October 20, 2017

What I’m Drinking: Sangria

There are two, no, wait, three problems with Sangria. One: too often when you get it out, it’s an ugly mess that’s been sitting in some bar fridge, aging in a way that kills the brightness and mucks the flavor. That’s the biggest problem, but also easily solvable (make your own! Or go somewhere that makes it with care). The second problem is that most folks restrict it to only the summer months, but a rich, red-wine-based Sangria in the fall (and even winter) months helps deliver citrus and taste and a refreshment that adds a smile to the season/s. Third, when people do make Sangria at home, they don’t use this old family recipe of mine. Too snooty of me, saying that? Maybe. You can either tut-tut me, or make this recipe – I think you’ll act properly. Because you’re a problem-solver!

And while you’re thinking, put your peepers on this groovy Sangria photo from my pal Sara. If that doesn’t get you craving Sangria, well, I’m not sure what to think of you.

sangria

Sangria, recipe from Wine Cocktails

Serves 6

Ice cubes
1 orange, cut into wheels
1 lime cut into wheels
1 lemon cut into wheels
6 ounces simple syrup
4 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 bottle dry red wine, a Pinot Noir works well, but experiment
6 ounces brandy
Other fresh fruit for garnishing (oranges, limes, lemons)

1. Place the orange, lemon, and lime wheels and simple syrup in a large glass pitcher. Muddle well with a muddler or wooden spoon.

2. Add the orange juice and lime juice, and muddle just a touch more.

3. Add the red wine and the brandy, and stir well (bring a guest stirrer in if needed). Place the pitcher carefully in the refrigerator for two hours or more, but no longer than a day.

4. Add ice until the pitcher is full, and stir slightly. Pour into six stemmed wine glasses or goblets and garnish with fresh fruit.

October 13, 2017

What I’m Drinking: How Silver-Sweet

It’s October, which means we have one eye on the upcoming glistening holiday season, and one still on the summer that’s passed, and one on Halloween of course (I’m taking it for granted that each of us has three eyes – it is near Halloween). This position in the party calendar year makes this the ideal time for sweet sparkling wines. Well, really, I’m okay with them anytime, but as they are both ideal for summer (when served nice and cold) and winter (when they match those holidays parties you’re waiting for), then of course, they’re doubly ideal now. That’s my logic. Lucky for me then, a bottle of Castello del Poggio sparkling moscato showed up in the mail recently. Don’t hate me for my luck!

A delicate, lovely, fruity wine, this moscato is a delight. Castello del Poggio is located in Piedmont (in Italy, if that wasn’t obvious), and makes for a pretty sipper from the peachy aroma to the sweet fruity kiss of a flavor, with lots of notes to dwell on. Pear? Sure. Peach? Maybe a bit of strawberry? I thought so, but your palate may differ. There’s a consistent effervescence, too. All combined, makes for a memorable aperitif, or a dessert accompaniment.

It also makes swell sparkling cocktails (you probably knew I was going to go there, cause you’re smart)! When using it in this drink – called How Silver-Sweet, from  R&J, because the sweetness – I wanted to balance it while aligning on the fruit. So, I started with a favorite local spirit, Sidetrack Distillery’s Strawberry brandy. A really, classic, fruit brandy, it’s dry, strong, and carrying the pure essence of the fruit – fruit harvested from the farm where Sidetrack is located. To umph the fruit even more, and rounding out the basket, I also added Pierre Ferrand’s orange curaçao. And then, a final touch, some herbal undertones provided by Peychaud’s bitters. The end result is a layered drink that boasts sweetness and light and lots of flavor.

how-silver-sweet
How Silver-Sweet

Cracked ice
1 ounce Sidetrack strawberry brandy
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
3-1/2 ounces Castello del Poggio sparkling moscato

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the brandy, curaçao, and bitters. Stir well.

2. Strain into a wine glass (or flute). Top with the moscato. Stir briefly. Sip sweetly.

October 6, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Good Neighbors

Some old poet said something about good fences and good neighbors – and maybe it was sorta astute in a way. But even moreso is the well-known phrase, “neighbors who bring you booze make the best neighbors.” You remember that one, right? Well, we have some great neighbors – Steve and Diane – who proved that recently by bringing us back a bottle of Crater Lake rye (from the Bend Distillery) after a vacation. Crater Lake being in Bend, OR, and not here in WA. This rye is made from 95% rye grain (and 5% malted barley, if you’re curious) and has a nice spicy peppery-ness and cinnamon, softened a touch by a toffee and honey sweetness and rounded out by a little oak. A neat sipper.

