July 10, 2020
I hear you, don’t worry – it’s July, it’s summer, it’s hot, the sweat is pouring off your hard-working brow, the yard has yet to be mowed (again), the sun is so high and hot in the sky, a winter-ific, fall-tastic, chill-in-the-air idealistic, hearty, flavorful, Scotch whisky is perhaps the last slow sipper that comes to mind. But darn it, conventions are made to be chucked, and sometimes the last idea is the most needed, the best. Just like some days you realize that only a good whisky will balance out the hours. Lucky for me, I recently received not one, but two good ones in the mail (lovely mail!), and so quenched my summer Scotch thirst with Ardbeg Wee Beastie and Ardbeg Blaaack. And what lovely tipples they are!
Let’s start with Ardbeg Wee Beastie, a youthful number at just five years of age (“mellowed” as they say in ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks), but packing a walloping taste none-the-less, like a powerful toddler you won’t want to ignore. Especially if you like some smoke in your sip – that smokiness is a fine match for summer, too, if you think about all the flame-y cooking happening. But even though it’s young and bold, it’s smooth, too, starting with a peat-y, pepper-y, fire-y nose that ends sweet with a hint of citrus. That folds into a taste that’s smoky as well, especially at the tail, but with loads of spice, a little vanilla, and herbs intertwined. A few drops of water are a neat addition, bringing the smoke, vanilla, and citrus notes more into play.
Right along the heels (it’s a two-Scotch day after all!) is Ardbeg Blaaack, the limited-edition whisky released to celebrate and commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Ardbeg Committee. What is the Ardbeg Committee? It’s a sweet fan club, really, one that spreads the good Ardbeg word as well as getting some neat stuff, too. But back to the Blaaack! New Zealand Pinot Noir casks (first time Ardbeg’s used these for those counting) held the lush liquid. New Zealand and Scotland’s shared sheep-ness add the extra “baaa” to the name! But what about the taste? Glad you asked! The aroma has a distinctive berry-ness (summery!), light smoke, and hints of flowers and oak, flowing into a flavor that’s more berries, baked fruit, cherries, a bit of oak and nuttiness, followed by a little spice and more fruit. Yummy. Add a little water here, and the cherry notes are unleashed even more, with an echo of citrus along for the ride.
And now you have two great reasons for believing me that whisky can be just the ticket, even in the height of summer.
July 7, 2020
Hello you! Did you see or not see The Bertrams Part I Cocktail Talk, in which I called the immortal Anthony Trollope “Tony” and talked about this book we’re quoting from? If you didn’t see that yet, then by all means, go read it now (and you could read all the Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks, too, if you want). But if you have, and so you really have all the background and build up and such, then why not dive right into the below quote, which focuses on two mad military men, who aren’t really a large part of the overall story (heck, they barely feature at all). But, this quote was my introduction to “tiffin-time,” which is like (or was? Still is? You tell me) an Indian afternoon tea, round 3 p.m., and where it seems they also had beer! I like it. And of course, I’m always happy to see the boozy wine punch Sangaree make an appearance!
“And the brows of Major Biffin and Captain M’Gramm were clouded. They had been filling the plates and glasses of these two ladies all the way from Calcutta; they had walked with them every day on deck, had fetched their chairs, picked up their handkerchiefs, and looked after their bottled beer at tiffin-time with an assiduity which is more than commendable in such warm latitudes. And now to be thrown on one side for two travelling Englishmen, one in a brown coat and the other in a black one for two muffs, who had never drunk Sangaree or sat under a punkah!”
–Anthony Trollope, The Bertrams
July 3, 2020
This lesser-known (but awesome) drink from days of yore feels appropriate in many ways for this weekend (named after the sound bombs made and all that), and it is incredibly tasty (and sorta surprising when you look at the list of ingredients), and a drink if you haven’t made you sure should try, but, but, but, listen, I don’t want to soapbox, but I really am not a big 4th of July fan. Not the, oh, sentiment I suppose, but going overboard with the fireworks. As a long-time dog owner, and as someone with the belief that dogs are, actually, a higher species than humans (in the main), and knowing how said fireworks can drive, and do drive, dogs insane, then you can see why I don’t enjoy the holiday, or the days around it.
