June 27, 2017

Cocktail Talk: Mighty Like a Rogue

keene-death-marchI earlier had a Day Keene Cocktail Talk (there are many Day Keene’s here on the Spiked Punch, cause he’s grand in the pulp way) from the story collection Death March of the Dancing Dolls (one of a series of collections of his pulp mag stories and yarns and legends and tales). But guess what – one was not enough! I almost forgot about the below beaut, which reminds us how long two of my favorites have been coupling in glasses and people’s minds. Sadly, the gent rolling it out isn’t, oh, the most lovable of narrators, and . . . well, you’ll have to read the story!

The only bright spot in the picture was Connie. She’d been a hasher when I met her, and a good one. She took to the job in the joint across from the City Hall like Benedictine to brandy.

–Day Keene, Mighty Like a Rogue

August 19, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Bitter Shake

The name of this drink sounds a bit like a dance move beloved by those who tend to wear mostly black, listen to moody tunes, and shake their fist at all and sundry (I’ll admit to that phase at once point, so I’m not judging here, oh no). But, it’s in reality nearly the opposite, a blended drink that’s really not all that bitter, and is sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who drinks it.

Where, then, does the name come from? Well, the wonderful Fernet-Branca, of course! Here’s the scoop. Not long ago a bottle of that essential elixir showed up in the mail (I know, I couldn’t believe my luck either), with a little bit of a challenge – come up with a blended Fernet-Branca drink. At first, this seemed like a conundrum, due to blended drinks being usually either extra fruity or extra frothy and Fernet-Branca shading heavily towards what some people call “bitter,” though I think that’s just one part of it, with the other being its magic mix of herbs and spices and such. But, you know what? It turns out that with the right aligning of other ingredients, Fernet-Branca plays perfectly in blended form, and provides a nice rich bedrock for an icy, creamy, frothy, summertime treat, one perfect for the hot weather. Those other ingredients here (I’m guessing there are many more possible permutations) include gin (I used Voyager, which is swell), whose juniper hints mingle well, and Bénédictine, whose sweet herbal goodness also mingles well. A little actual cream, a splash of simple syrup (it is a blended drink!), and loads of ice, and we have the Bitter Shake. Which may actually make you want to dance, but with joy, instead of with your head down, mumbling.

bitter-shake
The Bitter Shake, for 2 (never drink a blender drink alone – that’s foolishness)

2 ounces Voyager gin
1 ounce Fernet-Branca
1 ounce Bénédictine
1-1/2 ounces heavy cream
1 ounce simple syrup
Ice cubes (you’ll want a lot, like a whole tray’s worth)

1. Add everything but the ice to a blender. Swirl a little.

2. Add the ice cubes. Blend well (I used a combo of ice crush and smoothie settings on my blender – you want it well combined, smooth, and frothy). Drink and chill out.

June 10, 2016

What I’m Drinking (World Gin Day Special): The Poet’s Dream

As any truly worthy encyclopedia tells us, poets love gin. I mean, poets (most poets) love drinking most anything. Trust me, I’ve known my fair (or unfair) share of them. But gin is up there with things they love. Which is why having a Poet’s Dream on World Gin Day, which is tomorrow, makes lyrical sense, both for those of you that are poets (like Ed Skoog), and those who like a little poetry now-and-again, and those who really just want a good gin drink to celebrate the day. I’m having mine today, along with one tomorrow, because I’m on the ball. Or because I just can’t wait!

Oh, this liquid quatrain of a cocktail dates at least to The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, one of the true legendary drink manuals (by Albert Crockett, and originally published in 1935), which is where I first found it. There are, in a sorta rarity, three ingredients in it in equal amounts. To make it work, you must have a gin with a lot of flavor and one that’s nice and dry, or the Bénédictine and French vermouth push it around. I’m using Cadée Gin here, and if you can get it, get it. If not, find another sturdy gin. Oh, and don’t forget the twist, or my “liquid quatrain” line above doesn’t work, and we wouldn’t want that.

poets-dream-2
The Poet’s Dream

Cracked ice
1 ounce Cadée gin
1 ounce Bénédictine
1 ounce French (aka Dry) Vermouth
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 shaker, and garnish with the twist.

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.

December 18, 2015

What I’m Drinking: The Bosun’s Garden

There’s a key to this particular garden that might be hard to wrangle if you don’t happen to live out northwest way. But you could come visit! We’d be happy to see you. Oh, to jump back, the key. It’s Salish Sea’s Thyme-Coriander liqueur, which is a rich, culinary-esque sipper, and which could do well as a marinade and such, but also makes a very particular cocktail ingredient, one that plays surprisingly well with particular others – here, those others are gin (I used Bluewater Halcyon gin, an award-winner also from up this-a-way), and monastic herbal hit Bénédictine. And a touch of lemon oil, courtesy of a twist. Dang, this is a good drink. You may need to move here.

bosun
The Bosun’s Garden

Cracked ice
1-1/2 Bluewater Halcyon gin
1 ounce Salish Sea Thyme-Coriander liqueur
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, Thyme-Coriander liqueur, and Bénédictine. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the lemon twist.

