February 16, 2021
The Uncommercial Traveller by our pal Charles Dickens is not a book one hears about enough – heck, even a Dickens head like me hadn’t had it in his hands until recently. But I scored a copy, which isn’t really that hard, though said copy is like a print-to-order thing, with no, like TOC, or copyright notes, or title page, anything. Which is fine, and definitely better than no copy at all! If you don’t know (and I’ll admit, I didn’t know much until I got said copy), The Uncommercial Traveller is a collection of personal essays, or literary sketches as they say, that Dickens originally published in a journal he founded called “All the Year Round” (if anyone wants to gift me a few original copies of that, go right ahead), and really involves the main character (Dickens, that is, as far as it goes) writing about his wanderings around London, the UK, and (in a dreamy sort-of way and regular ways) Europe, including visiting the site of a famous shipwreck, strolling the city in the wee hours due to insomnia, mapping out the haunts of neighborhood dogs, visiting the town he grew up in, and more. They are all written in the Dickensian style, with wit, insights that remain relevant today, details rendered through his particular peculiar eye, and all. He stops at pubs and hotels and other watering holes, too, as he loved such, and drinks, so it makes for good Cocktail Talk-ing (oh, don’t miss all the past Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks, as there are many jolly ones). I’m not sure yet how many Uncommercial Traveller Cocktails Talks I’ll have yet, but you can bet they’ll be more! We’re going to start at one of those neighborhood public houses, one attended by theatre-goers during intermission. And while it does have drinks! It’s really an ode to the sandwich. But I love sandwiches! Especially with drinks.
Between the pieces, we almost all of us went out and refreshed. Many of us went the length of drinking beer at the bar of the neighbouring public-house, some of us drank spirits, crowds of us had sandwiches and ginger-beer at the refreshment-bars established for us in the Theatre. The sandwich—as substantial as was consistent with portability, and as cheap as possible—we hailed as one of our greatest institutions. It forced its way among us at all stages of the entertainment, and we were always delighted to see it; its adaptability to the varying moods of our nature was surprising; we could never weep so comfortably as when our tears fell on our sandwich; we could never laugh so heartily as when we choked with sandwich; Virtue never looked so beautiful or Vice so deformed as when we paused, sandwich in hand, to consider what would come of that resolution of Wickedness in boots, to sever Innocence in flowered chintz from Honest Industry in striped stockings. When the curtain fell for the night, we still fell back upon sandwich, to help us through the rain and mire, and home to bed.
–Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller
September 18, 2020
You know (I know you know) that I’m not what one might refer to as “summerific.” While I do love warm-weather drinking, and sitting on the porch on a mild summer’s eve, and don’t have constant AC or some such, also, I mean, I’ve been known to get sweaty easily, complain about temperatures over 80 (but living in Seattle, I swear one’s temperature gauge changes), burn like a baby, and truth be told no-one wants me in a swimsuit. With that said, however, I’m missing summer already, even though according to calendars fall doesn’t yet start for a few days. But that summer, school’s out, sun’s out, relax-why-dontcha, feeling feels to have faded like old paint, with the colder days ahead looming largely. Which is why, today, I’m having a Dark and Stormy. Cause it’s a classic refresher, bubbly, beautiful, tangy, booze-y, spice-y, summer-y – and yet, the name points to the clouds, the nighttime-in-daytime hours, the rain, the wind. It straddles the seasons, in a way, a way which makes it the ideal drink for today. Have one, see if I’m right!
The Dark and Stormy
2 ounces dark rum
Chilled ginger beer (I’m using Rachel’s Ginger Beer cause it’s awesome and support you locals for gosh sakes)
Lime wedge, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the rum.
2. Fill the glass with ginger beer, smoothly and regularly.
3. Squeeze the lime wedge over the drink, and then drop it like the hand of an hourglass. Stir, but gently, as all things, us, time, are fragile.
January 10, 2020
It’s funny, in a curious way, because it’s January, and January is known as a bit of a cold-hearted month for a number of reasons; one, cause it’s cold! But, the curiously funny thing is, that for the second time in two weeks, I’m having not a winter warmer, but a light, refreshing, mix with ginger beer and ice cubes and sunshine (admittedly, chilly sunshine, but sunshine, pals, is sunshine). This devilish mix, though, is such an old favorite, and (perhaps more important? I’d say most important) my wife’s top drink, or at least top five, that it gets consumed at our house – or at nearby bars – year round. It’s a treat year round, too, as the tequila smoke and warmth play so perfectly with the ginger beer, and then that unexpected in a way, slight sweet fruity boop from the cassis and tangy tang of lime (or lemon, in a pinch, hence the “esque” in this this title, but, you know, needs must), all combining into a, well, treat! No matter what the day of the year.
