July 12, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The Good Things Should be Praised Highball

I recently created a drink to be auctioned off at the Seattle Shakespeare Co. charity auction, and used the play they’re performing this summer, The Two Gentleman of Verona, as the lift-off point for said drink. I also wrote a headnote detailing how it all came together. And now you get to read it all below (as well as making the drink, which was delicious, if you’re inclined).

In Act 3, Scene 1 of The Two Gentleman of Verona (being performed by the Seattle Shakespeare Company this summer at the Wooden O – don’t miss it), Speed says, “She will often praise her liquor,” to which Launce responds, “If her liquor be good, she shall: if she will not, I will; for good things should be praised.” And now you know where this drink’s title comes from, a drink which will hopefully be as worthy of praise. To create this refreshing delight, we’re starting with an ingredient not as utilized in summer: bourbon. Specifically, Woodinville Whiskey Co. straight bourbon, named 2020 Best Straight Bourbon. Our bourbon base is in honor of SSC board member and ex-Kentuckian Mary Park, who has revitalized many a weary traveler at her fireside with it.

But to make the hearty, innards-warming whiskey cross-dress as a thirst-quenching hot weather enchantment, some specific partners on the drink stage were demanded. First, a homemade strawberry simple syrup, strawberries being the epitome of a sunshine daydream (and a fruit that plays unexpectedly well with bourbon). Next, another local delight, like our bourbon and the SSC, Brovo Spirits Lucky Falernum. A rum-based, turbinado-sweetened liqueur, Lucky is flavored with orange, lime, pineapple, ginger, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. Yummy.

Those, however, aren’t the only local treats: there’s also a dash of Scrappy’s Black Lemon Bitters, a truly unique (and uniquely delicious) bitters that delivers bright lemon and floral notes alongside earthy spice. Of course, to reach true summer heights, in a play or a drink, the palate and mind must be raised in an effervescent manner, so club soda and ice join the case here, too. For the final scene, a garnish of fresh strawberry and mint. With that, you have a summertime sipper that’s nearly as memorable as the next Seattle Shakespeare Company play you’ll see (sadly, you shouldn’t take the drink to the play – that much goodness in one spot might be too much). Thank you for your support!

The Good Things Should be Praised Highball

The Good Things Should be Praised Highball

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Bourbon

3/4 ounce strawberry simple syrup (see Note below)

1/2 ounce Brovo Spirits Lucky Falernum

Dash Scrappy’s Black Lemon Bitters

4 ounces chilled club soda

Strawberry slice, for garnish

Mint sprig, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, simple syrup, falernum, and bitters. Shake well.

2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from step 1 over the ice and into the glass.

3. Add the club soda to the highball glass. Stir, gently, working to combine. Garnish with the strawberry slice and mint sprig.

A Note: To make your own strawberry simple syrup isn’t as hard as memorizing any of the Hamlet soliloquies. Just add 1-1/2 cups chopped strawberries (any stems or leaves removed before chopping), 1 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup water to a small saucepan. Bring the combo to a boil over medium heat, stirring regularly. Once it’s boiling, reduce heat to bring it to a low boil. Boil five minutes – during this when the strawberries get soft, crush some against the pan’s side with a wooden spoon. This helps release flavor. When the five minutes is up, remove from heat and let cool completely in the pan. Then strain through a fine strainer (and funnel, if needed), into a bottle with a good lid. It will keep in the fridge for two weeks, and goes well with just soda, too, for those under 21!

June 4, 2024

Cocktail Talk: The Five Bells and Bladebone

The Five Bells and Bladebone Cocktail Talk

I’ve had a few Martha Grimes Cocktail Talks on the Spiked Punch in the past, and now it’s time for another! From a book of hers I recently picked up called The Five Bells and Bladebone, which may seem a rather odd name for a book. But it’s taken from an English pub (which might differ in one space from the book title, that being between blade and bone), as are all the books I’ve read by Martha Grimes, and a big portion of all the books she wrote – so far, as she’s still alive at 93, and might write more! These titles and the pubs contained within the books makes said books, as you might expect, ripe for Cocktail Talking. That’s not the only reason for reading them, naturally, as she writes a fairly good mystery yarn, too, featuring her crime-solving, somehow wistful to me (as wistful as a hunky tall dude can be), Inspector Jury, alongside, for some of the time, his pal and sometimes helper Melrose Plant, who was an English Lord (before giving up the title, though perhaps not some of the lord-y-ness), and his always-sick-talking hypochondriacal sidekick sergeant Wiggins. I perhaps didn’t love this book of hers as much as past ones I’ve read, but it’s still well worth tracking down, and not just because one character drinks whiskey out of a toothbrush glass, as you’ll see below.

Jury half rose, but she was already out of her chair, moving quickly and purposefully towards her target. All of her movements were quick and purposeful, thought Jury. If this was Lady Summerston sick, he be almost afraid to see Lady Summerston well.

