March 15, 2019

What I’m Drinking: Rye Not? With Clyde May’s Rye

Okay, there has to be a drink named this, right? It’s just too good not to have been utilized by some creative bartender (of which there are millions, lucky us), and so whomever has done so, my apologies. And if really there isn’t, than, wheee! Anyway, as you might expect from this name I’ve been mulling over, this is a rye drink, and one that hews close-ish to a rye Manhattan, which I think is a good place to start.

Another good place to start is the rye I’m using here, Clyde May’s rye. Clyde May’s is made by the Conecuh Distillery and is named after Alabama’s most famous bootlegger/moonshiner from days of yore (meaning, days when we had moonshiners, and not liquor stores one could trot into, or fire up online). I had their bourbon in a Mint Julep not too long ago, and you can go read about it. But now, it’s rye time, cause, as the drink name tells us, Rye Not?

The Clyde May’s rye is aged a minimum of three years and rolls off the tongue at 47% ABV. On the nose, it delivers some spice, caramel, and flowery notes, which unfold when sipping into a little stone fruit (apricots, I say!), and more spice and rye goodness, and a hint of pepper and sweetness trailing. A nice sipper, but also nice in cocktails like this one, where I – after due consideration – follow up on those apricot notes I parsed out above, by mixing it with a little (don’t want to overwhelm) apricot liqueur, as well as a little peach bitters, and to bring us all home, some Punt e’ Mes vermouth. All together, a swell drink for right about now, where there’s chill still in the air, but perhaps a dream of spring coming closer every day.

rye-not
Rye Not?

Ice cubes
2 ounces Clyde May’s rye whiskey
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
Big ice cube (or more little ones)

1. Fill a mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything except more ice. Stir well.

2. Add a big ice cubes or some smaller ones to an Old Fashioned style glass. Strain the mix into the glass. Sip up!

March 12, 2019

Drinking the Xavi at Seattle’s Cloud Room with Jay Kuehner

Seattle has loads (most in the world, in my opinion, admittedly biased) of fantastic bartenders, some shaking more recently, and some who have shaken for years, and helped develop not only our cocktail culture, but the world’s. One of those who fall into that elevated category is jolly Jay Kuehner, who has bartended in a number of spots, but who is perhaps most known for his groundbreaking work at the gone-but-not-forgotten Sambar, and who is now (among other things) making delicious drinks at The Cloud Room. One of those is called the Xavi (a Spanish-inspired spritz), and I was lucky enough to write a bit about it, and Jay, for the smashing Seattle magazine. So, go read about the Xavi spritz made by Jay Kuehner.

March 8, 2019

What I’m Drinking: The Leaping Drive

This is one of those drinks that appear to be related to a number of other sippers. It has a connection to the Sidecar, with lemon and Cointreau, and especially what some call a Chelsea Sidecar, which uses gin as the base spirit. It’s also connected to a drink called the Leap Year (a fine drink I should talk more about here sometime), which has gin, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, and sweet vermouth. Not to mention bunches of other gin, lemon, vermouth variations (and Cointreau, too). But, with all that, I think this particular configuration is its own animal, and so while the name (perhaps obliquely) points to some of its antecedents, the end result is a worthy sipper just for its own tangy, spring-y, botanical-y, subtle-y orange-y, taste. When you sip it, springtime or not, you’ll understand what I mean, and forget about all that other stuff I mentioned. Just sip, sip, sip.

leaping-drive
The Leaping Drive

Ice cubes
2 ounces gin (I used Bombay Sapphire, and it served me well)
3/4 ounces Blanc vermouth (I used Dolin, and it was delicious as always)
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.

January 22, 2019

Cocktail Talk: Lovers of Their Time and Other Stories

Image result for Lovers of Their Time and Other StoriesI am often running late, and here I am again, running late. That’s a fairly awkward sentence, one you probably wouldn’t have found in a book by the legendary Irish writer William Trevor, who died two years ago last November 20. He’s been feature on the ol’ Spiked Punch blog a few times (read past William Trevor Cocktail Talk posts for more about the man), and probably I should have found a way to feature him more, because he was a champ, and I’ve read many of his stories and novels – though, and for this I’m happy, not nearly all of them yet. While his novels, usually on the short-ish side, are renowned, he may be even better at the short story, a master of summoning a mood and a narrative umph in a few pages, even while seemingly writing about the day-to-day, often. This quote is from one of his short story collections you should own, and spotlights bianco vermouth, of all things! Thanks again Mr. Trevor, wherever you are currently sipping, for all the words.

