We’re in that time straddling summer and fall (though I fully realize fall doesn’t start specifically until the 22nd), which means days that can shade summery but then delve into a crisp fallness pointing to the colder days to come. To make the straddling smooth, it’s preferable that you have a drink that does the same, and if it’s a regal one, too, well, all the better! The Lord Charles fits that bill, with its full-bodied red-wine works-in-winter keep-you-warm Malbec base, mingling with simple syrup, citrus-y lemon juice, smooth dry sherry, and bubbly club soda, that which, with some ice, brings this drink into a level of refreshingness that summer (if you personify) would certainly appreciate. You’ll dig it, and it will dig you (if you think drinks dig people, which maybe they do, why not), and help you do that straddling we talked of. Enjoy!
Just a week ago, I had a drink, The Ciliegia (a sort-of cherry-Negroni-influenced sipper, if you missed it), which featured Oomrang Cherry eau di vie, or fruit brandy, which is delicious, and, today, I’m following it up with another drink featuring another delicious Oomrang fruit brandy, this time their Blueberry Geist – featuring it in this drink, The Blueberry Cobbler. Whew, that was quite a sentence! And the Oomrang brandies are quite good brandies! About this time last year, I was lucky enough to be able to write an article about Oomrang (there are two umlauts by the way, in the name, so imagine them there) for the sparklicious Sip magazine. I don’t think it’s online as it was for subscribers only, perhaps, but research it up, see what you can find. Abbreviated version: Oomrang is a distillery and winery outside of Stanwood WA, and is a remarkable place, where they make lovely wine utilizing lesser-known German grapes: Mueller-Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Kerner, and Sylvaner. They also make fruit brandies – the real stuff, not the sickly sweet things sometimes marketed under that name. They have two kinds, the more traditional eaux de vies (when I say “more traditional” I mean in like Europe, as we aren’t as used to them yet in the U.S. – sadly) and geists. Because I don’t want to rewrite the whole article here, I’ll just quickly say that in eaux de vie the fruit is fermented, distilled, and bottled quickly, whereas with geists first you macerate the fruit in alcohol for a fair amount of time – Oomrang uses an alcohol made from grapes, and macerates a month – then distill and bottle it. Both brandy versions are strong spirits that taste yummy. I find the geists a wee bit more fragrant featuring an orchard-late-in-season vibe and fruit scrumptiousness. Which – we’ve finally gotten around to it – goes swell in this here drink.
A drink which is part of the Cobbler family, a family tracing its liquid lineage back to the early 1800s, when the Sherry Cobbler kicked off and kicked into gear, and then it and the Cobbler famile gained international name recognition when ol’ Chucky Dickens (as I called him, you may be more formal and all him Charles Dickens) included the drink in one of my favs, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, in 1842. At one point, in 1888, bartender and writer Harry Johnson wrote “This drink is without doubt the most popular beverage in this country, with ladies as well as with gentlemen,” and though its popularity waned, the Cobbler is picking back up as more and more discover how swell it is for summer. Which leads us to the blueberry-rific Blueberry Cobbler, featuring Oomrang’s lush Blueberry Geist, a little simple, a little lemon (I feel Cobblers need both sweet and tang), a splash of soda (taking us off perhaps the super traditional Cobbler path, but it needed it, too, to me, especially when the sun’s high in the sky), and lots of crushed ice. It’s a summer hit, even if to get there you’ve now read a small novel.
1. Add the 10 blueberries, lemon juice, and simple to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Add ice cubes to about the halfway full point, then the Blueberry Geist. Shake.
3. Fill a wine glass (or goblet) up with crushed or cracked ice. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the soda, stir briefly. Add more ice if needed. Garnish with blueberries and mint.
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.
Here in Seattle, WA, our summer so far has been a fairly mild one, with just a few hot days, and no scorchers. But I know in some parts it’s beyond sweltering, and dangerously hot here and there, so I know summer is here and with it the need for fruity, rich, flavorful, bubbly mixes, which leads me to bringing back this fav from a few years ago. Now, don’t take its title too literally, as drinking one of these does not mean you should brave a hot hot hot day without the appropriate sun protection, from lotions to big hats to water to ac. But at least, this combo of deliciously Diplomático rum, summerific Sidetrack Strawberry liqueur, fresh oj (you don’t want scurvy anytime, but especially not when it’s hot), Fee Brothers peachy-keen Peach bitters for another fruit layer, simple syrup to add sweetness to the heat, and club soda to bubbly it up, at least this combo will help the hot days taste better, and balance the blasting heat a tasty bit.
You probably know this, but just in case, recently the Queen of England had her Platinum Jubilee, which means (another thing you probably know!), that she’s worn the crown for 70 years. It is, in the United Kingdom (and other spots, it seems), a big deal to many, and many parties were had. And, cause she’s so nice, she asked me to come up with a Jubilee Liqueur that she could sip daintily from teacups during the various festivities.
