Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ted Breaux, the Alchemist of Pre-Prohibition Flavors

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Ted Breaux is an alchemist. He weaves straw and turns it into gold. The business of distilling stands as a reminder of his talent for the spirituous arts. Absinthe is Ted's stock and trade. At a recent event during Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the yearly gathering of the tribes for the cocktail world, Ted and his able assistant Jenny Gardiner are metering out mere drops of his passionate elixirs. Each drop is a view into the past.

Ted Breaux with Klaus the Soused Gnome
Ted discovered though the art of distillation the chemical components of liquors not tasted for over one hundred years. In careful coordination with the Combier Distillery, itself dating back to 1834, Ted has given new meaning to the term Alchemist. The words "Small Batch", "Hand Crafted" and "Artisanal" are not marketing terms thrown about like metaphors on a hot Summer's day. These words signify the passion and determination of Ted's portion of the industry. What industry is this? What Ted does is unlock flavor long forgotten by time.

With a ready smile and a story to tell about ingredients, Ted sits like an effusive man-child surrounded by toys from another generation. In this case the toys are his creations. These creations are Absinthe from another generation. Another world. Are Ted's creations Absinthes from outer space? Perhaps they are from another way of life where time passed more slowly. And why did time go so slowly? The powerful intoxicants in Ted's Absinthe makes time stand still.

Lucid Absinthe paved the way for Grand Absinthe to be legally available in the United States. Available at DrinkUpNY, this richly textured Absinthe is a potent reminder of why restraint should be the second word in the paragraph about the mystery in these expressive spirits. Absinthe is a most tempestuous beast. Served with the addition of ice-cold water, this mild stimulant was the subject of many a fever pitched dream. They say that the Impressionist Art period was directly influenced by Absinthe. It makes sense that after a couple glasses of Absinthe the entire world seems to resemble a pointillist painting! If you have too many, keep knives away from your ears!

The Polo Lounge at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans is the perfect location for a tasting of pre-Prohibition style Absinthe. Ted and his able associate Jenny Gardiner have gathered a veritable cornucopia of flavor-driven memories in this mirrored Fin de siècle-styled room. The air is warm but the cool glasses of perfectly poured Absinthe turn the space into a swirl of light and sound. Sure it was hot in the room, steamy perhaps, but with a cool glass of Absinthe in the hand of the imbiber, secrets of the past will come full circle into the present tense.

Tasting Notes:

Lucid Absinthe: Crystalline droplets of liquid silk give way to that unmistakable burn from the high proof spirit. Lucid is not for the meek, nor is it for the confused. This is a very serious medicinal meant to reveal the correlations between the present and the vividly imagined. With a creamy mouth-feel and a finish that lasts for minutes, Lucid is just gorgeous in a Sazerac or my favorite cocktail for this liquor, the Absinthe Frappé.

Nouvelle Orleans: The Nouvelle Orleans, named for Ted Breaux's birthplace in New Orleans is my choice of the tasting for the umami waves of bitter to sweet to creamy. I've taken Nouvelle Orleans and mixed it with all sorts of liquors. One of my favorites is Four Roses Bourbon, the Single Barrel version along with hand cut ice and a splash of Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur. It's not a Sazerac, far from, but a spaceship from another planet taking off across your tongue. You can say I'm a big fan.

Jade 1901: Jade 1901 is a snapshot into the way Absinthe used to be made long before you were born. This visit to another land is made in 130 year old copper Absinthe still that imparts unique character to each pensive sip of this persuasive liqueur. It is not weak by any means, nor produced with artificial colorings or flavorings. There is no added enhancement to soften the mouth-feel, nor the addition of concentrates to give depth. Jade 1901 is made the way that Absinthe can be made only if the distiller is as passionate as Ted Breaux.

Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters: Ah the Pimento. A member of the pepper family with the emphasis on sweet and savory rather than fire driven and hot, this is a Caribbean vacation in a bottle.  But tucked into the background surrounded by a core of darkness is the Absinthe. There really is no escaping it. This vaguely liquorish tasting elixir is also both bitters and tonic rolled into one. There is the core of the islands mixed with the deep aromatics of the spices. Each drop unlocks the depths of a lucid dream, with a memorable finish in each sip. 

