June 14, 2019

What I’m Drinking: Smoke in the Grove with Ardbeg Uigeadail

I know you know about Ardbeg Uigeadail (because you are smart and know things). I mean, it was named World Whiskey of the Year by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, due to its “complexity” and “silky brilliance,” is crafted with care by the now-legendary Islay distillery, has a name that’s also unforgettable (and pronounced “Oog-a-dal” which is just plain fun) and coming from a loch near the distillery, is aged in ex bourbon barrels and sherry butts, boasts a lovely golden hue, and is freakishly reasonable. Especially when you consider the rich aroma of peat, walnuts, a little sea and forest, and spice, the taste of honey, malt, more spice, then a big, muscular-but-smooth smoke, and a raisin, caramel, smoke finish. I mean, with all of that, I know you know about it – of you should.

As you’d expect, it’s a swell sipping Scotch, solo, over an ice piece or two, or with a little splash of spring water. Yummy, indeed. However, when I was lucky enough (don’t be mad at me, please) to get a bottle in the mail the other day, I of course had some solo, but then had to also try it in a cocktail. With a sipper this swell, you don’t need to or want to bring too many dancing partners into the set. Keeping it simple is key, letting this malt shine, while accenting a little in the corners with appropriate additions. Here, I went with orange stalwart and cocktail classic Cointreau. To bring a few more herbal/spice notes under our big two, I brought in two bitters, just a dash of each: Regan’s orange bitters and old pal Peychuad’s. Altogether, the orange and bitter-ing players add to the Uigdeadail, while letting it take the lead. Smoke in the Grove’s flavor-filled, hearty, but maintaining that silky brilliance. Yummy, again.

smoke-in-the-grove
Smoke in the Grove

Cracked ice
2-1/2 ounces Ardbeg Uigeadail
3/4 ounces Cointreau
Dash Regan’s orange bitters
Dash Peychaud’s bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. I know you know how you good it is, but hey, drink it anyway.

May 7, 2019

Cocktail Talk: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Image result for on her majesty's secret service bookI’ve only had one other Cocktail Talk post from Ian Fleming I’m sad to admit, because (also sad to admit), I haven’t read all of his legendary James Bond books. Though I recently read On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and it reminded me that I need to go back and catch up on all of them. While a few bits are a little dated in a way, they move fast, they’re fun, and Bond seems a little less a super hero, a little more relatable somehow, than in the movies, especially the recent ones (but really, all of them in a way, though Mr. Connery is the closest, of course). This particular book is, well, I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read it (though you should, even if you’ve seen the movies, cause they’re different indeed), but at least feel okay saying that it’s just-past-mid-way in the series, and features Bond skiing a fair amount, among other things. Moves along quickly, too, so while it might take you longer than watching a movie, it won’t cut too much into your day, and while you read, might as well have a drink! Which the below Cocktail quote might lead you to, too.

With efficient, housekeeperly movement he took out a bottle of Pinchbottle Haig & Haig, another of I.W. Harper bourbon, two pint glasses that looked like Waterford, a bucket of ice cubes, a siphon of soda, and a flagon of iced water. One by one he placed these on the desk between his chair and Bond’s. Then while Bond poured himself a stiff bourbon and water with plenty of ice, he went and sat down across the desk from Bond, reached for the Haig & Haig and said, looking Bond very directly in the eye, “I learned who you are from a good friend in the Deuxième in Paris.”

— Ian Fleming, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

March 26, 2019

Cocktail Talk: The Knife Slipped

Image result for the knife slippedWay, way, back in the balmy days of 2009, I had a Cocktail Talk post from A.A. Fair, and went through how he was actually a nom de plume (as they say) of Erle Stanley Gardner, at one time the biggest selling writer around thanks to his books about a certain lawyer named Perry Mason! You can see how I feel about all of that by reading past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks (short version: oddly enough, I tend to like the show better than the books, though they aren’t bad, and tend to have great covers, and I like the A.A. Fair books better for some reason). Here, though, is the neat thing about The Knife Slipped. It was a lost manuscript, rejected at one time by Gardner’s publisher, and only recently re-found and published by the happening folks at Hard Case Crime. It’s a good read, too, staring Cool and Lam (Donald Cool and Bertha Lam), a detective team, and the book stands out as an early mystery for this detecting duo, giving more history around them, and just being a swell read on every side. Well worth picking up, whether you sit with me on the Gardner questions or not. And, there are slugs of Scotch.

