October 12, 2018

What I’m Drinking: The Cliftonness

The other day, decided to browse around the drink library while watching Hammer House of Horror as one does, and was flipping through Jacques Staub’s simply-called classic Drinks from 1914 and came across an intriguing number called The Clifton. At the same time, I was trying to think of a drink to have with Gold Bar whiskey, a small bottle of which had just shown in the mail.

Gold Bar is a blended American whiskey made from three grains: corn, rye, and barley, aged in French oak, and, as they say, “matured by the sea” in San Francisco. I love a good ocean-going yarn! It’s also in one of the more amazing packages, a golden box with a brass Lady of Fortune (illustrated by an artist) coin pressed into the front for good luck. All of which would be only a good story if the whiskey didn’t taste good – luckily indeed it has a friendly taste as well as the shiny gleaming container. Very smooth, very approachable, with a little vanilla and spice and melon scents unfolding into more spice, apple, and vanilla on the tongue.

Its amiable nature made me think maybe it would be good in the Clifton, though that drink originally called for rye, with an equal part of dry vermouth. Along with a dash of Angostura and a dash of “brown” curaçao. I’ll admit, I’m not sure on the latter, and I wasn’t really happy about how the equality-of-vermouth was going to go. So, I went with Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao (the finest available in modern times), and just started playing around with the amounts of our main ingredients. And, voila, we took home the gold. And by that, I mean it all came together into a bright, light, drink, with herbal and botanical hints and a smooth whiskey hum underneath.

cliftonness
The Cliftonness

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Gold Bar blended whiskey
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
Dash Angostura bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, or a glass with an appropriate amount of gilding to match the whiskey. I went the latter route, as it seemed a better route. But you’ll make your own luck.

November 17, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Zazarac

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.

zazarac
The Zazarac, from Dark Spirits

Ice cubes
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.

September 29, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Up-to-Date

Like you, some nights (not many, but say one or two or three a lifetime) I find myself just browsing The Calvert Party Encyclopedia (1960 edition). It is “Your complete guide to home entertaining,” after all. Not to mention being,“the party book that gives you the power to please.” Now that’s power! But all joshes aside, it’s a better version than many company sponsored books (and worse than some as well), with a bunch of drink recipes including their products, and some others not, and some food ideas, and general party ideas and tips, and bar set up stuff. Not a bad little browser. And when browsing, I came across the Up-to-Date – maybe again? Maybe I’ve seen it somewhere else? I was intrigued, no matter which or what, and decided to give it whirl. In the book/manual/novella, it’s made with Calvert Reserve, but to keep it really up-to-date, I decided to sub out the Calvert Reserve (sorry Calvert!), with the latest bit of WA-state deliciousness to show up at my house: Epic Sht Gin, from the fine folks at Cadée Distillery on Whidbey Island.

It’s not as big a switch as you might think – being that the Epic Sht Gin is of the barrel-aged gin variety, so shares a kinship with whiskey as you might imagine. It’s a nicely-layered number, with the botanical notes of the gin still there, but also notes of spice and wood and a little nuttiness from the barrel, with a vanilla undertone, too. It’s not easy to get outside of the distillery as of this writing (but the distillery is well worth visiting), but hopefully by the time you’re reading, it’ll be more available. Also, its particular character I thought would go well with sherry – and I was right! Me and the fine folks at Calvert, that is! Try the below and see if I’m right (tip: I am).

up-to-date
The Up-to-Date

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Cadée Distillery Epic Sht Gin
1 ounce Tio Pepe fino sherry
1/4 ounce Grand Mariner
2 dashes Angostura bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add it all. Stir in a party manner.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Get up-to-date

September 9, 2016

What I’m Drinking: My Heart Stood Still

Sometimes, writing about drinks takes its toll (well, not really, but it’s giving me a convenient out, and also reducing the grumbling about how awesome writing about drinks is). Recently, for example, I somehow forgot that I’d already had Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum, before a bottle showed in the mail. See, my memory is failing! And I even wrote about it here on Spiked Punch. But seriously, the very distinctive bottle reminded that of course I’ve had it – it was, for gosh sakes, probably my favorite rum in a long time.

