June 10, 2022
You probably know this, but just in case, recently the Queen of England had her Platinum Jubilee, which means (another thing you probably know!), that she’s worn the crown for 70 years. It is, in the United Kingdom (and other spots, it seems), a big deal to many, and many parties were had. And, cause she’s so nice, she asked me to come up with a Jubilee Liqueur that she could sip daintily from teacups during the various festivities.
Hahaha, did you believe that, just for a moment? It would have been ridiculously neat if you did. But sadly, it was a lie, the Queen does not know me or my liqueur-making prowess or that my backyard overfloweth with mint (wild and planted) or that I had some extra mandarins lying around lately. Or, at least, if she knows all these things, she isn’t telling me! However! I do have some pals who are from the UK, though currently living in balmy Seattle, and they like many (as mentioned above, in a way) were celebrating said Platinum Jubilee, with a big ol’ English-style knee-up shindig, doing it up right with oodles of eats and drinks and funtimes for neighbors and friends. And I thought – really, they deserve a present fit for a Queen, and so made this here liqueur in her and their honor. As you probably can guess if you’ve made it this far in this paragraph, it has oodles of mint, and some mandarin notes. It’s also based on gin, that most English of quaffs, which is a little different as most homemade liqueurs have a neutral base, while gin brings its own juniper, botanical, spice, citrus, what-have-you nature. Here, go with a good solid London/English juniper forward gin (that’s what I did!). The mint and citrus and gin and sweetness are such a swell snazzy combo, I gotta say – this really is fit for royalty. Including you!
4 small mandarins
3-1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
3 cups gin (English gin, natch – I used Gordon’s)
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1. Carefully peel the mandarins. You want the peel, but you don’t want the pith – hence the care! Mandarins tend to be pithy, so you might need/want to scrap a little of that pith off. I did.
2. Add the peels – being sure to save the mandarins – to a large glass container, one with a good lid. Also add 2 cups mint leaves. Muddle the mandarin and mint.
3, Add the gin to the container, stir, and set aside.
4. We’re now going to make a syrup. Usually when making homemade liqueurs, I let flavorings and base sit together solo for a bit before adding the syrup. But as we’re using the juice from the mandarins just peeled, felt it should be made now. It all worked out! Okay, to start, juice the mandarins. Then add the juice and remaining mint leaves to a saucepan. Muddle gently, just to get the mint oils flowing.
5. Add the water and sugar and raise the temperature to medium high. Stirring regularly, bring the mix to a boil, then bring the heat down a bit. Keep it at a smooth simmer for 5 minutes, still stirring. Remove from the heat, and let cool completely in the pan.
6. Pour the mint-mandarin simple syrup into the glass container from Step 2. Stir well, and seal. Place in a cool, dark spot. Let sit for two weeks, swirling regularly. It looks like this:
7. Strain (maybe twice!) through cheese cloth into bottles or one big bottle. Drink solo, over ice, or play around with it in cocktails, all while thinking monarchistically.
June 3, 2022
This treat at first glance may not seem super June-y, if you just look at the first few ingredients: red wine, and the herbally Amaro Lucano (which, by the by, has been around since 1894 when cookie baker [!!] Pasquale Vena crafted it with a secret mix of herbs and spices, bitters and sweeters; it’s also been the house drink since 1900 of the House of Savoy if that floats your ice cubes). But look deeper, summertime drink seeker, and you will see that there is a bubbly helping of chilled club soda, along with made-here-in-WA (but even if you don’t live here, you should have a bottle) Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur, the embodiment of summer in a way (that way being traced to blackberries – very summery in my mind – and here said blackberries are grown on the same farm where the liqueur is made). There’s ice, too! Altogether, this is a drink that can, and will, and is to, be beloved in summer, but one with some underlining deep, rich, notes mingling with fruit and summer’s fanciful notions. A yummy one, you’ll see!
2 ounces dry red wine
1 ounce Amaro Lucano
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur (from right here in WA)
3 ounces chilled club soda
1. Fill a goblet or other glass (a highball works) three quarters full with ice cubes.
2. Add the wine, Amaro Lucano, and Sidetrack Blackberry. Stir briefly.
3. Add the club soda. Stir again, briefly. Enjoy the sunshine.
May 20, 2022
En garde! This fencing (or sword-fighting, if you’re using, say, broadswords) drink is a well-balanced (on the balls of the feet, I suppose, if drinks had feet) number, with gin just taking the first position slightly, and then an equality of Cointreau, Campari, and dry vermouth providing the support, with a hint of orange the shining point (if I can drag out the metaphor). Altogether, a lot of herb-botanical-citrus goodness happening, and a cocktail that is fitting for late spring or late fall, one you can serve happily at happy hours and garden parties, and one with just enough of a story to entertain (named as it is after a famous Olympic fencer) but not so much of one to become a bore. And, really, sipping it is much finer than any sort of fight, even a mock one.
