October 2, 2020
Here’s a fine kettle of various ingredients mixed with booze. I had the mad/smart/odd/random/bored/inventive/normal idea not more than a couple weeks ago that I should make up a wine-based liqueur or aperitivo if you like (I like, so I’m gonna call it that), and that it should have basil in it (cause my basil plants were doing so well then, if, admittedly, not as well now as summer has dwindled), and maybe orange (cause I had an orange), and a roasted peach (which also was around and needed to be used, sans pit, but the roasting felt important), and some spices but not too many, and a hint of bitterness cause the best aperitivos (or many of them) tend to have that, and it should be pretty as that hour on a sunny late-summer day when night is nearly there, but not quite there, the hour you realize once again that summer and all things are transient, ephemeral, lovely. Whew, seems like a lot to ask of something made in a big glass jar!
But, you know, it worked out quite well. Not sure I reached the full heights I wanted, but came close-ish, to my taste, which might be different than yours. The basil is the strangest part of the equation, as it lost some of its, well, basil-ness if that makes sense. There’s not overriding basil smell or taste, or any, or very little; instead, it adds a slightly vegetal minty-ness. Interesting! The orange notes come through strong, with a little other citrus (thanks to lemon) and a dream of toasty peach, and the spice notes (tiny bits of ginger, star anise) are more inferred than active, if that makes sense. Oh, I should have started with: the wine I used as the base was an Orvieto Classico white wine, which I love, and which is dry-ish, but fruit-y-ish (more peach notes here), and grape-ish enough to bring a lot of flavor. I also added some vodka, as the wine solo didn’t seem to have enough umph for the end-of-summer delicate sadness I wanted. Sure, I’m weird! Gentian, the bittering agent of choice for so many things, underlines that thought, as well as balancing the sweetness. Really, all joshing and flighty language aside, Caducitivo (caduco in Italian meaning transient or ephemeral) was an awfully fun, and tasty, experiment, a fine pre-dinner, sipper, with a layered, light, orange-citrus-herb flavor containing a friendly bitter back end. Heck, I think I’ll make it again next year! And, with the below recipe, you can try it, too. I like sipping it at room temp, but think it’s best over ice, or chilled a bit. While I haven’t tried it yet, my guess is it’d be great with Prosecco, and also as a cocktail ingredient.
2 cups basil
1 roasted peach (see Note)
1 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 wide orange twists
2 wide lemon twists
2-1/2 cups Orvieto Classico (I used Ruffino, which is nice, solid, and not overly pricey)
1/2 cup vodka (I used Prairie Organic vodka, which is swell and came in the mail)
1 cup simple syrup
1/4 teaspoon crushed gentian
1. Add the basil, peach, star anise, ginger, and citrus twists to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the wine and vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup and gentian (see Second Note), and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
A Note: For the peach, I just baked it at 425 F until it was slightly roasted, not charred. Also, I didn’t use the pit, just the peach itself.
A Second Note: You could add this in Step 1, but I had unexpectedly ran out, so couldn’t. And there’s something (probably nothing) in adding that bittering agent later, letting the other ingredients meet up first.
June 19, 2020
So, it was just a few weeks ago when I was talking about how flavored vodkas weren’t necessarily my boozy jam, but then went and talked about this Cucumbers and Tonic highball I was having and how tasty it was. And now here I am, doing it again! Sorta. I mean, here, I’m talking (typing?) about, or about to type about, a smoked vodka that I really am liking. Specifically, Chase Smoke flavored vodka, a bottle of which showed up in the mails recently (lucky for me, and then some!). It’s made by smoking spring water with English Oak for five good days, and then blending with Chase vodka (which itself is made from British potatoes, grown on a farm in Herefordshire – same farm the distillery is on if I have it all right). But what does it all mean? It seems like it could go perfectly wrong, but it goes perfectly right! With a memorable and lovely oak smokiness, and echoes of the forest and campfires and sunsets in fall. That last bit too much? Well, sometimes that’s okay! Sadly, right up front, I have to admit I don’t think it’s available in my own state of WA at this moment – but soon, one hopes. Secondly up front, I think this smoked vodka dream was really designed to craft legendary Bloody Marys – and I don’t like Bloody Marys. SHHHH! Don’t tell.
But I believe this vodka is actually a treat on its own, or over a little ice. And good in other drinks, including A Kindred Spirit, which I’m going to detail right here. Influenced by the Oaxacan Old Fashioned, a favorite of my wife’s, and another smoky delight. Which means I’m upping the smoke quotient! And also going to go with two base spirits — upping the base spirits! We’re going up here! Second base spirit: mezcal (you may have guessed this already, with the smoke talk). But with two base spirits, need to make sure they get along, so also here, a little rosemary brown sugar simple syrup. And then, for the final ingredients, a little Angostura bitters, to add a few herbal undercurrents, and a wide orange twist for some rich citrus hints. Everything comes together to form a lovely sipper for the back patio, or in front of the fire, or wherever you please (you’re sipping, after all), as well as a swell way to showcase the swell Chase Smoked Vodka.
