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

One Strong Drink With ‘Cannabis Cocktails’ Author Warren Bobrow!

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2016/06/20/one-strong-drink-with-cannabis-cocktails-author-warren-bobrow/?platform=hootsuite

SECRET INGREDIENT

One Strong Drink With ‘Cannabis Cocktails’ Author Warren Bobrow

TheMezzroleCocktail
The Mezzrole, a Manhattan-style cocktail made with cannabis-infused vermouth, is one of 75 recipes contained in Warren Bobrow’s new book Cannabis Cocktails. (Photo: Glenn Scott Photography)

“What’s in the bottle is not what’s on the label,” says Warren Bobrow, handing me a small apothecary jar of amber-colored fluid. Inside is a top-shelf rum, he says, infused with high-grade marijuana — specifically, a strong indica-dominant hybrid known as Granddaddy Purple. Yet, despite containing such a notoriously aromatic additive, the liquor does not reek of dank weed. There is, however, a noticeable difference in taste: a pleasantly herbal, almost minty, flavor on the tongue.“Isn’t that delicious?” he says.

Bobrow, 55, is the author of several cocktail books, including the highly regarded Apothecary Cocktails. His latest is titled Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations. It’s the first of its kind — a collection of 75 recipes devoted exclusively to marijuanaspiked drinks. And to hear him tell it, the effort brings together two disparate cultural groups.

9781592337347_Cover_PrintSmall-p1aln6408a1gpomdcenjqg11g4s“You have the drinking people who look down on pot, and you have the pot people that look down on drinking,” says Bobrow. “What I wanted to do was get them both to play nicely in the sandbox, and they actually do. And the real fun of it is, not any one thing becomes overpowering. I’m all about balance in my cocktails. They have depth of flavor, they have character.”

We’re sitting outside in the courtyard at Roberta’s, the wildly popular restaurant in the artsy Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick. Bobrow has just finished up an on-air appearance for Heritage Radio inside the restaurant’s tiny in-house studio. But the setting is more than merely convenient, it’s apropos. Roberta’s famously hosted a “three-course, two-cocktail weed-heavy tasting menu” chronicled by GQ in 2012. “I really should fire one up just out of basic pretense,” says Bobrow. But we refrain, at least until leaving the premises.

Though America is becoming more tolerant toward marijuana use, with laws in many places changing to reflect that, the issue is much trickier with regards to licensed establishments like bars and restaurants. Bobrow notes that the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau considers it illegal to infuse alcohol with cannabis, which makes the subject a nonstarter in a commercial setting like this.

WarrenBobrow
Author Warren Bobrow

“You should not do this in any bar,” says Bobrow. “If you do it in a bar, you’re taking a great risk to the liquor license that belongs to someone else. Do it at home. Hang out with people who have cancer, who need medicine. Make them a cannabis cocktail and see the healing that it offers and the pleasure that it offers to someone who’s really sick. That’s why I wrote the book — not for the college student who wants to get his fraternity as blasted as they possibly can on spiced rum punch mixed with cannabis tincture. I know they’re going to do it. This book tells everything. But that’s not the intent.”

Any halfwit can dump a bag of dope into a bottle of hooch and create a very potent potable if he waits long enough. Bobrow’s handsome how-to manual instructs you on ways to treat cannabis like a true cocktail craftsman regards any other valuable ingredient. “I love getting stoned, like anyone else, but I don’t want to drink something that looks and tastes like mold,” he says.

The book suggests ways to infuse cannabis into everything from absinthe and condensed milk to maple syrup and cocktail cherries. It even offers tasting profiles of several popular marijuana strains and recommendations on which strains pair best with which spirits.

Like many culinary-cannabis enthusiasts, Bobrow is a stickler for decarboxylation, a technique to essentially pre-cook the cannabis in order to properly activate its psychoactive and otherwise therapeutic chemicals. The book details two methods to this end: the very fragrant approach of using a basic oven and a less odorous sous-vide option of boiling the stuff in a bag. One trick not mentioned in the book: Bobrow says you can even use a microwave. All you need is a microwave-safe container and an oven bag.

