Earlier this month of January, I had a drink I was drinking called the The Libellule (basically, a classic Dragonfly but with lemon), in which I utilized the lovely PiùCinque gin, a gin made in Italy with 10 botanicals. If you haven’t read that post, for gosh sakes, where have you been? Nah, I kid, I kid, I know you’re busy, what with the this-and-that’s. But do go read it now, to get more info on said Italian gin. Okay, back? See, wanted you to catch up on that there, cause in this drink, I mix PiùCinque gin with a few other Italian bottles: Anonima Distillazioni’s Ippocrasso vermouth from Gubbio, and Zafferaneto Di Corciano’s Safra Amaro all Zafferano from (as you might guess here) Corciano.
As you might guess, for those unlucky souls not visiting Umbria in central Italy, those two ingredients are probably not on your local liquor store shelves – yet at least! Who knows what tomorrow brings; one hopes. The fourth ingredient is orange juice, but that’s easy, so let us focus on the other two, both of which are delicious, in their own way. Ippocrasso vermouth is based on a red wine from Donini (my favorite winery in the world I’d say), so it starts in a wonderful place. It’s on the light side, but still lush, and has a bountiful fruitiness that sets it apart from many Italian vermouths, and a little less sweetness perhaps? Perhaps. Some friendly herbal and bitter notes bring up the rear. Safra (there’s an accent over that “a” by the way, but it’s annoying to type) Amaro alla Zafferano is one of the few – if not the only – amari I’ve had that sets itself apart with saffron. It doesn’t have a saffron-y coloring, but the smell and taste both benefit from saffron’s florally-honey-coaxingly-bitter-y nature, here backed by other herbal notes, friendly ones. On the amari scale, this leans a smidge on the sweet side, very approachable.
So, with our gin, we have three amazing Italian ingredients, all crafted with care from what I can tell, and all worth tracking down. Will it be easy? Perhaps not super easy, but hey, as our drink title tells you, just ask boldness to be your friend. Will it be worth it? Yes, for sure! Both to have each separately, but also to have in this cocktail, where they combine into the liquid equivalent of, oh, a painting by Perugino – one of the darker ones, as there is a rich, deep, herbal and fruit taste here, but also one that’s savor-able and approachable. Get your tickets, today!
Yes! Football is happening. Important professional football. Football, football, football! And, it’s nearing the time when football isn’t happening (oh, btw as the texters txt, here I am referring solely to USA-style football, and not the football played around everywhere else in the world. Though that kind of football is most-likely happening, too, in some form, which I admit, and if you are watching the original football, and want to have this delicious drink with a passel of pals, that would be amazing and you would be able to say “score!” loudly when drinking, too), so if you haven’t yet had your football punch yet this professional football season, well, rah-rah-rah-ers, now is the time for you to have it! With a team of friends – though perhaps not as big a team as a full professional football team, unless you can make multiple batches, that is, in which case, do that – cause this is a drink scaled for more than just one. And it’s so awfully tasty, that even if – and I do hope with every pigskin inch, whatever that means, that this isn’t the case – your team of choice isn’t playing anymore, having bowed out already in ignominy, you will still be able to smile after sipping. If not the first glass, at least the second. Let the football-ing and Football Punch-ing commence!
Two 25.4-ounce bottles chilled sparkling apple cider
2 apples, cored and sliced
1. Fill a large punch bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, apple juice, vermouth, lemon juice, and orange juice. Stir with a pennant from your team of choice.
2. Add the sparkling apple cider, but in a sustained drive, not in a sprint (meaning, slow and steady wins this game), and the apple slices. Stir well. Serve in punch glasses, mugs, or little plastic footballs.
It’s April, so you might be thinking – why would anyone want to be in bed by 10 p.m. when spring is starting to spring, and the light is slowly shedding more light on the day? But hey, some of us still have to work, and age weighs heavy on shoulders, and, well, I like to go to bed early-ish and read (comics), and maybe have a sip here and there while I read. And this is a sweet drink for being in bed at this time, due to its usage of The Bitter Truth Pink Gin, a beautiful combining of well-crafted gin and aromatic bitters (and you know you can trust the Bitter Truth folks when it comes to that), combined with orange juice (good to citrus up before bed, as it’s healthy and all), an egg white (which bring a lovely nighttime texture, as well as a bit of protein), and simple syrup – that kiss of sweetness you want before tucking yourself in for a night of sweet, sweet, dreams. Now you may want to go to bed a little early with one of these, too!
If you’ve forgotten (though how could you, marketing being the horror that it is), tomorrow is Halloween! I’m guessing you have your costume set, but what about your drink? If not, then remember the Warlock! It has brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. It will, when consumed, turn you into a zombie magician as the below video shows. But hey, it’s Halloween, that’s what you want!
This is based, as you can probably guess from the name, on the classic Scotch cocktail the Blood and Sand. To make it more huggy (not that the original isn’t huggy, mind you), I switched up said Scotch with local (for those of us living in Seattle, WA, that is, though really, hopefully, wherever you are you can track this down, too) Captive Spirits’ Peat Barreled Big Gin (PBBG). Rested or aged or finished as you will in casks that once held also-local Westland’s Peated American single malt whiskey, the PBBG has a swell juniper, orange, smoke, pepper, spice, and northwest-y nature that goes like a cuddly cuddle here. Try it, and then give me a hug if you like it (if you feel that’s too weird, a high-five is good, too). If making in summer, you may want to have it over the rocks instead of up. If it’s real hot, that is.
First things first – this here cheek-tinger has a crucial ingredient not always available easily in the US. You can track it down sometimes online. And you can find it simply enough by traveling to the U.K. And really, you need a vacation right? I’m talking about Glayva liqueur, which is made in Leith, Scotland, through a combo of aged Scotch whiskies, citrus fruits, anise, clove, herbs, a whisper of heather honey, and more treats. It’s well worth trying and tracking down. Especially for this charming charmer, which mixes Glayva with old pal gin (a good U.K. gin makes sense, and I like one in a London traditional sense), cranberry, and orange juice, all together into a treat that will make your day, and your favorite favorite’s day, too.
This all-time St. Patrick’s Day dreamweaver is one I suggest to every person I know for celebrating on March 17, cause it’s delicious, sure, and so much better than the array of chemically-green’d beer and such often served on the day. But also cause it was created by Jeremy Sidener, a true gentleman from Kansas, of which there aren’t many – true gentlemen, that is. The Dublin 8’s also fantastically refreshing. So, what are you waiting for? Might as well start celebrating now, right?
The Dublin 8
2 ounces Irish whiskey (I originally used Clontarf 1014 in this, but others would shine as well)
3 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3 ounces chilled ginger ale or ginger beer
Lime quarter for garnish
Lime slice for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass, or similarly-sized glass, three quarters up with ice cubes. Add the whiskey.
2. Add the orange juice and ginger ale.
3. Squeeze a lime wedge over the glass, and then drop it in. Stir gently. Garnish with the slice of lime.
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.
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