And also (and you know I can’t not try a new bottle in a cocktail), it mixes well with the right neighbors. I decided to go with all Italian neighbors (having lived in Italy, I still feel I have lots of neighbors there), thinking that some of the herbal notes in things like Averna amaro, Punt ‘e Mes sweet vermouth, and maybe even maraschino might work? Could I be right? Would these combined be the finest neighborhood in town – pretty darn close! This meets you smoothly up front, and follows with an assortment of subtle herbal hellos. A good neighbor indeed.

good-neighborsThe Good Neighbors

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Crater Lake rye
1/4 ounce Averna amaro
1/2 ounce Maraschino
1 ounce Punt e’ Mes

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Give a toast to the good neighbors, and the finger to the bad ones.

September 29, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Up-to-Date

Like you, some nights (not many, but say one or two or three a lifetime) I find myself just browsing The Calvert Party Encyclopedia (1960 edition). It is “Your complete guide to home entertaining,” after all. Not to mention being,“the party book that gives you the power to please.” Now that’s power! But all joshes aside, it’s a better version than many company sponsored books (and worse than some as well), with a bunch of drink recipes including their products, and some others not, and some food ideas, and general party ideas and tips, and bar set up stuff. Not a bad little browser. And when browsing, I came across the Up-to-Date – maybe again? Maybe I’ve seen it somewhere else? I was intrigued, no matter which or what, and decided to give it whirl. In the book/manual/novella, it’s made with Calvert Reserve, but to keep it really up-to-date, I decided to sub out the Calvert Reserve (sorry Calvert!), with the latest bit of WA-state deliciousness to show up at my house: Epic Sht Gin, from the fine folks at Cadée Distillery on Whidbey Island.

It’s not as big a switch as you might think – being that the Epic Sht Gin is of the barrel-aged gin variety, so shares a kinship with whiskey as you might imagine. It’s a nicely-layered number, with the botanical notes of the gin still there, but also notes of spice and wood and a little nuttiness from the barrel, with a vanilla undertone, too. It’s not easy to get outside of the distillery as of this writing (but the distillery is well worth visiting), but hopefully by the time you’re reading, it’ll be more available. Also, its particular character I thought would go well with sherry – and I was right! Me and the fine folks at Calvert, that is! Try the below and see if I’m right (tip: I am).

up-to-date
The Up-to-Date

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Cadée Distillery Epic Sht Gin
1 ounce Tio Pepe fino sherry
1/4 ounce Grand Mariner
2 dashes Angostura bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add it all. Stir in a party manner.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Get up-to-date

September 22, 2017

What I’m Drinking: Hot Night in Hidalgo

It’s now Fall, as of today, actually, September 22, and your summer is now fading into a dream, as summer sadly always does. But if you miss the hot nights of the sunny months now in the past, and want to try and rekindle a little of that lovely summertime feeling, you might try this drink – though I wouldn’t have it alone. Have it with someone you are either close to (in a cuddly sense) or want to be close to, as it is – legends say – a romantic summer drink. That’s my advice, at least.

hot-night
Hot Night in Hidalgo, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz

Ice cubes
2 ounces dark rum
1-1/2 ounces Damiana
3/4 ounce fresh pineapple juice
Pineapple chunk, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Damiana, and pineapple juice. Shake well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the pineapple chunk, and dream of a sunshine daydream with your favorite daydreamer.

September 15, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Fountain of Fantastic Flora

Listen, you can disagree and I won’t budge (I also won’t get up all in your face about it, cause that kind of discourse should be saved for fools of the worst order, of which sadly there are many): Washington has the best distillers distilling. Am I a local nerd? You betcha. But they just keep making tasty things in bottles, and I keep tasting them and being happy. You should come out here and do some tasting (and buying, to help the cause) and be happy too. Recently, I put two of our newer releases together, and the end result also made me awfully happy. It started with Westland Distillery’s Garrayana 2|1. The first version won “Best American Single Malt” last year, and this will win plenty of awards, too. It’s aged in casks made from Garry Oak (Quercus garryana), a native oak only growing up here in the Pacific Northwest, and admittedly a limited-edition (get it while you can). It has a molasses, smoke, berry, citrus flavor. And goes remarkably well with another new-ish release, Salish Sea Organic Liqueur’s Honeybush liqueur. Honeybush is an herb out of South Africa that is usually used to make tea, but here it’s crafted into a liqueur that is super tasty, with a smoky honey flavor on the front end, and a fruity ending. It goes well with whiskey, as evidenced here.