One note: some folks (many?) shake the tequila, juice, and cassis first. That’s not my style. I’m not saying my style is better, oh no! But I do how I do. You do you. We all can still toast drinks.
The El Diablo-esque
1-1/2 ounces tequila (often, reposado, but I think blanco is nice, too)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3-1/2 ounces ginger beer
1/2 ounce crème de cassis
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a big-ish highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the tequila, lemon juice, and ginger beer. Stir thoroughly, but no need to chase the devil in an over-rambunctious manner.
2. Carefully drizzle the cassis over-the-top of the mix (I tend to angle towards the edges, but that’s me, again). If you want, give it a brief stir. Garnish with the lemon. Go January, go!
January 3, 2020
Gin. Geeeeeen. Gin. I remember when I first started making drinks with gorgeous (mostly!) gin, way way way back in the dawn of time, moreorless, a darker age in many drink ways. Back then, we only had a few gin choices, and even less choices in other boozy things. But we’re talking gin here friends, ol’ junipally gin. So, back then, again, I thought of gin in a probably more regimented fashion. But, like many (and many more each day, one hopes), I’ve learned as time has passed, and the imbibing world has changed. Jumping into our time machines (you have one, right?) from those way-back-then days of few gins to today and BOOM, gins-a-popping. All kinds of variations on the gin theme. Which leads to today, where I’m drinking a wonderful gin distilled in Italy, a gin called PiùCinque. Now, I love gin. And I love Italy. But I didn’t know that, as in many spots, Italy’s long and distinguished distilling and delicious-tipple-making scene had embraced gin, too – but it has! PiùCinque utilizes ten specific botanicals to give it a very individual taste, but one that stays true to the gin roots, with a nice even juniper-ness. One that’s partnered with nine intriguing friends (which gets us to ten, see), including I think sage, ginger root, wormwood flowers, angelica, Seville orange (if I’m reading things rightly), almond, the earthy mysterious zedoary, orris root, and lemony, springtime bergamot. That latter really brings this gin into its own, starting the taste off with light citrus notes that then smoothly move into the grounded, herbal, nut, root notes. Definitely worth a solo sipping over a cube or two.
But also, a fine ingredient for cocktails! I was sitting in some unexpectedly warm December sunshine considering gin, all the gins I’ve had, and especially this new-to-me gin, PiùCinque, and decided I wanted a refreshing mix, and something simple (cause I’m sometimes lazy, you know) and decided on an old, old friend, the Dragonfly. This basic mix of gin, ginger beer, and (usually) lime is a dandy manner to take a gin new-to-you out for a walk, so to speak. However! I only had lemons. And I was using this Italian gin for the first time! So, I changed up the name a slight bit, as one does. Anyway! The lemon actually worked a treat with this gin’s lighter, high end citrus notes, and the gin itself brought all those botanicals to the party, and, well, the drink was delicious. End of gin story! Now, I just have to figure out how to fill my suitcase when in Italy with Italian gins, so that the Italian gins can cuddly up on my gin shelf with my other gins! Gin!
1-1/2 ounces PiùCinque gin
Approximately 4 ounces ginger beer (Fever-Tree and its genuine ginger soul worked a treat)
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or other glass (that fits the scene) three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the gin, gently.
2. Add the ginger beer, and stir in a manner that’s not too wacky, but does combine well. Squeeze the lemon over and drop it in. Drink up, with a nod to Italy (unless you’re in Italy, in which case, just be happy you’re there).
June 21, 2019
Hey sunshine daydreamers! Guess what today is? That’s right beach beauties, it’s the first day of summer, and you know what that means? Smear on the sunscreen and take off your sweaters, slip on your sunglasses and slip into some short shorts (or whatever your hot weather wear of choice), and start enjoying the rising mercury and retreating clouds and cold. All of that, plus make this this drink, which slides you straight into summer, while remembering that winter, like all seasons, isn’t gone for long. How does it do that? Well, the rum is a summer standby, of course, but dark rum can really play year round, and its pal here, Bénédictine, has that rich herbal monastic thing going on that keeps one warm when the temperature is chillier, but also fits into a number of sun-tastic tiki type drinks. See where we’re going? The final player: Crabbies ginger beer, superficially Orange Spiced variety, but if you can’t find it, go with the regular variety. Ginger beer is of course a refreshing refresher, but the orange spice, well, that’s winter time. Really, though, forget my shoehorning – this is a nice one to sip as the seasons change.
