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Archive for December, 2009

Champagne Cocktails

Posted by Reese On December - 27 - 2009

Fellow cocktail enthusiasts, I’m back from a relaxing week and ready to talk cocktails.  With New Year’s Eve and Day coming up quick I thought it would be good to look at some Champagne cocktails this week.  Before we get rolling too quickly, I’d like to clear something up.  I’m going to use the term Champagne for these posts.  That said, I’ll likely be mixing with slightly cheaper domestic sparkling wines.  I know it’s “technically” incorrect to use the name Champagne for these wines, but it’s just a lot simpler.  So, in this case, my laziness wins.

Here’s a quick overview of the week.  I’ve got a book review for you on a title dealing exclusively with Champagne based recipes. I’m going to cover a couple cocktails, obviously. :)  Finally, I’m going to point you to some good advice on Champagnes for your parties.


To kick the week off and get you, and me, in the right frame of mind, I want to point you to a cocktail that I covered about a year ago.  The French 75 is definitely my favorite Champagne cocktail that I’ve mixed thus far.  It combines gin, which you know I love, Champagne, which I’m also a huge fan of, and some citrus for freshness.  It’s truly a fantastic drink and you definitely need to mix one up.  In fact, I’m sipping one right now for some motivation.  I think this drink would be a great addition to a New Year’s party.  They’re quick to mix, can be customized easily by switching up the syrup and are a great way to switch up the traditional Champagne.  A word of warning that is echoed in my previous post.  These drinks pack a punch.  Serve and enjoy in moderation.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Reese On December - 21 - 2009

I’m going to take a break from cocktail blogging this week and enjoy some time with friends and family.  Fear not, I will definitely not be taking a break from cocktail drinking! :)

I have a couple interesting tidbits to post and I’ll be back in full force next week with some Champagne cocktails to get your New Years party started right.

Chivas Regal 18 and Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Posted by Reese On December - 19 - 2009

If you take a look through my liquor cabinet, you’re sure to notice that I like love whiskey, a lot.  If I’m sitting down to something other than a cocktail, it’s most likely a glass of single malt scotch.  I think Ron Burgundy summed it up nicely in Anchorman “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…”  Well said good man, well said.

So, I was understandably excited when I got an email telling me that the Booze Fairy was bringing me samples of Chivas Regal 18 and Johnnie Walker Blue Label.  I’ve tried quite a few scotches, both blended and single malt, but I’d never had either of these.  I was giddy, to say the least.

The idea behind the combo shipment is not to contrast the two as much as it is to show that Chivas 18 is a great product on par with Blue Label.  You see, the problem with Blue Label is that it’s quite expensive ($230 for a 750ml at my local store).  Chivas 18 is much more affordable ($85 for a 750ml at the same store).

Being a man who likes to share, I invited some friends over to share the bounty and enjoy a whisky sampling with me.  There were 7 of us total ranging from whisk(e)y newbies to experienced enjoyers of the golden elixir.  I poured us each a dram and we got down to the task at hand.

Let’s start with the Blue Label.  It’s become somewhat of a legend in the whisky community.  It’s name spoken in hushed tones with a distinctly excited tone.  Understandably so.  The aroma is primarily of fresh caramel sweetness with a noticeable smokiness. It’s flavor starts with a medium level of smokiness followed by a very light sweetness.  Overall, this whisky is extremely smooth and truly delicious.  One of my friends summed up the experience intrestingly “You know what it tastes like to me?  Money.”  Well put.

Okay, now for the Chivas 18.  While quite less well known, I’d certainly like to think that this will change because this dram was equally delicious, but in other ways.  The aroma in the Chivas 18 includes a lot more fruity notes and nearly no smokiness.  From the smell you’re led to believe this whisky is going to be very smooth.  Your nose does not deceive you.  This dram has nearly no smoke with only subtle hints rolling in at the very end of the palate.  Rather, you get more fruity notes and still get a very nice caramel sweetness.  Overall another fantastic whisky.

Now it’s time to wrap this up.  First, let me say that I am deeply saddened that both of the small sample bottles were drained during the tasting because both of these whiskies are fantastic.  I would love to have both in my collection for slow sipping.  Second, I’d like to direct your attention to the title of this post.  Note that there is no versus up there.  That’s because it’s exceeding difficult to compare these two whiskies as their style and flavor are so different.  The one thing I will say is that I would definitely consider both of these to be on par as super premium drams.

The question that naturally follows is, would I spend the money for a bottle of Blue Label or would I reach for the Chivas instead?  Well, that’s tricky.  If I had $200 knocking around, I would love to have a bottle of Blue Label to call my own.  But, more realistically, I’d likely reach for the Chivas 18 much more often.  In addition, I would proudly present a bottle of the Chivas 18 to a friend as a gift and not feel that I was shorting them in the slightest.  Excellent tipples both.  Thank you, Booze Fairy.  You made 7 people very happy this week. :)

May your holidays be filled with drams as delicious as those we’ve sampled here!

