I was at a bar with some old pals (not drinking Old Pals, funny enough, hahaha) just the other day, and thought for a moment how nice it was to be able to be at a bar having a drink with some old pals – what a world that a thought such as that would flit through my mind then, just considering most of my life that thought wouldn’t have even been a thing (at least the “in a bar” part, with the connotations of the pandemic life we’ve been living). At said bar – not what you might consider a “cocktail bar” if that makes sense, and know I don’t mean that pejoratively, but one that still had a nice bunch of bottles – we were sitting outside, and as it does in Seattle in May sometimes, with evening descending, rain started and the temperature also rapidly descended, and I was getting chilly, and for some reason decided I had to have a hot chocolate and Green Chartreuse. The jolly waitress did look at me strangely (with a big smile) for a moment, as no-one there had ever ordered that before! But it was a lovely mix (try it!). However, that’s not what I’m drinking tonight. But the Chartreuse plus being with old pals (mine being like shining sparkling jewels, to me, as I hope your old pals are to you) reminded me of one of my favorite cocktails, the Bijou, which features said Green Chartreuse, and which is also named for the definition of the word bijou which circles around gems and jewels and jewelry. Neat, right? Right!
Sometimes, even in the shortest month of the year, time seems to drag – perhaps you agree? Maybe not? Either way, the days (lovely as they are) on occasion go slow, which is sometimes good, as that way we can enjoy each hour and second to the fullest, but sometimes isn’t as good, as we wait for travel to be easier and all that. And as we can’t do much about it (and maybe shouldn’t) cause time is as far as we know so far is a constant, why not ratchet up the rapidity by feeling that you’re moving fast by drinking a drink called Supersonic! Not that this drink moves the drinker, or time itself, faster, but it is called Supersonic! And even saying it makes it seem that speed is going Supersonic! That gin, Green Chartreuse, lime juice, and simple syrup make up this drink called Supersonic! At least when you add a lemon twist to the glass, then it’s Supersonic! The green and gold together is Supersonic! While none of the above does change time, it certainly makes the passing time more fun, and, well, more Supersonic!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, great drinks are even greater with a good story – and a great story takes it to even another level. Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of McConnell’s Irish Whisky in the post (what a nice thing! Especially in these stay-at-home times! So, don’t be jealous, I’ll share). And what a great story to go along with such a dandy whisky. Here are the basics – McConnell’s started producing whisky way way back in 1776, a year famous here in the U.S. for things other than whisky, though I’m sure a lot was consumed here at that time, too, hahaha. The whisky was made in Belfast, but soon being sipped all over the world by discerning sippers. But then! Tragedy, in the form of a vast fire that destroyed (so sadly) 500,000 gallons of whisky and a chunk of the distillery itself. Persevering, they rebuilt, and whisky flowed. But then! Tragedy, again, in the form of prohibition, which really put the damper on long-distance imports to the U.S., a monster-sized consumer – and that sad event destroyed the distillery, like the fire, but worse. Until this year, when it rose the economic and literal ashes, like a tipsy phoenix.
Of course, a good story like that (and distilleries coming alive and alive again are good, good stories) doesn’t mean as much if the flavor doesn’t rise to the tale. McConnell’s is a swell tipple, however, so the tale is ripe for more telling. A blended whisky, it’s aged five years in American oak, and as other friendly Irish whiskys, it has an approachable (not annoying) sweet nature. Beyond the lovely bottle, it sets itself apart thanks to a singular vanilla, nutmeg, spice and hint-of-smokiness taste. Yummy. So yummy, you could be forgiven for only consuming this recovered-from-history hit solo, or with a splash of water, or maybe a cube or two of ice as the mood descends on your day. Heck, I drank a lot of it that way myself, and only felt happy about it.
However! I also just can’t resist combining spirits and liqueurs I like into cocktails – and the welcoming, flavorful nature of McConnell’s is a bountiful base for a cocktail that lets it shine, while introducing a few friends that can stand alongside proudly. Today, I went with the classic, if not super-widely known, Tipperary. This version (there’s a separate cocktail carrying the same name from a few years earlier) goes back I believe to the 1922s, if memory serves, but don’t take me to task on it if I’m confused. To go with our mighty McConnell’s, the drink brings another legend to the mix, herbally, mystical, Green Chartreuse, along with sweet vermouth – I’m going with Punt e’ Mes here, which is just a touch drier than some, while still delivering more lush herbal notes , alongside a gentle bitter. Altogether, this cocktail delivers amazingly. I mean, it’s amazingly delicious. So, so, delicious, and just the right one for celebrating McConnell’s coming back on the booze scene.
