October 26, 2021
I went down a large Cornell Woolrich hole at one point in my life, and in some ways never came out (perhaps I’m not in as deep as I once was, which isn’t to say my liking of books by said author is less, but maybe to say I’ve read such a fair amount of those available that there aren’t that many more readily available) – heck, check out the past Cornell Woolrich Cocktail Talks for evidence. There are a fair few of them! You’ll get lots of background on this, the noir-y-est (in many ways – I mean, no mystery writer uses the word “black” in more titles for a start, but also he’s such a master of psychological dark moods and mental, as well as action-driven, thrillers that seem going down a dark path) of the pulp writers, perhaps. He also wrote under a couple pseudonyms, the best-known being William Irish, under-which name he became famous enough that I have a copy of The Best of William Irish which I was recently re-reading. Featuring two full-length reads and a handful of stories, the book’s highlight may well be “Rear Window” (from which the legendary movie was made, which you should re-watch right now), which, funny enough, I think was pub’d under Cornell’s own name originally (and originally called “It Had to be Murder”). But if you have a story which a famous movie is based on, you work it in. The whole collection starts with perhaps the most famous William Irish-monikered tale (though that could be debated), the novel Phantom Lady, which I am also lucky enough to have as a standalone book, and which was also made into a movie in 1944, a movie I haven’t seen, but would love to! The book’s chapters all countdown to an execution (28 Days Before the Execution, etc.), which gives an insight into the plot: a man is accused – falsely, we know – of the murder of his wife, with only one possible way to convince the police he’s innocent, finding of a missing woman who can place him at a bar at a particular time. It’s a good read and then some, keeping you moving and twisting around this way and that way, with a few more murders and lots of surprises. Having a bar with a key role doesn’t hurt, either, and neither does the mention of Jack Rose cocktails, among others, in the below Cocktail Talk quote.
He said, “I had a Scotch and water. I always have that, never anything else. Give me just a minute now, to see if I can get hers. It was all the way down near the bottom –“
The barman came back with a large tin box.
Henderson said, rubbing his forehead, “There was a cherry left in the bottom of the glass and – “
“That could be any one of six drinks. I’ll get it for you. Was the bottom stemmed or flat? And what color was the dregs? If it was a Manhattan the glass was stemmed and dregs, brown.”
Henderson said, “It was a stem-glass, she was fiddling with it. But the dregs weren’t brown, now, they were pink, like.”
“Jack Rose,” said the barman briskly. “I can get it for you easy, now.”
–Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish), Phantom Lady
September 3, 2021
Strawberry season is super swell, sweet some might say! Heck, I might have said it not so far back in Spiked Punch history when extolling the virtues of the homemade strawberry liqueur I made, Strawcurranterry, also not so far back. When it rains strawberries up this way, it really pours (if I may stretch metaphors to the breaking point of sense), and so not only did I make said liqueur, but also tossed some fresh-picked-by-my-own-hand strawberries into other big jars with other tasty things – including gin! I didn’t alter the concoction any further than that, though, just took 2 cups of Sipsmith London Dry gin and added it to 2 cups muddled strawberries, and then let them get acquainted for about a month, afterwhich I strained it through cheesecloth and voila! Strawberry gin. Delicious, by the way, over ice on its own. But also delicious in cocktails, including The Stoni. The clever among you (which is all of you, as I’m sure anyone who reads this is clever) will probably guess that The Stoni is perhaps a Negroni, made with said strawberry-infused gin, and you’d be right! I felt that calling it a “Strawberry Negroni” violated all my diatribes about creative naming of drinks, but did want to reference the antecedent, as nothing else has changed (outside of the garnish). So, it’s not overly strawberry-y, and still carries the Negroni balance and beauty. But altered with fruity undertones that add a hint of summer and orchard or fruit farm. Interesting? Yes! Delicious? Indeed! Easy, and worthwhile, provided you have good fresh strawberries and a month to spare? Darn tooting.
1-1/4 ounces strawberry-infused Sipsmith London Dry gin
1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth
1-1/4 ounces Campari
Strawberry slice, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio of boozes. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with the strawberry slice.
