I believe that ice is the most important ingredient in a well-crafted cocktail. Just imagine this scenario. You go to your favorite cocktail lounge; the bartender is making crafted cocktails. The first thing that you notice is the amount of tiny cubes he is putting in the drinks. It would appear that the glasses are filled to the brim with this frozen substance possessing neither form nor shape. The bartender adds liquor to this rapidly melting material. It appears that the entire glass is filled with liquor. You say to yourself, they sure pour a nice drink here. WRONG! What they are actually doing is filling your glass with water!
The ice melts so quickly giving the impression that the bartender filled you glass up with booze. Nothing could be further from the truth. What the bartender has done is fool you, making money for the house and surreptitiously given you the impression that your glass actually has something in it other than cold water and chips of ice. Maybe what you really have is just a waste of your hard earned money?
May I please suggest changing your ice? My little friend Klaus is around here somewhere. He suggests going to the store in Massachusetts named the Boston Shaker. They will help you with this dilemma. The Boston Shaker recently held a book signing for my new book, Apothecary Cocktails, Restoratives from Yesterday and Today. While Klaus and I were there making hot buttered rum, I had the chance to gaze wistfully over their well-stocked shop. There were many different items there for freezing perfect ice.
You can buy rounds or squares. They come in many varieties of sizes. May I suggest the 2×2 inch trays for your ice? Why should you care?
You see, when you use refrigerator ice, it often comes out chopped into small bits. Dilution takes place nearly immediately. This is unacceptable. I believe when your ice stays solid, hardly any dilution takes place. Your drink stays cold, yet it doesn’t dilute- at least it doesn’t turn to water quickly! When your ice stays solid, your money doesn’t turn to water as rapidly in your system. Thus you get your money’s worth.
Another example of superb design in gourmet hand-crafted ice is Glace Ice, made by my friend Roberto Sequeira. He has designed and implemented a truly gourmet ice cube that you can purchase already frozen. His brilliant product gives your cocktails that one-of-a kind, light catching look. There really is nothing I have seen in ice that is of this high quality, unless you make it yourself.
I continue to state and have gone on record to say that Roberto’s “Glace” ice is the best ice that money can buy. It’s not inexpensive, but the best things in the world are rarely cheap.
If you put one of the Glace rounds in a glass and poured a mere strand of Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey over the top in your hand cut crystal glass, I think you’d be greatly rewarded. Let me let you into a little secret. If you like rye whiskey, and who doesn’t, may I suggest Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye? It’s brilliant over one of Roberto’s Ice Squares. Just shimmering. Did I tell you it’s organic? Yes. This small batch, handcrafted spirit is one of a very few rye whiskies that are made with all organically grown ingredients. I like that and try to tell people about my passion for craft spirits when I can.
The Soused Gnome Gift Guide
Tuthilltown up in New York State also garners my attention during the Holiday Season. Their Half Moon Bay Gin distilled from local apples and wheat is so perfectly balanced that using mixers may not be necessary. Up in Vermont I’ve discovered a salubrious Maple Cream liqueur that has got me actually telling others about it. Vermont Ice Maple Crème Liqueur got my attention and a place in the fridge. Vermouth is hot this year and I have three, no four recommendations. I love from Channing Daughter’s in Long Island’s wine country their seasonally made VerVino. Each bottling exemplifies what is fresh in the woods and fields that surround the winery. Bianca Miraglia is out in the wild, hand-gathering herbs, spices and woodland secrets for her vermouths. It’s as if she captures her dreams into each bottle of Uncouth Vermouth. Perhaps the woodland fairies have offered their enlightenment to her.
Vya Vermouth from Portland, Oregon is making expressive products that are equal or greater than most of the vermouth coming out of Europe. I love the use of Oregon wine in the richly textured slurps of American passion and ingenuity.
Atsby Vermouth is also from New York.
There are two varieties that Atsby proudly produces. One is named Armadillo Cake and the other is named Amberthorn. The Armadillo Cake reminds me of the high quality, Italian made sweet vermouth named Carpano Antica. The Amberthorn is just far out stuff and my tasting notes are all over the road every time I try it. Drip a bit over a glass filled with Casa Noble Reposado Tequila. Warn the neighbors if you should shout out loud! Atsby Vermouth is heady on its own or mixed into a way-out Manhattan-style cocktail made with Busted Barrel Dark Rum from New Jersey.
New Jersey you say? Yes. There is rum being made again in New Jersey. And it tastes smoother and richer than some rum that I tasted from the Caribbean islands. It’s made one drop at a time in hand made stills located just off the West Essex airport. The building that the distillery resides was used to build aircraft during WW2. There is a very historic feel to the place and the handcrafted rum.
Vodka is on most people’s minds this holiday and the raw honey distilled vodka from Barr Hill in Vermont is the best vodka I’ve ever tried. Not because it tastes like water, far from. This is vodka that allows me to retrace my roots. Each sip is a revelation of terroir. There is nothing else like it on the market. And their gin is gushing with botanicals, all in perfect balance to the locally gathered raw honey. If you mix this gin with anything more than air (or a cube of hand cut ice) you’ll have Klaus over to your house in a skinny minute! Do not use corn syrup tonic water in this one. Bad things will happen!
Try finding tonic syrup like Jack Rudy from Charleston, SC. Or Tomr’s Tonic syrup from good old New Jersey works. What I like to do is use tonic syrup and seltzer with a pinch of fleur du sel at the end. Finally I can make a great G&T. Barr Hill Gin, handmade tonic syrup, Perrier Sparkling water. I’m in heaven.
Klaus will never forget. He never does. Throw out that corn syrup tonic water now!
I’m not really a Scotch drinker, but if you can find a Japanese Whisky you should try some. Perhaps you’ve found a smoked American Whiskey? Did you know that the domestically produced whiskies are overtaking the Scots at their own game? Add to the new whiskies that are being distilled in India. These are gorgeous examples of Scottish know-how being produced craft style on the other side of the globe?
Are you looking for cordials? Pur Likor is making a lush and memorable Blood Orange and Spice liqueur. Find it.
Fruitations in Massachusetts has both a cranberry and a tangerine syrup that should change the way you look at sweeteners.
My bet is on Royal Rose Three Chili syrup. Try it with Arrogante Tequila!
Bitters? Just try something other than the usual and experiment!
I know Klaus would love to see that!
Happy Xmas and Happy New Year! …and Cheers to All!