The book also explains how to use lecithin powder, a common supplement found at most health-food stores, for an additional boost in any cannabis-enhanced concoction. “Lecithin is an emulsifier,” Bobrow explains. “It’s also brain food. It’s what your brain is built on.” One tablespoon of lecithin per cup in an infusion “supercharges” the cannabis, according to Bobrow. “It goes from 0 to 60 to 0 to 1,000,” he says.

That said, responsible use is a big emphasis of the book, which repeatedly warns against over consumption and driving under the influence, as well as avoiding the infamously disabling stoner condition known as “couch-lock.”

“I want to see this as a source of healing for everyone,” says Bobrow. “I don’t want to see it just for people who are really, really sick. I want to see everyone find relaxation and comfort in it, and to know that they don’t have to drink 10 drinks to have a good time. They can have one cannabis cocktail and be totally satisfied.”

Tips for Substituting Ingredients Behind the Bar

https://talesofthecocktail.com/techniques/tips-substituting-ingredients-behind-bar

Bottles on a shelf.

Photo via iStock/Lisa-Blue.

When you reach for a bottle to find that it’s empty, it’s important to be ready to improvise.

Whether it’s fruit that’s out of season, that bottle of super rare aperitif that you’re dying to mix up, or you’ve simply run out of one of your bar staples in the middle of a rush, it’s important to have effective substitutions ready to take center stage.

Below you’ll find some handy suggestions on substitutions that could easily bail you out the next time you’re in a pinch.

1. Substitute fresh juices

Warren Bobrow, author of “Apothecary Cocktails, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktails,” and “Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, and Tonics” relies on Fruitations Craft Soda and Cocktail Mixers when you need a quick — but still flavorful — stand in for fresh fruit juices.

Fruitations is currently available in three varieties — cranberry, grapefruit, and tangerine.

“It’s brilliant stuff,” Bobrow said.

2. Make your own liqueurs

Sometimes it’s harder than it should be to get your hands on a specific liqueur. Sometimes, it’s just cheaper to make them yourself.

Mike McSorley, Head Distiller and Brand Ambassador at Island Distillers, has a handful of quick fixes when behind the bar.

Cointreau substitute

  • 750 ml 100 proof vodka
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Steep for 24 hours
  • 187 ml rich simple syrup

St. Germain substitute

  • D’arbo elderflower syrup
  • 100 proof vodka
  • Small pinch citric acid

3. When you need to MacGyver it

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of being put in a tough spot in the middle of a rushed service.

Izzy Ramos Foster, owner of Mixotica Cocktail Design, has had to make a handful of fast decisions in her time.

“For a Sidecar, using Tuaca and/or Licor 43 as a substitute when your orange liqueur unexpectedly runs out has worked every time,” Foster said. “Sometimes it works in a Margarita, depending the tequila. I’ve never had a complaint!”

Other off-the-cuff substitutions have been a bit more unique.

“I’ve also had to resort to using crushed Altoid breath mint powder (diluted in a bit water and strained) a couple of times when a sudden Mojito craze hit, fresh mint ran very low, but the cocktails needed to go out stat,” she said. “It’s not my proudest ‘professional bartending’ moments but it worked and the party went on!

4. All in the family

When it comes to replacing ingredients, remember that like replaces like.

For example, if you’re short on Cynar, you could easily swap out with a similar potable bitters like Campari (although it’s much fruitier than Cynar), Fernet Branca or Punt è Mes — a dark, bitter Italian vermouth produced by Carpano.

Consider the balance of your drink and its key features, and you can even create some unique cocktails by switching out key ingredients. For example, if you’re short on vodka when dying for a Moscow Mule but happen to have a silver rum in the house, replacing the vodka with rum leads to the heavier, richer Jamaican Mule.