“Dance,” I said.
Her voice was wistful. “Uh-huh. The floor is build out over the side hill, on an enclosed porch. You dance out from the tables onto this porch and look down over the city lights. They keep it almost dark out there, just a starlight effect.”
“It won’t be starlight tonight,” I said, “but a good shot of Scotch might help. How about it? Do you feel the same way about a slug of Scotch I do?
She hesitated a minute, and said, “I don’t know.”

–A.A. Fair/Erle Stanley Gardner, The Knife Slipped

February 1, 2019

What I’m Drinking: Sweet Bird

Sometimes, people are sort of pooh-pooh-y about Scotch cocktails (though of course there are numerous classics, and noble new ones, too, so maybe attitudes are changing even as I type and I’m just not caught up with the word on the street), thinking that Scotch is only to be sipped solo. But I can’t resist trying it in cocktails. You don’t have to drink them if you’re feeling pooh-pooh-ingly, but that’d be your loss. People also sometimes feel the same way about sweet drinks, usually as they’re eating a doughnut or a pie (not a savory pie, but you guessed that). If it’s not bitter or high proof, they get all angry. Well, that’s silly as (much as mentioned above), there are many classics that utilize sweeter ingredients without getting all sickly about it.

But for folks that fall into those camps (those very very sad camps), well, you’ll want to ignore this drink. Not only is the base Scotch, but it uses two fairly sweet ingredients with it. HAH! IN YOUR FACE! I recently received (lucky me) a bottle of one of my favorite blended Scotches, the Famous Grouse. Not only carrying an amazing name, it’s been made since the late 1800s, is the most popular Scotch in Scotland, and it delivers a taste containing caramel notes, some nice spice, and breezy hints of smoke and citrus. Neat! Meaning, it’s good neat, but also lovely in cocktails.

Our sweeter partners here are nutty: Kahana Royale Hawaii Macadamia Nut liqueur (which is sweet, sure, but not so much that it overwhelms the nuttiness), and Praline Pecan liqueur, which as the bottle says is made in the New Orleans style. It’s a sweetie like the candy that carries its name, but also has a nutty nature. They go nicely with the Grouse and all together unveil a somewhat-buy-not-annoying dessert-y style drink that doesn’t go too far, with that solid background and Scotch-i-ness coming first when sipping, followed by a candy and nutty sweetness. The key, though, beyond those ingredients, is a wide orange twist, one that’s somewhat wild. The citrus oils balance the sweetness and the wildness makes everyone play nice. Nice, I tell you, and also make this a wonderful post-dinner treat.

sweet-birdSweet Bird

Cracked ice
2-1/2 ounces Famous Grouse blended Scotch
1/2 ounce Kahana Royale Hawaii Macadamia Nut liqueur
1/4 ounce Praline Pecan liqueur
Wide orange twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir really well.

2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Enjoy!

July 24, 2018

Cocktail Talk: The Crimson Clue, Part II

Image result for the crimson clueDon’t go thinking I decided to have a second Cocktail Talk from George Harmon Coxe’s The Crimson Clue because of the rhyme between “clue” and “two,” though admittedly that’s a bonus. But this 50s Kent Murdock (news photographer by day, murder solver by night)-starring read had too many Cocktail Talk moments to not highlight another one. Oh, if you missed The Crimson Clue, Part I, where I talk a bit more about the book, and have another nice quote, then I suggest trotting back in time to catch up. Caught up? Nice. That means you probably need a drink, and if you’re tired of bubbly like our man Kent, then the below will fit you like good shoes.

Elliott tapped the empty glass. “How many of those have you had?”

“Two.”

“You don’t particularly like that stuff, do you?”

“Not particularly.”

“Then how about a real drink? A Scotch?”

“Fine,” Murdock said.

Elliott called to a passing waiter, asking him to bring two Scotch and sodas to the library.” Mostly Scotch,” he added.

–George Harmon Coxe, The Crimson Clue

July 20, 2018

What I’m Drinking: The Foppa

Sometimes, I like to throw ol’ summer a curve ball. Summer, sitting there all hot and sunny and thinking, “I know all the drinks A.J. might make – he’s got nothing on me.” Well, summer, old sweaty pal, let me introduce you to the Foppa, a summer drink (I think it works as one, at least) that uses, you’ll never guess what. C’mon summer, guess! Ah, you’ll never get it – it uses Scotch! Really, and amaretto, and dry vermouth – that sounds like a serious, un-summer cocktail, right? But then, boom, ginger ale, a bunch of ice, and we have ourselves a summer cocktail with Scotch. I guess even summer can learn some new tricks. And you can, too!

foppa

The Foppa (from Dark Spirits)

Ice Cubes
1-1/2 ounces Scotch
1/2 ounce Disaronno amaretto
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Chilled ginger ale

1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Scotch, amaretto, and vermouth. Stir with a long spoon.

