Scotland’s Laphroaig distillery laphroaig_select_mit_gp_700mlcontinues to expand their smokey scotch whiskey portfolio this summer with a blend of old and new world aging styles.  First rested in European oak casks, the spirit is then transferred to American oak ex-bourbon barrels to give it a slightly sweeter finish.  This makes for a more approachable character for those unused to the intense peaty quality of Islay whiskies.  It also makes it ideal for use in punches and cocktails.

Laphroaig Select (80 proof)
Visual: Golden honey.
Nose: Some stone fruit, honey, medium smoke, and almond.
Taste: Light, sweet and somewhat dessert-like.  An interesting maple candy character works quite well with the smokey and salty essence.  Think of candied smoked almonds or bar nuts.
Finish: Medium long with a lot of the sweet smokey notes not wanting to let you go.
Overall: Goes down easy and still retains the usual Laphroaig character, but adds a new dimension which gives it a lot more flexibility for mixology.  In some ways, I’m reminded of Batavia Arrack.
GSN Rating: A-

You can read my review of Laphroaig’s flagship 10-year-old whiskey here.

For more information go to: Laphroaig

indexMissouri’s St. Louis Distillery has extended its Cardinal Sin vodka brand with the launch of Cardinal Sin Starka. A traditional Eastern European spirit, starka is an aged vodka style native to Poland, Russia and Lithuania. Cardinal Sin Starka is made with two-row malted barley and corn and matured in new Missouri white oak barrels for six months. According to St. Louis Distillery, the new entry, which will be available in early September, marks the first starka available at retail in the U.S. St. Louis Distillery’s flagship Cardinal Sin vodka, launched in 2012, is currently available across Missouri, Illinois and Georgia.

indexMaui’s Hawaii Sea Spirits will add a new rum to its portfolio next month, Deep Island Hawaiian Rum “Wave”, produced at its organic farm and distillery in Kula. The ultra-premium clear organic rum will be available for distribution throughout Hawaii beginning in October, with full release in U.S. mainland markets planned for next year. Made from organic sugar cane and ocean mineral water, Deep Island is sweet with hints of florals and molasses, the company says. Sea Spirits’ core offering is organic Ocean vodka ($32). Last year the company announced plans to expand its craft spirits portfolio with rums, a line of American whiskies and Hawaii-inspired liqueurs.

imagesHeaven Hill Distilleries has introduced Elijah Craig 23-Year-Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon, a new limited edition offering. Rolling out into select markets nationwide this month, the 45%-abv entry, which features a prominent 23-year age statement on its label, is priced at $199.99 a 750-ml. Elijah Craig 23-Year-Old’s launch comes on the heels of 2012 release Elijah Craig 20-Year-Old, which has since sold out, and last year’s debut of Elijah Craig 21-Year-Old. In addition to the brand’s limited edition extra-aged offerings, the Elijah Craig stable includes the Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof labels.

indexLouisville-based Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. has launched its flagship brandy range into four new markets. The craft brewer’s Copper & Kings Immature Brandy ($29.99 a 750-ml.) and Copper & Kings Craft Distilled Brandy ($34.99) will both be available across select Tennessee markets, via a new partnership with Lipman Brothers; Illinois, via Heritage Wine Cellars; Indiana, via Glazers; and Minnesota, via Johnson Brothers. Previously, Copper & King Brandy had only been available in its home market of Kentucky via River City Distributing. Established in April, Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. specializes in non-chill filtered, copper pot-distilled American brandy aged in Bourbon barrels.

indexPremixed shot brand Liqs is moving into new markets after a successful test run in its home state of Florida. The Miami-based Liqs Cocktail Shots, which retail in three-packs of 50-ml. plastic shot glasses for $7.99, entered Texas (via Glazer’s) and Massachusetts (via United Liquors) this month. In Florida, Liqs is distributed by Southern Wine & Spirits. Additionally, Liqs has aligned with its first major chain account, Winn-Dixie. The RTD label currently includes four flavors—Tequila Cinnamon Orange, Vodka Cucumber Lime, Vodka Lychee Grapefruit and Vodka Kamikaze—with two new offerings slated to launch later this year.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily


IMG_7779What we have here is a Perfect Martini (gin and a 50/50 blend of sweet and dry vermouth), with the addition of orange juice.  Created around the turn of the 20th century, here’s what cocktail author Albert Stevens Crockett has to say about its origin:

“We had a cocktail in those days called the Duplex, which had a pretty fair demand. One day, I was making one for a customer when in came Traverson, head waiter of the Empire Room–the main dining room in the original Waldorf. A Duplex was composed of equal parts of French and Italian Vermouth, shaken up with squeezed orange peel, or two dashes of Orange Bitters. Traverson said, ‘Why don’t you get up a new cocktail? I have a customer who says you can’t do it.’