On the other hand, this is why I need a good drink, and why I’m having a Whizz Bang. A curiously explosive number, this time I’m starting with Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon, which is local (support your locals!), award-winning, and tasty. I’ve had this drink made with a smooth Scotch, and that’s not a bad idea. However, it being the fourth and all, wanted to stay more American, and the Woodinville is a treat. Next up: dry vermouth. You don’t see enough whiskey and dry vermouth combos, and even rarer (I think? I could be wrong) is that combo with anise-y Pernod! I believe this may have originally been made with absinthe, before the big silly oh-no-scary-absinthe moment in history, but I’ve grown to love the Pernod here, so we’ll stick with it. And we’re still going! Next up: grenadine. This drink only works with really good grenadine (it somehow brings it all together), so make your own, or have a friend make some good grenadine and convince them to give you some. That’s what I did! Our final sparkly addition is orange bitters, for those herbal undertones. I went with Scrappy’s orange bitters, cause it’s, well, sparkly! Altogether, the Whizz Bang’ll make any weekend shine. Maybe have one or two, with some pals, and skip exploding things and terrorizing pups? Just an idea!
The Whizz Bang
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pernod
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and give your dog a pet.
June 30, 2020
Well, anyone who is anyone knows that I love myself some Anthony Trollope. More than anyone else is the world? I’m not sure about that, as there are some fanatical Trollope-ites out there, and more power to ‘em. But I do love old Anthony (or, Tony, as I call him when we’re chatting), and have read I think all but two of his books, or three, perhaps, which is in a way a nice feeling, as I have that to look forward to. I also have re-reading (and re-re-reading and onwards in some cases) the books I have, one of which is The Bertrams (pubbed 1859), a tale theoretically of three chaps, but really one (George Bertram) is the spotlight guy most of the time. Is The Bertrams my favorite Trollope, or in the top half? Probably not (just lacks a little of the Trollope balance, parallelisms, and rounded characters, and such, to me). Am I still really glad and re-read it, and do I hope to be around long enough to re-read it again? Damn straight Tony! And does the book have a number of Cocktail Talk worthy moments? Damn straight again! Starting with the below, which is probably one of the few Milk Punch moments in classic literature.
“Having uttered these very lugubrious words, and almost succeeded in throwing a wet blanket over the party, he sat down.
‘Now, you’re not going to do anybody else, are you?’ said Madden.
‘Only Twisleton, and Gerard, and Hopgood,’ answered Bertram; ‘and Fortescue looks as if he expected it. Perhaps, however, he’ll let us off till the day after to-morrow.’
And then, with a round of milk punch, another cigar apiece, and a little more chat, the party broke up.”
–Anthony Trollope, The Bertrams
June 26, 2020
Upon reflection while sipping one of these beauties, I’ve realized that perhaps The WAD isn’t the most attractive of names. Am I right? Tell me I’m wrong? Perhaps I’m right, but, well, it’s too late to change the name now, cause it’s out in the world, and the poor drink would be sad cause people would always be calling it by the wrong name. So, here we are, The WAD. I do think it’s made better if I say that it stands for Washington Aligned Daiquiri of Sorts? And that WADS would be worse (well, maybe)? Cause that’s where the name comes from. See, I was making a Daiquiri type drink for a pal, or was wanting to, and also wanting to use all WA-made ingredients, for fun, and wanted to differentiate it a bit, all that, okay. Okay! So, started with the Puget Sound Rum Company’s Rum 47 Amber rum – so named as it was carefully made on the 47th parallel, with organic panela from a family farm in Columbia, and aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Great start! Next, sticking with Puget Sound Rum Company, their Comb and Cane honey-infused rum, which is made with Pacific Northwest honey, and has a slight sweetness and more good rum-ness. Add some fresh lime juice, and some brown sugar simple syrup, and The WAD is here. Potentially not awesome name and all.
1-1/2 ounces Puget Sound Rum Company Rum 47 Amber rum
1 ounce Puget Sound Rum Company Comb & Cane
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce brown sugar simple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass or comparable. Sip it up, WA style, whatever your name.
June 23, 2020
Our final Cocktail Talk featuring the mostly mild crime-solving Father Brown (now even more famous from the wonderful BBC show that I’ve watched, and that you should watch) takes place in France – Father Brown’s a bit of a globe trotter in the stories. And may not like absinthe, though that could be writer G.K. Chesterton, too. If you want a little more Father Brown – and you should – quick, then for gosh sakes don’t miss Father Brown Cocktail Talks Part I and Part II. And then maybe have a little absinthe and sip it while reading, good on you.
