February 1, 2019
Sometimes, people are sort of pooh-pooh-y about Scotch cocktails (though of course there are numerous classics, and noble new ones, too, so maybe attitudes are changing even as I type and I’m just not caught up with the word on the street), thinking that Scotch is only to be sipped solo. But I can’t resist trying it in cocktails. You don’t have to drink them if you’re feeling pooh-pooh-ingly, but that’d be your loss. People also sometimes feel the same way about sweet drinks, usually as they’re eating a doughnut or a pie (not a savory pie, but you guessed that). If it’s not bitter or high proof, they get all angry. Well, that’s silly as (much as mentioned above), there are many classics that utilize sweeter ingredients without getting all sickly about it.
But for folks that fall into those camps (those very very sad camps), well, you’ll want to ignore this drink. Not only is the base Scotch, but it uses two fairly sweet ingredients with it. HAH! IN YOUR FACE! I recently received (lucky me) a bottle of one of my favorite blended Scotches, the Famous Grouse. Not only carrying an amazing name, it’s been made since the late 1800s, is the most popular Scotch in Scotland, and it delivers a taste containing caramel notes, some nice spice, and breezy hints of smoke and citrus. Neat! Meaning, it’s good neat, but also lovely in cocktails.
Our sweeter partners here are nutty: Kahana Royale Hawaii Macadamia Nut liqueur (which is sweet, sure, but not so much that it overwhelms the nuttiness), and Praline Pecan liqueur, which as the bottle says is made in the New Orleans style. It’s a sweetie like the candy that carries its name, but also has a nutty nature. They go nicely with the Grouse and all together unveil a somewhat-buy-not-annoying dessert-y style drink that doesn’t go too far, with that solid background and Scotch-i-ness coming first when sipping, followed by a candy and nutty sweetness. The key, though, beyond those ingredients, is a wide orange twist, one that’s somewhat wild. The citrus oils balance the sweetness and the wildness makes everyone play nice. Nice, I tell you, and also make this a wonderful post-dinner treat.
2-1/2 ounces Famous Grouse blended Scotch
1/2 ounce Kahana Royale Hawaii Macadamia Nut liqueur
1/4 ounce Praline Pecan liqueur
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir really well.
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Enjoy!
January 18, 2019
Haha, I stole this drink name from a line in a comic written by genius writer and all-around good chap Paul Tobin. It’s such as momentous name! And this is such a springtime-y drink, one you might have as the sun goes down in early May with your feet up on the porch railing, or one you might have in January when you’re dreaming of that springtime scene. So, sorta opposite of the name, which I find delightful. Of course, you could also have this when battling for time itself, and in a way you might need to, as one of the ingredients is Bluewater Distillery’s Organic Elderflower Cardamom liqueur, so you’ll need to bend time to visit WA if you don’t live here, specifically the city of Everett, which is where Bluewater is located. It’ll be worth it, cause this singular liqueur is a vision, with the botanical elderflower and citrus-y spice of cardamom all mingling together like that spring day I mentioned above. Yummy.
And, while you’re here, you’ll want to pick up the other awesome WA ingredients that make this cocktail so dynamic, starting with Wildwood Spirits’ Läka gin. Though you might not be able to find it, as it’s a limited release (battling for time again!). This gin is/was made from a host of localities, and has a lovely classic gin profile, with strong juniper and spice notes. If you can’t find it, sub in its sibling Kur gin, which is an award-winning gin charmer you don’t want to miss — a touch more citrus, a smidge more lofty botanicals. You also don’t want to miss our third WA star: Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters. I’ve talked about a bunch this already (in a recipe called Pina’s Potion, and in a recipe called A Moment of Unmixed Happiness, and in an article for Seattle magazine), so all I’ll say here is, it’s one of those ingredients that might change your life. Probably will. Lemony, floral, earthy, there is nothing like it! And I need a bigger bottle today!
All those together, plus a little lemon juice, and I believe you may well win the dynamic battle for time itself! Try a few of these and see.
The Dynamic Battle for Time Itself
2 ounces Wildwood Spirits’ Läka gin
3/4 ounces Bluewater Organic Elderflower Cardamom liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Drink. Think about time!
