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Archive for December, 2010

New Year’s Eve Drinking

Posted by Reese On December - 30 - 2010

Fireworks

I’m willing to bet that almost all of you are doing something festive for New Year’s Eve, even if that means staying warm and dry at home watching the ball drop.  No matter your plans I’d be willing to place a second bet that they’d be made better with some tasty cocktail accompaniment.  For me, plans include a small party at my house, some tasty food, good friends and, of course, solid cocktails.  Here’s what’s on my menu:

French 75 – Appropriately named after a French WWI cannon, this drink has some solid punch and a great flavor.

Kir Royale – Gorgeous color and mild flavors make this one a definite.  You can sub out the creme de cassis for any liqueur you like to change up the flavor profile.

Violet Fizz – From The Bubbly Bar, this drink combines elements of the Kir Royale and the French 75 resulting in a nice floral flavor combined with crisp citrus.

Bellini – I’ll have the stuff on hand for my “cheater” Bellini.  They’re tasty and not overly potent.

Mimosa – Same thought as above, mellow and approachable.  I’ll be tweaking this one with a bit of orange flower water or orange bitters this time for a bit of depth.

Champagne Cocktail – This isn’t one of my all time favorites, but it is a true classic, so it makes the list.

You can also spice up a number of standard cocktails by topping them with champagne.  Some of my favorites are the Margarita, Daiquiri and Cosmopolitan.  The bubbly gives each of them a sparkly twist that really works well with the sweet flavors.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a link to a post I did last year on researching and selecting a tasty sparkling wine for your festivities.  In addition to the recommendations I give in that post I will add Korbel Natural.  Quite tasty and at the lower end of the price range.

Enjoy your holiday, all and I’ll catch up with you in 2011!

The Coffee Cocktail

Posted by Reese On December - 19 - 2010

Ok, here’s a quick riddle for you.  What has no coffee in it and isn’t technically a cocktail?  Give up?  It’s this week’s drink, the Coffee Cocktail.  So named not because of its ingredients but rather for its appearance when mixed properly.  Why not a true cocktail?  Well when the word cocktail originated it meant a blend of spirits, sugar, water and bitters.  You’ll note in the recipe no bitters, thus not really a cocktail.  But, that also applies to a lot of favorite drinks.  So to hell with the old school rules, I’m calling it a cocktail and it’s going to be delicious.

The Coffee Cocktail (Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails)
1 oz Brandy
1 egg
2-3 oz Ruby Port
1 tsp Sugar
1) Pour brandy into an ice filled shaker
2) Add egg, port and sugar
3) Shake and strain into a goblet
4) Top with grated nutmeg

There’s one particular part of this week’s recipe that has really piqued my interest.  Namely, the inclusion of an entire egg.  I’ve done plenty of drink with an egg white, but the only beverage I’ve had with a full egg is eggnog.  Intriguing.

The Widow’s Kiss – Oh, the Tales She Could Tell

Posted by Reese On December - 18 - 2010

Each time I walk into a spice shop, like Savory Spice Shop, I’m struck with the complex commingled aroma of the spices around me.  Each seems to have a tale to tell of food created, meals enjoyed and places far away.  The Widow’s Kiss is the cocktail representation of that feeling.  The combination of Benedictine and Chartreuse giving this drink an incredible depth and complexity and the calvados brightens everything up.  This truly is like an old widow.  She always has a smile on her face, but stop and chat with her for a while and you’ll hear tales of joy, tales of sadness and many more.  Each of which will give you a new perspective on this bright cheery lady.

The Widow's Kiss

Mixing up my first Widow’s Kiss I used the recipe from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails that I mentioned earlier.  I didn’t have any Yellow Chartreuse in my collection so I used my Green.  My first note simply stated “this drink has stories to tell.”  And so it does.  Insane herbal complexity, hints of apple and a mellow sweetness.  However, as the drink began to warm a bit, the herbal flavors came out stronger and stronger, eventually becoming more than I could handle.  I ended up pouring out about half of this first attempt.  A sad day indeed.

Refusing to give up so easily I looked for other recipes only to find that almost every one of them was the same.  The main point being that same recommendation of using Yellow Chartreuse instead of the Green.  Being a slacker I still hadn’t picked up a bottle of Yellow so I tweaked the ratios and tried again.  With 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse and 1/2 oz Benedictine, leaving the calvados alone, the drink is much more balanced.  Additionally, the apple flavors came through much more prominently.  Only problem was, despite the better balance, some of the herbal flavors were now too muted.  I probably could have kept tweaking the levels until I was blue in the face, however, I decided to just pick up a bottle of Yellow instead.

That was truly the “Aha” moment for the week.  Yellow Chartreuse is 40% ABV unlike its punchy green bigger brother which weighs in at 55%.  Back to the original proportions and I was a happy boy.  This recipe has the complexity and the balance without the overwhelming herbal punch.  The apple is present and the sweetness is still mellow and pleasing.  This is definitely the recipe you want to use when you mix up this cocktail for yourself.

