June 14, 2013

Ed Skoog and the Ellipse Cocktail

It’s a proud day in Spiked Punch land – our pal Ed Skoog has a new book out and ready for reading. It’s his latest poetry collection (he is a poetic genius, as well as being a dandy drink maker, bonny bar companion, general good egg, and cute) and it’s called Rough Day, and you should get it today! Then, after getting it, come back and watch Ed make his world famous Ellipse in the below Cocktail to Cocktail Hour episode, which we’re resurfacing from way back in season 2 in honor of his new book.

December 21, 2012

Cocktail to Cocktail Hour: The Tip Top Cocktail

Yeah, that’s right, we’re going back-to-back with the first two episodes of the new season of the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour (which is good, in a way, cause who really knows when the next one will be?). Partially we’re doing this because I love you so, so very much. And partially because Episode 2 is a very special holiday cocktail, and, well, the holidays are certainly in full swing. The bubbly combo in question is the Tip Top, a sparkling wine-brandy-Benedictine affair from Dark Spirits that’ll make any winter holiday you care to celebrate better than you could ever imagine (especially New Year’s Eve naturally). So get with the holiday spirit why dontcha?

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June 22, 2012

What I’m Drinking: The Italian Spritz

This is another summer favorite featured in Wine Cocktails (following up the Cactus Berry below), a continental number that’ll go down in a lovely manner while you sit outside under the bright bright sun. It’s also a drink that can be enjoyed year round and is a standard (many would say the standard) in the pre-dinner hour, the apertivo hour, the time when Italians gather at the bar for snacks and a little imbibing. It has been known to cause some disagreement (not too heated mind you, but friendly disagreement) due to the garnish. Depending on where you’re at, you might get a green olive, an orange slice or twist, or something else altogether. I go for the orange slice, but am friends with many who go other routes. There’s no need for tempers during the hot months. In the spirit of this friendliness, this recipe is for two.

Serves 2

3 or 4 ice cubes

3 ounces Aperol

6 ounces chilled prosecco

2 orange slices for garnish

1. Add 1 or 2 ice cubes to two flute glasses (skip this if your Prosecco is super chilly). Add the Aperol.

2. Fill the glasses with the prosecco and stir gently. Garnish with the orange slice.

September 26, 2011

What I’m Drinking: Ed Skoog’s Ellipse

Hello and happy Monday! It’s not only now less than two weeks before the below-mentioned Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz Rob Roy release event, but today is also the birthday of Mr. Ed Skoog, a poet and cocktail aficionado of the first ranking, whose poems highlight the compilation of drinking verse called In Their Cups, and whose past spirited creations have been in Dark Spirits, that compendium of darkly-natured drinks. Those two occurrences (Mr. Skoog’s birthday and upcoming GBVF party) make this the absolutely perfect day to drink an Ellipse. Why? Cause it’s a drink created by Skoog that’s featured in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz. A delicious and creative drink, I may say, also, though you should expect that from Mr. Skoog. And I expect you to wish him happy fortieth today, if you happen to see him. And buy him a drink why dontcha?


1 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves

Ice cubes

2 ounces Strega

Chilled Prosecco

Fresh marjoram sprig, for garnish


1. Add the marjoram to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle gently.


2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Strega. Shake well.


3. Strain (preferably with a fine-mesh strainer) into a flute glass. Top with Prosecco, almost to the rim, and garnish with the marjoram.

June 29, 2011

What I’m Drinking: Sbagliato

I love this bubbly-and-bitter-belle-of-the-ball. First, it’s a variation on the Negroni (which is, of course, a fav) that subs in Prosecco for gin. Second, I originally had it and heard about it when staying in Florence at a spot called the Hotel Casci (not far from the Duomo, don’t you know), and pal Jeremy was there as well (we were drinking and playing Quiddler after a day of touristing). Third, it means “wrong” due to its Negroni-less-ness, if that makes sense, and I think having a drink called “wrong” is genius. Fourth, well, it tastes great–can’t go wrong with Campari, sweet vermouth, and Prosecco. Fifth, it (like La Rana D’Oro below) was a featured drink at a recent charity event that I slung drinks at (for my ma, if you didn’t know). Sixth, it’s also featured in my book Champagne Cocktails (which, if you don’t have, please buy, cause I need to be able to buy more sparkling wine). And seventh, well, seventh just adds up all the earlier six reasons to expand my love of this drink to epic–epic–proportions.



