It’s the 19th of May, do you know what that means? It means summer is right around the corner, pals, and that we are in the thick and warming part of spring, both of which combine to mean that you’d better start stocking up on your cooling drinks, your lighter liquid assistants that make the warmer and sunshine-y-er days hum hummingly. Drinks like Lillet Rouge and Tonic. Lovely in flavor, lighter in alcohol than those winter warmers being currently shed like so many woolly sweaters, this treat utilizes here Lillet Rouge, the orange-berry-and-spice member of the Lillet family, though both Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rose would be absolutely smashing, too. You might want to adjust the amount of tonic syrup, if you went one of the latter two routes. That’s right, we’re going tonic syrup here, specifically &Tonic tonic syrup (made in WA, dontcha know). For one, it’s bursting with flavor. For two, and this is the joy of tonic syrup, you can maintain control the amount of it and soda, changing easily to taste and occasion. You can find the right balance of it and whichever Lillet you’re using, the right balance for your taste, or the day, or the occasion. Neat, right? Right! And now you have one more (or multiple more, really), slings in your summer drink quiver.
1. Fill a brandy snifter or tumbler (I really like my whathaveyou-and-tonic drinks in a snifter, cause it looks cool and maybe helps the scents flow into your nose, and helps the poor dusty snifter glasses come out year round) halfway with ice cubes. Add the syrup and Lillet. Stir briefly.
2. Add the soda, stir to combine, and garnish with the twist.
En garde! This fencing (or sword-fighting, if you’re using, say, broadswords) drink is a well-balanced (on the balls of the feet, I suppose, if drinks had feet) number, with gin just taking the first position slightly, and then an equality of Cointreau, Campari, and dry vermouth providing the support, with a hint of orange the shining point (if I can drag out the metaphor). Altogether, a lot of herb-botanical-citrus goodness happening, and a cocktail that is fitting for late spring or late fall, one you can serve happily at happy hours and garden parties, and one with just enough of a story to entertain (named as it is after a famous Olympic fencer) but not so much of one to become a bore. And, really, sipping it is much finer than any sort of fight, even a mock one.
Coronado Heights is a castle. Jeremy Sidener, the gentleman bartender who created this drink, is a king of shakers and stirrers. That almost seems enough said right there! But to delve more deeply, he’s also the owner of the venerable and deservedly venerated Eighth Street Taproom in Lawrence, KS, (a must-visit bar by the way) and has been making and serving delicious drinks to all and sundry for many years, bringing the cocktail awesomeness to another level, the tops in KS and really all the Midwest. A champ. The castle that gives name to this flip (creamy, egg-lovely, sherry-tastic) might not be a champ in all the castles in the world, but it does sit on a hill outside of Lindsborg, Kansas, where I grew up, so I am inordinately fond of it in some ways (though it’s only from 1932, and more of a family picnic spot when such things are allowed, due to the views around it, then a historic monument of deep note). But not as fond of it as I am of drinks made by Mr. Sidener! I have my priorities straight, as should you.
This lovely number is an ideal dance partner (or, to put it another way, drink) for the snazzy winter season that is upon us. Pretty, tasty, and pretty tasty, it two-steps gin and Lillet Blanc and then cuts in a small twirl of Angostura and orange. Just a swirling of light herbs and spice and citrus (oh, I’d go with a flavorful gin, here, one with a juniper smooch and not a juniper punch). While this December’s celebrations may not be at the scale as past years, there’s no reason not to enjoy a drink this fine no matter what the celebration entails. You deserve both it and a Great Secret. Really, you do!
Great Secret, as featured in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz but originally, I found it in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual (the Alta 1934 version).
2 ounces gin
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
Dash of Angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish (optional, used instead of above twist)
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Add the gin, Lillet, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and then drop it in.
Once upon a time (a recent time, admittedly between us friends) I had a drink here on the Spiked Punch drinks blog called Spirit and Substance, within which I dropped tales of some homepage plum shrub and grenadine that a powerful pleasant pal had gifted me and mine. In that drink tale, the plum shrub was used, and now, here, As Luck Would Have It, we’re using the grenadine. And it’s key to have homemade grenadine me thinks, as (in the main) most store-bought grenadine isn’t all that fine. There are a few brands perhaps? But be safe, make your own, and have the lush, tanged, deeply good grenadine you deserve. There’s a homemade grenadine recipe below, if needed. But that’s just the beginning of our luck! With the grenadine here are many more lucky things, beginning with Montefalco Rosso, an Italian wine made of a bland of Sangiovese and Sagrantino. Specifically, here, I used Cantina dell’Alunno Montefalco Rosso, which is robust, fruity (cranberries and plummy-ness), herbal, and approachable. Delicious, I tell you, and the ideal base for a fall-time wine cocktail like we’re whipping up here. To bring more fruits (and a nice belly warming), we’re also adding Sidetrack Plum brandy, made with plums grown not but yards from where the still is that makes this clear, strong, bracing, lovely brandy – oh, made in WA, by the way, much like our next introduced ingredient, Brovo Spirits Jammy sweet vermouth. If you haven’t had the Jammy, then jump on it, cause it really lives up to its name, with a rich, cherry, chocolate, spice flavor. And then, to round and even the flavor, a slip of lemon juice, and a twist of orange. Altogether, a bounty of yumminess that’s lucky indeed.
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Feeling lucky yet? Shake well.
2. Strain the luck through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange.
A Note: Hey, homemade lovers! This grenadine recipe’s a snap to make, and a joy to add to cocktail or soda:
4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 pint fresh raspberries
4 cups sugar
2 ounces orange flower water
1. Add the pomegranate juice and raspberries to a large saucepan and place over high heat. Cook for 15 minutes.
2. Let the mixture stay at a steady boil, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes longer, reducing the heat if needed to prevent burning.
3. Slowly stir in the sugar, stirring continuously. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water.
4. Let cool, and strain into bottles. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
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.
The north wind says, I bring a clear spirit with the breath of juniper and some cracked ice for chilling. The east wind says, I’ll bring a classically-style orange essence built on grapes and a nice glass. The west wind says, I’ll bring something with a hint of bitter and herb made in the mountains (or thereabouts) and a twist of orange. The south wind says I’ll bring a bit more bitter undercurrenting via a legend that needs no introducing, along with a long spoon for stirring. That’s all the winds, and now we have our drink for today.
Beyond the fact that this is a tasty drink – double bitters, bourbon, bubbly, Cointreau – I love the story of the Seelbach. It was once thought an uncovered treasure found in some ancient texts, and brought out of the mists of time for the drinkers of the future. But, turns out, the whole story was made up. Cocktails should have histories like this, sometimes, cause drinking should be fun (also, to read the whole story in more detailed, check it out on Liquor.com) and sometimes made up stories are fun, too. Heck, it tricked me, but I still believe it’s fun, and like drinking the Seelbach, too. Try it, and I’m guessing you will, as well.
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