August 3, 2021
A bit of a departure for many fans from his more tense thriller-ific films, To Catch a Thief is still, I believe, a wonderful Hitchcock film. The glamour of the setting and the leads (Cary Grant and Grace Kelly of course), the movement of the lens, the pace, the light suspense and banter, all of it comes together in a summery kind of way that lends itself to repeat viewings. If you haven’t seen it, well, you should. And if you have, but not recently, give it another viewing. It is, in one word, charming. But why (I hear you asking) am I blathering a bit on about it? Well, it was released on this day exactly in 1955! So, that deserves a Cocktail Talk, and the below quote is a dandy one.
“Bourbon’s the only drink. You can take all that champagne stuff and pour it down the English Channel.”
–John Michael Hayes (screenwriter), To Catch a Thief
July 23, 2021
Once, I, and some athletic and newsworthy and hilarious and thirsty and running pals made a very silly Class of the Race video, which you should watch cause you like fun, and you like drinks (or why would you be here). But you can watch it without a pen in hand to write down the recipe for the drink had in the video, The Class of the Race that is, because I have the recipe directly below. It’s a swell sipper, too, one worthy of any race winners, and, though bourbon-based (well, bourbon and bubbly-based), one that I believe can be had in summer, due to said bubbly, chilled. A little simple syrup, to sweeten things up, a little Benedictine, to add those monastically-herbal notes, and a little Peychaud’s bitters to underline it all, round the drink out and make a worthy finishing line for your July Friday.
The Class of the Race, from Dark Spirits
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Benedictine liqueur
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, Benedictine, simple syrup, and bitters. Shake well (but not so well that you expire from the effort).
2. Strain the mix into a Champagne flute. Top with the bubbly.
A Note: Pheidippides was the original marathoner, running from Marathon to Athens after a battle in 490 B.C. without stopping once, announcing, “We have won,” and then reportedly dying. I feel this is something you should know when having this, but don’t let it flatten your bubbles.
June 18, 2021
Well, honestly, this one sells itself: summer starts in two days. This tangy-but-umphy-but-herbally-but-a-smidge-sweet-but-fruity-but-bitter-in-a-good-way-but-delicious drink is called Summer Dream. This recipe serves 2, because summer isn’t a season to spend alone. And this base spirit, bourbon, is a fine base for a drink, even in summer no matter what anyone says. Finally, fruit. So, I don’t know that I need to say anymore, cause I’d just get in the way of you making this drink, and also get in the way of my making one.
Summer Dream, from Dark Spirits, Serves 2 (because of reasons mentioned above)
3 orange slices
2 peach slices
4 ounces bourbon
2 ounces Campari
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Add the orange and peach slices to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, Campari, simple syrup, and lemon juice. Shake really well, if a little wistfully, for at least 15 seconds.
3. Strain the dream through a fine strainer equally into two cocktail glasses.
April 23, 2021
Not too long ago in the scheme of things (depending on your scheme!), I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of Bib & Tucker bourbon (along with some swell glasses and such – it was a very lucky day!). Coming in one of the more memorable bottles I’ve seen in some time – lovely glass shape and glass lettering and overall aesthetic set up – Bib & Tucker isn’t just a pretty package. Made in Tennessee in a hearkening to the 1880s as they say, the time of “boldness and refinement,” it’s a bourbon aged 6 years in low char white oak barrels (there are some older siblings, too, on the years-aged front) and has won a fair amount of awards. Deservedly so, me thinks, as it’s very smooth, very drinkable. Starting with a nose of vanilla, caramel, and spices of the pastry variety, it flows into a vanilla, cinnamon, spice flavor, with a hint of nuttiness, pecan style, and then finishes with a little oaky caramel spice-ness. Made from 70% corn, 26% rye, and 4% malted barley, it’s a swell number to sip solo, with or without a cube of ice.
However (as you might have guessed!), it’s also a really fine base for cocktails in my humble opinion, as the people say. If going the mixing route, I’d suggest a recipe that lets the bourbon shine, with only one or two other liquid pals along for the ride. Which is what we’re doing here, in the way of the classic Kentucky Colonel cocktail, which I was reminded of when browsing the old The Art of Mixing Drinks, 1961 edition (not to be confused with the also venerable and perhaps more well-known The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. The lack of “Fine” volume I have comes in a little box, with plastic cover and ring binding, and is fun if you can find it). We’re altering the title a bit here, cause our Bib & Tucker is from TN not KY, but keeping the basic combo of bourbon and monastic herbal liqueur Bénédictine. You see this cocktail with various ratios of our two players, and with the addition of bitters (a good plan, though not used here as this book’s recipe didn’t have it and I wanted to pay homage properly), served up instead of with a big cube (but the big cube felt ideal) and with different twists – I’ll admit, at first the lemon felt off, but its bright citrus notes worked a treat above the bourbon and liqueur intertwining flavors. Delicious.
The Tennessee Colonel
2-1/2 ounces Bib & Tucker 6-year old bourbon
1 ounce Bénédictine
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two darkly-spirited pals. Stir well.
