December 21, 2018
The holiday season can be lots of happiness. It can also be lots of hectic-ness. And lots of jolly. And lots of a word that starts with “j” but means “nutty” (why can’t I think of such a word? can you?), as sometimes they get that way. Luckily, it’s more of the former in those two sentences, and less of the latter, but as the latter can creep in, and as at least as I write we’re in the thick of holi-things, I’m going to not even come up with a snazzy name for the drink I’m having (or a classic name, for those classically-named things), but just going to keep it straight: Cynar 70 Highball. Which is okay, really (even for a naming snob like me), cause it gets to the point. The Cynar 70 point.
Cynar, if you don’t, is an amaro, really (those Italian digestifs the kids are in to), made from artichokes and 13 herbs and spices starting in 1952, though it really took off in the 60s, thanks to some commercials starring Ernesto Calindri, an Italian movie and television star and a perfect Italian gentleman, who in said commercials usually in the middle of some chaos (an energetic family, a busy street) sipping Cynar, or Cynar and soda, without a care in the world. Cynar shades a little on the sweeter side, and was an only child until recently when Cynar 70 was released – to the happiness of the world! It’s, as the name gives away, 70 proof, so about double the umph of the original with a slightly more bitter-y and earthy nature, while still bringing the herbal goodness and just a hint of sweet. It is dreamy in cocktails, and by itself. Even in those simple cocktails you might want when the holidays get bustle-y, and you want to not have a care in the world.
Cynar 70 Highball
2 ounces Cynar 70
4 ounces club soda
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Cynar 70, and then the soda.
2. Garnish with the orange twist. Relax.
February 16, 2018
I’ve had a few cocktails on the Spiked Punch already featuring awesome Ardbeg Scotches – heck, if you haven’t seen them, you should check them out. Recently (I guess I was born under a lucky star!) I received one of their newest numbers in the mail, the mysteriously named Ardbeg An Oa.
Named after the Mull of Oa, a very dramatic point on the cliffy pinnacle of Oa on Islay – where Ardbeg is as well – An Oa is a little dramatic, too, in that it’s spent time in the new Ardbeg Gathering Vat which boasts whiskies from multiple casks – sherry, virgin charred oak, ex-bourbon – all hanging out. There has to be some drama, right? Of the best kind, as is obvious in the end result here, a Scotch that’s an approachable sipper with a fair amount of smoky and peatiness, but also sweetness on the nose and taste, as well as citrus and spice in the former, and black tea, chocolate, citrus, and a savoryness in the latter. Overall, a great Scotch, solo or over ice.
But also one I had to try in cocktails (‘natch)! But what to pair it with? I wanted an end result that had some umph and retained the Scotch’s personality, but also with a few other notes and notices. After trying a little of this, and a little of that, went with just two more pals from hither and thither. Starting with Cynar, the legendary Italian artichoke liqueur, which is now much more available and renowned (as it should be) than the first time I had it, thanks to the herbal and slightly sweet taste that goes well before and after dinner and in cocktails. The third ingredient is lesser known, Sásta, a tea-based liqueur from Four Leaf Spirits, based right outside of Seattle. Might not be the easiest to get right now if you’re not in WA, but hey, come visit! Sásta is well worth the trip, with a citrus, mint, chamomile, and rooibos tea combo built over a cane spirit base and local honey. This liqueur isn’t that sweet, carries a bit of a kick, and has layers of orange, spice, and herbal moments.
The above trio delivers a cocktail with lots of umph, smokiness, and a ridiculous amount of flavors. Not one to throw back, but one to let linger on the tongue some, where those flavors can come on out to be noticed.
2 ounces Ardbeg An Oa
3/4 ounces Cynar
1/2 ounce Four Leaf Spirits Sásta tea liqueur
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the orange twist (notice there is no twist in the photo – well, I tried this without, and with, and the with was better, but I forgot to photo it).
