January 24, 2020
Earlier this month of January, I had a drink I was drinking called the The Libellule (basically, a classic Dragonfly but with lemon), in which I utilized the lovely PiùCinque gin, a gin made in Italy with 10 botanicals. If you haven’t read that post, for gosh sakes, where have you been? Nah, I kid, I kid, I know you’re busy, what with the this-and-that’s. But do go read it now, to get more info on said Italian gin. Okay, back? See, wanted you to catch up on that there, cause in this drink, I mix PiùCinque gin with a few other Italian bottles: Anonima Distillazioni’s Ippocrasso vermouth from Gubbio, and Zafferaneto Di Corciano’s Safra Amaro all Zafferano from (as you might guess here) Corciano.
As you might guess, for those unlucky souls not visiting Umbria in central Italy, those two ingredients are probably not on your local liquor store shelves – yet at least! Who knows what tomorrow brings; one hopes. The fourth ingredient is orange juice, but that’s easy, so let us focus on the other two, both of which are delicious, in their own way. Ippocrasso vermouth is based on a red wine from Donini (my favorite winery in the world I’d say), so it starts in a wonderful place. It’s on the light side, but still lush, and has a bountiful fruitiness that sets it apart from many Italian vermouths, and a little less sweetness perhaps? Perhaps. Some friendly herbal and bitter notes bring up the rear. Safra (there’s an accent over that “a” by the way, but it’s annoying to type) Amaro alla Zafferano is one of the few – if not the only – amari I’ve had that sets itself apart with saffron. It doesn’t have a saffron-y coloring, but the smell and taste both benefit from saffron’s florally-honey-coaxingly-bitter-y nature, here backed by other herbal notes, friendly ones. On the amari scale, this leans a smidge on the sweet side, very approachable.
So, with our gin, we have three amazing Italian ingredients, all crafted with care from what I can tell, and all worth tracking down. Will it be easy? Perhaps not super easy, but hey, as our drink title tells you, just ask boldness to be your friend. Will it be worth it? Yes, for sure! Both to have each separately, but also to have in this cocktail, where they combine into the liquid equivalent of, oh, a painting by Perugino – one of the darker ones, as there is a rich, deep, herbal and fruit taste here, but also one that’s savor-able and approachable. Get your tickets, today!
Boldness Be My Friend
1-1/2 ounces PiùCinque gin
3/4 ounce Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso vermouth
1/2 ounces Zafferaneto Di Corciano Safra Amaro all Zafferano
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Enjoy your Italian night!
January 10, 2020
It’s funny, in a curious way, because it’s January, and January is known as a bit of a cold-hearted month for a number of reasons; one, cause it’s cold! But, the curiously funny thing is, that for the second time in two weeks, I’m having not a winter warmer, but a light, refreshing, mix with ginger beer and ice cubes and sunshine (admittedly, chilly sunshine, but sunshine, pals, is sunshine). This devilish mix, though, is such an old favorite, and (perhaps more important? I’d say most important) my wife’s top drink, or at least top five, that it gets consumed at our house – or at nearby bars – year round. It’s a treat year round, too, as the tequila smoke and warmth play so perfectly with the ginger beer, and then that unexpected in a way, slight sweet fruity boop from the cassis and tangy tang of lime (or lemon, in a pinch, hence the “esque” in this this title, but, you know, needs must), all combining into a, well, treat! No matter what the day of the year.
One note: some folks (many?) shake the tequila, juice, and cassis first. That’s not my style. I’m not saying my style is better, oh no! But I do how I do. You do you. We all can still toast drinks.
The El Diablo-esque
1-1/2 ounces tequila (often, reposado, but I think blanco is nice, too)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3-1/2 ounces ginger beer
1/2 ounce crème de cassis
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a big-ish highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the tequila, lemon juice, and ginger beer. Stir thoroughly, but no need to chase the devil in an over-rambunctious manner.
2. Carefully drizzle the cassis over-the-top of the mix (I tend to angle towards the edges, but that’s me, again). If you want, give it a brief stir. Garnish with the lemon. Go January, go!
