November 26, 2021
You’re full. I’m full. Yesterday was Thanksgiving, the fillingest holiday of the year here in the US, where many (like me!) overeat without a calorific care in the world. And even with that feasting, there still tends to be leftovers. Luckily, in the cranberry sauce case, cause then you can have the traditional post-Thanksgiving Gizmo, a Thanksgiving drink that’s been had around tables and fireplaces and back-porches for many a long year (originally created by a genius named Jeremy Holt). So, no matter your fullness level, start your shaking!
2-1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce homemade cranberry sauce
1/2 ounce simple syrup (optional)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin and cranberry sauce, and syrup if using. Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up, Thanksgiving-style.
November 12, 2021
Sometimes I think to myself, what a wonderful world of drink-making ingredients we’re living within. The change since I came of drinking age (which admittedly was many a moon ago) is remarkable – heck, the change in the last decade, or even five years, is pretty remarkable. How lucky us cocktail lovers are! And there are more delicious delectables in beautiful bottles coming our way all the time. Even luckier! For example, just the other day, a beautiful bottle arrived in the post (luckiest me – don’t be jealous), containing Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus:
A “novel expression” (sidenote: I love the usage of the word “expression” here, and in other spots, to refer to a slightly, not completely, new version of a spirit or liqueur) of the original Drumshanbo Gin, this adds notes of, well, Sardinian citrus, “Sa Pompia” to be exact, one of the rarest fruits in the world, and a fruit sitting between an orange and grapefruit in flavor essence, though part of the lemon family. Not something you’d eat solo, but with a peel that can bring fantastic citrus dreams when used correctly. But, before peeling that any more, let’s back up. If you don’t know, Drumshanbo Gin itself takes its full name from the fact that it’s made in a small village in Ireland, and with a signature ingredient: Gunpowder Tea (which is a green tea rolled into gun-pellet-esque balls). But that’s just the beginning of this gin story! That tea and the Sardinian citrus, grapefruit, and lime are vapor infused into the gin, while a host of botanicals (juniper, as you’d expect, plus angelica and orris root, caraway and coriander seed, cardamom, star anise, and lesser-know flowery herb meadowsweet) are distilled in a medieval copper still. Whew! But what’s it all mean? On the nose, a strong, distinctive citrus medley, orange with underlying grapefruit, with subtle hints of juniper and flowers and springtime. The taste reflects the nose, but flipped a bit, with bountiful botanicals bursting on the tongue, with that green tea flavor coming through, swirled with citrus and then ending herbally. Yummy!
It’s a curious collection of ingredients, all balanced out nice, and one I couldn’t resist trying in a drink, after sipping it solo. And I had the perfect moment, with some pals coming over for lunch. As we’re at the point in the calendar where the holidays are in view, my mind went instantly to a bubbly cocktail (as the past weeks have shown, I am a fan of the holiday/sparkling combo). I played around a little with things, and ended up leaning into the citrus side of the gin, complementing it with a little more orange and a smidge of sweet in the form of Grand Marnier, and then doubling and tripling the herb-and-citrus song by the addition of two fantastic citrusy bitters: Scrappy’s lovely Grapefruit bitters and Orange bitters. I’m not gonna lie: I think with just those ingredients, there’s a pretty swell cocktail. But adding prosecco really drives all the flavors up, up, up with every bubble, into a memorable sparkling mix that’s ideal for the holidays — and for lunch with pals. When drinking, maybe throw out a toast to our modern drinker’s world, too, and how wonderful it is.
The Suspended Palace
1 ounce Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus
1/2 ounce Grand Mariner
1 dash Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
1 dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
4 to 5 ounces chilled Prosecco
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Drumshanbo gin, Grand Marnier, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain the mix into a flute or comparable glass. Top with the chilled Prosecco. Stir carefully, to combine.
November 5, 2021
We’re rolling, rolling, rolling into the happening winter holiday season, which means top hats and tails are being pressed (well, in my 1920s fever-dream at least) and people like you and me are stocking up on bubbly. While our parties may take different forms than past years, let’s hope parties with bubbly drinks are still being planned, cause if they aren’t, well, the world wouldn’t be quite as sparkly and shiny. What also helps make things more sparkly and shiny is of course having a new bubbly drink to have and make and serve at these parties, which leads us to The Poor Harriet. This effervescent number combines old pal gin (who has made many a holiday party mighty), fresh orange juice (a healthy cold-weather hit since oranges blossomed), Parfait Amour (if you don’t know, a floral liqueur – think a rose-y, violet-y bouquet, that is love-based, so perfect to serve to loved ones, if a tad sweet on its own), Peychaud’s bitters (whose heartening mixture of herbs balances the sweetness), a little more sweetness (in the form of simple syrup – feel free to omit if this seems too much sweet, even during the holidays), and then, of course bubbles. Here, the bubble component is Italian sparkling wine Prosecco, which is a delight! Now, party pals, you are prepared for those upcoming holiday revels. Thank me later.
The Poor Harriet, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce Parfait Amour
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, Parfait Amour, simple syrup, orange juice, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a flute glass. Top with chilled Prosecco (about four ounces should do it). Stir, but very carefully, to combine. Cheers, yo!
September 17, 2021
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.
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
Agatha (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
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.
1-1/4 ounces strawberry-infused Sipsmith London Dry gin
1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth
1-1/4 ounces Campari
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
This 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
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.
1-1/4 ounces The London Nº1 gin
1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth
1-1/4 ounces Campari
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.