February 17, 2017
I was recently lucky enough (don’t be mad at me – I like to share) to receive a bottle of Novo Fogo Single Barrel cachaça – it was from barrel 152, to be precise. If you don’t know Novo Fogo, well, you should! They’re an organic-certified, handcrafting, recycled-glass using, zero wasting cachaça distiller (from Brazil naturally, where all cachaça is made), incredibly focused on sustainability and using processes that are going to deliver high-quality spirits, sure, but also make it possible to do this over the long term without destroying their neighborhood. That gets a RIGHT ON! from me.
With all that said, I need to drink more cachaça. It’s made from fresh-pressed sugar cane, and there are loads available there days, many solid versions and a lot of variety in taste and such. But now back to the matter at hand. Barrel 152 has a good history – aged for three years in oak, it’s a sip-able representation of Novo’s locale (coastal mountains), with a hint of the sea in the aroma, along with cream, and a flavor of toasted coconut, walnuts, more cream and butter, and oak. Neat or over a single ice cube, it’s something to savor.
But also something to put in cocktails (in my mind). It came accompanied by a little history/recipe book, in which I found the below recipe, in the barrel-aged cachaça section. When reading it, I got thirsty. Usually, I like to play around and create my own concoction (or rescue one from long ago) when I receive a new bottle, but here, I figured, the 152 was aged, so I’d give this recipe a try using it. I suggest you do the same, cause it’s a lovely, layered drink, with the herbal notes from our other players mingling perfectly with the Barrel 152 savory notes. It gets a RIGHT ON! as well.
Rabo del Galo
1-1/2 ounces Novo Fogo Single Barrel 152 cachaça
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce Cynar
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
Wide swath of orange peel
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the orange. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Spritz the orange over the drink, so the citrus oil is expressed. You can add the peel to the glass, too, if you want.
October 21, 2016
At some point this month, I myself will be in Italy, and I can’t be happier about it (having lived there once, it’s easy to see that I am a big fan), and in a way this drink is a bubbly celebration of that happiness. Though, it’s also perhaps a more serious number (not in a bad way, at all) than some bubbly Italian drinks. Howso? It starts with grappa, which I love, and which is of course a cousin to wine, and as you probably guessed by the “bubbly,” this also has Italian sparkler Prosecco. Let’s hold on that for a second, to talk about the third ingredient, Cynar. A member of the digestif amari family, Cynar is crafted from artichokes along with 12 other herbs and plants. It’s a wee stitch bitter, but has a great smooth herbal-ness and a small comforting sweetness, too. It’s swell solo, but also in drinks, and plays well with the strong grappa here. But back to the Prosecco – to hold up to those other two strong personalities, you need a bubbly with its own strong sense of purpose and flavor, and here I went with Zonin Black edition (a bottle came in the mail recently – yes, I was born under a good sign). It’s a slightly spicier Prosecco, with cardamom hints alongside apple and a little floralness. Combined with our other two Italian imports, this makes for an effervescent drink that can be had both before and after dinner, and perhaps savored more than most.
The Italian Evening
1 ounce grappa
1 ounce Cynar
4 ounces chilled Zonin Black edition Prosecco
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the grappa and Cynar. Stir well.
2. Strain into a flute. Top with the Prosecco. Stir to combine. Garnish with the lemon twist.
December 5, 2014
Sometimes you have bad days. Sometimes you have busy days. Sometimes you have busy weeks. Here’s hoping you don’t have bad weeks that combine all the above. But if you do, well, this may well be the drink for you. But it’s also just a darn good drink, one that has layers and layers of flavors happening, and depth galore. It utilizes a lot of Seattle-area ingredients, so stock up next time you’re out this way (though many are them are available in other areas, too, and more all the time, thankfully). And one key Italian pal, too.
The Mean Season
1-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company whiskey
1 ounce Seattle Distilling Company coffee liqueur
1/2 ounce Cynar
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1 dash Scrappy’s cardamom bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.