Friday, February 22, 2013

The Half Moon Punch

By Warren Bobrow

Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner, NY is making gin! Not just any gin, mind you, but gin that takes the art of distilling to a higher level. What makes this gin unique in the marketplace already filled with all sorts of flavors, are the ingredients. This gin is distilled using the juniper berry to give the signature flavor - but that's where the similarity ends. This gin is not like chewing a Christmas tree, nor is it dry as a lake in Death Valley during the heat of the summer.

The Tuthilltown Half Moon Gin is made from a base of their celebrated Manhattan Rye Whiskey along with a base of local apples and wheat. I dare you to find another gin that exemplifies this level of meaning in flavor. Taste it in a punch and stash away your preconceived notions that gin tastes like vodka only greener and stickier.

Berlo Prosecco is another of my go-to ingredients for mixology of all sorts. Perhaps the depth of the grape has something to do with my desire to include it in cocktails. Berlo Prosecco is not overly expensive, thus it adds flavor without taking too much out of your pocket. Berlo means "drink it" in Italian so if you follow the directions on the label to drink it, the method should come pretty easily to you!

I created a punch for the Edible Manhattan "Good Spirits" event using the Half Moon Gin and Prosecco that was so engaging, people came back multiple times during the evening to both praise and ask (kindly) for another glass and the recipe. Between all the flavors of the evening and my hand crafted punch - I doubt anyone got away with only a small buzz.

This punch was carefully crafted using simple to source ingredients. You can order Half Moon Gin from DrinkUpNY as well as the lovely Berlo Prosecco. We used the Bitter Frost Bitters from Tuthilltown, but you can use The Bitter Truth Bitters Aromatic Bitters (also available from DrinkUpNY).

The Half Moon Punch

• 1 Bottle Half Moon Gin
• 2 Qts. Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
• 1 Qt. Pomegranate Juice (Pom works)
• 2 Bottles Berlo Prosecco
• 10 or so shakes of The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters, taste, then add more if necessary.
• Orange, Lemon and Lime rounds
• Ice made with your Mavea "Inspired Water" Pitcher infused with chilies (crush some chile peppers of your choice into your filtered water, place in a 1 gallon container, then freeze as usual).


1. Add all liquid ingredients to a punch bowl.
2. Add the large block of infused Mavea ice to the punch bowl.
3. Garnish with citrus rounds and serve to an appreciative audience.
4. Refill with ice, gin and pomegranate and grapefruit juices as necessary

Danger level 5 out of 5!
Danger! DANGER! 

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, February 18, 2013

General Stark's Battalion Shrubb Cocktail

By Warren Bobrow

Laird's Old Apple Brandy is a Colonial-era spirit that is right at home here in New Jersey. During the days leading up to the Revolutionary War, the part of Morris County where I reside was an area rife with apple orchards. Some of the original inhabitants of this area hailed from France and Germany, where history taught many methods for distillation.

From the DrinkUpNY website:

"It takes about sixteen pounds of apples to create each bottle of this aromatic and richly flavored brandy. Matured for seven and a half years, Laird's Old Apple Brandy balances the fresh character of fresh apples with warm caramel and spice notes lent by oak barrels. This distinctly American spirit is well-suited for both sipping and mixing."

I was first introduced to applejack at an early age. My family has an organic/biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey with ancient apple orchards dating back to the early 1700's. Some of the apples that grow on these trees are better suited to cooking than eating fresh from the branch. Another excellent application of these historic "Heirloom" apples is into homemade distilled spirits instead of pies.

Apple Brandy is like a fermented cider, further distilled, and then aged in oak barrels for a specific period of time. A fair amount of "moonshine"-style apple brandy was made on our farm in the 1950's and 60's or so the story goes. All that I remember is the short glasses of apple fire elixirs that started many of our grand family meals served in the big house on the hill.

Laird's Apple Brandy is aged in oak barrels until the producer deems it ready to drink. Apple Brandy is toasty, potent and quite memorable in the glass. Sure you can buy Calvados from France - and many do - but the "farm to table" diners in the NY/NJ area will be pleased to know that Laird's Apple Brandy is still made from local apples. According to the company, Laird's is the fourteenth oldest family-owned business in the United States!

