December 15, 2017
It’s the holiday party season, and you’re probably thinking, “what should I serve as I unwrap presents, or in any way enjoy the holiday season with family and friends?” Well, there are lots and lots of options, and I’m not trying to push you one way or another, but this Bombay Punch is a sure charmer, thanks to a flavorful feast of fine friends brandy, maraschino, Cointreau, apricot liqueur, and seasonal bubbly. With a little fresh orange to keep things healthy – it is the cold and flu season after all – and a lot of cheer. Again, not trying to push you, just giving you friendly options. It being the holiday season, I find it’s finest to be friendly, right?
Bombay Punch, from Dark Spirits
Serves 10 to 12
10 ounces brandy
5 ounces maraschino liqueur
5 ounces Cointreau
5 ounces apricot liqueur
10 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 750-milliliter bottles brut Champagne or sparkling wine
10 to 12 orange slices
1. Fill a large punch bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, maraschino, Cointreau, apricot liqueur, and orange juice. Using a ladle or large spoon, stir briefly.
2. Slowly (the bubble effect can take out your Bombay if not careful), pour the Champagne into the punch bowl. Again, this time a bit more slowly, stir briefly.
3. Add the orange slices, stir once more, and serve in punch glasses, trying to get an orange slice in each glass.
December 12, 2017
I recently re-read The Three Clerks
by the awesome Anthony Trollope – one of his earlier books, and one at the time that he himself called “the best novel I have ever written.” It was his sixth novel, out of a whole lot of novels, and weaves together the story of, as you might expect from the title, three clerks working in government offices in London, with varying degrees of success. Another thing you might expect, after reading that briefest of descriptions, is that these young gentlemen probably enjoy a sip of the tipsy now and again – being young and out on the town. Which is why there are a lot of good cocktail talking in here, enough that I’ve already had one Cocktail Talk quote from The Three Clerks
on the Spiked Punch. But with the re-reading, I realized just how many there are! So, a few more are demanded, I say, in honor of Trollope. Starting with this gem that contains multiple booze-y treats, as an old sailor-y uncle of a few other main characters looks for a drink.
He had dined in town, and by the time that his chamber had been stripped of its appendages, he was nearly ready for bed. Before he did so, he was asked to take a glass of sherry.
‘Ah! sherry,’ said he, taking up the bottle and putting it down again. ‘Sherry, ah! yes; very good wine, I am sure. You haven’t a drop of rum in the house, have you?’
Mrs. Woodward declared with sorrow that she had not.
‘Or Hollands?’ said Uncle Bat. But the ladies of Surbiton Cottage were unsupplied also with Hollands.
‘Gin?’ suggested the captain, almost in despair.
Mrs. Woodward had no gin, but she could send out and get it; and the first evening of Captain Cuttwater’s visit saw Mrs. Woodward’s own parlour-maid standing at the bar of the Green Dragon, while two gills of spirits were being measured out for her.
— Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks
December 8, 2017
I was in London last summer, and (as you do when in London, or the U.K. in general I suppose) I had a fair amount of gin, in G & Ts mostly, but some other ways, too, and was struck by how many delicious gins there were, a really wide selection in some spots. One of the favorites, and one that I found most everywhere, was Sipsmith — specifically their London Dry gin (they have a few others, too). I’d heard of it on past trips, but was stoked to see it in so many places. Launching in 2009, Sipsmith was London’s first copper distillery since 1820. This gin of theirs is a traditional London Dry, made in amazingly-small batches, and has won a fair amount of awards.
With good reason, too! The gin blends 10 botanicals, and the end result has a balanced dry juniper-ness as you sip, with a little follow-up sweetness, a little lemon, and a little of that lovely orange marmalade you get when traveling your favorite U.K. spots. You can guess that when traveling back to Seattle, even though we have our fair share of great gins, I missed Sipsmith.
But, lucky me, Sipsmith just became available over here – and I ended up with a bottle. I wanted to try it in a cocktail, as well as just swilling it solo, and wanted to keep it classic, but then also wanted to go outside the very norm of the norms. After some old book browsing, I decided to go with the Alaska. While there’s really, from what I know, no specific connection to the state that carries its name, this is a beautifully simple drink that allows the gin to shine, while also bringing another level of herb-and-spice-and-nice-ness, through the drink’s secondary ingredient, Yellow Chartreuse. A short step sweeter and easy-going-er than its Green sibling, the Yellow C plays well with Sipsmith. Depending on what old book you utilize, the Alaska Cocktail also on occasion includes orange bitters, and sometimes a twist of lemon. Here, I went with just the core two ingredients. The orange bitters, well, they’d be a good add, though I don’t think it suffers if you have the right gin. Try it, with Sipsmith, and see what you think.
