Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Get to know little more about Pisco & Porton

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Pisco, just the very word creates a thirst for knowledge.  As Americans, we don’t usually go to bars and ask for it… Most people don’t even know what it is! 

Pisco is a distilled product from up to eight different varieties of grapes depending on the producer.  These grapes happen to be less attractive for wine, yet more polished when distilled as a type of brandy.   Pisco is gorgeous when accompanied by food, especially seafood.  Pisco also works beautifully in creative mixology. 

A popular drink for Pisco is the classic Pisco Sour.  Sweet/Sour mix from 2 parts simple syrup to one part fresh lemon or lime juice is combined with an egg white along with a portion of Pisco.   This drink is shaken with ice until the egg white is a foam.. then the drink is strained into a coupe.  Bright green in color, if you use lime or a pale yellow if you use lemon, a Pisco Sour is a thing of rare beauty.  

I like to take Pisco and add it to a bit of Absinthe, just a wash really for the glass-
along with crushed ice and a bit of gum Arabic for mouth-feel.  There is a new product, tangerine syrup that I’ve discovered from Fruitations in Massachusetts.  They also do gorgeous cranberry syrup that just smacks of New England fruit.  At any rate, the tangerine syrup from Fruitations when combined with Pisco Porton is most marvelous and thirst quenching.  Of course this drink is not complete without the Absinthe wash, nor the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters.  (for balance)  I complete the drink with Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water; the Pink Grapefruit adds just the right amount of lip-smacking crispness.  

The Wunderkammer Cocktail (Cabinet of Curiosities) 
3 oz. Pisco Portón
¼ oz. Absinthe (I used Tenneyson) 
1 oz. Fruitations Tangerine Syrup
¼ oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice 
½ oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Pink Grapefruit essence 
Lemon zest cut with a knife, never a peeler!

Add the Pisco Portón and the Fruitations Syrup
Fill the shaker ¾ with ice
Shake for 10 seconds
Pre-chill your coupe with the Tenneyson Absinthe and ice, pour out when chilled (preferably into your mouth, so not to waste the fine spirits) 
Strain into a coupe
Add the Perrier Sparkling Water
Add the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
Twist the lemon zest over the top


I asked Vanessa Sobers of Pisco Portón to answer some questions about this gorgeous and highly expressive spirit.  Enjoy! 

1.  Why Pisco?  What makes it unique in the market?  
Porton uncompromising quality is what makes us unique.   We use a “techno artisanal” process that integrates century old Peruvian Pisco making technique with modern distillation technology.  Today, one of the grapes is fermented, distilled and processed using the original distillery and our new distillery takes inspiration from the original with its gravity fed process.   
There are not many white spirits that can claim that they derive taste/flavor naturally, without additives.  Porton can.   And we have been rewarded for it.   We continue to win spirit competition worldwide and to date we are the most the most awarded white spirit.

Porton adds complexity and character to cocktails and the bartending and mixology community are looking for spirits that helps them take their cocktails to the next level.   With the Peruvian culinary movement taking US by storm, our genuine authenticity and our mixability; Porton is poised to continue to generate excitement and to continue to reign as the #1 pisco brand in the US.  

2.  What is Pisco made of?  What is the history of the product?
The three grape varietals that give Portón its flavor are the Quebranta, Albilla, and Torontel grapes.  These grapes are 100% from our vineyards at La Caravedo in Ica, Peru.  Portón is distilled to exactly 86 Proof at Hacienda La Caravedo, the world’s oldest distillery established in 1684, in custom-made copper pot stills using the Mosto Verde method. This means that our distillate is made from 100% must (grape juice) that has not completely fermented. This serves to keep some of the natural grape sugars from converting into alcohol, thus putting more flavor and aroma into every bottle. 
Porton is handcrafted in small batches and each bottle requires approximately 15pds of grape.

3.  Does a company like Pisco Porton use Social Media?  What are your links, Facebook?  Twitter?  
Yes, we do.  We have focused most of our efforts are geared towards Facebook and Twitter.   These are platforms for us to engage with our fans and to showcase our cocktails and events.

4.  What is the best way to serve Pisco Porton?  How do YOU like it best?
Pisco Portón is a highly mixable white spirit that can be added to any cocktail to take it to the next level.  It gives off an earthy aroma with floral complexity and a touch of sweetness.  Given its versatility and mixability, there are many ways to serve Porton…In classic Peruvian cocktails like the Pisco Sour or in a Pisco classic like the Pisco Punch.  I personally, love it in the classic Pisco Punch that dates back to the 19th century.  I’m a fan of it in the Porton Mate that features jalapeno peppers and most recently I was pleasantly surprised to have in a tasty warm cider prepared by a mixologist at a pre-holiday event.

5.  Pisco and food.   What is a good paring?  
Due to earthy aroma and floral complexity, Portón pairs extremely well with seafood dishes such as Ceviche

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, November 21, 2013

Cocktails for a wicked cold

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I’m wicked cold.  That kind of cold that just doesn’t quit.  True there is a fire in the wood burning stove, but that’s downstairs.  I’m upstairs- watching the weather change.  The sky is dappled with gray and blue, the wind has settled down a bit and the temperature is on its way well below freezing for the first time since March.  

For this kind of bone chilling cold I recommend hot liquids.  Preferably with some kind of liquor in them, correcting the non-alcoholic with the blatantly intoxicating.  You see, when I make a drink and I’m on record for this- make fewer drinks but… MAKE THEM STRONG…  

The International Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Show is held yearly at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.  This show attracts a clientele who are professional in nature: chefs, restaurant owners, bar owners and interested students.  There are a few specialty food dealers in attendance as well.  One of the participants in this year’s show was an exuberant young lady named Christina Summers.  She is the CEO of a company named Dolce Vita llc.  What her company makes in Italy is just about the most luscious, thick hot chocolate that I’ve had in recent memory.  This is an ultra-luxury product without any genetically modified ingredients that calls you to task immediately. Why?  After I drank down my first cup, made with some leftover coffee from this morning, there was that desire for another.  And other with the final cup set to be corrected. 

What’s corrected mean?

The last week of September I spent in Abruzzi, Italy.   This is the part of Italy unknown to most Americans.  Heavily damaged in the earthquakes that rocked Italy in recent years, Abruzzi has never been a tourist destination.  That’s probably because until recently that wines have been dismissed as no more than “airplane” wines and the winding roads are too narrow to accommodate tour buses.  The thousand food drop-offs without guardrails might have something to do with that.  At any rate, after driving around in the freezing cold, staring out over mountains and valleys out to the sea, a cup of espresso and hot chocolate seems very romantic indeed.  To that little cup of dreams I looked up on the shelf behind the man patiently waiting for me.   Corrected means just that, your coffee is corrected with alcohol. 