December 28, 2018
Hey, the year of 2018 is coming to a close (you may have known this, and if not, well, congrats on your ability to disconnect from world events), which means another year – 2019, unless I’m disconnected – is about to start. As you go into the new year, with a bubbly drink I’m hoping, please go into it with a spirit of adventure, as you push yourself into thinking about the world anew (which is what you do every year, right? Right!) and all that. With that, I suggest you go with this here drink for your NYE bubbler, as it’s named for an adventurer (you may have known this, too, unless you’ve forgotten your high school history), a fellow who was not only the the first governor of Puerto Rico but one of the first Euro-venturers to meet Florida and, of course, tried in vain to find the fountain of youth. Interesting, when you think about having this on a day that counteracts the very idea of being able to go back in time, instead of forward. But that thought may be too deep! Just have this drink and have some fun why dontcha? Time is short, after all.
The Ponce de León, from Dark Spirits
1 ounce Cognac
1/2 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, rum, Cointreau, and grapefruit juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into saucer-style Champagne glass or cocktail or coupe glass. Fill the glass not quite to the top with the Champagne.
December 21, 2018
The holiday season can be lots of happiness. It can also be lots of hectic-ness. And lots of jolly. And lots of a word that starts with “j” but means “nutty” (why can’t I think of such a word? can you?), as sometimes they get that way. Luckily, it’s more of the former in those two sentences, and less of the latter, but as the latter can creep in, and as at least as I write we’re in the thick of holi-things, I’m going to not even come up with a snazzy name for the drink I’m having (or a classic name, for those classically-named things), but just going to keep it straight: Cynar 70 Highball. Which is okay, really (even for a naming snob like me), cause it gets to the point. The Cynar 70 point.
Cynar, if you don’t, is an amaro, really (those Italian digestifs the kids are in to), made from artichokes and 13 herbs and spices starting in 1952, though it really took off in the 60s, thanks to some commercials starring Ernesto Calindri, an Italian movie and television star and a perfect Italian gentleman, who in said commercials usually in the middle of some chaos (an energetic family, a busy street) sipping Cynar, or Cynar and soda, without a care in the world. Cynar shades a little on the sweeter side, and was an only child until recently when Cynar 70 was released – to the happiness of the world! It’s, as the name gives away, 70 proof, so about double the umph of the original with a slightly more bitter-y and earthy nature, while still bringing the herbal goodness and just a hint of sweet. It is dreamy in cocktails, and by itself. Even in those simple cocktails you might want when the holidays get bustle-y, and you want to not have a care in the world.
Cynar 70 Highball
2 ounces Cynar 70
4 ounces club soda
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Cynar 70, and then the soda.
2. Garnish with the orange twist. Relax.
December 14, 2018
I recently received a bottle of Redwood Empire whiskey, made by Graton Distillery, in the mail (don’t be mad), and made this very scrumptious cocktail right here. As you might expect, Redwood Empire is made up in Northern California, near the trees of its name. What you might not expect, or know, is that it’s a blend of whiskeys, intriguingly enough. A blend of house-distilled rye (60%), and four, five, and eleven-year-old bourbons (40%), all aged in charred American Oak, and with some of the rye aged in port and wine barrels, too. Wowsa, that’s almost hard to keep track of, but how creative. It’s like an artist’s collage. But you wouldn’t want to drink that, hahaha!
The nose has a nice vanilla-y sweetness along with spices like cloves, cinnamon, and a little citrus. The taste unfolds a little bourbon sweetness, but also rye spiciness and a bit of pepper, with nice vanilla and caramel swirling throughout. A fine, and intriguing (as mentioned!) blend that rises up to become its own animal. Sip it, and see.
And then make this drink! I couldn’t – of course – not try it in cocktails, and after some thought and playing around, made a strategic choice to keep the number of ingredients small, just two accents to highlight the whiskey. First, I made my own intriguing choice, Seattle Distilling Company’s fantastic coffee liqueur. I just thought its richness and brown-sugar-y sweetness would play well with the whiskey’s personality. And I was right! But I felt we needed some strong herbal undertoning, though, and so brought in a new favorite I feel I’ll be sipping lots: Cynar 70. About twice the proof of regular Cynar (if you don’t know, a popular Italian amaro made from artichokes), it delivers a combo of cocoa, bitter botanicals, and deep herbal-ness, with a touch of sweetness. Everything together: yummy! Strong and yummy, and would wake you up nicely on a cold morning. But it goes smoothly at night, too.
This Morning, Like the Spirit of a Youth
2 ounces Redwood Empire American whiskey
1/2 ounce Seattle Distilling Company coffee liqueur
1/2 ounce Cynar 70
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy.
