January 26, 2018
Funny, that this drink is mixed, with the title and all! But really, said title is from Pickwick (Pickwick Papers, I mean), and you know it goes so well, in a way, as this drink is very happy – and you will be, too, when drinking it. And by starting the year, more or less, with some happiness (we’re still new to the year, I feel), then you’ll continue along the same lines. Aw, but I’m rambling a little, as I’m prone to do, any time of the year. The real important notes here are Scrappy’s unmissable Black Lemon bitters, named for the spice used in Middle Eastern cooking, two vermouths, dry and the sweeter-and-lighter blanc, and a base of local Kur gin. Drink up – happiness awaits.
A Moment of Unmixed Happiness
1-3/4 ounces Kur gin
3/4 ounces dry vermouth
1/2 ounce Dolin blanc vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the twist.
January 5, 2018
It’s a smidge odd to say about one of the world’s revered sippers, but Cognac (especially in the states, I suppose) gets a little short shrift. Especially when it comes to cocktails. But consider this, friends – Cognac was a key player in the early days of cocktailing, and used as the base spirit in many classic drinks (the Sazerac, for one, but also a bunch of others), including ones that shifted for one reason or another to a different base. Both the shifts and the lack of Cognac-ing in modern cocktails is a shame, because the layers of flavors that unfold in good Cognacs when paired with the right pals make memorable drinks.
Let’s take this one, In The Treetops, for example! I was lucky enough (don’t curse me for it, especially not this early in the year) to receive a bottle of L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac recently. The Eagle (L’Aigle equals The Eagle) is a delicious Cognac, aged in Limousin oak casks near the Charente River, and one that can be – and maybe should be! – savored solo, thanks to its bold-yet-graceful and complex-yet-approachable nature. It delivers floral and citrus essences on the nose, with a few nutty notes, too, and even more lush orange and fruit with a little chocolate and nuttiness in the unfolding flavor. It’s really as good as you’d expect from Delamain, who, if you don’t know, have been making renowned Cognacs since, oh, the 1600s. Or thereabouts!
When deciding to mix a cocktail with a Cognac this swell, I think keeping it fairly simple, letting the Cognac shine, adding only a few others players, is the way to go. I first thought I’d go with a drink from another lesser-known classic, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion (from the early 1940s), a drink called Rock a Bye Baby. And, admittedly, which you might guess from the title of this cocktail (if you know your nursery rhymes), I didn’t stray far from the original. I kept the same ingredients, Cognac (well, Crosby used brandy), sweet vermouth (I used Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, made from Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and with lovely fruit tones and a smidge of sweetness), and Bénédictine. But Crosby (who will forgive me I’m sure), had equal parts Cognac and sweet vermouth, and less Bénédictine. I wanted to let Delamain’s L’Aigle fly higher, so boosted the Cognac, drifted down the sweet vermouth, and upper the Bénédictine some to herbal-ize the edges more. The end result is a layered, sophisticated-in-the-best-way, cocktail, one that is a special treat, sure, but don’t you deserve to be treated? I think you do.
In The Treetops
2 ounces L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy life’s momentary luxuries.
December 1, 2017
I don’t actually have a tipsy Italian uncle that I’ve named this after, and because of that, I wake up sorrowful every day. Okay, that’s not true! I did receive a bottle of Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey in the mail recently though. That’s true! I know, getting whiskey in the mail should make me happy – and it does. True!
Uncle Nearest has a great story. It was made in honor of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a former slave who as the story goes taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Amazing! While it was launched in Portland, OR, it’s made in Tennessee using at least 51% corn, filtered via sugar maple charcoal, aged in new American oak, and bottled at 100 proof. That proof gives it a nice sturdy backbone, mellowed by vanilla and rounded out with hints of sesame and cinnamon in the flavor. It’s a sipper, for sure, and one that’ll warm you and your uncles.
When mixing with it, I wanted to keep that umph and personality, but take a little edge off, and bring some herbal helpers into the party. And I went Italian (as I often do), with Montenegro amaro (which lies on the sweeter side of the amaro scale) and Punt e’ Mes vermouth. Also brought old pal Peychaud along, too. End result is robust, with layers and layers of flavor. I think tipsy uncles everywhere would be proud.
The Tipsy Italian Uncle
1-1/2 ounces Uncle Nearest whiskey
1 ounce Montenegro amaro
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole family. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make a second for your uncle (or in his honor, at least).
November 14, 2017
Last week, I put up perhaps my favorite Cocktail Talk
of all time – or darn close! It’s so good (you’ve read it right? If not, get you there
), that I figured it’d be the only quote here from Colin Dexter’s sixth Inspector Morse book, The Riddle of the Third Mile
. But then I remembered (much like Morse remembering another obscure fact) that there was a second quote, also amazing. Not quite as amazing, but darn good, and has such a sweet phrase for what I’m thinking is more-or-less (Morse-or-less) a Martini. Check it out:
‘What’ll it be, Morse? No beer, I’m afraid but gin and tonic, gin and French?’
‘Gin and French-lovely!’ Morse reached over and took a cigarette from the well-stocked open box on the table.
