September 23, 2022
The world of spirits, liqueurs, and the cocktails one makes with them has undergone a wonderful internationalizing over the last, oh, 15 years (that number is not scientific, but more a musing digit that might approximate an impossible-to-actually-measure figure). By that I mean, so many products from around the globe once only consumed in their particular region or country are now being accessed by thankful drinkers in other spots. Make some sense? And this internationalizing is still rolling out, with more products showing in more spots. Again – thankful drinkers, including me! One type of produce that we’re finally seeing more of in WA (where I’m at) and the US in general is Shochu, the distilled tipple popular in Japan and made from a number of things: rice, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and more. I’ll fully and readily admit I’m not a Shochu expert, but what I’ve had, I’ve enjoyed for its earthy, rich flavors (varying depending on the base product distilled) and friendly drinkability.
So, I was very excited recently to receive some Shochu in the mail (don’t be upset with me! I know I’m lucky), from Honkaku Spirits, which is one of the companies helping to spread the word and accessibility of Shochu, along with other Japanese spirits. They’ve been around since 2020, and are focused, amazingly enough, on working with family-run distilleries, which is awesome! One of their newly released imbibables is Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu, which is what I’m sipping today. Crafted at the Jikuya distillery (around since 1910! And specializing in sweet potato Shochu “completely sourced and produced in Kagoshima, among other specifications”!) by fourth generation Master Brewer-Distiller, Ms. Maiko Jikuya at the base of Mount Shibi, this Shochu clocks in at 25% ABV, and delivers a lovely flavor. Starting with a light-on-its-feet herbally, flowery (not heavy perfume flowers, but wildflowers) essence, it flows into notes of red berries and hints, just hints, of tea. Neat! Very approachable, very drinkable. And, delicious over ice, solo or with sparkling water (sidenote: there is also a Jikuya Black Sweet Potato Shochu, which is earthier, and well worth trying, too).
Shochu is often served neat, with ice, or with soda water (as well as with warm or room temp water), sometime with fruit juice added to the latter. It’s not as often utilized in cocktails. Not to say it isn’t! Just, from what I’ve seen, not as often. But while I enjoyed/enjoy it solo, I had to test it out with a few other ingredients, cocktail-style, because, well, that’s what I do! And after a little finagling, I came up with a combo that I think lets the Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu shine, but also lets it play nicely with others. This Shochu has such a delicate but memorable (hah! That’s a funny combo, but it works for me) nature, I wanted the cocktail to match, so it took a bit to find the right pairings. I landed on maraschino liqueur (I went with Luxardo Maraschino), whose somewhat lighter nuttiness was a swell fit, Dolin Blanc vermouth, due to the floral notes and bit of cuddle it always brings, and Scrappy’s singular Cardamon bitters, whose light spices and more florally goodness shone with the others. This foursome together sings a (if I can say this while being humble) liquid delight! It manages to be both layered in flavor, spice, floral, fruit, and maintain that delicate, brightness from the Shochu. You may want to have another the minute you finish the first. As you do, give a toast to the whole world, which – for thankful drinkers – has become a smaller place.
A Tempest of Provocation
2-1/2 ounces Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Dash Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy.
September 16, 2022
It’s the middle of September! Hard to believe my friends. Time, it flies by like a flock of Peregrine Falcons (meaning: fast)! Not only are we in the back half of 2022, but we are also nearing October, which for me means fall trips to Italy (I hope for you, too), and truffles, and pasta, and art, and well, you know. It also means Italian drinks, wines, limoncellos, grappas, Italian beers, and of course amari. It’s funny, in a time flying way, and in a “sometimes things do change for the better” way, how many more of the latter, the amari (and other digestif-y and aperitif-y Italian brothers and sisters, not the grappas, sadly), are available now in the US than when I first made this here drink, Good Luck in Pisticci, like 7 years ago. Amari explosion! And if you expand that time frame (short in the overall realm of time) to the first time I went to Italy when I had my first amaro (I believe it was Montenegro), like 25ish years ago, well, it’s a big bang style explosion! An herbal, bitter and bittersweet, and lovely explosion!
