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IMG_7976I wish I knew where this drink originated, but despite a lot of research, nothing came up.

It’s not often that a tiki style cocktail is served in a “martini” glass, but this one works really well.  I like the grated nutmeg especially, as it gives a mysterious exotic nose.  But, the key here is the unusual addition of creme de cacao.  I’m a big fan of this liqueur in mixed drinks.

This is a great drink to batch as a holiday punch by the way.  Just use the larger portions that I’ve included below, and serve with a block of ice.  Just make sure you put the lime juice and pineapple juice in a blender first to achieve the right texture and foaminess.  Then serve in punch cups.  Cheers!

Buccaneer
1.5oz spiced rum (1 full bottle)
0.5oz white creme de cacao (8.25 oz)
0.75oz lime juice (12.5 oz)
0.75oz pineapple juice (12.5 oz)
0.5oz falernum (8.25 oz)
1 dash Angostura bitters (16 dashes)
Garnish: grated nutmeg

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Top with nutmeg.

eaterawardsheader.0.0It is time now—drumroll, trumpets, gongs—to announce the winners of the 2014 Eater Awards. In over a dozen categories in 24 cities, the winners comprise a diverse group of the finest and most interesting chefs, operators, and characters in the continent that have defined this year in dining. We applaud them. You are hereby instructed to applaud them.

maisonprimere+natasha-508x340NATIONAL
Bartender of the Year
Winner: Natasha David (seen at right), Nitecap, New York

ATLANTA

Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Miles Macquarrie, Sarah Justice, Ian Cox, Paul Calvert, Shanna Mayo
Winner: Ian Cox

AUSTIN
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Cesar Aguilar, Chris Bostick, Jessica Sanders, Justin Elliott, Jason Stevens
Winner: Justin Elliott

BOSTON
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Matthew Schrage, Naomi Levy, Patrick Gaggiano, Ran Duan, Tenzin Conechok Samdo
Winner: Ran Duan

CHARLESTON
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Dwayne Mitchell, Jayce McConnell, Brent Sweatman, Mickey Moran, Craig Nelson
Winner: Dwayne Mitchell

CHICAGO
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Charles Joly, Robby Haynes, Clint Rogers, Wade McElroy and Jeff Donahue, Alex Bachman
Winner: Wade McElroy and Jeff Donahue

DALLAS
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Josh Hendrix, Matt Orth, Máté Hartai, Alex Fletcher, Eddie Eakin
Winner: Máté Hartai

DENVER
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Jason Patz, Sean Kenyon, Stuart Jensen, Mclain Hedges, Noah Heaney
Winner: Sean Kenyon

DETROIT
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Ricky Ruggero, Kaytee Querro, Zan D., Chuck Gallasch, Lola Gegovic
Winner: Zan D.

HOUSTON
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Leslie Ross and Laurie Sheddan, Alba Huerta, Alex Gregg, Elaine Marie Collum, Luis Villegas
Winner: Leslie Ross and Laurie Sheddan

LAS VEGAS
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Ricardo Murcia, Paul Tanguay and Tad Carducci, Christopher Hopkins, Tony Abou-Ganim, Mariena Mercer
Winner: Mariena Mercer

LOS ANGELES
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Dave Kupchinsky, Michael Lay, Beau du Bois, Danielle Crouch, Zach Patterson
Winner: Beau du Bois

MAINE
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Patrick McDonald, Guy Streitburger, Nathaniel Meiklejohn, Vien Dobui, Matthew Mills
Winner: Guy Streitburger

MIAMI
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Josh Gonzalez, Julio Cabrera, Ashley Danella, Eddie Fuentes, Rob Ferrara
Winner: Eddie Fuentes

MINNEAPOLIS
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Robb Jones, Adam Gorski, Dan Oskey, Trish Gavin, Tyler Kleinow
Winner: Adam Gorski

MONTREAL
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Val Chagnon, Jonathan Homier, Max Coubès, Maxime Boivin, Simon Lesperance
Winner: Jonathan Homier

NASHVILLE
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Matt Tocco, Ben Clemons, Damien Breaw, Jeremiah Blake, Jon Yeager
Winner: Ben Clemons

NEW ORLEANS
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Steve Yamada, Abigail Gullo, Liam Deegan, Paul Gustings, Sonali Fernando
Winner: Abigail Gullo

NEW YORK
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Natasha David, Pam Wiznitzer, Thomas Waugh, Alex Day, Tim Cooper
Winner: Natasha David

PHILADELPHIA
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Dan Carr, Phoebe Esmon, Matt Wolfe, Paul MacDonald, George Costa
Winner: Paul MacDonald

