Thursday, April 17, 2014

Karlsson's Vodka

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

To the dismay of many of my readers, real vodka is not made from grain.  No, real vodka is distilled from potatoes. 

Potatoes you say?  Yes the very same tuber that graces your plate as a side for roast chicken or tossed into a stir-fry.  They have a rich history of distillation. 

But why aren’t more vodka on the market made with potatoes?   The answer to that is strictly commerce. 

Potatoes are expensive to grow and even more expensive to distill.  Grain is easy to grow and is quite inexpensive to distill.  However grain does not possess the depth of flavor that potato vodka has.  Potatoes just taste differently in the glass.  Enter Karlsson’s Vodka from Sweden.  Karlsson’s is not made from grain; it is made from an individual crop of new potatoes.  New potatoes have a very distinctive flavor and aromatics.  It is completely different in every from the vodka you may have grown up around.

Karlsson’s Vodka is sharply delineated in the mouth.  The flavor is sweet and sour with a healthy underpinning of earth.  The taste of the place is in every sip, and that place is Sweden.  I can almost taste the sea air bursting from the bottle as I open the handsome squat bottle with images of new potatoes emblazoned on the inside of the label.  If you were looking at the bottle, lit from below, all you see are potatoes!

They say seventeen pounds of potatoes goes into each bottle of Karlsson’s Vodka.  I can’t see how they fit it all in there! It’s really gorgeous stuff. 

I’ve been experimenting with Shrubs as of late.  No, these Shrubs are not grown out in your garden; they are
a part of cocktail history.  Shrubs have been used in one form or another since antiquity.  Shrubs are made up of vinegar, fruit or vegetables and sugar.  They can contain herbs or spices as well.  I’m very fond of how a Shrub will unlock flavor from other ingredients.  They offer a sweet/tart injection of flavor into a mixed drink. 

Karlsson’s Vodka with its sumptuous notes of freshly dug new potatoes is just the perfect vehicle for a Shrub.  The flavor of the potatoes wraps its arms around the sweet/sour notes from the vinegar and the sugar.   Whatever you mix with is your business.  For my cocktail I choose to make a cucumber Shrub, knowing that you can do in all in just about a week.  Cucumber is just gorgeous in a Shrub with potato vodka. 

Apple Cider Vinegar is the basis for this Shrub as is Demerara sugar.  Each flavor will exemplify itself with this lush and flavorful Swedish vodka.  There really is nothing else like it on the market unless you are traveling to Poland. 

I’ve taken Karlsson’s Vodka and created a cocktail named A Mysterious Piece of Machinery.

This unique cocktail includes a small portion of cucumber Shrub made of vinegar, sugar and slightly fermented cucumbers.I’m sure you will find this very easy to make.

For the Cucumber Shrub
4 European Cucumbers cut into coins about ½ inch wide
1 cup Demerara sugar
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Cover the cucumber coins in sugar
Let sit at cellar (50-55 degrees) for three days
Cover with Vinegar and let set at 50-55 degrees for another three days
Mash the sugar and vinegar infused “Shrub” through a sieve
Bottle this Shrub and further age in the refrigerator or in a cool place for up to a month

For the Cocktail (A Mysterious Piece of Machinery)
2 oz. Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
1 oz. Cucumber Shrub
1 oz. Sparkling Water
3 drops Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

To a cocktail mixing glass, fill ¾ with ice
Add the Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
Add the Cucumber Shrub
Mix to combine
Strain into a short rocks glass over 1 ice cube only!
Add the Sparkling water
Dot the top with the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

This isn’t your typical flavored vodka made in a science lab!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Dead Rabbit's Irish Coffee

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

It’s rumored that Irish coffee was invented in the 1940’s as a curative against the cold and damp of Ireland’s westernmost reaches.  Joe Sheridan was the barman at the Shannon Airport bar where the lumbering, Pan Am flying boats from America would disembark after a rough ride across the pond.   It’s highly plausible that the combination of steaming hot coffee, warming Irish Whiskey, thickly whipped Irish cream (higher butterfat content than normal cream) and dark brown sugar would have found its way into the bellies of most travelers.  Anyone who traveled to fragment of Ireland during the early days of commercial air travel would have clamored over themselves to warm up their bones with a drink.  Any drink after a jarring plane trip during these early halcyon days of air travel.

