I’m sure you understand this: some days, you, or one, just wakes up in the morning thinking, “Today, I wanna make a drink from Jacques Straub’s recipe collection classic called, simply enough, Drinks (oh, you can get a Drinks reprint if you don’t happen to have it or want to pony up for an original)! Then, all the day long you think about it, unless you decide to have a breakfast drink, or a lunch drink. If so, good for you, champ! Still waiting on the invite. But if not, by the time HH (happy hour, natch) comes around, you have that little book (perfectly sized for dress shirt pockets, making it easy for bartenders to carry) out, and are turning until you come to The Hancock Sour, and then boom! Drink-making time.
But what bourbon? For me, this time, it’s Wood Family Spirits Columbia bourbon. Admittedly, a bottle recently came in the mail (don’t hate me! I do feel lucky about it), excitingly enough! If you don’t know, Wood Family Spirits is a distillery based in Hood River, Oregon. The family in the area traces back to pioneers in the middle 1800s, so they have lots of history in the PNW, and a desire to deliver well-made spirits here. In Columbia bourbon, they’re doing just that. Made in Tennessee using 80% corn, 10% barley, and 10% rye, it’s aged in brand new charred oak barrels (aging takes place in OR) and blended to “bottle in bond” strength. Which equals a robust 100 proof, that gives it a reassuring umph. It has a lovely aroma – caramel, spices (cinnamon, clove) – then a rich mouthfeel while you’re savoring the vanilla, caramel, sweetness mingling with the oakiness and highlighted by more of that cinnamon and clove and rye spicy goodness.
Wood Family Spirits Columbia bourbon’s full layered taste means it can be swigged solo happily, but also that it can stand up nicely in a drink like The Hancock Sour, one we’re bringing back from days of yore, and one that packs a decent amount of lime. In typical classic sour fashion, this might have had even more lime in the past (the recipe calls just for the juice of one lime), but 3/4s-of-an-ounce worked best for me. So, lime, sugar, bourbon, sounds like a regular sour, right? But there’s an intriguing twist – a hint of rum! That’s right, two spirits! The recipe doesn’t call out a specific rum, but I found a Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva dark rum was perfect. Its complexity and sweetness added just enough hints to elevate this treat to another realm (if you haven’t had it, this rum delivers caramel, nuts, orange peel, vanilla, nutmeg, and allspice in a lovely combo). The other slightly sideways add to our sour is a splash of soda, which, funnily, helped everything come together without thinning it out. The original recipe said to garnish with “fruits of the season,” so I went strawberry, but I could see orange, cherries, even blackberries being nice and working with the lime.
One final note: I have no idea who Hancock is, or was, or if this drink even refers to a person. And, though in a way I wish I did, it doesn’t change one iota the deliciousness this sour delivers. Try it, and then next time remember to invite me to breakfast drinks!
While summer doesn’t officially start until, what, a month or thereabout from now, I’m always in my (very old) brain beginning to think “summer” in force on Memorial Day weekend, which is to say, right now! Summer only has a short “lease” (to bring us all together to the all together of this drink’s name), so I like to stretch it out longer than the calendar specifics. I’d say you can disagree, but, really, I doubt many would as it’s a fairly innocuous or unmemorable thought. This drink, however, is very memorable (if I may be so bold and not blush, as I created it), thanks to a double shot of rum – both white rum and the fancy Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple rum, which is a delight to nature – a splash of herbally-but-approachably-awesome Montenegro amaro (most popular amaro in Italy by-the-way), pineapple juice (the juice epitome of summer), Scrappy’s Lime bitters (which if it would have been around during the first tiki wave, that wave would have never stopped), soda (for cooling and bubbly purposes), and fresh mint. It’s a treat all summer long, no matter how many days you want to celebrate the season.
Every limbo boy and girl, all around the limbo world, gonna do the limbo rock, all around the limbo cocktail. That’s the song (Harry B will forgive me for slightly changing the lyrics, I hope) that one must sing when consuming this tropical-y cocktail, one which I hadn’t had in a long, long, long time, but which as I’m dreaming of travel and leaving the late winter mundanity behind, seemed ideal for today. It’s a fairly simple mix: big helping of rum to help with the dancing, papaya for beachyness, coconut milk to smooth things out and help with blending. Oh, and ice, as this is a blended number. Which also means it’s scaled for two, cause all blended drinks (which maybe get a bad overall rap in our modern snooty cocktail world, but which can be lots of fun yo) should be made for at least two, if not more. One note here: it could be my older sweet-tooth development, but maybe, just maybe, a spoon or two of Coco Lopez (a bit sweeter and thicker than coconut milk), or a splash or two of simple syrup, can be nice here. Give it a whirl. Or a blend! You’ll be singing, and sipping, Limbo lower now, Limbo lower now, how low can you go, soon!
2 cups cracked ice
4 ounces dark rum
1 cup peeled and cubed papaya
1 cup coconut milk
1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend well.
