September 3, 2021
Strawberry season is super swell, sweet some might say! Heck, I might have said it not so far back in Spiked Punch history when extolling the virtues of the homemade strawberry liqueur I made, Strawcurranterry, also not so far back. When it rains strawberries up this way, it really pours (if I may stretch metaphors to the breaking point of sense), and so not only did I make said liqueur, but also tossed some fresh-picked-by-my-own-hand strawberries into other big jars with other tasty things – including gin! I didn’t alter the concoction any further than that, though, just took 2 cups of Sipsmith London Dry gin and added it to 2 cups muddled strawberries, and then let them get acquainted for about a month, afterwhich I strained it through cheesecloth and voila! Strawberry gin. Delicious, by the way, over ice on its own. But also delicious in cocktails, including The Stoni. The clever among you (which is all of you, as I’m sure anyone who reads this is clever) will probably guess that The Stoni is perhaps a Negroni, made with said strawberry-infused gin, and you’d be right! I felt that calling it a “Strawberry Negroni” violated all my diatribes about creative naming of drinks, but did want to reference the antecedent, as nothing else has changed (outside of the garnish). So, it’s not overly strawberry-y, and still carries the Negroni balance and beauty. But altered with fruity undertones that add a hint of summer and orchard or fruit farm. Interesting? Yes! Delicious? Indeed! Easy, and worthwhile, provided you have good fresh strawberries and a month to spare? Darn tooting.
1-1/4 ounces strawberry-infused Sipsmith London Dry gin
1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth
1-1/4 ounces Campari
Strawberry slice, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio of boozes. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with the strawberry slice.
August 6, 2021
One of the invaders (in the best way) of summer into our yard is mighty fine mint. We have mint that’s been planted by us, years past, but either it’s spread or we’ve also had wild mint find it’s way into the yard. Though I wouldn’t be sad to be responsible for a mint invasion, I think I’d like it even better if there was wild mint propagating hither and thither randomly. But back to the point I’m meandering my way into making: we have a lot of mint! Not a problem to induce tears falling in any manner, but one that does mean searching for drinks that make fine use of mint, and eventually finding my way back to this particular potion: Iollas’ Itch, which I hadn’t made in a number of years. Not because it’s not delicious (it is), but because, well, there are loads of delicious drinks in the world and sometimes one forgets one or two. Anywho, this cocktail, though rye-based (yum), and with heady sweet vermouth (yum), I believe still beckons during the hotter months due to the addition of apricot liqueur, whose sweet fruitiness is very much sunshine-y (and, yum), and naturally that summer favorite that brought this paragraph on pointe: mint.
Iollas’ Itch, from Dark Spirits
3 fresh mint leaves, plus 1 fresh mint sprig for garnish
2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce apricot liqueur
1. Rub (carefully but firmly) the 3 mint leaves all around the inside of a cocktail glass. Then discard them.
2. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, apricot liqueur, and vermouth. Shake well.
3. Strain into the minty glass from above. Garnish with the mint sprig.
July 16, 2021
Ah, the Negroni. You kids probably won’t believe this, but I remember way back when when I had to describe to even good, reliable, knowledgeable, wonderful bartenders how to make a Negroni, what was in it, soup to nuts, as they say. And now there are probably 348,651 variations, many of which are happy to use the name, or some bastardization of such, attached to a drink that might not have much if anything to do with the original. But hey, people, you be you. I may bemoan the lack of naming creativity, but certainly won’t turn down a good drink no matter the name. But, as a classic song told us, ‘there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.” So, today, we’re taking it classically, in the one configuration that really deserves the name: Gin, Italian (or rosso, or sweet) vermouth, Campari, over ice, with a … lemon peel? Well, I somehow was out of orange, which I’d normally go with. So, I myself have now undercut the above sentences, in a way. Let’s pretend this never happened, and instead talk about The London Nº1 gin, which I’m using here. Pale-blue tinged with juniper, savory, bergamot, licorice, lemon and orange peel, cinnamon, iris root (which I believe delivers that blue-ness in coloring), and more used in the making, and based on a spirit made from English wheat. Together, they deliver an earthiness the smooths into citrus and floral notes in an enticing manner. Our next component: Mancino Rosso vermouth. They themselves say that this vermouth is of “exceptional quality and refined organoleptic characteristics,” and as “organoleptic” is my new favorite word, I couldn’t agree more. 38 aromatic herbs combining into a lush mixture that delivers spice, sweet, forest-at-dusk-with-flirty-druids-dancing notes (helped along by vanilla, rhubarb, juniper, toasted wood, myrrh, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, and the like). And then, Campari. What can you say about something that, if it wasn’t in the world, the world would feel lacking at a spiritual level? Nothing does the love that is Campari justice. Just know that without it, birds would stop singing and bunnies stop hopping. I am very excited for this Negroni. You will be, too. Heck, you’ll even want to give me a hand when you have it.
1-1/4 ounces The London Nº1 gin
1-1/4 ounces Mancino Rosso vermouth
1-1/4 ounces Campari
Lemon twist (or orange, if you have one)
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass. Garnish with the twist.
