It’s the 19th of May, do you know what that means? It means summer is right around the corner, pals, and that we are in the thick and warming part of spring, both of which combine to mean that you’d better start stocking up on your cooling drinks, your lighter liquid assistants that make the warmer and sunshine-y-er days hum hummingly. Drinks like Lillet Rouge and Tonic. Lovely in flavor, lighter in alcohol than those winter warmers being currently shed like so many woolly sweaters, this treat utilizes here Lillet Rouge, the orange-berry-and-spice member of the Lillet family, though both Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rose would be absolutely smashing, too. You might want to adjust the amount of tonic syrup, if you went one of the latter two routes. That’s right, we’re going tonic syrup here, specifically &Tonic tonic syrup (made in WA, dontcha know). For one, it’s bursting with flavor. For two, and this is the joy of tonic syrup, you can maintain control the amount of it and soda, changing easily to taste and occasion. You can find the right balance of it and whichever Lillet you’re using, the right balance for your taste, or the day, or the occasion. Neat, right? Right! And now you have one more (or multiple more, really), slings in your summer drink quiver.
1. Fill a brandy snifter or tumbler (I really like my whathaveyou-and-tonic drinks in a snifter, cause it looks cool and maybe helps the scents flow into your nose, and helps the poor dusty snifter glasses come out year round) halfway with ice cubes. Add the syrup and Lillet. Stir briefly.
2. Add the soda, stir to combine, and garnish with the twist.
We, spooky friends, are very very very close to Halloween (a few paltry days)! While it falls on a Monday this year (which nearly seems unfair, though I feel that you can make any day of the week eerily jolly), it doesn’t mean that it’s not your scary duty to unleash a Warlock cocktail and while enjoying the delicious sips, transform into a zombie magician. Which is what everyone wants on Halloween. Spooky good! So whip up this brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters treat, my favoritest Halloween special, utilizing the handy, helpful, horrific video below!
Ah, the Negroni. You kids probably won’t believe this, but I remember way back when when I had to describe to even good, reliable, knowledgeable, wonderful bartenders how to make a Negroni, what was in it, soup to nuts, as they say. And now there are probably 348,651 variations, many of which are happy to use the name, or some bastardization of such, attached to a drink that might not have much if anything to do with the original. But hey, people, you be you. I may bemoan the lack of naming creativity, but certainly won’t turn down a good drink no matter the name. But, as a classic song told us, ‘there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.” So, today, we’re taking it classically, in the one configuration that really deserves the name: Gin, Italian (or rosso, or sweet) vermouth, Campari, over ice, with a … lemon peel? Well, I somehow was out of orange, which I’d normally go with. So, I myself have now undercut the above sentences, in a way. Let’s pretend this never happened, and instead talk about The London Nº1 gin, which I’m using here. Pale-blue tinged with juniper, savory, bergamot, licorice, lemon and orange peel, cinnamon, iris root (which I believe delivers that blue-ness in coloring), and more used in the making, and based on a spirit made from English wheat. Together, they deliver an earthiness the smooths into citrus and floral notes in an enticing manner. Our next component: Mancino Rosso vermouth. They themselves say that this vermouth is of “exceptional quality and refined organoleptic characteristics,” and as “organoleptic” is my new favorite word, I couldn’t agree more. 38 aromatic herbs combining into a lush mixture that delivers spice, sweet, forest-at-dusk-with-flirty-druids-dancing notes (helped along by vanilla, rhubarb, juniper, toasted wood, myrrh, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, and the like). And then, Campari. What can you say about something that, if it wasn’t in the world, the world would feel lacking at a spiritual level? Nothing does the love that is Campari justice. Just know that without it, birds would stop singing and bunnies stop hopping. I am very excited for this Negroni. You will be, too. Heck, you’ll even want to give me a hand when you have it.
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.
I know you know about Ardbeg Uigeadail (because you are smart and know things). I mean, it was named World Whiskey of the Year by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, due to its “complexity” and “silky brilliance,” is crafted with care by the now-legendary Islay distillery, has a name that’s also unforgettable (and pronounced “Oog-a-dal” which is just plain fun) and coming from a loch near the distillery, is aged in ex bourbon barrels and sherry butts, boasts a lovely golden hue, and is freakishly reasonable. Especially when you consider the rich aroma of peat, walnuts, a little sea and forest, and spice, the taste of honey, malt, more spice, then a big, muscular-but-smooth smoke, and a raisin, caramel, smoke finish. I mean, with all of that, I know you know about it – of you should.
