December 22, 2017
Washington State distillers are dreamy (you probably have realized my feelings in this already, as I do go on – but they are awesome!), with so many worthy bottles out already, and more continuing to be released regularly. The latest example? Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon. A follow up to their highly-regarded 20-month aged Greenhorn bourbon, Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon is aged 3-1/2 years, and made from sweet yellow corn and soft white wheat from Grant County, WA, and the distiller’s proprietary wild-yeast strain harvested from a local apple orchard. If that wasn’t enough, though, the real sets-it-apart-thing here is that the aging takes place on a boathouse floating on the Puget Sound – from what I’ve been told, it’s the only whiskey in the world aged that long on the water, where the waves and tides speed up the aging (that’s the theory, at least). End result? A darn tasty tipple, with some nice sweetness from the wheat, and a mingling of sea-salted caramel, toffee, fig, orange, and chocolate.
It’s dandy to enjoy as a solo act, but of course I also wanted to try it in cocktails, and after trying this and then trying that, liked it best in The Hounds They Start to Roar. That drink has a bit of a history, which we won’t get it to too much here (you’ve already read the full story in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz anyway, right? Right!), but I will remind you that the name comes from a Tom Waits’ song, as do the ingredients, in a way. Said ingredients are bourbon, naturally, but also St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (the spice flavors contained therein, cinnamon, clove, and others, go wonderfully with the Chambers Bay bourbon mélange), brandy (which helps balance everything out), and Peychaud’s bitters (which adds another herbal tint or two). Together, it’s a drink fit for any sailor, dog lover, song-singer, or person reading this blog, which means you. Take it out for a walk or a sail and see if I’m right.
The Hounds They Start to Roar, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon
3/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce brandy
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole bunch of ingredients. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable.
December 1, 2017
I don’t actually have a tipsy Italian uncle that I’ve named this after, and because of that, I wake up sorrowful every day. Okay, that’s not true! I did receive a bottle of Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey in the mail recently though. That’s true! I know, getting whiskey in the mail should make me happy – and it does. True!
Uncle Nearest has a great story. It was made in honor of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a former slave who as the story goes taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Amazing! While it was launched in Portland, OR, it’s made in Tennessee using at least 51% corn, filtered via sugar maple charcoal, aged in new American oak, and bottled at 100 proof. That proof gives it a nice sturdy backbone, mellowed by vanilla and rounded out with hints of sesame and cinnamon in the flavor. It’s a sipper, for sure, and one that’ll warm you and your uncles.
When mixing with it, I wanted to keep that umph and personality, but take a little edge off, and bring some herbal helpers into the party. And I went Italian (as I often do), with Montenegro amaro (which lies on the sweeter side of the amaro scale) and Punt e’ Mes vermouth. Also brought old pal Peychaud along, too. End result is robust, with layers and layers of flavor. I think tipsy uncles everywhere would be proud.
The Tipsy Italian Uncle
1-1/2 ounces Uncle Nearest whiskey
1 ounce Montenegro amaro
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole family. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make a second for your uncle (or in his honor, at least).
September 26, 2017
Obviously, Alfred Hitchcock was the tops. Movies, television, and being an overall memorable figure, today, we sometimes forget that he also edited a host of anthology horror and mystery books. How much did he actually have to do with them? Heck, I’m saying a lot, but he was a famous figure, and you know how that goes. Doesn’t matter one way or another to me though – I have a couple of these little pocket-sized collections, and keep my eyes open for more. Recently, I grabbed another one called Bar the Doors, which contains “thirteen superlative tales” selected, as it says, by Alfred himself. One of those is a sea-going yarn called “The Upper Berth,” by F. Marion Crawford – more a ghost or creature feature, it mostly takes place on a ship you wouldn’t want to voyage upon. It was a favorite of mine in the book, as well as having a whisky cocktail and a sherry scene with a great name in it.
“One hundred and five, lower berth,” said I, in the businesslike tone peculiar to men who think no more of crossing the Atlantic than taking a whisky cocktail at downtown Delmonico’s.
The steward took my portmanteau and greatcoat. I shall never forget the expression of his face. Not that he turned pale. It is maintained by the most eminent divines that some miracles cannot change the course of nature. I have no hesitation in saying that he did not turn pale; but, from his expression, I judged that he was either about to shed tears, to sneeze, or to drop my portmanteau. As the latter contained two bottled of particularly fine old sherry presented to me for my voyage by my old friend Snigginson van Pickyns, I felt extremely nervous.
