August 1, 2017
Not too long ago (and only the briefest of moments in the grand scheme of things), I had a Cocktail Talk post up from the very first Inspector Maigret book by George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian. I’ve had a number of Maigret Cocktail Talks, btw. Foolish as I was way back in those days, I thought I’d only need one post from the book. But, now that I am older and wiser, I realize that two are needed, no demanded. Really, this second Cocktail Talk from our (if we read the books in order, which I did not, but for the sake of things, let’s pretend) first sampling of the stoic French Inspector, is an ideal companion to the first, so it’d be a shame not to quote it here:
Maigret had ordered a vermouth. He looked even taller and wider than ever in the confined space of the bar. He didn’t take his eyes off the Latvian.
He was having something like double vision. Just as had happened to him in the hotel lobby, he could see one image superimposed on another: Behind the current scene, he had a vision of the squalid bar in Fecamp. Pietr was going double. Maigret could see him in his cinnamon suite and in his worn-out raincoat at the same time.
“I’m telling you I’d rather do that than get beaten up!” one of the builders exclaimed, banging his glass down on the counter.
Pietr was now on his third glass of green liquid. Maigret could smell the aniseed in it.
–George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian
June 23, 2017
It’s interesting – we hear “leaves” and we think “fall,” because seasonally that’s when leaves become more iconic I suppose. Which may be backwards, since so many leaves are in place now, providing shade and such. And anyway, when titling this drink “Afternoon Leaves,” I was thinking more that it feels like such a nice drink for the end of the afternoon, the moment when afternoon itself is leaving to make room for dusk and evening.
Whew, that almost got too sappy! Late afternoon is also when many have tea (those pals in the U.K. first and foremost perhaps), and that also ties into this drink, since one of the two ingredients is Four Leaf Spirits Liath, an Earl Grey tea-infused gin. Pretty neat! Four Leaf is a small (in square feet, but not in taste) distillery in Woodinville, WA that makes tea-infused spirits and liqueurs (and rums under the Puget Sound Rum Company moniker), and also donates a portion of proceeds to cancer research and education-focused non-profits. Drinking and doing good is, well, good!
The Liath (named after the Irish for “grey”) is swell all on its own, with the juniper and botanicals from the gin mingling around the citrusy bergamot from the tea. But in the declining afternoon hours (which can be a little lonely), I wouldn’t want it to operate alone, and so picked a perfect partner: Italian vermouth legends Carpano’s Bianco vermouth.
I just recently picked up a bottle of this elixir, and it’s a special tipple, starting from the citrus, fruit, and nutty nose to the light-but-full taste, which has the flavors promised to the nose, with a touch of white-wine mineral-ness. Delicious solo as well, when combined with the Liath you have a complex but so sip-able cocktail. Try it, in the afternoon of course.
2 ounces Four Leaf Spirits Liath Earl Grey tea-infused gin
1 ounce Carpano Bianco
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two charmers. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
May 27, 2016
Okay, I can hear many groaning at me right now – listen, yucks, just chill out. I know that Ardbeg is a super delicious Scotch. And that tomorrow, May 28, is Ardbeg Day. That’s right – it’s such a dandy Scotch distillery that it has a day named after it. Be sure to celebrate. And perhaps the best way to celebrate is by trying, slowly and reverently, the new Ardberg Dark Cove. The darkest Ardbeg ever and one that’s only being released in a limited way (as they do on Ardbeg Day), Dark Cove takes its name from the smugglers who used to utilize the caves in the rocky hills near the Ardbeg distillery – and they weren’t using said cave for makeout spots (at least not too much). It gets its signature taste from maturing the whiskey in ex-bourbon casks, and the hearts in dark sherry casks. That’s right – two cask types! And that taste: a little raisin and date and spice up front, followed by charcoal and wood, and ending in a singular savory-ness and a little coffee and toffee. Good stuff indeed, and it goes on sale tomorrow (I got a little advance sample), so get some.