July 16, 2021
Ah, the Negroni. You kids probably won’t believe this, but I remember way back when when I had to describe to even good, reliable, knowledgeable, wonderful bartenders how to make a Negroni, what was in it, soup to nuts, as they say. And now there are probably 348,651 variations, many of which are happy to use the name, or some bastardization of such, attached to a drink that might not have much if anything to do with the original. But hey, people, you be you. I may bemoan the lack of naming creativity, but certainly won’t turn down a good drink no matter the name. But, as a classic song told us, ‘there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.” So, today, we’re taking it classically, in the one configuration that really deserves the name: Gin, Italian (or rosso, or sweet) vermouth, Campari, over ice, with a … lemon peel? Well, I somehow was out of orange, which I’d normally go with. So, I myself have now undercut the above sentences, in a way. Let’s pretend this never happened, and instead talk about The London Nº1 gin, which I’m using here. Pale-blue tinged with juniper, savory, bergamot, licorice, lemon and orange peel, cinnamon, iris root (which I believe delivers that blue-ness in coloring), and more used in the making, and based on a spirit made from English wheat. Together, they deliver an earthiness the smooths into citrus and floral notes in an enticing manner. Our next component: Mancino Rosso vermouth. They themselves say that this vermouth is of “exceptional quality and refined organoleptic characteristics,” and as “organoleptic” is my new favorite word, I couldn’t agree more. 38 aromatic herbs combining into a lush mixture that delivers spice, sweet, forest-at-dusk-with-flirty-druids-dancing notes (helped along by vanilla, rhubarb, juniper, toasted wood, myrrh, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, and the like). And then, Campari. What can you say about something that, if it wasn’t in the world, the world would feel lacking at a spiritual level? Nothing does the love that is Campari justice. Just know that without it, birds would stop singing and bunnies stop hopping. I am very excited for this Negroni. You will be, too. Heck, you’ll even want to give me a hand when you have it.
1-1/4 ounces The London Nº1 gin
1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth
1-1/4 ounces Campari
Lemon twist (or orange, if you have one)
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with the twist.
June 4, 2021
Sun-loving swillers, it’s no secret but if you’ve forgotten, summer is sneaking up swiftly. So, you need to have some swell summertime sippers readily at hand. If you don’t (and even if you do, cause really more than one is necessary), then let me make a suggestion, one which will make your summer flavorful, fun, and frolicking: stock up on the Sprezza. Made over here (“here,” at the moment I’m typing, means USA), but very influenced and ingredient’d by Italy, Sprezza are canned drinks that combine vermouth, Scrappy’s bitters, mineral water, and carbonation in a lovely-designed can, memorable and stylish like the Sprezzas themselves. There are two versions, Rosso (utilizing Mancino Vermouth Rosso and Scrappy’s Orange bitters into a rich, mountain meadow sunshine-y combo), and what I’m having today, Sprezza Bianco. Bianco combines bright Mancino Vermouth Bianco and Scrappy’s Orange bitters into an ultra-refreshing beauty, with floral notes, mint, and hints of bitter and citrus. It’s dry, but not drying, if that makes sense, light on its feet, ideal for a day spent in the summer sun with friends and laughter. I like it over ice, with a twist of lemon (or orange, perhaps), but having it well-chilled straight out of the can isn’t a bad idea, if in a hurry. I’m not sure where all you can pick up Sprezza cans, but I hope it’s in your area – summer just won’t be the same without some cold Sprezza.
1 can Sprezza Bianco
1. Couldn’t be easier: fill a wine glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Pour the Sprezza over the ice and in the glass. Twist the twist, and drop it in. Summer awaits!
May 28, 2021
You know those Fridays when you aren’t sure what to make, cocktail-wise, and you go to the shelves, and pick up the biggest library of cocktails you can get, or, to be specific (both language-wise and title-wise), Il Grande Libro dei Cocktails? Those ones? No? Yes? Well, either answer, this happened to me recently – luckily, I’d picked up said grand library, oh, now a few years back in a swell used bookstore in Sansepolcro (I sure hope that bookstore is still there and open through it all), so on this Friday I could open it, swing over to the “Cocktails del Amore” chapter (cause I’m a romantic, and cause I really like this picture of these cuddly glasses kissing – aren’t they cute!
), and decide to make a drink I’ve never made, called Baciami Subito, which was so intriguing, and which really shouldn’t have, to me at first glance at least, made sense: I mean, dark, rich, intriguing Cognac with light, springy, dry vermouth, and then bitter Angostura with it, too? On the flip side, it does sound good, now that I type it out, and, you know what, it is! Those lighter notes from the vermouth really start to accent the Cognac once mixed. But is it right for the romance chapter, which here (and otherwheres) tends to lean to sweeter liquid fare? However! If you realize or remember that Baciami Subito means “kiss me right now,” well, then, it’s a twist (no twist here though, but a cherry), because this drink does have a tasty kick that not only could induce rapid kissing, but also can me you feel fun-oozy like a good quick kiss. So, there we are, smooches all around!
2-1/4 ounces Cognac
1-1/2 ounces dry vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters (the book suggests Angostura, which is dandy I’m sure, but I had the also-dandy Scrappy’s Aromatic neat. The book also suggests three dashes, but I found two enough)
Cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Cognac, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well, or “vigorosamente!”
2. Add a cherry (or two if feeling flirty) to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass and over the cherry. Sip, and kiss at will.
March 26, 2021
It’s a familiar and beloved story with an alluring gravity: you are walking by your liquor shelves (or cabinet, or bottle stash, or near-toppling table, or bar cart, or horse’s buggy, or pie safe, or wherever you choose to keep your booze) and you catch, from the corner of your eye, a little wink from a gin bottle. Wink-wink, you think you saw, and knowing how flirty gin is, you stop, and peer at the bottles (in this scenario you have more than one type of gin, which I’m sure you do), and try to decide which gin is calling you over, wink imagined or not, because by now all this gin-ing has made you thirsty for a gin drink.
