Kilbeggan (The Oldest Operating Distillery in the World!)

Kilbeggan (The World’s Oldest Distillery)

April 4, 2012

Is the world’s oldest distillery in Scotland?  If you said yes, then you are incorrect.  The oldest operating distillery is in Ireland.

I’m quite fond of Irish Whiskey.  You may note that Irish Whiskey is not spelled Whisky like in Scotland.  Irish Whiskey has the addition of the E at the end in a fashion similar to the way Whiskey is spelled in the United States.

Why?  I believe through my research that the extra E is meant to discuss a higher quality spirit that those without the E. This was a historic reasoning that had something to do with quality of a specific spirit. I don’t care to discuss the personal history, you can do that yourself.  This history pit country against country.  It was certainly not inclusive.

Oh, they spell Whisky without the E in Scotland.  Whatever.  I think that the exclusion or inclusion of the letter E is confusing to the consumer.  But like any interesting puzzle the historical reasoning is out there on the web.

Onward…

Back in the late 80’s I had chance to travel to Ireland for the first time.  This lush country, with gorgeous,1000 shades of deep green vistas set against limitless skies. This is where passionate crafts-people, embrace the ancient methods of distillation.  The distillation arts in Ireland harkens back to a time when living off the land actually meant something.

I was fortunate to stay in Dublin- a young, raucous city filled with vivid splashes of color and light set against dark skies and brooding classical architecture.  It’s a magical place- well geared to intellectuals and also thirsty entrepreneurs.  There are authors and artists from all over the world that make their way to Dublin to study, to drink and to make history.  You can go into dozens of bars, listen to traditional music and meet poets, dreamers and best of all, drinkers.

The pubs are filled with lads and lassies who come to seek solace in a fine pint of dark and a glass of uisce beatha or water of life.  The pubs of Dublin and her denizens make this city go round and round.

I tasted Irish Whiskey for the first time at the historic horseshoe bar at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.  I was immediately hooked on the friendly, yet potent sweet water.

Ireland has amazing farmland well suited for growing grain.  The soil in Ireland is rich in many of the nutrients necessary to grow grains. Grain just happens to make excellent many alcoholic finished products.

You have a thirsty country, much rain- generally miserable weather in the winter… Made even more lovely with a finished product made from fermented grain.

With grain comes distillation- and with distillation comes Whiskey.  Irish Whiskey, is a unique product.  It tastes like no other Whiskey in my opinion and it helps me dream.  Dream you say?  Drinking Irish Whiskey for me- unlocks a liquid history of searching for round-towers and seeking lovely wool sweaters woven in specific ways to identify the wearer.  Irish Whiskey is part of the deeper social thread but is easily enjoyable in a lovely Irish Coffee.

I have the ingredients, but it’s just 8:53 in the morning.  Not a good time to start drinking when a man has writing to do!

Ireland is no stranger to the craft of distillation as witnessed by Kilbeggan.  Their handsome bottle reads 1757.  No, this is not a misprint. 1757 is when the distillery was established.  And 1757 means that this spirit is from the world’s oldest operating distillery.  Not surprising to me. Kilbeggan is a new brand to the United States although by the bottle not so new to the world!  Kilbeggan uses a 180 year old pot still.  I believe a pot still gives great character to a spirit.  There has to be something said to the distillation vessel.  It must contain memories of some sort.  It’s not just cold metal.  It has a soul.

But does this make the spirit within the handsome bottle good?  I think so.  Please let me tell you about my thoughts.

Open the tall narrow bottle, classically finished in dark lettering over a pale yellow label.  There is a hint of maroon and gold highlighting some important facts about the distillery.  Several places on the bottle the numbers 1757 appear.  The distillery is quite proud of their lineage and heritage.

Open the top and pour a healthy portion into a glass that resonates with you.  From very moment that the magical liquid hits the glass I can smell the aroma of honey and hand-scythed grains.  There is a bit of smoke way off in the finish, but nothing like drinking Scotch.

The beginning of the mouth-feel is peppery fire from the 80 proof spirit.  The aroma of Kilbeggan is haunting and centering in the room.  I want to have a taste.  It’s soft, creamy in the mouth and quite beguiling on the top of my palate.  Flavors of toasted nuts, fleur de sel, caramel and Irish Soda Bread (with extra raisins) predominate.

Add to this a healthy slathering of creamy yellow Irish butter, still warm over the toasted Soda Bread.  This tiny slurp of Ireland just goes on and on with a multi-minute finish.

This is very sophisticated stuff.  I’m especially enjoying the aroma in the room.  Bacon fat, maple syrup and hot tea.  Yum!

As a food writer I love to give the literary connections to flavors I’ve tasted in my childhood.  This directional ability seems to translate well to the world of spirits writing.

As a cook, I find it interesting, to identify many of the flavor profiles that are available in spirits.  Sure they all have brooding alcohol, that’s the point!  People drink for pleasure.  It tastes good and some even have a kick!

Flavor has everything to do with it.

Irish Whiskey is Irish history in every sip.  For me to taste creamy butter melting over a thick slice of freshly toasted Soda Bread is to encourage you to find a bottle of Kilbeggan.

