November 12, 2021
Sometimes I think to myself, what a wonderful world of drink-making ingredients we’re living within. The change since I came of drinking age (which admittedly was many a moon ago) is remarkable – heck, the change in the last decade, or even five years, is pretty remarkable. How lucky us cocktail lovers are! And there are more delicious delectables in beautiful bottles coming our way all the time. Even luckier! For example, just the other day, a beautiful bottle arrived in the post (luckiest me – don’t be jealous), containing Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus:
A “novel expression” (sidenote: I love the usage of the word “expression” here, and in other spots, to refer to a slightly, not completely, new version of a spirit or liqueur) of the original Drumshanbo Gin, this adds notes of, well, Sardinian citrus, “Sa Pompia” to be exact, one of the rarest fruits in the world, and a fruit sitting between an orange and grapefruit in flavor essence, though part of the lemon family. Not something you’d eat solo, but with a peel that can bring fantastic citrus dreams when used correctly. But, before peeling that any more, let’s back up. If you don’t know, Drumshanbo Gin itself takes its full name from the fact that it’s made in a small village in Ireland, and with a signature ingredient: Gunpowder Tea (which is a green tea rolled into gun-pellet-esque balls). But that’s just the beginning of this gin story! That tea and the Sardinian citrus, grapefruit, and lime are vapor infused into the gin, while a host of botanicals (juniper, as you’d expect, plus angelica and orris root, caraway and coriander seed, cardamom, star anise, and lesser-know flowery herb meadowsweet) are distilled in a medieval copper still. Whew! But what’s it all mean? On the nose, a strong, distinctive citrus medley, orange with underlying grapefruit, with subtle hints of juniper and flowers and springtime. The taste reflects the nose, but flipped a bit, with bountiful botanicals bursting on the tongue, with that green tea flavor coming through, swirled with citrus and then ending herbally. Yummy!
It’s a curious collection of ingredients, all balanced out nice, and one I couldn’t resist trying in a drink, after sipping it solo. And I had the perfect moment, with some pals coming over for lunch. As we’re at the point in the calendar where the holidays are in view, my mind went instantly to a bubbly cocktail (as the past weeks have shown, I am a fan of the holiday/sparkling combo). I played around a little with things, and ended up leaning into the citrus side of the gin, complementing it with a little more orange and a smidge of sweet in the form of Grand Marnier, and then doubling and tripling the herb-and-citrus song by the addition of two fantastic citrusy bitters: Scrappy’s lovely Grapefruit bitters and Orange bitters. I’m not gonna lie: I think with just those ingredients, there’s a pretty swell cocktail. But adding prosecco really drives all the flavors up, up, up with every bubble, into a memorable sparkling mix that’s ideal for the holidays — and for lunch with pals. When drinking, maybe throw out a toast to our modern drinker’s world, too, and how wonderful it is.
The Suspended Palace
1 ounce Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus
1/2 ounce Grand Mariner
1 dash Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
1 dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
4 to 5 ounces chilled Prosecco
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Drumshanbo gin, Grand Marnier, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain the mix into a flute or comparable glass. Top with the chilled Prosecco. Stir carefully, to combine.
July 3, 2020
This lesser-known (but awesome) drink from days of yore feels appropriate in many ways for this weekend (named after the sound bombs made and all that), and it is incredibly tasty (and sorta surprising when you look at the list of ingredients), and a drink if you haven’t made you sure should try, but, but, but, listen, I don’t want to soapbox, but I really am not a big 4th of July fan. Not the, oh, sentiment I suppose, but going overboard with the fireworks. As a long-time dog owner, and as someone with the belief that dogs are, actually, a higher species than humans (in the main), and knowing how said fireworks can drive, and do drive, dogs insane, then you can see why I don’t enjoy the holiday, or the days around it.
On the other hand, this is why I need a good drink, and why I’m having a Whizz Bang. A curiously explosive number, this time I’m starting with Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon, which is local (support your locals!), award-winning, and tasty. I’ve had this drink made with a smooth Scotch, and that’s not a bad idea. However, it being the fourth and all, wanted to stay more American, and the Woodinville is a treat. Next up: dry vermouth. You don’t see enough whiskey and dry vermouth combos, and even rarer (I think? I could be wrong) is that combo with anise-y Pernod! I believe this may have originally been made with absinthe, before the big silly oh-no-scary-absinthe moment in history, but I’ve grown to love the Pernod here, so we’ll stick with it. And we’re still going! Next up: grenadine. This drink only works with really good grenadine (it somehow brings it all together), so make your own, or have a friend make some good grenadine and convince them to give you some. That’s what I did! Our final sparkly addition is orange bitters, for those herbal undertones. I went with Scrappy’s orange bitters, cause it’s, well, sparkly! Altogether, the Whizz Bang’ll make any weekend shine. Maybe have one or two, with some pals, and skip exploding things and terrorizing pups? Just an idea!
