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Archive for 2011

Review – BlackBeard Spiced Rum

Posted by Reese On September - 16 - 2011

BlackBeard Spiced RunTasting spiced rum there are certain things I look for.  First, the base rum should be good.  Flavored crappy rum is still crappy rum.  Second, the flavors should taste natural.  I don’t want the rum to taste like the producer added some bottled extracts and called it good.  Third, and finally, the spice flavors should be distinct and not muddled.  It’s easy to add a bunch of flavors and end up with a muddled mess.  It’s considerably more difficult to combine distinct flavors while keeping them distinct yet harmonious.

BlackBeard Spiced Rum passes my rigorous testing protocol and comes out the other side with me smiling.  The bottle notes the key spices are vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.  And, while the nutmeg and cinnamon play side roles, the vanilla is definitely the star.  The vanilla flavor is smooth and fresh with no chemical notes.  Just what I like.

This rum plays extremely well with Coke.  Though, I do have a recommendation.  Add less Coke than you normally would, I’d keep it about 3:1 Coke to rum, tops.  That keeps the rum flavor from being over diluted.  A twist of lime is good if you’d like to change things up.  Good stuff.  BlackBeard would also make for an interesting twist on the Mojito.

Overall, it’s a great spiced rum.  Less complex than others, but that’s not really a bad thing.  The spices it does include it does very well.

† 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 – Reyka Vodka

Posted by Reese On September - 13 - 2011

Reyka VodkaWhat first struck me as I looked at the review bottle of Reyka vodka I had been sent was the bottle itself and not how you’d think.  The bottle design is unique with “Iceland” (it’s home country) embossed around the shoulder, but that’s not what caught my eye.  What I really enjoy is the glass itself.  In a time where things are becoming purer, cleaner, more sterile, the glass in the Reyka bottle has tiny bubbles.  It reminds me of an earlier time when things were made by hand.  Now, don’t think I need saving from my naive views.  I have no doubt this design detail was fully intentional.  Matters not to me, though, I like it.

Okay, moving on to what you’re really interested in, the spirit itself.  The color, as you’d fully expect is crystal clear.  The aroma is of clean alcohol only and the flavor is crisp and tremendously clean.  There is no aftertaste and the finish is very short.  This is a top shelf vodka to be sure.  This is going to sound campy, so brace yourself.  This vodka tastes like my mental image of Iceland.  Crisp glacial water flowing over lava rock.  Expanses of open country.  A slower pace of life.  Almost a return to times gone by.  Campiness over, thanks for indulging me.

So, here’s the key point.  I like this vodka.  It’s crisp, clean and nearly flavor/odorless.  Exactly what you’re looking for in a high quality vodka.  To make things even better, it’s reasonably priced ~$30 depending where you go.  And, to seal the deal, it just won the Vodka Trophy at the International Wine and Spirits Competition held in London.


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

Bee’s Knees

Posted by Reese On September - 7 - 2011

For me, certain cocktails are inexorably linked to points in time and space.  The Daiquiri is linked, in my mind, to the thriving nightlife of Cuba in the 1930’s.  The Martini to the 1980’s.  The Cosmo will forever be tied to Sex in the City and, going forward, the Bee’s Knees will be the cocktail linked to the Flappers of the 1920’s.

The term bee’s knees originated as flapper slang.  Other notables from that era that survive include “the cat’s meow” and “the big cheese”.  I digress.  The Bee’s Knees reminds me of a time when spirits were of poor quality (Prohibition).  Think “bathtub gin” and masking their flavors was priority number one in cocktail creation.  This cocktail, however, does that subtly, without over-masking the flavors of the spirits.

Bee's Knees

Bee's Knees (Cocktail Hacker)
2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Honey Syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
2) Shake until well chilled
3) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass 

Some notes.  First, honey syrup is super simple.  One part water, one part honey, shake, done.  Next, note the ratio of lemon to syrup.  The 1:1 ratio is key on this one.  That ratio balances the sweet and sour perfectly.  For a sweeter or drier cocktail you can increase or decrease both ingredients, just keep them in balance.

So, what’s the long and short on this cocktail?  It’s great.  The gin comes through as the clear star.  Go with a complex gin, you’ll be well rewarded.  As for the honey, my first suggestion is to go with something local.  You’ll get the flavors of your terroir, to be pompous, and you’ll be supporting local business.  Though, if you’re feeling bold, try a varietal honey like orange flower or clover.  Though, be prepared with an equally bold gin to stand up to the honey’s flavor.

In summary, this drink really is the Bee’s Knees.  Okay, that was lame, but give this cocktail a try.  It’s good, I promise.


Posted by Reese On August - 29 - 2011

Creating original cocktails from scratch is something that’s always been a challenge for me.  Where should I start?  What spirit should I use?  Often, I find myself stuck.  So, on the occasion that I’m struck with inspiration, it’s a great feeling.  I got that feeling when sampling ALO last week.  ALO Elated has a nice green tea flavor and that got me thinking what would work well with tea.  My first thoughts were of the classic tea garnish, lemon, but what spirit to use.  Then I had a moment that can best be described as a mix between an “aha” and “well, duh” moment.  Honey.  Honey vodka to be specific.  I recently sampled, and loved, Spring44 Honey Vodka so that was the natural choice.  Enough blather, here’s the recipe.


2 oz ALO Elated
2 oz Spring44 Honey Vodka
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
2 Dashes Bitters
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
2) Shake until well chilled
3) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

The flavors in this cocktail are not unexpected.  Subtle notes of honey and tea run throughout the flavor profile.  The lemon comes through as only a bare touch of sourness and lemon flavor.  The drink is not overly sweet and yet not dry, just right.  The bitters add depth and complexity and a lovely layer of spice.  Just what this cocktail needed.