Ted brought a series of medicinally derived elixirs with him such as the fruit syrups and artisan produced orange liqueurs that bring new meaning and definition to the word healing augmentations. We are lucky to have such talent plying our memories with new meaning and rationale towards a clarified future.

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, July 23, 2013

Tales of the Cocktail: Indie Spirits

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There's a new dog in town. Actually it's a pack of hungry hounds who are craving with deep desire something new and packed with flavor. No, it's not flavored vodka or the latest in creamy thick liqueurs that are more like candy than intoxicants. They want flavors that are extracted from real ingredients, not the ones that are manufactured in chemical factories with made up names espousing only the very basic intent of "small producer" and "handmade". Large market, factory produced spirits have nothing on CRAFT!

The uber-event known as Tales of the Cocktail is located in New Orleans, the city that practically invented the modern cocktail. This yearly event, held every July, is the brainchild of Ann and Paul Tuennerman. This well attended symposium of tasting rooms, "spirited" dinners and focused education attracts the best and the brightest from the distillation industry in a highly pragmatic fashion. The best part for the attendee is the ethos that stresses quality over quantity. Quality is the touchstone of this part of the industry. That's not to say that there aren't big brands showing their wares at Tales, but the focus and the attention is on the spirits that speak clearly of passion!

The Indie Spirits event was held in one of the larger ballrooms in the Sonesta Hotel. Last year the Indie Spirits event was half the size - this year it was bursting at the seams with craft producers from all over. And the most fantastic part of this event is the availability - this year is even better than last year with DrinkUpNY selling most of the Indie Spirits to a thirsty clientele.

Pür Spirits was in attendance with their intensely flavorful and concentrated liqueurs, as was Brooklyn Gin, Redemption Rye and St. George Spirits. Jack from Brooklyn showed his award-winning Sorel and Clyde Davis showed off his Chairman's Reserve Rum. De Luze Cognac was in the house with their modern-styled, very French Cognac and Death's Door is a perennial favorite. Montanya Rum from Colorado showed beautifully along with Wahaka Mezcal and Philadelphia Distilling. Few Spirits was in attendance along with Tomr's Tonic from New Jersey. This was one of the most crowded tasting rooms that I attended and for good reason. The attendees are interested in quality!

A perfect example of quality over quantity is the new brand named Avua Cachaca from Brazil. Recently introduced into the New York area and available at DrinkUpNY, this highly expressive spirit is made with quality as the forefront flavor in this new segment of the marketplace. Another craft liquor, Tuthilltown Spirits from New York State, speaks volumes to the quality of locally harvested grains over the mass produced liquors that other companies make. Some of the larger brands will produce more liquor in any given morning than Tuthilltown distills in a year. Other brands like the intensely flavored, tropically-scented Clement Rhum from Martinique sits next to Rhum JM and freshly crushed cane rhum from Guadeloupe that screams of the place. The craft component of these deeply flavorful distillates have found themselves based on history instead of sheer marketing power from a far-off advertising agency. Their craft methods of distillation have not changed in hundreds of years making them the original craft distilleries.

Up on the roof of the elegantly graceful and historic Hotel Monteleone, a pool party defines the very meaning of the word craft spirits. My own cocktail for this Bacchanalian event based on Redemption Rye, a persuasive elixir destined for cocktail infamy. I called my cocktail the Anthrusers Tricklet, named after the antagonistic doctor in Robert Louis Stevenson's historically based book named Treasure Island. This book loosely recreates the difficulty of life at sea from the perspective of the lowly sailor. Although the sailors of this era were no doubt drinking low grade rum, I adapted a classic punch to include the Redemption Rye as the base spirit. The ingredients that I chose are easily available and the Rye whiskey can be subbed for Navy-style rum if you desire.

Antrusler's Tricklet is a punch created with ingredients that you can find nearly anywhere. I have adapted the recipe to serve about 50 persons a couple ounces each of this potent elixir.

Antrusler's Tricklet

Ingredients:
• 1 bottle Redemption Rye
• 1 Gallon Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice (non-negotiable on fresh squeezed juices)
• ½ Qt. Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
• ½ Qt. Freshly squeezed Lemon Juice (to stave off scurvy)
• 1 Qt. Monin Peach Puree
• 1 750 ml. bottle Wilks & Wilson Mint/Lime Simple Syrup (amazing stuff made from all-natural ingredients)
• 1 750 ml. bottle Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Pink Grapefruit Essence (non-negotiable)
• 1 Qt. Coconut Milk
• 10 or so dashes of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
• 10 or so dashes of Peychaud's Bitters

Preparation:
1. To a large punch bowl add all the liquid ingredients save for the ice. The ice goes into the glasses and does not dilute the punch!
2. Mix well and serve to your appreciative guests.

