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.
May 15, 2020
Well, as you know (if you don’t, welcome back from Mars I suppose), we have been and still are in the thick of some mad times. Said times keeping most around the world at home many more hours than usual, which has led many to muscular feats of home-organizing as a way to while away the time, or to catch up with projects that once seemed perfectly fine being set aside. If you have a fair amount of bottles of brown, clear, red, green, grey, blue, yellow, bottles glittering with the promise of delicious deliciousness, bottles that when opened have the capacity to unleash tongues in song while loosening the chains on the soul (if you’ll allow me a little hyperbole), bottles filled with spirits, liqueurs, bitters, and beauty, that is, if you have these, then, like me, those bottles fall into a “home-organizing feat” normally put off. But, due to said mad times, my wonderful wife took on this herculean boozy task (I get too distracted), and organized the shelves. When doing so, she found a few bottles that seemed to have just a sip here or there left in them, and moved them frontwards, enticing me to drink ‘em up. That, friends, is all preamble to the below cocktail, which at first glance may seem an odd combination: cherry brandy, rye, and allspice dram? But being trapped at home can take you down some paths that may at first appear odd. In this case, however, the path ended so pleasantly, I’m probably going to have to go to the store to restock the shelves so I have all these ingredients. But if you look them over and say to yourself, “what the hell,” step back, and think “what the lockdown leftovers?” Cause that’s what this tasty treat really is.
What the LL
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. rye
1/2 ounce St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce It’s 5 Cherry brandy
3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces club soda
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, allspice dram, brandy, and oj. Shake well.
2. Add one big ice cube or a couple decent-sized ice cubes to a chalice of some glittering kind (no need to turn into savages). If none is at hand, an Old Fashioned glass, big one that is, can work.
3. Strain the drink through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the club soda. Stir carefully to combine.
May 1, 2020
Well, we’re the midst of spring (as well as being the midst of some other things, but hey, for a moment, let’s just skip those things, shall we? I mean, take our minds off of them with a nice drink, say), and with that, need to be thinking of refreshing moments, like diving into a mountain stream without socks on, or sucking on a peppermint while drinking ice water in a walk-in fridge, or having white wine cocktails, which in the main tend to be refreshers. Take this one, for example, one that utilizes, hmm, is it my favorite white wine? Well, I don’t like to have favorite boozes (cause the others get jealous, ba-dump-bump), but I will say that Orvieto Classico whites tend to agree with me quite comfortably.
Admittedly, there is a range of sorts within this DOC, but they all do I believe have to use Grechetto and Trebbiano – usually, I again believe, a blend of the two in some sort of proportions, but again, can be a range. They tend to be crisp and light, but with intriguing (as opposed to annoying I suppose) fruit notes, like peach and apple. See: refreshing!
Lovely on their own, I also am not opposed to trying to utilize them in a cocktail or mixed drink (as they say), demonstrated in this here circumstance. For this wine cocktail, I used Roio Orvieto Classico, 2018 version, which is reasonable to pick up, and has those peach and apple notes mentioned above, with a welcoming crispness and dry clean finish. It leans I believe heavier into Trebbiano, and has some Malvasia and Verdello grape action going, along with Grechetto. So, nicey nice! And to play with it, I decided on some pals that go smoothly with the wine’s flavor profile, starting with Purus vodka (made in Italy, so an ideal match, and you can read more about Purus here), moving into Fee Brothers Peach bitters, which is fruity on the bitters scale (ideal here, and a treat as a side note just with soda by the by), and then Rothman and Winter’s Orchard Apricot liqueur, which has a lush fruitiness along with a little sweetness (and ties into the stone fruit stuff). Altogether, you’ll want to be young, run green, all that.
I Should Classicoco
1-1/2 ounces Purus vodka
1 ounce Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
3 ounces Roio Orvieto Classico
3 or 4 good-sized ice cubes (see note)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vodka, liqueur, and bitters. Stir briefly.
2. Add the wine, and stir a bit more.
3. Add the ice cubes to a big Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the drink into the glass. Start the coco-ing.
A Note: This would be dandy up, but it was sunny when I was drinking and so I went over ice and really, it was enchanting.
