Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Camper and the Cocktail Yearbook

Alcademics is a beautifully named blog by Camper English that is at the top of my feed list...and not just because it starts with 'A'. I was considering posting on Food & Wines 2008 cocktail yearbook when he beat me to it. Easier to just link it anyway.

PS: How bout the photo!?!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Great Story-Telling from Ardbeg

I am a sucker for a well-told story...and Vikings...and ships...and dogs...and whisky. As luck would have it, Ardbeg has got them all going on at their website. I joined the Ardbeg Committee awhile ago and have received a fair amount of promo stuff from them that has been very well produced. I normally find this sort of thing wasteful and unnecessary, but theirs has been pretty cool. Well, the latest package from them was a special offer for a limited bottling called the Corryveckan. Thanks to some stifling liquor regulations, I cannot get a bottle shipped to me legally here in the US (maybe through Mexico!?!) and to be totally honest, the heavily peated Kildalton Malts (Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Port Ellen) are not really my favorite. However, the campaign supporting this bottling is pretty cool so I am totally trying to score a bottle.

Only 2 of the 3 episodes are up, but I couldn't resist posting.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Warm Olives?

A very special lady in my life gave me some very special garnish recently.

Yes, she knitted these herself... and yes, I do believe my home bar is now complete.

Friday, April 25, 2008

H on NPR

My boy H on NPR today!!

Rum in the Chronicle

Drinks writer Paul Clark and I had a chat about rum about a month ago and he quoted me in today's Chronicle... I couldn't be happier with piece and the words he chose.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Independant Mingling

As I mentioned yesterday, I am seeing a trend form in Independent Spirits where new producers are vatting/blending purchased barrels and selling them under their own label as forerunners to their own spirit which is still aging (or in some cases yet to be made.)

Everyone that I have seen has made a point of letting the consumer know exactly what is going on and where the juice is coming from. High West Distillery (see yesterday's blog) won't say which distillery made the barrels for their Rendezvous Rye, but does give the ages and mash bills a good break down. On Islay, the boys at Bruichladdich have just released The second Port Charlotte, PC6, which states clearly on the label that it was distilled at Bruichladdich, then moved a few miles down the road to age at Port Charlotte where the distillery is still being rebuilt. I can personally attest to the truth of this statement and I think that it is a beautiful thing they are doing.
Another the latest pre-release I have come across is probably the most interesting. In Virginia, there is a second Single Malt distillery in the works (the first being the bold Mr. Wasmund at The Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville.) The Virginia Distilling Co. is led by a Brit named Chris Allwood and is currently building their facility in Eades Hollow, just south of Charlottesville , VA in one of the most beautiful parts of the world I have ever seen. In advance of their own malt being ready, which is a good 6 or 7 years away considering the won't even run the still till this New Years Eve, Allwood created his Anticipation Series. Working with Jim McEwan, Bruichladdich popping up again!) they have coined the term 'Double Malt' and creating vattings in 3 regional styles with a 4th in the works. The Highland, the Speyside and the Islay are each comprised of malts from 2 regionally representative distilleries that then then ACE'd (Additional Cask Enhancement, a term I really want to catch on) in an ex-wine barrel.

In actuality, these anticipatory bottlings will have very little in common with the whisk(e)y that will follow. Even in the case of Port Charlotte where it will be the same water, malt and aging conditions, the still going in is of a very specific style and quite different from the beautiful ladies at Bruichalddich. I think that they exist purely for economic reasons. I personaly would find it pretty scary to start a company and build a distillery with no hope of cash flow for at least 5 years. The other move would be to use the stills for something that does not need to age like Gin (and Vodka...but we are not going to talk about that.) This is what is happening in Oregon right now at House Spirits. Their Aviation Gin (BEAUTIFUL!!!) and Medoyeff Vodka are paying the rent their Rum and Single Malt age.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The sexiest thing I saw on Sunday

I somehow made the mistake of ending up on Haight Street all day on Sunday, 4-20. I was expecting stinky hippies, I got loads of two-bit punk dime-bag dealers from the South bay and beyond. The whole goal was going to see the 4:20 screening of the Big Lebowski at the Red Vic and we thought we did a good job jumping in line a half hour before the tickets went on sale. Well, we missed in, the couple in front of us made it in, and we didn't.

Anyhoo, we did see this little bit of laced-strapped awesomeness in a window along the way. $60.00 is a pittance to pay for the complete overload of sultry vibes that come with this item.

