January 20, 2023
This pretty amazing gin drink is sadly not one you see around these days – a crying shame, as it’s delish. Let’s work together to bring it back! It’s from the legendary Patrick Gavin Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual (1940 edition), one of the big and necessary books from the early-middle of last century. A tome all cocktail lovers should have, me thinks, full of drinks and drink-making history and wisdom (and Duffy’s genial crankiness). This one features a heavy dollop of gin as the base, and then smaller amounts of maraschino, sweet vermouth, and Cointreau. So, you’ll want a gin you’re really fond of: I’m using Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin, whose smooth juniper, citrus, spice, pepper, botanicals, and berries balance is a treat. Add in the nutty maraschino, sweet and orange-y Cointreau, herbal vermouth, and a little lovely lemon oil and you end up with a cocktail fit for, well, a lord!
The Lord Suffolk
2-1/2 ounces Monkey 47 Schwarzwald gin
1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino
1/2 ounce Cocchi Torino sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Cointreau
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, and garnish with the twist. Give a toast to the past, and then the future.
December 16, 2022
As the end of another year looms in front of us (along with the joyous and jolly holiday season), it reminds me that – I am old, hahaha! So old that I remember being in New York City, the biggest city in the world, make it there, etc., to teach a cocktail class or some such, and when I went into a bar, a good bar, and asked for a Negroni, they didn’t know how to make it. Now, you youngsters with your Negroni weeks and endless Negroni variations probably can’t believe it, but it’s true! The booze world of modern times is an oft-marvelous place, even though not all Negroni relatives are as marvelous, some are. And the Rosita is one of the top international Negroni, let’s call it a cousin. The usual modern-day Rosita recipe I believe goes back to the great, friendly, fantastic Gary Regan (sadly now shaking and sipping at that big ol’ bar in the sky), back to his Bartender’s Bible. The drink is – if you don’t know – a drink that combines tequila, both sweet and dry vermouths, Campari, and Angostura bitters. Delicious! Shades of the Negroni, changed up by tequila’s vegetal smoke and the dry vermouth’s lighter and bitter’s darker notes, holding on to the deep herbs and coloring of the Campari and sweet vermouth.
The other evening, I almost made that very drink, with some DE-NADA Reposado tequila (which had, lucky for me, shown up in the post recently). Almost! DE-NADA Reposado, beyond the all-caps, is crafted from 100% estate-grown blue agave in Jalisco by the fifth-generation Vivanco family distillers, aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels for a minimum of four months, and ends up a swell, approachable, sipper, smooth, with peach and pineapple fruit notes mingling with almond and cinnamon, underlined by a caramel vanilla yumminess. In the same way as it’s Blanco sibling, it’s confirmed additive free, too (it’s part of the additive-free family – unlike a fair number of others), and certified Carbon Neutral. A good thing to make a drink with! Probably good to make a regular Rosita with, in the normal style. But I, I was feeling contrary, and decided it would be even better subbed for gin straight into my normal Negroni recipe (which is the classic 1:1:1). And, while I’m not saying it was better, it was certainly darn good! The tequila’s vanilla-nut-spice-fruit-ness gets to shine a touch more, and went wonderfully with the sweet vermouth as the only vermouth, while keeping the Campari at an equal level ensured that the sweetness didn’t take over. I also garnished with an orange slice, and that bit of fresh citrus, well, it was a treat I tell you. Try it before you get too old, and see if I’m right!
The Sweet Rosilita
1-1/2 ounces DE-NADA Reposado tequila
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1-1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Add the trio of liquids to a mixing glass. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from 1 over the ice into the glass. Give a brief stir.
3. Garnish with the orange slice (be sure to squeeze over the glass and drop it in after you take the photo).
November 18, 2022
I sometimes feel a tiny bit of a Washington Tourist Board shill, as much as I talk about our awesomely awesome local distillers (and bartenders, and bars, and such). Which would be weird, if, well, they all weren’t so awesome! But they are, and so I’m happy to tout their lovely boozy products, and try to woo drinkers into trying them, sipping them, loving them like I do – and coming here to check the distillers out in person when possible. Really, we are spoiled with all the tipsy options being made this-a-way. This single drink is an example, and a good way to try multiple ones at once, as it features Skip Rock Distillery’s Belle Rose Light rum, a swell cocktail rum, aged in white wine barrels, soft, vanilla-y, oak-y, Brovo Spirits Jammy sweet vermouth, which is a merlot-based vermouth that’s rich with cherry and chocolate notes (very jammy indeed), and Sidetrack Distillery’s legendary Blackberry liqueur, which is lush and boasting deep berry flavors (which comes from growing the best blackberries in the world and then turning them into a liqueur on the same farm they grew on). Altogether, this cocktail shows off the delights from up here in a layered, lush, mixtures that’ll have you singing the WA distiller’s praises as much as me. And then we can both get a kickback from the tourist board!