April 17, 2020
If you didn’t know (and hey, why would you, unless you’re stalking me – you aren’t are you? Cause I’m really boring and feel for you if so), I recently, due to current events you know about, had an Italian vacation cut short by coronavirus. Said cutting short involved some radically fast packing (I mean, I’m a good suitcase arranger usually, but this was a mad dash), and that means quick choices about what to bring back, what you can fit, all that. One of the things I did bring back was a little bottle of Mazzetti Bitter, a deep red flavorfully-bitter aperitif with hints of rhubarb and lemon from the well-known grappa makers. Just like a week before the packing I purchased said bottle at my favorite north-Umbrian shop, Enoteca Lo Sfizio, which is a combination beautiful booze store, gift store, wine store, condiment-y store. It’s not huge (which is great cause huge stores scare me), but dreamy. So, ingredient one packed. One of the few other bottles I managed to squirrel away in said suitcases was a lean bottle of Donini Grappa (Donini being the finest winery in probably all of Umbria, owned by the nicest folks around), a monovitigno (one varietal that is, here being Sangiovese) grappa, very crisp and fragrant, that doesn’t forget that cozy grappa kick. Ingredient two packed. For ingredient three, I had to go out of suitcase – cause a rushed packing job sometimes has gaps. Luckily, on a past trip to Italy, I had packed in a smoother manner, cool-like, and managed to fit a bottle of Donini’s delicious Dono Di Dio, a vino liquoroso, or aged dessert wine that’s rich, lush, and needs to be tasted to be believed. If you’ve been Tuscany and had Vin Santo at a restaurant, think of that but like 10,000 times better. Yummy stuff. While I was sad to leave the Italian vacation, due to the wackiness of the travel (and cause once a trip is started, it’s always nice to be coming home), I was also very happy to make it back to Seattle. Which leads to: ingredient four in this here drink, Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. If your dream vacation is cut short unexpectedly by a world pandemic, a drink featuring the always-spot-on Scrappy’s and some ingredients reminding you of the vacation, well, it’s not going to get you over the experience, but sure makes thinking about it easier.
Forty Minutes Ago on the Balcony
1 ounce Mazzetti Bitter
1-1/2 ounces Donini Grappa
1/2 ounce Donini Dono Di Dio
Two dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass three-quarters full with cracked ice. Add everything but the orange. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or something that helps your day travel easier. Garnish with the orange.
March 27, 2020
So, I was not too long ago in the lovely Italy (in perhaps the loveliest part – to me – northern Umbria), and though much madness was happening (I don’t feel the need to delve deep as you know what I’m talking about, and really, you can get all you want on current worldwide issues elsewhere), was loving it until I had to unexpectedly make the decision to leave. The night before said decision was made, though, to accompany me as I caught up on current worldwide issues, I made a drink that was – if I can say so while being still thought of as a little humble – pretty darn swell. And that drink is this drink, if you know what I mean, called L’Altra Sera.
It started with an Italian gin I’ve mentioned here on the Spiked Punch before, PiùCinque, which boasts a unique and smooth flavor coming from ten botanicals: juniper, sage, ginger root, wormwood flowers, angelica, Seville orange, almond, zedoary, orris root, and bergamot. Altogether, it’s a citrus, herbal, treat. Here, I combined it with another absolute treat (just typing the name makes me salivate), Del Professore Classico vermouth. The fine folks at Del Professore make two other delish vermouths, too (Rosso and Vaniglia), and both are dandy, but let’s stick to Classico here. Made on a Muscat wine base, with herbs and magic things from the hills around Turin, Italy (including gentian, mace, vanilla, cloves, lemon, and more), it has a light but aromatic and flavor-packed nature, and is worthy all on its own over ice, with or without a lemon. But it also plays nice with others, and went especially well with the PiùCinque here.
But not so well that I didn’t bring in a third pal to play with, and I went to a different content for it: Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters, made in swell Seattle, WA. If you haven’t had this exceptional elixir, you should, as it’s magically in its own right, earthy, citrus-y, amazing. Get it, get the above, and have this not on a last night, but tonight.
2 ounces PiùCinque gin
1 ounce Del Professore Classico vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, vermouth, and bitters, and stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable, and garnish with that lemon twist. Enjoy the lovely.