As a visual clarification, the punch will appear to separate and may concern you but worry not. When it hits the ice filled glasses, the coconut milk actually attaches itself to the ice and the punch becomes clarified. 

See you next year at Indie Spirits at Tales!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Port Calling!

By Amanda Schuster

The story of Port begins in Oporto (or Porto), Portugal's second largest city, located at the mouth of the Douro. It is the gateway to wine country and center of Portuguese shipbuilding and trade, with a history that dates back to the Roman occupation and through the Moorish settlement of the area.

The beginning of the 14th century began a strong relationship with England, with the marriage of John I of Portugal to Philippa of Lancaster (daughter of John of Gaunt). This is when the English fascination with Portuguese wine began, as the country's relationship with France had become quite shaky, resulting in far less access to quality French wines. England's new friends, the Portuguese, had an abundance of wine in the Douro, though being somewhat resistant to change, the English found it to be much more "crude" compared to what they were used to. So they began to add brandy to the wine to preserve it for shipment back to England, and thus, in a sense, the first Ports were born. But it wasn't until the 17th or 18th century that this process became more refined. Someone, likely someone in the religious sector as these things tend to be, came up with the idea of adding brandy to the wine during fermentation, instead of after, thus preserving the wine's sweetness and vitality.


In 1703, the Treaty of Methuen (Methwen) was passed between Portugal and England. This assured discount textiles to Portugal and discount Port trade to England. From here, the Douro region was subdivided and the quintas (estates) were founded. The Port trade began to boom, with further quality control measures set in place for both still and fortified wines.

British merchants then began to set up shop in Porto and buy vineyards for production. By the 19th century, wine-making in the Douro expanded to an unprecedented degree, with vineyards built right into the mountain and the mass construction of wine storage centers.

In the 1730s, the Marques de Pombal created the Old Wine Company to regulate the production of Port, which had started to get a bit sloppy. Some vintners were adding excess sweeteners and juices, usually elderberry, to the wines, which were already suffering in quality and causing a big dip in sales. The Old Wine Company had control over the quantity of wine produced, the highest and lowest prices possible for trade and they arbitrated all disputes. By 1756 they set up the demarcated growing region for Port, and uprooted any vineyards outside of it along with the elderberry trees that were previously providing the juice to bulk out the wines.

By the 19th century, the major Port houses had been established, most of them with British ownership: Sandeman, Croft, Calem, Taylor, Warre, Fonseca, Niepoort, Graham, Smith Woodhouse and so on. Then the Phylloxera crisis came to the Douro and did its damage, but this was turned around relatively quickly by prioritizing Operation Regraph -  the "cure" of grafting the root stock to American vines - and most of the vineyards could be replanted. Business began to boom again by the 20th century, and new houses, such as Barros, emerged.

Incidentally, vintages are only declared in years with stellar growing seasons, and since the Phylloxerra outbreak to this day, the major Port houses have declared fewer vintages.

Note: 2011 is the latest declared Port vintage. Time to stock up!

Port Styles:


Tawny: Essentially wines that have been aged in barrel long enough for it to take on an amber/brown appearance. 


Aged Tawny: Left to age in casks a minimum of six years with age indicated on the label.


Colheita: Tawny ports from a single year, with the date of the harvest on the label. Aged at least seven years.


Crusted: Blended from different harvests and years, usually younger wines. Wines develop in the bottle and sediment forms. Decanting is necessary for proper consumption.


LBV - Late Bottle Vintage: Wines made from grapes harvested in a single year and bottled four or five years after harvest. This does NOT mean vintage, only the year they were harvested. 


Ruby (Branded): Blended wines aged in bulk and bottled relatively young before they can take on any color imparted from the barrel. The new trend for labeling is to drop the name "Ruby" altogether in favor of a brand name or style.


Garrafeira: Wines from a single year, which spend only a small amount of time aged in oak, then a much longer period in bottle. These wines are then decanted and re-bottled after a very long aging time, usually between twenty and thirty years or longer. 


