Thursday, January 31, 2013

Discovering Nebbiolo

By Amanda Schuster

Two disparate theories surround the origins of Piedmont, Italy's celebrated varietal, Nebbiolo (a.k.a. spanna, picutener and chiavennasca).

One is that it is indigenous to Piedmont, where it is found in the wines of DOCG Barolo and DOC Barbaresco as well as its own varietal table wine. The other theory is that it was first planted in Valtellina, a valley within the Lombardy region, where it was then brought to Piedmont. The name means "little fog", either for the damp Piedmontese autumn weather, or the frosty appearance that was observed on the mature grapes. Several documents trace its early success: As far back as the 1st century, in what is now known officially as the Barolo region, Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder gave props to a wine with described bold characteristics that almost certainly suggest it was made from Nebbiolo. In the 13th century, there is reference to a wine called "nebili" from a grape that was growing near Rivoli outside of Turin. More definite written history notates examples from the 14th and 15th centuries praising the grape by name.

Wines made from Nebbiolo became the official wines of the court of the Savoys, who ruled Piedmont for nearly 800 years starting in the early 11th century. Barolo became known thus as the "king of wines and the wine of kings".

In the 18th century, Britain's on-again-off-again relationship with France re-entered a rocky phase. Wine aficionados and merchants were forced to look for alternatives to then popular Bordeaux wines, which was when the Brits discovered the glory of Nebbiolo, which for a time replaced French wines as their go-to.

Unfortunately, the phylloxera crisis decimated the Nebbiolo vineyards, thus ending its glorious run. When the grafting cure was discovered and grapes could once again be replanted throughout Piedmont in the late 1800s, other "workhorse" varietals, such as Barbera and Dolcetto, took precedence over the notoriously fickle grape. Today, Nebbiolo is grown in only 6% of Piedmont.

The varietal is known for its earthy, tannic, dark berry and plum flavors, with hints of violet, rosemary, licorice and/or tobacco. Prized for its longevity, most Barolo or Barbaresco is only considered "drinkable" when cellared for several years, sometimes for decades. However, the Nebbiolo table wines of the North are produced as "baby" versions of those more prominent DOCs and DOCGs, and can be enjoyed in their youth. It is also now grown throughout Italy, no longer confined only to the North. In the New World, particularly California, Oregon, Australia and New Zealand, winemakers have found great success experimenting with it. In warmer climates, the riper grapes take on fruitier characteristics. These typically lack the powerful tannins of those grown in Northern Italy, but still retain certain robust flavor characteristics that are unmistakably part of its overall "Nebbiolo-ness".

Though Nebbiolo is famous for red still wines, late harvest grapes are also produced as fortified wines or found as the base for Barolo Chinato – a sweet, herb-infused digestif.  It has also found its way into some fine grappa.

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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cruzan Single Barrel Estate Rum

By Warren Bobrow

I first tasted the Cruzan Single Barrel Rum out of a clean metal cup on my family's former Little Harbor yacht.

There was a time down in the islands that the government subsidized rum, so it actually cost less than water. Bottled water had to be extracted from seawater and desalination was, and still is, a very expensive method of turning salt water into drinkable water. The early rum distilleries could not run on seawater. They had to be built near sources of fresh water. No fresh water? No rum.

The winter sailing season was always my favorite time of the year for picking up bottles of exotic rum which were not available in the United States. The Cruzan Single Barrel Rum was for several years the object of my desire. I remember the first time that I tried it. We were sailing out to Anegada from Jost Van Dyke. The wind was at our back and the sails were filled deeply with wind power - pushing us along at 15 or so knots. Not bad for a yacht that weighed almost 55 tons. We were listening to John Coltrane on the yacht's stereo system. Anyone who knows this bebop music, it can be rather challenging for the intellect. No one would have expected that the music actually acted as whale calls - an entire pod of gigantic whales suddenly surrounded our nearly 60-foot sailboat.

