November 13, 2020
Once upon a time (a recent time, admittedly between us friends) I had a drink here on the Spiked Punch drinks blog called Spirit and Substance, within which I dropped tales of some homepage plum shrub and grenadine that a powerful pleasant pal had gifted me and mine. In that drink tale, the plum shrub was used, and now, here, As Luck Would Have It, we’re using the grenadine. And it’s key to have homemade grenadine me thinks, as (in the main) most store-bought grenadine isn’t all that fine. There are a few brands perhaps? But be safe, make your own, and have the lush, tanged, deeply good grenadine you deserve. There’s a homemade grenadine recipe below, if needed. But that’s just the beginning of our luck! With the grenadine here are many more lucky things, beginning with Montefalco Rosso, an Italian wine made of a bland of Sangiovese and Sagrantino. Specifically, here, I used Cantina dell’Alunno Montefalco Rosso, which is robust, fruity (cranberries and plummy-ness), herbal, and approachable. Delicious, I tell you, and the ideal base for a fall-time wine cocktail like we’re whipping up here. To bring more fruits (and a nice belly warming), we’re also adding Sidetrack Plum brandy, made with plums grown not but yards from where the still is that makes this clear, strong, bracing, lovely brandy – oh, made in WA, by the way, much like our next introduced ingredient, Brovo Spirits Jammy sweet vermouth. If you haven’t had the Jammy, then jump on it, cause it really lives up to its name, with a rich, cherry, chocolate, spice flavor. And then, to round and even the flavor, a slip of lemon juice, and a twist of orange. Altogether, a bounty of yumminess that’s lucky indeed.
As Luck Would Have It
2 ounces Cantina dell’Alunno Montefalco Rosso
3/4 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Plum brandy
3/4 ounce Brovo Spirits Jammy sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce homemade grenadine (see Note below)
1/8 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Feeling lucky yet? Shake well.
2. Strain the luck through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange.
A Note: Hey, homemade lovers! This grenadine recipe’s a snap to make, and a joy to add to cocktail or soda:
4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 pint fresh raspberries
4 cups sugar
2 ounces orange flower water
1. Add the pomegranate juice and raspberries to a large saucepan and place over high heat. Cook for 15 minutes.
2. Let the mixture stay at a steady boil, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes longer, reducing the heat if needed to prevent burning.
3. Slowly stir in the sugar, stirring continuously. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water.
4. Let cool, and strain into bottles. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
October 27, 2020
Recently (just last week!) I had a Cocktail Talk from Qiu Xiaolong’s Death of a Red Heroine, which if you missed, you should read, and in the past, I’ve had Qiu Xiaolong Cocktail Talks, from it as well as other books featuring Xiaolong’s Chief Inspector Chen (and his partner Detective Yu, and other reoccurring characters), and you should read those Cocktail Talks, too, as well as reading the books they come from, if you’re interested in well-written mysteries, modern Chinese cultural expositions, classical Chinese poetry, or food, because all of that flows through the books like fine wine. Enigma of China is nearer the latter stages of the series (to date), and is a definite page turner. But where we’re Cocktail Talking from today is a part focused a little more on Wang Xizi than modern day, Wang being a poet from the Jin dynasty. Chen is visiting a place famous for Wang associations, and talks about a wine-poem game Wang and other poets played. A wine-poem game!
“It’s here. This is Lanting,” he exclaimed. “Wang and the other poets gathered at this stream, engaged in a wine-poem game.”
“A wine-poem game?
“They let wine cups flow down from the head of the stream. If a cup came to a stop in front of someone, he had to write a poem. If he failed to do so, he had to drink three cups as punishment. The poems were then collected, and Want composed a preface to the collection. He must have been very drunk, flourishing his brush pen inspired by the exquisite scene.
–Qiu Xiaolong, Enigma of China
October 2, 2020
Here’s a fine kettle of various ingredients mixed with booze. I had the mad/smart/odd/random/bored/inventive/normal idea not more than a couple weeks ago that I should make up a wine-based liqueur or aperitivo if you like (I like, so I’m gonna call it that), and that it should have basil in it (cause my basil plants were doing so well then, if, admittedly, not as well now as summer has dwindled), and maybe orange (cause I had an orange), and a roasted peach (which also was around and needed to be used, sans pit, but the roasting felt important), and some spices but not too many, and a hint of bitterness cause the best aperitivos (or many of them) tend to have that, and it should be pretty as that hour on a sunny late-summer day when night is nearly there, but not quite there, the hour you realize once again that summer and all things are transient, ephemeral, lovely. Whew, seems like a lot to ask of something made in a big glass jar!