M. Armagnac looked at M. Brun. M. Brun borrowed the letter, read it, and looked at M. Armagnac. Then both betook themselves briskly to one of the little tables under the chestnuts opposite, where they procured two tall glasses of horrible green absinthe, which they could drink apparently in any weather and at any time. Otherwise the cafe seemed empty, except for one soldier drinking coffee at one table, and at another a large man drinking a small syrup and a priest drinking nothing.
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Duel of Dr. Hirsch”
June 19, 2020
So, it was just a few weeks ago when I was talking about how flavored vodkas weren’t necessarily my boozy jam, but then went and talked about this Cucumbers and Tonic highball I was having and how tasty it was. And now here I am, doing it again! Sorta. I mean, here, I’m talking (typing?) about, or about to type about, a smoked vodka that I really am liking. Specifically, Chase Smoke flavored vodka, a bottle of which showed up in the mails recently (lucky for me, and then some!). It’s made by smoking spring water with English Oak for five good days, and then blending with Chase vodka (which itself is made from British potatoes, grown on a farm in Herefordshire – same farm the distillery is on if I have it all right). But what does it all mean? It seems like it could go perfectly wrong, but it goes perfectly right! With a memorable and lovely oak smokiness, and echoes of the forest and campfires and sunsets in fall. That last bit too much? Well, sometimes that’s okay! Sadly, right up front, I have to admit I don’t think it’s available in my own state of WA at this moment – but soon, one hopes. Secondly up front, I think this smoked vodka dream was really designed to craft legendary Bloody Marys – and I don’t like Bloody Marys. SHHHH! Don’t tell.
But I believe this vodka is actually a treat on its own, or over a little ice. And good in other drinks, including A Kindred Spirit, which I’m going to detail right here. Influenced by the Oaxacan Old Fashioned, a favorite of my wife’s, and another smoky delight. Which means I’m upping the smoke quotient! And also going to go with two base spirits — upping the base spirits! We’re going up here! Second base spirit: mezcal (you may have guessed this already, with the smoke talk). But with two base spirits, need to make sure they get along, so also here, a little rosemary brown sugar simple syrup. And then, for the final ingredients, a little Angostura bitters, to add a few herbal undercurrents, and a wide orange twist for some rich citrus hints. Everything comes together to form a lovely sipper for the back patio, or in front of the fire, or wherever you please (you’re sipping, after all), as well as a swell way to showcase the swell Chase Smoked Vodka.
A Kindred Spirit
2 ounces Chase Smoke flavored vodka
1/2 ounce Montelobos mezcal
1/2 ounce simple syrup (see Note)
Dash Angostura bitters
Big ice cube, or a few regular ice cubes
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Add everything but ice to an Old Fashioned glass. Stir well.
2. Add a big ice cubes or a couple regular ice cubes. Stir again, briefly. Garnish with the twist.
A Note: I used a rosemary-y brown sugar simple syrup here, and it was yumski. However, regular could work, too! For the rosemary, just add some to your normal recipe.
June 16, 2020
Hey, first up: don’t forget to read the Father Brown Part I Cocktail Talk, or you’ll hate yourself when you wake up from your nap. Done? Back? We are into the second now, from the Complete Father Brown Stories by ol’ G.K. Chesterton. In this story (as in many) the good Father is traipsing around the globe, solving mysteries, making friends, spreading the legend. In this particular story, he’s in the midst of millionaires and revolutionaries (the amount of millionaires Father Brown hangs with is wild, really), and drinks, a bit, with murder right around the corner.
Perhaps the one point in common to the two council chambers was that both violated the American Constitution by the display of strong drink. Cocktails, of various colors had stood before the three millionaires. Halket, the most violent of the Bolshevists, thought it only appropriate to drink vodka. He was a long, hulking fellow with a menacing stoop, and his very profile was aggressive, the nose and lips thrust out together, the latter carrying a ragged red moustache and the whole curling outwards with perpetual scorn. John Elias was a dark watchful man in spectacles, with a black pointed beard, and he had learnt in many European cafes a taste for absinthe.
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Ghost of Gideon Wise”