—The Upper Berth, F. Marion Crawford
September 15, 2017
Listen, you can disagree and I won’t budge (I also won’t get up all in your face about it, cause that kind of discourse should be saved for fools of the worst order, of which sadly there are many): Washington has the best distillers distilling. Am I a local nerd? You betcha. But they just keep making tasty things in bottles, and I keep tasting them and being happy. You should come out here and do some tasting (and buying, to help the cause) and be happy too. Recently, I put two of our newer releases together, and the end result also made me awfully happy. It started with Westland Distillery’s Garrayana 2|1. The first version won “Best American Single Malt” last year, and this will win plenty of awards, too. It’s aged in casks made from Garry Oak (Quercus garryana), a native oak only growing up here in the Pacific Northwest, and admittedly a limited-edition (get it while you can). It has a molasses, smoke, berry, citrus flavor. And goes remarkably well with another new-ish release, Salish Sea Organic Liqueur’s Honeybush liqueur. Honeybush is an herb out of South Africa that is usually used to make tea, but here it’s crafted into a liqueur that is super tasty, with a smoky honey flavor on the front end, and a fruity ending. It goes well with whiskey, as evidenced here.
The Fountain of Fantastic Flora
2 ounces Westland Distilling Garryana single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Salish Sea Organic Liqueur Honeybush liqueur
Bigger ice cube
1. Filling a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two Washington delights. Stir, but not too long.
2. Add a big ice cube to an Old Fashioned or other comparable glass. Strain the flora (in liquid form) over the ice cube.
September 8, 2017
I recently posted a delicious Italian-inspired drink on the Spiked Punch called The Translation of Giuliana Monti, which I made up for a wonderful night of literature, laughs, and liquid libations. The night centered around the jolly and masterful writer Andrew Sean Greer’s newest, entitled LESS, a book you must buy (I talk about it more in that earlier post, which you should go read, and then you should go read LESS, and now you’re back), and during said night we chatted, joked, took questions, read from the book (well, Andy did), and drank two drinks came up for for the occasion and named after characters in the book.
This one, the second, is called Arturo’s Hairy Hands, named for the main character’s tour guide in Mexico City, and is a rare beast in that it has two base spirits. Savor it while savoring LESS and be a happy reader and drinker.
Arturo’s Hairy Hands
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
1 ounce Maguey mezcal with agave syrup
1/2 ounce Alessio sweet vermouth
1 dash Bittermen’s Xocolati mole bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the orange with your hands. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange twist. Sip and read. Sip and read.
August 8, 2017
Oddly (as odd as snow in Miami, some might say), though I’ve mentioned my gushing affection for the Hoke Mosely books by Charles Willeford
(and how I wish there were more, and how the non-Hoke Willefords are swell, too), I’ve never had a Cocktail Talk post from the very first one, Miami Blues
, which is I suppose the best known, due to a movie made (a pretty good movie, too, featuring a very young Alec Baldwin as our young psychopath and a fine Fred Ward as the hero-of-sorts Hoke). I need to watch it again, now that I think about it! The book’s great, too, greater, really, with no shade thrown on the movies. Books are just better! Hoke, as shown below, has a love of Early Times, which I also like. Here’s what you should do – take a Saturday and read the book, then watch the movie, all while drinking Early Times. That’ll be a day to remember!
Hoke took one of the Manila envelopes out of his leisure jacket pocket and counted out $100 on the bar. He pushed the money across to Irish Mike. “Take care of my tab, and leave what’s over as a credit.”
“Your credit’s always good here, sergeant. You know that. I’ll just check your tab and give you back the change.”
“No. Leave it. I want to see what it feels like to have a credit for a change. Early Times. Straight up. Water back.”
“Similar,” Henderson said.
–Charles Willeford, Miami Blues
May 5, 2017
Lumbering across the ice, across the minds of those in its path, driven by a hoard of idiots, all the way from the Nordic realms all the way across Canada, all the way down over the northwest coast, and all the way farther down the coast, farther, farther, the Walrus lumbers, leaving havoc in its wake. Of course, that’s a different Walrus than this drink, which is actually a stitch sweet, in a way, perhaps too much so for some (though it is only a stitch, and anyone who says it’s too much is one of those people who probably think they have something to prove because of inner turmoil around how people perceive them. Yawn), but also well savory, and citrus-y, too, all thanks to how the ingredients come together in a convivial manner. It’s a Walrus to visit again and again. Much different than our original Walrus, who maybe, just maybe, just needed one of these drinks.
1-1/2 ounce rye
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes vermouth
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the tusks. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, while looking towards the stars.
May 2, 2017
One more from the recently departed master of fiction short, medium, and longer, William Trevor (read past William Trevor Cocktail Talk posts for more about the man), this from his book short-ish novel The Silence in the Garden. I’m slowly trying to catch up to his pretty prodigious output, hoping to cover it all. This book I picked up recently, reading on the bus as I usually do, being struck by his amazing precision of phrase, and of course by the Irish whiskey quote below (which happens as one character is beginning to get rather tipsy before a wedding breakfast, and before she makes a Bishop rather nervous).
Noticing that her glass had become empty, Mrs. Moledy rose and made her way into the house through the open French windows. “There’s nothing can’t be put right with a drop of Paddy,” was a favourite axiom of the big trawlerman who came into Myley Flynn’s, a fresh-faced man with exploded veins all over his nose and cheeks. In her own view Power’s was the better drinks, but what wasn’t there you couldn’t have. She found the bottle of Paddy among the sherry decanters on the sideboard.
–William Trevor, The Silence in the Garden