‘Can’t I?’ I replied.

Well, I finished the Duplex I was making, and a thought came to me. I poured into a mixing glass the equivalent of two jiggers of Gordon Gin. Then I filled the jigger with orange juice, so that it made one-third of orange juice and two-thirds of Gin. Then into the mixture I put a dash each of Italian and French Vermouth, shaking the thing up. I didn’t taste it myself, but I poured it into a cocktail glass and handed it to Traverson and said: ‘You are a pretty good judge.’ (He was.) ‘See what you think of that.’ Traverson tasted it. Then he swallowed it whole.

‘By God!’ he said, ‘you’ve really got something new! That will make a big hit. Make me another and I will take it back to that customer in the dining room. Bet you’ll sell a lot of them. Have you got plenty of oranges? If you haven’t, you better stock up, because I’m going to sell a lot of those cocktails during lunch.’

The demand for Bronx cocktails started that day. Pretty soon we were using a whole case of oranges a day. And then several cases.

The name? No, it wasn’t really named directly after the borough or the river so-called. I had been at the Bronx Zoo a day or two before, and I saw,of course, a lot of beasts I had never known. Customers used to tell me of the strange animals they saw after a lot of mixed drinks. So when Traverson said to me, as he started to take the drink in to the customer, ‘What’ll I tell him is the name of this drink?’ I thought of those animals, and said: ‘Oh, you can tell him it is a “Bronx”.'”

The key here is to use fresh squeezed juice (not from a carton or can) and keep the gin/juice ratio equal.  Too much orange and it quickly loses character and becomes too sweet.  As it is, this is an easily quaffable beverage perfect for the beginning of an evening’s festivities.

Bronx Cocktail
1oz gin
0.5oz dry vermouth
0.5oz sweet vermouth
1oz orange juice
Garnish: orange wheel

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Add orange wheel.

fruitattionsreviewI met Allison Goldberg, the creator of Fruitations, while I was in New Orleans this past July for the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival.  Even after only a few minutes of chatting with her over the thumping music playing at Harrah’s Casino, I could tell she was whole-hearted about her enterprise.  Her vision started in her home kitchen while making syrups for soda.  Why not try them with spirits?  She did and discovered that the all-natural, three ingredient fruit syrups she was making worked beautifully in cocktails.

Each is crafted using only whole fruit, water and cane sugar.

Cranberry: Nice and tart with a natural cranberry flavor.  Reminds me of Thanksgiving.  The sugar is held back to allow the cranberry to really shine here.  Definitely a nice change from the usual cranberry cocktail which always is much too sweet and diluted.  Try this in a Cape Codder, or mix  an ounce with an ounce of water and add three ounces of 80 proof bourbon on the rocks.  GSN Rating: A

Grapefruit: Grapefruit is one of those flavors that gets short shrift in the cocktail world, and especially red grapefruit.  Yet, it definitely has its place in mixology.  I like it in tiki drinks and with vodka, tequila and light rums.  Here, the flavor of the red grapefruit is very good, but the cane sugar seems a little heavy.  I would have liked a more bitter edge with a bit more fruit flavor.  Try this in a Paloma or a Greyhound. GSN Rating: B

Tangerine: Why not try tangerine instead of orange when making a cocktail?  There is a brighter and more vibrant flavor in tangerines which boosts the citrus edge.  Fruitations tangerine has a great flavor which has quite a long finish.  Again, there seems to be a bit more sugar here than I was expecting, but the fruit holds it own.  There’s even a slightly tart tang which is a welcome change from the usual orange juice based mixer.  Try this in a Mimosa or Harvey Wallbanger for a brighter and more intriguing experience. GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Just Add Fruitations

whiskey_sourOne of the venerable cocktails from Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862) that seems to have been largely ignored in the cocktail renaissance.  Here’s the original recipe.

Whiskey Sour
(Use small bar-glass.)
Take 1 large tea-spoonful of powdered white sugar,
dissolved in a little Seltzer or Apollinaris water.
The juice of half a small lemon.
1 wine-glass of Bourbon or rye whiskey.

Fill the glass full of shaved ice, shake up and strain into a claret glass. Ornament with berries.

