March 27, 2020
So, I was not too long ago in the lovely Italy (in perhaps the loveliest part – to me – northern Umbria), and though much madness was happening (I don’t feel the need to delve deep as you know what I’m talking about, and really, you can get all you want on current worldwide issues elsewhere), was loving it until I had to unexpectedly make the decision to leave. The night before said decision was made, though, to accompany me as I caught up on current worldwide issues, I made a drink that was – if I can say so while being still thought of as a little humble – pretty darn swell. And that drink is this drink, if you know what I mean, called L’Altra Sera.
It started with an Italian gin I’ve mentioned here on the Spiked Punch before, PiùCinque, which boasts a unique and smooth flavor coming from ten botanicals: juniper, sage, ginger root, wormwood flowers, angelica, Seville orange, almond, zedoary, orris root, and bergamot. Altogether, it’s a citrus, herbal, treat. Here, I combined it with another absolute treat (just typing the name makes me salivate), Del Professore Classico vermouth. The fine folks at Del Professore make two other delish vermouths, too (Rosso and Vaniglia), and both are dandy, but let’s stick to Classico here. Made on a Muscat wine base, with herbs and magic things from the hills around Turin, Italy (including gentian, mace, vanilla, cloves, lemon, and more), it has a light but aromatic and flavor-packed nature, and is worthy all on its own over ice, with or without a lemon. But it also plays nice with others, and went especially well with the PiùCinque here.
But not so well that I didn’t bring in a third pal to play with, and I went to a different content for it: Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters, made in swell Seattle, WA. If you haven’t had this exceptional elixir, you should, as it’s magically in its own right, earthy, citrus-y, amazing. Get it, get the above, and have this not on a last night, but tonight.
2 ounces PiùCinque gin
1 ounce Del Professore Classico vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, vermouth, and bitters, and stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable, and garnish with that lemon twist. Enjoy the lovely.
February 21, 2020
I recently had a wonderfully wonderful (if I can say so in all humbleness, which I think I just did) drink on the old Spiked Punch called Boldness Be My Friend, which featured not one, not two, but three lesser-known (in the States, at least, and other countries outside the one they were birthed in, at least, and maybe even there) liquid lovelies from Italy. If you haven’t seen that, check it out, yo! Or, it Italian, dai un’occhiata a yo! And now that you’re back, think about the simplicity and simple pleasure of a good vermouth and tonic. The gin and tonic, of course, is more well known, but a good vermouth and tonic is in need of more recognition. With the right vermouth, it’s a flavorful, refreshing, fruity, herb-y, treat that more sippers should savor slowly. I’m sad I haven’t yet managed to track down the distillery where Ippocrasso vermouth is made, in Gubbio (a memorable Umbrian town to visit, by the by), but the vermouth itself is singular, both in Boldness Be My Friend in a V&T. As mentioned in the other recipe, this vermouth is built on a base of Cantina Donini red wine (a memorable winery, in Verna, Italy), and has a bold fruitiness, with a delicate overall persona that’s just right for matching with tonic on a sunny late afternoon or early evening, or, if you’re feeling it, even into the evening as it goes along. I suggest a lemon twist as the garnish, by the way. The tartness of the lemon oil plays perfectly with the vermouth and tonic. Try it, and tell me I’m right.
Vermouth and Tonic
1-1/2 ounces Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso Vermouth
4 ounces tonic
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth, and then the tonic. Stir.
2. Squeeze the twist over the glass, and then drop it in.
January 24, 2020
Earlier this month of January, I had a drink I was drinking called the The Libellule (basically, a classic Dragonfly but with lemon), in which I utilized the lovely PiùCinque gin, a gin made in Italy with 10 botanicals. If you haven’t read that post, for gosh sakes, where have you been? Nah, I kid, I kid, I know you’re busy, what with the this-and-that’s. But do go read it now, to get more info on said Italian gin. Okay, back? See, wanted you to catch up on that there, cause in this drink, I mix PiùCinque gin with a few other Italian bottles: Anonima Distillazioni’s Ippocrasso vermouth from Gubbio, and Zafferaneto Di Corciano’s Safra Amaro all Zafferano from (as you might guess here) Corciano.
As you might guess, for those unlucky souls not visiting Umbria in central Italy, those two ingredients are probably not on your local liquor store shelves – yet at least! Who knows what tomorrow brings; one hopes. The fourth ingredient is orange juice, but that’s easy, so let us focus on the other two, both of which are delicious, in their own way. Ippocrasso vermouth is based on a red wine from Donini (my favorite winery in the world I’d say), so it starts in a wonderful place. It’s on the light side, but still lush, and has a bountiful fruitiness that sets it apart from many Italian vermouths, and a little less sweetness perhaps? Perhaps. Some friendly herbal and bitter notes bring up the rear. Safra (there’s an accent over that “a” by the way, but it’s annoying to type) Amaro alla Zafferano is one of the few – if not the only – amari I’ve had that sets itself apart with saffron. It doesn’t have a saffron-y coloring, but the smell and taste both benefit from saffron’s florally-honey-coaxingly-bitter-y nature, here backed by other herbal notes, friendly ones. On the amari scale, this leans a smidge on the sweet side, very approachable.