2. Add a large ice cube or a few smaller ones to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix in. Garnish with the lemon twist.
March 12, 2021
There are days when you want to unbury a drink from an old book or pamphlet, a drink that hasn’t been sipped for many years, and other days when you want to make up a whole new drink, one that you’ve created for your very self for the very first time, and then other days when you want to try and recreate a drink you had out (or as take-out, in currant circumstances) at a local watering hole, made by a talented drink-slinger, and then other days when you just want to have a classic Manhattan, one made with Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon. Today is that day! For me, at least, as I recently received a bottle of said Early Times bourbon – lucky me! – making it all possible. Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon has a long and interesting history, including being lost to all from I believe the 1980s until a slow re-release that started in 2017. Aged 4 years, and at 100 proof, this tipple treads an approachable path, with some umph beneath, swirling a sweetness on the nose that lingers through a citrus, caramel, vanilla flavor with spice hints popping up, and then popping up more and more through the finishing moments. Overall, just a delicious, friendly bourbon that everyone I know enjoys sipping slow as the sun goes down. But that approachability also means it’s a dandy cocktail base, too, and the Manhattan is a swell cocktail to base on it. As it has that little sweetness, I went with Punt e’ Mes as the vermouth, because it’s a little drier with beauteous bittery herbal notes – a good choice, I have to admit! And for the bitters themselves, I picked Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters, which is an ideally-balanced spice and herb bitters in a classic style, superb here.
2-1/2 ounces Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters
Cherry (I used a Rainer cherry I’d had mulling with mates in some bourbon, but a good Maraschino would work a treat, too)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Add a cherry (or two!) to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into said glass. Enjoy.
August 7, 2020
Sometimes you just have to say, damn the torpedoes, I’m doing this (“this” can mean a number of things, but I usually take it to mean I’m doing something that may be worthy, but also perhaps a bit foolish, or something most might not do, lacking the courage and/or foolishness, depending on your perspective). Often, for me, it’s something with, admittedly, very little real world consequences, revolving around using a snazzy base spirit that should probably be just sipped solo in a cocktail, or having what many consider a more serious spirit-forward drink in the heat of summer. Well, “I yam what I yam” as a famous philosopher once said. Today, said happening revolves around the scrumptious (people should say scrumptious about whiskey more) Four Roses Small Batch Select bourbon, a sample of which arrived in the mail recently (I know, I’m lucky).
Crafted by a mixing of six of the Four Roses bourbon recipes – said six all aged six years by the way, and lucky there’s not one more six in there or I’d be worried – and hitting a hardy 104 proof, this bourbon is a shining example of scrumptious. Hah! I am going to force the usage of scrumptious in! Scrumptious from the very first small, with oak, baking berries, and spices (including, I felt, a nice nutmeg, which is one of my favorites, and a soupçon of cloves and cinnamon). When it hits your mouth, there’s more fruit – summertime fruitiness, really – oak, a little pepper, a little vanilla, all of which trails off with a lingering sweeter vanilla, spice, and toasty oak. A lovely, dare I say again, scrumptious, sip, and then more sips.
However! As alluded to above, I couldn’t leave it at that, or even with just a cube of ice (nice!) or drops of water (also, nice!), I had to do a little mixing. Or, in this case, I had to have my whiskey-loving pal Jeremy do some mixing, as he was sampling too – from a safe distance and with proper safety stuff of course. With a bourbon this good, though, you don’t want to go too far afield; you want to let it shine and all. So, kept it to the classic, legendary, Old Fashioned. Now, I have to say, cause of distancing and sipping, I didn’t actually see Jeremy make said Old Fashioneds, so I’m not 100% sure if his recipe is the same as the below, which is mine – but it tasted darn close, and tasted, well, scrumptious! The little bit of extra sweet mingled in a most mighty manner with the bourbon’s sweetness, and the herbal from the bitters paired with the bourbon’s spice oh-so-pleasantly. Or, if you’d like, scrumptious-ly. I’d try it if I were you. You deserve it.
1 sugar cube (or 1 teaspoon sugar)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange slice (see Note on garnishes)
2-1/2 ounces Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon
1. Put the sugar in an old-fashioned glass, of course. Add the bitters and the orange slice, if you wish.
2. Using a muddler or very solid wooden spoon, muddle up the sugar and bitters, along with the orange slice.
3, Place a couple of ice cubes in the glass. Add the bourbon, slowly and with reverence.
4. Stir briefly. Think about scrumptiousness.
A Note: The hoohaw about the garnish on an Old Fashioned can go on forever. Today, orange slice. Tomorrow, cherry. The next, day, who knows. My take is always no fruit salad (meaning, don’t go overboard). But I’ll admit to switching my fruit alliance on occasion, and you can swear at me if you want, just don’t take my drink.
