February is here, a month known for hearts and presidents and the birthdays of famous dog-owners (the last very subjective). As the presidents in reference here, in this month, calendarically are those who kick-started or had serious impact on the US, we’re talking males, fathers or father figures or both, and perhaps bourbon lovers (conjecture, unless time machines are on offer), and historically sort-of noble (naturally history is written by those who, well, are able to write it, and without the aforementioned time machines hard to declare nobility – which is a hard word to define anyway – in a way, but go with it, okay), which makes this the ideal month for this drink. A noble drink, I may say, especially if you live in and love WA state (as I do, in the main), as nearly every ingredient here is from WA – oranges excepted. We’re talking some seriously tasty state stalwarts, too: Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s delicious straight bourbon, Brovo Spirits’ bouncy Orange Curaçao, and Scrappy’s uniquely awesome Black Lemon bitters. Plus, a dollop of Seattle Distilling Company’s beautiful brandy – if you have it. That latter is hard to come by, unless you hoarded (like me) a last sip from a limited-release bottling. If you weren’t so lucky (or forward-thinking), then sub in another reputable brandy, please. It shouldn’t make the drink too less noble. It is a swell sipper, for February – or any ol’ month in the year.
Here’s something neat you should know about (hopefully you already do, but just in case), every year, the Woodinville Whiskey Co. from up here in Washington has a special Harvest Release. I wrote about the 2018 Harvest Release and how fans and whiskey devotees line up starting the night before in an article for Seattle magazine, if you want to get the flavor of the event surrounding the releases. The actual Harvest Releases, the whiskies, are only available at the distillery, giving you a perfect reason to visit that lovely space, and our lovely state, if you aren’t already here in W-A. However, this year, the Harvest Release stretches out-of-state, too, in a way! See, this year’s release is Woodinville’s Straight Bourbon Finished in Ginja Casks!
If you read “Ginja” and aren’t sure what it means, don’t feel silly – took me a minute of brain-wracking myself before I remembered that Ginja, or Ginjinha, is a brandy-based Portuguese liqueur made with ginja berries (those being a type of sour cherry, also called Morello cherries in some locales), as well as cinnamon and sugar – a liqueur like so many first made by a very thirsty and enterprising friar. Amazing! Woodinville Whiskey took their bourbon made with grain grown for them exclusively on the Omlin Farm in Quincy, WA, then distilled in Woodinville, and then aged over five-years in Central WA, and when it was good and ready let it spend some time in casks (or barrels, as you may say) that had been used for that very Ginjinha liqueur. I’m gonna say it again – amazing!
And not just an amazing process, but the taste of this Harvest Release – wheeeee! On the nose berry-y as you might expect, and jammy in the best way, with notes of same surfacing in the taste, which boasts a smooth approachable sweetness as well as swirling fresh and dried cherry, cardamon, and cinnamon. Very very drinkable. I heard Woodinville distiller Brett Carlile said that sipping this bourbon was almost like sipping a Manhattan, and I completely agree – the whiskey’s honey-cherry-ness echoes that famous drink. Dandy all on its own, or over a cube of ice, this is one harvest/Portuguese favorite not to be missed. So, I suggest you pick up a bottle (even if having to fly in. It’ll be worth it)!
I’m sure you understand this: some days, you, or one, just wakes up in the morning thinking, “Today, I wanna make a drink from Jacques Straub’s recipe collection classic called, simply enough, Drinks (oh, you can get a Drinks reprint if you don’t happen to have it or want to pony up for an original)! Then, all the day long you think about it, unless you decide to have a breakfast drink, or a lunch drink. If so, good for you, champ! Still waiting on the invite. But if not, by the time HH (happy hour, natch) comes around, you have that little book (perfectly sized for dress shirt pockets, making it easy for bartenders to carry) out, and are turning until you come to The Hancock Sour, and then boom! Drink-making time.
But what bourbon? For me, this time, it’s Wood Family Spirits Columbia bourbon. Admittedly, a bottle recently came in the mail (don’t hate me! I do feel lucky about it), excitingly enough! If you don’t know, Wood Family Spirits is a distillery based in Hood River, Oregon. The family in the area traces back to pioneers in the middle 1800s, so they have lots of history in the PNW, and a desire to deliver well-made spirits here. In Columbia bourbon, they’re doing just that. Made in Tennessee using 80% corn, 10% barley, and 10% rye, it’s aged in brand new charred oak barrels (aging takes place in OR) and blended to “bottle in bond” strength. Which equals a robust 100 proof, that gives it a reassuring umph. It has a lovely aroma – caramel, spices (cinnamon, clove) – then a rich mouthfeel while you’re savoring the vanilla, caramel, sweetness mingling with the oakiness and highlighted by more of that cinnamon and clove and rye spicy goodness.
Wood Family Spirits Columbia bourbon’s full layered taste means it can be swigged solo happily, but also that it can stand up nicely in a drink like The Hancock Sour, one we’re bringing back from days of yore, and one that packs a decent amount of lime. In typical classic sour fashion, this might have had even more lime in the past (the recipe calls just for the juice of one lime), but 3/4s-of-an-ounce worked best for me. So, lime, sugar, bourbon, sounds like a regular sour, right? But there’s an intriguing twist – a hint of rum! That’s right, two spirits! The recipe doesn’t call out a specific rum, but I found a Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva dark rum was perfect. Its complexity and sweetness added just enough hints to elevate this treat to another realm (if you haven’t had it, this rum delivers caramel, nuts, orange peel, vanilla, nutmeg, and allspice in a lovely combo). The other slightly sideways add to our sour is a splash of soda, which, funnily, helped everything come together without thinning it out. The original recipe said to garnish with “fruits of the season,” so I went strawberry, but I could see orange, cherries, even blackberries being nice and working with the lime.