 

Two Cocktails For Kilbeggan

1. The Sheep in the Road cocktail- meaning that group of sheep don’t appear to be getting out of the road!

Makes two rather lovely cocktails

Ingredients:

6 Oz. Irish Breakfast Tea- chilled

4 Shots Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Local Honey Simple Syrup (1:1 ratio of Honey to water, heat, then cool. refrigerate)

Preparation:

To a cocktail shaker add the Kilbeggan and the Irish Breakfast Tea

Add 4 Tablespoons of the Honey Simple Syrup

Garnish with a lemon round and a sprig of mint

 

2. The Cow in the Road Cocktail- meaning, there is a cow in the road up there, watch out!

Makes two cocktails of bewildering strength from the use of warming liquids, you won’t taste the alcohol, so please be careful.

Ingredients:

Freshly Whipped Cream flavored with Kilbeggan

Hot Chocolate (your choice)

4 Shots of Kilbeggan

Sugar to taste

Preparation:

Make your hot chocolate and add to pre-heated mugs

Add the Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Sip and when the cow jumps over that wall, know that there is a pub just up the way.  Someone will come to the pub and tell you to move your car!

 

Straight

2 Shots of Kilbeggan

Glass (preferably clean)

no ice

a bit of cool water

 

PreparationMoisten your brow with the water, drink the Whiskey and have another

 

 

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The Last Pirate Ship (Rhuby from Art in the Age)

I created this original recipe for Art in the Age out of Philadelphia.  My friend Steven Grasse is the lead protagonist of this Public Relations, Marketing, Advertising and Brand Re-invigoration firm.  It’s hard to put a finger on what they do best.  I just like what they do!

 

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Philadelphia – August 30, 2011

Bid Farewell to Summer with The Last Pirate Ship

Make a Cocktail with Art in the Age’s Rhuby

the last pirate ship cocktail recipe!

Art in the Age’s Root and Snap liqueurs created quite the buzz. Now, the collective is causing another stir with its much-anticipated spirit Rhuby, made of rhubarb, pink peppercorn, petitgrain, and other organic ingredients, based on a Revolutionary era recipe.

According to legend, Benjamin Franklin and botanist John Bartram tinkered with brewing rhubarb tea back in 1771. The boozy variation is now on shelves, just in time for a late-summer libation created by modern-day mixologist Warren Bobrow.

The Last Pirate Ship
Serves one

Ingredients
2 oz. Rhuby
1 oz. fresh lime juice
4-5 strawberries
Fleur de sel
1 sprig of thyme

1. Combine ice, Rhuby, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker.

2. Toast strawberries in a cast iron pan.

3. Muddle strawberries and add to cocktail shaker.

4. Shake and strain into a rocks glass, sprinkle with fleur de sel, and garnish with a thyme sprig.

Available at most Fine Wine & Good Spirits shops; online at finewineandgoodspirits.com. For more information on Rhuby, go to artintheage.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Foodista: Five New Drinks

5 New Drinks: Low Country Style-influenced by the Belmont-surreal

March 14, 2012

There is an easy going congeniality in Charleston, South Carolina.

I lived in Charleston during the 1980’s, started a fresh pasta business, attended Johnson/Wales- cooked and bartended at the Primrose House and Tavern- then left after Hurricane Hugo crashed the party.

I never returned.  There were many ghosts that I had to deal with intermixed with feelings about the this town, like no other that I’ve ever lived.  My dreams of Charleston from the past have haunted me for years.

Photo: Warren Bobrow - Leica M8

 

It’s that kind of place.

Photo: Warren Bobrow - Leica M8

 

From the dripping Spanish Moss to the whisper soft voices of the way people speak down in Charleston, I’ve felt like it was a part of me for longer than I can imagine.

Photo: Warren Bobrow - Leica M8

 

I drove non-stop from Morristown to Charleston.  Food and fuel the only real stops.

This gracious lady of the New South, is as elegant as ever. She has been recreated with pleasure as her first name.

Photo: Warren Bobrow - Leica M8

All ravages of Hurricane Hugo have been erased like the rapid progression of the Kudzu vine across the Low Country landscape.  Erasing the past in a swath of green.

I discovered a city that had grown up, yet still retains her “village by the sea” appeal and candor.

There is serious food here now and serious drink.

Photo: Warren Bobrow - Leica DLux-4

The chefs are filled with a passion for local, fresh, terroir and the brilliant flavor of the ocean.  There is something about the nature of the pluff mud, tidal flats that makes the water alive with possibilities.

Photo: Warren Bobrow - Leica DLux-4

In a former life I lived in Portland, Maine.  Portland was similar in my imagination to Charleston from a perspective of friendly to really great seafood.  It’s just freezing there!  Too cold for me!

Oysters in South Carolina taste like no where else in the world.  They are just about ravishing with a crisp glass of Rum!  While in Charleston I was fortunate to snag a mini-bottle of Striped Pig Rum.  This is the real thing. I would drink it with a splash of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water and a slice of Meyer Lemon.  Maybe a splash of Sweet Iced Tea- but that would cover up the sublime freshness of Striped Pig.  This rum is redolent with the flavor of the place.  It’s creamy-has a lovely finish of cane juice to heat to spice.  I’m tasting it straight from the mini-bottle.  No mixer but air.

This is fabulous Rum.  I simply cannot wait to enjoy another cocktail with Todd Weiss, the owner of the Striped Pig distillery.  The Gin Joint was, as you said… World class.  There’s just something about cocktails down here.  Maybe it’s the air, soft and laced with salt.

