February 21, 2020
I recently had a wonderfully wonderful (if I can say so in all humbleness, which I think I just did) drink on the old Spiked Punch called Boldness Be My Friend, which featured not one, not two, but three lesser-known (in the States, at least, and other countries outside the one they were birthed in, at least, and maybe even there) liquid lovelies from Italy. If you haven’t seen that, check it out, yo! Or, it Italian, dai un’occhiata a yo! And now that you’re back, think about the simplicity and simple pleasure of a good vermouth and tonic. The gin and tonic, of course, is more well known, but a good vermouth and tonic is in need of more recognition. With the right vermouth, it’s a flavorful, refreshing, fruity, herb-y, treat that more sippers should savor slowly. I’m sad I haven’t yet managed to track down the distillery where Ippocrasso vermouth is made, in Gubbio (a memorable Umbrian town to visit, by the by), but the vermouth itself is singular, both in Boldness Be My Friend in a V&T. As mentioned in the other recipe, this vermouth is built on a base of Cantina Donini red wine (a memorable winery, in Verna, Italy), and has a bold fruitiness, with a delicate overall persona that’s just right for matching with tonic on a sunny late afternoon or early evening, or, if you’re feeling it, even into the evening as it goes along. I suggest a lemon twist as the garnish, by the way. The tartness of the lemon oil plays perfectly with the vermouth and tonic. Try it, and tell me I’m right.
Vermouth and Tonic
1-1/2 ounces Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso Vermouth
4 ounces tonic
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth, and then the tonic. Stir.
2. Squeeze the twist over the glass, and then drop it in.
January 24, 2020
Earlier this month of January, I had a drink I was drinking called the The Libellule (basically, a classic Dragonfly but with lemon), in which I utilized the lovely PiùCinque gin, a gin made in Italy with 10 botanicals. If you haven’t read that post, for gosh sakes, where have you been? Nah, I kid, I kid, I know you’re busy, what with the this-and-that’s. But do go read it now, to get more info on said Italian gin. Okay, back? See, wanted you to catch up on that there, cause in this drink, I mix PiùCinque gin with a few other Italian bottles: Anonima Distillazioni’s Ippocrasso vermouth from Gubbio, and Zafferaneto Di Corciano’s Safra Amaro all Zafferano from (as you might guess here) Corciano.
As you might guess, for those unlucky souls not visiting Umbria in central Italy, those two ingredients are probably not on your local liquor store shelves – yet at least! Who knows what tomorrow brings; one hopes. The fourth ingredient is orange juice, but that’s easy, so let us focus on the other two, both of which are delicious, in their own way. Ippocrasso vermouth is based on a red wine from Donini (my favorite winery in the world I’d say), so it starts in a wonderful place. It’s on the light side, but still lush, and has a bountiful fruitiness that sets it apart from many Italian vermouths, and a little less sweetness perhaps? Perhaps. Some friendly herbal and bitter notes bring up the rear. Safra (there’s an accent over that “a” by the way, but it’s annoying to type) Amaro alla Zafferano is one of the few – if not the only – amari I’ve had that sets itself apart with saffron. It doesn’t have a saffron-y coloring, but the smell and taste both benefit from saffron’s florally-honey-coaxingly-bitter-y nature, here backed by other herbal notes, friendly ones. On the amari scale, this leans a smidge on the sweet side, very approachable.
So, with our gin, we have three amazing Italian ingredients, all crafted with care from what I can tell, and all worth tracking down. Will it be easy? Perhaps not super easy, but hey, as our drink title tells you, just ask boldness to be your friend. Will it be worth it? Yes, for sure! Both to have each separately, but also to have in this cocktail, where they combine into the liquid equivalent of, oh, a painting by Perugino – one of the darker ones, as there is a rich, deep, herbal and fruit taste here, but also one that’s savor-able and approachable. Get your tickets, today!
Boldness Be My Friend
1-1/2 ounces PiùCinque gin
3/4 ounce Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso vermouth
1/2 ounces Zafferaneto Di Corciano Safra Amaro all Zafferano
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Enjoy your Italian night!
November 8, 2019
I have to imagine there are many sherry cocktails called “Oh Sherry” – I myself have an article about sherries called that. It’s such a musical name, and takes you on a journey (haha, I couldn’t resist), much like that breathless moment when a non-sherry drinker has good sherry, or a good sherry cocktail for the first time. To set this particular sherry cocktail apart, though, I’ve added Take 37 to the name. Why 37? I just felt like it! What also sets this particular sherry cocktail apart is Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry.
