Cocktail Hacker

    Hack What You Drink

Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Review – Martin Miller’s Gin

Posted by Reese On October - 24 - 2012

There is a lot going around about the “Most Interesting Man in the World”.  And, while I love those ads, he’s just a myth.  Martin Miller on the other hand, is very real and very much in contention to be truly the most interesting man in the world.  Truly a serial entrepreneur, Miller started his working life by publishing a book entitled “Success with the Fairer Sex” and from there he moved to publishing the well know series of Miller’s antiques guides.  Didn’t expect that, did you?  Expanding on that success he’s grown his empire to include a string of boutique hotels and a lecture venue in London.  But in 1999 is when he really gets interesting, at least us drinkers.  That’s the year when Miller set out to make the first truly ultra-premium gin.  One that “tasted great, even when drunk neat.”  The rest is cocktail history.  See what I mean?  That’s the sort of guy you sit down with for a drink and hope the bottle never runs dry.

Martin Miller's Gin

Man makes a damn fine gin too.  Sourced from the best ingredients Miller could find, distilled in small batches, and flavored simply with only ten botanicals for a flavor profile that is both rich and smooth, Martin Miller’s gin is great, through and through.  Last, but arguably most important, Miller drops his gin to strengthusing ultra pure water sourced directly from the glacial runoff of Iceland.

Martin Miller’s Gin (40% ABV) – The aroma carries light juniper and citrus notes without being overly bold or piney.  The flavor delightfully follows suit with light juniper notes in the background and smooth citrus taking the fore.  You get slight hints of the coriander and other spices, but they are very subtle.  Overall the flavor is very clean and the finish is medium in length.

Martin Miller’s Gin Westbourne Strength (45.2% ABV) – The juniper takes the reins with this bottling.  You first notice it more prevalently in the aroma with the citrus notes a bit more muted.  In the flavor the juniper and spices (coriander and licorice most notably) are the stars.  While the citrus is still present, it is lighter by comparison.  The overall flavor is, like the standard bottling, very clean and smooth with a medium finish.

Both are fantastic gins and I was amazed at the flavor differences given that they are the same recipe, simply bottled at different proofs.  Certainly there are lots of cocktail options, but when you give me a high proof gin, the first thing that always comes to mind is one of my first and favorite cocktails on Cocktail Hacker, the Gimlet.  The Gimlet is one of those deceptively simple cocktails.  It only has two ingredients…Rose’s Lime and Gin.  Mix, drink, done.  Easy.

Wrong.  You get the ratio wrong and now you’re in a land of over-sweet limeyness.  Use a subtle gin and all of the gin flavor goes away.  Bringing this drink back to my rotation using Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength was a stroke of personal genius, but I have something to admit.  My original recipe was off.  The gin needs to be fractionally more of the equation.

Gimlet (Cocktail Hacker Remix)
2 1/2 oz High Proof Gin
1 oz Rose's Lime
1) Mix with ice, drink, repeat

This seemingly minor change alters the flavor profile by leaps and bounds.  You decrease the sweetness without cutting it out, you bring forward the gin highlighting the botanicals.  In short, you make it awesome.  Now you.  Go make it awesome.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Milagro Tequilas

Posted by Reese On August - 26 - 2012

Guest post by Elisabeth, Cocktail Hacktress in training.

If you had asked me before I started dating Reese what my favorite type of drink was, I’m not sure what I would have said. I have tried plenty of drinks, but I am still inexperienced enough to learn something every time Reese mixes something up. I have learned one thing, though:

I love tequila!

I love the agave flavor, the way tequila enhances a drink with agave earthiness and smokiness, and how good tequila doesn’t require the assistance of lime. If I could have spent my summer touring agave fields and sampling tequila fresh out of the still, I would have been in heaven. Alas, this wasn’t in the plans so when I saw the series of Milagro tequilas Reese had received, I begged him to help me review them.

Milagro Silver (40% ABV)

This affordable version of the Milagro tequila line is the purest example of tequila I have ever tasted. Milagro Silver has a clean agave aroma (Reese smelled black pepper) without any interference. The taste reflects the aroma- clean, crisp agave with little interference of other flavors/aromas. Milagro Silver would be a great addition to a drink where you want to let the agave flavor shine.

Milagro Silver, Select Barrel Reserve (40% ABV)

The Special Barrel Reserve is aged in French Oak barrels which lends a richer, warmer complexity to the tequila. The nose has a subtle vanilla sweetness, with a little oakiness. The product tastes just as crisp as the Silver described above with a tremendously smooth, medium length finish of earthy agave.