The Master beamed in avuncular fashion as he poured his mixtures with a practiced hand.
— Colin Dexter, The Riddle of the Third Mile
September 8, 2017
I recently posted a delicious Italian-inspired drink on the Spiked Punch called The Translation of Giuliana Monti, which I made up for a wonderful night of literature, laughs, and liquid libations. The night centered around the jolly and masterful writer Andrew Sean Greer’s newest, entitled LESS, a book you must buy (I talk about it more in that earlier post, which you should go read, and then you should go read LESS, and now you’re back), and during said night we chatted, joked, took questions, read from the book (well, Andy did), and drank two drinks came up for for the occasion and named after characters in the book.
This one, the second, is called Arturo’s Hairy Hands, named for the main character’s tour guide in Mexico City, and is a rare beast in that it has two base spirits. Savor it while savoring LESS and be a happy reader and drinker.
Arturo’s Hairy Hands
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
1 ounce Maguey mezcal with agave syrup
1/2 ounce Alessio sweet vermouth
1 dash Bittermen’s Xocolati mole bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the orange with your hands. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange twist. Sip and read. Sip and read.
August 1, 2017
Not too long ago (and only the briefest of moments in the grand scheme of things), I had a Cocktail Talk post up from the very first Inspector Maigret book by George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian. I’ve had a number of Maigret Cocktail Talks, btw. Foolish as I was way back in those days, I thought I’d only need one post from the book. But, now that I am older and wiser, I realize that two are needed, no demanded. Really, this second Cocktail Talk from our (if we read the books in order, which I did not, but for the sake of things, let’s pretend) first sampling of the stoic French Inspector, is an ideal companion to the first, so it’d be a shame not to quote it here:
Maigret had ordered a vermouth. He looked even taller and wider than ever in the confined space of the bar. He didn’t take his eyes off the Latvian.
He was having something like double vision. Just as had happened to him in the hotel lobby, he could see one image superimposed on another: Behind the current scene, he had a vision of the squalid bar in Fecamp. Pietr was going double. Maigret could see him in his cinnamon suite and in his worn-out raincoat at the same time.
“I’m telling you I’d rather do that than get beaten up!” one of the builders exclaimed, banging his glass down on the counter.
Pietr was now on his third glass of green liquid. Maigret could smell the aniseed in it.
–George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian
June 23, 2017
It’s interesting – we hear “leaves” and we think “fall,” because seasonally that’s when leaves become more iconic I suppose. Which may be backwards, since so many leaves are in place now, providing shade and such. And anyway, when titling this drink “Afternoon Leaves,” I was thinking more that it feels like such a nice drink for the end of the afternoon, the moment when afternoon itself is leaving to make room for dusk and evening.
Whew, that almost got too sappy! Late afternoon is also when many have tea (those pals in the U.K. first and foremost perhaps), and that also ties into this drink, since one of the two ingredients is Four Leaf Spirits Liath, an Earl Grey tea-infused gin. Pretty neat! Four Leaf is a small (in square feet, but not in taste) distillery in Woodinville, WA that makes tea-infused spirits and liqueurs (and rums under the Puget Sound Rum Company moniker), and also donates a portion of proceeds to cancer research and education-focused non-profits. Drinking and doing good is, well, good!
The Liath (named after the Irish for “grey”) is swell all on its own, with the juniper and botanicals from the gin mingling around the citrusy bergamot from the tea. But in the declining afternoon hours (which can be a little lonely), I wouldn’t want it to operate alone, and so picked a perfect partner: Italian vermouth legends Carpano’s Bianco vermouth.
I just recently picked up a bottle of this elixir, and it’s a special tipple, starting from the citrus, fruit, and nutty nose to the light-but-full taste, which has the flavors promised to the nose, with a touch of white-wine mineral-ness. Delicious solo as well, when combined with the Liath you have a complex but so sip-able cocktail. Try it, in the afternoon of course.
2 ounces Four Leaf Spirits Liath Earl Grey tea-infused gin
1 ounce Carpano Bianco
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two charmers. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
May 12, 2017
Boodles and Dolin sound a smidge like they could be an old Vaudevillian comedy duo, with the spinning ties, just-about-bawdy bawdiness, and maybe even a seltzer dispenser for a wet-faced final guffaw. The latter of course would be out of place today, as I decided that I needed to keep it about as canonical as you can (or close, I suppose), after having an assortment of high-faluting liquid creations lately. I don’t consume a wheelbarrowful of Martinis, but once in a while I get the urge, and when urge-ing go with a ratio that all should (that’s what really old drinkers would tell us – like, say, 90ish), 2-1/2 to 1/2, stirred (screw off Bond), and go with a lemon, because lemons are fruits of the gods and olives aren’t. Feel free to seltzer me in the face, but not until I finish this drink. Actually, not until I finish the next drink. I surely deserve two.
2-1/2 ounces Boodles gin
1/2 ounce Dolin dry vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add Boodles and Dolin. Laff! Then stir. Then laff!
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon, in a manner that would make your grandfather’s grandmother proud.