There was a small selection of rum, mostly from Cuba.  One was a vanilla flavored version of the famous Havana Club.  This ingredient went into my espresso and chocolate.  So far, so good but I needed something else for the chocolate, coffee, rum mixture in the cup.  Perhaps a chocolate liqueur would work?  I think you’re on to something, but the patient up to now espresso barman clearly had enough of this American in his shop, taking up space from the throng

of paying customers.  Espresso is quick.  Ordering is faster still.  People run into an espresso shop and throw down 1 oz. or less of a fantastically sweet aromatic espresso faster than anything Starbucks could every imagine doing.  And to have a full bar behind the espresso machine; this experience was virtually bliss to this tourist from New Jersey.  My mind was filled with dreams for strong Cuban rum first thing in the morning.  

Since we cannot buy Cuban rum in the United States I’m substituting rum from Brooklyn, NY.  I think it is darned good stuff.  This rum from the brilliantly talented distiller Bridget Firtle at the Noble Experiment, is truly lovely rum with luscious character.  It’s delicious with hot chocolate from Italy!  I used the vanilla infused rum with Madagascar Vanilla.  This rum is toasty, creamy and lush across the tongue.  

All I could think about was the Chocolatto Hot Chocolate and this rum from Brooklyn.  

But something else was needed.  Another liqueur from Brooklyn perhaps?  Absolutely!  For the missing flavor element I chose the Brooklyn Roasting Company Columbian Coffee Liqueur.  This is a mind-bogglingly good coffee liqueur.  Ripe with notes of toasty, sweet Columbian coffee woven with deeper notes of dark cane sugar and silky infused spirits, the coffee liqueur and the Noble Experiment Vanilla Rum are just a match made in… well Brooklyn!  

I’m sorry in many ways not to have another pouch of this amazing hot chocolate from Italy.  It is a trip to a forgotten section of the Italian countryside in every thick and creamy sip.  Add some vanilla rum and coffee liqueur and time stands still for more than a moment.   A final flourish of Bitter Truth Orange bitters gives that aromatic counterpoint to bitter and sweet in the finish.  

Besides, I love the taste of orange with chocolate, vanilla and strong espresso coffee.  

You can enjoy this treat anytime.  

Drinking Italian hot chocolate on a cold day in November, thickly textured in your mug, woven with Brooklyn made spirits is a gift.  I recommend that you try one. 

The Dolce Vite Spicy Toddy
1 oz. Dolce Vite Chocolatto Hot Chocolate Mix (extra thick and creamy, European style from Italy)
½ oz. Brooklyn Roasting Company Columbian Coffee Liqueur
½ oz.  Owney’s Vanilla Bean Small Batch Rum
½ oz. Espresso Coffee
2 oz. Steamed Whole Milk (Regular, not skim- please)
Extremely tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (less than that!)
Bitter Truth Orange Bitters

Preheat a ceramic mug with boiling hot water and pour out when thoroughly hot
Add the steamed milk and espresso to the Dolce Vite Chocolatto mix
Add the Rum and the Coffee liqueur to the hot chocolate
Add the tiny pinch of cayenne pepper over the top
Add a shake or two of the Bitter Truth Orange bitters over the top of the cayenne pepper… And sip.

Preheat another mug for your second drink.  Do it!

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, November 17, 2013

World's first Cinnamon Tequila: Peligroso Cinnamon

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I’m never one for flavored liquors, but imagine my surprise when I discovered Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila.  This artisan product is infused with pure cinnamon and it tastes like sunshine in a bottle.  I remember the first time I had infused tequila.  It was down in the Yucatan peninsula.  The high season is winter, with warm temperatures; occasionally cooler breezes make their way down from the northern reaches of the continent.  For this rare occasion the Mexican people are ever resourceful, even with their intoxicating spirits! 

World's first Cinnamon Tequila Peligroso Cinnamon is crafted using their 100% Weber Blue Agave Silver Tequila and infusing it with 100% natural cinnamon extract without any artificial color or fragrance. These agaves are grown on a private estate in the highlands of Jalisco Mexico, steamed in authentic brick ovens and distilled twice in copper and stainless pots. Every bottle is hand made, certified and numbered. This high proof Cinnamon Tequila has a warm, spicy aroma and light sweet expression at the finish.

With no sweaters packed and only down jackets for the plane trip back home in a week the circumstances appeared grim.  Where there is a will, there is a way and we discovered along with the exceptional fresh juice Margarita cocktails, there were infused Tequila! These infused products gave the needed burst of heat to warm our sun-burned bodies against the 80 degree temperatures.  It’s important to understand that the daily temperature in the winter months barely gets out of the 90’s so the low 80’s were practically a blizzard! 

But first back to the Tequila.  Tequila is a wonderfully, artisan made (in some circumstances) product that speaks clearly of the passion of this arid country.  Without water plants cannot survive very long in this environment.  Agave is the chief ingredient in Tequila and it does very nicely in this harsh climate.  The natural sugars of the plant actually concentrate in flavor in the brutally dry heat.  Further roasting caramelizes the sugars creating the base flavor for the distillate.  Tequila when infused further with flavors of the region becomes part of the background.  It’s important to understand that Peligroso is not so much a flavored product that it is infused with the cinnamon.   This goes back to culinary techniques of making sauces.  
The first way to add flavor to a sauce or a soup would be to place a cheesecloth bag of herbs inside the cooking stock.  Making infused Tequila is very much the same proposition.  A bag containing the cinnamon is dropped into the aging vats and the beguiling aromatics infuse the Tequila completely.  What results is quite well balanced in both hot and cold experimentation.  Here are two that will resonate with you.  

First, you must stave off the cold that leaks into your bones.  

The Widow’s Walk- named for those peculiar porches set on top of New England style houses, and some Southern house roofs.  They are built for widows looking to the sea for their lost husbands. 

The Widow’s Walk
2 oz. Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila
4 oz. Mexican Hot Chocolate- or regular hot chocolate with a pinch of chili powder added for good measure
2 oz. softly made, hand whipped cream- not fluffy, more liquid than puff… and NEVER use that stuff from a can! 
Fresh Nutmeg

Pre-heat a sturdy mug with boiling water (pour out)
Add the Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila
Add the Mexican Hot Chocolate
CAREFULLY spoon the hand whipped cream over the top of the mug
Scrape some fresh nutmeg over the top of the softly whipped cream 

And a cold one. 

Foliage of Six
2 oz. Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila
3 oz. Ginger Beer- I used the Goya variety with hot peppers
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
1 oz. Fresh lemon juice

To a tall Collins glass, fill with hand cut ice (yes, it’s important)
Pour the citrus juices in first
Follow with the Tequila
Top the Tequila with the Goya Ginger Beer

Add a lime pinwheel and a straw 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. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A conversation with David Ravandi of 123 Organic Tequila

By Ria Soler

The trend in the wine world of late is to turn away from pesticides and chemicals and make organic wine created through sustainable practices. Now the very first spirit to embrace those principles has arrived. 123 Organic Tequila (Uno Dos Tres) is a 100% certified organic line of tequilas created by tequila expert David Ravandi. Recently I sat down to talk with him about the brand, what sustainability means to him, and to learn the differences between Uno, Dos, y Tres. Andale!

