September 23, 2022
The world of spirits, liqueurs, and the cocktails one makes with them has undergone a wonderful internationalizing over the last, oh, 15 years (that number is not scientific, but more a musing digit that might approximate an impossible-to-actually-measure figure). By that I mean, so many products from around the globe once only consumed in their particular region or country are now being accessed by thankful drinkers in other spots. Make some sense? And this internationalizing is still rolling out, with more products showing in more spots. Again – thankful drinkers, including me! One type of produce that we’re finally seeing more of in WA (where I’m at) and the US in general is Shochu, the distilled tipple popular in Japan and made from a number of things: rice, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and more. I’ll fully and readily admit I’m not a Shochu expert, but what I’ve had, I’ve enjoyed for its earthy, rich flavors (varying depending on the base product distilled) and friendly drinkability.
So, I was very excited recently to receive some Shochu in the mail (don’t be upset with me! I know I’m lucky), from Honkaku Spirits, which is one of the companies helping to spread the word and accessibility of Shochu, along with other Japanese spirits. They’ve been around since 2020, and are focused, amazingly enough, on working with family-run distilleries, which is awesome! One of their newly released imbibables is Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu, which is what I’m sipping today. Crafted at the Jikuya distillery (around since 1910! And specializing in sweet potato Shochu “completely sourced and produced in Kagoshima, among other specifications”!) by fourth generation Master Brewer-Distiller, Ms. Maiko Jikuya at the base of Mount Shibi, this Shochu clocks in at 25% ABV, and delivers a lovely flavor. Starting with a light-on-its-feet herbally, flowery (not heavy perfume flowers, but wildflowers) essence, it flows into notes of red berries and hints, just hints, of tea. Neat! Very approachable, very drinkable. And, delicious over ice, solo or with sparkling water (sidenote: there is also a Jikuya Black Sweet Potato Shochu, which is earthier, and well worth trying, too).
Shochu is often served neat, with ice, or with soda water (as well as with warm or room temp water), sometime with fruit juice added to the latter. It’s not as often utilized in cocktails. Not to say it isn’t! Just, from what I’ve seen, not as often. But while I enjoyed/enjoy it solo, I had to test it out with a few other ingredients, cocktail-style, because, well, that’s what I do! And after a little finagling, I came up with a combo that I think lets the Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu shine, but also lets it play nicely with others. This Shochu has such a delicate but memorable (hah! That’s a funny combo, but it works for me) nature, I wanted the cocktail to match, so it took a bit to find the right pairings. I landed on maraschino liqueur (I went with Luxardo Maraschino), whose somewhat lighter nuttiness was a swell fit, Dolin Blanc vermouth, due to the floral notes and bit of cuddle it always brings, and Scrappy’s singular Cardamon bitters, whose light spices and more florally goodness shone with the others. This foursome together sings a (if I can say this while being humble) liquid delight! It manages to be both layered in flavor, spice, floral, fruit, and maintain that delicate, brightness from the Shochu. You may want to have another the minute you finish the first. As you do, give a toast to the whole world, which – for thankful drinkers – has become a smaller place.
A Tempest of Provocation
2-1/2 ounces Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Dash Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy.
September 21, 2018
Trends at times seem to come out of nowhere (probably because I am not as knowledgeable as I should be – I can admit that!), and one that has shown up in the last few years is various yuzu – the rough-skinned lemon-looking citrus fruit popular in Asian countries – items in cocktails. However, I hadn’t really found a yuzu-based ingredient that felt made for cocktails. Until this summer, the summer of 2018! When Sidetrack Distillery (the wondrous spot on a farm right outside Kent, WA here in WA) unveiled their new Yuzu Liqueur. Now, I know how good all of the Sidetrack Liqueurs are, made using fruit, produce, and other items grown on the Lazy River Farm where the distillery resides. So, I had high hopes for their Yuzu – and it delivers. Citrus-y in a way that straddles lemon, grapefruit, and little mandarin orange, it has orchard aromas for days, and then a rich taste that trails off with a bit of kick, balancing the liqueur’s sweetness. Great stuff and made locally to boot– but what to do with it?
Well, my first thought was a gin that has a whisper of citrus, and, you know what (I say humbly)? It was a very good thought. The gin I went for was Wildwood Spirits’ Kur gin, also made in wonderful W-A, with local wheat, jumping juniper, various other delights, and a bit of Seville oranges. Then, our drink didn’t need much more, just a hint of brightness and botanicals from some Dolin Blanc vermouth, and a little spice and some light undertones from another local, Scrappy’s Orange bitters. Altogether, a (as you’d guess from the title) delicious drink, one with a nice backbone and a full strata of delicate and more forward citrus and spice, a drink that’d be a fine pre-dinner, during-dinner, or post-dinner accompaniment.
You, Sue, Are Delicious
1-1/2 ounces Wildwood Spirits Kur gin
1 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Yuzu liqueur
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Wide lemon 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. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in. Oh, be sure you’ve tasted that Yuzu liqueur on its own, too. Or you’ll be sorry.
July 13, 2018
Why, just last week, here on the Spiked Punch blog, I had a delicious summer drink (if I can say that humbly) called Pina’s Potion, which used Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé – a bottle of which had shown up via the post. If you haven’t checked that recipe out, you’re in for a treat! Go read about rose cocktail Pina’s Potion now, to learn a bit more about Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé and to make your summer better.
