What the saying – it’s always 6 o’clock somewhere (well, maybe that’s an hour off the saying, but it is none-the-less true)? With that, I believe that this beauty should be the cocktail du jour pretty much all the time somewhere in the world. Sadly, it’s fallen from knowledge in the main, if it ever was in the main. I found it, mostly recently, in a little pamphlet called Come for Cocktails. Published by The Taylor Wine Company in 1958, I’m guessing at 6 o’clock on a Friday in anticipation of everyone drinking this mix of both sweet and dry vermouth, dry sherry, and a lemon twist. It has that swell vermouth heavier and lighter balance, with a knock of sherry nuttiness (I suggest a fine fino if you find it), and a twinkle of citrus. The lack of a higher abv base spirit means it’s a nice one if you’ve been (gasp!) dry January-ing as well, and want to ease back into the cocktails at a more measured pace. Not a bad idea for anyone if starting at 6, really!
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.
When the weather is cold and getting colder (as it is for us here in the northwest), it’s best to look towards those creatures who might be more used to the chillier temperatures than us puny humans. Take the Walrus, for instance. Large-tusked, able to navigate icy waters as if they were a warm bath, singing Walrus songs the whole time, and willing to shake up this warming cocktail between dips. You may not have known that not only does the Walrus provide the title here, but in addition created the delicious rye, sweet vermouth (Punt e’ Mes is my choice), Cointreau, simple, orange bitters (I used Scrappy’s, naturally), combo. I may, between us, be making that up. Not the delicious part, but the walrus creation part. But how cool if I’m not! Either way, this’ll keep you warm while you ponder the idea.
As October is fall in all ways here in the northwest of the US, it may seem strange, even foolhardy, to have a drink named after shining shores. Wouldn’t “grey and gloominess along the shore” have been more apt (I can hear you asking all the way from here)? Well, potentially, yes, but see, this is a drink I already know, and often during fall and winter I like to muse about spring and summer, not that I don’t appreciate the glories of each specific season, but if well-made drinks can’t transport us, then, well, they can, so no need to wonder about if they couldn’t. And, this particular drink, while having a sunshine-y name and a base of dark rum, sits comfortably in multiple temperate times, as that rum does have a kick, and the amaretto and sweet vermouth add some lingering layers of flavor, herbal, nutty, along with a little sweetness (to get you through the colder nights). All of which is why I’m drinking it today, and why you should, too.
Shine Along the Shore
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce amaretto
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the rum, amaretto, and vermouth. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in.
You know (cause you’re you) that I’m a big fan by a country mile (as the saying says) of coming up with a new original amazing (or at least new) name when you concoct a new drink, even if said drink only changes one ingredient from an existing drink. That’s the way our bartending foremothers and forefathers did it back in the cocktail day (in this instance, meaning late 1800s, early 1900s) I believe, and if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. However! Sometimes, when the drink is really close, even I am tempted to just add an “ini” on the end or “insert word here + existing drink name” as the name and call it good. But I, even when lazy (which is most of the time) try to resist! Here, for example, I almost just said “Cherry Negroni” but then decided (still, lazily) to call it instead, The Ciliegia, which is Italian for cherry! But really, it’s mostly a Negroni (slightly different portions) with delightful Washington distillery Oomrang’s (in your mind, insert umlauts over the Os) delightful Cherry eau de vie in place of gin.
If you haven’t had it (you should!) Oomrang Cherry eau di vie, or fruit brandy, is made from natural Washington black cherries, picked at the peak of ripeness, at which time the finest of the fine have the stems removed, as well as any leafage, and then they’re rapidly turned into brandy via the joys and wonders of distillation. Fruit brandies (the real ones, not the fake ones – of which there are a lot, especially I think a lot of “cherry brandies” which are really just cherries muddled with vodka or another neutral spirit and a lot of sugaring agent, ending up oversweet and yucky) if you haven’t delved in are straight spirits, which – as demonstrated in this very drink – boast clear, crisp, flavors that catch the essence of a fruit in a way that’s wholly unique, and tasty. Here, the cherry notes mix a treat with the herbal sweetness of the sweet vermouth, and the bittery beauty of the Campari, without sacrificing the gin’s umph, as this real cherry brandy has the same ABV as the average gin. Heck, it’s a good enough combo that I’d drink it even if you did call it just a Cherry Negroni.
As the end of another year looms in front of us (along with the joyous and jolly holiday season), it reminds me that – I am old, hahaha! So old that I remember being in New York City, the biggest city in the world, make it there, etc., to teach a cocktail class or some such, and when I went into a bar, a good bar, and asked for a Negroni, they didn’t know how to make it. Now, you youngsters with your Negroni weeks and endless Negroni variations probably can’t believe it, but it’s true! The booze world of modern times is an oft-marvelous place, even though not all Negroni relatives are as marvelous, some are. And the Rosita is one of the top international Negroni, let’s call it a cousin. The usual modern-day Rosita recipe I believe goes back to the great, friendly, fantastic Gary Regan (sadly now shaking and sipping at that big ol’ bar in the sky), back to his Bartender’s Bible. The drink is – if you don’t know – a drink that combines tequila, both sweet and dry vermouths, Campari, and Angostura bitters. Delicious! Shades of the Negroni, changed up by tequila’s vegetal smoke and the dry vermouth’s lighter and bitter’s darker notes, holding on to the deep herbs and coloring of the Campari and sweet vermouth.
