October 2, 2020

What I’m Drinking: Caducitivo

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.

caducitivoCaducitivo

 

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.

 

 

September 29, 2020

Cocktail Talk: The O’Conors of Castle Conors (or Early Short Stories, Part I)

trollope-early-short-storiesOh, Anthony Trollope, what more can I say? I mean, I’ve had a whole bar’s worth of Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk posts, with many words unfurled on my love of and like of nearly every book in the Anthony Trollope canon, as I own nearly every single book he wrote, which is saying something as he was prolific as apple pie (whatever that means; he wrote lots of books). But there are still a few books out in the book wild by Trollope that I don’t have, and every time I discover one, I am happy as, oh, a kid at their birthday. And guess what? The other day I did indeed find a Trollope book I didn’t have, the Early Short Stories collection. A couple stories in it I had read (in the Lotta Schmidt and Other Stories collection), but most I hadn’t, and it’s been a treat reading them, a treat! Many take place all-round-the-world, though the one we’re Cocktail Talk-ing today takes place in Ireland, where Trollope lived for years, and set a few early books, and is called “The O’Conors of Castle Conors,” and ends on a happy note and with at tray of . . . well, you’ll see below.

 

“And Patsey,” said she, “ride for your life; and Patsey, whatever you do, don’t come back without Mr. Green’s pumps—his dancing-shoes you know.”

 

And in about two hours the pumps did arrive; and I don’t think I ever spent a pleasanter evening or got more satisfaction out of a pair of shoes.  They had not been two minutes on my feet before Larry was carrying a tray of Negus across the room in those which I had worn at dinner.

 

“The Dillon girls are going to stay here,” said Fanny as I wished her good night at two o’clock.  “And we’ll have dancing every evening as long as you remain.”

 

— Anthony Trollope, “The O’Conors of Castle Conors”

September 22, 2020

Cocktail Talk: The Dirty Duck, Part II

the-dirty-duckIf by some strange twist of fate you missed The Dirty Duck Part I Cocktail Talk, then by all means, please, take a moment of time to read and reflect on it before you dive in here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Okay, back? If so, then you know more than this post will tell you about the book The Dirty Duck by Martha Grimes, as well as, perhaps, if you followed the link trail more about the book The Man With a Load of Mischief, also by said Martha. All of which would be good for you to know, me thinks, cause within both books good pubs feature prominently – heck, they provide the names for the books! And the actual Dirty Duck pub, and much/some of the action, is in lovely and Shakespeare-y Stratford Upon Avon. What I didn’t mention earlier is that in both books, Grimes has a character drinking old favorite Campari, which doesn’t make it into nearly enough books. I’m not 100% sure that our author loves the red bitter aperitivo as much as I do, though she seems like a decent person, and what decent person wouldn’t? Not a one.

 

Her eyes actually seemed to be twinkling at him over the rim of her glass. What was she drinking? Naturally, Campari and lime.

 

–Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck

September 18, 2020

What I’m Drinking: The Dark and Stormy

dark-and-stormyYou know (I know you know) that I’m not what one might refer to as “summerific.” While I do love warm-weather drinking, and sitting on the porch on a mild summer’s eve, and don’t have constant AC or some such, also, I mean, I’ve been known to get sweaty easily, complain about temperatures over 80 (but living in Seattle, I swear one’s temperature gauge changes), burn like a baby, and truth be told no-one wants me in a swimsuit. With that said, however, I’m missing summer already, even though according to calendars fall doesn’t yet start for a few days. But that summer, school’s out, sun’s out, relax-why-dontcha, feeling feels to have faded like old paint, with the colder days ahead looming largely. Which is why, today, I’m having a Dark and Stormy. Cause it’s a classic refresher, bubbly, beautiful, tangy, booze-y, spice-y, summer-y – and yet, the name points to the clouds, the nighttime-in-daytime hours, the rain, the wind. It straddles the seasons, in a way, a way which makes it the ideal drink for today. Have one, see if I’m right!

 

The Dark and Stormy

 

Ice cubes

2 ounces dark rum

Chilled ginger beer (I’m using Rachel’s Ginger Beer cause it’s awesome and support you locals for gosh sakes)

Lime wedge, for garnish

 

1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the rum.

