September 17, 2021

What I’m Drinking: Martin’s Folly

A few short weeks ago, I had a Friday Night Cocktail that was actually a homemade aperitif called Fugger’s Revenge. Based on the Italian white wine Est! Est!! Est!!!, with herbal and fruit accents, I suppose it could be nearly thought of as a vermouth, though not so much so that I would do it. I’ll stick with a white wine-based aperitif moniker, thank you very much. Anywho, it was pretty neat-o, and I’ve enjoyed it over ice nicely. And hopefully will again, while also trying it out in cocktails, starting with this one right here in front of your peepers, a drink called Martin’s Folly. If you go back to the Fugger’s Revenge, you’ll get the full story, but let me abbreviate, until such time as you have time to do such browsing. There was a jolly (I may be making that part up) German bishop, Johann Fugger, who was traveling to Rome, and wanted to be sure he hit up the best wine at the best bars on the way, so he sent along his pal (one hopes) and assistant first, to scope out the wine score, and one particular wine was so good, said adjunct wrote in big letters on the bar with this good wine, “Est! Est!! Est!!,” or “there is.” Good wine here, that is. And that wall-writer and wine-searcher’s name? Martin!

In the Martin’s Folly, I mixed the Fugger’s Revenge house aperitif with Wildwood Spirits’ Kur gin, a favorite gin of mine made here in WA with local wheat. It carries a robust gin flavor, highlighted by juniper (‘natch), spices and such, and a hint of Seville oranges. I didn’t want to get too far afield from our original bishop’s journey, outside of the gin, and didn’t want to add too many more ingredients, either. So, I fiddled with a bit of this, a splash of that, and didn’t find the right choices until I decided to tie back to the wine – with grappa. The grappa-grape-ness (or grappa-ness, to be technical) worked wonderfully, as did the final part of the folly, a lemon twist.

 martins-folly

Martin’s Folly

 

Cracked ice

2 ounces Wildwood Spirits Kur gin

3/4 ounces Fugger’s Revenge white wine aperitif

1/2 ounce grappa

Lemon twist, for garnish

 

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

 

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

September 14, 2021

Cocktail Talk: They Came To Baghdad

they-came-to-baghdadAgatha (Christie, naturally — not to throw shade on other Agathas, but really, if just using the first name “Agatha” don’t most people’s minds head towards her? Just me?) is deservedly known best for her detective (whether Belgian, small town observer, or husband-wife team) books. But she wrote others, too! Some falling into what I’d call “international intrigue,” including They Came To Baghdad. She was a well-traveled writer, with a flair for description, and so writing more globe-trotting – as opposed to set in the UK – books makes sense. Though, I have to admit, there are lots of mysterious threads intertwining here, but hey, she knows her stuff. Basically, after some set-up and stage-setting and character introducing, and a lot of “what’s happening here”-ing, the story follows Victoria Jones, who loses her job, meets a nice chap in a park, decides she’s in love, follows him (by picking up a random job with free airline tickets) to Baghdad, and drops right into a worldwide conspiracy, nearly gets killed, gets kidnapped, goes on an archeology dig, and stays in a hotel run by a man named Marcus who likes to buy drinks, which are delivered by a waiter named Jesus. And a whole lot more! There are murders, twists, neat scenes, and more drinks. Well worth picking up!

 

“Come and have a drink with us Miss Jones. Martini – Sidecar? This is Mr. Dakin. Miss Jones from England. Now then, my dear, what will you have?”

Victoria said she would have a Sidecar “and some of those lovely nuts?” she suggested hopefully, remembering that nuts were nutritious.

“You like nuts? Jesus!” He gave the order in rapid Arabic. Mr. Dakin said in a sad voice that he would have a lemonade.

“Ah,” cried Marcus, “but that is ridiculous.”

 

–Agatha Christie, They Came to Baghdad

September 3, 2021

What I’m Drinking: The Stoni

Strawberry season is super swell, sweet some might say! Heck, I might have said it not so far back in Spiked Punch history when extolling the virtues of the homemade strawberry liqueur I made, Strawcurranterry, also not so far back. When it rains strawberries up this way, it really pours (if I may stretch metaphors to the breaking point of sense), and so not only did I make said liqueur, but also tossed some fresh-picked-by-my-own-hand strawberries into other big jars with other tasty things – including gin! I didn’t alter the concoction any further than that, though, just took 2 cups of Sipsmith London Dry gin and added it to 2 cups muddled strawberries, and then let them get acquainted for about a month, afterwhich I strained it through cheesecloth and voila! Strawberry gin. Delicious, by the way, over ice on its own. But also delicious in cocktails, including The Stoni. The clever among you (which is all of you, as I’m sure anyone who reads this is clever) will probably guess that The Stoni is perhaps a Negroni, made with said strawberry-infused gin, and you’d be right! I felt that calling it a “Strawberry Negroni” violated all my diatribes about creative naming of drinks, but did want to reference the antecedent, as nothing else has changed (outside of the garnish). So, it’s not overly strawberry-y, and still carries the Negroni balance and beauty. But altered with fruity undertones that add a hint of summer and orchard or fruit farm. Interesting? Yes! Delicious? Indeed! Easy, and worthwhile, provided you have good fresh strawberries and a month to spare? Darn tooting.