PORTLAND
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Kyle Webster, Kelley Swenson, Michelle Ruocco, Angel Teta
Winner: Angel Teta

SAN DIEGO
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Anthony Schmidt, Trevor Easter, Christian Siglin, Jen Queen, Eric Johnson
Winner: Christian Siglin

SAN FRANCISCO
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Danny Louie, Keli Rivers, Thad Vogler, David Gallardo & Leon Vasquez, Ashley Miller
Winner: Ashley Miller

SEATTLE
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Tyler Stamon, Kate Perry, Anu Apte, Chris Goad, Robert Rowland
Winner: Chris Goad

WASHINGTON DC
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: JP Fetherston, Trevor Frye, Jamie Macbain, Kristi Green, Phil Anova
Winner: JP Fetherston

indexEquality Vodka, a new brand aimed at the LGBT community, is launching in Texas this month through Glazer’s. An 80-proof entry retailing at $30 a bottle, Equality is distilled and bottled in New York, and plans to expand beyond the Texas market looking ahead. For its first two years, Equality has pledged to donate a portion of sales to the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, focused on LGBT causes.

indexDurham, North Carolina-based Mystic Bourbon Liqueur is entering Virginia, and will be available at 100 Virginia ABC stores by late next month. Southern Wine & Spirits’ mid-Atlantic division will represent the brand in the Virginia market. The small-batch spirit, made from Bourbon, wildflower honey and spices, was launched last October and has enjoyed a strong start, selling 10,000 bottles across its core North and South Carolina markets to date.

indexRémy Martin has unveiled a limited edition Louis XIII Cognac in celebration of the brand’s 140th anniversary, Louis XIII Black Pearl Anniversary Edition. The blend of more than 1,200 eaux-de-vie ranging from 40 to 100 years in age is from a single 572-liter tiercon taken from the Heriard Dubreuil family’s private cellars, the third of its kind released by the family in the past century. It is packaged in a metallic decanter from the House of Baccarat, with 775 decanters released worldwide at a suggested retail priced of $16,000 each.

imagesGatlinburg, Tennessee’s Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine is expanding distribution of its holiday offering, Shine Nog, to all 50 states beginning this month. The 35-proof, cream-based moonshine liqueur had previously only been available at the company’s distillery. The limited-release holiday offering is available in 750-ml. mason jars for about $20-$25.

indexRochester, New York craft producer Black Button Distilling is launching its first Bourbon offering, Little Barrel Bourbon. Debuting in a limited release of 1,400 375-ml. bottles that will retail at $40 each, Little Barrel will be hitting retail shelves on December 1. The company, which also produces Citrus Forward gin, Apple Pie moonshine and Wheat vodka, recently extended availability to New York City (through Blue Print Brands) and says it’s negotiating distribution deals in 10 additional states. Black Button is also planning a “Big Barrel” Bourbon for next year.

imagesCharleston, South Carolina’s Striped Pig Distillery has released three new small-batch craft spirits in its home state. Striped Spiced Rum ($24.99) is a spiced version of the company’s original Striped Rum, while its Striped Whiskey is made with locally grown corn and matured with charred barrel staves. Striped Gin ($26.99), meanwhile, is billed as a less juniper-forward gin, designed to appeal to those who don’t normally consider themselves gin drinkers. These three latest offerings join Striped Shine, Striped Rum and Striped Vodka in the micro-distiller’s portfolio.

Indio-HopkaPortland, Oregon-based Indio Spirits has launched Indio Hopka, a new “hop liqueur” intended to appeal to both craft beer and spirits consumers. Made with a grain distillate and a blend of Citra and Cascade hops, Indio Hopka ($26.99) is packaged in a hinge-top 750-ml. bottle and features a beer-inspired label. The 40%-abv hybrid offering, which can be consumed in a mixed drink, as a shot or over ice, is currently available across Oregon and Washington. Established in 2004, Indio Spirits’ portfolio also includes Indio Silver, Marionberry, Lemongrass-Lime and Blood Orange vodkas; Snake River Stampede Canadian whiskey; James Oliver Rye and American whiskey; Cricket Club gin; Barrel Room rum and Curaçao; and Red Island Finger Lime rum and Spiced rum.