But back to the groaning you’re gonna make. See, though you really should sip this solo, I couldn’t resist (this is how my mind works) using it in a cocktail. I wanted one that really let it shine, but then also had one or two other pals along, to see how it played with others. So, I went for the Thistle. An old cocktail, really a Scotch Manhattan of sorts, you often see this with equal parts sweet vermouth and Scotch. But in some old tomes, you see double the Scotch or other slightly different ratios. I’m going even farther here, to give the Dark Cove a little more space. I’m also bringing in a serious sweet vermouth to play its role (the Banquo to the Scotch’s Macbeth, except not a ghost), Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, based on a blend of Barbera and oak-aged Moscato. Amazing stuff. And this is an amazing. Try it, and stop your groaning.
2-1/4 ounces Ardbeg Dark Cove
3/4 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add it all, except the twist.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
PS: Yeah, this is very close to a Rob Roy. You can groan about that, too. While I’m having fun drinking.
April 22, 2016
Don’t, I tell you, don’t take the name of this drink overly seriously – if you’re not finished by midnight, it’s not like you’ll turn into a gin-y pumpkin, or a lovely stepsister, or a candle nearly burnt out. But hey, sometimes the midnight oil doesn’t need to be completely burned out, right? And really, just start earlier!
I started here with the new (if you haven’t seen my drink An Elusive Memory, and my write up on Boodles gin proper, don’t miss it. Don’t, I tell you) Boodles Mulberry Gin, which I’ve heard is the first mulberry gin to reach the shores of the U-S-A. More of a standard in Britain, mulberry gin (and of course sloe gin liqueur, a sort-of relative) is a UK standby, a little more light on its feet usually than you’d believe with some of the syrupy fruit liqueurs you may have grown up imbibing before you knew better.
Here, the Boodles Mulberry is quite delicious, made with natural mulberries and other natural things, and the end result is more dry-ish than expected, but blooming with flavor, berries, currents, and the gin’s rich botanicals. It’s nice and complex, and worth sipping over an ice cube or two all by itself. But it makes a dandy cocktail ingredient, too. You don’t need too many dancing partners (or other ingredients). No need to weigh things down if you want to make it to midnight – or beyond.
Finished By Midnight
1-1/2 ounces Boodles Mulberry gin
1 ounce La Quintinye Vermouth Royal blanc
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Mulberry gin, blanc vermouth, Pierre, and set the clock back an hour (haha, kidding). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with twist – wide if you can.
March 25, 2016
Okay, let’s start with another drink – the Martini. Don’t worry, I’ll get to widows. But recently I received (poor me!) a bottle of Ransom Gin and a bottle of Ransom dry vermouth in the mail. If you don’t know (and, if so, why don’t you?), Ransom is a farm-to-glass distillery and winery in Sheridan, OR, started up by owner and distiller Tad Seestedt. With the f-to-g earlier, you can probably guess that they use local ingredients by the bucketful, including in the gin alone, hops, marionberry, coriander, fennel seeds, and chamomile all produced on the Oregon farm where the distillery is, which is fantastic. And the vermouth also features wine and brandy made on the farm, using OR ingredients, too. That’s pretty darn awesome, and means these old pals (gin and vermouth, that is), in this situation are old, old pals, down to the ground. So, when one (if you’re one like me) gets a bottle of gin and a bottle of vermouth from the same spot and sharing the same agricultural legacy, the first thing that happens is opening the bottles. Then making a Martini, of course.
Mine are made in old school style, 2-1/2 parts gin to 1/2 part vermouth, with a twist of lemon. The end result here – darn delicious. Hints of herb and spice, but with a really lovely smoothness overall. Everything, as you’d expect, plays so nicely together. Of course, me being me and all that, I couldn’t just try the Martini, I had to push the envelope beyond the obvious with a lesser-in-the-road’s-middle cocktail. And that cocktail was the Merry Widow, which I’d recently re-discovered (I can’t remember if this is where I saw it first, honestly) in a fun book from 1936 called Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes – a fine read if you can find it. Anyway, the Merry Widow lets the vermouth shine a bit more (which is good here, because the Ransom vermouth is very drinkable all alone, with an balanced herbal, citrus, combo), and also introduces just a hint of a few other players, all of whom played well. Give it a whirl, and see if you can taste that good Oregon terroir coming through. I served a round to some pals, and they all could – and thought the drink would make any widow get up and dance.
