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Review – Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur

Posted by Reese On December - 8 - 2011

Despite my whining from last week, sometimes inspiration just strikes me.  I had pulled Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur out of my collection to try when the Caramel Apple arrived.  It was one I received a year or more back and just never got around to actually trying.  And now, some good and bad news.  The good news is that this stuff is just that, good.  The bad news is that they’re not making it anymore.  But, on the bright side, you can still find it at a lot of liquor stores (my local ones have it) and online.  So, dear friends, don’t despair too much.

Okay, enough chatter, let’s talk liquor.  The color is what you’d expect, dark brown and reminiscent of gingerbread.  Big surprise, no?  The aroma is comprised mostly of molasses, spice and sweetness.  And the flavor is where Hiram Walker Gingerbread really shines.  You get the molasses notes of good gingerbread, the spices play nicely throughout and the sweetness is there but not cloying.  Well, done HW, well done.

So what do you do with it?  Well, there are lots of obvious holiday options.  Coffee.  Hot Chocolate.  Giant glass, one ice cube (for the hard days…we all have them).  The obvious aside, Elisabeth came up with a great option to both warm you up and calm you down, warm milk with gingerbread liqueur.  I’d suggest a mix of 2 oz Gingerbread Liqueur to 6 oz warm milk.  Definitely non-sucky.  For me, inspiration struck in the form of Gingerbread Eggnog.

Gingerbread Eggnog

Gingerbread Eggnog
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
1 1/2 oz Hiram Walker Gingerbread Liqueur
1 oz Whipping Cream
1 Egg
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
Nutmeg
1) Combine everything but the nutmeg in a shaker with ice
2) Shake until your arm nearly falls off (a good minute)
3) Strain into a glass and top with grated nutmeg

The flavor is definitely eggnog, but with a subtle gingery, spicy, molasses-y twist.  Molasses has a very distinct flavor and that comes through in the backbone of this drink.  I drank this down in about 10 minutes and wanted another one nearly immediately.  Per my preference, the sweetness is subdued, but present.  You could always add a splash (small) of simple syrup if you wanted something more akin to carton eggnog.  Oh, and like all good holiday drinks, this one packs a punch, but you’d never guess that tasting it.  If you’re looking for something new and interesting to serve at your holiday gathering this year, you definitely won’t go wrong with this one.  And, if you can’t find a bottle, swing by my house.  We’ll mix one up.


† 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 – Hiram Walker Caramel Apple Liqueur

Posted by Reese On December - 1 - 2011

Liqueurs are an odd ingredients for me.  I’m never quite sure what exactly people do with them.  Sure, they’re cocktail ingredients, but people have to be using them for other things too, right?  Do folks drink them straight?  In coffee?  Hot chocolate?  I’m sure the list actually goes on and on.  But, that leads me to a tough question, how can I best review liqueurs to give the best idea of how you’ll all use them?  Well, tough questions aside, I’m going to do what I usually do.  Give you a run down on the flavor alone and in a cocktail.  If you’d like some other thoughts, shoot me a line.

Okay, on to Hiram Walker’s newest liqueur, Caramel Apple.  Caramel Apple is definitely descriptive of the aroma.  You get sweet apple (think gala or honey crisp) with a touch of tartness and a strong hit of the caramel.  The flavor starts with a quick hit of bright apple followed by caramel that lingers for quite some time.  The sweetness is powerful, it is a liqueur afterall, but it’s not overwhelming.  Finally, since HW uses only natural flavors you don’t get the nasty aftertaste that’s common to other liqueurs.

So, what to do with it?  I first tried one of the suggestions listed on the bottle.  Equal parts Jameson and HW Caramel Apple yields a drink with a much tamer level of sweetness while maintaining the crisp apple and rich caramel flavors.  Definitely a good start, but I wanted something more complex.  Enter the Spiced Cider Old Fashioned.