Without which, I couldn’t make this drink, itself herbally rich and flavorful, but also citrus-y, bubbly, and jolly, in a way! It leans heavily on a particular amaro, Amaro Lucano created in 1894 by cookie baker Pasquale Vena (an aside: amari and chocolate chip cookies are a pleasant pairing) using an herbs and spices. Eventually, it became the sipper of choice to ancient ruling family the House of Savoy, which is neat, and it’s swell to sip solo, but also swell here with a few WA ingredients, Kur gin (delicious – read more of me talking about it) and Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters (if you aren’t aware of how awesome Scrappy’s bitters are, then you have a wonderful future finding out), and classic orange stalwart Grand Marnier, and soda, and mint. Good Luck indeed!
Good Luck In Pisticci
1-1/2 ounces Kur gin
3/4 ounce Amaro Lucano
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
2 dashes Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
4 ounces chilled club soda
1. Add the gin, Lucano, Grand Marnier, and Scrappy’s to a mixing glass. Stir well.
2 Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Pour the mix from step 1 into the glass over the top.
3. Top with soda water. Stir briefly. Garnish with the mint sprig.
September 2, 2022
Is today, the 2nd of September, the ideal time to drink an Americano (the Italian stalwart and precursor, perhaps, to the now, perhaps, better-known Negroni, a drink, the Americano, which used to be known itself as the child of the Milan-Torino, or Milano-Torino, which boasted Campari and Punt e’ Mes vermouth, sometimes other vermouths, perhaps, but skipped the soda, which itself was added and then the trio, Campari, Punt e’ Mes, soda, became a favorite of American servicemen, and then became the Americano), the very moment when one should drink this drink? Perhaps! I say so due to the fact that while it’s refreshing with the ice and the soda and the bubbles, making it good-or-more-than-good when the sun’s out, it also has those lovely rich herbal-and-bitter-and-botanical notes from the Campari and vermouth. Those notes point to the fact that fall, and then, always, winter are coming no matter the sun. So, to me, this Friday, the 2nd, seems to straddle those moments in a way, much like the drink can straddle the seasons, in taste, sure, but also in feeling. Drinks are about more than just taste, after all.
2 ounces Campari
2 ounces Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
Chilled club soda
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Campari and vermouth. Stir gently.
2. Add club soda to the glass until the glass is almost full. Garnish with an orange slice.
August 26, 2022
Is it bad (bad might even be too pejorative a word, maybe, ill-advised, or self-aggrandizing, or silly, would be better words) to be having a drink on this here Friday that is called out in the title of a book written by my-own-self? That okay? Here’s hoping cause this little beauty is obviously in the book Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz, but it’s also a treat for the late summer days we’re living within at the moment. Why, you ask? I’m taking it that you mean the latter part, not the book part, so gonna go that route. It’s a summer hit, like most of the Fizz family (a hot weather family if ever there was one), due to its effervescent nature via the addition of club soda and ice! But, the florally crème di violette fits the blooming nature of summer (perhaps that’s diminishing in late August, but still, blooming bloomers), and the gin helps cut the heat metaphorically, if not literally. Add the teeniest lemon and simple, and boom, a drink you should have this time of year (as well as other times), even if you do feature it in a book title. I am!
The Violet Fizz
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce crème de violette
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup
Chilled club soda
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, crème de violette, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake extra well.
2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mixture into the glass.
3. Fill the glass with chilled club soda, stir well, and drink quickly, before those bubbles have a chance to fade.
August 19, 2022
This is one of those drinks that when you look at the ingredient list your first thought is probably, “whaaaaa?” as the four fine products used here don’t necessarily seem to match in that first moment. Partially cause anisette, even the so-good-it’s-hard-to-put-into-words Meletti anisette, can be such a strong personality that it may not seem a match with, say, Lillet’s delicate wine-aperitif tones. And maybe not even a match with a staunch British gin such as Boodles, our heaviest player here (in ounces!), made of British wheat and leaning classically towards juniper, coriander, angelica. By the by, I love all three of those ingredients, and you probably do, too, so maybe I’m making too much of the “odd trio” angle, but hey, they didn’t at first take to each other as well as I’d hoped. Until adding the robust Peychaud’s Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters, which somehow (bitters does tend to make it better), brought every other ingredient into the playing field nicely for me. After a little testing of amounts and some ritual incantations and normal stuffs like that. Short story: trust me! This is a good cocktail.
An Elusive Memory
1-1/2 ounces Boodles gin
1/2 ounce Meletti anisette
1/2 ounce Lillet
2 dashes Peychaud’s Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail shaker. Raise a toast in my direction (I mean, why not? I appreciate it). Drink up.
