As you know (because I’ve told you) Washington State’s distillers are a dandy, creative, amazing bunch. They just keep putting out more and more tasty, imaginative, treats for drinkers here and there and everywhere. Case in point: I recently wrote about Four Leaf Spirits, a distillery based in Woodinville who makes tea-infused liqueurs and spirits, as well as rums under the Puget Sound Rum Company name. Want to learn more? Of course you do! Read the article cleverly-titled: How One Seattle Distillery Is Using Tea to Infuse Spirits and then start tracking down some bottles.
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.
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).
It’s interesting – we hear “leaves” and we think “fall,” because seasonally that’s when leaves become more iconic I suppose. Which may be backwards, since so many leaves are in place now, providing shade and such. And anyway, when titling this drink “Afternoon Leaves,” I was thinking more that it feels like such a nice drink for the end of the afternoon, the moment when afternoon itself is leaving to make room for dusk and evening.
Whew, that almost got too sappy! Late afternoon is also when many have tea (those pals in the U.K. first and foremost perhaps), and that also ties into this drink, since one of the two ingredients is Four Leaf Spirits Liath, an Earl Grey tea-infused gin. Pretty neat! Four Leaf is a small (in square feet, but not in taste) distillery in Woodinville, WA that makes tea-infused spirits and liqueurs (and rums under the Puget Sound Rum Company moniker), and also donates a portion of proceeds to cancer research and education-focused non-profits. Drinking and doing good is, well, good!
The Liath (named after the Irish for “grey”) is swell all on its own, with the juniper and botanicals from the gin mingling around the citrusy bergamot from the tea. But in the declining afternoon hours (which can be a little lonely), I wouldn’t want it to operate alone, and so picked a perfect partner: Italian vermouth legends Carpano’s Bianco vermouth.
I just recently picked up a bottle of this elixir, and it’s a special tipple, starting from the citrus, fruit, and nutty nose to the light-but-full taste, which has the flavors promised to the nose, with a touch of white-wine mineral-ness. Delicious solo as well, when combined with the Liath you have a complex but so sip-able cocktail. Try it, in the afternoon of course.
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two charmers. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.