5. Knowledge is your best substitute

Finally, have a working knowledge of how flavors relate to each other — and an even better understanding of what you actually have access to behind your own individual bar.

“Knowledge is key here,” said Matthew Biancaniello, owner of Eat Your Drink, LLC.

Specifically, while behind the bar one night Biancaniello noticed he had suddenly run out of fresh lime juice. What he did have, however, was fresh passion fruit juice.

“Instead of 2 ounces of lime juice, I did 3/4 ounce of passion fruit juice,” he said. “The passion fruit became the citrus in place of the lime juice. By reducing the amount I was able to keep the citrus there without making it painfully obvious that I wasn’t using the usual ingredient.”

The key to quick substitutions behind the bar is a deep knowledge and appreciation of similar flavors, a willingness to play around with different ingredients, and the ability to think on your feet.

Substitution quick tips:

Substitute liquors and liqueurs from the same family. In a pinch, rye can stand in for bourbon.

Take the time to play around with different flavors before you really need to punt. Having a knowledge of parallel flavors will keep your flavors relatively consistent.

Don’t be afraid to play around with different flavor combinations to create something new (so long as your patron knows that you’re being creative).

cocktail recipe: At last a paltry decree…

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cocktail Recipe: At Last A Paltry Decree

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail WhispererIt’s remarkable how fine spirits respond to freshly squeezed juices.  But imagine for a second that you don’t have a great source for perfectly ripened fruits.  I know that in New York City, we always can get something fresh and lush, even in the corner Bodega.  But just outside the city things are much more dicey on the freshly squeezed juice front.Fortunately I’m well versed with the gorgeous product named Fruitations.  While I was down in New Orleans during the recent Tales of the Cocktail, I was pleasantly surprised to see many bottles of Fruitations.  But that’s not why I love Fruitations, although it was great to see the product get international recognition.  What I like about this product is the unmistakable taste of freshly crushed fruit.

That means something to me. Read on!

While I was down in New Orleans, feeling the sweat pour down my back because I walked nearly everywhere in the 100 per cent humidity days, I had the honor to sit down with Jason Kosmas of the 86 Company.  I’m sure I looked like something that just came up out of the swamp for the first time, because I asked for a bar rag instead of a napkin to dry my brow.  They say in the South, that you don’t sweat- you glow.  Well my friends, I was not only sweating, every drop of my fiber was pooling around me and soaking my clothes.  It wasn’t as hot as past years, but the humidity more than made up for the lack of burning summer’s heat.

Jason re-introduced me to his line of highly expressive spirits.  He made note of the new label design, how it comes off easily and the reason for all those hatch marks in the bottle.   I always knew that the bottle with a long neck fits into my hand easily and won’t slip out.  This is important to anyone who is limited on time in a high volume cocktail bar.  The shape of the bottle is important too, easy to fit into a speed rack, with a narrow, rounded surface.  Very impressive are the measurements on the side of the bottle as well.  This allows the bartender to batch with relative ease.  But the most important thing about these products isn’t the pretty label, or the markings on the bottle, what is most important what is inside the bottle.

Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez  carefully  makes Caña Brava rum in Panama.  This Cuban-styled  rum is a rarity in the United States where most of the high volume products barely taste like rum at all.  Not to point fingers at any one producer, I’m less than impressed by rum that tastes like vodka, if I wanted to drink vodka, I would…  This is gorgeous rum that tastes like the rum I bought in Duty-Free in Rome last September.  Francisco made Cuban rum for 35 years and now he is making it for the 86 Company as he did in the old country with an antique copper and brass column still during the days of America’s Prohibition.  His rum is filtered, crystal clear in color and rambunctious in the mouthfeel.  Woven into cocktails, Caña Brava will most certainly fool you with its authenticity towards the very rare rum from Cuba… And as anyone who has traveled abroad knows, bringing back a few sample bottles is not frowned upon, yet one cannot just buy a bottle at their local package goods store.

