December 7, 2018
It may, at first glance, not seem for much of the world to be the season for walking outside, no matter how nice your greenery is. However, I find a brisk walk on a chilly-but-sunny day to be invigorating, especially if you do it while sipping this cocktail, and then end it with some nice, hearty, slightly sweet, baked goods. How does that all go together? Well, really, it’s thanks to Everett’s (that’s up here in the W-A for those who don’t know) Bluewater Organic Distilling, who just released their Wintersun aquavit. An organic spirit (like all of theirs), it’s a shout out to distiller John Lundin’s Swedish heritage, and with that has an essence much like the traditional aquavits you might have encountered (though there are tons), but with a distinctive balanced aroma and flavor bringing together caraway, anise, and orange.
I (don’t be jealous – it’s the holiday season) recently got a bottle in the mail and after trying it out solo (which you should too, as it’s worthy all alone), had to try it in a cocktail, too. Because that’s what I do! After playing around with a little of this and a little of that, I found some swell in-the-shaker dancing partners, starting with another Northwest hit, broVo spirits’ (from up here in Woodinville) delicious award-winning cherry liqueur Boomerang. It has a lush cherry-ness combined with a little vanilla, walnut, cinnamon, apricot, and citrus. You can – until you try it – dream about how this would combine perfectly with the Wintersun, and why the baked goods are a good idea. However! That wasn’t it. After much liquid hemming-and-hawing, I felt a little bit more of this and that was needed. And the this was old pal maraschino liqueur, and the that was Scrappy’s legendary Cardamom bitters. They rounded that spice and fruit level out to eleven. The shrubbery will feel overjoyed to have you walking through it with this mix – and you’ll be pretty happy about it, too.
Walking Through the Shrubbery
2 ounces Bluewater Wintersun Aquavit
3/4 ounces broVo Boomerang cherry liqueur
1/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur
1 dash Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add it all. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass of your choosing. Garnish with the twist. Walk through shrubbery (with a big coat, if chilly).
November 30, 2018
Though, admittedly, there are a fair amount of decent ones out there now-a-days, I’m still a little wary of flavored vodkas. Don’t get me wrong, unlike some, I like a good vodka, one with a crisp clear taste – but have just been scared off by pre-flavored vodka nonsense in the past, where the chemicals used to created said “flavor” rule the bottle roost, so to speak. However, CA distillery Hangar 1 is pretty reliably high on the standards, and their Mandarin Blossom, especially is an old fav. So, when I recently (I know, I’m lucky!) received a bottle of their latest in the mail, I was inclined to be welcoming.
But it was a rosé vodka! Which I’d never heard of. However (again!), I am nothing if not adventuresome, so, combining that with Hangar 1’s rep, I decided to dive in (metaphorically), and – I was glad I did! Here’s the skinny: it mixes Hangar 1’s vodka and California rosé wine. That’s it. Neighbors combining together, without anything else. It has a clean, floral, apple-y nose, and an also a clean, fresh taste, with a real rosé-ness, with more floral notes and a bit of fresh berry, and a nice dry finish. It’s good all alone over a little ice, a hit for spring and summer when you want something that’s smooth, but which has a little umph. But it’s a smart choice in fall and winter, too, when you want a dream of spring and summer.
But, as you’d expect from something made with two good neighbors, it’s neighborly playing with others in cocktails – and I didn’t wait long to start playing around with it and others. Because of those floral, botanical notes, I ended up traveling down a bouquet-ish road after trying a few things, bringing in some delicate and delicious crème di violette, and wine-based delicately herbal French aperitif Lillet Blanc (a distant cousin of sorts to our vodka, due to the wine connection). The final part of this flowery fête was a few dashes of Scrappy’s lovely Lavender bitters. All together, you’ll take many looks with One More Look, as the layers of floral fun are sure to be a hit.
One More Look
2 ounces Hangar 1 Rosé vodka
3/4 ounce crème di violette
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
Dash Scrappy’s Lavender bitters
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked iced. Add every blossom (or everything). Stir.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist. Enjoy, neighbor, enjoy.
November 23, 2018
Hey, guess what – yesterday was Thanksgiving! Wait, you knew that? Then perhaps what I’m about to be telling you is something you’re already aware of, as it’s as much as Thanksgiving tradition as turkey. That’s right, I’m talking about the post-Thanksgiving (either day of, or day after, that being today) Gizmo, which utilizes the leftover cranberry sauce. This one (you probably know this, too, as it’s part of the legend of Thanksgiving) comes from Jeremy Holt, from way back to the 1600s, or thereabouts.
2-1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce homemade cranberry sauce
1/2 ounce simple syrup (optional)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin and cranberry sauce, and syrup if using (I like the syrup, but I also like second helping of dessert). Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up around bites of leftover stuffing.