Here is Todd’s Twitter address:  @Dstilld

Photo: Warren Bobrow - iPhone (ancient technology)

 

Oyster Skiff Cocktail

Ingredients:

Striped Pig Rum

Tenneyson Absinthe

Perrier Sparkling Water

Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Autumn Plums

Arizona Bitters Lab “Figgy Pudding” Bitters

Preparation:

2 Shots of Striped Pig to a shaker filled 1/2 with ice

1/2 Shot Tenneyson Absinthe

4 Tablespoons of Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Autumn Plum

1 Medicine Dropper full of the Figgy Pudding

Shake and strain into a tall glass with some ice made from Coconut water

 

 

 

Charleston is a place of all kinds of possibilities. They embrace their history and catapult into the future.  It’s like a living museum.

The Belmont Lounge is located on a part of King Street that one would not venture to in the 1980’s.  Visually I remember a mostly bombed out area, nearly void of soul and life.

You would not want to walk there during the day and at night, well, I never did.

I lived on Charlotte Street and spent Hurricane Hugo in a kitchen house at #29.  It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced.

Now upper King Street is buzzing with activity.  I must admit that the first time I ventured above Calhoun Street, I was a bit concerned for safety.  No more.  The Charleston PD don’t just drive the streets, they walk them, bike them and make sure the area is very well observed.  I’m impressed.

I wandered in off the street to find a cocktail lounge worthy of New York or even Barcelona.  The groove was apparent in the lighting and the screening of “The Big Sleep” in glorious Black and White on the wall.  The lighting, low and sensuous- the music not overwhelming.  People spend more time talking than using their smart phones. They interact with the extremely congenial bar staff who genuinely have the knack and gift of gab.  There is an Italian machine meant for slicing Salumi and a very high quality espresso machine for turning out perfect Irish coffee, topped by a thick mantle of cream.  The bartenders are shorn in crisp white shirts with skinny ties.  A bright red B for Belmont graces the bottom the tie.

Even the cocktail napkins are emblazoned with the B.  Nice touch.  I wanted one, but thought it better to ask first.  (I didn’t take one)

The salumi is brilliant, the cured pork redolent of fat and smoke, a perfect panini of melted tomato and mozzerella cheese delights!  Too much food!  Pickled vegetables abound, was that pickled okra?  I really must be showing my Yankee inclinations now!

Yes, judging by the bar, I felt right at home.

I met Joey Ryan at the bar. He has an easy-going style and friendly demeanor that is instructional and kind.

He invented a cocktail known as the Off-Duty Bartender.  My friend Federico Cuco down in Argentina would be proud of this drink because of the use of Cynar.

I’m reproduced it here with my complements:

Absinthe Rinse  (add Absinthe to a glass with ice and water, then pour out.. preferably into my mouth)

2 oz 100 proof Rye I prefer Rittenhouse
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz Fernet Branca
3/4 Punt e Mes

Stir ingredients in mixing glass while rocks glass is chilling with Absinthe rinse.

Strain ingredients in chilled glass after discarding ice.  add large rock, and top with orange bitters.

Joey Ryan
The Belmont Lounge
511 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
843.743.3880

Joey, Hat’s off to you and the Belmont.  I could spend much time in your care.

 

 

Yesterday I was contemplating Pimms Cup.  The addition of lemonade is particularly inviting.   I added to the mix by the inclusion of Absinthe.  Somehow the very mention of Absinthe makes me think of two places.  New Orleans and Charleston.  Two very European cities firmly grounded in the United States.

Woolworth’s Lunch Counter Surprise

Ingredients:

Pimms

Lucid Absinthe

Fresh Lemonade

Sweet Ice Tea

Freshly made seltzer

Preparation:

Add 2 Shots of Pimms to the fresh Lemonade and Sweet Iced Tea

Add 1 Shot of Lucid Absinthe

Top with freshly drawn seltzer

Garnish with a home cured cherry (essential!)

Swing on the porch swing to make the pain go away

 

 

Pluff Mud Cocktail

Ingredients:

Snap (USDA Certified Ginger Snap Liquor)

Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon

Bitter End Mexican Mole’ Bitters

Hot Chocolate

Preparation:

Make a nice cup of Hot Chocolate

Add 2 Shots of Snap

Add 1 Shot of Knob Creek

Add 3 drops of the Bitter End Bitters

Makes two rather lovely cocktails perfect for a cool night or dessert

 

 

 

Sullivan’s Island Smash

2 Shots of Striped Pig White Rum

1 Shot Cane Syrup

1 Shot Freshly squeezed orange juice

4 ozs. Coconut water (sweetened)

Coconut Water Ice

Preparation:

To a cocktail shaker, fill 1/3 with regular ice

Add liquors

Add juice

Add Coconut Water

Shake and strain into small rocks glasses with Coconut Water ice cubes

Smash the Coconut Water cubes in a towel for maximum extraction of flavor!

Garnish with fresh mint and freshly scraped nutmeg- ESSENTIAL!!!

 

All Photography by Warren Bobrow with Leica M8, 50mm Summicron F2

Pre-1960 Bourbon tasting notes

Tasting Notes: Pre-1960 Bourbon

  WARREN BOBROW grew up on a biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a reluctant cocktail/wine writer and a former trained chef/saucier.