 stoni

The Stoni

 

Cracked ice

1-1/4 ounces strawberry-infused Sipsmith London Dry gin

1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth

1-1/4 ounces Campari

Ice cubes

Strawberry slice, for garnish

 

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio of boozes. Stir well.

 

2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with the strawberry slice.

August 31, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Owls Don’t Blink, Part I

owls-dont-blinkThis may be one of the weirdest Cocktail Talks ever! Boom! If you’ve read past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, and you should, you’ll already know that I lean towards liking his books written under the pseudonym A.A. Fair (the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool mysteries) better than his more famous Perry Mason books (though as I age, I’ve found more of those I like a little more than expected, too), so that’s not weird. The book has a fair number of twists and turns and unexpectedness happening for PI Lam and jolly moments from PI Cool, with more of the former, but that’s all expected in these yarns, so not weird at all. Though ending in LA, much of the book (which was pubbed in 1942) takes place in lovely New Orleans, and that’s where the weirdness happens. See, I’d expect as a famous writer, and as one fairly meticulous usually, Mr. Gardner would have actually visited that fair city, and spent time on the streets and in the bars and restaurants before writing this book – and had some of the city’s legendary cocktails and highballs and such. And there are many classic libations that trace their histories back to New Orleans! However, when a scene takes place in a bar and PI Lam is ordering drinks, his list of “New Orleans drinks” is bafflingly, oh, boring? Un-New-Orleans-y? Weird? To me, weird. Maybe there was a time in the 40s that people thought of the below as New Orleans drinks? I’m glad it’s not now! But the below Cocktail Talk is still worthy – weird can be fun, too.

 

We had no more than seated her when the waiter came up for an order.

“Plain whiskey and water,” she said.

“Gin and Coke,” I ordered.

Hale pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, let me see. Do you have any really good Cognac?”

I answered for the waiter. “No,” I said. “Since you’re here in New Orleans, why not drink a New Orleans drink? Gin and Seven-Up; Gin and Coke; rum and Coke; or bourbon and Seven-Up?”

 

–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink

July 16, 2021

What I’m Drinking: Negroni with The London Nº1 Gin, Mancino Vermouth, and Campari

Ah, the Negroni. You kids probably won’t believe this, but I remember way back when when I had to describe to even good, reliable, knowledgeable, wonderful bartenders how to make a Negroni, what was in it, soup to nuts, as they say. And now there are probably 348,651 variations, many of which are happy to use the name, or some bastardization of such, attached to a drink that might not have much if anything to do with the original. But hey, people, you be you. I may bemoan the lack of naming creativity, but certainly won’t turn down a good drink no matter the name. But, as a classic song told us, ‘there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.” So, today, we’re taking it classically, in the one configuration that really deserves the name: Gin, Italian (or rosso, or sweet) vermouth, Campari, over ice, with a … lemon peel? Well, I somehow was out of orange, which I’d normally go with. So, I myself have now undercut the above sentences, in a way. Let’s pretend this never happened, and instead talk about The London Nº1 gin, which I’m using here. Pale-blue tinged with juniper, savory, bergamot, licorice, lemon and orange peel, cinnamon, iris root (which I believe delivers that blue-ness in coloring), and more used in the making, and based on a spirit made from English wheat. Together, they deliver an earthiness the smooths into citrus and floral notes in an enticing manner. Our next component: Mancino Rosso vermouth. They themselves say that this vermouth is of “exceptional quality and refined organoleptic characteristics,” and as “organoleptic” is my new favorite word, I couldn’t agree more. 38 aromatic herbs combining into a lush mixture that delivers spice, sweet, forest-at-dusk-with-flirty-druids-dancing notes (helped along by vanilla, rhubarb, juniper, toasted wood, myrrh, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, and the like). And then, Campari. What can you say about something that, if it wasn’t in the world, the world would feel lacking at a spiritual level? Nothing does the love that is Campari justice. Just know that without it, birds would stop singing and bunnies stop hopping. I am very excited for this Negroni. You will be, too. Heck, you’ll even want to give me a hand when you have it.

negroniThe Negroni

 

Cracked ice

1-1/4 ounces The London Nº1 gin

1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth

1-1/4 ounces Campari

Ice cubes

Lemon twist (or orange, if you have one)

 

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

 

2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with the twist.