Her voice preceded her as she returned with the picture. As if reading his mind, she was saying, “I imagine Crick told you I had a heart condition, a lung condition, a live condition. The last might be true, but not the first two. There’s a decanter of whiskey on the bureau. Get it, will you? And” – she called after him – “ get the toothbrush glass from the bathroom.”

— Martha Grimes, The Five Bells and Bladebone

May 10, 2024

What I’m Drinking: The Whizz Bang

You might think a drink with this particular name would be more suited for a specific day in July (the fourth, that is), when whizz-bangers are going off in most US neighborhoods, and, between us, you’d be forgiven for thinking this, as I’ve made Whizz Bang cocktails on that very day in the past. However! I also think that mom’s need to have a hearty cocktail on Mother’s Day, and that mom’s can be firecrackers, too, in their own ways, and go whizzing around doing all that they do. Which means, as Mother’s Day is in two days, I believe it’s completely appropriate to be having this now and then. The drink’s lovely combination of bourbon (I’m going Woodinville Whiskey Company’s Straight bourbon, cause moms deserve the best!) and its sweet bourbon-ness with dry vermouth’s high-tone herbals, and with hints of Pernod’s sharper anise action, and with grenadine’s sweet tang (if you don’t make your own grenadine, you’re really not being fair to the moms), and with the deep herbal underpinnings of Scrappy’s classic Orange bitters, all of that together all being the lovely combination alluded to at the beginning of this sentence, this combination is sure to charm moms, and you, too, even if having it for no holiday at all, just cause it tastes awesomely awesome.

The Whizz Bang Cocktail

The Whizz Bang

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon

3/4 ounce dry vermouth

1/4 ounce Pernod

1/4 ounce homemade grenadine (recipe at the end of the As Luck Would Have it cocktail recipe)

2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters

 1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Present it to mom (or drink it yourself if mom isn’t available).

May 7, 2024

Cocktail Talk: The Way We Die Now

The Way We Die Now by Charles Willeford

I’ve had a fair number of Charles Williford Cocktail Talks on the ol’ Spiked Punch in the past, and I suggest you go read all of them to learn more about this interesting writer, who became more widely famous when he started a series about a Miami detective named Hoke Mosely (though his other books are well worth tracking down in the main – you’ll catch a few of them and a few Hoke’s in the past Cocktail Talking). Hoke featured in four books, and I sure wish there were more, as he’s quite a character. The Way We Die Now is the last of the four novels featuring him, and was published early in 1988, the same year Williford sadly died. It’s a dark book at times, as a warning, but funny, too, and great, I think, in many ways. One of which is Larry’s Hideaway, featured in the below quote.

Hoke was well pleased by the interrogation. It had gone more smoothly than he had thought it would. Before returning to the station, Hoke stopped at Larry’s Hideaway for a shot of Early Times and a beer. Sergeant Armando Quevedo was sitting at the bar, and staring glumly into a seventeen-ounce strawberry Margarita. A large strawberry floated on top of the drink. Hoke sat on the stool next to him and ordered a shot of Early Times and a Michelob draft.

“When did you start drinking that shit, Armando?” Hoke said.

Quevedo turned and grimaced. “It’s pretty awful, but the doc said I’d have to give up boilermakers. So I figured if I stuck to this belly wash, I wouldn’t overdo it. It’s sweeter than hell. Are you off today?”

“No, I’m working. I just stopped off for a quickie.”

–Charles Willeford, The Way We Die Now

April 9, 2024

Cocktail Talk: Pork City, Part II

Pork City by Howard Browne

If you haven’t yet read the Pork City Part I Cocktail Talk, don’t hesitate (or you may get gunned down by gangsters – I’m kidding!), so you can learn more about this Howard Browne should-be classic re-telling of a murder that happened during prohibition-era Chicago. It’s a rollicking read, and if you’ve always wanted to get an eye into booze smuggling and selling during the grand failed experiment, well, this book has you covered. The below quote focuses on the bootleggers, and mentions a car that spawned a band, too!

The ’27 REO Speedwagon lurched steadily ahead, its cargo of forty cases of Old Overholt bourbon covered with alfalfa bales under a black tarpaulin. Cotton woods and elms met overhead to for a leafy tunnel. This was corn, wheat, and hog country, level as a billiard table, dotted with small white farmhouses, large red barns and an occasional silo. The sun shone, the air smelled of new-mown hay, birds sang and swooped and crapped on the windshield.

–Harold Browne, Pork City

March 26, 2024

Cocktail Talk: Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street

The Tiled House, J.S. Le Fanu

I’ve been dipping my terrified toes into more 1800s, early 1900s ghost/supernatural stories lately, specifically those written by J.S. Le Fanu, an Irish writer born in 1814. Not going to say I feel as ghastly good towards his works I’ve read so far as a I do to M.R. James, but ol’ J.S. can spin a scary yard. He was one of the (if not the) writers of horror tales who took the genre from Gothic chain-rattling to more psychological other-worldness, if that makes sense (and he was a somewhat troubled person himself, it seems, so the terrors really have that personal feel lots of the time). The stories I’ve been reading are all in a scarily swell collection called The Tiled House, put out by Collins Chillers (I need to track more of the anthologies in that line down, as it seems there are some ghoulishly grand ones), and includes the story the below spirits – the boozy ones – are featured within.