The Happy Crab
1-1/2 ounce dark rum
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
5 ounces Crabbies Orange Spiced ginger beer
1. Fill a big highball or comparable glass about halfway full with ice cubes. Add the dark rum and Benedictine. Stir briefly.
2. Add the Crabbies. Stir to combine. Face the sun with a smile.
March 16, 2018
This all-time St. Patrick’s Day dreamweaver is one I suggest to every person I know for celebrating on March 17, cause it’s delicious, sure, and so much better than the array of chemically-green’d beer and such often served on the day. But also cause it was created by Jeremy Sidener, a true gentleman from Kansas, of which there aren’t many – true gentlemen, that is. The Dublin 8’s also fantastically refreshing. So, what are you waiting for? Might as well start celebrating now, right?
The Dublin 8
2 ounces Irish whiskey (I originally used Clontarf 1014 in this, but others would shine as well)
3 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3 ounces chilled ginger ale or ginger beer
Lime quarter for garnish
Lime slice for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass, or similarly-sized glass, three quarters up with ice cubes. Add the whiskey.
2. Add the orange juice and ginger ale.
3. Squeeze a lime wedge over the glass, and then drop it in. Stir gently. Garnish with the slice of lime.
August 11, 2017
You know what? Having this hot-weather, shipboard, beachy, rummy, ginger-y cool-down-er back in action pretty much everywhere is a swell situation for us all to be within. Going back to the post WWI years, the dark (rum) and stormy (ginger beer) dance-of-deliciousness (yep, I used that phrase) has always delivered in an easy-going manner, so it’s odd that it fell a bit off bar menus and the common tongue (so to speak) for a while. Could be the lack of good ginger beer (now, we have oodles), or the lack of adventuresome natures in some of our ancestors, or a fear of names connected by “and.” Maybe all of the above? All I know is that I don’t care! It’s hot outside, and pouring one of these makes it so much cooler.
The Dark and Stormy
2 ounces dark rum
Chilled ginger beer (lots of options but I think Rachel’s is dandy)
Lime wedge for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the rum.
2. Fill the glass with ginger beer, smoothly and regularly.
3. Squeeze the lime wedge over the drink, and then drop it like it’s hot. Stir, but cautiously – no need to rock the boat too much at this point.
July 1, 2016
This refreshing relative of the Diablo cocktail is sure to become a summertime favorite, whether you’re wearing your 10-gallon hat and chaps (and maybe little else – it is summer after all, and very sweltering) or normal attire. It uses one of the new Stolen Fruit cocktail mixers, which I surely hope are available in your town (if not, complain to the mayor). Not a “cocktail mixer” in the yucky, pre-made un-natural way, but instead, grape-based, and more just a mixer in really-good-thing-you-add-to-booze way. What happens is, they use the fresh-pressed juice from green grapes (which is called verjus, if you’re feeling fancy), combined with other natural flavors, to make mystical (why not?) liquids, which can be added in with spirits and liqueurs and such to make cocktails and highballs and more, oh my, or just added to soda water or other juices to make fine non-boozy beverages.
So, I recently received a few to try out (I know – I’m lucky!), and made this very drink with the Hibiscus Grenache Stolen Fruit mixer, which is not only perhaps the most poetic (the word “hibiscus” is really poetic, me thinks), but which also boasts a berry, zingy, and tiny bit spicy flavor that to me screamed out tequila! Tequila! Tequila! As that’s another summer favorite around these parts, the combo felt right. And you know what? It was! Try the below, and make your summer not only more bubbly, but just plain better.
2 ounces Reposado tequila (I went with Corralejo Reposado, and it was great)
1-1/2 ounces Stolen Fruit Hibiscus Grenache
4 ounces ginger beer (I used Q ginger beer, and it spiced right)
Lime wedge, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the tequila and the stolen fruit. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball glass (preferably one shaped like a boot) three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from step 1 into the glass.
3. Top with the ginger beer. Stir well. Garnish with that lime.