Single Vintage Quinta: Wines from one estate and a single vintage, which is displayed on the label. 


Vintage: Wines from a single year, bottled after two or three years of wood aging, then aged in bottle for many years before release. These are the most sought after Ports, using the highest quality grapes, usually from the Cima Corgo subregion of the Douro. 


White Port: Wines with little or no maceration time during fermentation so the wine takes on a minimum of color. Otherwise, it is made in the same way as red and always has a certain degree of residual sugar despite being labeled "Dry or “Extra Dry".


Rosé Port: Very short maceration time to take on a pinkish hue, and otherwise made the same way as ruby port.

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, July 12, 2013

Brenne Gentle Fizz

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I begin my weekly column with the thought that went through my mind just prior to finding out from my wonderful editor if this topic was of interest. Thankfully it was.

"Greetings my friend. I'd love to write about Brenne in this week's journey into the heart and soul of the cocktail… It will be with fresh lime/lemon juice, raw honey simple syrup and a vodka wash from Barr Hill at Caledonia Spirits, lemon bitters from The Bitter Truth and a splash of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Lime Essence."


Sometimes I wake up in the morning having had vivid, colorful dreams about liquid pleasures (yes, I dream in color) and last night was no exception. I thought of a tall drink made vividly aromatic through freshly squeezed juices and deeply flavored through the Whisky from France named Brenne.

Brenne is a most unique whisky, it is not made in the style of Scotch, nor does it attempt to emulate the boisterous fashion of Bourbon. It most certainly is not Tennessee "sippin'" whiskey in style or nose. Brenne defies the imagination and stimulates the senses.

She is a sensual creature, this bottle of Whisky, and she takes time and patience to unlock her mesmeric nature. This is carefully crafted liquid pleasure that does not seek to reproduce any other spirit on the market. It is neither candy flavored vodka, nor another sticky-sweet cordial.

Brenne should be labeled as a truly unique product because Brenne is distilled from barley. It is then aged in used Cognac casks from the same estate that the barley is grown. It is just about as sustainable as you can imagine with ingredients that speak clearly of the soil. After all, this same estate produces Cognac, so there is a certain element of quality inherent to this product. Cognac is a very chic beast that has graced the mouths, throats and stomachs of the wealthy for centuries.  

Enter Brenne.

This is a single malt whisky that acts like it is the only whisky in the world that tastes like it does. I've not yet found anything that has neither this Terroir, nor the supple mouth-feel in each meticulous sip of Brenne. It's lush and tinged with the sweetness of roasted hazelnuts toasted in brown butter. I also get the flavors of orange marmalade spooned over crunchy sourdough toast. That toast has been rubbed with freshly churned butter dotted with fleur de sel. The mid range of this whisky is pure and creamy - just like melted sweet butter that drips in rivulets down to your chin. There are certain sweet elements to this whisky, with the deeply inherent sugar that oozes gracefully over time from out of the Cognac casks, infusing the whisky and weaving a dream-like state into each sip. 

This is whisky for the long haul.

I could see an experiment - transporting a couple of casks, Madeira-style, lashed to the deck of a freighter, heaving back and forth in the heavy seas, high temperatures and blazing sunshine. Unlocking the secrets of the wood, the Devil's Cut, as it is known, takes time to seep into the distillate. This liquid that seeps into the French oak and meters out little bursts of sugar and exotic spices is... Brenne.

I don't want you to think that this whisky cannot be mixed and that it only needs to be enjoyed straight in a snifter with a few drops of water over the top. That may be only partially true. Brenne is perfectly magnificent in mixed drinks as well as the basis of classical sauces in the kitchen. As a trained chef I'm the first to admit that this taste-based training moves my written words, as flavors drive my passion to write about them. Brenne is the perfect base for a Beurre Blanc plated under a perfectly charred slice of grilled Scottish Salmon or perhaps as the basis for a panna cotta, with Brenne combined with the rich custard and perhaps a bit of maple syrup for sweetness? I also like to pound a chicken breast out, sautéed with shallots, garlic and carrots, and then gently nap the tender poultry at the very end with a flaming shot of, you guessed it, Brenne Whisky.

But I digress. As much as I love to write about food, the real premise of this column is to encourage you to try new liquors. Specifically the whisky named Brenne, mentioned above, and also the magnificent and quite potent Barr Hill Vodka. 

