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.

December 22, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Hounds They Start to Roar with Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon

Washington State distillers are dreamy (you probably have realized my feelings in this already, as I do go on – but they are awesome!), with so many worthy bottles out already, and more continuing to be released regularly. The latest example? Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon. A follow up to their highly-regarded 20-month aged Greenhorn bourbon, Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon is aged 3-1/2 years, and made from sweet yellow corn and soft white wheat from Grant County, WA, and the distiller’s proprietary wild-yeast strain harvested from a local apple orchard. If that wasn’t enough, though, the real sets-it-apart-thing here is that the aging takes place on a boathouse floating on the Puget Sound – from what I’ve been told, it’s the only whiskey in the world aged that long on the water, where the waves and tides speed up the aging (that’s the theory, at least). End result? A darn tasty tipple, with some nice sweetness from the wheat, and a mingling of sea-salted caramel, toffee, fig, orange, and chocolate.

It’s dandy to enjoy as a solo act, but of course I also wanted to try it in cocktails, and after trying this and then trying that, liked it best in The Hounds They Start to Roar. That drink has a bit of a history, which we won’t get it to too much here (you’ve already read the full story in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz anyway, right? Right!), but I will remind you that the name comes from a Tom Waits’ song, as do the ingredients, in a way. Said ingredients are bourbon, naturally, but also St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (the spice flavors contained therein, cinnamon, clove, and others, go wonderfully with the Chambers Bay bourbon mélange), brandy (which helps balance everything out), and Peychaud’s bitters (which adds another herbal tint or two). Together, it’s a drink fit for any sailor, dog lover, song-singer, or person reading this blog, which means you. Take it out for a walk or a sail and see if I’m right.

hounds-they-start-to-roar
The Hounds They Start to Roar, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz

Cracked ice
2 ounces Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon
3/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce brandy
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole bunch of ingredients. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable.

December 15, 2017

What I’m Drinking: Bombay Punch

It’s the holiday party season, and you’re probably thinking, “what should I serve as I unwrap presents, or in any way enjoy the holiday season with family and friends?” Well, there are lots and lots of options, and I’m not trying to push you one way or another, but this Bombay Punch is a sure charmer, thanks to a flavorful feast of fine friends brandy, maraschino, Cointreau, apricot liqueur, and seasonal bubbly. With a little fresh orange to keep things healthy – it is the cold and flu season after all – and a lot of cheer. Again, not trying to push you, just giving you friendly options. It being the holiday season, I find it’s finest to be friendly, right?

bombay-punch
Bombay Punch, from Dark Spirits

Serves 10 to 12

Ice cubes
10 ounces brandy
5 ounces maraschino liqueur
5 ounces Cointreau
5 ounces apricot liqueur
10 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 750-milliliter bottles brut Champagne or sparkling wine
10 to 12 orange slices

1. Fill a large punch bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, maraschino, Cointreau, apricot liqueur, and orange juice. Using a ladle or large spoon, stir briefly.

2. Slowly (the bubble effect can take out your Bombay if not careful), pour the Champagne into the punch bowl. Again, this time a bit more slowly, stir briefly.

3. Add the orange slices, stir once more, and serve in punch glasses, trying to get an orange slice in each glass.

November 3, 2017

What I’m Drinking: Aunt Betsy’s Favorite

I’ll admit, I never actually had an Aunt Betsy – but I did have a great pal named Betsy at one point, and when drinking this (even though we weren’t even related) I tend to think about her. It’s a drink to sip slowly, while you’re thinking of your Aunt Betsy, or another aunt, or another Betsy, or just a great pal, because it’s served hot, which also means it’s ideal for months like November, due to (in my Pacific Northwest neck of the woods, at least) the chiller temperature. And it has a warming depth, as well, with a trio of red wine, brandy, and port – a trio that sings to November days. So, heat one up, and toast all the aunts and Betsy’s and hot drinks and cold days, which never last forever.

aunt-betys-favorite
Aunt Betsy’s Favorite, from Dark Spirits

24 ounces red wine (I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon)
16 ounces tawny port
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces simple syrup
1 orange peel
3 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon

1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. You want it to get good and hot, but not start boiling, or even simmering. Reduce the heat midway through the cooking time if needed.

2. Once the 10 minutes have passed and the room smells wonderful, ladle the mix into heavy mugs. Avoid serving the orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon stick if your pals are worried about clunking up their smiles.

PS: I adapted this from the House & Garden’s Drink Guide. Which means this drink is also ideal for houses and gardens, I suppose.

October 27, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Warlock

Hey, look at that – Halloween is just days away! You know what Halloween means, right? Beyond candy stomach aches for kids, dentists cackling with joy, neat decorations, music that goes bump in the night, and Indian food (at my house, at least), that is? That’s right, it’s Warlock time. The Warlock is of course a non-spooky drink of brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters that when consumed turns one into an unworldly sorcerer. Check out the below video for proof, or I’ll come haunt you!

