September 21, 2011

Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz Rob Roy Release Party!

Okay, a warning: I’m going to talk about the following release party a lot. But can you blame me? In future mentions, I’ll probably provide some recipes and such from the book I’m about to mention, but for now, a drum roll for the down-and-dirty party details. But what is the party? It’s a release party for Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz: A Cocktail Lover’s Guide to Mixing Drinks Using New and Classic Liqueurs, my new book, and is an afternoon affair happening at the Rob Roy, 2332 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA, on Saturday, October 8th, from 2 to 4 pm. I’ll be selling and signing books and genius bartender Andrew Bohrer (he of the Cask Strength blog) will be making Bitter Handshakes and Bruja Smashes (drinks of his featured in the book) and other drinks. It should be fun and a good excuse to have a good cocktail in the afternoon–so come on down, have that drink.


To woo you into stopping by, let me tell you that Ginger Bliss and Violet Fizz not only is bubbling over with liqueur info and history, party talk, and general boozy silliness, but features around 200 recipes broken into chapters arranged by flavor profile (A Liquid Citrus Circus, for example). The recipes range from lesser-known classics to more modern sure-to-be classics from top pro and home bartenders (many of whom I’ll mention more on this very blog as we get nearer the date). Need even more information? Well, check out the Ginger Bliss and Violet Fizz video. It’s time for you to join the GBVF Army!

August 23, 2011

Join the GBVF Army!

Be the first on your block to buy war bonds. No, wait, be the first on your block to join the Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz army, making parties tastier one sip at a time (oh, to insure you are, actually, the first on your block to do such a thing, you probably should pre-order Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz: A Cocktail Lover’s Guide to Mixing Drinks Using New and Classic Liqueurs. Or, if you leave in-or-near Seattle, just be sure to show up at the Rob Roy on October 8th for the release shindig. More about that later though):

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March 19, 2011

What I’m Drinking: Rosaplini Liqueur

Even though I’m currently living in the world’s most wonderful land of liqueurs (that’s Italy, yo), I still like to make a few of my own (homemade liqueur freaks like me are like that, yo). Recently, I noticed that in the yard we had a ton of winter herby stalwart rosemary, and though, “why not a rosemary kinda liqueur, yo?” I wanted to have my new liqueur be a colder-weather one (matching up to the rosemary and the season I made it within), which led to picking apples as my other main ingredient. The end result was a rich, textured mix, one that I’ve been having solo, but one I can envision mixing with everything from cider to rum to mornings, yo. Just be sure to swirl and swirl, cause the apple and rosemary need to be cuddle up well—it is chilly, after all.


1-1/2 cups fresh rosemary

4 cups vodka

1 lemon peel

2 apples, cored and chopped roughly

2 cups simple syrup


1. Place the rosemary in a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle it up a bit, but don’t beat it to a pulp.


2. Add the vodka to the rosemary and swirl it around. Then add the lemon and apples, and swirl a bit more. Seal the container, and put it in a cool, dry place away from the sun. Let sit for two weeks, swirling every day or so.


3. Open the container, add the simple syrup to the mix, and stir. Seal and again place in that cool, dry spot. Let sit for two more weeks, swirling occasionally.


4. Strain through cheesecloth at least once, and maybe twice if extra-cloudy, and then pour into large bottles, small bottles, or straight into your mouth.


A Note: Yo.


February 2, 2010

A Pür-ly Good Reason to Visit Washington

Washington State, historically, hasn’t been known for its relaxed liquor laws or an immense selection in its liquor stores (just the opposite, and mainly because all the liquor stores are state owned, thereby killing competition and any free market system. Freakin’ commies). But lately, this arid situation has started to change, with more intriguing brands and spirits and such appearing on shelves, and more local products being distilled, stilled, made, imported, and distributed. Recently, I was able to share a sweet evening with the fine folks at Pür Spirits (those fine folks being Kiki, Harvey, and Olli), who fall into the “importing” category of that last sentence, and who are helping to put Washington on the cocktail enthusiast’s travel itinerary.


Pür Spirits consists of a line of liqueurs and base spirits (more or less) imported from Germany. As they say on the site (which I’m copying in so I don’t get it wrong):

Each variety of Pür Spirits is produced according to traditional principles by a 3rd generation artisan distiller in a remote village in southern Germany. Our time-honored recipes have been passed down and refined over decades, if not centuries.