1. What prompted you to start 123 Organic Tequila? Have you always had a passion for tequila?

When I envisioned 123 Organic Tequila (Uno Dos Tres), I was inspired to create a brand specifically with wine enthusiasts in mind.  In doing so, we focused on crafting ultra premium tequilas using artisanal, small-batch distillations to capture the delicate floral aromas and complex mineral flavors that are characteristic of 123 Organic Tequila.

Tequila is an authentic spirit and it’s one that I’ve always enjoyed. My desire was to connect tequila’s cultural heritage through illustrating and retelling the ancient folklore about its origin with a truly superior product.  123 Organic Tequila is uniquely authentic in that way and very much a tribute to the rich heritage of Mexican culture. 

2. Why did you choose to make the brand organic and sustainable? Do you find that to be a unique choice in Tequila? Or do you find that the trend is leaning towards more sustainable practices?
I have always been a huge supporter of organic farming and all things organic.  I’m proud to say that our tequila is Certified Organic by USDA and EU as well which makes us the ONLY fully sustainable spirits in the world.   Anyone can claim sustainability but these certifications guarantee consumers that our products are grown and made according to rigorous standards.   Also, the adoption of sustainable practices will lead even more producers towards organic certification. Also, all our bottles are individually hand blown from 100% recycled glass. The labels are made from 100% recycled paper and printed with soy ink.

3. 1,2,3- can you walk us through the differences between the three tequilas you produce?
123 Organic Tequila Blanco (Uno) is the mother spirit from which Reposado, Anjeo and Extra Anjeo are created from, so it’s essential that we start with a superior spirit.  Blanco is unaged tequila that has clean, intense aromas of fresh agave and vibrant flavors of lemon peel, black pepper and minerals. It’s silky smooth and has a slight sweet kick on a lengthy finish.   

123 Organic Tequila Reposado (Dos) is Blanco that has been aged six months in oak, which gives it a very light color and flavors of salted caramel, creme brulee and toffee notes but no real hint of wood.  You can detect agave on the nose, but it quickly dissipates as the flavors deepen and conclude with a minty anise finish. Dos is a very complex and versatile tequila.

123 Organic Tequila Anejo (Tres) spends eighteen months in oak so the wood character is more prominent, and on first blush it’s heady on the nose with tannin and wood oil notes. These fade after some time in the glass to reveal richer versions of the characteristics found in the Reposado: caramel and some chocolate notes. A lovely anejo, it really opens up when you give it some time.

And our recently released (Only 1,000 bottles) 123 Extra Anejo Diablito is aged for forty months. The nose reveals deep vanilla notes, along with plenty of fresh black pepper.  The flavors are textbook extra añejo, a seductive melange of deep vanilla, racy spices, and chewy, roasted agave all in harmony. The body is rich and creamy, and the finish surprisingly long lasting, offering citrus-focused tartness and plenty of bite.  Extra Anejo demonstrates a level of complexity that few tequilas ever achieve making it dangerously easy to drink.

4. I know that the agave used to produce 123 Organic Tequila has an interesting terroir aspect to it, not unlike the vineyard’s soil mineral content effecting the outcome a fine wine. Can you explain how it influences the flavor profile of the different tequilas?
The flavor of the tequila has direct relationship to the terroir. The higher the terroir the more delicate flavors in your tequila. The estate where we grow the agave for 123 Organic Tequila is at an altitude of 4,800 feet. For Diablito, our agave is grown at an altitude of 6,000 feet.
Ideal conditions for agave include average temperatures of around 80 degrees F, well-drained soils, like the Tierra Roja soils on our estate, and very dry conditions.  The maturity of the agaves and the production process also have an influence on flavor.  Agaves are harvested when they reach 10 years of age and only the highest quality plants are used.  Production methods some of which are proprietary also contribute to the pure and complex flavors of our tequilas.

5. 123 Organic Blanco (Uno) being an un-aged, or Blanco style of tequila, I imagine it to be pretty versatile in cocktails.  Of course a margarita is a natural choice, but what other cocktail do you think it really shines in?

Blanco really shines in cocktails made with fresh, organic fruit juices- particularly citrus (orange, lime, grapefruit), pomegranate, pineapple and fragrant spices like ginger and cardamom.  Citrus juice and muddled citrus really play up the bright flavors in Blanco and earthy spices compliment and add even more complexity to the agave flavors.  On our website you can find recipes for the Uno Dos Tres which combines orange and pomegranate juices and the Uno Cardomomo with grapefruit juice, cardamom bitters and ginger ale, along with many seasonal cocktails. But my favorite is a Paloma!

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk, David. Salud!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Ria Soler is a spirits and wine professional with an extensive background in education, events, marketing, and writing. She loves a martini, two at most...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Betting On Dark Horse Whiskeys From Kansas City

By Amanda Schuster

Dark Horse Distillery is one of the many new, boutique distilleries cropping up around the nation to produce spirits for craft-minded consumers. Based out of Lenexa, KS, near Kansas City, they currently produce a vodka, white whiskey, bourbon and rye. These are all youngins, considering the distillery has only been in operation since 2010. The whiskeys - Dark Horse Reunion Rye and Reserve Bourbon - began aging in 2011.

Both were produced in the pride of the distillery, the 500-gallon copper hybrid still they call “Chester Copperpot.” The whiskeys are then aged in 15 gallon Missouri oak barrels for 18-20 months.

Despite using micro-barrels, at least it’s a longer aging time than most of these craft distilleries, who impatiently race (pardon the pun) to get product to market in order to start recouping their startup costs. That fact alone sparked my curiosity. I have begun dismissing most of these young craft whiskeys without even trying them, knowing these fillies will be hot, immature and cocky, lacking the warm subtle flavors of whiskeys given the proper aging time and barrel size to breathe. “Get away from me son, you’re bothering me! Come back when you’ve seen more of the world and grown some hair on your chest.”
But these are pretty good! I’m not going to wax poetic here, but I like them, and I see their potential. Though they are sippable enough to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, they are both terrific house cocktail whiskeys because of their strong flavors, and the slightly overproof power means these horses do kick on the back palate! Really decent values for a craft whiskey.

Reserve Bourbon (80% corn, 20% rye, 44.5% ABV): Ballsy name considering it’s less than two years old. Cereal aromas on the nose, smells a bit like Russian black bread, dried fruits, only ever so slightly acetone (that scent is much more pronounced in other young whiskeys.) Pleasant sweet corn, maple, clove and allspice flavors on the palate. A bit hot, but not overly so.

Reunion Rye (100% rye, 44.5% ABV): A solid, spicy rye. Warm, toasty, slightly buttery, with more of that grain cereal flavor and slight astringency.

