Monday, December 31, 2012

Root & Snap Toddy For Powerful Cold Relief

By Warren Bobrow

There are a couple of marvelous products available that bring the early ages of cocktail creation back into the present day. These are the products named Snap and Root. Snap is a liquid driven ginger snap and Root is what Root Beer tasted like before they took all the fun out of it.

Both products are made using USDA Certified Organic ingredients. Root is made of anise, allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, spearmint, lemon, smoked black tea, wintergreen, clove, orange, nutmeg, sugar cane and birch bark. Doesn't that sound inviting? Snap is made of blackstrap molasses, clove, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, rooibos tea, vanilla and pure cane sugar. I'm getting thirsty just thinking of these delightful liqueurs in a cup of hot tea.

Fact is, I've had the most powerful cold for the past week. It just swept me off my feet. Suddenly I couldn't taste anything and the cold sweat seemed to come out of every pore in my body. I couldn't get warm and strong medicine was necessary. Please meet Root and Snap.


I'm the kind of person who would rather unlock the past through healing preparations rather than trot down to the doctor for drugs, so into the liquor cabinet I went. First the proper water needed to be boiled. If you live in the city, your water is pretty good. My water is sourced from a well and is packed with minerals that leave a green haze on almost everything, due to the acidity of the water interacting with the copper pipes. I think that the water in a cocktail is one of the most important ingredients. If your water tastes like chlorine, the entire drink will be ruined, no matter what you do! May I suggest using a Mavea "Inspired Water" pitcher? This marvel of German engineering takes your formerly unpalatable water and turns it into a thing of rare beauty. My Mavea filter imparts a certain softness to each precious sip of water.

So, may I suggest boiling "Inspired Water" for your hot Toddy? I think you'll be very pleased. Also, and no less important, may I suggest making a couple trays of ice with the Mavea water? They freeze nearly crystal clear. How is that for making a statement in your glass?

Root is an authentic recreation of the root teas of olden times. Folk medicine practitioners to heal all sorts of maladies in the body originally prescribed Root teas. I'm not saying that Root will heal my cold, but given the ingredients it couldn't hurt. And with an alcohol content of 80 Proof, well, you know what that means... a nice fuzzy feeling. After all, part of getting sick is getting better. I tend to feel better after getting a bit fuzzy. At least it makes going to sleep easier. Easier sleep means less complaining.

Snap tastes like a German Gingersnap cookie - or in this case the Amish Lebkuchen. The healing ingredients like ginger and cinnamon put the kibosh on colds like nobody's business. If you are thinking medicinal bitters, you're more than half-way there.

Hot tea is the analgesic mixed with Root and Snap. If you want to make the drink a bit sweeter, may I suggest using pure cane sugar or raw honey? You'd never want to use a corn syrup sweetener on this mug full of healing. It would defeat the purpose!

Colonial Toddy

Ingredients:
• Hot Tea
• Snap
• Root
• Mavea Filtered Water
The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
• Raw Honey or Pure Cane Sugar

Preparation:
1. Preheat a stout mug with boiling hot water, and then pour out
2. Add a tablespoon of Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
3. Add 1 oz. Root
4. Add 1 ½ oz. Snap
5. Top with the hot tea
6. Adjust sweetness to taste
7. Add a pat of butter over the top if desired for a certain savory character

I'm going to tell myself to feel better with this hot toddy!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Red Velvet Armchair Cocktail

By Warren Bobrow

This is a holiday firecracker of a cocktail. This drink has all the crowd-pleasing excitement of a tropically inspired Tiki Bar concoction. But please keep this mind - this drink has the potential to hurt you badly. If you finish the night with a large glass of Fernet Branca you'll be set from the get-go. If not... woes be.

Do not succumb to the wiles of this carbonated slurp that contains both Purity Vodka from Sweden and Campari from Italy, woven with the fizz of fine French sparkling water. Please don't say I didn't warn you first.

This is a very good holiday cocktail. It brings people together. The sound level will rise in the room from the soon to be inebriated crowd. Then come the singing and the dancing. Perhaps a bit of food is eaten, maybe not, then more cocktails. Carousing will take place.

The music seems far off, pulsing, throbbing in the background.

Soul Makossa? James Brown? Issac Hayes?

The room begins to spin.


Over there, by the punch bowl is a large Danish armchair made of red velvet. It looks so inviting. So charming. Reaching out for you to throw yourself into it. Let the chair envelop you in the firm material. The reasoning for the Red Velvet Armchair is quite simple - it holds you closely and won't ever let you go.

Visually, I love this punch for the colorful nature of the freshly squeezed blood orange juice and the addition of Campari and strong Swedish Vodka.

Each recipe will make two extremely strong drinks. Danger! Danger!

• 4 oz freshly squeezed blood orange juice
• 2 oz Purity Vodka 
• 2 oz Campari
• A good splash, then some more of the Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
• Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
• Chunk of lime

Preparation:
1. Add ice and the spirits to a cocktail glass (fill ¾ with ice)
2. Add blood orange juice.
3. Shake, strain into a Collins-glass filled with fresh ice and a squeezed lime chunk.
4. Top with the Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (essential)
5. Add exactly three shakes of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
6. Sip and hold yourself to three. NO MORE lest you fall into the chair!

Danger level 5 out of 5!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Crane Over Koi Pond

By Warren Bobrow

Hiro Sake is a gorgeous slurp of Japanese Sake history that you can enjoy today. Traditionally, Sake is produced in a method very similar to the manufacture of beer, but it takes a turn in another direction during the brewing process. The three ingredients of Sake are rice, water and koji mold. The rice is polished through a rigorous process that exposes the soft inner core of the grain. This polishing focuses the intense flavors that have been converted to sugar from starch.

Hiro Sake is versatile with food as well as on its own. I prefer Sake with food, lightly chilled and served either in a wooden vessel or fine crystal. Sake should NEVER be microwaved, as it destroys the delicate flavor balance. However, if you want warm Sake, it should be heated gently to no more than 140 degrees.


The first time I tasted Sake, it was indeed served hot. I cannot guarantee from my memory the quality of the Sake. I'm sure it was not like the quality of the Hiro product. I was in California, about 15 years of age. The Sake came served in the traditional manner, a small Sake cup made of pottery and a pottery vessel. The liquid elixir was heated to an impossibly high heat. Whatever was in the vessel scalded my fingers and my tongue. This burning sensation will forever stick in my memory because the subtlety of the Sake was lost when it was boiled. Everything from that point forward is a blur and anyone who has over indulged on Sake will tell you that they've had a similar experience with Sake. If the day is cold and the Sake is hot, watch out!

Later in my youth I tasted a most beguiling combination of flavors - Sake served chilled on the rocks with the addition of plum wine. Sake and plum wine for me is the veritable mind eraser. There is no doubt that my college years were clouded by this drink. A bit sweet to the slight bitter flavor from the Sake - served over ice in a tall glass. You could say that after a couple of these drinks your mouth starts speaking perfect Japanese. Then again you could say you don't remember a thing. Not necessarily bad.

Hiro Sake Red (Junmai) is traditionally brewed to be served hot, while Hiro Sake Blue (Junmai Ginjo) should be served chilled, on the rocks, or with your favorite liquor. I actually prefer the more robust flavors of the Red in my cocktails. It seems to play well with others even if the Red is not heated. One of these cocktails for the Red is called simply, Crane Over Koi Pond.

