August 28, 2020
I gotta admit straight up front that as I’m typing this my dog Ainsley is licking my ear. I also have to admit that this drink is a variation of a drink from Dark Spirits called The Serpent’s Tooth, and while we’re admitting things (or at least while I am), I’ll admit that I can’t quite recall where I first found said Serpent’s Tooth, and while I could go to the library-of-booze-books and look it up, that would then wake up said dog (who has gone from licking my ear to napping), and, well, she needs her rest. So, there we are!
However, I can tell you that this is a some odd assortment of ingredients in a way, and I ended up making it for a Friday Night Cocktail partially because it’s good, but also partially cause I was doing a bit o’ liquor shelves organizing (which can be daunting, between us), and found a couple bottles with just a sip or splash or small stream or two in them, including a bottle of Combier Kümmel. Kümmel, if you don’t happen to know, is the caraway, fennel, cumin (in the main) liqueur that kicked off in Holland way back in the 1500s, and went on to become an Eastern Europe, parts of Western Europe, UK golf club favorite. It hasn’t seen the meteoric rise in the US yet as other once-obscure liqueurs, but I have a fondness for it (along with most things boozy I suppose), a fondness not evidenced by the fact I forgot I had this particular bottle on the shelves nearly empty, but a fact evidenced by me instantly taking a sip and then making this drink with it.
A drink where our nearly-orphaned Kümmel is mixed with an array of items: Irish whiskey (this time, The Quiet Man), Italian vermouth (this time, Punt e’ Mes), and aromatic bitters (this time, The Bitter Housewife). All those ingredients are also in The Serpent’s Tooth, unlike the next one: club soda. As it’s summer, and heated, wanted to turn this into a cooling cooler type of cool, and soda and ice did it. Oh, went with a lemon twist, too, as opposed to the original tooth’s lemon juice. Lighter lemon, I suppose, and it worked a treat. Lots of flavor in this one, bubbling under the surface like an anaconda (with a toothache, if you want to take it there), while still having those, well, bubbles to refresh.
The Effervescent Snake at the Dentist
2 ounces The Quiet Man Irish whiskey
1 ounce Combier Kümmel
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes vermouth
2 dashes The Bitter Housewife Aromatic bitters
4 ounces chilled club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whiskey, Kümmel, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from step 1 into the glass and over the ice.
3. Top with the club soda. Stir briefly. Garnish with the twist.
PS: Yes! Those are porcupine quills in the image. I wanted to the use a snake, but couldn’t track one down. A failing, I know.
August 7, 2020
Sometimes you just have to say, damn the torpedoes, I’m doing this (“this” can mean a number of things, but I usually take it to mean I’m doing something that may be worthy, but also perhaps a bit foolish, or something most might not do, lacking the courage and/or foolishness, depending on your perspective). Often, for me, it’s something with, admittedly, very little real world consequences, revolving around using a snazzy base spirit that should probably be just sipped solo in a cocktail, or having what many consider a more serious spirit-forward drink in the heat of summer. Well, “I yam what I yam” as a famous philosopher once said. Today, said happening revolves around the scrumptious (people should say scrumptious about whiskey more) Four Roses Small Batch Select bourbon, a sample of which arrived in the mail recently (I know, I’m lucky).
Crafted by a mixing of six of the Four Roses bourbon recipes – said six all aged six years by the way, and lucky there’s not one more six in there or I’d be worried – and hitting a hardy 104 proof, this bourbon is a shining example of scrumptious. Hah! I am going to force the usage of scrumptious in! Scrumptious from the very first small, with oak, baking berries, and spices (including, I felt, a nice nutmeg, which is one of my favorites, and a soupçon of cloves and cinnamon). When it hits your mouth, there’s more fruit – summertime fruitiness, really – oak, a little pepper, a little vanilla, all of which trails off with a lingering sweeter vanilla, spice, and toasty oak. A lovely, dare I say again, scrumptious, sip, and then more sips.
However! As alluded to above, I couldn’t leave it at that, or even with just a cube of ice (nice!) or drops of water (also, nice!), I had to do a little mixing. Or, in this case, I had to have my whiskey-loving pal Jeremy do some mixing, as he was sampling too – from a safe distance and with proper safety stuff of course. With a bourbon this good, though, you don’t want to go too far afield; you want to let it shine and all. So, kept it to the classic, legendary, Old Fashioned. Now, I have to say, cause of distancing and sipping, I didn’t actually see Jeremy make said Old Fashioneds, so I’m not 100% sure if his recipe is the same as the below, which is mine – but it tasted darn close, and tasted, well, scrumptious! The little bit of extra sweet mingled in a most mighty manner with the bourbon’s sweetness, and the herbal from the bitters paired with the bourbon’s spice oh-so-pleasantly. Or, if you’d like, scrumptious-ly. I’d try it if I were you. You deserve it.
