Here’s something neat you should know about (hopefully you already do, but just in case), every year, the Woodinville Whiskey Co. from up here in Washington has a special Harvest Release. I wrote about the 2018 Harvest Release and how fans and whiskey devotees line up starting the night before in an article for Seattle magazine, if you want to get the flavor of the event surrounding the releases. The actual Harvest Releases, the whiskies, are only available at the distillery, giving you a perfect reason to visit that lovely space, and our lovely state, if you aren’t already here in W-A. However, this year, the Harvest Release stretches out-of-state, too, in a way! See, this year’s release is Woodinville’s Straight Bourbon Finished in Ginja Casks!
If you read “Ginja” and aren’t sure what it means, don’t feel silly – took me a minute of brain-wracking myself before I remembered that Ginja, or Ginjinha, is a brandy-based Portuguese liqueur made with ginja berries (those being a type of sour cherry, also called Morello cherries in some locales), as well as cinnamon and sugar – a liqueur like so many first made by a very thirsty and enterprising friar. Amazing! Woodinville Whiskey took their bourbon made with grain grown for them exclusively on the Omlin Farm in Quincy, WA, then distilled in Woodinville, and then aged over five-years in Central WA, and when it was good and ready let it spend some time in casks (or barrels, as you may say) that had been used for that very Ginjinha liqueur. I’m gonna say it again – amazing!
And not just an amazing process, but the taste of this Harvest Release – wheeeee! On the nose berry-y as you might expect, and jammy in the best way, with notes of same surfacing in the taste, which boasts a smooth approachable sweetness as well as swirling fresh and dried cherry, cardamon, and cinnamon. Very very drinkable. I heard Woodinville distiller Brett Carlile said that sipping this bourbon was almost like sipping a Manhattan, and I completely agree – the whiskey’s honey-cherry-ness echoes that famous drink. Dandy all on its own, or over a cube of ice, this is one harvest/Portuguese favorite not to be missed. So, I suggest you pick up a bottle (even if having to fly in. It’ll be worth it)!
I recently had a wonderfully wonderful (if I can say so in all humbleness, which I think I just did) drink on the old Spiked Punch called Boldness Be My Friend, which featured not one, not two, but three lesser-known (in the States, at least, and other countries outside the one they were birthed in, at least, and maybe even there) liquid lovelies from Italy. If you haven’t seen that, check it out, yo! Or, it Italian, dai un’occhiata a yo! And now that you’re back, think about the simplicity and simple pleasure of a good vermouth and tonic. The gin and tonic, of course, is more well known, but a good vermouth and tonic is in need of more recognition. With the right vermouth, it’s a flavorful, refreshing, fruity, herb-y, treat that more sippers should savor slowly. I’m sad I haven’t yet managed to track down the distillery where Ippocrasso vermouth is made, in Gubbio (a memorable Umbrian town to visit, by the by), but the vermouth itself is singular, both in Boldness Be My Friend in a V&T. As mentioned in the other recipe, this vermouth is built on a base of Cantina Donini red wine (a memorable winery, in Verna, Italy), and has a bold fruitiness, with a delicate overall persona that’s just right for matching with tonic on a sunny late afternoon or early evening, or, if you’re feeling it, even into the evening as it goes along. I suggest a lemon twist as the garnish, by the way. The tartness of the lemon oil plays perfectly with the vermouth and tonic. Try it, and tell me I’m right.
I’m a bit behind in boasting about this, but recently I was lucky enough to be able to visit Highside Distilling on Bainbridge Island out here in the WA, and then even luckier enough to be able to write about said distillery for the beautiful (I’m all about the b’s today) Seattle magazine. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, be sure to check out my Highside Distilling article now (please, hahaha). And while reading is nice, I strongly suggest that if you haven’t had the even more pleasure-filled chance to visit Highside, then you get on out there to try their gin, amari, and other treats. You know (don’t you?) that WA has the finest distillers in the land?
Haha, I stole this drink name from a line in a comic written by genius writer and all-around good chap Paul Tobin. It’s such as momentous name! And this is such a springtime-y drink, one you might have as the sun goes down in early May with your feet up on the porch railing, or one you might have in January when you’re dreaming of that springtime scene. So, sorta opposite of the name, which I find delightful. Of course, you could also have this when battling for time itself, and in a way you might need to, as one of the ingredients is Bluewater Distillery’s Organic Elderflower Cardamom liqueur, so you’ll need to bend time to visit WA if you don’t live here, specifically the city of Everett, which is where Bluewater is located. It’ll be worth it, cause this singular liqueur is a vision, with the botanical elderflower and citrus-y spice of cardamom all mingling together like that spring day I mentioned above. Yummy.
