Musings on Whiskey by Warren Bobrow for the White Mule Press (thank you!)

Musings on Whiskey from Warren Bobrow

Bobrow_portraitWarren Bobrow announces his new book Whiskey Cocktails and tells how he came to write it. Known as The Cocktail Whisperer, Warren’s vast knowledge of cocktails has spawned a previous book, Apothecary Cocktails, and over 300 articles on food, wine, and cocktail mixology. As our guest blogger, we get a peek inside Warren’s musings about whiskey, spirits and food. Enjoy!

My influence for writing Whiskey Cocktails is one of a most circuitous nature.

Whiskey has rough and tumble roots for me. Initially I looked at whiskey as something that was rough and harsh across my palate.

I wasn’t a whiskey fan until a couple of years ago.

Rum was more my forte, I was a rum judge for the Ministry of Rum in 2010. I also wrote about food, and, of course wine. It’s very tough to make a living being just one more voice in the room of food writing or even wine writing.

Coincidently, many of those rums that I was starting to enjoy became even more intriguing for me. Through research, I found that many types of rum were aged in used bourbon barrels.
Perhaps that flavor of char and smoke was more a part of my taste buds than I initially allowed?

It’s funny for me, when I think of the wines that I grew up with at home — the ones that were on the our dinner table — Left Bank, Rhone, Loire, all use casks that speak clearly of the place. There was a flavor to each sip. Something unique and profound was taking place at the same time in my education. I traveled across Europe, Africa, and South America, always tasting, memorizing and trying to figure out flavors of intoxicants and food.

The same holds true for whiskey. The casks that go on to give other liquors unique qualities, characteristics and above all terroir may be from whiskey!

There is a certain cadence to whiskey and in the broader metric, craft sprits. They are not always great, but they certainly are passion in a bottle.

My thoughts on craft mean something that is handmade in small numbers. Craft means flavor and texture and risk, small business is not easy. Owning something that relies upon consumers is often fraught with failures. I know because I lost my own small business in Hurricane Hugo back in 1989. I owned a craft business, specializing in fresh pasta. (Maybe it was the grain??)

It might be a small produced wine, organic and Biodynamic that reminds me of whiskey, the flavors of stone fruits and caramelized nuts. Or vice versa. There are creative interrogatories in all forms of intoxicating beverages.

I’m very fond of food when I taste whiskey or any spirits for that matter. If I taste rye, I want a sandwich like a Rueben, piled high with briny and smoky corned beef or pastrami on seeded rye. Whiskey just calls out for food that speaks to me clearly.

Whiskey Cocktails, is my second book. My first book, Apothecary Cocktails takes the tack of what you took for healing in the years before electricity and refrigeration. How folk healing remedies may have been little more than snake oil, but what a wonderful way to heal what ailed ye!

Whiskey Cocktails explores the liquor from a stylistic approach — Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Alternative Grains, Indian (India), Japanese, French, Tennessee Sipping Whiskey, White Whiskey, etc. even cooking recipes!

In a former part of my life, before I was in the corporate world, I was a trained chef. This formal training comes in handy for the mixology business. It’s all about flavor and combinations of flavor.

I invite you to peer into my mind, one sip and word at a time.

There are some marvelous things in Whiskey Cocktails. Others have said that this book is a new Classic. I’m not sure, I’d rather be humble than a know it all. As I said, I’m new to whiskey and I’m lucky to be here, surrounded by and growing to be respected among my peers as a member of the table.

If they only knew the path I took to get here! Whew!
Bobrow-Cover
I invite you to purchase Whiskey Cocktails and if you haven’t already, please consider Apothecary Cocktails as well.

You can read my musings at http://www.cocktailwhisperer.com or purchase my book at: http://www.qbookshop.com/authors/17884/Warren-Bobrow.html

Thank you.
Warren Bobrow

FEW Spirits/ Five Questions…

FEW Spirits/Five Questions

September 26, 2014
I recently spoke to Paul Hletko, the founder of FEW Spirits in Illinois.

