Fee-Brothers-Cardamom-BittersFee Brothers, located in Rochester, NY just celebrated their 150th anniversary this year.  Makers of cocktails bitters for bartenders around the world, they recently debuted a cardamom version which seeks to emulate an even older style.  Bokers has been a defunct brand for over 100 years, although in the 1800’s they were as popular as Angostura in some parts of the world.  A home recipe for these was published in 1883 in an obscure how-to book.

BOKER’S BITTERS (from page 29 of Workshop Receipts Volume 2 by Ernest Spon, 1883)
1 ½ oz quassia
1 ½ oz calamus
1 ½ oz catechu (powdered)
1 oz cardamom
2 oz dried orange peel

Macerate for 10 days in 1 gallon strong whiskey, and then filter and add 2 gal. water. Color with malva flowers.

Fee Brothers are not the only company making a Boker’s style in the 21st century, but they are the only ones creating a non-alcoholic version.

Fee Brothers Cardamon Bitters: The nose is initially somewhat fruity, like bitter orange.  The taste is well balanced and broad with very low dark notes and higher more bitter ones working in tandem.  Overall these are sweeter than other Boker’s style bitters I’ve tried.  Very nice.  GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Fee Brothers

Solbeso BottleMuch like coffee, it is the cacao bean and not the fruit that is in demand.  But, what happens to the fruit surrounding the seed?  Sadly, most of it is thrown away and wasted.  As with apples and bananas, the fruit browns quickly after being exposed to oxygen.  The creator of Solbeso, Tom Higbee decided to trying his hand at distilling this fruit.  Working with Peruvian Pisco producers, over four years he developed a product that is entirely unique in the world of spirits.

Solbeso (“sun-kissed”), is crafted from cacao fruit harvested on family farms in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and northern Peru.  And again, like coffee, there are varietals.  Solbeso chooses twelve different species of cacao fruit and blends them according to flavor and aromatics.  And as with ice wine, there is just a short window of opportunity to make the final product before the fruit is rendered useless.  It is an intense process that must utilize the fruit within 6-8 hours.

The yeast used for fermentation is proprietary using a blend of both local and Champagne cultures.  It is during the fermentation process that it is exposed again to the open air, where it is sun-kissed.  It is then distilled in both copper alembic and column stills to achieve the final product, before it is brought down to proof with water in the United States and bottled for shipping.

Solbeso Cacao Spirit (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Slightly musky and fruity, with a nose leaning towards mango.
Taste: I’m immediately reminded of unaged whiskey with a fruity rather than sweet corn based edge.  There’s a bit of heat that fools the tongue into thinking this is a higher proof spirit.  The flavor is pleasant but seems one dimensional.  I’m curious to know how this would fare if it was aged in a tropical wood, as some cachacas are.
Finish: Fairly short with both an interesting salty and fruity character.
Overall: This tastes best ice-cold as a shot, or as a base in a fruit based cocktail.  This is also killer in a Bloody Mary, although you have to call it a Bloody Mariya.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Solbeso

The House of Angostura Amaro di AngosturaI had the opportunity to be one of the first people to ever taste the Angostura company’s latest product while at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this past July.  The company held a special media luncheon on the top floor of the Hotel Monteleone, hosted by Angostura’s global brand ambassador, Daniyel Jones.  The interesting thing was that none of the guests knew what the product was going to be.  So, it was a complete surprise that they decided to go with an amaro.  A wise choice, as Angostura’s version is noticeably different from traditional Italian or French styles, as well as having a noticable tropical character.  Luckily, I was able to take a small sample home with me, and so I present my tasting notes below.