The Alaska Cocktail
2 ounces Sipsmith London Dry Gin
3/4 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
1. Fill a mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin and Chartreuse. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, while looking London-wards.
December 5, 2017
Probably not surprising – due to the fact that Washington has tons of scrumptious fruit being brought to us lucky consumers – but there are loads of fruit brandies being made in this state. I’m talking traditional, strong, European-style fruit brandy, the very essence of the fruit bottled up. I recently wrote all about the wave of Washington eau de vie, as fruit brandy is also called, for the mighty Seattle magazine, along with highlighting a few favs. Don’t miss it!
Read Northwest Distillers Borrow European Traditions for Fruit Brandies now!
December 1, 2017
I don’t actually have a tipsy Italian uncle that I’ve named this after, and because of that, I wake up sorrowful every day. Okay, that’s not true! I did receive a bottle of Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey in the mail recently though. That’s true! I know, getting whiskey in the mail should make me happy – and it does. True!
Uncle Nearest has a great story. It was made in honor of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a former slave who as the story goes taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Amazing! While it was launched in Portland, OR, it’s made in Tennessee using at least 51% corn, filtered via sugar maple charcoal, aged in new American oak, and bottled at 100 proof. That proof gives it a nice sturdy backbone, mellowed by vanilla and rounded out with hints of sesame and cinnamon in the flavor. It’s a sipper, for sure, and one that’ll warm you and your uncles.
When mixing with it, I wanted to keep that umph and personality, but take a little edge off, and bring some herbal helpers into the party. And I went Italian (as I often do), with Montenegro amaro (which lies on the sweeter side of the amaro scale) and Punt e’ Mes vermouth. Also brought old pal Peychaud along, too. End result is robust, with layers and layers of flavor. I think tipsy uncles everywhere would be proud.
The Tipsy Italian Uncle
1-1/2 ounces Uncle Nearest whiskey
1 ounce Montenegro amaro
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole family. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make a second for your uncle (or in his honor, at least).
November 28, 2017
I love discovering a writer I haven’t read, who I like (or at least enough to try and track down more of), and who has a fair amount of books. The world seems so wide open! And it happened recently, as I picked up a reprint that contained two books by W.R. Burnett. Best-known for The Asphalt Jungle
and High Sierra
(as you can tell by that twosome, he was heavily involved with the cinematic arts at one point), Burnett wrote bunches of novels, stories, screenplays, and songs (the latter not so regular with novelists), mostly in the noir vein – well, not sure about the songs – though with some outliers and pushing the boundaries of what we’d think of the genre. Including his book It’s Always Four O’clock
(which is paired with the much-less-satifying boxing book Iron Man
here), which is about struggling, or up-and-coming, jazz musicians in LA. It’s impeccably written, and the characters are interesting, real, and the story pretty emotional in many ways. Loved it. And now am excited to track down more Burnett. Not a lot of Cocktail Talk-ing, but this description of a night when too many were had is sweet:
So I told him, falling all over myself like a drunken and guilty husband trying to explain to the angry little woman how it happened to be three o’clock in the morning and how he happened to be so loaded with booze he couldn’t have hit the ceiling with his hat.
–W.R. Burnett, It’s Always Four O’clock
November 17, 2017
This is not a spelling error (not that I don’t make those a lot); if you didn’t know, there really is a drink called The Zazarac. It wants you to know that it, while not renowned and legendary and all that, it in its own way is also worthy of your attention, much like its very distant cousin (though maybe not the same amount of attention, admittedly). It has a rare rye and rum combo, some friendly supporting players in anisette (go Meletti) and absinthe and Angostura and orange bitters (go Regan’s), and takes the edges off with a splash of simple, and tops things with a twist. Will it have you stopping your Sazerac consumption? Nope. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a sip.
The Zazarac, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce white rum
3/4 ounce anisette
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce absinthe
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, rum, anisette, syrup, absinthe, and both bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a large cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist and a nod to all the lesser-known family members.
November 14, 2017
Last week, I put up perhaps my favorite Cocktail Talk
of all time – or darn close! It’s so good (you’ve read it right? If not, get you there
), that I figured it’d be the only quote here from Colin Dexter’s sixth Inspector Morse book, The Riddle of the Third Mile
. But then I remembered (much like Morse remembering another obscure fact) that there was a second quote, also amazing. Not quite as amazing, but darn good, and has such a sweet phrase for what I’m thinking is more-or-less (Morse-or-less) a Martini. Check it out:
‘What’ll it be, Morse? No beer, I’m afraid but gin and tonic, gin and French?’
‘Gin and French-lovely!’ Morse reached over and took a cigarette from the well-stocked open box on the table.
The Master beamed in avuncular fashion as he poured his mixtures with a practiced hand.
— Colin Dexter, The Riddle of the Third Mile