May 10, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The Whizz Bang

You might think a drink with this particular name would be more suited for a specific day in July (the fourth, that is), when whizz-bangers are going off in most US neighborhoods, and, between us, you’d be forgiven for thinking this, as I’ve made Whizz Bang cocktails on that very day in the past. However! I also think that mom’s need to have a hearty cocktail on Mother’s Day, and that mom’s can be firecrackers, too, in their own ways, and go whizzing around doing all that they do. Which means, as Mother’s Day is in two days, I believe it’s completely appropriate to be having this now and then. The drink’s lovely combination of bourbon (I’m going Woodinville Whiskey Company’s Straight bourbon, cause moms deserve the best!) and its sweet bourbon-ness with dry vermouth’s high-tone herbals, and with hints of Pernod’s sharper anise action, and with grenadine’s sweet tang (if you don’t make your own grenadine, you’re really not being fair to the moms), and with the deep herbal underpinnings of Scrappy’s classic Orange bitters, all of that together all being the lovely combination alluded to at the beginning of this sentence, this combination is sure to charm moms, and you, too, even if having it for no holiday at all, just cause it tastes awesomely awesome.

The Whizz Bang Cocktail

The Whizz Bang

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon

3/4 ounce dry vermouth

1/4 ounce Pernod

1/4 ounce homemade grenadine (recipe at the end of the As Luck Would Have it cocktail recipe)

2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters

 1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Present it to mom (or drink it yourself if mom isn’t available).

April 26, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Brovo Pretty Vermouth and Tonic

Hey, guess what? It’s the heart of spring (more-or-less), which means the sun is coming out more regularly (hopefully, at least, but hopefully also not so much as to make us enjoy it less), and also that summer is about to rear its sunshiny head, which then means that you and me and all (who are consumers of drinks utilizing booze) need to start to think about refreshing drinks that don’t make you sweat to make them, which are easier to make then this very long sentence. One perfect solution here: XX and tonic. The XX is not a warning, but generic so-as to remind that many things go well with tonic, and end up delicious. Gin, naturally. But many other liquids, too, including other base spirits (rum and tonic: yummy), aperitif-y things (Lillet and tonic: yummy), and one of my favorite “and tonic” things: vermouth. With the right vermouth and tonic, you have an easy to make, wonderful to drink combo. To ensure I have the right vermouth, today I’m reaching for WA-state-made Brovo Pretty vermouth. A blanc vermouth based on Pinot Gris, it has a balanced and beautiful fragrance and taste, backed by hints of spice, vanilla, lemon, and floral notes, it makes a swell partner with tonic. As I had a bottle at hand (and as it’s one of the best of the bottled varieties), I’m going with Fever Tree tonic. I am sadly out – I need to go to the store! – of my local WA tonic syrups cause they would be great, too.

Brovo Pretty Blanc vermouth and tonic

Brovo Pretty Vermouth and Tonic

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces Brovo Pretty Blanc Vermouth

3-1/2 ounces Fever Tree tonic

Lemon slice, for garnish

1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice. Add the vermouth. Then the tonic. Still briefly.

2. Garnish with the lemon slice. Oh, and add more tonic as/if desired.

April 2, 2024

Cocktail Talk: Pork City, Part I

Pork City by Howard Browne

Pork City, how did I miss out on you for so long? I blame society (as a punk once said), or just myself for not knowing more about author Howard Browne. Not the English bishop (who I also know little about), but the editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures who also wrote mysteries and then for TV – including the ever-loving Rockford Files! One of his mysteries was the book Pork City, though calling it a mystery only alludes to where it’d be filed in a bookstore or library, as there’s no mystery to the murder that happens in it. But let me back up. Taking place in prohibition-era Chicago, Pork City is based on a true story, the murder of a Trib reporter, and has a host of real-life folks in it (including Alphonse Capone himself as a mainish character), and centers around real Chicago spots of the times. All of which makes it sound a little like a historical retelling, which it is, in a way, but with more pizzazz, more thrills, more snappy dialogue, and more booze, as well as real insight into the workings of police and the mobs of the time. It’s a hoot and a humdinger, and for one like myself whose interests intersect in booze and the bang from a gun, well, an ideal read. So ideal we’re gonna have a couple of Pork City Cocktail Talks, starting with the gin-y below number.