Well, I am here to help, with The Earth’s Attraction, a drink I made with Bluewater’s Halcyon gin, made up this way in Everett, WA, and “distilled by open flame” as they say. It brings a layered London-style, with reliable juniper backed by citrus and spice (a little angelica, orris root, and cinnamon). Yums. It provides the gravitas and base here, with our secondary players being dry vermouth (for the botanical and lighter herbal accents), Giffard’s Crème de Pêche de Vigne (for the vineyard peachy-ness we all desire, a wee bit of sweet, and nuttiness, too), and Scrappy’s Orange bitters (because bitters makes it better – plus orange layers and deep herb and spice notes). Oh! And a twist of lemon, whose heavenly citrus oils bring it all together, like Saturn’s rings. Celestial enough? I think so!
The Earth’s Attraction
2 ounces Bluewater Halcyon gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce Giffard’s Crème de Pêche de Vigne
Dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twisty twist.
March 12, 2021
There are days when you want to unbury a drink from an old book or pamphlet, a drink that hasn’t been sipped for many years, and other days when you want to make up a whole new drink, one that you’ve created for your very self for the very first time, and then other days when you want to try and recreate a drink you had out (or as take-out, in currant circumstances) at a local watering hole, made by a talented drink-slinger, and then other days when you just want to have a classic Manhattan, one made with Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon. Today is that day! For me, at least, as I recently received a bottle of said Early Times bourbon – lucky me! – making it all possible. Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon has a long and interesting history, including being lost to all from I believe the 1980s until a slow re-release that started in 2017. Aged 4 years, and at 100 proof, this tipple treads an approachable path, with some umph beneath, swirling a sweetness on the nose that lingers through a citrus, caramel, vanilla flavor with spice hints popping up, and then popping up more and more through the finishing moments. Overall, just a delicious, friendly bourbon that everyone I know enjoys sipping slow as the sun goes down. But that approachability also means it’s a dandy cocktail base, too, and the Manhattan is a swell cocktail to base on it. As it has that little sweetness, I went with Punt e’ Mes as the vermouth, because it’s a little drier with beauteous bittery herbal notes – a good choice, I have to admit! And for the bitters themselves, I picked Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters, which is an ideally-balanced spice and herb bitters in a classic style, superb here.
2-1/2 ounces Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters
Cherry (I used a Rainer cherry I’d had mulling with mates in some bourbon, but a good Maraschino would work a treat, too)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Add a cherry (or two!) to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into said glass. Enjoy.
February 19, 2021
You know (cause I’ve mentioned it before and you’ve memorized every word I ever typed, which is a bit, oh, nice but also maybe makes me wonder if you need to get out more, which is, I realize, a bit difficult to do right now, but I’m wandering) I sometimes like to go to my liquor/cocktail book shelves, grab a book at random, and then make a drink from said book. But you may not know that on rare occasions I do the same, but instead of the shelves go to a little container I have of drink-related, let’s call them pamphlets, or little soft-back-y things, mini-books perhaps. A lot of these used to float around, and some still do, but in their late 50s, 60s, maybe even early 70s heydays, lots of liquor brands, and even some stores, used to make these, doll them up, and use them as recipe-filled promo pieces. Neat, right? I have a stack, not a large stack, but a stack, and just reached into it and pulled out a pretty one called Come for Cocktails. Published by The Taylor Wine Company in 1958, it leans as heavily towards food recipes as drinks, and is squarely in the “more entertaining is better” camp, one I agree with (when pandemics make such a thing safe). It has some recipes you’d expect, some you might not, and some really sweet illustrations, including this jolly jumping shrimp one:
And this dancing sherry and glasses one:
The latter one is important to us here and now, as the drink I picked to make from our Come for Cocktails mini-book is called The 6 O’clock Cocktail, and features sherry, along with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. There has to be (I’m wracking my brain, but my brain is old and full of cocktails) a drink with a different name that has equal parts of these three lovelies, right? There are the classic Adonis and Bamboo cocktails with sherry and one each of our vermouth pair naturally. But both with a different name? I can’t recall, but really, it doesn’t matter that much, or enough to stop me drinking this perfectly-balanced beaut, which lets all those herb-y, nut-y, botanical-y scents and tastes play around the palate like a dance party. A lot depends on what variety of such you use. Sadly, in a way, I did not use Taylor branded sherry and vermouth – which I think has been lost to the liquor shelves of time. I did use Punt e’ Mes Italian vermouth (I felt its drier, herb-forward umph would be good), Dolin dry vermouth (cause I like it), and Williams & Humbert Dry Sack medium sherry, which is a dandy nutty mixing sherry. Altogether: yummy. Try it, and next time you pass a rack of booze-pamphlets in your house or a used bookstore or antique mart, maybe pick one up and make a drink from it. It worked for me!
The 6 O’clock cocktail
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce sherry
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio of liquids. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lemon twist.