It’s October, which means we have one eye on the upcoming glistening holiday season, and one still on the summer that’s passed, and one on Halloween of course (I’m taking it for granted that each of us has three eyes – it is near Halloween). This position in the party calendar year makes this the ideal time for sweet sparkling wines. Well, really, I’m okay with them anytime, but as they are both ideal for summer (when served nice and cold) and winter (when they match those holidays parties you’re waiting for), then of course, they’re doubly ideal now. That’s my logic. Lucky for me then, a bottle of Castello del Poggio sparkling moscato showed up in the mail recently. Don’t hate me for my luck!
A delicate, lovely, fruity wine, this moscato is a delight. Castello del Poggio is located in Piedmont (in Italy, if that wasn’t obvious), and makes for a pretty sipper from the peachy aroma to the sweet fruity kiss of a flavor, with lots of notes to dwell on. Pear? Sure. Peach? Maybe a bit of strawberry? I thought so, but your palate may differ. There’s a consistent effervescence, too. All combined, makes for a memorable aperitif, or a dessert accompaniment.
It also makes swell sparkling cocktails (you probably knew I was going to go there, cause you’re smart)! When using it in this drink – called How Silver-Sweet, from R&J, because the sweetness – I wanted to balance it while aligning on the fruit. So, I started with a favorite local spirit, Sidetrack Distillery’s Strawberry brandy. A really, classic, fruit brandy, it’s dry, strong, and carrying the pure essence of the fruit – fruit harvested from the farm where Sidetrack is located. To umph the fruit even more, and rounding out the basket, I also added Pierre Ferrand’s orange curaçao. And then, a final touch, some herbal undertones provided by Peychaud’s bitters. The end result is a layered drink that boasts sweetness and light and lots of flavor.
This favorite of mine recently popped up in conversation with a pal-of-mine (about orange things, funny enough), and it reminded me just how much I like it. Like it? I love it! It’s a wonderfully-balanced mix – if I can say so without sounding too full-of-myself, since I created it – with some ingredients that you don’t naturally think would go together in dark rum and Campari. But thanks to the edge-smoothing triple sec (I’d say go with homemade, if you can – there’s a recipe in Luscious Liqueurs) and the peacemaker, Perychaud’s bitters, everything plays nice. It’s always tasty fun to re-discover an old liquid friend. And this is one of my besties.
I say, go into January with bubbles; go out of January and into February with bubbles. And love, of course. And Parfait Amour (which, you know, gets a bad rap – some of it deserved, as it can be a sickly sweet kind of love at times). But damnit, it’s a worthy love here. Ya’ hear? And this drink (which itself can run sweet for some – but on occasion sweet isn’t bad. The orange juice, if fresh as the driven snow or some such, should help balance. You could also drop the simple altogether, now that I think about it. Again, though, you may want to sweet up. That’s okay, too.), as well as being a good end-of-the-year’s-first-month choice, is also not a bad idea for you and yours to snuggle with on the up-coming Valentine’s Day. It checks the boxes for that: ingredient with “love” in title, sparkling and classy, Peychaud’s for health, and gin to base it all on. See what I mean?
Well, you play that tarantella, all the hounds will start to roar
The boys all go to hell and then the Cubans hit the floor
They drive along the pipeline, they tango ’til they’re sore
They take apart their nightmares and they leave them by the door
Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
Deal out Jacks or better on a blanket by the stairs
I’ll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
And send me off to bed for evermore . . .
That’s Tom Waits, friends. Lyrics from the song “Tango ’til They’re Sore,” naturally. The inspiration, that song, and the record it’s on, for this very drink. You’ll need to listen to the whole thing and the whole of Rain Dogs, now. If you weren’t already.
The Hounds They Start to Roar
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce brandy (Spanish, of course)
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole bunch of ingredients. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or goblet. Sing Tom songs, of course.
Well, it’s nearly Halloween, and that means it’s time for one of the traditions here at Spiked Punch, the one where I drink a Warlock cocktail and turn into a zombie magician of sorts. Oh, the Warlock is a good drink, too, well worthy of your spooky celebrations, with brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. I can’t wait to drink it, consequences be darned. You should take the same stance this October.
This is the day before Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, everybody make a Warlock, drink it down till the neighbors gonna die of delight; it’s your drink, everybody scream, on the day before Halloween.
Okay, as you know, every year near Halloween I do three things – sing the above song, have a Warlock (made with brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters), and turn into a zombie magician. This year is no different.
There are nights when inspiration hits like lightening, or like a very fast snake on the prowl, or like bowling ball dropped off a tall, tall building. On nights like that, you, if you’re like me, realize that if you subbed Ancho Reyes (the ancho chile liqueur, which I go much deeper into in the recipe for the Summer Near Puebla, if you missed it) for sweet vermouth in a Bobby Burns, you’d have a drink of genius. Of genius! Especially if you perhaps twisted the proportions just a little, and then added a dash of Peychaud’s bitters, and served it over a giant piece of ice. Double genius! Don’t believe me? Try the below recipe, as you watch for lightening, snakes, and falling bowling balls. After one sip, you’ll realize how lucky you are and forget all the rest of that stuff.
Oh, one thing. I used Speyburn 10 year old Scotch here. Its slight fruitiness and balance and friendliness make it a good match. It’s also not super expensive, so you won’t feel bad mixing it up with other powerful personalities.
The Bowling Roberto
1-1/2 ounces Speyburn 10 Year Scotch
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Big ice cubes (or a couple sorta big ice cubes)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything but the second piece of ice. Stir well.
2. Add a big piece of ice to an Old Fashioned or such glass. Strain the mix over the ice.
A classic cure for gastronomical distress, I’ve featured this favorite on the Spiked Punch blog before. But as it’s such a fine remedy for curing your post-holiday internal ills, and as one or two of you may have missed the earlier post, here it is again, starting your new year off in a fine, tasty, gut-happy way.
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