September 3, 2019
I’ve had a couple Cocktail Talks from George Harmon Coxe on the ol’ Spiked Punch, but not an inordinate amount. Which is a bit odd, as I sorta like his probably main star, photographer/drinker/mystery solver Kent Murdock. Maybe I just need to track down some more books? Recently, I did score a good one, The Silent Witness, in a two-novels-in-one hardback-book book, if that makes sense (the others was a great Simenon, Maigret and the Informer, and why don’t we do these “duo” books anymore? Modern authors too snooty to share?). Interestingly, it doesn’t star Mr. Murdock, but instead PI Jack Fenner, though Murdock shows briefly, as they both share the same fictional universe! I love that! It’s a crossover, in a way, and I think there were more, and Fenner shows up in small roles in the Murdocks I’ve read. We talk about crossovers now in movies as if they never happened before, but here we are. Oh, the book’s a good read, too, with a more slow burn development than many (the murder doesn’t happen for say 90 pages), and a neatly draw-out denouement between PI and villain, with lots of clues along the way. A good one – especially when paired with a book staring our old pal Inspector Maigret, and when featuring this quote.
But I can buy a drink while you two get acquainted . . . what will it be? He added when the waiter approached.
Nancy showed no hesitation. “A very dry Martini with a twist, straight up.” “I think – maybe a Cinzano and soda, with a bit of orange peel,” Kathy said, and Fenner asked for a Scotch and water.
— George Harmon Coxe, The Silent Witness
June 7, 2019
“And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”
It is a wild historical fact which I’ve uncovered, as well as just some wild genius, that T.S. Eliot, years ago, wrote a poem (Little Gidding, part of Four Quartets) about this drink that I invented just weeks or months ago. I mean, looking into the future that way is phenomenal! And the drink in itself is fairly phenomenal (I say, humbly) as it mixes together a few ingredients that you might not have thought went together: rosé wine and tequila (which of course is made with fire in a way). But they do! As Eliot predicted. Amazing. Not sure how the other two ingredients tie into the poem, but I feel that’s my fault, not being great at literary criticism. Oh, those other two ingredients include Bluewater’s lovely, and limited (so come out here and get when you can), tantalizing floral and spice Cardamon Elderflower liqueur, and the also lovely Carpano Bianco vermouth, which has a delicate wine, citrus-and-other-fruit, springtime botanical nature. Really, this is a pretty poetic drink all told! Try it, while reading the poem, and see if you agree. And if you don’t, take it up with Eliot.
1-1/2 ounces rosé (something dry but with floral accents works nicely)
1-1/2 tequila blanco
1/2 ounce Bluewater Cardamon Elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce Carpano Bianco vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add our four core lines (or boozes, that is). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with the twist, and get your poetry going.
May 17, 2019
Okay, don’t be upset, but this drink (which is delicious, a smidge sweet, a hint botanical, a miniscule citrus-y, fragrant, all that) uses a homemade ingredient which I’m not providing the recipe for. Because I sorta forgot it! See, I was making some basil-lemon simple syrup as one does, but I didn’t actually write down exactly how much basil I used. It was let’s say a decent-sized bunch and a half. And I didn’t write down the exact amount of lemon juice used, but let’s say it was the juice of half a lemon. Can that get you there if you add it to a regular simple syrup recipe that delivers like three cups or thereabouts of syrup? I think it can (don’t forget to let it seep awhile and strain the basil out and all that)! If you are brave, and resourceful, and heroic, which you, I believe, are!
And it’s one wonderful syrup, which here goes wonderfully with gin. I used Sipsmith London Dry gin, which I like lots, and not just cause of the cool swan art on the bottle. But also cause of the lovely juniper, lemon citrus, and orange marmalade, dry-ish profile. It’s a yummy gin if you haven’t had it. And, speaking of yummy, our third ingredient here is Carpano Bianco vermouth, a light, wine-citrus-mineral-fruit treat that should be a part of any respectable set of liquor shelves. Altogether, this drink delivers in a manner ideal for a spring day or summer evening – now you just need to be a little heroic and make it.
Within the Week
2 ounces Sipsmith London Dry gin
1/2 ounce Carpano Bianco vermouth
1/2 ounce basil-lemon simple syrup
Basil leaf, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the leaf (beleaf it!). Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and now add the leaf. Leaf it up!
March 15, 2019
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.
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
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
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.
The Leaping Drive
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
I 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
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.
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.