October 5, 2018

What I’m Drinking: On the Road to Montefalco

Usually, I try not to have favorites in booze categories. Meaning, I wouldn’t say I have a favorite gin (I like too many, too well), or amaro, or vermouth. Or white wine. However, I might say I have a favorite red wine (other red wines, please turn away now). Or, at least a favorite red wine grape, that being Sagrantino. Growing only around Montefalco, in Umbria (lovely town, by the way, the Falcon’s Mount, also referred to the balcony of Umbria, and worth a visit – great churches, great museum, a few mummies, and more, and the wine, naturally), real Sagrantino di Montefalco uses 100 percent Sagrantino grapes, is aged 37 months at the shortest, and has a deep, rich, color (dark purple) and taste of dark stone fruits. Memorable stuff!

But here’s something I recently found out (thanks to a bottle coming my way). There’s also a Montefalco Rosso wine. It’s a bit like Sagrantino’s more playful younger sibling. Aged just 18 months and blended with 60-80% Sangiovese. The specific bottle I tasted was Tenuta Alzatura Montefalco Rosso, which is 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sangrantino, and 15% Merlot. It’s a beautiful wine, with a light ruby coloring, and also a lighter nature than Sagrantino, probably more approachable for a larger percentage of people, with a fruity nature (red fruit, juicy ones), and hints of spice on the nose and taste, but with a softer finish than its sibling. A nice red wine for a late-summer or fall day. And also, a nice one for making into a wine cocktail.

Of course, as you know, I have a hard time not experimenting with any ingredient I have at hand, and while a glass of this Montefalco Rosso by itself is dreamy, it plays well with others, too. Here, I brought in some Italian favorites, starting with light, slightly citrus, aperitif, Aperol. To match up with that and to balance some of the wine’s fruits, a few dashes of Fee Brothers Orange bitters added to the party – not Italian, but we do have another Italian fav, too. See, I wanted some strong undercurrents, too (sometimes in fall there’s a chill in the air), and wanted to stay Italian-style, and so brought in an underutilized cocktail ingredient: grappa. Specifically: Marolo Grappa di Amarone, which is aged in oak, and which has cherry notes, along with an adaptable nuttiness, that go with the wine perfectly. Altogether, this is a cocktail that’ll have you fantasizing of Italy – and savoring every sip.

road-to-montefalco
On the Road to Montefalco

Cracked ice
2 ounces Tenuta Alzatura Montefalco Rosso
1 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce Marolo Grappa di Amarone
2 dashes Fee Brothers Orange bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Bella, bella.

July 13, 2018

What I’m Drinking: Such Animals of Summer

Why, just last week, here on the Spiked Punch blog, I had a delicious summer drink (if I can say that humbly) called Pina’s Potion, which used Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé – a bottle of which had shown up via the post. If you haven’t checked that recipe out, you’re in for a treat! Go read about rose cocktail Pina’s Potion now, to learn a bit more about Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé and to make your summer better.

Back? Yay! Well, I liked this rosé so much, that I wanted to go down another road with it, because the flavor profile gives lots of avenues one could travel, all different, like every animal is different. To prove this furry point, I give you another rosé cocktail, called Such Animals of Summer. A slightly different (as mentioned) mix, it mingles our rose with another summertime treat, Washington state-based Sidetrack Distillery’s Strawberry Liqueur (they grow the strawberries right on their farm! dreamy), and another French friend for our French rosé, Dolin’s Blanc vermouth, a refreshing, citrusy, teensily sweet number. All together a light, flavorful, cocktail that’s ideal as the summer night approaches.

sunch-animals-of-summerSuch Animals of Summer

Cracked ice
2 ounces Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé
3/4 ounce Sidetrack Strawberry liqueur
1/2 Dolin Blanc vermouth

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy the moment.

July 6, 2018

What I’m Drinking: Pina’s Potion

Rosé (the wine, to be clear) is now a celebrated part of many people’s summers. With good reason, due to its light, easy-going-but-flavorful natures (in most situations, that is). Actually, it’s connected so closely with summer, it’s almost a cliché – but what a tasty cliché! However, rosé cocktails aren’t so en vogue, which is a shame, because with the right rosé, you can make a layered, lovely, drink that also fits summer like a well-made bathing suit. I recently received a bottle (I know, lucky!) of Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé to prove this theory (well, is it a theory, if I’ve already proved it? I guess now it’s a rule? A law? Something along those lines, but I don’t want to get too sidetracked). A subtle glowing pink color, this rosé has the wine’s refreshing characteristics and an approachable crispness, with attractive fruits notes on the nose and tongue – both citrus and strawberries and more.

It’s worthy when the sun’s out all on its own, but also a perfect plaything when mixed with others. In this case, those others began with Sipsmith London Dry gin, a classic dry gin with just the right juniper surrounded by botanicals and citrus. Then, thinking of our rosé French history, I decided on another French favorite, Pineau Francois white pineau, an aperitif that has a grape-and-hints-of-orange-citrus delightfulness. With that trio in place, the drink was solidly sippable, but not to the heights I wanted. So, I brought in a fourth player, Scrappy’s unbelievable Black Lemon bitters (if you don’t know Scrappy’s read all about Scrappy’s), which brought an earth lemon-ness that rounded everything off. All together – yummy, and a hit for any summer party.

pinas-potionPina’s Potion

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Sipsmith London Dry Gin
3/4 ounces Pineau Francois white pineau
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
3 ounces chilled Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass hallway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, pineau, and bitters. Stir well.