The Merry Widow
1-1/2 ounces Ransom gin
1-1/2 ounces Ransom dry vermouth
2 dashes Absinthe
2 dashes Benedictine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Now, bring that twist to the OR party.
March 11, 2016
I am, admittedly, about 18 days late here, as first president Washington’s birthday is Feb. 22nd. But I’ve never thought one should only honor the father of our country with a drink on that particular day (December 14, the day he passed away, is another good one), and for that matter, feel there’s not one particular drink to have, either. Another good one, for example, is the Washington’s Wish (in Dark Spirits if you want to know more). And I’ll bet there are others called just Washington too, as it seems a good name for a drink. This one is a good one, though it can be tough, as it’s very vermouth forward, so you need a good vermouth, first off. I used Dolin, which is reliable, tasty, and something one should always have around the house. Then, you need a super brandy, since it’s lower in volume than the vermouth – it needs to stand up a bit. I used Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez (which showed up in the mail, to be honest), the only brandy to be produced entirely in Jerez. It’s nearly too swell for mixing (and great on its own), but hey, sometimes you gotta say “why not?” Aged in American oak barrels once used for sherry for 15 years, it has a nutty and spice taste, with strong wood notes, that go amazingly with the vermouth. This is one fine cocktail, friends, and worthy of the historic personage it’s named after – even when had a little later than expected.
The Washington, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Dolin dry vermouth
1 ounce Lepanto Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth, brandy, bitters, and simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass
November 6, 2015
I’m not sure why this sort-of Manhattan-on-a-island cousin (which I first saw in Here’s How: A Round-the-World Bar Guide, Signet, 1957–not the Here’s How cocktail book with wooden covers) isn’t better known. Made with the right rum and right vermouth, it’s a should-be classic. And delicious.
In my case recently (and in what should be your case, if you can make it happen), the right rum was the memorable Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum. Holy cow, this is a rum! From Venezuela, distilled from molasses in a copper pot still, and aged for 12 years, really, it’s a sipper in most cases. However! If you are bold, and let it shine as the main player in a cocktail like this (not overwhelmed by too many ingredient), well, feel darn special cause that’ll be a great cocktail (speaking of special, this rum arrived to me via the mail. Don’t be mad). It’s won like 20 awards, and has a serious aroma: caramels, nutmeg, nuts, allspice, hints of orange, vanilla, and more. And all of those aromas come out smooth into the slightly sweet, but nowhere near sickly, taste, with even more spices. Yummy.
Picking the sweet vermouth for the below recipe was tough, due to wanting to really find something that went with that fantastic rum. I decided on La Quintinye Vermouth Royal rouge, made with 28 spices, plants, and magical items (like all vermouths), on a base of white wines, interestingly enough, and Pineau des Charentes Rouge, and it was an ideal decision. The vermouth’s flavor also has some vanilla notes, and fruit and spice, which is why it mingles so well with the rum. Try it – you can thank me later.
The Sir Henry Morgan, recipe from Dark Spirits
2 ounces Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum
1 ounce picked La Quintinye Vermouth Royal rouge
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the rum, vermouth, and bitters, and stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Get your thanks ready.
June 19, 2015
I found this Scottish affair in an excellent little bound book called A Guide to Pink Elephants, Volume II (Richards Rosen Associates, 1957). It’s fairly close to a few drinks that are perhaps more famous – the Rob Roy of course, which has Angostura bitters instead of orange bitters, and a slightly different vermouth to Scotch ratio. As well as the Bobby Burns, though a little farther afield in cousinhood. But the taste here, because of those differences, is slightly sweeter and with a different bitter-and-herbal-y hint. It may seem an odd one during June, but, hey, I’m an odd one! I like a strong drink in summer sometimes, as well as the bubbly refreshing ones. Also, having a drink I found in a book with pink elephants in the title is never bad. Never.
The Highland Fling
2 ounces Scotch
1 ounces sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Scotch, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass.