October 1, 2021

What I’m Drinking: Basil Grappa

It was, say two months ago, basil season (I take it to be late August, though your basil-ing may vary), which is a fragrant green season indeed. Usually, one thinks: basil, an herb, used in cooking, see pesto, etc. However, I (and maybe others, too) also think: basil, an herb, used in making liqueurs and other drinkables, see Basil Grappa, etc. I first made Basil Grappa way back in the halcyon days of writing a book called Luscious Liqueurs (I originally saw the idea in a small Italian language pamphlet of liqueurs, and then tweaked it up a tiny bit), and it’s featured in said book, and I’ve been making it fairly regularly ever since – including this very year! It’s a straightforward recipe, just basil, grappa, simple syrup, and a little lemon juice for balance, and one that’s a little less sweet than some liqueurs. Why? Cause while I love the basil, I still wanted to let the grappa shine through, and not have its grappa-ness (that lovely grape-ness, vineyard-ness, and wine’s-older-brother-ness) completely smoothed away. This liqueur is, for those grappa neophytes, an easy path into the world of grappa by the way, grappa being a spirit that is mostly misunderstood here in the US, but one also that has many varieties (as many as wine itself, I suppose). While not always super available here (if you are US-based, that is), I’m finding more grappas around, but if you can’t track down a bottle, hound your local liquor store until they bring some in!

basil-grappa

Basil Grappa Liqueur

 

1-1/2 cups fresh basil

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

3 cups grappa

1/2 cup simple syrup

 

1. Add the basil and lemon juice to a large glass container. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle them together cozily.

 

2. Add the grappa to the container, and stir well. Put it in a cool dry place, and let everything get acquainted for two weeks, swirling occasionally.

 

3. Add the simple syrup to the container, stir, and put back in that cool, dry place, once again, swirling.

 

4. Strain the Basil Grappa. I’d suggest once through a fine mesh strainer, then through cheesecloth – into a glass bottle, or a number of small bottles if you’d like to share (sharing is nice)!

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.

April 17, 2020

What I’m Drinking: Forty Minutes Ago on the Balcony

If you didn’t know (and hey, why would you, unless you’re stalking me – you aren’t are you? Cause I’m really boring and feel for you if so), I recently, due to current events you know about, had an Italian vacation cut short by coronavirus. Said cutting short involved some radically fast packing (I mean, I’m a good suitcase arranger usually, but this was a mad dash), and that means quick choices about what to bring back, what you can fit, all that. One of the things I did bring back was a little bottle of Mazzetti Bitter, a deep red flavorfully-bitter aperitif with hints of rhubarb and lemon from the well-known grappa makers. Just like a week before the packing I purchased said bottle at my favorite north-Umbrian shop, Enoteca Lo Sfizio, which is a combination beautiful booze store, gift store, wine store, condiment-y store. It’s not huge (which is great cause huge stores scare me), but dreamy. So, ingredient one packed. One of the few other bottles I managed to squirrel away in said suitcases was a lean bottle of Donini Grappa (Donini being the finest winery in probably all of Umbria, owned by the nicest folks around), a monovitigno (one varietal that is, here being Sangiovese) grappa, very crisp and fragrant, that doesn’t forget that cozy grappa kick. Ingredient two packed. For ingredient three, I had to go out of suitcase – cause a rushed packing job sometimes has gaps. Luckily, on a past trip to Italy, I had packed in a smoother manner, cool-like, and managed to fit a bottle of Donini’s delicious Dono Di Dio, a vino liquoroso, or aged dessert wine that’s rich, lush, and needs to be tasted to be believed. If you’ve been Tuscany and had Vin Santo at a restaurant, think of that but like 10,000 times better. Yummy stuff. While I was sad to leave the Italian vacation, due to the wackiness of the travel (and cause once a trip is started, it’s always nice to be coming home), I was also very happy to make it back to Seattle. Which leads to: ingredient four in this here drink, Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. If your dream vacation is cut short unexpectedly by a world pandemic, a drink featuring the always-spot-on Scrappy’s and some ingredients reminding you of the vacation, well, it’s not going to get you over the experience, but sure makes thinking about it easier.

 bitter-grappa-drink

Forty Minutes Ago on the Balcony

 

Cracked ice

1 ounce Mazzetti Bitter

1-1/2 ounces Donini Grappa

1/2 ounce Donini Dono Di Dio

Two dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters

Orange slice, for garnish

 

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass three-quarters full with cracked ice. Add everything but the orange. Stir well.

 

2. Strain into a cocktail glass or something that helps your day travel easier. Garnish with the orange.

December 10, 2019

Learn About Wonderful Washington State Digestifs with Me and New Day Northwest

Eating too much this holiday season? Well, you need a good digestif – and I’ve got a bunch to suggest, all made by the world’s best distillers, right in WA state! And I’ve got the perfect place to suggest them – the mighty morning show New Day Northwest, with mighty morning show host Margaret Larson. Okay, to be honest, the show was right before Thanksgiving. But the digestifs are still good, and the sipping advice goes through the whole season – and beyond! Check it out, pals!

November 19, 2019

Cocktail Talk: So Rich, So Lovely, and So Dead

so-rich-so-lovely-so-deadMy Scott-Jordan-ing re-reading continues (see the Tall, Dark and Deadly post below for more on this lawyer-ing hero from the 1950s pockets-and-pulps) in nearly as fast a manner as Jordan gets in scraps, woos the ladies, sips the drinks, slings the punches and the smart remarks, and solves the murders. In this one, he’s about to provide some lawyer-ing help to a rather wealthy young lady/heiress, one with an artistic bent and a penchant for headlines and bad marriages, when she turns up murdered. Oops! The tag here is “How the other half dies” dontcha know. It’s a swell read (so much so that I’ve had a So Rich, So Lovely, and So Dead Cocktail Talk already), moves quicks, turns and twists, and stop for drinks at the right spots, and, perhaps the only time I’ve seen this in an American book from the 50s, likes grappa. You can see why these books are worth re-reading.