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

Mud Puddle Books

Posted by Reese On December - 17 - 2009

HJohnsons200Okay, I have another imagination experiment for you.  Think of nearly any adventure movie.  You know, Indiana Jones, National Treasure, pick your favorite.  Good, now that we’re on the same page, I want you to think about what happens when the hero needs more information to reach their goal.  They go to an expert who undoubtedly has a giant library of ancient tomes upon which to draw.

In the case of cocktails Greg Boehm is that giant library having expert.  I was introduced to Greg and his work when Aaron and I first started Cocktail Hacker.  Our first six cocktails were David Embury’s six essential cocktails.  I thought it would awesome to have a copy of Embury’s book for my collection.  Slight problem, good copies of the early versions of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks go for hundreds of dollars.  Then I heard about Mud Puddle Books.

Greg Boehm not only has the giant cocktail library from which to pull knowledge, but he also makes incredible reprints of these classics for the rest of us to enjoy as well.  Shortly after I heard about the books that the folks at Mud Puddle books create, I was participating in a TDN over at the Mixoloseum and Greg gave away a book for answering his trivia question correctly.  I won and subsequently received my first Mud Puddle printed cocktail book, Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manual.

I really had no idea what to expect.  When the book arrived, I was stunned, to say the least.  The cover of the book is an exact replica of the original down to the binding style.  Each page is as it first appeared in the original book.  All of the engraved plates are crisp, clear and, well, damn near perfect.  Even down to the original advertisements, the book is perfectly reproduced.  Suffice to say I was in love.

In addition to the books from Harry Johnson and David Embury, Mud Puddle also prints books from other legends including William  Boothby and Jerry Thomas.  In all, they now offer 13 reprints of cocktail classics and two new books from contemporary cocktail masters.  All of them reproduced to as closely match the originals as possible.  If you’d like  a bit more info about Greg and how his work started, I’d highly suggest you take a look at this article from the New York Times.

So, now that I’ve gushed for over 250 words, let me get to the point.  If you have a cocktail fan in your life and you’re looking for a great gift, the books from Mud Puddle would certainly make their day.  Head over to Cocktail Kingdom and you can check out their entire line.  In addition, they’re now offering hard to find barware and bitters.  If you decide to pick up a book or two, I certainly hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy mine.

Kahlua Coffee Cream

Posted by Reese On December - 15 - 2009

kcc200When you hear the words coffee liqueur, I’m betting that the first thing that pops into your head is Kahlua.  They’ve been the brand leader for years and with the help of their new ad campaign, (which I actually rather enjoy) they’re getting back into the fore-brain of consumers.  As part of that strategy, they’ve released a new limited edition liqueur that I’ve been lucky enough to be sent a sample of, Kahlua Coffee Cream.

My immediate thoughts on opening the package is that Kahlua is making a bid to do battle with Irish cream.  Upon sampling, I’d agree with my first thoughts, to a degree.  You’re going to first notice the difference in the aroma.  Rather than the coffee aroma being a light background note as it is in Irish Cream, the coffee is much more forward in Kahlua Coffee Cream.  The coffee aroma you get is very clean and bright.

The flavor profile definitely follows the aroma in this case.  You still get the vanilla, chocolate and caramel notes coming through, but the coffee is definitely the star.  Although, while the star, it’s not overwhelming and a good balance still exists between the flavors.

As I was sipping the two side by side for comparison, (they’re similar, but quite different) an idea came to me.  This could be basically an instant White Russian.  All you’d need to do is add some vodka and ice and you’d be set.  Interesting.  More on that in a bit.  I find Kahlua Coffee Cream to be a bit less sweet than standard Kahlua and really like that.  In general I find Kahlua straight up too sweet for me and wouldn’t drink it straight.  Kahlua Coffee Cream, on the other hand, I’d willingly reach for and pour over a bit of ice as a nice nightcap.

So, what of the White Russian?  Well, interestingly enough, the press release for this product (which I read after my tasting) actually lists a recipe for the Curious Russian.  This drink being an equal parts combo of Kahlua Coffee Cream, Kahlua and vanilla vodka.  While the drink sounds pretty good I’m guessing most people don’t have a ready supply of vanilla vodka in their cabinets.  So, being the thoughtful experimenter, I offer you a simpler alternative.

Coffee Cream Russian
1 1/2 oz Kahlua Coffee Cream
1 1/2 oz Vodka
1) Build in a rocks glass over ice

My overall verdict on the Kahlua Coffee Cream is that it’s very good.  If you’re a big fan of White Russians, (or fancy a mudslide) I’d give this a go.  Finally, with a SRP of $17.99 you really can’t go wrong.  Salud, mis 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.