A couple of cocktails to try with them:

The Brooklyn Block Party
Named thus because like any good block in Brooklyn, there’s a mix of native “residents” and those from all over.
1.5 oz Dark Horse Reunion Rye
½ oz medium dry Madeira or Oloroso sherry
2 dashes Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters Black Mission Fig
cocktail cherries (optional)
Stir all ingredients except garnish in a mixing glass with ice until well chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with new ice (best if you have one big ass ice cube or sphere.) Garnish with cherries on a cocktail sword or end of a bamboo skewer.

The Italian Stallion
Adapted from a recipe in Whisky Magazine, with a bourbon of that name, how could I resist?
1.5 oz Dark Horse Reserve Bourbon
.5 oz Cocchi Americano Rosa
.5 oz Aperol
dash mole bitters
orange twist
Stir all ingredients except twist in a mixing glass with ice until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Run twist around rim of glass and express oils into drink (pith side facing you), then arrange in glass as you see fit to make it pretty. That’s it? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Amanda Schuster is a native New Yorker, but without much of the accent. The mobile landscape of the city has taken her on a whirlwind journey from Medieval historian, photo archivist, jewelry designer and invitation specialist to earning her sommelier certification in late 2005. After working as a retail wine and spirits buyer and freelance brand promoter, she turned to the one thing that has stayed a constant all these years – her love of writing. She has published dozens of articles on cocktails, spirits, wine and other culinary interests, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favorite cocktail is a Manhattan.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A short tale on American Cider

By Ria Soler

As the temperatures begin to cool off and the days get shorter, so too does the palate change. The rosés and pinot grigios that tasted so perfect on a sunny day in mid-July just don’t have the exact same savor on a chilly evening in October. We start to crave different flavors, something to match the season, something that says “autumn”. Enter Cider.

What’s more autumnal than apples? And cider- small batch, handcrafted American cider, is a delicious representation of the fruit and an ode to an interesting and largely overlooked part of American history. Cider has gotten a bad rap over the past 100 years or so in the US, and its only now that the tide has started to change. Cider has always been popular in Europe- the Spanish love it and the Brits adore it. But here it has been largely overlooked for over a century. So what’s the story?

When the pilgrims first landed in what was to become New England one of the first things they did was plant apple trees from seeds and cuttings they brought with them on their ships. These were high acid varieties of apples they brought along specifically for cider production, not for eating. People drank almost constantly then, and they were constantly drinking cider. By the turn of the 18th century cider production in New England alone was 300,000 gallons, and the average New Englander was consuming 35 gallons of cider a year! President John Adams was reported to start his day with a breakfast of cider, and there was even a type of low-alcohol cider produced for children, known as ciderkin. The American folklore character known as Johnny Appleseed, was a real person named John Chapman who planted apple orchards on people farms not for eating apples, but for home cider production. Americans just loved cider.

Cider started to fall out of popularity with the influx of German immigrants who preferred their native beer to cider and dramatically increased beer production in the States. Then the calamity known as prohibition arrived and brought all alcohol production including cider to a screeching halt. When booze production was back up and running cider just didn’t come along for the ride. Orchards had been converted to sweeter varietals of apples that weren’t the sort used to make dry cider.  Grain was ready, then and there, to start making beer from. It would take years to convert apple groves back to cider apples. And so cider, the preferred beverage of the first American settlers basically ceased to exist in the USA.

Cider production in the US is now on the rise after a hiatus of about 100 years. People are realizing that cider is interesting stuff. Quite simply put- cider is delicious. Refreshing, dry, complex, some of the best can almost be champagne-like in quality. Others have a rich malty apply earthiness that is terrible appealing.  And small production cider, much like small-production wine making, shows a sense of place.

A good example is Orchard Hill Cider, hailing from the Hudson Valley, one of the hot beds of artisanal cider making. It’s made from their own farm grown apples and is bottle fermented and unfiltered, giving it an extra complexity. It’s a great balance of leesy, yeasty sourness and tart refreshing apple blossom. Try it with roasted pork loin in a mustard sauce.

Another phenomenal cider from the East Coast is from further south, in Virginia along the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Foggy Ridge cider uses several varieties of both English and American apples for their cider. And since they harvest by hand for peak ripeness that means several harvests for each varietal of apple. This cider is done in a very champagne-like style. It is dry and complex, with fine bubbles and a high-toned nose of apples and pears. Pair it with any cheese plate, though it would be a particularly stunning combo to pair it with earthy washed-rind cow’s milk Meadow Creek Grayson cheese. Meadow Creek Dairy is a small cheese producer from just down the road from Foggy Ridge!

And last but not least, showcasing the incredible versatility of the category, here’s something interesting and different. Eden Orleans Bitter Aperitif cider is a blend of Vermont apples and bitter herbs. Meant to be drunk before a meal as a bitter to pique the appetite, or as a component in cocktails, it has a delicate apple flavor with honey and anise notes.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Ria Soler is a spirits and wine professional with an extensive background in education, events, marketing, and writing. She loves a martini, two at most...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Liqueurs That Taste of Autumn

By Amanda Schuster

It’s taken a while, but autumn seems to have finally kicked summer to the curb. Not only does your wardrobe need seasonal layers now, so do your cocktails! Below is a roundup of liqueurs that add that extra note of autumnal flavor to keep you warm and toasty for the cool nights ahead.

Barrow’s Intense Ginger: Ginger is an essential flavor component to cool weather cocktails, one of the four horsemen of autumn/winter spices along with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. This fresh ginger liqueur made locally in Brooklyn lives up to its name, but isn’t as soapy or bitter as others on the market. Mixes well with a variety of ingredients for a range of cocktails, and you can even make your own boozy ginger beer by adding it to soda or ginger ale!

Art in the Age - Snap: In an era replete with food-based beverages, there is very little success at authenticating the actual thng they are trying to be. Art in the Age Spirits has managed to pull this off gloriously with Snap, a spirit (it doesn’t have enough sugar content to technically be labeled liqueur) reminiscent of ginger snap cookies, but without being too confectious. Its unexpected dryness allows the natural-tasting flavors of ginger, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, molasses and butterscotch, among others, to assert themselves on the palate. It’s perfect for spicing up warm-weather cocktails, and plays well with many ingredients. Another bonus, it’s organic.

Greenhook Ginsmith Beach Plum Gin Liqueur: Produced in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this gin is inspired by sloe gin, but created by infusing their award-winning dry gin with local beach plums. This sweet-tart treat is delicious simply added to tonic or soda, but also perfect for toddys, punches and even brown spirits for a fruity twist when produce is out of season.

