Here’s a nice number that straddles somehow the summer, while still having a base that seems more fall-ish (rye, specifically Woodinville Whiskey Co. delicious rye. If you can get their rye finished with toasted applewood staves, do that. Do it now). Probably cause of the ice and soda and sorta tiki-ish St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram and the citrus from some fresh oj, and some local robust and fruity cherry brandy (the real stuff, not the sugary stuff that calls itself cherry brandy — I used Oomrang cherry brandy, which is yummy), but whateves. It’s a dandy treat, even here in August. I originally created it during the lockdown year of 2020, which you might remember, and which you might like to forget. The drink’s heft – while still staying light-ish on its feet mind you – might help with that! Even though that time was tough, there were I’m sure good things to come out of it, so maybe let’s not forget it completely. Like this drink, for example! Well worth remembering and having again.
I’m sure you understand this: some days, you, or one, just wakes up in the morning thinking, “Today, I wanna make a drink from Jacques Straub’s recipe collection classic called, simply enough, Drinks (oh, you can get a Drinks reprint if you don’t happen to have it or want to pony up for an original)! Then, all the day long you think about it, unless you decide to have a breakfast drink, or a lunch drink. If so, good for you, champ! Still waiting on the invite. But if not, by the time HH (happy hour, natch) comes around, you have that little book (perfectly sized for dress shirt pockets, making it easy for bartenders to carry) out, and are turning until you come to The Hancock Sour, and then boom! Drink-making time.
But what bourbon? For me, this time, it’s Wood Family Spirits Columbia bourbon. Admittedly, a bottle recently came in the mail (don’t hate me! I do feel lucky about it), excitingly enough! If you don’t know, Wood Family Spirits is a distillery based in Hood River, Oregon. The family in the area traces back to pioneers in the middle 1800s, so they have lots of history in the PNW, and a desire to deliver well-made spirits here. In Columbia bourbon, they’re doing just that. Made in Tennessee using 80% corn, 10% barley, and 10% rye, it’s aged in brand new charred oak barrels (aging takes place in OR) and blended to “bottle in bond” strength. Which equals a robust 100 proof, that gives it a reassuring umph. It has a lovely aroma – caramel, spices (cinnamon, clove) – then a rich mouthfeel while you’re savoring the vanilla, caramel, sweetness mingling with the oakiness and highlighted by more of that cinnamon and clove and rye spicy goodness.
Wood Family Spirits Columbia bourbon’s full layered taste means it can be swigged solo happily, but also that it can stand up nicely in a drink like The Hancock Sour, one we’re bringing back from days of yore, and one that packs a decent amount of lime. In typical classic sour fashion, this might have had even more lime in the past (the recipe calls just for the juice of one lime), but 3/4s-of-an-ounce worked best for me. So, lime, sugar, bourbon, sounds like a regular sour, right? But there’s an intriguing twist – a hint of rum! That’s right, two spirits! The recipe doesn’t call out a specific rum, but I found a Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva dark rum was perfect. Its complexity and sweetness added just enough hints to elevate this treat to another realm (if you haven’t had it, this rum delivers caramel, nuts, orange peel, vanilla, nutmeg, and allspice in a lovely combo). The other slightly sideways add to our sour is a splash of soda, which, funnily, helped everything come together without thinning it out. The original recipe said to garnish with “fruits of the season,” so I went strawberry, but I could see orange, cherries, even blackberries being nice and working with the lime.
One final note: I have no idea who Hancock is, or was, or if this drink even refers to a person. And, though in a way I wish I did, it doesn’t change one iota the deliciousness this sour delivers. Try it, and then next time remember to invite me to breakfast drinks!
Is today, the 2nd of September, the ideal time to drink an Americano (the Italian stalwart and precursor, perhaps, to the now, perhaps, better-known Negroni, a drink, the Americano, which used to be known itself as the child of the Milan-Torino, or Milano-Torino, which boasted Campari and Punt e’ Mes vermouth, sometimes other vermouths, perhaps, but skipped the soda, which itself was added and then the trio, Campari, Punt e’ Mes, soda, became a favorite of American servicemen, and then became the Americano), the very moment when one should drink this drink? Perhaps! I say so due to the fact that while it’s refreshing with the ice and the soda and the bubbles, making it good-or-more-than-good when the sun’s out, it also has those lovely rich herbal-and-bitter-and-botanical notes from the Campari and vermouth. Those notes point to the fact that fall, and then, always, winter are coming no matter the sun. So, to me, this Friday, the 2nd, seems to straddle those moments in a way, much like the drink can straddle the seasons, in taste, sure, but also in feeling. Drinks are about more than just taste, after all.
