Say Cheese!

Are you mystified by cheese?  Do you see a cheese plate and instinctively think that it’s an expensive dessert?  Have you ever taken a cheese class?  Would you know that cheese goes really well with spirits?

If your answers are yes, no, no and no, then you’ll probably be hungry – and hopefully thirsty by the time you finished reading.  Why?  Because cheese is not pretentious, nor is it only for dessert!  In fact, cheese is something that is made by hand in the same manner as it has for hundreds of years- and cheese is created by farmers!  There are certainly machine-made cheeses, but for the intent of this article, all the cheeses in the classes at the French Cheese Board in Manhattan are made by hand in the ancient fashion of the cheese maker.   So, you should not be mystified.

Far from mystified, what is needed to truly TASTE cheese is to cut off your ability of smelling the cheese first.  There are many taste receptors in our mouths that are incredibly sensitive, but unfortunately most cheese is tasted with our noses first.  And if you can close your eyes while you are tasting cheese, there is another whole set of senses that are fooled by your visual sensibility.

Located in the trendy-eastern fringes of SoHo, where the old city collides with Nolita, the French Cheese Board in its handsome and sleek space.  It is filled with ample sunlight and is a very friendly place indeed.  This outpost of French culture in the Big City, seeks to demystify cheese by taking cheese out of its usually pretentious context completely.  Instead of merely snacking on cheese, they suggest carefully tasting cheese, but not overwhelming the plate with superfluous parts.  Instead of a grilled-cheese sandwich, serving a small cheese slice- served simply with dried fruit, plain crackers (so not to overpower the delicate flavors) and perhaps some rugged coins of dry baguette will more than suffice as an accompaniment.

Cheese served simply on a cheese board become a compliment to dinner, not solely a means to an end after dinner when you are already full.

The ancient style of making cheese, on a cheese board, or alone- Goat Cheese is a fine way to start a meal. I tend to prefer a combination of old and new goat cheeses, carefully rolled into a log and then further aged in straw- in a special cheese cave.  This amalgamation of funky and sweet calls out for a number of liquid accompaniments.  Many of the liquids that I suggest for goat cheese are not wine.  Goat cheese, especially aged (chalky and funky in the somewhat barnyard nose) takes to the more botanical style of gin with a tongue in cheek sense of humor.  There is nothing that I enjoy more in the summer months than a gin and tonic with a nice crumbly goat cheese between my fingers.  For the gin component I’d suggest the Barrel Aged Barr Hill Tom Cat (style).  A couple months in new American oak translates to a richening and deepening of the already sensuous quality inherent in each sip of Barr Hill Gin.  A touch of vanilla, toasty oak and raw honey reveal themselves into a tangle of sweet and tangy across the palate.  Couple with that a cane sugar tonic water such as Q-Tonic (from Brooklyn no less), a hunk of lime and you have the next wave of cheese sophistication.  This is the way I want to start my next meal, with elegance and candor.

A firm, well aged, mountain-style cheese from the French Alps calls out for a whisky from Japan that mimics in its own inimitable way the magnificent Scotch Whiskies from the other side of the globe.   For a firm, yet oily cheese such as these highly expressive examples from the extreme altitudes of the Alps, a richly textured whisky provides back-bone against the creamy firmness of the hand-made cheese.  The Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky is distilled drop by precious drop from a Coffey still dating to the early 1960’s.  A Coffey Still is a type of Pot Still made of copper. It makes richly textured liquor that has a warm nutty flavor in its approach.  Similar on the flavor wheel to the earthy quality of the French- mountain cheeses.  A fine match for stimulating the palate before or even after dinner.

Francois, the gregarious and ever-smiling “Professeur de Fromage” comes from a long line of cheese makers.  His studied and conversational flair for history is filled with humorous narratives and beneficial hints to the history of cheese.  All of these made even more interesting because of the ultimate enjoyment of the finest cheeses available and he does this without any pretentiousness.  He demystifies the different varieties, goat, sheep, cow- and breaks each one down into its unique components of flavor.  Sour, sweet, tangy, umami- what?  What is that?  I think it’s the indescribable flavor.  The one between here and there.  Confusing?  Perhaps it is- but after taking a most basic class at the French Cheese Board you’ll certainly be less confused, and considerably more knowledgeable in the art of cheese as more than a metaphor.