June 8, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Two Bodies on a Barge

maigret's-pipeOur mini-Maigret-a-thon continues with another gem from the story collection Maigret’s Pipe (which is full of gems, don’t miss the “Mademoiselle Berthe and Her Lover” Cocktail Talk, or any of the past Chief Inspector Maigret Cocktail Talks). Here, Maigret is dealing with crimes and barges and waterways, as happens, and crimes, and gin!

And Maigret became ever more deeply absorbed in the slow, ponderous life of La Citanguette, as though only there was he capable of thought. A self-propelled barge flying a Belgian flag reminded him of Theodor, Aerts’s son, who must by now have reached Paris.

 

At the same time, the Belgian flag suggested the thought of gin. For on the table in the cabin there had been found a bottle of gin, more than half empty. Somebody had made a thorough search of the cabin itself and even tore open the mattress covers, scatter the flock stuffing.

 

Obviously, in an attempt to find the hidden hoard of 100,000 francs!

 

–George Simenon, “Two Bodies on a Barge”

April 6, 2021

Cocktail Talk: The Widows of Malabar Hill

widows-malabar-hillThere is nothing quite like discovering a new book you enjoy, and when you add that it’s written by an author you haven’t yet read? Well, you get to feel a bit what the great explorers and their crews felt right before they yelled “land, ho!” approaching a new piece of earth. Let’s hope they treated the inhabitants as well as you treat said new book and author! I recently had this experience with a book called The Widows of Malabar Hill, written by Sujata Massey. Taking place in Bombay in 1921 (and, it turns out, Bombay and other spots in India in 1916), it features the city’s only female lawyer in that year, Perveen Mistry. The mystery around said widows, and a murder, and the history surrounding them and our lawyer is all well laid out, with chapters that take place in different times alternating in a way that keep character history and the main story both moving while drawing you in. All good, right? But what makes the book even better is its incredibly evocative descriptiveness of the time, the culture, the food, the streets, the smells, the religions, the laws and legal processes, the colors, the sounds, which brings a place and place in time I didn’t know much about to bubbling life. Not to mention it ends with a drink (see quote below)! I can’t wait to read more by Sujata Massey – and I suggest you do the same.

 

Smiling at him, she said, “I’ve just a few questions. I’ve heard this magnificent hotel was founded to allow equal hospitality to Indians and foreigners. Is that really true?

He nodded. “It most certainly is.”

“To allow male guest alcohol – but not the female guests – runs against the idea of equal hospitality, doesn’t it?

“Well, I – you don’t say, but –” He had no further words.

Five minutes later, Perveen had a frosty gin-lime in front of her, and Alice had her whiskey-soda.”

 

— Sujata Massey, The Widows of Malabar Hill

March 26, 2021

What I’m Drinking: The Earth’s Attraction

It’s a familiar and beloved story with an alluring gravity: you are walking by your liquor shelves (or cabinet, or bottle stash, or near-toppling table, or bar cart, or horse’s buggy, or pie safe, or wherever you choose to keep your booze) and you catch, from the corner of your eye, a little wink from a gin bottle. Wink-wink, you think you saw, and knowing how flirty gin is, you stop, and peer at the bottles (in this scenario you have more than one type of gin, which I’m sure you do), and try to decide which gin is calling you over, wink imagined or not, because by now all this gin-ing has made you thirsty for a gin drink.

Well, I am here to help, with The Earth’s Attraction, a drink I made with Bluewater’s Halcyon gin, made up this way in Everett, WA, and “distilled by open flame” as they say. It brings a layered London-style, with reliable juniper backed by citrus and spice (a little angelica, orris root, and cinnamon). Yums. It provides the gravitas and base here, with our secondary players being dry vermouth (for the botanical and lighter herbal accents), Giffard’s Crème de Pêche de Vigne (for the vineyard peachy-ness we all desire, a wee bit of sweet, and nuttiness, too), and Scrappy’s Orange bitters (because bitters makes it better – plus orange layers and deep herb and spice notes). Oh! And a twist of lemon, whose heavenly citrus oils bring it all together, like Saturn’s rings. Celestial enough? I think so!earths-attraction

The Earth’s Attraction

 

Cracked ice

2 ounces Bluewater Halcyon gin

1/2 ounce dry vermouth

3/4 ounce Giffard’s Crème de Pêche de Vigne

Dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters

Lemon twist, for garnish

 

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well.

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

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