Jack From Brooklyn Sorel Liqueur: This Red Hook, Brooklyn breakout is quite possibly one of the most versatile spirits on the market. A hibiscus liqueur with infusions of Brazilian clove, Indonesian cassia, Nigerian ginger, Indonesian nutmeg and pure cane sugar organic and New York grain alcohol as the base spirit. The result is a balanced, spicy, berry-licious, slightly floral elixir that is a delicious stand-in for red vermouth, or anything requiring a kick of something red (yes, “red” is a flavor, you know it’s true!) It’s that item in your booze wardrobe that always fits perfectly no matter your mood - cold, hot, fizzy or dark and stirry.

Cacao Prieto “Don Esteban” Rum Liqueur: Chocolate rum liqueur. There are so many ways this could be gross - too sweet, too cloying, the cocoa flavor not authentic enough. But in this case, it all goes right. Deep, rich, true flavors of dark chocolate, which somehow don’t overpower the notes of the rum or finish too sweet. Sure, it would be perfect in dessert martinis, but would also lend a seductive splash to Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and even Negronis. Produced in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

1921 Crema de Tequila: Don’t knock it till you try it! You know you have a guilty pleasure for Irish Cream, this is way better. Cream added to high quality, 100% agave tequila with Christmas-y spices. One taste and you’ll be finding excuses to add it to drinks. Your afternoon coffee will never be the same!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Amanda Schuster is a native New Yorker, but without much of the accent. The mobile landscape of the city has taken her on a whirlwind journey from Medieval historian, photo archivist, jewelry designer and invitation specialist to earning her sommelier certification in late 2005. After working as a retail wine and spirits buyer and freelance brand promoter, she turned to the one thing that has stayed a constant all these years – her love of writing. She has published dozens of articles on cocktails, spirits, wine and other culinary interests, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favorite cocktail is a Manhattan.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Deronda’s Glen & The Silverado Circumstance

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

From DrinkupNY: The Deanston Distillery is situated outside the town of Doune, Perthshire, and lies on the banks of the River Teith. The historic building dates back to 1785, when Deanston was actually operating as a cotton mill. It was converted to a full working distillery in 1966, using the soft waters of the river in the distillation of their single malt whisky. This water source also powers Deanston's electrically self-sustained facilities.

To create Deanston Virgin Oak, Master Distiller Ian MacMillan selected an array of young single malts, married them together, then finished the blend in freshly-charred new oak barrels from a small family-owned cooperage in Bardstown, Kentucky. Bottled without the use of chill-filtration, Virgin Oak offers a complex nose of barley, lemon zest, pear, vanilla and honey, accented by hints of peat smoke, apple and nutmeg. The virgin oak aging is more apparent on the palate, with lighter notes of candied fruit, toffee, caramel and vanilla balanced by a firm oak grip. A lively note of honeyed malt lingers through the finish.

Product of Scotland
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%

Can I swoon now?  I mean this Scotch actually caught my attention.  Not as a mere dram, but as something that I’d really like to craft a couple of cocktails around.  Then of course I’d write about these drinks and perhaps weave a story around this experience.  Maybe the distillery will ask me to visit?  Doubtful.  I’m still hopeful though.
Maybe I’ve not been invited to Scotland because as a rule I’m not a Scotch whisky admirer.  The flavor and the Terroir are just lost on me.  I’m much more of a rye drinker or even bourbon.  Anything but Scotch.  That was until I tasted a wee glass of The Deanston Distillery’s whisky. 

The Deanston Distillery makes something that is so special; well I just had to experiment with it.  The Deanston Distillery charmed me with their soft flavors and complex aromatics that speak clearly of both the provenance and the fine ingredients.  When I think of Scotch, immediately the flavor that comes to mind is orange, but not just any kind of orange, I think of Clement Shrubb.  But wait, what is a shrubb?  Is it a plant that hides the gas meter outside your home?  No, a shrubb is not a plant.  What it is for alcoholic purposes is a combination of Martinique Rhum, spices and fruits with a spicy, almost chewy, vinegar base.  Many Caribbean cocktails use shrubs as a flavoring agent and they are a part of the culinary culture as well.  Shrubb in a cocktail adds depth and character along with balance to a tropically influenced brew.

 But that isn’t the real reason why I’m interested in mixing Scotch with Clement Shrub.

The real reason is there is a Nor’easter heading this way.  I can feel it where my ex-wife’s horse kicked me in the side of my left knee making it an ideal weather vane.  I can feel the approaching storm up my back to my neck, like that first wave of energy at a Grateful Dead show.   The pressure is lowering.  My ears can feel the pressure now.  The chill goes through me, but then I realize that relief is not far away.  In fact it is just downstairs in the form of a hot cup of dark Irish tea.  

Setting the teakettle is the hardest thing with this cocktail.  And if you know me, my drinks are rather strong.  Some would say that they are healing because I just wrote the book named Apothecary Cocktails.  I don’t see each drink necessarily as a means to an end, but more rationally as a method to cure what ails ye.  Be it a cold or the flu, or even a bleak weather forecast, which I know is on the way.

So you have your teakettle steaming away in the background and a few drams of this brilliant Scotch whisky in front of you.  Why a few drams?  Because it is absolutely necessary to drink a couple drams cool, cellar temperature really, to help relax your nervous system before you actually mix this Hot Toddy.  And while we’re talking about Hot Toddy drinks, this drinks is positively gorgeous in hot weather with Iced Tea. 

Of course I’ll give both recipes.  But what I think is most profound about the combination of Tea with Scotch and Shrubb with a bit of raw honey simple syrup and aromatic bitters from the Bitter Truth, is that you can drink it all day long.

All day long?  Yes!  In fact to gain the greatest benefit for this cocktail, you must administer it one per hour and a half until healing takes place.  How will you know when healing is complete?  Well, let’s just say you won’t have a clue what I’m speaking about after about four of these toddy drinks or Collins glasses full. 

It’s just a perfect storm of ingredients!

Referring back to Robert Louis Stevenson who has filled my imagination with great characters and colorful dreams, I’m drawing out a few names for these inspirational cocktails.

Deronda’s Glen
Proven to cure more than what ails ye.  But no one is talking.  Bad? Good?  I’m not sure.  I know the Whisky is strong.

4 oz. Deanston Virgin Oak Whisky
.50 oz. Clement Shrubb  (made with Rhum Agricole)
.50 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
.25 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
.10 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 oz. (Hot) Irish Breakfast Tea
Several dashes of Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
Raw Honey Simple Syrup (Caledonia Spirits Raw Honey) 2:1 ratio honey to boiling water

Preheat your mug and teapot with boiling water
Pour out when steaming hot
Add the whisky and the bitters with the raw honey to the pot
Add the Clement Shrubb to the pot
Add the juices, then stir.
Check for sweetness
Add more bitters if necessary or more whisky to the mugs if extra healing is needed

The Silverado Circumstance   Reminds me of a time. What time?  Of course I forgot. 