Crane Over Koi Pond

Ingredients to make two extremely powerful, yet balanced-short drinks:
Hiro Red Sake
Canton Ginger
Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (pink grapefruit essence)
Bitter Truth Orange Bitters

Preparation:
-(Prepare to have your mind erased…)
-Add to a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice
-Add 4 oz. Hiro Red Sake
-Add 2 oz.
Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur 
-Add four-five shakes of Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
-Shake Shake Shake Shake
-Pour over a large cube of hand cut ice and top with the Perrier Sparkling Water to finish
-Contemplate the Crane gazing hungrily at your very expensive fish in the Koi pond. 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mend'ham Mule

By Warren Bobrow

I cannot think of a more refreshing afternoon drink than Cock 'n Bull Ginger Beer and Baker's Bourbon poured into a tall, ice-filled glass. But why would I choose such a venerable brand of bourbon if I wanted a mixed drink? Baker's happens to please my palate because of the 107 Proof heat. It stands up to your mixer, whichever one you happen to enjoy. Now I'm not saying that you have to mix fine bourbon like Baker's with soda, but it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

Baker's comes from the fine folks who make Booker's, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden's and the venerable Jim Beam Bourbons. I feel that if any bourbon deserves my written hand, then it must be Baker's Bourbon. And, Baker's Bourbon certainly does deserve to be enjoyed in a glass alone - pour it into a snifter with one cube of ice, or no ice (Why spoil it…right?).

I love the heat and the vanilla notes that give way to charred cornbread on the tongue. The mid range is smoked pork hock and there are caramel coated candy apples in the finish. This is not your "augmented by edible ethyl" alcohol, vodka-esque spirit.

It is the real thing folks, made by craftsmen who care about each sip that comes out of the bottle. Cork finishing (a real cork for a stopper) says something to me about the care it takes to bottle this spirit.

But, one must remember that 107 Proof is not 80 proof. Baker's has a magical way of slipping some fingers around your brain and twisting it. So pouring a healthy slurp of Cock 'n Bull Ginger Beer into my Baker's really can't hurt.

Cock 'n Bull is a historic brand of ginger beer from the Los Angeles restaurant of the same name.  The original recipe dates back to the 1940s. This soda is not a sickly sweet ginger beer. It cuts the heat of the Baker's Bourbon and gives each sip a lift. There is spice in the bottle, which I suspect comes from hot chili or pepper. You can taste the sweet-yet-subtle burn as it goes down your throat. Baker's, its fire flickering in the mid range of each slurp, does the same thing.

The Cock 'n Bull Ginger Beer is in a handsome bottle with bold graphics and a black label. The pictures of the rooster and the bull stand out against a black background with blood red lettering. I'm quite fond of this soda. And with the addition of the bourbon, it's something else entirely! You should definitely try to get some! Of course if you cannot find Cock 'n Bull, may I recommend a spicy Ginger Beer, like the one from Goya. It has hot chili peppers in it!

The Mend'ham Mule

The original Mule Cocktail was made in a hand hammered, copper cup. I've twisted it up a bit to fit my rules, which means there aren't any rules.

-Baker's 107 Proof Bourbon
-Fresh Lime juice
-Rock Ice (Hand Cut) using your Mavea "Inspired Water" Pitcher for clarity of the ice
-The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters
-A couple good splashes of Cock 'n Bull Ginger Beer

Pour 3 oz. bourbon over cracked, hand-cut ice.
Add about six ounces or more of ginger beer.
Add 1-2 oz. Ginger Simple Syrup (ginger grated over regular simple syrup).
Add 1 oz freshly pressed lime juice.
Add 2 good dashes of the Professor Jerry Thomas Bitters over the top to finish.
Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

Drink!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cocktail Whisperer's Crusta

By Warren Bobrow

1800's New Orleans was a rough and tumble place. Powerful intoxicants led to ruffian behavior. Not much has changed to this date down in Old New Orleans. There is something about the heat and the humidity that makes drinking heavy liquors very challenging.

The Brandy Crusta cocktail is one drink that actually is so enticing that you may find yourself slurping down this combination of flavors far too quickly. But isn't that the basic idea? I don't recommend turning into a street ruffian, but if you drink too many Crusta cocktails, anything is possible!

The Brandy Crusta cocktail is a combination of flavors inherent to the European continent. It is a permutation of ingredients such as Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and Combier Liqueur d'Orange. I can picture this cocktail in my hand, a refreshing blend of engaging to tart to congenial.

The cocktail would be prepared in a method very near and dear to my heart, with exact measurements.  The final garnish would be a spiral of grapefruit because I find the traditional method of spiraling a lemon too acidic with the addition of lemon juice in the cocktail.

From DrinkUpNY, this is the classic version of the Crusta…

Brandy Crusta

This cocktail was developed in mid-19th century New Orleans, and has since inspired a wide range of modern creations. It presents a delicious balance of sweet and sour, and the base spirit really shines through. Therefore, we recommend one of our entry-level favorites, Pierre Ferrand Ambre.

1.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10 Year Old Cognac
.25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
.25 oz. Combier Liqueur d'Orange
.25 oz. Fresh lemon juice

Moisten the rim of a cocktail glass with lemon, and rim with sugar. Build ingredients with ice and shake. Strain in to a cocktail glass and garnish with a spiral of lemon around inside of the glass.

I love to shake up this cocktail by doing an Absinthe wash. But what is an Absinthe wash? You literally wash out the inside of the cocktail glass with Absinthe, ice and water - before the other ingredients enter the glass. There is something about Absinthe when mixed with the other flavors that makes this drink even more mysterious.

The flavor profiles of each ingredient is as follows:

Pierre Ferrand Ambre: Toasty hazelnut fire gives way to caramel and fleur du sel on the front of the tongue, sweet vanilla on the back of the tongue carries through to and notes of white flowers and bittersweet cocoa continue on and on. This is a fine "beginner" Cognac or a "cellar defender" as well. You may want to pour this into your snifter and flame an orange zest over the top into your glass. Just be careful that you don't catch the other spirits on fire!

Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur: This is not your red thing in a jar maraschino cherry liqueur. It is the result of careful aging and a secret blend of spices to reveal the hidden aromatics of these tiny Italian fruits. Luxardo is also known for their brandied cherries. This is a similar flavor but with added zip. It makes a marvelous cocktail ingredient in a Gin Fizz or simply in a glass with seltzer water and lime.

Combier Liqueur d'Orange: If you are accustomed to drinking plain Triple Sec in your cocktails, why not step up to this very French Liqueur d'Orange? It's also delicious in a glass of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral water with a muddle of grilled orange.

St. George Absinthe: This is unlike any Absinthe I've ever tasted. The aromatics are like wandering barefoot through a Northern California basil farm. You can taste the sweet perfume of the spicy basil as it clings to your pant leg. It is most unique Absinthe - quite powerful and arguably aromatic.

