July 18, 2017
I recently picked up a little book (just a little too big to fit in a shirt pocket) called The World’s Best 100 Detective Stories
– my book is volume one of ten – published in 1929. I won’t say that I disagree with an editor’s prerogative, but even as someone who has read a lot of detective fiction from many time periods, I hadn’t heard of many of the authors within, and wasn’t blown away by some of the choices. But it’s a fun little book to have no matter what, and in one of the stories, “The Sting of the Wasp,” by Richard Connell, there’s a fair amount of cocktail-ing, before a murder. Or is it?
“Well, the cocktails warmed up Oakley, made him communicative – for him. We were talking along about nothing in particular, when suddenly he burst out, ‘That cur, Cope! I saw him today, looking at me with those evil green eyes of his. I’ll never be happy – or safe – while he’s in the world. I’d kill him like a rat if I thought I could get away with it!’
I told Oakley he was a fool to talk like that – to me or anybody. He calmed down, and said he didn’t mean it. But he did, Matthew.”
“No doubt. Well, what them?”
“Here is what happened tonight: Oakley had dinner alone. He drank too much – four stiff cocktails, a half-bottle of Sauternes, and a highball.”
–Richard Connell, “The Sting of the Wasp”
July 14, 2017
There are times, when the Mercury’s rising and that big ol’ ball of heat in the sky is high overhead, when you want a classy drink, but one that isn’t too tough. A drink that has all kinds of flavor, but without involving any sweat (or little sweat) to make. A drink you could sip after a long day of work while the sun starts its long slow trip down westward, as well as during a family brunch on Sunday when you’re waking up slowly.
Well, this is that drink friend! It covers all those bases, though admittedly it might be best during the Italian aperitif hours, those beautiful moments before dinner (let’s say 5 to 7, though they can arrive a stitch earlier or later) when you want to have something a little effervescent and light, but still with character and taste. All those characteristics come together here with just two ingredients – and a lemon twist – starting with Mionetto Prosecco, specifically the DOC Treviso brut version (though all the Mionetto Proseccos, made since 1887, are worth tracking down). The Treviso brut is nice and dry and crisp, with apple and peach and flowers lingering on the tongue, along with a hint of honey.
Here, it’s mixed with another Italian number, the newest sibling of renowned Galliano (the L’Autentico golden liqueur in the memorable bottle), Galliano L’Aperitivo, just recently becoming available stateside. An amaro, or bitter, it boasts over 50 ingredients, including a bouquet of citrus – orange, bergamot, tangerine, grapefruit, others – and a mix of herbs and spices like cardamom. The flavor’s rich, with all those orange-y citrus notes, herbaliciousness, and a hint of bitter.
Together, these two Italian stalwarts come together beautifully – with lots of fruit flavor, but with a dryness that is swell in summer, when you want to keep the cloying nature of some drinks far away. The color is also rather amazing, adding another welcome touch.
3/4 ounce Galliano L’Aperitivo
4 ounces chilled Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso brut
Lemon twist, for garnish
Ice cube, if wanted
1. Add the L’Aperitivo to a flute or comparable glass. Top with the prosecco.
2. Carefully stir in a manner that brings everything together without being wacky. If your prosecco isn’t really chilled, or if it’s extra hot out, add an ice cube.
3. Garnish with the twist. Give a toast to the sun, and to Italy.
July 11, 2017
Hey, it’s time for another Cocktail Talk featuring George Simenon’s legendary French detective Maigret, the stoic, large, over-coated, café-visiting crime solver. If you haven’t yet, check out past Maigret Cocktail Talks. This particular one, though, is from the very first of his books, which I was super excited to find in a little bookstore in Edmunds, WA. Sometimes the world lines up in great ways. And sometimes you have to drink an absinthe substitute with guttersnips in a dive bar.
Overall the man fitted a type that Maigret knew well: the migrant low-lifer of Eastern European origin who slept in squalid lodging houses and sometimes in railway stations. A type not often seen outside Paris, but accustomed to travelling in third-class carriages when not riding the footboards or hopping freight trains.
He got proof of his insight a few minutes later. Fécamp doesn’t have any genuine low dives, but behind the harbour there are two or three squalid bars favoured by dockhands and seamen. Ten metres before these places there’s a regular café kept clean and bright. The man in the trench coat walked right past it and straight into the least prepossessing of the bars where he put his elbow on the counter in a way that Maigret saw right through.
It was the straightforwardly vulgar body-language of a guttersnipe. Even if he’d tried, Maigret couldn’t have imitated it. The inspector followed the man into the bar. He’d ordered an absinthe substitute and was just standing there, wordless, with a blank stare on his face. He didn’t register Maigret’s presence, though the inspector was now right next to him.
–George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian
July 7, 2017
Summertime, summertime, sum sum rummertime. You see what I did there? I put “rum” in for “sum” at the end, because summertime is, actually, rum time (though admittedly, I think nearly every spirit could be used in a joyous hotter-weather drink if done right. However, historically, rum fits the bill perfectly, and so my song makes sense and the right level of silliness is reached). And this concoction uses a rum that was new to me, but one I’m super glad showed up in the mail.
That rum? Bayou Silver rum, from Louisiana, which is made from raw, unrefined cane sugar and molasses from Patoutville, LA – that’s all local action, which is great. It’s also made with triple filtered fresh water, and distilled in a traditional pot still outside of Lake Charles, and has a lovely gator on the bottle. Again — great. The flavor has a slight sweetness and tropical fruit notes, while maintaining an underlying strength that stands up in cocktails. It’s also won oodles of awards, if that does it for you. Also, great!