FACEBOOK / TWITTER

••••••••••

Photo Credit: travelingmcmahans; creative commons

My grandfather, a Yankee like myself, truly enjoyed Bottled in Bond, 100 Proof Bourbon Whiskey.  I didn’t know about his passion for Bourbon because he never drank it around me and he never ordered it in a restaurant. Usually he ordered an extra dry Dewers Rob Roy.  For many years I only thought he drank Scotch whisky. What I didn’t know at the time was that his true passion was Bourbon.

My grandfather owned his own company and one of the things that people would give him at Christmas time were some very special bottles of Bourbon.  These bottles remained hidden from me for many years.  After he died I learned from my grandmother that there were several nice looking (from a design perspective anyway) bottles of pre-1960 Bourbon in a hidden compartment of the bar.

She went on to tell me that she was going to pour out the contents (the historic Bourbon) and turn them into flower vases, because the bottles were so pretty.  I got over to her home as quickly as I could.  She showed me the hidden compartment in the bar.   Inside there were several bottles of Bourbon from the 1940’s to the late 1950s. These bottles of Bourbon had rested, in the dark, away from my youthful fingers since he placed them there and forgot about them.

These remaining bottles are a liquid history of the last of my grandfather’s Bourbon collection.

Photo: Warren Bobrow

Truth be told, as a “damned” Yankee, I know the true value of these ancient spirits.  Not as an investment in dollars, but as a flavor-driven window into my family’s past.  The bottles that I hold in my hand are a history of flavor.  This is a specific type of history that could never be duplicated today, primarily because the people who crafted the contents of these historic Bourbon bottles are now long gone.  The ingredients used today are similar, but the Whisky is different because each sip holds liquid ghosts belonging to the past.

Tasting notes:

Old Forester “Bottled in Bond” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky.  100 proof. This bottle has been filled and stamped under the provisions of sections 5008 and 5243 of the Internal Revenue code.

Set into wood 1954. Bottled 1959.

A gentle, almost cedar nose gives way to candied orange peel, sweet jasmine flowers and caramelized pecan. The brooding heat burns the tongue.  With a texture almost as thick as maple syrup, the freshness and liveliness of this Bourbon hasn’t changed a bit since entering the bottle over fifty years ago.  Charred notes of Anson Mills stone ground grits stuck to the bottom of an ancient cast iron pan is the next thing tasted as I rolled a few precious drops around my mouth.  The soft, mineral finish goes on and on, revealing itself with another slow burn as if the bottom of the glass was aflame.  This Bourbon, when served with a bit of Kentucky Colonel mint from the garden, awakens ghosts from one’s grand-pappy’s generation.

Ancient Age.  Date uncertain due to the loss of the tax stamp, estimated somewhere between 1945-1950.  Space Age in design, this Mid-Century modern bottle is filled to just over a pint in liquid.  Marked straight Bourbon Whiskey.  The bottle reads: carefully distilled according to the finest old traditions. 86 proof.  Marked Full Six Years old. Distilled and bottled by Ancient Age Distillery Co., Frankfort Kentucky.

Warm aromas of sweetly delineated, hand-hewn oak- remind me immediately that Bourbon Whisky is not Scotch Whiskey or Tennessee sippin’ Whisky.  One reason for certain is the lack of smoke, peat and saline in the nose.  Normally, I find these flavors to be overpowering.  I suppose I just don’t understand Scotch.  The nose of this Bourbon Whisky resembles a liquid caramel candy.  A burst of fire from the nearly 90 proof alcohol makes itself known then a finish of fleur du sel and freshly cut herbs like thyme and tarragon.  This Bourbon, although “only” 86 proof, acts on the palate like one almost double the potency. In fact it resembles in many ways the potency and grip of some un-cut corn whiskies I’ve tasted recently.  Each slurp reveals sharply aromatic Asian spices with a razor sharp finish that exposes itself on the back of the tongue; with a nearly 2 minute long finish!  This Bourbon tastes nothing like the roughness of the neither 1952 Old Forester, nor does is resemble the overly oaked  “modern-style” of the 1955 Old Grand Dad. With a crumbled leaf of Kentucky Colonel spearmint this Bourbon really opens up, revealing its wood-driven flavors as a contender for a (very rare and expensive) mint julep.  This Bourbon has all the stuffing for a drink made with its primary ingredient over a half-century old!

Old Forester 1952. Bottled in Bond in 1957. Freshly baked charred- corn “hoe” cakes are smeared with melted, sweet strawberry butter. The first flavors take a bit to get used to.  Sweet is usually a flavor more akin to Canadian Whisky or Irish Whisky.  Freshly brewed sweet iced tea reveals itself- then flavors of caramel corn and cinnamon laced red-hot candy folded into a mug of boiling hot water, Asian spices and sugar cane lurk in the background.  The backbone of alcohol is a sudden wake up call to the throat.  It BURNS!  A glass of this Bourbon has amazing heat for spirit almost sixty years old!   The 1952 taste as lively a drink in the glass as a 2002 bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon!  It’s just amazing how little the alcoholic power has diminished over the past half century!