It’s been a while since I embarked on this project, known as the Five Questions, and I beg your time to read the questions and drink the highly personal answers from each craft distiller whom I see worthy of your attention.

 

Without further adieu, may I present Paul Hietko.

 

1. WB:  What do Craft Spirits mean to you?

PH: To me, “craft spirits” means passion for product over all else and actually made by the folks claiming to make it.  Authenticity and honesty is the key.

2. WB:  Where are you from?  What did you do before you became a distiller?

PH: I was born in the Chicago area, grew up in Michigan, spent time in Northern California, and have lived in Chicago now for over 20 years.  Prior to becoming a distiller, I pursued several creative passions, and played guitar professionally, as well as running a record label, building custom guitar effects pedals, and more.  I also had a desk job for many years, but always strived to pursue dreams.

3.  WB: What is your favorite food?  Which of your spirits go well with that dish?

PH: My favorite food depends on my mood.  I’m currently a bit obsessed with banh mi, as well as working on some homemade curries. I’m really digging the bourbon with the banh mi, as the spiciness of the bourbon plays well with the spices in the sandwich.

4. WB: Is there anything you’ve eaten or sipped that brings a tear to your eye when you taste it?  Why?

PH: Some of the favorite things I sip are products that my friends make, as I know what it takes to bring it to life.  Food and drink can have such a dramatic affect, and eating various foods can really bring me back to various places.  I can’t eat matzo ball soup without missing my grandmother.  I can’t think of Spätzle without missing my grandmother’s!

 

5.  WB: Social Media brought us together originally.  What are your thoughts on Social Media?  Do you use it?  Do you have time to Tweet?

PH: I love social media – it’s the best way to communicate with the people that actually consume what we make.  All that we do, we do for the spirit that is in the glass so that we can hopefully be a part of peoples enjoyment of life with their family and friends.  That means a lot to us, and this connection with our fans is truly amazing.

 

My tasting Notes for these gorgeous spirits…

FEW Bourbon Whiskey

Spanish Leather, sweet cream and wet stones give way to a bit of heat and that long finish that says CRAFT.  This is very drinkable stuff, worthy of your finest glassware

FEW Rye Whiskey

If I could drink a corned beef sandwich, this is what I’d be enjoying for lunch!  Smoky notes of charred earth, tangy and cinnamon tinged rye bread with a zingy finish that goes on and on!

FEW Single Malt Whiskey

Is this whiskey from Scotland?  Nope, it’s all American!  Licks of wood smoke give way to sweet grains and a haunting finish punctuated by toasted citrus zest and salt crusted stones.  This is sophisticated and worldly.  Class act!

FEW Barrel Gin

Sweet notes of long cooked grains enrobed in dark (70% or more) bittersweet chocolate, cooked slowly with the aromatics of Juniper Berries and slowly cooked stone fruits, like quince and peaches.  A Ramos Gin Fizz with this slurp would take you to places not yet discovered!

 

My second book, Whiskey Cocktails is available ever so shortly on Quarto Publishing.  In the book, I’ve created 75 new and re-imaged cocktails for one of the world’s favorite spirits, Whiskey… With my unique- Cocktail Whisperer style and grace. 

 

Drink Up NY…

An Ardent Dreamer Cocktail

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail WhispererI’m thrilled when a bartender knows what I’m talking about when I ask for Aperol.  Usually I receive a blank stare or worse- a nod towards Campari or some other red colored aperitif.

Not that Campari is bad, far from- it’s just much different than Aperol.

First of all, Aperol has less alcohol than Campari, making it the perfect summer quaff at about 12% by volume for Aperol, instead of the 25% of Campari.

Campari is more assertively flavored- making Aperol a lighter approach to the term bitter aperitif.  You see, bitter is a good thing.  Aperol is made up of licorice, fennel, aniseed, popular buds, bitter clover, wormwood, valerian, gentian, bitter orange, cinchona bark and rhubarb.