October 16, 2015

What I’m Drinking: Headlong Hall

This drink comes from one of my favorite old cocktail books, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. If you can track it down, it’s well worth investing in, as it’s jovial as a good cocktail party, and it has some random but delicious recipes that I haven’t seen elsewhere. One of those is this one, Headlong Hall.

It’s really a distant cousin of the Martini, as it’s heavy of gin and half-as-heavy of vermouth, but then taken down a curvy boozy road by the addition of two whispers: one of Bénédictine, and one of absinthe. Which gives it a personality all of its own.

Of course, with the main players being such to the front of the stage (wow, I am all over the place on the metaphors and such), however, you need some serious actors – or, seriously flavorful gin and vermouth. Recently, I was in the UK, and in the lovely city of Bath, in a lovely little wine and liquor store, I picked up a bottle of Psychopomp Wōden gin, which is made at a “micro-distillery” in Bristol, not far from Bath. The gin is singular – don’t get me wrong, it starts with a rich juniper, but that’s backed by a mingling of coriander, grapefruit zest, angelica root and cassia bark, and fennel seed, the last of which really delivers on the back end when sipping. If you’re in the UK, track it down.

To go with it, I picked La Quintinye Vermouth Royal, the extra dry version (full disclosure and bragging – I received this in the mail not too long ago). Made in the Charente region of France, La Quintinye extra dry vermouth is crafted from 27 plants and spices on a base of white wines and Pineau des Charentes Blanc. Lush is a good way to describe it, with floral and citrus notes all coming together and delivering a result that’s fantastic in cocktails (especially I think matched with a flavorful gin), but also dandy before dinner over one or two pieces of ice. Combined with the Wōden gin and our two whispers in this drink? Well, try it, but I sure found it all fantastic.

headlong-hallHeadlong Hall

Cracked ice
2 ounces Psychopomp Wōden gin
1 ounce La Quintinye Extra Dry Vermouth Royal
1 teaspoon Bénédictine
1/2 teaspoon absinthe

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

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, but not in a headlong manner (no matter the title. Sorry Crosby).

September 11, 2015

What I’m Drinking: The Bowling Roberto

There are nights when inspiration hits like lightening, or like a very fast snake on the prowl, or like bowling ball dropped off a tall, tall building. On nights like that, you, if you’re like me, realize that if you subbed Ancho Reyes (the ancho chile liqueur, which I go much deeper into in the recipe for the Summer Near Puebla, if you missed it) for sweet vermouth in a Bobby Burns, you’d have a drink of genius. Of genius! Especially if you perhaps twisted the proportions just a little, and then added a dash of Peychaud’s bitters, and served it over a giant piece of ice. Double genius! Don’t believe me? Try the below recipe, as you watch for lightening, snakes, and falling bowling balls. After one sip, you’ll realize how lucky you are and forget all the rest of that stuff.

Oh, one thing. I used Speyburn 10 year old Scotch here. Its slight fruitiness and balance and friendliness make it a good match. It’s also not super expensive, so you won’t feel bad mixing it up with other powerful personalities.

bowling-roberto

The Bowling Roberto

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Speyburn 10 Year Scotch
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Big ice cubes (or a couple sorta big ice cubes)

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything but the second piece of ice. Stir well.

2. Add a big piece of ice to an Old Fashioned or such glass. Strain the mix over the ice.

November 14, 2014

What I’m Drinking: The Midshipman Burns

This seaworthy cocktail is an on-board twist on one of my all-time favs, the Bobby Burns. The Bobby Burns is one of those strong classics that doesn’t sacrifice flavor for umph, or get try to sub in tricksy-ness for good taste (not that many classic cocktails do). In this variant, I’ve subbed in the new 3 Howls Navy Strength rum, for the Scotch, which is a seriously strong rum, following up on their award-winning Navy Strength gin. The rum goes well with the sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica is the way to go here) and the Bénédictine, too, delivering a memorable mix, and one with a nice warm kick. I’ve upped the Bénédictine a little, because the herbalness was playing well.

midshipman-burns
The Midshipman Burns

Cracked ice
2-1/2 ounces 3 Howls Navy Strength rum
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
Lemon twist, for garnish.

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the rum, Carpano, and Bénédictine. Stir well.

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

Rathbun on Film