It does seem a bit intimidating when written this way.  Instead try either of these versions.  The first more simple, yet authentic take courtesy of David Wondrich; and the second a 21st century creation via Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

Whiskey Sour
2 ounces bourbon
2/3 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar

Shake the bourbon, juice, and sugar well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass (unless you happen to have a Sour glass). Resist, if you can, the impulse to decorate lavishly with fruit, although a maraschino cherry will raise no eyebrows.

Whiskey Sour with Marmalade
2 oz. 100-proof bourbon
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
1 tsp. orange marmalade
1 egg white
3 drops Angostura bitters

Combine bourbon, juice, syrup, marmalade, and egg white in a shaker filled with ice; shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Add bitters, and using a toothpick, swirl into whites.

IMG_7772The Bridal cocktail hails from the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book written by Albert Stevens Crockett.  He also penned Old Waldorf Bar Days after the original hotel was demolished just months before the Great Depression began in 1929. Crockett’s two volumes are similar to the Gentlemen’s Companion set authored by Charles H. Baker Jr. at roughly the same time; in that they are full of stories about what drinking culture was like a hundred years ago.  There are recipes to be sure, but as usual, it is the stories of how drinks came to be, and those who frequented the bar that fascinate.

The Bridal is a slight tweak on the venerable Martinez, but one that works quite well.

2oz gin
1oz sweet vermouth
0.25oz maraschino liqueur
1 dash orange bitters
Garnish: maraschino cherry

Stir with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Add cherry.


Bittermilk-Case-StudyI happened to be passing through Charleston, last month.  If I hadn’t been stuck at the airport between flights, I would have definitely tracked down Joe & MariElena Raya of Bittermilk.  They are a couple pursuing their dreams, and it shows.

Joe got his start at the CIA, no not the government organization, the Culinary Institute of America.  He also earned a Wine and Spirits diploma from the WSET.  His training served him well at a variety of traditional eating establishments, until four years ago he and his wife opened a speakeasy named The Gin Joint on East Bay St. in Charleston.  The elegantly themed bar has been successful enough to garner mentions in Imbibe and Garden & Gun magazines.

Their latest endeavor focuses on an ever-growing series of cocktail mixers that have a definite Southern attitude.  GSN received the first four of them for review.  The fifth and newest one is a charred grapefruit tonic with sea salt.

No. 1 Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Fashioned: This immediately reminded me of a Christmas cookie.  Quite sweet, spicy and laden with a carmelized flavor.  The bittering agents (Gentian root, Cinchona bark) are not overwhelming, but keep things from being overly sugary.  Even though orange oleo saccharum is listed as an ingredient, it’s certainly buried deeply.  This will work well with bourbon or rye in an Old-Fashioned, but you will have to cut back on the recommended ratio of syrup to whiskey in order to keep it in check.  A nice addition to the cocktailian library.  GSN Rating: B+

No. 2 Tom Collins with Elderflowers & Hops: Nice and tart with an interesting edge of mild bitter finish.  Interesting additions to the recipe are Elderflower, Elderberry and Centennial hops.  The hops adds a floral note without adding too much of the typical pineapple flavor often found in India Pale Ales.  Quite clever and perfect for a shandy as well as a Collins.  GSN Rating: A-

No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour: Now here’s a phrase you don’t see every day “Bourbon barrel smoked organic honey”.  Yet, there it is on the label.  The honey flavor comes out after the initial citrus bite and is a nice change from the usual monochromatic cane sugar.  I don’t get too much of the smokey nose or flavor, but the balance of all the flavors is so well done, perhaps it is just there and I don’t taste it.  On another note though, the recipe on the label calls for a 1-1 ratio of syrup and whiskey.  This I feel will lean too heavily on the sour side of things.  Try a 2-1 instead and see what you think.  GSN Rating: B+

No. 4 New Orleans Style Old Fashioned Rouge: Here’s something that all vegetarians should take note of.  This syrup contains Cochineal (beetle) dye.  Before you think twice about imbibing this in your next cocktail, let me just say that until recently, Campari and Peychaud’s bitters also contained cochineal and most red colored cosmetics still do.  Regardless of that train of thought, this syrup has a definite anise quality.  Surprisingly again, this comes from another questionable source, Wormwood.  When used in Absinthe, it was blamed for insanity and addiction.  No worries here though.  The syrup is rested in ex-Willett Family Reserve Rye whiskey barrels, and has a slight woody edge.  Probably the most complex of the four syrups this gets a GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Bittermilk

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