September 14, 2018
While we aren’t really into fall (theoretically, the season starts the 22nd), it still feels like we’re oozing into the time of year when bourbon is in the air. Here, in this drink, it’s the sea air, in a way, as the base we’re working with is a new release from Chambers Bay, a distillery here in Washington which ages their whiskey on a floating boathouse (on the Puget Sound, which eventually connects with the sea). The specific whiskey is Chambers Bay’s Straight Bourbon (I received some in the mail, lucky me), Batch #3, which was bottled in late July after being aged in oak barrels a minimum of 3-1/2 years. Due the boathouse movement, however, the aging process actually feels (tastes?) as if it was aged longer. They also make the bourbon with grains (corn, white wheat, barley) from Grant County, WA, and use a wild yeast from local orchards. What’s it all mean beyond the swell local-ness? A bourbon with lots of depth, and a flavor that’ll make you skip with happiness: caramel, and a little fig, nuttiness, oak, and other spices – plus a small hint of salt and sea air.
All of which equals a nice whiskey to sip, but also a nice one to mix with, especially with other spice treats. Here, I started the mingling with an award-winner: Raft Cardamom bitters (which was named 2018 Product of the Year by the Specialty Food Association), a great savory and spice bitters that’s going to add some depth and add to the pack of flavors we’re bringing together. One note: these bitters are also under the Bitter Housewife brand, but don’t get confused, it’s a sibling of Raft. It’s made in Portland, OR, by Genevieve Brazelton, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Portland, Oregon’s Improper Goods, the overall brand Raft and the Bitter Housewife live under, along with a great group of syrups, bitters and cocktail kits made with care. Yummy stuff.
But the bourbon and bitters aren’t’ the only yummy stuffs here. I wanted to keep building on the spice notes, and bring in some complimentary pals, too. Enter, one Italian-influenced local favorite, Sidetrack Distillery’s memorable and delicious green-walnut-based Nocino, and one favorite actually from Italy: the divine Meletti Anisette. These two have been parts of many drinks I’ve made due to their fantastic flavors – as well as being favorites when sipped solo. All together, this is a layered, memorable, fall drink that you’re sure to want to make for all your friends.
Pup In A Blanket
2 ounces Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon (Batch #3)
3/4 ounces Sidetrack Nocino
1/4 ounce Meletti Anisette
2 dashes Raft Cardamom bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Cuddle with the dog of your choice (without spilling your drink, naturally).
August 14, 2018
The memorably-titled, Wichita-based, PI-featuring, crime-and-criminals riddled, mystery and murder-packed pocket-style book Hot Summer, Cold Murder
by Gaylord Dodd had too many Cocktail Talk moments to just have one post from it (if you missed Hot Summer, Cold Murder Part
I, then please read it now, as it’ll give you more background). I actually like this quote even more than the first, though it doesn’t feature muscatel, our hero’s (hero of sorts, that is) favorite summertime tipple. But the below quote is a fabulous one, summing up a certain type of bar at a certain time period perfectly:
Tom Silver’s big red and white face swam in an ocean of bar glasses hanging from a rack above the bar. He was the perfect bartender. He spoke when spoken to and otherwise stood leaning against the counter with his arms folded across the massive pad of his enormous gut. The drinks he made were clean and when you ordered call-booze you got what you called. When some woman you were with ordered a Gin Fizz or a Gold Cadillac, Tom made it quickly, correctly, and without the condescending leer of the bartender whose only desire is to stir a jigger of whiskey into a six-ounce tumbler with Seven-Up.
“Waddle it be, Mr. Roberts?”
“Old Grandad with water back, please Tom.”
— Gaylord Dodd, Hot Summer, Cold Murder
July 27, 2018
Okay, don’t be upset with me, but this drink contains an ingredient that is not only made in Washington state (so, un-local for some – though, really, come on out here, where the whiskey is fine), but may not even be on the market completely in Washington state yet. See, I received a bit of an advanced sample – again, don’t be upset with me. I can’t help the luck! That ingredient is Medusa!
And, because I liked this Medusa, an American whiskey from the Cadée distillery out this way on Whidbey Island, so much I just had to make a drink with it. A straight bourbon whiskey that’s been matured in 10-year-old Spanish Madeira wine barrels, Medusa, unlike the creature it’s named after, it won’t turn you to stone, though you may be struck by happiness for a moment when you take sips, thanks to its gentle nutty caramelly sweetness, and some intriguing emerging red stone fruit layers (ripe cherries, especially).
