July 10, 2012
So, I don’t just write about cocktails, drinks, distilleries, beer, booze, drinkers, drunks, and all that. Not that I don’t like to write about all of the above (and more!), but I like a little balance, too. Which means I have a day job (where I fight zombies, among other things). Which you might think isn’t fun, but let me clear your befuddled mind. See, I work with folks in the daytime who may not make drinks for a living, but who make damn fine drinks–and then sometimes take damn fine pictures of said drinks. Exhibits A and B are below. The first was made and taken by pal and co-worker Emi, and is a Raspberry Gin Fizz:
The next is a Mai Tai with lovely float of dark rum, with the drink made and photographed by pal and co-worker Lorie:
Now, those are some talented home-bartenders I get to work with from the 9 to 5. And yeah, you should be jealous.
August 3, 2010
It’s August, and gardens are seriously in overdrive, and flowers are still showing their faces, and skirts and shorts seem to be getting even shorter. It’s enough to make one blush, all this blooming. But I suggest, all my little summertime Romeos and Juliets, that you remember what the word “accismus” means: showing no interest in something while secretly wanting it. Or, to say it another way, don’t forget to keep your cool in the face of all this sultry floral-ness. To help out, here’s a delish little floral drink. It’s a tad sweet, but sweetness will balance out the saltiness from any late-summer sweat.
1-1/2 ounce Hangar One Mandarin Blossom vodka
1 ounce Crème de Violette
1/2 ounce Aperol
1 dash Fee Brothers peach bitters
Edible flowers for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vodka, crème de violette, Aperol, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a few edible flowers.
A Note: The new Crème Yvette can be subbed in for the Crème di Violette with no ill effects.
March 23, 2010
Okay, I’m just thirsty. So thirsty I don’t have the energy to write the full-on over-the-top legendary journey of cocktails blog post I want to write about the weekend before last, a weekend of amazing cocktails that would leave every other blog post in the dusty dust, that would make you want to stroll in my shoes (or at least borrow my throat and tastebuds for awhile), a blog post that would involve at least 74.5% of the top cocktail creators in Seattle, and me tasting their drinks, a blog that would make you drool like George the Animal Steel before a cage match, a blog that might just have you (if you don’t live in Seattle already) running screaming to your suitcase, packing said suitcase, and getting a ticket here poste haste, a blog that if you already lived in Seattle would make you instantly descend to the floor crying tears of joy in front of your liquor cabinet, shelf, or box, happy that you could follow my footsteps in cocktails, a blog that might just cause the whole internet to go silent as a lonely ice cube due to everyone shaking off the electronic shackles to go on a drinks quest, the blog I want to write but just am too thirsty to write (but write it, someday, I will), so instead I’m just writing this post about how much I’d like to be drinking an Athenian at Cicchetti, a drink made with Metaxa, Martini and Rossi Bianco vermouth, and Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters, the very drink pictured below. Look at it, friends, and dream along with me (and if you’re not on the Scrappy’s bitters wagon, then get on it.)
January 5, 2010
Okay, full disclosure straight up: the bar manager at the new (as opposed to the older version from a few years ago) Mistral Kitchen in Seattle is a pal of mine. A good pal, even. His name’s Andrew Bohrer, and I’ve blogged about him before, cause he makes damn good drinks, and isn’t all snooty about it (and his blog Cask Strength is full of booze and cursing, which is nice). Heck, I’ve heard him praise PBR as casually as Pappy’s 15-Year bourbon. Here he is, getting busy with pouring:
This all means that when wife Nat and I went to Mistral recently (during the “soft opening” phase) we were probably going to be pretty forgiving, if needed. But to get around the whole “of course you’ll say nice things, you know them” I’m going to keep commentary at a minimum, and go the photogenic route (which is great for me, cause I’m, well, hot and so inclined to like the photogenic route). The quick summary, though, before the photos (did you think I’d back out of editorializing completely?): the savory food was still being worked out, but solid ingredient choices, if pretty straightforward preparations (this on the veggie side); the dessert-y food was interesting and delicious and architectural and a step above the savory right now; the cocktail food was, well, great. Now, onward. We had some roasted veggies, but they weren’t as good as the wood-roasted mushrooms:
And we had a vinaigrette’d green salad (good, but pretty spare), which wasn’t as good as the cheese plate:
With the meal, Nat had an Aviation cocktail (we both went classically at first, picking off the old-school short bar menu), which was dreamy and cloudy like a cloudy dream:
