May 18, 2018
When a bottle shows up at your door wearing a sort-of a leather sheath, stitched up the back like a very cool (and very tough) boot, and having a grinning bronzed skull bottle topper, first, you very safely, very slowly, and maybe a little clandestinely, peek outside the door to ensure it wasn’t delivered by someone a bit more menacing then the local postal person. If it wasn’t, then (if you’re me), you take a sip.
If (again, if you’re me) it was a bottle of Padre Azul Reposado tequila, you don’t get the burn or serious kick you might expect from said presentation (though really, it’s a shout out to Mexican Day of the Dead culture), but instead a smooth, layered, sipping tequila, made by hand from 100 percent select blue agave, and aged for eight months in French oak casks. The flavor unfolds beautifully on the tongue, too, with a swirl of vanilla, a little nuttiness, a light herbal-ness, and a hint of smoke. Really, it’s one to have neat or over ice, at least to begin with.
If (a third time) you’re me, however, you can’t resist trying even a tequila or other spirt this fine in a cocktail. At first, because of the leather-jacketing-and-skull-grinning, I thought I’d go the more hard core route, and bring in some serious heat. But then, thanks to that vanilla and other notes, my brain exploded in another direction entirely – chocolate. I actually think tequilas of the right kind make a nice match with chocolate, and here, it’s a lush pairing. A little Cointreau made another swell attendee. I couldn’t completely let go of the spice idea, but wanted it clean and crisp and not annoying, and in that situation only Scrappy’s Firewater habanero tincture will do. One more magical ingredient – Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters, which somehow brings all of the other ones together – and we have a dessert drink fit for a king, no matter what they’re wearing.
2 ounces Padre Azul Reposado tequila
1/2 ounce crème de cacao
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater tincture
1 dash Bittermens Xocolati mole bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy, sweets.
May 15, 2018
- Hey pals and friends and compatriots from here and there and everywhere. I’ve been having some fun on the funtastic Seattle Magazine lately, with a number of pieces talking about some swell spots here in the Emerald City and near to here. Not that I’m saying you’ve missed any of these, but just in case, check out the below:
May 11, 2018
I’ve been wanting to name a drink “Snigginson van Pickyns” since like September 27, 2017. See, back then I had a Cocktail Talk quote from a F. Marion Crawford story called “The Upper Berth,” which was in (for me, at least) an Alfred Hitchcock collection called, Bar the Doors. Actually, it was the twenty-sixth day in said month when I had that post, but then I think it was the following day when I put got word on the social medea* from pals @stereolad and @PaulTobin that, really, a drink should be named Snigginson van Pickyns. And, and usual, they were right!
But it’s taken a time to find the right drink. First, due to the quote (go read it, if you haven’t), said drink needed to be sherry-based. Then, it needed to be awesome, cause, well, it’s called Snigginson van Pickyns! That demands awesome. Luckily, not too long ago I received a little sample of Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato vermouth, a limited-time number celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the vermouth maker – and that was exactly what was needed for this drink. Made on a base of Moscato D’Asti and boasting an array of botanicals (cinchona bark, Chinese rhubarb, and other global-traveling, Snigginson van Pickyns-y things), it’s a well-balanced liquid one could drink solo, but its lovely floral nature underlined by a light sweetness, citrus, and ethereal herbs and spices goes neatly into certain cocktails, too. Good stuff. And an ideal match for sherry, especially the more delicate (perhaps) Fino sherry.
But that wasn’t enough for Snigginson van Pickyns! While the above two ingredients were an amazing start, something else was needed to round things off, and I kept it in the vermouth family – Dolin Blanc vermouth. Hopefully our two vermouth producers get along (hey, we’re all drinking, it’s fun, they should), because the double shot of vermouth with sherry is a match made in spring-and-summer-time drinker’s heaven. Lots of tantalizing and tactful flavor, but all graceful enough that it won’t weigh you down when sipping under the sun. A little lemon in twist form finishes everything off, and voila! A drink worthy of the name Snigginson van Pickyns. It only took about six months.