With the latter notes in mind, my first partner for it was another lovely local product that also is fruity (in the best way), Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur. Sidetrack grows all the fruit used in their liqueurs and other products on the sweetest farm you’d ever want to see, right outside of Kent Washington, and their Blackberry is the essence of summer. Well, one of them, because I also added muddled up Rainer cherries (the essence of early summer) here two. So much summer! And then, to round things out, a little Peychaud’s bitters. All together, a treat whether the sun is bright or has gone down. It might be hard to track all the ingredients for some, but trust me, it’ll be well worth it.
Requiem for Summer
4 Rainer cherries (could use another variety, but these are the tops), pitted
2 ounces Cadée Medusa American whiskey
3/4 ounces Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur
Dash Peychaud’s bitters
Big ice cube (or a few not-so-big)
1. Add the cherries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Fill the shaker up halfway with ice cubes. Add everything liquid. Shake well.
3. Add a goodly-sized ice cube to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the same glass. Revel in the revelry.
July 17, 2018
It had been a long, long stretch of days since I’ve had a Cocktail Talk post from a tale by one of our pocket-book specialists (in the 50s, that is), George Harmon Coxe – past hits here have covered his books The Groom Lay Dead
and Murder in Havana
. Those titles, along with the book we’re quoting here, The Crimson Clue
, give you insight into where his reads roll: mysteries and crimes and all that good stuff. In The Crimson Clue
, the hero is one I hadn’t seen before: a news photographer named Kent Murdock. I like the idea of a photographer shooting snaps and then solving crimes, and Kent’s a nice protagonist, and the book moves along at a persistent clip (as most pocketbooks do), has an intriguing cast (jazz musician, ex-cops, good cops, singer, rich folks doing bad things, and more), and a solid story. And, a fair amount of cocktailing and straight sipping, including the below, which asks an eternal question:
She watched him slip off his topcoat and put it on the arm of the divan, her head dipped, glance speculative. “Would you say it was too early for a drink?”
Murdock made an act out of looking at his watch and frowning over the proposition. When he looked at her she laughed.
“Bourbon?” she asked.
“That’ll be fine.”
“On the rocks, huh?”
She started for the kitchen and he asked if he could help and she said no. “On this kind of a drink,” she said, “no-body needs help. Sit down, will you? Park. Make yourself comfortable.”
— George Harmon Coxe, The Crimson Club
June 26, 2018
Just last week, I highlighted a Cocktail Talk quote from an old noir novel called Park Avenue Tramp
, which (as detailed there) was part of a Stark House Noir Classics collection that features three out-of-print noir novels all together. These collections are really worthy reads if you dig the pulps, noirs, and pocketbooks-with-saucy-covers, because they feature books not easily picked up today. In this collection, I liked all three reads, but my favorite might have been The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed
, by Charles Runyon. A small town serial killer search, in a way, it moved fast, had a fair amount of twists and turns, tight and creative lingo and well-written prose-ing, and a female lead who showed some gumption. All good stuff! And a good Cocktail Talk quote about a country bar, which you’ll see below.
It was a little gas station and honky-tonk; the kind you see around the country with names like Burntwood Inn and Cozy Dell. This one was called Pine Cover Tavern and was crowded (there was no work in the fields because of the rain) with men in overalls and a couple of women in print dresses. We drew stares as we walked to a booth in the back. I felt wicked and daring, and though it was unlikely that any Shermanites would see me, I found that I didn’t really care if they did. I told Curt to order me a boilermaker: a glass of beer with a shot of bourbon inside it. He ordered the same for himself and drank silently for a few minutes.
–Charles Runyon, The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed
June 15, 2018
We are now moving our individual boats and vessels into what – for many – counts as vacation season. Which means it’s a time for fun, but also, naturally, a time for waiting in lines. Now, I’m not saying you should be drinking while waiting in said lines, but hey, once you get through said lines, you may well need a refreshing drink, and perhaps one with a little kick, and one which references the vacationing and such because if we can’t come full circle, then it’s worth asking what it’s all for, anyway, and summer certainly isn’t the season for such deep questionings. I mean, it’s summer!
