August 18, 2011

What I’m Drinking: The Earl of 15th Avenue

Here’s something long-time readers (all three of you) of the Spiked Punch don’t see very often: a drink recipe with vodka. It’s true, I find most mass-produced modern vodkas a wee smidge, well, boring. Flavorless, even. This has probably and sadly kept me away from some modern craft-y vodkas, ones I would enjoy. Until recently, that is (and that, friends, is what we call an “ah-ha” moment). Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to try some of the new local vodkas, those created around the Seattle and WA area, and I’ve been blown away–complex vodkas with intriguing flavor profiles? Amazing. I’m talking about vodkas like Bainbridge Organic’s Legacy vodka, Woodinville Whiskey’s Peabody Jones vodka, and Sound Spirits’ Ebb+Flow vodka. The latter is what I used in the below drink, because it’s flavor, which comes from using 100% malted barley, mingled well with some tasty Earl Grey syrup I received from the fine folks at Deluxe Foods. Deluxe isn’t selling their syrups yet (I don’t think–though if you’re in Seattle you should stop by a Farmer’s Market and ask), but keep checking the Deluxe Foods site for when they do. The Earl Grey syrup has a subtle-but-evident tea taste and a nice medium sweetness. Sorry to list a recipe that might have hard-to-find ingredients, by the way, but you know what they say: fate favors those who track down hard-to-find-ingredients. Or something like that.


Ice cubes

2 ounces Ebb+Flow vodka

1/2 ounce Deluxe Foods Earl Grey syrup

1/4 ounce Lillet blanc

1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice


1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.


2. Drain the mix into a cocktail glass and enjoy to the fullest.


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July 5, 2011

The Oriental Cocktail and the Good Life

It’s July, so I’m not going to lie (really, I just wanted to make that rhyme. No, wait, really, I’m not lying. Really)—I have a strong affection for not only the Oriental Cocktail (a beaut of an unburied treasure utilizing a party power pack: rye, sweet vermouth, orange curaçao, and lime juice) but for pretty much all cocktails that come with a good story. Want to learn more? Check out this short-but-swell article on the Oriental Cocktail I wrote that was recently in a special summer cocktail e-issue of the Good Life Report (the article does have the full recipe, too—if you’re thirsty). If you don’t know about the Good Life Report, and yet feel you are someone who does, indeed, want a good life, then, well, sign up for gosh sakes.


PS: I almost forgot–that article also talks about Mark Butler’s genius drink the Occidental, too! How can you miss it?

June 1, 2011

Book-in-Action Photo: Good Spirits & Party Drinks

Now this looks like quite an awesome evening: lots of little bottles of booze, a fine DVD to watch (from what I’ve been told, inside that red DVD envelope is a Townes Van Zandt documentary), and copies of old friends Good Spirits and Party Drinks. I’m guessing the lady who took this pic (it was the mother of my pal Rebecca Staffel, chief tasting officer of Deluxe Foods, just in case you’re curious) had an awesome evening indeed:



PS: Do you have a book-in-action photo? Send it to me post-haste.

April 18, 2011

What I’m Drinking: The Oscar Berry

Living in Italy (as I am of this writing, at least), I’ve picked up a small addiction–to mirtillo juice (mirtillo=blueberries), which I like to have in the morning with my croissant. It’s a health kick (or seems to be) and has a great taste and color. Recently, however, thanks to my pals/landlords Andrew and Marianne (proprietors of the wondrous Amici Villas), I’ve discovered the grown-up sibling of my beloved mirtillo juice, the fantastic mirtillo liqueur. See, Andrew and Marianne picked up a bottle for me not too long ago, and it’s delicious, not too sweet and bursting with flavor, and I’ve been digging it solo and mixed. It’s especially good in the below drink, named after Andrew and Marianne’s lovable pup, Oscar, who is frizzante, just like this slightly sparkling sparkler. To round out the somewhat Italian experience (or, Italian-British, much like the above-mentioned Andrew and Marianne, cause gin’s involved, too), and to bring the frizzante, I combined the mirtillo with Donini wineries (read more about Donini here) Brigante (a bianco frizzante):




Ice cubes

1 ounce gin

3/4 ounce mirtillo liqueur

1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 ounces Brigante (or other frizzante white wine)


1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, mirtillo, and lemon juice. Shake well.


2. Strain into a Champagne flute, add the Brigante, and stir briefly. Sip and enjoy.

January 24, 2011

Cocktail to Cocktail Hour Episode Four, the Bitter Handshake and Andrew Bohrer

It’s the second appearance this season from imbibing magician Andrew Bohrer, who makes his newest special guest manifestation to teach you to make the Bitter Handshake, a Fernet Branca-based cocktail Andrew created (and one that’s become a huge hit).  You’ll also see hypnotic ice ball carving, hear about Andrew’s mystical spirit animal, view Andrew’s enchanted locks, and enjoy more supernatural shenanigans in this episode of the new season of the show about cocktails and drinking and good times, the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour.


*See all Cocktail to Cocktail Hour episodes


December 6, 2010

Hey, Get Your Seattle Magazine (with me) Now!

Just wanted to alert you that there’s a sweet article (it’s the “Local Authority” column) about me, really an interview with me, in the latest (the December—the holiday—it’s like a gift) issue of the swell-tastic Seattle Magazine. So, if you live in Seattle, get your cute little self to the newsstand and pick up your own copy. Now! If you don’t live in Seattle, order a copy. If you absolutely can’t get a copy to hold in your hand while gazing at me, then check it out online. It’s fun stuff.


