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Archive for May, 2011

Serious Eats – How to Conduct a Spirits Tasting

Posted by Reese On May - 12 - 2011

"American Whiskey Legends" Samples

Fellow blogger Michael Dietsch of A Dash of Bitters has a great post over at Serious Eats, Cocktail 101: How to Conduct a Spirits Tasting.  This post is part of Michael’s ongoing  Cocktail 101 series that introduces readers to some the fundamentals of cocktail making.  They’re all worth a read, but this one is particularly timely for me.

Spirits tasting is something I do often, both alone and with friends, to sample the spirits I get for review.  But, it’s also something I’d like to get a lot better at.  After having attended a few guided tastings from the pros I realize that some of my practices need more rigor and I need to expand my palate.  So, to get my head around tasting and fill you all in I’m going to be working up my own post in the coming weeks that talks about the process I follow and how to guide friends through a tasting.  If you haven’t hosted a tasting of your own you definitely should.  They’re a ton of fun and can be really eye opening.  Especially if you do the tasting blind.  You’ll be amazed of the effects preconceptions can have.

Lucien Gaudin Cocktail – Expectedly Pleasing

Posted by Reese On May - 11 - 2011

I can’t say that the Lucien Gaudin Cocktail really took me by surprise.  Its recipe shares striking similarities with a Negroni and the flavor follows suit.  All the books I checked had the same recipe and my fellow bloggers have all stuck with the same.  So, not a lot to go on there.  And, quite honestly, the recipe doesn’t need changing.  It’s very good just the way it is.  The Campari and Cointreau combine to give you a solid punch of orange flavors while the vermouth and gin bring an herbal base layer.  Finally you get hit with the bitter notes Campari is most known for which round everything out.  A tasty tipple to be sure.

Lucien Gaudin Cocktail

So, the recipe is solid, let’s focus on the ingredients.  I’ll start with the simple choice, Campari.  Get it, drink it, be well.  Moving on, let’s talk triple sec.  The recipe calls for Cointreau, but all Cointreau is is a premium triple sec and, for a drink that only uses a scant 1/2 oz and lots of bold flavors you should use a good, but less expensive triple sec.  My go to is Hiram Walker Triple Sec.  It’s under $10 a bottle and the flavor is great.

Vemouth is also a minor player, but it’s important.  Don’t go with crap, get the same dry vermouth you’d use in a Martini and you’ll be set.  Finally, let’s get to my favorite topic, gin.  This is a drink with super bold Campari, complex, herbal vermouth and bright orange flavors, you need a gin that can stand up.  Go with something bold and juniper forward.  Anything citrus forward or light is going to get stomped on.  I used one of my all time favorites, Junipero.  The flavor is bold but nuanced.  Tanqueray or Beefeater would also work great in this recipe.

If you’re a Negroni fan and you’re looking to change things up a bit, try the Lucien Gaudin.  The flavors are very similar but switched up enough to make it interesting.

Cinco de Mayo

Posted by Reese On May - 4 - 2011

Friends, Cinco de Mayo is upon us again and, while I know you don’t need help celebrating, I thought you might like some ideas on what to drink to help you celebrate.  Naturally the spirit of choice that comes to mind when thinking of Mexico is tequila, so I’m going to focus this post on that.  Let’s get you started with a high-level overview of the production of tequila.  Now that you’ve got some background information, here are some reviews of tequilas I’ve sampled.

The cocktails you make are going to be good so long as you choose a tequila that you like.  And speaking of the cocktails, here are the two classics that I really love, the Paloma and the Margarita.


  • Classic – This is the classic recipe.  Always tasty and very simple to make.
  • Noon Day Sun – This is my spicy hot Margarita.  Though the recipe is also great without the bitters.
  • Blood Orange – Jalapeno – This recipe comes from Spice and Ice by Kara Newman.  It’s a great spicy margarita that can be made up quickly.


  • Classic – Two recipes here.  One with Squirt, which is traditional, and the other from all fresh ingredients.  I go simple and use the soda.
  • Tequila por mi Amante – Try this infused tequila in a Paloma.  You’ll be happy, I swear.
  • Jarritos Toronja – This version uses Mexican grapefruit soda.  It’s good, but honestly, I prefer Squirt.