A particularly large whale swam right over to the sailboat and hugged the port side. With his tail or his back, the whale could have cut us in two with one sweep. But he didn't want to destroy us - he wanted to listen to our music. He rolled over and showed us his belly, as did several of the other whales in the pod. I reached over the port side and rubbed his belly. The music was charming him into a place of comfort and trust. Jazz music being exemplified by men long gone, played to creatures of the ancient sea. It was otherworldly. And in my hand sat this metal cup (because you wouldn't be drinking from glass while sailing) which was filled with a healthy splash (ok, more like 3-4 ounces) of Cruzan Single Barrel Rum and a couple of fresh fruit juices along with some sparkling water.

I love this rum. It reminds me of the soft trade winds that pile up over the ocean between Foxy's and Neptune's Treasure. The whales that run between here and Maine have seen this all but forgotten reach, and now I know they have heard Coltrane. From the bottom of the ocean to the very surface, they came to the call of our wild. Each note said something to them. I'm not sure what. Maybe drinking this magnificent rum, with the soft fruit juices as a mixer brought them up to the surface along with the plaintive music? I'm not sure. But what I do know is that every time I sip Cruzan Single Barrel Rum I remember that day out at sea under sail, surrounded by whales.

Get yourself down to the islands and go sailing if you can. May the wind always be at your back.

What Whales Know Cocktail

• 3 oz. Cruzan Single Barrel Rum
• ¼ oz. Punt e Mes Vermouth
• 2 oz. Freshly squeezed lime juice
• 2 oz. Grilled blood orange juice (score blood oranges over hard wood charcoal, then cool)
• Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters

1. Fill a Boston Shaker ¾ with ice.
2. Add the rum, the vermouth and the lime and orange juices.
3. Add four shakes of The Bitter Truth Bitters.
4. Shake twenty seconds.
5. Strain over ice and add a few splashes of the Perrier Sparkling Water over the top.

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, January 18, 2013

Klaus (The Soused Gnome) & Denizen Rum

By Warren Bobrow

Klaus, the Soused Gnome from the Beekman 1802 website, attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans last year. Tales of the Cocktail is a yearly cocktailian event run by Ann Tuennerman and her husband Paul, along with a veritable army of volunteers, interns and enthusiastic supporters. Klaus made quite a splash down at Tales with all his eating, drinking and running around - getting inebriated at almost every opportunity. He was a popular little guy at many of the events including all the tasting rooms. Klaus had quite a following. Everyone wanted to buy him drinks. It was said that Klaus had his own media badge!

He certainly has quite a few admirers.

Klaus was especially fond of Denizen Rum at Tales and he drank his fill as well as the remainder of many others' glasses. Rum-based cocktails somehow work better in the brutally hot weather of New Orleans. A combination of fresh herbs (especially mint and basil) mixed with fresh fruit juices and Denizen Rum makes for a mind-eraser of a most pleasant kind.

Tasting notes of Denizen Rum:
Notes of white flowers and aromatic tropical fruits give way to a soft, almost cream-like mouth-feel. Denizen is quite full bodied and can stand alone in a snifter (elegant!) or can be mixed with a plethora of citrus fruit juices. Reminiscent in the nose of Rhum Agricole (sugar cane rum from Martinique), mixability runs the gamut from punches to hot toddy cocktails like the infamous Denizen Hot Buttered Rum that Klaus loves in the wintertime. Denizen is a good introduction to the style named "white" rum that doesn't taste anything at all like the numerous (read: flavorless) white rums that form this rapidly expanding marketplace.

The You Rascal You is named for New Orleans' own Louis Armstrong. It is based on a classic New Orleans cocktail named the Hurricane but without the horrible end results in the morning.

You Rascal You
This recipe makes two nice strong cocktails.

