Listen, the Martini isn’t consumed enough today. I mean, I don’t know every single person drinking one at this moment, but I feel (and, like a good cop, sometimes you have to trust your feelings, or instincts) that not enough are. I feel that there was a time when all other cocktails were subsumed in the Martini’s overwhelming overwhelmingness, and that wasn’t a good thing. But now, perhaps, if my feeling is right, things – boozy things – during our modern cocktail renaissance have swung so far the other way thanks to the endless array of new and rediscovered cocktails that maybe not enough classic Martinis are consumed? Well, I’m going to do my part to balance that out, by having one right now. I like mine with the Embury proportions, meaning 2-1/2 parts gin to 1/2 part dry vermouth, and with a twist (lemon, naturally). Today, the gin component is going to be Thinking Tree Spirits Gifted gin, made down (down from me, at least!) in Eugene, OR. I was gifted a bottle recently, and couldn’t be happier. Gins always make swell gifts, friends. This particular gin is even called “Gifted” so it’s doubly perfect. It has a non-GMO Willamette Valley wheat base and is made by soaking botanicals (including Turkish juniper, Spanish coriander, fresh orange and lemon rind, star anise, lemongrass, angelica, grains of paradise, and cassia bark) in said base spirit for forty-eight hours before it’s distilled in a copper pot still. Then, English cucumber is infused in post-distilling. Neat! As you might expect after reading the last few sentences, it’s a complex gin-y number, with a junipery, cucumber-y, smell trailing citrus and bitters, and then a taste that echoes that (juniper, fresh cucumber) with more lemon and lemongrass and spice, finishing with nods towards the angelica and cassia. It makes, when mingled with the vermouth, an intriguing Martini – the many individual gins out there are what makes the Martini even more special now, as it allows them to shine. This one is a treat. I may have two. Helping to address that Martini imbalance and all!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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