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
December 3, 2019
The Hal Masur Cocktail Talking continues! Or Harold Q. Masur if you prefer (my guess is he wouldn’t have cared a whit). But either way – hard talking, hard drinking, hard lawyering, hardly ever skipping a chance to flirt lawyer Scott Jordan (Mr. Masur’s regular protagonist) is at it again here on the Spiked Punch, this time with a quote from the deadly-named Bury Me Deep. We had a swell Dubonnet and brandy-fueled quote in our Bury Me Deep, Part I Cocktail Talk many courtrooms ago, but I just re-read the book, along with other Jordan escapades, and had to put a second quote up here. And it’s right down below, and is one that reminded me of all the wonderful distillers I’ve known.
“Quite a coincidence,” I said. “I have a present for you.”
She pressed my arm lightly. “You’re a psychic. I love presents. Let’s have a drink on it.”
She poured some bourbon into a pair of thin jiggers and we touched glasses. It was fine bourbon. The distiller hadn’t become impatient. It was smooth as a hummingbird’s wing. She turned to me with a shine in her eyes.
“I’m terribly excited. What is it?”
—Bury Me Deep, Harold Q. Masur
October 4, 2019
Okay, hopefully this isn’t annoying (too much), but I’m going to lay out a perfect chilly-fall-night drink, but it has not one, but two ingredients that might not be easy for all to get – however, they are worth getting, so get on your buggies (or whatever you use for transportation) and perhaps time machines (or whatever you use to travel through time). The first is from the swell sweethearts at Seattle Distilling Company, a whiskey made from Washington-grown rye (the best rye, I’m guessing), called Brockway Hill, which has a lovely rye spice flavor and umph and is well worth sipping solo as well as in this cocktail. However! That’s not the end of the story, as this delight was named for a Vashon Island bootlegger from back during the sad time called prohibition. Does that story make it taste better? Yep, yep it does! Our second ingredient alluded to above is another WA-made delight: Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. A seasonal Scrappy’s (hence the harder to get, and maybe the need for time machines), it as-you’d-expect utilizes Seville oranges, the peels specifically, and delivers cozy marmalade and winter spice action. Watch for it as the snow falls. Our last ingredient in this Manhattan-y trio is actually more available now than it was – because it’s fairly new and wasn’t available at all in the dark days of the past: Cynar 70. If you haven’t had the amazing and fairly-legendary Italian artichoke-based amaro Cynar, then shame on you. Have it now, and then have its higher-proof sibling, Cynar 70. The latter still brings the herbally goodness, but with a bit of a stronger kick, a kick that can be nice to have in cocktails such at this one. Drink up (but not when driving that buggy).
Rye on Earth
2-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company Brockway Hill whiskey
1/2 ounce Cynar 70
2 dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Blackberry, for garnish*
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ices. Add our trio of stalwarts. Stir well.
2. Add your blackberry to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix into said glass.
*You could go a cherry here. But blackberries are cool. And you wanna be cool, right?
September 20, 2019
Fall officially starts in three days, and I can feel it (this happens when you get to be my age – it could also just be a good thing to say) deep inside. And what does one sip when the fall is about to start and you can feel it, and winter behind it, always, coming? Well, a Whiskey Sour seems like a good choice, with that heft of whiskey and the citrus zing underneath, and then an echo of sweet (to remind you and spring, also always, follows winter). At least that’s the route I’m running today!
The Whiskey Sour
2 ounces Four Roses straight bourbon
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.