2. Pour into two large, peppy goblets and serve to two folks who know how to limbo. And sing.
Whoa. This is one of the weirder days in my history. I’ve just realized I’ve never had a Bleak House Cocktail Talk on Spiked Punch before. I mean, you’d think I’d know, right? I write the posts! But there have been many, many posts on here, too many, really, and lots of Dickens Cocktail Talks, and my memory (writing about drinks and all) isn’t as up to snuff as the snuffiest, and I just on some level in my mind took it for granted that I’d had at least one Bleak House Cocktail Talks, but never stopped to check, until today, as I’m rereading said book, and so did indeed double and triple check and, well, weirdly, I never have had a quote from Bleak House on here. Whoa. See, Bleak House may be my favoritest Dickens book of the whole lot of ‘em. Maybe. Hard to say, and I am as we all are different people in some small manner on different days. But it is an all-time classic of the written world, an immense treasure for anyone who likes reading, and if you don’t, well, then check out the BBC Bleak House mini-series, cause it is the absolute tops. Bleak-Freaking-House! Not the peppiest, but I’ve laughed lots when re-reading. Cried, too. Jarndyce and Jarndyce man, it’s a killer. I don’t feel I need to outline the book, cause it’s well-known enough, but I do feel I need to have multiple Cocktail Talks from it to make up for my missteps in not having any on here already. I’m going to start with a dinner recitation from a ‘Slap-Bang’ dining house, where three chaps have been dining out: Guppy (a somewhat central character, who it’s hard not feel for, though he’s a little silly with his slicked-down hair, and a little, not un-savory, but not someone completely trustworthy), who works in one of the central law firms, and his pals Mr. Jobling (less central, law stationer), and Mr. Smallweed (lower clerk in the same firm as Guppy, and grandson to one serious shaking villain).
Mr. Smallweed, compelling the attendance of the waitress with one hitch of his eyelash, instantly replies as follows: Four veals and hams is three, and four potatoes is three and four, and one summer cabbage is three and six, and three marrows is four and six, and six breads is five, and three Cheshires is five and three, and four pints of half-and-half is six and three, and four small rums is eight and three, and three Pollys is eight and six. Eight and six in half a sovereign, Polly, and eighteenpence out!
Not at all excited by these stupendous calculations, Smallweed dismisses his friends with a cool nod, and remains behind to take a little admiring notice of Polly, as opportunity may serve, and to read the daily papers: which are so very large in proportion to himself, shorn of his hat, that when he holds up The Times to run his eye over the columns, he seems to have retired for the night, and to have disappeared under the bedclothes.
Thanks to the British Library Crime Classics collections (which I’ve Cocktail Talked from a few times), I’ve discovered a number of authors I didn’t know before, ones who were read more in the earlier parts of the last century, including Arthur Morrison. A mystery and crime writer (usually with stories featuring his detective Arthur Hewitt, said stories told by said detective’s neighbor, journalist Brett, in a Watson/Holmes-y way), as well as a more straight fiction writer and journalist and writer about Japanese art. I liked his stories read is those mystery anthologies, so picked up The Collected Arthur Morrison. I haven’t read everything in it, but have read I think all of the Hewitt stories, and they tend to be pretty swell, in the Holmes deductive reasoning vein, but a bit more of an everyman while doing it in a way. He was one of the few at the time (or anytime) to rival Holmes in popularity, too. Some stories in the collection are completely regrettable, but those are in the minority. Not a lot of Cocktail Talking in them, sadly, but there was one story, about a heaping helping of gold on a ship that foundered, which involved diving to check out the scene, and, via the diving, the introduction of a new drink to me.
“That’s the dress that Gullen usually has,” Merrick remarked. “He’s a very smart fellow; we usually send him first to make measurements and so on. An excellent man, but a bit too fond of the diver’s lotion.”
“What’s that?” asked Hewitt.
“Oh, you shall try some if you like, afterwards. It’s a bit too heavy for me; rum and gin mixed, I think.”
A red nightcap was placed on Martin Hewitt’s head, and after that a copper helmet, secured by a short turn in the segmental screw joint at the neck.
I love this drink – love it! And, as it’s the lover’s month, so to speak, felt I should kick things off with a drink I love. And this is it! Funny enough, was thinking about it recently over the past holiday season, when making it for some holiday pals. See, I always couched it in a sorta murder mystery persona (if cocktails have personas, which I believe they do), the drop of crimson blood on the slippers giving Miss Marple the needed clue (or whomever detective you desire, I’m feeling Marple-y) to solve the mystery. But, during this holiday season and discussion, a thought popped into my addled mind – wouldn’t Santa have slippers the color of crimson? Maybe? Maybe! So, that meant this could be a holiday drink, too. Either way, I love it. You will do. No matter what holiday you’re sipping it on.
There are holiday traditions, there are wonderful holiday traditions, and then there’s having the legendary Fish House Punch at the end of each year (or the beginning) – that’s a tradition nearly above all others, at least in the U.S., where this venerable punch has been punched up and sipped for hundreds of years, starting way back in the year 1732 (according to yore – I wasn’t actually there, though I am rather old) at Philadelphia’s Schuylkill fishing club, where I am sure (because sometimes the world is actually okay – meaning, I am not really sure, as I wasn’t there, but feel sure anyway, and want it to be true) folks sipped it by the bucketfuls around this time of year, much like I am now in the habit of doing, thanks to pals Eve and Curtis, who are annual Fish-House-Punch makers and distributors, and so I raise a glass in cheers to them, and to those who consumed this mix in the past, and to you, naturally, and to this sentence, which much like this year is now finally ending.
Fish House Punch, Serve 10
Block of ice (or cracked ice)
1 750-milliliter bottle dark rum
15 ounces cognac
7-1/2 ounces peach brandy
7-1/2 ounces freshly-squeezed lemon juice
7-1/2 ounces Simple Syrup
1. Add the ice to a punch bowl (fill about three quarters full if using cracked ice.) Add the rum, cognac, brandy, juice, and syrup. Stir 10 times, while humming holiday tunes.
2. Stir 10 more times. Serve in punch cups or wine glasses or what have you.
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.
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