Serves 2


Ice cubes

3 ounces sweet vermouth

3 ounces Campari

Chilled Prosecco

2 orange twists, for garnish


1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth and Campari. Shake well.


2. Strain the mixture equally into two flute glasses. Top with Prosecco and garnish with the orange twists.


A Variation: You could use the Italian sparkling wine Moscato d’Asti or Asti Spumante here and be happy about it.


A Second Note: I could see the rationale behind serving this in a cocktail glass in the Negroni’s honor. I could also see the rationale behind calling this a sparkling Americano. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to do either of them.

November 12, 2010

L Enoteca Wine Club, Free Wine, and the Sabato Bolla Cocktail

If you stopped over to my Italy blog, Six Months In Italy (where this blog is duplicated, but I think it fun enough to be in both spots), you’ve gotten some of the  details on how handy my Italian/British landlords, Andrew and Marianne, are to have around. From getting Italian house in order, to opening up a tennis court at one of the other places they watch over so we could get some hillside tennis in, to pointing out new eating spots, to much more.  One other way they’ve helped us out was with a random introduction the other day, when wife Nat and I were sitting having a drink at Bar Pina. A jolly British gentleman named Jim walked by, and they knew him, and so invited him to sit down, and did the introductions, and Jim let us know about a wine bar opening, happening in a few days at the new wine bar in the same building. And then (it was fate) the owner of the wine bar, Patrick, came by and we were introduced to him. Both fellas were very friendly, and Patrick not only was opening the new wine bar, but owned the enoteca, or wine shop, on the other side of Pina. To round things out before hitting the wine bar opening, we actually stopped at the enoteca the day before, where we talked to Patrick again. He not only pointed us towards a worthy Prosecco (a bit sweet, a bit dry, very bubbly) from Valdo, but also a super intriguing cherry liqueur called Sollucchero di Monte Valentino Liquore and available in “riserva” and regular varieties. I’m always for trying new liqueurs, and couldn’t wait to try it. It’s very lush, with layers of flavors, cherry, nutty, and with a strong chocolate finish. I (and I probably don’t even need to tell most of you this, cause you guessed it already) created a cocktail with it within days, which I’m calling the Sabato Bolla cocktail, and the recipe is below.


But first, we went to the opening of Patrick (and his friendly wife)’s new wine bar, L Enoteca Wine Club, on a Friday evening. It was a very tasteful, cute, spot, and decorated with style and a restrained grace. Now, it’s only because I have a trained eye that I could even pick up on the décor, because it was packed. We slid through the crowd (noticing during our smooth sliding that the language of choice by the crowd was English, of the British variety) from the front door about 10 feet over to the bar (there is a bar area on the right, and a handful of tables on the left), where Patrick was pouring wine at a quick pace:

He greeted us warmly, and in the finest manner—with a glass of bubbly. After getting our wine, we found a good spot to people watch, and to look stylish ourselves (here’s Nat demonstrating):

It turns out that the idea of a wine bar such as this (with an emphasis on wine and smaller tapas plates) is somewhat of an anomaly in Italy, especially in our rural area, which is why we found ourselves mostly surrounded by English speakers (though Patrick is Italian, I have to say, his English is pretty great). It was fun, even though we didn’t know anyone, to stand around sipping (first the bubbly, then a rich red wine) and snacking. We’ll definitely be back to sample more wine, both to the enoteca proper and to the wine club. But now, on to the cocktail:


Sabato Bolla Cocktail


Cracked ice

1 ounce gin

3/4 ounce Sollucchero di Monte Valentino Liquore

Chilled Prosecco (Valdo’s Cuvee di Boj worked like an effervescent charm)


1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice (or ice cubes, if you must). Add the gin and Sollucchero. Stir well.


