November 17, 2017
This is not a spelling error (not that I don’t make those a lot); if you didn’t know, there really is a drink called The Zazarac. It wants you to know that it, while not renowned and legendary and all that, it in its own way is also worthy of your attention, much like its very distant cousin (though maybe not the same amount of attention, admittedly). It has a rare rye and rum combo, some friendly supporting players in anisette (go Meletti) and absinthe and Angostura and orange bitters (go Regan’s), and takes the edges off with a splash of simple, and tops things with a twist. Will it have you stopping your Sazerac consumption? Nope. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a sip.
The Zazarac, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce white rum
3/4 ounce anisette
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce absinthe
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, rum, anisette, syrup, absinthe, and both bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a large cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist and a nod to all the lesser-known family members.
November 3, 2017
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.
Aunt Betsy’s Favorite, from Dark Spirits
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.
August 18, 2017
At this point in the summer, it’s best to be sure you’re surrounded by pals and easy-to-build drinks that are scaled for more than just you. Summertime, late summertime especially, isn’t the time for quiet solo contemplation after all. It’s time for simple and swell parties with the below mix (also good to have fruit juice, to ensure you don’t get sick during these late summer weeks, and brandy because, well, brandy needs you and you need brandy – but that’s as much contemplation as we want). Oh, this’ll serve around eight, depending on how hot it is. If it’s really hot, might want to keep it to, oh, six, seven max. And get extra ice.
Power to the People, from Dark Spirits
2 peaches, pitted and sliced
2 apricots, pitted and sliced
4 ounces Simple Syrup
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
One 750-milliliter bottle chilled Prosecco
Orange slices for garnish
1. Combine the peaches, apricots, and simple syrup in a sturdy pitcher, the kind you use when outdoors in the summer. Using a muddler or long wooden spoon, muddle the fruit and syrup well.
2. Fill the pitcher halfway full with ice cubes, and then add the brandy and orange juice into the pitcher’s melody. Stir well.
3. Carefully add the Prosecco and orange slices. Stir again, well. Serve in wine glasses, getting a slice of orange in each glass.
A Note: There will be some leftover fruit here – you should eat it! Or, if that kind of thing makes you icky (well, it shouldn’t in summer, but who am I to judge), you could actually strain out the bigger bits, early in the process. But I wouldn’t.
February 10, 2017
There’s a delicate hint of hanky panky (not the classic drink, but the activity) in the name here, for me, at least (but I am an incurable romantic, and also like things like delicate hints, and gently bawdiness, as opposed to outright lewd-itity, I suppose. Most times!). Which is why I think this drink can cover the whole “Valentine’s Day” drink need just as well as some sweeter-in-taste, more traditionally romantic-y, numbers. Though this does have a little sweet, admittedly, along with a little citrus, and a lot of rye. In my mind, that rye is for lovers, too. But like I say, I’m an incurable romantic!
Up In Mabel’s Room, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 ounces simple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy.
February 3, 2017
I say, go into January with bubbles; go out of January and into February with bubbles. And love, of course. And Parfait Amour (which, you know, gets a bad rap – some of it deserved, as it can be a sickly sweet kind of love at times). But damnit, it’s a worthy love here. Ya’ hear? And this drink (which itself can run sweet for some – but on occasion sweet isn’t bad. The orange juice, if fresh as the driven snow or some such, should help balance. You could also drop the simple altogether, now that I think about it. Again, though, you may want to sweet up. That’s okay, too.), as well as being a good end-of-the-year’s-first-month choice, is also not a bad idea for you and yours to snuggle with on the up-coming Valentine’s Day. It checks the boxes for that: ingredient with “love” in title, sparkling and classy, Peychaud’s for health, and gin to base it all on. See what I mean?
The Poor Harriet, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce Parfait Amour
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, Parfait Amour, simple syrup, orange juice, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a flute glass. Top with chilled Prosecco. Be loved.
November 18, 2016
While some may think of Thanksgiving’s upcoming table as an enchanted field of food, well, I understand where you’re coming from, but we haven’t gotten there yet, food-loving friends. So, instead, have this Enchanted Field now, and then that one later. Really, we all may need enchantments now, or now and then, but especially now. I’m typing a little bit like I’m enchanted, and maybe in a field, too, at the moment. But hey, you have a couple of these, see how it goes – you’ll want to type enchantingly your own self.
The Enchanted Field, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Strega
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, orange juice, Strega, and simple syrup. Shake enchantedly.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the orange twist clockwise over the drink, then let it sink in.
August 19, 2016
The name of this drink sounds a bit like a dance move beloved by those who tend to wear mostly black, listen to moody tunes, and shake their fist at all and sundry (I’ll admit to that phase at once point, so I’m not judging here, oh no). But, it’s in reality nearly the opposite, a blended drink that’s really not all that bitter, and is sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who drinks it.
Where, then, does the name come from? Well, the wonderful Fernet-Branca, of course! Here’s the scoop. Not long ago a bottle of that essential elixir showed up in the mail (I know, I couldn’t believe my luck either), with a little bit of a challenge – come up with a blended Fernet-Branca drink. At first, this seemed like a conundrum, due to blended drinks being usually either extra fruity or extra frothy and Fernet-Branca shading heavily towards what some people call “bitter,” though I think that’s just one part of it, with the other being its magic mix of herbs and spices and such. But, you know what? It turns out that with the right aligning of other ingredients, Fernet-Branca plays perfectly in blended form, and provides a nice rich bedrock for an icy, creamy, frothy, summertime treat, one perfect for the hot weather. Those other ingredients here (I’m guessing there are many more possible permutations) include gin (I used Voyager, which is swell), whose juniper hints mingle well, and Bénédictine, whose sweet herbal goodness also mingles well. A little actual cream, a splash of simple syrup (it is a blended drink!), and loads of ice, and we have the Bitter Shake. Which may actually make you want to dance, but with joy, instead of with your head down, mumbling.
The Bitter Shake, for 2 (never drink a blender drink alone – that’s foolishness)
2 ounces Voyager gin
1 ounce Fernet-Branca
1 ounce Bénédictine
1-1/2 ounces heavy cream
1 ounce simple syrup
Ice cubes (you’ll want a lot, like a whole tray’s worth)
1. Add everything but the ice to a blender. Swirl a little.
2. Add the ice cubes. Blend well (I used a combo of ice crush and smoothie settings on my blender – you want it well combined, smooth, and frothy). Drink and chill out.
July 22, 2016
Sometimes, it’s good to keep things simple, tall, refreshing, and the lesser-known cousin of a better-known drink. At least that’s what I’m doing today. Because hey, I’m a simple person, at heart. And that’s why I’m keeping this short. No long speeches today, or talks about this booze or that booze, this writer or that writer, this awful person or that awful person that leads me to really desiring a tall, simple, refreshing drink on a Friday. Oh no, none of that. You feel the same way? Mix this up, friend, and think of me, and your favorite Mike. Mine is, um, Mike Caine (if that isn’t too informal). Here’s to you, Mike!
2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Chilled club soda
Lemon slice for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the whiskey, juice, and simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Fill a Collins glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix over the ice. Fill almost to the top with chilly club soda. Garnish with the lemon slice (stirring briefly if you want Mike mixed more).