Milagro Reprosado, Select Barrel Reserve (40% ABV)

The aging of the Special Barrel Reserve Milagro Reposado in American Oak bourbon barrels gives a heartier oak character. When directly comparing to the Milagro Silver, the sweet caramel and vanilla aroma really shines through. This tequila has a slight golden color and medium-long finish. This tequila is pure and all about the agave without being overly sweet, vegetal or smoky.

Rather than test Milagro’s mixability with a traditional margarita, we opted for a tequila chocolate martini.

Mexican Chocolate Martini

Mexican Chocolate Martini
1 1/2 oz Milagro Silver Tequila
3/4 oz Trader Vic’s Chocolate Liqueur
1/4 oz Original Cinn
2 dashes Fee’s Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1) Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This drink really lets the agave flavors of the Milagro shine through and smells delightfully like earthy agave sprinkled with cinnamon. Cinnamon and chocolate embrace a Mexican chocolate tradition. The cinnamon in Original Cinn is an earthier cinnamon to give it more an authentic taste (rather than a red hot cinnamon in other liqueurs). Do not be tempted to add cream. It swamps the flavors and overwhelms the drink.

P.S. (from Reese) – I love the bottle design on the Select Barrel Reserve bottlings.  The hand-blown agave plant inside the bottle is gorgeous.  The fact that the tequila inside the bottle is also fantastic is complete icing on the cake. *wink wink*

Milagro Barrel Select Bottles


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Pinky Vodka

Posted by Reese On August - 2 - 2012

Flavored vodkas have been around for a long time.  Truly good flavored vodkas have been around for a while.  But unique, truly good flavored vodkas?  Those are far less common.  One of the first to pass through my lips was Pinky Vodka.  Flavored with rose petal, violet and strawberry the first thing you’ll note is that it truly is eponymous.  The pink hue is natural and not at all overly pink.  Think light pink rose and you’re there.

Once the color grabs your interest, the aroma forces you to taste.  You get floral complexity and fruity sweetness hitting you.  But, that said, it smells like neither perfume nor fruit smoothie.  And, now that you’ve been enticed to taste, the flavor holds you for good.  Like the aroma, the flavors of floral rose and violet combine elegantly with the strawberry fruitiness.  As you’re reading this, I worry that the flavor you’ll have in your head at this point is that of strawberry candy.  Cloying, artificial and generally “kiddie” tasting.  That flavor couldn’t be farther from Pinky.  Pinky’s strawberry flavor is like that of a fresh summer strawberry.  Lightly sweet, crisp and refreshing.

Strawberry Pinky Collins

So, what do you do with Pinky?  Well, aside from just drinking it straight, as I’m doing right now*, you can mix it with complimentary flavors to make it truly shine.  I opted to make a Pinky Collins with a freshly muddled Driscoll’s strawberry.  Now, I can almost hear you saying “nice name drop”.  And, yes, it is.  But it’s more than that.  I like Driscoll’s berries for cocktails because they’re accessible to nearly everyone.  Sure, a lot of us can get farm fresh berries in the middle of the summer and we certainly should. But what about in October? January?  I think you get my point.  Driscoll’s are just there, super tasty and ready whenever you are.

Pinky Collins
1 Driscoll's Strawberry
2 oz Pinky Vodka
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Club Soda
1) Slice strawberry and muddle well
2) Add vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup
3) Stir a bit and add ice
4) Top with soda water

You’re going to note that this cocktail is simply a Vodka Collins with added strawberry and that’s exactly what I wanted.  Keeping it super simple lets the Pinky be the star.  This drink is perfect for hot summer days.  You get a light touch of fruitiness, the floral flavors of the Pinky aren’t masked and the overall drink isn’t overly sweet.  I’ve served this to a number of people now and, to a glass, every one asked for another.  Usually in rather close succession to the first.

*I love it when I’m excited enough about a spirit to just keep sipping my tasting sample until it’s gone.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Slushed

Posted by Reese On June - 16 - 2012

I scream! You scream! We all scream…for ICE CREAM! :D  And you know what’s even better than regular ice cream?  Boozy ice cream!  That probably wasn’t a huge mystery for you, but hey, it’s true.

As you can well imagine, when a review copy of Slushed arrived at my door offering more than 150 frozen boozy treats I was more than a little giddy.  There are a whole host of delicious sounding recipes to choose from: Campari and Lemon Gelato, Maple Bourbon Yogurt Studded with Bacon and Pecans, St. Germaine and Earl Grey Tea Gelato…suffice to say, the choice was harder than originally expected.  But, to give the recipes what I felt was a true test I wanted something fairly simple which should have great flavors.  I opted for Death by Double Chocolate Liqueur Ice Cream with a slight twist.