2. Fill the glass with ginger beer, smoothly and regularly.

3. Squeeze the lime wedge over the drink, and then drop it like the hand of an hourglass. Stir, but gently, as all things, us, time, are fragile.

September 15, 2020

Cocktail Talk: The Dirty Duck, Part I

the-dirty-duckNot too long ago (if you consider the amount of time within all of time, for sure) I had a couple Cocktail Talks from a book by Martha Grimes called The Man With a Load of Mischief, a book I liked pretty well. Not sure why (as this often happens) I didn’t search out more books by Martha G at the time, but, well, I didn’t. However, recently (being at home more and thereby reading more) I was scouring the shelves for a book to re-read, and I picked up said Load, and liked it again. It – as it seems all her books starring Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury – is very pub-focused, which I also like (pubs, that is! and pub-focused books), and so decided I’d keep my eyes open for more. And, low and behold, with open eyes I found one, called The Dirty Duck. Now, Grimes in the book-back blurbs gets compared at times to Agatha Christie, and while she isn’t anywhere for me as good as the best Agatha, she may not be as bad as the worst Agatha either (cause when Agatha goes off the mark, it can be far off). With that said, The Dirty Duck isn’t a bad read. It’s a little, oh, lazy at times, and a little dated for being 1984 (though that was, now that I think about it, a ways behind us in time), but it’s also a lot of fun, has some pretty neat twists and a good mystery, and is very readable. Best of all – it takes place in Stratford Upon Avon! At least for the main, and you probably can guess that means lots of Shakespeare, which I’m always for, and also the main pub (the Dirty Duck pub, that is) is one I know, and one that features mightily (under the name The Mucky Mallard) in the tv show Shakespeare and Hathaway, which I am mightily (two “mightily”s!) fond of. If that wasn’t enough to get you going, the Thomas Nashe poem “Litany in a Time of Plague” provided key clues, and is not only a swell poem, but incredibly apt right now with our own plague. And if that wasn’t enough, there are some good drinking quotes in the book, starting with the below.

One of these Americans, Miss Gwendolyn Bracegirdle, who had never had more than an ounce of sweet sherry at a time on the veranda of her huge pink-stuccoed house in Sarasota, Florida, was standing with a friend in a shadowy corner of the terrace getting sloshed.

 

“Oh honey, not another! This here’s my second – what do they call it?”

 

“Gin.” Her companion laughed.

 

“Gin!” She giggled. “I definitely couldn’t.” But she held her glass in a way that said she definitely could.

 

–Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck

September 11, 2020

What I’m Drinking: A Most Particular Friend (or, A White Currant Mint Liqueur)

Back now, oh, four years ago or thereabouts, I had a recipe and write up here on the Spiked Punch blog for a white currant liqueur called Current Currant, which I’ve been making ever since, thanks to the white currant bush/tree/plant that is growing in the side yard. It’s a plant that took some time to bear fruit, but now is pretty reliable as long as I guard it from the deadly and rapacious white currant grub that can take out a whole plant in no time if not guarded relentlessly during the three-to-a-week of days the grub attack occurs. That guarding makes the currants even more precious; well, that plus the fact that picking the currants is also a little laborious. They’re small, but have a singular taste, a little citrus-y in a way, but also hinting of green grapes, along with a bitter echo – and the fruit makes the Current Currant liqueur a singular liquid. But not what we’re drinking today! As the currant bush has gotten bigger, the yield is enough to make that liqueur as well as other experiments – including A Most Particular Friend.

A Most Particular Friend is made starting in the manner of Current Currant, with white currants, sugar, water, and vodka (any neutral spirit can work, as you might expect). The particular addition – if you want to describe it such – is a bunch of fresh orange mint. I happened to have some growing not too far from the white currant tree, and since the two were nearly neighbors as it may be, combining them seemed apt. And it worked an absolute treat. The mint (only the faintest faint echo of the orange remained, but that’s what dreams are made on) combines with the citrus-esque currant flavor in a way that makes me want to do that hand motion where you kiss your fingers and then open them – bellissimo! Lots of flavor, while remaining light as summer twilight. Fantastic chilled or over ice, so much so I haven’t even tried it in a drink. But I might! If you can track down these two flavorful ingredients, I suggest you give this a try (but don’t steal them outta my yard)!

a-most-particular-friend

A Most Particular Friend

 

1 cup fresh white currants

1-1/2 cup fresh orange mint

2 cups vodka

1-1/2 cups simple syrup

 

1. Add the currants and mint to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the 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 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.