Brenne Gentle Fizz (anything but gentle)

Ingredients for two:

• 3 oz. Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
• 1 oz. (for the wash) Caledonia Spirits "Barr Hill" Vodka (made from Raw Honey)
• ¼ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
• ¼ oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 oz. Raw Honey Simple Syrup
• Fresh Lemon Thyme leaf (NO WOOD, please) crushed to release its perfume
• A few dashes of The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
• 3 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Lime essence

1. Wash the glasses out with the Barr Hill Vodka (pour into your mouth as not to waste even a precious drop!)
2. Add all the ingredients EXCEPT the Perrier to a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice.
3. Hard shake and double strain into coupes, finish with a splash or two of the Perrier Sparkling Water.
4. Add a final dash of the lemon bitters and garnish with a sprig of Lemon Thyme.

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, July 8, 2013

Root 'n' Rudy

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

USDA Certified Organic Root Liqueur is a most unique and tasty elixir. Not only does it resemble the healing tonics of the past, it's concocted with only the purest ingredients as exemplified and certified by the United States Department of Agriculture.

At one time in our nation's history everything was organic. It wasn't until the drug companies became allied with the chemical companies did things really change in the way healing took place. I'm not saying that Root is to be used for healing, but historically, Root Teas were the go-to for healing anything from the common cold to ailments of the digestive tract. Traditional healers used "tea" made from roots, spices and herbs as synthetic drugs are used to day to "treat" and "heal" many illnesses. Such is the intent of the unique and immensely flavorful Root (Tea) from Art in the Age.

Art in the Age is the Philadelphia based collective that specializes in brand re-invigoration, ground-up marketing and most importantly, the re-establishment of historically correct healing tonics and elixirs. Art in the Age is best known for their hugely successful Sage, Rhubarb, and Snap Liquors. Each is a historically based and highly expressive spirit. All exemplify the element of "healing" herbs, melded into a vivacious and aromatic, flavor-driven quaff.

You could say I'm a HUGE fan! 

I discovered Root a couple years ago by the large USDA mark emblazoned right on the label. I was immediately smitten by the Root Beer-like flavor of birch bark, sarsaparilla, roots, herbs, spices and citrus.  It is neither sticky nor obscenely flavored "vodka" nor is it a low alcohol cordial. What Root means to me is a link to the past, but created in a most modern fashion. Plus, Root is fabulous in mixed drinks!

Jack Rudy in Charleston, South Carolina makes two syrups that have opened my eyes and my taste buds to new experiences. Their Tonic Syrup speaks clearly of hot night in India under the stars, being swarmed by a plethora of biting mosquitoes, each carrying a horrible secret. Quinine is long held to be a cure for the malaria that these mosquitoes harbor in their dark little bodies. Plus a good slurp of gin (or the Art in the Age product named Sage) along with the Jack Rudy syrup and a few ounces of Perrier Sparkling Water will put any thought of this insidious disease to rest.

My connection with the Jack Rudy syrup, at least today, is with their lovely Grenadine Syrup. This is how Grenadine used to taste before the supermarket marketers created a synthetic version for the store shelves.  The supermarket version of Grenadine bears no resemblance to the Jack Rudy product. The Jack Rudy product is gorgeous in the mouth and with the smack of orange flower water along with the ever-present pomegranate and pure cane sugar. There is no corn syrup in this marvelous syrup and it goes along with most any spirit.

I've included the Jack Rudy Grenadine in a tall cocktail that is destined for a tall Collins Glass, meant to refresh, revitalize and restore. I've also added a few healthy hits of The Bitter Truth Bitters Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters to the mixing glass. These historically correct bitters come laced with hints of Caribbean spices. They speak clearly of the pre-prohibition era when cocktails served to lubricate for more than a sour belly. Finally in the tip of my hat to France, I've included Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water to make this cocktail a fizzy treat. The elegant pin-point bubbles serve to create a focus and tantalize the taste buds and your memory.