I leave the bitters up to you.  I used Robert Hess’ House Bitters which were great, the ginger and cardamom flavors play really well with the tea and honey.  That said, I think you could use any other aromatic bitter that you like, or even just some orange bitters to play up the citrus.

Since this is one of my first forays into creating cocktails from scratch, I have a request.  If you mix up this drink, please let me know what you think.  That kind of input will help me improve my cocktail improv going forward.

Review – ALO

Posted by Reese On August - 19 - 2011

I was first exposed to the wonders of Asian markets about 10 years ago.  My first experiences were that of awe and excitement.  There were tons of new interesting things to look at, buy and, were I brave enough, eat.  That last bit brought about a challenge.  I offered to my friend Colton that he could pick any drink he could find and I’d, at minimum, try it.  I had some seriously weird ones including grass jelly drink and birds nest drink (complete with bits of nest) to name a couple.  So when he picked aloe drink it seemed a natural choice, I mean, it has floaty bits in it!

So, I have to admit, the floaty bits had me a bit worried.  But, after the first taste I was hooked.  This stuff is great.  Aloe drink has a crisp and fresh flavor with hints of citrus and grape.  The floaty bits are pieces of chopped aloe which are rich in vitamins.  And, the kicker for me, aloe drink isn’t overly sweet.  It only has 120 calories for a 16 oz bottle.  So, what started as a sort of dare has turned into a tradition for me.  Every time I hit the Asian market I pick up an aloe drink.  Thus, it goes without saying that when I was offered samples of ALO, a new aloe drink on the market, I immediately said yes.  Though, what really piqued my interest was their suggestions on using it as a cocktail ingredient.  Despite the loads of bottles I’ve consumed it never crossed my mind to mix it up in a cocktail.  That quickly changed.

ALO Drink

ALO, unlike the other aloe drinks I’ve had in the past, comes in a variety of flavors.  For each they combine aloe pulp and juice with other natural ingredients to make each drink.  I had the chance to sample six of their seven flavors.

Exposed – Classic Aloe Drink – This is the flavor you’ll recognize if you’ve had any other aloe drinks in the past.  The flavor is lightly fruity with a nice citrus hit and a subtle grape flavor.  It’s got an interesting fruit characteristic that’s hard to put your finger on.  It’s kinda like those fruit candies you get at some restaurants.  You know they’re fruit, but you can’t say exactly what fruit.  This is a solid base flavor to build off of.  Since it’s not overly strong it adds a nice fruity undertone without masking other ingredients.

Appeal – Aloe + Pomelo + Pink Grapefruit + Lemon – Very bright and citrusy.  The grapefruit flavor is the main player.  I think this one could make for an interesting twist on a Paloma or Salty Dog.

Elated – Aloe + Olive Leaf Tea – The aloe is subtle in this one with a fresh green tea flavor the star.  There is a touch of lemon, but I think it could be bumped up a bit.  The tea flavor really piqued my interest and I decided to craft up an original cocktail with it.  Look for the Honeysuckle in a few days.  In addition, I think this would mix really well with gin.  Especially if you found one with tea flavors of its own.  Roundhouse, for example.

Enrich – Aloe + Pomegranate + Cranberry – The pomegranate and cranberry add a fresh sourness and a bright pink color.  I wouldn’t say that either over powers the other, though.  Additionally, they’re quite nicely balanced with the aloe flavors.  The natural choice for this ALO is a Cosmo.  Keep reading for the recipe.

Allure – Aloe + Mangosteen + Mango – This was Elisabeth’s hands down favorite.  The mango flavor is strong and there is some lychee flavor coming through as well.  No particular cocktail immediately springs to mind for this one, but maybe a mango Margarita or something with a solid rum backbone.

Awaken – Aloe + Wheatgrass – I’m always a bit leery of wheat grass.  It smells like something that came out of a lawn mower.  ALO Awaken was a pleasant surpise, then.   The grass flavor is subtle and balanced by the fruitiness of the aloe drink base.  Subsequent sips found the wheatgrass flavor tamed even further.  I tried this in a Caipirinha, thinking to play the grassy flavors off of each other and it was really tasty.  Again, the recipe is below.

Enough review.  Cocktail time.

ALO Caipirinha

ALO Caipirinha
2 oz Cachaca
2 oz ALO Awaken
1/2 Lime, Quartered
1 tsp Demerara Sugar
1) Muddle the lime and sugar until the sugar is dissolved
2) Add the cachaca and ALO and stir
3) Fill glass with ice

This is a very tasty cocktail.  With only 1 tsp of sugar it’s a bit on the dryer side (which I like), but that can certainly be easily tweaked to your personal tastes.  As I suspected the grassy notes from the ALO and the cachaca work well with each other.

ALO Cosmo

ALO Cosmo
2 oz Citrus Vodka
2 oz ALO Enrich
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Cointreau
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
2) Shake until well chilled
3) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Light, bright and refreshing.  Another pink cocktail I could easily drink way too many of.  This is another case where the cocktail is actually fairly dry despite having fruit juice and Cointreau in it.  If you wanted a bit more sweetness you could add a bit of grenadine which would bump up the pomegranate flavor and add some sweetness.

So, to finish, if you haven’t tried aloe drink before you should really give ALO a try.  With all their flavors there is a lot to chose from.  Plus, they’re distributing ALO in a lot of more mainstream markets, Sunflower, Cost Plus World Market and Whole Foods to name a few.

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