August 27, 2021
It’s funny (to me, if no-one else) to have a very tough drink name like “Fugger’s Revenge” for a light-bodied, friendly, vermouthy (in a way, though I’m not calling this vermouth, cause I don’t want the vermouth board after me), aperitif-style sipper (the aperitif board is much less ferocious). But the backstory really is not so tough, but is one of my fav wine stories (one that some people say isn’t true, is just apocryphal, etc. Some people are also fuddy-duddies and no fun to have a drink with. Avoid them). Anyway, it starts early in the year 1111. A forward-thinking German bishop named Johann Fugger was getting ready to travel to Rome for the Holy Roman Emperor’s coronation (this one was Henry V). Because he was forward-thinking, Fugger sent his assistant along the road first, to scope out the local wine, chalking the pubs or bars or 12th-century what-have-yous that had good wine with the word “est,” which is Latin for “there is” (the full phrase he kept in his wine journal was I believe “vinum est bonum” or “wine is good” basically). When this intrepid wine scout came into the town of Montefiascone, he so enjoyed the wines that he A: had a lot, and B: wrote Est! Est!! Est!!! on the bar’s outside wall to show his enthusiasm. I believe bishop Fugger himself liked these particular wines so well he never made it to the coronation, just stayed in Montefiascone drinking wine, and is buried there today. And, the white wines designated Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone are still made and enjoyed. And (here’s where it also comes back around), this particular homemade aperitif uses an Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone wine as it’s base! Neat! Awesome! Story!
There aren’t a wide range of these whites available here, but Pietro Est! Est!! Est!!! tends to be available, and it’s what I used. Light, apple-y, dry, and very refreshing, it provided the perfect platform for building this summertime aperitif (and it won’t set you back too much). The other flavorings almost all came from my yard, including white currants (want to know way more about my white currant bush? Check out the Currant Current liqueur, Strawcurranterry, a white currant strawberry liqueur, and A Particular Friend, a white currant mint number), fresh mint, and fresh marjoram. A little gentian root because life is bitter (but not, one hopes too bitter most days), a little vodka to im-proof things a bit (but not too much, as this is a very light-on-its-feet charmer), and a little simple syrup to round our edges without making it sweet. Altogether, this late summer aperitif rises to the level of the wine story with delicate herbal and fruit notes. Pretty swell on its own, chilled or over ice, but also a pleasant pal in cocktails (heck, though it is not a vermouth, it would make a mean Martini-esque drink when paired with a London-style gin).
1/2 cup white currants
1/3 cup fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon gentian root
1 Tablespoon marjoram
1 750 ml bottle Pietro Est! Est!! Est!! white wine
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup simple syrup
1. Add the currants, mint, gentian, and marjoram to a large glass jar with a good lid. Muddle well, but not wackily (you do want to break up the currants as much as possible).
2. Add the wine and vodka, and stir. Put in a cool dry place and let sit for two weeks, swirling regularly.
3. Open up the jar of joy and add the simple syrup. Stir again, and re-place in that cool dry place. Let sit two more weeks, swirling as you will.
4. Strain – I like to strain once through a fine mesh strainer, then twice (or as needed) through cheesecloth – into a good glass bottle. Store in the fridge (to keep nice and chilled).
August 6, 2021
One of the invaders (in the best way) of summer into our yard is mighty fine mint. We have mint that’s been planted by us, years past, but either it’s spread or we’ve also had wild mint find it’s way into the yard. Though I wouldn’t be sad to be responsible for a mint invasion, I think I’d like it even better if there was wild mint propagating hither and thither randomly. But back to the point I’m meandering my way into making: we have a lot of mint! Not a problem to induce tears falling in any manner, but one that does mean searching for drinks that make fine use of mint, and eventually finding my way back to this particular potion: Iollas’ Itch, which I hadn’t made in a number of years. Not because it’s not delicious (it is), but because, well, there are loads of delicious drinks in the world and sometimes one forgets one or two. Anywho, this cocktail, though rye-based (yum), and with heady sweet vermouth (yum), I believe still beckons during the hotter months due to the addition of apricot liqueur, whose sweet fruitiness is very much sunshine-y (and, yum), and naturally that summer favorite that brought this paragraph on pointe: mint.
Iollas’ Itch, from Dark Spirits
3 fresh mint leaves, plus 1 fresh mint sprig for garnish
2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce apricot liqueur
1. Rub (carefully but firmly) the 3 mint leaves all around the inside of a cocktail glass. Then discard them.
2. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, apricot liqueur, and vermouth. Shake well.