• 2 oz. Denizen Rum
• Juice of 2 limes
• Juice of 1 orange
The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
• Simple Syrup
• Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
• Fresh Mint
• Fresh Basil

1. In a Boston shaker, fill ¾ with ice.
2. Add the Denizen Rum.
3. Add the fruit juices, a sprig of fresh mint and a sprig of basil.
4. Add 2 Tablespoons of Simple Syrup.
5. Add 4 Drops of the Jerry Thomas Bitters.
6. Shake hard for 20 seconds and strain into a tall cocktail glass with ice.
7. Finish with the Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water and a chunk of lime.
8. Garnish with a sprig of both fresh mint and basil. 

Denizen is very sophisticated white rum and shows your excellent taste when you purchase, then share with your guests a few bottles from DrinkUpNY. Of course when you order a bottle (or more) of Denizen you are not following the crowds who may only see the word rum and connect it with the veritable plethora of flavorless rums from around the globe. Try a bottle when you concoct your favorite cocktail and see.

Klaus is right… Denizen will add enlightenment and charm to your cocktail bar. 

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, January 11, 2013

Barbancourt Haitian Rum

By Warren Bobrow

I can tell you the first time that I tasted Barbancourt Rum from Haiti. It was after a lovely meal on the island of Jost van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Dinner was usually the freshly caught fish of the day cooked with lime, rum and butter - (because butter makes everything taste better and rum preserves the delicate flavors in a place with poor refrigeration) - and this night was no exception. The drinks flowed as nicely as the conversations about wooden yachts, the upcoming Antiguan Race Week and more lousy days in paradise. Rum was usually served before the meal in the form of a frosty, cold Piña Colada, during the meal - mixed with cola, and after the meal - neat in a snifter. Sure there are other liquors available on the islands, but they can be fiercely expensive. Rum is from the Caribbean and it actually costs less than water!

Rhum Agricole is one of my favorite varieties of island rums and this night was different in many ways because the rum in my snifter was from the island of Haiti! I'd never tried Haitian rum before and I was intrigued. Digging a bit deeper I discovered that Haitian rum is made not from molasses (as is the method of most of the rum distilled in the world), but with freshly crushed sugar cane juice aged in French White Oak from Limousin. Haitian rum is similar in many ways to the rhums of Martinique. There is a grassy, white flower nose and a very Cognac-like finish from the used Cognac oak barrels. This is very classy stuff.

Barbancourt has been produced in Haiti since 1862. La Société du Rhum Barbancourt still uses the original recipe and is stylized more like a Cognac than a rum meant for mixing. That's not to say that Barbancourt is not delicious in a mixed drink, I just prefer it with as few ingredients as possible.

Fresh squeezed juices take the background to the subtle aromatics of Haitian grown sugar cane. If you were going to mix this highly expressive rum, I'd think of ingredients from the tropics. Coconut water frozen into ice cubes, freshly cut pineapple seared in a cast iron pan, orange, lime and coconut milk all combine together to soften and harmonize Barbancourt into a flavor-driven slurp. Rum comes from many different islands in the Caribbean, but few are as sophisticated as Barbancourt.  There are several different varieties of Barbancourt with my favorite being the Estate Reserve. Rumor has it that the Estate Reserve was held for the private enjoyment of the former presidents of Haiti. This is not so far from the mark. I never saw the older versions of Barbancourt in the United States until the mid-1980's.

When Barbancourt finally made its way to our shores only a small amount actually was available, adding to the mystique. I used to bring as much as I could carry back from the islands. With DrinkUpNY carrying the older versions of this venerable brand you too can drink like a wealthy local from Haiti.

A simple way to drink Barbancourt is to do very little to it, but let me tell you, if you use some fresh juices that are grilled first, the rum takes on a haunting spirit of its own.

• 4 oz. Barbancourt
• 1 oz. Simple Syrup of Cane Sugar
• 2 tablespoons juice from a grilled pineapple
• 2 tablespoons juice from a grilled orange
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (not grilled)

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir together.
2. Serve over Coconut Water ice.