With a citrus and cinnamon spice overlaying a lovely nuttiness, all with a smooth crispness accented when chilled, this sherry is nice on its own (don’t forget the chilling), but plays particularly well with others in cocktails, too. It also delivers a solid history, as Williams & Humbert has been making sherries and brandy for more than 140 years. What to mix with it on a late fall day? I wanted to keep things light – one of the many bonuses with sherry is that due to low abv-ing, you can use it as a base and have more than one without toppling. Bringing vermouth into play as our second ingredient doesn’t throw that equation off either, and here I went with Priorat Natur Vermut (or vermouth) an earthy Spanish vermouth, with citrus, almond, floral, and spice accents, and just a hint of bitter.
To our two Spanish pals, I also brought an island favorite, with even more citrus and a hint of sweet, Pierre Ferrand Orange curaçao, a wonderful addition to many cocktails and bar shelves. The final component, Fee Brothers Peach bitters, here bring into a slightly different fruit note, and a little more depth while still adhering to the overall light mood. You’ll sing this drink’s, and sherry’s, praises after one sip.
Oh Sherry, Take 37
1-1/2 ounces Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry
1 ounce Priorat Natur Vermut
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand Orange curaçao
Dash Fee Brothers Peach bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
Mint spring, for garnish (optional – but I’d suggest it)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass three quarters up with cracked ice. Add everything but the garnishes. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist, and, perhaps, a mint spring. I went just with lemon on my first drink, but added mint to the second and it was a treat.
May 17, 2019
Okay, don’t be upset, but this drink (which is delicious, a smidge sweet, a hint botanical, a miniscule citrus-y, fragrant, all that) uses a homemade ingredient which I’m not providing the recipe for. Because I sorta forgot it! See, I was making some basil-lemon simple syrup as one does, but I didn’t actually write down exactly how much basil I used. It was let’s say a decent-sized bunch and a half. And I didn’t write down the exact amount of lemon juice used, but let’s say it was the juice of half a lemon. Can that get you there if you add it to a regular simple syrup recipe that delivers like three cups or thereabouts of syrup? I think it can (don’t forget to let it seep awhile and strain the basil out and all that)! If you are brave, and resourceful, and heroic, which you, I believe, are!
And it’s one wonderful syrup, which here goes wonderfully with gin. I used Sipsmith London Dry gin, which I like lots, and not just cause of the cool swan art on the bottle. But also cause of the lovely juniper, lemon citrus, and orange marmalade, dry-ish profile. It’s a yummy gin if you haven’t had it. And, speaking of yummy, our third ingredient here is Carpano Bianco vermouth, a light, wine-citrus-mineral-fruit treat that should be a part of any respectable set of liquor shelves. Altogether, this drink delivers in a manner ideal for a spring day or summer evening – now you just need to be a little heroic and make it.
Within the Week
2 ounces Sipsmith London Dry gin
1/2 ounce Carpano Bianco vermouth
1/2 ounce basil-lemon simple syrup
Basil leaf, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the leaf (beleaf it!). Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and now add the leaf. Leaf it up!
March 15, 2019
Okay, there has to be a drink named this, right? It’s just too good not to have been utilized by some creative bartender (of which there are millions, lucky us), and so whomever has done so, my apologies. And if really there isn’t, than, wheee! Anyway, as you might expect from this name I’ve been mulling over, this is a rye drink, and one that hews close-ish to a rye Manhattan, which I think is a good place to start.
Another good place to start is the rye I’m using here, Clyde May’s rye. Clyde May’s is made by the Conecuh Distillery and is named after Alabama’s most famous bootlegger/moonshiner from days of yore (meaning, days when we had moonshiners, and not liquor stores one could trot into, or fire up online). I had their bourbon in a Mint Julep not too long ago, and you can go read about it. But now, it’s rye time, cause, as the drink name tells us, Rye Not?
The Clyde May’s rye is aged a minimum of three years and rolls off the tongue at 47% ABV. On the nose, it delivers some spice, caramel, and flowery notes, which unfold when sipping into a little stone fruit (apricots, I say!), and more spice and rye goodness, and a hint of pepper and sweetness trailing. A nice sipper, but also nice in cocktails like this one, where I – after due consideration – follow up on those apricot notes I parsed out above, by mixing it with a little (don’t want to overwhelm) apricot liqueur, as well as a little peach bitters, and to bring us all home, some Punt e’ Mes vermouth. All together, a swell drink for right about now, where there’s chill still in the air, but perhaps a dream of spring coming closer every day.
2 ounces Clyde May’s rye whiskey
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
Big ice cube (or more little ones)
1. Fill a mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything except more ice. Stir well.
2. Add a big ice cubes or some smaller ones to an Old Fashioned style glass. Strain the mix into the glass. Sip up!
January 22, 2019
I am often running late, and here I am again, running late. That’s a fairly awkward sentence, one you probably wouldn’t have found in a book by the legendary Irish writer William Trevor, who died two years ago last November 20. He’s been feature on the ol’ Spiked Punch blog a few times (read past William Trevor Cocktail Talk posts for more about the man), and probably I should have found a way to feature him more, because he was a champ, and I’ve read many of his stories and novels – though, and for this I’m happy, not nearly all of them yet. While his novels, usually on the short-ish side, are renowned, he may be even better at the short story, a master of summoning a mood and a narrative umph in a few pages, even while seemingly writing about the day-to-day, often. This quote is from one of his short story collections you should own, and spotlights bianco vermouth, of all things! Thanks again Mr. Trevor, wherever you are currently sipping, for all the words.