Death by Double Chocolate Liqueur Ice Cream (with a Twist)
6 Egg Yolks
3/4 cup Sugar
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 cup Whole Milk
5 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (chopped)
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
3 Tbsp Chocolate Liqueur *
3 Tbsp Coffee Liqueur *
2 Tbsp Black Onyx Cocoa Powder *
* My additions/subtractions
1) In a medium sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
Set aside.
2) Combine the cream and milk in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot.
Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the
mixture just starts to bubble at the edges.  Remove from the heat.
Toss in the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder.  Stir until the
chocolate has melted and the mixture is uniform.
3) Slowly, drizzle the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolks,
whisking constantly to combine. Transfer the hot mixture back to
your pot.
4) Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it registers
170F on a candy thermometer and is thick enough to coat the back of
a spoon.  Strain the mixture into a bowl.  Stir in the vanilla
extract and chocolate coffee liqueur.
5) Cool in an ice bath, whisking frequently to lower the mixture's
temperature.  Refrigerate untilcompletely chilled, about 4-6
6) Process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the
manufacturer's instructions.  Transfer to a container and freeze
overnight.

I made this ice cream for Mother’s Day (yeah, yeah time’s been tight) and everyone loved it.  The texture and flavor were amazing.  Very silky with an incredible chocolate flavor.  The liqueur doesn’t add any alcohol flavor, but the core flavor (in my case coffee) came through in a subtle, just strong enough way.  This book is a huge winner in my opinion.  The focus is on great recipes that happen to have booze in them, not mediocre recipes with booze shoehorned in for gimmick’s sake.  In Elisabeth’s words “I want to make every recipe in this book this summer!”  I concur wholeheartedly.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Cinco de Mayo – Clase Azul Style

Posted by Reese On May - 4 - 2012

Hola, Amigos.  Cinco de Mayo is staring you in the eyes and I hope you’re ready to take it on.  If you’re not quite there yet, I’m here to help with a seemingly cliche, yet damn tasty, tequila post.  I got two samples bottles a while back that I’ve been enjoying for the past weeks and really need to let you know about.  They’re both really great products and would play very well with whatever you have planned for Cinco de Mayo.

Clase Azul PlataClase Azul Tequila Plata (40% ABV) – I opened the interesting bottle (more on that later) expecting to find another good, but not impressive, blanco tequila.  I was dead wrong right from the start.  The aroma is of roasted agave with bright, crisp vegetal notes and some citrus notes that are hard to pin down.  The flavor is quite simply delightful.  The agave is the star and this blanco is crisp, bright and lightly vegetal.  There is a slight peppery quality to it and yet it’s tremendously smooth.   Finally, there is a sweetness that runs throughout.  The finish is all about the agave with subtle sweetness coming along for the ride.  Really reminds me of the roasted agave I sampled at Tales of the Cocktail a few years back.  I think the most telling thing I can offer is that I kept on drinking my sample when I was done taking notes.  Just sipping it straight up.  Lovely.

How about that bottle though?  It certainly can’t be described as plain.  There are a few descriptors that have been tossed around the house lately, most of which are better not repeated here.  But, the killer for me is that it’s a pain to pour, like a huge pain.  That said, what’s inside is worth every bit of trauma but, be warned, you’ll be sad when a little bit drips on the counter.

 

 

La Pinta Pomegranate Tequila

La Pinta Pomegranate Infused Tequila (19% ABV) – The color is crimson and reminds you immediately of the color of pomegranate arils.  The aroma is nondescript and doesn’t hint much at what’s to come in the flavor.  Which, on a side note, I always find interesting as taste is largely scent based.  The flavor is sweet but not nearly so as other liqueurs.   The pomegranate flavor is very fresh and doesn’t taste overly cooked or at all artificial.  The tequila base is there, but it’s definitely a background note only.   The pomegranate flavors are the star.  Very tasty overall.  I would use this in an instant as a stand-in for grenadine.

 

 

 

 

 

And, that’s exactly what we did.  Naturally, there are a ton of great tequila cocktails I could have made (check the bottom for some links if you’re looking for Cinco de Mayo recipes), but given that I had great tequila AND a pomegranate liqueur it only seemed logical to mix up some Tequila Sunrises.  The flavor was spot on to the drink made in the classic fashion and, as always, very tasty and refreshing.

Clase Azul and La Pinta Tequila Sunrise

Tequila Azul and La Pinta Tequila Sunrise
2 oz Tequila
3 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz La Pinta Pomegranate Liqueur
1) Combine the tequila and orange juice in a shaker with ice
2) Shake until well chilled and pour into an ice filled rocks glass
3) Slowly add the Pomegranate Liqueur so it pools at the bottom

Enjoy your celebrations, friends.  Here are a few more recipes to get your party rolling right.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.