2 oz. Deanston Virgin Oak Whisky
.50 oz. Clement Shrubb
2 oz. Cooled Irish Breakfast Tea
.25 each, orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit juices
.50 Raw Honey simple syrup or to taste
several shakes of Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
.50 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Lemon

To a large tumbler glass filled with a few hand cut ice cubes add:
The whisky
The Shrubb
The Tea
The juices
The Simple Syrup
A splash of Perrier Sparkling Water
A few dashes of the Aromatic Bitters

You can always split this portion into two smaller portions and add a bit more Perrier Sparkling Mineral Water and have two for the price of one!

Sip through the bitters to good health!

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, October 7, 2013

Portmanteau Punch

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Ah, Diplomatico Rum.  Just the very name of it offers words of propriety, quality and flavor.  Digging a bit deeper I’ve learned than Diplomatico is small batch, pot-still distilled in a method that extracts richer flavors from the, “thick across the tongue” charcoal filtered final product.  This is gorgeous rum only made more robust from long aging in used whiskey barrels. 

I’m a fan of this rum in my punch and this leads me to a most salubrious slurp for your early fall activities.  

The Portmanteau Punch is just what the doctor ordered in this respect.  I created this punch to offer an alternative to your summer punches.  The difference between the summer and the fall punches are quite simply the ingredients.

A fall punch will have juices and liquors more suited to the changing of the seasons!  In this case I gathered my thirst and thought about how my summer thirst and my fall thirst differs.  In the summer I’m seeking thirst-quenching flavors and in the fall I’m seeking flavors that will warm me deeply inside.  This is why I added a hint of the mysteriously candid, Tenneyson Absinthe to my punch.  The savory elements of distilled herbs along with the intensely flavored toasty, licorice notes make this a inexplicably warming concoction.

 Of course those who know me will never say that I ever cut corners in my punch recipes.  I always use freshly squeezed juices, never concentrates or cheaply made artificially flavored powdered then reconstituted liquids.  Secondly, when a punch is called for, it must be memorable.  You achieve this by using cocktail augmentations such as bitters.  What are bitters?  They are to the cocktail chef (or mixologists) what a spice drawer and fresh herbs are to the saucier in a kitchen.  Bitters offer depth and balance to a mixed drink.  Plain and simple, bitters offer more to a cocktail than just another ingredient added to fill up the bowl.  Third on the list of imperatives is the ice.  I never add cubed ice to a punch bowl.  Using cubes will not just chill the punch; it will dilute the delicate flavors making the drink a mish-mash of flabby ingredients.  So please don’t add cubed ice to your punch.  If you must add ice, try to find an icehouse in your town and order a large chunk (like 1 pound or more) of ice to cool, not dilute your carefully made drink filled with expensive citrus juices.  The ice is essential.  If you must use ice, add it to the wine glass THEN pour the punch over the ice in the glass.

The Portmanteau Punch’s influence comes from the release of my first book this week.  The book is named Apothecary Cocktails, Restoratives from Yesterday and Today.  This book is the first book on the subject of what type of drinks (always healing ones) may have been served in pre-1906 Apothecary shops for the diagnosis, treatment and further care of all kinds of ailments.

The Portmanteau, although not created specifically for healing, will help relax your body, acting like a healing potion.  Did you know, if you put the Absinthe on your hair (I know, most people wouldn’t put Absinthe in their hair, but…) it may help rid you of pesky head lice?  Yes, one of the first uses for the active ingredient in Absinthe was wormwood concentrate. It was originally created to rid the body of all sorts of lice!  We don’t have such problems today with modern indoor plumbing like showers and baths, so keep your Absinthe in the glass, please!

The elements of blood orange, pink grapefruit and savory navel orange juices along with a healthy dose of Diplomatico Rum and a healthy hit of Tenneyson Absinthe finished by the intensely flavored Bitter Truth’s Aromatic Bitters are a trip to the subterranean tropics without a plane ticket.

The preparation of this punch is very simple and you shouldn’t have any difficulty making this work the first time out.   If you have any problems and you live in the tropics, please let me know and I’ll walk you through the steps.  I’ll even taste your punch for flavor if need be!  Just send me a plane ticket and we’ll discuss the other details of the punch and the steamy heat.

The Portmanteau Punch
Ingredients for about ten – fifteen thirsty persons:
1 750ml bottle Diplomatico Rum (the white rum works best)
¼  bottle Tenneyson Absinthe (or your choice of Absinthe)
1 Qt. Blood Orange juice
1 Qt. Navel Orange juice
1 Qt. Pink Grapefruit juice
1 750ml bottle Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (Pink Grapefruit essence) 
1 small bottle: Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Organically Grown Roses  (essential)
10 or so drops Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
Chunk of ice or ice kept separately for the glasses
I recommend serving this punch in a goblet or Burgundy glass
Grapefruit and lemon zests for garnishing the glasses

To a punch bowl…
Add: All liquid ingredients including the Perrier Sparkling water
Stir well to combine, and then add the Bitter Truth Bitters over the top
Add Citrus zests to glasses
Add ice to the glasses
Spoon punch over the cubed ice and serve to a THIRSTY audience. 

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, September 22, 2013

Pür Spirits Twist

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer 

I beg your understanding that pür•spirits is one of those fabulous little companies that captured my heart through their use of flavor.  There is depth and quality to each product that this small, female owned business produces.    Each flavor or expression from pür•spirits makes you want to try another and then another until you have tasted the best that Europe has to offer with regard to intoxicating liqueurs.  I’m a big fan!  

The liqueur that has so enticed me for the Fall Season is the Blood Orange/ Spice liqueur.  This subtly spicy yet aromatically citrus spirit is a memory in every sip.  Was it the peel of the blood orange or the juice that stained my dreams with their oils?  The spice element is not overpowering, nor is it artificial in any way, shape or form.  I’m thrilled to work with pür•spirits blood orange/spice because it is so adaptable!  It’s perfectly marvelous in a martini type cocktail with jasmine tea and grapefruit zest. 

There is a historic element to orange spice drinks.  First of all they make us think of the holiday times that are fast approaching.  The inclusion of Jasmine Tea is a subtle tip of the hat to the mysterious nature of this cocktail.  The use of spices, in this case holiday or baking spices along with the ever present flavor of citrus zest and the sweet blood orange juice gets the ball rolling across your palate.  It’s really marvelous stuff in a hot toddy as well.  

Drinking the Blood Orange/Spice liqueur reminds me of traveling to Austria as a boy.  I was permitted to accompany my parents on their trips to Europe, South American and Africa with my young stomach drinking alongside our travels around the world.  Liqueurs from Switzerland, Austria and Germany have continued to supply my dreams with sweet memories of these years.  Every time I taste fruit based liqueurs like the marvelous ones from pür•spirits I have vivid dreams of my childhood.  Liquid based dreams are what have made me the writer that I am today.   I have my parents to thank for not leaving me in the hotel room with a half-frozen pizza from room service.  I ate along with a very adventurous family palate.  That went for liquor as well as wine.  Oh the struggles of youth!  

