermouth. For the latter, I wanted something special, that would deliver its own full range of flavors. Luckily, our pal Michael N had recently given us a bottle of the Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition. Now that’s a gift! It’s based on a blend of Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, with a whole host of secret botanicals. The taste is memorable, with layers of flavors, sweet on the front with just the right amount of bitter on the back end. Delicious on its own, it’s swell in drinks too. And great here with the rye and other players. Crosby would be proud.
1 ounce Spirit Works rye
3/4 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
3/4 ounce Kronan Swedish Punsch
1/8 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Drink, then drink again.