The Orchard Sea
1-1/2 ounces Skip Rock Distillery Belle Rose Light rum
1 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur
1/2 ounce broVo Spirits Jammy Sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, blackberry liqueur, vermouth, and lime juice. Shake well.
3. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass.
October 4, 2022
Sorry, after last week’s Kill and Tell Cocktail Talk (read that one for a little more information on the book by Howard Rigsby), I realized I had to have at least one more, while I could still type – before the Martini kicks in. It’s not actually as drinky a book as some from the era, and the PI star isn’t as hard-drinking as others (he turns down a number of drinks), but hey, it’s not like he isn’t gonna drink at all!
“What would you like to drink?” I asked. “I can make a fair Martini.”
She had begun to look worried again, but she seemed to shrug it off. She smiled. “A Martini sounds grand.”
I made it five to one, and when she had tasted it she rolled her eyes upward. “While I can still talk there’s something I’d like to tell you,” she said.
I came back with a bourbon and soda and sat down.
–Howard Rigsby, Kill and Tell
September 23, 2022
The world of spirits, liqueurs, and the cocktails one makes with them has undergone a wonderful internationalizing over the last, oh, 15 years (that number is not scientific, but more a musing digit that might approximate an impossible-to-actually-measure figure). By that I mean, so many products from around the globe once only consumed in their particular region or country are now being accessed by thankful drinkers in other spots. Make some sense? And this internationalizing is still rolling out, with more products showing in more spots. Again – thankful drinkers, including me! One type of produce that we’re finally seeing more of in WA (where I’m at) and the US in general is Shochu, the distilled tipple popular in Japan and made from a number of things: rice, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and more. I’ll fully and readily admit I’m not a Shochu expert, but what I’ve had, I’ve enjoyed for its earthy, rich flavors (varying depending on the base product distilled) and friendly drinkability.
So, I was very excited recently to receive some Shochu in the mail (don’t be upset with me! I know I’m lucky), from Honkaku Spirits, which is one of the companies helping to spread the word and accessibility of Shochu, along with other Japanese spirits. They’ve been around since 2020, and are focused, amazingly enough, on working with family-run distilleries, which is awesome! One of their newly released imbibables is Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu, which is what I’m sipping today. Crafted at the Jikuya distillery (around since 1910! And specializing in sweet potato Shochu “completely sourced and produced in Kagoshima, among other specifications”!) by fourth generation Master Brewer-Distiller, Ms. Maiko Jikuya at the base of Mount Shibi, this Shochu clocks in at 25% ABV, and delivers a lovely flavor. Starting with a light-on-its-feet herbally, flowery (not heavy perfume flowers, but wildflowers) essence, it flows into notes of red berries and hints, just hints, of tea. Neat! Very approachable, very drinkable. And, delicious over ice, solo or with sparkling water (sidenote: there is also a Jikuya Black Sweet Potato Shochu, which is earthier, and well worth trying, too).
Shochu is often served neat, with ice, or with soda water (as well as with warm or room temp water), sometime with fruit juice added to the latter. It’s not as often utilized in cocktails. Not to say it isn’t! Just, from what I’ve seen, not as often. But while I enjoyed/enjoy it solo, I had to test it out with a few other ingredients, cocktail-style, because, well, that’s what I do! And after a little finagling, I came up with a combo that I think lets the Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu shine, but also lets it play nicely with others. This Shochu has such a delicate but memorable (hah! That’s a funny combo, but it works for me) nature, I wanted the cocktail to match, so it took a bit to find the right pairings. I landed on maraschino liqueur (I went with Luxardo Maraschino), whose somewhat lighter nuttiness was a swell fit, Dolin Blanc vermouth, due to the floral notes and bit of cuddle it always brings, and Scrappy’s singular Cardamon bitters, whose light spices and more florally goodness shone with the others. This foursome together sings a (if I can say this while being humble) liquid delight! It manages to be both layered in flavor, spice, floral, fruit, and maintain that delicate, brightness from the Shochu. You may want to have another the minute you finish the first. As you do, give a toast to the whole world, which – for thankful drinkers – has become a smaller place.
