We've made spirits of all sorts here at Matchbook. To the whiskies, rums, brandies and gins add non-conforming spirits of sunchoke and pineapple. A given spirit is often long planned and squared with the canonical register. On the other hand a distillate can be a product of timing, circumstance, luck or lack there of. Take our Riley Watermelon Sparkler, made from a sweet gourd that suits the East End perfectly through summer's end. Though sometimes summer surprises, or tourism is cut short by untold international events, and we find ourselves with the privilege of helping a neighbor farm unload a few thousand pounds of crop.
Or Mad King, a spirit of NY. There is an apple orchard near and dear to our hearts that doubles as a hop farm. Why not take them both and create something new, a hopped apple brandy?
This balance of tradition and adventure is a the driving force behind Look Left Labs. So many of our small projects and one offs, for one reason or another, haven't yet made their way to bars and shops. We're happy, then, to share them here with our most curious followers.
This month we offer two curious favorites, spirits of circumstance. First is Smokey, an apple brandy we clothed in a Laphroig cask that we luckily got our hands on. Light and briny, peated and round--it drinks like a fruit spirit that spent summer abroad.
Second, a brandy of smoke damaged wine, a project of resuscitation. Grapes have a knack for absorbing the scented air any of a fire nearby. A little too much unwanted atmosphere and the resulting wine will come out flawed beyond desirability. A mark of our era, more and more vintages fall victim to this phenomenon. A few years back we bought some Pinot Noir from Flâneur, who's wines under normal circumstances are far too precious to procure for distillation. After a 2020 Oregon forest fire left them with smoke tainted wine, we found an opportunity to experiment while helping a fellow producer. Distilled from smoke damaged Oregon Pinot Noir and aged in a used red wine barrel, Wildfire is a) delicious but b) a look at the road ahead navigating climate change and agriculture.
A motto of ours reads as follows: We believe some of tomorrow’s favorite drinks have yet to be created. That phrase was minted with a vision of a beverage producer working within a diverse and regenerative agricultural system. However, happenstance, both welcome and unwanted, fits snugly into this vision of the foodways, through resilience.
As for the glass...
Both of this month's spirits find a smokey finish, albeit in strange ways, reminiscent of scotch. Therefore a couple fruit spirit takes on whiskey classics seems in order.
First we have the Blue Blazer. A cold weather classic, a Scotch Toddy with flare and a lemon peel.
For today's riff we are working with the peated apple, and Oolong tea, orange peel and a touch of sugar.
4 ounces of Smokey
1 barspoon cane sugar
3 ounces boiling water
Combine in one of two double walled Blue Blazer mugs and quickly light with a long match or lighter.
Roll back and forth a half dozen times. Or until your eyes get big and hands quite warm.
Pour into a coffee glass with orange peel and tea.
Be sure to concoct over a non-incendiary surface or, better yet, out on the sidewalk.
For Wildfire, I bring you the (modern) classic Godfather cocktail. A simple build of spirit and Amaretto, just mix the two over ice and drop in a cherry. Once a staple of smokey cigar bars, don a heavy sweater and have this one next to the hearth.
2 oz Wildfire
.5 oz Lazzaroni Amaretto