September 29, 2017
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).
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
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
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
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.
The Rob Roy
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
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.
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
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!
Mrs. Solomon Wears Slacks
2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
3 dashes Angostura bitters
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
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.
Mine 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.
The Merry Widow
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.
March 11, 2016
I am, admittedly, about 18 days late here, as first president Washington’s birthday is Feb. 22nd. But I’ve never thought one should only honor the father of our country with a drink on that particular day (December 14, the day he passed away, is another good one), and for that matter, feel there’s not one particular drink to have, either. Another good one, for example, is the Washington’s Wish (in Dark Spirits if you want to know more). And I’ll bet there are others called just Washington too, as it seems a good name for a drink. This one is a good one, though it can be tough, as it’s very vermouth forward, so you need a good vermouth, first off. I used Dolin, which is reliable, tasty, and something one should always have around the house. Then, you need a super brandy, since it’s lower in volume than the vermouth – it needs to stand up a bit. I used Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez (which showed up in the mail, to be honest), the only brandy to be produced entirely in Jerez. It’s nearly too swell for mixing (and great on its own), but hey, sometimes you gotta say “why not?” Aged in American oak barrels once used for sherry for 15 years, it has a nutty and spice taste, with strong wood notes, that go amazingly with the vermouth. This is one fine cocktail, friends, and worthy of the historic personage it’s named after – even when had a little later than expected.
The Washington, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Dolin dry vermouth
1 ounce Lepanto Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth, brandy, bitters, and simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass
February 19, 2016
Recently, I made a drink called the Boomerang, with Spirit Works rye, and it was darn tasty (I sure hope you didn’t miss it). But I also received (lucky me) a bottle of Spirit Works straight wheat whiskey, made from 100% organic CA red winter wheat. I wasn’t sure exactly how to try it out (outside of neat, of course, which is always a good first step), and so took it to my whiskey-loving-pal Jeremy’s house, where he made me a delicious Old Fashioned, which is naturally a fantastic way to take a whiskey through its paces. And this wheat number did dandily. It’s a very round whiskey, if that makes sense, nice and approachable, with a little sweetness, and some nut and fruit accents that were all in play in the drink. Yummy stuff.
The Old Fashioned
Teaspoon simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 1/2 ounces Spirit Works straight wheat whiskey
1. Place the simple, bitters, orange, and cherry into an old fashioned glass.
2. Using a muddler or very solid wooden spoon, muddle it all up.
3. Place a couple ice cubes in the glass. Add the whiskey. Drink it up.