The Whizz Bang
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pernod
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and give your dog a pet.
October 4, 2019
Okay, hopefully this isn’t annoying (too much), but I’m going to lay out a perfect chilly-fall-night drink, but it has not one, but two ingredients that might not be easy for all to get – however, they are worth getting, so get on your buggies (or whatever you use for transportation) and perhaps time machines (or whatever you use to travel through time). The first is from the swell sweethearts at Seattle Distilling Company, a whiskey made from Washington-grown rye (the best rye, I’m guessing), called Brockway Hill, which has a lovely rye spice flavor and umph and is well worth sipping solo as well as in this cocktail. However! That’s not the end of the story, as this delight was named for a Vashon Island bootlegger from back during the sad time called prohibition. Does that story make it taste better? Yep, yep it does! Our second ingredient alluded to above is another WA-made delight: Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. A seasonal Scrappy’s (hence the harder to get, and maybe the need for time machines), it as-you’d-expect utilizes Seville oranges, the peels specifically, and delivers cozy marmalade and winter spice action. Watch for it as the snow falls. Our last ingredient in this Manhattan-y trio is actually more available now than it was – because it’s fairly new and wasn’t available at all in the dark days of the past: Cynar 70. If you haven’t had the amazing and fairly-legendary Italian artichoke-based amaro Cynar, then shame on you. Have it now, and then have its higher-proof sibling, Cynar 70. The latter still brings the herbally goodness, but with a bit of a stronger kick, a kick that can be nice to have in cocktails such at this one. Drink up (but not when driving that buggy).
Rye on Earth
2-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company Brockway Hill whiskey
1/2 ounce Cynar 70
2 dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Blackberry, for garnish*
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ices. Add our trio of stalwarts. Stir well.
2. Add your blackberry to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix into said glass.
*You could go a cherry here. But blackberries are cool. And you wanna be cool, right?
March 9, 2018
There are bad days, then there are good days, there are days a little mundane, and days like chocolate ice cream. Days like a wasp sting and days like really good cheddar cheese, slightly sharp. First days, third days, last days. And then there are days when you gain the nickname Lucky, because you received a bottle of Flor de Caña’s Añejo Oro rum in the mail, like I did recently.
Flor de Caña’s Añejo Oro gold rum is a rum aged four years, which has won a big handful of awards, including 2005’s Best in Class award at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, and which has a pretty amber coloring and – even more pretty – a flavor of caramel, cane, coconut, pepper, and all the island memories that you could want. It goes well with a big chunk of ice, or a big glass of soda, but also in cocktails with a few well-matched and well-balanced ingredients.
The balance is important, because you don’t need to overwhelm this rum when it’s used as a base, more accenting it around the edges, which is the direction I went, just bringing in a few supporting players. Starting with a local hit, Lucky Falernum. You might not think island-style would sprout outside of Seattle, but this Lucky’s crafted by broVo Spirits (a distillery that’s also in Woodinville, just outside of Seattle), and is a high-proof falernum bursting with spice and fruit addition. My next step was another island cuddler, Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao, a dry, citrus, legend.
A little simple syrup to round the edges and make everything cozy, and we almost reached the beach (or, to tie it back, earned the nickname). But I felt just a bit more, something was needed, and after trying this, and trying that, I went off the sand somewhat, while still keeping the sun shining, adding a few dashes of Scrappy’s Orleans bitters. Scrappy’s Orleans Bitters is a New Orleans style bitters as you might surmise. Another Seattle standout, Scrappy’s Orleans carries a spice (anise, cinnamon, citrus) and floral suitcase that proved ideal for our island vacation. Now, you just need to decide on that nickname.
Enjoy the Nickname
2-1/2 ounces Flor de Caña Añejo Oro gold rum
1/2 ounce broVo Lucky Falernum
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
1/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orleans bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add all of the liquid ingredients. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
March 2, 2018
There was time when if you wanted a little fire in your drink you had to do it all yourself – infusing your own something or other, which is fun, but also can take time, and ensuring consistency is hard. Now, though, it’s easy to fire-up your cocktail, and in a tasteful and amazing way, thanks to some amazing global booze producers. One of my favorites is Ancho Reyes, the ancho chile liqueur based on a recipe from way back in 1927, which has a fair amount of heat, sure, but is also complex, with layers of spice, too, including cinnamon, and cocoa, tamarind, and a little nuttiness. Dreamy stuff, really.
Another lovely firebreather is Scrappy’s Firewater tincture (Scrappy being the amazing bitters-and-such maker from right here in Seattle). Made naturally from habanero peppers, and also carrying some fresh floral notes, it delivers a load of kaboom, but used responsibly adds a lovely clear clean heat to drinks.