1 sugar cube (or 1 teaspoon sugar)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange slice (see Note on garnishes)
2-1/2 ounces Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon
1. Put the sugar in an old-fashioned glass, of course. Add the bitters and the orange slice, if you wish.
2. Using a muddler or very solid wooden spoon, muddle up the sugar and bitters, along with the orange slice.
3, Place a couple of ice cubes in the glass. Add the bourbon, slowly and with reverence.
4. Stir briefly. Think about scrumptiousness.
A Note: The hoohaw about the garnish on an Old Fashioned can go on forever. Today, orange slice. Tomorrow, cherry. The next, day, who knows. My take is always no fruit salad (meaning, don’t go overboard). But I’ll admit to switching my fruit alliance on occasion, and you can swear at me if you want, just don’t take my drink.
July 10, 2020
I hear you, don’t worry – it’s July, it’s summer, it’s hot, the sweat is pouring off your hard-working brow, the yard has yet to be mowed (again), the sun is so high and hot in the sky, a winter-ific, fall-tastic, chill-in-the-air idealistic, hearty, flavorful, Scotch whisky is perhaps the last slow sipper that comes to mind. But darn it, conventions are made to be chucked, and sometimes the last idea is the most needed, the best. Just like some days you realize that only a good whisky will balance out the hours. Lucky for me, I recently received not one, but two good ones in the mail (lovely mail!), and so quenched my summer Scotch thirst with Ardbeg Wee Beastie and Ardbeg Blaaack. And what lovely tipples they are!
Let’s start with Ardbeg Wee Beastie, a youthful number at just five years of age (“mellowed” as they say in ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks), but packing a walloping taste none-the-less, like a powerful toddler you won’t want to ignore. Especially if you like some smoke in your sip – that smokiness is a fine match for summer, too, if you think about all the flame-y cooking happening. But even though it’s young and bold, it’s smooth, too, starting with a peat-y, pepper-y, fire-y nose that ends sweet with a hint of citrus. That folds into a taste that’s smoky as well, especially at the tail, but with loads of spice, a little vanilla, and herbs intertwined. A few drops of water are a neat addition, bringing the smoke, vanilla, and citrus notes more into play.
Right along the heels (it’s a two-Scotch day after all!) is Ardbeg Blaaack, the limited-edition whisky released to celebrate and commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Ardbeg Committee. What is the Ardbeg Committee? It’s a sweet fan club, really, one that spreads the good Ardbeg word as well as getting some neat stuff, too. But back to the Blaaack! New Zealand Pinot Noir casks (first time Ardbeg’s used these for those counting) held the lush liquid. New Zealand and Scotland’s shared sheep-ness add the extra “baaa” to the name! But what about the taste? Glad you asked! The aroma has a distinctive berry-ness (summery!), light smoke, and hints of flowers and oak, flowing into a flavor that’s more berries, baked fruit, cherries, a bit of oak and nuttiness, followed by a little spice and more fruit. Yummy. Add a little water here, and the cherry notes are unleashed even more, with an echo of citrus along for the ride.
And now you have two great reasons for believing me that whisky can be just the ticket, even in the height of summer.
May 15, 2020
Well, as you know (if you don’t, welcome back from Mars I suppose), we have been and still are in the thick of some mad times. Said times keeping most around the world at home many more hours than usual, which has led many to muscular feats of home-organizing as a way to while away the time, or to catch up with projects that once seemed perfectly fine being set aside. If you have a fair amount of bottles of brown, clear, red, green, grey, blue, yellow, bottles glittering with the promise of delicious deliciousness, bottles that when opened have the capacity to unleash tongues in song while loosening the chains on the soul (if you’ll allow me a little hyperbole), bottles filled with spirits, liqueurs, bitters, and beauty, that is, if you have these, then, like me, those bottles fall into a “home-organizing feat” normally put off. But, due to said mad times, my wonderful wife took on this herculean boozy task (I get too distracted), and organized the shelves. When doing so, she found a few bottles that seemed to have just a sip here or there left in them, and moved them frontwards, enticing me to drink ‘em up. That, friends, is all preamble to the below cocktail, which at first glance may seem an odd combination: cherry brandy, rye, and allspice dram? But being trapped at home can take you down some paths that may at first appear odd. In this case, however, the path ended so pleasantly, I’m probably going to have to go to the store to restock the shelves so I have all these ingredients. But if you look them over and say to yourself, “what the hell,” step back, and think “what the lockdown leftovers?” Cause that’s what this tasty treat really is.