The other evening, I almost made that very drink, with some DE-NADA Reposado tequila (which had, lucky for me, shown up in the post recently). Almost! DE-NADA Reposado, beyond the all-caps, is crafted from 100% estate-grown blue agave in Jalisco by the fifth-generation Vivanco family distillers, aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels for a minimum of four months, and ends up a swell, approachable, sipper, smooth, with peach and pineapple fruit notes mingling with almond and cinnamon, underlined by a caramel vanilla yumminess. In the same way as it’s Blanco sibling, it’s confirmed additive free, too (it’s part of the additive-free family – unlike a fair number of others), and certified Carbon Neutral. A good thing to make a drink with! Probably good to make a regular Rosita with, in the normal style. But I, I was feeling contrary, and decided it would be even better subbed for gin straight into my normal Negroni recipe (which is the classic 1:1:1). And, while I’m not saying it was better, it was certainly darn good! The tequila’s vanilla-nut-spice-fruit-ness gets to shine a touch more, and went wonderfully with the sweet vermouth as the only vermouth, while keeping the Campari at an equal level ensured that the sweetness didn’t take over. I also garnished with an orange slice, and that bit of fresh citrus, well, it was a treat I tell you. Try it before you get too old, and see if I’m right!
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.
Our final stop (don’t miss The Unholy Trio Cocktail Talks Part I and Part II, by the way) in my latest Henry Kane yarn featuring two-fisted sharp-dressing quick-shooting kiss-a-lot-of-girls PI Peter Chambers. This quote almost didn’t make it to the site, as I wasn’t sure it was Cocktail Talk-y enough, but really, any time someone in a book is drinking a Rob Roy, it needs Cocktail Talking. And a Dry Rob Roy (not sure I’ve heard that much)? Forget about it! Read the other two in the series to get more book details, but not before you drink up the below.
“What are you drinking? Lunch is on me.”
“I’m going to get paid.”
“That you are.” I had brought a blank check. “Dry Rob Roy,” I said to the waiter. The menus were already on the table.
“Congratulations,” Arnie said.
“I believe you got married.”
“Oh. Thanks.” Miranda wouldn’t have told him. She was as cozy with information as Cosa Nostra. “How do you know?” I said.
“How do I know? Heck, there was a spread in every newspaper.”
“Yes, there was, wasn’t there?” My drink arrived and I drank it, quickly.
Here is something I learned recently: nearly 80% of the tequila brands sold in the U.S. have additives, things to add sweetening or alter coloring or change up the natural taste. I mean, I knew that additives like caramel for example have been used for, well, ever (or a long time) to change up certain aspects of whiskey or what-have-you, but for some reason never thought this extended in general to tequila. I mean, obviously (by taste alone) you can tell that chemicals are in certain boozes, including tequilas. But just didn’t realize the reach. Until recently, about the same time I was lucky enough to have a little DE-NADA tequila show up in the mail (lucky me!). A newer brand to me, DE-NADA tequilas are confirmed additive free – which means taste, coloring, everything, is coming from the natural ingredients in the tequilas, and the time-honored processes used to make real tequila. Neat! They make both blanco and reposado tequilas (both at a fifth-generation tequila distillery in Jalisco), and while the blanco is a treat – smooth and bright on the tongue, with some fruit notes, peach, grapefruit, and some herbal notes, anise, mint, a hint of pepper at the finish – when I was craving a Rosita, I went with the reposado.
The Rosita (you probably know this, being in the know, but just in case), is a relation in a way to the Negroni. Not, to me, a sibling, but at least a cousin. As well as a cousin to various other drinks served over ice that have spirit + vermouth + something else. The something else here is Campari, and hence the Negroni connection. Oh, though, there are both sweet and dry vermouths – that makes it a cousin only. And also extra bitters (which maybe means, second cousin). But it has a little of that memorable Campari-sweet-bitter-ness (which I love, so much), even though there is less here, allowing the tequila to shine. I feel to stand up to a party properly with the Campari and vermouths, that slightly deeper reposado is needed – and the DE-NADA Reposado shines in the drink. It’s, like the bianco, smooth, very smooth, but the flavor leans nuttier, with almonds and vanilla (okay, a bean, but nut-like), mingling with toasted oak and caramel, roasted agave, and hints of cinnamon, mellowing out buttery at the finish. Yummy! And goes really well with the vermouth, and the bitter-ing undertones. The Campari, too, which might seem an odd pairing at first, but trust me, the end result is lovely summer drink to savor.
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