September 3, 2021
Strawberry season is super swell, sweet some might say! Heck, I might have said it not so far back in Spiked Punch history when extolling the virtues of the homemade strawberry liqueur I made, Strawcurranterry, also not so far back. When it rains strawberries up this way, it really pours (if I may stretch metaphors to the breaking point of sense), and so not only did I make said liqueur, but also tossed some fresh-picked-by-my-own-hand strawberries into other big jars with other tasty things – including gin! I didn’t alter the concoction any further than that, though, just took 2 cups of Sipsmith London Dry gin and added it to 2 cups muddled strawberries, and then let them get acquainted for about a month, afterwhich I strained it through cheesecloth and voila! Strawberry gin. Delicious, by the way, over ice on its own. But also delicious in cocktails, including The Stoni. The clever among you (which is all of you, as I’m sure anyone who reads this is clever) will probably guess that The Stoni is perhaps a Negroni, made with said strawberry-infused gin, and you’d be right! I felt that calling it a “Strawberry Negroni” violated all my diatribes about creative naming of drinks, but did want to reference the antecedent, as nothing else has changed (outside of the garnish). So, it’s not overly strawberry-y, and still carries the Negroni balance and beauty. But altered with fruity undertones that add a hint of summer and orchard or fruit farm. Interesting? Yes! Delicious? Indeed! Easy, and worthwhile, provided you have good fresh strawberries and a month to spare? Darn tooting.
1-1/4 ounces strawberry-infused Sipsmith London Dry gin
1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth
1-1/4 ounces Campari
Strawberry slice, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio of boozes. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with the strawberry slice.
July 16, 2021
Ah, the Negroni. You kids probably won’t believe this, but I remember way back when when I had to describe to even good, reliable, knowledgeable, wonderful bartenders how to make a Negroni, what was in it, soup to nuts, as they say. And now there are probably 348,651 variations, many of which are happy to use the name, or some bastardization of such, attached to a drink that might not have much if anything to do with the original. But hey, people, you be you. I may bemoan the lack of naming creativity, but certainly won’t turn down a good drink no matter the name. But, as a classic song told us, ‘there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.” So, today, we’re taking it classically, in the one configuration that really deserves the name: Gin, Italian (or rosso, or sweet) vermouth, Campari, over ice, with a … lemon peel? Well, I somehow was out of orange, which I’d normally go with. So, I myself have now undercut the above sentences, in a way. Let’s pretend this never happened, and instead talk about The London Nº1 gin, which I’m using here. Pale-blue tinged with juniper, savory, bergamot, licorice, lemon and orange peel, cinnamon, iris root (which I believe delivers that blue-ness in coloring), and more used in the making, and based on a spirit made from English wheat. Together, they deliver an earthiness the smooths into citrus and floral notes in an enticing manner. Our next component: Mancino Rosso vermouth. They themselves say that this vermouth is of “exceptional quality and refined organoleptic characteristics,” and as “organoleptic” is my new favorite word, I couldn’t agree more. 38 aromatic herbs combining into a lush mixture that delivers spice, sweet, forest-at-dusk-with-flirty-druids-dancing notes (helped along by vanilla, rhubarb, juniper, toasted wood, myrrh, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, and the like). And then, Campari. What can you say about something that, if it wasn’t in the world, the world would feel lacking at a spiritual level? Nothing does the love that is Campari justice. Just know that without it, birds would stop singing and bunnies stop hopping. I am very excited for this Negroni. You will be, too. Heck, you’ll even want to give me a hand when you have it.
1-1/4 ounces The London Nº1 gin
1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth
1-1/4 ounces Campari
Lemon twist (or orange, if you have one)
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with the twist.
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.
November 20, 2020
You know, 2020 hasn’t been overly-packed with good days. There have been some, I’m sure and I’m hoping, for everyone, some big-ish good days, and some small-ish good days, even within it all. I had one recently when some bubbly showed up here, which made the day more, well, bubbly. It was also bubby from Italy (you know I love Italy, right?), specifically Trentodoc sparkling wine – Trentodoc being from the Trentino region, which is in the far north of Italy, a mountain-alp-y region, one which also has some Mediterranean-ness on the lower slopes. I’ll admit that’s not the Italian area I know best, but after tasting the sparkling wine from there, I need to know more! Made in the Meted Classico, or classic method, Trentodoc sparklers are also made from picked-by-hands Trentino grapes. Sounds yummy, right? But the proof is in the bottle, as the saying goes, and the one I’m popping off now is Maso Martis Extra Brut Rose.
Starting with its pale pink-y coloring, and enticing effervescence, it’s a wine you’ll want to drink as you pour – which is what you want, right? The taste (pino nero grapes, if you’re interested) has a berry-centric-ness, raspberries, strawberries, and then some currants, with a few delicate herbal notes, too, and a creamy nature ideal for a sunny day, a date night around the appetizer course, or, really, almost anytime. It’s also a swell base for cocktails. Well, you wouldn’t think I wouldn’t try it in a cocktail, right? I do so love bubble mixes, and with a flavorsome rose like this, I had to see how it’d play with others. Starting with another delicious number (and by some crazy occurrence also showed on the porch), but from closer to US home: Clear Creek Pear brandy. Made with Bartlett pears grown in OR (where Clear Creek is), it has a phenomenal pear nature, from the small to the lingering pear echoes, while still maintaining a warming brandy undercurrent. Then, I traveled back to Italy (to help the wine feel at home), with bitter and beautiful classic Campari – which not only adds layers of taste, but a rich redness, which is further underlined by our last ingredient, homemade grenadine. Altogether, what a drink! Refreshing but bursting with delights, and one the showcases and perfectly utilizes the wine and brandy. Dive in.