Hahaha, did you believe that, just for a moment? It would have been ridiculously neat if you did. But sadly, it was a lie, the Queen does not know me or my liqueur-making prowess or that my backyard overfloweth with mint (wild and planted) or that I had some extra mandarins lying around lately. Or, at least, if she knows all these things, she isn’t telling me! However! I do have some pals who are from the UK, though currently living in balmy Seattle, and they like many (as mentioned above, in a way) were celebrating said Platinum Jubilee, with a big ol’ English-style knee-up shindig, doing it up right with oodles of eats and drinks and funtimes for neighbors and friends. And I thought – really, they deserve a present fit for a Queen, and so made this here liqueur in her and their honor. As you probably can guess if you’ve made it this far in this paragraph, it has oodles of mint, and some mandarin notes. It’s also based on gin, that most English of quaffs, which is a little different as most homemade liqueurs have a neutral base, while gin brings its own juniper, botanical, spice, citrus, what-have-you nature. Here, go with a good solid London/English juniper forward gin (that’s what I did!). The mint and citrus and gin and sweetness are such a swell snazzy combo, I gotta say – this really is fit for royalty. Including you!
4 small mandarins
3-1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
3 cups gin (English gin, natch – I used Gordon’s)
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1. Carefully peel the mandarins. You want the peel, but you don’t want the pith – hence the care! Mandarins tend to be pithy, so you might need/want to scrap a little of that pith off. I did.
2. Add the peels – being sure to save the mandarins – to a large glass container, one with a good lid. Also add 2 cups mint leaves. Muddle the mandarin and mint.
3, Add the gin to the container, stir, and set aside.
4. We’re now going to make a syrup. Usually when making homemade liqueurs, I let flavorings and base sit together solo for a bit before adding the syrup. But as we’re using the juice from the mandarins just peeled, felt it should be made now. It all worked out! Okay, to start, juice the mandarins. Then add the juice and remaining mint leaves to a saucepan. Muddle gently, just to get the mint oils flowing.
5. Add the water and sugar and raise the temperature to medium high. Stirring regularly, bring the mix to a boil, then bring the heat down a bit. Keep it at a smooth simmer for 5 minutes, still stirring. Remove from the heat, and let cool completely in the pan.
6. Pour the mint-mandarin simple syrup into the glass container from Step 2. Stir well, and seal. Place in a cool, dark spot. Let sit for two weeks, swirling regularly. It looks like this:
7. Strain (maybe twice!) through cheese cloth into bottles or one big bottle. Drink solo, over ice, or play around with it in cocktails, all while thinking monarchistically.
I realize some may be saying “wait, has A.J. lost it, shouldn’t this drink have been made for yesterday, the actual Saint Patrick’s Day?” And while I can’t say I haven’t lost “it” (whatever “it” may be), I can say that I am fully of the opinion that while Saint Patrick’s Day can be a jolly time, and while I’m all for savoring and celebrating Irish culture and history (and other cultures and histories, too, for that matter), I don’t think that it should be regulated to just one day! Especially (for the sake of this particular blog’s focus, but not overall naturally) when it comes to drinks highlighting Irish whiskey or other Irish-made imbibables. Hence, the Mike Collins, the Tom Collins sibling (a once-large family now sadly less-known) that subs in Irish whiskey instead of Old Tom gin. I love ‘em both, but if you’ve yet to be introduced, Mike’s whiskey undertones of vanilla and spice and grain (I’m going with Teeling Small Batch today) and sweet nature go rather nicely with the citrus zing and bubbles here – while also providing a nice kick to the affair. It’s a springtime favorite, but one I’ve found lends itself more to early spring, to sitting outside and sipping on the porch while there’s an echo of chill still in the air (as opposed to running full-on through a late-spring field of flowers). A swell celebration today, as well as yesterday and tomorrow.
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the whiskey, juice, and simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Fill a Collins glass or comparable 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).
This is a cozy drink for a chilly March day! It reminds me, too (as I’ve been making it for a bit), of the dark days beforeAperol was available in the U.S., and when the now-everywhere (a good thing!) stateside Spritz was just something Italian sipped. Doesn’t seem that long ago to me (I am very old) when I used to have to always bring two bottles of Aperol back in my suitcase when traveling back from lovely Italy, one for personal use and one for a pal. What changes have come since then (now I just have to fill my suitcase with grappa unavailable here)! Back to this here, drink. It mingles in a cuddly manner bountiful brandy with that Aperol I was going on about, with a tiny salute of simple syrup and a fresh orange for a tint of tang. It can be a bit sweet, like you, so if you want to take the simple to even tinier levels or out altogether, it’s okay. Things will still be cuddly.
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