Amaro di Angostura (70 proof)
Visual: Dark brown.
Nose: Allspice, sweet molasses, with an overlayer of rich and dark mouth-watering notes.
Taste: Clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and a much sweeter base than I was expecting.  This makes it perfect for tiki style cocktails and mixability with rums.  I particularly favor the balance between the spice and sweet elements.  In some ways, it reminds me of cinnamon red-hots, and in other of Christmas baking spices.  Truly unique.
Finish: The dry almost electric tingle of the allspice lingers for quite some time, leaving a dry and slightly bitter edge.
Overall: As I remarked when I first tasted it in New Orleans, it is love-child of sweet vermouth and pimento dram.  On its own, it is fantastic as a liqueur, but will also add pizzazz to cocktails needing some high and bitter notes that won’t go overboard.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Angostura

indexFrederick Wildman & Sons’ specialty spirits division is expanding its presence in blended Scotch with two new products slated for release by October. One is The Feathery, a blended malt aged entirely in sherry casks and priced for retail at $58 a 750-ml bottle. The other is Sheep Dip Islay Blended Malt, a blend of casks obtained from all eight distilleries in Islay and featuring the island’s distinctive peat flavors. It will retail at $56. Wildman also hopes to release an Edinburgh branded gin in an elderflower flavor by year-end. Produced by its U.K. partner Spencerfield Spirit Co., the gin will be at approximately 30% abv and will retail at around $35.

indexSan Luis Spirits, based in the Texas town of Dripping Springs, is set to launch its first artisanal gin. Rolling out next month, Dripping Springs gin is billed as a “reinvention” of the traditional London dry style, featuring floral, spice and citrus notes. The 42.5%-abv entry, which is distilled in small 40-gallon batches, will be available at retail and the distillery. The new gin joins San Luis Spirits’ existing stable of craft brands, which include the Dripping Springs, Dripping Springs Texas Orange and 1876 vodkas.

indexThe Edrington Group has revealed that a new Highland Park single malt Scotch expression, Dark Origins, will roll out in September, retailing at $80 a bottle. Dark Origins, at 46.8% abv, is a no-age statement, non-chill filtered malt that sees about twice as many first-fill Sherry casks as does Highland Park 12-year-old, resulting in a darker, richer flavor. Also in September, a new Macallan expression called Rare Cask, retailing at $300, will debut in limited distribution.

indexItalian fine wine importer Vias Imports is debuting a new line of artisanal spirits from Sibona Antica Distilleria in the U.S. market. Located in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, family-owned Sibona Antica is working with Vias to bring its line of grappas and liqueurs to the U.S. The initial introduction will include 1-liter offerings of aperitif Amaro Sibona ($29.99, 28%-abv), Chamomile Grappa-Infused Liqueur ($35.99, 32%-abv), Tennessee Wood Aged Grappa Riserva ($69.99, 44%-abv) and Uve di Langa Grappa Brandy ($62.99, 40%-abv). Plans are in place to extend the line in 2015. New York-based Vias Imports has a portfolio with more than 60 products, including Produttori del Barbaresco and Damilano.

indexBacardi USA will extend Grey Goose with the launch of a new Cognac-laced vodka called VX beginning September 1. Meant to be enjoyed chilled on the rocks in a Cognac glass, the 40%-abv VX will roll out to “an exclusive, select group of high-end bars and nightclubs,” Bacardi says. The new label will be produced in limited supply each year, carrying a retail price of $74.99 a 750-ml.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

indexAnother season, another shelves’ worth of books have arrived at the GSN offices.  Here’s a look at what we’ve been reading this summer.

