October 12, 2018

What I’m Drinking: The Cliftonness

The other day, decided to browse around the drink library while watching Hammer House of Horror as one does, and was flipping through Jacques Staub’s simply-called classic Drinks from 1914 and came across an intriguing number called The Clifton. At the same time, I was trying to think of a drink to have with Gold Bar whiskey, a small bottle of which had just shown in the mail.

Gold Bar is a blended American whiskey made from three grains: corn, rye, and barley, aged in French oak, and, as they say, “matured by the sea” in San Francisco. I love a good ocean-going yarn! It’s also in one of the more amazing packages, a golden box with a brass Lady of Fortune (illustrated by an artist) coin pressed into the front for good luck. All of which would be only a good story if the whiskey didn’t taste good – luckily indeed it has a friendly taste as well as the shiny gleaming container. Very smooth, very approachable, with a little vanilla and spice and melon scents unfolding into more spice, apple, and vanilla on the tongue.

Its amiable nature made me think maybe it would be good in the Clifton, though that drink originally called for rye, with an equal part of dry vermouth. Along with a dash of Angostura and a dash of “brown” curaçao. I’ll admit, I’m not sure on the latter, and I wasn’t really happy about how the equality-of-vermouth was going to go. So, I went with Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao (the finest available in modern times), and just started playing around with the amounts of our main ingredients. And, voila, we took home the gold. And by that, I mean it all came together into a bright, light, drink, with herbal and botanical hints and a smooth whiskey hum underneath.

cliftonness
The Cliftonness

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounces Gold Bar blended whiskey
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
Dash Angostura bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, or a glass with an appropriate amount of gilding to match the whiskey. I went the latter route, as it seemed a better route. But you’ll make your own luck.

July 20, 2018

What I’m Drinking: The Foppa

Sometimes, I like to throw ol’ summer a curve ball. Summer, sitting there all hot and sunny and thinking, “I know all the drinks A.J. might make – he’s got nothing on me.” Well, summer, old sweaty pal, let me introduce you to the Foppa, a summer drink (I think it works as one, at least) that uses, you’ll never guess what. C’mon summer, guess! Ah, you’ll never get it – it uses Scotch! Really, and amaretto, and dry vermouth – that sounds like a serious, un-summer cocktail, right? But then, boom, ginger ale, a bunch of ice, and we have ourselves a summer cocktail with Scotch. I guess even summer can learn some new tricks. And you can, too!

foppa

The Foppa (from Dark Spirits)

Ice Cubes
1-1/2 ounces Scotch
1/2 ounce Disaronno amaretto
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Chilled ginger ale

1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Scotch, amaretto, and vermouth. Stir with a long spoon.

2. Top the glass off with ginger ale. Stir again.

January 26, 2018

What I’m Drinking: A Moment of Unmixed Happiness

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.

moment-unmixed-happiness

A Moment of Unmixed Happiness

Cracked ice
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.

January 6, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Trocadero

Still thinking about what that perfect resolution for 2017 might be? Wavering between tired old standbys like losing weight, writing letters, wearing cooler socks, and reading more? Okay, wait, those are all great – do all of those. But also, let me propose another righteous resolution. Drink more vermouth. Vermouth, so often relegated to a sidekick or less, is making I believe a comeback, or in-roads, in a more serious way in the U.S. of A. Get on the train now, before the train is out of the station with all the vermouth in it. And a terrific way to tot up your vermouth-ing is with this very cocktail, The Trocadero, which uses both dry and sweet vermouths. It was never so easy to hold to a resolution.

trocadero
The Trocadero, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1-1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
Lemon twist for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vermouths, bitters, and grenadine. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

December 9, 2016

What I’m Drinking: A Dry Negroni from Not My Mother’s Kitchen

Admittedly, I’m usually (as anyone who knows me knows, or, even if you don’t actually know me in an in-person way, if you read this blog you probably know) a staunch soapboxer about drinks-that-borrow-names-from-other-drinks. Meaning, I think a drink name should be as creative as a drink, and that even a small ingredient change needs a new name. So, inis, ritas, olitans, all those, make me sad, as does the recent proliferation of Negroni names. Jaysus, bartenders, be creative!

However, this Dry Negroni is pretty darn swell, and so I can step off my soapbox while I’m sipping. For some reason I’d never even thought to try the subbing of dry for sweet vermouth, cause I am silly. And, I picked up the recipe and idea from rollicking Rob Chirico’s new book, Not My Mother’s Kitchen: Rediscovering Italian-American Cooking Through Stories and Recipes! Rob has a host of good books you should pick up, and his latest is both funny and tasty. It up-ends the hoary tradition of so many cookbooks, where the cook/writer has learned the craft at the side of some family elder, because it turns out Rob’s mother was a terrible cook, and he had to learn in spite of it. It’ll have you laughing and have you making delish dishes all at once, thanks to the combination of funny stories and helpful recipes, the whole of which is written in a wonderful convivial style. There’s even a short chapter on Italian libations, and that’s where I picked up this recipe.

dry-negroni
Dry Negroni, from Not My Mother’s Kitchen

1 ounce gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Orange slice, for garnish

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, dry vermouth, and Campari. Stir well.

