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Review – Pisco Chile

Posted by Reese On April - 1 - 2013

If you looked at my Pisco selection up until about 6 months ago, you’d notice something striking.  I only had Peruvian Piscos.  And that’s unfortunately par for the course.  Chilean Piscos, while available, were hard to come by, not as well marketed and generally harder to find.  Not so any more.  Recently there has been a marketing and distribution surge for Chilean Piscos and that’s a very good thing.  I’ve received three bottles for review and David Wondrich’s comment from the PR video sums it up excellently “For not a huge number of brands they have a huge range of styles and types.”

Mistal PiscoMistral (40% ABV) – With a light amber color, Mistral is clearly a barrel aged Pisco.  That aging comes through in the aroma, with notes of vanilla, caramel and a subtle sweetness.  In addition there is a touch of dried fruit/fruitcake aromas that you find in some brandies.  Which, honestly, makes perfect sense since Pisco is really a form of brandy at its heart.  The sweetness doesn’t follow through to the flavor though there is still a touch of the caramel flowing through.  The vanilla and spice are joined by a distinct vegetal quality.Alto Del Carmen Pisco

 

Alto del Carmen (40% ABV) – My favorite of the bunch has a young brandy aroma with subtle grapiness (I’m coining that term, I’m certain it’ll be huge).  Vegetal aromas and flavors are king in this Pisco.  You get a true sense of the earth with this one and that quality adds depth to cocktails that I really enjoy.  On top of those vegetal notes you get spice, buttery qualities, some melony fruitiness and subtle sweetness.  Overall, a very tasty Pisco that mixes up very well.

Capel PiscoCapel (40% ABV) – This is the most neutral of the Chilean Piscos that I sampled and the most vodka-like.  I think this “blank pallet” quality lends itself to a lot of cocktail applications in the same manner that vodka does.  But with that come the same down sides of vodka, namely that same “blank pallet”.  This is a clean and pure Pisco.  If you’re looking for one to broaden a vodka drinkers horizons, this is definitely the choice.

So, what do you make with them?  The sky is truly the limit.  As you can see from this small sampling, the range of flavors spans from clean and vodka-like all the way to barrel aged with caramel, vanilla and spice and in between are vegetal notes similar to cachaca and tequila.  For me, I went fairly simple.  I whipped up a Chilean Sidecar that was super tasty with a rim of Chilean Merken (a smoky spice blend).  But, where these Piscos truly shine is in the classic Pisco Sour.  It’s simple and in that simplicity lies a subtle depth of flavor.  You get to taste each flavor on its own and harmoniously combined.  If you haven’t had one yet, you’re really missing out.

Salud, Amigos!


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

Crown Royal Maple Finished

Posted by Reese On January - 30 - 2013

Elisabeth and I need guitar lessons, stat!

New Gibson Guitar

But, more on that later…

Crown Royal is the classic Canadian whisky.  Think about it.  There are others, but I dare you to name three.  Okay, thought experiment over.  I’ve always viewed Crown Royal with a slight air of mystery.  You see, as a kid, my grandfather always had the draw-string bags filled will all sort of odds and ends.  I don’t recall him drinking it often, but I knew by the way he kept those bags that it was something special.  Crown also holds a bit of special spot for me.  It reminds me of fishing trips to Canada with my dad.  Then, for my 30th birthday my cousins gave me a bottle of Crown Royal Special Reserve, which holds a place of honor on my top shelf and gets consumed, one small dram at a time.  This trip down memory lane does have a meaning and I appreciate you sticking with me.

When I got word that Crown Royal was bringing a whisky out to compete in the flavored whiskey market, I was a bit concerned.  Don’t get me wrong, I like flavored whiskies, but in some cases they’re a bit gimmicky.  The whiskey flavor dialed down to allow for a strong punch of flavoring.  My first sniffs of Crown Royal Maple Finished had me a bit concerned they’d gone down that path, but I really shouldn’t have been.  The aroma is of pure clean maple, much like you’re sniffing good maple syrup, but the flavor isn’t nearly as sweet as you’d expect.  Rather it’s a solid base of whisky flavor with a natural maple notes layered on top.  Better yet, the sweetness isn’t syrupy or cloying.  It’s subtle and mellow.  This is a flavored whiskey that’s absolutely meant to be mixed into cocktails.

