September 4, 2020
I suppose I’ve said this many times, even recently, but also farther back, throughout the ol’ Spiked Punch blog-of-drinks history, but blackberries, to me, are the queen of summertime berries, the champion of August fruits, the glorious harbinger of winter’s doom (because I always know summer is ending when I’m plowing through blackberries), and just generally really good, especially when they’re plump and sweet but holding a tiny tanginess, too. Yummski, blackberries. I like them solo, in drinks, with peanut butter, when they have been taken by Sidetrack Distillery and made into their (also, yummski) Blackberry liqueur, and when they are painted into a still life so I can admire their artistry. So, yeah, I like them, and I like them in this here drink, which is not a far relative from some other drinks, say, the Margarita, but which has its own particular name, because why wouldn’t a good drink deserve an individual name? That’d be just silly, and while I am silly, I am not silly in that way, I’ll have you know.
You know? Back to this drink! It leans heavy into our beautiful blackberries, but that isn’t all naturally. The base, for example, is another summertime (anytime) fav, mezcal, which starts us earthy and smoky. Then, Grandeza orange liqueur, made in WA, and boasting a bright orange, vanilla flavor. You could use another orange liqueur, but this one is a treat if you can get some (I realize that during the present pandemic, it might be harder than normal to travel, so I’m not gonna try to sway you toward a WA trip. Today, at least). A little fresh lime in attendance and you’ll see the Marg mention above come to life. The final piece of this tasty puzzle has also been mentioned above: Sidetrack Distillery’s lush, lovely Blackberry liqueur. Get some! Make this drink! Believe in the power of blackberries!
The Fruit on the Table
6 fresh blackberries
2 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounces Grandeza
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur
1, Add four of the blackberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Fill the shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but our second variety of ice. Shake well.
3. Fill a goblet (or comparable) glass with cracked ice. Strain the mix from Step 2 into the glass through a fine strainer. Garnish with the remaining blackberries.
July 17, 2020
In the middle of summer, the heat is naturally on, but so is the barbecue-ing, the backyard smoking, and, one hopes, the sitting on the porch/picnic table/deck/backyard, consuming the edibles of the labors that have happened over the flames. Yummy, right? But not as yummy without the right drink to have not only with the consuming, but also afterwards, as you and your stomach are mellowing down. There are many worthy options for this summertime moment, but I’d like to throw another in the mix, one called At Once to Ashes, which I created. Really! See, a pal of mine (I am lucky in pals) gifted me some small bottles of smoked simple syrup recently, and while that sounds like she must have used magic to create it, she assures me it was not spells. Now, I don’t know how she (non-magically) made it, but do know it sure is delicious. I can’t ask her if you want? The syrup’s smoky-sweetness is crying out (listen, you’ll hear it) to be had after smoky eating, and also, I believe, crying out to be had with another smoky-ish, earth-y-ish favorite: mezcal. Which is what I’ve done here – I wouldn’t ignore the simple syrup, would I? No! But I wouldn’t stop there, either. I’ve also added Grandeza, a lush orange liqueur made here in WA. Its orange flavor really pops, and it also adds another sidge of sweet, too. You can sub another orange liqueur if you’d like, but Don Ho will not sing of it. But it’ll still taste good! I wanted to balance the sweetness a bit, and also wanted to add a few herbal notes, and a hint of a hot spice kick, so our final ingredients here are Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and Scrappy’s Firewater tincture. If you like heat (habanero heat), then Firewater better be on your radar pals, cause it brings it. End result: At Once to Ashes is smoky-spice-citrus-sweet loveliness in a glass. Enjoy!
At Once to Ashes
2 ounces mezcal
1/2 ounce smoked simple syrup
1/2 ounce Grandeza
Dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Dash Scrappy’s Firewater tincture
Big ice cube (or a few good-sized ice cubes)
Cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the liquids. Shake well.
2. Add a big (really big) ice cubes to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with a cherry. Rainer if you have it!