It’s illegal to trade with Cuba!   Thankfully we have Caña Brava to take our minds off of Cuban Rum…

Send for a bottle from DrinkupNY, do it now!

Tenneyson Absinthe, just a drop really- added to the Caña Brava and the Fruitations Tangerine Soda and Cocktail syrup makes a fine cocktail even more alluring.  When I saw Graham Wasilition, the enthusiastic owner of Tenneyson down at Tales, I wanted to tell him about this cocktail- but time didn’t allow it.  Tenneyson is unique to the Absinthe market.  It comes clear, without dyes or other artificial ingredients, but when you add it to a cocktail or just dribble some cool water over the top, magic happens in your glass.  It makes me thirsty just to think about it!

As most of my cocktails contain bitters, the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters is a fine way of finishing this lush cocktail.

Cheers!

WB

At Last A Paltry Decree

Ingredients:
2 oz. Caña Brava Rum from the 86 Co.
.25 Tenneyson Absinthe
.50 Fruitations Tangerine Soda and Cocktail Syrup
2 oz. Polar Sparkling Water
2-4 dashes of Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

Preparation:
To a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with bar ice:
Add the Caña Brava Rum
Add the Tenneyson Absinthe
Add the Fruitations Tangerine

Cap and shake hard for 10 seconds or so

Add ice to an Old Fashioned glass
Strain into the glass
Dot with the Lemon Bitters
Serve!

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!

Hubbery Devrey Cardigan Cocktail

 My first book, Apothecary Cocktails has been nominated for a Spirited Award for the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail!

 

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail WhispererAtxa Vermouth Tinto, Eden Orleans and Gabriel Boudier Saffron Infused Gin make for a Negroni of otherworldly flavors and textures.But first of all, what is a Negroni?  Well, the historic reference for drinking them dates back to the mid-1970’s.  I was on yet another trip to Italy, along with my parents.  It was an upbringing that you cannot read in a book, nor watch on television.  Movies only offer snippets of recreated European travel, so the only way to really understand Europe is to go there and whatever you do, don’t take a tour-bus.  You might as well eat all your meals at Americanized fast food restaurants because to experience Europe you must eat and drink like a European.  Just my opinion.My parents never begrudged me the occasional beer or glass of wine either with our meals.  I think they thought that I’d be less likely to abuse alcohol if it was around all the time.  Of all the things I disagree with, in regard to their style of child rearing, this was the only one that made perfect sense.To this day I look at Day Drinking as the only time I really enjoy a cocktail.  I suppose it dates back to being in Europe as a boy and drinking every day!The Negroni was not necessarily something that I would order in a restaurant, but I do remember vividly the first time I saw one.  We were in Rome, staying at the Hotel Hassler at the top of the Spanish Steps.  Lining the steps were cafés, really no more than a couple of stand up tables with stand up guys and their girls sipping vivid red short cocktails.  After a couple of these potent drinks everyone becomes like actors in a Black and White Fellini movie.  That is what Rome represents to me, even to this day.  If you close your eyes when visiting Rome and open them on the Spanish Steps – well, you’ll see what I mean.  The light hasn’t changed although seeing the world in color is much different than in Black and White in the Fellini films.

Back to the Negroni. Count Negroni as legend has it was rather fond of the cocktail known as the Americano (Campari and Vermouth with soda water). Being a nobleman with either a stomach ache or a drinking problem – or both…, he asked his bartender to change the cocktail and remove the fizzy water in favor of a large dose of gin.

As it turns out to fans of the classics, and with history being my guide, this drink of Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Gin- to present day is still named the Negroni.

I’m certainly not calling my drink a Negroni, but what I will call it is the Hubbery Devrey Cardigan, named after a character in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  It’s a silly name for a very grown-up sense of humor, dispensed sip-by-sip.