I should come up with a snazzier name here (at least “The S & S”) but sometimes keeping things simple is lovely, too! And, sometimes, when spring is starting to gently become an actual season, with flowers blooming, and love in the air, all of that goodness, simplicity in drinks is nice – especially when they’re flavorful and refreshing and dolloped with a drop of luck. In this case, my luck (sorry pals!), as I was lucky enough recently to receive a bottle of Stambecco amaro in the post. And what a beautiful bottle it is, I have to stay first off, a real work of dappled design art, from the glass texture to the goats (“Stambecco” is the name of the long-horned mountain goat roaming the Italian alps) to the text curvature to the word “Italy” in glass around the slope from neck to jar. Just lovely!
Of course, it wouldn’t be as lovely if what was contained in said bottle wasn’t tasty – luckily (again, springtime luck!) it is. Stambecco is a member of the amari family, that grouping of Italian digestif-y numbers known for being a bit bitter, but fills a niche all its own. Lighter brown in color than most (with just a hint of red), it also is intriguingly infused with maraschino cherries, along with a host of 30 botanicals including sweet and bitter oranges, coriander, marjoram, oregano, artemista, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, gentian, cinchona, rhubarb, and more, all magically combined (some call this distilling) in Piedmont, north Italy. The mix of botanicals is very friendly, very lower-mountain-field-y, with a light touch on bitter when compared to many of its amaro siblings, with a citrus and stone fruit aroma, and a singular taste where the cherries come even more into play, along with spices and an echo of nuttiness (those maraschino cherries again). Yummy stuff! And a mixture I’m excited to play around with more in cocktails, but sometimes, one wants to keep it simple, as mentioned above. So, here, today, this early April afternoon, I’m just mixing my Stambecco with soda, and topping it off with a Hotel Starlino Maraschino cherry (which also came in the post!), which is a darn delicious specimen of cherry (and one matured in their own juices – avoid those cherries that aren’t!), the ideal topper for this bubbly treat.
Sure, you’ve had Mojitos (I hope, and if not, you know, it’s a minty-rum-y delight of course so where have you been, dear)? In the summer, when they are one of the ruling drink class. Or in the spring, when you’re pretending it’s summer in your short shorts, even though you’re chilly. I see you. And even in the fall once, when you were thinking about Cuba. I sorta like them also in the winter, to deliver a summer dreamtime as the cold air nips noses. You may like that, too. But have you ever had a Mojito with a rainbow unicorn straw? I did, recently, and let me assure you – it’s better. The Mojito? Great drink. With a unicorn rainbow straw? Better. Maybe it’s this way with any drink? Here, though, trust me. Good times, with rum, and unicorn. Run with that, my brave and wonderful friends.
7 or 8 mint leaves
2 of more lime wedges
1 ounce simple syrup
Crushed or cracked ice
2-1/2 white rum
Mint sprig, for garnish
1. Add the mind, lime wedges, and simple to a highball or comparable glass. Muddle well with a cool muddler.
2. Fill the glass most of the way with cracked or crushed ice. Add the rum, then nearly to the top with soda.
3. Smack the mint a bit to get the oils flowing, then let it float atop the drink. And don’t forget to add your unicorn straw!
It may have been eight years since I’ve sipped this particular refresher – that’s a long time and a long number of drinks. But we’ve had a bit of northwest spring heat wave lately, demanding that something effervescent like this be unveiled, and I was reading Justice Society (okay, I’m making an Hour Glass to Hour Man leap, but you get me, I know), and, well, one thing led to another. It’s a good drink, too, interesting without being affrontive. If you feel badly about Cognac-ing here, then I’d say don’t be so darn stuffy. Haha, but seriously folks, feel free to sub in a nice brandy as you will. Whatever doesn’t overheat you, friend, and whatever makes the hours pass in a lovely manner.
The Hour Glass
1 ounce Cognac
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce absinthe
Chilled club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Cognac, Cointreau, and absinthe. Stir well.
2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mixture over the ice, and then fill the glass with club soda (unless it’s a large-ish highball, then just go up three-quarters of the way).
3. Squeeze the lemon twist over the glass and drop it in.
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