2. Top the glass off with ginger ale. Stir again.

May 29, 2018

Cocktail Talk: The Sunburned Corpse

Image result for adam knight the sunburned corpseI was at the amazing Seattle Public Library annual booksale not to long back, and came across a great box of book (well, lots of boxes of book, many, many, many were there, but this was a particular one) that had a fair amount of old pocket-sized books, the ones with good covers, including books from heavy-hitters like Hammett and Chandler. But also some names I didn’t know, which is where this beauty by Adam Knight, The Sunburned Corpse, comes into the picture. It wasn’t the best pulpy pick-up, but it’s lots of fun – I mean, it has the subtitle “Murder in a Tropical Paradise” and what’s more fun than that! There was a tough detective, a bunch of double-dealing, a murder on a boat, rum, and more, including the below quote that isn’t about rum. I love booksales!

“Forgive me,” she said, after a great lurch of the boat. “If I’m making passes at you under the table, please blame it on Davy Jones.”
“I’m not complaining,” I said.
“You’re really nice,” she smiled. “What are you drinking?”
“Drambuie. It sits well after a big meal.”
“A man of discernment.” She cased me slyly, weighing me with her wise eyes. “You don’t find many Drambuie drinkers on a boat like this. I would have judged you a Scotch and soda man.”
“I didn’t think it showed.” I lifted her glass and sniffed it. “You fooled me, too. I would have called you the Manhattan type. Instead, you’re sipping Aquavit. Scandinavian ancestors?”
“I love the Swedes?” She laughed. “I also love Aquavit because it warms me and excites me. But Aquavit is a kind friend the morning after.”

–Adam Knight, The Sunburned Corpse

February 16, 2018

What I’m Drinking: Walking Majestically

I’ve had a few cocktails on the Spiked Punch already featuring awesome Ardbeg Scotches – heck, if you haven’t seen them, you should check them out. Recently (I guess I was born under a lucky star!) I received one of their newest numbers in the mail, the mysteriously named Ardbeg An Oa.

Named after the Mull of Oa, a very dramatic point on the cliffy pinnacle of Oa on Islay – where Ardbeg is as well – An Oa is a little dramatic, too, in that it’s spent time in the new Ardbeg Gathering Vat which boasts whiskies from multiple casks – sherry, virgin charred oak, ex-bourbon – all hanging out. There has to be some drama, right? Of the best kind, as is obvious in the end result here, a Scotch that’s an approachable sipper with a fair amount of smoky and peatiness, but also sweetness on the nose and taste, as well as citrus and spice in the former, and black tea, chocolate, citrus, and a savoryness in the latter. Overall, a great Scotch, solo or over ice.

But also one I had to try in cocktails (‘natch)! But what to pair it with? I wanted an end result that had some umph and retained the Scotch’s personality, but also with a few other notes and notices. After trying a little of this, and a little of that, went with just two more pals from hither and thither. Starting with Cynar, the legendary Italian artichoke liqueur, which is now much more available and renowned (as it should be) than the first time I had it, thanks to the herbal and slightly sweet taste that goes well before and after dinner and in cocktails. The third ingredient is lesser known, Sásta, a tea-based liqueur from Four Leaf Spirits, based right outside of Seattle. Might not be the easiest to get right now if you’re not in WA, but hey, come visit! Sásta is well worth the trip, with a citrus, mint, chamomile, and rooibos tea combo built over a cane spirit base and local honey. This liqueur isn’t that sweet, carries a bit of a kick, and has layers of orange, spice, and herbal moments.

The above trio delivers a cocktail with lots of umph, smokiness, and a ridiculous amount of flavors. Not one to throw back, but one to let linger on the tongue some, where those flavors can come on out to be noticed.

walking-majestically
Walking Majestically

Cracked ice
2 ounces Ardbeg An Oa
3/4 ounces Cynar
1/2 ounce Four Leaf Spirits Sásta tea liqueur
Orange twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the orange twist (notice there is no twist in the photo – well, I tried this without, and with, and the with was better, but I forgot to photo it).

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