A Tempest of Provocation
2-1/2 ounces Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Dash Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy.
September 6, 2022
As a good reporter and editor (much like Rock Rockwell, the intrepid editor of The Record, and hero in this here mystery book from 1950), I’m going to start this Cocktail Talk by referring you to the reference point of the What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talk Part I, where I dig into the idea of reporters/mystery heroes, and a little more about the book as a whole. Here, I wanna just dive into the Cocktail Talking, so the only background on the book I’m putting in this paragraph is the tagline from the back cover, cause it’s one the finest taglines ever: “When a lusty lothario sings his serenade, romance rhymes with death!” Oh, and in the below they talk about overly-bittered Old Fashioneds. Also, memorable. Read it!
A voice at my elbow said, “Cocktail, sir? Old-Fashioneds and dry Martinis.”
“Old-Fashioned,” I said, hardly noticing the neat figure in black and white who spoke.
“Okay, but there’s more bitters in them than whiskey.”
I started and looked around. From under a frilly cap, the face of Amy Race was peering at me impishly. “I’m sticking to straight whisky myself,” she said. “That’s the trend below stairs.”
In spite of myself, I burst out laughing.
–Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?
September 2, 2022
Is today, the 2nd of September, the ideal time to drink an Americano (the Italian stalwart and precursor, perhaps, to the now, perhaps, better-known Negroni, a drink, the Americano, which used to be known itself as the child of the Milan-Torino, or Milano-Torino, which boasted Campari and Punt e’ Mes vermouth, sometimes other vermouths, perhaps, but skipped the soda, which itself was added and then the trio, Campari, Punt e’ Mes, soda, became a favorite of American servicemen, and then became the Americano), the very moment when one should drink this drink? Perhaps! I say so due to the fact that while it’s refreshing with the ice and the soda and the bubbles, making it good-or-more-than-good when the sun’s out, it also has those lovely rich herbal-and-bitter-and-botanical notes from the Campari and vermouth. Those notes point to the fact that fall, and then, always, winter are coming no matter the sun. So, to me, this Friday, the 2nd, seems to straddle those moments in a way, much like the drink can straddle the seasons, in taste, sure, but also in feeling. Drinks are about more than just taste, after all.
2 ounces Campari
2 ounces Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
Chilled club soda
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Campari and vermouth. Stir gently.
2. Add club soda to the glass until the glass is almost full. Garnish with an orange slice.
August 16, 2022
The great Graham Greene hasn’t made an enormous amount of time Cocktail Talking here on the ol’ Spiked Punch (though do the read the past Graham Greene Cocktail Talks), which is a shame because A: I like his works lots, and B: he liked a good drink. Probably because we shade a little lower-brow (though he did write a fair amount of what he called “entertainments” which might lean into pulp pockets perfectly), or just because I forget to mark the pages of potential Cocktail Talks when reading his books. Or re-reading, I should specify, as I believe I’ve read them all at least once, re-reading being the case recently as I was re-reading his book The Comedians, which takes places mostly on Haiti during the tragic reign of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Circling around one main character and a few main satellites characters (who meet on a boat heading towards the country), it’s a sometimes chilling, always moving novel. Definitely one that one should be read, especially if you carry an interest in political history around like a traveling bar.
“What’s your poison?”
“Have you a whiskey?”
“I have next to everything, old man. You wouldn’t fancy a dry Martini?”
I would have preferred a whisky, but he seemed anxious to show off the riches of his store, so, “If it’s very dry,” I said.
“Ten to one, old man.”
He unlocked the cupboard and drew out a leather traveling-case – a half-bottle of gin, a half-bottle of vermouth, four metal beakers, a shaker. It was an elegant expensive set, and he laid it reverently on the tumbled table as though he were an auctioneer showing a prized antique. I couldn’t help commenting on it.
“Asprey’s ?” I asked.
“As good as,” he replied quickly and began to mix the cocktails.
–Graham Greene, The Comedians