She angrily brushed away a tear, went to the bar, and refilled her glass with Gordon’s gin (or so the label claimed). After adding a minuscule amount of vermouth, she dropped in two ice cubes from the silver-trimmed bucket and crossed to one of the living room’s wide windows. The newly installed Lindbergh beacon, revolving from high atop the Palmolive building a few blocks to the south, put a slashing path of light against the night’s cloudless sky. Loop-bound traffic drifted soundlessly along Lake Shore Drive, past the Potter Palmer castle and the long stretch of beach at Oak Street and on into Michigan Avenue.

–Howard Browne, Pork City

March 29, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Sprezza Rosso

Sprezza Rossa and Pizza

I’ve mentioned the delicious canned Sprezza spritz-style drinks made up here in WA before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again, because they are awesomely awesome. The Blanco variety is delish, and so so swell in summer, and there’s a newer Rose’ that is dreamy, but today I’m sipping the Sprezza Rosso side of the trio. Made from Mancino Rosso vermouth, Scrappy’s Orange bitters (hence the Washington connection if you were wondering), and sparkling mineral water, it delivers a swirl of effervescent rhubarb, burnt orange, and caramel with an ending brisk bitter kiss. Bellissimo! And – which you might expect given its Italian connection – Sprezza Rosso goes perfectly with a good slice of pizza. So, that’s what we’re having today, amici!

Sprezza Rosso

Ice cubes

1 can Sprezza Rosso

Orange twist

1. Couldn’t be easier: fill a wine glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Pour the Sprezza over the ice and in the glass. Twist the twist, and drop it in. Take a bite of slice, take a sip of Sprezza.

March 15, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The Leaping Drive

Well, I apologize – I really should have had this cocktail up on February 29, as that was leap day and this is a leap year and this drive, or drink, is leaping (with flavor! And in the name). It’s not the Leap Year, which is another drink, but somewhat related, and, well, just would have been good to have on or nearer to the actual leap day, though I suppose I’m still having this drink within a month of it, and darn it, the drink’s still good (and related in little ways to other drinks like the Sidecar and various other gin and Cointreau and vermouth and lemon drinks, so if you like that or those drinks, then you will be fond of this I’ll bet, maybe even leaping over things to have it), and sometimes that can weigh even more than an appropriate story, though as I’ve told you time and time again, good stories make good drinks even better. So, maybe pretend it’s still leap day? Having a couple of these tangy, botanical, citrusical, drinks might help with the leaping, or lead to both leaping and jumping. Maybe skipping too! Which would be fun.

The Leaping Drive cocktail

The Leaping Drive

Ice cubes

2 ounces gin (I used Washington-made Kur gin, and it served me well)

3/4 ounces Blanc vermouth (I used Dolin, and it was a reliable delight)

1/2 ounce Cointreau

1/4 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Lemon twist, for garnish

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

2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass (or comparable). Garnish with the twist.

February 16, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The 6 O’clock Cocktail

What the saying – it’s always 6 o’clock somewhere (well, maybe that’s an hour off the saying, but it is none-the-less true)? With that, I believe that this beauty should be the cocktail du jour pretty much all the time somewhere in the world. Sadly, it’s fallen from knowledge in the main, if it ever was in the main. I found it, mostly recently, in a little pamphlet called Come for Cocktails. Published by The Taylor Wine Company in 1958, I’m guessing at 6 o’clock on a Friday in anticipation of everyone drinking this mix of both sweet and dry vermouth, dry sherry, and a lemon twist. It has that swell vermouth heavier and lighter balance, with a knock of sherry nuttiness (I suggest a fine fino if you find it), and a twinkle of citrus. The lack of a higher abv base spirit means it’s a nice one if you’ve been (gasp!) dry January-ing as well, and want to ease back into the cocktails at a more measured pace. Not a bad idea for anyone if starting at 6, really!