The ingredients in Campari are similar- but secret and this article is not about Campari, but it is about Aperol!   Made by the same company as Campari, Aperol is altogether different.  First of all there is more sugar in Aperol, although the drinker may not recognize the sweetness in the drink, because the bitter herbs balance the sweetness.  I am a huge fan of Aperol and I use it often in my refreshing summer cocktails.

Greenhook Ginsmiths is located in Greenpoint, NY. I love what they have achieved in the gin world by the quality of their ingredients.  Brothers, Stephen and Philip DeAngelo have revolutionized the old fashioned technique of making gin.  They use a low temperature vacuum to remove all the excess air from the distillation process allowing for a more gentle approach to the finished product.

I’m not a scientist, but I will say that the vacuum distillation makes a softer gin- less harsh and definitely not cloying.  I remember meeting the brothers a couple years ago at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and I immediately became an ardent supporter of their craft.

Freshly squeezed juices are a necessity in my cocktails and in my day-to-day drinking pleasure.  There really is no excuse to use concentrated fruit juices or powdered juices in cocktails.  My drinks NEVER call for bottled orange, lemon, grapefruit or lime.  It’s just not done!  You should always make every attempt at using the very best ingredients that you can find for your drinks- after all it’s your money!  Why cover up great liquor with artificial ingredients?  Even the 900-pound gorilla, Tropicana juice is pasteurized, giving your cocktail a flat, listless experience.  You may not notice- and that’s ok… BUT, when you are making something that speaks of quality, why use juices that may have been extracted months in advance of your enjoyment, then?

Beats me.  That’s why the fresh juice movement in craft cocktails is so essential to the overall approach to making fresh drinks with the best ingredients you can get.

I always ask if a cocktail lounge is using fresh juices and if they don’t- I usually don’t stay- or I order something plain.  It’s just that simple, there are no excuses to use less than stellar ingredients.  I’d gladly pay more; just give me the chance to do so!

An Ardent Dreamer
Ingredients:
2 oz. Greenhook Ginsmiths Gin
1 oz. Aperol
½ oz. freshly squeezed orange
½ oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit
¼ oz. freshly squeezed lemon
¼ oz. freshly squeezed lime
Splash of seltzer
Old Fashioned glass
Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters

Preparation:
Add the juices and the Greenhook Gin with the Aperol to a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice
Shake hard for 15 seconds or so
Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with a couple cubes of hand cut or hand made ice (silicone tray with double boiled spring water, overnight)
Top with the seltzer and a couple drops of the Bitter Truth Grapefruit bitters for a flourish!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys. His first book, Apothecary Cocktails has been nominated for a Spirited Award at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail!

Beekman 1802 and Klaus the Soused Gnome

L1000321 L1000338 L1000365 L1000367 L1000373 L1000374 L1000376 IMG_8516 IMG_8523 IMG_8572 IMG_8574
 Gartending to the Heart

 

Klaus just returned from a lovely trip to Vermont.  He’s very fortunate to have been invited to the Northeast Kingdom and make new friends along the way.  One of these friends, Todd Hardie is a bee keeper and maker of a most marvelous group of spirit medicinals.  The raw honey that goes into his marvelous vodka, gin and elderberry cordial speak clearly of his passion for healing.

Vermont is rife with family farms.  It’s not easy to make a living here in this often harsh environment.  Get away from the ski towns that live off the tourists and discover a place that is off the usual path.  I suggest doing this by following food and drink.

Klaus thinks that if you want to win the heart of a beautiful woman you must ply her with his newest loves, Vermont maple syrup and Vermont cheeses.  Of course Klaus tells me that there has to be some liquor in there too.  That’s where Todd Hardie comes in.  Klaus is smitten by the flavors exemplified in each sip of Barr Hill Gin and Barr Hill Vodka.  You see, Klaus discovered that these spirits are actually made from something that comes from bees! In Germany and Caledonia bees were raised for their honey.  This honey, when fermented and distilled is powerful medicine used by apothecaries for hundreds of years.  Now in the modern age, this distillation of honey goes into Barr Hill products.  It’s remarkable and delicious.

