November 29, 2022
Our recent Graham Greene Cocktail Talking (don’t miss The Comedians Cocktail Talk and This Gun for Hire Cocktail Talk, plus more Graham Greene’s from the past) continues, this time with The Heart of the Matter, which I recently re-read, and in which they drink a lot of Pink Gins, and sweat a lot, too. It’s a classic in the more serious Greene vein, steeped in immaculate, elegant, prose, alongside delving into the interactions and motivations of the main character, including a deep look in his Catholic beliefs and how they cause in a way part of the action to unfurl. Not for the faint of reading heart, neccessarily. But for those who like gin!
“What about you, darling?” He turned quickly away from her and began to fix two more Pink Gins. There was a tacit understanding between them that ‘liquor helped;’ growing more miserable with every glass one hoped for the moment of relief.
“You don’t really want to know about me.”
“Of course I do, darling. What sort of a day have you had?”
“Ticki, why are you such a coward? Why don’t you tell me it’s all off?”
“You know what I mean – the passage. You’ve been talking and talking since you came in about the Esperanca. There’s a Portuguese ship in once a fortnight. You don’t talk that way every time. I’m not a child, Ticki. Why don’t you say straight out – you can’t go?”
He grinned miserably at his glass, twisting it round and round to let the Angostura cling along the curve.
–Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
July 8, 2022
Here is something I learned recently: nearly 80% of the tequila brands sold in the U.S. have additives, things to add sweetening or alter coloring or change up the natural taste. I mean, I knew that additives like caramel for example have been used for, well, ever (or a long time) to change up certain aspects of whiskey or what-have-you, but for some reason never thought this extended in general to tequila. I mean, obviously (by taste alone) you can tell that chemicals are in certain boozes, including tequilas. But just didn’t realize the reach. Until recently, about the same time I was lucky enough to have a little DE-NADA tequila show up in the mail (lucky me!). A newer brand to me, DE-NADA tequilas are confirmed additive free – which means taste, coloring, everything, is coming from the natural ingredients in the tequilas, and the time-honored processes used to make real tequila. Neat! They make both blanco and reposado tequilas (both at a fifth-generation tequila distillery in Jalisco), and while the blanco is a treat – smooth and bright on the tongue, with some fruit notes, peach, grapefruit, and some herbal notes, anise, mint, a hint of pepper at the finish – when I was craving a Rosita, I went with the reposado.
The Rosita (you probably know this, being in the know, but just in case), is a relation in a way to the Negroni. Not, to me, a sibling, but at least a cousin. As well as a cousin to various other drinks served over ice that have spirit + vermouth + something else. The something else here is Campari, and hence the Negroni connection. Oh, though, there are both sweet and dry vermouths – that makes it a cousin only. And also extra bitters (which maybe means, second cousin). But it has a little of that memorable Campari-sweet-bitter-ness (which I love, so much), even though there is less here, allowing the tequila to shine. I feel to stand up to a party properly with the Campari and vermouths, that slightly deeper reposado is needed – and the DE-NADA Reposado shines in the drink. It’s, like the bianco, smooth, very smooth, but the flavor leans nuttier, with almonds and vanilla (okay, a bean, but nut-like), mingling with toasted oak and caramel, roasted agave, and hints of cinnamon, mellowing out buttery at the finish. Yummy! And goes really well with the vermouth, and the bitter-ing undertones. The Campari, too, which might seem an odd pairing at first, but trust me, the end result is lovely summer drink to savor.
1-1/2 ounce DE-NADA Reposado tequila
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Dash Angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything, except the ice cubes! Stir well.
2. Add some ice cubes – about halfway – to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix from Step one over the cubes and into the glass. Garnish with the orange twist.
December 4, 2020
This lovely number is an ideal dance partner (or, to put it another way, drink) for the snazzy winter season that is upon us. Pretty, tasty, and pretty tasty, it two-steps gin and Lillet Blanc and then cuts in a small twirl of Angostura and orange. Just a swirling of light herbs and spice and citrus (oh, I’d go with a flavorful gin, here, one with a juniper smooch and not a juniper punch). While this December’s celebrations may not be at the scale as past years, there’s no reason not to enjoy a drink this fine no matter what the celebration entails. You deserve both it and a Great Secret. Really, you do!