Root 'n' Rudy 

For two fun fizzy cocktails…

Ingredients:
• 2 oz. Art in the Age Spirits "Root" Organic Liqueur
• ½ oz. Jack Rudy Grenadine
• ½ oz. Freshly Squeezed Lime
• ½ oz. Freshly Squeezed Lemon
• ¼ oz. Freshly Squeezed Orange
• 1 oz.  (in each glass) Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Lemon Essence
• A few shakes in each glass, Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters

Preparation:
1. Add all liquid ingredients except for the Perrier and the bitters into a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with bar ice.
2. Shake like crazy for 12 seconds.
3. Pour into a Collins Glass with one tall hand cut ice cube. (Double boil water- then freeze in a Tupperware container, hand cut with a wood- working tool and a rubber mallet)
4. Add the Bitters and the Perrier.
5. Garnish with a Whiskey cured Cherry…

How do you cure a Whiskey Cherry?

1. Take two pounds of cherries and pit them out.
2. Sterilize a few Mason jars, keep in a pot of boiling water until ready to use.
3. Fill with the cherries, then pour your favorite Whiskey over them. I use Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon.
4. Seal and process in a pot of boiling water. (You're canning, so keep everything very cleaned and sterilized)
5. Store in a cool place for two weeks before using. After opening they keep a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Duche de Longueville Fizz

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Greetings all! This week I'm creating a drink with the Duche de Longueville! What is Duche de Longueville? This is a gorgeous creature, made with tiny French apples, impossibly tart and inedible when freshly picked off the tree but when pressed and fermented, they become otherworldly in their depth of flavor. Think of this product as Apple Champagne… although by the means of their provenance they could never call this liquid Champagne or a sparkling wine. Duche de Longueville makes cheap sparkling wine taste just that - cheap! I suppose the best direction is to say that cheap sparkling wine couldn't hold a candle to the quality in every (inexpensive) sip of the Duche.

Sparkling apple cider goes famously with grilled sausages, oysters, lobster BLT's and even a ham and cheese sandwich on French bread with butter and fleur de sel. There are scarcely any foods that don't go well with traditionally crafted, sparkling apple cider. But this is not your typical domestic, sparkling apple cider. The simple reason that these apples are from France makes this product unique in all ways. There is a flavor of the place and that says the French countryside. The soil is uniquely geared to the propagation of apples. Calvados, the fire-driven apple brandy, comes from France so it stands to reason that the French would know a thing or two about apples. Since Champagne also comes from France, it's not too far of a stretch to imagine that the inspiration of fizzy, celebratory wines could translate to sparkling apple cider. What they do in France with fermented apples transcends mere flavors. The flavors of toast to butter to acidic apples becomes a language all its own. This is a dialogue towards eating and drinking better, because a 10 dollar bottle of artisan-made French sparkling apple cider is still worlds better than a 10 dollar bottle of industrially produced sparkling wine, at least in my opinion.

I've combined this intellectual sparkling apple cider with Junmai Sake from Hiro in Japan. You don't need to over intellectualize a thousand or so years of Sake brewing history to know that the Japanese take high end Sake very seriously. Hiro is a relatively new product to our shores and it speaks clearly of the commitment to brewing the highest quality Sake.

I love combining Hiro Sake with a couple ounces of the Duche because together East truly meets West in the cocktail glass. The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters bring this drink together. Then in a tip of the hat to my cocktail whisperer desires I've taken some stone fruits - peaches and plums - and sliced them by half. I heated a cast iron pan to smoking hot then seared the stone fruits until they were nicely charred, let them cool and muddle them with the liquors. Deliciousness!

In my imaginary visit to Japan, I envision myself faced with a food-driven dilemma. Do I eat vast platters of sashimi with this cocktail combination or shall I venture into the unknown with grilled or broiled fish? Well my decision would be tempered by the fact that I find cooked fish less palatable than raw, but cooked eel is right up my alley. So, I'd do a combination of cooked to raw fish with a cocktail like the one that follows. 

The Duche Cider is quite dry so a splash of simple syrup will bring the drink forward and then deeply into your memory.

Duche de Longueville Fizz

Ingredients for two tall drinks:

• 4 oz. Duche de Longueville "Antoinette" Dry Sparkling Cider
• 2 oz. Hiro Junmai Sake
• 1 oz. Simple Syrup
• ½ peach & ½ plum or other stone fruits (charred and muddled)
• Several shakes of The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
• 1 piece of lemongrass
• Splash of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (optional)

Preparation:

1. Into a Boston Shaker combine the charred stone fruits and the Hiro Sake and simple syrup.
2. Muddle together to release the aromatics and the juices of the fruits then add the bitters.
3. Fill Boston Shaker ¾ with ice and shake for 15 seconds or so.
4. Add the Duche de Longueville over the top. (If you desire a bit more fizz, may I suggest the Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water instead of more cider.  It will make the cocktail a bit lighter too… )
5. Serve in a tall Collins glass and garnish with a slice of charred fruit and a spear of lemongrass and sip slowly on a hot day!