Pür Spirits Twist
3 oz. Jasmine Tea (cooled)
2 oz. pür•spirits blood orange/spice 
coconut water ice (freeze coconut water overnight in an ice tray) 
bitter truth lemon bitters

to a Boston shaker filled ¾ with bar ice:
add the pür•spirits blood orange/spice liqueur
add the cooled Jasmine tea
shake for 20 seconds until frosty
Old Fashioned Glass will do for this
Add a cube or two of the coconut water ice to the glass 
Scatter a few drops of the The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters at the end and a grapefruit zest  

Pür Spirits hot toddy blood orange/spice liqueur
3 oz. pür•spirits blood orange/spice liqueur
4 oz. hot tea of your choice
a mug (pre-heated of course)
a zest of orange

heat mug
spray orange zest into the mug
add pür•spirits blood orange/spice liqueur
add hot tea


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, September 16, 2013

Making milk punch with Breaking and Entering Bourbon Whiskey

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer 

It’s hard to believe that Tales of the Cocktail was back in the end of July and I’m already looking towards next year.  One of the main reasons why I’m looking forward to next year was because of the event that took place this year.  That event was the milk punch event.  

Because of the kindness and the generous financial support from St. George Spirits I was able to join Suzanne Long and Christopher James at Tales of the Cocktail.  You see, Suzanne is friendly with St. George Spirits and they agreed to offer me Breaking and Entering Bourbon Whiskey for my milk punch.  

After all this was a milk punch event and my milk punch included this vivacious and electrifying bourbon whiskey!  There is an interesting back-story about Breaking and Entering and it involves “stealing” Kentucky Bourbon filled oak barrels and bringing them back to Alameda, California where they blend these barrels of whiskey according to their own unique flavor profiles.  Lance Winters and Dave Smith hand selected these Kentucky Bourbon casks (and whiskey) with all the oils, natural sugars and inherent aromatics intact. 

Tasting notes of the Breaking and Entering Bourbon Whiskey.
With a nose of toasted hazelnuts soaked in spicy Asian Spices steeped in brown butter with notes of cedar, torn semolina pasta sheets and Turkish Saffron the Breaking and Entering offers similar exotic underpinnings.  The most intriguing aspect of Breaking and Entering Bourbon is that you can mix this beautifully in a Manhattan or even in a Milk Punch!  If I was to use Breaking and Entering in a Manhattan, I’d make sure that I used Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth and the bitters should be none other than the well balanced, Aromatic Bitters from The Bitter Truth.  

If I was to enjoy a glass of this charming bourbon neat, I’d only add air as my mixer. 
You can only imagine my delight when Suzanne emailed me with the good news. St. George Spirits not only would pay for the hotel entertainment room at Tales of the Cocktail for our event, but they would also donate the spirits.  Now it was up to me to find sponsors for my ingredients.  Joe Fee was gracious to me and offered his Whiskey Barrel Bitters and his salubrious Rock Candy Simple Syrup.   There was REAL Vanilla extract and the most gorgeous heavy whipping cream that was stained a rich yellow color from the butterfat.  The ice-cold milk for my punch was also a hue of creamy white that screamed refreshing.  

My recipe for the milk punch is essentially an unfrozen ice cream recipe.  If you wanted to make an absolutely outrageous batch of Breaking and Entering Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream, just follow the directions on your ice cream freezer and use the same proportions. 
My recipe for the milk punch is a most tempestuous beast.  It is said that a milk punch should restore to your senses from what you may have lost only the night prior.  

Ingredients for 20 persons @3-4 oz per person
1 bottle Breaking and Entering Bourbon Whiskey
1 cup Real Vanilla Extract – there really is no substitute!
1 gallon ice cold milk (whole milk-full fat is what this drink gets..NO SKIM)
1 qt. Rock Candy Simple Syrup from Fee Brothers
1 qt. Heavy Whipping Cream
10-15 dashes Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters

Fresh Nutmeg
Ice cubes

Combine all ingredients except for the ice in a batching container like a stainless steel bucket (non-reactive)
Mix well and keep cold!  Scrape the nutmeg over the top just before serving. 
Check for sweetness.  Add more Breaking and Entering if desired for a little more kick!  Ice cubes go into the glass first, and then add the milk punch. 

Thanks again to St. George Spirits and Lance Winters for your kindness and financial support this year at Tales of the Cocktail and especially to Ann Tuennerman for accepting our proposal to share our enthusiasm for the milk punch! 

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, September 12, 2013

My dear Fairchild Hot Punch/toddy

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There is a chill in the air.  The kind of chill that makes the leaves curl up and speak a language that just says fall.  Fall is the time of year that quickens my desire for warming drinks.  Sure I can drink a stiff glass of Scotch and have pretty much the same effect, but where is the pleasure in that?

To warm the body, one must drink hot drinks! 

For this my friend you must add a portion of heat to your spirits! 

The year that I discovered hot buttered rum was back in college.  I went to school in Boston, a city long accustomed to hot punch and hot “adult” chocolate and of course the famous hot grogs that may have included more rum than hot liquids.  Being a seafaring town, with icy cold winds that rise up off the harbor, the kind of drinks that just seem to go well with that certain kind of damp cold that just goes right through you are, hot! 

The hot buttered rum is one of those highly personal drinks that taste even better with the right ingredients.  I say the right ingredients because this drink becomes even more memorable as you grow older because you should make every effort to try one with Rhum Agricole.  Rhum Agricole is made from freshly crushed sugar cane juice.  The flavor of the juice is much different than the molasses flavor that most rum is produced from.  Molasses is thicker and more concentrated than the freshly crushed cane juice.  It tastes differently than the lighter, more aromatic cane juice.  Fresh is the key word here, not a syrup that is further heated to become a concentrated molasses.  I must stress that there are different styles of rum and not all styles appeal to all people!  

Depaz Rhum Agricole is from Martinique.  Martinique is known for world class RHUM.  Depaz is one such brand that I just adore in mixed drinks such as the Ti Punch.  The Ti Punch is comprised of just three ingredients.  Rhum Agricole, Lime and cane sugar syrup.  That’s it!  I’ve discovered another way to enjoy Rhum Agricole and that is in a hot punch with a touch of sweet/salty butter on top.  

Of course for this to be called a punch it must have a sour element to it.  In this case I’ve chosen lemon.  Lemons are available almost everywhere and in the case of the forlorn sailors, they would have strong medicinal purposes as well as being a flavoring agent in a cocktail.   Lemons contribute to the vitamins needed to stave off scurvy, a most insidious tropical disease caused by not enough citrus in the diet.  Don’t laugh.  It still exists today. 

