June 4, 2021
Sun-loving swillers, it’s no secret but if you’ve forgotten, summer is sneaking up swiftly. So, you need to have some swell summertime sippers readily at hand. If you don’t (and even if you do, cause really more than one is necessary), then let me make a suggestion, one which will make your summer flavorful, fun, and frolicking: stock up on the Sprezza. Made over here (“here,” at the moment I’m typing, means USA), but very influenced and ingredient’d by Italy, Sprezza are canned drinks that combine vermouth, Scrappy’s bitters, mineral water, and carbonation in a lovely-designed can, memorable and stylish like the Sprezzas themselves. There are two versions, Rosso (utilizing Mancino Vermouth Rosso and Scrappy’s Orange bitters into a rich, mountain meadow sunshine-y combo), and what I’m having today, Sprezza Bianco. Bianco combines bright Mancino Vermouth Bianco and Scrappy’s Orange bitters into an ultra-refreshing beauty, with floral notes, mint, and hints of bitter and citrus. It’s dry, but not drying, if that makes sense, light on its feet, ideal for a day spent in the summer sun with friends and laughter. I like it over ice, with a twist of lemon (or orange, perhaps), but having it well-chilled straight out of the can isn’t a bad idea, if in a hurry. I’m not sure where all you can pick up Sprezza cans, but I hope it’s in your area – summer just won’t be the same without some cold Sprezza.
1 can Sprezza Bianco
1. Couldn’t be easier: fill a wine glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Pour the Sprezza over the ice and in the glass. Twist the twist, and drop it in. Summer awaits!
April 23, 2021
Not too long ago in the scheme of things (depending on your scheme!), I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of Bib & Tucker bourbon (along with some swell glasses and such – it was a very lucky day!). Coming in one of the more memorable bottles I’ve seen in some time – lovely glass shape and glass lettering and overall aesthetic set up – Bib & Tucker isn’t just a pretty package. Made in Tennessee in a hearkening to the 1880s as they say, the time of “boldness and refinement,” it’s a bourbon aged 6 years in low char white oak barrels (there are some older siblings, too, on the years-aged front) and has won a fair amount of awards. Deservedly so, me thinks, as it’s very smooth, very drinkable. Starting with a nose of vanilla, caramel, and spices of the pastry variety, it flows into a vanilla, cinnamon, spice flavor, with a hint of nuttiness, pecan style, and then finishes with a little oaky caramel spice-ness. Made from 70% corn, 26% rye, and 4% malted barley, it’s a swell number to sip solo, with or without a cube of ice.
However (as you might have guessed!), it’s also a really fine base for cocktails in my humble opinion, as the people say. If going the mixing route, I’d suggest a recipe that lets the bourbon shine, with only one or two other liquid pals along for the ride. Which is what we’re doing here, in the way of the classic Kentucky Colonel cocktail, which I was reminded of when browsing the old The Art of Mixing Drinks, 1961 edition (not to be confused with the also venerable and perhaps more well-known The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. The lack of “Fine” volume I have comes in a little box, with plastic cover and ring binding, and is fun if you can find it). We’re altering the title a bit here, cause our Bib & Tucker is from TN not KY, but keeping the basic combo of bourbon and monastic herbal liqueur Bénédictine. You see this cocktail with various ratios of our two players, and with the addition of bitters (a good plan, though not used here as this book’s recipe didn’t have it and I wanted to pay homage properly), served up instead of with a big cube (but the big cube felt ideal) and with different twists – I’ll admit, at first the lemon felt off, but its bright citrus notes worked a treat above the bourbon and liqueur intertwining flavors. Delicious.
The Tennessee Colonel
2-1/2 ounces Bib & Tucker 6-year old bourbon
1 ounce Bénédictine
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two darkly-spirited pals. Stir well.
2. Add a large ice cube or a few smaller ones to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix in. Garnish with the lemon twist.
March 26, 2021
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!
The Earth’s Attraction
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.