November 16, 2018
Okay, yes, you caught me. I’m having a Golden Frog, and Italian-ing it in name. I’m apologize, but I just returned from Italy (or maybe I’m on my way back still, sometimes when traveling and taking time away it’s nearly dreamlike, and time does strange things to you, especially in Umbria I believe, when you’re on a hillside and the sun in bright and the air is crisp and you have a drink of vodka, Galliano, Strega, and lemon juice, and everything is so gold, gold, gold), and am craving a little more Italian vacation in my day, and so here I am with a La Rana d’Oro and you’re hassling me about the name? You probably won’t get one, then.
La Rana d’Oro
1-1/2 ounces vodka
1-1/2 ounces Galliano
1/2 ounce Strega
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with ice cubes. Add the vodka, Galliano, Strega, and lemon juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Serve in an Italian manner.
November 9, 2018
I’m just gonna quote one of my favorite headnotes here (I know, I know, vulgar to quote myself, but what the heck), from Good Spirits:
“It’s as if I never left. In a canoe. On the longest river in Europe, the Volga. Ice in every direction. Bears and bear-like animals along the banks. A storm railing against that canoe for every one of the 2,300 miles. Crazy birds circling, waiting for the canoe crash to pick the remains clean from splinters. Water splashing over the sides like a curse. And then the sturgeon with their beady eyes tracing my progress from the deep pockets. The banks birthing jagged rock after jagged rock, taunting me with possible capsize after capsize. But did I worry? No sir, and no ma’am. I poured a Volga and sat backed and smiled. If you’re every stuck on a long river, I suggest doing the same.”
This is made even better if you use Sidetrack Distillery’s Cassis, which is tarty, fruity, and awesome-y.
2 ounces vodka
3/4 ounce cream de cassis
1/2 ounce heavy cream
Two raspberries for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice cubes. Add the vodka, cassis, and cream. Shake well.
2. Add the two raspberries to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix into the glass. Za vashe zdorov’ye!
November 2, 2018
Maybe I’m missing summer, maybe I’m a bore (get it? sure you do!), maybe I’m feeling tropical amidst the descending days of winter, or maybe I’m heading to San Leo tomorrow – whichever the I’m I am, I decided I needed one of these today. It features an Italian tamarind syrup (any good molasses-y textured tamarind syrup will do, and if you can’t find one, him, try a pomegranate syrup and call this a Sleeping Cinghiale’s Bikini) and other jolly pals.
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
3/4 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeeze lime juice
1/2 Carlo Erba Tamarindo syrup
Lime slice, for garnish
Pineapple slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, juices, and tamarind. Shake really well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass, or whatever good glass is nearby. Garnish with the lime slice and pineapple slice.
October 2, 2018
I have a fair amount of books by Cornell Woolrich
(writer of Rear Window and many other memorable noir-y numbers, though criminally under-read and under-known today, and also a fella who had a not-very-peppy life, for being a big seller, to say the least), and go through phases where he’s a favorite – well, maybe he always is, but I have to be in the right mood, if that makes sense, or ready for the right mood. His books are very edge-of-your-seat in a way that’s all his own. Not the breakneck pace of some, not the catchy lines and characters of others, but his leads are always in a depressing, serious, jam of some sort (I’m underselling with “jam”), and slowly, with the tension every-increasing, trying to find a way out. Take The Black Angel
. The lead lady has a husband, who’s been cheating and who is on death row for the death of his mistress, but our wonderful lead believe he’s innocent and so goes through a serious of super harrowing sort-of undercover escapades to try and find the real murderer – and it gets more nerve-wracking and ultimately depressing from there. But the atmospherics and language are all amazing. And there are some really good bar scenes, too, including the below, about cocktails and dating:
“There’s no good reason for getting stuck, really. It’s the simplest thing in the world. You see the thing through past the cocktails. I meant, a cocktail will get you through practically anything, anyway. If it’s the face that bothers you you’ve got an olive to look at instead. Then with the soup, you step outside a second to buy a pack of cigarettes. You pick some brand you’re dammed sure they won’t be able to bring to your table, in case there happens to be a ciggie girl in the place.”
–Cornell Woolrich, The Black Angel
August 31, 2018
A swell drink as we slowly shift away from the height of summer into the end of summer and the beginning of fall, the Bijou, as legends have it, was originally created by the legendary Harry Johnson in the late 1800s, with a recipe printed in his New and Improved Bartender Manual from 1900. But I first found it in The Stork Club Bar Book by Lucius Beebe (published first in 1946). The name comes from the jewel definition of Bijou, as the drink has three ingredients aligning with jewels: gin and diamond, sweet vermouth and ruby, and Green Chartreuse and emeralds. Pretty!
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.