The 6 o'clock cocktail recipe with sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, and sherry

The 6 O’clock Cocktail

Cracked ice

1 ounce dry vermouth

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 ounce sherry

Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio of liquids. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lemon twist.

January 19, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The Martini with Burning Berries Gin

It’s nice to start the year (or to have near the start of the year) with a Martini. Classic, delicious, somehow it seems to portend good things. Fingers crossed. This year, I was lucky enough to have my January Martini with a gin I’d never even heard of until recently – and one that sadly isn’t available in the US yet (sorry US readers), Burning Berries gin. Made in Sydney Australia, and only available I believe in that country currently, Burning Berries is perhaps worth taking a trip for. I was lucky enough (lucky twice!) to have a bottle given to me by my sister, hopefully not breaking any international laws. It’s a very intriguing gin, one that shades contemporary in style as opposed to say classic London dry. The flavor profile leans delightfully into citrus from the get-go, orange and lime notes predominately, before easing into juniper, not too heavily, and then some pepper and spice on the back end. It makes a very intriguing Martini (I used Dolin dry with it)! Something quite new, in a way, sipping-wise, in this much revered drink, which is fun. In hindsight, I might have even gone with an orange twist instead of a lemon (I’m not an olive-er, but imagine it wouldn’t go well here), which might make it another drink entirely – for sure it would if this was 1901 or something. It’d be fun to try Burning Berries in another classic, The Bronx, now that I think about it, as the orange notes would be a treat with that drink’s orange juice nature. Now, I’ll just have to make it to Australia to get more of the gin!

The Martini with Burning Berries gin

The Martini

Cracked ice

2-1/2 ounces Burning Berries gin

1/2 ounce Dolin dry vermouth

Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the two long-time liquid pals. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon (or orange!) twist. Give a toast in the general direction of Australia.

January 2, 2024

Cocktail Talk: The Big Money

We have had a fair amount of Hal Masur Cocktail Talks (or Harold Masur, or Harold Q. Masur, or Harry M) here on the Spiked Punch, mostly – maybe all? – featuring either his main character, lawyer Scott Jordan, or at least from a book where Mr. Jordan is the main character, getting into scraps, solving crimes, lawyering, chatting up the ladies, knocking out (though he’s not much of a punch thrower, more using his wits, but, you know, needs must) the cads, and tippling the occasional, or more than, drink. The Big Money is no different, and well worth picking up – I did, not too long back, as I work to round out my Masuring. Scott is up to his ears in a murder revolving around some, financiers, shall we say, or high finance at least, and a fat lot of bills missing or thought missing, and then another murder, and, well, a dame and danger and drinks! You get the picture. The below is a good way to start the new year, too, by the way (happy 2024!), which may lead us to lots of drinking. Here’s to your year having not too much fat around the edge, and not being force fed, and full of enough vermouth, gin, and lemons.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“No grain. All the fat is around the edge. Which means the poor beast was force fed. That sirloin over there, Mr. Hutch. Trim it, please.”

“Let’s get some vegetables,” I said. “Broccoli, Asparagus, and baked Idahos. I’m a growing boy.”

For the first time, it seemed, the spectre of tragedy dissolved from her memory and in repose her face had an eager gamin quality. I was under a full cargo of provisions when she opened the door to her apartment and led the way to a kitchen where I unloaded. She shooed me into the living room, telling me to find a drink.

The furnishing had been selected with taste and designed for comfort. There was a bar of knotty pine, with a white micarta top, stocked with an assortment of beverages. I found vermouth and a bottle of gin and prepared the mixture, floating a couple of lemon peels on top. I took my drink to the sofa and relaxed.

Hal Masur, The Big Money

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