 

We were in the mood for Italian food and I knew just the right place on Thompson Street in the Village. It was unpretentious and seldom crowded, but the cooking was superlative and the house wine fair. Between courses we read the paper.

“Anything special we’re looking for?” Susan wanted to know.

“Just keep your eyes peeled for news about any of the principals in the case.”

We kept at it after espresso and a shot of grappa.

 

 

— Harold Q. Masur, So Rich, So Lovely, and So Dead

October 21, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Italian Evening

At some point this month, I myself will be in Italy, and I can’t be happier about it (having lived there once, it’s easy to see that I am a big fan), and in a way this drink is a bubbly celebration of that happiness. Though, it’s also perhaps a more serious number (not in a bad way, at all) than some bubbly Italian drinks. Howso? It starts with grappa, which I love, and which is of course a cousin to wine, and as you probably guessed by the “bubbly,” this also has Italian sparkler Prosecco. Let’s hold on that for a second, to talk about the third ingredient, Cynar. A member of the digestif amari family, Cynar is crafted from artichokes along with 12 other herbs and plants. It’s a wee stitch bitter, but has a great smooth herbal-ness and a small comforting sweetness, too. It’s swell solo, but also in drinks, and plays well with the strong grappa here. But back to the Prosecco – to hold up to those other two strong personalities, you need a bubbly with its own strong sense of purpose and flavor, and here I went with Zonin Black edition (a bottle came in the mail recently – yes, I was born under a good sign). It’s a slightly spicier Prosecco, with cardamom hints alongside apple and a little floralness. Combined with our other two Italian imports, this makes for an effervescent drink that can be had both before and after dinner, and perhaps savored more than most.

italian-eveningThe Italian Evening

Cracked ice
1 ounce grappa
1 ounce Cynar
4 ounces chilled Zonin Black edition Prosecco
Lemon twist

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the grappa and Cynar. Stir well.

2. Strain into a flute. Top with the Prosecco. Stir to combine. Garnish with the lemon twist.

September 24, 2013

Cocktail Talk: Straight Cut, Part II

StraightCutJust last week, I talked about finding and reading and digging the book by Madison Smartt Bell called Straight Cut. Go read that post if you haven’t. Back now? Great, that means it’s time for you to dive right in to some more Cocktail Talk quotes from said book. The first is about grappa, and the second, for balance, is about rum.

In the early evening I went to the trattoria for an early supper and mainly to get out of the house and there I remembered about grappa. There’s no language difficulty about ordering grappa. You just say “grappa” and the man brings you some, in this case a sizable portion for the equivalent of about thirty U.S. cents.

On the Bayswater Road, near the corner of Kensington Gardens, I found a booze shop and bought a quart of dark naval rum. Circling back about Queensway, I picked up some plastic cups at a grocer’s and then I went back to the room. It was time to get drunk and think it over.

Straight Cut, Madison Smartt Bell

July 28, 2009

What I’m Drinking: Tareva’s Tipple

Not too too long ago (I mean, I am a bit tardy on this, but not, say, a year behind, or even three months, and if we didn’t have the interweb and the telephone and whatnots, and communication came via Pony Express, I’d be totally on time), pal Becca from the tasty Key Notes with Becca was talking up her newly planted basil in a post, and thinking about all the dishes she might make with it, and generally giving a big “yay!” at the thought of fresh basil. A sentiment I second. But (and you knew that “but” was heading your way), none of her ideas had anything to do with a basil drink. Which is a shame, cause she’s a boozehound. No, no, I kid. She’s not hitting the bottle at the break of day, but neither is opposed to a nice cocktail and, knowing this, I said we should try to come up with basil drinks. Which leads to Tareva’s Tipple.

 

 

A friendly mystical kind of a mix (when you remember that basil has had a few theoretical–as far as I know–mystic connotations in the past), Tareva’s Tipple is good for a summer’s evening when you’re sitting on the deck reading a few issues of your favorite comic (and yeah, you have one, even if you don’t admit it) with the pups frolicking around you. It probably shouldn’t be too hot, cause there’s some muddling during the making and you don’t want to sweat. And you probably shouldn’t be planning on driving to the drive-in after having three of these, because there’s a double-delicious-whammy of sorts, due to the combo of gin and grappa (balanced out in the grand scheme of things by the basil and a bit of simple syrup). I used Aviation gin cause its floral notes play well with the basil, and Soft Tail Reserve grappa because it’s got that get-up-and-get-at-it underlying umph as well as some plays-well-with-others flavorings. The end result might not actually be a potion, but might leave you spellbound (if I can wax magically for a moment). Fresh basil’s the key, naturally, and best if just plucked before using.

 

6 or 7 fresh basil leaves, plus one for garnish

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Ice cubes

2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce grappa

 

1. Add all the basil leaves minus that last one and the simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler, muddle well.

 

2. Fill the shaker halfway full with ice cubes, and then add the gin and grappa. Shake well.

 

3. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the remaining basil leaf. Enjoy.

 

A Note: Wife Nat thought I used a bit too much grappa, when I was using 1 full ounce, so I scaled it back. But you can scale it up if you’re feeling frisky.

 

PS: If anyone can tell me right now without using the Googler who “Tareva” was, in decent detail, then I will buy you a drink that can cost up to $15. So, a fancy-pants drink.

 

PPS: If anyone can tell me after using the Googler who “Tareva” was, I still might buy you a drink, but not if you’ve consulted this guy, who would obviously know. And yeah, that’s a serious hint.

 

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