Vermont Maple Syrup is richly scented and deeply aromatic.  It’s memorable from the minute it touches your tongue and the finish goes on and on.

I was fortunate to visit Jasper Hill and received a private tour of the cheese caves.  Jasper Hill, if you are not familiar makes highly expressive cheeses that speak clearly of Vermont.

Klaus had to stay inside because of the FDA regulations about cleanliness.  He would have had to receive a total sterilization.  He wasn’t happy about that, so he took a nap instead.

Klaus just told me that with Valentine’s Day coming up, he thought a considerate gift of raw honey would be in order.   Raw honey does many things, Klaus tells me.  But I think what Klaus is really trying to say is that for Valentine’s day to be truly special there must be a drink to make basic conversation a bit easier.  Why is that Klaus?  He’s not talking right now.  He’s napping.  The trip up to Vermont was hard on the little guy.  All those new faces to remember and all those kisses he received.  Klaus if you are just discovering him is quite famous.

In keeping with the theme of Valentine’s Day and Klaus having only a ceramic heart, love doesn’t come easily to him.  Oh sure, all the ladies love Klaus but I’m not sure that he can love them back.  He certainly has enough admirers.  Right Klaus?

As long as he has a drink nearby all is well.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to have more than one, within reason of course.  Why is that?  Because my (Klaus’s) drinks are quite intoxicating!  He’s interested in flavor and aromatics from always-fresh herbs, even in the winter!

Klaus brought some gorgeous fresh sage the other day at the Asian market.  He explained to me that this sage, when carefully lit on fire makes the most beguiling smoke.  He went on to explain that if you have burning sage and you hold your Boston Shaker over the top, you can capture this smoke within the shaker!  Klaus went on to explain that Barr Hill Vodka, (distilled from raw honey, of course) when mixed with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, and smoked sage “smoke” makes for a colorful and potent cocktail.  One nearly guaranteed to make “conversation” easier later in the evening.

The smoked sage and grapefruit juice act as a foil to the more potent, honey-tinged notes of this exceptional vodka.  Those who have be following my writing know that I normally don’t write about vodka, so it has to be pretty darned exceptional for me to even take note.  Barr Hill is that product.  Klaus explains to me that happy bees make passionate spirits.  I agree.

Klaus says that the happy bees make honey that has a memory.  I said to Klaus that his Valentine’s Day cocktail is just brilliant.  Perhaps he should have two or three at the least?

It’s up to him to fall in love somehow!!!

 

Captain Bickford Cocktail (Named for a hopeless romantic in the work of Robert Louis Stevenson)

Ingredients for two strong drinks

3 oz. Barr Hill Vodka

5 oz. Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit juice

2 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Lemon Essence

5 drops Wild Branch Foods Elderberry Syrup

Fresh Sage leafs

Hand cut ice

Urban Moonshine Maple Bitters

 

Preparation:

In a fireproof dish, light the sage on fire so it smolders

Capture the sage smoke in an inverted Boston Shaker

Add ice to the sage smoke

Add the Vodka and the grapefruit juice with the Elderberry syrup to the smoke and ice filled shaker

Cap and shake hard for 20 seconds

Pour into an old fashioned glass with one cube of hand cut ice

Pour Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water over the mixture into two glasses

Garnish with a sage leaf a few drops of the Urban Moonshine Maple Bitters to finish.

 

 

Klaus hopes to get lucky this Valentine’s Day…. With a few of these in his flask, he’s sure to do very well at something…. Klaus?????  Oh, he’s wandered off again.   Trying to find his true love.

Devil Gourmet

By Warren Bobrow
End Of Elm, Morristown, NJ

There’s a new place in Morristown named End of Elm and it’s a keeper.  This is precisely what Morristown has needed since Urban Table opened and forever tainted the gene pool with lackluster service and poor food.  True, End of Elm is formulaic and still brand new, but they tried darned hard to make me happy with something that’s missing at most other places in town – good old customer service.

