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.
October 12, 2018
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.
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
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.
The Zazarac, from Dark Spirits
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
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