Great Secret, as featured in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz but originally, I found it in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual (the Alta 1934 version).
2 ounces gin
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
Dash of Angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish (optional, used instead of above twist)
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Add the gin, Lillet, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and then drop it in.
October 9, 2020
As the air chills and winter phantoms start to haunt the hills (rhyme!) our (mine! yours! everybodies!) tastes begin to turn away from lighter things to alight onto more serious matters. In this case, to take away the high-flaunting language, I’m try to say that brown cocktail season is upon us, or nearly so (though, admittedly, I’m all for hanging on to sunlit days a little longer, and, really, I’m happy to drink whiskey or brandy or other darker-spirited cocktails anytime, but let me go with this). Which means dust off the Scotch, bourbon, Irish, Indian, Japanese, Washington, and other whiskeys – it’s time to warm up from the inside out. Starting with one of my favorite tipples in this vein, the Scotch-y/single-malt-y Rob Roy. It’s absolutely ideal for when the temperature gauge begins to plummet, with a hearty dollop of the base spirit (Scotch, that is) combined with the herbally loveliness that is sweet/red/Italian vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a waft of lemon. Ah, what a treat, not only in my mind. The creatures see of flood and field / And those that travel on the wind (thanks Wordsworth)! For the Scotch here, I’m going with Auchentoshan 12-year-old Scotch, partially cause I had a bottle on the front of my shelves, but moreso cause its smoothness and vanilla/citrus/nutty notes go so well with our other ingredients, especially to me with Carpano Antica, which I’m using for the vermouth and which I love due to its rich, lush, herbal goodness. Dive on in! Oh, wait, before you don your face paint and start drinking, here’s one fun idea: switch Angostura bitters for Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and sip a Highland Cocktail. Or have both!
The Rob Roy
2-1/2 ounces Auchentoshan 12-year-old Scotch
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 Scotch, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
PS: The Rob Roy bar in Seattle is one of the best bars in the world, and probably even more memorable than this drink. Just wanted to make sure you knew.
June 19, 2020
So, it was just a few weeks ago when I was talking about how flavored vodkas weren’t necessarily my boozy jam, but then went and talked about this Cucumbers and Tonic highball I was having and how tasty it was. And now here I am, doing it again! Sorta. I mean, here, I’m talking (typing?) about, or about to type about, a smoked vodka that I really am liking. Specifically, Chase Smoke flavored vodka, a bottle of which showed up in the mails recently (lucky for me, and then some!). It’s made by smoking spring water with English Oak for five good days, and then blending with Chase vodka (which itself is made from British potatoes, grown on a farm in Herefordshire – same farm the distillery is on if I have it all right). But what does it all mean? It seems like it could go perfectly wrong, but it goes perfectly right! With a memorable and lovely oak smokiness, and echoes of the forest and campfires and sunsets in fall. That last bit too much? Well, sometimes that’s okay! Sadly, right up front, I have to admit I don’t think it’s available in my own state of WA at this moment – but soon, one hopes. Secondly up front, I think this smoked vodka dream was really designed to craft legendary Bloody Marys – and I don’t like Bloody Marys. SHHHH! Don’t tell.
But I believe this vodka is actually a treat on its own, or over a little ice. And good in other drinks, including A Kindred Spirit, which I’m going to detail right here. Influenced by the Oaxacan Old Fashioned, a favorite of my wife’s, and another smoky delight. Which means I’m upping the smoke quotient! And also going to go with two base spirits — upping the base spirits! We’re going up here! Second base spirit: mezcal (you may have guessed this already, with the smoke talk). But with two base spirits, need to make sure they get along, so also here, a little rosemary brown sugar simple syrup. And then, for the final ingredients, a little Angostura bitters, to add a few herbal undercurrents, and a wide orange twist for some rich citrus hints. Everything comes together to form a lovely sipper for the back patio, or in front of the fire, or wherever you please (you’re sipping, after all), as well as a swell way to showcase the swell Chase Smoked Vodka.
