June 29, 2018

What I’m Drinking: What I’m Drinking: The Sicilian Sling

This should be your go-to this summer (or one of them, at least), as it’ll transport you all over Europe without you having to leave the yard, while at the same time serving as a cool cooler, just as you want when the temps are tempting the higher digits. It was created by an old pal and bartending legend, Jeremy Sidener (who owns the Eighth Street Taproom in Lawrence, KS), who was genius enough to bring together the herbally Italian amaro Averna (which is about in the middle of the bitter scale when looking over the amaro family) and French herb-y Bénédictine, along with cherry brandy, lemon juice, and soda. I myself said in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz that “the result will break any hold a dusty, hot summer’s day has on you.”

sicilian-slingThe Sicilian Sling

Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Averna
1/2 ounce cherry brandy
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Chilled club soda
1 or 2 fresh basil leaves, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Averna, cherry brandy, Bénédictine, and lemon juice. Shake well.

2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mixture into the glass. Top with chilled club soda, filling it almost to the top. Gently smack the basil leaf or leaves and let them rest on the drink’s top.

June 15, 2018

What I’m Drinking: The Idle Ferry

We are now moving our individual boats and vessels into what – for many – counts as vacation season. Which means it’s a time for fun, but also, naturally, a time for waiting in lines. Now, I’m not saying you should be drinking while waiting in said lines, but hey, once you get through said lines, you may well need a refreshing drink, and perhaps one with a little kick, and one which references the vacationing and such because if we can’t come full circle, then it’s worth asking what it’s all for, anyway, and summer certainly isn’t the season for such deep questionings. I mean, it’s summer!

This here drink fits said bill, cozily, and in a Washington-state-meets-France way, as it only contains three ingredients, and two are from WA and one from FR. First up, Vashon-island- (speaking of ferry lines) made Seattle Distilling Company Idle Hour single malt whiskey, a delicious Irish-whiskey-leaning single malt. Second, France’s legendary herbal liqueur Bénédictine. Third, originally, at least, when I first made this, many vacations ago, was another Vashon Island hit, Vashon Brewing Company’s Cherrywood Smoked porter. Now, this is a delicacy – heck, all three are! But if you absolutely can’t find it, you could sub in another porter, and be okay. Better than okay, even! And while it’s won’t be the same journey, it’ll still fulfill that post-line-waiting need in a dandy manner.


The Idle Ferry

Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company Idle Hour single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
4 ounces Vashon Brewing Company’s Cherrywood Smoked porter

1. Add three or four ice cubes to a highball or comparable glass. Add the whiskey and the Benedictine. Stir.

2. Carefully add the porter to the glass. Stir carefully, from the bottom up.

February 23, 2018

What I’m Drinking: Mercurio Punch

I wish I could say with certainty that this drink was named after Mercurio, the 4-D Man, a fella from the planet Gramos who fought Thor and the wacky Warriors Three, as well as a bunch of other heroes and such in the mighty Marvel universe, utilizing both fire and ice powers. However! I don’t know that this drink was named after said alien, or the Mexican wrestler of the same name, or the Chilean newspaper. My guess? A misspelling of a Willy S character, or after the planet Mercury. When all is said and done, though, does it matter? This is a swell sipper for around 10 folks, one that’s a bit bubbly, a bit brandy, and a big grape-y. Great for the end of February, when you’re just starting to feel spring might someday happen, but still chilly. Heck, they even like it on Gramos.

mercurio
Mercurio Punch, from Dark Spirits

Block of ice, or ice cubes
16 ounces brandy
16 ounces purple grape juice
8 ounces Bénédictine liqueur
8 ounces simple syrup
One 750-milliliter bottle red wine (go for a Cabernet here, one with robust body)
One 2-liter bottle chilled club soda

1. Add the block of ice to a large punch bowl, or fill the bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, grape juice, Benedictine, and simple syrup. Stir well.

2. Add the red wine to the cast, and stir again.

3. Smoothly add the club soda, and stir a final time (or maybe a few final times—you want to get it good and combined). Serve in punch glasses.

January 5, 2018

What I’m Drinking: In The Treetops with Delamain L’Aigle XO Cognac

It’s a smidge odd to say about one of the world’s revered sippers, but Cognac (especially in the states, I suppose) gets a little short shrift. Especially when it comes to cocktails. But consider this, friends – Cognac was a key player in the early days of cocktailing, and used as the base spirit in many classic drinks (the Sazerac, for one, but also a bunch of others), including ones that shifted for one reason or another to a different base. Both the shifts and the lack of Cognac-ing in modern cocktails is a shame, because the layers of flavors that unfold in good Cognacs when paired with the right pals make memorable drinks.

Let’s take this one, In The Treetops, for example! I was lucky enough (don’t curse me for it, especially not this early in the year) to receive a bottle of L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac recently. The Eagle (L’Aigle equals The Eagle) is a delicious Cognac, aged in Limousin oak casks near the Charente River, and one that can be – and maybe should be! – savored solo, thanks to its bold-yet-graceful and complex-yet-approachable nature. It delivers floral and citrus essences on the nose, with a few nutty notes, too, and even more lush orange and fruit with a little chocolate and nuttiness in the unfolding flavor. It’s really as good as you’d expect from Delamain, who, if you don’t know, have been making renowned Cognacs since, oh, the 1600s. Or thereabouts!

When deciding to mix a cocktail with a Cognac this swell, I think keeping it fairly simple, letting the Cognac shine, adding only a few others players, is the way to go. I first thought I’d go with a drink from another lesser-known classic, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion (from the early 1940s), a drink called Rock a Bye Baby. And, admittedly, which you might guess from the title of this cocktail (if you know your nursery rhymes), I didn’t stray far from the original. I kept the same ingredients, Cognac (well, Crosby used brandy), sweet vermouth (I used Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, made from Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and with lovely fruit tones and a smidge of sweetness), and Bénédictine. But Crosby (who will forgive me I’m sure), had equal parts Cognac and sweet vermouth, and less Bénédictine. I wanted to let Delamain’s L’Aigle fly higher, so boosted the Cognac, drifted down the sweet vermouth, and upper the Bénédictine some to herbal-ize the edges more. The end result is a layered, sophisticated-in-the-best-way, cocktail, one that is a special treat, sure, but don’t you deserve to be treated? I think you do.

from-the-treetops
In The Treetops

Cracked ice
2 ounces L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/2 ounce Bénédictine

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

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy life’s momentary luxuries.

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.

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