January 12, 2018
Earlier in this wonderful month (just a week ago! If you’ve forgotten), I featured a drink here on the Spiked Punch, In The Treetops with Delamain L’Aigle XO Cognac. If you missed it, go check it out, or be sad – you don’t want to be sad, right? There, I talked about Cognac-as-cocktail-ingredient, and then, when thinking it over, decided I should back up the talk with a few more cocktails boasting Cognac as a base, and decided also to go next with one of the definitive Cognac cocktails, the classic Sidecar. Created overseas during Prohibition, the Sidecar was either first crafted at a bar in Paris or by an army colonel who drove around with a sidecar often. Or someone else entirely!
There are two Sidecar schools, but I lean towards the one that leans heavier on the Cognac and is less sweet. This road works even better when you’re able to use Hine Bonneuil 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac (a bottle of which I received in the mail recently, bless my lucky stars). Made from Ugni Blanc grapes only grown on the Hine vineyards, this limited-edition (track it down, if you can) Cognac has a great fresh grape, fig, orange, and herb nose, with more fig, and then apple, spice, honey and oak on the tongue, with an echo of pineapple and citrus. Scrummy stuff.
And, a perfect Cognac for the Sidecar, able to stand up to the lemon and mingle mightily with the requisite orange liqueur – here, I used a new one, made in my own Seattle, by Bernie Garcia, the owner of Moctezuma’s restaurant (it actually launches next week, but I figure you can wait a few days). It’s called Grandeza, and it uses bitter orange peels, agave nectar, and a bit of vanilla in a memorable manner. All together, this trio combines into a cocktail that you won’t forget, one that begins with bright citrus and spice, buoyed by fruit, herbal, and more. Oh, I know that many (maybe even myself in the past), have said that using a really fine Cognac like Hine Bonneuil 2005, in cocktails, even classics like the Sidecar, is foolish. However! I think once in a while, high-rolling your cocktails at home to lift them into legendary status is a good idea. You only live once, after all.
2 ounces Hine Bonneuil 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac
1/2 ounce Grandeza orange liqueur
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything. Shake gently.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Don’t ride a motorcycle while drinking, but do sit in a sidecar attached to a parked motorcycle, if you want.
January 5, 2018
It’s a smidge odd to say about one of the world’s revered sippers, but Cognac (especially in the states, I suppose) gets a little short shrift. Especially when it comes to cocktails. But consider this, friends – Cognac was a key player in the early days of cocktailing, and used as the base spirit in many classic drinks (the Sazerac, for one, but also a bunch of others), including ones that shifted for one reason or another to a different base. Both the shifts and the lack of Cognac-ing in modern cocktails is a shame, because the layers of flavors that unfold in good Cognacs when paired with the right pals make memorable drinks.
Let’s take this one, In The Treetops, for example! I was lucky enough (don’t curse me for it, especially not this early in the year) to receive a bottle of L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac recently. The Eagle (L’Aigle equals The Eagle) is a delicious Cognac, aged in Limousin oak casks near the Charente River, and one that can be – and maybe should be! – savored solo, thanks to its bold-yet-graceful and complex-yet-approachable nature. It delivers floral and citrus essences on the nose, with a few nutty notes, too, and even more lush orange and fruit with a little chocolate and nuttiness in the unfolding flavor. It’s really as good as you’d expect from Delamain, who, if you don’t know, have been making renowned Cognacs since, oh, the 1600s. Or thereabouts!
When deciding to mix a cocktail with a Cognac this swell, I think keeping it fairly simple, letting the Cognac shine, adding only a few others players, is the way to go. I first thought I’d go with a drink from another lesser-known classic, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion (from the early 1940s), a drink called Rock a Bye Baby. And, admittedly, which you might guess from the title of this cocktail (if you know your nursery rhymes), I didn’t stray far from the original. I kept the same ingredients, Cognac (well, Crosby used brandy), sweet vermouth (I used Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, made from Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and with lovely fruit tones and a smidge of sweetness), and Bénédictine. But Crosby (who will forgive me I’m sure), had equal parts Cognac and sweet vermouth, and less Bénédictine. I wanted to let Delamain’s L’Aigle fly higher, so boosted the Cognac, drifted down the sweet vermouth, and upper the Bénédictine some to herbal-ize the edges more. The end result is a layered, sophisticated-in-the-best-way, cocktail, one that is a special treat, sure, but don’t you deserve to be treated? I think you do.