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, January 4, 2013

Three Fresh Ways To Mix Hendrick's Gin

By Warren Bobrow

There are various forms of gin; the old-style London variety can be almost vodka-like with hardly a hint of the signature juniper berry. Others, such as the botanical style - part of the new craft-distilling era - exemplify flavor first and the traditional rules for gin last.

These new botanical gins are the ones that really can make a difference in a mixed drink. Stylistically, gin is quite diverse, with flavors ranging from freshly cut roses and tropical aromatics to citrus juices, cucumber oil, and finally, the traditional juniper berry. Some even smell like sticky pine tree sap, while others have exotic aromas of ginseng. Hendrick's Gin is one of my favorite go-to liquors. Made in Scotland, Hendrick's is uncommon and decidedly unlike anything on the market today. I love mixing with it because the final result is just delicious. A cocktail made with Hendrick's makes my mouth water. 

Contemporary botanical gin like Hendrick's isn't the flavorless variety your grandfather sought for his gin and tonics. Usually the corn syrup-laced tonic water outperformed the cold aromatics of the old style gin.

Modern-day gin, although still delicious with tonic, may be better served on the rocks or straight up so you can experience that brightly modern "in your face" approach to craft distilling.

Or better yet, you can experience these exciting new flavors as exemplified by these three fresh ways to mix Hendrick's Gin.

Gin and Coconut Ice with Seltzer

This cocktail should be served as a long drink - in a tall glass, heavy on the coconut water ice, light on the gin.

• Hendrick's Gin
• The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
• Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
• Thai basil sprigs for garnish
• Coconut Water ice (freeze sweetened coconut water in an ice cube tray overnight)

1. Fill two Collins glasses with coconut water ice.
2. In a Boston Shaker, combine:
    4 oz. Hendrick's Gin
    6 shakes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters (More clove!)
3. Shake for 20 seconds and then pour into your Collins glasses filled with coconut water ice.
4. Finally, add 4 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water.
5. Garnish with a bit of Thai basil.

Absinthe-Gin French 75

The French 75 is a magical drink perfectly geared to the spring but works equally well in the winter months because of some of my ingredients. I twisted up the preparation a bit by adding a good splash of Absinthe, along with a dollop of simple syrup woven with fresh raspberry juice.

Note: To make raspberry simple syrup, puree about a cup of fresh raspberries and add them to a cup of simple syrup. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator to combine flavors and then strain out the seed laden flesh of the raspberries.  

Tenneyson Absinthe
• Hendrick's Gin
The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
• Ice
• Raspberry simple syrup to taste
• Sparkling wine to finish - Cava works well.
• Citrus wheels for garnish

1. Mix bitters with raspberry simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
2. Fill the shaker about 3/4 full with ice.
3. Add 2 oz. Tenneyson Absinthe.
4. Add 1 oz. Hendrick's Gin.
5. Shake for 20 seconds or so...
6. Strain into tall Champagne flutes and top with a good splash of the Cava.
7. Garnish with lemon wheels.

Gin Mojito

This Downtown New York styled Mojito-influenced cocktail features botanical gin in a wake up to your winter palate with plenty of aromatic citrus elements. I use grilled orange chunks which have a haunting aroma and a tart juice element that works beautifully with Hendrick's Gin.

• 1/4 cup cucumber chunks
• 1/4 cup lime chunks
• 1/4 cup grilled orange chunks (sear in cast iron pan or on a grill), plus additional for garnish
• Ice
• Hendrick's Gin
• Simple Syrup
• Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water

1. In a Boston Shaker, muddle cucumber, lime and grilled orange chunks with 2 oz. Simple Syrup.
2. Add 4 oz. Hendrick’s Gin and ¾ fill of ice to the shaker.
3. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds.
4. Strain into a rocks glass and top with a good splash of the Perrier Mineral Water to finish.
5. Garnish with a few lime chunks or a grilled orange chunk.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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