I think drinking Irish whiskey woven into an Irish Coffee when imbibed in the morning may make the remainder of the trip a boozy affair indeed.  An Irish Coffee is always a fine way to begin a trip to the far-away continent of Europe.  You don’t need a flying boat for your next Irish Coffee!

Knappogue Castle is a lovely Irish Whiskey that I’m hoping you’ll be trying before too long.  It’s a single malt Irish Whiskey, a luxurious way to an end if you’re mixing it into an Irish Coffee.  Knappogue Castle comes in three varieties; one- the blazingly delicious 12 year old version is just gorgeous in an Irish Coffee.  The butter notes from the cask is achingly delicious when woven with good black coffee, dark brown sugar, loosely whipped cream and the essential scraping of nutmeg.  I’m not just advocating that you go to your store and actually ask for an expensive bottle of Irish Whiskey for your Irish Coffee, I’m demanding it.  Keep in mind, life is short and a bottle of Knappogue 12 year will enhance and enrich your experience.  It’s important in my opinion to drink as well as you are able to afford.  There is nothing for me at least; more disappointing than individuals who have never tried Knappogue Castle and they complain about the price, yet they drink Scotch Whiskey that costs several times as much.  It’s truly up to you. 

I think an Irish Coffee with Knappogue Castle is memorable, because of the quality of the ingredients. 

Knappogue Castle also comes in a Sherry Cask finished 16 year- single malt Irish Whiskey as well as the gorgeous Twin Wood, 14 year old expression.  I might not dilute them into an Irish Coffee, but if you want to, by all means, please do so.

The Dead Rabbit, located down on Front Street in New York City is my choice for the best (at least the most authentic) Irish Coffee that I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarr co-owners of the Dead Rabbit (named after the Dead Rabbits, a street gang from the days of yore) will make you an Irish Coffee that is so good, you’ll think it was the best you’ve ever imbibed. 

Sure, I had a Café Espana in Portland, Maine up at Hunt and Alpine that was electrifyingly good, but the one at the Dead Rabbit took my attention by its simplicity and grace.  Thank you.

Now I cannot tell you which Irish Whiskey to use in your Irish Coffee, but I must street that the quality of the coffee is only superseded by the high butterfat content of the whipping cream.  It’s essential to buy something organic and heavy in nature. 

If you are using whipping the cream you better not ever think about buying that stuff in a can.  Throw it out now.  Don’t do it.  NO.

Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarr will find you. 

Whip your own cream with the best heavy whipping cream you can buy.  That is a non-negotiable.
Your Irish Whiskey for this salubrious slurp is up to you, but I’d make sure to use Knappogue Castle 12 year.
Dark Brown Sugar?  Absolutely.

The Irish Coffee
Really good Irish Whiskey- like Knappogue Castle 12 year
6 oz. hot coffee- it better not be decaf…
3 – 4 oz. softly whipped cream, you’re not making butter-cream icing for a cake, whip only to very soft peaks, no more
1 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar – Essential.  Something happens with the sugar and the whipped cream. I cannot explain it, but without sugar the cream just melts into the coffee and your drink is ruined!

Preheat a glass mug with boiling hot water.. throw out when hot
Add the Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey to the preheated mug
Add the hot coffee
Add the sugar
Gently spoon the whipped cream on top…

Put a straw through the cream and sip up from the bottom

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Glendalough Poitín: Revival of a lost spirit!

By Catherine L Luke

Poitín is as true and original an Irish whiskey as the heart and soul of the people who have kept it alive despite all the reasons it might have disappeared forever. The making of poitín is an old tradition that was once passed from father to son for a long, long time.  Recipes and reputations were crafted throughout generations of its distillation.  Over time, poitín gained many admirers and a good name.  People all around Ireland learned how to make it.

In 1661 King Charles outlawed the making of poitín.  It would remain illegal for over three-hundred years.  Once its ban was in place, families who decided to continue distilling in remote locations out of the prying eyes of the law.

