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Review – Iceberg Vodkas

Posted by Reese on 2014-01-04 @ 04:00pm

As far as spirits go, vodka does not have much character. A really good vodka will taste only of clean alcohol with very little else to distinguish it. One way to add character would be to flavor it, but those who have shopped with me (Elisabeth especially) know how horrified I am by the flavors of vodka on the market — whipped creme? toasted marshmallow? Yeah…no.

Iceberg Vodkas

Iceberg Vodka from Canada recently sent me four vodkas to taste: their regular unflavored vodka and cucumber, creme brulee and chocolate mint flavors.

The regular vodka (40% ABV) smells and tastes like a pure vodka should, with no aromas and no lingering flavors on the palate. Very clean, crisp and drinkable.

The cucumber vodka (35 % ABV) has a slightly off scent — more like cucumber peels, rather than the crisp scent you would expect from a peeled cucumber. It does taste cucumbery. Elisabeth didn’t find this flavor appealing at all, although she is not a cucumber lover either. I think this could be a really interesting vodka for a Bloody Mary or Dirty Martini. For an interesting twist, you could add this to a Pimm’s Cup or a twist on the traditional vodka tonic, perhaps.

The creme brulee vodka (35% ABV) had a great buttery caramel vanilla aroma reminiscent of custard fresh out of the oven. The vodka comes off as slightly sweet with a toffee-like flavor that is fairly subtle. This vodka does not have an overpowering or fake flavor, as so many other creme brulee/toffee liqueurs will. It would be a great addition to hot chocolate, although its subtle flavor may be lost if you mix it with it an ingredient that’s strongly flavored.

The chocolate mint flavor (35% ABV) smells just like an Andes Mint. Elisabeth tasted this one first, and almost refused to let me have any. The vodka is definitely reminiscent of Andes Mints: not overly sweet with well balanced chocolate and mint flavors. Again, this would work great in a hot chocolate, but why not add to a mudslide or something similar for a little minty kick.

Overall, these were pretty tasty flavored vodkas. Cucumber vodka, like most savory infusions, will be the most difficult for me to use. The Iceberg Vodka website also had great suggestions for cocktails based on all the different flavors. So, am I a flavored vodka convert? Probably not. I’ll still reach for gin more often than a flavored vodka. But, if you’re looking for a unique twist on a traditional vodka cocktail these might be just what you’re looking for.

Big thanks to Elisabeth for co-writing (and co-sampling) this post with me!


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

What I’m Drinking Now: Where the Buffalo Roam

Posted by Reese on 2013-04-07 @ 08:11pm

Tonight’s cocktail comes to us from Vesta Dipping Grilling in Denver, CO.  Elisabeth found the recipe in their email newsletter and we decided to give it a go.  Very, very good call.  The drink strikes a great balance between sweet and sour with the flavor of the sage giving a really cool earthy quality to the cocktail.  The bitters add complexity without getting in the way of the core flavors and the applejack adds just a touch of apple essence.  Overall it’s a very refreshing cocktail for the coming summer.  A word of warning, they can go down quite quickly if you’re not careful.

Where the Buffalo Roam

Where the Buffalo Roam
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Applejack
1/2 oz Grenadine
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
2-3 oz Ginger Beer
Peychauds Bitters
4-5 leaves of Fresh Sage
1) Muddle the sage leaves and bitters
2) Add the spirits and juice
3) Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass with ice
4) Top with Ginger Beer
5) Garnish with sage leaves
*Note: We opted to muddle directly in our highball glass, add the spirits, juice and ice, stir well and top with ginger beer.  The result was very tasty and a bit simpler.

Review – Pisco Chile

Posted by Reese on 2013-04-01 @ 08:22pm

If you looked at my Pisco selection up until about 6 months ago, you’d notice something striking.  I only had Peruvian Piscos.  And that’s unfortunately par for the course.  Chilean Piscos, while available, were hard to come by, not as well marketed and generally harder to find.  Not so any more.  Recently there has been a marketing and distribution surge for Chilean Piscos and that’s a very good thing.  I’ve received three bottles for review and David Wondrich’s comment from the PR video sums it up excellently “For not a huge number of brands they have a huge range of styles and types.”

Mistal PiscoMistral (40% ABV) – With a light amber color, Mistral is clearly a barrel aged Pisco.  That aging comes through in the aroma, with notes of vanilla, caramel and a subtle sweetness.  In addition there is a touch of dried fruit/fruitcake aromas that you find in some brandies.  Which, honestly, makes perfect sense since Pisco is really a form of brandy at its heart.  The sweetness doesn’t follow through to the flavor though there is still a touch of the caramel flowing through.  The vanilla and spice are joined by a distinct vegetal quality.Alto Del Carmen Pisco

 

Alto del Carmen (40% ABV) – My favorite of the bunch has a young brandy aroma with subtle grapiness (I’m coining that term, I’m certain it’ll be huge).  Vegetal aromas and flavors are king in this Pisco.  You get a true sense of the earth with this one and that quality adds depth to cocktails that I really enjoy.  On top of those vegetal notes you get spice, buttery qualities, some melony fruitiness and subtle sweetness.  Overall, a very tasty Pisco that mixes up very well.

Capel PiscoCapel (40% ABV) – This is the most neutral of the Chilean Piscos that I sampled and the most vodka-like.  I think this “blank pallet” quality lends itself to a lot of cocktail applications in the same manner that vodka does.  But with that come the same down sides of vodka, namely that same “blank pallet”.  This is a clean and pure Pisco.  If you’re looking for one to broaden a vodka drinkers horizons, this is definitely the choice.

