March 15, 2019

What I’m Drinking: Rye Not? With Clyde May’s Rye

Okay, there has to be a drink named this, right? It’s just too good not to have been utilized by some creative bartender (of which there are millions, lucky us), and so whomever has done so, my apologies. And if really there isn’t, than, wheee! Anyway, as you might expect from this name I’ve been mulling over, this is a rye drink, and one that hews close-ish to a rye Manhattan, which I think is a good place to start.

Another good place to start is the rye I’m using here, Clyde May’s rye. Clyde May’s is made by the Conecuh Distillery and is named after Alabama’s most famous bootlegger/moonshiner from days of yore (meaning, days when we had moonshiners, and not liquor stores one could trot into, or fire up online). I had their bourbon in a Mint Julep not too long ago, and you can go read about it. But now, it’s rye time, cause, as the drink name tells us, Rye Not?

The Clyde May’s rye is aged a minimum of three years and rolls off the tongue at 47% ABV. On the nose, it delivers some spice, caramel, and flowery notes, which unfold when sipping into a little stone fruit (apricots, I say!), and more spice and rye goodness, and a hint of pepper and sweetness trailing. A nice sipper, but also nice in cocktails like this one, where I – after due consideration – follow up on those apricot notes I parsed out above, by mixing it with a little (don’t want to overwhelm) apricot liqueur, as well as a little peach bitters, and to bring us all home, some Punt e’ Mes vermouth. All together, a swell drink for right about now, where there’s chill still in the air, but perhaps a dream of spring coming closer every day.

rye-not
Rye Not?

Ice cubes
2 ounces Clyde May’s rye whiskey
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
Big ice cube (or more little ones)

1. Fill a mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything except more ice. Stir well.

2. Add a big ice cubes or some smaller ones to an Old Fashioned style glass. Strain the mix into the glass. Sip up!

May 5, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Walrus

Lumbering across the ice, across the minds of those in its path, driven by a hoard of idiots, all the way from the Nordic realms all the way across Canada, all the way down over the northwest coast, and all the way farther down the coast, farther, farther, the Walrus lumbers, leaving havoc in its wake. Of course, that’s a different Walrus than this drink, which is actually a stitch sweet, in a way, perhaps too much so for some (though it is only a stitch, and anyone who says it’s too much is one of those people who probably think they have something to prove because of inner turmoil around how people perceive them. Yawn), but also well savory, and citrus-y, too, all thanks to how the ingredients come together in a convivial manner. It’s a Walrus to visit again and again. Much different than our original Walrus, who maybe, just maybe, just needed one of these drinks.

walrus
The Walrus

Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounce rye
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes vermouth
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the tusks. Shake well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, while looking towards the stars.

December 30, 2016

What I’m Drinking: The Pensiero

Bubbly cocktails are good all the year round. This is an incontrovertible fact. However, if you wanted to make the point that bubbly cocktails are even finer this time of the year, because of the elegant effervescence they bring to the season, well, I wouldn’t argue. Which is why today I’m sipping this Italian-inspired sparkler from Champagne Cocktails. Because I don’t like arguing. No, no, it’s because it’s a darn tasty drink, a bubbly number that’s a little different, intriguing, yummy-licious.

pensiero
The Pensiero, from Champagne Cocktails

Ice cubes
1 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 ounces Punt e’ Mes
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Chilled Brachetto d’Acqui
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the orange juice, Punt e Mes, Campari, and simple syrup. Shake thoughtfully.

2. Strain the mixture into a flute glass. Top with Brachetto d’Acqui. Garnish with the lemon twist.

July 24, 2015

What I’m Drinking: The Oriental

I decided I needed a break from summer cocktails – even though it’s still sweaty time here in Seattle. But even during these sweaty times, some days, darnit, I’m not feeling bubbly. Say it’s the job (it’s the job), or just the first song I listened to today, or that malaise that creeps in like weeds on even the most jolly of us (I am the most jolly), but even in cut-off wearing summer, there are days like this, days when you need something that’s packs more umph, and delivers a respite to the world and the woes. For me, today, it’s the Oriental.

If you haven’t heard me mention it before (as I’ve written about this drink in a couple spots), I originally found the Oriental in the classic Savoy Cocktail Book, and love the drink’s balance, underlying strength, and story. Which goes, as said in that same book, like this:

In August, 1924, an American engineer nearly died of fever in the Philippines and only the extraordinary devotion of Doctor B. saved his life. As an act of gratitude, the engineer gave Doctor B. the recipe of this cocktail (the Oriental).