What the LL
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. rye
1/2 ounce St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce It’s 5 Cherry brandy
3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces club soda
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, allspice dram, brandy, and oj. Shake well.
2. Add one big ice cube or a couple decent-sized ice cubes to a chalice of some glittering kind (no need to turn into savages). If none is at hand, an Old Fashioned glass, big one that is, can work.
3. Strain the drink through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the club soda. Stir carefully to combine.
May 8, 2020
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, great drinks are even greater with a good story – and a great story takes it to even another level. Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of McConnell’s Irish Whisky in the post (what a nice thing! Especially in these stay-at-home times! So, don’t be jealous, I’ll share). And what a great story to go along with such a dandy whisky. Here are the basics – McConnell’s started producing whisky way way back in 1776, a year famous here in the U.S. for things other than whisky, though I’m sure a lot was consumed here at that time, too, hahaha. The whisky was made in Belfast, but soon being sipped all over the world by discerning sippers. But then! Tragedy, in the form of a vast fire that destroyed (so sadly) 500,000 gallons of whisky and a chunk of the distillery itself. Persevering, they rebuilt, and whisky flowed. But then! Tragedy, again, in the form of prohibition, which really put the damper on long-distance imports to the U.S., a monster-sized consumer – and that sad event destroyed the distillery, like the fire, but worse. Until this year, when it rose the economic and literal ashes, like a tipsy phoenix.
Of course, a good story like that (and distilleries coming alive and alive again are good, good stories) doesn’t mean as much if the flavor doesn’t rise to the tale. McConnell’s is a swell tipple, however, so the tale is ripe for more telling. A blended whisky, it’s aged five years in American oak, and as other friendly Irish whiskys, it has an approachable (not annoying) sweet nature. Beyond the lovely bottle, it sets itself apart thanks to a singular vanilla, nutmeg, spice and hint-of-smokiness taste. Yummy. So yummy, you could be forgiven for only consuming this recovered-from-history hit solo, or with a splash of water, or maybe a cube or two of ice as the mood descends on your day. Heck, I drank a lot of it that way myself, and only felt happy about it.
However! I also just can’t resist combining spirits and liqueurs I like into cocktails – and the welcoming, flavorful nature of McConnell’s is a bountiful base for a cocktail that lets it shine, while introducing a few friends that can stand alongside proudly. Today, I went with the classic, if not super-widely known, Tipperary. This version (there’s a separate cocktail carrying the same name from a few years earlier) goes back I believe to the 1922s, if memory serves, but don’t take me to task on it if I’m confused. To go with our mighty McConnell’s, the drink brings another legend to the mix, herbally, mystical, Green Chartreuse, along with sweet vermouth – I’m going with Punt e’ Mes here, which is just a touch drier than some, while still delivering more lush herbal notes , alongside a gentle bitter. Altogether, this cocktail delivers amazingly. I mean, it’s amazingly delicious. So, so, delicious, and just the right one for celebrating McConnell’s coming back on the booze scene.
The Tipperary Cocktail
1-3/4 ounces McConnell’s Irish whisky
1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
A Note: I’ve seen this with a lemon twist as garnish (heck, I’ve even had a great one that way), but with this particular trio, I didn’t think the brighter citrus notes worked. But if you do, do.
April 3, 2020
When in the situation we all find ourselves within (Together we can do it! Stay safe and keep others safe! All of that with exclamation points!), me as well as you I’m sure are spending more time at home. Good! But when at home, I find myself wondering what I can make for sipping that’s different – give myself a little project. Or, wondering what I can make that is easy, allowing me more time to sit on the couch and read The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. Today, though, it’s the former of those two, the “different” path. And this path was unveiled via a suggestion/question (qugestion?) that happened way back when, like when things were starting to get mad but not as mad, from two fine folks I know: genius writer Paul Tobin and genius artist (and writer, really) Colleen Coover. I am luckily enough to be friends with these geniuses (should be geni, really) and connected on the Twitters, and there, they nicely roped me into a very important drink-a-logical conversation re: using peanut butter in drinks. It took me awhile to get on the pb-drinks trolley, but as I now (thanks virus) have a lot of time on my hands, and always (thanks tastebuds) have a love for peanut butter, finally dove in to the nutty problem. And decided to go a route I hadn’t seen, but now see is all over the internet, or at least has search results – making a peanut butter simple syrup.
