April 24, 2020
Sometimes, when you’re at home for a while, you want to get nutty and make drinks with, say, peanut butter, or utilize a whole giant bouquet of ingredients, or some such. Sometimes, when you’re at home for a while, you just want to keep things lovely and simple. Today is one of those times. Don’t be confused, you still naturally want tasty tastes, so I’m reaching for WA-state-made Brovo Pretty vermouth. A blanc vermouth, it has a layered fragrance and taste, with some light (meaning, light on the feet, like an angelic dancer) spice, vanilla, floral notes bursting out – hey, it’s sorta like a bouquet! And goes perfectly with tonic, in a simple V&T. I went with Fever Tree tonic, which is a solid choice. Though, staying local with one of our swell WA tonic syrups would be better, but sadly I’m out! I need to get onto my ordering, so I can practice what I preach, which is: support your local makers.
Brovo Pretty Vermouth and Tonic
1-1/2 ounces Brovo Pretty vermouth
3-1/2 ounces tonic
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice. Add the vermouth. Then the tonic. Stir briefly.
2. Garnish with the lemon slice. Oh, and add more tonic as desired (4 ounces is just fine, too).
April 17, 2020
If you didn’t know (and hey, why would you, unless you’re stalking me – you aren’t are you? Cause I’m really boring and feel for you if so), I recently, due to current events you know about, had an Italian vacation cut short by coronavirus. Said cutting short involved some radically fast packing (I mean, I’m a good suitcase arranger usually, but this was a mad dash), and that means quick choices about what to bring back, what you can fit, all that. One of the things I did bring back was a little bottle of Mazzetti Bitter, a deep red flavorfully-bitter aperitif with hints of rhubarb and lemon from the well-known grappa makers. Just like a week before the packing I purchased said bottle at my favorite north-Umbrian shop, Enoteca Lo Sfizio, which is a combination beautiful booze store, gift store, wine store, condiment-y store. It’s not huge (which is great cause huge stores scare me), but dreamy. So, ingredient one packed. One of the few other bottles I managed to squirrel away in said suitcases was a lean bottle of Donini Grappa (Donini being the finest winery in probably all of Umbria, owned by the nicest folks around), a monovitigno (one varietal that is, here being Sangiovese) grappa, very crisp and fragrant, that doesn’t forget that cozy grappa kick. Ingredient two packed. For ingredient three, I had to go out of suitcase – cause a rushed packing job sometimes has gaps. Luckily, on a past trip to Italy, I had packed in a smoother manner, cool-like, and managed to fit a bottle of Donini’s delicious Dono Di Dio, a vino liquoroso, or aged dessert wine that’s rich, lush, and needs to be tasted to be believed. If you’ve been Tuscany and had Vin Santo at a restaurant, think of that but like 10,000 times better. Yummy stuff. While I was sad to leave the Italian vacation, due to the wackiness of the travel (and cause once a trip is started, it’s always nice to be coming home), I was also very happy to make it back to Seattle. Which leads to: ingredient four in this here drink, Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. If your dream vacation is cut short unexpectedly by a world pandemic, a drink featuring the always-spot-on Scrappy’s and some ingredients reminding you of the vacation, well, it’s not going to get you over the experience, but sure makes thinking about it easier.
Forty Minutes Ago on the Balcony
1 ounce Mazzetti Bitter
1-1/2 ounces Donini Grappa
1/2 ounce Donini Dono Di Dio
Two dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass three-quarters full with cracked ice. Add everything but the orange. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or something that helps your day travel easier. Garnish with the orange.
April 14, 2020
Okay, okay, okay, I have to have one more Cocktail Talk from the bountiful holiday bounty that is The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. If you missed the first two winter-holiday-in-spring Cocktail Talks, then roll back in time with Christmas Mystery Cocktail Talk #1 and Christmas Mystery Cocktail Talk #2. Good? Cheerful with holiday cheer? Good? Then it’s time for a little Santa bartender thanks to Rex Stout, his legendary detective Nero Wolfe, and the story “Christmas Party” – at this Christmas party, there’s some merriment, and then some murder, as you’d expect. And some Pernod! You probably didn’t expect that, but see the below (and get The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries).
“I can stand a sip, Al.”
“But you won’t enjoy it. Wait.” Kiernan put his glass on the bar and marched to the door on the left and on out. In five seconds, he was back, with a bottle in his hand, and as he rejoined us and asked Santa Claus for a glass I saw the Pernod label. He pulled the cork, which had been pulled before, filled the glass halfway, and held it out to Bottweill. “There,” he said. “That will make it unanimous.”
“Thanks Al,” Bottweill took it. “My secret public vice.”