This wasn’t an easy route.  British tax men and their armies found and stomped out small distilleries.  At a time communal fines were introduced whereas the entire communities were fined if a still was found within the townland.  There were shoot-offs and many tales of struggle, defeat, and courage in defense of this expression of heritage.  In the end, poitín is still alive and kickin’, so one must believe that despite much adversity, poitín and its people have won.

One of the few spirited crafters supporting the health of poitín is Glendalough Poitín, from the Glendalaugh Valley in County Wicklow, just south of Dublin.  Glendalough Poitín is the work of five Irish guys who grew up hearing the stories of the famed spirit.  They’ve put their efforts into to reviving and perfecting a very old recipe. 

That old recipe has, as of very recently, made its way to the U.S. market.  I had the chance to talk with Donal O’Gallachoir, one of the local guys behind of Glendalough Poitín.  Donal gained experience in the whiskey industry while working  for large whiskey brands, but made a decision to leave that behind and veer towards bringing back craft and independent distilling to Ireland.  He says there for a long time there was a focus on one mainstream style of Irish Whiskey from a couple of large distilleries, we want to take it in another direction to show the old craft style of distilling in Ireland and bring back some of these stories and this heritage. This, in part, is what convinced Donal and his friends that it was time to bottle and sell their own.

Donal and his partners were inspired by a local hero, St. Kevin.  St. Kevin was born into nobility, though left
the path that was expected of him to move to the woods where he lived as a lover of freedom and the natural world .  St. Kevin’s independent spirit drew people to him.  He fell into the role of leader of the people who had followed him to settle the glen.  There, St. Kevin became a monk and it is in these monastic settlements where the birth of distilling happened. His image is found on Glendalough Poitín’s bottle as his legend embodies all that is important to the brand.

And how about the recipe?  Much of its magic is in the technique.  Its base includes potato, barley, and Irish sugar beet.  Batches are made slowly and small.  They are batched distilled in a small pot-still, lending a unique character to each batch.  Three poitíns are made- two clear, and one aged in sherry oak casks.  Aging of the clear styles takes place in Irish oak casks that once held dry goods.

Glendalough is best served straight.  But for the cocktail-lover, it can do many things.  Donal says that it’s hard to mask the flavor of poitín, but easy to compliment it.  Here he has shared a few recipes created by a two talented mixologists during a Dublin cocktail competition.

“The Monk” (By Michal Lis, Gibson Hotel)
Glass: coupe glass
1 1/2 oz Glandalough Poitín
1/4 oz Fratelli d'Italia Amaretto
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Syrup
3 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
Garnish: orange peel & Maraschino cherries

*Shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish.  A little orange zest over this one is a nice touch.

“Dubliners” (By Edvinas Rudzinskas, 4 Seasons Monaghan)
Glass: Champagne coupe glass
1 oz Glendalough Poitín
1/2 oz Irish whiskey
1/2 oz Monin Gingerbread Syrup
1/2 oz Fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz egg white
Garnish: Cinnamon stick, vanilla pod, and orange peel

*Put all the makings into cocktail shaker and dry shake or whip.  And afterward, shake with ice (if you dry shake first, it’s better for your egg white foam).  Then double strain into chilled champagne coupe glass.  Garnish it with cinnamon stick, vanilla pod, and orange peel flowers, if you have the wherewithal.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Catherine lives in Brooklyn, and has worked in the wine industry in Napa Valley and NYC. She is certified by the WSET, as well as the school of "wine in real life".  Understanding the patchwork of little-known Italian regional wines, dishes, and customs excites her most of all. She (sometimes) muses on her blog GrapesofCath.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Maple Syrup Sazerac

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

The maple syrup is just started to drip from the trees here in Northwestern, New Jersey. 

That’s my favorite time to get in touch with friends of mine who tap their own maple trees.  You see, the first run- in my opinion is the best for making cocktails.  I probably won’t put this nearly clear liquid over my pancakes because it lacks the deep, woodsy smack of long boiled syrup. 

The first run should be frozen into ice cubes!

The cocktail that reminds me most of springtime is the Maple Syrup Sazerac.  Similar to the textbook version of the Sazerac only in the word, Sazerac- this concoction includes both maple water ice cubes in the glass (horrors!) and a few teaspoons of dark amber maple syrup in the recipe.

