March 20, 2018
I have had a pretty punch-bowl-sized number of Charles Dickens Cocktail Talk posts
. Which, if you mull it over for even a minute, makes a bunch of sense, as Dickens remains one of the top ten drinking writers, with his love of pubs, hot drinks, punches, and folks that hang around when and where those things are consumed. Dombey and Son
(I think his sixth book) isn’t as roundly known as some of the others, or as roundly made into TV movies (though I wish an amazing version would happen – c’mon BBC!), but is I think one of my favs. Maybe because I just recently re-read it after leaving my old copy somewhere along my travels and finally got a new one. Or maybe because Dickens’ take on pride, money, and gender is so compelling as he winds our emotions through a story of a company, a family, and some really funny seafaring fellas. It was (for reasons I won’t touch on here, in case you haven’t read it) one of his more shocking books for the audience of his time, too. If you’ve missed it, hopefully the brief notes just typed by me get you to pick it up. But if they don’t work, I’m going to try a couple sweet Cocktail Talk posts with some direct quotes sure to hook you – and maybe make you thirsty.
There was another thing that Paul observed. Mr Feeder, after imbibing several custard-cups of negus, began to enjoy himself. The dancing in general was ceremonious, and the music rather solemn – a little like church music in fact – but after the custard-cups, Mr Feeder told Mr Toots that he was going to throw a little spirit into the thing. After that, Mr Feeder not only began to dance as if he meant dancing and nothing else, but secretly to stimulate the music to perform wild tunes. Further, he became particular in his attentions to the ladies; and dancing with Miss Blimber, whispered to her – whispered to her!
— Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
February 23, 2018
I wish I could say with certainty that this drink was named after Mercurio, the 4-D Man, a fella from the planet Gramos who fought Thor and the wacky Warriors Three, as well as a bunch of other heroes and such in the mighty Marvel universe, utilizing both fire and ice powers. However! I don’t know that this drink was named after said alien, or the Mexican wrestler of the same name, or the Chilean newspaper. My guess? A misspelling of a Willy S character, or after the planet Mercury. When all is said and done, though, does it matter? This is a swell sipper for around 10 folks, one that’s a bit bubbly, a bit brandy, and a big grape-y. Great for the end of February, when you’re just starting to feel spring might someday happen, but still chilly. Heck, they even like it on Gramos.
Mercurio Punch, from Dark Spirits
Block of ice, or ice cubes
16 ounces brandy
16 ounces purple grape juice
8 ounces Bénédictine liqueur
8 ounces simple syrup
One 750-milliliter bottle red wine (go for a Cabernet here, one with robust body)
One 2-liter bottle chilled club soda
1. Add the block of ice to a large punch bowl, or fill the bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, grape juice, Benedictine, and simple syrup. Stir well.
2. Add the red wine to the cast, and stir again.
3. Smoothly add the club soda, and stir a final time (or maybe a few final times—you want to get it good and combined). Serve in punch glasses.
November 3, 2017
I’ll admit, I never actually had an Aunt Betsy – but I did have a great pal named Betsy at one point, and when drinking this (even though we weren’t even related) I tend to think about her. It’s a drink to sip slowly, while you’re thinking of your Aunt Betsy, or another aunt, or another Betsy, or just a great pal, because it’s served hot, which also means it’s ideal for months like November, due to (in my Pacific Northwest neck of the woods, at least) the chiller temperature. And it has a warming depth, as well, with a trio of red wine, brandy, and port – a trio that sings to November days. So, heat one up, and toast all the aunts and Betsy’s and hot drinks and cold days, which never last forever.
Aunt Betsy’s Favorite, from Dark Spirits
24 ounces red wine (I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon)
16 ounces tawny port
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces simple syrup
1 orange peel
3 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. You want it to get good and hot, but not start boiling, or even simmering. Reduce the heat midway through the cooking time if needed.
2. Once the 10 minutes have passed and the room smells wonderful, ladle the mix into heavy mugs. Avoid serving the orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon stick if your pals are worried about clunking up their smiles.
PS: I adapted this from the House & Garden’s Drink Guide. Which means this drink is also ideal for houses and gardens, I suppose.
October 20, 2017
There are two, no, wait, three problems with Sangria. One: too often when you get it out, it’s an ugly mess that’s been sitting in some bar fridge, aging in a way that kills the brightness and mucks the flavor. That’s the biggest problem, but also easily solvable (make your own! Or go somewhere that makes it with care). The second problem is that most folks restrict it to only the summer months, but a rich, red-wine-based Sangria in the fall (and even winter) months helps deliver citrus and taste and a refreshment that adds a smile to the season/s. Third, when people do make Sangria at home, they don’t use this old family recipe of mine. Too snooty of me, saying that? Maybe. You can either tut-tut me, or make this recipe – I think you’ll act properly. Because you’re a problem-solver!
And while you’re thinking, put your peepers on this groovy Sangria photo from my pal Sara. If that doesn’t get you craving Sangria, well, I’m not sure what to think of you.
Sangria, recipe from Wine Cocktails
1 orange, cut into wheels
1 lime cut into wheels
1 lemon cut into wheels
6 ounces simple syrup
4 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 bottle dry red wine, a Pinot Noir works well, but experiment
6 ounces brandy
Other fresh fruit for garnishing (oranges, limes, lemons)
1. Place the orange, lemon, and lime wheels and simple syrup in a large glass pitcher. Muddle well with a muddler or wooden spoon.
2. Add the orange juice and lime juice, and muddle just a touch more.
3. Add the red wine and the brandy, and stir well (bring a guest stirrer in if needed). Place the pitcher carefully in the refrigerator for two hours or more, but no longer than a day.