It’s a molasses-based rum distilled in copper pot stills and aged for 12 years, and boasting an array of awards. If you haven’t had it, get it (if you’re in Venezuela, where it’s from, should be a snap – though it’s widely available, so no-one should have any problems). You’ll catch the complexity from the first smell, with caramel, nuts, orange peel, vanilla, nutmeg, and allspice all hanging together, and the taste, where they all come back together with a little more spice forwardness and just a hint of sweetness. Tasty.

Tasty enough that if you’re not going to have it by itself, you should have it in a cocktail that really lets the rum shine. I went back to one of my old favorite books, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion, to re-discover a cocktail that has both a great name, and which lets rum take center stage: My Heart Stood Still. If you want to quibble (which is sorta sad for you), this is a rum Manhattan with a little heavier pour of vermouth, or perhaps some other things, none of which are named as lovely as the current name. And the drink itself is so lovely, too. The Diplomatico brings so much, but the vermouth here – Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, the 150th anniversary edition – also delivers a nice layered flavor to our heart-y party. Try it. Love it. Thank me later.

my-heart-stood-still
My Heart Stood Still

Cracked ice
2 ounces Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum
1 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Savor and sip. Sip and savor.

August 12, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Rob Roy with Paul John Brilliance Whiskey

I know, I  know, it’s the middle of August, hottest month of the year for most of us stateside, and so for many not perhaps the right time of year for a whiskey forward (very so, classically so) cocktail. These folks think that this should be a winter, or maybe fall choice, and they in some ways are right. But in other ways, they’re wrong. Exhibit A way: when you’ve received an absolutely choice bottle of single malt whiskey in the mail and decide you must have it in a classic drink. This, friends, is that exhibit. Or story. Or some such.

Let’s back up. Recently (and yeah, don’t hate me cause I’m lucky like this), I received a bottle of Paul John Brilliance single malt whiskey. An Indian – maybe the Indian – single malt, it’s made from ingredients, including a special six-row barley, grown at Himalayan foothills, and aged for five years in the tropics of Goa, India. This tropical climate makes for a fast maturation, in American white oak. The end result has won awards all over the world already, but just recently become available here. It’s a very distinctive whiskey, one that, by all rights, you should sip solo and let the demerara and barley fragrance tempt you and the spice and vanilla taste and intriguing cocoa finish with just a hint of orange linger (maybe a splash of water or a single ice cube for the second glass, just to see how it goes).

But, if you’re me (and of course you aren’t, cause that would be an existential pickle that would be, oh, too much to go into now) or like me, you can’t stop at that, even with a whiskey of this level. No, you have to try it in a cocktail. And now I’ve gotten a little weird with pronouns. Let’s stop that. I decided on the Rob Roy, one of the legendary Scotch cocktails. A single malt and a Scotch are of course, at least cousins, maybe siblings, in the grand scheme of things. And I wanted a cocktail that would really let the Brilliance flavors come alive, and provide some proper cocktail partners – here, the otherworldly Carpano Antica vermouth, and Angostura. The end result is dreamy. Any time of year.

rob-royThe Rob Roy

Cracked ice
2-1/2 ounces Paul John Brilliance single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Brilliance, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

May 27, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Thistle with Ardbeg

Okay, I can hear many groaning at me right now – listen, yucks, just chill out. I know that Ardbeg is a super delicious Scotch. And that tomorrow, May 28, is Ardbeg Day. That’s right – it’s such a dandy Scotch distillery that it has a day named after it. Be sure to celebrate. And perhaps the best way to celebrate is by trying, slowly and reverently, the new Ardberg Dark Cove. The darkest Ardbeg ever and one that’s only being released in a limited way (as they do on Ardbeg Day), Dark Cove takes its name from the smugglers who used to utilize the caves in the rocky hills near the Ardbeg distillery – and they weren’t using said cave for makeout spots (at least not too much). It gets its signature taste from maturing the whiskey in ex-bourbon casks, and the hearts in dark sherry casks. That’s right – two cask types! And that taste: a little raisin and date and spice up front, followed by charcoal and wood, and ending in a singular savory-ness and a little coffee and toffee. Good stuff indeed, and it goes on sale tomorrow (I got a little advance sample), so get some.