A Kindred Spirit
2 ounces Chase Smoke flavored vodka
1/2 ounce Montelobos mezcal
1/2 ounce simple syrup (see Note)
Dash Angostura bitters
Big ice cube, or a few regular ice cubes
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Add everything but ice to an Old Fashioned glass. Stir well.
2. Add a big ice cubes or a couple regular ice cubes. Stir again, briefly. Garnish with the twist.
A Note: I used a rosemary-y brown sugar simple syrup here, and it was yumski. However, regular could work, too! For the rosemary, just add some to your normal recipe.
June 16, 2020
Hey, first up: don’t forget to read the Father Brown Part I Cocktail Talk, or you’ll hate yourself when you wake up from your nap. Done? Back? We are into the second now, from the Complete Father Brown Stories by ol’ G.K. Chesterton. In this story (as in many) the good Father is traipsing around the globe, solving mysteries, making friends, spreading the legend. In this particular story, he’s in the midst of millionaires and revolutionaries (the amount of millionaires Father Brown hangs with is wild, really), and drinks, a bit, with murder right around the corner.
Perhaps the one point in common to the two council chambers was that both violated the American Constitution by the display of strong drink. Cocktails, of various colors had stood before the three millionaires. Halket, the most violent of the Bolshevists, thought it only appropriate to drink vodka. He was a long, hulking fellow with a menacing stoop, and his very profile was aggressive, the nose and lips thrust out together, the latter carrying a ragged red moustache and the whole curling outwards with perpetual scorn. John Elias was a dark watchful man in spectacles, with a black pointed beard, and he had learnt in many European cafes a taste for absinthe.
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Ghost of Gideon Wise”
May 1, 2020
Well, we’re the midst of spring (as well as being the midst of some other things, but hey, for a moment, let’s just skip those things, shall we? I mean, take our minds off of them with a nice drink, say), and with that, need to be thinking of refreshing moments, like diving into a mountain stream without socks on, or sucking on a peppermint while drinking ice water in a walk-in fridge, or having white wine cocktails, which in the main tend to be refreshers. Take this one, for example, one that utilizes, hmm, is it my favorite white wine? Well, I don’t like to have favorite boozes (cause the others get jealous, ba-dump-bump), but I will say that Orvieto Classico whites tend to agree with me quite comfortably.
Admittedly, there is a range of sorts within this DOC, but they all do I believe have to use Grechetto and Trebbiano – usually, I again believe, a blend of the two in some sort of proportions, but again, can be a range. They tend to be crisp and light, but with intriguing (as opposed to annoying I suppose) fruit notes, like peach and apple. See: refreshing!
Lovely on their own, I also am not opposed to trying to utilize them in a cocktail or mixed drink (as they say), demonstrated in this here circumstance. For this wine cocktail, I used Roio Orvieto Classico, 2018 version, which is reasonable to pick up, and has those peach and apple notes mentioned above, with a welcoming crispness and dry clean finish. It leans I believe heavier into Trebbiano, and has some Malvasia and Verdello grape action going, along with Grechetto. So, nicey nice! And to play with it, I decided on some pals that go smoothly with the wine’s flavor profile, starting with Purus vodka (made in Italy, so an ideal match, and you can read more about Purus here), moving into Fee Brothers Peach bitters, which is fruity on the bitters scale (ideal here, and a treat as a side note just with soda by the by), and then Rothman and Winter’s Orchard Apricot liqueur, which has a lush fruitiness along with a little sweetness (and ties into the stone fruit stuff). Altogether, you’ll want to be young, run green, all that.
I Should Classicoco
1-1/2 ounces Purus vodka
1 ounce Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
3 ounces Roio Orvieto Classico
3 or 4 good-sized ice cubes (see note)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the vodka, liqueur, and bitters. Stir briefly.
2. Add the wine, and stir a bit more.
3. Add the ice cubes to a big Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the drink into the glass. Start the coco-ing.
A Note: This would be dandy up, but it was sunny when I was drinking and so I went over ice and really, it was enchanting.
April 10, 2020
It was only a week ago (which these days can feel like a long time, I know) when I broke it all out, all meaning my making of peanut butter simple syrup to try in drinks, following along a thread first spun by creative chums Paul and Colleen, and then broke out a drink called Pleasant Bounty using said peanut butter pleasantry. Did you miss that? I can’t believe it if you did. But if you did, be sure to go back and check out the pb goods, so you can get the full story and not feel un-full. Okay, back? Sweet, cause you won’t believe what’s about to happen here – peanut butter simple syrup drink #2! That’s right, there’s no way I wouldn’t try out more than one drink with a new creation. And, shhhh, between us, I think Particularly Boosting is even better than Pleasant Bounty. And do you like the two PB names? I sure do! This drink actually follows along the lines of the peanut butter simple, with a balance of ingredients in equal amounts, somewhat in an Alexander fashion, if we’re musing. Starting naturally with the pbs (peanut butter simple), and moving along to a nice base of vodka, and then a crème de cacao (accent on the “cao”) smoosh. The chocolate and peanut butter combo is so classic, I’m not even going to dwell on it. You know that’s the stuff. As is this drink.
