Beyond the fact that this is a tasty drink – double bitters, bourbon, bubbly, Cointreau – I love the story of the Seelbach. It was once thought an uncovered treasure found in some ancient texts, and brought out of the mists of time for the drinkers of the future. But, turns out, the whole story was made up. Cocktails should have histories like this, sometimes, cause drinking should be fun (also, to read the whole story in more detailed, check it out on Liquor.com) and sometimes made up stories are fun, too. Heck, it tricked me, but I still believe it’s fun, and like drinking the Seelbach, too. Try it, and I’m guessing you will, as well.
January isn’t called “the cold and flu” season as much as year’s end, but darnit, it’s still a month where you need your vitamins and need to have an eye (at least one) on your health. And what’s healthier than raspberries? Well nothing. Nothing but raspberries and vinegar, that is! Now that’s a healthy duo, especially when you combine it with soda water and Cognac (or brandy, in a pinch, another healthy item). Heck, that combo is so healthy that it was a top tipple of Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac, ex-French citizen and beloved Mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828. If you can’t trust him (from whatever afterworld bar he may be at) on healthiness, then who can you trust? (Oh, you’ll need to make the raspberry-vinegar syrup to get full health benefits and to make this drink – see A Note, below – but you can do that. I have faith in you!)
2 ounces Cognac
1/2 ounce raspberry-vinegar syrup (which may once have been called Red Hembarig and various other names)
Chilled club soda
1. Fill a highball glass up with ice cubes. Add the cognac and the syrup. Stir once.
2. Top the glass off with club soda. Stir once again.
A Note: To make your syrup in a fairly-orderly and quick fashion, muddle two cups raspberries a bit in a bowl, then add a cup of apple cider vinegar, and stir briefly. Let sit overnight (I suggest putting a napkin or such on top). Then add it plus three cups sugar and 3/4 cup water to a saucepan. Heat to a simmer, let simmer for around 10 minutes, then take off the heat and let it cool completely in the pan. Strain through a fine strainer and then cheesecloth if you’re really worried about getting small bits of things in your teeth. Keep in the fridge.
Ah, the new part of the year, here we are. And here we go with 2019! At this time, it’s good to use some new ingredients to match the New Year, but (I’m not getting deep here, really, but just trying to roll things into the recipe in some sort of fun way. Fun!) also to use some ingredients from the past year. Which leads us to this here drink, and a duo of lovely products from the Woodinville Whiskey Co., from out here in the W-A. Specially, their limited-time Autumn release from last autumn, which was their rye finished with toasted Applewood staves – learn more about it in the Hero of the Fall recipe (which you’ll like, I’ll bet). That, though, is the last year component, while the new is just “new” to me: Woodinville’s maple syrup. I am ashamed to admit that I opened my first bottle only recently, because it’s delicious. They start with grade-A dark maple syrup from the eastern US, which is aged in empty Woodinville bourbon and rye barrels, adding caramel, vanilla, and woodsiness to the syrup. Yummy! Maple syrup isn’t used in drinks enough, and, admittedly, it can take over – but dang, this is good stuff! And matches that Woodinville rye wonderfully, especially with a last addition: Peychaud’s whiskey barrel-aged bitters. More whiskey-barreling! Those deep herbal bitter notes are a third treat here, in our Manhattan-y mixture. It’s a great drink for toasting both the past and the upcoming year (or anything else you need to toast).
Oh, one note: you might want to pull back to the maple syrup to 1/2 ounce. I was feeling it, and went for 3/4s. You get the rye first, with a hint of the syrup, then that syrup comes on, with the bitters and barrely stuff finishing it off. However, it could be a stitch sweet for you, so go as you go.
I’m sorry, I can’t help myself, baby, it’s cold outside. There, I did it, I sung the song that once was neat, and now has sadly been covered into oblivion. A shame, really. What’s not a shame on a cold-outside-day is this winter Washington warmer. It’s a curious choco-mix in one manner, in that it mixes hot chocolate and whiskey, which isn’t seen often. Silly, that. Here, the whiskey side is Scratch’s straight whiskey. Scratch (you should know this!) is a delicious distillery out in WA, specifically Edmonds, WA. They make all kinds of bottled things, starting with gins, and moving along. Their whiskey can be hard to get, but is worth tracking down, due to its singular (and single-barrel), mash bill, which utilizes a line-up of “old world” grains I hadn’t seen together before: spelt, millet, white winter wheat, and malted barley. Scrumptious stuff. Also scrumptious, the other WA-made ingredient used here, Salish Sea distillery’s organic allspice liqueur. Salish Sea is from Lacey, WA, and makes an incredible array of all-organic liqueurs, a line-up covering classic flavors and more esoteric numbers. And if that wasn’t enough scrumptiousness, a little Seattle-made Scrappy’s orange bitters adds the final touch here, in a mighty-fine way: you put a few drops on top of the whipped cream topping, and the bitter scents waft up as you drink. So, what are you waiting for? Warm up.