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, Cointreau, Campari, and dry vermouth. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange twist.
May 13, 2022
I was at a bar with some old pals (not drinking Old Pals, funny enough, hahaha) just the other day, and thought for a moment how nice it was to be able to be at a bar having a drink with some old pals – what a world that a thought such as that would flit through my mind then, just considering most of my life that thought wouldn’t have even been a thing (at least the “in a bar” part, with the connotations of the pandemic life we’ve been living). At said bar – not what you might consider a “cocktail bar” if that makes sense, and know I don’t mean that pejoratively, but one that still had a nice bunch of bottles – we were sitting outside, and as it does in Seattle in May sometimes, with evening descending, rain started and the temperature also rapidly descended, and I was getting chilly, and for some reason decided I had to have a hot chocolate and Green Chartreuse. The jolly waitress did look at me strangely (with a big smile) for a moment, as no-one there had ever ordered that before! But it was a lovely mix (try it!). However, that’s not what I’m drinking tonight. But the Chartreuse plus being with old pals (mine being like shining sparkling jewels, to me, as I hope your old pals are to you) reminded me of one of my favorite cocktails, the Bijou, which features said Green Chartreuse, and which is also named for the definition of the word bijou which circles around gems and jewels and jewelry. Neat, right? Right!
Bijou, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1 -1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, Chartreuse, and vermouth. Stir well.
2. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in.
May 6, 2022
Last week I went on and on about brunching and brunch season and brunch drinks and then put down the recipe for a new brunch drink Good Morning Sunshine, and all of that and you know what? Not one of you invited me to brunch. Well, my dog Ainsley did, but she’d eat all the time if it was up to her, hahaha! So, just for that, here’s another brunch drink, one from an old (but still bubbly, if I may be so bold) book of mine called, simply enough, Champagne Cocktails, said drink being called The Pensiero (which is Italian for “thought” making this drink “The Thought” which is just so deeply silly), and as you’d expect one influenced by Italy and featuring delicious Italian stalwarts Punt e’ Mes vermouth and Campari, as well as fancy frizzante ruby-esque red wine Brachetto d’Acqui (a brunch treat if ever there was one). Now, I’m just gonna sit here and wait for my invitations.
The Pensiero, from Champagne Cocktails
1 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 ounces Punt e Mes
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
Chilled Brachetto d’Acqui
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the orange juice, Punt e Mes, Campari, and simple syrup. Shake thoughtfully.
2. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer into a flute glass. Top with Brachetto d’Acqui. Garnish with the lemon twist.
April 29, 2022
Does it feel like brunch season to you? It does to me! Spring when springing always sings out “brunching time is on” in my old ears for some reason. More sunshine, perhaps, or the blooming of things equates in my brain having pals over for meals that aren’t really breakfast, but aren’t yet lunch either. Bascially: brunch! Great idea, brunch, by the way. Not that I don’t like brunches throughout the year, between us, but brunching in spring is best. Perhaps because you can, after a long winter (for many), have said brunch outdoors again if you want? Perhaps because by spring the days are longer so you can work up more of a brunch appetite (lots of weeding to be done in the morning, too)? Who knows! But in honor of, let’s call it, brunch season – which of course demands more brunch drinks – here’s a new effervescent cocktail for you, the Good Morning Sunshine. I like my brunch drinks bubbly in the main, and a bit fruity, while still having a smooth kick to help ease you into afternoon napping! That little rubric leads to the ingredient list here: two kinds of juice (oj, pj), the citrus-ish lightly sweet beloved of the nation (currently) Aperol, Aperol’s tight pal Prosecco (bringing the bubbles), and then a bit of a brunch surpriser: tequila, which adds the underlying strength while also bringing a hint of smoke and vegetalness. Quite lovely I have to admit. Brunch lovely, even!
Good Morning Sunshine
1 ounce blanco tequila
1/2 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce orange juice
4 ounces chilled Prosecco (see Note)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add all but the Prosecco. Shake well.
2. Strain into a flute glass or comparable vessel. Top with the Prosecco. Brunch = on!
A Note: Could go five ounces here if you want and are feeling extra bubbly. Up to you.