End Of Elm, Morristown, NJ

End Of Elm, Morristown, NJ

First, let’s take a look at the space.  With broad windows overlooking the spot where Elm hits Morris Avenue by the NJ Transit station, the constant flow of traffic outside makes the interior a very cheery place.  The bar is in the rear of the room, and there’s comfortable seating by the windows to the right as you enter.  There are also stand-up tables, and good lighting from mono-filament bulbs.

I asked for a cocktail list and was greeted not with a “we don’t do cocktails,” but with a refreshing “yes sir.”  The bartender introduced himself as Vinnie and shook my hand with confidence.  Cocktails are my forte – and mangled cocktails my desire – but that was not meant to be at End of Elm.  The list is not overwrought, nor overly intellectual; good ingredients are used simply, and there is a careful hand behind the stick.

I ordered a drink named the Montucky.  It was good enough, with fine ingredients, like Buffalo Trace, the ubiquitous Luxardo Liqueur, a sweet vermouth of uncertain provenance (I think it was Martini and Rossi), and a Luxardo cherry.  The drink was stirred not shaken and the ice used was a 1/2 cube for the mixing glass.  Vinnie was confident in his bar tending skills, and he makes a fine cocktail using jiggers for measurement (nice touch).  I think it was on the weak side, but I like my drinks made strong, especially when they are served “up.”  My cocktail was served up in a nice clean glass.  A plus!

cocktail list

cocktail list at End of Elm

Next time I go, I’m attracted to the Sweet Devil with an egg white, which should have a bit more kick than the Montucky.

On back-bar shelf they had BOTH Aperol and Campari.  Again, nice touch.  I didn’t check out their rum selection, or their Scotch selection, but they certainly had a nice variety of bourbon whiskey.  They seem to carry the usual suspects for beer with quite a few craft style beers- all with their correct glassware- nice touch, again!

In a nutshell, the owners may be young, but this room attracts an interesting crowd for Morristown.  The service gets a B+ for remembering my name and shaking my hand.  I’m sure they will always remember my name now that I’ve reviewed it for the Devil Gourmet.

Montucky

Montucky at End of Elm

End of Elm creates flirtatious food that speaks to a commitment to use simple ingredients made with love.   The food is a modern take on tapas with items like chicken and waffles, and a prime beef burger with a Comte cheese fondue that was much better than it had to be.  The Prime burger sported nice grill marks, tasted very freshly ground, and was well seasoned with both salt and pepper.  The fries are shoestring, served with real ketchup, and the roll was very good.

Again, End of Elm goes further than they need to – after all this is Morristown.  It is not Hoboken, nor Montclair.  But times are a changing.  And hopefully I won’t have to travel to far to find a drink that hasn’t been mangled into submission first.  I can only hope that more places in town know how to craft a fine cocktail.  End of Elm, neither an Irish bar, nor a beer and shot joint,  deserves to succeed, and by crafting good food coupled with fine liquor and craft cocktails, I know they will.

That is what this column is about!  The art of the cocktail.  No, not a Scotch and soda, nor a Cosmo.  I don’t drink those, and you should try to break out of your mold at least once!  Over the course of this column we will certainly find the good, the bad and the ugly.  That’s what cocktails are all about, unfortunately.

I don’t have an agenda, nor do I want to hurt anyone’s feelings with this column.  I’d like to see all bars do better!  It’s my topic after all.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to order a Ramos Gin Fizz or a Sazerac and not be served a milkshake or a shaken Sazerac?  In conclusion I offer a lovely cocktail quote:  A Bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.  And speaking of pharmacists that mix cocktails……

Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today

Cheers!  (Please forgive my photos, I was trying not to be obvious that I was reviewing them.)

End of Elm
140 Morris Street
Morristown, NJ 07960
Type of Cuisine: American (New), American, Tapas
Hours: Mon-Sun 11AM – 2AM
Price Range: $$