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Into Your Comfort Zone: It’s all about Rainwater Madeira

Into Your Comfort Zone: It’s all about Rainwater Madeira


I’ve been wanting to make a cocktail with Sandman Rainwater Madeira for quite a while now. There’s a story behind it – of course! A number of years ago I was away for the weekend in St. Michaels, Maryland. It was a Saturday afternoon and we had reservations for 4 that night at an amazing restaurant in town. We were planning to stop by a bar for drinks when I suddenly began to not feel well, as if something didn’t agree with my stomach. I grabbed a few things from the drugstore that I thought would help, and headed to the bar along with everyone else, wanting to be a good sport. I told the bartender my troubles (isn’t that what bartenders are for?) and he said he had the perfect thing to help me. Actually what he said was “Ditch that drugstore crap, this is what you need!” and he poured me some Sandeman Rainwater Madeira in a small glass over an ice cube. I felt relief within 15 minutes or so, ordered another, and was completely cured within the half hour! It was like a miracle had happened. I’d been so uncomfortable and worried about ruining the night, and now here I was looking forward to dinner again. I knew that Rainwater Madeira would always have a special place in my heart from that point on. It had provided comfort to me at a time when I really needed it, just like chicken soup when you have a cold, your favorite blanket when you’re feeling chilly, or a friend’s shoulder when the world is falling apart.

Madeira starts out as a wine that gets fortified by brandy and then is repeatedly heated and cooled. This process develops unique flavors of caramel, roasted nuts, burnt sugar, vanilla, dried fruits, and toffee, none of which were present in the original wine. I needed another strong spirit to go along with the Madeira in this cocktail and so I decided on Gosling’s Black Seal rum. It’s deep and dark, with strong vanilla and caramel undertones. Grapefruit has such an affinity for vanilla that I knew I could definitely go in that direction next. I added in some Giffard Pamplemousse Rosé and some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. The drink needed just a bit more sweetness so I made a vanilla bean simple syrup, and for my bitters I chose Black Cloud’s Charred Cedar flavor because it was such a great match for the madeira and rum. I topped the drink with some club soda, but you could just as easily serve it without. You’ll end up with a smoother, more complex version of this cocktail that takes itself just a bit more seriously.

Into Your Comfort Zone

1½ oz Sandeman Rainwater Madeira
1 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
½ oz Giffard Pamplemousse Rosé
¾ oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
¼ oz vanilla bean simple syrup*
2 dashes of Black Cloud Charred Cedar bitters
2 oz club soda

Place all the ingredients except the club soda into the bottom half of a shaker tin. Add ice and shake vigorously until very cold. Double strain and pour into a double rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with the club soda and garnish with grapefruit slices. Enjoy!

*Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of just boiling water and heat gently until clear. Pour into a mason jar and add a split vanilla bean. Steep until the flavor is at the intensity you’re looking for. Store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

Winter Sunset: A December late afternoon in a glass.

Winter Sunset: A December late afternoon in a glass.

The house that I grew up in faced west so that when the sun was setting the light would stream in through the front windows. That light would look different depending on the time of the year; a hot, fiery orange in the summer with a dark blue sky on top, and a colder, almost icy orange in winter that gave way to a steely blue-gray sky up above. I often thought that if someone teleported me to a different year and plopped me down on that living room couch (where I liked to take naps while my mom cooked dinner) I’d know just what month it was depending on how the room was filled with light. I wouldn’t even have to cheat and look at the trees across the street to see if they had their leaves or not. I’d just know.

As I was brainstorming for today’s cocktail, the third and final drink for Gorshin Trading Post this Friday night, I didn’t have a name in mind. I knew the first 2 ingredients that I wanted to use: definitely Bluecoat Gin because it’s gorgeous in both aroma and taste AND it’s distilled locally, and definitely Giffard Crème de Pamplemousse Rosé for it’s beautiful color and ethereal pink grapefruit flavor. From there I brought in Dolin Blanc, a slightly sweet vermouth. Now I was flirting with a Negroni of sorts, so I added just a small amount of Aperol to bring up the bitter side of the drink, and I made a rosemary vanilla simple syrup for balance, sweetness, and to complement the flavor of grapefruit. It took a bit of playing with the measurements, but once I had it right I was happy with the result. The juniper and coriander in the Bluecoat worked beautifully with the Pamplemousse and the rosemary vanilla syrup, and the aperol added just the right amount of bitterness, as well as a hint of deeper color. The Dolin Blanc has both citrus and herbal elements, so it created a bridge between all the other ingredients.

When I started photographing the drink, I realized that I was capturing the blue color of the bottle of Bluecoat and the orange of the Pamplemousse as they reflected together in the cocktail glass. The realization hit me right away: I felt like I was back in my parents’ house, looking at that certain combination of winter light, smelling my mom’s cooking, feeling very much at home. It was amazing. I originally wanted a grapefruit garnish here, but I chose hibiscus salt instead. It appears black when it first hits the drink (bare tree branches against the sky, if you will) and then it dissolves into pink streaks… very much like when the sun sets on a cold December day just before Christmas.

Winter Sunset

1½ oz Bluecoat gin
¾ oz Giffard Pamplemousse Rosé
¾ oz Dolin Blanc vemouth
¼ oz Aperol
¼ oz rosemary vanilla simple syrup*
Hibiscus salt for garnishing

Combine all the ingredients except the hibiscus salt in a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir using a long-handled bar spoon until very cold (about 45 seconds). Strain using a julep strainer and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the hibiscus salt and enjoy!

*To make the simple syrup, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup boiling water until it is clear. Pour into a mason jar and add 1 vanilla bean split down the middle and one rosemary sprig. Seal the jar and let the ingredients steep. When it cools remove the vanilla bean and the rosemary. Store in the fridge. It’ll keep for about 3 weeks.