Far More Red
1 ounce Clear Creek Pear brandy
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce homemade grenadine (see grenadine recipe here, in the Note section)
3-1/2 ounces Maso Martis Extra Brut Rose sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, Campari, and grenadine. Shake it.
2. Strain the mix from Step 1 into a Champagne flute or comparable glass. Top with the bubbly. Stir carefully to combine. Enjoy.
May 29, 2020
Y’all know the song “Simple Life” by Skepta, right? “It’s the simple life that I’m dreaming of . . .” and all that? I feel that way on many days, even as I love complexity, too. I’m confusing! But today, I’m leaning towards the former, the simplicity, probably cause I’m missing lazy Italian afternoons under the (not too hot) olive oil sunshine, feet propped on a hundred-year-old stone fence, Umbrian hills unfolding, nothing really to do and no desire to do it, dogs (in my dreamlife, all the dogs) chasing rascally lizards or stretched within petting distance, cheese and taralli, and of course a Campari and Soda. While I can’t have all of that right now, or, perhaps, ever, I can have a Campari and Soda. So, that’s what I’m gonna do. I suggest you do the same.
Campari and Soda
2 ounces Campari
3 ounces club soda (see Note)
Orange twist, for garnish (see Note)
1. Fill a large Old Fashioned or comparable glass three quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Campari, give a quick stir.
2. Add the club soda, and the twist. Or two.
A Note: As it’s a bit warm, going more soda than Campari. Your ratio can change according to your mood. Also, I waver on the garnishing – sometimes I like lemon (which some think is weird), in slice or twist form, and sometimes orange, also in twist or slice form. You be you, but keep it simple.
August 3, 2018
The Americano is a summertime favorite around my back porch, and should be one around yours, too. It’s been consumed as a warm-weather aperitivo for well over a hundred years, tracing its history back to at least 1860, and is a snap to make (you don’t want to be sweating drink-construction too much when the heat is on). Also, if you’ve been dreaming of a vacation, but just haven’t been able to take one yet, this can help transport you to Italy, in your mind, at least. Which is better than nothing!
The Americano (using the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz)
2 ounces Campari
2 ounces sweet vermouth
Chilled club soda
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Campari and vermouth. Stir gently.
2. Add club soda to the glass until the glass is almost full. Garnish with an orange slice.
November 7, 2017
Funny enough (in the curious meaning of the word), though I’m a serious devotee of the television shows Lewis and Endeavor, and a little-less-but-still-enthusiastic about the show they come out of, Inspector Morse, even with all that, I haven’t read much of the original books by Colin Dexter that inspired them all. For no good reason! Lately, though, I’ve caught up on my Morse reading, a bit at least. Including reading The Riddle of the Third Mile, the sixth in the series, and in typical fashion it’s clever, smart, fun, and driven by the personalities of Morse and his sergeant Lewis. There are corpses, pints, Oxford, puzzles, and all the goods, including an intriguing drink menu (!) when one character stops at a naughty club in London. Check out this line-up (I never knew Cointreau was an aphrodisiac. And pulse-quickening Campari!):
She made a note on the pad she held. ‘Would you like me to sit with you?’
‘Yes, I would.’
‘You’d have to buy me a drink.’
She pointed to the very bottom of the card:
• Flamenco Revenge – a marriage of green-eyed Chartreuse with aphrodisiac Cointreau.
• Soho Wallbanger – a dramatic confrontation of voluptuous Vodka with a tantalizing taste of Tia Maria.
• Eastern Ecstasy – an irresistible alchemy of rejuvenating Gin and pulse-quickening Campari.
–Colin Dexter, The Riddle of the Third Mile
September 1, 2017
I recently was lucky enough to have a day where I could make the claim to luckiest person around (admittedly, I haven’t checked with every single person worldwide to test this particular proclamation, but hey, I still believe). On that day I was able to share the stage with my pal, genius novelist Andrew Sean Greer, and talk to him about his latest book LESS, while making him a few cocktails. LESS, if you don’t know, is the book of 2017, gaining raves from near and far – with people like Christopher Buckley saying in the NY Times, “Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is excellent company. It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.” And they’re all well-deserved, because the book is charming, creative, funny, touching, and detailed in locations around the world with so much pizzazz that it’s a wonder Andy isn’t being hired by every city to write about their city. If that makes sense! Buy it now! Anyway, I’m rambling, as one does about great books, but to get back to the booze, for said lucky-day-for-A.J. I made up two drinks for Andy and I to sip while talking, naming both after characters in LESS. This first is named after the Italian translator of Less’ (oh, Arthur Less is the main character in the book, a novelist) latest book, and in honor of her and the Italian section of the book, contains all Italian ingredients.
The Translation of Giuliana Monti
1-1/2 ounces Purus organic Italian vodka
1 ounce Donini Dono di Dio aged vin santo
3/4 ounce Campari
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Drink while reading LESS.
A Note: Donini Dono di Dio aged vin santo (vin santo being the “holy wine” of Italy, a lush dessert wine) is made by the fine folks at Donini winery, one of the finest in the universe, located in Verna, Italy, in my favorite area of Italy. If you can’t get it, I feel it’s time for you to take a vacation. Or, sub in another vin santo.