I'm particularly fond of using Laird's Apple Brandy in cocktails that include another almost unknown New Jersey product - maple syrup. Sure everyone has enjoyed maple syrup from Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. And of course who hasn't tucked into a perfect maple leaf sugar candy from Canada? But maple syrup from New Jersey? Does it exist? It certainly does exist and when maple syrup is woven into a cocktail with Laird's Apple Brandy, a bit of apple cider vinegar, bourbon whiskey, and The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters, there is history in every sip. This cocktail becomes like a shrubb because of the sour/acidic element of the vinegar.

 It's quite beguiling indeed!

General Stark's Battalion Shrubb 
(serves two very thirsty rebels)

• 3 oz. Laird's Apple Brandy
• 2 oz.  Four Roses Bourbon Whiskey
• 3 oz. Grade B - Dark Amber Maple Syrup
• 1 oz. Apple Cider Vinegar
• A few dashes of the Bitter Truth (Historic) Jerry Thomas Bitters
• Apple slices (grilled)

1. To a Boston shaker, add:
        Laird's Apple Brandy
        Four Roses Bourbon
        Maple syrup
        Apple Cider Vinegar
2. Fill ¾ with ice and then add the Jerry Thomas Bitters.
3.Shake for twenty seconds or so.
4. Strain into short rocks glasses and garnish with a grilled apple slice.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New York Wine! (Made Right Through the Heart of It)

By Amanda Schuster

Think wine in the US started in California? Fuhgeddaboudit. New York is where it all began, kids. In the 16th century, the Dutch and Huguenot settlers were the first to cultivate wine grapes. The oldest continuously operating winery in the US (meaning, they never shut down during Prohibition, got away with it because they produced sacramental wines), the Brotherhood Winery, first known as Jacques Brothers, was established in 1837. The country's first bonded winery, the Pleasant Valley Wine Company (also known as the Great Western Wine Company), was established in the 1860s in Steuben County.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Cellars in the Finger Lakes, NY
But being first doesn't always mean best. For a long time, New York wines languished behind the better reputations of west coast rivals once they established themselves. Most of the first New York wines were Labrusca varieties such as Concord, Diamond and Baco Noir, in sweet styles that were embraced by certain drinkers, but ignored by much of the "serious" wine community. All that changed in the 1950s, when Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated from the Ukraine to work at Cornell University's Geneva Experiment for a closer study of vinifera grapes. Recognizing certain regions for their receptive growing conditions, he was determined to kindle the passion for European varietals in the New York region. In 1962, he established Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Cellars in the Finger Lakes, and his Rieslings in particular were well received. In 1976, the New York Farm Winery Act was enacted to assist wine-makers in their farming prospects, and encourage quality production. By the 1980s and 90s, more and more vintners became interested in the region's various terroirs and microclimates, producing wines from grapes best suited to the conditions, and continuing to experiment with local yeasts and modern methods.

Today, New York has a thriving wine industry, with award-winning wines from across its regions. Because of the similarities to the microclimates in Germany, AVA's such as the North Fork, Hudson River and Fingerlakes have found great success producing German-Austrian varietals such as the aforementioned Riesling and Gew├╝rztraminer, along with Northern Italian ones such as Tocai Friulano.

Raphael Winery in Peconic, NY

In recent years, Cabernet Franc became the breakout star of red wines, because of its ability to adapt so well to local vineyard conditions, and also for its versatility. As a dry red table wine, it is often lush, with intricate levels of dark fruit and savory spice, matching well with everything from picnic food to a steak dinner. It also works well as a blending grape, as it does back home in Bordeaux. Cab Franc can also stand up to long periods on the vine, lasting into late harvest for dessert and ice wines.

Speaking of, New York has come a long way from its cloying past when it comes to sweeter wines. Thanks to a long ripening season, wonderfully elegant dessert wines from around the state are highly sought after. Though ice wine can get a little gimmicky (and some may argue that certain producers have ways of cheating the process), fantastic examples have emerged that are well worth the cost of the precious juice when shortcuts aren't taken. 

Though once relegated to Europe, Vermouth is also trending on the scene. Producers use locally made wines and infuse them with a mix of herbs and spices, honoring European methods and tradition while giving it a certain "je ne sais Empire State" update. 