My recipe for the Crusta uses instead of a lemon zest, it uses a grapefruit zest. And in addition to the three liqueurs, my recipe uses a wash of the St. George Absinthe Verte along with the juice of a grilled grapefruit. Here it is for your consideration:

The Cocktail Whisperer's Crusta

.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10 Year Old Cognac
 1 oz.  St. George Absinthe for the wash
.25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
.25 oz. Combier Liqueur d'Orange
.25 oz. Grilled Grapefruit juice (sear slices of grapefruit over fire then cool and juice) 
Simple Syrup to taste (.50 oz recommended)

Add all these ingredients to a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice. 
Shake until well frosted.
Wash your glass with the Absinthe, ice and water.
Pour this out into your mouth after the glass is quite chilled or set aside for later.
Add one gigantic hand-cut ice cube to your rocks glass at least 3x3.
Flame an orange zest into the glass by pinching the zest into a burning match.
Double Strain the liqueurs over the ice cube.
Serve with a ribbon of grapefruit zest over the rim and inside the glass.
DRINK! Then have another!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tenneyson & Nolet's.. Magic.

By Warren Bobrow

I'd like to tell you about a couple of my passions. The first is the Inspired Water pitcher from Mavea. I've been selling them over at Williams-Sonoma in Short Hills and find that the water that comes out of the filter just screams for Tenneyson Absinthe and Nolet's Gin.

I'm not sure why, but every time I drink water from the pitcher at work and especially from my version at home, all I think about is absinthe and gin.

This is strange. There is something about the quality of the water that just screams, "Inspired Water". Tonight I poured a nice shot of Tenneyson Absinthe into one of my favorite glasses. I added a measure of Nolet's Gin, and then added a bit of simple syrup made from charred strawberries mashed into plain, simple syrup.

Then I dropped four drops of The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters over the absinthe, gin and the fruit-infused simple syrup. The Bitter Truth Bitters add a haunting note to the absinthe and the gin. You really must have a bowl of gumbo with this New Jersey version of the classic Absinthe Frappé.

Finally I dribbled pure inspired water over the top of the absinthe, gin and the syrup-bitters mix. I use ice made with water from the Mavea pitcher. What results is pure love.

Tenneyson Absinthe is marvelous liquor from France. Distilled with natural ingredients, this sumptuous slurp is not meek, rolling in at 107 proof! I'm always astonished at the power of this absinthe. Magical stuff. It makes me shiver with anticipation to the eventual buzz. Add to the Tenneyson and the Nolet's Gin a healthy splash of strawberry infused simple syrup, then the Bitter Truth Celery Bitters to finish.

Drizzle, dribble, leak, drip, whatever method you desire. I want the water to go over the top slowly.
A louche forms. It's all at once cloudy yet touched by the darker concentration of strawberries. 

Mysterious turns to magic, the wolves in the forest awaken. All is suddenly electric, aroused, and alive with lust and possibilities.

Did I say that I love Tenneyson? Sure. It's very approachable. It doesn't perplex you with added artificial color of green, yellow or blue dye. This is the real thing my friend.

I am also quite fond of the citrus elements in Nolet's Gin. This is ultra-sophisticated gin with real flavor. It doesn’t taste like vodka, nor does it overpower you with exotic botanicals.

I just love it!

I named this cocktail after my former teacher in food writing, Alan Richman.  Alan tried so very hard to inspire me not to write like a "Southern Boy", but like myself.

I'm just a guy who grew up on a farm in NJ.

Thank you Alan, I've been doing pretty well for myself, I hope you will concur…

It's also possible that my cocktail writing has become dangerous and subversive.

After my trip to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail this year, I'm sure it has - people just get thirsty when reading my words.

It makes you want to get blitzed. 

If you do imbibe, please try to drink in moderation and make sure for this holiday season that you have a designated driver. You'll need one after enjoying a few of these cocktails!

The Alan Richman Cocktail

Ingredients for two extremely potent mind erasers, just the thing when Alan calls you to task over your food writing or lack thereof.

- Tenneyson Absinthe Royale
- Nolet's Silver Dry Gin
- Plain Simple Syrup with added cast iron pan charred strawberries. I use Driscolls.  (Heat a cast iron pan to smoking, slice berries in half and char. Mash into your simple syrup to make strawberry simple syrup)
- The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
- Sprig of Tarragon

Preparation:
- Fill 1/4 of a Boston Shaker with ice.
- Add Tenneyson Absinthe - 2 oz - 3 if you really want to see the green fairy…
- Add 1 oz Nolet's Gin
- Stir to chill fully, but don't chip the ice, try to use just one hand carved ice cube.
- Add ice and water to a favorite glass to chill, toss out after 3 - 4 minutes.
- Add the chilled Tenneyson Absinthe/Nolet's Gin to the chilled rocks glass.
- Add 4 drops of the Bitter Truth Celery Bitters over the top of the absinthe and gin mixture.
- For each cocktail use a 3:1 ratio of 3 parts Mavea Inspired Water or your choice of spring water to 1 part Tenneyson Absinthe in each glass (or to taste!).
- Add 3 Tablespoons of the charred strawberry simple syrup.

Stir again and garnish with a sprig of tarragon in each glass

Be careful! Danger Level 4 out of 5!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vermouth

By Warren Bobrow

Vermouth has its medical roots in 18th Century Italy, France and Spain. Folk healers added wormwood and other healing herbs to wine as an aid to digestion and to rid the body of a multitude of toxins. Herbal tonics involving wine proliferated for over three hundred years and continue today. Vermouth also has culinary benefits along with a place of honor on the shelf of our cocktail bars. Venerable brands like: Carpano Antica Formula, Dolin and even the much loved Cinzano date back to the time when Apothecary shops utilized these bitter liqueurs as a healthful digestive and healing tonic. Wine based tonics were very popular in France and in Italy in the early days of Apothecary arts. They were prescribed originally as medicines, not solely as pleasurable drinks. The reason why these liqueurs exist to the present day is testament to their endurance as powerful herbal elixirs. Vermouth can be imbibed straight or as an augmentation to iced gin drinks like the Martini.

Vermouth comes in two formats, red and white. The red is used for drinks such as the Manhattan and my favorite the Negroni. My friend Gary Regan has perfected the Negroni and I'll leave it to you to discover why.  If you ever find him tending the bar, ask him to make you a Negroni. 

Dry Vermouth is used most commonly in a Martini. I believe, and this is my own personal belief, that the Martini must be made with gin. Others will disagree with me. That is their preference. What I will say is that the quality of the Vermouth makes the Martini, be it made with gin or perhaps vodka. I think that the Vermouth should be well chilled - so keep your favorite bottle in the fridge. Do not be afraid to cook with Vermouth. It is rather sublime with fresh water fish such as brook trout, sautéed with hazelnuts and dotted with Imbue Vermouth-infused brown butter.

Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth

Hailing from Gaston, Oregon, Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth is a thing of rare beauty. They call it a mélange of Northwest flavors from farm to forest. A collection of botanicals dipped in fine Oregon wine. I think it is all of that and much more. Each sip of the Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth refers to me that flavors of a sappy pinecone. Pinecone sap sticks to your windshield, begging you to lick it, tasting the sticky tar, which is Imbue. It's in there, in every sip - I love the way this Vermouth coats the glass. It screams out for a Botanical Gin, like Greenhook Ginsmiths lush product. Perhaps you want something more traditional with your Vermouth from Oregon? Then you should taste another product from Oregon named Aviation. Want something way out?  How about the FEW Spirits Navy Strength? Oh there are so many choices down in my bar.
  
Tasting Notes for the Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth:

Pine needle nose, dipped in pine sap. Gently dribbled over your windshield then licked. 

Just do it, don't complain!

Wood from the cask reveals itself. Vanilla, maple syrup, salted caramel, white flowers. Syrupy and thick across the back of the tongue with a spine tingling finish. I love this vermouth over a chunk of hand-cut ice with a zest of orange that has been flamed by a wooden match. 