But, you know, it worked out quite well. Not sure I reached the full heights I wanted, but came close-ish, to my taste, which might be different than yours. The basil is the strangest part of the equation, as it lost some of its, well, basil-ness if that makes sense. There’s not overriding basil smell or taste, or any, or very little; instead, it adds a slightly vegetal minty-ness. Interesting! The orange notes come through strong, with a little other citrus (thanks to lemon) and a dream of toasty peach, and the spice notes (tiny bits of ginger, star anise) are more inferred than active, if that makes sense. Oh, I should have started with: the wine I used as the base was an Orvieto Classico white wine, which I love, and which is dry-ish, but fruit-y-ish (more peach notes here), and grape-ish enough to bring a lot of flavor. I also added some vodka, as the wine solo didn’t seem to have enough umph for the end-of-summer delicate sadness I wanted. Sure, I’m weird! Gentian, the bittering agent of choice for so many things, underlines that thought, as well as balancing the sweetness. Really, all joshing and flighty language aside, Caducitivo (caduco in Italian meaning transient or ephemeral) was an awfully fun, and tasty, experiment, a fine pre-dinner, sipper, with a layered, light, orange-citrus-herb flavor containing a friendly bitter back end. Heck, I think I’ll make it again next year! And, with the below recipe, you can try it, too. I like sipping it at room temp, but think it’s best over ice, or chilled a bit. While I haven’t tried it yet, my guess is it’d be great with Prosecco, and also as a cocktail ingredient.
2 cups basil
1 roasted peach (see Note)
1 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 wide orange twists
2 wide lemon twists
2-1/2 cups Orvieto Classico (I used Ruffino, which is nice, solid, and not overly pricey)
1/2 cup vodka (I used Prairie Organic vodka, which is swell and came in the mail)
1 cup simple syrup
1/4 teaspoon crushed gentian
1. Add the basil, peach, star anise, ginger, and citrus twists to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the wine and vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup and gentian (see Second Note), and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
A Note: For the peach, I just baked it at 425 F until it was slightly roasted, not charred. Also, I didn’t use the pit, just the peach itself.
A Second Note: You could add this in Step 1, but I had unexpectedly ran out, so couldn’t. And there’s something (probably nothing) in adding that bittering agent later, letting the other ingredients meet up first.
May 12, 2020
Some May days, don’t you just wake up thinking about 65 B.C. Greek poet Nicaentus? I mean he who in the big W (Wikipedia that is) is called Nikainetos, which is probably right, but by golly, when he and I were talking (in my dreams, that is) he goes by Nicaentus. And, in said dream, we were sipping a little wine and chatting about the news of the day and days past, and reclining on some chaise lounge type loungers, and eating a few grapes, and wearing laurels in our hair, and sipping a little more wine. Then we had some dates, which were a little date-y, but still good, but left me with one of those catches in the throat that leaves you unable to dialogue, and without thinking I said, “could I get a little water,” to which he replied the below.
Wine to the poet is a winged steed
Those who drink water gain but little speed.
–Nicaentus, Greek poet, 65 B.C.
May 1, 2020
Well, we’re the midst of spring (as well as being the midst of some other things, but hey, for a moment, let’s just skip those things, shall we? I mean, take our minds off of them with a nice drink, say), and with that, need to be thinking of refreshing moments, like diving into a mountain stream without socks on, or sucking on a peppermint while drinking ice water in a walk-in fridge, or having white wine cocktails, which in the main tend to be refreshers. Take this one, for example, one that utilizes, hmm, is it my favorite white wine? Well, I don’t like to have favorite boozes (cause the others get jealous, ba-dump-bump), but I will say that Orvieto Classico whites tend to agree with me quite comfortably.
Admittedly, there is a range of sorts within this DOC, but they all do I believe have to use Grechetto and Trebbiano – usually, I again believe, a blend of the two in some sort of proportions, but again, can be a range. They tend to be crisp and light, but with intriguing (as opposed to annoying I suppose) fruit notes, like peach and apple. See: refreshing!
Lovely on their own, I also am not opposed to trying to utilize them in a cocktail or mixed drink (as they say), demonstrated in this here circumstance. For this wine cocktail, I used Roio Orvieto Classico, 2018 version, which is reasonable to pick up, and has those peach and apple notes mentioned above, with a welcoming crispness and dry clean finish. It leans I believe heavier into Trebbiano, and has some Malvasia and Verdello grape action going, along with Grechetto. So, nicey nice! And to play with it, I decided on some pals that go smoothly with the wine’s flavor profile, starting with Purus vodka (made in Italy, so an ideal match, and you can read more about Purus here), moving into Fee Brothers Peach bitters, which is fruity on the bitters scale (ideal here, and a treat as a side note just with soda by the by), and then Rothman and Winter’s Orchard Apricot liqueur, which has a lush fruitiness along with a little sweetness (and ties into the stone fruit stuff). Altogether, you’ll want to be young, run green, all that.