In The Treetops
2 ounces L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy life’s momentary luxuries.
December 29, 2017
Let’s face it – we’re not getting any younger. Really, nothing is, I suppose. But wait, as the year rolls out into the sunset, and as a new one rolls in, let’s not get all down-in-the-mouth, and think about getting older. But instead, remember all the many wondrous days, and all the ones happening now, and how we can be youthful all year round, and many other things one might find on a card – hahaha! Or, skip all that, and sip a Happy Youth instead.
The Happy Youth, from Champagne Cocktails
1 ounce Cherry Heering cherry brandy
1 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Chilled extra-dry rosé sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cherry Heering, the orange juice, and the simple syrup. Shake youthfully.
2. Strain the mixture equally into a four flute glasses. Top each with the sparkling wine.
December 22, 2017
Washington State distillers are dreamy (you probably have realized my feelings in this already, as I do go on – but they are awesome!), with so many worthy bottles out already, and more continuing to be released regularly. The latest example? Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon. A follow up to their highly-regarded 20-month aged Greenhorn bourbon, Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon is aged 3-1/2 years, and made from sweet yellow corn and soft white wheat from Grant County, WA, and the distiller’s proprietary wild-yeast strain harvested from a local apple orchard. If that wasn’t enough, though, the real sets-it-apart-thing here is that the aging takes place on a boathouse floating on the Puget Sound – from what I’ve been told, it’s the only whiskey in the world aged that long on the water, where the waves and tides speed up the aging (that’s the theory, at least). End result? A darn tasty tipple, with some nice sweetness from the wheat, and a mingling of sea-salted caramel, toffee, fig, orange, and chocolate.
It’s dandy to enjoy as a solo act, but of course I also wanted to try it in cocktails, and after trying this and then trying that, liked it best in The Hounds They Start to Roar. That drink has a bit of a history, which we won’t get it to too much here (you’ve already read the full story in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz anyway, right? Right!), but I will remind you that the name comes from a Tom Waits’ song, as do the ingredients, in a way. Said ingredients are bourbon, naturally, but also St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (the spice flavors contained therein, cinnamon, clove, and others, go wonderfully with the Chambers Bay bourbon mélange), brandy (which helps balance everything out), and Peychaud’s bitters (which adds another herbal tint or two). Together, it’s a drink fit for any sailor, dog lover, song-singer, or person reading this blog, which means you. Take it out for a walk or a sail and see if I’m right.
The Hounds They Start to Roar, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon
3/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce brandy
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole bunch of ingredients. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable.
December 15, 2017
It’s the holiday party season, and you’re probably thinking, “what should I serve as I unwrap presents, or in any way enjoy the holiday season with family and friends?” Well, there are lots and lots of options, and I’m not trying to push you one way or another, but this Bombay Punch is a sure charmer, thanks to a flavorful feast of fine friends brandy, maraschino, Cointreau, apricot liqueur, and seasonal bubbly. With a little fresh orange to keep things healthy – it is the cold and flu season after all – and a lot of cheer. Again, not trying to push you, just giving you friendly options. It being the holiday season, I find it’s finest to be friendly, right?
Bombay Punch, from Dark Spirits
Serves 10 to 12
10 ounces brandy
5 ounces maraschino liqueur
5 ounces Cointreau
5 ounces apricot liqueur
10 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 750-milliliter bottles brut Champagne or sparkling wine
10 to 12 orange slices
1. Fill a large punch bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, maraschino, Cointreau, apricot liqueur, and orange juice. Using a ladle or large spoon, stir briefly.
2. Slowly (the bubble effect can take out your Bombay if not careful), pour the Champagne into the punch bowl. Again, this time a bit more slowly, stir briefly.