Spiced Cider Old Fashioned

Spiced Cider Old Fashioned (Cocktail Hacker)
2 oz Applejack
1 oz Hiram Walker Caramel Apple
1/2 oz Apple Juice
2 Dashes Fee's Barrel Aged Bitters
Orange Twist
1) Combine Applejack, liqueur and juice in a glass with ice
2) Stir to combine
3) Garnish with a twist of orange

The flavor truly is reminiscent of mulled cider.  With all those apple based ingredients saying that this drink has a solid apple flavor is a bit unnecessary though adding the touch of juice gives the apple flavor a boost of freshness.  The bitters give the spice flavors good mulled cider is known for and harmonize with the apple.  That said, you can (and should) substitute any bitters you like.  The spicier the better.  The sweetness is on par with that of a standard Old Fashioned, though if you’d like it dialed up or down play with the juice and liqueur levels.  As my step-dad would say “It tastes like more.”


† 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 – Chambord and Chambord Flavored Vodka

Posted by Reese On November - 29 - 2011

ChambordChambord is a liqueur that nearly everyone I talk to has had at some point in their past, but few can pinpoint exactly when or in what.  Though giving them another taste brings it all back.  Chambord black raspberry liqueur has a flavor that’s truly unique.  Utilizing a three step process of infusing, marrying and blending Chambord achieves a flavor that is deep and rich.  The complexity of raspberry is combined with cognac, vanilla and other flavors to create a finished product that is fruity, sweet and very tasty.

Putting Chambord to use is easy.  You can use it any place that you’d use a fruit liqueur in a cocktail for a different flavor profile.  For me, that choice almost always ends up with me pouring some into a glass of champagne and delightfully sipping away.  The crispness of the champagne offsets of the sweetness of the Chambord.  The end result is crisp and fruity.  Naturally, this is a spin on the Kir Royale, and likely, the way most have had it in the past.

Chambord Flavored VodkaChambord I had tasted.  Chambord Flavored Vodka, on the other hand, I have never even heard of.  A sample in the mail changed that.  Put simply it’s Chambord combined with vodka.  You still get the nice raspberry flavor and a touch of the sweetness, but not as strongly as with Chambord straight up.  No surprises there.  I mixed it into a Vodka Collins and the result was fantastic.

You got the usual sourness of the lemon, mixing with the raspberry flavors of the vodka with subtle hints of the other flavor elements (vanilla, hibiscus, etc) coming through lightly.  Despite this vodka having a light sweetness I didn’t find the drink to be unbalanced with the standard 1/2 oz of simple syrup.  And, if you’d like a drink that’s even a touch sweeter and packs more raspberry punch try adding 1/4-1/2 oz of Chambord to your finished Collins.  The color can’t be beat and the flavor is definitely worth it.

Chambord Vodka Collins

Chambord Flavored Vodka Collins
2 oz Chambord Flavored Vodka
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Soda Water
1) Combine the vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup in a Collins glass
2) Add ice
3) Top with soda water

So, I have to be perfectly honest with you.  I’m not sure I’d buy Chambord Flavored Vodka.  I have a bottle of Chambord on my shelves already and I’d just combine 1/2 oz of Chambord with 1 1/2 oz of vodka to achieve a similar flavor.  However, if you’re a flavored vodka lover, definitely check it out.


† 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 – Hendrick’s Gin

Posted by Reese On November - 21 - 2011

When I was still in college, a few years prior to my hacking days, I was drinking a lot of gin and tonics.  As part of that drinking I started amassing a collection of gin.  There really wasn’t much rhyme or reason to it.  Friend recommended it, it’s in.  Something I haven’t seen before, it’s in.  And, in the case of Hendrick’s, the bottle looks super cool, it’s in.  Hendrick’s has, and always has had, an old school, apothecary style bottle.  It’s dark and interesting and like nothing else out there.

So added it was and there it sat for months.  Sure, I’d toss it in a G&T from time to time, but I never really appreciated what it had to offer.  That appreciation came quite a lot later on a hot, late summer, Friday afternoon at Jax Fish House in Boulder.  I had met my buddy Sean there for drinks and oysters and we were sitting right at the front windows watching the world go by.  Drink special for the day was a Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic.  We each ordered one and continued downing the oysters.  A bit later the drinks showed up.  With slight bits of muddled cucumber floating about, it was definitely the oddest G&T I’d ever had.