July 29, 2022
I love Chartreuse. Both Green and Yellow. So, so much. Too much? I don’t know that that’s possible, but some might say it. So much, that during last winter when drinking outside at a bar I had a Chartreuse and Hot Chocolate (which is amazing, but that’s not the story), even though I had to spend a full ten minutes bar time explaining about Chartreuse to the friendly server, who then had to convince the bartender what I said I wanted was what I wanted. All worth it, my friends! But now it’s summer, and how to quench that love (as if love could be quenched! But thirst can) of a herbal-packed powerhouse like Chartreuse? Let me suggest this Chartreuse Daisy. It utilizes Yellow Chartreuse (whose recipe of 130 plants is only known only to two monks, who also are the only two who know the secret macerating and aging processes, which is amazing to astronomical levels), but you know what, you could make it with Green, too! And should! It’s a frosty mix, but I don’t find that kills the Chartreuse-y-ness, or the gin-ness (here, I’d like a layered gin such at Caorunn or Monkey 47 to place well), and the citrus and fruit just add summer to the mix, plus more flavor strata naturally. Altogether, this one will cool your afternoon or evening (or morning!), while delivering a whole bunch of goodness to the palate, herbs, fruits, deliciousness. All of which you, Chartreuse lover, deserve.
Chartreuse Daisy, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce grenadine (homemade grenadine naturally; homemade grenadine recipe at the bottom here if needed)
1 ounce Yellow Chartreuse (see Note)
Strawberry, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, lemon juice, and grenadine. Shake very well, until the shaker gets frosty.
2. Fill a goblet three-quarters up with cracked ice. Strain the mixture over the ice through a fine strainer. Stir briefly. Float the Chartreuse over the ice, and stir again briefly. Garnish with the strawberry and the orange slice.
Note: Feel you need even more Chartreuse in your life? I know the feeling! If so, up to 1-1/2 ounces.
July 15, 2022
Here in Seattle, WA, our summer so far has been a fairly mild one, with just a few hot days, and no scorchers. But I know in some parts it’s beyond sweltering, and dangerously hot here and there, so I know summer is here and with it the need for fruity, rich, flavorful, bubbly mixes, which leads me to bringing back this fav from a few years ago. Now, don’t take its title too literally, as drinking one of these does not mean you should brave a hot hot hot day without the appropriate sun protection, from lotions to big hats to water to ac. But at least, this combo of deliciously Diplomático rum, summerific Sidetrack Strawberry liqueur, fresh oj (you don’t want scurvy anytime, but especially not when it’s hot), Fee Brothers peachy-keen Peach bitters for another fruit layer, simple syrup to add sweetness to the heat, and club soda to bubbly it up, at least this combo will help the hot days taste better, and balance the blasting heat a tasty bit.
Fear No More The Heat O’ The Sun
1-1/2 ounces Diplomático Mantuano rum
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Strawberry liqueur
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
Dash Fee Brothers Peach bitters
1/2 ounce simple syrup
4 ounces chilled club soda
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the soda. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 through a fine strainer into the glass.
3. Top with the club soda. Stir, but not mightily, but in a manner that brings everything together.
July 1, 2022
It’s the first of July, which means that the fourth of July is only days away (poor first of July, always in the shadow – at least here in the US – of its holiday sparkling calendar sibling). On the fourth of July, people tend to have picnics, think (one hopes) about what makes this country the country it’s been for the last few hundred years, and blow things up with brightly-colored mini booms. The latter of which, between us, I’m not too fond of, as I’ve always had pups that don’t like it. So, if you’re in my neighborhood, keep it down, ya hear! But to balance things out, let me offer you this explosive (in taste!) firecracker of a drink, the ideal drink for the day of fireworks (though don’t have too many and then get around matches – a deadly duo if ever there was one), one so ideal I believe I’ve proposed it before as a fourth favorite. The bourbon, vermouth, Pernod (a nod to the revolutionary French), grenadine (homemade if you love your country – check out the homemade grenadine recipe here), and orange bitters combo is a tasty holiday treat. I use Scrappy’s Orange bitters below, and Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon, because A: they are both awesome, and B: supporting your local makers is about as patriotic as it gets. Now, don’t forget what we said about keeping the noise down for dogs!
The Whizz Bang
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pernod
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up.