We invented this so it doesn’t have a name, but let’s call it a Brandy Bramble. Except I prefer to make it with Armagnac. Except Armagnac is more expensive than brandy—especially when you drink it in the kind of quantities I’ve felt the need to since spring, what with the global pandemic, health crap (family with COVID, friends with COVID, family with cancer, friends with cancer, and, of course, a perfectly timed pseudo-relapse of my own MS), apocalyptic wildfires, civil unrest and curfews, emergency vet visits*, and—O Joy of Joys!—the election. So sometimes, yes, it’s a Brandy Bramble.

What’s in it? Well, lots of fucking alcohol. The best taste comes from brown, rich-and-fumey stuff—Armagnac, Cognac, or—if you’re a fan of grain alcohol—bourbon. Things like gin and vodka are okay, but lack that autumnal warmth I’m after. So I go with grapey goodness and use Armagnac when I’m feeling flush and Cognac when less so. Part of the delicious autumnalness comes from the berry liquers: St Germain, which is elderberry (yeah, okay, it’s elderflower, not berry, but it’s what we first used and it turns out the flowers add a delicate aroma that berries don’t) and crême de cassis, made from blackcurrants. (At some point I’d like to experiment with blackberry liqueur.) These liqueurs are sweet, so you don’t need much, but they add a lovely colour and, as I say, a kind of sit-by-the-fire-while-the-leaves-fall taste that is very comforting. But you need something to cut the sweetness a bit, and put a bit of wake-up on your tongue, so a squeeze of citrus is good. I don’t like lemon very much, so I use lime—but I’m guessing most people would find lemon more convenient, not to mention cheaper, and a sharper contrast.

In addition to the alcohol, you’ll need a shot glass for measuring, a lime/lemon squeezer, lots of big ice cubes, a cocktail shaker, and two glasses. We use 8 oz lowball glasses which end up being about the right size, especially if, like Kelley, you prefer more ice.

To serve 2
Fill cocktail shaker with ice.
– 5 shots Armagnac (or brandy—or, if you really must, bourbon)
– 2/3 shot elderflower liqueur
– 3/4 shot creme de cassis
– juice of one lime (more if you prefer)
Shake. For a long time.
Take four ice cubes from the shaker and drop two in each glass.
Strain cocktail over the ice cubes, dividing evenly between the two glass.
Sip slowly. Unless you’re watching election returns, in which case gulp the fucking thing and immediately make another.

These are deceptively strong drinks, though, so take care. We usually drink just one. But the election is a special case. All bets are off tonight.

See you on the other side.

* I’m fine, the cats are fine, and I’ll write about all that in a few days.