December 2, 2022
Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics. This here (or, below here) is my recipe for Champagne Punch, the one I picked up from family holiday gatherings when I was a wee one, the one I was making for parties long before even this blog started (so, dinosaurs were walking the earth), and long before I put the recipe in Good Spirits (and probably others books and articles), and long before I started typing this sentence (which is itself rather long now, though not as long as some by, say, Henry James). It’s a basic ol’ bubbly fruity rummy punchy number, not all la-de-da, but very solid, very tasty, and very much a sparkling treat that’s wonderful around the holiday season – which, low and behold, we are now in, or nearly in if you don’t want to jump the gun. A stance I understand, but good to be prepared pals! So, have the basic recipe below in your back pocket – it’s sure to be a hit at your holiday gatherings, which I’m sure will be anything but basic.
Ice (in block form if possible; if not, large chunks)
6 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
4 ounces simple syrup
2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces white rum
6 ounces dark rum
Once 750-milliliter bottle chilled Champagne
Orange, lime, and lemon slices, for garnish
1. Add the ice to a large punch bowl. If using chunks (as opposed to a large block of ice), fill the bowl just under halfway.
2. Add the orange juice, simple syrup, lime juice, and lemon juice. With a large spoon or ladle, stir 10 times.
3. Add the white and dark rums. Stir 10 more times.
4. Add Champagne, but not too quickly. Enjoy the moment. Add a goodly amount of orange, lime, and lemon slices. Stir, but only once.
5. Ladle into punch glasses or festive goblets. Try to ensure that every guest gets a slice of fruit and a smile.
October 2, 2020
Here’s a fine kettle of various ingredients mixed with booze. I had the mad/smart/odd/random/bored/inventive/normal idea not more than a couple weeks ago that I should make up a wine-based liqueur or aperitivo if you like (I like, so I’m gonna call it that), and that it should have basil in it (cause my basil plants were doing so well then, if, admittedly, not as well now as summer has dwindled), and maybe orange (cause I had an orange), and a roasted peach (which also was around and needed to be used, sans pit, but the roasting felt important), and some spices but not too many, and a hint of bitterness cause the best aperitivos (or many of them) tend to have that, and it should be pretty as that hour on a sunny late-summer day when night is nearly there, but not quite there, the hour you realize once again that summer and all things are transient, ephemeral, lovely. Whew, seems like a lot to ask of something made in a big glass jar!
But, you know, it worked out quite well. Not sure I reached the full heights I wanted, but came close-ish, to my taste, which might be different than yours. The basil is the strangest part of the equation, as it lost some of its, well, basil-ness if that makes sense. There’s not overriding basil smell or taste, or any, or very little; instead, it adds a slightly vegetal minty-ness. Interesting! The orange notes come through strong, with a little other citrus (thanks to lemon) and a dream of toasty peach, and the spice notes (tiny bits of ginger, star anise) are more inferred than active, if that makes sense. Oh, I should have started with: the wine I used as the base was an Orvieto Classico white wine, which I love, and which is dry-ish, but fruit-y-ish (more peach notes here), and grape-ish enough to bring a lot of flavor. I also added some vodka, as the wine solo didn’t seem to have enough umph for the end-of-summer delicate sadness I wanted. Sure, I’m weird! Gentian, the bittering agent of choice for so many things, underlines that thought, as well as balancing the sweetness. Really, all joshing and flighty language aside, Caducitivo (caduco in Italian meaning transient or ephemeral) was an awfully fun, and tasty, experiment, a fine pre-dinner, sipper, with a layered, light, orange-citrus-herb flavor containing a friendly bitter back end. Heck, I think I’ll make it again next year! And, with the below recipe, you can try it, too. I like sipping it at room temp, but think it’s best over ice, or chilled a bit. While I haven’t tried it yet, my guess is it’d be great with Prosecco, and also as a cocktail ingredient.