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce peanut butter simply syrup
1 ounce crème de cacao
Cocoa powder for garnish
1. Add the three liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir, but not too wackily.
2. Fill your mixing glass or shaker halfway full with ice. Stir again, gently.
3. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable. Dust with a little cocoa.
February 7, 2020
So, the other day I had an urge for a Garibaldi cocktail, and then I had an urge for a Screwdriver (as one does, on both, when the sun in shining, especially, I feel, when the sun is shining on a chilly day during the winter and surrounding months, which always makes me feel that orange juice would be the treat, fresh orange juice naturally, and both of our previously-named drinks are oj-centric, naturally), and so I went to the refrigerated cabinet and checked the orange supply and, dagnabit, it was low. Not empty, mind you, but darn low. Eh gads! I thought. What am I to do? Well, since I was already thinking of the above two drinks, I made a sort-of of hodge-podge of sorts (in the good hodge-podge way) all on my very own, with just a splash of the orange juice (say that nice and slow), and some other players from those drinks, or close to it. The end result (this very drink) ended up quite lovely, full of flavor, with some fruit, some herb, notes. A swell sipper indeed for a type of day and night as described above.
1-1/2 ounces vodka
1-1/4 ounces Martini Bitter Aperitivo
1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
More ice cubes
Orange wedge, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything (except more ice cubes). Shake.
2. Fill a highball or comparable halfway full with other ice cubes. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the glass and over the ice. Garnish with the wedge. Enjoy, any time of year!
September 13, 2019
Ah well, all good things must pass – even the sunny days of summertime. The least we could do was have a drink to celebrate, and to do it right, the drink should probably have perhaps my favorite summertime treat in it (there are many! But this is tops), blackberries from the Lazy River Farm. This particular farm is not only home to the best blackberries in the world (big, fat, juicy at a level I’d never had before), but also home to Sidetrack Distillery, one of my all-time favorite distilleries anywhere. You should visit! Here, I use a bunch of blackberries to bring the flavor, then a few other friends to add a little of this (vodka), and that (Narancello, for a bit of orange), and that other (lemon, for the tang). It’s a nice treaty, and a good way to honor – and say so long to – summer.
The End of Summer
2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Narancello orange liqueur
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
Blackberry, for garnish
1. Add the first 6 blackberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well to just really get the juices flowing.
2. Fill the shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vodka and lemon juice. Shake well.
3. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the final blackberry.
November 30, 2018
Though, admittedly, there are a fair amount of decent ones out there now-a-days, I’m still a little wary of flavored vodkas. Don’t get me wrong, unlike some, I like a good vodka, one with a crisp clear taste – but have just been scared off by pre-flavored vodka nonsense in the past, where the chemicals used to created said “flavor” rule the bottle roost, so to speak. However, CA distillery Hangar 1 is pretty reliably high on the standards, and their Mandarin Blossom, especially is an old fav. So, when I recently (I know, I’m lucky!) received a bottle of their latest in the mail, I was inclined to be welcoming.
But it was a rosé vodka! Which I’d never heard of. However (again!), I am nothing if not adventuresome, so, combining that with Hangar 1’s rep, I decided to dive in (metaphorically), and – I was glad I did! Here’s the skinny: it mixes Hangar 1’s vodka and California rosé wine. That’s it. Neighbors combining together, without anything else. It has a clean, floral, apple-y nose, and an also a clean, fresh taste, with a real rosé-ness, with more floral notes and a bit of fresh berry, and a nice dry finish. It’s good all alone over a little ice, a hit for spring and summer when you want something that’s smooth, but which has a little umph. But it’s a smart choice in fall and winter, too, when you want a dream of spring and summer.
But, as you’d expect from something made with two good neighbors, it’s neighborly playing with others in cocktails – and I didn’t wait long to start playing around with it and others. Because of those floral, botanical notes, I ended up traveling down a bouquet-ish road after trying a few things, bringing in some delicate and delicious crème di violette, and wine-based delicately herbal French aperitif Lillet Blanc (a distant cousin of sorts to our vodka, due to the wine connection). The final part of this flowery fête was a few dashes of Scrappy’s lovely Lavender bitters. All together, you’ll take many looks with One More Look, as the layers of floral fun are sure to be a hit.
One More Look
2 ounces Hangar 1 Rosé vodka
3/4 ounce crème di violette
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
Dash Scrappy’s Lavender bitters
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked iced. Add every blossom (or everything). Stir.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist. Enjoy, neighbor, enjoy.