Old Grand Dad “Head of the Bourbon Family” 1955. Set into bottle 1959.  Part of a more modern and new style of Bourbon Whiskey, this is a roughly hewn, heavily oaked version of the classic drink.  It’s just amazing to me how much Bourbon has evolved during the late 1950’s.  The soft almost billowy quality of the Bourbon is ever-present, yet the finish is much sharper, but it lingers on the tongue for several minutes.  The 1959 bottling is more akin in many ways to Four Roses or Pappy Van Winkle with an almost lemon oil, citrus tinged mouth-feel.  The oils from the cask rise to the surface creating an illusion of a rainbow.  Each sip is laced with banana, vanilla bean, toasted corn bread, the char from well- seasoned cast iron pan and brook trout cooked in that pan with a handful of toasted hazelnuts thrown in at the finish.   An Amaretto-liqueur nose predominates.  The finish is like the first day of golden sunshine, streaming into the windows after a spring thunderstorm.  This is serious stuff and it deserves a drop or two of branch water to release its secrets.  The next flavors are like authentically seasoned Thai food served Thai spicy.  Flavor before heat is the mantra of this Bourbon.  A few sips signal the essential drink to take the edge off the afternoon or evening like none of your neighbors have ever imagined or enjoyed.

These bottles are a bit less than ½ full … As much as I want to share them with well- meaning friends, I know that once they’re gone, they can never be replaced.

I’ll be drinking small glasses from these bottles without any mixers from now on.  Well, maybe with a few drops of some sweet, local branch water flicked over the surface to connect these liquid history lessons with the flavor driven memories of the past.

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3 Responses to “Tasting Notes: Pre-1960 Bourbon”

  1. prufrock

    October 28, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    What a great find! I love having a window into the past, in any way that I can. And to have that connection to your granddad is a sweet thing indeed. I was able to get a cache of a grandparent’s booze about twenty five years ago, too. Cognac, B&B, some Scotch…. and I was excited to compare them to contemporaries. But they were pretty much the same; I didn’t know at the time that spirits stop aging once they are bottled, so I was all worked up for a big taste explosion! But, alas… that 8 year-old whisky that had been bottled in 1958 was still just an 8 year-old whisky. It did have a bit of funkiness, but not necessarily in a good way.

    Still, the thrill of opening something that had last been opened by someone long dead held a thrill for me, and I enjoyed sharing their liquor. During the Republican Convention in 2008, a very old bar in St Paul reopened for the week. The owners’ family had been keeping the place pretty much as it had been since the 40s forever, though it hadn’t been open since… maybe the 70s? 80s? Anyway, they brought ought some Old Forester and Ancient Age and others and were selling them at low prices. It was cool to see the old labels– nostalgia for a guy who started tending bar back in the 70s. But the whiskey was pretty bad. It wasn’t bonded, just normal proof, and they might had been spouted for God only knows how long. Still– it was really cool.

    I did read somewhere that Tequila and Mezcal actually do change in the bottle, though I guess it is just a mellowing rather than added complexity. Not my cuppa tea, though.

  2. HahlerGirl

    August 1, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    What a swell bourbon rememberance. You certainly saved an important liquor legacy and did your “Old Grandad” proud. Thank you to sharing!

  3. Cocktail Cloister

    July 24, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Liquid ghosts indeed. What a pleasure, Warren. Thanks for sharing!

The Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail

 

Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour – Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail

Tuaca- Dark Rum from Atlantico- Angostura Bitters, Grade B Maple Syrup and charred citrus fruits make up this week’s cocktail experience.

The inspiration for this drink came during dinner a few weeks ago at the highly regarded modern American restaurant named Serenade; located in Chatham, NJ.

They prepare a cocktail that’s similar in scope, using sweet vermouth and chopped apples named the Chatham cocktail.

I love it.

In keeping with my twisted cocktail logic, I deepened the version served at Serenade by adding Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth, Tuaca- the savory Mexican Vanilla / Citrus Liqueur, Atlantico Dark Rum, a muddle of chopped, grilled citrus fruits (tangerine, orange, grapefruit) with Grade B (Dark Amber) Maple Syrup and finally a few dashes of Angostura Bitters with a splash of Perrier.

I call this drink the Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail in reverence to the coming week’s activities.

I’ll be traveling to Charleston, South Carolina to judge the Iron Cocktail Competition at the renowned Charleston Wine and Food Festival.

With regards to the Iron Mixologist competition I will be judging, William Grant & Sons is sponsoring this competition and the back bar will feature their entire portfolio (or most of it).  Their master mixologist Charlotte Voisey will be the master of ceremonies.  The competition is 3 rounds.  The 4 mixologists involved are Charleston locals and were the finalists in the Official Festival Mixologist Competition in January for the Festival featuring Milagro Tequila + Hendrick’s Gin.  They are:

Jon Calo of The Cocktail Club

Mick Matricciano of The Belmont (Mick won the competition in January + his cocktail will be featured at the opening night party)

Brent Sweatman

Evan Powell of Fish Restaurant

 

The first round will have all 4 competing against one another to create a specific themed drink (decided by Charlotte).  You and the other judges – Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef and Nicholas Polacchi, The Balvenie – will then narrow the finalists down to 3 who will then go to the next round to create a specific themed cocktail (decided by Charlotte).  The second round will continue like the first and the 3rd will be the final two.

 

The competition is from 4:00 – 5:00 PM on Friday, March 2, 2012 in the culinary village in Marion Square in the Palmetto Cheese Culinary Hub Tent.

If you are anywhere near Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, stop by and introduce yourself.

The Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail– is named for the surfeit of Spanish Moss that hangs gracefully from the “live oak” trees.