 

 

September 4, 2020

What I’m Drinking: The Fruit on the Table

I suppose I’ve said this many times, even recently, but also farther back, throughout the ol’ Spiked Punch blog-of-drinks history, but blackberries, to me, are the queen of summertime berries, the champion of August fruits, the glorious harbinger of winter’s doom (because I always know summer is ending when I’m plowing through blackberries), and just generally really good, especially when they’re plump and sweet but holding a tiny tanginess, too. Yummski, blackberries. I like them solo, in drinks, with peanut butter, when they have been taken by Sidetrack Distillery and made into their (also, yummski) Blackberry liqueur, and when they are painted into a still life so I can admire their artistry. So, yeah, I like them, and I like them in this here drink, which is not a far relative from some other drinks, say, the Margarita, but which has its own particular name, because why wouldn’t a good drink deserve an individual name? That’d be just silly, and while I am silly, I am not silly in that way, I’ll have you know.

You know? Back to this drink! It leans heavy into our beautiful blackberries, but that isn’t all naturally. The base, for example, is another summertime (anytime) fav, mezcal, which starts us earthy and smoky. Then, Grandeza orange liqueur, made in WA, and boasting a bright orange, vanilla flavor. You could use another orange liqueur, but this one is a treat if you can get some (I realize that during the present pandemic, it might be harder than normal to travel, so I’m not gonna try to sway you toward a WA trip. Today, at least). A little fresh lime in attendance and you’ll see the Marg mention above come to life. The final piece of this tasty puzzle has also been mentioned above: Sidetrack Distillery’s lush, lovely Blackberry liqueur. Get some! Make this drink! Believe in the power of blackberries!fruit-on-the-table

 

The Fruit on the Table

 

6 fresh blackberries

Ice cubes

2 ounce mezcal

3/4 ounces Grandeza

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur

Cracked ice

 

1, Add four of the blackberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.

 

2. Fill the shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but our second variety of ice. Shake well.

 

3. Fill a goblet (or comparable) glass with cracked ice. Strain the mix from Step 2 into the glass through a fine strainer. Garnish with the remaining blackberries.

September 1, 2020

Cocktail Talk: Orient Express

orient-expressYou’ll be forgiven if you dive in here thinking, automatically, that they’ll be a murder and a portly Belgian detective within this here Cocktail Talk, cause m’lady Christie’s book that shares the two words of the title is rather a big deal, but nope! Today, we’re Cocktail Talking with gregarious Graham Greene, which is also rather a big deal of course. But while his Orient Express isn’t the best known, or most highly thought of, book within Greene’s healthy and unmissable canon, it was the first of his (to use his own phrasing) “entertainment” books, and one written specifically with the movies in mind – though it begs, in many ways, for an updated film or tv treatment as there isn’t a good one that I know of. While not the top of the Greene list, the book’s a rollicking read in many ways, dated in some ways here and there, but moving at a fast clip, and with characters you begin to really care about, or, if that’s too fancy, become involved with, their stories, that is, and a few you might be happier to do without. Read it, if you haven’t, to see if you agree. And for now, enjoy the below drunkenness.

 

‘Oh, for God’s sake, come on, Mabel,’ Janet said.

 

Miss Warren’s mood changed. She straightened herself and barred the way. ‘You say I’m drunk. I am drunk. But I’m going to be drunker.’

 

‘Oh, come on.’

 

‘You are going to have one more drink with me or I shan’t let you on the platform.’

 

Janet Pardoe gave way. ‘One. Only one, mind.’ She guided Mabel Warren across a vast black shining hall into a room where a few tired men and women were snatching cups of coffee, ‘Another gin,’ said Miss Warren, and Janet ordered it.

 

–Graham Greene, Orient Express

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