When thinking about using the above, well, go crazy! You know what’s best for you. For me, my first thought was mezcal, specifically Montelobos Mezcal Jovan. Admittedly, I had gotten a bottle of it in the mail (lucky, I know!). But also, cause it’s a 100% organic agave-based spirit, made by the same family for five generations, and made in the shadow of the mountain of wolves (Montelobos means mountain of wolves even). Really! And as you and I know, good stories make good cocktails. The fact that this mezcal has a smoky flavor buoyed by hints of lemon, rosemary and pepper, and grilled jalapeno is also crucial. It’s certainly sippable solo, but makes an ideal base for cocktails, too, thanks to the approachability of the flavor.
A good starting trio, I rounded it out with some fresh orange juice – that citrus burst and sweetness provided a balancing flavor for all that heat and smoke and savory. And then we were close to the top of our cocktail climb, but a little something extra was needed: and that extra (extra vegetal, extra chile, and extra stand of flavor) was St. George Spirits Green Chili vodka. I know, doubling up on what we call base spirits is odd, for some, but this vodka’s made from a basket of California-grown peppers, including jalapenos, serranos, habaneros, and red and yellow bells, and it delivers a bright peppery, zingy, cilantro-y, citrus-y flavor.
All together, if I can say this while being humble, this is a delightful (really, amazing in cold or hot weather, and a mighty accompaniment to a Mexican meal) cocktail. If you aren’t scared of a little heat and a lot of flavor, you should climb this mountain.
Fire on Popocatépetl
1-1/2 ounces Montelobos Mezcal Jovan
1 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes liqueur
1/4 ounce St. George Green Chile vodka
1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater tincture
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything outside of the twist. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the wide orange twist.
March 20, 2015
I tend to shy away from pre-flavored spirits. So many, especially in my early years (but even now, for sure) are flavored chemically, with nothing natural involved, and the taste reflects this attitude. It’s a shame, but hey, them’s the breaks. However, with today’s focus on better taste, and so many smaller distilleries who’d rather serve up delicious bottled items instead of just getting out as much as possible, well, there are some good flavored numbers starting to show up. Example A: Skiprock Distiller’s Badger Pocket black peppercorn vodka. I would expect Skiprock (a distillery from Snohomish, WA) to have a good flavored vodka, since their regular potato-based vodka is awfully tasty and uses potatoes grown right here in WA. They use whole peppercorns in the Badger Pocket, and the end result is a vodka that’s spicy, but not as sharp as you might expect – there’s actually a hint of sweetness in there, too. When using it in cocktails, this gives it more flexibility than you might expect. It makes a great Bloody Mary (as you’d guess), but also goes well with fruit liqueurs and a whole wide range of things. But, funny enough, when I was playing around with it, I ended up going a whole different route than originally planned, pairing it finally with the Italian aperitif Aperol (whose just-about-bitter-and-citrus-ness is a dream) and a little Scrappy’s orange bitters, ending with a drink that’d ideal when the sun is shining.
The Badger’s Feather
2 ounces Skiprock Badger Pocket vodka
1 ounce Aperol
1 dash Scrappy’s orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vodka, Aperol, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
December 5, 2014
Sometimes you have bad days. Sometimes you have busy days. Sometimes you have busy weeks. Here’s hoping you don’t have bad weeks that combine all the above. But if you do, well, this may well be the drink for you. But it’s also just a darn good drink, one that has layers and layers of flavors happening, and depth galore. It utilizes a lot of Seattle-area ingredients, so stock up next time you’re out this way (though many are them are available in other areas, too, and more all the time, thankfully). And one key Italian pal, too.
The Mean Season
1-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company whiskey
1 ounce Seattle Distilling Company coffee liqueur
1/2 ounce Cynar
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1 dash Scrappy’s cardamom bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
March 23, 2010
Okay, I’m just thirsty. So thirsty I don’t have the energy to write the full-on over-the-top legendary journey of cocktails blog post I want to write about the weekend before last, a weekend of amazing cocktails that would leave every other blog post in the dusty dust, that would make you want to stroll in my shoes (or at least borrow my throat and tastebuds for awhile), a blog post that would involve at least 74.5% of the top cocktail creators in Seattle, and me tasting their drinks, a blog that would make you drool like George the Animal Steel before a cage match, a blog that might just have you (if you don’t live in Seattle already) running screaming to your suitcase, packing said suitcase, and getting a ticket here poste haste, a blog that if you already lived in Seattle would make you instantly descend to the floor crying tears of joy in front of your liquor cabinet, shelf, or box, happy that you could follow my footsteps in cocktails, a blog that might just cause the whole internet to go silent as a lonely ice cube due to everyone shaking off the electronic shackles to go on a drinks quest, the blog I want to write but just am too thirsty to write (but write it, someday, I will), so instead I’m just writing this post about how much I’d like to be drinking an Athenian at Cicchetti, a drink made with Metaxa, Martini and Rossi Bianco vermouth, and Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters, the very drink pictured below. Look at it, friends, and dream along with me (and if you’re not on the Scrappy’s bitters wagon, then get on it.)