Palo Santo Marron...One Funky Beer

I received a mixed pack of Dogfish Head beer to sample last week and just got around to tasting some of them. They all were quirky and cool, but the Palo Santo Marron really impressed me. I vaguely recalled hearing of the wood before and a co-worker who is well-versed in South American stuff described it as an incense wood. Well, I went to Wikipedia to see if there was anything anecdotal and low and behold, Dogfish Head is mentioned in the article!

The beer is oily, toasty and high in booze, yet finishes with a little menthol-type feeling. I was reminded of varnish after the first sip, but subsequent drinking revealed a sweet balance. Powerful and elegant, two of my favorite words, in what is now one of my favorite beers.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Petaler

As promised, here is a drink using the rose vermouth I posted a few ago. It is has been no secret I am sweet on the girl who does the flowers at Nopa. We both work on our stuff on Wednesdays so we banter a bit. These exchanges inspired me to push a floral Pimm's Cup style drink and the vermouth fits perfect.

The Petaler
1/2 oz. Square One Vodka
2 oz. Rose Vermouth
3/4 oz. Veloce (soon to be Dimmi Liquore de Milano)
very thinly sliced meyer lemons and oranges

Build in tall glass over ice interspersed with paper thin citrus slices and top with soda water.

You can check her out at

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Change at Maker's Mark

It was announced yesterday that David Pickerell, V.P. and Master Distiller at Maker's Mark has left the company after 14 years. He is being replaced by one Kevin Smith who has been with Maker's Mark since 1998.

I cannot wait to see where he will turn up. I met him briefly last year in Kentucky and was very imperessed with how easily he read where my interests lay and how quick he was share some of his vast knowledge of the industry with me. With the huge boom in American Whiskey over the last few years, it is a sure bet that he will be up to something cool.

Buy this book!

One of my favorite groups to track on the web are the dames over at LUPEC Boston. The are down-right tenacious at getting traditional cocktails the respect they deserve and they do it with a great sense of fun and frivolity.

Well, it appears they have gotten serious with their literary pursuits and published a book. I haven't actually received mine yet, so I can't review it, but I can sort of tell by the cover that I am going to dig it. Also, "The book costs $15 and all proceeds from book sales benefit the Friends Boutique at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which provides wigs, prosthetics, scarves and services for people dealing with the appearance side effects of cancer treatment."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

DIY Rose Vermouth

So I have read snippets concerning the existence Rose Vermouth for a few years now but have yet to get my hands on a bottle...anyone that knows me knows I just can't abide this sort of thing. Well, I am pleased to announce that I have locked down a recipe for it and I could not be happier. I make it a case at a time and would suggest doing the same or similar. As with most recipes that require infusion and balancing, volume cures all.

This recipe is made in two stages the first infusion takes at least a week, longer is better.

Stage 1) Fortifier
1 .750 bottle of Everclear
2 oz. jigger dried roses
2 oz. jigger dried jasmine
1 oz. jigger grains of paradise
-infuse for at least a week

Stage 2)
1 case dry rose (my boy K found me an 05 Rhone for $3.00 a bottle!)
3 cups dried rose buds (I like the Chinese ones available through Le Sanctuaire, if using the more common Mexican loose petals, bump up the amount a little)
2 cups dried jasmine
1 cups dried lotus
2 oz. jigger grains of paradise
1 oz. jigger quassia bark (careful here this stuff is bitter!)
1/2 cup honey

Combine in stock pot, let soak for at least one hour then move to stove, cover and cook on a low flame for 30 min or until the color has leached out of the roses. Let it cool, then strain though a china cap and loose cheese cloth being sure to ring dry (lots of goodies tied up in the flowers and stuff, squeeze it out!) Strain the infused Everclear the same way and marry into wine.

Now taste. It should be just slightly oxidised, enough to keep the floral notes from being overbearing and a little bitter on the finish. If the quassia has over infused (it happens...powerful stuff) add honey or a fresh bottle of wine. If you are careful to let the wine cool before adding spirit, the proof will be high enough to rebottle in the original wine bottles and store on the shelf. As with any vermouth, it is best to refrigerate once the bottles have some air in them.

I will post some drinks recipes using this later in the week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No more Veloce?