Home Bar Basics and Not-So-Basics 2nd Edition by Dave Stolte (Wexler of California)  If you’re experiencing a sense of deja vu, you’re right.  I reviewed this book when it originally came out back in 2011.  However, this is the expanded and revised 2nd edition.  Is it worth the upgrade? I’ll leave that up to you, but there are some differences worth noting.  The book now has a spine covering the wire ringed binding, the inside cover has units of volume and info on the number of drinks you can safely consume per hour.  The introduction has been re-written to include a treatise on hospitality, and many of the sections have been overhauled and updated.  But, the most interesting aspect comes from several alternate illustrations and the addition of five new “not-so-basic” drinks.  So, yeah, it’s worth the price.  By the way, Dave’s book was a finalist for Best New Cocktail Book at the 6th Annual Spirited Awards in New Orleans this year.  GSN Rating: A-

indexSake Confidential by John Gauntner (Stone Bridge Press)  I really enjoy sipping good sake every so often, but many times I am left baffled by the relative lack of information on the bottle.  So, what should I look for and why?  This book seeks to answer 90% of the questions you may have about sake, and it does so in a very straightforward conversational style.  Each chapter is only a few pages long, but gives a better understanding of what styles are available, what makes a high quality sake versus one you should avoid, and the age-old question of whether to drink it hot or cold (the answer may surprise you).  In just a few minutes of reading this book I learned some valuable information which will help me make better informed decisions when picking up a bottle of sake at the liquor store.  GSN Rating: B+

indexThe Old-Fashioned by Robert Simonson and Daniel Krieger (Ten Speed Press)  Take one part David Wondrich and one part 21st century nouveau cocktail guide, gently stir and you have this entertaining volume.  For many cocktail lovers, the Old-Fashioned is the one drink by which a bartender (and often the bar itself) is judged.  There is a reason why this drink has never been forgotten, but rather has been rediscovered as a keystone in the cocktailian holy trinity of Manhattan, Martini and Old-Fashioned.  The first half of this colorful and artistic ode is dedicated to the story of how this simple drink gained popularity over 150 years and finally became an icon for the “Mad Men” age.  The latter half of the book is filled with original recipes crafted by a who’s who of bartenders who have been riffing on the drink for the last 15 years or so.  Tons of fun and educational to boot!  GSN Rating: A-

indexWhiskey The Manual by Dave Broom (Octopus Books)  If you’re thinking this is yet another book on the history of whiskey production, you’d only be partly right.  Certainly there is the usual dissemination on different styles (Irish, Scotch, Canadian, American, Asian) and the processes of distillation and aging, but that only takes up a small portion of this book.  Instead, well over 100 pages are given to dissecting brands of whiskies based on their character, flavor profile and most interestingly, mixability.  Generally, whiskey drinkers are in three camps: straight or with a bit of water or ice; mixed into a cocktail ala a Manhattan or an Old-Fashioned; and the “Jack and Coke” lover.  Author Broom gives recommendations on drinking each brand with either coconut water, cola, ginger ale, green tea or soda water.  Lastly, there are a few classic whiskey cocktail recipes along with a smattering of the sort that mixologists with a large backbar and access to obscure ingredients will love.  GSN Rating: B

indexRestaurant & Bar Design (Taschen)  As with all Taschen books, this is a lovely coffee-table style tome.  Filled with over 400 pages of full color photographs, this will definitely get your creative juices flowing when thinking about bar design.  Broken into five sections including The Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East, each section focuses on visually engaging and stylistically impressive venues.  None of the locales I’ve ever been to are represented, as the focus is on architectural design rather than the cocktail or food menu.  But, just looking at the empty bar stools makes me thirsty.  In the end, this book makes you realize that drinking is not just about enjoying alcohol and sustenance; but as with a cocktail, garnish and presentation are equally important as the taste.  GSN Rating: B+

indexFood & Wine Cocktails 2014 (Food & Wine)  For their 10th anniversary (has it been ten years already?) the staff at Food & Wine decided to go with a retrospective of 150 previously published cocktails that will always be classics, or should be.  As in all the earlier volumes, there are sections on spirits, barware, bar snacks, and a list of the current best bars in the U.S.  Perhaps the most interesting aspects of this edition, are the sections on bar and cocktail trends that have taken place over the last decade.  It makes you realize how far the cocktail industry has truly come.  I have to take a few points off for repetition, but if you just want a “best of” collection then this anniversary edition is for you.  GSN Rating: B+