But back to the groaning you’re gonna make. See, though you really should sip this solo, I couldn’t resist (this is how my mind works) using it in a cocktail. I wanted one that really let it shine, but then also had one or two other pals along, to see how it played with others. So, I went for the Thistle. An old cocktail, really a Scotch Manhattan of sorts, you often see this with equal parts sweet vermouth and Scotch. But in some old tomes, you see double the Scotch or other slightly different ratios. I’m going even farther here, to give the Dark Cove a little more space. I’m also bringing in a serious sweet vermouth to play its role (the Banquo to the Scotch’s Macbeth, except not a ghost), Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, based on a blend of Barbera and oak-aged Moscato. Amazing stuff. And this is an amazing. Try it, and stop your groaning.

thistleThe Thistle

Cracked ice
2-1/4 ounces Ardbeg Dark Cove
3/4 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add it all, except the twist.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.

PS: Yeah, this is very close to a Rob Roy. You can groan about that, too. While I’m having fun drinking.

May 20, 2016

What I’m Drinking: Mrs. Solomon Wears Slacks

I’m not usually a sugar-on-the-rim guy, or a salt, or any of that jazz. Unless it’s done really well. Which it sometimes is! So now I’m contradicting myself. But also sometimes it’s done poorly, with the spice in question all on the inside of the glass and overwhelming the drink’s flavors, instead of complementing them. But once in a while, I do go that route, especially when I’m making a drink that suggests it where the drink is also from Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion, my favorite book published in 1941. And if that wasn’t enough, this has a fantastic name. If you can name a drink this swell-ly, then let me know about it, and I will make one of these for you. Really!

slacks
Mrs. Solomon Wears Slacks

Super-fine sugar
Cracked ice
2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist

1. Put a good helping of sugar (but not a mound or anything) on a saucer. Wet the outside rim of a Champagne flute (I used a lemon slice, but you could also rotate it through water on a saucer–just don’t get any water in the glass). Carefully rotate the outside rim of the glass through the sugar–but you don’t want to get any sugar on the inside. No, no, not a grain. So, be careful.

2. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the brandy, curaçao, and bitters. Stir well.

3. Strain the mix into the flute. Slack up.

March 25, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Merry Widow

Okay, let’s start with another drink – the Martini. Don’t worry, I’ll get to widows. But recently I received (poor me!) a bottle of Ransom Gin and a bottle of Ransom dry vermouth in the mail. If you don’t know (and, if so, why don’t you?), Ransom is a farm-to-glass distillery and winery in Sheridan, OR, started up by owner and distiller Tad Seestedt. With the f-to-g earlier, you can probably guess that they use local ingredients by the bucketful, including in the gin alone, hops, marionberry, coriander, fennel seeds, and chamomile all produced on the Oregon farm where the distillery is, which is fantastic. And the vermouth also features wine and brandy made on the farm, using OR ingredients, too. That’s pretty darn awesome, and means these old pals (gin and vermouth, that is), in this situation are old, old pals, down to the ground. So, when one (if you’re one like me) gets a bottle of gin and a bottle of vermouth from the same spot and sharing the same agricultural legacy, the first thing that happens is opening the bottles. Then making a Martini, of course.

ransom-martiniMine are made in old school style, 2-1/2 parts gin to 1/2 part vermouth, with a twist of lemon. The end result here – darn delicious. Hints of herb and spice, but with a really lovely smoothness overall. Everything, as you’d expect, plays so nicely together. Of course, me being me and all that, I couldn’t just try the Martini, I had to push the envelope beyond the obvious with a lesser-in-the-road’s-middle cocktail. And that cocktail was the Merry Widow, which I’d recently re-discovered (I can’t remember if this is where I saw it first, honestly) in a fun book from 1936 called Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes – a fine read if you can find it. Anyway, the Merry Widow lets the vermouth shine a bit more (which is good here, because the Ransom vermouth is very drinkable all alone, with an balanced herbal, citrus, combo), and also introduces just a hint of a few other players, all of whom played well. Give it a whirl, and see if you can taste that good Oregon terroir coming through. I served a round to some pals, and they all could – and thought the drink would make any widow get up and dance.

merry-widow The Merry Widow

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Ransom gin
1-1/2 ounces Ransom dry vermouth
2 dashes Absinthe
2 dashes Benedictine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Now, bring that twist to the OR party.

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