December 2, 2016

What I’m Drinking: Welcome Back, Weary Traveler with 3 Howls Backbeat Bourbon

Sometimes, a holiday week can feel like you’ve been on a trip. Sometimes a fun trip! Sometimes a filling trip. Sometimes a tiring trip. Sometimes . . .  well, you get the idea, right? Right! Even with a wondrous trip, you still may feel a little weary after it, and that’s where this drink comes in (it was created after my return from my longest trip, seven months living in Italy, hence the Italian-American-ness of it). I’ve used a number of bourbons when making this but most recently used the new-ish Backbeat bourbon, from Seattle’s swell 3 Howls distillery. It’s got a mix of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley and is finished in French Oak. Smooth, with a little honey-ness, spice, and oak, it mingles swell-ly with maraschino and old pal Fernet-Branca here. Try it and see! You’ll feel less weary, I’ll bet.

welcome-back-weary-traveler
Welcome Back, Weary Traveler

2-1/2 ounces 3 Howls Backbeat bourbon
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1/4 ounce Fernet-Branca
Wide Orange twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice.

2. Add the bourbon, maraschino, and Fernet-Branca. Stir well.

3. Strain into a cocktail glass. Utilize the twist in the proper manner.

September 13, 2016

Cocktail Talk: Tether’s End

http://i.ebayimg.com/16/!B1sKYSwEWk~$(KGrHqV,!h0E)q2-qTm)BMffcNlW8g~~_35.JPG?set_id=8800005007I’ve had a handful of Allingham Campion Cocktail Talks here recently (I picked up a handful of Campion books recently, too, trying to catch up and see what I thought of them all at once). Tether’s End (aka Hide My Eyes, aka Ten Were Missing – lots of aka here) is one of my favorites, though also a tiny bit disappointing in that Campion actually isn’t in it a ton. But it’s still a fine yarn around a somewhat charming psychopath and various other intriguing characters, all happening within a short time period. But, best of all, is the below Cocktail Talking, because it’s fairly rare in my experience to come across the legendary Fernet-Branca in a mystery book (outside of Italian mysteries, I suppose). So, I was super excited to see it. Actually, I think I’m going to create a drink with said legendary liquid, and call it Tether’s End. It’s such a dandy drink name, and I’m sure Campion wouldn’t mind.

Again the childhood friends exchanged glances, and as Gerry went out of the back door nearest to the theatre the manager’s soothing voice reached him as it addressed Mr. Vick.
“If you’ve been on sherry since opening time, sir, I wonder if you’d like a change? What about a nice Fernet-Branca cocktail?”

Tether’s End, Margery Allingham

August 19, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Bitter Shake

The name of this drink sounds a bit like a dance move beloved by those who tend to wear mostly black, listen to moody tunes, and shake their fist at all and sundry (I’ll admit to that phase at once point, so I’m not judging here, oh no). But, it’s in reality nearly the opposite, a blended drink that’s really not all that bitter, and is sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who drinks it.

Where, then, does the name come from? Well, the wonderful Fernet-Branca, of course! Here’s the scoop. Not long ago a bottle of that essential elixir showed up in the mail (I know, I couldn’t believe my luck either), with a little bit of a challenge – come up with a blended Fernet-Branca drink. At first, this seemed like a conundrum, due to blended drinks being usually either extra fruity or extra frothy and Fernet-Branca shading heavily towards what some people call “bitter,” though I think that’s just one part of it, with the other being its magic mix of herbs and spices and such. But, you know what? It turns out that with the right aligning of other ingredients, Fernet-Branca plays perfectly in blended form, and provides a nice rich bedrock for an icy, creamy, frothy, summertime treat, one perfect for the hot weather. Those other ingredients here (I’m guessing there are many more possible permutations) include gin (I used Voyager, which is swell), whose juniper hints mingle well, and Bénédictine, whose sweet herbal goodness also mingles well. A little actual cream, a splash of simple syrup (it is a blended drink!), and loads of ice, and we have the Bitter Shake. Which may actually make you want to dance, but with joy, instead of with your head down, mumbling.

bitter-shake
The Bitter Shake, for 2 (never drink a blender drink alone – that’s foolishness)

2 ounces Voyager gin
1 ounce Fernet-Branca
1 ounce Bénédictine
1-1/2 ounces heavy cream
1 ounce simple syrup
Ice cubes (you’ll want a lot, like a whole tray’s worth)

1. Add everything but the ice to a blender. Swirl a little.

2. Add the ice cubes. Blend well (I used a combo of ice crush and smoothie settings on my blender – you want it well combined, smooth, and frothy). Drink and chill out.