Imbue is golden in color and 16.5% alcohol by volume. Find yourself a bottle and drink it, cook with it, dip your fingers in it. Let it speed-dial a plane ticket to Oregon for you so you can drink it in the place where it is made. Up in those pine forests, where it is foggy, dark and mysterious.

Atsby Vermouth from New York

There are two new flavors that I'm working with right now.

One of them is called Amberthorn, the other Armadillo Cake. These are the most way out products I've tasted this year. I mean that as a big plus. The Amberthorn tastes like the sweet pollen that sticks to your leg when you walk through an herb garden in late spring. Toasted pecans, lemon curd, stone fruits, sage, rosemary and wormwood predominate. I'd love to mix this with a healthy portion of the sublime Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, just the gin-a block of ice made from Mavea 'inspired' water and the Amberthorn. This would, in a few words be explosive in the glass.

The Atsby Armadillo Cake Vermouth is akin to chewing into a crusted slab of freshly baked cornbread woven with dreamy, Asian spices. A dark steamy, caramelized pool of treacle caramel woven with candied grapefruit peels, dipped in 80% bittersweet chocolate greets your tongue at the next sip. I'd mix this Vermouth with some Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon and a home cured cherry.


Carpano "Antica Formula" Red Vermouth

Carpano Antica in Italy makes the most historic Vermouth of this tasting. Founded in 1786, I imagine that this Vermouth sated many a nobleman and woman - all the while keeping their palate in a state of anticipation. The first notes are of freshly ground coffee - then quickly the flavors of figs wrapped in chestnuts, grilled until soft over wood fire. The flavors of dark chocolate and wood smoke continue to weave a sweater of soft hand spun baby Alpaca over your body. The Carpano Antica is thick against your throat and deeply warming. It makes for a gorgeous Manhattan cocktail with Tuthilltown's Rye Whiskey. I also love Carpano Antica with Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water and a slice of grilled orange mashed into the drink. 

Tasting Notes for the Carpano Antica:

Carpano Antica is elegance in a glass, and a long, stone fruit spice on your palate. The Ancient Formula is chocolate covered cherries on the front of your tongue, vanilla - cedar and mountain herbs on the finish. I love the Antica for the soft finish and deeply aromatic nose. Fine by itself in a glass or with a flurry of ice, I like to use the Antica with a splash of Cynar and Zaya 12 year old rum - neat. It also makes a potent Negroni!

Vermouth. It isn't just for cocktails any longer. You shouldn't feel strangely when you go into a restaurant and ask for sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist. It's a cocktail that has been around since the very earliest days of the apothecary. 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Grand Boca Punch

By Warren Bobrow

My large sample bottle of Zaya 12 year Old Rum over on the shelf in the kitchen is making me very thirsty. I just juiced the biggest, fattest grapefruit I've ever seen, plus a few limes, an impossibly juicy navel orange and a candy sweet Meyer Lemon or two. Then I added the juice of a local quince!

All punches are not alike! 

Many punches carry similar ingredients, but this one is augmented by coconut water filtered through a Mavea "Inspired" Ice pitcher, then frozen along with a bit of Mavea filtered water. The Mavea makes ice cubes which are nearly crystal clear and packed full of the dark, haunting flavor that only pure coconut water can add to a cocktail. Then in a tip of the hat to the fall season, I've added the completely unexpected spike of freshly pressed Quince juice. Quince is a mostly unknown fruit that only grows late in the season. They look sort of like a giant lemon with a soft and smooth skin. Their flavor is somewhere between that of an apple and a very tart pear. I like them for the depth that they lend to a mixed drink or even an applesauce! 

In this case we have a plethora of citrus juices making up the punch. Then I weave in a couple ounces of fruit juices along with The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters. Based on a recipe by Professor Jerry Thomas, one of the most important bartenders of the 19th Century, this essential cocktail ingredient is both fruit-forward and bitter. Citrus and dried fruit aromas unite with the spicy and bitter flavors of cloves, angostura bark and cinnamon.

I love the historical element of this specific cocktail bitter to this punch, simply named the Grand Boca Punch in honor of the island of Trinidad, where Zaya rum is from. I love Zaya for the whiff of the tropics when I open the cork-finished bottle. The first taste is sweet caramelized banana, white chocolate and Caribbean spices, followed up quickly by the brooding 80 Proof heat. There are vanilla, coconut and cacao nibs in every sip. I've found that my homemade rum punches taste incredible with Zaya as the predominate liquor. I then add the fruit juices into a tall glass over the rum. Finally I spoon some Sorel, made by my friend Jackie Summers in Brooklyn over the top of the fruit juices and the Zaya.

Sorel is a most unique liqueur with a pleasing combination of ingredients. It is handcrafted in small batches from Brazilian clove, Indonesian cassia, Nigerian ginger, Indonesian nutmeg, Moroccan hibiscus, pure cane sugar, and organic New York grain alcohol. All these fabulous flavors combine to make cocktails of great sophistication.

The Grand Boca Punch can be served as a very adult themed Halloween punch. The Sorel floats on top of the multi-layered drink. First the coconut water ice, then the rum, then the fruit juices - grapefruit, orange, lime, lemon and quince - finally a dollop of Sorel… Finally moistened with the Jerry Thomas Bitters. I like to add a splash or two of Perrier Sparkling Water at the very end- their Pink Grapefruit flavor is in my opinion, is most beguiling!

The Grand Boca Punch will satisfy the thirst of several of your closest friends. It's quite strong, so please prepare to batten down your hatches!

Ingredients:
-Zaya 12 Year Old Rum from Trinidad
-Sorel Liquor (Jack from Brooklyn)
-Freshly squeezed: Orange, Grapefruit, Quince, Lemon and Lime juices
-The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
-Coconut water ice made in a silicone ice cube tray (coconut water/and regular water filtered through your Mavea pitcher)
-Perrier Sparkling Water (pink grapefruit)

Preparation for a nice happy punch:
-To a large vessel, add 4 ounces each of all the fruit juices
-Add 8 oz. Zaya Rum and mix with a bit of ice to chill
-Add several large cubes of the coconut water ice to a tall glass
-Pour the Zaya Rum and freshly squeezed fruit juice mixture over the top of each glass and then "float" the crimson colored Sorel liquor over the top
-Add a couple shakes of the Jerry Thomas Bitters over the top of each glass
-Add a splash or two of the pink grapefruit Perrier Sparkling water to finish
-Garnish with a long strip of grapefruit zest

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bar Convent Berlin - One of The Best Bar Shows in The World

By Geoffrey Kleinman

With Tales of the Cocktail, Manhattan Cocktail Classic, SF, PDX, LAX, BOS, and AZ cocktail weeks, you'd think that Americans would hold the crown for the best bar show in the world. In truth, while many of these US-based events are fantastic, it's actually the Berlin Bar Show (or Bar Convent Berlin) that manages to come out on top.


Now in its fifth year, the BCB manages a perfect balance of trade show, conference, and bartender gathering. The core of Bar Convent Berlin is the spirited trade show with two full floors of spirit vendors and companies sampling their wares and making cocktails for conference attendees. One of the things that makes the BCB so enjoyable is that many of the spirit companies set up mini bars for attendees to sit and linger. This gives the show a much more relaxed feel to it and people actually stop, sit, and enjoy their cocktails.


