vermouth

October In The Chair

October in the chair

This drink gets it’s name from one of the inestimable Mr. Gaiman’s stories.  You can find it in his collection of short fiction, Fragile Things, which you almost certainly should own, if you don’t already.  It’s a tale about the months, and what they do when they get together, and about loneliness and friendship, and all sorts of things besides.

Truth be told, I was struggling to name this drink, but it felt like Autumn, but just the start of it, when it’s still hot at times, and cold a few hours later.  There, in the midst of the thoughts of the start of Autumn that this drink brought out, I was reminded of this story, and it seemed fitting for the cocktail, though the story is, I think, much better.

It’s a simple drink, but built on a hard to come by ingredient for most of us.  I, fortunately have a couple of bottles of the core ingredient, thanks to some very generous and all around wonderful friends that brought me a cache from the Pacific Northwest; for which I am incredibly thankful.  The recipe is as follows:

  • 2 parts Stone Barn Brandyworks‘ unoaked oat whiskey
  • 3/4 parts Grand Marnier
  • 5 dashes of Fee Brothers’ Old Fashioned Bitters
  • a splash sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica in this case)

Stone Barn makes some great stuff, from the few spirits I’ve been fortunate enough to try.  I was given my first bottle of their very excellent unoaked oat whiskey by some friends that had recently relocated from Portland, where the distillery is located, to Redmond.  After raving about it, a couple of my favorite people brought me some bottles when they were in town this September visiting for Dragon Con from their new home in Portland.  It is an incredibly rich drink, with a strong oatmeal taste, and a very pleasant abrasive note, if that makes any sense.  It’s a particular spirit, when it comes to mixing, but plays very well with other warm tones, and loves being paired with sweet vermouth.

Accordingly, the Grand Marnier plays very well with the oat whiskey, and the rich, warmer notes of this cognac based orange liqueur are amplified by this pairing.  The raw bracing characteristic of the oat whiskey dampen the sweetness of the Grand Marnier, so it’s not too syrup-sweet.  The Fee Brothers’ Old Fashioned bitters, and their spicy, cinnamon heavy flavor adds to the mix very nicely.  I started sipping on this drink with just these ingredients, and was thoroughly enjoying it, but it felt like it was missing something, some further depth.  A single splash of Carpano Antica added everything that this was missing, in my opinion.

What you end up with is a drink that evokes the feeling of cool night air, damp fallen leaves, and the comforting smell of an old, worn leather jacket and a fire’s promise of warmth, and the tales told by friends around it.  Or, at least that’s what I get from it.

Larcenous cocktails

Last weekend, I spent Saturday night with the good people at Waning Gibbous Games for the launch party of their recently Kickstarted game Larceny.  Larceny is a fast paced card game that asks the players to plan the perfect (or at times the most hilarious) heist.  The designer is one of my oldest friends, and my darling wife did the card and box illustration, so I feel pretty tied into this game and I have been lucky enough to see it come into being; from the raw idea being talked about around the game table, to being part of play testing, and all the way up to seeing the final product being boxed up to be shipped to all the loyal backers.

So, amidst stacks of boxes, we gathered at the Waning Gibbous Games headquarters for some much deserved celebration and merry-making (as well as box stuffing so we could get the eagerly awaited games out to the backers).  For the night, I was asked to create a signature drink, and ended up with two recipes that the owner and I decided both met the cut.

 The Fix

The FixThe Fix is, at its core, a Manhattan riff.  I wanted to create a drink that captured the feel of the game, and using the Manhattan as a jumping off point just felt right.  I went in a sweeter direction with this cocktail to open it up to a wider audience, but still keep it feeling like a serious business cocktail.  Replacing the rye whiskey of a traditional Manhattan with bourbon started taking the drink in the sweeter direction, and adding amaretto to the mix took it the rest of the way, and made it stand out.  In the end, the recipe turned out as:

  • 1.5 parts bourbon (fittingly, we used Larceny bourbon, which is a solid mixing bourbon)
  • 0.5 parts sweet vermouth
  • 0.5 parts amaretto
  • 3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters

The ingredients were shaken briefly with ice and served up, then garnished with a maraschino cherry and a small lemon peel.

Thieves’ Blood

thieves' bloodA phrase lifted from the 1940’s book, The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man, the Thieves’ Blood came from the experiments that eventually resulted in The Fix.  I was playing around with the idea of replacing the vermouth with port, but abandoned that idea in the final recipe of The Fix.  In talking about potential names with the owner of Waning Gibbous Games, he mentioned the phrase “Thieves’ Blood” as how one defines larceny in the aforementioned text.  The name struck me, and I thought back to the port experiment, and played with it until I hit on this surprisingly light, sweet, deep red drink.

  • 1.5 parts port
  • 1 part amaretto
  • 0.5 parts bourbon
  • 2-3 dashes of Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters

All ingredients are combined over ice, topped up with soda water, and stirred.  Garnish with an orange peel to help bring forward some of the spicy flavors of the port and bitters.