May 4, 2018
Some days are difficult. Take tomorrow, for instance. It’s a tasty kind of difficult, because two solid drinking days are happening tomorrow, the fifth of May, 2018. First, it’s Cinco de Mayo, a fantastic day for having Mexican-inspired drinks, in celebration of the Mexican Army’s win over the French at the battle of Pueblo and Mexican-American culture. If you’re having sippers for Cinco, I dig it. However! It’s also the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, a day when more Mint Juleps are consumed than any other day, and a day when many fine hats are worn. I’m going the Julep route tomorrow (admittedly, I may have a National Arms tomorrow, too). And one today, cause, well, I wanna make sure I have things right.
Why the Julep route this 5th? Well, a lot of the reason is because I received a bottle Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon in the mail the other day, and I’ve been itching to try it in a julep, and, well, the circumstances seemed too fortuitous to miss! Boasting a swell-looking bottle with visuals harkening back to the inspiration of the name, Clyde May that is, who legend says was a “moonshine icon who made the best whiskey Alabama ever tasted” starting back in 1946, and made by the Conecuh Ridge Distillery, this bourbon’s a nice 92 proof, is non-chill filtered, and aged for 5 years (hey, another 5 on 5/5!) in heavily charred American oak. Its aroma features vanilla, dried fruit, oak, and spice all playing together, and a taste that mirrors the vanilla and oak, but also delivers brown sugar, nuts, and more spice, including a peppery, near-peppermint-ness on the back end. Nicely balanced all around, and worth sipping solo, but also a solid cocktail bourbon that can provide flavor and backbone.
Especially in a Mint Julep, one of the older mixes bourbon pals around within. You love Mint Juleps, right? You’re a good person, so I’m thinking you do. It’s such a swell combo, not just for Derby day, but all spring long. Just remember, as S.B. Buckner, Jr. said in a letter to General Connor, 1937 “A Mint Julep is not the process of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients, and a proper appreciation of the occasion.”
The Mint Julep
Fresh mint leaves (4 or 5)
3/4 ounce simple syrup (go lighter to taste, if that’s your desire)
3 ounces Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon
Fresh mint sprig for garnish
1. Take one mint leaf and rub it over the inside of a metal julep cup (if you have one) or a highball glass. Be sure the mint touches each inch of the glasses inside. Drop the leaf in the glass when done.
2. Add the remaining mint leaves and the simple syrup to the glass. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the leaves and syrup. You want to be strong, but respectful.
3. Fill the glass half way with crushed ice. Add the bourbon. Stir well.
4. Fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice. Stir once. Garnish with a mint sprig.
A Note: To be traditional, you must crush the ice in a cloth bag. But if this is too much work, just start with crushed ice.
December 29, 2017
Let’s face it – we’re not getting any younger. Really, nothing is, I suppose. But wait, as the year rolls out into the sunset, and as a new one rolls in, let’s not get all down-in-the-mouth, and think about getting older. But instead, remember all the many wondrous days, and all the ones happening now, and how we can be youthful all year round, and many other things one might find on a card – hahaha! Or, skip all that, and sip a Happy Youth instead.
The Happy Youth, from Champagne Cocktails
1 ounce Cherry Heering cherry brandy
1 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Chilled extra-dry rosé sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cherry Heering, the orange juice, and the simple syrup. Shake youthfully.
2. Strain the mixture equally into a four flute glasses. Top each with the sparkling wine.
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.