Bookers Bourbon, rolling in at something north of 130 Proof is my choice for the base spirit.  There is no messing around with Bookers.  This is strong stuff.  Everything that I read about Bookers is true.  Cask Strength means trouble in the wrong hands!  Even the company recommends cutting this bourbon whiskey with some water.  In the case of this Maple Syrup Sazerac, the water is from a maple tree!

Carpano Antica makes headway into this cocktail, but not too much, just enough to wash the
inside of the glass.  There is a haunting sweetness about Carpano.  Perhaps this elegance of herbs and wine, aged in venerable barrels gives Carpano the edge over other Italian Sweet Vermouth.  I’m certainly not going to compare Carpano with anything available on the shelf in a supermarket, alongside cooking wine.  Carpano is ultra elegant and a little bit goes a long way as your essential go/to in this Maple Syrup Sazerac.

The bitters are also of utmost importance.  I’ve grown extremely fond of the Bitter Truth Creole Bitters.  Stained a vivid orange/red color, they emulate in color the famed Peychaud’s bitters, but possess a deeper, more aromatic nose.  Watch out for your white bucks, spill some of these bitters on them and the stain will be permanent!  Bitter Truth Creole bitters come in a lovely bottle that should be at the front of your bar!

The real maple syrup element is essential.  Don’t let me catch you using a corn syrup alternative, stained hideously by caramel coloring and sweetened with chemicals that vaguely imitate maple syrup. 

This is just not done. 

First of all, you should make friends with someone who taps their own maple trees.  Trade him some of your perfectly seasoned firewood that he will burn to heat his evaporator.  He might give you a pint or two of his first run maple water.  Then, later in the season maybe he’ll give you a taste of his darker colored syrup.  Maybe, if you offered to make your friend a Maple Syrup Sazerac with Booker’s Bourbon and Carpano Antica in addition to his syrup.  Well, that would be very nice.  This drink needs dark amber syrup to become otherworldly. 

You’ll see why in the end result.

The first thing that you need to do is take the first clear run of maple sap and cut it by ½ with pure, spring water.  Freeze that precious liquid overnight in a silicone ice cube tray.  I like the 2x2 ones for this cocktail. 

The next day you will have your maple ice, all ready for the Maple Syrup Sazerac.

Maple Syrup Sazerac

There are many ways of making a Sazerac.  Some are made in the classic method with Absinthe.  This Sazerac from my twisted mind filled with seasonal flavors takes a dog-leg to the right with the addition of the ever stylish, Carpano Antica in addition to the usual Absinthe.  I use them both because this drink really takes off with the herbal depth maintained in both ingredients. 

The maple syrup in this cocktail must be what is now named Grade A, Dark Amber.  It used to be called Grade B, but the powers that be in the maple syrup world thought grading something a B meant not as good as Grade A., but I digress. Grade B, stylistically, was perfectly suited to cooking and cocktails.  It has a dark and robust flavor. Cooking Maple syrup is not dainty in any way. 

2 oz. Booker’s Bourbon
¼ oz. Artemisia-Bugnon Distillery "La Clandestine" Absinthe Superieure (for the float)
½ oz. Carpano Antica (for the wash)
½ oz. Dark Amber Maple Syrup
Six shakes Bitter Truth Creole Bitters

Wash a cut crystal glass out with the Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth from Italy (pour the Carpano into a glass and wash it around, coating all interior surfaces)
Add one large cube of the maple water ice to the glass, set aside to cool down nicely

To a cocktail mixing glass add some bar ice – no more then ½ filled, please

Add the Booker’s Bourbon
Add the Dark Amber Maple Syrup
Add the Creole Bitters

Stir to cool and combine, about thirty times

Strain over the cut crystal glass with the maple water ice
Float the Absinthe over the top with a bar spoon

Serve with a long twist of lemon
Serve this to your friend who gave you the syrup- and then make one for yourself!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rhône Reds

By Liza B Zimmerman

I cannot think of a better pairing for most fatty meat dishes or a more welcoming red to sip by the fire than a Rhône red. From the intensity of Cornas and the lush balance of Gigondas to the super values of the Côtes-du-Rhône in the South, I adore their tannic, spicy and peppery intensity. Every time a restaurant serves me a fatty duck or fruit-influenced venison dish and doesn’t pair it with a rustic Rhône red my disappointment is almost palatable.