One final note: I have no idea who Hancock is, or was, or if this drink even refers to a person. And, though in a way I wish I did, it doesn’t change one iota the deliciousness this sour delivers. Try it, and then next time remember to invite me to breakfast drinks!
Here’s a decent little pulp pocketbooker. Not the highest reaching pages in the genre, more along the lines of a poor imbiber’s Raymond Chandler, but a quick page-turner and jolly enough. My only book by Lawrence Lariar, but if I see another (especially one with a cover this fine), well, I might take a chance. This one, and maybe others, stars Detective Steve Gant, who has like 12 overnight hours to solve the murder of high-society singer/tv/model lady-about-town, found dead on a beach outside a beachclub, and with Gant’s comedian pal firmly in the frame. The quote on the back really tells it: “It was a smart money crowd – guys on the take, dolls on the make.” The below quote’s pretty swell, too.
“Wonderful.” She clapped her hands and closed her eyes and laughed a Bourbon laugh. “Chuck thinks you’re the greatest. He talks about you all the time.” She paused reflectively. She shifted her emotional gears, pricked by some disturbing idea that angered her a bit. “Chuck,” She sighed, “does a hell or a lot of talking, doesn’t he? A real talkative type. All talk with the girls.”
You don’t like his talk?”
“Like it? What’s to dislike?” She ambled erratically to the bottle on her desk, fixing a drink for me. She took one for herself, sniffed it and set it down, making a face at it.
Guess what – it’s Valentine’s Friday! At least I think it is, though conceivably that could refer to the Friday after Valentine’s Day (which itself is next Tuesday, dontcha know). But I’d like to think all the young and old lovers in the house are proper prior planners, and so if celebrating a Valentine’s Friday, do it the Friday before when the actual day doesn’t fall properly in line with a weekend. All of which is a roundabout way of saying – here, friend, I have a wonderful drink for your Valentine’s Friday. It’s got bourbon to set the stage and provide that solid base good relationships are based upon. It’s got Kahana Royale Macadamia Nut liqueur, which adds a smidge of sweetness and a lovely layer of roasted macadamia goodness. It’s got cream, which is just the kind of smooth one wants for a romantic eve. And it has maraschino cherries, hiding like a stolen smooch in the bottom of the glass. Yummy and sweet, just like Valentine’s Friday. Oh, this works great on the actual Valentine’s Day, too, if you wondered. And it is scaled up for 2, of course.
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, macadamia liqueur, and cream. Shake well.
2. Add a cherry to each of two cocktail glasses. Strain the mix into the glasses, making sure each gets its full share. Sure, the cherries will vanish for a minute, but like the moon, they’ll reappear.
Sorry, after last week’s Kill and Tell Cocktail Talk (read that one for a little more information on the book by Howard Rigsby), I realized I had to have at least one more, while I could still type – before the Martini kicks in. It’s not actually as drinky a book as some from the era, and the PI star isn’t as hard-drinking as others (he turns down a number of drinks), but hey, it’s not like he isn’t gonna drink at all!
“What would you like to drink?” I asked. “I can make a fair Martini.”
She had begun to look worried again, but she seemed to shrug it off. She smiled. “A Martini sounds grand.”
I made it five to one, and when she had tasted it she rolled her eyes upward. “While I can still talk there’s something I’d like to tell you,” she said.
It’s the first of July, which means that the fourth of July is only days away (poor first of July, always in the shadow – at least here in the US – of its holiday sparkling calendar sibling). On the fourth of July, people tend to have picnics, think (one hopes) about what makes this country the country it’s been for the last few hundred years, and blow things up with brightly-colored mini booms. The latter of which, between us, I’m not too fond of, as I’ve always had pups that don’t like it. So, if you’re in my neighborhood, keep it down, ya hear! But to balance things out, let me offer you this explosive (in taste!) firecracker of a drink, the ideal drink for the day of fireworks (though don’t have too many and then get around matches – a deadly duo if ever there was one), one so ideal I believe I’ve proposed it before as a fourth favorite. The bourbon, vermouth, Pernod (a nod to the revolutionary French), grenadine (homemade if you love your country – check out the homemade grenadine recipe here), and orange bitters combo is a tasty holiday treat. I use Scrappy’s Orange bitters below, and Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon, because A: they are both awesome, and B: supporting your local makers is about as patriotic as it gets. Now, don’t forget what we said about keeping the noise down for dogs!
Just a week ago I talked about the double book book I’d recently picked up, talked about in The Deadly Pick-up Cocktail Talk post, that is, and therein mentioned the second book of the one-book duo, Killer Take All, by James O. Causey. And you know what? Today we are Cocktail Talking from that very book. It’s a swell piece of pulp pleasure, too, hitting the same pace and at least near the style of longtime fav Day Keene (read more Day Keene Cocktail Talks while you’re here why dontacha). By that I mean, our hero/narrator (who happens to be a golfer! Of all pulpy things) gets into trouble, then more trouble, then trouble piles on another layer of troubles, and troubling on and on until you feel there is no way he can get outta the trouble hole. Plus: some mobsters and ex-mobsters, an ex-girlfriend who may be untrustworthy, a cop who may be the opposite, loads of other shady intriguing figures, and (if that wasn’t enough) an old master painting playing a big part. Plus booze! And bars! A dandy, dandy read.
Stephen reached into his jacket pocket and brought out a pint of bonded bourbon. “Open it, Tony? We could both stand some anti-freeze.”
I took a deep slug. It was good whiskey. Stephen kept his eyes on the compass as he reached for the pint and downed almost half of it.
“Hey, you’re driving, remember?”
He took another slug and grinned, showing even white teeth. “Breakfast, man.”
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More