January 3, 2020
Gin. Geeeeeen. Gin. I remember when I first started making drinks with gorgeous (mostly!) gin, way way way back in the dawn of time, moreorless, a darker age in many drink ways. Back then, we only had a few gin choices, and even less choices in other boozy things. But we’re talking gin here friends, ol’ junipally gin. So, back then, again, I thought of gin in a probably more regimented fashion. But, like many (and many more each day, one hopes), I’ve learned as time has passed, and the imbibing world has changed. Jumping into our time machines (you have one, right?) from those way-back-then days of few gins to today and BOOM, gins-a-popping. All kinds of variations on the gin theme. Which leads to today, where I’m drinking a wonderful gin distilled in Italy, a gin called PiùCinque. Now, I love gin. And I love Italy. But I didn’t know that, as in many spots, Italy’s long and distinguished distilling and delicious-tipple-making scene had embraced gin, too – but it has! PiùCinque utilizes ten specific botanicals to give it a very individual taste, but one that stays true to the gin roots, with a nice even juniper-ness. One that’s partnered with nine intriguing friends (which gets us to ten, see), including I think sage, ginger root, wormwood flowers, angelica, Seville orange (if I’m reading things rightly), almond, the earthy mysterious zedoary, orris root, and lemony, springtime bergamot. That latter really brings this gin into its own, starting the taste off with light citrus notes that then smoothly move into the grounded, herbal, nut, root notes. Definitely worth a solo sipping over a cube or two.
But also, a fine ingredient for cocktails! I was sitting in some unexpectedly warm December sunshine considering gin, all the gins I’ve had, and especially this new-to-me gin, PiùCinque, and decided I wanted a refreshing mix, and something simple (cause I’m sometimes lazy, you know) and decided on an old, old friend, the Dragonfly. This basic mix of gin, ginger beer, and (usually) lime is a dandy manner to take a gin new-to-you out for a walk, so to speak. However! I only had lemons. And I was using this Italian gin for the first time! So, I changed up the name a slight bit, as one does. Anyway! The lemon actually worked a treat with this gin’s lighter, high end citrus notes, and the gin itself brought all those botanicals to the party, and, well, the drink was delicious. End of gin story! Now, I just have to figure out how to fill my suitcase when in Italy with Italian gins, so that the Italian gins can cuddly up on my gin shelf with my other gins! Gin!
1-1/2 ounces PiùCinque gin
Approximately 4 ounces ginger beer (Fever-Tree and its genuine ginger soul worked a treat)
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or other glass (that fits the scene) three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the gin, gently.
2. Add the ginger beer, and stir in a manner that’s not too wacky, but does combine well. Squeeze the lemon over and drop it in. Drink up, with a nod to Italy (unless you’re in Italy, in which case, just be happy you’re there).
October 4, 2019
Okay, hopefully this isn’t annoying (too much), but I’m going to lay out a perfect chilly-fall-night drink, but it has not one, but two ingredients that might not be easy for all to get – however, they are worth getting, so get on your buggies (or whatever you use for transportation) and perhaps time machines (or whatever you use to travel through time). The first is from the swell sweethearts at Seattle Distilling Company, a whiskey made from Washington-grown rye (the best rye, I’m guessing), called Brockway Hill, which has a lovely rye spice flavor and umph and is well worth sipping solo as well as in this cocktail. However! That’s not the end of the story, as this delight was named for a Vashon Island bootlegger from back during the sad time called prohibition. Does that story make it taste better? Yep, yep it does! Our second ingredient alluded to above is another WA-made delight: Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. A seasonal Scrappy’s (hence the harder to get, and maybe the need for time machines), it as-you’d-expect utilizes Seville oranges, the peels specifically, and delivers cozy marmalade and winter spice action. Watch for it as the snow falls. Our last ingredient in this Manhattan-y trio is actually more available now than it was – because it’s fairly new and wasn’t available at all in the dark days of the past: Cynar 70. If you haven’t had the amazing and fairly-legendary Italian artichoke-based amaro Cynar, then shame on you. Have it now, and then have its higher-proof sibling, Cynar 70. The latter still brings the herbally goodness, but with a bit of a stronger kick, a kick that can be nice to have in cocktails such at this one. Drink up (but not when driving that buggy).
Rye on Earth
2-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company Brockway Hill whiskey
1/2 ounce Cynar 70
2 dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Blackberry, for garnish*
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ices. Add our trio of stalwarts. Stir well.
2. Add your blackberry to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix into said glass.
*You could go a cherry here. But blackberries are cool. And you wanna be cool, right?
