November 6, 2020
Okay, obvious statement number one: you know what’s awesome? Pals are awesome. Perhaps moreso now than ever (now meaning the moment I’m typing, which is during a very bad year – future reader, I hope whatever time you’re reading this is more conducive to swell-ness), which is a somewhat interesting statement as it can be harder to see (and here I mean see for reals, not through a screen – not that that isn’t real per se, but not as real real, really) to see said pals. Make sense? Clear as brandy? How about, obvious statement number two: awesome pals who make tasty things and then drop them off for you are, well, awesome! Which is what happened for me recently, as pal Rebecca (genius pal, I might say) sent some homemade plum shrub and grenadine our way, and what a pandemic helper they have been! More of the latter later, but today, we’ve delving plum shrub style, as I used it to make a tasty (if I can say so without sounding like a lame-o) sipper which I’m calling Spirit and Substance.
It starts (duh!) with tangy, zingy, fruity plum shrub. I don’t know how it’s made, but can find out if you’re desperate. I matched with with a gin (gin and fruit = yum), specifically Sipsmith London Dry gin, which I adore due to its dry, citrus, fruit (dare I say marmalade), character. But I didn’t stop there! I thought about it (often we just see shrub+base spirit+ soda, but more felt appropriate), tried this and that, and ended up with more fruit in the way of Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur. Made outside of Kent, WA on the same farm the blackberries (and other delights) are grown, its rich berry body was the ideal addition. And then, soda, ice, lemon twist, and boom! A drink that’ll bring summer into fall, and pals into your heart, if not your home bar.
Spirit and Substance
1-1/2 ounce Sipsmith London Dry gin
3/4 ounce plum shrub
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Blackberry liqueur
4 ounces chilled club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Add the gin, shrub, and liqueur to a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Stir well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from step one into the glass, over the ice.
3. Add the club soda, and stir to combine. Garnish with the twist.
September 4, 2020
I suppose I’ve said this many times, even recently, but also farther back, throughout the ol’ Spiked Punch blog-of-drinks history, but blackberries, to me, are the queen of summertime berries, the champion of August fruits, the glorious harbinger of winter’s doom (because I always know summer is ending when I’m plowing through blackberries), and just generally really good, especially when they’re plump and sweet but holding a tiny tanginess, too. Yummski, blackberries. I like them solo, in drinks, with peanut butter, when they have been taken by Sidetrack Distillery and made into their (also, yummski) Blackberry liqueur, and when they are painted into a still life so I can admire their artistry. So, yeah, I like them, and I like them in this here drink, which is not a far relative from some other drinks, say, the Margarita, but which has its own particular name, because why wouldn’t a good drink deserve an individual name? That’d be just silly, and while I am silly, I am not silly in that way, I’ll have you know.
You know? Back to this drink! It leans heavy into our beautiful blackberries, but that isn’t all naturally. The base, for example, is another summertime (anytime) fav, mezcal, which starts us earthy and smoky. Then, Grandeza orange liqueur, made in WA, and boasting a bright orange, vanilla flavor. You could use another orange liqueur, but this one is a treat if you can get some (I realize that during the present pandemic, it might be harder than normal to travel, so I’m not gonna try to sway you toward a WA trip. Today, at least). A little fresh lime in attendance and you’ll see the Marg mention above come to life. The final piece of this tasty puzzle has also been mentioned above: Sidetrack Distillery’s lush, lovely Blackberry liqueur. Get some! Make this drink! Believe in the power of blackberries!
The Fruit on the Table
6 fresh blackberries
2 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounces Grandeza
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur
1, Add four of the blackberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Fill the shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but our second variety of ice. Shake well.
3. Fill a goblet (or comparable) glass with cracked ice. Strain the mix from Step 2 into the glass through a fine strainer. Garnish with the remaining blackberries.
September 7, 2018
Well, here we are, in September, with summer sadly retreating into its annual hibernation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t drag it out a little – after all, summer is both a state of mind and resides in many things. One of the main, for me, is blackberries, which always make me dream of summer no matter what time of year. But this time of year is perfect, because you can still get awesome summer-y blackberries and then use them in many ways – like in this drink! I got the ones used here at the lovely Lazy River Farm, on which is the awesome Sidetrack Distillery, one of my favorites in the state of WA. On the farm they grow the fruit and produce that Sidetrack uses in their liqueurs and brandies and such (it’s all the same fine folks doing the growing and distilling). And, my wife and I and some pals recently went out to pick some berries – and taste some delicious drinks – including blackberries.
Okay, enough pre-amble! On to the show – and by that I mean this drink. Wife Nat came up with this one, and it shows, as the drink is built on some of her favorites, including swell Sotol, the tequila neighbor made in Mexico from the Desert Spoon plant, and the slightly spicy and all-the-way luscious Ancho Reyes ancho chili liqueur. Perfect partners. Of course, as you’re expect from the above graph, it’s also built on blackberries, both fresh and in Sidetrack’s Blackberry liqueur, which deliver a rich, deep, berry taste. An intriguing combo, but one that goes well together, especially with a touch of lime. And now we have the Roll Out the Blackberries all rolled out.