October 20, 2017

What I’m Drinking: Sangria

There are two, no, wait, three problems with Sangria. One: too often when you get it out, it’s an ugly mess that’s been sitting in some bar fridge, aging in a way that kills the brightness and mucks the flavor. That’s the biggest problem, but also easily solvable (make your own! Or go somewhere that makes it with care). The second problem is that most folks restrict it to only the summer months, but a rich, red-wine-based Sangria in the fall (and even winter) months helps deliver citrus and taste and a refreshment that adds a smile to the season/s. Third, when people do make Sangria at home, they don’t use this old family recipe of mine. Too snooty of me, saying that? Maybe. You can either tut-tut me, or make this recipe – I think you’ll act properly. Because you’re a problem-solver!

And while you’re thinking, put your peepers on this groovy Sangria photo from my pal Sara. If that doesn’t get you craving Sangria, well, I’m not sure what to think of you.

sangria

Sangria, recipe from Wine Cocktails

Serves 6

Ice cubes
1 orange, cut into wheels
1 lime cut into wheels
1 lemon cut into wheels
6 ounces simple syrup
4 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 bottle dry red wine, a Pinot Noir works well, but experiment
6 ounces brandy
Other fresh fruit for garnishing (oranges, limes, lemons)

1. Place the orange, lemon, and lime wheels and simple syrup in a large glass pitcher. Muddle well with a muddler or wooden spoon.

2. Add the orange juice and lime juice, and muddle just a touch more.

3. Add the red wine and the brandy, and stir well (bring a guest stirrer in if needed). Place the pitcher carefully in the refrigerator for two hours or more, but no longer than a day.

4. Add ice until the pitcher is full, and stir slightly. Pour into six stemmed wine glasses or goblets and garnish with fresh fruit.

October 17, 2017

Cocktail Talk: The Way We Live Now, Part I

https://mainehumanities.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/The-Way-We-Live-Now-Trollope.jpgTrollope, how I love thee, let me count the ways . . . okay, that would take too long. But just check out all the past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks, and you’ll read about my swoons until you are blue in the face. Or at least a light shade of pea flower. Anyway. The Way We Live Now is for many THE Trollope book, the big one, the masterwork of all his masterworks. Me, I love it. But it’s not my favorite. But I see where they’re getting to, as it’s a big book, and incredibly insightful, and less happy (which many like) than some of his others, less friendly, more calling-people-out. Which makes it the perfect book for today’s world, in some way. Really, re-reading it (third time? fourth time?) I was struck by how relevant and right on target it was considering the, oh, self-interested spot we’re all within. I strongly suggest it. Though reading it, you may well (as Lord Nidderdale below) find yourself needing a bottle of bubbly. Hopefully you have more luck than he:

“A bottle of Champagne!” said Nidderdale, appealing to the waiter in almost a humble voice, feeling that he wanted sustenance in this new trouble that had befallen him. The waiter, beaten almost to the ground by an awful sense of the condition of the club, whispered to him the terrible announcement that there was not a bottle of Champagne in the house. “Good G —  — ,” exclaimed the unfortunate nobleman. Miles Grendall shook his head. Grasslough shook his head.
“It’s true,” said another young lord from the table on the other side. Then the waiter, still speaking with suppressed and melancholy voice, suggested that there was some port left. It was now the middle of July.
“Brandy?” suggested Nidderdale. There had been a few bottles of brandy, but they had been already consumed. “Send out and get some brandy,” said Nidderdale with rapid impetuosity. But the club was so reduced in circumstances that he was obliged to take silver out of his pocket before he could get even such humble comfort as he now demanded.

–Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now

August 18, 2017

What I’m Drinking: Power to the People

At this point in the summer, it’s best to be sure you’re surrounded by pals and easy-to-build drinks that are scaled for more than just you. Summertime, late summertime especially, isn’t the time for quiet solo contemplation after all. It’s time for simple and swell parties with the below mix (also good to have fruit juice, to ensure you don’t get sick during these late summer weeks, and brandy because, well, brandy needs you and you need brandy – but that’s as much contemplation as we want). Oh, this’ll serve around eight, depending on how hot it is. If it’s really hot, might want to keep it to, oh, six, seven max. And get extra ice.

power-to-the-people
Power to the People, from Dark Spirits

2 peaches, pitted and sliced
2 apricots, pitted and sliced
4 ounces Simple Syrup
Ice cubes
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
One 750-milliliter bottle chilled Prosecco
Orange slices for garnish

1. Combine the peaches, apricots, and simple syrup in a sturdy pitcher, the kind you use when outdoors in the summer. Using a muddler or long wooden spoon, muddle the fruit and syrup well.

2. Fill the pitcher halfway full with ice cubes, and then add the brandy and orange juice into the pitcher’s melody. Stir well.

3. Carefully add the Prosecco and orange slices. Stir again, well. Serve in wine glasses, getting a slice of orange in each glass.

A Note: There will be some leftover fruit here – you should eat it! Or, if that kind of thing makes you icky (well, it shouldn’t in summer, but who am I to judge), you could actually strain out the bigger bits, early in the process. But I wouldn’t.

Rathbun on Film