September 20, 2019
Fall officially starts in three days, and I can feel it (this happens when you get to be my age – it could also just be a good thing to say) deep inside. And what does one sip when the fall is about to start and you can feel it, and winter behind it, always, coming? Well, a Whiskey Sour seems like a good choice, with that heft of whiskey and the citrus zing underneath, and then an echo of sweet (to remind you and spring, also always, follows winter). At least that’s the route I’m running today!
The Whiskey Sour
2 ounces Four Roses straight bourbon
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.
September 13, 2019
Ah well, all good things must pass – even the sunny days of summertime. The least we could do was have a drink to celebrate, and to do it right, the drink should probably have perhaps my favorite summertime treat in it (there are many! But this is tops), blackberries from the Lazy River Farm. This particular farm is not only home to the best blackberries in the world (big, fat, juicy at a level I’d never had before), but also home to Sidetrack Distillery, one of my all-time favorite distilleries anywhere. You should visit! Here, I use a bunch of blackberries to bring the flavor, then a few other friends to add a little of this (vodka), and that (Narancello, for a bit of orange), and that other (lemon, for the tang). It’s a nice treaty, and a good way to honor – and say so long to – summer.
The End of Summer
2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Narancello orange liqueur
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
Blackberry, for garnish
1. Add the first 6 blackberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well to just really get the juices flowing.
2. Fill the shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vodka and lemon juice. Shake well.
3. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the final blackberry.
September 6, 2019
Here’s a question that I’m curious about – in our modern (and here, I’m thinking super modern and recent, in the last years) drinking world here in the U.S., why hasn’t genever become more of a regular base spirit for drinks? I mean, I understand it wasn’t widely available until said recency, and sometimes it’s hard to change, and for a while, even I only really knew about one brand (Bols Genever, which is a dandy spot to start, and which I used recently in a Genever Julep recipe). But recently, I was able to sample a whole range, and it’s really interesting that there are many variations on the theme. If you don’t know (and again, don’t feel bad if you don’t – recency and all. But now you will), genever has been consumed for health and happiness since the 1500s, and is made from malt wine. Think malty-ness a bit like whiskey, but a juniper and herbal profile like gin, with all the variations therein. It was used more, I think, way back in the day, and so I’ve been going the classic route, and it’s still late summer, so I’ve also been hitting the G&Ts (I don’t need to tell you how G&Ts and summer go together). Then it hit me – why not Genever & Tonic? I used Bobby’s Schiedam Jenever (side note: sometimes you see Jenever as well as Genever), which utilizes that malt wine base and then a juniper, cubeb pepper, lemongrass, cardamom herb package. Yummy! But, admittedly, not super available over here yet – don’t worry! Other genevers, and I think Bols, for example, would be delicious here. But you need to have a great tonic, and I used locally-made &Tonic, a tonic syrup (if you’re not on top of tonic syrups, read this tonic syrup article), handcrafted and ridiculously good. Try this drink, as soon as you can!
Genever and Tonic
1/2 ounce &Tonic tonic syrup
3-1/2 to 4 ounces club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass with ice cubes. Add the genever and tonic syrup. Stir briefly. Add the soda (use a little more or less as taste drives you). Stir.
2. Garnish with the twist. Think about how awesome the modern drinking world is.
March 22, 2019
As spring continues shaking off winter, and the world continues its slow movements, various plants are springing up and blooming and peeking through the cold and snow (if you still have snow) and such. One of which – which really, toughs it out pretty well throughout the earth’s whirls – for me is rosemary. I have, as do lots up here, lots of rosemary. And while it’s fragrant and a nice herb to have around, sometimes, you have to think outside the box to decide what to do with it all. So: rosemary simple syrup! Or making a giant rosemary robot. I tend to go for the former, but if you go for the latter, okay! So, rosemary simple, which goes perfectly with rum and herbal-sipper Becherovka from the Czech Republic. So, if you have a little rosemary happening, now you know what to do with it.
Atomula (with the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz)
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Becherovka
1/2 ounce rosemary simple syrup (see A Note below)
Rosemary sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Becherovka, and rosemary simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the rosemary sprig.
A Note: To make rosemary simple syrup add 1 cup fresh rosemary leaves, 2½ cups water, and 3 cups sugar to a medium-size saucepan. Stirring occasionally, slowly bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat. Then lower the heat a bit, keeping the mixture at a simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the syrup completely cool in the pan. Strain through cheesecloth or a very fine strainer, and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.