Getting back to how flavor is revealed, Francois offers you a mask to cover your eyes with a and your nose is closed with a kind of swimmer’s nose clip.  This is to encourage textural feeling the surface of the cheese through your fingers, neither smelling the cheese, nor viewing it.

Is the cheese dry, soft, grainy, crumbly, wet, sticky, polished…?

The list of textures goes on and on.
French cheese comes in all forms, from hard, used for grating, to liquefied and unctuous, meant to be spooned and savored.  There are many varieties and no, cheese is not just for dessert.  It makes for an incredible aperitif with slivers of black footed Spanish Iberico Ham, meant to stimulate the thirst and the appetite.

For nibbling on Iberico Ham and Washed Rind Cheese I would suggest a slightly salty “Fino” Style Sherry such as the Bodegas Grant “La Garrocha” Fino Sherry NV (Andalucia, Spain)  The crisp and aromatic nature of this nearly bone dry sherry will cut the fat both of the cheese and the pork flesh with alacrity.

Sure, you can enjoy cheese without a blindfold on and certainly without a nose clip blocking your passage to the ability of scent.  But isn’t it interesting to dismiss most French cheeses because they may be overly assertive in aromatics.  That is certainly a fact of life when dealing with washed rind cheeses and still others that turn into liquefaction through aging and cannot be eaten without a spoon, it would just be too sloppy!  But delicious!

Cheese and the study of cheese is as easy as taking a walk down to the French Cheese Board, conveniently located at 41 Spring Street in Nolita.  Bring and open mind and taste yourself into another way of being.  One that embraces the passion for hand-made cheese!

Cheers from all of us at

8 Absolute Must-Have Bar Accessories Dad Wants For Father’s Day

Father's Day

Photo by Sandy Aknine/Getty Images

If I was to suggest several must haves for Father’s Day, I would recommend some items that are esoteric, yet attainable on the national market. And why my recommendations? I have, according to many, the abilities as a “taste-maker” so please allow me that small slice of an opportunity to share some of my Father’s Day gifts for the home cocktail bar.

Read more at: https://thefreshtoast.com/culture/8-absolute-must-have-bar-accessories-dad-wants-for-fathers-day/amp

On Our Bookshelf: Apothecary Cocktails

Written by KELSEY PARRIS

Usually when I pour myself a drink, I’m not thinking about the medicinal properties of my cocktail. That is, until I read Warren Bobrow’s new book, Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today. In it, OKRA Magazine’s esteemed whiskey expert goes back to his family roots and gives us a fascinating new book exploring the healing powers of our favorite cocktails.

It is full of beautiful photos of delicious looking drinks, split into categories of the ailments that might plague you – weather that’s too cold or too hot, stomach troubles, hangovers, general pain, relaxants and mood enhancers. Having sectioned up the problems, Warren then offers an overview of the solutions one can find in the cocktail world. It seems like almost everything has a medical use, including bitters, herbs, teas, herbal liqueurs, fruits, vegetables, and seltzer. Many of the ingredients appear to be capable of handling many different afflictions, which speaks to the long history of apothecary research and development and the powers of the natural world.

Throughout the book there are fun little disclaimers, like “watch out for frostbite if you get too cozy with this drink!” and “as the Scottish proverb goes, ‘Whisky may not cure the common cold, but it fails more agreeably than most things’” which lighten the mood a bit and remind us that these are, in the end, drinks. Bobrow stays true to his mission and focuses on a wide variety of drinks that are chock full of healing prowess. In some rare cases, that means he includes a few ingredients that might be hard to acquire, like Centerba, or Krupnikas, but most products are easy to get.