Snigginson van Pickyns
1-1/2 ounces fino sherry
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato vermouth
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the sherry and the two vermouths (quick aside: Sherry & the Two Vermouths might be a good band name). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
*If you’ve read/seen the Jean Anouilh play of the same name, you get this! Though maybe even if you’ve just ready the Euripides, you get it, too!
May 4, 2018
Some days are difficult. Take tomorrow, for instance. It’s a tasty kind of difficult, because two solid drinking days are happening tomorrow, the fifth of May, 2018. First, it’s Cinco de Mayo, a fantastic day for having Mexican-inspired drinks, in celebration of the Mexican Army’s win over the French at the battle of Pueblo and Mexican-American culture. If you’re having sippers for Cinco, I dig it. However! It’s also the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, a day when more Mint Juleps are consumed than any other day, and a day when many fine hats are worn. I’m going the Julep route tomorrow (admittedly, I may have a National Arms tomorrow, too). And one today, cause, well, I wanna make sure I have things right.
Why the Julep route this 5th? Well, a lot of the reason is because I received a bottle Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon in the mail the other day, and I’ve been itching to try it in a julep, and, well, the circumstances seemed too fortuitous to miss! Boasting a swell-looking bottle with visuals harkening back to the inspiration of the name, Clyde May that is, who legend says was a “moonshine icon who made the best whiskey Alabama ever tasted” starting back in 1946, and made by the Conecuh Ridge Distillery, this bourbon’s a nice 92 proof, is non-chill filtered, and aged for 5 years (hey, another 5 on 5/5!) in heavily charred American oak. Its aroma features vanilla, dried fruit, oak, and spice all playing together, and a taste that mirrors the vanilla and oak, but also delivers brown sugar, nuts, and more spice, including a peppery, near-peppermint-ness on the back end. Nicely balanced all around, and worth sipping solo, but also a solid cocktail bourbon that can provide flavor and backbone.
Especially in a Mint Julep, one of the older mixes bourbon pals around within. You love Mint Juleps, right? You’re a good person, so I’m thinking you do. It’s such a swell combo, not just for Derby day, but all spring long. Just remember, as S.B. Buckner, Jr. said in a letter to General Connor, 1937 “A Mint Julep is not the process of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients, and a proper appreciation of the occasion.”
The Mint Julep
Fresh mint leaves (4 or 5)
3/4 ounce simple syrup (go lighter to taste, if that’s your desire)
3 ounces Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon
Fresh mint sprig for garnish
1. Take one mint leaf and rub it over the inside of a metal julep cup (if you have one) or a highball glass. Be sure the mint touches each inch of the glasses inside. Drop the leaf in the glass when done.
2. Add the remaining mint leaves and the simple syrup to the glass. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the leaves and syrup. You want to be strong, but respectful.
3. Fill the glass half way with crushed ice. Add the bourbon. Stir well.
4. Fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice. Stir once. Garnish with a mint sprig.
A Note: To be traditional, you must crush the ice in a cloth bag. But if this is too much work, just start with crushed ice.
May 1, 2018
Well, my Maigret completism still has a long ways to go, but I made another little dent recently, picking up four volumes which I hadn’t yet read at a book sale. Which probably means more Maigret Cocktail Talk posts
, lucky you, because he does like a drink (or two, even when his doctor friend warns him off the sauce), as he wanders around Paris and France, solving murders and more (though usually there’s a murder). The first of the new batch that I read was Maigret and the Madwoman, and it’s typically great, and with a sad-but-underlying, oh, sweet-worldweary-ness (can that even make sense? It felt right when typing) that Simenon delivers via Maigret like no other. Read it, on a spring day at dusk, and you’ll get what I mean. Also, you’ll get this quote – perhaps the only Tom Collins quote in a Maigret book? I feel I’ve seen another, but can’t recall perfectly.
