Another choice read and Cocktail Talk from George Simenon and my pal (well, it almost feels like it now – check out the past Maigret Cocktail Talks) Inspector Maigret. This read, Lock 14, that is, takes place as you might expect at a lock, and not only is it a regular atmospheric mighty Maigret mystery, but it’s also an interesting look into how commerce and people operated along the lock series and system at the time (for example, I had no idea how many barges were pulled along by horses that were kept on board, with their “carter” who led them and took care of them), and the bars that sprung up alongside the locks. The below is a good little look into one.
The lockkeeper accompanied his relations as far as the main road to Epernay, which crossed the canal two miles from the lock.
He saw nothing unusual. As he was passing the Café la Marine on his way back, he looked inside and was hailed by a pilot.
“Come and have a drop! You’re soaking wet . . .”
He had a rum, still standing. Two carters got to their feet, sluggish with red wine, their eyes shining, and made for the stable adjoining the café, where they slept on the straw next to their horses.
They were not exactly drunk. But they had had enough wine to send them into a heavy sleep.
I wish I could say with certainty that this drink was named after Mercurio, the 4-D Man, a fella from the planet Gramos who fought Thor and the wacky Warriors Three, as well as a bunch of other heroes and such in the mighty Marvel universe, utilizing both fire and ice powers. However! I don’t know that this drink was named after said alien, or the Mexican wrestler of the same name, or the Chilean newspaper. My guess? A misspelling of a Willy S character, or after the planet Mercury. When all is said and done, though, does it matter? This is a swell sipper for around 10 folks, one that’s a bit bubbly, a bit brandy, and a big grape-y. Great for the end of February, when you’re just starting to feel spring might someday happen, but still chilly. Heck, they even like it on Gramos.
Block of ice, or ice cubes
16 ounces brandy
16 ounces purple grape juice
8 ounces Bénédictine liqueur
8 ounces simple syrup
One 750-milliliter bottle red wine (go for a Cabernet here, one with robust body)
One 2-liter bottle chilled club soda
1. Add the block of ice to a large punch bowl, or fill the bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, grape juice, Benedictine, and simple syrup. Stir well.
2. Add the red wine to the cast, and stir again.
3. Smoothly add the club soda, and stir a final time (or maybe a few final times—you want to get it good and combined). Serve in punch glasses.
I’ll admit, I never actually had an Aunt Betsy – but I did have a great pal named Betsy at one point, and when drinking this (even though we weren’t even related) I tend to think about her. It’s a drink to sip slowly, while you’re thinking of your Aunt Betsy, or another aunt, or another Betsy, or just a great pal, because it’s served hot, which also means it’s ideal for months like November, due to (in my Pacific Northwest neck of the woods, at least) the chiller temperature. And it has a warming depth, as well, with a trio of red wine, brandy, and port – a trio that sings to November days. So, heat one up, and toast all the aunts and Betsy’s and hot drinks and cold days, which never last forever.
24 ounces red wine (I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon)
16 ounces tawny port
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces simple syrup
1 orange peel
3 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. You want it to get good and hot, but not start boiling, or even simmering. Reduce the heat midway through the cooking time if needed.
2. Once the 10 minutes have passed and the room smells wonderful, ladle the mix into heavy mugs. Avoid serving the orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon stick if your pals are worried about clunking up their smiles.
PS: I adapted this from the House & Garden’s Drink Guide. Which means this drink is also ideal for houses and gardens, I suppose.
There are two, no, wait, three problems with Sangria. One: too often when you get it out, it’s an ugly mess that’s been sitting in some bar fridge, aging in a way that kills the brightness and mucks the flavor. That’s the biggest problem, but also easily solvable (make your own! Or go somewhere that makes it with care). The second problem is that most folks restrict it to only the summer months, but a rich, red-wine-based Sangria in the fall (and even winter) months helps deliver citrus and taste and a refreshment that adds a smile to the season/s. Third, when people do make Sangria at home, they don’t use this old family recipe of mine. Too snooty of me, saying that? Maybe. You can either tut-tut me, or make this recipe – I think you’ll act properly. Because you’re a problem-solver!
And while you’re thinking, put your peepers on this groovy Sangria photo from my pal Sara. If that doesn’t get you craving Sangria, well, I’m not sure what to think of you.
1 orange, cut into wheels
1 lime cut into wheels
1 lemon cut into wheels
6 ounces simple syrup
4 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 bottle dry red wine, a Pinot Noir works well, but experiment
6 ounces brandy
Other fresh fruit for garnishing (oranges, limes, lemons)
1. Place the orange, lemon, and lime wheels and simple syrup in a large glass pitcher. Muddle well with a muddler or wooden spoon.
2. Add the orange juice and lime juice, and muddle just a touch more.
3. Add the red wine and the brandy, and stir well (bring a guest stirrer in if needed). Place the pitcher carefully in the refrigerator for two hours or more, but no longer than a day.
4. Add ice until the pitcher is full, and stir slightly. Pour into six stemmed wine glasses or goblets and garnish with fresh fruit.
There’s no need to yell at me – I realize with the title here, I’m nearly breaking my own soapbox (to stretch a metaphor to the breaking point), or favorite soapbox, as admittedly there are many I like to stand upon. But this one, it’s the one where bartenders make up new drinks and then just name them some bastardization of an existing classic drink. C’mon bartenders, be creative! Though, in this case, bartender heal thyself, as this drink name is partially a play on the classic Negroni. But it’s also a play on my favorite Italian winery, Donini, and really, The Doninoni is so much fun to say! And changed enough (as opposed to, oh, the numerous Strawberry Margaritas I made in college, or something like the Appletini for gawd’s sake) to make me not too egregious, right? Right! If you disagree, drink two of the below and call me in the morning.
1-1/2 ounces Nat’s gin (I used the gin wife Nat made at Scratch, cause she did such a good job – read more about making gin at Scratch)
1-1/2 ounces Donini Tarragoni (if you sadly can’t get this, another slightly-dry but full-bodied Umbrian red could suffice)
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1/2 ounce grenadine (go homemade or go home)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Add a few good ice cubes to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix into the glass and over the ice.
Hey, remember a week ago, when I had a special summertime cocktail featuring Amaro Lucano? The drink was called Good Luck In Pisticci, and was pretty darn amazing (if I can say such without being called someone-who-pats-themselves-excessively-on-the-back). If you missed that post, somehow, go back and read it now. It has lots of info about the particular amari called Lucano, and more. Go on, go read it. Okay, now back to this post, where I’m not going to say anything except that I ended up making two special summertime cocktails with Lucano, and this is the second. It’s also a wine cocktail, for those who understand that wine cocktails are awesome. But enough of this – make the below and be happy.
I just flew in from Italy (and boy are my arms tired–ba dump bump), and promise to post about Italian drinks and food and such soon when I get my sealegs back (not sure that last bit makes sense, but it is sure fun to say), but to tide you over and get this bloggy punch freshened again, I thought I’d show you my latest How2Heroes video (directed of course by the genius, Brad K, from Artificial Khaos). It demonstrates how to make the Bishop, which is featured in Wine Cocktails, a drink containing red wine, rum, lemon, and a kiss of sweetness. It’s a delicious refresher of a mix I must say, so hit that play button and then get shaking.
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