I had the Mint Julep, which was made just right, with the right crackity-cracked ice, the right metal julep cup, and the right healthy amount of bourbon. Pretty, even:
For dessert, we had the Ultra Brownie, and it was ultra creamy chocolate goodness, but topped, I felt, by the Walnut Honey Cake (the desserts, made by chef Neil Robertson, both kicked sugary ass though), which came with rich figs and homemade (natch) chestnut ice cream:
With desserts, Nat had a fresh cocktail that Andrew had recently been working on (as an aside: isn’t it always swell to be able to be one of the first to taste a new drink? I think it’s swell), which mixed 1 ounce gin, 1/2 ounce kirsch, 1 ounce blanc (not dry) vermouth, and 1/2 ounce orgeat. It was really jumping (or frolicking) with the balance of dry to sweet right on. And, he called it the Tauntaun. Geeks, rejoice:
For my last drink, I had a Fernet Old Fashioned, which Andrew had been telling me about, and about who originally created it, but now I can’t find the email. Maybe he’ll be so kind as to leave the info and the instructions in the comments. Though he is busy. But not that busy (so get to it, Andrew). Anywho, before starting an online booze war, let me say that I dig Fernet, and this drink was the tops. I love the phat orange rind, and the ice ball, and the bitter-after-dinner experience that is summed up in this glass:
That’s the Mistral Kitchen kids, well worth a visit, especially if you belly up to the bar and let the cocktails roll. Just be sure to order a drink with an orange peel:
September 4, 2009
It could be said that this is the last day of summer (the Friday before Labor Day and all), the last day when, at least out here in Seattle W-A, the sun is still shining brightly and the backyard is still calling out to be sat within and relaxed within and shirtsleeves are still just dandy as attire (with pants, or without, your call), and while there might be a small bit of chill in the air, it’s possible in that summertime way to ignore it (cause really, isn’t summer about ignoring responsibility? Being more grasshopper than ant?). That’s today folks, and on a day like today, though I might sing the praises of high-falooting cocktails, and might even have one later, what I really feel like on a day like today is a cold bottle of Miller High Life. Probably I feel that way cause my old pal and serious bartending angel Joel Meister and I used to drink them like water throughout the summertime months when we were a bit younger–heck, we never had a fridge from late May through August that didn’t contain at least two bottles in it no matter the hour of the day for emergencies–and those were good, memorable months that embodied that whole recklessly lovely tipsy-ness that is summer. What’s all this shake up to? Me giving out a toast to everyone celebrating that last day of summer, a toast in the form of the one and only Champagne of Beers, a toast to you. Drink up pals, and hold on to that summer sun as long as possible.
September 1, 2009
Happy salivating September folks. Welcome to another month where you should be trying to have as many cool and creative cocktails as you can consume without causing chaos (or making you miss too many mornings). The reason, you might ask, if you were the asking kind, that September is so salivatious? It’s because of this very blog post, where I’m going to cut at least some of the chatter off the tree and present you with a few more almost drinkable photos from the San Francisco trip I had not all that long ago (and which I detailed a bit in a post you probably remember fondly called Drinks on the Road: San Francisco, Part I). But before the drink pics (hah, I always do this: set up, then aside), a quick shout out to my pals at the wondrous Chow.com, who brought me in to Chow HQ while I was in San Francisco to shoot some tips. And no, tips aren’t an endangered species (wow, the jokes come at a fast pace here at Spiked Punch), and yes I’ll post some later. But first, check out me preening while camera-person extraordinaire Blake Smith sets up a limoncello shot. You can’t see her here, but pal Meredith Arthur is taking the pic, directing things with calm and aplomb like she did all day (not easy to do when dealing with a diva like me).
After the tipping, I made a quick change into my Bob Fossil t-shirt, and then headed out to meet Meredith and her-husband-and-pal Michael for a drink at Range in the Mission (for more on Range, be sure to check out the blog Inside the Blood Bank). It was a sweet little spot, and M & M are great drinking companions (though I somehow managed to forget to take a pic of them, which is a shame, as they’re cuties) and I got to have a (drum-roll here) Zyzzyva cocktail. Not only was it a tangy-herby-august mixture of gin, yellow Chartreuse, apricot brandy, and fresh lime, but it was a tangy-herby-august mixture of gin, yellow Chartreuse, apricot brandy, and fresh lime named after the magazine (that I love) that published my first book, Want. Dang, that’s what’s listed under the definition of “Awesome.”