2. Strain the above into a white wine glass. Add the rosé. Stir, gently, to combine.

April 13, 2018

What I’m Drinking: The Saké’d Saint

Wowsa, it’s been many a moon since I’ve had this charmer (which featured prominently along with 49 other beauts in Wine Cocktails). As you might expect from the title, it uses saké (which, admittedly, makes it an interesting fit in Wine Cocktails, but a delicious one, and those were interesting times, good times, for sure, but interesting if you know what I mean, and I’m sure you do). I like a slightly dry saké here, by the way, but really, most decent versions are gonna make a swell drink, a drink highlighted by the inclusion of coromandel gooseberry, better known as Star Fruit and also known as kamranga or five- finger fruit. All of which makes me want more names (A.J. Rathbun, better known as drinkaranga), and another one of these.

sake-d-saint
The Saké’d Saint

2 star fruit slices
1 lemon wheels
Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces saké
1-1/2 ounces St-Germain liqueur
1/4 ounce apricot brandy

1. Add 1 star fruit slice and the lemon wheel to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler, muddle well.

2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the saké, St-Germain, and apricot brandy. Shake extra well.

3. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the second star fruit slice.

March 24, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Rosé Squirt

You’ve probably noticed, spring has sprung. And I’m probably going to be, or already have been, talking springtime talk, and springtime drinks, and frolicking in meadows. But today, instead of that, I’m just cutting right to the chase: this is a dandy, refreshing, light-on-its-feet drink, which you should make for yourself, your friends, and then yourself again. It’s springy.

rose-squirt
The Rosé Squirt, from Wine Cocktails

Ice cubes
1 ounce maraschino liqueur
3 ounce dry rosé wine
Chilled club soda
Maraschino cherry, for garnish

1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the maraschino liqueur and rosé. Stir briefly.

2. Fill the glass almost to the top with chilled club soda. Stir again, a bit more than briefly. Drop a cherry on top and serve.

March 3, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Italian Cactus Berry

You know this, I know this, everybody knows this – I believe good drinks should have good names, and when creating drinks you need to create names too. Okay, that’s out of the way. But here, really, the change is so minor! The Cactus Berry is a favorite spring-and-early-summer drink of mine, from Wine Cocktails, and as I was dreaming of spring recently, I decided it would be a perfect fit for today. But, it usually uses Merlot (along with tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice), and I didn’t have such. But I did have a bottle of Donini Settegrappoli, which is an Italian red, rich, lush, full of body, perhaps I think the best red wine in the world. If I can go a little overboard (admittedly, Donini is my favorite winery in the world, too). So, I thought it might be perfect. And guess what? I was right! You can be right, too, if you try this drink.

italian-cactus-berry
The Italian Cactus Berry (mostly from Wine Cocktails)

Serves 2

Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Donini Settegrappoli Italian red wine (or another amazing wine)
1-1/2 ounces tequila (blanc, usually)
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Lime wedge, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the wine,  tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. Shake well.

2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass through a fine strainer. Garnish with the lime wedge and serve.

February 24, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Doninoni

There’s no need to yell at me – I realize with the title here, I’m nearly breaking my own soapbox (to stretch a metaphor to the breaking point), or favorite soapbox, as admittedly there are many I like to stand upon. But this one, it’s the one where bartenders make up new drinks and then just name them some bastardization of an existing classic drink. C’mon bartenders, be creative! Though, in this case, bartender heal thyself, as this drink name is partially a play on the classic Negroni. But it’s also a play on my favorite Italian winery, Donini, and really, The Doninoni is so much fun to say! And changed enough (as opposed to, oh, the numerous Strawberry Margaritas I made in college, or something like the Appletini for gawd’s sake) to make me not too egregious, right? Right! If you disagree, drink two of the below and call me in the morning.

doninoni
The Doninoni

Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Nat’s gin (I used the gin wife Nat made at Scratch, cause she did such a good job – read more about making gin at Scratch)
1-1/2 ounces Donini Tarragoni (if you sadly can’t get this, another slightly-dry but full-bodied Umbrian red could suffice)
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1/2 ounce grenadine (go homemade or go home)

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.

2. Add a few good ice cubes to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix into the glass and over the ice.

February 23, 2016

Drink A Delicious Red October at Seattle’s Liberty

I do a monthly column (along with various other things) for Seattle magazine (sure, you can be jealous), and until recently it was called Bar Hop, and had me chatting about a single new bar in the wondrous city I live within. But now it’s changed up a little, still a single bar, but with the focus lighting a little more on a single cocktail within said bar – and it’s not just new bars anymore, either, and is called (for now, at least) the Bar Method. And for the first one, I visited one of my favorite Emerald City bars of all, Liberty, which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary! Amiable bartender Laura Bishop was my shaker, and made me a delicious wine cocktail called the Red October. But heck, don’t let me ramble, go read the article now.

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