I was first introduced to the value side of the Rhône Valley with Jaboulet’s Parallèle 45. It was the affordable red of choice at one of my favorite Syrian restaurant in the Village that no longer exists. Even if they have taken my Kibbe away, I can still enjoy these fruit-packed reds at home or on a picnic. M. Chapoutier's Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche is also a delicious bargain. Both these corporate Rhône-producing kingpins have the size and scale to make great wines at superb prices.

The High End of the Region
On visit to Jean-Luc Colombo’s vineyards in Cornas on a miserable rainy day more than a decade ago, I came to understand why the great reds of this region come in at big-ticket prices. As Mr. Colombo himself stood out on a wind-whipped vineyard and showed how small the parcels of land can be in Cornas and how little they can yield—in the wrong harvest—I truly understood why these wines command such hefty prices. I still have a lot of affection and respect for Colombo’s wines, although some might consider them too modern.

If price weren’t an object I would probably drink a lot of Yves Cuilleron’s wines from Cornas and Côte-Rôtie. They also make wine in Saint-Joseph, an appellation that is often too tight and dusty for me. Come summertime I would pour endless rivers of Tavel rosé, made mostly from Grenache grapes, at lunch and as an excuse to have a bite or a glass on someone’s balcony or up in wine country.

Party Games and More
Let’s not forget what a stellar job many California producers, particularly in and around Paso Robles, are doing with Rhône-grape based wines. Tablas Creek’s Côtes de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas have long been favorites. L’Aventure’s Optimus is a lush blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvginon and Petit Verdot. Owner Stephan Asseo is quite a character and tells great stories of how he ended up in Paso Robles, when he couldn’t afford to buy land in Napa, and did enough experimentation with local soils before he spoke a word of English to keep the realtors amused.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the Rhône’s greatest appellations and it is challenge for even the biggestwine geeks to remember all the 13 grape varieties that are allowed to be used in the blend. When I was studying for the WSET Diploma—the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine—which I proudly completed more than a decade ago, we were afraid of being asked to name them on an exam. Playing, “Who can name all the 13 varieties in Châteuneuf-du-Pape?”  is also a great party game to indulge in if you run in wine-geeky circles.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Exploring Brennivin - The Icelandic Aquavit

By Catherine L Luke
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” -Plato

The country of Iceland is inhabited by about 325,000 people.  People who have historically known that if they want something done, they’ve got to find a way to do it themselves.  If Icelanders’ necessity were a drink, the invention was Brennivin, a clear aquavit-like spirit flavored with one of the few things that grows on the island, caraway.

Stories of Iceland can be found in a bottle of Brennivin, with its roots in Iceland’s strong Christian presence.  This presence spurred a long and thriving temperance movement, with a period of different levels of alcohol prohibition lasting from 1915 until 1989.  In 1935 the prohibition ban was partially lifted allowing government-controlled production and sale of spirits.  Brennivin was one of the spirits that was made and sold by the government. 

Brennivin’s label was created by Icelandic government.  Its design was simple- green bottle, black label, white font.  The black of the label (or the content of the bottle?) are said to have inspired the spirit’s nickname, “Black Death”.  The intention behind such a stark label was to create an unappealing visual to dissuade Icelanders from consuming alcohol.  It didn’t work.  Brennivin’s label has become as synonymous with Icelandic branding as the country’s sweaters and Opal candy wrappers.

Brennivin’s distillery, named Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrimsson (Egills for short), is located not far from Reykjavik in the town of Bogarnes.  Environmental practices in Iceland are incredibly clean.  Hydropower and geothermal energy are the main sources of energy.  Thanks to this, Iceland’s water comes out of the ground with a naturally high pH level, lending it a deliciously sweet taste and soft finish.  It is naturally beautiful water with little need for filtration.  This extraordinarily pure water is used in Brennivin’s distillation process.