The next day after that (please, please, don’t ask me to name what day it was though), Nat I had a day of drinking delights. You know, I should copyright that phrase for my new tour guiding service (you know, I should have a tour-guiding service). “A.J.’s Day of Drinking Delights.” You’d sign up, right? Our first stop was in the middle of Chinatown (forget about, it’s Chinatown. No, no, don’t forget), where we slipped into the Budda Bar, a lovely little dive we had to ourselves, along with the amiable bartendress and the owner, who kept coming up to talk to us from the basement. We charmed him (natch), and he introduced us to the following unknown Hong Kong sipper (he insisted we swirl it around our mouth and teeth before swallowing though, as it’s not a shooter). I hadn’t had said spirited drink before, but it had a very powerful, not harsh, sense about it, like a good strong peasant grappa.
That night, we met pal Megan (from HCP and the A Year in the Life Beatles blog no less) at the Clock Bar, which is a stylish spot situated in the classic Westin St. Francis hotel downtown. It’s managed by a dapper and friendly fella name Matthew Meidinger, who not only helped me out recently with an article (which I’ll talk about when it comes out), but who also treated us to a few of the Clock Bar’s perfectly made cocktails that night, starting out (for me) with a slightly savory Sage Advice, a drink that could stand tall at any bar with its combination of Rittenhouse rye, Italian-specialty Averna amaro, fresh orange juice, black tea honey syrup, and good pal Peychauds bitters. I might like that drink so much I’d let it take my dogs for a walk.
Matthew not only ensured we had a host of helpful (well, why not?) drinks at the Clock Bar, but he also pointed us towards the Heaven’s Dog for dinner and more drinks, calling ahead to assure us a spot, getting us a cab, and making sure we didn’t trip on the way out the hotel. I tell you, if you’re in S.F. and don’t visit the Clock Bar, you only have yourself to blame. For that matter, if you don’t visit it and Heaven’s Dog, then you shouldn’t even talk to yourself any more. Because Heaven’s Dog was also, well, heavenly. General Manager Erik Adkins met us at the door and swept us off our feet with his genial good nature and miles of smiles. What is it about S.F. and friendly bar folks? Sometimes it’s best not to question, and instead just be happy with your fine fortune (a phrase sounding somewhat fortune cookie like). At Heaven’s Dog we had multiple snacks from the dinner menu, which is set up for sharing and which has a Vietnamese flavor (like Vietnamese tapas, someone said)–perhaps the tops was the vegetarian pork belly, tofu skin, shiitake mushrooms, clam shell buns, and scallion–and all was yummy. But the drinks, the drinks were even yummier. Ours were made by the also-friendly and very knowledgeable Eric Johnson. He’s opening (by the way) a new spot called Bar Agricole in the very near future, so keep your eye open for it (and your mouth wide open). Eric made us a whole host of cocktails and highballs and their brethren and sisteren. Sadly, we didn’t take too many photos, as we were busy talking, drinking, and eating, and those we didn’t take we went flashless on (not to mention that I put the monkey book away, so am guessing a bit on what we had). But here’s one nice pic of Eric I think putting the finishing touch on a Gin Fizz Tropical, which was gin, pineapple gum syrup, orgeat, lime, egg white, mint, and soda:
Ah, San Francisco and the many bars and just outstanding people on both sides of them. Hopefully we make it back soon. And if the above didn’t get your “thirsty” button pushed, then you must be a zombie. Except that even a zombie would be thirsty after those pictures. So, go get your zombie-self a cocktail, why don’t ya?
August 18, 2009
I’m getting ready for a little Wine Cocktails evening at bar Poco here in Seattle on Thursday (more about that later–but if you must know, it’s Thursday at 7 pm and you should be there), but wanted to take a second to look back at when I was out of this fair sunny city (no laughing on the “sunny;” it’s balmy and blue-skied here) a week ago, visiting various watering holes in San Francisco. And yes, I forgot to call pal Andrew, and am sad about it, but I’ll power through just to point out the hits to you, in two part fashion. The first part is all about the cocktail’d night that wife Nat and I hung out with drinker par excellente’ Camper English (who in the below pic is savoring a broccolini stem–tre’ international).