As you’d expect, it’s a swell sipping Scotch, solo, over an ice piece or two, or with a little splash of spring water. Yummy, indeed. However, when I was lucky enough (don’t be mad at me, please) to get a bottle in the mail the other day, I of course had some solo, but then had to also try it in a cocktail. With a sipper this swell, you don’t need to or want to bring too many dancing partners into the set. Keeping it simple is key, letting this malt shine, while accenting a little in the corners with appropriate additions. Here, I went with orange stalwart and cocktail classic Cointreau. To bring a few more herbal/spice notes under our big two, I brought in two bitters, just a dash of each: Regan’s orange bitters and old pal Peychuad’s. Altogether, the orange and bitter-ing players add to the Uigdeadail, while letting it take the lead. Smoke in the Grove’s flavor-filled, hearty, but maintaining that silky brilliance. Yummy, again.
It may, at first glance, not seem for much of the world to be the season for walking outside, no matter how nice your greenery is. However, I find a brisk walk on a chilly-but-sunny day to be invigorating, especially if you do it while sipping this cocktail, and then end it with some nice, hearty, slightly sweet, baked goods. How does that all go together? Well, really, it’s thanks to Everett’s (that’s up here in the W-A for those who don’t know) Bluewater Organic Distilling, who just released their Wintersun aquavit. An organic spirit (like all of theirs), it’s a shout out to distiller John Lundin’s Swedish heritage, and with that has an essence much like the traditional aquavits you might have encountered (though there are tons), but with a distinctive balanced aroma and flavor bringing together caraway, anise, and orange.
I (don’t be jealous – it’s the holiday season) recently got a bottle in the mail and after trying it out solo (which you should too, as it’s worthy all alone), had to try it in a cocktail, too. Because that’s what I do! After playing around with a little of this and a little of that, I found some swell in-the-shaker dancing partners, starting with another Northwest hit, broVo spirits’ (from up here in Woodinville) delicious award-winning cherry liqueur Boomerang. It has a lush cherry-ness combined with a little vanilla, walnut, cinnamon, apricot, and citrus. You can – until you try it – dream about how this would combine perfectly with the Wintersun, and why the baked goods are a good idea. However! That wasn’t it. After much liquid hemming-and-hawing, I felt a little bit more of this and that was needed. And the this was old pal maraschino liqueur, and the that was Scrappy’s legendary Cardamom bitters. They rounded that spice and fruit level out to eleven. The shrubbery will feel overjoyed to have you walking through it with this mix – and you’ll be pretty happy about it, too.
Hey, did you realize, the first day of summer was yesterday! On the calendar, it told me so, and so I thought I’d better have a Captain’s Blood to celebrate. One, because in summer, everyone is a Captain. Two, because the real blood in this drink is rum, and rum and summer go together like Captains and big hats – or big shields, if Captain America. Three, because the secondary blood in here is lime juice, which also goes so well with summer (like Captains and good catchphrases), and as a bonus will help keep the summer scurvy at bay. Four, because the tertiary blood here in orange bitters, a classic for summer and any time of year, and also a healing liquid I feel, and in summer of course you want to be healthy, Captain or not. Fifth, because this drink is easy, tangy, and boozy, all important components of summer drinks and of Captains (Captain America only the latter when not saving the galaxy naturally). Captains!
Oh, also, I used Washington-made Skiprock Distillery’s Belle Rose Amber rum, aged in used whiskey barrels; it boasts a caramel, vanilla, and sugar rum-ness accented by traces of tobacco and whiskey. I also used Washington-made Scrappy’s Orange bitters, because I love the locals, sure, but also cause it’s a beaut of a bitters, using fresh and bitter oranges and peels, and a nice orange-and-herbal flavor.
Did you know, National Whiskey Sour day is the 29th of this very month? Knowing you, you may already know this, but if not – how awesome if that? I believe that, as every day has a sunrise and sunset, every day in the modern world is the celebration of something. Today might be National Striped Sock day (which would also be awesome – I love striped socks). I’m all for these celebrations, cause then there is just an endless number of reasons to pal up with pals and start celebrating! Woo-hoo-you! And really, the Whiskey Sour deserves a day – I mean, it goes back to the 1800s (who knowns exactly when? Not me), and its basic formula of booze, citrus, sweet is the bedrock of at least 1,564,348 drinks, and probably more. Sometimes, there’s the extra addition of some egg white, but today, in honor of purity and because I’m out of eggs, I’m making it in middle-of-the-road style. And, I’m making it with Four Roses bourbon, because roses are celebratory (I wrote more about Four Roses in an earlier post – check it out!), and because its apple-caramel flavor (with a little nutty and oak-y happening, too), and slight spice finish, are a fine pick for a nice, solid, regular, wonderful Whiskey Sour. Which is a mighty fine way to celebrate.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More