Also, unlike most of the American bar shows, most of the cocktails at the Berlin Bar Show aren't batched. This means that the cocktails at the show are actually worth sitting and enjoying! Pernod Ricard brought out some of their big guns for Havana Club with unique cocktails that used techniques you wouldn't expect at a bar show (including smoking cocktails). The show also featured some heavy hitters including Julio Bermejo (from Tommy's SF), Mario Kappes (The Boilerman Bar, Hamburg), and Jim Meehan (PDTNY) making hand shaken daiquiris with Banks Rum.


The BCB also doesn't over-program talks. With four venues for talks and demonstrations (all of different sizes), the BCB had little filler in its programming, and many of the key sessions didn't compete against each other. Talks included Ian Burrell talking about how to lose a cocktail competition and all about rum; Philip Duff and Angus Winchester on naming cocktails (which they did this year at Tales); Jim Meehan on launching a new spirit brand; and, Julio Bermejo talking about tequila. While some of the talks and demonstrations were in German, the majority of them were in English.


These luminaries also were extremely accessible at the show, with their time less divided by competing events. Gaz Regan sat at the Jagermeister booth and signed books and talked to fans for a few hours, while Jim Meehan chatted to his German fans and signed copies of the PDT book, recently translated into German.


Instead of making a grand splash or outspending each other on massive parties, brands focused on more intimate interactions with bartenders and attendees. With all the events in one place, the show had the feel of a pop-up bartender community. With two big courtyards with food, people gathered and hung out between sessions.


BCB was also an opportunity for brands to show off the winners of their cocktail competitions. Bacardi had some of the winners from the Bacardi Legacy competition making drinks in their small pop-up speakeasy, and Cherry Heering flew out Seattle bartender Philip Thompson from The Coterie to make his award-winning Singapore Sling Variation, Sling & Fizzle.


While there were some parties during the evening, the real focus of the BCB's evening activities were a collection of featured bars. Many attendees spent their evening hopping between Berlin bars. The show hours were also spot on, with doors opening at noon each day and closing at 8pm - a perfect period of time to leisurely see everything on the floor and still have time to sit and have a few cocktails at the show.

Bar Convent Berlin may not be on the radar screen of many American bartenders and industry professionals, but it should be. BCB has cracked the code on what makes a great bar show and represents one of the world's best bar shows.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Report written by Geoffrey Kleinman, a nationally published drinks writer who has appeared in Playboy, Tasting Panel Magazine, and runs DrinkSpirits.com.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A New "Cocktail Whisperer" French 75

By Warren Bobrow

This early time of the fall offers a plethora of local fruits from trees straining to offer one last vestige of the summer before the chill of winter sets in. There is something about late summer stone fruits that keep my taste-buds tuned in to the warmth of late-summer, yet focuses them towards the colder months up ahead.

I just spend a bucolic, yet scant few days in Paris and Burgundy. It seemed as if every menu was heavy with plums, some pureed, others sliced, and still others left in their raw, sensual shape - curved in all the right places. My taste buds call out for these dark stone fruits, muddled with the classic Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water. The combination of the crisp, sparkling water and the sweet fall fruits is making me thirsty for what is going to be a masterpiece for the harvest season. And it seemed like the distinctively shaped bottle of this "staccato on the tongue" sparkling mineral water was on every table in France. 

This would make sense because Perrier is as French as France is herself. 

My twisted sensibilities don't end with just effervescent water and tree ripened fruit. To be called a Cocktail Whisperer, one must unlock the hidden dimensions of all the other ingredients in every single sip. Sparkling water and fruit is an union of these classic applications. To become a cocktail, there must be intersect of these elements in my uniquely fashioned, mixed drinks.  


When one fully understands what zest means to a cocktail, there must be the element of surprise! 

The French 75 is such a cocktail. Named for the 75mm cannon in World War I, it packed quite a punch. A French 75 is a bit of sweet to a bit of fizz to a bit of fire. I've taken some of the elements of the French 75 and twisted it up quite a bit. The application of grilled (or seared) then muddled fruit gives the basis for this drink.  The addition the salubrious Averell Damson Gin Liqueur and the unmistakably compelling Tenneyson Absinthe (as a champagne glass wash) makes my version of the French 75, a pure and luscious yet crisp, stone fruit forward concoction. 

A New "Cocktail Whisperer" French 75

Ingredients:
-Averell Damson Gin Liqueur
-Tenneyson Absinthe
-Campari Bitter Liqueur
-Seared or grilled fall plums (take your plums, slice in half and sear or grill lightly)
-Perrier Natural Sparkling Mineral Water
-Lemon Zest Twirl

Preparation:
-Fill a champagne flute with ½ oz. iced water and Tenneyson Absinthe (set to chill for a few minutes)
-Meanwhile in a Boston Shaker, muddle some lightly seared or grilled fall plums with ½ oz. Campari and 2 oz. Averell Damson Gin Liqueur (Bitter and Sweet)
-Pour out the Tenneyson wash from your champagne flute (I usually pour it into my mouth!)
-Take a bar spoon and add two bar spoonfuls of the muddled plum, Averell and Campari mixture into your flute
-Strain the remaining liquid from your Boston Shaker over the muddled plum mixture to about ½ way up the flute
-Top with Perrier Natural Sparkling Mineral Water for a crisp, lift to this luscious, yet deceptively strong cocktail
-Garnish with a lemon zest twirl from top to bottom adding spark!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Behind the Scenes of the Port Ellen Distillery

By Geoffrey Kleinman

Located on the site of the historic Port Ellen Distillery in Islay, Port Ellen Maltings converts a massive amount of Scottish barley into malt used by many of the island's whisky producers. Port Ellen Maltings provides all the malt for Caol Ila (who uses a whopping 338 tons a week of malt) as well as Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, and Kilchoman. Malt for each distillery is custom malted and peated to the specific distillery's requirements. Port Ellen Maltings works with a number of varieties of barley, mostly coming from the east coast of Scotland.

Malting is very much the same thing as sprouting a grain. Barley is added to large soaking tanks where water is added, mixed, and drained. The water that the barley is soaked in comes from a loch which is close to the maltings and is brown in color from the peat in the ground that surrounds the loch. It's a common misconception that the peat in the water somehow impacts the peat flavor in this whisky, but this is not true. I've tasted the peated water and aside from the fact that it's brown, it just tastes like water.

In the soaking tanks, the barley is soaked, aerated, and drained several times to trick the grain into thinking that it's spring time and therefore time to sprout. This process takes the better part of two days. At this point the barley has begin to shoot out tiny roots and stalks. The barley is moved from the soaking vats into huge 50 ton drums. Here cool air is blown into the drums to regulate the temperature and keep the environment ideal for controlled and consistent sprouting. The drums are also turned to help dissipate the heat and keep the roots of the barley from growing together and becoming matted. After 4 days in the drums, the barley has completed its process of 'modification' and is now green malt. Barley has a disproportionate amount of starch in the grain, but it's well locked in by the husk, cell walls, and starch granules. The process of malting uses the grain's natural process of breaking down these elements to use that starch to create a new barley plant. To make malt for whisky, this process is arrested and that starch is converted into fermentable sugar.

To stop the green malt from becoming a plant, it is dried. It's during this drying process that the malt accepts peat reek from peak smoke fires that carries over to the final whisky. Malt only accepts peat reek when it's wet and so it's through the first part of the drying process where the malt is peated. The second half of the process ensures the malt is free of moisture so it can be stored properly and used by distilleries.