Now, that’s what I tend to like (tradition, family, refinement, and lots of booze). The line up as it is today (though I was lucky enough to taste some other possible additions, including a dandy winter liqueur that was orangey and herbally) includes two Pür Likörs: Blossom (an elderflower liqueur that is rich with floral and spring-in-the-forest overtones), Williams (a pear liqueur that has a fine pear flavor and goes light—thankfully—on the sweet), and three Pür Geists: Framboise (which is called a raspberry-flavored vodka, but which is better than other bottles claiming that title), Sloe (which is a sloe-berry flavored vodka, in name, but a sloe-berry gin in reality, because it has a much more interesting taste than a  normal flavored vodka), and Bierbrand, a distillation of beer aged in a chestnut cask. If that last one doesn’t intrigue you, you should stick to drinking water. Here’s the whole family:



Currently, the Pür Spirits line is only available in Washington State (expansion plans are in the planning stages, but since they only hit the market last November, we get to have bragging rights for a bit). Which means you should come out here right away and try them all, then buy some and take them back to wherever you’re from. Many of the top local drinking holes are serving them up and mixing them up in strange and beautiful ways, too. Oh, and beyond lighting up the palate (meaning: they taste delish), the bottle design is graceful and artistic, making them dandy presents. Just check out the Bierbrand close up:



Pretty, isn’t it? So, come to WA and find your way to Pür-ity (did I really only make two “Pür” puns? That’s weak. Forgive me).


PS: Wait, you say you already live here? Then aren’t you lucky–you just need to find your way to a liquor store or bar. Right now!

June 23, 2009

Sipping Behind Closed Doors at the Knee High Stocking Company

When a trusted confidant and drinking pal (in this case, it was Stereolad, alias Senor Crappy) sends an email that says things like the following about a new bar just visited:


“Although it’s a legit establishment, there’s no signage and you have to ring the doorbell to be admitted. But the awesomeness is what’s inside.”




“Ben {the bartender} came over and asked us a couple more questions (“Is rye OK instead of bourbon?” “Sweet or dry?”), disappeared briefly and presented us with a Remember The Maine (rye, Heering, sweet vermouth, and absinthe). Lovely. He came back for a follow-up and told us that he’ll do egg white cocktails for any takers.”


I get a little twitchy, partially with excitedness to visit said place, and partially with wondering if it can be true, and partially with thirst. And partially just cause I’m twitchy. It’s like a super power. But a lame one. I digress. The rest of said email was asking if we’d want to stop by the new bar, and so we (in this case wife Nat and I) took him up on it last Sunday and slipped into the Knee High Stocking Company.


By slipped in, I mean somehow managed to find the door, as it’s in a fairly out-of-the-way spot, and only has a very small sign (about knee-high, now that I think about it) next to a door bell with another sign that says “ring.” See, there’s no way in without ringing the bell, and it’s all very hush-hush, and speakeasy-esque, and painted blue (that’s about it for hints). Once we rang said door, above-mentioned bartender (Ben, that is) opened it, peeked out at us, asked how many we had, and then showed up to a table right near the bar. But I’m starting to wander, so let me skip the other atmospherics and say that the space was small, comfortable, dimly lit, and, well, cool in an unassuming and unpretentious kind of way. Which is just the way I like.


I started up with a Widow’s Kiss after mulling the nicely-balanced menu. It’s a combination of Calvados, Green Chartreuse, Benedictine, and Angostura, stirred up and served with a cherry. Ben filled me in when delivering it that it was from George J. Kappeler, circa 1895 (and not Gabe Kaplan from Welcome Back Kotter, though the joke was, of course, made by me. I’m thinking it was from the book Modern American Drinks, which I sadly don’t have. Yet).



It was delish. Had some backbone, but the Chartreuse and Benedictine and bitters came out with each sip, each bringing a little herbal joy to my afternoon. The other big kick was starting to realize that Ben was a bartender I could trust. He not only brought out a good drink, but a good bit of history. When he said something along the lines of, “I’m working on mastering the old classics, and then slowly working on mixing my own ideas” then I knew he was someone I’d be happy to have pour me many drinks.