There are two quotes from Steve Beal (Crown Royal Master of Whisky) that I think really sum up this spirit succinctly.  “Started as whisky…still is.” and “Not a whisky liqueur.”  The key point of this spirit is that it truly is a flavored whisky that remains true to it’s whisky roots.  Bottled at a solid 80 proof (40% ABV) Crown Maple stands with its whisky brothers a step above liqueurs at lower proof.

Which brings us back to the guitar.  Elisabeth and I went to a Crown Maple event last Tuesday at the Double Daughter’s Salotto.  When we entered we were served a couple of tasty cocktails (recipes at the bottom), but the real fun came when they announced the shot recipe contest.  The idea was simple, come up with an original shot recipe based on Crown Maple and enter for the chance to win a not yet released Gibson maple wood guitar.  Elisabeth and I had done some playing around the night before and entered two recipes we thought were solid and sat back, never expecting to win a thing.

Crown Maple Shot Making Contest Crown Maple 5.1 Steve Beal

Suffice to say, when Steve Beal announced the shot I entered, the Eh, Eh? as the winner, I was beyond floored.  You may note I appear a bit distant in the picture at the top of this post.  So, on to the recipes.


Shots
 
Eh, Eh?

1 oz Crown Royal Maple
1/4 oz Chocolate Liqueur
1/4 oz Orange Liqueur
1 Dash Barrel Aged Bitters
Canadian Smoke Jumper

1/2 oz Crown Royal Maple
1/2 oz Laphroaig Cask Strength
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
 



Cocktails
 
Maple Old Fashioned

1 1/4 oz Bulleit Rye
3/4 oz Crown Royal Maple
1 tsp Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Barrel Aged Bitters
Manitoba

1 1/2 oz Crown Royal Maple
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Top with Ginger Beer

 

Another place I see this spirit really shining is in cocktails to add light maple notes without being overpowering. In some cocktails you add just a splash of a spirit or even a wash to add flavor (think absinthe in a Sazerac). I think Crown Royal Maple could be great in this role.

PS – We decided the guitar needed a fittingly regal name, so we proudly introduce “Royal Pancake”. Thank you, Crown Royal for a great event and an amazing prize.


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

Gift Ideas for the Cocktail Lover

Posted by Reese On December - 17 - 2012

Guest post by Elisabeth, Cocktail Hacktress in training.

Tis the season to wander around the mall hopelessly looking for last minute gifts for those who are hard to buy for. Would they love the Bad Kitty calendar? Another red sweater? I, myself, have a difficult-to-buy-for Cocktail Hacker and feel for you. But, should your gift recipient love alcohol, you are in luck. We found some great books for a cocktail lover –Throw in a bottle of something tasty and you have a great gift!

Gingerbread Eggnog

I was super excited when I saw the Never Cook Sober Cookbook by Stacy Laabs and Sherri Field. What could be better than combining a love of cooking with a love of booze? This book has 100 recipes that incorporate booze. To help guide your cooking each recipe is given a “jug rating” for how much alcohol content is in the final product. What I loved most about this book is that it has everything you could want to cook meat-wise, but also includes items from scrambled eggs to desserts. Every recipe sounds delicious and I find myself trying to figure out which recipe I can cook from the ingredients in my house. Reese and I ended up cooking the Honey I’m Home Whiskey Chicken. Very tasty! If you have a cocktail loving cook on your Christmas list, grab this book! Buy one for me too!

If you are looking for a complete, modern cocktail book, we recommend Edible Cocktails by Natalie Bovis. This book includes a little education on ingredients, recipes for specialty homemade ingredients and, finally, recipes for a good variety of cocktails. This book is not limited to cocktails, but also includes recipes for shrubs, preserves, and syrups that would be great for every day drinks also. The recipes feel very farm-to-table calling for fresh seasonal ingredients when possible. This would also be a good book for someone willing to put time into making their own bitters (see Reese’s Hell Fire and Coronal bitter posts if this is you!) in order to make a cocktail with great impact. Serve up this book with a new muddler or beautiful bottles for storing shrubs.