How much peat smoke a malt is exposed to greatly determines the final character of the malt, but it's not the only element. Both Caol Ila and Lagavulin use the same malt peated at the same level to produce two very different whiskies.

Ultimately the term "malt" really just refers to barley that has been sprouted and dried. It also sounds much more delicious than drinking a single sprouted barley whisky.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Report written by Geoffrey Kleinman, a nationally published drinks writer who has appeared in Playboy, Tasting Panel Magazine, and runs DrinkSpirits.com.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Satchmo Cocktail: A Sazerac... With A Twist

By Warren Bobrow

It's easy for me to wrap my fingers around a thick glass filled with a twisted Sazerac. First I need the right ingredients. The classic cocktail named the Sazerac is a staple of New Orleans. The ingredients are set into cocktailian history - it's tough to mess with something sublime and savory… 

The Sazerac cocktail is a combination of only a few ingredients. First of all, Herbsaint goes into your Sazerac glass coating the inside, wetting it. Then a sugar cube gets dropped into the washed glass. It needs to be saturated with Peychaud's Bitters, then crushed with a cocktail stick. Following this mashing, a lemon zest is rubbed around the inside of the washed glass. Then finally a measure of Rye Whiskey enters the glass. That's it!

Unless you have a twisted sense of reality and purpose, you might not even consider deviating from the norm. This friend, is why I call myself the Cocktail Whisperer. I have a different sense of flavor, one honed from years of working around food (as a chef) and drink (as a bartender).

I love the flavors of New Orleans and the Sazerac is box office royalty in a glass.

 My unique version of the Sazerac doesn't include Herbsaint. It contains Tenneyson Absinthe. The reason I chose Tenneyson over Herbsaint is the slightly juniper tinged finish. I also include a small measure of Death's Door Gin. There is something about this Gin that permeates your memory of the Sazerac turning it into quite the different kind of aromatic cocktail. 

I also like to mix in a small measure of Campari. I like adding Campari because only Campari offers a tasty and bitter element missing from the classic Sazerac. You may be also be wondering which Whiskey I would be using in this very dangerous cocktail. Four Roses 2011 Limited Edition Small Batch Barrel Strength is my choice.  I’m picking this limited edition Bourbon over Rye for the simple reason that a Bourbon as fine as Four Roses needs to be included in a dangerous cocktail because of the proof level.  Rolling in at 110.2 proof, I think that the Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition offers more depth and spicy character than the typical Rye Whiskey.

Of course it is only dangerous if you use too much of anything.

And finally the ingredient that truly twists this cocktail up is the Bitters. In this cocktail I use The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters. I think the Creole has a bit more depth than the typical Peychaud's Bitter and certainly the concentration necessary to this drink.
I've renamed this marvelous concoction from a Sazerac to the Satchmo Cocktail in honor of Louis Armstrong - born on the fourth of July in New Orleans.

Ingredients for two extremely potent cocktails:
-Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition Bourbon
-Tenneyson Absinthe (for the washed glass)
-Campari
-Death's Door Gin
-Sugar cubes
-Bitter Truth Creole Bitters
-Lemon zests

Preparation:
-Chill a crystal glass with ½ shot of Tenneyson Absinthe, packed with ice and water, let cool for a bit then pour out (preferably down your throat - no wasting good liquor!).
-In this pre-chilled crystal glass, rub the inside well with a lemon zest.
-Add a sugar cube soaked in the Bitter Truth Creole Bitters to your glass.
-Crush with a wooden cocktail stick to release the flavors.
-Add 2 oz. Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition Bourbon
-Add ½ oz. Campari
-Add ½ oz. Death's Door Gin
-Stir with a lemon zest threaded onto a cocktail stirrer.
-Sip to Louis Armstrong and the Hot Fives!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Friday, September 21, 2012

Inside Caol Ila

By Geoffrey Kleinman

Caol Ila produces the most whisky on Islay but ironically releases only a tiny amount of that whisky under the Caol Ila brand. It wasn't until 2002 that Caol Ila was released in any significant quantity as a single malt. With a recent upgrade to the distillery, Caol Ila now produces 6 1/2 million liters of whisky a year and goes through 338 tons of malted barley a week. More than 95% of the whisky that Caol Ila produces is used as a key blending ingredient for Johnnie Walker Black and Double Black.

Caol Ila uses the exact same grain as Lagavulin, which is malted and peated to identical specs at Port Ellen Maltings. With slight differences in the mash tun process and fermentation, a lot of what makes Caol Ila and Lagavulin so distinct has to do with what happens during the distilling process.

While Lagavulin uses a very slow distilling process which is centered around minimizing some of the interaction the spirit has with the copper stills, Caol Ila distills much faster with stills that are less full to maximize the copper contact. Contact with copper in the still reduces the amount and intensity of volatile elements, so Caol Ila ends up with less peat reek than Lagavulin and tends to be less smoky and peaty.

Caol Ila ages their spirit on the mainland of Scotland, shipping the finished spirit in tanker trucks to be put in barrels and aged. The Caol Ila whisky is aged in barrels that were previously used to make bourbon. These bourbon casks are filled with grain spirit and left to age for three years, dumped, and then filled with new make spirit from Caol Ila.

Aside from the Caol Ila 12 Year Old Whisky, Caol Ila can be difficult to find. It's often included in Diageo's annual Classic Malts Selection series, and once in a while Caol Ila 18 (which has been discontinued) and Caol Ila 25 pop up for sale.

The 2012 Caol Ila release is a rare unpeated whisky. Caol Ila used to produce non-peated whisky for Johnnie Walker but stopped in 2006. This year's Caol Ila unpeated is a 12 year old whisky released at barrel strength (64% abv/ 128 proof). Without Caol Ila's signature peat smoke, the whisky tastes remarkably different from the traditional Caol Ila 12. Caol Ila 12 Year Old Unpeated has a strong honey and vanilla note in the nose along with strong cereal grains. The taste matches the nose fairly well until the mid palate where it picks up a fair amount of spice and heat, and then has a dry finish.

While the Caol Ila line may not be as extensive as other whisky brands, their standard 12 Year Old Caol Ila is simply exceptional. Of all the Islay whiskies, Caol Ila presents its peat smoke in a much softer and well integrated manner. It's a great way to ease into the Islay single malt whisky category and a nice transition spirit for someone who only drinks a blended whisky like Johnnie Walker Black.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Interview by Geoffrey Kleinman, a nationally published drinks writer who has appeared in Playboy, Tasting Panel Magazine, and runs DrinkSpirits.com.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Exploring Skinos Mastiha Liqueur

Hailing from the small Greek island of Chios, Mastiha liqueur is a Mediterranean tradition that dates back to the ancient world. Hippocrates (500 BCE), the father of medicine, used to mix it with honey to cure stomach pains and fight sickness. Dioscurides (100 BCE), doctor and herbalist, used Mastiha to aid digestion, strengthen gums and whiten teeth. As Mastiha spread throughout the Mediterranean, Roman emperors used it to spice their wine and the harem women of Turkish sultans chewed it to freshen their breath.

While Skinos certainly does not claim to heal what ails you, it's definitely a unique spirit that is one of the fastest growing alcoholic beverages in the Mediterranean. 

