October 12, 2018
The other day, decided to browse around the drink library while watching Hammer House of Horror as one does, and was flipping through Jacques Staub’s simply-called classic Drinks from 1914 and came across an intriguing number called The Clifton. At the same time, I was trying to think of a drink to have with Gold Bar whiskey, a small bottle of which had just shown in the mail.
Gold Bar is a blended American whiskey made from three grains: corn, rye, and barley, aged in French oak, and, as they say, “matured by the sea” in San Francisco. I love a good ocean-going yarn! It’s also in one of the more amazing packages, a golden box with a brass Lady of Fortune (illustrated by an artist) coin pressed into the front for good luck. All of which would be only a good story if the whiskey didn’t taste good – luckily indeed it has a friendly taste as well as the shiny gleaming container. Very smooth, very approachable, with a little vanilla and spice and melon scents unfolding into more spice, apple, and vanilla on the tongue.
Its amiable nature made me think maybe it would be good in the Clifton, though that drink originally called for rye, with an equal part of dry vermouth. Along with a dash of Angostura and a dash of “brown” curaçao. I’ll admit, I’m not sure on the latter, and I wasn’t really happy about how the equality-of-vermouth was going to go. So, I went with Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao (the finest available in modern times), and just started playing around with the amounts of our main ingredients. And, voila, we took home the gold. And by that, I mean it all came together into a bright, light, drink, with herbal and botanical hints and a smooth whiskey hum underneath.
1-1/2 ounces Gold Bar blended whiskey
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
Dash Angostura bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, or a glass with an appropriate amount of gilding to match the whiskey. I went the latter route, as it seemed a better route. But you’ll make your own luck.
August 14, 2018
The memorably-titled, Wichita-based, PI-featuring, crime-and-criminals riddled, mystery and murder-packed pocket-style book Hot Summer, Cold Murder
by Gaylord Dodd had too many Cocktail Talk moments to just have one post from it (if you missed Hot Summer, Cold Murder Part
I, then please read it now, as it’ll give you more background). I actually like this quote even more than the first, though it doesn’t feature muscatel, our hero’s (hero of sorts, that is) favorite summertime tipple. But the below quote is a fabulous one, summing up a certain type of bar at a certain time period perfectly:
Tom Silver’s big red and white face swam in an ocean of bar glasses hanging from a rack above the bar. He was the perfect bartender. He spoke when spoken to and otherwise stood leaning against the counter with his arms folded across the massive pad of his enormous gut. The drinks he made were clean and when you ordered call-booze you got what you called. When some woman you were with ordered a Gin Fizz or a Gold Cadillac, Tom made it quickly, correctly, and without the condescending leer of the bartender whose only desire is to stir a jigger of whiskey into a six-ounce tumbler with Seven-Up.
“Waddle it be, Mr. Roberts?”
“Old Grandad with water back, please Tom.”
— Gaylord Dodd, Hot Summer, Cold Murder
December 1, 2017
I don’t actually have a tipsy Italian uncle that I’ve named this after, and because of that, I wake up sorrowful every day. Okay, that’s not true! I did receive a bottle of Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey in the mail recently though. That’s true! I know, getting whiskey in the mail should make me happy – and it does. True!
Uncle Nearest has a great story. It was made in honor of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a former slave who as the story goes taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Amazing! While it was launched in Portland, OR, it’s made in Tennessee using at least 51% corn, filtered via sugar maple charcoal, aged in new American oak, and bottled at 100 proof. That proof gives it a nice sturdy backbone, mellowed by vanilla and rounded out with hints of sesame and cinnamon in the flavor. It’s a sipper, for sure, and one that’ll warm you and your uncles.
When mixing with it, I wanted to keep that umph and personality, but take a little edge off, and bring some herbal helpers into the party. And I went Italian (as I often do), with Montenegro amaro (which lies on the sweeter side of the amaro scale) and Punt e’ Mes vermouth. Also brought old pal Peychaud along, too. End result is robust, with layers and layers of flavor. I think tipsy uncles everywhere would be proud.
The Tipsy Italian Uncle
1-1/2 ounces Uncle Nearest whiskey
1 ounce Montenegro amaro
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole family. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make a second for your uncle (or in his honor, at least).
August 8, 2017
Oddly (as odd as snow in Miami, some might say), though I’ve mentioned my gushing affection for the Hoke Mosely books by Charles Willeford
(and how I wish there were more, and how the non-Hoke Willefords are swell, too), I’ve never had a Cocktail Talk post from the very first one, Miami Blues
, which is I suppose the best known, due to a movie made (a pretty good movie, too, featuring a very young Alec Baldwin as our young psychopath and a fine Fred Ward as the hero-of-sorts Hoke). I need to watch it again, now that I think about it! The book’s great, too, greater, really, with no shade thrown on the movies. Books are just better! Hoke, as shown below, has a love of Early Times, which I also like. Here’s what you should do – take a Saturday and read the book, then watch the movie, all while drinking Early Times. That’ll be a day to remember!
Hoke took one of the Manila envelopes out of his leisure jacket pocket and counted out $100 on the bar. He pushed the money across to Irish Mike. “Take care of my tab, and leave what’s over as a credit.”
