Vodka has gone from over-rated to under-rated. Due to an over-abundance of flavorless vodkas enjoyed more for their lack of character than taste, and then an over-abundance of drinks made with them during the dark days (like, the 80s and 90s) of drinking, vodka got a bad – if, perhaps, deserved – rap. But here’s the thing: there are plenty of good vodkas today, which bring flavor and personality to the party. I didn’t know, however, that one was made in Italy!
Until recently, that is, when I received a bottle of Purus organic vodka in the mail (I know, I know, lucky me). Made from Italian grain and water from the Italian Alps, up in northern Italy’s Piedmont region, it felt on first glance – no, on first hearing about it – that the vodka was made for me. Though admittedly I used to live in Central Italy, but hey, it’s ITALY! And it’s made by the Sacchetto family. Who I don’t know, but c’mon, they sound awesome – and they placed their vodka, certified GMP free and organic by the USDA, in a curvingly artistic bottle that’s lovely and recyclable, as is the bottle top.
So, with all that I say they’re an awesome family. Well, that and from this vodka, which not only sounds good, but is good. It’s clean and bright, with a lush slightly sweet essence mingled with notes of peach and plum and good grain and the Italian springtime. It’s that kind of tipple. If you don’t believe me, it’s won a bunch of awards, too, picked by famous people. It’s dandy solo, over an ice cube or two. I liked a twist of lemon with it, too, as it balances a bit. It’s also a willing and able contributor to cocktails, including this one, where I bring two other Italian favs, Strega and Aperol, into the mix, and a little lemon. I’ll probably have another drink up here with it before long, as well, so don’t be a stranger.
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.
Well, it’s nearly Halloween, and that means it’s time for one of the traditions here at Spiked Punch, the one where I drink a Warlock cocktail and turn into a zombie magician of sorts. Oh, the Warlock is a good drink, too, well worthy of your spooky celebrations, with brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. I can’t wait to drink it, consequences be darned. You should take the same stance this October.
This is the day before Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, everybody make a Warlock, drink it down till the neighbors gonna die of delight; it’s your drink, everybody scream, on the day before Halloween.
Okay, as you know, every year near Halloween I do three things – sing the above song, have a Warlock (made with brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters), and turn into a zombie magician. This year is no different.
I’m heading out to Italy again for a little vacation, and as usual when I start thinking every hour of every day about Italy (as opposed to just every day), I start thinking about when we lived in Italy, and the drinks I made and had when there. Yeah, I know, it’s a hard-a-knock life. To make up for all my musing about it, try the below drink. It’s freaky-delicious. If you can’t go on an Italian vacation this second, this’ll at least help cure a teeny bit of the ache.
1-1/2 ounces Aperol
1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Strega
1 dash Bitter Truth orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Aperol, orange juice, Strega, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktails glass, or a pretty wine glass if that’s what’s handy.
Even though it’s probably 10 degrees hotter in central Italy right now than in Seattle (where I’m typing this – not sure where wherever you are falls in the temperature spectrum, but wherever, it won’t make a different in how much you enjoy this drink), even though, I’d still at this particular moment rather be kicking it in my old Italian home (oh, hey, I used to live in Italy), with my dogs, sitting in the olive grove, having this very drink, which I came up with when living in Italy. It’s highlighted by the Italian liqueur Strega, which is one of my favorite things, a beautiful drink on its own, with herbal goodness and trademark golden hue (brought on by saffron), but also a fine player in cocktails. Have one of these with me, and we can both dream in Italian.
It’s a proud day in Spiked Punch land – our pal Ed Skoog has a new book out and ready for reading. It’s his latest poetry collection (he is a poetic genius, as well as being a dandy drink maker, bonny bar companion, general good egg, and cute) and it’s called Rough Day, and you should get it today! Then, after getting it, come back and watch Ed make his world famous Ellipse in the below Cocktail to Cocktail Hour episode, which we’re resurfacing from way back in season 2 in honor of his new book.
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