indexAlchemy in a Glass: The Essential Guide to Handcrafted Cocktails by Greg Seider (Rizzoli)  A true cocktail guide with lots of lovely photographs of seductive libations, this book is a testament to the tenacity and vision of one of NYC’s great bartenders.  I would say “Mixologist”, but the author would probably take umbrage with that title.  In any case, Greg writes his cocktailian autobiography here through recipes which have permeated his consciousness over the years, and inspired altogether new creations.  His modus operandi is much the same as mine.  Start with a classic recipe, and then use it as the foundation to make something entirely new.  Many of his original recipes call for bespoke syrups, infusions and bitters, but he generously shares all the necessary information on how to recreate them at home.  The book is rounded out with a list of recommended spirits and a bit on mixing technique.  If nothing else, this book is a snapshot of how cocktails can rise above simply being a means of delivering alcohol to a thirsty customer.  GSN Rating: A-

indexMagic in a Shaker: A Year of Spirited Libations by Marvin Allen (Pelican Publishing)  I first met Marvin back in 2010 while my wife and I were visiting New Orleans and checking out the dozens of iconic bars in the French Quarter.  He was working on a slow afternoon behind the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, and took the time to chat us up.  We learned a lot about the history of the bar as well as the locals who frequent it.  On subsequent visits over the years, he’s always been one of the most outgoing and professional bartenders I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  So, it’s no surprise that he decided to compile a book of favored recipes.  The book is broken into chapters devoted to the months of the year and appropriate cocktails to enjoy in each.  Some insight or background is offered for most of the recipes, but there are very few photographs, and those that are included are in black & white. What makes this book especially noteworthy is the sense of history and locale.  Most of the drinks date prior to 1933 and many are local to New Orleans.   The book is very approachable and offers everyone a chance to taste the kind of drinks that Marvin would serve you as you lazily drank your way around the hotel’s rotating circular bar.  GSN Rating: B-

indexThe 12 Bottle Bar: A Dozen Bottles. Hundreds of Cocktails. A New Way to Drink. by David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson (Workman Publishing Company) A logical and persuasive argument that you need only a dozen bottles behind the bar to make enough cocktails to last you a lifetime.  Those twelve bottles may not be what you would expect however.  For instance, of all the styles of whiskey available, only rye is mentioned.  As well, tequila is missing entirely, but genever has a whole chapter.  What gives?  Well, without giving the whole premise away, the basic idea is to slowly build your bar with stock that will allow you to make drinks as they developed over the past few centuries.  Limited to only seven spirits, one liqueur, two vermouths and two styles of bitters, you will indeed have a collection that in many ways will exceed most typical bars around the country.  Lest you think this is all a rehash of other cocktail guides, there are plenty of new cocktails and recipes for ingredients to keep you busy for years.  There is a surprising amount of practical information here, despite the limitation on ingredients.  GSN Rating: A-

indexTiki Pop by Sven A. Kirsten (Taschen)  Whatever your feelings about tiki or “faux tropical” drinks, you have to admit that they carried more weight culturally than many other cocktail trends.  The exotic was everywhere in the late 1940’s through the 1960’s with popular Polynesian restaurants like Trader Vic’s, Don the Beachcomber’s and the Mai Kai and songs by Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny being played on top 40 radio. The very fact that there is an ongoing recognition and revival of tiki culture and beverages in 2014 bears testament to the appeal and longevity of drinks served in grotesque mugs with custom swizzle sticks.  Tiki Pop is Sven Kirsten’s latest testament to the endurance of what was originally a post WWII fad designed to appeal to ex-servicemen who had served in tropical climes.  This gigantic (read: heavy) coffee table book is a love letter to all things tiki.  If you are a fan of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s books, consider this the next logical step in your tropical adventure.  No cocktail recipes, but plenty of vintage photos of bars, mugs, glassware, swizzles and cocktail menus.  GSN Rating: A

IMG_7747This lovely cocktail seems to have first appeared on the scene a few years ago at Tristan Simon’s sadly defunct Alma Restaurant in Dallas, TX.  An homage to the old-fashioned, this Mexican version works really well with an anejo tequila.  The grapefruit twist really shines here, as it adds a bitter citrus edge to the whole affair.  The addition of orange bitters also takes the place of a traditional orange wheel without overwhelming either the glass or the overall flavor profile of the delicate agave nuances.  Salud!