Which led to my next choice (oh, wait, first, let me say that Stereolad had, I think it was, a Flor De Jalisco for his first sipper, after telling Ben only that he wanted something refreshing, not bitter-y, and a touch fruity, and that tequila was dandy. It was awesome, too, and hit the notes Stereolad wanted. That picture at the beginning of this post is it, in front of Stereolad’s manly mitts. I believe Ben said it was a Death+Company drink, which is always welcome at my table). Or, led to me asking Ben what he might like to make using the Bitter Truth bitters I saw behind the bar (for those who don’t know, Bitter Truth is a couple of German bitters-heads who make an assortment of tasty stuff, much of which I  haven’t even tasted). He whipped up an Opera, tracing back Harry’s Bar, from way back in the 1920s (it’s in Paris), which had gin, Dubonnet Rouge, old compadre Maraschino, and Bitter Truth orange bitters. And a twist. Good golly, that’s enough to make a man like me dance in happiness as if in a touring company doing Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo. And I didn’t even mention the twist. Cause I’ve written more than you’ll find on most Christmas letters already. And I still need to mention three more things. First, Mark’s second drink was worthy of song, but I’ve forgotten what exactly it was, so instead of going on and on, I’m just going to show you this picture of our drink off (notice my unshaven-ness due to it being Sunday–I’m a bad man):



Second,and this isn’t about booze at all, but about mac-and-cheese, which was also had, and which was gooey and a smoosh spicy, and had a crisp about the top side: a winning combination by any stretch. Third, Nat was on call for a baby that might never show (darn those babies and their desire to forgo the outside world. Wait, that was sorta like us on Sunday at the Knee High. And yes I’m already truncating the name. I’m that guy), so she wasn’t drinking boozy booze, but Ben was swell enough to make her a ginger ale from scratch, and it was delish, too. Here’s an artsy shot Nat took of the g/a:





The verdict? I wanna go back right now. The Knee High Stocking Company has a speakeasy-woven-ing-with-your-neighborhood-bar vibe that doesn’t show its head all that often, but which is to be revered. Dandy drinks, chops-licking food, out-of-site conversation with good pal and hot wife: that’s the prescription for a perfect Sunday late-afternoon-early-evening, and I feel lucky I got to be there for it.


PS: Ben works Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at the Knee High Stocking Company. I suggest you make his acquaintance (if you’re in Seattle–if not, find him when you visit). I’m not going to tell you how to get there exactly, cause it’s something you should work a little for. And because I don’t want it to get so crowded they won’t let me in the door.

January 8, 2009

Almost Drinkable Photo: Liqueurs from Consumed(I, This)

If you haven’t yet checked out the delicious photography and dishes (and drinks) at the blog Consumed(I, This), then let me point your little heads in that direction. But don’t start checking it out if you’re hungry, because the photos are so well shot that you’ll probably try to eat the screen. Or drink the screen, as the case may be, though there are more dishes than drinks. Up until recently, Consumed(I, This) was just photos, but I’m guessing that enough folks were begging the friendly photo-taker-and-blog-writer Michael Hoffman for recipes that he decided to put the recipes alongside or under the scrumptious pics. Luckily, it’s not all food though. Michael is also a cocktail and homemade liqueur devotee, and the following sweet shots show the liqueurs he has brewing up currently: Bartlett Pear with Lemon Zest, Grapefruit-Coriander, Walnut-Clove, and Ginger. Pals, start salivating now.


August 12, 2008

A Recipe for What I’m Drinking: The Crimson Slippers

When clearing out space in the homemade liqueurs cabinet (for the new bottles from the below post), I realized that I had a few ounces left of some homemade triple sec that I’d constructed during my first liqueur-making frenzy. Not sure why I didn’t completely guzzle it up, cause it ruled/rules–not too sugary and just orange-y enough. Anyway, I wanted to utilize the last drops in making up a new drink (to give that triple sec the honor it deserved), and the Crimson Slippers was the end result. An awfully pretty result, as you can see.


