January 5, 2018
It’s a smidge odd to say about one of the world’s revered sippers, but Cognac (especially in the states, I suppose) gets a little short shrift. Especially when it comes to cocktails. But consider this, friends – Cognac was a key player in the early days of cocktailing, and used as the base spirit in many classic drinks (the Sazerac, for one, but also a bunch of others), including ones that shifted for one reason or another to a different base. Both the shifts and the lack of Cognac-ing in modern cocktails is a shame, because the layers of flavors that unfold in good Cognacs when paired with the right pals make memorable drinks.
Let’s take this one, In The Treetops, for example! I was lucky enough (don’t curse me for it, especially not this early in the year) to receive a bottle of L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac recently. The Eagle (L’Aigle equals The Eagle) is a delicious Cognac, aged in Limousin oak casks near the Charente River, and one that can be – and maybe should be! – savored solo, thanks to its bold-yet-graceful and complex-yet-approachable nature. It delivers floral and citrus essences on the nose, with a few nutty notes, too, and even more lush orange and fruit with a little chocolate and nuttiness in the unfolding flavor. It’s really as good as you’d expect from Delamain, who, if you don’t know, have been making renowned Cognacs since, oh, the 1600s. Or thereabouts!
When deciding to mix a cocktail with a Cognac this swell, I think keeping it fairly simple, letting the Cognac shine, adding only a few others players, is the way to go. I first thought I’d go with a drink from another lesser-known classic, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion (from the early 1940s), a drink called Rock a Bye Baby. And, admittedly, which you might guess from the title of this cocktail (if you know your nursery rhymes), I didn’t stray far from the original. I kept the same ingredients, Cognac (well, Crosby used brandy), sweet vermouth (I used Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, made from Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and with lovely fruit tones and a smidge of sweetness), and Bénédictine. But Crosby (who will forgive me I’m sure), had equal parts Cognac and sweet vermouth, and less Bénédictine. I wanted to let Delamain’s L’Aigle fly higher, so boosted the Cognac, drifted down the sweet vermouth, and upper the Bénédictine some to herbal-ize the edges more. The end result is a layered, sophisticated-in-the-best-way, cocktail, one that is a special treat, sure, but don’t you deserve to be treated? I think you do.
In The Treetops
2 ounces L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy life’s momentary luxuries.
September 8, 2017
I recently posted a delicious Italian-inspired drink on the Spiked Punch called The Translation of Giuliana Monti, which I made up for a wonderful night of literature, laughs, and liquid libations. The night centered around the jolly and masterful writer Andrew Sean Greer’s newest, entitled LESS, a book you must buy (I talk about it more in that earlier post, which you should go read, and then you should go read LESS, and now you’re back), and during said night we chatted, joked, took questions, read from the book (well, Andy did), and drank two drinks came up for for the occasion and named after characters in the book.
This one, the second, is called Arturo’s Hairy Hands, named for the main character’s tour guide in Mexico City, and is a rare beast in that it has two base spirits. Savor it while savoring LESS and be a happy reader and drinker.
Arturo’s Hairy Hands
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
1 ounce Maguey mezcal with agave syrup
1/2 ounce Alessio sweet vermouth
1 dash Bittermen’s Xocolati mole bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the orange with your hands. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange twist. Sip and read. Sip and read.
June 2, 2017
It’s June, and you know what that means, don’t you? Time to bust out those short shorts (hopefully not too short – you know, those don’t really fit anymore, or at least not in a way that’s as flattering as they once were, though admittedly they once were very flattering) and have this drink. It’s not one of those ultra-freshers, which are really rather refreshing, but sometimes feel a little, oh, you know. But this one still has its place within the annals of sunshine days and daydreams, and especially when accompanying the more remote beaches. Where, I’ll admit, you can probably get away with those short shorts and, I suppose, even less.
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.
February 17, 2017
I was recently lucky enough (don’t be mad at me – I like to share) to receive a bottle of Novo Fogo Single Barrel cachaça – it was from barrel 152, to be precise. If you don’t know Novo Fogo, well, you should! They’re an organic-certified, handcrafting, recycled-glass using, zero wasting cachaça distiller (from Brazil naturally, where all cachaça is made), incredibly focused on sustainability and using processes that are going to deliver high-quality spirits, sure, but also make it possible to do this over the long term without destroying their neighborhood. That gets a RIGHT ON! from me.
With all that said, I need to drink more cachaça. It’s made from fresh-pressed sugar cane, and there are loads available there days, many solid versions and a lot of variety in taste and such. But now back to the matter at hand. Barrel 152 has a good history – aged for three years in oak, it’s a sip-able representation of Novo’s locale (coastal mountains), with a hint of the sea in the aroma, along with cream, and a flavor of toasted coconut, walnuts, more cream and butter, and oak. Neat or over a single ice cube, it’s something to savor.