March 12, 2021
There are days when you want to unbury a drink from an old book or pamphlet, a drink that hasn’t been sipped for many years, and other days when you want to make up a whole new drink, one that you’ve created for your very self for the very first time, and then other days when you want to try and recreate a drink you had out (or as take-out, in currant circumstances) at a local watering hole, made by a talented drink-slinger, and then other days when you just want to have a classic Manhattan, one made with Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon. Today is that day! For me, at least, as I recently received a bottle of said Early Times bourbon – lucky me! – making it all possible. Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon has a long and interesting history, including being lost to all from I believe the 1980s until a slow re-release that started in 2017. Aged 4 years, and at 100 proof, this tipple treads an approachable path, with some umph beneath, swirling a sweetness on the nose that lingers through a citrus, caramel, vanilla flavor with spice hints popping up, and then popping up more and more through the finishing moments. Overall, just a delicious, friendly bourbon that everyone I know enjoys sipping slow as the sun goes down. But that approachability also means it’s a dandy cocktail base, too, and the Manhattan is a swell cocktail to base on it. As it has that little sweetness, I went with Punt e’ Mes as the vermouth, because it’s a little drier with beauteous bittery herbal notes – a good choice, I have to admit! And for the bitters themselves, I picked Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters, which is an ideally-balanced spice and herb bitters in a classic style, superb here.
2-1/2 ounces Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters
Cherry (I used a Rainer cherry I’d had mulling with mates in some bourbon, but a good Maraschino would work a treat, too)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Add a cherry (or two!) to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into said glass. Enjoy.
February 19, 2021
You know (cause I’ve mentioned it before and you’ve memorized every word I ever typed, which is a bit, oh, nice but also maybe makes me wonder if you need to get out more, which is, I realize, a bit difficult to do right now, but I’m wandering) I sometimes like to go to my liquor/cocktail book shelves, grab a book at random, and then make a drink from said book. But you may not know that on rare occasions I do the same, but instead of the shelves go to a little container I have of drink-related, let’s call them pamphlets, or little soft-back-y things, mini-books perhaps. A lot of these used to float around, and some still do, but in their late 50s, 60s, maybe even early 70s heydays, lots of liquor brands, and even some stores, used to make these, doll them up, and use them as recipe-filled promo pieces. Neat, right? I have a stack, not a large stack, but a stack, and just reached into it and pulled out a pretty one called Come for Cocktails. Published by The Taylor Wine Company in 1958, it leans as heavily towards food recipes as drinks, and is squarely in the “more entertaining is better” camp, one I agree with (when pandemics make such a thing safe). It has some recipes you’d expect, some you might not, and some really sweet illustrations, including this jolly jumping shrimp one:
And this dancing sherry and glasses one:
The latter one is important to us here and now, as the drink I picked to make from our Come for Cocktails mini-book is called The 6 O’clock Cocktail, and features sherry, along with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. There has to be (I’m wracking my brain, but my brain is old and full of cocktails) a drink with a different name that has equal parts of these three lovelies, right? There are the classic Adonis and Bamboo cocktails with sherry and one each of our vermouth pair naturally. But both with a different name? I can’t recall, but really, it doesn’t matter that much, or enough to stop me drinking this perfectly-balanced beaut, which lets all those herb-y, nut-y, botanical-y scents and tastes play around the palate like a dance party. A lot depends on what variety of such you use. Sadly, in a way, I did not use Taylor branded sherry and vermouth – which I think has been lost to the liquor shelves of time. I did use Punt e’ Mes Italian vermouth (I felt its drier, herb-forward umph would be good), Dolin dry vermouth (cause I like it), and Williams & Humbert Dry Sack medium sherry, which is a dandy nutty mixing sherry. Altogether: yummy. Try it, and next time you pass a rack of booze-pamphlets in your house or a used bookstore or antique mart, maybe pick one up and make a drink from it. It worked for me!
The 6 O’clock cocktail
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce sherry
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our trio of liquids. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lemon twist.
October 9, 2020
As the air chills and winter phantoms start to haunt the hills (rhyme!) our (mine! yours! everybodies!) tastes begin to turn away from lighter things to alight onto more serious matters. In this case, to take away the high-flaunting language, I’m try to say that brown cocktail season is upon us, or nearly so (though, admittedly, I’m all for hanging on to sunlit days a little longer, and, really, I’m happy to drink whiskey or brandy or other darker-spirited cocktails anytime, but let me go with this). Which means dust off the Scotch, bourbon, Irish, Indian, Japanese, Washington, and other whiskeys – it’s time to warm up from the inside out. Starting with one of my favorite tipples in this vein, the Scotch-y/single-malt-y Rob Roy. It’s absolutely ideal for when the temperature gauge begins to plummet, with a hearty dollop of the base spirit (Scotch, that is) combined with the herbally loveliness that is sweet/red/Italian vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a waft of lemon. Ah, what a treat, not only in my mind. The creatures see of flood and field / And those that travel on the wind (thanks Wordsworth)! For the Scotch here, I’m going with Auchentoshan 12-year-old Scotch, partially cause I had a bottle on the front of my shelves, but moreso cause its smoothness and vanilla/citrus/nutty notes go so well with our other ingredients, especially to me with Carpano Antica, which I’m using for the vermouth and which I love due to its rich, lush, herbal goodness. Dive on in! Oh, wait, before you don your face paint and start drinking, here’s one fun idea: switch Angostura bitters for Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and sip a Highland Cocktail. Or have both!