The Widow's Kiss
1 1/2 oz Calvados
3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1) Combine in a shaker with ice
2) Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass

I’m guessing there are more than a few hands raised out there after reading this recipe and the original.  Let me just say this, yes, you should definitely shake this drink rather than stirring it.  I realize this goes against the adage that all drinks with purely clear spirits should be stirred, but let me offer these reasons.  One, this drink could use a bit of extra dilution from the ice flecks.  It’s powerful and a bit of taming is a good thing.  Two, you want this cold, very cold.  You see, cold mutes flavors.  So, as you take your first sip of this drink you’re not floored by the bold complexity.  Instead it comes on slowly as the drink warms.

The Widow's Kiss

So, the next time you sit down to contemplate the intricacies of life, mix up The Widow’s Kiss.  I can’t promise that you’ll solve any problems, but I can promise that you’ll have a delightfully complex beverage to help smooth over the rough edges.

Review – Dancing Pines Distillery

Posted by Reese On December - 13 - 2010

One thing that never ceases to impress me about distillers is their passion for what they do.  A few weeks back I took a trip north to Dancing Pines Distillery in Loveland, CO.  Walking through the front door I met with another display of that passion.  The still is right up front, Kimberly Naslund (one of the co-founders and distillers) was eager to answer any questions I had and, most notably, their products were highlighted everywhere you went.  This isn’t an operation built for the sole purpose of making money.  This is the result of great passion being unleashed on a dream.

Dancing Pines Pot Still

The folks at Dancing Pines, despite having only been producing for a few months, have lofty ambitions.  Already on the market are their white and aged rums.  In process and on the shelves soon are a spiced rum, espresso liqueur and chai liqueur.  And, not to rest on their laurels, they also have a gin and bourbon in the works.  Very impressive from a small craft distiller.  Though, like many craft distillers their immediate goal isn’t world (or even country-wide) domination.  Rather they’re focused on making a really good product and keeping their loyal, local customers happy.  So, what of those products?  I got to taste a bunch, here’s the low down.

Dancing Pines Spirits Line

White Rum – 80 proof – A combination of black strap and grade A molasses give this rum a complex flavor.  Exactly what they were looking for.  Having sampled rums from Cuba and other less common locales the distillers were looking for a flavor that wasn’t as deeply distilled and more reminiscent of the starting sugar.  The goal of this endeavor was to create a rum that was complex and bold enough to stand up to mixers.  They met that goal while creating a rum that wasn’t too rough.  I think this could be really interesting in a Mojito.

Aged Rum – 94 proof – Aged with charred oak spirals, a technique used in wine making, the Dancing Pines aged rum has solid vanilla notes that come through in the nose and in the flavor.  The sweetness and flavor of the molasses are still present, but more muted than what I found in the white rum.  Another tasty choice, this one plays nicely in a Daiquiri.

Spiced Rum – A spiced rum where you can really taste the real spices that were used in the mix.  Quite refreshing.  Interestingly, they also add some teas to the spice mix for added depth and complexity.  In addition, Dancing Pines adds a touch of additional molasses for sweetness and flavor.  Overall, the spice flavors are well balanced and tasty.

Chai Liqueur – This definitely smells like a good chai.  Really nice sweetness level and a good blend of tea and spice flavors.  In the aroma you get nice hits of cardamom and tea, just as you would in a chai tea.  I really like this liqueur, it’s complex and not overly sweet.

Espresso Liqueur – Like the chai this smells just like a good cup of espresso.  Again, not overly sweet with a nice coffee flavor that’s bright, clean and not overly processed.

I had a great time at Dancing Pines and really enjoyed sampling their spirits.  I’ll be very interested to taste how their bourbon comes out when it’s bottled some time next year.  And, a pot stilled gin you say?  Now I’m really interested.

Dancing Pines Cocktail Menu

If you’d like to check out their products and operation for yourself, they offer tours, samples and cocktails every Friday from 4-7pm.  The cocktails change and if you buy one you get the cost reimbursed when you buy a bottle.  They’ve also got some events and contests that they run through their Facebook page.


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

The Widow’s Kiss

Posted by Reese On December - 6 - 2010

I’m getting back to traditional cocktails this go round with a drink I’m very excited to sample.  In Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Dr. Cocktail describes The Widow’s Kiss as the most evocative drink ever and suggests that one be enjoyed by the fire.  I have a fire.  I like drinking near it.  I’m in!

Beyond that I’m excited by the idea of a drink composed of half potent herbal liqueurs.  I have to imagine (in my mind’s mouth?) that this drink will be complex, yet earthy.  The deep notes of the Benedictine will be punctuated by the flavors of the Chartreuse and the whole shebang will be brightened up by the Calvados.  I’m excited.  Let’s get mixing.

The Widow's Kiss (Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails)
1 1/2 oz Calvados
3/4 oz Chartreuse
3/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1) Combine in a shaker with ice
2) Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass