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!
While I wouldn’t say our front yard in the north Seattle area is the prettiest – I tend to shade towards the scraggly when it comes to the grass, for one, cause over-watering is a problem, ya’ know – it is blessed with an abundance (or over-abundance as neighbors might say) of lovely, bee-utiful, lavender. When it flowers in summer, the air smells delish, the flowers hide the dead grass, and the bees are buzzing happily. But what, if anything, to do with it? I mean, pretty for pretty-ness’ sake is swell! All for it. Art for art’s sake, too. And making bees buzz jollily is a state of being we should aim for, cause bees rule. But, but, it’s also quite fun to utilize a little of that lavender in making lavender simple syrup (recipe below), which can then be mixed with gin and Prosecco into this very cocktail, the Lavanda (which sounds like a sultry dance, but isn’t. Not saying you can’t have a few of these and dance btw. Cause that, that you should do). The combo is classy in a summertime way, fragrant in a floral way, and makes an ideal accompaniment to a summer’s late afternoon or evening. Thinking more, what a crowning glory of a drink this would be at a summer wedding. You should get married! You can serve this – I have lots of lavender to spare.
1. Add the flowers from the top of one lavender sprig, gin, and lavender simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Shake like dancer.
2. Strain into a flute. Top with chilled Prosecco, and garnish with the second lavender sprig.
First Note: To make lavender simple syrup, add 1/4 cup chopped fresh lavender, 2 cups sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat over medium-high 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 the heat and let cool completely.
Second Note: For gin here, you could go traditional London style (like, Broker’s gin, which wouldn’t be a bad choice), as the juniper plays with lavender well. But you could also go something less traditional,
Just a week ago, I had a drink, The Ciliegia (a sort-of cherry-Negroni-influenced sipper, if you missed it), which featured Oomrang Cherry eau di vie, or fruit brandy, which is delicious, and, today, I’m following it up with another drink featuring another delicious Oomrang fruit brandy, this time their Blueberry Geist – featuring it in this drink, The Blueberry Cobbler. Whew, that was quite a sentence! And the Oomrang brandies are quite good brandies! About this time last year, I was lucky enough to be able to write an article about Oomrang (there are two umlauts by the way, in the name, so imagine them there) for the sparklicious Sip magazine. I don’t think it’s online as it was for subscribers only, perhaps, but research it up, see what you can find. Abbreviated version: Oomrang is a distillery and winery outside of Stanwood WA, and is a remarkable place, where they make lovely wine utilizing lesser-known German grapes: Mueller-Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Kerner, and Sylvaner. They also make fruit brandies – the real stuff, not the sickly sweet things sometimes marketed under that name. They have two kinds, the more traditional eaux de vies (when I say “more traditional” I mean in like Europe, as we aren’t as used to them yet in the U.S. – sadly) and geists. Because I don’t want to rewrite the whole article here, I’ll just quickly say that in eaux de vie the fruit is fermented, distilled, and bottled quickly, whereas with geists first you macerate the fruit in alcohol for a fair amount of time – Oomrang uses an alcohol made from grapes, and macerates a month – then distill and bottle it. Both brandy versions are strong spirits that taste yummy. I find the geists a wee bit more fragrant featuring an orchard-late-in-season vibe and fruit scrumptiousness. Which – we’ve finally gotten around to it – goes swell in this here drink.
A drink which is part of the Cobbler family, a family tracing its liquid lineage back to the early 1800s, when the Sherry Cobbler kicked off and kicked into gear, and then it and the Cobbler famile gained international name recognition when ol’ Chucky Dickens (as I called him, you may be more formal and all him Charles Dickens) included the drink in one of my favs, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, in 1842. At one point, in 1888, bartender and writer Harry Johnson wrote “This drink is without doubt the most popular beverage in this country, with ladies as well as with gentlemen,” and though its popularity waned, the Cobbler is picking back up as more and more discover how swell it is for summer. Which leads us to the blueberry-rific Blueberry Cobbler, featuring Oomrang’s lush Blueberry Geist, a little simple, a little lemon (I feel Cobblers need both sweet and tang), a splash of soda (taking us off perhaps the super traditional Cobbler path, but it needed it, too, to me, especially when the sun’s high in the sky), and lots of crushed ice. It’s a summer hit, even if to get there you’ve now read a small novel.
1. Add the 10 blueberries, lemon juice, and simple to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Add ice cubes to about the halfway full point, then the Blueberry Geist. Shake.
3. Fill a wine glass (or goblet) up with crushed or cracked ice. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the soda, stir briefly. Add more ice if needed. Garnish with blueberries and mint.
Well, it’s a big week for celebrations. Actually, let me rephrase – last Tuesday, the 4th, was a big day for celebrations. Though it’s the kind of day where the celebrations I believe can and do start early and go late, late, late into the week. I’m thinking, as those in the US would guess, of the 4th as Independence Day where I’m typing, but also , as those in Italy would guess I’d guess, of the 4th as the birthday of Giuseppe Garibaldi, he being the general who was one of the driving human forces responsible for unifying Italy, and a national hero. And today we’re celebrating General Garibaldi here on the Spiked Punch, with a drink named after him. His army, if you didn’t know, was often referred to as the “redshirt” army, thanks to reasons you can guess from the name – meaning, they wore red shirts! Funny enough, the redshirts started when he was helping in the Uruguayan civil war (he got around as a military leader, known for his national independence bent and republican ideals). The Garibaldi, the drink that is, which you should be drinking this week in his honor, and as a way to draw all the 4th celebrations you can think of into week-wide events, is a citrus-y, tangy number, with a slightly beautiful bitter hint, thanks to Campari. What a day!
2 ounces Campari
5 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1. Fill a highball glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Campari and the orange juice.
2. Stir well. Drink up, toasting in the general direction of Italy.
You know (cause you’re you) that I’m a big fan by a country mile (as the saying says) of coming up with a new original amazing (or at least new) name when you concoct a new drink, even if said drink only changes one ingredient from an existing drink. That’s the way our bartending foremothers and forefathers did it back in the cocktail day (in this instance, meaning late 1800s, early 1900s) I believe, and if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. However! Sometimes, when the drink is really close, even I am tempted to just add an “ini” on the end or “insert word here + existing drink name” as the name and call it good. But I, even when lazy (which is most of the time) try to resist! Here, for example, I almost just said “Cherry Negroni” but then decided (still, lazily) to call it instead, The Ciliegia, which is Italian for cherry! But really, it’s mostly a Negroni (slightly different portions) with delightful Washington distillery Oomrang’s (in your mind, insert umlauts over the Os) delightful Cherry eau de vie in place of gin.
If you haven’t had it (you should!) Oomrang Cherry eau di vie, or fruit brandy, is made from natural Washington black cherries, picked at the peak of ripeness, at which time the finest of the fine have the stems removed, as well as any leafage, and then they’re rapidly turned into brandy via the joys and wonders of distillation. Fruit brandies (the real ones, not the fake ones – of which there are a lot, especially I think a lot of “cherry brandies” which are really just cherries muddled with vodka or another neutral spirit and a lot of sugaring agent, ending up oversweet and yucky) if you haven’t delved in are straight spirits, which – as demonstrated in this very drink – boast clear, crisp, flavors that catch the essence of a fruit in a way that’s wholly unique, and tasty. Here, the cherry notes mix a treat with the herbal sweetness of the sweet vermouth, and the bittery beauty of the Campari, without sacrificing the gin’s umph, as this real cherry brandy has the same ABV as the average gin. Heck, it’s a good enough combo that I’d drink it even if you did call it just a Cherry Negroni.
There are holiday traditions, there are wonderful holiday traditions, and then there’s having the legendary Fish House Punch at the end of each year (or the beginning) – that’s a tradition nearly above all others, at least in the U.S., where this venerable punch has been punched up and sipped for hundreds of years, starting way back in the year 1732 (according to yore – I wasn’t actually there, though I am rather old) at Philadelphia’s Schuylkill fishing club, where I am sure (because sometimes the world is actually okay – meaning, I am not really sure, as I wasn’t there, but feel sure anyway, and want it to be true) folks sipped it by the bucketfuls around this time of year, much like I am now in the habit of doing, thanks to pals Eve and Curtis, who are annual Fish-House-Punch makers and distributors, and so I raise a glass in cheers to them, and to those who consumed this mix in the past, and to you, naturally, and to this sentence, which much like this year is now finally ending.
Fish House Punch, Serve 10
Block of ice (or cracked ice)
1 750-milliliter bottle dark rum
15 ounces cognac
7-1/2 ounces peach brandy
7-1/2 ounces freshly-squeezed lemon juice
7-1/2 ounces Simple Syrup
1. Add the ice to a punch bowl (fill about three quarters full if using cracked ice.) Add the rum, cognac, brandy, juice, and syrup. Stir 10 times, while humming holiday tunes.
2. Stir 10 more times. Serve in punch cups or wine glasses or what have you.
Once upon a time (a recent time, admittedly between us friends) I had a drink here on the Spiked Punch drinks blog called Spirit and Substance, within which I dropped tales of some homepage plum shrub and grenadine that a powerful pleasant pal had gifted me and mine. In that drink tale, the plum shrub was used, and now, here, As Luck Would Have It, we’re using the grenadine. And it’s key to have homemade grenadine me thinks, as (in the main) most store-bought grenadine isn’t all that fine. There are a few brands perhaps? But be safe, make your own, and have the lush, tanged, deeply good grenadine you deserve. There’s a homemade grenadine recipe below, if needed. But that’s just the beginning of our luck! With the grenadine here are many more lucky things, beginning with Montefalco Rosso, an Italian wine made of a bland of Sangiovese and Sagrantino. Specifically, here, I used Cantina dell’Alunno Montefalco Rosso, which is robust, fruity (cranberries and plummy-ness), herbal, and approachable. Delicious, I tell you, and the ideal base for a fall-time wine cocktail like we’re whipping up here. To bring more fruits (and a nice belly warming), we’re also adding Sidetrack Plum brandy, made with plums grown not but yards from where the still is that makes this clear, strong, bracing, lovely brandy – oh, made in WA, by the way, much like our next introduced ingredient, Brovo Spirits Jammy sweet vermouth. If you haven’t had the Jammy, then jump on it, cause it really lives up to its name, with a rich, cherry, chocolate, spice flavor. And then, to round and even the flavor, a slip of lemon juice, and a twist of orange. Altogether, a bounty of yumminess that’s lucky indeed.
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Feeling lucky yet? Shake well.
2. Strain the luck through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange.
A Note: Hey, homemade lovers! This grenadine recipe’s a snap to make, and a joy to add to cocktail or soda:
4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 pint fresh raspberries
4 cups sugar
2 ounces orange flower water
1. Add the pomegranate juice and raspberries to a large saucepan and place over high heat. Cook for 15 minutes.
2. Let the mixture stay at a steady boil, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes longer, reducing the heat if needed to prevent burning.
3. Slowly stir in the sugar, stirring continuously. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water.
4. Let cool, and strain into bottles. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Whoa, summer is already deep into its summerness, and I feel I haven’t had nearly enough bubbly sparkly shimmery (while still cooling) drinks yet. It goes so fast! Could be that with all that’s happening in the world, having a celebratory effervescent mix seems, oh, off a bit? But that’d be silly, cause there is still so much to celebrate, every day, if I can be a little starry-eyed. Maybe I’m just lazy (far more likely)? Or maybe I haven’t had the right mixing option?
Luckily, at least for the latter open-ended (potentially rhetorical) question, a nice selection of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s new line of wine in single-serve aluminum bottles recently showed up in the mail (see, that’s something worth celebrating), and the selection included the “Bubbly” white wine variety (or varietal, if you will, hahaha). All of the four different options have screw-top caps for those that don’t finish in one go – but at 250 ml, I can’t see that happening for you! – lovely artsy decoratives (I made that word up!), and come in a 2-pack. The non-Bubbly choices include a crisp, citrus-y Pinot Grigio and a summer-y and strawberry-and-currant-y Rosé that I’ve tasted, and a Something Sweet white wine blend I’m excited to taste.
But back to Bubbly! It’s made from a bountiful blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Muscat Canelli, and Gruner Veltliner, and delivers a nice apple core flavor, with a little spice, a hint of summer, a dry enough nature, and a clean inviting bubbly-ness. Well worth having chilled all on its own under the shining sun (though I suppose some might be too much in the wine snob category to sip something from an aluminum container – let’s pity them, shall we?), Bubbly also is convivial enough to serve as a solid base for a classic Champagne Cocktail or other sparkling-based cocktail. And the 250 ml size makes it ideal for making two drinks, which is what you’ll want to do so your paramour, bestie, spouse, sanitized neighbor, or other personality doesn’t feel left out. It’s what I did! With that very-legendary and mentioned-above Champagne Cocktail. Side-non-Bubbly-note: I suggest you choose Scrappy’s Orange bitters for your bitters here. Because it has a rich, herbal, bitter-y flavor that goes perfectly (so well that I just ran out of my bottle. That’s the opposite of an occasion worth celebrating).
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