So, with our gin, we have three amazing Italian ingredients, all crafted with care from what I can tell, and all worth tracking down. Will it be easy? Perhaps not super easy, but hey, as our drink title tells you, just ask boldness to be your friend. Will it be worth it? Yes, for sure! Both to have each separately, but also to have in this cocktail, where they combine into the liquid equivalent of, oh, a painting by Perugino – one of the darker ones, as there is a rich, deep, herbal and fruit taste here, but also one that’s savor-able and approachable. Get your tickets, today!
Boldness Be My Friend
1-1/2 ounces PiùCinque gin
3/4 ounce Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso vermouth
1/2 ounces Zafferaneto Di Corciano Safra Amaro all Zafferano
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Enjoy your Italian night!
January 17, 2020
Yes! Football is happening. Important professional football. Football, football, football! And, it’s nearing the time when football isn’t happening (oh, btw as the texters txt, here I am referring solely to USA-style football, and not the football played around everywhere else in the world. Though that kind of football is most-likely happening, too, in some form, which I admit, and if you are watching the original football, and want to have this delicious drink with a passel of pals, that would be amazing and you would be able to say “score!” loudly when drinking, too), so if you haven’t yet had your football punch yet this professional football season, well, rah-rah-rah-ers, now is the time for you to have it! With a team of friends – though perhaps not as big a team as a full professional football team, unless you can make multiple batches, that is, in which case, do that – cause this is a drink scaled for more than just one. And it’s so awfully tasty, that even if – and I do hope with every pigskin inch, whatever that means, that this isn’t the case – your team of choice isn’t playing anymore, having bowed out already in ignominy, you will still be able to smile after sipping. If not the first glass, at least the second. Let the football-ing and Football Punch-ing commence!
Football Punch, recipe from Dark Spirits
One 750-milliliter bottle dark rum
16 ounces apple juice
10 ounces sweet vermouth
5 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
Two 25.4-ounce bottles chilled sparkling apple cider
2 apples, cored and sliced
1. Fill a large punch bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, apple juice, vermouth, lemon juice, and orange juice. Stir with a pennant from your team of choice.
2. Add the sparkling apple cider, but in a sustained drive, not in a sprint (meaning, slow and steady wins this game), and the apple slices. Stir well. Serve in punch glasses, mugs, or little plastic footballs.
November 8, 2019
I have to imagine there are many sherry cocktails called “Oh Sherry” – I myself have an article about sherries called that. It’s such a musical name, and takes you on a journey (haha, I couldn’t resist), much like that breathless moment when a non-sherry drinker has good sherry, or a good sherry cocktail for the first time. To set this particular sherry cocktail apart, though, I’ve added Take 37 to the name. Why 37? I just felt like it! What also sets this particular sherry cocktail apart is Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry.
With a citrus and cinnamon spice overlaying a lovely nuttiness, all with a smooth crispness accented when chilled, this sherry is nice on its own (don’t forget the chilling), but plays particularly well with others in cocktails, too. It also delivers a solid history, as Williams & Humbert has been making sherries and brandy for more than 140 years. What to mix with it on a late fall day? I wanted to keep things light – one of the many bonuses with sherry is that due to low abv-ing, you can use it as a base and have more than one without toppling. Bringing vermouth into play as our second ingredient doesn’t throw that equation off either, and here I went with Priorat Natur Vermut (or vermouth) an earthy Spanish vermouth, with citrus, almond, floral, and spice accents, and just a hint of bitter.
To our two Spanish pals, I also brought an island favorite, with even more citrus and a hint of sweet, Pierre Ferrand Orange curaçao, a wonderful addition to many cocktails and bar shelves. The final component, Fee Brothers Peach bitters, here bring into a slightly different fruit note, and a little more depth while still adhering to the overall light mood. You’ll sing this drink’s, and sherry’s, praises after one sip.
Oh Sherry, Take 37
1-1/2 ounces Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry
1 ounce Priorat Natur Vermut
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand Orange curaçao
Dash Fee Brothers Peach bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
Mint spring, for garnish (optional – but I’d suggest it)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass three quarters up with cracked ice. Add everything but the garnishes. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist, and, perhaps, a mint spring. I went just with lemon on my first drink, but added mint to the second and it was a treat.
October 18, 2019
Let’s start with the title inspiration here, and the base of this drink that you’ll want to make all your drink-loving pals, cause it’s serious only in how seriously anyone who has it will love it (the drink, as well as the base), that base being Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin. If you haven’t had this gin (what’s up with you?), it brings a lovely smooth juniper-ness swirling on the tongue with citrus, spice, pepper, botanicals, and berries accents on all sides. Also, their website is so darn cool, in an old-timey newspaper style (the Monkey Drum is the name), with articles, information, recipes, neat-o images, and more (they also do a magazine where some of this is available). It is so cool and well done I almost want to see if I can work there. And that level of care of course is also what drives the gin! It’s a gin that needs to shine, and it certainly does so here, in this (as you’ll see!) Martini-esque beaut.
Of course, with a good base, you’ll also want some good other players, and here we have two Washington-state numbers that if you haven’t had, you’ll want to track down. First, Brovo’s Pretty vermouth. A blanc style vermouth, Pretty is, well, pretty, and pretty darn good, with a Pinot Gris wine base and spice, floral, and lemon notes. Then, I added perhaps my favorite ingredient of the year so far, Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters, which has a unique earthy lemon-ness. Buy why am I still typing – let’s get to this cocktail.
2-1/4 ounces Monkey 47 gin
3/4 ounce Brovo Pretty 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 lemon. Be serious (about enjoying the drink, not about things in general, that is).
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.