One sip changed me.  Hendrick’s doesn’t have what most people consider to be a typical gin flavor.  The juniper is present, but isn’t front and center.  There are other flavors that take that role, like cucumber and rose.  The flavor is also not as strong as with other gins.  Which is why Hendrick’s is perfect in a G&T.  Mixed right, the tonic isn’t the star, it’s secondary to the gin.  And that was definitely the case that Friday afternoon.  The bits of muddled cucumber, though strange at first, play off the cucumber flavor of the gin and give it a cooling quality that’s really amazing.  Sean and I each had a couple of those G&Ts before we moved on with our evening.  Friends and family joined throughout and the night was truly grand.  I must say, even years later, the thought of those Hendrick’s Gin and Tonics sticks with me.

Hendrick's Gin and Tonic

The flavor of Hendrick’s works great with tonic on its own with the typical twist of lime, but you can up the ante with a bit of muddled cucumber.  Take two peeled slices of cucumber, chop them into smaller bits and muddle a bit in your glass.  Add two ounces of Hendrick’s and 3-4 ounces of tonic.  Top with a wedge of lime and a cucumber slice for garnish.  Definitely worth the extra effort I assure you.

Hendrick's Gin and Tonic
2 oz Hendrick's Gin
3-4 oz Tonic Water
Cucumber
Lime Wedge
1) Muddle two slices of cucumber in your glass
2) Add the Hendrick's and tonic
3) Garnish with a cucumber slice and lime wedge

That naturally brings us to the question of, what is the flavor profile of Hendrick’s?  In short, balanced, with emphasis on flavors other than the juniper.  The juniper is still there, but the other flavors are the star.  Notes of cucumber and rose come through at the front.  Following that you get notes of coriander and citrus.  Throughout is a light touch of juniper to tie it all together.  Check it out if you’re looking for a twist on usual gins.  And, there is a big collection of cocktail recipes on their site, should you need additional inspiration.


† 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 – Kansas Clean Distilled Whiskey

Posted by Reese On November - 11 - 2011

Kansas Clean Distilled WhiskeyKansas Clean Distilled Whiskey, or simply Kansas for short, is “a new whiskey for new whiskey drinkers”.  Their process starts with artisanal whiskey and column distilled winter wheat spirit.  These are blended to make a very light and tremendously smooth whiskey.  But is whiskey really the right word.  Yeah, I’d say so.  A couple years ago I might have been willing to get up on my soapbox and spout off about how this isn’t true whiskey and blah, blah, blah.

But you know, maybe I’ve mellowed a bit, or maybe my ideas have simply changed.  Thing is, a few years back I could have said similar words about the new gins coming on the market.  Words like, “they’re wussing up the gin”, “where’s that familiar juniper punch”, etc.  Over those years though, the gins I would have been criticizing are now some of my favorites and gins now completely run the spectrum.

So, what’s Kansas taste like?  It’s smooth and very mild.  The color is very light parchment (think ivory resume paper).  The nose is light with aromas of vanilla and light spices central.  The flavor follows the nose every step of the way.  The vanilla notes are central with super light hints of spice coming through.  Overall you get the core flavors of whiskey in a very light, mellow package.

Kansas Clean Distilled Whiskey Sour

I wanted to try this whiskey in a cocktail so I mixed up one of my favorites, a classic whiskey sour.  I dropped the bitters to almost nothing, trying to let the flavors of this whiskey come through, if only lightly.  And that they were.  I used one dash of my Hess’ House Bitters.  The vanilla of the whiskey came through lightly in the background but the bitters, albeit a small amount, added most of the spice flavors.  The drink was tasty, but lacked the whiskey flavors that I feel are key to the overall profile.

So here’s my honest truth.  I’m a whiskey guy and this isn’t the whiskey for me.  It’s too light.  When I pour a glass of whiskey or mix it into a cocktail I do it because I want to taste it.  Where I see Kansas coming in is as a gateway whiskey for people who want to start drinking whiskey, but want to start slow.  Start with this, you’ll get the base flavors in a delicious package and once you’re comfortable you can move to the next level.  Maybe an Irish Whiskey or a blended scotch.


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