Since I had the Campari bottle at the front of the shelves (from the Negroni-making), I thought I’d play around with it in the drink, even knowing that it can be a dangerous addition to the party because of the bitter undertones. But hey, I love bitter. So much that I ended up adding a dash of some homemade bitters in there as well (I’d made them for a bitters party thrown by no other than bartender Andrew Bohrer, from Cask Strength). These homemade bitters were based on an old “stomach” bitters called Hostetter’s, and take the bitters scale to another level. If I play around with the drink a little further in the future, I might try in other bitters–I think Peychaud’s would work well (and look well, too). Wait, I’m skipping the base liquor. I decided to go with rum, since it’s summertime. Well, and I thought it would be a nice touch, especially the dark variety, which has enough personality to hold its own, and thought it would be enjoyable to work to balance it with the other players.

The Campari uses a disguise to try and sneak into the scene

The Campari uses a disguise to try and sneak away from the scene.

The end result is a touch bitter, but bounces around well due to that touch of triple sec (the homemade kind has such a bright orange-ness that it doesn’t get overwhelmed). The color, with that red glow, seemes like it would fit in at a crime scene, too. Maybe not one of the modern, forensic-equipment-and-fluorescent-y-mood-lit heavy scenes, but an Agatha Christie attic scene, with lots of thinking and sipping and a rocking chair. Here’s the final recipe.


Ice cubes

2 ounces dark rum

1 ounce Campari

1/2 ounce homemade triple sec

1 dash bitters

Lime slice, for garnish


1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with ice cubes. Add the rum, Campari, triple sec, and bitters. Shake well.


2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze the lime slice over the glass and drop it in.

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August 10, 2008

Drinking Homemade Liqueurs: Limoncello, Millifiori, Fentastic

I spent a few hours straining and straining liqueurs yesterday (in anticipation of the liqueurs book release–hey, there’s my first book plug. I’m shameless), which is always a good time. Especially because tasting them is an important part of the process. The ones I worked on started with limoncello, the sun king of liqueurs, and a favorite, and really the main impetus behind my whole crazy homemade liqueur obsession. It began when my wife Natalie and I went to Italy for the first time and had a lot of limoncello, both house-made and store bought, and fell in love with its strong-but-pleasant lemon-ness. Then, on returning home, we found that the available limoncellos here didn’t have the same backbone, and tended to be overly sweet. So, we thought, why not make our own? It’s devilishly simple, and allows a lot more control. We loved constructing it (and sipping it, ice cold, and pouring it into drinks) so much that we ended up throwing together a gigantic batch before our wedding, so we could give little bottles to everyone in attendance and spread the love around. You can see the lemons close up in the below photo–don’t they look a little tipsy?



Hanging out in grain alcohol (which is a must to reach that desired strength) for a month tends to induce tipsiness even among lemonkind, I suppose. The limoncello goes well solo, when ice cold, but is dreamy as well with club soda, and, in certain situations, when combined with other ingredients.


Millifiori (or, a million flowers) is another Italian-inspired liqueur, one that’s very herbally and spicy. In the close-up shot here, it may look like it contains worms, but have no fear worm champions–no worms were used in the making of this liqueur–it does have a little lemon zest in it, cozying up with a host of other items (including coriander, mint, cardamom, cloves, mace, marjoram, thyme), with an end result that’s very layered, and which has a number of flavorful notes coming through during a single sip.



It’s one to use carefully if experimenting with it cocktails and other drinks (I’m experimenting now, and hope to have a good recipe using it later in the blog).


Oh, the final liqueur I was working on today is fennel-based, and a completely new recipe for me (nice and simple, solely fennel, the liquor, and simple syrup). From my first tastings, it seems to have a good balance of sweet and fennel (let’s hope I didn’t go overboard on the sweet. It’s a dangerous road). We’ll see how it plays out.


Here’s the recipe for the limoncello, nice and delicious.


1 liter grain alcohol

14 lemons

3 cups simple syrup


1. Peel the lemons, working to leave the white pith with the lemon, and not taking it with the peels. Add the peels to a large, glass, container that is at least 2 liters in size and that has a good lid.


2. Add the grain alcohol to the glass container and then secure the lid. Place it on a cool and dry and secure shelf, away from the sun. Let it sit for two weeks.


3. Once the two weeks have passed, add the 3 cups simple syrup. Stir, lid, and let sit two more weeks.


4. After the waiting is over, strain the mix through double sheets of cheesecloth into a pitcher or other container.


5. Then, using new sheets of cheesecloth, strain the limoncello into bottles or jars.


Millifiori, Limoncello, Fentastic

Millifiori, Limoncello, Fentastic

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