September 13, 2019
Ah well, all good things must pass – even the sunny days of summertime. The least we could do was have a drink to celebrate, and to do it right, the drink should probably have perhaps my favorite summertime treat in it (there are many! But this is tops), blackberries from the Lazy River Farm. This particular farm is not only home to the best blackberries in the world (big, fat, juicy at a level I’d never had before), but also home to Sidetrack Distillery, one of my all-time favorite distilleries anywhere. You should visit! Here, I use a bunch of blackberries to bring the flavor, then a few other friends to add a little of this (vodka), and that (Narancello, for a bit of orange), and that other (lemon, for the tang). It’s a nice treaty, and a good way to honor – and say so long to – summer.
The End of Summer
2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Narancello orange liqueur
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
Blackberry, for garnish
1. Add the first 6 blackberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well to just really get the juices flowing.
2. Fill the shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vodka and lemon juice. Shake well.
3. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the final blackberry.
November 30, 2018
Though, admittedly, there are a fair amount of decent ones out there now-a-days, I’m still a little wary of flavored vodkas. Don’t get me wrong, unlike some, I like a good vodka, one with a crisp clear taste – but have just been scared off by pre-flavored vodka nonsense in the past, where the chemicals used to created said “flavor” rule the bottle roost, so to speak. However, CA distillery Hangar 1 is pretty reliably high on the standards, and their Mandarin Blossom, especially is an old fav. So, when I recently (I know, I’m lucky!) received a bottle of their latest in the mail, I was inclined to be welcoming.
But it was a rosé vodka! Which I’d never heard of. However (again!), I am nothing if not adventuresome, so, combining that with Hangar 1’s rep, I decided to dive in (metaphorically), and – I was glad I did! Here’s the skinny: it mixes Hangar 1’s vodka and California rosé wine. That’s it. Neighbors combining together, without anything else. It has a clean, floral, apple-y nose, and an also a clean, fresh taste, with a real rosé-ness, with more floral notes and a bit of fresh berry, and a nice dry finish. It’s good all alone over a little ice, a hit for spring and summer when you want something that’s smooth, but which has a little umph. But it’s a smart choice in fall and winter, too, when you want a dream of spring and summer.
But, as you’d expect from something made with two good neighbors, it’s neighborly playing with others in cocktails – and I didn’t wait long to start playing around with it and others. Because of those floral, botanical notes, I ended up traveling down a bouquet-ish road after trying a few things, bringing in some delicate and delicious crème di violette, and wine-based delicately herbal French aperitif Lillet Blanc (a distant cousin of sorts to our vodka, due to the wine connection). The final part of this flowery fête was a few dashes of Scrappy’s lovely Lavender bitters. All together, you’ll take many looks with One More Look, as the layers of floral fun are sure to be a hit.
One More Look
2 ounces Hangar 1 Rosé vodka
3/4 ounce crème di violette
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
Dash Scrappy’s Lavender bitters
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked iced. Add every blossom (or everything). Stir.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist. Enjoy, neighbor, enjoy.
November 16, 2018
Okay, yes, you caught me. I’m having a Golden Frog, and Italian-ing it in name. I’m apologize, but I just returned from Italy (or maybe I’m on my way back still, sometimes when traveling and taking time away it’s nearly dreamlike, and time does strange things to you, especially in Umbria I believe, when you’re on a hillside and the sun in bright and the air is crisp and you have a drink of vodka, Galliano, Strega, and lemon juice, and everything is so gold, gold, gold), and am craving a little more Italian vacation in my day, and so here I am with a La Rana d’Oro and you’re hassling me about the name? You probably won’t get one, then.
La Rana d’Oro
1-1/2 ounces vodka
1-1/2 ounces Galliano
1/2 ounce Strega
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with ice cubes. Add the vodka, Galliano, Strega, and lemon juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Serve in an Italian manner.
March 2, 2018
There was time when if you wanted a little fire in your drink you had to do it all yourself – infusing your own something or other, which is fun, but also can take time, and ensuring consistency is hard. Now, though, it’s easy to fire-up your cocktail, and in a tasteful and amazing way, thanks to some amazing global booze producers. One of my favorites is Ancho Reyes, the ancho chile liqueur based on a recipe from way back in 1927, which has a fair amount of heat, sure, but is also complex, with layers of spice, too, including cinnamon, and cocoa, tamarind, and a little nuttiness. Dreamy stuff, really.