See, I though in a lightbulb-in-a-bar-glass moment that creating said syrup would make for a more mitigating pal when playing with other liquids. It took me a little messing around (I like that!) to get to a syrup I was at least partially fond of, and I’m still not sure it’s perfect. If you’re curious (and can’t wait for the recipe below), equality was what punched the pb syrup ticket, equality of peanut butter, sugar, and water. Yay! Once the pb syrup was syrup’d to my liking, then it was drink time. Yay, again! I made two I liked, but between us, I’m still not completely convinced that I couldn’t make better, make more, and keep tweaking the formula. Above-mentioned genius Colleen has already done such she’s told me, bringing chocolate into the syrup-making mix – seems, well, a genius idea.
Anyway, before I ramble out of the bar, Pleasant Bounty is the first pb syrup drink. I wanted to have one at least with whiskey, cause it can be nutty, and for said brown, I picked locally-made and awesome Woodinville Whiskey Flagship Bourbon, which just won “Best Straight Bourbon Whiskey of 2020” and a Double Gold Medal (DOUBLE GOLD) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Using only grain grown on a WA farm (grain grown just for them), it’s a caramelly, vanilla, spice, dream. For the final ingredient, went with another nutty number, Sidetrack Distillery’s Nocino walnut liqueur. Also a bit spicy with a bit of a kick, it adds more nuttiness to this drink, and this nutty world. In hindsight, perhaps I could have upped the pb simple a little. Hmm. Would be more sweet, but more peanut-y. User choice!
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. Flagship Bourbon
3/4 ounce peanut butter simple syrup (recipe below)
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Nocino
1. Add the first three ingredients above to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir gently.
2. Add a little ice, and again stir gently. Strain into a cocktail glass or something like it. Be pleasant.
A Note: You could fine strain this to get rid of any stray peanut-y bits, but I sorta liked them. If you use crunchy, probably strain.
Peanut Butter Simple Syrup Recipe Note: It’s really easy to make this, and it would be absolutely absolute on ice cream as well as in drinks. You just need to add equal parts peanut butter (use one that’s made from only peanuts – I think creamy or smooth works nicely, but crunch if that’s your thing), sugar, and water to a saucepan over low-to-medium low heat. Whisk continually until the sugar is dissolved. You don’t want to overheat, I found. But again, still experimenting!
January 28, 2020
A little more Maigret never hurt anyone, right – heck, Maigret is seen as a cure-all in many countries, so more is actually beneficial. It feels like that to me every time I read a Maigret yarn I haven’t read at least (and luckily, I still have a ways to goes, as Mr. Simenon was very prolific). I picked up the latest, for me, in a Florence bookstore, bella-ly enough, and in it Maigret has to enter the world of the super-rich after a murder in Parisan luxury hotel the George V. Said murder happening after two folks had a bit of a do, with numerous sippers, as detailed below.
“Not at this time of night, Madame la Comtesse, but I’ll get in touch with the nurse…”
A little over an hour before, he had brought up to that very suite a bottle of Champagne, a bottle of whiskey, some soda water, and a bucket of ice. The bottles and glasses were still in the sitting room, except for one Champagne glass that had been overturned on the bedside table.
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Millionaires
January 7, 2020
I’ve been re-reading the Day Keene duo book (duo, as it contains two full novels – quite a Day deal, really) put out by Stark House, the one which contains both My Flesh is Sweet (which has its own My Flesh is Sweet Cocktail Talk in the Spiked Punch, and for that matter, check out all the Day Keene Cocktail Talk posts) and Framed in Guilt. And in said re-reading, a couple sweet quotes I should have highlighted the first time popped out to me. So, consider this Part I. Framed in Guilt (which may well be the mighty pulp master Keene’s first!) is a fast-paced, well-plotted, yarn in the Keene style, in which Hollywood scripter Robert Stanton barrels around CA, with his past catching up to him (maybe?) and a murder or two hung on him, as well as nearly getting burned himself. It moves in the Keene manner! Which is a high compliment indeed. And they drink some Scotch, as well as other things. But below, Scotch.
The man at the wheel seemed to shrink. His coat was suddenly too large for his shoulders. It seemed difficult for him to breathe. “I didn’t know there was a child. Believe me.” He took a bottle from the glove compartment. “After that, I need a drink.”
“You might ask if I cared for one,” Grace said.
He handed her the bottle. It was dimpled bottle Scotch, and tasted as good as it smelled. Grace drank sparingly, then corked and returned the bottle to the glove compartment.
–Day Keene, Framed in Guilt