So, what do you make with them?  The sky is truly the limit.  As you can see from this small sampling, the range of flavors spans from clean and vodka-like all the way to barrel aged with caramel, vanilla and spice and in between are vegetal notes similar to cachaca and tequila.  For me, I went fairly simple.  I whipped up a Chilean Sidecar that was super tasty with a rim of Chilean Merken (a smoky spice blend).  But, where these Piscos truly shine is in the classic Pisco Sour.  It’s simple and in that simplicity lies a subtle depth of flavor.  You get to taste each flavor on its own and harmoniously combined.  If you haven’t had one yet, you’re really missing out.

Salud, 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.

What I’m Drinking Now: Maple Mule

Posted by Reese on 2013-02-05 @ 08:33pm

Shortly after I posted a tweet two weeks ago about having won the Crown Maple shot competition, one of my best friends sent me a text with a picture of what he was drinking that night. More than apropos, it was a Crown Maple based Moscow Mule.  A Maple Mule, if you will.

Maple Mule

The drink sounded great, so tonight I whipped up my own version and I’m loving it.

Maple Mule
1 1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Crown Royal Maple Finished
1/2 Lime
Ginger Beer
1) Combine vodka and Crown Maple in a glass with ice
2) Squeeze in the half lime and drop in
3) Top with ginger beer

The maple aroma and flavor are light and subtle and play really well with the lime and ginger flavors. The drink isn’t overly sweet and goes down very easily.  The copper mug is optional but awesome if you can pull it off.

A very deep hat tip to Conrey for bringing this drink to my attention and for the great picture.

Crown Royal Maple Finished

Posted by Reese on 2013-01-30 @ 09:39pm

Elisabeth and I need guitar lessons, stat!

New Gibson Guitar

But, more on that later…

Crown Royal is the classic Canadian whisky.  Think about it.  There are others, but I dare you to name three.  Okay, thought experiment over.  I’ve always viewed Crown Royal with a slight air of mystery.  You see, as a kid, my grandfather always had the draw-string bags filled will all sort of odds and ends.  I don’t recall him drinking it often, but I knew by the way he kept those bags that it was something special.  Crown also holds a bit of special spot for me.  It reminds me of fishing trips to Canada with my dad.  Then, for my 30th birthday my cousins gave me a bottle of Crown Royal Special Reserve, which holds a place of honor on my top shelf and gets consumed, one small dram at a time.  This trip down memory lane does have a meaning and I appreciate you sticking with me.

When I got word that Crown Royal was bringing a whisky out to compete in the flavored whiskey market, I was a bit concerned.  Don’t get me wrong, I like flavored whiskies, but in some cases they’re a bit gimmicky.  The whiskey flavor dialed down to allow for a strong punch of flavoring.  My first sniffs of Crown Royal Maple Finished had me a bit concerned they’d gone down that path, but I really shouldn’t have been.  The aroma is of pure clean maple, much like you’re sniffing good maple syrup, but the flavor isn’t nearly as sweet as you’d expect.  Rather it’s a solid base of whisky flavor with a natural maple notes layered on top.  Better yet, the sweetness isn’t syrupy or cloying.  It’s subtle and mellow.  This is a flavored whiskey that’s absolutely meant to be mixed into cocktails.

There are two quotes from Steve Beal (Crown Royal Master of Whisky) that I think really sum up this spirit succinctly.  “Started as whisky…still is.” and “Not a whisky liqueur.”  The key point of this spirit is that it truly is a flavored whisky that remains true to it’s whisky roots.  Bottled at a solid 80 proof (40% ABV) Crown Maple stands with its whisky brothers a step above liqueurs at lower proof.

Which brings us back to the guitar.  Elisabeth and I went to a Crown Maple event last Tuesday at the Double Daughter’s Salotto.  When we entered we were served a couple of tasty cocktails (recipes at the bottom), but the real fun came when they announced the shot recipe contest.  The idea was simple, come up with an original shot recipe based on Crown Maple and enter for the chance to win a not yet released Gibson maple wood guitar.  Elisabeth and I had done some playing around the night before and entered two recipes we thought were solid and sat back, never expecting to win a thing.

Crown Maple Shot Making Contest Crown Maple 5.1 Steve Beal

Suffice to say, when Steve Beal announced the shot I entered, the Eh, Eh? as the winner, I was beyond floored.  You may note I appear a bit distant in the picture at the top of this post.  So, on to the recipes.


Shots
 
Eh, Eh?

1 oz Crown Royal Maple
1/4 oz Chocolate Liqueur
1/4 oz Orange Liqueur
1 Dash Barrel Aged Bitters
Canadian Smoke Jumper

1/2 oz Crown Royal Maple
1/2 oz Laphroaig Cask Strength
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
 



Cocktails
 
Maple Old Fashioned

1 1/4 oz Bulleit Rye
3/4 oz Crown Royal Maple
1 tsp Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Barrel Aged Bitters
Manitoba

1 1/2 oz Crown Royal Maple
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Top with Ginger Beer

 

Another place I see this spirit really shining is in cocktails to add light maple notes without being overpowering. In some cocktails you add just a splash of a spirit or even a wash to add flavor (think absinthe in a Sazerac). I think Crown Royal Maple could be great in this role.

PS – We decided the guitar needed a fittingly regal name, so we proudly introduce “Royal Pancake”. Thank you, Crown Royal for a great event and an amazing prize.


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