— Rex Stout, Christmas Party
April 10, 2020
It was only a week ago (which these days can feel like a long time, I know) when I broke it all out, all meaning my making of peanut butter simple syrup to try in drinks, following along a thread first spun by creative chums Paul and Colleen, and then broke out a drink called Pleasant Bounty using said peanut butter pleasantry. Did you miss that? I can’t believe it if you did. But if you did, be sure to go back and check out the pb goods, so you can get the full story and not feel un-full. Okay, back? Sweet, cause you won’t believe what’s about to happen here – peanut butter simple syrup drink #2! That’s right, there’s no way I wouldn’t try out more than one drink with a new creation. And, shhhh, between us, I think Particularly Boosting is even better than Pleasant Bounty. And do you like the two PB names? I sure do! This drink actually follows along the lines of the peanut butter simple, with a balance of ingredients in equal amounts, somewhat in an Alexander fashion, if we’re musing. Starting naturally with the pbs (peanut butter simple), and moving along to a nice base of vodka, and then a crème de cacao (accent on the “cao”) smoosh. The chocolate and peanut butter combo is so classic, I’m not even going to dwell on it. You know that’s the stuff. As is this drink.
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce peanut butter simply syrup
1 ounce crème de cacao
Cocoa powder for garnish
1. Add the three liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir, but not too wackily.
2. Fill your mixing glass or shaker halfway full with ice. Stir again, gently.
3. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable. Dust with a little cocoa.
April 7, 2020
Only weeks in the past, I had a Cocktail Talk from the Robert Barnard story “Boxing Unclever,” which was featured in the awesome anthology The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, which is both big as advertised (my version nearly 800 pages) and bouncing over with holiday cheer – meaning, murders, thievery, and the like, with authors ranging from 100s (or thereabouts) of years old to more modern fare. It’s a winter gem! This Cocktail Talk is in the older bracket, though not old in a pejorative sense! The story is by Damon Runyon, and, weirdly, I used to rent an apartment near where he was born in Manhattan, KS! He made his mark in the other Manhattan, where his writing on the glittering and tarnished made him famous. This story starts on a scrumptious holiday high note with the below quote, and then rolls its prohibition-y way from there, in a language and style right on time.
Now one time it comes on Christmas, and in fact it is the evening before Christmas, and I am in Good Time Charley Bernstein’s little speakeasy in West Forty-seventh Street, wishing Charley a Merry Christmas and having a few hot Tom and Jerrys with him.
This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is one so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry, although of course this is by no means true.
–Damon Runyon, Dancing Dan’s Christmas
April 3, 2020
When in the situation we all find ourselves within (Together we can do it! Stay safe and keep others safe! All of that with exclamation points!), me as well as you I’m sure are spending more time at home. Good! But when at home, I find myself wondering what I can make for sipping that’s different – give myself a little project. Or, wondering what I can make that is easy, allowing me more time to sit on the couch and read The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. Today, though, it’s the former of those two, the “different” path. And this path was unveiled via a suggestion/question (qugestion?) that happened way back when, like when things were starting to get mad but not as mad, from two fine folks I know: genius writer Paul Tobin and genius artist (and writer, really) Colleen Coover. I am luckily enough to be friends with these geniuses (should be geni, really) and connected on the Twitters, and there, they nicely roped me into a very important drink-a-logical conversation re: using peanut butter in drinks. It took me awhile to get on the pb-drinks trolley, but as I now (thanks virus) have a lot of time on my hands, and always (thanks tastebuds) have a love for peanut butter, finally dove in to the nutty problem. And decided to go a route I hadn’t seen, but now see is all over the internet, or at least has search results – making a peanut butter simple syrup.
See, I though in a lightbulb-in-a-bar-glass moment that creating said syrup would make for a more mitigating pal when playing with other liquids. It took me a little messing around (I like that!) to get to a syrup I was at least partially fond of, and I’m still not sure it’s perfect. If you’re curious (and can’t wait for the recipe below), equality was what punched the pb syrup ticket, equality of peanut butter, sugar, and water. Yay! Once the pb syrup was syrup’d to my liking, then it was drink time. Yay, again! I made two I liked, but between us, I’m still not completely convinced that I couldn’t make better, make more, and keep tweaking the formula. Above-mentioned genius Colleen has already done such she’s told me, bringing chocolate into the syrup-making mix – seems, well, a genius idea.