The butler, in a white jacket, had followed them out and stood, a watchful figure, awaiting orders.
“What would you like to drink? May I suggest a Tom Collins? I know of nothing more refreshing at this time of day.”
Maigret and Marella indicated their approval.
“Two Tom Collinses, Georges, and the usual for me.”
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Madwoman
April 27, 2018
I can’t really tell you anything about the creation of this drink – what to led to it at least. It’s a secret, in a way, and in another way, I just can’t remember. This is a big drink! And one that’s interesting, in yet another way (a third way?), in that it marries wine and rum, yet I didn’t think of it for Wine Cocktails, instead thought of it for a pal o’ mine . . . but wait, I can’t tell you about that. In a way (fourth way), it almost feels this could be a wonderful winter warmer, in a mulled wine way (fifth). Especially because it also has a coffee component, which goes well with warming liquids, but gives it a way (the sixth way) into being a morning drink, too. Though I like it best served cold, after dinner, where it’s deep, dark, nature would go well in our seventh way, with chocolate. Hence the reason it’s called what it’s called, instead of the honestly-makes-more-sense “seventh way.”
The Foregone Conclusion
3 ounces Cesari Sangiovese Riserva or another intense full-bodied red wine
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Galliano Ristretto or other tasty coffee liqueur
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a goblet or wine glass. Or two, if you feel like sharing – this is a good-sized drink, and sharing might not be bad.
April 24, 2018
An intriguing read by an author I don’t know, an Italian author, this book’s title was too good to pass up, plus the fact that it takes place in Sicily (where the author, Leonardo Sciascia is from), and that it says on the back “in the very first rank of Italian writers,” and so, well, I had to give it a good look. It falls into the crime genre, which combined with everything else also brought me in. It’s well worth reading, too, though if you only read very straightforward crime novels, it might take you down a slightly different path – which isn’t a bad thing, me thinks. Don’t get me wrong, there is crime, a worthy police Captain, serious pacing, and the Mafia. But there’s also a lovely beauty to the prose that feels different, a way of capturing and condemning the social scene in this place and time, and a more literary lean, if any of that makes sense. Check it out if you can find it for all of the above, and for the below quote (which I think is slightly off-translation actually, but still perhaps the only Averna quote in a crime book that I’ve seen):
Pizzuco, who had invited him to a bitter vermouth at the Cafe Gulino, as so often in the past, was astounded at Parrinieddu’s refusal and abrupt flight; though not particularly bright, he wondered about it for the rest of the day. Parrinieddu, for his part, was so rattled that he spent the day attributing sinister meanings to that offer of a bitter vermouth, bitter betrayal, bitter death, over-looking the well-known fact that Pizzuco suffered from what the doctors call cirrhosis due to his fondness for Averna’s bitter vermouth – a beverage which made him proclaim his faith as a Separatist and ex-soldier of the Volunteer Army for Sicilian Independence.
–Leonardo Sciascia, The Day of the Owl
April 20, 2018
Ah, springtime. It’s when the flowers are blooming, everything is starting to wake up (in a way), the heavy coats are dropped to the ground to be replaced by lighter coats, or hoodies, even, and the drinks are flowing like the pollen which, really, I’d rather avoid if possible. It’s also the season (why not?) for remembering past loves, from years gone by, and picturing those idyllic springtime moments with said past loves, when you walked through fields of flowers, hand-in-hand, never knowing that one would someday be forgotten. Here, of course, the past love I’ve talking about is this delicious drink, which if I remember right once won me a mixing glass in some contest or other. Happily, unlike some past love, this one is easy – and smart – to rekindle. It is springtime, after all.
The Flowering Grape
2 ounces Pierre Ferrand Cognac
1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce raspberry vinegar syrup (I detail how to make raspberry vinegar syrup here)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Laugh heartily.