April 15, 2022
It was just hours ago (a week’s worth of hours, that is) that I was sipping some Stambecco and Soda, and in the post about it right here on the Spiked Punch, I went into some detail about Stambecco amaro (be sure to read up), which is made curiously-enough from maraschino cherries, along with a host of botanicals, spices, magic, and goats (well . . .) like any good amaro. It’s a very singular kind of a sipper, tasty, sure, but singular. While this drives it towards being something that’s swell solo, and (as demonstrated in said earlier post) with soda, I couldn’t wait when it showed up to try it mixed with a few other choice pals in a cocktail. Some experimenting of this and of that and here we are drinking How the Rogue Roar’d.
Oh, first, let me say that this cocktail isn’t roguish in the manner of a 17th century thief boosting a coach and four on a dusty road at midnight. But it does roar with a very layered flavor, and has a roguish (the twinkly-eyed lovable rogue way) combination of ingredients. But, mostly, I’ve wanted to have a drink called this forever (it’s a line from Henry IV, Part I, as well as the name of a Shakespeare and Hathaway episode), and here is one that finally deserves this very moniker. So, what’s in it? Stambecco, naturally! And, Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus. You can read more about this gin treat in the The Suspended Palace with Drumshanbo Gin recipe, but I’ll say here that it boasts a host of regularly-used and rare botanicals and citrus (as well as Gunpowder Tea – which is quite roguish, if not as explosive as you might guess at first read). And, our rogue also features dry vermouth of the Dolin variety (probably needs no explanation), as well as a dash of the delectable Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and, to top it all off, a strawberry. Stambecco goesy, as you might guess, well with cherries, but the strawberry seemed so fitting a top hat for this drink, as there are oodles of fruit and spice notes, while maintaining a dry nature that the slightly sweet strawberry bounces nicely off of, and if that’s not enough, it’s April, so we can dream of summer easily, which means dreaming of strawberries. So, rogue, roar with this cocktail!
How the Rogue Roar’d
2 ounces Drumshanbo Gin with Sardinian Citrus
1 ounce Stambecco amaro
1/2 ounce Dolin dry vermouth
Dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Strawberry slice, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the lone strawberry. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish – dare I say, roguishly – with the strawberry. Drink the deliciousness.
April 8, 2022
I should come up with a snazzier name here (at least “The S & S”) but sometimes keeping things simple is lovely, too! And, sometimes, when spring is starting to gently become an actual season, with flowers blooming, and love in the air, all of that goodness, simplicity in drinks is nice – especially when they’re flavorful and refreshing and dolloped with a drop of luck. In this case, my luck (sorry pals!), as I was lucky enough recently to receive a bottle of Stambecco amaro in the post. And what a beautiful bottle it is, I have to stay first off, a real work of dappled design art, from the glass texture to the goats (“Stambecco” is the name of the long-horned mountain goat roaming the Italian alps) to the text curvature to the word “Italy” in glass around the slope from neck to jar. Just lovely!
Of course, it wouldn’t be as lovely if what was contained in said bottle wasn’t tasty – luckily (again, springtime luck!) it is. Stambecco is a member of the amari family, that grouping of Italian digestif-y numbers known for being a bit bitter, but fills a niche all its own. Lighter brown in color than most (with just a hint of red), it also is intriguingly infused with maraschino cherries, along with a host of 30 botanicals including sweet and bitter oranges, coriander, marjoram, oregano, artemista, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, gentian, cinchona, rhubarb, and more, all magically combined (some call this distilling) in Piedmont, north Italy. The mix of botanicals is very friendly, very lower-mountain-field-y, with a light touch on bitter when compared to many of its amaro siblings, with a citrus and stone fruit aroma, and a singular taste where the cherries come even more into play, along with spices and an echo of nuttiness (those maraschino cherries again). Yummy stuff! And a mixture I’m excited to play around with more in cocktails, but sometimes, one wants to keep it simple, as mentioned above. So, here, today, this early April afternoon, I’m just mixing my Stambecco with soda, and topping it off with a Hotel Starlino Maraschino cherry (which also came in the post!), which is a darn delicious specimen of cherry (and one matured in their own juices – avoid those cherries that aren’t!), the ideal topper for this bubbly treat.
Stambecco and Soda
2 ounces Stambecco amaro
5 ounces chilled club soda
Hotel Starlino Maraschino cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Stambecco, and dream for a moment of mountain peaks and charming goats.
2. Add the soda. Stir, but not wackily. Garnish with the cherry (if you can avoid just eating it right away, which is tough). Enjoy.