4. Add ice until the pitcher is full, and stir slightly. Pour into six stemmed wine glasses or goblets and garnish with fresh fruit.
August 25, 2017
Just two short weeks ago (which can seem a lifetime during the savorable days of late summer) I had a drink here on the Spike Punch called the SPF – Silver Port Fizz. It featured Sandeman 10-year-old Tawny Porto, in what may have been an odd move for some, port not being a sunshine-y drink companion for many. But this Sandeman Tawny! It’s so fruity, and so full of flavor that it begs (not literally, as wine, spirits, and liqueurs shouldn’t really be talking to you) to be used in summer drinks, fruit being such a key element of the season’s liquid fare.
It’s so worthy that I couldn’t help myself dreaming up other drinks utilizing Sandeman Tawny Porto 10 to be had when the Mercury has risen and ol’ sol is beating down. And that leads us to Summer’s Charm and Courtesy. Less obviously a summer drink then our last refreshing port number, this drink bring out summer through a wave of fruit notes, all subtle separately but coming together in a rapturous (well, drinks can be rapturous, too, right?) layered lush sip after sip. It starts with the Sandeman, which delivers fruit and jam and a hint of nutty and oak, then moves into Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy pineapple rum (a nice note also between all the recent Dickens’ posts), which is a dream, Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao, Fee Brothers West Indian orange bitters, and a little lime. Then, as the last act of courtesy (and in my mind, one can’t be too courteous), a little fresh mint.
It’s just so darn fruity! And so darn good! Darn, give this a try before another sunrise and sunset pass along past us. You’ll be happy, I’ll be happy, the sun will be happy, and all will be well.
Summer’s Charm and Courtesy
1-1/2 ounces Sandeman 10-year-old Tawny Porto
1/2 ounce Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy pineapple rum
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
2 dashes Fee Brothers West Indian orange bitters
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Fresh mint sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything by the mint. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the mint. Enjoy.
August 4, 2017
Suns out! You know what that means? Sunburns. Okay, it means other things, too, like summer drinks and summer fun and summer romance and summer reading-in-the-back-yard-with-one-of-those-drinks. But I do pick up sunburns pretty quickly, which is why I always have sunscreen with a good SPF (sun protection factor). And also why I always have a nice chill SPF, too. For the latter, I mean a Silver Port Fizz.
Jump back! I can hear you saying (you do say that, right?), and loudly, what do you mean drinking port in summer? Isn’t port a winter, or fall at least, drink that you have indoors after a meal, say, or with some tasty cheese? Sure, it is that, but now-a-days, port is actually showing up on a lot of summer sipping menus, too. It makes sense (I think, when you think about it), because port in its various forms does deliver a lot of flavor, and doesn’t weigh one down too heavily, so when mingled with the right ingredients, I believe it’s a natural for the days when the sun is high in the sky and the temperature is also rising. Lucky for me, a bottle of Sandeman Tawny Porto 10-year-old version, showed up in the mail the other day, so I could test the port theory I’m expounding.
And while making up a new summer-y drink with port being a main player is very, very attractive (I’ll probably do it soon!), I decided to start by putting port in as a player in a classically-minded mix, the fizz. I love a nice, simple fizz, and the frothier silver fizzes (though sometimes today you see the silver slipped out of the monikers, which is okay, but here it fit perfectly), which adds egg white. And that’s what I did here, and the result is ideal for August, refreshing, fun, and full of the Sandeman Tawny’s nutty, fruit, rich-bodied brilliance. Try it, and test the theory.
2 ounces 10-year-old Sandeman Tawny Porto
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 egg white
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Porto, juice, sugar and egg white.
2. Fill a Collins or comparable glass with ice cubes. Strain the mix into the glass.
3. Fill glass with club soda. Stir briefly. Chill out.
June 20, 2017
My love of Anthony Trollope
is much documented on the many pages of this blog (so many, many pages). You probably are sick of hearing me go on and on, in my spot as the Trollope standard bearer for this here century. But maybe you aren’t – I’m going to believe that, and drop another Trollope quote in, this time from The Claverings
, which, as the back cover tells you, is one of Trollope’s “three faultless books.” They all seem fairly faultless to me (well, okay, maybe that’s overstating), but I do wonder what the back cover blurber thought the other
two were? I’ll never know, but I do know that I don’t drink enough port, so if you want to bring me a bottle (as in the below) I won’t turn it down.
When dinner was over, Burton got up from his seat. “Harry,” said he, “do you like good wine?” Harry said that he did. Whatever women may say about wild fowl, men never profess an indifference to good wine, although there is a theory about the world, quite as incorrect as it is general, that they have given up drinking it. “Indeed I do,” said Harry. “Then I’ll give you a bottle of port,” said Burton, and so saying he left the room.
“I’m very glad you have come to-day,” said Jones, with much gravity. “He never gives me any of that when I’m alone with him; and he never, by any means, brings it out for company.”
“You don’t mean to accuse him of drinking it alone, Tom?” said his sister, laughing.
“I don’t know when he drinks it; I only know when he doesn’t.”
The wine was decanted with as much care as had been given to the concoction of the gravy, and the clearness of the dark liquid was scrutinized with an eye that was full of anxious care. “Now, Cissy, what do you think of that? She knows a glass of good wine when she gets it, as well as you do Harry, in spite of her contempt for the duck.”
— Anthony Trollope, The Claverings
March 24, 2017
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.
The Rosé Squirt, from Wine Cocktails
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.