And while I have you here, why not check out a couple other recent and semi-recent numbers. First off, there’s a nice piece influenced by the Double Take lifestyle in the November issue of Today’s Diet and Nutrition. Secondly, here’s a piece from a couple months back (dang it, I’m slow. Forgive me) that was on the local-rific website  Fresh Picked Seattle, a piece all about homemade liqueurs, and with a recipe for from Luscious Liqueurs. Jeez, you have some reading to do.

November 12, 2010

L Enoteca Wine Club, Free Wine, and the Sabato Bolla Cocktail

If you stopped over to my Italy blog, Six Months In Italy (where this blog is duplicated, but I think it fun enough to be in both spots), you’ve gotten some of the  details on how handy my Italian/British landlords, Andrew and Marianne, are to have around. From getting Italian house in order, to opening up a tennis court at one of the other places they watch over so we could get some hillside tennis in, to pointing out new eating spots, to much more.  One other way they’ve helped us out was with a random introduction the other day, when wife Nat and I were sitting having a drink at Bar Pina. A jolly British gentleman named Jim walked by, and they knew him, and so invited him to sit down, and did the introductions, and Jim let us know about a wine bar opening, happening in a few days at the new wine bar in the same building. And then (it was fate) the owner of the wine bar, Patrick, came by and we were introduced to him. Both fellas were very friendly, and Patrick not only was opening the new wine bar, but owned the enoteca, or wine shop, on the other side of Pina. To round things out before hitting the wine bar opening, we actually stopped at the enoteca the day before, where we talked to Patrick again. He not only pointed us towards a worthy Prosecco (a bit sweet, a bit dry, very bubbly) from Valdo, but also a super intriguing cherry liqueur called Sollucchero di Monte Valentino Liquore and available in “riserva” and regular varieties. I’m always for trying new liqueurs, and couldn’t wait to try it. It’s very lush, with layers of flavors, cherry, nutty, and with a strong chocolate finish. I (and I probably don’t even need to tell most of you this, cause you guessed it already) created a cocktail with it within days, which I’m calling the Sabato Bolla cocktail, and the recipe is below.


But first, we went to the opening of Patrick (and his friendly wife)’s new wine bar, L Enoteca Wine Club, on a Friday evening. It was a very tasteful, cute, spot, and decorated with style and a restrained grace. Now, it’s only because I have a trained eye that I could even pick up on the décor, because it was packed. We slid through the crowd (noticing during our smooth sliding that the language of choice by the crowd was English, of the British variety) from the front door about 10 feet over to the bar (there is a bar area on the right, and a handful of tables on the left), where Patrick was pouring wine at a quick pace:

He greeted us warmly, and in the finest manner—with a glass of bubbly. After getting our wine, we found a good spot to people watch, and to look stylish ourselves (here’s Nat demonstrating):

It turns out that the idea of a wine bar such as this (with an emphasis on wine and smaller tapas plates) is somewhat of an anomaly in Italy, especially in our rural area, which is why we found ourselves mostly surrounded by English speakers (though Patrick is Italian, I have to say, his English is pretty great). It was fun, even though we didn’t know anyone, to stand around sipping (first the bubbly, then a rich red wine) and snacking. We’ll definitely be back to sample more wine, both to the enoteca proper and to the wine club. But now, on to the cocktail:


Sabato Bolla Cocktail


Cracked ice

1 ounce gin

3/4 ounce Sollucchero di Monte Valentino Liquore

Chilled Prosecco (Valdo’s Cuvee di Boj worked like an effervescent charm)


1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice (or ice cubes, if you must). Add the gin and Sollucchero. Stir well.


2. Strain the mix into a smallish wine glass or flute.


3. Top with chilled Prosecco. Stir briefly.


A Note: It may be hard (or impossible) to get Sollucchero di Monte Valentino Liquore in the states. And honestly, I’m not 100% sure of a comparable substitute—it has such an individual taste. But doing a combination of Cherry Heering and a little dark chocolate will at least get you close.


A Second Note: Using the glassware at hand, I went with a little wine glass found here at the casa. If you want to use a flute, go on with your bubbly self. But you may want to increase the gin and a snitch.

November 4, 2010

It’s the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour New Season Kick-Off! Featuring A.J. and Special Guest Andrew Bohrer!

Okay, that’s the world’s longest blog title, but I just wanted to get everything in and would have even bolded it if this blogging software would let me. But it wouldn’t (even after I promised it drinks). That’s how excited I am that the first episode of the new season of A.J.’s Good Spirit Cocktail to Cocktail Hour is done! For this season, we wanted to really knock some boozy socks off, so we took the camera and crew on the road to Seattle’s Mistral Kitchen, so bar manager and boy cocktail genius Andrew Bohrer (proprietor of the Cask Strength blog, too) could get all up in his molecular mixologist for you with an updated version of the Jimmy Roosevelt. As it’s the first episode and such a big whomping deal, it’s longer than normal–but you get twice the fun, twice the laughs, and (most of all) twice the cocktailing! We are still haggling with our normal Swedish station, so the only way you can see this currently is online (thanks to AKTV). Please send it to your friends, your bartenders, your paramours, and anyone else whose email you have. Cheers!

Rathbun on Film