A Kindred Spirit
2 ounces Chase Smoke flavored vodka
1/2 ounce Montelobos mezcal
1/2 ounce simple syrup (see Note)
Dash Angostura bitters
Big ice cube, or a few regular ice cubes
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Add everything but ice to an Old Fashioned glass. Stir well.
2. Add a big ice cubes or a couple regular ice cubes. Stir again, briefly. Garnish with the twist.
A Note: I used a rosemary-y brown sugar simple syrup here, and it was yumski. However, regular could work, too! For the rosemary, just add some to your normal recipe.
December 13, 2019
I was browsing the small-but-swell Standard Cocktail Guide from Crosby Gaige today, and read this, “In this year of 1944 it behooves the prudent mixer to know his rums. Good whiskey is now scarce and will be scarcer for some time to come while good rum is in plentiful supply.” First off: glad we have so many plentiful options of both rums and whiskey (and other delights) today! Secondly, it still behooves the prudent mixer to know and love rum. Thirdly, I found a delightful little recipe in this Rum section of this delightful little book, one I can’t remember if I’d made before, called The Frank Morgan. So, I wanted to make it again, even though I’m not sure which Frank Morgan it’s named after – though I think it’s the early 19th century actor. Let’s say that!
Anywho, the drink is deceptively simple: rum, sherry, Angostura bitters. But with that simplicity, the rum must be one – it behooves the drink – that really shines. Lucky for me, I recently received a bottle of Bacardi Gran Reserva Especial dark rum in the mail (don’t hate me, be happy for me!). Admittedly, this is a really fine, fine rum, and one that in most situations you’d want to sip solo. I mean, it’s a limited-edition number, aged a minimum of 16 years (!) in American white oak in the Caribbean. You’ll find stone fruits, caramel, a little island forest, and more unveiling as you sip, and an overall lushness that can’t be beat. So, sip solo for sure. But, you know me (right?), I had to try it in a cocktail, too, and this one is ideal, cause the rum really does shine, with just a few other players. Starting with the sherry side, where I went with Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry, which has a nice nutty and spice notioning that matched well. Add old pal Angostura, and here we are. Well, almost! Though it’s not in the original recipe from the esteemed (from whatever afterlife bar he’s at) Mr. Gaige, I added a small orange twist. And that burst of citrus was a treat. Both he and Mr. Morgan would approve, I believe.
The Frank Morgan
2-1/4 ounces Bacardi Gran Reserva Especial dark rum
3/4 ounces Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry
Dash Angostura bitters
Thin orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Sip, and think about 1944 – and about the bounties in your local liquor store.
June 28, 2019
The north wind says, I bring a clear spirit with the breath of juniper and some cracked ice for chilling. The east wind says, I’ll bring a classically-style orange essence built on grapes and a nice glass. The west wind says, I’ll bring something with a hint of bitter and herb made in the mountains (or thereabouts) and a twist of orange. The south wind says I’ll bring a bit more bitter undercurrenting via a legend that needs no introducing, along with a long spoon for stirring. That’s all the winds, and now we have our drink for today.
1-1/2 ounces gin (I used nice reliable Bombay)
1 ounce Pierre Ferrand Orange curaçao
1/2 ounce Breckenridge Bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, curaçao, Breckenridge bitters, and Angostura bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange twist. Drink four times, once looking each direction.
February 22, 2019
Beyond the fact that this is a tasty drink – double bitters, bourbon, bubbly, Cointreau – I love the story of the Seelbach. It was once thought an uncovered treasure found in some ancient texts, and brought out of the mists of time for the drinkers of the future. But, turns out, the whole story was made up. Cocktails should have histories like this, sometimes, cause drinking should be fun (also, to read the whole story in more detailed, check it out on Liquor.com) and sometimes made up stories are fun, too. Heck, it tricked me, but I still believe it’s fun, and like drinking the Seelbach, too. Try it, and I’m guessing you will, as well.
1 ounce bourbon
1/2 ounce Cointreau
7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
7 dashes Angostura bitters
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Pour the bourbon, Cointreau, and the two bitters into a flute glass. Stir briefly.
2. Fill the flute almost to the top with the chilled Champagne or sparkling wine. Stir again, but don’t get nutty about it. Garnish with the orange twist.