But also something to put in cocktails (in my mind). It came accompanied by a little history/recipe book, in which I found the below recipe, in the barrel-aged cachaça section. When reading it, I got thirsty. Usually, I like to play around and create my own concoction (or rescue one from long ago) when I receive a new bottle, but here, I figured, the 152 was aged, so I’d give this recipe a try using it. I suggest you do the same, cause it’s a lovely, layered drink, with the herbal notes from our other players mingling perfectly with the Barrel 152 savory notes. It gets a RIGHT ON! as well.
Rabo del Galo
1-1/2 ounces Novo Fogo Single Barrel 152 cachaça
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce Cynar
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
Wide swath of orange peel
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the orange. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Spritz the orange over the drink, so the citrus oil is expressed. You can add the peel to the glass, too, if you want.
January 13, 2017
Here’s a super cool knowledge nugget I would like to drop on you. There’s a company that’s dedicated to producing Scotches that are modern interpretations of long-lost whisky. They are reincarnating, as they coin the phrase, in a delicious manner, these Scotches. See, many distilleries had to close during the century previous to this one, due to things like prohibition, globalization, and other economic issues, and the founders of The Lost Distillery company decided that it would be tragic (and I agree!) for the whisky those distilleries were making to be lost forever. Now, they’re re-making the whisky, using blends, with a range that travels all five Scottish whisky regions. That’s super cool, right!
I recently was able to taste their Benachie Scotch, which is called Jericho in other spots in the world, and which is based on whiskey made from the distillery of the same name, a Highland distillery that ran from 1824-1913 near the town of Insch (go read the full story). It’s a friendly dram, with an approachable malty, peaty nose that has a hint of sweetness, and a flavor that’s oaky and nutty, with some fruit accents and accommodating pepper and spice. A fine Scotch to bring back to life! And one I couldn’t resist using in a lesser-known number from days of yore called the Mickie Walker.
The Mickie Walker
1-1/2 ounces The Lost Distillery Benachie Scotch
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/8 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 ounce homemade grenadine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Don’t get lost while drinking.
January 6, 2017
Still thinking about what that perfect resolution for 2017 might be? Wavering between tired old standbys like losing weight, writing letters, wearing cooler socks, and reading more? Okay, wait, those are all great – do all of those. But also, let me propose another righteous resolution. Drink more vermouth. Vermouth, so often relegated to a sidekick or less, is making I believe a comeback, or in-roads, in a more serious way in the U.S. of A. Get on the train now, before the train is out of the station with all the vermouth in it. And a terrific way to tot up your vermouth-ing is with this very cocktail, The Trocadero, which uses both dry and sweet vermouths. It was never so easy to hold to a resolution.
The Trocadero, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1-1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1-1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
Lemon twist for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vermouths, bitters, and grenadine. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
June 24, 2016
Sometimes, one gets cravings (I’m no fortune teller, but I’m seeing that in everyone’s future, they’ll get cravings, too), of all sorts, I suppose. Example A: the other day, I had a swell drink made with maraschino (the most misunderstood of all liqueurs, historically, or at least the last, let’s say, 40 years of history, because too many think it’s sickly like those sick twisted things that pass as maraschino cherries in mass market grocery stores, when it’s not, at all, instead being dry and a hint nutty, being made from the pits of the marasca cherries and all), and that swell drink made me crave more maraschino drinks. And so I went for the Sweet Pie, a cuddly classic-y number, where the always tasty and reliable Luxardo Maraschino shines alongside gin and sweet vermouth, and a smidge of simple syrup comes along for the ride to round the edges in a cuddly – as mentioned – manner. Dreamy deliciousness.
Sweetie Pie, from Good Spirits
1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Add the cherry to a cocktail glass or pretty cordial. Strain the mix into the glass.
PS: Sometimes this is garnished with a Maraschino cherry. But sometimes I want to skip the fruit. You go as you go.
June 17, 2016
This tequila champion takes its name from a quote from General Ignacio Zaragoza, who commanded the forces at the battle of Puebla (where he, in a massive upset, won the day, and that winning is what is celebrated on Cinco de Mayo, but just because that’s a fact, it doesn’t mean that you should only have this drink then. No, no, no! This drink is good anytime. Know that, and you can skip the whole upset thing, and just be happy). It uses the swell Corralejo Tequila Reposado as its base, a tequila crafted out of 100% blue agave, and then said tequila is aged in American oak for at least three months. The end result is a smooth agave-spice-caramel flavor that mingles dreamily with sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and a hint of citrus in this very drink.
The National Arms
1-1/2 ounces Corralejo Tequila Reposado
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the tequila, vermouth, juice, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.