So those are my two standby tequila cocktails.  But there is oh so much more you can do with it.  I haven’t explored the many facets of crafting new cocktail recipes much, but my fellow bloggers have.  In depth.  Here are some links to sate your thirst.

And finally, should you need tequila shots, here is a good Sangrita recipe to chase them with.

Drink up, friends.  Salud!

Review – Espolon Tequila

Posted by Reese On May - 3 - 2011

A few years back a friend took a vacation to Mexico.  Naturally, I asked that he bring back native booze.  The tequila that came back was a bottle of Espolon.  At that point the tequila wasn’t particularly flashy, but it was tasty.  I’ve spent the last years meting it out to worthy guests and savoring each sip.  Quite exciting, recently I’ve seen bottles of El Espolon appearing on the shelves here.  The new bottles have a very cool Day of the Dead motif and I’ve been promised that the recipe I enjoyed has stayed the same.  Here’s to hoping that’s true.

Espolon Tequila

Blanco – The crystal clear blanco expression of Espolon has a bright, clean agave aroma.  The flavor has elements of roasted, vegetal agave and very light smokiness.  I got a light sweetness with just a touch of acidity and flavors reminiscent of stone fruits, cherry in particular.  Very light hints of spice round out the flavor and the finish is short and clean.

Reposado – The reposado is a light honey color and the aroma is exceedingly subtle.  It was hard for me to pick out individual aromas but I did get a bit of agave and some citrus coming through.  In addition there is an interesting dry, earthiness to the aroma.  The acidity remains balanced by the light sweetness.  The spice flavors have intensified a bit with the addition of vanilla and caramel.  Finally, the agave is still present but mellowed and blended harmoniously with the other flavors.  The finish on this one is equally clean and short.

The reposado is what my friend brought back for me and I can say it’s the same delightful tequila that I’ve enjoyed these past years.  Both of these tequilas have a subtler agave flavor than some others so I’d suggest you pair them simply with some lime juice and triple sec for a classic Margarita.  That will let the tequila flavors shine without overpowering their delicate nature.

† 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 – Partida Tequila

Posted by Reese On May - 2 - 2011

When my samples of Partida tequila arrived they were accompanied by a folder full of gushing reviews and highlights of the awards the spirits have won.  Quickly leafing through the packet it seemed like the makers were really trying to toot their own horn.  Not wanting my reviews to be swayed I didn’t read any of the information in the folder before I started tasting.  Looking back, the horn tooting was certainly not in error.  These tequilas really are something special.

Partida Tequila Bottles

Blanco – This unaged tequila is a very pale straw color and has a crisp, clean, vegetal agave aroma.  The flavor follows suit with a subtle sweetness and the barest hints of vanilla and caramel flavors.  The agave is the real star here.  Its flavor is subtle but clean and bright.  The finish has a medium length leaving you with a very smooth and well rounded experience.  I think the blanco would make an epic Paloma.  Something where the agave flavors could really sing without being over burdened by too many other notes.

Reposado – Aged for 6 months, the reposado has a golden straw color with a more muted agave aroma with notes of oakiness just starting to pop out.  The agave in the flavor is also more muted, which is expected from the mellowing in the barrel.  Vanilla and caramel coming through stronger now, likely a combination of the barrel aging and the toasted agave sugars.  Finish is again medium to long leaving you with a very smooth overall flavor.  The subtle sweetness I noted in the blanco carries through here and I think this tequila would be awesome in a Margarita.  Though, if you decide to try that make sure to go a little light on the sweetener.  You really want to let this tequila sing.

Anejo – Aged for 18 months, the anejo has a beautiful honey gold color.  The crisp agave brightness I noted in the blanco have given way to complexity and depth with the caramel and vanilla flavors increasing yet more.  There is a touch more acidity on the palate with this one and all the flavors are toned down a bit and blended.  I tasted a very pleasant fruit and spice quality reminiscent of mulled cider coming through.  Extremely smooth and harmonious flavors throughout this one.  There is only one option to do this tequila right and that’s to simply sip it neat.

I’m really impressed by the Partida line of tequilas.  They’re not the cheapest you’ll find out there by any means, but if you’re looking to treat yourself or give something to a tequila loving friend, you really can’t go wrong with these.

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