 
To create Skinos Mastiha Liqueur, the Mastiha tree is harvested for its resin once per year in the months of June and July. Small cuts are made in the tree bark which releases small amounts of resin that are collected over ten to twenty days. One Mastiha tree usually produces a humble annual production of eighty to two hundred grams of resin - not a particularly large amount, especially considering that each bottle of Skinos contains six to seven grams of Mastiha! The Mastiha crystals are then transported to the village in wooden casks, where the women of the village carefully select and hand-clean the highest quality Mastiha. The crystals are then mixed with alcohol, allowed to infuse for at least three months, then delicately distilled in copper pot stills. After distillation, sugar, alcohol and mineral water are added, then the finished spirit is bottled in quality glass from Limoges, France.

The result is delicately sweet, impeccably balanced spirit with distinctive notes of cucumber, pine, anise and fresh herbs. Its unique flavor profile earned Skinos the Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards in 2011.

Skinos can be served neat, chilled, as an aperitif or digestif, or incorporated into cocktails as well as food.

Skinos Fresh 

1 1/3 oz Skinos
2/3 oz premium gin
1/3 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1/4 cucumber (without skin & seeds)

Muddle cucumber in base of shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a thin slice of cucumber.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Buffalo Trace "Single Oak Project"

By Warren Bobrow

Bourbon is my new go-to for brown spirits. Perhaps it's the burn at the finish, or maybe the elegance in the glass? Whatever the situation is, I can usually find a selection of Bourbon in a restaurant that includes the usual standards, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey - those are the basics that are available most everywhere. My topic of choice is Rum, but with the plethora of flavored Rum on the market, the diversity of quality (at least on a restaurant/bar scale) is pretty disappointing. I don’t make a habit of reviewing flavored Rum, nor flavored Vodka. It's like shooting fish in a barrel - there are so many similar brands on the shelf that I don't have the time to even look at them.

That's why I like Bourbon! Quality over sheer numbers of brands makes Bourbon my go-to for flavor!

Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project is my newest love. There are about a dozen individual expressions that form this project. Each bottle reflects a different barrel, char, location of the wood on the tree (upper, middle, and lower) composition (wheat, rye) and char (#3 or #4).


I'm enjoying tasting a few nips of Barrel # 32 and it reveals a pungent, cinnamon tinged rye composition. Sweet on the back of the tongue, this brightly flavored slurp sports a #4 Char and was aged in Warehouse L - made of concrete. The color of this Bourbon is bright honey and gold. A sip reveals a rye with finesse. Sure it's plenty hot, rolling in at 90 Proof, but it also has an amazingly long finish of freshly ground grits laced with caramel syrup and a peppery whirl across my tongue. Almost cola like on the mid range, the Barrel #32 is lovely in a snifter alone or served with toasted nuts. I'd say that Barrel #32 has all the stuffing to compete against the finest Whiskies in the world.

Barrel #64 is completely different. First of all the composition is primarily wheat. Softer in the mouth and not quite as spicy, wheat based Bourbon needs a touch of water to liven up the finish. Rolling in at 90 Proof, the "wheated" version is magnificent with grilled corn on the cob and even caramel custards. I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest good old barbeque with the #64. Each expression has its own pleasure, its own style and power. #64 is a #4 Char. This means it has the most fire toasted wood, releasing sweet vanilla fire directly into the barrel of Bourbon.  Recently I visited a distillery in Bristol, Pennsylvania named Dad's Hat. They actually bag the char from within the barrel for your barbeque grill. When I hear about barrels containing this char I get very hungry. I can almost taste a rack of ribs, cooked over still wet charred Bourbon wood. This is one of life's true pleasures.

Barrel #62 is sweeter and less fire driven than #64 or #32. This is sipping Bourbon with white flower notes and pulled candy sugar mid-ranges. The finish is pure and refined. There is nothing harsh or crass about this Bourbon.  Elegant, sweet and tart comes into view - a certain sticky nature to the finish - similar to opening a jar of Sage Honey with the spicy, savory elements holding themselves true to form. Distilled from wheat, #62 has purity and opulence. It's most sophisticated with a multi-minute finish.

Barrel #96 is like jumping into an over powered hot rod automobile. Comprised of rye, #96 is the liquid version of the perennial Jewish Deli favorite, the hot pastrami on rye with sauerkraut and Russian dressing.  This is a liquid Rueben sandwich. I'm blown away by the sharp, yet sweet finish and crisp aromatics. Darker gold in the glass, the #96 possesses an inner heat that goes on and on in the finish. Good stuff!

Barrel #94 is also comprised of rye with a Ginger Beer nose and a cola finish. This Bourbon is dry and complete in very few words. It has a much shorter finish than #96, but much more emotion than the #96 or the #32. I'm emotionally charged after drinking #94. Thick and rich on the tongue, #94 is even better with water sprinkled over the top of your glass. Something about sprinkling water over the top of a glass of Bourbon releases the secrets held deeply within. A bit deeper in color than its peers, #94 is a #3 Char. This stuff is my personal favorite of the tasting.


Barrel #30 is comprised of rye. Spicy on the tongue, laced with Caribbean baking spices, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and hot peppers - this expression has marvelous character to it. Barrel #30 is a #3 Char. Quite powerful and dare I say juicy, it reminds me of Pappy Van Winkle's 20 year version. Both juicy and aromatic on the finish, #30 would be fabulous with chopped chicken livers smeared over fatty corned beef on rye with spicy Jewish mustard. Bravo!

But what good are tastings if you cannot taste them for yourself? DrinkUpNY has secured a limited supply of the Single Oak Project series. Elegantly packed in 1/2 sized bottles, this Bourbon is not inexpensive, but it is certainly satisfying to the careful drinker.

Available in strictly limited numbers - like everything good in life, get it now or forget about it later!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Friday, September 7, 2012

Behind the Scenes with Chip Tate of Balcones Distillery

By Geoffrey Kleinman

Balcones Distillery was started in the remote town of Waco, Texas and has quickly gotten national attention for their whiskey. In 2010 they took home a Double Gold for their Baby Blue Whiskey from the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Chip Tate is considered by many to be one of the most significant and unique small craft distillers. Chip is outspoken, opinionated, slightly iconoclastic, and has one of the most interesting takes on American whiskey that you'll hear. DrinkUpNY sat down with Chip Tate to talk about his whiskey and how his hometown of Waco has influenced what he does. 

Chip Tate - Founder, President & Head Distiller
DrinkUpNY: So you are located in Waco, Texas, not the first place that people think of when they think of whiskey.

Chip Tate: But everybody can do something cool in Austin, huh? 

DrinkUpNY: When you were looking at starting a distillery, why did you choose Waco?

CT: It's really kind of simple - I live in Waco. When I decided to start a distillery I wanted it to be close to where I live. Not a very elaborate story, but it's a true story. I also wanted to do something that is local in every sense, not just constructed. You find yourself where you are and then be inspired, you know - culinarily, culturally, and so forth like that. That's why I did it. 

DrinkUpNY: What was your first product?

CT: BabyBlue Blue Corn Whiskey. Baby Blue and Rumble were released in September of 2009, and it wasn't until the following summer of 2010 that we released the True Blue. The others were a little more recent. I think it was in May of 2011 that we released Brimstone, and then probably September and November respectively for the Rumble Cask reserve and Malt. The Malt would be the most recent, totally different release that we've put out.

DrinkUpNY: Blue corn and whisky aren't things that you would think necessarily go together. So what was the thought process starting with blue corn?