In this case on ordering a Negroni, while walking up (or down) the Spanish Steps, your typical combination of Campari, Sweet Vermouth (often of a dubious origin) and gin (is that gin or rockgut?) is poured down the throats of thirsty tourists in bars that line the broad Spanish Steps in Rome.

May I propose something completely different in this case.  Being someone who is not a Nobleman, well this does create certain difficulties when working with venerable cocktails such as the Negroni.  Please hear me out on this; I think the finish is brilliant and very, very fresh.  And modern.  And fascicle.  Because life is meant to be all things, bitter, sweet and strange.

I’ve been drinking Spanish Vermouth as of late.  These are brilliant efforts are made with some of the most expressive base wines available from Spain- and only in miniscule quantities.  Spanish Vermouth is certainly a gourmet’s pleasure.

Atxa Vermouth Tinto is from the Basque Region of Spain.  It is a lovely sipping Vermouth, bursting with flavors of citrus and tobacco.  I love it in a Negroni, especially one of a different stripe like the Hubbery Devrey Cardigan Negroni.

Next in this philosophically incorrect version of the classic Negroni I’ve included Orleans Bitter Aperitif Cider infused with red currant and bitters, I know already that your ears have perked up and the word bitter may connote something else entirely.  Whatever your idea is about Campari, may I please suggest substituting the Orleans Bitter with red currant and bitter herbs instead? Thank you.

And now in a tip of the hat to the alchemists who discovered that saffron really is worth muchGabriel Boudier Saffron Infused Gin as the gin component to this cocktail.  Who can resist something as elegant as gin in a cocktail that is woven it seems from the finest grains and the best saffron that money can pluck from impossibly tiny flowers. Did you say add saffron to a Negroni?  I think so, rabbit.
more than gold I’m including

The gin element is unmistakable.  You cannot imagine what this drink was like without the deeply mysterious aromatics of exotic saffron coursing through each sip.  The combination of the Orleans Bitter and the Spanish Vermouth along with the saffron infused gin is otherworldly.

I finish this drink with a splash of Bitter Truth Grapefruit bitters.  My thoughts are simple.  Where there is gin, somewhere there should be juice.  Or bitters, or something.  I forget.  I’ll have another please.

Just make a few and let me know how you enjoy it.
Cheers!

Hubbery Devrey Cardigan
Ingredients:
2 oz. Gabriel Boudier Saffron Infused Gin
1.5 oz. Orleans Aperitif Cider infused with red currant and bitters
1.0 oz. Atxa Vermouth Tinto
2-3 dashes Bitter Truth Grapefruit bitters
Lemon twist

Preparation:
To a cocktail mixing glass, fill ¾ with bar ice
Add the gin, then the cider, followed by the vermouth
Stir 30 times with a long cocktail spoon
Strain with a Hawthorne Strainer into two coupe glasses
Garnish with lemon twists and dot the top with the grapefruit bitters to finish

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

 

 

A Limerick for Laurel

Cocktail hour with Warren Bobrow – A Limerick for Laurel cocktail

There was a fine gal named Laurel.

Who never put up with any Quarrel

She married fair Bill

Whose true voice that she willed

So there would never be bitters to spoil!

 

The clouds are rushing in this morning. Rain is pouring heavily from the sky in buckets. Someone said something about heavy thunderstorms and sixty- degree weather. This is not winter- I’m confused. Certain types of confusion- such as the weather do strange things to my sense of normal. But what is normal these days? Is it finally Winter?

I hope so. This may be just an anomaly.

It’s a mere blip on the radar screen.

While down in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail- I had the pleasure of meeting and enjoying a cocktail at the historic carousel bar at the Monteleone Hotel with my friend Bill York of Bitter End Bitters and his lovely wife Laurel. As the carousel made the slow go-round and all those around me became more and more sloshed, (present company excluded) my cocktail driven sense of self detached from the reality of the situation. Now, many months later, I’m reminded of the restoratives served at the Carousel Bar and the friends I made while circling the room as the seconds ticked away.