I Should Classicoco
1-1/2 ounces Purus vodka
1 ounce Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
3 ounces Roio Orvieto Classico
3 or 4 good-sized ice cubes (see note)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vodka, liqueur, and bitters. Stir briefly.
2. Add the wine, and stir a bit more.
3. Add the ice cubes to a big Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the drink into the glass. Start the coco-ing.
A Note: This would be dandy up, but it was sunny when I was drinking and so I went over ice and really, it was enchanting.
February 25, 2020
Well, as I said recently (as I’m sure you recall), I’ve been reading a book every pulp, detective, mystery, American literature lover should read, The Giant Collection of the Continental Op. By dashing (okay, I’m not the first to say this) Dashiell Hammett, author of, well, if you don’t know I feel for you, cause the list includes some of the best works from last century (including The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and The Glass Key, all seminal works of words), in this giant collection, you’ll find a huge host of stories featuring his un-named, pudgy (but tough), old-ish (but tough), work-a-day detective, and all keep the pace up, and often the body-count. A great read, I must say, so great that I had to have two Cocktail Talks from it. If you missed the first (the Golden Horseshoe Cocktail Talk) then go check it. This second one isn’t quite as drunk-y, and includes a lot of food. But I couldn’t miss it, cause it has the Continental Op drinking crème de menthe, which is both awesome and hard to picture.
Two men servants waited on us. There was a lot of food and all of it was well turned out. We are caviar, some sort of consume, sand dabs, potatoes and cucumber jelly, roast lamb, corn and string beans, asparagus, wild deck and hominy cakes, artichoke-and-tomato salad, and orange ice. We drank white wine, claret, Burgundy, coffee, and crème de menthe.
–Dashiell Hammett, The Farewell Murder
September 10, 2019
I know, I know, I’ve had a lot of Maigret Cocktail Talks, but when I put up a good boozy quote in The Silent Witness Cocktail Talk recently, I realized I had to have one from Maigret and the Informer, too. See, if you missed that recent Cocktail Talking, I picked up both of these in one of those books-that-contain-two-books, which used to be a thing, and which I think is fun. Often, it was two books by the same author, but sometimes, you see two different authors, sharing the same genre. Here, it worked wonderfully, with the dry, stoic (but funny, in his way) French Inspector Maigret back-to-back with an American PI, Jack Fenner, also a little dry and stoic (and funny in his way). Both crime-solvers like a drink, too. This George Simenon book is an good one (most are!), with a restaurateur killed, young gangsters, a trip to the south of France, an informer on the run, a quirky cop, a cheating wife – all you could want, really! Plus, it all starts with a dinner at the Maigret house (they have Doctor Pardon and his wife over for dinner once a month if you were wondering), one I would have liked to have been at.
The women would take advantage of the occasion to put on a great spread and to exchange recipes, while the men would gossip idly, drinking Alsatian gin or raspberry brandy.
The dinner had been particularly successful. Madame Maigret had made a guinea-hen pie and the superintendent had brought out of his cellar one of the last bottles of an old Chateauneuf de Pape he had once bought a case of, marked down, when he was in Rue Drouot.
The wine was exceptionally good, and the two men hadn’t left a drop. How many liqueur glasses of brandy had they had afterwards? At any rate, suddenly awakened at two o’clock in the morning, Maigret did not feel his best.
— George Simenon, Maigret and the Informer
June 7, 2019
“And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”
It is a wild historical fact which I’ve uncovered, as well as just some wild genius, that T.S. Eliot, years ago, wrote a poem (Little Gidding, part of Four Quartets) about this drink that I invented just weeks or months ago. I mean, looking into the future that way is phenomenal! And the drink in itself is fairly phenomenal (I say, humbly) as it mixes together a few ingredients that you might not have thought went together: rosé wine and tequila (which of course is made with fire in a way). But they do! As Eliot predicted. Amazing. Not sure how the other two ingredients tie into the poem, but I feel that’s my fault, not being great at literary criticism. Oh, those other two ingredients include Bluewater’s lovely, and limited (so come out here and get when you can), tantalizing floral and spice Cardamon Elderflower liqueur, and the also lovely Carpano Bianco vermouth, which has a delicate wine, citrus-and-other-fruit, springtime botanical nature. Really, this is a pretty poetic drink all told! Try it, while reading the poem, and see if you agree. And if you don’t, take it up with Eliot.
1-1/2 ounces rosé (something dry but with floral accents works nicely)
1-1/2 tequila blanco
1/2 ounce Bluewater Cardamon Elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce Carpano Bianco vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add our four core lines (or boozes, that is). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with the twist, and get your poetry going.