If you’ve forgotten (though how could you, marketing being the horror that it is), tomorrow is Halloween! I’m guessing you have your costume set, but what about your drink? If not, then remember the Warlock! It has brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. It will, when consumed, turn you into a zombie magician as the below video shows. But hey, it’s Halloween, that’s what you want!
Here’s a haunting favorite I hadn’t made recently – which was foolish of me, because it’s a Halloween hit that’s good year round. But, especially due to the headless nature of the eerie moniker, it’s a chillingly good choice this time of year. Luckily, it’s not scary to make, and the taste isn’t scary at all, and your spooky party pals will love it. Heck, they might even say it’s boo-tiful. Hahaha!
While not all of you live in wondrous WA, I don’t want you to feel I’m taunting you (you could come here and explore our distilleries, should even) by having a drink that features an ingredient you have to be here to pick up. C’mon over! And pick up a bottle of Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s 2018 Autumn Release, a Toasted Applewood Finished Rye. See, every year, the fine folks at Woodinville have an autumn release, and it’s quite an event – folks start lining up the day before to get a signed and number bottle in a commemorative wooden case. And, of course, to get the limited-edition whiskey within. This year’s takes the distillery’s 100% Rye Whiskey and adds toasted Applewood staves. Which brings out lovely apple notes mingling with the rye’s caramel and spices: cinnamon, clove, and more, all at 100 proof. It’s a great fall whiskey, and one that you might like to sit and sip solo – or with a few drops of water, or an ice cube, as the case may be – as the temperature chills.
But, it’s also a whiskey that can add beautiful background and flavor to a winter or fall cocktail, and recently I came up with a memorable one using it. For the first partner in this drink (again, don’t be upset those not living here – as you’re coming out for the rye, you can load up on a bunch of local lovelies), I went with another fall and winter favorite, Raft’s Cranberry Five Spice syrup. Raft products are made all-naturally in Portland, OR by the same folks who make the Bitter Housewife bitters and such. While “syrup” often equates with “sweet,” this one is only subtly sweet (and has no preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, or any of that nastiness), and leans more into tart, thanks to the addition of Starvation Alley (a farm in Long Beach, WA) cranberries. Beyond the cranberry, this delivers more holiday spices: ginger, star anise, cinnamon, cloves. It seemed the ideal match for the rye. And it was!
But we needed to invite some more friends to this fall party-in-a-glass, and I wanted to keep it local, and bring even more of those spice notes, and so added Italian-by-way-of-Seattle Letterpress Distillery’s Amaro Amarino. Carrying a little of that traditional amaro bitter, but also more baking spices and a hint of orange, it fit right in. Our final player is Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters, which underlines everything with a final herbal and spice touch. Altogether now! This is an ideal drink for before Thanksgiving or any fall or winter holiday, but perhaps an even better one for after the meal. When sipping it, it introduces itself with the whiskey festival of grain, oak, and the beginnings of the spice, transitioning into apple and fruit and more spice, and then finishing on a little tang from the cranberries and a kiss of sweetness from the syrup – with spices throughout. One to savor like a good meal, and one to savor with good friends.
The other day, decided to browse around the drink library while watching Hammer House of Horror as one does, and was flipping through Jacques Staub’s simply-called classic Drinks from 1914 and came across an intriguing number called The Clifton. At the same time, I was trying to think of a drink to have with Gold Bar whiskey, a small bottle of which had just shown in the mail.
Gold Bar is a blended American whiskey made from three grains: corn, rye, and barley, aged in French oak, and, as they say, “matured by the sea” in San Francisco. I love a good ocean-going yarn! It’s also in one of the more amazing packages, a golden box with a brass Lady of Fortune (illustrated by an artist) coin pressed into the front for good luck. All of which would be only a good story if the whiskey didn’t taste good – luckily indeed it has a friendly taste as well as the shiny gleaming container. Very smooth, very approachable, with a little vanilla and spice and melon scents unfolding into more spice, apple, and vanilla on the tongue.
Its amiable nature made me think maybe it would be good in the Clifton, though that drink originally called for rye, with an equal part of dry vermouth. Along with a dash of Angostura and a dash of “brown” curaçao. I’ll admit, I’m not sure on the latter, and I wasn’t really happy about how the equality-of-vermouth was going to go. So, I went with Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao (the finest available in modern times), and just started playing around with the amounts of our main ingredients. And, voila, we took home the gold. And by that, I mean it all came together into a bright, light, drink, with herbal and botanical hints and a smooth whiskey hum underneath.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More