“Your credit’s always good here, sergeant. You know that. I’ll just check your tab and give you back the change.”
“No. Leave it. I want to see what it feels like to have a credit for a change. Early Times. Straight up. Water back.”
“Similar,” Henderson said.
–Charles Willeford, Miami Blues
May 2, 2017
One more from the recently departed master of fiction short, medium, and longer, William Trevor (read past William Trevor Cocktail Talk posts for more about the man), this from his book short-ish novel The Silence in the Garden. I’m slowly trying to catch up to his pretty prodigious output, hoping to cover it all. This book I picked up recently, reading on the bus as I usually do, being struck by his amazing precision of phrase, and of course by the Irish whiskey quote below (which happens as one character is beginning to get rather tipsy before a wedding breakfast, and before she makes a Bishop rather nervous).
Noticing that her glass had become empty, Mrs. Moledy rose and made her way into the house through the open French windows. “There’s nothing can’t be put right with a drop of Paddy,” was a favourite axiom of the big trawlerman who came into Myley Flynn’s, a fresh-faced man with exploded veins all over his nose and cheeks. In her own view Power’s was the better drinks, but what wasn’t there you couldn’t have. She found the bottle of Paddy among the sherry decanters on the sideboard.
–William Trevor, The Silence in the Garden
August 16, 2016
We don’t have a lot of comic book Cocktail Talks around the Spiked Punch parts, which does, I suppose, make sense, as not too many comics have drinky, cocktaily sections or such. Though, on the flip side, I read a fair amount of comics, so it should balance out, and today it does! With a power-booze-packed panel from Milk and Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad. If you haven’t read Milk and Cheese, well, a warning: it is about a carton of milk and a wedge of cheese, who happened to be the badass-est dairy products, and who revel in violence, drinking, ranting, and all that, in a way that’s serves up a dose of hilarity and spite-ful-ness. It’s sorta hard to describe, really! But when they celebrate birthdays, they do it like the below (around messing up people, places, and things):
–Evan Dorkin, Milk and Cheese
August 12, 2016
I know, I know, it’s the middle of August, hottest month of the year for most of us stateside, and so for many not perhaps the right time of year for a whiskey forward (very so, classically so) cocktail. These folks think that this should be a winter, or maybe fall choice, and they in some ways are right. But in other ways, they’re wrong. Exhibit A way: when you’ve received an absolutely choice bottle of single malt whiskey in the mail and decide you must have it in a classic drink. This, friends, is that exhibit. Or story. Or some such.
Let’s back up. Recently (and yeah, don’t hate me cause I’m lucky like this), I received a bottle of Paul John Brilliance single malt whiskey. An Indian – maybe the Indian – single malt, it’s made from ingredients, including a special six-row barley, grown at Himalayan foothills, and aged for five years in the tropics of Goa, India. This tropical climate makes for a fast maturation, in American white oak. The end result has won awards all over the world already, but just recently become available here. It’s a very distinctive whiskey, one that, by all rights, you should sip solo and let the demerara and barley fragrance tempt you and the spice and vanilla taste and intriguing cocoa finish with just a hint of orange linger (maybe a splash of water or a single ice cube for the second glass, just to see how it goes).
But, if you’re me (and of course you aren’t, cause that would be an existential pickle that would be, oh, too much to go into now) or like me, you can’t stop at that, even with a whiskey of this level. No, you have to try it in a cocktail. And now I’ve gotten a little weird with pronouns. Let’s stop that. I decided on the Rob Roy, one of the legendary Scotch cocktails. A single malt and a Scotch are of course, at least cousins, maybe siblings, in the grand scheme of things. And I wanted a cocktail that would really let the Brilliance flavors come alive, and provide some proper cocktail partners – here, the otherworldly Carpano Antica vermouth, and Angostura. The end result is dreamy. Any time of year.
The Rob Roy
2-1/2 ounces Paul John Brilliance single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Brilliance, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
July 21, 2015
From personal experience, I can say that never has there been a more accurate title. Hah! Having never actually committed a murder, I’m actually not super sure about that, really. But what I have done is read a lot of Cornell Woolrich, the master of the darker side of the noir world of the middle of the last century. I’ve had some Cornell Cocktail Talking before, here on the Spiked Punch, but when I find new books of his I haven’t read, I always want more. More! And recently I found a collection called Four Novellas of Fear containing some of his moodily awesome work, including one called, as you might expect by now, Murder Always Gathers Momentum. It’s a bit grim, but so well-paced, and so wonderfully inevitable. And it calls out a classic whiskey brand, too.
Paine fought down the flux of panic, the ultimate result of which he’d already seen twice now. Any minute someone might come in from the street. Someone sober. “All right,” he breathed heavily, “hurry up, what’ll it be?”
“Thass more like it; now you’re being a reg’lar guy.” The drunk released him and he went around behind the bar. “Never anything but good ole Four Roses for mine truly –“
Paine snatched a bottle at random from the shelf, handed it over bodily.
– Cornell Woolrich, Murder Always Gathers Momentum