Further rounds of drinks were bought and consumed. The Arrowsmith boys declared to each other that they were drunk and made further sotto voce observations about the forming bodies of the Wiltshire twins. Mrs. Wiltshire felt the occasion becoming easier as Cinzano Bianco coursed through her bloodstream.

–William Trevor, Lovers of Their Time and Other Stories

October 12, 2018

What I’m Drinking: The Cliftonness

The other day, decided to browse around the drink library while watching Hammer House of Horror as one does, and was flipping through Jacques Staub’s simply-called classic Drinks from 1914 and came across an intriguing number called The Clifton. At the same time, I was trying to think of a drink to have with Gold Bar whiskey, a small bottle of which had just shown in the mail.

Gold Bar is a blended American whiskey made from three grains: corn, rye, and barley, aged in French oak, and, as they say, “matured by the sea” in San Francisco. I love a good ocean-going yarn! It’s also in one of the more amazing packages, a golden box with a brass Lady of Fortune (illustrated by an artist) coin pressed into the front for good luck. All of which would be only a good story if the whiskey didn’t taste good – luckily indeed it has a friendly taste as well as the shiny gleaming container. Very smooth, very approachable, with a little vanilla and spice and melon scents unfolding into more spice, apple, and vanilla on the tongue.

Its amiable nature made me think maybe it would be good in the Clifton, though that drink originally called for rye, with an equal part of dry vermouth. Along with a dash of Angostura and a dash of “brown” curaçao. I’ll admit, I’m not sure on the latter, and I wasn’t really happy about how the equality-of-vermouth was going to go. So, I went with Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao (the finest available in modern times), and just started playing around with the amounts of our main ingredients. And, voila, we took home the gold. And by that, I mean it all came together into a bright, light, drink, with herbal and botanical hints and a smooth whiskey hum underneath.

cliftonness
The Cliftonness

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Gold Bar blended whiskey
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
Dash Angostura bitters

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

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, or a glass with an appropriate amount of gilding to match the whiskey. I went the latter route, as it seemed a better route. But you’ll make your own luck.

September 21, 2018

What I’m Drinking: You, Sue, Are Delicious

Trends at times seem to come out of nowhere (probably because I am not as knowledgeable as I should be – I can admit that!), and one that has shown up in the last few years is various yuzu – the rough-skinned lemon-looking citrus fruit popular in Asian countries – items in cocktails. However, I hadn’t really found a yuzu-based ingredient that felt made for cocktails. Until this summer, the summer of 2018! When Sidetrack Distillery (the wondrous spot on a farm right outside Kent, WA here in WA) unveiled their new Yuzu Liqueur. Now, I know how good all of the Sidetrack Liqueurs are, made using fruit, produce, and other items grown on the Lazy River Farm where the distillery resides. So, I had high hopes for their Yuzu – and it delivers. Citrus-y in a way that straddles lemon, grapefruit, and little mandarin orange, it has orchard aromas for days, and then a rich taste that trails off with a bit of kick, balancing the liqueur’s sweetness. Great stuff and made locally to boot– but what to do with it?

Well, my first thought was a gin that has a whisper of citrus, and, you know what (I say humbly)? It was a very good thought. The gin I went for was Wildwood Spirits’ Kur gin, also made in wonderful W-A, with local wheat, jumping juniper, various other delights, and a bit of Seville oranges. Then, our drink didn’t need much more, just a hint of brightness and botanicals from some Dolin Blanc vermouth, and a little spice and some light undertones from another local, Scrappy’s Orange bitters. Altogether, a (as you’d guess from the title) delicious drink, one with a nice backbone and a full strata of delicate and more forward citrus and spice, a drink that’d be a fine pre-dinner, during-dinner, or post-dinner accompaniment.

you-sue-are-delicious
You, Sue, Are Delicious

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Wildwood Spirits Kur gin
1 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Yuzu liqueur
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Wide lemon 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. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in. Oh, be sure you’ve tasted that Yuzu liqueur on its own, too. Or you’ll be sorry.

August 31, 2018

What I’m Drinking: The Bijou

A swell drink as we slowly shift away from the height of summer into the end of summer and the beginning of fall, the Bijou, as legends have it, was originally created by the legendary Harry Johnson in the late 1800s, with a recipe printed in his New and Improved Bartender Manual from 1900. But I first found it in The Stork Club Bar Book by Lucius Beebe (published first in 1946). The name comes from the jewel definition of Bijou, as the drink has three ingredients aligning with jewels: gin and diamond, sweet vermouth and ruby, and Green Chartreuse and emeralds. Pretty!

bijou
Bijou, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz

Cracked ice
1 -1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, Chartreuse, and vermouth. Stir well.

2. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in.

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.

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