Had you heard of Brennivin before now?  The spirit has experienced a bit of fame in pop culture- the Foo Fighters sing about it in “Skin and Bones”, and Bourdain as well as Kill Bill’s Budd drink it down on screen.  Even so, until very recently, it was not to be found outside of Iceland. 

Lucky for us, Brennivin is, as of very recently, available in the U.S. market.  This is the work of Brennivin America, founded by Joe Spiegel. Spiegel slowly and surely fell in love with Brennivin during layovers in Iceland during business travel.  Spiegel’s layovers grew from hours to days as he fell for Iceland’s schnappy specialty and the place it calls home.  After continually bringing bottles back to the states for friends who were similarly intrigued, he realized that it was time to start importing the Nordic treat.  Spiegel is an inspiring representative of his new import, as he may be just as enchanted with Iceland’s culture of creation as he is with Brennivin itself.

From its home base in Jackson Hole, WY, Brennivin America is working on letting Brennivin create a path
throughout the U.S. market in its own style.  The company is following along with the more holistic Icelandic methods of marketing.  Advertisement of alcohol is banned by Icelandic law.  Though this sort of constraint is something unusual for Americans, Spiegel makes a poignant point about the purity of Icelandic culture being void of energy-draining commercialism and consumption.

Before approval for entry into the U.S. market, Brennivin’s label had to be altered a bit.  The re-design was done by a very talented designer, a U.S.-based Iceland native named Hjalti Karlsson.  Eventually, Brennivin America plans to introduce two slightly more complex styles of Brennivin to the market- Oðalsbrennivin which spends 6 months of aging, and Gamalt Brennivin which undergoes 2 years of aging.  These styles are being made in the hopes of keeping some of the old traditions of Brennivin production alive.

As far as pairing possibilities go, typical Icelandic food such as fermented shark meat marries well with Brennivin.  Salmon and herring are sometimes cured in Brennivin, and Austrian and German fare have been found to be complimented by Brennivin’s caraway flavor. 

Though it is completely delicious on its own (“drink ice cold” is the slogan), Brennivin’s unique taste is pretty fun to experiment with in cocktails.  Though it has not yet landed in his town, Jeff Grdinich of Jackson Hole’s The Rose and the documentary Tales of the Cocktail has had the chance to sip a bit of Brennivin from Spiegel’s stash and says, “It's a fantastic pick-me-up to sip on after some cold runs down the slopes here.  Its flavors and texture make for an intriguing cocktail ingredient.”  The possibilities of this aquavit are only just beginning!

Here, Spiegel shares some playful showcases for the spirit:
Northern Lights:
1 part Brennivin
1/2 part Amaretto
1 part grapefruit juice
splash of soda water
garnish with an orange slice

1 part Brennivin
1/2 part Kahlua or other coffee liquor
squeeze of lemon
soda water

B & T:
Use Brennivin as in a gin & tonic but garnish with lime wedge and dill sprig

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Catherine lives in Brooklyn, and has worked in the wine industry in Napa Valley and NYC. She is certified by the WSET, as well as the school of "wine in real life".  Understanding the patchwork of little-known Italian regional wines, dishes, and customs excites her most of all. She (sometimes) muses on her blog GrapesofCath.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Conversation with Martin Price, the owner and creator of SW4 London Dry Gin

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I love receiving products to review. There is something very intriguing about tasting liquors (and wines) that I may not be able to secure easily. Most liquor is available in the New York Metro area. If you live away from New York City and the idea of driving into Manhattan just to buy a special bottle of liquor frightens you, have no fear.

DrinkupNY does a fantastic job sourcing hard to find expressions from craft spirits distilleries that you probably won’t see in your town.  I consider DrinkupNY to be my one stop shop for this kind of liquid exotica that most liquor stores have never heard of, much less considered.

A gleaming bottle of SW4 Gin arrived on my doorstep recently from SW4’s PR, just about the time I was pondering what gin means to me.  The context of well-distilled gin becomes more than a metaphor for good taste.  I’m intrigued by gin, perhaps because I understand very little about it.  One thing for certain is my love of the flavor balance.  Another thing that I like about gin is that there are many different styles of gin.  Each style is categorically different from the next.  Then there may be London Dry styles that are sweet in character, just as there may be Botanical styles that are spicy and dry on the finish.  There are the Genever styles of gin that rely on aging techniques and ingredients and then there are the Old Tom styles that pick up the sensual flavors of the aging cask. 