Another lovely firebreather is Scrappy’s Firewater tincture (Scrappy being the amazing bitters-and-such maker from right here in Seattle). Made naturally from habanero peppers, and also carrying some fresh floral notes, it delivers a load of kaboom, but used responsibly adds a lovely clear clean heat to drinks.
When thinking about using the above, well, go crazy! You know what’s best for you. For me, my first thought was mezcal, specifically Montelobos Mezcal Jovan. Admittedly, I had gotten a bottle of it in the mail (lucky, I know!). But also, cause it’s a 100% organic agave-based spirit, made by the same family for five generations, and made in the shadow of the mountain of wolves (Montelobos means mountain of wolves even). Really! And as you and I know, good stories make good cocktails. The fact that this mezcal has a smoky flavor buoyed by hints of lemon, rosemary and pepper, and grilled jalapeno is also crucial. It’s certainly sippable solo, but makes an ideal base for cocktails, too, thanks to the approachability of the flavor.
A good starting trio, I rounded it out with some fresh orange juice – that citrus burst and sweetness provided a balancing flavor for all that heat and smoke and savory. And then we were close to the top of our cocktail climb, but a little something extra was needed: and that extra (extra vegetal, extra chile, and extra stand of flavor) was St. George Spirits Green Chili vodka. I know, doubling up on what we call base spirits is odd, for some, but this vodka’s made from a basket of California-grown peppers, including jalapenos, serranos, habaneros, and red and yellow bells, and it delivers a bright peppery, zingy, cilantro-y, citrus-y flavor.
All together, if I can say this while being humble, this is a delightful (really, amazing in cold or hot weather, and a mighty accompaniment to a Mexican meal) cocktail. If you aren’t scared of a little heat and a lot of flavor, you should climb this mountain.
Fire on Popocatépetl
1-1/2 ounces Montelobos Mezcal Jovan
1 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes liqueur
1/4 ounce St. George Green Chile vodka
1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater tincture
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything outside of the twist. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the wide orange twist.
November 7, 2017
Funny enough (in the curious meaning of the word), though I’m a serious devotee of the television shows Lewis and Endeavor, and a little-less-but-still-enthusiastic about the show they come out of, Inspector Morse, even with all that, I haven’t read much of the original books by Colin Dexter that inspired them all. For no good reason! Lately, though, I’ve caught up on my Morse reading, a bit at least. Including reading The Riddle of the Third Mile, the sixth in the series, and in typical fashion it’s clever, smart, fun, and driven by the personalities of Morse and his sergeant Lewis. There are corpses, pints, Oxford, puzzles, and all the goods, including an intriguing drink menu (!) when one character stops at a naughty club in London. Check out this line-up (I never knew Cointreau was an aphrodisiac. And pulse-quickening Campari!):
She made a note on the pad she held. ‘Would you like me to sit with you?’
‘Yes, I would.’
‘You’d have to buy me a drink.’
She pointed to the very bottom of the card:
• Flamenco Revenge – a marriage of green-eyed Chartreuse with aphrodisiac Cointreau.
• Soho Wallbanger – a dramatic confrontation of voluptuous Vodka with a tantalizing taste of Tia Maria.
• Eastern Ecstasy – an irresistible alchemy of rejuvenating Gin and pulse-quickening Campari.
–Colin Dexter, The Riddle of the Third Mile
September 1, 2017
I recently was lucky enough to have a day where I could make the claim to luckiest person around (admittedly, I haven’t checked with every single person worldwide to test this particular proclamation, but hey, I still believe). On that day I was able to share the stage with my pal, genius novelist Andrew Sean Greer, and talk to him about his latest book LESS, while making him a few cocktails. LESS, if you don’t know, is the book of 2017, gaining raves from near and far – with people like Christopher Buckley saying in the NY Times, “Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is excellent company. It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.” And they’re all well-deserved, because the book is charming, creative, funny, touching, and detailed in locations around the world with so much pizzazz that it’s a wonder Andy isn’t being hired by every city to write about their city. If that makes sense! Buy it now! Anyway, I’m rambling, as one does about great books, but to get back to the booze, for said lucky-day-for-A.J. I made up two drinks for Andy and I to sip while talking, naming both after characters in LESS. This first is named after the Italian translator of Less’ (oh, Arthur Less is the main character in the book, a novelist) latest book, and in honor of her and the Italian section of the book, contains all Italian ingredients.