2. Fill a cold old-fashioned glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with the orange slice.

June 10, 2016

What I’m Drinking (World Gin Day Special): The Poet’s Dream

As any truly worthy encyclopedia tells us, poets love gin. I mean, poets (most poets) love drinking most anything. Trust me, I’ve known my fair (or unfair) share of them. But gin is up there with things they love. Which is why having a Poet’s Dream on World Gin Day, which is tomorrow, makes lyrical sense, both for those of you that are poets (like Ed Skoog), and those who like a little poetry now-and-again, and those who really just want a good gin drink to celebrate the day. I’m having mine today, along with one tomorrow, because I’m on the ball. Or because I just can’t wait!

Oh, this liquid quatrain of a cocktail dates at least to The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, one of the true legendary drink manuals (by Albert Crockett, and originally published in 1935), which is where I first found it. There are, in a sorta rarity, three ingredients in it in equal amounts. To make it work, you must have a gin with a lot of flavor and one that’s nice and dry, or the Bénédictine and French vermouth push it around. I’m using Cadée Gin here, and if you can get it, get it. If not, find another sturdy gin. Oh, and don’t forget the twist, or my “liquid quatrain” line above doesn’t work, and we wouldn’t want that.

poets-dream-2
The Poet’s Dream

Cracked ice
1 ounce Cadée gin
1 ounce Bénédictine
1 ounce French (aka Dry) Vermouth
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 shaker, and garnish with the twist.

October 16, 2015

What I’m Drinking: Headlong Hall

This drink comes from one of my favorite old cocktail books, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. If you can track it down, it’s well worth investing in, as it’s jovial as a good cocktail party, and it has some random but delicious recipes that I haven’t seen elsewhere. One of those is this one, Headlong Hall.

It’s really a distant cousin of the Martini, as it’s heavy of gin and half-as-heavy of vermouth, but then taken down a curvy boozy road by the addition of two whispers: one of Bénédictine, and one of absinthe. Which gives it a personality all of its own.

Of course, with the main players being such to the front of the stage (wow, I am all over the place on the metaphors and such), however, you need some serious actors – or, seriously flavorful gin and vermouth. Recently, I was in the UK, and in the lovely city of Bath, in a lovely little wine and liquor store, I picked up a bottle of Psychopomp Wōden gin, which is made at a “micro-distillery” in Bristol, not far from Bath. The gin is singular – don’t get me wrong, it starts with a rich juniper, but that’s backed by a mingling of coriander, grapefruit zest, angelica root and cassia bark, and fennel seed, the last of which really delivers on the back end when sipping. If you’re in the UK, track it down.

To go with it, I picked La Quintinye Vermouth Royal, the extra dry version (full disclosure and bragging – I received this in the mail not too long ago). Made in the Charente region of France, La Quintinye extra dry vermouth is crafted from 27 plants and spices on a base of white wines and Pineau des Charentes Blanc. Lush is a good way to describe it, with floral and citrus notes all coming together and delivering a result that’s fantastic in cocktails (especially I think matched with a flavorful gin), but also dandy before dinner over one or two pieces of ice. Combined with the Wōden gin and our two whispers in this drink? Well, try it, but I sure found it all fantastic.

headlong-hallHeadlong Hall

Cracked ice
2 ounces Psychopomp Wōden gin
1 ounce La Quintinye Extra Dry Vermouth Royal
1 teaspoon Bénédictine
1/2 teaspoon absinthe

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, but not in a headlong manner (no matter the title. Sorry Crosby).

August 21, 2015

What I’m Drinking: Lucien Gaudin

Before you say anything – I know I’ve featured this drink-named-after-an-Olympic-fencer on the Spiked Punch blog before! I know it, and that’s okay, me thinks, because it’s such a fine drink that naturally it would be What I’m Drinking more than once. Also, a reader and drinker named sassy Scott has been hankering after more Campari drinks (even if he hasn’t directly requested it, he has talked about his love of Campari drinks, and from that I surmised he probably needs some other options). So, with all that said, here we are, the Lucien Gaudin. En garde!

lucien-gaudin
Lucien Gaudin

Cracked ice
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Orange twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, Cointreau, Campari, and dry vermouth. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange twist.

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