The Depaz Rhum Agricole from DrinkUpNY is the perfect balance of Blue sugar cane and the brackish salinity of the surrounding ocean.  The terroir speaks clearly of the volcanic soil and the effort that goes into cutting the cane, then immediately crushing it for the sweet juice.  The distillation must take place very quickly otherwise the fragile juice will begin to rot in the high temperatures.  The end result is a slightly smoky finish that bursts into your mouth with tropical fruits, nuts and a touch of brown butter and citrus in the nose.  I’m a real fan of the Depaz and you should order a bottle right now!  Why should you order on right now?  You should do so because the hot element of this highly individualistic toddy-like punch will take away your memory.  What?  I forget.

My Dear Fairchild Cocktail is named for “Letters” by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1874 winter in the Adirondack’s.

I want to imagine the good author, holed up in a lodge in the Adirondack’s with nothing more than a roaring fire and a few dozen bottles of Rhum Agricole along with hot tea, freshly squeezed juices, cane sugar syrup and butter at the ready.

My Dear Fairchild

2 oz. Depaz Martinique Rhum Agricole
1 oz. Lemon juice
1 oz. Lime juice  All freshly squeezed
3-4 oz. HOT tea (I use English Breakfast tea)
1 teaspoon room temperature butter
Pinch of sea salt (for balance)
1 tablespoon Cane Sugar Syrup
Pinch of freshly scraped nutmeg

Preheat your mug with boiling hot water.  Pour out when mug is very hot
Add the butter to the mug, it should melt right away
Add the Depaz Rhum Agricole
Add the juices (This makes your drink a punch)
Add the hot tea
Add a pinch of sea salt and the Cane Sugar Syrup
Scrape a bit of nutmeg over the top

It’s warming time!   BZZZZ!

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, September 9, 2013

Champagne - Yes, You Deserve It!

By Amanda Schuster

Scene: A cellar in Aÿ, France. Two winemakers working for Lord Pierre Gosset are despondent that their white wines could never rival the reds of Burgundy. Then an idea:

“Eh, mon vieux! (That roughly translates to “dude!”) I have this idea.”

“Quoi? Wha - hic! What?”
“Take the red grapes. But make white wine out of them.”
“Shut. The Cellar. Door. That sounds formidable!”
“I know, right?”
“Just don’t leave the skins in long enough to stain the juice. You’ll get all the flavor, but not the color.”

And thus (more or less), some time in the 16th century, the technique of Vin Gris, slowly pressing “black” grapes to make white wine, came to be. Then other winemakers discovered that a blend of this Vin Gris would be delicious when mixed with juice from white grapes. And so was born what would eventually become part of the key grape trifecta (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) of juice for what most people consider to be the world’s ultimate sparkling wine. The one drink that in itself signifies luxury. The wine that is practically synonymous with celebration. Champagne!

We know, of course, that eventually what started as still wine was given bubbles, which were thought to improve taste, and also raise its alcohol levels. By the 17th century, Champagne became a favorite with the English court, and by the 18th century, considered fashionable in France as well - the toast of high society.

The 17th century monk known as Dom Perignon is credited with “inventing” what has become the refined tradition of Champagne. However, this is a process that should really give props to all the area winemakers who, mostly by trial and error, each contributed to the process of what is now the Méthode Traditionelle (a.k.a. Méthode Champenoise) which includes blending the choicest grapes from select vineyards, knowing how much sugar to add to the fermenting wine and perfecting the second fermentation process in the bottle to achieve its fine bubbles, not to mention discovering the right kind of glass for the bottles to keep the whole lot from exploading in the cellar…

Because of its association with luxury and sophistication, the word “Champagne” began to be used interchangeably to label any wine that has a little fizz to it, no matter where it came from (other parts of France, America, Spain…). In the late 20th century, the name Champagne became a protected label, restricted only to sparkling wines produced within the Champagne region of France.

I could geek out more here about the official rules of Champagne-making, all the restrictions and traditions, and which villages grow the grapes, but there are lots of other articles online about that. This is about finding and knowing your bottle. You already know that if the label says something is Champagne, that’s the good stuff, right? But there are still a lot of confusing words and conditions that go into selecting the bottle that’s right for you. 

Some useful terms:
Vintage: Champagne made from grapes harvested in a specific year

Non-vintage: Champagne made from a blend of grapes from different harvests
Cru: a vineyard, or group of vineyards  
Blanc de Blancs: Champagne made only from white grapes
Blanc de Noir: Clear Champagne made only from red grapes
Rosé Champagne: pink, red grapes were given more prolonged contact with skin, might also include juice from white grapes
Grower Producer (Récoltant manipulant): a grower who makes wine from his/her own grapes, which many wine enthusiasts prefer for its indie street cred reputation.
Négociant manipulant: the corporate companies that buy grapes from select vineyards (these include most of the major labels) for their wine. Not necessarily a bad thing at all when care and attention is paid to the process.
Préstige cuvée: what producers put on their label referring to what they consider to be their best or most special wine from their portfolio.

And then there are the levels of sweetness, known as the dosage:

    Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of residual sugar per liter), the absolute driest
    Brut (less than 12 grams), the most common. The level of dosage in a Brut Champagne varies according to the producer. Though “Brut” is on the label, some do still contain a distinctly sweet finish.
    Extra Dry (between 12 and 17 grams)
    Sec (between 17 and 32 grams)
    Demi-sec (between 32 and 50 grams)
    Doux (50 grams)

And the sizes of the bottle. Keep in mind that secondary fermentation can only take place in bottles magnum sized or smaller since they must be “riddled” (turned) in the cellar periodically while fermenting. Anything larger and the Champagne is transferred to the bottle after second fermentation. Also, interesting choice that the larger bottles are named for Biblical figures. Anyone know why? Please feel free to comment!

    Split (350 ml) a.k.a. half bottle
    Standard (750 ml)
    Magnum (1.5 L) a.k.a. double the standard, 2 bottles in one
    Jerobaum (3 - 4.5 L) a.k.a. a double magnum
    Rehobaum (4.5 L)
    Mehuselah (6 L)
    Salmanazar (9L)
    Balthazar (12 L)
    Nebuchadnessar (15L) those big ass bottles you sometimes see on display in certain wine retailers, requires some sort of crane-like device to actually pour from it

So how to find your favorite bubbly? Taste! Taste! Taste! The world of Champagne is vast and exciting, and each one has its own personality. Sure, it costs a little more to experiment, but it’s worth finding your special bottle. Because things happen in life - a new job, a new addition to the family, a wedding, a new friend, a new year, a special dinner, or just a day that deserves a little extra treat. Find your Champagne. Keep some on hand for life’s just-in-case-moments. It’s worth it.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Amanda Schuster is a native New Yorker, but without much of the accent. The mobile landscape of the city has taken her on a whirlwind journey from Medieval historian, photo archivist, jewelry designer and invitation specialist to earning her sommelier certification in late 2005. After working as a retail wine and spirits buyer and freelance brand promoter, she turned to the one thing that has stayed a constant all these years – her love of writing. She has published dozens of articles on cocktails, spirits, wine and other culinary interests, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favorite cocktail is a Manhattan.