Oh, the life of a 1500’s explorer and colonialist, traipsing around under the sunshine, and probably never having this drink. I mean, without a time machine, I’ll admit, if I knew where and why this particular drink was attached to this particular explorer, I can’t remember it. There is a nice French and the Caribbean tying-in, as the drink features the boldness and beauty of both Cognac and rum, so at least there is some here-to-there-ing happening (though Ponce was from Spain, but let’s bring the Euro together today). However! The drink also contains Cointreau, which naturally came about a little later. And then there’s grapefruit juice and sparkling wine, which might imply a little globe-trotting. It’s a little elegant, which could be like the curve of a conquistador’s helmet, if you want to go along that particular flight of fancy. But overall, I think it’s that if you drink a couple of these, you may decide to go exploring, or at least meander in your mind hither and yon, or at least sit on the couch and watch a program that takes you on a exploration. However! If you want to just enjoy this layered, effervescent, citrus-y, number on a sunshine-y day without worrying about how our explorer name ties in, I certainly wouldn’t hassle you about it.
I’ve had a Blue Train cocktail up here on the Spiked Punch blog in the past, and it’s a good drink. There is, however, another Blue Train cocktail I like, based on one I saw called the Blue Train Special. It’s a bubbly mix, a celebratory number, an effervescent affair, one that’s sure to provide a hint of elegance for those occasions that demand such. You should try it, whether you’re on a train or not. Though really, it might be, now that I think about it, better when actually had on a train.
This bubble number is ideal for taking your New Year’s Eve celebrations from mundane to insane (in the good way), from dull to dandy, and from so-so to go-go. Not only does it take the spotlight drink into another realm of awesome, but as it’s also a drink that inducing dancing, it’s sure to add the hop to your New Year’s Eve step. It does take a little bit of prior planning, cause you have to make lavender simple syrup. But that’s not tough at all. Just add 1/4-cup fresh lavender, 2 cups sugar, and 1-1/2 cups water to a medium-sized saucepan. Raise the heat to medium high, and heat until it reaches a low boil, stirring regularly. Once it reaches that low boil, reduce the heat to medium low and keep the syrup at a simmer, still stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Then strain it, and start singing Auld Lang Syne.
I’m just gonna come out and say it – I hold you in high esteem. First off, because you’re reading this blog (hah! Thanks). Secondly, cause I’m holding out hope that you’ll try this drink, which shares a name with the feeling I have for you. Jeez, is this still making sense? I hope so. Anywho, if you do try this drink, you’ll like it I’ll bet. And then hold me in high esteem as well. Then everything will have completed the boozy circle.
I liked the first round of Mr. Sponge cocktail-talking so much that I’ve decided to extend his run on the Spiked Punch with two more quotes, one today and one the next time I decide to post (which should be later this week, but who knows, really? I could be called off to battle Gamera. That stuff happens). This time, there’s a bit of a party and Mr. Sponge is invited. And you are too (at least through this quote):
Sir Harry and party had had a wet night of it, and were all more or less drunk. They had kept up the excitement with a Champagne breakfast and various liqueurs, to say nothing of cigars. They were a sad, debauched-looking set, some of them scarcely out of their teens, with pallid cheek, trembling hands, sunken eyes, and all the symptoms of premature decay.
As I detailed a few ticks of the Spiked Punch blog ago (and in the swell Seattle Magazine), Seattle and WA are in the midst of a distillery boom of sorts, and I couldn’t be happier. All this fantastic local booze to sip and shake and sip some more? Great with me. One of the newer distilleries that I was a little slow to track down is the Sidetrack distillery, in Kent, WA, outside of the city of Seattle (I mention this mostly to give myself an excuse for the tardy tasting, not out of any geographical bias). Sidetrack is situated right on the Lazy River Farm and makes an assortment of liqueurs and fruit brandies with fruit grown on the farm–now that’s using local ingredients. This focus on fresh and homegrown fruit lends the liqueurs (full disclosure: I haven’t had the brandies, but am excited to try them. Second disclosure: I was given samples of the liqueurs) a bright, clear fruit taste backed by a smooth slight sweetness. There are four varieties: blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry. I went with the strawberry here in the Straw Track cocktail, because it seemed to yell “summer” the most to me, and as it’s mid-February I needed a jolly jolt of summer. I think, though, that this drink is balanced enough, and bubbly enough, to have year round.
1-1/2 ounces gin (I would stick with the WA theme and use Voyager if you can get it)
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Strawberry liqueur
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin and liqueur. Stir well.
2. Strain into a flute or other charming glass. Top with chilled bubbly and garnish with that lemon slice.
Ba, baa, baaa, ba bum! That’s right cocktail lovers, the moment you’ve dreamed about since the finale of the last season of the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour dripped to a close is here–the new C2C season is now beginning (sorry for the wait. Our cameraman had some problems in a Central American lock up. But all’s well now). And what a beginning it is, friends, one that will be sung about in bars from here to Poughkeepsie. We have a very special lit’rary guest for this first episode, none other than poet and drink-maker and shot-putter extraordinaire, Ed Skoog, making his soon-to-be-renowned cocktail (a cocktail featured in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz) the Ellipse. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the fun, and the episode is a tad lengthy, so, with no further palaver, let the new season begin.
Living in Italy (as I am of this writing, at least), I’ve picked up a small addiction–to mirtillo juice (mirtillo=blueberries), which I like to have in the morning with my croissant. It’s a health kick (or seems to be) and has a great taste and color. Recently, however, thanks to my pals/landlords Andrew and Marianne (proprietors of the wondrous Amici Villas), I’ve discovered the grown-up sibling of my beloved mirtillo juice, the fantastic mirtillo liqueur. See, Andrew and Marianne picked up a bottle for me not too long ago, and it’s delicious, not too sweet and bursting with flavor, and I’ve been digging it solo and mixed. It’s especially good in the below drink, named after Andrew and Marianne’s lovable pup, Oscar, who is frizzante, just like this slightly sparkling sparkler. To round out the somewhat Italian experience (or, Italian-British, much like the above-mentioned Andrew and Marianne, cause gin’s involved, too), and to bring the frizzante, I combined the mirtillo with Donini wineries (read more about Donini here) Brigante (a bianco frizzante):
1 ounce gin
3/4 ounce mirtillo liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ounces Brigante (or other frizzante white wine)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, mirtillo, and lemon juice. Shake well.
2. Strain into a Champagne flute, add the Brigante, and stir briefly. Sip and enjoy.
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