This here drink fits said bill, cozily, and in a Washington-state-meets-France way, as it only contains three ingredients, and two are from WA and one from FR. First up, Vashon-island- (speaking of ferry lines) made Seattle Distilling Company Idle Hour single malt whiskey, a delicious Irish-whiskey-leaning single malt. Second, France’s legendary herbal liqueur Bénédictine. Third, originally, at least, when I first made this, many vacations ago, was another Vashon Island hit, Vashon Brewing Company’s Cherrywood Smoked porter. Now, this is a delicacy – heck, all three are! But if you absolutely can’t find it, you could sub in another porter, and be okay. Better than okay, even! And while it’s won’t be the same journey, it’ll still fulfill that post-line-waiting need in a dandy manner.
The Idle Ferry
1-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company Idle Hour single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
4 ounces Vashon Brewing Company’s Cherrywood Smoked porter
1. Add three or four ice cubes to a highball or comparable glass. Add the whiskey and the Benedictine. Stir.
2. Carefully add the porter to the glass. Stir carefully, from the bottom up.
May 4, 2018
Some days are difficult. Take tomorrow, for instance. It’s a tasty kind of difficult, because two solid drinking days are happening tomorrow, the fifth of May, 2018. First, it’s Cinco de Mayo, a fantastic day for having Mexican-inspired drinks, in celebration of the Mexican Army’s win over the French at the battle of Pueblo and Mexican-American culture. If you’re having sippers for Cinco, I dig it. However! It’s also the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, a day when more Mint Juleps are consumed than any other day, and a day when many fine hats are worn. I’m going the Julep route tomorrow (admittedly, I may have a National Arms tomorrow, too). And one today, cause, well, I wanna make sure I have things right.
Why the Julep route this 5th? Well, a lot of the reason is because I received a bottle Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon in the mail the other day, and I’ve been itching to try it in a julep, and, well, the circumstances seemed too fortuitous to miss! Boasting a swell-looking bottle with visuals harkening back to the inspiration of the name, Clyde May that is, who legend says was a “moonshine icon who made the best whiskey Alabama ever tasted” starting back in 1946, and made by the Conecuh Ridge Distillery, this bourbon’s a nice 92 proof, is non-chill filtered, and aged for 5 years (hey, another 5 on 5/5!) in heavily charred American oak. Its aroma features vanilla, dried fruit, oak, and spice all playing together, and a taste that mirrors the vanilla and oak, but also delivers brown sugar, nuts, and more spice, including a peppery, near-peppermint-ness on the back end. Nicely balanced all around, and worth sipping solo, but also a solid cocktail bourbon that can provide flavor and backbone.
Especially in a Mint Julep, one of the older mixes bourbon pals around within. You love Mint Juleps, right? You’re a good person, so I’m thinking you do. It’s such a swell combo, not just for Derby day, but all spring long. Just remember, as S.B. Buckner, Jr. said in a letter to General Connor, 1937 “A Mint Julep is not the process of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients, and a proper appreciation of the occasion.”
The Mint Julep
Fresh mint leaves (4 or 5)
3/4 ounce simple syrup (go lighter to taste, if that’s your desire)
3 ounces Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon
Fresh mint sprig for garnish
1. Take one mint leaf and rub it over the inside of a metal julep cup (if you have one) or a highball glass. Be sure the mint touches each inch of the glasses inside. Drop the leaf in the glass when done.
2. Add the remaining mint leaves and the simple syrup to the glass. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the leaves and syrup. You want to be strong, but respectful.
3. Fill the glass half way with crushed ice. Add the bourbon. Stir well.
4. Fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice. Stir once. Garnish with a mint sprig.
A Note: To be traditional, you must crush the ice in a cloth bag. But if this is too much work, just start with crushed ice.
March 16, 2018
This all-time St. Patrick’s Day dreamweaver is one I suggest to every person I know for celebrating on March 17, cause it’s delicious, sure, and so much better than the array of chemically-green’d beer and such often served on the day. But also cause it was created by Jeremy Sidener, a true gentleman from Kansas, of which there aren’t many – true gentlemen, that is. The Dublin 8’s also fantastically refreshing. So, what are you waiting for? Might as well start celebrating now, right?
The Dublin 8
2 ounces Irish whiskey (I originally used Clontarf 1014 in this, but others would shine as well)
3 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3 ounces chilled ginger ale or ginger beer
Lime quarter for garnish
Lime slice for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass, or similarly-sized glass, three quarters up with ice cubes. Add the whiskey.
2. Add the orange juice and ginger ale.
3. Squeeze a lime wedge over the glass, and then drop it in. Stir gently. Garnish with the slice of lime.