Further rounds of drinks were bought and consumed. The Arrowsmith boys declared to each other that they were drunk and made further sotto voce observations about the forming bodies of the Wiltshire twins. Mrs. Wiltshire felt the occasion becoming easier as Cinzano Bianco coursed through her bloodstream.
–William Trevor, Lovers of Their Time and Other Stories
September 21, 2018
Trends at times seem to come out of nowhere (probably because I am not as knowledgeable as I should be – I can admit that!), and one that has shown up in the last few years is various yuzu – the rough-skinned lemon-looking citrus fruit popular in Asian countries – items in cocktails. However, I hadn’t really found a yuzu-based ingredient that felt made for cocktails. Until this summer, the summer of 2018! When Sidetrack Distillery (the wondrous spot on a farm right outside Kent, WA here in WA) unveiled their new Yuzu Liqueur. Now, I know how good all of the Sidetrack Liqueurs are, made using fruit, produce, and other items grown on the Lazy River Farm where the distillery resides. So, I had high hopes for their Yuzu – and it delivers. Citrus-y in a way that straddles lemon, grapefruit, and little mandarin orange, it has orchard aromas for days, and then a rich taste that trails off with a bit of kick, balancing the liqueur’s sweetness. Great stuff and made locally to boot– but what to do with it?
Well, my first thought was a gin that has a whisper of citrus, and, you know what (I say humbly)? It was a very good thought. The gin I went for was Wildwood Spirits’ Kur gin, also made in wonderful W-A, with local wheat, jumping juniper, various other delights, and a bit of Seville oranges. Then, our drink didn’t need much more, just a hint of brightness and botanicals from some Dolin Blanc vermouth, and a little spice and some light undertones from another local, Scrappy’s Orange bitters. Altogether, a (as you’d guess from the title) delicious drink, one with a nice backbone and a full strata of delicate and more forward citrus and spice, a drink that’d be a fine pre-dinner, during-dinner, or post-dinner accompaniment.
You, Sue, Are Delicious
1-1/2 ounces Wildwood Spirits Kur gin
1 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Yuzu liqueur
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in. Oh, be sure you’ve tasted that Yuzu liqueur on its own, too. Or you’ll be sorry.
May 11, 2018
I’ve been wanting to name a drink “Snigginson van Pickyns” since like September 27, 2017. See, back then I had a Cocktail Talk quote from a F. Marion Crawford story called “The Upper Berth,” which was in (for me, at least) an Alfred Hitchcock collection called, Bar the Doors. Actually, it was the twenty-sixth day in said month when I had that post, but then I think it was the following day when I put got word on the social medea* from pals @stereolad and @PaulTobin that, really, a drink should be named Snigginson van Pickyns. And, and usual, they were right!
But it’s taken a time to find the right drink. First, due to the quote (go read it, if you haven’t), said drink needed to be sherry-based. Then, it needed to be awesome, cause, well, it’s called Snigginson van Pickyns! That demands awesome. Luckily, not too long ago I received a little sample of Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato vermouth, a limited-time number celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the vermouth maker – and that was exactly what was needed for this drink. Made on a base of Moscato D’Asti and boasting an array of botanicals (cinchona bark, Chinese rhubarb, and other global-traveling, Snigginson van Pickyns-y things), it’s a well-balanced liquid one could drink solo, but its lovely floral nature underlined by a light sweetness, citrus, and ethereal herbs and spices goes neatly into certain cocktails, too. Good stuff. And an ideal match for sherry, especially the more delicate (perhaps) Fino sherry.
But that wasn’t enough for Snigginson van Pickyns! While the above two ingredients were an amazing start, something else was needed to round things off, and I kept it in the vermouth family – Dolin Blanc vermouth. Hopefully our two vermouth producers get along (hey, we’re all drinking, it’s fun, they should), because the double shot of vermouth with sherry is a match made in spring-and-summer-time drinker’s heaven. Lots of tantalizing and tactful flavor, but all graceful enough that it won’t weigh you down when sipping under the sun. A little lemon in twist form finishes everything off, and voila! A drink worthy of the name Snigginson van Pickyns. It only took about six months.
Snigginson van Pickyns
1-1/2 ounces fino sherry
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato vermouth
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the sherry and the two vermouths (quick aside: Sherry & the Two Vermouths might be a good band name). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
*If you’ve read/seen the Jean Anouilh play of the same name, you get this! Though maybe even if you’ve just ready the Euripides, you get it, too!