CT: It started more as a concept of corn whisky and then moved towards blue corn. I was thinking about bourbon, which is something I love. It's a little bit like barbecue - the meat is certainly important, but when you think about the dominant flavors in barbecue it's really more about smoke and the spice with the rub or the sauce, and bourbon is like that. The ingredients that go into it are important but the character of the yeast, the percentage of wheat versus rye, and the barrel all really significantly influence the flavors that you get from bourbon. Which is great, but it just made me wonder out loud, 'What if you made a corn whiskey that was supposed to taste like corn? Not moonshine, not bourbon, but something that was aged, refined, and made to almost completely taste like corn?' That was the initial idea that I ran with and started tasting through different corns. In the end, the roasted Hopi blue corn was the one I thought had the most interesting, full corn flavor. That's what we used for the base in the blue corn whiskey. 

DrinkUpNY: From Baby Blue you go to Rumble, which is made with honey, which is kind of known universally as difficult to work with. So we go from something very uncommon to something very difficult.

CT: I've brewed and made mead for even longer than I've been distilling and you are not wrong, it is difficult in a number of ways to work with. Those problems are very easily solved. It has mostly to do with what honey does not have in it in terms of nutrition for yeast. As long as you are kind of a nerd about yeast biology and metabolism and so forth, that's a problem that can be fixed. Of course in the Rumble it's not just honey, it's sugar and figs. Fruit has a lot more nutrients in terms of amino acids that yeast need to be healthy and to grow and therefore make good smells. The obvious downside of not having healthy yeast is not only not getting enough alcohol, but getting stinky smells, which you don't want when you are making consumable perfume. You want a really nice aroma of off the fermentation. So honey is roughly a third of what goes into Rumble, and it's Texas Wallflower honey, which is a really deep, dark south Texas honey. The other two thirds are Turbinado sugar and Mission figs. Those three things together are kind of a celebration of what I think of as Texas flavors, and pulling those together into a unique Texas spirit was the point of Rumble. 

DrinkUpNY: How did the Texas Single Malt come about?

CT: The malt is probably the hardest to explain outside of just saying that I had an idea that I thought would be really good. I took a lot of brewing principles that I learned as a brewer and applied them more directly to whisky. This meant doing things like taking more care with the fermentation and having a longer, cooler, slower fermentation. A lot of it was just flavors that I thought would be lovely together that we don't typically see. For instance, most malt whiskeys are Scottish, Irish, perhaps Japanese, and they're typically aged in second and third barrels which is delicious, but it does raise the question: What if you created a bold malt whisky that had more grain emphasis and then complemented that with not all first till wood, but more wood components? We use really nice, pretty expensive custom barrels and have enjoyed exploring how those two things can complement one another. 

DrinkUpNY: One of the things that you did with the whisky was really create a new category of single malt whisky.

CT: That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to create Texas styles of whisky. One could ask, "What's distinctively Texas about making malt the way that you do?" Outside the influence of the heat and our aging process, nothing. But then honestly, what is it about Scotland that they use second fill and not first fill barrels? What is it about America that they use heavier char? It's just tradition. We did set out to make a unique style of malt that combined a lot of different influences, both American and Scottish, to form a new unique type of malt whisky, and one that frankly is interesting a lot of bourbon drinkers who shy away from traditional Scottish and Irish malt whiskeys but tend to find our malt more approachable. I'm guessing in part because there's more wood there, more sweetness, more color.

DrinkUpNY: What has the reception been for it?

CT: It has been really good. It's always on allocation, so for the most part, we contact distributors when it's available for purchase and they purchase it, so we're very fortunate that way. Of course part of it is just that we're a small distillery, we're trying to grow a little bit but we're not going to let any malt out, even though we have very many barrels, until it's fully matured. I'm really happy with the blend - it's probably our most popular. It's hard to say whether Baby Blue or Malt would be more popular, but I would think probably the malt. 

DrinkUpNY: What are some of the spirits that both inspired you to do Balcones and continue to inspire you?

CT: There are so many distillers that I find inspiring and not just in whisky. In Scotland, Bruichladdich is obviously one of them. The Balvenie is an amazing whisky. Buffalo Trace does some amazing stuff, especially their antique series. It's really inspirational in terms of defining what American whisky can be. Some Japanese whisky, too, as close as that is to Scottish whisky - you see some deviation with the use of Japanese oak and so forth. I also find it really inspiring to work outside of the whisky category, like brandy, a number of traditional and new brandies that are most fascinating. Some of the aging methods that we've used are actually inspired more from traditional brandy distilleries. There are too many to name… 

DrinkUpNY: One of the products of yours that we haven't really covered is Brimstone. What's the back story on it?

Chip Tate with Jared Himstedt, Production Manager & Distiller
CT: Well, the true back story is that I had a little time to myself, which doesn't always happen. It was just me, an axe, some wood, and a few cigars in the backyard and I started having crazy ideas. I love peated malt whiskeys, and we'd actually intended to make a peated malt whisky at some point. But the thought just popped into my head: what if we made ours smoked whisky, which would have been our peated whisky. What if we made it with the corn? And what if we use wood rather than peat? And further, what if we smoked the whiskey rather than smoke the grain? We don't talk about exactly how we do that but anybody who works with smoke will tell you, what you are smoking determines a lot of how you need to smoke it and what flavors will be absorbed. A smoked salt is going to act very differently than a smoked fish and so forth. It was just a fascinating thing to wonder what it would be like to work with whisky, a very good solvent, and how intense would the smoke be. The result turned out to be kind of an iconic Texas whiskey - you've got a corn whisky with our Tex Mex tradition and tortilla flavors, combined with the Texas scrub oak, one of the traditional woods that defines some of the barbecue cuisines in the state. We pull all those together into a pretty unique whisky.

DrinkUpNY: What is in the products you are working on now and what can we expect from Balcones going forward?

CT: Well, we just recently released True Blue 100. A lot of people struggle with a whisky that is cask strength and have difficulty watering it down to where they want it. High proof is also problematic for export markets in Europe where the excise taxes are quite high. So it lead us to produce a lower proof version that has had time to settle down and really relax in at 100 proof. It turned out pretty nicely.

We're also working on rum. Why? Because I thought it would be fun. If you are a big rum fan, you realize that a lot of the sipping rums out there are super interesting but they're also in some cases a little unapproachable. What if somebody made a round sipping rum that has a lot of the same kind of complexity and integration that our malt whiskey has? That was the initial concept. For the rum, rather than using a lower grade molasses that’s typically used to make your average rum, we got the finest we could possibly get, a nice Barbados style molasses, which taste to me kind of the ale malt of the molasses world. So we carefully, slowly ferment that and try to bring out the natural flavors of the molasses and preserve those, and then age in newer oak, which again is not typical of most rums. 

DrinkUpNY: What are some of the events around the country that you'll be appearing at with Balcones?

CT: I'll be in New York in September, from the 7th to the 11th. We have a tasting at DrinkUpNY which we're excited about. Also, there's a producer dinner at Dell' Anima, which is a great West Village restaurant in New York. I'm very excited about that. We’ll be at the Indie Craft Festival in Chicago in October. A few small craft festivals in Florida. This will be the first year that Whiskeys of the World is in Texas, so we'll be doing that on November 2nd and 3rd in Austin.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Interview by Geoffrey Kleinman, a nationally published drinks writer who has appeared in Playboy, Tasting Panel Magazine, and runs DrinkSpirits.com.