Sunday, October 27, 2013

Betting On Dark Horse Whiskeys From Kansas City

By Amanda Schuster

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of cocktails to try with them:

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

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

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

A short tale on American Cider

By Ria Soler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Liqueurs That Taste of Autumn

By Amanda Schuster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Deronda’s Glen & The Silverado Circumstance

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

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

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

Product of Scotland
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s just a perfect storm of ingredients!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sip through the bitters to good health!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

Portmanteau Punch

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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