Ingredients:

Atlantico Dark Rum

Tuaca Italian Liqueur

Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

Angostura Bitters

Charred Citrus Fruits – combinations are up to you. Sear in a sizzling hot pan until crunchy, then muddled with the Angostura Bitters and Maple Syrup

Grade B (Dark Amber) Maple Syrup

Perrier

Preparation:

In a sauté pan that is heated to smoking hot, sizzle the citrus fruits until nicely charred and crunchy

Add a couple of chunks of the seared fruits to a cocktail mixing glass

Muddle with a few splashes of Angostura Bitters to release their aroma and juice

Add 2 Tablespoons of Dark Amber Maple Syrup and muddle a bit more

Add 2 shots of the Atlantico Rum

Add ½ Shot of the Tuaca

Add a couple cubes of ice to the cocktail shaker

Shake and strain into a pre-chilled Martini glass

Garnish with a chunk of grilled citrus fruit and finish with a splash of Perrier for spark

 

Branch Water

Branch Water

WARREN BOBROW grew up on a biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a reluctant cocktail/wine writer and a former trained chef/saucier.

FACEBOOK / TWITTER

••••••••••

Photo credit: Warren Bobrow
I first learned about branch water, or branch as it was called, from my governess, Estelle Ellis.  She and her husband were from Georgia.  She’s gone now, but my memories of her are quite vivid.  She taught me how to cook, not by telling me but by showing.  She was very kind to me and I still honor her memory by retelling her culinary stories that I learned in the kitchen of my grandparents’ “big house,” where I spent much time as a child.

She held the tenets of the older and slower ways near and dear to her, evidenced by the smile that came through in the way she spoke about ingredients, the ancient cast iron pans she used in cooking, and especially the way she took a cool glass of locally gathered branch for good health.  She believed that branch was life-giving.  Everything in her kitchen had a meaning, especially when it came to the flavors and aromas of times gone by.  Branch was a part of my childhood as much as her peach pies made with fresh peaches from my grandparents’ orchard.

There was a patient cadence to the way Estelle spoke- the words that she chose and the descriptions of the way things ought to taste have resonated in my mind since I was a boy.  In a few words there were meanings for everything in life.  She used to tell me that it was time to “put-up” fruits for the long winter months in NJ.  The apples were made into applesauce, and some made their way into the winter as Apple Jack.  The peaches that didn’t make it into a lard-crusted pie were soaked in strong southern whiskey for a late night nip after the day’s chores were finished. This woman took care of my family in a way that is lost to time.  She taught me lessons by using ingredients so fresh that the dew hadn’t even begun to be absorbed by the flesh of the fruit.

She would add a bit of this locally gathered water to a drink- correcting it.  Adding a bit of branch to a glass of Bourbon, as I learned in later years, connects that specific drink in your hand to the past.

What is branch and where does it come from?

Branch- by nature of its provenance is sweet water.  Perhaps the definition is the nature of the Branch itself.  We all idolize the purity of a hidden spring that only exists in our dreams.  Branch is the liquid sweetness that flows unhindered from the ground.

Branch can sometimes be seen oozing up and evaporating immediately when it hits the air or it can make a cheerful bubbling sound as it bursts forth. Sometimes the branch erupts from the earth as a gurgle, almost like a belly laugh.

Branch can also be as kind and gentle as a bedtime story.

To truly enjoy branch you must capture it in the place where it comes up from the earth.

The spring up near our home is located in a spirit-filled place formerly inhabited by George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War.  Estelle told me about this spring, it was where she gathered her Branch.  To get to the spring you must walk down the ancient camp roads- it’s over there a bit, by the base of that long gone oak tree.  You can tell there was a giant tree at one time by the number of smaller trees emanating out into the forest.  Its progeny has spread throughout the woods and their roots still feed a sweet vanilla flavor into the earth.

The water bubbles up to ground level meeting the air in a hushed flurry of activity, for this well is an artesian well.

The branch that flows from this spot tastes as sweet as cotton candy on the first day of the state fair!

How would it taste with a tin bucket of the White Dog? A splash or two of branch in a pail of freshly drawn white whisky is illuminating to say the least. The sweetness it emits meets the fire from the freshly drawn whiskey and makes a carousel dance around on your tongue.  Purists may scoff at cutting whiskey with water- but it’s the way I like to drink it. And you don’t use very much.

A Branch Water Cocktail

Take some of that really old Bourbon that you’ve been saving for a special occasion down from the top shelf.  Carefully open the bottle and pour it into your grandfather’s favorite glass that you keep away from curious hands.  Visit the hidden spring with your bottle and glass in hand and gently scoop a bit of the cool branch into your hand just as it emanates from the ground.  Moisten your fingers in this water, feel the minerals in it – rough against your hand.  Taste some of the sweet water in its cool, pure state, precious like fine jewels.  Now, please scatter just enough of the branch that fits between your thumb and forefinger over your glass of Bourbon.

Contemplate your ancient cocktail, sipping with reverence and passion.  Take another sip and roll it around on your tongue.  Swallow it slowly, taking in lots of air while you taste it.  This is important because certain environmental influences are as important as the flavor of the branch mixing with your Bourbon.  If it’s a day in the fall and you’re alone in the forest, crunching your feet through the leaves, you can almost taste this aroma in the air.  Aroma absolutely changes the way you perceive flavor through memory so take an aromatic note of the place while you sip cocktail and remember.