Here, I’m matching it up with another summer favorite – fresh raspberries. While they aren’t tropical per se, that raspberry zing and tang goes with the Bayou like summer goes with short shorts. To round it out, a little smidge of fresh line pizzazz, and – because fruit is a kick – a bit of Morey Narancello orange liqueur, which is made in Spain and delivers more orange flavor and citrus, and another cuddle of sweetness. The end result is a summer drink worth singing about.
The Alligator’s Orchard, Serves 2
8 good-sized fresh raspberries
4 ounces Bayou Silver rum
1/4 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 ounce Morey Narancello orange liqueur
1. Add the raspberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, lime juice, and Narancello. Shake really well.
3. Strain through a fine strainer into two cocktail glasses – because when it’s sunny outside, you may be in the midst of a summer romance, which means two drinks are needed
July 5, 2017
Hello! It’s that’s day again, the day when all you can think about is how you might have missed a few of my recent pieces for Seattle magazine, and that you’d like nothing better than catching up. Well, here you go:
• 4 Cocktails Perfect for Seattle Summer
• Saint John’s is a Summer Happy Hour Gem
• Union Saloon Brings Small-Town Vibe, Better Food to Wallingford
• What and Where You Need to be Drinking Right Now
June 30, 2017
I was recently in the U.K. (London, Dover, Warehorne) with wife Nat and some of my bestest pals, Jon and Nicole. It was a groovy trip (you should visit all three places, right now!), and we had oodles of English fun. At the beginning, in old Londinius, we had a little apartment, and while we visited some swell bars (especially Oriole, which is wonderfully dreamy), we also hung out in the apartment drinking G&Ts. To do it right, the G we used was from the East London Liquor Company, picked up at their stall at the bountiful Borough Market.
The first distillery in London’s east end in over a century, the East London makes vodka, rum, whisky, and of course gin, including their flagship Dry Gin, which is what we had! Made from 100% British wheat and using both vapor and direct infusion of spices, citrus, and juniper, it boasts a clear juniper and lemon/grapefruit taste underlined by cardamom, coriander, and more. Yummy stuff. We also picked up a bottle of 3/4Ounce Tonic Maison tonic syrup – from Montreal! We were very international. The Maison has a steady bit of cinchona bitterness and spices and mingled nicely with the gin. It all made from some wonderful moments, sitting around with good friends sipping while discussing the wonders of London.
Gin and Tonic
1/2 ounce 3/4Ounce Tonic Maison tonic syrup
1-1/2 ounces East London Liquor Co. Dry Gin
3 ounces soda water
Lime wedge, for garnish
1. Add the Tonic Maison and East London Liquor Company gin to a brandy snifter (or highball, or whatever glass they have at your rented space, as the case may be). Stir briefly.
2. Add a decent amount of ice to the glass. Top with the club soda. Stir well, but carefully.
3. Garnish with the wedge. Dream of London (or, if you’re there, of Montreal).
June 27, 2017
I earlier had a Day Keene Cocktail Talk (there are many Day Keene’s here on the Spiked Punch, cause he’s grand in the pulp way) from the story collection Death March of the Dancing Dolls (one of a series of collections of his pulp mag stories and yarns and legends and tales). But guess what – one was not enough! I almost forgot about the below beaut, which reminds us how long two of my favorites have been coupling in glasses and people’s minds. Sadly, the gent rolling it out isn’t, oh, the most lovable of narrators, and . . . well, you’ll have to read the story!
The only bright spot in the picture was Connie. She’d been a hasher when I met her, and a good one. She took to the job in the joint across from the City Hall like Benedictine to brandy.
–Day Keene, Mighty Like a Rogue
June 23, 2017
It’s interesting – we hear “leaves” and we think “fall,” because seasonally that’s when leaves become more iconic I suppose. Which may be backwards, since so many leaves are in place now, providing shade and such. And anyway, when titling this drink “Afternoon Leaves,” I was thinking more that it feels like such a nice drink for the end of the afternoon, the moment when afternoon itself is leaving to make room for dusk and evening.
Whew, that almost got too sappy! Late afternoon is also when many have tea (those pals in the U.K. first and foremost perhaps), and that also ties into this drink, since one of the two ingredients is Four Leaf Spirits Liath, an Earl Grey tea-infused gin. Pretty neat! Four Leaf is a small (in square feet, but not in taste) distillery in Woodinville, WA that makes tea-infused spirits and liqueurs (and rums under the Puget Sound Rum Company moniker), and also donates a portion of proceeds to cancer research and education-focused non-profits. Drinking and doing good is, well, good!
The Liath (named after the Irish for “grey”) is swell all on its own, with the juniper and botanicals from the gin mingling around the citrusy bergamot from the tea. But in the declining afternoon hours (which can be a little lonely), I wouldn’t want it to operate alone, and so picked a perfect partner: Italian vermouth legends Carpano’s Bianco vermouth.
I just recently picked up a bottle of this elixir, and it’s a special tipple, starting from the citrus, fruit, and nutty nose to the light-but-full taste, which has the flavors promised to the nose, with a touch of white-wine mineral-ness. Delicious solo as well, when combined with the Liath you have a complex but so sip-able cocktail. Try it, in the afternoon of course.
2 ounces Four Leaf Spirits Liath Earl Grey tea-infused gin
1 ounce Carpano Bianco
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two charmers. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.