I recieved this letter in my in-box this morning:






I think this is pretty sad. While they are a fairly new brand and I do not anticipate too much confusion for them, they really do not deserve the hassle. I went online and found the website for the three Veloce bars and they no not appear to even have full liquor licenses.

I congratulate the Turrini's for handling this setback in a mature and responsible way and wish them great success in the future.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bottle Caddy

A pretty new toy at The Teardrop Lounge! The boys have unveiled their latest weapon in the war against the unorganized backbar. A smart and sleek bottle caddy for all their house-made product. I am absolutely in love with it. Keeping all my toys straight is tough on busy shifts and I think we can all agree that nothing looks worse than bottles scattered all over a work-station (at least to OCD freaks like myself anyway.)
I had a chance to visit the guys in Portland back in October and I cannot overstate how gracious they were. Their concept is fairly extreme and I am usually wary of those that try to be all things to all people. Often times large programs overreach and are unable to execute well. Not the case here at the Teardrop. The bar looks like a laboratory-in-the-round and is loaded with the tools to yield drinks both whimsical and intense. What I enjoy most is the sense of history they infuse their drinks without being stodgy or stiff. The combination of David, Daniel and Ted's (apologies to the young lady I met my last night for not remembering her got kind of late out that evening) knowledge, passion and sense of hospitality results in a beautiful and seemingly effortless elegance.
Highly Recommended!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

So, like I keep telling everyone who cares to listen, I don't compete in cocktail competitions anymore. I took a couple of tough losses over the years to totally crap drinks judged by drunk media and P.R. types in bars completely unprepared for the events. That being said, I just found out I am a semifinalist an Averna competition. The finalist are all going to Sicily...which is in Italy...which is totally worth me selling out one more time.

Here is the drink and I am actually pretty happy about it. The first time I had Averna, it was served along coffee and chocolate biscotti and it was a rocking good combo. It still evokes an urge for chocolate when I taste it today. To respond to this, I took a couple of other ingredients that mesh well with chocolate....and well, they click. I call this technique of building drinks around flavors that are not actually present 'echoing' and it is very useful when stuck on a hard-to-pair element.

Escondido Spritz:

3/4 oz. Averna

1/4 oz. Maraschino

1/4 oz. Mandarin Napoleon

1/4 oz. Hangar One Chipotle (or Chipotle tincture or couple of hits of Tabasco in a pinch)

4 oz. Sparkling Wine

Built in flute and garnished with a nice healthy orange zest.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Spot the Wisky Barrel.

Maybe the best lottery ever. A bunch of Islay charities stand to benefit from this event if they get the 60,000 entries they hope for. For 25 pounds ($50 USD) you get to pick a set of coordinates in the Hebridean Sea where you think a barrel will end after after being dropped from an airplane.

The prizes are plentiful and very cool. Those casks of Kilchoman for example are going to be worth a whole hell of a lot more than the 4,000 pounds suggested once the distillery is in full release mode. I am not going to get into how I picked my coordinates (I will say it involved a canary, 2 beers and a hub cap,) so pick your own.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Smokin' Ax

One soulful guitar!

I picked this up from the laddie blog over at Bruichladdich. Manne Guitars, an fine Italian instrument house carved an ax out of a used Lagavulin barrel to be presented at a Music Festival in Frankfurt. They even mixed some whiskey in the varnish!!!

Blue Gin

More gin!

The right tall and honorable Thad Vogler gave me a bottle of Blue Gin last night and I cannot help but rave. I knew this was coming as I was lucky enough to meet the distiller, Hans Reitsetbaur last year when he was in town hawking his beautiful Eau de Vies. I floated a nice pour of his carrot eau de vie on a bloody mary and got him interested, I used a sample of the Blue with his apricot spirit in a French 75 and made a friend for life.

Anyway, this is just wonderful stuff. 23 separate botanicals (I think that is the number) blended in a powerful, elegant spirit. It has a great sense of depth and flavor layers that make it just a blast to mix with.

Highly recommended!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Private Labeling gone wrong?

The AP reported yesterday the rapper Lil' Jon has decided to start selling a California Wine under his name. At first I was this was typical marketing idiocy, but one quote sort of redeemed him a bit in my eyes. "I'm not no `drink wine every day' kind of dude," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm not like an expert, so don't ask me no questions ... I just like the taste."

I don't know for sure, but I think that actaully makes sense to me.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

While not at all booze related, this dining experience blows me away.