January 29, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Whip of the Conqueror

It’s hard being the conquered. Stinks, even. Whether you’re Gaius Flaminius at the battle of Lago Trasimeno, or at the less-happy end after a re-org in a big company, or destroyed by a hated rival during the NFL playoffs on national TV, being in that position doesn’t tend to lead to happy days. However! The nights at least can be better when you drink the below, instead of feeling the literal whips. Maybe not much better, but a little better.

whip-2
The Whip of the Conqueror, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz

Ice cubes
1 -1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Lime twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Fernet Branca, apricot liqueur, and lime juice. Shake while longing to be the conqueror.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the twist.

October 2, 2015

What I’m Drinking: Welcome Back, Weary Traveler

A couple years back as many know, my wife and I loaded up the dogs and we moved to Italy. It was great (of course), and if you want to know more, go to my Italy blog and start at the beginning. But when moving back, I needed a drink to take the sadness down a little, a drink that brought me back while reminding me of the Italian hours. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see the Seattle pals and sights and bars I also love. But hey, sometimes coming back is hard, and you need the right drink to accompany it. And this is that drink! Why am I having it again today? Well, October 2nd was the very day we flew out to start our adventure, those years ago.

welcomebackwearytraveler

Welcome Back, Weary Traveler

2-1/2 ounces bourbon (I used the new Woodinville Whiskey Co. Straight bourbon)
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
Orange twist, for garnish (I like a wider orange twist here)

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ie.

2. Add the bourbon, maraschino, and Fernet Branca. Stir well.

3. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist and drink as happily as you can manage.

October 15, 2011

What I’m Drinking: The Whip of the Conqueror

They said it couldn’t be done! They said that dark rum, Fernet-Branca, apricot liqueur, and lime couldn’t be mixed together! They said that Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz couldn’t contain a drink that contains said ingredients, and they said it couldn’t be delicious, herbal, and tangy all at once! They said that a drink named after a whip and a world-beater (or, conqueror) couldn’t be made, that the good people of this here earth I stand on wouldn’t sip it up like the nectar of the gods! They said that it wouldn’t be an ideal mixture for Fall’s cold days, and that it wouldn’t slide the chill right off like a loose negligee! They said, they said, they said. Who is they (you might say)? Well, I’m not 100% sure. But they’re bad people. Unlike you and I. Both of whom (I sure hope) love this drink.

 

Ice cubes

1 -1/2 ounces dark rum

1 ounce Fernet-Branca

1/2 ounce apricot liqueur

1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Lime twist, for garnish

 

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Fernet-Branca, apricot liqueur, and lime juice. Shake in a whip-cracking motion.

 

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lime whip. Oh, I mean twist.

July 22, 2011

Make Your Summer Life Good and Menta-Rific

If you’re a regular reader of the Spiked Punch blog (and if you aren’t, why, may I ask, aren’t you? Cause I like you lots. Lots. So much that I want you here, reading, all the time. As long as that doesn’t sound creepy), you know that I was lucky enough to visit the Branca distillery, cause I distilled the visit in Branca Tour 1 and Branca Tour 2. What I may not have hit on enough in either of those articles is how that visit spurred on my love of Branca Menta (my love of Fernet Branca and the vermouths mentioned in those posts was pretty high already). Especially in these summer months, I actually drink more of the more-recent Branca, the Menta. Why, you might ask? Well, I detail the why, as well as give a recipe for the Menta Highball, and talk more Branca and Milan (where it’s made) in this article for the Good Life Report, called Make It a Milan Menta Summer. So get your-own summer-drink luvin’ self over there and start reading.

May 23, 2011

Fratelli Branca Distillery Tour, Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of our Branca Distiller tour, well, do so now. It talks lots about company history, the Collezione Branca, the Branca philosophy of novare serbando (renew but conserve), and much more. Go read it. Okay, are you back? Now we’re ready for Part 2, in which we actually get to walk around the distillery and see where the magic happens. Still with our tour guides Elisa, Marco, and Valeria, we last stopped at the Carpano area of the museum, where we learned more about Branca’s purchase of Carpano Antica (and the full Carpano family of vermouths), had a quick drink of Carpano Antica, and then got ready to hit the distillery proper. But first, as we’re walking into delicate areas, we had to suit up (attractive, aren’t we?):

 

 