3. Strain into the minty glass from above. Garnish with the mint sprig.
May 7, 2021
Summer proper (first day of summer and all that) is still over a month away, but I can feel it creeping up with every sunny day, temperature rising, refreshing fruity drinks bubbling, flowers blooming, gardens growing, sweat sweating, outdoor meals aromatizing evenings, and did I mention the drinks? We had a precursor summer day recently, one of those days that provides a preview of all that sun and such just described, and I just had to make up a new drink to accompany said day, and had to name it after summer, and had to transport my mind into a summer mindset, and between us, I (humbly), think I did a fairly decent job, and that Theros would approve. Oh, what’s in the drink? I started with rum (a summer favorite), white rum, that is, and then upped the rummy-ness with a little Stiggins’ Fancy rum, which is a referred to as “pineapple rum,” but for summer’s sakes don’t take that to mean chemically-induced or saccharin-y or against nature, as (if you haven’t had it), Stiggins’ is none of those, instead, wafting a perfectly roasted pineapple aroma over a dark flavorful rum. If you haven’t had it, try it now. Then, to round out those rummy siblings and to underline with citrus, herbs, caramel, sweetness, and lushness, I added some Montenegro amaro – one might not think of amari as summer standbys, but one also might be foolish, as these flavor-packed pals can bring just the right layers to hot weather treats, when mixed with the right partners. Like rums! And, like pineapple juice, our next ingredient. And, like Scrappy’s Lime bitters, which delights with lime and lighter herbal notes (remember kids: bitters makes it better). Finally, ice, club soda, mint, and here we are, summer, a month or so early. Enjoy it now, and then.
1 ounce white rum
3/4 ounce Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple rum
1/2 ounce Montenegro amaro
1-1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1 dash Scrappy’s Lime bitters
4 ounces chilled club soda
Fresh mint sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rums, amaro, juice, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass with ice cubes. Strain the mix from step 1 into the glass. Top with club soda. Stir, carefully (no need to spill). Garnish with the mint.
A Note: You could serve this over cracked ice, even crushed ice. But I wasn’t so prepared or industrious as you might be. Next time, I might be!
September 11, 2020
Back now, oh, four years ago or thereabouts, I had a recipe and write up here on the Spiked Punch blog for a white currant liqueur called Current Currant, which I’ve been making ever since, thanks to the white currant bush/tree/plant that is growing in the side yard. It’s a plant that took some time to bear fruit, but now is pretty reliable as long as I guard it from the deadly and rapacious white currant grub that can take out a whole plant in no time if not guarded relentlessly during the three-to-a-week of days the grub attack occurs. That guarding makes the currants even more precious; well, that plus the fact that picking the currants is also a little laborious. They’re small, but have a singular taste, a little citrus-y in a way, but also hinting of green grapes, along with a bitter echo – and the fruit makes the Current Currant liqueur a singular liquid. But not what we’re drinking today! As the currant bush has gotten bigger, the yield is enough to make that liqueur as well as other experiments – including A Most Particular Friend.
A Most Particular Friend is made starting in the manner of Current Currant, with white currants, sugar, water, and vodka (any neutral spirit can work, as you might expect). The particular addition – if you want to describe it such – is a bunch of fresh orange mint. I happened to have some growing not too far from the white currant tree, and since the two were nearly neighbors as it may be, combining them seemed apt. And it worked an absolute treat. The mint (only the faintest faint echo of the orange remained, but that’s what dreams are made on) combines with the citrus-esque currant flavor in a way that makes me want to do that hand motion where you kiss your fingers and then open them – bellissimo! Lots of flavor, while remaining light as summer twilight. Fantastic chilled or over ice, so much so I haven’t even tried it in a drink. But I might! If you can track down these two flavorful ingredients, I suggest you give this a try (but don’t steal them outta my yard)!
A Most Particular Friend
1 cup fresh white currants
1-1/2 cup fresh orange mint
2 cups vodka
1-1/2 cups simple syrup
1. Add the currants and mint to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup, and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
August 9, 2019
Whiskey (with “e” or not) sometimes – or often – gets short shrift in the summer months, when the temperature is as high as modern hemlines. And I can see the point, a little, as whiskey is deep, dark, strong, and not known as a light-stepper. However! I also feel sad for whiskey, and think that there are many ways to utilize it that get the flavor, and also bring the refresh. Take this drink right here, which is a fruity, friendly, thirst-quencher that you’d be happy to have in the backyard as the sun goes down on an August day – or ever around the pool, if that’s your summertime activity of choice.
It starts with a whiskey that was new to me until recently (when some lovely little bottles showed up at my house – I know, I know, I’m lucky), Tommyrotter Distillery’s Triple Barrel American Whiskey
. If you don’t know them already (and really, you should), Tommyrotter is a distillery from up in Buffalo NY, named after the Tommyrotters’ Club of early 20th century artist types, who (as the website told me), “sought adventure, mischief, and inspiration in nature.” I love that! That’s a good story for sure. Which wouldn’t mean as much if the whiskey wasn’t also good, naturally. A blend of three different whiskeys, which is then finished in French oak ex-wine barrels, this tipple is a very amiable and approachable spirit. It has a caramel and vanilla nature, accented by baking spice, apples (dried and fresh), and hints of herbs and other fruit – a little stone fruit here and there. The nose mirrors that taste, while the finish adds a bit more oak. Smooth! And well worth sipping solo.