Back? Yay! Well, I liked this rosé so much, that I wanted to go down another road with it, because the flavor profile gives lots of avenues one could travel, all different, like every animal is different. To prove this furry point, I give you another rosé cocktail, called Such Animals of Summer. A slightly different (as mentioned) mix, it mingles our rose with another summertime treat, Washington state-based Sidetrack Distillery’s Strawberry Liqueur (they grow the strawberries right on their farm! dreamy), and another French friend for our French rosé, Dolin’s Blanc vermouth, a refreshing, citrusy, teensily sweet number. All together a light, flavorful, cocktail that’s ideal as the summer night approaches.
Such Animals of Summer
2 ounces Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve rosé
3/4 ounce Sidetrack Strawberry liqueur
1/2 Dolin Blanc vermouth
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy the moment.
May 11, 2018
I’ve been wanting to name a drink “Snigginson van Pickyns” since like September 27, 2017. See, back then I had a Cocktail Talk quote from a F. Marion Crawford story called “The Upper Berth,” which was in (for me, at least) an Alfred Hitchcock collection called, Bar the Doors. Actually, it was the twenty-sixth day in said month when I had that post, but then I think it was the following day when I put got word on the social medea* from pals @stereolad and @PaulTobin that, really, a drink should be named Snigginson van Pickyns. And, and usual, they were right!
But it’s taken a time to find the right drink. First, due to the quote (go read it, if you haven’t), said drink needed to be sherry-based. Then, it needed to be awesome, cause, well, it’s called Snigginson van Pickyns! That demands awesome. Luckily, not too long ago I received a little sample of Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato vermouth, a limited-time number celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the vermouth maker – and that was exactly what was needed for this drink. Made on a base of Moscato D’Asti and boasting an array of botanicals (cinchona bark, Chinese rhubarb, and other global-traveling, Snigginson van Pickyns-y things), it’s a well-balanced liquid one could drink solo, but its lovely floral nature underlined by a light sweetness, citrus, and ethereal herbs and spices goes neatly into certain cocktails, too. Good stuff. And an ideal match for sherry, especially the more delicate (perhaps) Fino sherry.
But that wasn’t enough for Snigginson van Pickyns! While the above two ingredients were an amazing start, something else was needed to round things off, and I kept it in the vermouth family – Dolin Blanc vermouth. Hopefully our two vermouth producers get along (hey, we’re all drinking, it’s fun, they should), because the double shot of vermouth with sherry is a match made in spring-and-summer-time drinker’s heaven. Lots of tantalizing and tactful flavor, but all graceful enough that it won’t weigh you down when sipping under the sun. A little lemon in twist form finishes everything off, and voila! A drink worthy of the name Snigginson van Pickyns. It only took about six months.
Snigginson van Pickyns
1-1/2 ounces fino sherry
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato vermouth
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the sherry and the two vermouths (quick aside: Sherry & the Two Vermouths might be a good band name). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
*If you’ve read/seen the Jean Anouilh play of the same name, you get this! Though maybe even if you’ve just ready the Euripides, you get it, too!
January 26, 2018
Funny, that this drink is mixed, with the title and all! But really, said title is from Pickwick (Pickwick Papers, I mean), and you know it goes so well, in a way, as this drink is very happy – and you will be, too, when drinking it. And by starting the year, more or less, with some happiness (we’re still new to the year, I feel), then you’ll continue along the same lines. Aw, but I’m rambling a little, as I’m prone to do, any time of the year. The real important notes here are Scrappy’s unmissable Black Lemon bitters, named for the spice used in Middle Eastern cooking, two vermouths, dry and the sweeter-and-lighter blanc, and a base of local Kur gin. Drink up – happiness awaits.
A Moment of Unmixed Happiness
1-3/4 ounces Kur gin
3/4 ounces dry vermouth
1/2 ounce Dolin blanc vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the twist.
July 8, 2016
Summer seems somehow a swell season for sherry drinks. Lighter, refreshing, sherry won’t weigh you down when the Mercury’s risen. And the Greenbrier (which isn’t the cocktail below, by the by) is one of a handful of elder sherry drinks, in that it shows up in a number of older classic cocktail tomes. It’s a fairly tasty mix, too, with dry vermouth, sherry (duh), and, interestingly, peach bitters, oh, and mint, too. Very summery, right? But for some reason I wanted to try a twist (probably because my dry vermouth and blanc vermouth bottles are right next to each other) on the formula, and changed the vermouth from dry to blanc. Super, duper, choice, if I can be so bold. A tiny bit brighter, and bit, oh, rounder in a way, due to the sweeter (but not sweet) nature of the blanc. Lovely. Do it.
Of course, before the super-duper-ing, you gotta pick the right sherry. I went with Tio Pepe Fino sherry (which, lucky me, arrived in the mail). Fino sherries are lowish in alcohol, light, crisp, and meant to be served cool and kept cool (and best to consume fairly soon after opening, like a light white wine). Tio Pepe’s version is made from the Palomino grape, and is nice and dry with a golden color and a little nutty-ness. It mingles here with the blanc vermouth as if they were cousins (hmm, I suppose they are, in a way), as well as playing nice with the bitters and mingling on the nose with the mint. A swell summer sipper indeed.
2 ounces Tio Pepe Fino sherry
1 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
1 dash Fee Brothers peach bitters
Mint sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the mint. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with that mint.