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, July 1, 2013

Madeira, the Wine of Independence!

By Amanda Schuster

Good Madeira is truly one of the greatest gifts to mankind, though aside from wine geeks, aficionados and locals who appreciate it, precious few know of this fortified wine's true beauty and longevity (such as a good Colheita). And like many great things in life, it came to us largely as a serendipitous accident.

Madeira is named after the island in Portugal where it is produced. It was discovered by a Portuguese explorer named Gonsalves Zarco, who was blown off course en route to West Africa. While resting on the smaller island he called Porto Santo, he could see another island through the mist and set off to check it out. This gorgeous island was so lush and covered with trees that he named it "Madeira", which is Portuguese for "wood". Once the island was colonized and the land was cleared of many of the trees, the cultivation of sugar cane (from Sicily) began, as well as that of Malvasia grapes (from Cyprus). But because the Portuguese colony of Brazil was already profiting so well from the sugar industry, and making it finer and cheaper than any Madeiran product, the focus turned to wine production. Since Madeira is perfectly positioned within the Atlantic shipping lanes to be a natural port of call for ships on their way to and from the Americas or Africa and Asia, this was an inherent benefit for what would become the island wine trade.


Much like the discovery of the island itself, the early process of making this style of wine is as happenstance as it is cumbersome. When wines were transported to the New World, they had to pass through the tropics, which would essentially cook them. But this transformed otherwise harsh and acidic wines to ones that were mellow, with a burnt flavor that was not the least unpleasant. This practice then began on purpose, storing wine in ships' ballasts for round trip journeys, and often repeating it back and forth a couple of times till the wine reached the desired level of toastiness. These wines were called vinho da roda (wine of the round voyage). How the wines survived the trip considering all the rocking, extreme heat and filthy storage conditions is a source of wonder.
By the 1700s, America became the biggest customer of Madeira, buying up nearly a quarter of all the wine produced. The British American and West Indian islands began consuming it as their only wine. Five years before the Boston Tea Party, there was a riot on the docks when the Brits tried to attach a duty to a shipment of Madeira. It was the wine used to toast the Declaration of Independence as well as George Washington's inauguration.

But the remote island was not safe from the Oidium (powdery mildew) and Phylloxera louse crisis which devastated most of the crops in the 18th century. Since the only way around it was to graft American onto European stock, most of the new vines became hybrids. Now only about 20% of the vines in Madeira are pure originals.

The modern growing areas are relatively small, especially now that bananas have become the island's biggest export. When the dense forests were originally cleared and burned in the 1420's, this left a thick layer of wood ash in the soil, which proved to be advantageous for grape growing. Finally, a more practical form of toasting the wines came into practice, called Madirization. The wine is fortified, then slowly roasted in the barrel, sometimes over a period of several years.

The Madeira subregions are named for the grapes grown there:

Bual (Boal): The acidity of this grape is best suited for Madirization. These wines have amazing longevity and have been known to last centuries, with all complexity intact. These tend to be sweeter, rounded wines.

Malvasia (Malmsey): Grown in the warmest areas and lowest altitudes near the coast around Camara de Lobos. Known for the sweetest wines, aged in cask.

Sercial: Grown in the coolest and highest elevated vineyards. After fortification, they spend ten or more years in cask. These are the driest style of wine, but with a nutty, complex finish.

Tinta Negra Mole (Tinta de Madeira and Negra Mole): The most widely planted grape that resulted from post-Phylloxera hybrid plantings. This is a red grape that is a cross between Garnacha and Pinot Noir. It is most often used in blends with the other grapes in every style from dry to sweet. If the label does not indicate a Sercial, Malmsey or Boal, then it is likely a Negra Mole blend. Some aged, vintage varietal productions such as "Colheita" (made in the style of Tawny Port, single vintage aged in cask then bottle aging) and "Frasqueira" (Reserva) have been released.

Verdelho: Usually planted in the cool vineyards in the north of the island. Mostly used for medium dry wines with balanced acidity that take on a full-bodied, smoky character with aging.

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.
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