If you don’t know the legend of Camper English, he writes the educational (and yet still entertaining—it’s edutainment. And yes, you can hit me in the head for saying that word) blog Alcademics, which is all about the cocktails, the bartending, and the booze. He also used to write Camper’s Hate Blog (which is genius, and worth going back through), and lots of other stuff (you can really learn more than you probably want at Cramper.com). He’s funny. And knows the San Francisco cocktail bars like few others. He suggested we meet at the new-ish Rickhouse, which luckily was near our hotel in the financial area, as we went there straight off the plane after checking in. The Rickhouse has a heavenly cocktail list with lots of information and drinks (sadly the actual menu was a bit too nice to steal, though we were tempted, being recidivist in our menu-stealing ways), a barrel stave ceiling (with barrel hoop lights), and a table right near the front window that we hooked. For the first round I had a Rye Maple Fizz, cause I was feeling rye-y and a drink with maple syrup hooks me like a trout on corn, Mr. English had a Laphroig Project (he’s a smoky essence enthusiast–check for this drink’s recipe here), and Nat had a Bella Fragollo, which was Italian-y goodness.
All the drinks we had there were expertly made right in front of me by the talented staff as I gazed at the immense wall of booze. Seriously (and easily believed, as they’re a sibling of the top notch liquor store Cask, so they have an “in” to booze-shelf-stocking), they have a 15-or-20-foot wall of bottles behind the bar. I went into a trance, and when I woke up I had a drink in my hand, a smile on my face, and a little slobber on the smile. Which sounds much grosser than it was.
After another round, we realized that if we didn’t eat we’d fall over (which would have bored Camper and not done much for our reps), so we went (on his suggestion–he’s a “vegetalian,” too, so finding an eating spot for all and sundry was a snap. Oh, a “vegetalian” as I found out is a cocktail-swilling vegetarian. Don’t smirk) to Beretta, in the Mission district. Baretta was, as the kids say, the stuff (well, except for our first bartender, who seemed to wearing my grandmother’s velour curtains. The second bartender was a dream, though). Waiting for our table I sipped (or gulped) an Angelina that demonstrated the bar’s grasp of balancing perfectly a few key ingredients (a sweet skill to have): Partida Anejo tequila, Carpano Antica, and Benedictine. Tasty indeed, with the tequila mingling with the other two’s herbal natures in an unexpectedly complenting manner. Nat had a Agricole Mule (rum, lime, ginger, mint, and pic’d below), and Camper had a Single Village Fix with Del Maguey Mezcal (that smoky thing again), lime, and pineapple gomme. All deliciousness, and matched in their heights by our eventual dinner, which consisted of a couple thinly Italian pizzas, some broccolini (re: Camper pic above), and some unbelievably good bruschetta topped with fava bean and pecorino puree. This thick-crisped-bread-topped-with-a-smooth-but-with-a-few-chunks spread lushed up the mouth. So good we ordered it twice. I kid you not. Let me repeat for effect: I kid you not. We had more good cocktails there and then, too, and lots of Camper talk, and finally tumbled into a cab in the best way: fat and drunkish. Thanks Camper, thanks S.F., and thank you, too (and watch for S.F. post number II soon).
August 4, 2009
Whew, I’m all a’flutter. I’m trying to wrap up a million projects, teach my dogs to talk, not throw water balloons at my co-workers, invest in a few more ionic salt lamps to bump my negative ions up, put the soon-to-be-here Dark Spirits out of mind so I don’t get too bubbly about it, and keep my fragile mind in order so I can leave for lovely San Francisco in just a day and half. Which means I’ll probably post even less than the little I do this week (though who know), as I’ll be visiting with the radly-named drinks writer Camper English (check out his blog Alcademics right now!) over drinks, stopping in to hang out with Meredith and the fine folks from Chow over drinks (and have a drink with pal Michael, sometimes known as Mr. Meredith), visiting Matthew at the Clock Bar with wife Nat and having some drinks, and then sleeping. Now, you can see why I’m a’flutter. Why you’re a’flutter is because this picture of the almighty Mai Tai is so darn pretty you might just fall over:
It was made by Evan Martin at Naga and it was scumpdeliyciousness. That’s what I’m calling it. You should have one, and soon, as they make the summer even better. I’ll be sure to think of you when leaving my wallet’s contents and parts of my liver in San Francisco, and you be sure to think of me when you have your Mai Tai, and then the harmonic convergence of all this thinking and drinking will usher in a new boozy state of being. Just watch and see.