And, while you’re here, you’ll want to pick up the other awesome WA ingredients that make this cocktail so dynamic, starting with Wildwood Spirits’ Läka gin. Though you might not be able to find it, as it’s a limited release (battling for time again!). This gin is/was made from a host of localities, and has a lovely classic gin profile, with strong juniper and spice notes. If you can’t find it, sub in its sibling Kur gin, which is an award-winning gin charmer you don’t want to miss — a touch more citrus, a smidge more lofty botanicals. You also don’t want to miss our third WA star: Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters. I’ve talked about a bunch this already (in a recipe called Pina’s Potion, and in a recipe called A Moment of Unmixed Happiness, and in an article for Seattle magazine), so all I’ll say here is, it’s one of those ingredients that might change your life. Probably will. Lemony, floral, earthy, there is nothing like it! And I need a bigger bottle today!
All those together, plus a little lemon juice, and I believe you may well win the dynamic battle for time itself! Try a few of these and see.
Making your own bottled delights is awfully fun, and recently (if you take history as a whole, at least), I and wife Nat were lucky enough to go down to Copperworks – a delightful distillery making award-winning single malt American whiskey, gin, and more – right here in Seattle to take part in one of their blend your own whiskey classes. It was dreamy, and then I got to write all about it for the dreamy Seattle magazine. Go check that whiskey blending article out, and then sign up for a class and make your own! Because you can’t have mine, hahaha.
Baby, it’s cold outside. But my recent pieces on the Seattle magazine blog will warm you right up – because they’re about bars, and drinks, and spirits, and such, all of which are the warming-est things in the world, outside of a good dog, that is. So, what are you waiting for? Warm up with these:
Okay, don’t be upset with me, but this drink contains an ingredient that is not only made in Washington state (so, un-local for some – though, really, come on out here, where the whiskey is fine), but may not even be on the market completely in Washington state yet. See, I received a bit of an advanced sample – again, don’t be upset with me. I can’t help the luck! That ingredient is Medusa!
And, because I liked this Medusa, an American whiskey from the Cadée distillery out this way on Whidbey Island, so much I just had to make a drink with it. A straight bourbon whiskey that’s been matured in 10-year-old Spanish Madeira wine barrels, Medusa, unlike the creature it’s named after, it won’t turn you to stone, though you may be struck by happiness for a moment when you take sips, thanks to its gentle nutty caramelly sweetness, and some intriguing emerging red stone fruit layers (ripe cherries, especially).
With the latter notes in mind, my first partner for it was another lovely local product that also is fruity (in the best way), Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur. Sidetrack grows all the fruit used in their liqueurs and other products on the sweetest farm you’d ever want to see, right outside of Kent Washington, and their Blackberry is the essence of summer. Well, one of them, because I also added muddled up Rainer cherries (the essence of early summer) here two. So much summer! And then, to round things out, a little Peychaud’s bitters. All together, a treat whether the sun is bright or has gone down. It might be hard to track all the ingredients for some, but trust me, it’ll be well worth it.
Hey, did you realize, the first day of summer was yesterday! On the calendar, it told me so, and so I thought I’d better have a Captain’s Blood to celebrate. One, because in summer, everyone is a Captain. Two, because the real blood in this drink is rum, and rum and summer go together like Captains and big hats – or big shields, if Captain America. Three, because the secondary blood in here is lime juice, which also goes so well with summer (like Captains and good catchphrases), and as a bonus will help keep the summer scurvy at bay. Four, because the tertiary blood here in orange bitters, a classic for summer and any time of year, and also a healing liquid I feel, and in summer of course you want to be healthy, Captain or not. Fifth, because this drink is easy, tangy, and boozy, all important components of summer drinks and of Captains (Captain America only the latter when not saving the galaxy naturally). Captains!
Oh, also, I used Washington-made Skiprock Distillery’s Belle Rose Amber rum, aged in used whiskey barrels; it boasts a caramel, vanilla, and sugar rum-ness accented by traces of tobacco and whiskey. I also used Washington-made Scrappy’s Orange bitters, because I love the locals, sure, but also cause it’s a beaut of a bitters, using fresh and bitter oranges and peels, and a nice orange-and-herbal flavor.
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