Bravo (Anejo Bravo)
2oz anejo tequila
0.25oz agave nectar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Garnish: grapefruit twist

Stir with ice and strain into chilled old-fashioned glass.  Add grapefruit twist.


lots-of-rumIn honor of National rum day, here are a few of the original rum based cocktails that I’ve created over the years!


Blair Frodelius – editor

Captain Grey
4 oz piping hot organic Earl Grey tea
1.5 oz Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
0.25 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp organic honey

Pre-warm a cognac glass with warm to hot water.  Steep Earl Grey tea for 3-5 minutes in a mug with water just off the boil.  Empty cognac glass, then add tea, rum, lemon juice and honey.  Gently stir and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Cook’s Redemption
2.5 oz El Dorado Special Reserve 15-year-old rum
0.5 oz Bacardi vanilla rum
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz cinnamon syrup
1 dash of Fee’s black walnut bitters
1 dash of Fee’s barrel-aged aromatic bitters

Add all ingredients to a goblet filled with crushed ice.  Stir and add more ice to top off and serve with a straw.  Optional: garnish with grated nutmeg.

2 oz. Appleton Special Jamaica Rum
1 oz. Barenjager Honey liqueur
0.5oz Lustau Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Sherry
0.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 dash Dale Degroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake well and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Flying Monkey
1.5oz Deadhead rum
0.75oz Dekuyper creme de banana liqueur
0.25oz Hiram Walker Original Cinn liqueur
0.25oz Don Q Limon rum
0.25oz Fee brothers vanilla syrup
scant tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fill tiki mug with crushed ice and add all ingredients.  Swizzle and then garnish with baby banana, edible flower and straw.

Kaddū Raj
2 tablespoons of organic pumpkin puree
1.5 oz Malibu rum
0.75 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters

Stir briskly with cracked ice for ten seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a light dusting of mild yellow curry powder.

Peri Banu
2 oz Appleton gold rum
1 oz Absolut vanilla vodka
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz Hiram Walker Original Cinn schnapps
0.5 oz simple syrup
2 dashes of Fee’s old-fashioned bitters

Add all ingredients to a goblet filled with crushed ice.  Stir and add more ice to top off and serve with a straw.  Optional: garnish with an edible flower.

1.5 oz Barenjager
1.5 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1 oz Absolut Peppar
1 tsp St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Add all ingredients to mixing glass with ice and stir until well chilled.  Strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with a mix of grated nutmeg and superfine sugar.

1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
0.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
0.75 oz Goya passionfruit cocktail
1 oz Orangina
0.75 oz Fee Brothers rock candy syrup
0.25 oz Campari
2 oz Montanya platino rum
1.25 oz Montanya oro rum
0.75 oz Cruzan black strap rum
2 dashes Fee Brothers whiskey-barrel aged aromatic bitters

Add all to mixing glass with ice.  Shake powerfully, pray to your favorite tiki god, and pour into a barrel-shaped mug.  Garnish with sparkling long, thin black candle (made to look like a fuse).

Punch the Monkey
1 750ml bottle gosling’s dark rum
8 oz Chartreuse Green
4 oz Benedictine
8 oz pineapple juice
8 oz lime juice
7 oz orgeat
35 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all to punchbowl with block of ice. Ladle individual servings in half of a Milton Bradley “Barrel of Monkeys” container over crushed ice.

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