Hey kids, you like laughs right? Well, recently (if you think about the grand breadth of time that us ridiculous humans have been on earth, super recently) I got to go down to new-ish Seattle hotel bar Ben Paris and have a Last Laugh cocktail made by Abigail Gullo. Now that’s a laugh worth savoring – and you can savor, too, cause I then wrote about it for Seattle magazine, and they printed what I wrote, and all that. For reals! Go check it out now, why dontcha.
As September rolls into October, it feels we should have one Last Word for it – hahaha! Really, sometimes I just feel like a classic, and this is one of my classic classics, brought back to the world, after nearly slipping into the mists of history, thanks to legendary Seattle bartender Murray Stenson, who launched it into modern bar culture. It was, legends say, originally created by Frank Fogarty way back in the Prohibition era, though he wasn’t a shaker and stirrer. Instead, he was known as “the Dublin Mistral,” and was one of the leading vaudevillian monologists of his time. Give a toast to both, and to September, when having this.
The Last Word
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, maraschino, Chartreuse, and lime juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass and don’t forget your toasts.
A swell drink as we slowly shift away from the height of summer into the end of summer and the beginning of fall, the Bijou, as legends have it, was originally created by the legendary Harry Johnson in the late 1800s, with a recipe printed in his New and Improved Bartender Manual from 1900. But I first found it in The Stork Club Bar Book by Lucius Beebe (published first in 1946). The name comes from the jewel definition of Bijou, as the drink has three ingredients aligning with jewels: gin and diamond, sweet vermouth and ruby, and Green Chartreuse and emeralds. Pretty!
First: no ducks are actually used in this drink. If you were worried. Second, it’s Friday the 13th, and you have enough to be worried about without worrying about ducks. I mean, it’s a day renowned for bad luck (especially if you’re camping) and all that. However, this drink is sure to balance out any bad luck, so I suggest you make one double quick.
Why is this particular drink lucky? I’m glad you asked. It starts with Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac. Armagnac isn’t as well-known at the level it should be. Distilled once, but aged more than most spirits in barrels, it leans towards warm, full flavors, and is usually made by smaller, family-owned producers who’ve been Armagnac-ing for hundreds of years. Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac is aged in oak for 3 years, and is lovely, with toffee and bread aromas followed up vanilla, oak, and more. It’s well worth sipping solo, but also makes a fairly magnificent base for cocktails.
Especially when added to just a few other key ingredients. Here, the first is Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino Sherry (Sherry, by the way, is another ingredient not enough think of for cocktails, though it’s thankfully on the rise). Delicate in color, this Sherry is made by one the preeminent Sherry-making families (they’ve been making fine Sherries since 1835) aged for four years, and is quite dry, but with a light almond aroma, and a nutty taste with just a few fruity hints. It’s also quite nice by itself, with food, but brings an individual note to drinks. And if those two charmers weren’t enough, enter old pal Green Chartreuse. Which also brings a very signature style and flavor to any drink. And a little umph.
All together (plus a tiny bit of simple syrup to round out the edged), this is one seriously swell drink. Rich, layered, elegant (in a way that only certain drinks can be), but still approachable. If you can swing it, change your lucky to the better by tracking down these ingredients and making this before the day ends.
The Lucky Duck
2 ounces Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac
1/2 ounce Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Armagnac, Sherry, Chartreuse, and simple syrup. Stir well.
So, you know, it’s the NBA playoffs. I like the NBA quite a lot. I’ve been watching the playoffs, mostly with my nephew, who’s 14 and so doesn’t drink. Heck of a baller though, really. But it’s probably good I’m watching them with him, or I’d get melancholy for the Seattle Supersonics, stolen these many years ago, and then I’d probably drink too many Supersonic Cocktails, instead of just the 4 or 5 I’ve had in honor of the green and gold. Dang! Speaking of things I miss, I also miss the mighty Cocktail to Cocktail Hour (the world’s best cocktail show with “hour” in its name), which is on extended hiatus as director, producer, co-writer, best boy, head gaffer, and inspiration Dr. Gonzo remains stuck in a Tijuana prison. At least we have the re-runs, like the below, which teaches you to make said Supersonic cocktail, with gin, green Chartreuse, lime, simple, and lemon.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More