3. Add the orange slices, stir once more, and serve in punch glasses, trying to get an orange slice in each glass.
December 8, 2017
I was in London last summer, and (as you do when in London, or the U.K. in general I suppose) I had a fair amount of gin, in G & Ts mostly, but some other ways, too, and was struck by how many delicious gins there were, a really wide selection in some spots. One of the favorites, and one that I found most everywhere, was Sipsmith — specifically their London Dry gin (they have a few others, too). I’d heard of it on past trips, but was stoked to see it in so many places. Launching in 2009, Sipsmith was London’s first copper distillery since 1820. This gin of theirs is a traditional London Dry, made in amazingly-small batches, and has won a fair amount of awards.
With good reason, too! The gin blends 10 botanicals, and the end result has a balanced dry juniper-ness as you sip, with a little follow-up sweetness, a little lemon, and a little of that lovely orange marmalade you get when traveling your favorite U.K. spots. You can guess that when traveling back to Seattle, even though we have our fair share of great gins, I missed Sipsmith.
But, lucky me, Sipsmith just became available over here – and I ended up with a bottle. I wanted to try it in a cocktail, as well as just swilling it solo, and wanted to keep it classic, but then also wanted to go outside the very norm of the norms. After some old book browsing, I decided to go with the Alaska. While there’s really, from what I know, no specific connection to the state that carries its name, this is a beautifully simple drink that allows the gin to shine, while also bringing another level of herb-and-spice-and-nice-ness, through the drink’s secondary ingredient, Yellow Chartreuse. A short step sweeter and easy-going-er than its Green sibling, the Yellow C plays well with Sipsmith. Depending on what old book you utilize, the Alaska Cocktail also on occasion includes orange bitters, and sometimes a twist of lemon. Here, I went with just the core two ingredients. The orange bitters, well, they’d be a good add, though I don’t think it suffers if you have the right gin. Try it, with Sipsmith, and see what you think.
The Alaska Cocktail
2 ounces Sipsmith London Dry Gin
3/4 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
1. Fill a mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin and Chartreuse. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, while looking London-wards.
December 1, 2017
I don’t actually have a tipsy Italian uncle that I’ve named this after, and because of that, I wake up sorrowful every day. Okay, that’s not true! I did receive a bottle of Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey in the mail recently though. That’s true! I know, getting whiskey in the mail should make me happy – and it does. True!
Uncle Nearest has a great story. It was made in honor of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a former slave who as the story goes taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Amazing! While it was launched in Portland, OR, it’s made in Tennessee using at least 51% corn, filtered via sugar maple charcoal, aged in new American oak, and bottled at 100 proof. That proof gives it a nice sturdy backbone, mellowed by vanilla and rounded out with hints of sesame and cinnamon in the flavor. It’s a sipper, for sure, and one that’ll warm you and your uncles.
When mixing with it, I wanted to keep that umph and personality, but take a little edge off, and bring some herbal helpers into the party. And I went Italian (as I often do), with Montenegro amaro (which lies on the sweeter side of the amaro scale) and Punt e’ Mes vermouth. Also brought old pal Peychaud along, too. End result is robust, with layers and layers of flavor. I think tipsy uncles everywhere would be proud.
The Tipsy Italian Uncle
1-1/2 ounces Uncle Nearest whiskey
1 ounce Montenegro amaro
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole family. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make a second for your uncle (or in his honor, at least).
November 17, 2017
This is not a spelling error (not that I don’t make those a lot); if you didn’t know, there really is a drink called The Zazarac. It wants you to know that it, while not renowned and legendary and all that, it in its own way is also worthy of your attention, much like its very distant cousin (though maybe not the same amount of attention, admittedly). It has a rare rye and rum combo, some friendly supporting players in anisette (go Meletti) and absinthe and Angostura and orange bitters (go Regan’s), and takes the edges off with a splash of simple, and tops things with a twist. Will it have you stopping your Sazerac consumption? Nope. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a sip.
The Zazarac, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce white rum
3/4 ounce anisette
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce absinthe
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, rum, anisette, syrup, absinthe, and both bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a large cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist and a nod to all the lesser-known family members.