I’m fond of them all.  Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I tasted the SW4 (evidently the London Zip code) and I loved the bursts of citrus and wet stones.   Generally I’m quite fond of the style named London Gin.  As you may know by reading my work, I’m passionate about small producers and craft spirits.   When I starting reading up on the SW4 gin, I became more and more intrigued.

And very thirsty. 

Here is what I’m thirsty for!

One Night in Balfour Fizz
2 oz. SW4 Gin
½ oz. each freshly squeezed juices:
1 oz. Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Three Chilies
3 drops Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters 
Dash of freshly drawn seltzer
Fleur du sel

To a Boston Shaker- fill ¾ with ice and pour over the liquid ingredients
Cover and Shake
Pour into a Coupe
Dash a bit of seltzer over the top
Dot with Angostura Bitters
Sprinkle a bit of fleur du sel on top

I was recently given the opportunity to interview Martin Price, the owner and creator of SW4 London Dry Gin.  Enjoy!

Why London Gin?  Why not Botanical Gin?
1. All gins are made with botanicals or botanical flavourings, even if it is only one - juniper. Therefore, all gins are "botanical" gins. As you know SW4 is made with 12 botanicals.

SW4 is a "London" Gin, because it has been made in accordance with the European Union law governing the production of gin, which lays down specific guidance on production methods, use of flavourings, sweeteners, colouring and other additives, and levels of methanol which may be present in the finished product. The following wikipedia extract covers the key points quite well:

"Although several different styles of gin have evolved, it is legally differentiated into four categories in the European Union, which are described as follows:[1]

Juniper-flavoured spirit drinks - This includes the earliest class of gin, which is produced by pot distilling a fermented grain mash to moderate strength (e.g. 68% ABV), and then redistilling it with botanicals to extract the aromatic compounds. It must be bottled at a minimum of 30% ABV. Juniper-Flavoured Spirit Drinks may also be sold under the names Wacholder or Genebra.

Gin - This is a juniper flavoured spirit made not via the redistillation of botanicals, but by simply adding approved natural flavouring substances to a neutral spirit of agricultural origin. The predominant flavour must be juniper.

Distilled gin - Distilled gin is produced exclusively by redistilling ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with an initial strength of 96% ABV (the azeotrope of water and ethanol) in stills traditionally used for gin, in the presence of juniper berries and of other natural botanicals, provided that the juniper taste is predominant. Gin obtained simply by adding essences or flavourings to ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin is not distilled gin. [MP - the "distilled gin" definition accommodates gins which have flavourings and colourings added after the main distillation has occurred; hence Hendricks is a distilled gin, not a "London Gin"]

London gin - London gin is obtained exclusively from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with a maximum methanol content of 5 grams per hectolitre of 100% ABV equivalent, whose flavour is introduced exclusively through the re-distillation in traditional stills of ethyl alcohol in the presence of all the natural plant materials used, the resultant distillate of which is at least 70% ABV. London gin may not contain added sweetening exceeding 0.1 gram of sugars per litre of the final product, nor colorants, nor any added ingredients other than water. The term London gin may be supplemented by the term "dry".

In the EU, the minimum bottled alcoholic strength for gin, distilled gin, and London gin is 37.5% ABV.

In the United States, gin is defined as an alcoholic beverage of no less than 40% ABV (80 proof) that possesses the characteristic flavour of juniper berries. Gin produced only through distillation or redistillation of aromatics with an alcoholic wash can be further distinguished and marketed as "distilled gin".[2]

Some legal classifications define gin as only originating from specific geographical areas without any further restrictions (e.g. Plymouth gin, Ostfriesischer Korngenever, Slovenská borovička, Kraški Brinjevec, etc.), while other common descriptors refer to classic styles that are culturally recognized, but not legally defined (e.g., sloe gin, Wacholder and Old Tom gin)."

Where do your ingredients come from?  The water source?
2.Water - SW4 London Dry Gin is made with London mains water, which has been double reverse osmosis filtered (de-ionized) for exceptional purity.

