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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.

Low Calorie Cocktails

Posted by Reese On May - 2 - 2012

This is a post I’ve been mulling for quite a while and I’ve finally decided what I want to talk about.  I get a lot of PR emails, to the tune of 15 or so every day, and I’ve been noticing a trend over the last few months.  Low calorie cocktails, spirits, mixed drinks and malt beverages seem to be the new trend.

So, here’s what I’d like to do in this post.  First, I want to talk about the caloric content of alcohol itself.  I think that will put us on a level playing field for discussing products, recipes, etc.  Second, I’m going to review a few low calorie items I’ve received that I actually like.  Last, I’ve got some general thoughts.  But, before we get started a small caveat.  I’m not a huge lite/diet/low-cal fan.  I much prefer the “everything in moderation” plan of decreasing calories.  That said, there are some good products out there.  On to the hacking!

Sciency Stuff – The Brainy Part

That image above is ethanol or ethyl alcohol or simply alcohol to most of us.  And, for those of you who know me in person, the tattoo on my left ankle.  Chemically, it’s C2H5OH.  But, that’s as sciency I’m going to get in this post.  Let’s talk calories.

A bit of math to get us going.  1 gram of pure alcohol possesses 7 calories (second only to pure fat).  The density of alcohol is 0.789 g/cm3.  There are 0.03333 oz per cm3.  So, that means 1 oz of pure (100% ABV) alcohol has 166 calories (1 oz * 30 cm3/oz * 0.789g/cm3 *7 cal/g * 100% ABV).  So, now that we’ve got some basic numbers, let’s compare.

Volume ABV Calories
Pure 1 1 165.69
Beer 12 0.06 119.2968
Wine 6 0.13 129.2382
Spirits 2 0.4 132.552

Makes it easy to see why the comparison of 12 oz of beer, 6 oz of wine and 2 oz of spirits is made so often.  They all have nearly the same amount of pure alcohol.  But we can’t stop simply at looking at the alcohol calories.  There are carbs, fats, etc.  Take Miller 64 (formerly MGD 64), it has 2.8% ABV which gives it an alcohol calorie count of 56, leaving you with 8 calories of “other”.  In that example it’s likely carbs remaining from the beer wort and giving all the flavor.

But think about this, I’ve been hearing about low calorie vodka lately.  Pure alcohol and water, no filler…hmmm.  So, here’s the puzzle (hint: it’s easy), how do you reduce the calorie count of vodka?  Simple actually, you just reduce the proof to say 60.  Woo! 25% less calories!  Bonus Round!  Why would you buy reduced calorie vodka when you could just add a touch less to your cocktail and accomplish the same thing?  If you answered anything but “I wouldn’t” then I have all kinds of things you can buy.

Vodka is easy, it’s fermented beverages and specifically sweet malt based drinks that have it the hardest.  They have both alcohol and flavors to contend with.  Take Mike’s Hard Lemonade as an example.  220 calories and 5% ABV yields 93 calories from alcohol.  The rest is flavor and sugar.  So, the problem they have to contend with is how do you cut the calories in the flavoring without making their product too artificial tasting.  Which leads to the tasty part of this article, reviews.

Reviews! – The Tasty Part

Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonades

So, from the snippet above it might seem like I’m trying to give Mike’s Hard Lemonade a bad name.  I don’t mean that though.  In fact, when I first started drinking in college, I drank a lot of Mike’s (read some past posts about beer for some background).  So, when I got Mike’s Lite samples, I was excited to taste the new ones but a little worried that the flavor might be chemically and artificial.  Quick review, they’ve got two flavors and they’re both tasty, but my favorite is the standard Mike’s Lite.

Mike’s Lite – Light, refreshing and lemony.  Sweet without being cloying or artificial with a solid hit of sourness.   The flavor is surprisingly natural and the malt base blends great with the lemon flavors.  The best part it’s sweetened with stevia and the calorie count is cut to 109 while keeping 4.1% ABV.