The American Cocktail by the editors of Imbibe Magazine is sorted by region of the U.S.A. As would be expected from experts that spend their days writing about cocktails, the editors compiled only the best of modern cocktail recipes from around the country. In each recipe, the ingredients evoke a feel of their home region of the U.S., such as the cherries, walnuts and apples found in the Midwest recipes. We recommend this book for a seasoned cocktail fan that is in search of fresh recipe inspiration. Pair with a nice bottle of artisanal Rye.

For your farmer’s market attending cocktail lover, I recommend Artisanal Cocktails by Scott Beattie. This book is uniquely laid out by seasons, with fresh ingredients highlighted in each recipe. As a fan of fall flavors, I drooled over the Autumn Apple cocktail, complete with dehydrated apple chip accents. Nothing screams fall more than spiced apple beverages. The recipes vary from classics such as Mint Juleps (Summer) , Cuba Libres (Spring), and Margaritas (Winter) to more creative recipes such as the Rhubarbarella (Spring), Gin Kimchi (Spring) and Grapes of Roth (Fall). The recipes are very thorough, including recipes for any ingredients you need to complete the cocktail. This would be a delightful cocktail book for someone who likes to pair their cocktails with farmer’s market finds—Pair with a nice reusable shopping bag for when those markets open again.

Buying someone a SodaStream or other type of seltzer maker? You may want to include The Artisan Soda Workshop by Andrea Lynn, currently around $10 on Amazon.com. This book gives a great selection of recipes for shrubs and syrups that would be great with seltzer water. Only a few of the recipes in the back contain alcohol, but with a great tasting shrub and a little creativity, great cocktails aren’t far away!

Reese and I realize there are just as many beer lovers in Colorado as there are cocktail lovers. We are spoiled by the Great American Beer Festival and many large and small breweries in the area. For those that may not have the same access to the brew process as us, we recommend Short Course in Beer by Lynn Hoffman. This introduces the reader to all things important to know about beer, including terminology, process, home brew techniques and even a few recipes to pair with your beer. Throw in a 6-pack or a New Belgium Lips of Faith bomber and your beer lover is set!

Hopefully these suggestions help ease your anxiety about what you buy those hard-to-shop-for cocktail lovers. Anyone with suggestions for the Cocktail Hacker that has everything, I welcome help!


† 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 – Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Posted by Reese On November - 11 - 2012

Irish Whiskey (making note of the ‘e’) is a category that I enjoy, but haven’t explored much.  Some time back I received a bottle of Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey for review and what struck me most was their claim that this whiskey is distilled in the oldest operating distillery.  Operating under license since 1757 (holy awesome!) the old distillery as it’s called only recently began producing Kilbeggan whiskey again but it’s just as tasty as ever.

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey – 40% ABV

As you fill your glass you’re first greeted with a light amber/honey color and an aroma that is distinctly whiskey.  Subtle earthiness and notes of vanilla and spices with a light sweetness throughout.  The mouth feel and flavor are tremendously smooth.  While there are notes of clove and cinnamon with a vanilla caramel sweetness, this whiskey isn’t super complex.  Rather, Kilbeggan is very drinkable and approachable.   I’d happily offer some to any whiskey drinker knowing that they’re certain to enjoy the dram.

So, given that this whiskey isn’t overly bold I wanted to craft a cocktail that played off the spices without overwhelming the whiskey itself.  With fall at hand, something using fresh apple cider seemed like a great plan.  Here is the result.

Irish Harvest

Irish Harvest
2 oz Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey
1 oz Spiced Apple Syrup
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1) Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass 
2) Garnish with an orange twist 

The spiced apple syrup brings even more spice to the party and a tangy sweet apple flavor that plays really well with the whiskey.  The cocktail is drier than you’d initially expect which is perfect for my tastes.  Very reminiscent of spiked apple cider, but with the whiskey taking center stage.  Finally, the lemon juice adds brightness to the cocktail and the amount should be considered a suggestion only.  Based on the cider you choose for the syrup you may need more or less acidity to add the right level of sourness.  This is a great fall cocktail that I’ll definitely be making more of in the coming weeks.

Spiced Apple Syrup
2 c Apple Cider (fresh if possible)
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Star Anise
10 Allspice Berries
3 Cloves
Peel of 1/2 Orange (minus the white pith)
1) Bring the mixture to a low boil
2) Boil until reduced by half
3) Strain out the spices

† 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 – 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.