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.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

From Bartender to Brand Ambassador: a conversation with Damon Dyer

By Antonia Fattizzi

Damon, you're a former cocktail bartender who has worked in some of New York City's most highly-regarded cocktail bars. Which bars have you worked in, and what did you learn there? 
While I have been fortunate enough to work at some truly fantastic cocktail joints, I cut my teeth in bars that were decidedly less highbrow. I spent many years wandering through the desert, working at neighborhood spots, chain steakhouses, diners, and manning the bar for more tumbleweed-filled lunch shifts than I care to remember. But those experiences truly showed me how to tend bar. I learned to talk to people, how to keep them company and listen to their stories, how to entertain them, and most importantly, how to be a host. I may not have known how to make a proper cocktail back then, but I certainly learned how to be a bartender. 

Years later in 2003, I moved to New York and was blessed to work at some superlative places and to learn from some of the very best. A few years at Capsouto Freres, an old-school French bistro, taught me how to develop a palate for wine and spirits and how to truly appreciate flavor. From Jack the Horse Tavern in Brooklyn I learned how to run a cocktail program on my own. And then I spent a few deeply formative years working with Julie Reiner at Flatiron Lounge, Clover Club, and Lani Kai. And that was the greatest bar education that anyone could imagine. 

Recently you made the move from bartending to representing New York's own Brooklyn Gin. What was it about this product that compelled you to transition out of bartending and into brand management?
The move from bartending to working on the brand side was a natural transition for me. After twenty years in the hospitality world, I was ready to tackle a new challenge. And Brooklyn Gin intrigued me because of the story: Two booze guys break away from the dark side in order to start something of their own? It sounded like a real passionate, labor-of-love type of situation to me, and I was fascinated from the first conversation. It was, in a nutshell, the exact gig that I was looking for, the perfect fit. I could never sign on with any brand that I couldn't stand behind and believe in 100%. That's certainly not a problem here.

Brooklyn Gin is seen as a "craft brand". In your own words, can you define what qualifies a product to be "craft"?
We use terms like "craft brand" now to describe any spirits that are not pumped out in volume by giant industrial distilleries. But it is more than that. A craft product, no matter what it is, will always have more character, more flavor, and more quality. Independent craft brewers have shown us that uniquely flavorful craft beers are infinitely better than mass-produced, flavorless, soulless, bland beers. And it is the same with booze. We now live in a golden age for craft distillation, with world-class gins, whiskies, vodkas, and liqueurs being produced right here in the states by people that are obsessed with quality and craftsmanship. 

In recent years, we've seen more bars and restaurants featuring cocktails that spotlight the use of super-premium spirits mixed with fresh ingredients and natural juices. In your mind, is this a trend or something that's here to stay?
The move to using fresh and quality ingredients in food and drink is no passing fad. More and more, people are appreciating that fresh is better. Fresh lemon juice is better than the chemical-laden contents of the plastic lemon at the grocery store. Fresh citrus is better, and fresh ingredients are better. As result, people are drinking better, and that trend is not going away anytime soon.

Gin can be a tough sell, as there are people out there who profess not to care for it. What do you say to them to dispel preconceived notions about gin?
Gin can be a tough sell. The perceptions of what gin is can be difficult to overcome. “It tastes soapy”, “it's too astringent”, “it smells like old people”, and “there was this bad experience in college once...”

However, the reality is that gin is the most progressive and modern spirit in the world. Gin can be a great many things, all of them different and new and delicious. There may be no category of liquor that welcomes variety and experimentation like gin does. The days of the same old handful of London Dry gins representing the world of gin are over. There are myriad ways to express gin flavors, thousands of combinations and permutations of botanicals. As long as the spicy juniper flavor note is dominant, everything else is open game for the creative distiller. For us, we take this freedom to crack our juniper berries to release the sweet-spicy flavors and use fresh kumquat, key lime, orange, lemon and lime peels. It's an exciting time for gin right now.

Every gin should tell a story. It is only a hard sell only for as long as it takes for someone to find the story they enjoy.

Please share with us two of your favorite Brooklyn Gin cocktail recipes that our readers can make at home.
My favorite use of Brooklyn Gin is the humble Bee's Knees cocktail. 2oz of Brooklyn Gin, 3/4oz of honey syrup, and 3/4oz fresh lemon juice, shaken with ice. And if you really want to gild the lilly, top the whole business off with a bit of sparkling wine. The honey and fresh citrus have a certain affinity for the gin, and bring out its flavors like nothing else. 

One of my other favorites is a Southside Fizz. 2oz of Brooklyn Gin, 3/4oz of simple syrup, 3/4oz of fresh lime juice, and 7-8 fresh mint leaves. Just muddle the mint leaves lightly, add the rest, shake with ice, and top it all of with soda water. Better yet, increase the amounts fivefold, and serve it all in a punch bowl. Float some sliced lime wheels and mint leaves on top.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Since 2003, Antonia Fattizzi has managed, marketed and sold boutique wines and spirits in the US market. Her passion for artisinal products propelled her to found Cork and Tin, which serves as a voice and a strategic partner for small and emerging brands.