Anyway, before I ramble out of the bar, Pleasant Bounty is the first pb syrup drink. I wanted to have one at least with whiskey, cause it can be nutty, and for said brown, I picked locally-made and awesome Woodinville Whiskey Flagship Bourbon, which just won “Best Straight Bourbon Whiskey of 2020” and a Double Gold Medal (DOUBLE GOLD) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Using only grain grown on a WA farm (grain grown just for them), it’s a caramelly, vanilla, spice, dream. For the final ingredient, went with another nutty number, Sidetrack Distillery’s Nocino walnut liqueur. Also a bit spicy with a bit of a kick, it adds more nuttiness to this drink, and this nutty world. In hindsight, perhaps I could have upped the pb simple a little. Hmm. Would be more sweet, but more peanut-y. User choice!
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Flagship Bourbon
3/4 ounce peanut butter simple syrup (recipe below)
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Nocino
1. Add the first three ingredients above to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir gently.
2. Add a little ice, and again stir gently. Strain into a cocktail glass or something like it. Be pleasant.
A Note: You could fine strain this to get rid of any stray peanut-y bits, but I sorta liked them. If you use crunchy, probably strain.
Peanut Butter Simple Syrup Recipe Note: It’s really easy to make this, and it would be absolutely absolute on ice cream as well as in drinks. You just need to add equal parts peanut butter (use one that’s made from only peanuts – I think creamy or smooth works nicely, but crunch if that’s your thing), sugar, and water to a saucepan over low-to-medium low heat. Whisk continually until the sugar is dissolved. You don’t want to overheat, I found. But again, still experimenting!
March 27, 2020
So, I was not too long ago in the lovely Italy (in perhaps the loveliest part – to me – northern Umbria), and though much madness was happening (I don’t feel the need to delve deep as you know what I’m talking about, and really, you can get all you want on current worldwide issues elsewhere), was loving it until I had to unexpectedly make the decision to leave. The night before said decision was made, though, to accompany me as I caught up on current worldwide issues, I made a drink that was – if I can say so while being still thought of as a little humble – pretty darn swell. And that drink is this drink, if you know what I mean, called L’Altra Sera.
It started with an Italian gin I’ve mentioned here on the Spiked Punch before, PiùCinque, which boasts a unique and smooth flavor coming from ten botanicals: juniper, sage, ginger root, wormwood flowers, angelica, Seville orange, almond, zedoary, orris root, and bergamot. Altogether, it’s a citrus, herbal, treat. Here, I combined it with another absolute treat (just typing the name makes me salivate), Del Professore Classico vermouth. The fine folks at Del Professore make two other delish vermouths, too (Rosso and Vaniglia), and both are dandy, but let’s stick to Classico here. Made on a Muscat wine base, with herbs and magic things from the hills around Turin, Italy (including gentian, mace, vanilla, cloves, lemon, and more), it has a light but aromatic and flavor-packed nature, and is worthy all on its own over ice, with or without a lemon. But it also plays nice with others, and went especially well with the PiùCinque here.
But not so well that I didn’t bring in a third pal to play with, and I went to a different content for it: Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters, made in swell Seattle, WA. If you haven’t had this exceptional elixir, you should, as it’s magically in its own right, earthy, citrus-y, amazing. Get it, get the above, and have this not on a last night, but tonight.
2 ounces PiùCinque gin
1 ounce Del Professore Classico vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, vermouth, and bitters, and stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable, and garnish with that lemon twist. Enjoy the lovely.
March 24, 2020
When you’re sorta, oh, staying at home for an extended period as some are at the moment, it’s good to have a big, big book (or many). If you’re looking for a good big, big book, may I suggest what I’m reading, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries? Cause it is very big (700 plus pages in the version I have), and very good (I mean, it features tons of heavy-hitters covering many genres), and very holiday-y, which brings a nice feeling these days. Christmas and winter holidays are mystery-story hotspots, if you didn’t know, probably due to balancing the cheer out with murder. That’s a guess, but I’m just happy there are so many good stories here! Including one by Robert Barnard called Boxing Unclever. I have to admit, I didn’t know Mr. Barnard well before this story (I know, I probably should!), but one of the fun things about a big anthology like this is discovering the writers new to you, alongside your favorites. And this story is an intriguing one, a story within a story, and one with some nice – and murderous! – cocktail-talking, in the form of the below quote:
And so it was time for a second round of drinks. I decided on that as I saw toiling up the drive the figure of my dear old dresser, Jack Roden. My once dear old dresser. I poured out a variety of drinks including some already-mixed cocktails, two kinds of sherry, some gins and tonic, and two glasses of neat whisky. There was only one person in the room with the appalling taste to drink neat whisky before luncheon. Pouring two glasses gave that person a fifty-fifty chance of survival. Depending on how the tray was presented. With my back to the guests I dropped the hyoscine into one of the whisky glasses.
— Robert Barnard, Boxing Unclever