Cheers!

A Limerick for Laurel Cocktail

( A VERY twisted takeoff on the classic cocktail named Bees Knees)

Makes one very dangerous drink. Stay off the roads!

  1. 2 Shots of a very smoky Bourbon Whiskey like Devil’s Cut from Jim Beam
  2. 1 Shot fresh lemon juice
  3. 1 Shot freshly squeezed orange juice
  4. 2 tablespoons Lavender/Lemon Simple Syrup from Royal Rose
  5. 2 tablespoons of wildflower honey
  6. Bitters (your choice) I prefer the Thai Bitters from Bitter End

 

Preparation: To a cocktail shaker- add ½ with ice. Add Scotch, honey, juices and bitters, shake and pour into a short glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a grilled orange slice and sip to the mournful sound of that strange, yet familiar song from Chet Baker- My Funny Valentine- all sung in minor notes. Very appropriate for a 60 plus degree winter day.

 

 Cheers! Wb the Cocktailwhisperer.com

Work done for OKRA, the online magazine of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

 

WARREN BOBROW grew up on a biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a reluctant cocktail/wine writer who just completed an entry for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America Ed., 2 on the topic of biodynamic and organic wine/spirits/food. He’s also a former trained chef/saucier.

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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.

Some recent writing for Williams-Sonoma with thanks for the re-print.

All This Rum! A New Tiki Bar Cocktail

Ever since I sat as a Rum Judge at the 2010 Ministry of Rum tasting competition in San Francisco, the whole direction of my spirits-writing career has changed. I used to only write about wine.

Then a flash went off: wine is so serious; why not write about something fun, like spirits?

I’ve always loved rum. Rum appeals to me.

Rum is a spirit woven from history. Flavors exist within rums that don’t reveal themselves in other lighter-colored liquors. I’m a fan of rums aged in used wooden casks that formerly held bourbon or cognac. The caramelized notes of smoke, butter and bittersweet chocolate reveal themselves beautifully with the white flower aromas of freshly crushed cane sugar.

What is good rum, and how does it differ from all other rums? I’m not entirely sure. But when you’re out on a yacht, somewhere between Bermuda and the Virgin Islands, nothing tastes so delicious with some coconut water ice.

 

Over the past few years, Tiki Bar cocktail lounges have revealed themselves as funky representations of times gone past. Tiki gives credence to the easier times in America.

 

Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco faithfully reproduces a dream Tiki bar located down off a decaying pier, jutting out into a world of rotting boats and handcrafted cocktails. If a stage set of liquid pleasures could be created, Smuggler’s Cove fits the West Coast genre to a T. Over on the East Coast, on the Island of Manhattan — described as the Greatest Island in the World – PKNY – formerly named Painkiller(the name is another story for another day) has a knack for Tiki as well.

 

Here’s a Tiki Bar cocktail you’ve never had before.

 

The Yachtsman’s Demise


3 oz. Kōloa Rum from Hawaii (use their Spiced Rum for this cocktail)

1 oz. fresh mango juice

1/2 tsp. freshly chopped coconut meat

1/2 tsp. freshly scraped ginger

3 drops Bitter End Thai Bitters

6 ice cubes made with coconut water and freshly grated nutmeg (just a bit, it’s strong stuff!)

1/2 oz. Lemon Hart 151 Rum

Q-Ginger Ale to finish

 

Fill a cocktail shaker with fresh ice (reserve your coconut water ice for the glass). Add the Kōloa Rum to the shaker, then the fresh mango juice, coconut meat and ginger. Add the Bitter End Thai Bitters.

 

Shake and strain into a tall Tiki (ceramic) mug filled with your coconut water and grated nutmeg ice cubes. Float the Lemon Hart 151 Rum over the top, and finish with Q-Ginger Ale. Makes 1 cocktail.