Our neutral grain spirit is all UK sourced and is derived mainly from wheat, but also some barley (roughly 80/20).

The two most important components of the botanical recipe for most gins are juniper and coriander; together they make up to 90% by volume of the botanicals used in a gin.

Juniper - The EU defines that only one type of juniper berry - from the juniperis communis variant, may be used in the production of gin. We source ours from Macedonia and northern Italy, but juniper grows all over the northern hemisphere, often best in upland alpine type regions where the plants are somewhat stressed by the growing conditions, but are not troubled by shade, to which they are intolerant.

Coriander is the second most important botanical. Coriander is seen as the second most important botanical and is used both as a herb (leaf) and a spice (seed). Key growing areas are South and East Europe, South-west Asia, India and North Africa. We source our coriander from Russia and Bulgaria. In 2013, the best coriander came from Bulgaria. The reason? Bulbarian coriander has a higher content of essential oils.

Angelica - There are 60 types, but Angelica Archangelica is the type used in gin production. It thrives in damp conditions and is harvested after its second year, once it has flowered and then died back. The seed provides fragrance, whereas the root has some juniper and earthy flavours and aromas. Angelica is imported from Russia, Korea and North America for processing and use in distilling.

Native to the Eastern Mediterranean region, they are now cultivated in Northern India, North Africa, and Southern Europe.Read more at

Orris - made from the root of the Iris Germanica and the Iris Pallida these plants were native to the Eastern Mediterranean region, but they are now cultivated in Northern India, North Africa, and Southern Europe.

Cinnamon - True Cinnamon is grown in Sri Lanka.

Cassia - Closely related to True Cinnamon, cassia ia the bark of the Cassia tree, which is grown commercially all over Indonesia and SE Asia.

Savory - is an old English herb.

Licorice - is grown commercially in central Asia, mainly in China, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey.

Orange peel - we use sweet orange peel from Europe, mainly Spain and Italy.

Lemon - We use lemon peel from Turkey, Spain and Italy.

Nutmeg - from Indonesia

Almonds - from Spain

Do you like to pare gin with food?  What kind of foods goes well with your gin?
3. Food Matching:

Asian Cuisine
Gin and tonic sharpens and refreshes your palate, making it the perfect drink to enjoy with Thai food and other Asian cuisine. The spicy, dry flavors found in many of these dishes are the perfect complement to the spicy, dry flavors in an SW4 G&T.

Smoked Salmon
The next time you prepare or order a smoked salmon dish, try adding an SW4 Gin Martini with a lemon twist to the occasion. It's a food/drink pair that's like a marriage made in heaven. The citrus and spice notes found in SW4 Gin complement the aromatic smoke flavours of the salmon perfectly.

SW4 Gin with Game Terrine
If you are already a game fan, try a strong pate such as hare, or if you are new to game, may be a lighter one such as guinea fowl and pheasant. Since juniper is often used as a culinary ingredient with game (especially in Scandinavian cuisine), so pairing with a traditional juniper-led London dry gin such as SW4 is best. Contemporary style gins often favour other botanicals, and this does not work so well. A game/SW4 pairing works best when the gin is served cold in a martini or as a frozen shot. You could try the same pairing with a cold game pie, or any venison dish - the possibilities are endless!

SW4 Gin Bramble cocktail with Goats Cheese
The tart blackberry and citrus sweetness in an SW4 Bramble is the perfect match for French Chevre cheese. French for "goat," chevre is a pure white goat's milk cheese with a delightfully tang and tart flavor that easily distinguishes it from other cheeses. Some of the better-known chevres include BANON, BOUCHERON and MONTRACHET. "Pur chevre" on the label ensures that the cheese is made entirely from goat's milk; others may have the addition of cow's milk. Chevres can range in texture from moist and creamy to dry and semi firm - choose the former varieties for gin matching!

How do you feel about tonic water?  Should it be made with corn syrup or cane sugar?  Editor’s note: Well said- to include both!
4. Tonics
My favourite tonics are Fevertree and Schweppes - I believe that one uses corn syrup and one does not!

Social Media brought us together?  What would be a good way to follow the success of your company?  Facebook?  Twitter?
5. Social Media  Facebook  Twitter

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.
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