February 26, 2021
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!
The Supersonic, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1-1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce Green Chartreuse
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, Chartreuse, lime juice, and simple syrup. Shake as if you were changing the speed of time.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze the twist over the drink, and then swish it into the glass.
February 19, 2021
You know (cause I’ve mentioned it before and you’ve memorized every word I ever typed, which is a bit, oh, nice but also maybe makes me wonder if you need to get out more, which is, I realize, a bit difficult to do right now, but I’m wandering) I sometimes like to go to my liquor/cocktail book shelves, grab a book at random, and then make a drink from said book. But you may not know that on rare occasions I do the same, but instead of the shelves go to a little container I have of drink-related, let’s call them pamphlets, or little soft-back-y things, mini-books perhaps. A lot of these used to float around, and some still do, but in their late 50s, 60s, maybe even early 70s heydays, lots of liquor brands, and even some stores, used to make these, doll them up, and use them as recipe-filled promo pieces. Neat, right? I have a stack, not a large stack, but a stack, and just reached into it and pulled out a pretty one called Come for Cocktails. Published by The Taylor Wine Company in 1958, it leans as heavily towards food recipes as drinks, and is squarely in the “more entertaining is better” camp, one I agree with (when pandemics make such a thing safe). It has some recipes you’d expect, some you might not, and some really sweet illustrations, including this jolly jumping shrimp one:
And this dancing sherry and glasses one:
The latter one is important to us here and now, as the drink I picked to make from our Come for Cocktails mini-book is called The 6 O’clock Cocktail, and features sherry, along with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. There has to be (I’m wracking my brain, but my brain is old and full of cocktails) a drink with a different name that has equal parts of these three lovelies, right? There are the classic Adonis and Bamboo cocktails with sherry and one each of our vermouth pair naturally. But both with a different name? I can’t recall, but really, it doesn’t matter that much, or enough to stop me drinking this perfectly-balanced beaut, which lets all those herb-y, nut-y, botanical-y scents and tastes play around the palate like a dance party. A lot depends on what variety of such you use. Sadly, in a way, I did not use Taylor branded sherry and vermouth – which I think has been lost to the liquor shelves of time. I did use Punt e’ Mes Italian vermouth (I felt its drier, herb-forward umph would be good), Dolin dry vermouth (cause I like it), and Williams & Humbert Dry Sack medium sherry, which is a dandy nutty mixing sherry. Altogether: yummy. Try it, and next time you pass a rack of booze-pamphlets in your house or a used bookstore or antique mart, maybe pick one up and make a drink from it. It worked for me!
The 6 O’clock cocktail
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce sherry
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio of liquids. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lemon twist.
February 5, 2021
Yes, I agree with you! This warming winner does deserve a much more imaginative and inventive and intriguing and just better name. But I suppose that on occasion being straightforward isn’t a bad thing – it is cold outside, so something hot is needed. And this drink does have spices and Scotch. So that name isn’t wrong by any means, but, c’mon, the spice layers here, allspices, cloves, nutmeg, and the toddy-ness, and the butter, and a little smooch of sweet, and Scotch (did I mention that?), altogether raising this drink into the high heights of hot drinkness, the tempting tops of cold-curing drink mountain, the level of a drink that needs a name to match. It should have been called Hercules! However, it was first called Hot Spiced Scotch I think in Applegreen’s Bar Book, or at least that’s where I saw it (my edition is copyright 1909, published by the Hotel Monthly Press, though an earlier edition came out in 1899), and since it’s been called that for now over 100 years, let’s keep it that way, shall we? We shall.
Hot Spiced Scotch
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3 to 4 whole cloves
2 ounces Scotch
3-1/2 ounces water
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg for garnish
Lemon twist for garnish
1. Heat a sturdy goblet by running it under warm water, then drying it quickly.
2. Add the simple syrup, allspice, and cloves to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
3. Add the Scotch to the shaker. Swirl the contents together, and then strain into the warm goblet.
4. Heat the water in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Pour the hot water into the goblet. Add the butter and stir a couple of times (not once for every year between now and 1909, though).
5. Top the drink with the nutmeg and the lemon twist.
November 6, 2020
Okay, obvious statement number one: you know what’s awesome? Pals are awesome. Perhaps moreso now than ever (now meaning the moment I’m typing, which is during a very bad year – future reader, I hope whatever time you’re reading this is more conducive to swell-ness), which is a somewhat interesting statement as it can be harder to see (and here I mean see for reals, not through a screen – not that that isn’t real per se, but not as real real, really) to see said pals. Make sense? Clear as brandy? How about, obvious statement number two: awesome pals who make tasty things and then drop them off for you are, well, awesome! Which is what happened for me recently, as pal Rebecca (genius pal, I might say) sent some homemade plum shrub and grenadine our way, and what a pandemic helper they have been! More of the latter later, but today, we’ve delving plum shrub style, as I used it to make a tasty (if I can say so without sounding like a lame-o) sipper which I’m calling Spirit and Substance.
It starts (duh!) with tangy, zingy, fruity plum shrub. I don’t know how it’s made, but can find out if you’re desperate. I matched with with a gin (gin and fruit = yum), specifically Sipsmith London Dry gin, which I adore due to its dry, citrus, fruit (dare I say marmalade), character. But I didn’t stop there! I thought about it (often we just see shrub+base spirit+ soda, but more felt appropriate), tried this and that, and ended up with more fruit in the way of Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur. Made outside of Kent, WA on the same farm the blackberries (and other delights) are grown, its rich berry body was the ideal addition. And then, soda, ice, lemon twist, and boom! A drink that’ll bring summer into fall, and pals into your heart, if not your home bar.
Spirit and Substance
1-1/2 ounce Sipsmith London Dry gin
3/4 ounce plum shrub
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Blackberry liqueur
4 ounces chilled club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Add the gin, shrub, and liqueur to a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Stir well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from step one into the glass, over the ice.
3. Add the club soda, and stir to combine. Garnish with the twist.
March 27, 2020
So, I was not too long ago in the lovely Italy (in perhaps the loveliest part – to me – northern Umbria), and though much madness was happening (I don’t feel the need to delve deep as you know what I’m talking about, and really, you can get all you want on current worldwide issues elsewhere), was loving it until I had to unexpectedly make the decision to leave. The night before said decision was made, though, to accompany me as I caught up on current worldwide issues, I made a drink that was – if I can say so while being still thought of as a little humble – pretty darn swell. And that drink is this drink, if you know what I mean, called L’Altra Sera.
It started with an Italian gin I’ve mentioned here on the Spiked Punch before, PiùCinque, which boasts a unique and smooth flavor coming from ten botanicals: juniper, sage, ginger root, wormwood flowers, angelica, Seville orange, almond, zedoary, orris root, and bergamot. Altogether, it’s a citrus, herbal, treat. Here, I combined it with another absolute treat (just typing the name makes me salivate), Del Professore Classico vermouth. The fine folks at Del Professore make two other delish vermouths, too (Rosso and Vaniglia), and both are dandy, but let’s stick to Classico here. Made on a Muscat wine base, with herbs and magic things from the hills around Turin, Italy (including gentian, mace, vanilla, cloves, lemon, and more), it has a light but aromatic and flavor-packed nature, and is worthy all on its own over ice, with or without a lemon. But it also plays nice with others, and went especially well with the PiùCinque here.
But not so well that I didn’t bring in a third pal to play with, and I went to a different content for it: Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters, made in swell Seattle, WA. If you haven’t had this exceptional elixir, you should, as it’s magically in its own right, earthy, citrus-y, amazing. Get it, get the above, and have this not on a last night, but tonight.
2 ounces PiùCinque gin
1 ounce Del Professore Classico vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, vermouth, and bitters, and stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable, and garnish with that lemon twist. Enjoy the lovely.