March 20, 2020
Well, the world is in a mad place right now as you I’m sure you know. But not too long ago (honestly, the world was in a mad place then, too, just not as much, perhaps), I was in the U.K. (or “ol’ blighty” as was once said), having a fine time as one does when there, and also as one does, tasting a wide range of delicious gins, mainly in delicious Gin & Tonics. So many great gins are being made in the world; we should feel lucky for that, if nothing else. While, as mentioned, the range was wide, one of my favs – and now one of many folks’ favs, as it’s made phenomenal inroads worldwide since the first time I had it like, oh, five years ago? My memory might be wrong there, as sometimes happens – was and remains Sipsmith London Dry. As the madness continues, I find sipping a nice Sipsmith and Tonic, while not removing the madness, sure makes a day it taste better. Hopefully wherever you are, the supply lines of Sipsmith (and other great gins) haven’t been slowed down. Oh, the below pic as you’ll see, has a cucumber garnish – and that’s a treat! But a lemon is also, just in case you’re cucumber-less. And a lime is, if you’re both-less.
1-1/2 ounces Sipsmith London Dry gin
4 ounces tonic of your choice
Cucumber slice (or lime or lemon)
1. Fill a highball glass or comparable three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the gin, gently.
2. Top it off with tonic (I think 3-1/2 to 4 ounces is nice, but adjust according to your desires). Stir briefly. Garnish with the cucumber.
March 6, 2020
Can you feel it, deep in your bones? A wisp in the wind in your hair and/or behind your ears? A light peeking out from the dark clouds, peeking out as the wind and bones make their respective natures felt? What do I mean? Spring! Spring! Spring! Well, it’s not here yet, of course, but I can sense it, lurking with all its happiness. And lurking behind it, summer! But let us not get to far in front of ourselves. Sometimes, though, it is admittedly hard to wait, cause you want those sunny and then sunnier days to arrive like a speeding chicken into your days. You want the whole sunshine and flowers feeling in your hand now. And here we are with this drink, which has a whole spring and summer feel, refreshingly rolling like a spring river with rum, rum’s old spring break compadre Falernum, totally tubular Tuaca (which reminds us with its citrus-vanilla-y-ness of a blooming orchard), pineapple juice’s jingly-jam, and ginger ale’s bubbly dance beat. Wowza! Come aboard the sunshine train y’all.
The ASAP. from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
1/2 ounce Falernum
1/2 ounce Tuaca
1/2 ounce fresh pineapple juice
Chilled ginger ale
Lime slice for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Falernum, Tuaca, and pineapple juice. Stir, but only twice.
2. Top the glass off with ginger ale. Stir once more. Garnish with the lime slice.
February 21, 2020
I recently had a wonderfully wonderful (if I can say so in all humbleness, which I think I just did) drink on the old Spiked Punch called Boldness Be My Friend, which featured not one, not two, but three lesser-known (in the States, at least, and other countries outside the one they were birthed in, at least, and maybe even there) liquid lovelies from Italy. If you haven’t seen that, check it out, yo! Or, it Italian, dai un’occhiata a yo! And now that you’re back, think about the simplicity and simple pleasure of a good vermouth and tonic. The gin and tonic, of course, is more well known, but a good vermouth and tonic is in need of more recognition. With the right vermouth, it’s a flavorful, refreshing, fruity, herb-y, treat that more sippers should savor slowly. I’m sad I haven’t yet managed to track down the distillery where Ippocrasso vermouth is made, in Gubbio (a memorable Umbrian town to visit, by the by), but the vermouth itself is singular, both in Boldness Be My Friend in a V&T. As mentioned in the other recipe, this vermouth is built on a base of Cantina Donini red wine (a memorable winery, in Verna, Italy), and has a bold fruitiness, with a delicate overall persona that’s just right for matching with tonic on a sunny late afternoon or early evening, or, if you’re feeling it, even into the evening as it goes along. I suggest a lemon twist as the garnish, by the way. The tartness of the lemon oil plays perfectly with the vermouth and tonic. Try it, and tell me I’m right.
Vermouth and Tonic
1-1/2 ounces Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso Vermouth
4 ounces tonic
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth, and then the tonic. Stir.
2. Squeeze the twist over the glass, and then drop it in.