So, it’s a lifesaving drink – as well as a bad day saver. Get in front of a fan, forget about all the sunshine, laughter, and summertime kicks outside the window, and start sipping.

oriental
The Oriental

Cracked ice
1-1/2 ounce rye (Woodinville’s nice)
3/4 ounces sweet vermouth (I used Punt e’ Mes)
3/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Fill a cocktail shaker half way full with cracked ice. Add everything. Shake well (as Rick reminds us in the comments below).

2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass.

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September 5, 2014

What I’m Drinking: Punt e’ Mes Highball

If you’re lucky enough to be sitting outside under some late-summer sun, feeling a wee bit warm, even, and wondering how in the world life could be any finer . . . well, pour yourself one of these and you’ll see how. This is, for sure, in my top ten list of sitting-in-the-sun drinks, one that manages to cool you down without sacrificing any flavor – it has oodles of flavor, actually, an amazing amount thanks to the two ingredients, Italian bitter-kissed sweet vermouth stalwart Punt e’ Mes (from all the way in 1870, for you history buffs), and ginger ale or ginger beer (I used to use the former, but have tried the latter recently with outstanding results). The herbal and spice layers in here are only a wee bit less amazing than the drink’s power to refresh you, when you’re under that sun alluded to earlier.

punt-e-mes-highball

Punt e’ Mes Highball

Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Punt e’ Mes
3 ounces ginger ale or ginger beer

1. Fill a smallish highball glass or a big rocks glass three-quarter-ish up with ice cubes. Add the Punt e’ Mes.

2. Top with the ginger ale. Stir. Be happy.

August 29, 2014

What I’m Drinking: The Pensiero

Hello late August! You might think in late August, where, for let’s say at least 85.4% of the readers of this blog, it’s pretty hot, that I wouldn’t dare suggest making a drink that means “thought.” But I will dare (as the song says), cause really, you don’t have to think too much about this drink when making it, and because it is rather refreshing and, if I may dare say, yummy. Just be sure your Brachetto d’Acqui (the slightly sweet Italian frizzante wine) is well chilled, or drop an ice cube into the glass. It is August, after all.

pensiero

The Pensiero, from Champagne Cocktails

Ice cubes
1 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 ounces Punt e Mes
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
Chilled Brachetto d’Acqui
Lemon twist, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the orange juice, Punt e Mes, Campari, and simple syrup. Shake thoughtfully.

2. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer into a flute glass. Top with Brachetto d’Acqui. Garnish with the lemon twist.

March 28, 2014

What I’m Drinking: The Snake Banisher Cocktail

It’s sad that people only remember St. Patrick on March the 17th – and that people only tend to really get enthusiastic about Irish contributions to cocktail culture then (sadly, I myself may fall into that a bit. Forgive me). But we, friends, can get together and drive these oversights out, much like St. Patrick himself drove the snakes out of Ireland. But to do it, we’ll need a serious drink – this drink, right here!

It’s highlighted by two great Irish products, Clontarf 1014 Irish whiskey (which I talked about in the Dublin 8 recipe post), and Celtic Honey liqueur. The latter is inspired by an ancient recipe (as many good things are) and is supposed to bring you luck when drinking. I can’t say for sure on that, but can say that the liqueur’s combination of local Irish honey, spring water, Irish whiskey, and secret herbs is tasty.

snake-banisher

The Snake Banisher

Cracked ice
2 ounces Clontarf 1014 Irish whiskey
3/4 ounce Celtic Honey liqueur
1/4 ounce Punt e’ Mes
2 dashes Scrappy’s Saville Orange bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Start banishing snakes.

A Note: You could use another orange bitters instead of Scrappy’s Saville Orange bitters (which is otherworldly good). But you might want to have some snake anti-venom on hand.

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May 23, 2011

Fratelli Branca Distillery Tour, Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of our Branca Distiller tour, well, do so now. It talks lots about company history, the Collezione Branca, the Branca philosophy of novare serbando (renew but conserve), and much more. Go read it. Okay, are you back? Now we’re ready for Part 2, in which we actually get to walk around the distillery and see where the magic happens. Still with our tour guides Elisa, Marco, and Valeria, we last stopped at the Carpano area of the museum, where we learned more about Branca’s purchase of Carpano Antica (and the full Carpano family of vermouths), had a quick drink of Carpano Antica, and then got ready to hit the distillery proper. But first, as we’re walking into delicate areas, we had to suit up (attractive, aren’t we?):

 

 