Roll Out the Blackberries
6 fresh blackberries
2 ounces Sotol
1 ounce Ancho Reyes ancho chili liqueur
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
Lime wedge, for garnish
1. Add the blackberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Fill the shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything outside of the lime wedge. Shake really well.
3. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wedge. Remember, summer lives in you (with every sip).
July 27, 2018
Okay, don’t be upset with me, but this drink contains an ingredient that is not only made in Washington state (so, un-local for some – though, really, come on out here, where the whiskey is fine), but may not even be on the market completely in Washington state yet. See, I received a bit of an advanced sample – again, don’t be upset with me. I can’t help the luck! That ingredient is Medusa!
And, because I liked this Medusa, an American whiskey from the Cadée distillery out this way on Whidbey Island, so much I just had to make a drink with it. A straight bourbon whiskey that’s been matured in 10-year-old Spanish Madeira wine barrels, Medusa, unlike the creature it’s named after, it won’t turn you to stone, though you may be struck by happiness for a moment when you take sips, thanks to its gentle nutty caramelly sweetness, and some intriguing emerging red stone fruit layers (ripe cherries, especially).
With the latter notes in mind, my first partner for it was another lovely local product that also is fruity (in the best way), Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur. Sidetrack grows all the fruit used in their liqueurs and other products on the sweetest farm you’d ever want to see, right outside of Kent Washington, and their Blackberry is the essence of summer. Well, one of them, because I also added muddled up Rainer cherries (the essence of early summer) here two. So much summer! And then, to round things out, a little Peychaud’s bitters. All together, a treat whether the sun is bright or has gone down. It might be hard to track all the ingredients for some, but trust me, it’ll be well worth it.
Requiem for Summer
4 Rainer cherries (could use another variety, but these are the tops), pitted
2 ounces Cadée Medusa American whiskey
3/4 ounces Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur
Dash Peychaud’s bitters
Big ice cube (or a few not-so-big)
1. Add the cherries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Fill the shaker up halfway with ice cubes. Add everything liquid. Shake well.
3. Add a goodly-sized ice cube to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the same glass. Revel in the revelry.
July 29, 2016
You might think, to yourself, “A Manhattan-y cocktail is not quite the thing, old boy, for summer.” You would be wrong. Sorry! Exhibit A: The Tranquil Hills. How does this rough-and-tumble rye beguiler manage to hold its brown likker umph while still navigating the higher temperatures of summer? Well, I’m glad you asked. First, it’s just a good drink, and good drinks are always good. But, it’s helped along by using a key summer fruit, the blackberry, here in the form of Sidetrack Distillery’s lovely Blackberry liqueur. The rich berry taste covers for the Manhattan’s regular sweet vermouth, bringing enough depth, but also the very core of summer along for the ride.
Sidetrack’s Blackberry liqueur also mingles in a manner most wonderful with the rye I used, Templeton’s The Good Stuff rye. A rye made with the idea of matching the taste of an old prohibition recipe, one that was once, as legend has it (and nothing is better than drink legends) loved by Al Capone himself, Templeton has a spiciness, and a combo of dried fruits and caramel, that hit the spot here and now. A little of Scrappy’s Orange bitters (Scrappy being Seattle’s favorite son, and now an international bitters of renown, because, well, they’re great), and you have a whiskey cocktail that can help you survive the summer in fine fashion.
The Tranquil Hills
2-1/4 ounces Templeton rye
3/4 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry Liqueur
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well, but don’t get sweaty.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink it up.
August 14, 2015
This is a very Washington state drink (cause I love my local producers – you should love ‘em, too, and your local producers, no matter what your locale). It uses three Washington-state boozes, at least in its original form. However! If you’re not in Washington state (first, sorry – come visit!), you could conceivably make this subbing in non-WA rum, and sweet vermouth, instead of the Skip Rock Belle Rose rum and broVo Jammy vermouth. It’s a little trickier with the Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur. But I think subbing in Chambord (made from French black raspberries and more widely available at this moment) would still make a dandy drink. But heck, really, come on out here and do some shopping at our local distilleries. I mean, why not?
The Orchard Sea
1-1/2 ounces Skip Rock Distillery Belle Rose rum
1 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur
1/2 ounce broVo Spirits Jammy red vermouth
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, blackberry liqueur, vermouth, and lime juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass.
July 10, 2015
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.
2 ounces dry red wine (I used Terragoni, from Donini, my favorite Italian winemaker)
1 ounce Amaro Lucano
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur (from right here in WA)
3 ounces chilled club soda
Fresh blackberries, for garnish
1. Fill a goblet or other awesome glass (a highball works) three quarters full with ice cubes.
2. Add the wine, Lucano, and Sidetrack Blackberry. Stir briefly.
3. Add the club soda and a few fresh blackberries. Stir again, briefly. Enjoy the sunshine.
PS: The name of this means “off track” in Italian, a reference both to the fine folks at Sidetrack, and the fine Italian ingredients in this.