The Rob Roy
2-1/2 ounces Auchentoshan 12-year-old Scotch
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Scotch, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
PS: The Rob Roy bar in Seattle is one of the best bars in the world, and probably even more memorable than this drink. Just wanted to make sure you knew.
May 8, 2020
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, great drinks are even greater with a good story – and a great story takes it to even another level. Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of McConnell’s Irish Whisky in the post (what a nice thing! Especially in these stay-at-home times! So, don’t be jealous, I’ll share). And what a great story to go along with such a dandy whisky. Here are the basics – McConnell’s started producing whisky way way back in 1776, a year famous here in the U.S. for things other than whisky, though I’m sure a lot was consumed here at that time, too, hahaha. The whisky was made in Belfast, but soon being sipped all over the world by discerning sippers. But then! Tragedy, in the form of a vast fire that destroyed (so sadly) 500,000 gallons of whisky and a chunk of the distillery itself. Persevering, they rebuilt, and whisky flowed. But then! Tragedy, again, in the form of prohibition, which really put the damper on long-distance imports to the U.S., a monster-sized consumer – and that sad event destroyed the distillery, like the fire, but worse. Until this year, when it rose the economic and literal ashes, like a tipsy phoenix.
Of course, a good story like that (and distilleries coming alive and alive again are good, good stories) doesn’t mean as much if the flavor doesn’t rise to the tale. McConnell’s is a swell tipple, however, so the tale is ripe for more telling. A blended whisky, it’s aged five years in American oak, and as other friendly Irish whiskys, it has an approachable (not annoying) sweet nature. Beyond the lovely bottle, it sets itself apart thanks to a singular vanilla, nutmeg, spice and hint-of-smokiness taste. Yummy. So yummy, you could be forgiven for only consuming this recovered-from-history hit solo, or with a splash of water, or maybe a cube or two of ice as the mood descends on your day. Heck, I drank a lot of it that way myself, and only felt happy about it.
However! I also just can’t resist combining spirits and liqueurs I like into cocktails – and the welcoming, flavorful nature of McConnell’s is a bountiful base for a cocktail that lets it shine, while introducing a few friends that can stand alongside proudly. Today, I went with the classic, if not super-widely known, Tipperary. This version (there’s a separate cocktail carrying the same name from a few years earlier) goes back I believe to the 1922s, if memory serves, but don’t take me to task on it if I’m confused. To go with our mighty McConnell’s, the drink brings another legend to the mix, herbally, mystical, Green Chartreuse, along with sweet vermouth – I’m going with Punt e’ Mes here, which is just a touch drier than some, while still delivering more lush herbal notes , alongside a gentle bitter. Altogether, this cocktail delivers amazingly. I mean, it’s amazingly delicious. So, so, delicious, and just the right one for celebrating McConnell’s coming back on the booze scene.
The Tipperary Cocktail
1-3/4 ounces McConnell’s Irish whisky
1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
A Note: I’ve seen this with a lemon twist as garnish (heck, I’ve even had a great one that way), but with this particular trio, I didn’t think the brighter citrus notes worked. But if you do, do.
January 17, 2020
Yes! Football is happening. Important professional football. Football, football, football! And, it’s nearing the time when football isn’t happening (oh, btw as the texters txt, here I am referring solely to USA-style football, and not the football played around everywhere else in the world. Though that kind of football is most-likely happening, too, in some form, which I admit, and if you are watching the original football, and want to have this delicious drink with a passel of pals, that would be amazing and you would be able to say “score!” loudly when drinking, too), so if you haven’t yet had your football punch yet this professional football season, well, rah-rah-rah-ers, now is the time for you to have it! With a team of friends – though perhaps not as big a team as a full professional football team, unless you can make multiple batches, that is, in which case, do that – cause this is a drink scaled for more than just one. And it’s so awfully tasty, that even if – and I do hope with every pigskin inch, whatever that means, that this isn’t the case – your team of choice isn’t playing anymore, having bowed out already in ignominy, you will still be able to smile after sipping. If not the first glass, at least the second. Let the football-ing and Football Punch-ing commence!
Football Punch, recipe from Dark Spirits
One 750-milliliter bottle dark rum
16 ounces apple juice
10 ounces sweet vermouth
5 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
Two 25.4-ounce bottles chilled sparkling apple cider
2 apples, cored and sliced
1. Fill a large punch bowl halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, apple juice, vermouth, lemon juice, and orange juice. Stir with a pennant from your team of choice.
2. Add the sparkling apple cider, but in a sustained drive, not in a sprint (meaning, slow and steady wins this game), and the apple slices. Stir well. Serve in punch glasses, mugs, or little plastic footballs.