Check out the wonderful Carpano ad in the background, too. Yet another piece of Branca-related advertising I wish I had framed in my house. After suiting up, we started by going through a few doors into the Borghetti coffee liqueur room. Now, here’s where I have to admit one downside for you, dear readers, in this Part 2 of the tour post. We couldn’t, in most areas of the distillery, take pictures. As mentioned in Part 1, having delicious liqueurs, vermouths, and amaros means that folks are always wanting to know how you make them. Which means even someone as un-spy-ish as me (though I could be a spy, I suppose–I have that look, right?) can’t snap snaps. Borghetti, if you don’t know (and you might not, as it’s sadly not readily available in the States) is the coffee liqueur made by the Branca company. It’s a staple in Italy (all the everyday bars/cafes we’d visit had it, usually in both big bottles and in these small, 3-inch-ish, portable bottles), and I’m not 100% sure why we don’t have it in the U.S., as it’s scrumptious. Normally, I’m not either a big coffee liqueur fan or a big coffee drinker (a lot of coffee liqueurs taste ickily chemical to me), but I really love the Borghetti, and after seeing where it’s made, I know why. It only contains coffee (freshly roaster and made there), liquor, and a natural sweetener. Walking into the room where it’s made is somewhat like walking into the best coffee roaster inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, as there’s a perfect sweet/coffee aroma—which matches Broghetti’s taste. Here’s what the bottle looks like, if you want to scoop some up on your travels:

 

From there, we saw where the ingredients in Fernet Branca are treated during production (where the secret processes mentioned in Part 1 happen), including the big iron pot (pictured in Part 1) where the spices and more are stirred up. Amazing stuff, really, as it’s partially mechanized, but still there are always workers in attendance, watching over the process. We next went to perhaps my favorite part of the whole tour (well, just hanging out with our awesome tour guides was my favorite part, but this coming up was a close second), the cask where Stravecchio Branca spends time before bottling. Stravecchio Branca is the brandy made by the Branca company, and is another item I wouldn’t mind seeing more of over here (again, it’s in most bars/cafes in Italy and is a really good, full-bodied brandy). Here’s the bottle if you ever want to try some and you see it:

 

But the cask (or flask, as they referred to it as) in question we could take pics of, but we didn’t have a wide enough angle lens to do it justice. See, it’s the biggest cask in Europe, and was built over a two month time period way back in 1892. And it’s massive and astounding to stand in front of:

 

 

Stravecchio was originally called “Vieux Cognac,” but they had to change the name due to the Cognac rules (about it having to be made in the Cognac region of France, that is). Today, the brandy spends some time in other casks, but each batch spends a least some time in this massive cask–which is never empty, as some is always left in to ensure that the brandy stays consistent (a nice little touch). On the back of the ginormous cask, there’s a chart that tells how full it is (somewhat like the little marks made on the wall as kids get taller), alongside a little chalkboard notepad (which is alongside my head):

 

 

My favorite part of the photo (and another reason why I loved this cask so much) is right above the “B100” where the cask looks like it’s sweating. This is a slight oozing out that happens, about which Marco said, “it is crying.”  He even wiped some off on a fingertip to taste, and encouraged us to do the same–which I, naturally did. It was super-brandy-charged, and I dug it so much I went back for more (hey, I have a hard time seeing anything cry). After the Stravecchio, we wandered down into the cellars, where we viewed wooden cask after wooden cask, rows of them (all lovely, by the way), first more brandy (they start here in smaller casks before moving to the biggest cask in Europe), then the wooden casks Fernet Branca is aged within. Fernet Branca has to be aged at least a year, and the brandy for three, so you can imagine that there are tons of casks (not to mention that Branca Menta is also made with aged Fernet Branca, on to which is added pure peppermint oil, sweetening, and love). All these hundreds of casks, the giant cask, the production facilities upstairs, the museum from Part 1, and the offices live in this one building, in the center of Milan, a bustling city. There’s something almost otherworldly about it, especially when wandering through the building’s many rooms and passages. One could easily get lost down here—you’d never go thirsty, luckily. Also luckily, we didn’t have to worry about getting lost, because we were with our friendly and knowledgeable (and fun) tour guides. Check them out, aren’t they great:

 

After seeing the casks, and saying our goodbyes, we walked out in Milan craving a little Fernet Branca or Branca Menta. Of course, we had a four-and-a-half hour drive ahead of us, so the cravings just became sharper, until we were back in our home Italian neighborhood, where we could indulge our Branca thirst at Bar Fizz. Thanks again Fratelli Branca Distillerie, we had a great time.

 

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