July 3, 2020
This lesser-known (but awesome) drink from days of yore feels appropriate in many ways for this weekend (named after the sound bombs made and all that), and it is incredibly tasty (and sorta surprising when you look at the list of ingredients), and a drink if you haven’t made you sure should try, but, but, but, listen, I don’t want to soapbox, but I really am not a big 4th of July fan. Not the, oh, sentiment I suppose, but going overboard with the fireworks. As a long-time dog owner, and as someone with the belief that dogs are, actually, a higher species than humans (in the main), and knowing how said fireworks can drive, and do drive, dogs insane, then you can see why I don’t enjoy the holiday, or the days around it.
On the other hand, this is why I need a good drink, and why I’m having a Whizz Bang. A curiously explosive number, this time I’m starting with Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon, which is local (support your locals!), award-winning, and tasty. I’ve had this drink made with a smooth Scotch, and that’s not a bad idea. However, it being the fourth and all, wanted to stay more American, and the Woodinville is a treat. Next up: dry vermouth. You don’t see enough whiskey and dry vermouth combos, and even rarer (I think? I could be wrong) is that combo with anise-y Pernod! I believe this may have originally been made with absinthe, before the big silly oh-no-scary-absinthe moment in history, but I’ve grown to love the Pernod here, so we’ll stick with it. And we’re still going! Next up: grenadine. This drink only works with really good grenadine (it somehow brings it all together), so make your own, or have a friend make some good grenadine and convince them to give you some. That’s what I did! Our final sparkly addition is orange bitters, for those herbal undertones. I went with Scrappy’s orange bitters, cause it’s, well, sparkly! Altogether, the Whizz Bang’ll make any weekend shine. Maybe have one or two, with some pals, and skip exploding things and terrorizing pups? Just an idea!
The Whizz Bang
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pernod
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and give your dog a pet.
April 3, 2020
When in the situation we all find ourselves within (Together we can do it! Stay safe and keep others safe! All of that with exclamation points!), me as well as you I’m sure are spending more time at home. Good! But when at home, I find myself wondering what I can make for sipping that’s different – give myself a little project. Or, wondering what I can make that is easy, allowing me more time to sit on the couch and read The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. Today, though, it’s the former of those two, the “different” path. And this path was unveiled via a suggestion/question (qugestion?) that happened way back when, like when things were starting to get mad but not as mad, from two fine folks I know: genius writer Paul Tobin and genius artist (and writer, really) Colleen Coover. I am luckily enough to be friends with these geniuses (should be geni, really) and connected on the Twitters, and there, they nicely roped me into a very important drink-a-logical conversation re: using peanut butter in drinks. It took me awhile to get on the pb-drinks trolley, but as I now (thanks virus) have a lot of time on my hands, and always (thanks tastebuds) have a love for peanut butter, finally dove in to the nutty problem. And decided to go a route I hadn’t seen, but now see is all over the internet, or at least has search results – making a peanut butter simple syrup.
See, I though in a lightbulb-in-a-bar-glass moment that creating said syrup would make for a more mitigating pal when playing with other liquids. It took me a little messing around (I like that!) to get to a syrup I was at least partially fond of, and I’m still not sure it’s perfect. If you’re curious (and can’t wait for the recipe below), equality was what punched the pb syrup ticket, equality of peanut butter, sugar, and water. Yay! Once the pb syrup was syrup’d to my liking, then it was drink time. Yay, again! I made two I liked, but between us, I’m still not completely convinced that I couldn’t make better, make more, and keep tweaking the formula. Above-mentioned genius Colleen has already done such she’s told me, bringing chocolate into the syrup-making mix – seems, well, a genius idea.
Anyway, before I ramble out of the bar, Pleasant Bounty is the first pb syrup drink. I wanted to have one at least with whiskey, cause it can be nutty, and for said brown, I picked locally-made and awesome Woodinville Whiskey Flagship Bourbon, which just won “Best Straight Bourbon Whiskey of 2020” and a Double Gold Medal (DOUBLE GOLD) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Using only grain grown on a WA farm (grain grown just for them), it’s a caramelly, vanilla, spice, dream. For the final ingredient, went with another nutty number, Sidetrack Distillery’s Nocino walnut liqueur. Also a bit spicy with a bit of a kick, it adds more nuttiness to this drink, and this nutty world. In hindsight, perhaps I could have upped the pb simple a little. Hmm. Would be more sweet, but more peanut-y. User choice!
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Flagship Bourbon
3/4 ounce peanut butter simple syrup (recipe below)
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Nocino
1. Add the first three ingredients above to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir gently.
2. Add a little ice, and again stir gently. Strain into a cocktail glass or something like it. Be pleasant.
A Note: You could fine strain this to get rid of any stray peanut-y bits, but I sorta liked them. If you use crunchy, probably strain.
Peanut Butter Simple Syrup Recipe Note: It’s really easy to make this, and it would be absolutely absolute on ice cream as well as in drinks. You just need to add equal parts peanut butter (use one that’s made from only peanuts – I think creamy or smooth works nicely, but crunch if that’s your thing), sugar, and water to a saucepan over low-to-medium low heat. Whisk continually until the sugar is dissolved. You don’t want to overheat, I found. But again, still experimenting!