There is a good mix of familiar, easier cocktails and more complicated, work intensive drinks. The majority of the recipes stick to the basics, keeping the ingredients simple and the techniques limited to stirring or shaking. A few, like the Rhubarb and Strawberry Swizzle, require several steps, from making a compote, to blending and swizzling until you finally get to enjoy the drink. Being a book for the more under the weather folks, it make sense to stick on the side of go-to drinks that are easy to concoct when you’re in the throes of a flu, while offering a few more experimental beverages you could create when the weather outside really is frightful and you don’t have anything else to do. It’s really lovely to see so many familiar drinks, like the Sazerac, and find out that not only do they taste good, but they settle your stomach with its characteristic combination of bitters and absinthe. Remember these descriptions and tips and you’ll have great tidbits to drop at your next cocktail party!

Sometimes the recipes and the descriptions of all of the various benefits you’re serving yourself appear a bit repetitive. Each recipe has it’s own explanation above it, and since there are plenty of similar ingredients you get a lot of this information over and over. If you’re just flipping through to the appropriate recipe or section, however, that shouldn’t be much of a nuisance.

My favorite drinks all seem to come in the hot weather and painkilling sections, mostly because they feature a lot of citrus, rum, and gin and seem a little more in line with my taste than the (quite powerful sounding) Scotch enhanced lamb stew. Maybe now that it is getting really cold I’ll change my mind. Bobrow himself seems to have really enjoyed getting all this information into one place. His family history with the pharmaceutical business brings a very personal note to the book, indicating that the early force fed tonics built up his immune system as well as his avid interest in the greater power of cocktails. I, for one, will be glad to have this book on hand the next time my head starts to ache or my bones get chilled.

The Hartley Dodge. This photo is from Apothecary Cocktails.

The Hartley Dodge Cocktail  (Bobrow’s Aspirin)

  • 3 slices fresh peach, plus extra slices for garnish
  • 3 ounces (90 ml) bonded100-proof bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce (30 ml) sweet vermouth
  • 4 dashes Fee Brothers
  • Whiskey Bitters
  • Ice cubes

Place the peach slices in a Boston shaker, and muddle them. Add the bourbon and vermouth, and continue to muddle so that the flavors are well combined. Add the bitters and a handful of ice cubes, and stir well. Strain into a Collins glass over a large chunk of ice (larger pieces of ice are less likely to dilute the drink). Garnish with an extra slice or two of fresh peach. It’s an analgesic that can’t help but take the edge off what ails you.

 

Dad Food: A Scotsman’s Flourish

Our Father’s Day week of recipes continues with a little bit of whiskey. Whether dad enjoys it on the rocks or mixed into a drink, make him something extra special with this oatmeal recipe from the Cocktail Whisperer himself, Warren Bobrow.
And if you’re looking for the perfect gift for dad this Father’s Day, why not pick up a copy of Apothecary Cocktails? This drink book features cleverly concocted restorative drinks that dad is sure to love.

A Scotsman’s Flourish
Excerpted from Whiskey Cocktails by Warren Bobrow, The Cocktail Whisperer

Feed a cold and starve a fever, the old saying goes. It’s true: If you’re feeling under the weather, it’s even more important to eat regularly and healthfully. Nutritious meals can play a huge part in boosting the immune system. That’s where this steaming bowl of classic, steel-cut oatmeal comes in. Spiked with a generous serving of whisky-soaked dried fruit, A Scotsman’s Flourish comes at the final stage of this breakfast of champions—you’ll top your bowl with an extra ounce or two of Scotch for good measure. It just goes to show that you can eat your breakfast and drink it too! And there’s no need to waste any Scotch: Pour the whiskey left over from steeping the dried fruit over another cup of dried cherries in a sterilized container. Refrigerate these gorgeous home-cured cherries for garnishing your Manhattans, or serve them over vanilla gelato for dessert.

Bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, served piping hot
¼ cup (38 g) dried cherries
¼ cup (32 g) dried apricots
2 ounces (60 ml) blended Scotch whisky
½ cup (15 ml) spring water
To taste: Raw Honey Simple Syrup

Cook your steel-cut oatmeal for about 45 minutes according to package directions. While it’s cooking, add the dried cherries and dried apricots to a glass bowl. Cover with the blended whisky and the water. Let the fruits reconstitute for as long as it takes to cook your oatmeal. Toward the end of cooking, spoon the whisky-softened fruits into the oatmeal, and stir well. Serve in preheated ceramic bowls. Pour the remaining whisky over the top of the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with Raw Honey Simple Syrup. Then, dig in and enjoy your healing breakfast! For an added kick, serve with a David Balfour Cocktail: It’ll prove a cool, refreshing contrast to your steaming hot, whisky-laden oatmeal.

Preorder your copy of Whiskey Cocktails TODAY. It makes a great gift for dad.

Whiskey Cocktails Rediscovered Classics and Contemporary Craft Drinks Using the World's Most Popular Spirit

Grab your bow tie and a rocks glass, because we’re talking all about one of the most classic—and classy—spirits. Whether you like bourbon, scotch or rye, whiskey’s diverse and complex taste will be your new go-to drink for parties, gatherings, or evenings in your study with a roaring fire. Whiskey can be an intimidating drink to the uninitiated. Most folks may not be able to drink it straight. We’ve got you covered. The Cocktail Whisperer, Warren Bobrow, author of Apothecary Cocktails (Fair Winds Press), incorporates some of the best whiskeys into hand-crafted cocktails that bring out the subtle notes and flavors of any good bourbon or scotch. Whiskey Cocktails features 75 traditional, newly-created, and original recipes for whiskey-based cocktails. This wonderfully crafted book also features drink recipes from noted whiskey experts and bartenders.

https://www.quartoknows.com/blog/quartocooks/2014/06/11/dad-food-scotsmans-flouris/

The Savoy Taproom!

Let’s give a big welcome to Warren Bobrow author of Apothecary Cocktails, Cannabis Cocktails, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails, and Whiskey Cocktails! This will be a great opportunity to pick the brain of one of the greatest minds cocktail culture has come to know. There will also be a special happy hour featuring cocktails from Warren’s books!

I’ll be signing books at the lovely Savoy Taproom, 301 Lark Street – Albany NY – 12210 3:00 – 6:00 pm Today, Sunday April 30!

Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today by Warren Bobrow

 

From ancient times until the early twentieth century, cocktails were the domain of healers, pharmacists, and apothecaries. Tinctures, bitters, elixirs, and tonics were created from herbs, flowers, fruit, vegetables, and alcohol to cure stomach ailments, respiratory troubles, and more. Warren Bobrow’s Apothecary Cocktails draws on this rich and delicious tradition so you can make your own restorative drinks at home.

Quick Facts

Who wrote it: Warren Bobrow

Who published it: Fair Winds Press

Number of recipes: 75

Recipes for right now: Fernet Branca with English Breakfast Tea and Raw Honey, Roasted Beet Borscht with Sour Cream and Vodka, Hot Buttered Rum: The Sailor’s Cure-All, The Painkiller Prescriptive, Herbal Sleep Punch, Chartreuse Curative

Other highlights: Apothecary Cocktails is a fun and informative book for anyone who’s interested in cocktail history, herbal medicine, or who simply wants a good excuse to imbibe. Like a handbook for every season and mood, it’s organized into chapters for Digestives and Other Curatives, Winter Warmers, Hot Weather Refreshers, Restoratives, Relaxants and Toddies, Painkilling Libations, and Mood Enhancers.

Warren Bobrow includes classic cocktails, variations, and unique creations with in-depth recipe headnotes that delve into the history and health benefits of ingredients. Beyond bitters, botanical gin, absinthe, and other liquors, the recipes will have you reaching beyond the liquor cabinet for kitchen ingredients like teas, fresh fruits and herbs, and spices.