flora
The Fountain of Fantastic Flora

Ice cubes
2 ounces Westland Distilling Garryana single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Salish Sea Organic Liqueur Honeybush liqueur
Bigger ice cube

1. Filling a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two Washington delights. Stir, but not too long.

2. Add a big ice cube to an Old Fashioned or other comparable glass. Strain the flora (in liquid form) over the ice cube.

September 1, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Translation of Giuliana Monti

I recently was lucky enough to have a day where I could make the claim to luckiest person around (admittedly, I haven’t checked with every single person worldwide to test this particular proclamation, but hey, I still believe). On that day I was able to share the stage with my pal, genius novelist Andrew Sean Greer, and talk to him about his latest book LESS, while making him a few cocktails. LESS, if you don’t know, is the book of 2017, gaining raves from near and far – with people like Christopher Buckley saying in the NY Times, “Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is excellent company. It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.” And they’re all well-deserved, because the book is charming, creative, funny, touching, and detailed in locations around the world with so much pizzazz that it’s a wonder Andy isn’t being hired by every city to write about their city. If that makes sense! Buy it now! Anyway, I’m rambling, as one does about great books, but to get back to the booze, for said lucky-day-for-A.J. I made up two drinks for Andy and I to sip while talking, naming both after characters in LESS. This first is named after the Italian translator of Less’ (oh, Arthur Less is the main character in the book, a novelist) latest book, and in honor of her and the Italian section of the book, contains all Italian ingredients.

giuliana-monti-LESS
The Translation of Giuliana Monti

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Purus organic Italian vodka
1 ounce Donini Dono di Dio aged vin santo
3/4 ounce Campari
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Drink while reading LESS.

A Note: Donini Dono di Dio aged vin santo (vin santo being the “holy wine” of Italy, a lush dessert wine) is made by the fine folks at Donini winery, one of the finest in the universe, located in Verna, Italy, in my favorite area of Italy. If you can’t get it, I feel it’s time for you to take a vacation. Or, sub in another vin santo.

August 25, 2017

What I’m Drinking: Summer’s Charm and Courtesy

Just two short weeks ago (which can seem a lifetime during the savorable days of late summer) I had a drink here on the Spike Punch called the SPF – Silver Port Fizz. It featured Sandeman 10-year-old Tawny Porto, in what may have been an odd move for some, port not being a sunshine-y drink companion for many. But this Sandeman Tawny! It’s so fruity, and so full of flavor that it begs (not literally, as wine, spirits, and liqueurs shouldn’t really be talking to you) to be used in summer drinks, fruit being such a key element of the season’s liquid fare.

It’s so worthy that I couldn’t help myself dreaming up other drinks utilizing Sandeman Tawny Porto 10 to be had when the Mercury has risen and ol’ sol is beating down. And that leads us to Summer’s Charm and Courtesy. Less obviously a summer drink then our last refreshing port number, this drink bring out summer through a wave of fruit notes, all subtle separately but coming together in a rapturous (well, drinks can be rapturous, too, right?) layered lush sip after sip. It starts with the Sandeman, which delivers fruit and jam and a hint of nutty and oak, then moves into Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy pineapple rum (a nice note also between all the recent Dickens’ posts), which is a dream, Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao, Fee Brothers West Indian orange bitters, and a little lime. Then, as the last act of courtesy (and in my mind, one can’t be too courteous), a little fresh mint.

It’s just so darn fruity! And so darn good! Darn, give this a try before another sunrise and sunset pass along past us. You’ll be happy, I’ll be happy, the sun will be happy, and all will be well.

summers-charm-and-courtesey
Summer’s Charm and Courtesy

Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Sandeman 10-year-old Tawny Porto
1/2 ounce Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy pineapple rum
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
2 dashes Fee Brothers West Indian orange bitters
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Fresh mint sprig, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything by the mint. Shake well.

2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the mint. Enjoy.

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