If you haven't tried New York wines yet or in a long while, with so many producers making great juice across the state, now is a great time to give them a swirl.

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, February 8, 2013

The Gin Twist

By Warren Bobrow

Martin Miller's Gin is one of the most unexpected pleasures that has touched my lips in recent memory. Perhaps the method of blending the distillate from England with the purest water on earth has something to do with it? I think so. The water from Iceland is just so luscious that you cannot imagine drinking anything else so unadulterated.

From DrinkUpNY:
Martin Miller's is a super-premium gin distilled in England and blended with the world's most pure source of water, Icelandic spring water. Six botanicals and three citrus fruits are used in the distillation process: juniper, cassia bark, coriander seed, angelica root, licorice root, florentine iris, Seville orange, lemon and lime. The botanicals and citrus fruits are distilled separately to create a fresh, clean taste that no other gin can match. The finished spirit is soft, citrusy, with juniper appearing on the mid-palate.

I'm sitting in front of the fireplace right now. Also in front of me are over twenty bottles of Artisanal gin. My new favorite is the London Dry from Martin Miller's Gin. This is truly exotic stuff. Upon opening the handsome bottle I detect immediately the scent of cucumbers. Not just any cucumber but an especially aromatic variety. This gin doesn't need to be mixed - it's got all the stuffing right inside. I'm absolutely blown away by the softness of the nose - coupled with that unmistakable aroma of the cucumber. I got to thinking - when was the first time that I smelled this quality of gin?

Hendrick's does a cucumber and rose scented gin that I like very much. This gin from Martin Miller is a very sophisticated and dare I say sensual slurp of liquid pleasure. The cucumber is right there in the foreground. You cannot miss it. I'm almost shocked by the depth of the vegetable aroma and flavor. White chocolate notes follow up immediately - then those little tobacco flowers that only bloom at night. Suddenly there is an attack of herbs and spices as they come quickly into view. I'm just blown away by the finish - it goes on and on and… on.

I thought I would introduce a new cocktail too. Gin and citrus come to mind. Charred grapefruit juice is in my view because for some reason when we need citrus the most it's wintertime.

To make this cocktail you must be ready to take your palate to another place. In this case, the drink is Martini-like but not a Martini. Sure it has Vermouth, but Carpano Antica is sweet Vermouth. I like using it in this drink instead of using a dry; it has a more assertive, robust flavor.

There is the slightly crispy grapefruit bringing up the rear with a healthy burst of citrus and the burn from the char. The Bitter End Bitters are a spicy reminder that all bitters are not sweet. This cocktail requires something deeply grounding.

I love working with great ingredients and you should too, good ingredients just taste better!

The Gin Twist

Makes two invigorating cocktails for whatever you desire to do at the end of the day.

• 2 oz. Martin Miller's London Dry Gin
• 1 oz. Carpano Antica
• 3 oz. Grilled grapefruit juice (Heat a saut├ę pan and char chunks on all sides lightly, cool completely, then juice)
• Several cucumber chunks
• Several lime chunks
• Several slightly charred pink grapefruit chunks
• Fresh mint carefully picked over
• Excellent Seltzer water like Perrier Pink Grapefruit
• 4 Drops Bitter End Thai Bitters
• Lemon zest infused Ice made with filtered water from a MAVEA "Inspired Water" Pitcher. (Essential)

With your Mavea pitcher - filter water, fill an ice cube tray, then zest a couple lemons over the tray. Freeze overnight. Use in all your cocktails.

1. Muddle a couple cucumber chunks with lime chunks and grilled grapefruit chunks until they are well mashed together, releasing their secrets - the citrus oils and liquefied juices.
2. Add 3 oz. grilled grapefruit juice and a few sprigs of fresh mint.
3. Continue to muddle.
4. Add the Martin Miller's Gin.
5. Add the Carpano Antica.
6. Fill the shaker ¾ with ice and shake for exactly 13.5 seconds.
7. Place several lemon zest "Inspired Water" ice cubes into a Collins glass.
8. Double strain the Martin Miller's Gin concoction over the top of the ice.
9. Splash a few hits of the Perrier Pink Grapefruit Sparkling water over the shaken liquors.
10. Drip exactly 4 drops of the Bitter End Bitters over the top.
11. Garnish with fresh mint and a cucumber wheel.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Casa Noble Tequila