Who would enjoy this book? Home mixologists, people interested in herbal remedies, cocktail history buffs

Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon:Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today by Warren Bobrow

http://www.thekitchn.com/apothecary-cocktails-restorative-drinks-from-yesterday-and-today-by-warren-bobrow-new-cookbook-196567

This 4/20, Catch A Buzz With A Cannabis Cocktail

 Like the word “gay,” the term “edible” has adopted a radically different accepted use than was originally intended. Thanks to mainstream media coverage of medicinal marijuana and the drug’s recreational legalization in seven states, plus Washington, D.C., “edibles” now generally refer to the psychoactive chemical compounds in marijuana … ingestible in the form of food as simple as a jelly bean or as gourmet as fois gras.

While basement chemists and chefs continue to elaborate on edibles, the market is looking toward “drinkables” as the next frontier in catching a high. Some weed-legal states like Washington are already licensing the sale of non-alcoholic beverages that contain THC, the chemical in cannabis that produces the buzz, and DIY mixologists are putting out cannabis cocktail recipes as fast as their minds can fire them up.

Still, the federal government, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, prohibits the addition of THC to commercial alcohol products. However, analysts expect the category to eventually ignite, and producers are positioning themselves for an inevitable rule reversal by seeking and receiving permission to infuse their products with non-psychoactive marijuana compounds like hemp and a type of cannabinoid called CBD. Some medical professionals believe CBD can actually help counter the adverse effects of THC like anxiety and has its own therapeutic properties, though controversy exists at the highest levels over whether CBD is technically legal or not.

 Despite a dim view taken by the Trump Administration and mass-market beer and liquor industries, Kyle Swartz, managing editor of three alcohol-industry magazines and editor of Cannabis Regulator predicts, “We’re absolutely going to see more crossover between cannabis and craft beer and spirits. After all, it’s the same generation that’s pushing growth in all three of those categories: Millennials.”

Not much product has hit the scene yet but it is slowly becoming, as they say, “a thing.” The category first came to my attention a few years ago with the release of Humboldt Brewing’s Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale. I don’t remember much about it other than it was pretty forgettable.

 Last year, a public relations team sent me a bottle of Humboldt Distillery’s Humboldt’s Finest vodka infused with hemp seed (yes, there is a pattern here – Humboldt County, California, can arguably be considered America’s ideological ground zero for pot growing and smoking). As in the hemp ale, the hemp seed produces no high, and distillery founder Abe Stevens tells me he had to send his vodka for tests to ensure it contained no measurable amounts of THC before the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) would approve it.

He also tells me he knows of just two North American distilleries – one in British Columbia and another in Alaska — that started selling hemp vodka before he launched his last spring but since then he’s received numerous phone calls from entrepreneurs looking for advice. In October, the TTB approved a Colorado beer brewed with CBD, which also doesn’t spark a buzz, for national sale.

“It has a relationship to the growing interest in cannabis. That’s our sales angle, as it certainly helps the story,” he says of his own spirit, which retails for $29.99 MSRP. “But the market needs this product because it’s something new and the herbal quality makes nice cocktails.”

The hemp primarily comes through in the vodka’s aroma though it can be hard to discern among the other botanicals. Plus, the smell of the hemp oils can dissipate quickly.

So if it doesn’t get you high, doesn’t taste like dank herb and doesn’t even smell like a freshly lit Rastafarian, is there really a point? Stevens, who sells Humboldt’s Finest in about a dozen states patchworked across the U.S., says he gets that question all the time, especially from the west coast.

“Sometimes with people who’re really into the cannabis culture … we specifically try and even avoid that aspect and focus on the craft cocktail aspect. In Mississippi and Georgia they don’t have a legal marijuana outlet so to them there’s possibly a lot more novelty,” he says.