Check out the wonderful Carpano ad in the background, too. Yet another piece of Branca-related advertising I wish I had framed in my house. After suiting up, we started by going through a few doors into the Borghetti coffee liqueur room. Now, here’s where I have to admit one downside for you, dear readers, in this Part 2 of the tour post. We couldn’t, in most areas of the distillery, take pictures. As mentioned in Part 1, having delicious liqueurs, vermouths, and amaros means that folks are always wanting to know how you make them. Which means even someone as un-spy-ish as me (though I could be a spy, I suppose–I have that look, right?) can’t snap snaps. Borghetti, if you don’t know (and you might not, as it’s sadly not readily available in the States) is the coffee liqueur made by the Branca company. It’s a staple in Italy (all the everyday bars/cafes we’d visit had it, usually in both big bottles and in these small, 3-inch-ish, portable bottles), and I’m not 100% sure why we don’t have it in the U.S., as it’s scrumptious. Normally, I’m not either a big coffee liqueur fan or a big coffee drinker (a lot of coffee liqueurs taste ickily chemical to me), but I really love the Borghetti, and after seeing where it’s made, I know why. It only contains coffee (freshly roaster and made there), liquor, and a natural sweetener. Walking into the room where it’s made is somewhat like walking into the best coffee roaster inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, as there’s a perfect sweet/coffee aroma—which matches Broghetti’s taste. Here’s what the bottle looks like, if you want to scoop some up on your travels:

 

From there, we saw where the ingredients in Fernet Branca are treated during production (where the secret processes mentioned in Part 1 happen), including the big iron pot (pictured in Part 1) where the spices and more are stirred up. Amazing stuff, really, as it’s partially mechanized, but still there are always workers in attendance, watching over the process. We next went to perhaps my favorite part of the whole tour (well, just hanging out with our awesome tour guides was my favorite part, but this coming up was a close second), the cask where Stravecchio Branca spends time before bottling. Stravecchio Branca is the brandy made by the Branca company, and is another item I wouldn’t mind seeing more of over here (again, it’s in most bars/cafes in Italy and is a really good, full-bodied brandy). Here’s the bottle if you ever want to try some and you see it:

 

But the cask (or flask, as they referred to it as) in question we could take pics of, but we didn’t have a wide enough angle lens to do it justice. See, it’s the biggest cask in Europe, and was built over a two month time period way back in 1892. And it’s massive and astounding to stand in front of:

 

 

Stravecchio was originally called “Vieux Cognac,” but they had to change the name due to the Cognac rules (about it having to be made in the Cognac region of France, that is). Today, the brandy spends some time in other casks, but each batch spends a least some time in this massive cask–which is never empty, as some is always left in to ensure that the brandy stays consistent (a nice little touch). On the back of the ginormous cask, there’s a chart that tells how full it is (somewhat like the little marks made on the wall as kids get taller), alongside a little chalkboard notepad (which is alongside my head):

 

 

My favorite part of the photo (and another reason why I loved this cask so much) is right above the “B100” where the cask looks like it’s sweating. This is a slight oozing out that happens, about which Marco said, “it is crying.”  He even wiped some off on a fingertip to taste, and encouraged us to do the same–which I, naturally did. It was super-brandy-charged, and I dug it so much I went back for more (hey, I have a hard time seeing anything cry). After the Stravecchio, we wandered down into the cellars, where we viewed wooden cask after wooden cask, rows of them (all lovely, by the way), first more brandy (they start here in smaller casks before moving to the biggest cask in Europe), then the wooden casks Fernet Branca is aged within. Fernet Branca has to be aged at least a year, and the brandy for three, so you can imagine that there are tons of casks (not to mention that Branca Menta is also made with aged Fernet Branca, on to which is added pure peppermint oil, sweetening, and love). All these hundreds of casks, the giant cask, the production facilities upstairs, the museum from Part 1, and the offices live in this one building, in the center of Milan, a bustling city. There’s something almost otherworldly about it, especially when wandering through the building’s many rooms and passages. One could easily get lost down here—you’d never go thirsty, luckily. Also luckily, we didn’t have to worry about getting lost, because we were with our friendly and knowledgeable (and fun) tour guides. Check them out, aren’t they great:

 

After seeing the casks, and saying our goodbyes, we walked out in Milan craving a little Fernet Branca or Branca Menta. Of course, we had a four-and-a-half hour drive ahead of us, so the cravings just became sharper, until we were back in our home Italian neighborhood, where we could indulge our Branca thirst at Bar Fizz. Thanks again Fratelli Branca Distillerie, we had a great time.

 

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