The Translation of Giuliana Monti
1-1/2 ounces Purus organic Italian vodka
1 ounce Donini Dono di Dio aged vin santo
3/4 ounce Campari
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Drink while reading LESS.
A Note: Donini Dono di Dio aged vin santo (vin santo being the “holy wine” of Italy, a lush dessert wine) is made by the fine folks at Donini winery, one of the finest in the universe, located in Verna, Italy, in my favorite area of Italy. If you can’t get it, I feel it’s time for you to take a vacation. Or, sub in another vin santo.
April 28, 2017
A couple weeks back, I had a stunner of a spring cocktail on the ol’ Spiked Punch blog, one made with all-organic, Italian-made, darn delicious, Purus vodka. If you’d like to learn a little more about Purus, and have yet another (hah!) amazingly good drink off of this blog, be sure to go check out the post with the recipe for A Picturesque Procession. Really, read it now!
And, you’re back. Welcome back! I liked Purus well enough that I decided making up one drink inspired by it wasn’t quite enough. I really love Italian things (as everyone knows from here to Italy)! This cocktail is another beaut, if I can say so humbly, but completely different from A Picturesque Procession. It’s a little more, oh, reflective in a way, less bright, maybe a bit more layered, a tiny bit more depth. Both are solid, I think, but just different in the way they get to their sip-able-ness. Here, the other players are mostly Italian: Cocchi Americano Rosa, the smidge more bitter (than Cocchi Americano) aperitif that’s a little like dusk on a spring day that’s had a few showers (if you know what I mean), old companion Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and one non-Italian, Seattle’s own Scrappy’s orange bitters. A beaut, for sure.
Beauty Is More Often Felt
1-1/2 ounces Purus Organic Italian vodka
1 ounce Cocchi Americano Rosa
1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add all the beautiful things. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Muse on it all.
April 14, 2017
Vodka has gone from over-rated to under-rated. Due to an over-abundance of flavorless vodkas enjoyed more for their lack of character than taste, and then an over-abundance of drinks made with them during the dark days (like, the 80s and 90s) of drinking, vodka got a bad – if, perhaps, deserved – rap. But here’s the thing: there are plenty of good vodkas today, which bring flavor and personality to the party. I didn’t know, however, that one was made in Italy!
Until recently, that is, when I received a bottle of Purus organic vodka in the mail (I know, I know, lucky me). Made from Italian grain and water from the Italian Alps, up in northern Italy’s Piedmont region, it felt on first glance – no, on first hearing about it – that the vodka was made for me. Though admittedly I used to live in Central Italy, but hey, it’s ITALY! And it’s made by the Sacchetto family. Who I don’t know, but c’mon, they sound awesome – and they placed their vodka, certified GMP free and organic by the USDA, in a curvingly artistic bottle that’s lovely and recyclable, as is the bottle top.
So, with all that I say they’re an awesome family. Well, that and from this vodka, which not only sounds good, but is good. It’s clean and bright, with a lush slightly sweet essence mingled with notes of peach and plum and good grain and the Italian springtime. It’s that kind of tipple. If you don’t believe me, it’s won a bunch of awards, too, picked by famous people. It’s dandy solo, over an ice cube or two. I liked a twist of lemon with it, too, as it balances a bit. It’s also a willing and able contributor to cocktails, including this one, where I bring two other Italian favs, Strega and Aperol, into the mix, and a little lemon. I’ll probably have another drink up here with it before long, as well, so don’t be a stranger.
A Picturesque Procession
2 ounces Purus Organic Italian vodka
3/4 ounces Strega
1/2 ounce Aperol
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 in an Italian manner.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. And a toast.