2 cups basil
1 roasted peach (see Note)
1 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 wide orange twists
2 wide lemon twists
2-1/2 cups Orvieto Classico (I used Ruffino, which is nice, solid, and not overly pricey)
1/2 cup vodka (I used Prairie Organic vodka, which is swell and came in the mail)
1 cup simple syrup
1/4 teaspoon crushed gentian
1. Add the basil, peach, star anise, ginger, and citrus twists to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the wine and 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 gentian (see Second Note), 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.
A Note: For the peach, I just baked it at 425 F until it was slightly roasted, not charred. Also, I didn’t use the pit, just the peach itself.
A Second Note: You could add this in Step 1, but I had unexpectedly ran out, so couldn’t. And there’s something (probably nothing) in adding that bittering agent later, letting the other ingredients meet up first.
February 14, 2020
You know, I think this here lovely drink is such a nice and lovely one for lovely Valentine’s Day that I’ve probably had it on this (lovely) blog before around the heart-iest day of the year. But today is the actual day! Not just close. You knew this right? I mean, you are on it, and have the appropriate gifts etc. for your sweetest, or if single, for yourself (I mean, you deserve it)? It is, naturally, a holiday created for commerce (if you can spare me a non-lovely thought), but darn it all, still fun, or, at least, still a lovely excuse for the below drink for the lovely couples and lovely singles in the house. What a combo! Brandy! Aperol! Sweetness! Citrus! Lovely! Admittedly, a smidge on the dessert-y side for some lovely folks, but hey, if that’s not you, here’s what you do – up the lovely brandy a bit. Just like that, a Valentine’s Day dream, ideal for you, lovely you.
Ti Penso Sempre, from Dark Spirits, Serves 2
3 ounce brandy
2 ounces Aperol
1 ounce simple syrup
2 orange slices, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, Aperol, and simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Strain the mix equally into 2 cocktail glasses.
January 9, 2018
Decided on thinking it through that I needed one more quote from Charles Willeford’s one-time underground classic (still classic, just not really “underground” as you can pick it up easily enough, and you should), Pick-Up
. Be sure to read the Pick-Up, Part I Cocktail Talk
, and then come back – if you already haven’t read it, that is – and catch the below quote, about a drink called The Dolphin Special. Which I’ve never seen on a menu, but which sounds pretty neat, and boozy.
“Just bring us two of the Dolphin Specials,” I told him
He nodded solemnly and left for the bar. The Special is a good drink; it contains five varieties of rum, mint, plenty of snow-ice, and it’s decorated with orange slices, pineapple slices and cherries with a sprinkling of sugar cane gratings floating on top. I needed at least two of them. I have to build up my nerve.
–Charles Willeford, Pick-Up
August 22, 2014
Sometimes, in summer, it’s too hot for me to even write up a new, clever, headnote (anyone who shakes their head at “clever” please leave the room). And sometimes, I read another headnote from a book and just think, well, that says it all, really. This is one of those times.
In his famous eighteenth sonnet, when he lays down the immortal line “and summer’s lease hath all too short a date,” Shakespeare perhaps wasn’t exactly referring to a coquetry that happened in those hotter months between him and a fair lady, an ardent connection that slid smoothly past light flirtation into something a trace more serious, a Mercury-rising affaire d’amour that—for at least as long as those months lasted—seemed more important than the sun. As these adoring concerns are, sadly, like this drink, over much too soon, his line does hit the romantic nail on the head, though—showing again why Will S. was the master.
Summer Dream, from Dark Spirits, Serves 2 (because of reasons mentioned above)
3 orange slices
2 peach slices
4 ounces bourbon
2 ounces Campari
1 ounce Simple Syrup
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Add the orange and peach slices to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, Campari, simple syrup, and lemon juice. Shake really well, if a little wistfully, for at least 15 seconds.
3. Strain the dream through a fine strainer equally into two cocktail glasses.
A Variation: Want a more cluttered drink? After step 2, instead of straining into cocktail glasses, pour the whole shebang, ice and fruit and every sad last word, into two large goblets. Rename it the Disordered Dream.