A night or two after the departure of my comrade, I was sitting by my bedroom fire, the door locked, and the ingredients of a tumbler of hot whisky-punch upon the crazy spider-table; for, as the best mode of keeping the

            Black spirits and white,

            Blue spirits and grey,

with which I was environed, at bay, I had adopted the practice recommended by the wisdom of my ancestors, and “kept my spirits up by pouring spirits down.”

–J.S. Le Fanu, “Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street”

March 1, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Full Moon Over Washington

It is not a full moon today, but that does not mean you can’t drink this delicious drink – really, you can have it any day! It’s that good. I say ‘umbly. And, also, you may not be in the Pacific Northwest today – you can still have this drink if not, though I should warn you it is a very PNW drink, as all of the ingredients are made up this way (actually all are made in WA state proper, but as we’re – me typing in WA now – a part of the PNW, thought I’d stretch a bit). But most I feel are available outside of these hallowed longitude/latitude coordinates, luckily! What are said ingredients? I am glad you asked. First up, is Browne Family Spirits Bourbon, a hit in the late-winter, looking-at-spring days we’re currently in, due to its campfire-echo and oak aroma, wispy smoke-and-pepper finish, and lovely browned-buttered sweetness (it carries a nice warming 90-proofness, too). That taste goes lovely-like with a seriously individual amaro here, Brovo #14 Amaro, whose recipe was created by Mike Ryan and combines singularly Guatemalan chocolate, thyme, cinnamon, sarsaparilla, angelica, and vanilla. One of a kind! With all that choco-buttery-goodness, it only felt right (and tasted right, after some testing) to bring in some orange-ness, and here that’s coming via another Brovo hit, Tacoma Punk, made from half unsweetened Brovo Orange Curacao and half of their Amaro #4, with the end result’s slightly spicy orange flavor mingling mightily with our first two ingredients. But one more note felt needed, to me, when designing this moony number, and following along the theory that if you have four or more ingredients one should be bitters, the last addition is Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters. Made via an herb maceration, this classically-styled bitters is ideally balanced and adds a bit of herb and spice goodness that bring the drink together. A treat, I tell you, no matter what the moon looks like above you when drinking. But as it is called Full Moon Over Washington, I’ve added a cherry for garnish to stand in for the moon, in case, to cover all phases, so to speak (oh, the cherry goes perfectly, taste-wise, too).

Full Moon Over Washington Cocktail

Full Moon Over Washington

Cracked ice

2-1/4 ounces Browne Family Spirits bourbon

3/4 ounces Brovo Amaro #14

1/2 ounce Tacoma Punk orange liqueur

Dash Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters

Maraschino cherry, for garnish

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktails shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the moon. Wait, I mean all but the cherry. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, add the cherry, carefully. Howl, if you must.

February 2, 2024

What I’m Drinking: Thy Noble Father

February is here, a month known for hearts and presidents and the birthdays of famous dog-owners (the last very subjective). As the presidents in reference here, in this month, calendarically are those who kick-started or had serious impact on the US, we’re talking males, fathers or father figures or both, and perhaps bourbon lovers (conjecture, unless time machines are on offer), and historically sort-of noble (naturally history is written by those who, well, are able to write it, and without the aforementioned time machines hard to declare nobility – which is a hard word to define anyway – in a way, but go with it, okay), which makes this the ideal month for this drink. A noble drink, I may say, especially if you live in and love WA state (as I do, in the main), as nearly every ingredient here is from WA – oranges excepted. We’re talking some seriously tasty state stalwarts, too: Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s delicious straight bourbon, Brovo Spirits’ bouncy Orange Curaçao, and Scrappy’s uniquely awesome Black Lemon bitters. Plus, a dollop of Seattle Distilling Company’s beautiful brandy – if you have it. That latter is hard to come by, unless you hoarded (like me) a last sip from a limited-release bottling. If you weren’t so lucky (or forward-thinking), then sub in another reputable brandy, please. It shouldn’t make the drink too less noble. It is a swell sipper, for February – or any ol’ month in the year.

Thy Noble Father cocktail with Woodinville bourbon, Brovo curacao, Scrappy's Black Lemon bitters, and more
I originally made this for NewDay Northwest, as evidenced by the snappy wallpaper behind the drink!

Thy Noble Father

Cracked ice

1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Straight Bourbon

3/4 ounce Brovo Spirits Orange Curaçao

1/2 ounce Seattle Distilling Company Brandy

Dash Scrappy’s Black Lemon Bitters

Wide orange 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 or coupe glass. Garnish with the twist.

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