December 7, 2018
It may, at first glance, not seem for much of the world to be the season for walking outside, no matter how nice your greenery is. However, I find a brisk walk on a chilly-but-sunny day to be invigorating, especially if you do it while sipping this cocktail, and then end it with some nice, hearty, slightly sweet, baked goods. How does that all go together? Well, really, it’s thanks to Everett’s (that’s up here in the W-A for those who don’t know) Bluewater Organic Distilling, who just released their Wintersun aquavit. An organic spirit (like all of theirs), it’s a shout out to distiller John Lundin’s Swedish heritage, and with that has an essence much like the traditional aquavits you might have encountered (though there are tons), but with a distinctive balanced aroma and flavor bringing together caraway, anise, and orange.
I (don’t be jealous – it’s the holiday season) recently got a bottle in the mail and after trying it out solo (which you should too, as it’s worthy all alone), had to try it in a cocktail, too. Because that’s what I do! After playing around with a little of this and a little of that, I found some swell in-the-shaker dancing partners, starting with another Northwest hit, broVo spirits’ (from up here in Woodinville) delicious award-winning cherry liqueur Boomerang. It has a lush cherry-ness combined with a little vanilla, walnut, cinnamon, apricot, and citrus. You can – until you try it – dream about how this would combine perfectly with the Wintersun, and why the baked goods are a good idea. However! That wasn’t it. After much liquid hemming-and-hawing, I felt a little bit more of this and that was needed. And the this was old pal maraschino liqueur, and the that was Scrappy’s legendary Cardamom bitters. They rounded that spice and fruit level out to eleven. The shrubbery will feel overjoyed to have you walking through it with this mix – and you’ll be pretty happy about it, too.
Walking Through the Shrubbery
2 ounces Bluewater Wintersun Aquavit
3/4 ounces broVo Boomerang cherry liqueur
1/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur
1 dash Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add it all. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass of your choosing. Garnish with the twist. Walk through shrubbery (with a big coat, if chilly).
November 30, 2018
Though, admittedly, there are a fair amount of decent ones out there now-a-days, I’m still a little wary of flavored vodkas. Don’t get me wrong, unlike some, I like a good vodka, one with a crisp clear taste – but have just been scared off by pre-flavored vodka nonsense in the past, where the chemicals used to created said “flavor” rule the bottle roost, so to speak. However, CA distillery Hangar 1 is pretty reliably high on the standards, and their Mandarin Blossom, especially is an old fav. So, when I recently (I know, I’m lucky!) received a bottle of their latest in the mail, I was inclined to be welcoming.
But it was a rosé vodka! Which I’d never heard of. However (again!), I am nothing if not adventuresome, so, combining that with Hangar 1’s rep, I decided to dive in (metaphorically), and – I was glad I did! Here’s the skinny: it mixes Hangar 1’s vodka and California rosé wine. That’s it. Neighbors combining together, without anything else. It has a clean, floral, apple-y nose, and an also a clean, fresh taste, with a real rosé-ness, with more floral notes and a bit of fresh berry, and a nice dry finish. It’s good all alone over a little ice, a hit for spring and summer when you want something that’s smooth, but which has a little umph. But it’s a smart choice in fall and winter, too, when you want a dream of spring and summer.
But, as you’d expect from something made with two good neighbors, it’s neighborly playing with others in cocktails – and I didn’t wait long to start playing around with it and others. Because of those floral, botanical notes, I ended up traveling down a bouquet-ish road after trying a few things, bringing in some delicate and delicious crème di violette, and wine-based delicately herbal French aperitif Lillet Blanc (a distant cousin of sorts to our vodka, due to the wine connection). The final part of this flowery fête was a few dashes of Scrappy’s lovely Lavender bitters. All together, you’ll take many looks with One More Look, as the layers of floral fun are sure to be a hit.
One More Look
2 ounces Hangar 1 Rosé vodka
3/4 ounce crème di violette
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
Dash Scrappy’s Lavender bitters
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked iced. Add every blossom (or everything). Stir.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist. Enjoy, neighbor, enjoy.
November 23, 2018
Hey, guess what – yesterday was Thanksgiving! Wait, you knew that? Then perhaps what I’m about to be telling you is something you’re already aware of, as it’s as much as Thanksgiving tradition as turkey. That’s right, I’m talking about the post-Thanksgiving (either day of, or day after, that being today) Gizmo, which utilizes the leftover cranberry sauce. This one (you probably know this, too, as it’s part of the legend of Thanksgiving) comes from Jeremy Holt, from way back to the 1600s, or thereabouts.
2-1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce homemade cranberry sauce
1/2 ounce simple syrup (optional)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin and cranberry sauce, and syrup if using (I like the syrup, but I also like second helping of dessert). Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up around bites of leftover stuffing.