December 22, 2017
Washington State distillers are dreamy (you probably have realized my feelings in this already, as I do go on – but they are awesome!), with so many worthy bottles out already, and more continuing to be released regularly. The latest example? Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon. A follow up to their highly-regarded 20-month aged Greenhorn bourbon, Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon is aged 3-1/2 years, and made from sweet yellow corn and soft white wheat from Grant County, WA, and the distiller’s proprietary wild-yeast strain harvested from a local apple orchard. If that wasn’t enough, though, the real sets-it-apart-thing here is that the aging takes place on a boathouse floating on the Puget Sound – from what I’ve been told, it’s the only whiskey in the world aged that long on the water, where the waves and tides speed up the aging (that’s the theory, at least). End result? A darn tasty tipple, with some nice sweetness from the wheat, and a mingling of sea-salted caramel, toffee, fig, orange, and chocolate.
It’s dandy to enjoy as a solo act, but of course I also wanted to try it in cocktails, and after trying this and then trying that, liked it best in The Hounds They Start to Roar. That drink has a bit of a history, which we won’t get it to too much here (you’ve already read the full story in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz anyway, right? Right!), but I will remind you that the name comes from a Tom Waits’ song, as do the ingredients, in a way. Said ingredients are bourbon, naturally, but also St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (the spice flavors contained therein, cinnamon, clove, and others, go wonderfully with the Chambers Bay bourbon mélange), brandy (which helps balance everything out), and Peychaud’s bitters (which adds another herbal tint or two). Together, it’s a drink fit for any sailor, dog lover, song-singer, or person reading this blog, which means you. Take it out for a walk or a sail and see if I’m right.
The Hounds They Start to Roar, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon
3/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce brandy
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole bunch of ingredients. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable.
December 5, 2017
Probably not surprising – due to the fact that Washington has tons of scrumptious fruit being brought to us lucky consumers – but there are loads of fruit brandies being made in this state. I’m talking traditional, strong, European-style fruit brandy, the very essence of the fruit bottled up. I recently wrote all about the wave of Washington eau de vie, as fruit brandy is also called, for the mighty Seattle magazine, along with highlighting a few favs. Don’t miss it!
Read Northwest Distillers Borrow European Traditions for Fruit Brandies now!
September 15, 2017
Listen, you can disagree and I won’t budge (I also won’t get up all in your face about it, cause that kind of discourse should be saved for fools of the worst order, of which sadly there are many): Washington has the best distillers distilling. Am I a local nerd? You betcha. But they just keep making tasty things in bottles, and I keep tasting them and being happy. You should come out here and do some tasting (and buying, to help the cause) and be happy too. Recently, I put two of our newer releases together, and the end result also made me awfully happy. It started with Westland Distillery’s Garrayana 2|1. The first version won “Best American Single Malt” last year, and this will win plenty of awards, too. It’s aged in casks made from Garry Oak (Quercus garryana), a native oak only growing up here in the Pacific Northwest, and admittedly a limited-edition (get it while you can). It has a molasses, smoke, berry, citrus flavor. And goes remarkably well with another new-ish release, Salish Sea Organic Liqueur’s Honeybush liqueur. Honeybush is an herb out of South Africa that is usually used to make tea, but here it’s crafted into a liqueur that is super tasty, with a smoky honey flavor on the front end, and a fruity ending. It goes well with whiskey, as evidenced here.
The Fountain of Fantastic Flora
2 ounces Westland Distilling Garryana single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Salish Sea Organic Liqueur Honeybush liqueur
Bigger ice cube
1. Filling a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add our two Washington delights. Stir, but not too long.
2. Add a big ice cube to an Old Fashioned or other comparable glass. Strain the flora (in liquid form) over the ice cube.
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.
February 7, 2017
Not so long ago in the past (though, admittedly, not yesterday either), wife Nat and I were lucky enough to go with some pals out to Scratch Distillery in Edmonds, WA to take part in one of their Ginology classes, where you end up with a bottle of your very own gin – one you designed! It’s neat, and even neater was that I got to write an article about Scratch Giniology for the Seattle magazine. You should read it! And then go do the class.
September 20, 2016
I recently was lucky enough to get to go out to Whidbey Island (or, the Isle of Whidbey as the case may be) to visit with the awesome and Scottish Colin Campbell, distiller and owner of Cadée Distillery. Then I got to write about the visit, the distillery, and some of their delicious spirits for the spirited Seattle magazine. You should read my Cadée Distillery article right now, cause I shouldn’t have all the fun, all the time.
* See all Seattle magazine pieces by me
June 10, 2016
As any truly worthy encyclopedia tells us, poets love gin. I mean, poets (most poets) love drinking most anything. Trust me, I’ve known my fair (or unfair) share of them. But gin is up there with things they love. Which is why having a Poet’s Dream on World Gin Day, which is tomorrow, makes lyrical sense, both for those of you that are poets (like Ed Skoog), and those who like a little poetry now-and-again, and those who really just want a good gin drink to celebrate the day. I’m having mine today, along with one tomorrow, because I’m on the ball. Or because I just can’t wait!
Oh, this liquid quatrain of a cocktail dates at least to The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, one of the true legendary drink manuals (by Albert Crockett, and originally published in 1935), which is where I first found it. There are, in a sorta rarity, three ingredients in it in equal amounts. To make it work, you must have a gin with a lot of flavor and one that’s nice and dry, or the Bénédictine and French vermouth push it around. I’m using Cadée Gin here, and if you can get it, get it. If not, find another sturdy gin. Oh, and don’t forget the twist, or my “liquid quatrain” line above doesn’t work, and we wouldn’t want that.
The Poet’s Dream
1 ounce Cadée gin
1 ounce Bénédictine
1 ounce French (aka Dry) Vermouth
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 shaker, and garnish with the twist.
April 1, 2016
I’m pretty blessed to live in a state full of swell distilleries: big-ish ones, little-ish ones, medium-ish ones. And so many of them are doing their own, interesting bottled thing – it’s awesome! And during the course of one recent evening, I wanted to celebrate this particular WA-blessing by making myself a drink using all local booze. It wasn’t hard really (due to the many choices intimated at above), outside of narrowing it down – cause I like so many of them! Another night, it’d be completely different. This particular evening I was feeling rummy, though, and went with Skip Rock’s Belle Rose rum, the light-ish rum version, which was aged in white wine barrels, and has a nice vanilla-oaky-ness. I introduced it (hopefully not for the first time in history) to broVo spirits’ wonderful new-ish Lucky Falernum liqueur (especially good today). A lot of falernums available are a little cloying to me, but Lucky is higher-proof and more mighty than cloying, without losing its underlying ginger, lime, pineapple, star anise profile. Those two locals together is a good start, but I wanted a wild card, something to bring one more zing – I went with Salish Sea’s Hibiscus liqueur, made from Egyptian red hibiscus flowers, and carrying a lovely tangy tartness. Together, they made for a wonderful Washington evening indeed. No fooling!
The Course of the Evening
The Course of the Evening
1-1/2 ounces Skip Rock Belle Rose light rum
1 ounce broVo spirits Lucky Falernum
1/2 ounce Salish Sea Hibiscus liqueur
Orange wedge, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the trio of Washington-state delights. Stir well (I really wanted to say “just right” there).
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze the wedge over the glass, then drop it in.