June 19, 2020
So, it was just a few weeks ago when I was talking about how flavored vodkas weren’t necessarily my boozy jam, but then went and talked about this Cucumbers and Tonic highball I was having and how tasty it was. And now here I am, doing it again! Sorta. I mean, here, I’m talking (typing?) about, or about to type about, a smoked vodka that I really am liking. Specifically, Chase Smoke flavored vodka, a bottle of which showed up in the mails recently (lucky for me, and then some!). It’s made by smoking spring water with English Oak for five good days, and then blending with Chase vodka (which itself is made from British potatoes, grown on a farm in Herefordshire – same farm the distillery is on if I have it all right). But what does it all mean? It seems like it could go perfectly wrong, but it goes perfectly right! With a memorable and lovely oak smokiness, and echoes of the forest and campfires and sunsets in fall. That last bit too much? Well, sometimes that’s okay! Sadly, right up front, I have to admit I don’t think it’s available in my own state of WA at this moment – but soon, one hopes. Secondly up front, I think this smoked vodka dream was really designed to craft legendary Bloody Marys – and I don’t like Bloody Marys. SHHHH! Don’t tell.
But I believe this vodka is actually a treat on its own, or over a little ice. And good in other drinks, including A Kindred Spirit, which I’m going to detail right here. Influenced by the Oaxacan Old Fashioned, a favorite of my wife’s, and another smoky delight. Which means I’m upping the smoke quotient! And also going to go with two base spirits — upping the base spirits! We’re going up here! Second base spirit: mezcal (you may have guessed this already, with the smoke talk). But with two base spirits, need to make sure they get along, so also here, a little rosemary brown sugar simple syrup. And then, for the final ingredients, a little Angostura bitters, to add a few herbal undercurrents, and a wide orange twist for some rich citrus hints. Everything comes together to form a lovely sipper for the back patio, or in front of the fire, or wherever you please (you’re sipping, after all), as well as a swell way to showcase the swell Chase Smoked Vodka.
A Kindred Spirit
2 ounces Chase Smoke flavored vodka
1/2 ounce Montelobos mezcal
1/2 ounce simple syrup (see Note)
Dash Angostura bitters
Big ice cube, or a few regular ice cubes
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Add everything but ice to an Old Fashioned glass. Stir well.
2. Add a big ice cubes or a couple regular ice cubes. Stir again, briefly. Garnish with the twist.
A Note: I used a rosemary-y brown sugar simple syrup here, and it was yumski. However, regular could work, too! For the rosemary, just add some to your normal recipe.
August 17, 2018
It was long ago – just last week! – when I had a drink here on the Spiked Punch featuring Louis Raison French Cidre, or cider, made in France, by the Raison family who’ve been making such since 1923. That drink was called The Puget Seine (being a drink that used ingredients from hither and yon), and if you missed it, go back in time and drink it up.
It was so good, that I wanted to try another cider cocktail (or cidre cocktail) right after, going in a different direction, to see where I might land. And I landed with Brightly Rouged Cheeks! What, I hear you ask, is that? Not a cosmetic, I assure you. But a completely different cider drink, one’s that’s also swell for August, using some summer favorites, including mezcal. That’s right, mezcal and apples, and you know what – delicious! This time, I used Louis Raison’s Rouge Delice cidre, made from bittersweet and Rouge Delice apples (you may have guessed the latter). It’s a stitch redder in color (you may have guessed that, too), with a floral, apple, plum flavor, a hint sweeter than other Louis Raisons, but not sickly sweet like some “ciders” out there.
I decided a splash of zing and heat might be nice (sometimes, spiciness in a hot way mingles memorably with the high mercury days of summer), so brought the world’s finest ancho chile liqueur – perhaps the only, but oh so great, and such a favorite of mine – into our party, Ancho Reyes. Everything was going well, but the drink needed something more. Voila! Bitters. And is so often the case. The time, it was The Bitter Housewife Aromatic bitters, whose cherry, ginger, spice, bitter nature brought the needed flush. A wedge of lime, and we’re all set for a sunshine day.
Brightly Rouged Cheeks
2 ounces Montelobos Mezcal Jovan
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur
Dash Bitter Housewife Aromatic bitters
Big ice cube
3 ounces Louis Raison Rouge Delice cidre
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the mezcal, Ancho Reyes, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Add a big ice cubes (or a few pretty big ice cubes) to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix from above into the glass.
3. Top with the cidre. Stir to combine. Squeeze the lime wedge above the drink and drop it in. And start sipping.
PS: Want to learn a bit more about Montelobos Mezcal Jovan, check out the Fire on Popocatépetl cocktail, which is, if I can say it, amazing.