Gently slurp this precious brown liquid through your lips and smile.

And after you finish drinking, think of Estelle with her glass of branch and a slice of warm peach pie at the ready.

Rebel Rouser or is it the Rabble Rouser?

 

Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour – The Rabble Rouser Cocktail

I just spent the past week down at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. This explains why there wasn’t a Friday cocktail last week. I was too busy. In between judging the Iron Mixology Competition and that lovely party at Nathalie Dupree’s home- time just slipped away from me. Maybe it was the soft Southern accent, or the Antebellum architecture.

Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lovely luncheon I enjoyed at Martha Lou’s Kitchen, feasting on a fried pork chop with a side of textbook macaroni and cheese- I’m getting hungry all over again. Almost makes the 15- hour drive from New Jersey to Charleston and 16 hours to return home worth while.

If you are ever in Charleston, South Carolina- please visit Martha Lou’s Kitchen over on Morrison Drive. Order the fried chicken or a fried pork chop.

Don’t deny yourself a large cup of sweet iced tea. It’s so sweet that your teeth will ache for days afterwards and if you have the chance, please say hello to Martha Lou for me.

She’s a true American treasure- Don’t let Saveur Magazine tell you that- they did already.

This leads me to the cocktail of the week. It is called the Rabble Rouser. Not because I am one- perhaps in a small way, yes I am- more of a Rebel Rouser than a true dyed in the wool Rabble Rouser- but I digress. This cocktail is better enjoyed by the bucketful. In a crowd? Certainly yes.

I like to stir things up. It is my métier.

Cocktails like this one can create a certain tension. This means to an outsider, to stir up trouble. I’ve always said of myself- trouble finds me.

 

Rabble Rouser Cocktail

1. 2 shots Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey or your choice of Bourbon

2. 1 shot Lucid Absinthe or your choice of Absinthe

3. Regan’s Bitter (citrus) a couple of shakes or Fee Brothers Orange Bitters

4. Grade B Maple Syrup a few drops

Preparation: To a cocktail shaker add ½ with ice.

Add the Bourbon to the Absinthe

Add bitters and maple syrup

Shake and strain into a short cocktail glass.

(Similar to a Sazerac)

Cardinal Gin and.. trouble= a Friday Cocktail for Modenus

 

Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour: The Cardinal Gin Mind Liberator

Gin has percolated deeply into my dreams as of late. I’ve been dreaming about a perfect Gin and Tonic that I enjoyed down in Charleston, SC during the recent Wine/Food Festival. There wasn’t very much of it, Gin can be very dangerous in hot weather.

There is something about being in the humidity and saline tinged air that drives a thirst for aromatic, crisp, thirst quenching and pleasing cocktails. In the ninety- degree weather, a refreshing Gin and Tonic became more than just a sum of the parts. This Gin and Tonic was exactly what I thirsted for. The cocktail had tonic water, nothing fancy, Schweppes served in little bottles (nice touch) and the size of the cocktail, was one of those little tasting glasses, just enough to whet my whistle. I was sated quickly, enough to find out more about this very delicious Gin.

Cardinal Gin is a new brand to the market. I like to try to discover passion in my spirits writing. It’s important for me to help the craft distiller with the brainpower and passion about what it takes to launch a distillery. I can visualize their dream and though the application of the myriad of Social Media, get their name out there in ways they never thought possible.

Flavor is the major determinate. You don’t go into the spirits business to make something that tastes like someone else’s product. It’s all about individuality and American ingenuity!

Cardinal Gin for example is all about flavor. The Company is named SAS- Southern Artisanal Spirits. I like that, the name of their company is catchy and memorable. They are located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on King’s Mountain in North Carolina.

Their ingredients are all organic- a major plus in my mind. I’ve always made an extra effort to seek out producers who use organic methods.

Sure they’ve won some awards- big ones. But a Gin shouldn’t just taste good to the judges; it should also taste good to me. And in that tent, down in Charleston, in the ninety- degree heat, a Gin and Tonic made with Cardinal Gin was as satisfying as the first time I ever tasted Gin as a boy. My sip said FLAVOR!

I suggest trying to find some. You can buy it down South and I think they will be in the Northeast before long. The packaging is really fantastic with the bright red cardinal bird etched into the glass, visible from the front- but you don’t drink the bottle. The flavor is reminiscent of cream, freshly cut flowers and toasted citrus.

I’ve tasted many Gins, but none like this one.

Gin is becoming my go/to for real flavor- I suggest trying some soon on the rocks with a chunk of blood orange or… try this cocktail (below)

 

A Quite Twisted Cardinal Gin Mind Liberator Cocktail (serves two)

Ingredients:

Botanical Gin (Cardinal, Bulldog, Hendrick’s, Martin Miller)

Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur

Lucid Absinthe

Charred Lemonade- griddle lemons then juice into lemonade sweeten to taste with Royal Rose Syrups (your choice)

Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water

Angostura Bitters

Preparation:

Griddle Lemon rounds until charred, juice them and strain you’ll need about 8 oz total so get to work!

Add Simple Syrup like the one from Royal Rose (use your choice of flavors)

2 Shots of Botanical Gin

1 Shot Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur

1 Shot Lucid Absinthe

Fill cocktail shaker 1/3 with ice

Add liqueurs and three shakes of Angostura Bitters

Shake and double strain into low champagne glasses (coupe’)

Finish with a splash of the Perrier Sparkling Water and a home cured cherry!