Until such a time when the feds do license THC-infused spirits, Humboldt’s Finest and its competitors can find sanctuary behind the bar next to an endless range of DIY possibilities that are building the backbone of today’s craft cannabis cocktail scene. Since around 2014, magazines and websites have been teaching readers how to make (mostly illegal) THC infusions of spirits, syrups, bitters, and the like. Last year, renowned cocktail author Warren Bobrow published the first book on marijuana cocktails, called Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics – The Art of Spirits Drinks & Buzz-Worthy Libations and containing 75 self-tested recipes.

 “I wanted to make it into a wellness book with flavor,” says the 55-year-old conservative dresser. “I wanted to take away some of the stigmas. It’s not a ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ book, it’s thoughtfully written and beautifully photographed to add possibilities to the regiment of taking cannabis for medicinal purposes. And it’s also tongue-in-cheek.”

But its publication hasn’t brought the New Jersey-based writer much wellness himself. He’s lost consulting clients on the east coast and his father literally disowned him before he died. While his dad had his own reasons for shunning his son, Bobrow’s big-liquor friends presumably stopped associating with him because conventional wisdom says that pot cuts into sales of beer and spirits. Bobrow’s actually made this argument himself, as has Cowan and Company, which made news by entering the marijuana investment space and analyzing a Nielsen report that showed beer sales dropping in three states where the drug has become legal.

 But the jury is still very much out. Bart Watson of the Brewers Association craft beer lobbying group argues that he sees no causal effect on beer sales in the short term, and Jason Notte of Market Watch reminds readers that overall beer sales have been falling on their own, with no push from pot.

Regardless of whether legal consumption will harm or help alcoholic beverages in the long term, one aspect does need to be addressed: the effects of mixing alcohol and pot.

“This is a legitimate concern,” says Swartz. “People must be careful to pace themselves when consuming alcohol and cannabis simultaneously. But after more people learn how, I believe mixing cannabis and alcohol will become even more socially acceptable.”

Right now, it’s not necessarily publicly acceptable, even in states where it’s legal. Californians need a card to purchase weed, and a sales guy at an extraordinarily professional dispensary in Bend, Oregon, told me to furtively smoke my legally purchased $9 joint on a dark residential sidewalk instead of lighting up at the bar where my friends were enjoying craft beers, cocktails and cigars. Did I order any fewer drinks than I might have? Yes. But not because I was stoned. Rather, it’s because I had to leave the bar for 20 minutes at a time to light up in secret. Had I been able to ingest my intoxicant as an alcoholic digestible I could have sat there far longer … and I probably would have ordered even more.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/taranurin/2017/04/19/this-420-catch-a-buzz-with-a-cannabis-cocktail/#35be3e4cd35e

2017 Spirited Awards!

OUT OF THIS WORLD: THE 11TH ANNUAL SPIRITED AWARDS

In 2017, we’re taking Tales of the Cocktail beyond the stratosphere at the 11th Annual Spirited Awards. The show might be here on Earth at the Sheraton New Orleans, but the celestial inspired cocktails served will be otherworldly as we hand out awards for the best bars, bartenders, distillers, ambassadors and writers from around the world (and beyond?)

The Spirited Awards Ceremony Saturday, April 22nd The Sheraton New Orleans

If you’re feeling especially festive come in your favorite outer space or futuristic-themed attire as we celebrate the out-of-this-world talent of our industry.


NOMINATE A SPIRITED AWARD WINNER


NOMINATIONS ARE OPEN APRIL 1-30, 2017

REVIEW THE SPIRITED AWARDS CATEGORIES AND CRITERIA

Tickets on Sale this Summer

Well look!

Muddle, mix, shake, stir, pour–whatever the method, you’ll learn how to create the perfect cocktail.

Whether you’re new to mixing drinks or have been creating your own cocktails for years, The Craft Cocktail Compendium © has everything you need to know to mix, shake, or stir your way to a delicious drink. With over 200 craft cocktail recipes, expert mixologist Warren Bobrow will help you broaden your skills and excite your taste buds with unique takes on timeless favorites and recipes you’ve likely never tried before.

AVAILABLE MAY 1, 2017!

To Purchase from Quarto Books

To Purchase from Amazon