2. Strain the mix into a smallish wine glass or flute.


3. Top with chilled Prosecco. Stir briefly.


A Note: It may be hard (or impossible) to get Sollucchero di Monte Valentino Liquore in the states. And honestly, I’m not 100% sure of a comparable substitute—it has such an individual taste. But doing a combination of Cherry Heering and a little dark chocolate will at least get you close.


A Second Note: Using the glassware at hand, I went with a little wine glass found here at the casa. If you want to use a flute, go on with your bubbly self. But you may want to increase the gin and a snitch.

October 1, 2010

Champagne Cocktails Is On! And the Mysterious Lavanda

Though it’s been orderable for a few weeks, in my mind today’s the real release date for the new bubbly book, Champagne Cocktails: 50 Cork-Popping Concoctions and Scintillating Sparklers. Why today, you ask? It’s because tonight is the effervescent evening celebrating the book’s release, with an event happening at Seattle’s rollicking-ist kitchen store, Dish It Up. If you’re in Seattle, you may even be able to still sign up (though it may be full–but hey, why not take a chance). In honor of the book and event, here’s a recipe from the book that I’ll be serving tonight at the event, a recipe for the Lavanda. Doesn’t that have a mysterious name, like a forbidden dance? The drink itself is somewhat mysterious too, or at least mysteriously delicious, thanks to the lavender simple syrup–and the gin and Prosecco of course.


Serves 2


Ice cubes

4 lavender sprigs

3 ounces gin

1-1/2 ounce lavender simple syrup (see note)

Chilled Prosecco


1. Add the flowers from the top of two lavender sprigs, the gin, and the lavender simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.


2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Shake like a dancer.


3. Strain equally into two flute glasses. Top each with chilled Prosecco, and garnish each with a lavender sprig.


A Note: To make lavender simple syrup, add 1/4 cup chopped fresh lavender, 2 cups sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches a low boil, stirring regularly. Once it reaches that low boil, reduce the heat to medium- low and keep the syrup at a simmer, still stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

June 15, 2010

I’m Making Bellinis on Martha Stewart Radio for Betsy Karetnick’s Birthday

Betsy Karetnick is my favorite radio hostess (and host, for that matter). She currently hosts the “Morning Living” and “Everyday Food” shows for Martha Stewart Sirius Radio, and every time I’m in New York City I try and stop in to make a few drinks with her on the air and talk to callers about parties, cocktails, and anything else entertaining under the sun. She’s one of those hosts who really listens to callers, as well as having her own great ideas, and though she actually started as a finance journalist and a host of PBS’ “That Money Show,” shes’s now  a full-on food and entertaining force. Best of all, it’s her birthday this Thursday, the 17th, and I’m going to be in New York, so I’m stopping by the studio to make her some birthday Bellinis during the “Everyday Food” show at 12:15 EST, using the delicious Perfect Puree white peach puree. If you have Sirius Radio, be sure to listen in (at noon), and hey, even call in if you feel like saying howdy. If you don’t have Sirius Radio, you can always sign up for a free trial and see what you think (and call in and say howdy). If you absolutely can’t get near a radio, then at least make a Bellini on Friday. Here’s the recipe (adapted a bit) from Good Spirits.


2 ounce Perfect Puree white peach puree

4 or 5 ounces Prosecco

White peach slice for garnish


1. Add two ounces of the peach puree to a Champagne flute. Slowly, while stirring, add the Prosecco. You must add the Prosecco slowly, integrating it into the somewhat removed peach puree throughout or a peach puree sludge might gather at the bottom of the glass.


2. Garnish with the white peach slice and a toast to birthdays and Betsy.

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