The Green Fairies Ear

 

Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour: The Green Fairies Ear

 

 Absinthe posterAbsinthe stirs the imagination.  All those paintings from France in the 1800’s exemplifying the mystical aspects of this misunderstood liquor makes me want to delve deeply into measured sips.  But how does Absinthe work?  It does because of the mystique surrounding the clear liquid that somehow turns cloudy after dripping scant drops of water over the surface.  Magic happens!  Sure there are the botanical herbs, of course there is the ever-present alcohol- you cannot miss that with many varieties exceeding 120 proof!

Absinthe is powerful stuff indeed!

I love Absinthe because of the bad boy (bad girl) element.  From a flavor perspective, Absinthe is every bit as delicious as botanical Gin, but it is thicker somehow.  On the first taste, you can feel the creamy texture against your lips and tongue- then- coming quickly into view is the anise elements- then suddenly as if a monster awakened- the brooding depth of the alcohol.  Sweet, savory, tart and herbal elements differ from brand to brand.  The European varieties are known to contain certain long banned ingredients, but the American ones are no less potent.  The rumor of a brand of Absinthe that may have plied Van Gogh to cut off his ear is known as the Green Fairy- good luck finding it! (No, not his ear) La Fee Verte.

This week’s cocktail is woven of Absinthe, freshly squeezed, charred grapefruit juice and a splash of Q-Tonic water.  Q-Tonic water is available in nearly every Williams-Sonoma store and also in Whole Foods.  It’s worth the extra expense for a hand-made product!

I’ve taken a small producer Absinthe from St. George in California- certainly available around the country- although you can use your choice of Absinthe- and added freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.  I char the grapefruit segments in a cast iron pan before juicing to reveal a deeper personality and a hint of mystery!

The Green Fairies Ear

Ingredients:

  • 2 shots of St. George Absinthe
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented, charred in a cast iron pan, then juiced/strained
  • Coconut water ice cubes (freeze un-sweetened coconut water in an ice cube tray)
  • Q-Tonic water

Preparation:

  • To a small rocks glass, add two or three coconut water cubes, then the Absinthe, mix a bit to cool.
  • Add about three tablespoons of the charred grapefruit juice
  • Top with Q-Tonic water and sip (carefully) to the Belle Epoque!The Green Fairies Ear - made with Absinthe

Martin Miller’s Gin. (you could say that I’m a BIG FAN)

 

Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour – The Gin Twist

3
Feb

 

Martin Miller - hotelier and maker of Martin Miller's London Dry GinMartin Miller – Bon viveur and maker of Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin via www.luxist.com

 

I’m sitting in front of the fireplace right now. Also in front of me are over 15 bottles of Artisanal Gin. My new favorite is the London Dry Gin from Martin Miller’s Gin. This is truly exotic stuff. The London Dry is in a low, squat bottle. Upon opening the handsome bottle I detect immediately the scent of cucumbers. Not just any cucumber but an especially aromatic variety. This Gin doesn’t need to be mixed- it’s got all the stuff right inside. I’m absolutely blown away by the softness of the nose- coupled with that unmistakable aroma of the cucumber. I got to thinking- when was the first time that I smelled this quality of Gin? Hendrick’s does a cucumber scented Gin that I like, very much. This Gin from Martin Miller is a very sophisticated and dare I say sensual slurp of liquid pleasure. The cucumber is right there in the foreground. You cannot miss it. I’m almost shocked by the depth of the vegetable aroma and flavor. White flowers follow up immediately- those little tobacco flowers. Then the attack of herbs and spices come quickly into view. The initial distillation happens in England. The blending occurs in Iceland with pristine glacial water as the adjunct. I’m just blown away by the finish- it goes on and on and… on .

I thought I introduce a new cocktail to Modenus this week. Gin and Citrus come to mind. Charred grapefruit juice, Maraschino Cherry liquor and a chiffonade of Thai Basil. What? Fresh herbs in a drink? Why not?

To make this cocktail you must be ready to take your palate to another place. In this case, the drink is Martini-like but not a Martini. Sure it has Vermouth, but Carpano Antica is the Sweet Vermouth (instead of dry) and there is the slightly charred grapefruit bringing up the rear.

I love working with great ingredients and you should too!

The Gin Twist

Makes two invigorating cocktails for whatever you desire at the end of the day.

Ingredients:

Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin

Carpano Antica

Cucumber chunks

Bitter End Thai Bitters

Lime hunks

Grapefruit chunks

Fresh mint

Seltzer water like Perrier Pink Grapefruit

Chiffonade of Thai Basil

Preparation:

To a cocktail shaker filled ¼ with ice add some charred grapefruit. (sear grapefruit segments in a sauté pan until nice and colored on all sides, then muddle with fresh mint and the cucumber, lime and grapefruit chunks until they release their essence about 3 minutes or so. Add to the shaker the Carpano Antica Vermouth (about a shot) Roll the Thai Basil into a cigar shape, and then slice on the bias to release the aromatic oils. Add to the shaker.

Add the Martin Miller’s Dry London Gin and the Maraschino Liqueur. ( 1 shot)

Shake and strain into a coupe’ glass and garnish with a flamed peel of orange peel. Top with a home cured cherry. Add a splash of seltzer water to finish.

Slurp away to a freezing cold and wet spring in old England.