By Warren Bobrow

The time of year that we call winter may not be as dreary as once thought. Although the weather can get rather challenging, our choices for cocktails need not be. Our palate seems to crave citrus fruits at this time of the year even more so than in the summer. Apparently, citrus is king during the cold winter months with choices like the vividly colored blood orange, clementine, satsuma, tangelo and many others. There is nothing that I find more pleasurable on a cold day then to peel open a small, fat grapefruit and smelling the oils on my fingers while I tuck into the juicy, spicy fruit.

The first time I ever drank tequila was in prep school, where many of the parties sported those ubiquitous bottles of golden yellow colored firewater. This product was like a liquid anthem to my classmates, a horribly memorable hangover that made me want to skip tequila unless very thirsty.

It was on a vacation down in the Yucatan Peninsula during college that I sought out the refreshing and pleasurable qualities of Blanco Tequila. The variety of citrus fruits available for purchase on this trip to the historic regions of the Yucatan was truly astounding. Although it was winter up in Boston where I attended college, it was deep summer in the jungles surrounding the temples at Chichen Itza. With summer temperatures come warm weather thirsts and the citrus fruits of the region in my mind's eye, shine clearly to today. I remember coming across a fruit stand near the pyramids, possessing a massive thirst. As any good traveler to Mexico knows, "skip the ice, spare the stomach".  They were pressing fresh citrus juices with an ancient lever operated juicing machine. Couldn't hurt, right? Fresh juices poured into a paper cup with no ice to contaminate my sensitive stomach? But what was that in the bottle over there? Why was the smiling woman behind the stand pouring large shots of a clear liquid into the fresh fruit juices? Was pouring tequila over the freshly squeezed juices meant to sterilize the cup?

Nope, it was supposed to make all the ingredients taste better! After a couple of these tall drinks I too began to feel less feverish in the brutal sunshine. The temples of Chichen Itza seemed to become visually fuzzy in the heat and I connected with the original inhabitants of this sacred place deeply.

The first time that I tasted Casa Noble Tequila it was in a style that I hadn't attempted in decades. I had not enjoyed a glass of citrus fruits and tequila since my visit to Mexico during the 80's or a bit after that. Drinking tequila had fallen off my radar because I didn't care for it straight up in a shot, nor lost in a Margarita filled with crushed ice, cheap triple sec and bottled lime juice. Suddenly I was thirsty for some freshly squeezed citrus fruits, strained into a tall glass with some Mavea "Inspired" filtered water ice, then a healthy shot or more of this highly expressive and gorgeous tequila poured over the top.

The next thing I did was to pour the glass of sweet, yet tangy liquids down my throat. Tequila and fruit juices are quite healing to the body, especially when fighting off the flu. The combination of citrus to the Casa Noble Tequila makes me feel that my sinuses and my mind had cleared immediately. And I got that dreamy feeling of being in Mexico at Chichen Itza all over again.

Chichen Itza Cooler

• 2 oz. Casa Noble "Crystal" Tequila Blanco
• 1 oz. each: FRESHLY SQUEEZED (Essential) lemon, lime, blood orange and grapefruit juices
• 3 - 4 shakes The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
• 1/8th teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
• Sprigs of Fresh mint
• Filtered Water Ice (water is filtered through the Mavea "Inspired" water pitcher) then infused with hot chili peppers and lime zests (add 2-3 teaspoons of crushed hot chili peppers and an equal amount of finely chopped lime zests to a tray of Mavea "inspired" water, then freeze until firm)

1. Remove three infused-Mavea "inspired" ice cubes from the tray. Add them to a tall Collins glass.
2. To a Boston shaker, fill ¾ with regular ice.
3. Add the fruit juices.
4. Add the Casa Noble Tequila.
5. Add the Jerry Thomas bitters.
6. Shake for 30 seconds vigorously.
7. Strain over the top of the chili pepper and lime infused ice.
8. Garnish with fresh mint and sprinkle some fresh cinnamon 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.