But also, due to the approachability, dandy for mixing. Here, I brought in two fruit accents, both because I thought they’d match the whiskey well, and cause it seemed summer-y. To me, at least! First up, Rothman & Winter Orchard apricot liqueur
. A brandy-based liqueur, it boasts a rich, lush, tasty that doesn’t get overwhelmed by cloying sweetness like some. Peach bitters from everyone friends at Fee Brothers
rounds things out with its peach-forward-ness. Finally, some club soda (it is hot out, after all), a bunch of crushed ice I crushed myself (good exercise), and a sprig of mint from the garden. I’ve never really thought of mint, apricot, and peaches, but it’s a delight – when the whiskey is in place to make sure everyone plays nice.
My Final Offer
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the whiskey, liqueur, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass with crushed ice (or cracked if needs must). Strain the mix from above into the glass.
3. Top with the club soda. Garnish with the mint. Serve with a straw? I like it, but up to you.
March 1, 2019
Generally, as a rule that most who have interacted with me know, probably cause I tend to mention it all the time, and sometimes stand on the corner on a soapbox talking about it, generally, I like all drinks to have their own individual names, even if the drinks has just been changing the number of drops of bitters in a drink. Creativity is a good thing! So, you might be surprised to find what looks, at first, to be a drink here where I have a variation of a well-known drink without a new name. BUT! At one time there was a whole list of Juleps consumed, not just the mighty Mint Julep, and “Julep” was nearly a category of drinks, with the Gin Julep being an especial favorite. And, when “Gin Julep” was ordered by drinkers who drank long before us, it was often genever, the progenitor of gin, in the drink. If you’re not a genever fan, well, do you have some tasting to do. First as a medicine and then as a drink, it’s been consumed happily since the 1500s, stories say. Made from malt wine, it tends to have a malted whiskey combo’d with an herbal and juniper-y gin-ness. All of which makes it intriguing in a Julep, delicious, even. And – because of all of the above – fine to just call this a Genever Julep.
Fresh mint leaves (4 or 5)
3/4 ounce Wilks & Wilson gomme syrup (you can go less if you want, and you can go with plain simple syrup, but Wilks & Wilson is a fine maker of cocktail ingredients from Indiana)
3 ounces genever (I like Bols Genever)
Fresh mint sprig, for garnish
1. Take one mint leaf and rub it over the inside of a metal julep cup (if you have one) or a highball glass. Be sure the mint touches each inch of the glasses inside. Drop the leaf in the glass when done.
2. Add the remaining mint leaves and the syrup to the glass. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the leaves and syrup. You want to be strong, but respectful.
3. Fill the glass half way with crushed ice. Add the genever. Stir well.
4. Fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice. Stir once. Garnish with a mint sprig.
A Note: To be traditional, you must crush the ice in a cloth bag. But if this is too much work, just start with crushed ice.
February 8, 2019
Sure, you’ve had Mojitos (I hope, and if not, you know, it’s a minty-rum-y delight of course so where have you been, dear)? In the summer, when they are one of the ruling drink class. Or in the spring, when you’re pretending it’s summer in your short shorts, even though you’re chilly. I see you. And even in the fall once, when you were thinking about Cuba. I sorta like them also in the winter, to deliver a summer dreamtime as the cold air nips noses. You may like that, too. But have you ever had a Mojito with a rainbow unicorn straw? I did, recently, and let me assure you – it’s better. The Mojito? Great drink. With a unicorn rainbow straw? Better. Maybe it’s this way with any drink? Here, though, trust me. Good times, with rum, and unicorn. Run with that, my brave and wonderful friends.
7 or 8 mint leaves
2 of more lime wedges
1 ounce simple syrup
Crushed or cracked ice
2-1/2 white rum
Mint sprig, for garnish
1. Add the mind, lime wedges, and simple to a highball or comparable glass. Muddle well with a cool muddler.
2. Fill the glass most of the way with cracked or crushed ice. Add the rum, then nearly to the top with soda.
3. Smack the mint a bit to get the oils flowing, then let it float atop the drink. And don’t forget to add your unicorn straw!
June 8, 2018
Recently, I was on a trip – the actual physical kind, mind you – that took me away from my home bar and home region, and led me, let’s just say, to a different state, and while there I was really craving Brancamenta, and couldn’t find any anywhere. Anywhere! What kind of place or region or locale or spot doesn’t have this Fernet Branca sibling, which adds Piedmontese peppermint oil and a little sweetness to the legendary bitter-and-herb digestif?
Well, I was missing the minty mint-ness indeed by the time I got back, especially as we’re heading into summer and Brancamenta is a summertime hit of special proportions, especially with soda, and even moreso when mingled with dark rum (another summer fav) and a few other choice choices in the below drink. Try it and see! And if you have to travel anywhere that might not have Brancamenta, even just maybe might not have it, take your bottle with you. You don’t want to run into the situation I did, believe me you.
The Mint Meridian
2 ounces dark rum
3/4 ounces Brancamenta
1/4 freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Chilled club soda
Mint sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with ice cubes. Add the rum, Brancamenta, lemon juice, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball or closely comparable glass up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass through a fine strainer.
3. Top with 3 ounces club soda. Stir. Garnish with the mint spring. Enjoy your afternoon.