Mike’s Lite Cranberry – Sweeter than the standard Mike’s Lite with a bit less sourness.  The cranberry flavor is distinct and, like the standard, natural tasting and quite refreshing.  Also 4.1% ABV but a touch more calories at 119.

Old Orchards Cranberry Naturals

Cranberry Naturals Cape Codder

The next low-cal product I’m actually fond of is one that is even harder to make low cal and still great, cranberry juice.  When you’ve got no alcohol to reduce the only thing you can change is the sweetener.  In the case of Cranberry Naturals from Old Orchard they’ve swapped some of the sugar for stevia and the result is really tasty.  I decided to try this one in some cocktails since that’s really what this blog is all about.

Cape Codder (2 oz Vodka, 3 oz Cranberry Naturals, Lime Wedge) – Fresh and crisp with a distinct cranberry flavor.  The sourness from the lime really brightens the flavors.  This drink is a great, refreshing highball and super simple to throw together.

Cosmopolitan (1 oz Citrus Vodka, 1 oz Triple Sec, 1/2 oz Lime Juice, 1 1/2 oz Cranberry Naturals) – Sweeter and citrusier (It’s a word.  I should know, I made it up myself).  The alcohol flavor is very light which is good, but bad.  These could go down really easily and repeatedly.  It’s easy to forget why this cocktail is so popular until you mix one up for yourself.

Crandura (4 oz Cranberry Naturals, 1 1/2 oz Tequila, 1/2 oz Lime Juice)  – This is a cocktail I found in Skinny Cocktails and another really simple one to mix up quick.  The drink is very light and really refreshing.  Like the Cape Codder the lime juice really brightens everything up.  A very tasty drink and perfect for a hot summer day, though Elisabeth did make a good point: “Defeats the purpose of skinny because I’ll slam those back!”

The key point from having tasted all of these cocktails is that the stevia isn’t really noticeable at all.  I think the cranberry tartness plays a great cover masking any hints that there is non-sugar sweetener in there at all.  To top it all off, there is 40% less sugar and calories than regular cranberry juice.  Only 80 calories per 8 oz serving.

Skinny Cocktails by Jaclyn Wilson Foley and Ray Foley

This is another one that I was a bit worried about at first.  I got up on my cocktail high-horse for a bit and started thinking about how cocktails shouldn’t be low-cal, and blah blah blah.  Truth is, I’d much rather see you enjoy a cocktail that’s low-cal than not have a cocktail at all which is definitely the point of this book.  Rather than immediately point you at diet mixers they start the book with a detailed look at the calorie content of regular mixers, spirits, beer and wine.  From there they jump into recipes ranging from 50 calories (a light cosmo with less alcohol) on up.  The Crandura I listed above clocks in at only 139 calories and it’s damn tasty.  The point is to make a tasty drink that happens to be low in calories, not to make something sub-optimal just with the goal of making it low-cal.

The best part of this book for me, is that they have a ton of classic cocktails in the mix.  There’s a French 75, Manhattan and even the Old Fashioned.  And, what’s better, they haven’t even had to modify the recipes with diet mixers or artificial sweeteners.  They mix them just like I would, but let you know how many calories you’re getting.  And, to top it off, Elisabeth had a good point I would never have thought of.  The book is tiny(~3.5″ x 5.5″) and thin which means it can stash in a purse for quick calorie checks.  Well played indeed. Skinny Cocktails on Amazon.

Comments – The Ranty Part

Enter the soap box.  I have a few last remarks that I feel need to be out there before I let you go.

1) If a cocktail tastes like crap when made low-cal, maybe it doesn’t need to be made or consumed.

2) Vodka-Soda – Are you freaking kidding me?  At least pick a spirit with some flavor.  Try a nice blended scotch.  Same calories, way more flavor.

3) If you’re really serious about cutting calories the only true way to do it is to decrease your consumption.  I’m not telling you to stop completely, but cut back.  Trust me, it works.


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