March 2, 2018
There was time when if you wanted a little fire in your drink you had to do it all yourself – infusing your own something or other, which is fun, but also can take time, and ensuring consistency is hard. Now, though, it’s easy to fire-up your cocktail, and in a tasteful and amazing way, thanks to some amazing global booze producers. One of my favorites is Ancho Reyes, the ancho chile liqueur based on a recipe from way back in 1927, which has a fair amount of heat, sure, but is also complex, with layers of spice, too, including cinnamon, and cocoa, tamarind, and a little nuttiness. Dreamy stuff, really.
Another lovely firebreather is Scrappy’s Firewater tincture (Scrappy being the amazing bitters-and-such maker from right here in Seattle). Made naturally from habanero peppers, and also carrying some fresh floral notes, it delivers a load of kaboom, but used responsibly adds a lovely clear clean heat to drinks.
When thinking about using the above, well, go crazy! You know what’s best for you. For me, my first thought was mezcal, specifically Montelobos Mezcal Jovan. Admittedly, I had gotten a bottle of it in the mail (lucky, I know!). But also, cause it’s a 100% organic agave-based spirit, made by the same family for five generations, and made in the shadow of the mountain of wolves (Montelobos means mountain of wolves even). Really! And as you and I know, good stories make good cocktails. The fact that this mezcal has a smoky flavor buoyed by hints of lemon, rosemary and pepper, and grilled jalapeno is also crucial. It’s certainly sippable solo, but makes an ideal base for cocktails, too, thanks to the approachability of the flavor.
A good starting trio, I rounded it out with some fresh orange juice – that citrus burst and sweetness provided a balancing flavor for all that heat and smoke and savory. And then we were close to the top of our cocktail climb, but a little something extra was needed: and that extra (extra vegetal, extra chile, and extra stand of flavor) was St. George Spirits Green Chili vodka. I know, doubling up on what we call base spirits is odd, for some, but this vodka’s made from a basket of California-grown peppers, including jalapenos, serranos, habaneros, and red and yellow bells, and it delivers a bright peppery, zingy, cilantro-y, citrus-y flavor.
All together, if I can say this while being humble, this is a delightful (really, amazing in cold or hot weather, and a mighty accompaniment to a Mexican meal) cocktail. If you aren’t scared of a little heat and a lot of flavor, you should climb this mountain.
Fire on Popocatépetl
1-1/2 ounces Montelobos Mezcal Jovan
1 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes liqueur
1/4 ounce St. George Green Chile vodka
1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater tincture
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything outside of the twist. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the wide orange twist.
September 8, 2017
I recently posted a delicious Italian-inspired drink on the Spiked Punch called The Translation of Giuliana Monti, which I made up for a wonderful night of literature, laughs, and liquid libations. The night centered around the jolly and masterful writer Andrew Sean Greer’s newest, entitled LESS, a book you must buy (I talk about it more in that earlier post, which you should go read, and then you should go read LESS, and now you’re back), and during said night we chatted, joked, took questions, read from the book (well, Andy did), and drank two drinks came up for for the occasion and named after characters in the book.
This one, the second, is called Arturo’s Hairy Hands, named for the main character’s tour guide in Mexico City, and is a rare beast in that it has two base spirits. Savor it while savoring LESS and be a happy reader and drinker.
Arturo’s Hairy Hands
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
1 ounce Maguey mezcal with agave syrup
1/2 ounce Alessio sweet vermouth
1 dash Bittermen’s Xocolati mole bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the orange with your hands. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange twist. Sip and read. Sip and read.
December 16, 2016
Oranges, you know, are big in December. Historically, it’s because they used to be a rarity used as a present in stockings hung by the chimney with care, because they were a great winter Scurvy preventative, and because people thought they could protect them from the snow demons. Today, I still find them a wonderful seasonal treat. Especially when mixed with some smoky. Like mezcal. If you think agave spirits are only for the summertime, well, friend, you’re wrong! Take this drink, which uses Sombra Mezcal. Made of Espadin agave that’s raised and processed by hand with ridiculous care in small batches, it has a wonderful smoke and citrus and spice flavor, light on its feet while still carrying enough umph to take the lead role in cocktails like The Superficial Resemblance. Try it over the colder months, and feel the orange/smoke healing powers.
The Superficial Resemblance
2 ounces Sombra Mezcal
1 ounce Pineau François white pineau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the mezcal, pineau, and orange juice. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist (I know, it feels at first glance maybe an orange twist would be neat-er. But trust me, you want lemon, for balance).