indexThe newest release to Diageo’s Orphan Barrel whiskey project, highlighting rare whiskies from the company’s warehouses, will be an offering called Lost Prophet. Lost Prophet is a 22-year-old whiskey distilled in 1991 from what was then the George T. Stagg distillery (now Buffalo Trace) in Frankfort, Kentucky. Similar to Diageo’s previous Orphan Barrel releases—Rhetoric, Barterhouse and Old Blowhard—this whiskey spent time maturing in the old Stitzel-Weller warehouses in Louisville (since 2006 for Lost Prophet), and was bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee, at the George Dickel distillery. The mashbill for Lost Prophet is 75%-78% corn, 7%-10% barley, and 15% rye. It’s bottled at 90.1 proof (45.05% abv) and will list for about $120. Similar to Old Blowhard, this will be a one-time release.

indexDiageo has officially launched Piehole, a new range of flavored Canadian whisky-based liqueurs. Debuting with a trio of Apple Pie, Cherry Pie and Pecan Pie expressions, Piehole is made with a blend of flavored whiskies aged between four and eight years and is bottled in Canada. The 35%-abv entries, which are targeted toward the shot occasion, will retail for around $14.99 a 750-ml.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

indexThis month, Brown-Forman will debut a new “Whiskey Row” series from Old Forester with an inaugural release called 1870 Original Batch, according to the Courier-Journal. The series, which commemorates Old Forester’s history on Louisville’s Main Street Whiskey Row district, will include four expressions of whiskey that are based on actual products and oral history. 1870 Original Batch, which will be available in select markets at $44.99 a 750-ml., celebrates the year Old Forester became the first batched Bourbon. Bourbons from barrels in three different warehouses were blended for a 90-proof product meant to reflect inconsistencies in the original’s formulation. The series, which will eventually be produced at Old Forester’s planned Whiskey Row distillery, will feature three more expressions based on whiskies produced through 1923, when the brand left Whiskey Row. Currently, 1870 Original Batch is produced at Brown-Forman’s Shively facility.

indexPark City, Utah-based High West Distillery has reintroduced one of its limited edition whiskies for the winter season. First launched earlier this year on Valentine’s Day, A Midwinter Night’s Dram is a limited release version of High West’s Rendezvous Rye, finished for several months in both Port and French oak barrels. The 98.6-proof expression—which features notes of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon and dried fruit—is now available at select retail outlets, priced at $79.99 a bottle. High West Distillery’s portfolio has a current U.S. footprint of 40 states.

imagesWaconia, Minnesota micro-distillery J. Carver Distilling has sent its first shipment of craft gin and vodka to Minneapolis-St. Paul liquor stores, the local CBS affiliate reports. Last spring, owner Bill Miller purchased a 17,000-square-foot former Pontiac dealership and has turned it into a distillery able to produce 600 cases a month. The company focuses on craft recipes made from locally sourced ingredients, such as wheat grown 20 miles away from Waconia. Miller says he plans to open a tasting room within the next year and will look into making different whiskey and barrel-aged products. J. Carver Premium Gin and Vodka retail at about $20-$24 a bottle.

indexNovato, California’s Square One Organic Spirits is launching new citrus-based vodka Square One Bergamot to select markets ahead of a national rollout next February. Grown predominantly in southern Italy and along the Mediterranean Sea, the bergamot is a sour orange with a peel that is floral and tangy, the company says. The unfiltered vodka is created by layering the citrus with essential oils of pressed mandarin, navel and tangerine oranges and the essences of ginger, coriander and juniper botanicals. Square One Bergamot is currently available in California, Illinois and Missouri at $35 a 750-ml. bottle and $4.99 a 50-ml. bottle.

indexVermont-based craft whiskey distiller WhistlePig has debuted The Boss Hog: Spirit of Mortimer, a new limited edition expression. Created to honor the memory of WhistlePig’s deceased mascot, a pig named Mortimer, The Boss Hog: Spirit of Mortimer is a 100% rye whiskey aged for nearly 14 years and bottled at full barrel strength. The 117- to 124-proof entry is currently available nationwide, priced at $189 a 750-ml. The Boss Hog: Spirit of Mortimer follows last year’s launch of WhistlePig’s original The Boss Hog label, a 100% rye whiskey aged 12.5 years.

indexStoli USA’s Stolichnaya has released the third and final entry in its ultra-premium Elit Pristine Water Series vodka collection. Available this month, Elit Pristine Water Series: Andean edition is crafted with natural spring water sourced from the Andes Mountains, as well as distilled spirit made with grain harvested from SPI Group’s Tambov, Russia-based farm. The limited edition, 40%-abv expression, which is packaged in a Glencairn Crystal bottle, retails for around €3,000 ($3,729). The Andean edition joins the Elit Pristine Water Series’ previous Himalaya and New Zealand editions, launched in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

Adco-master675William Grant & Sons, is hearkening back to the earliest days of the category, launching a “replica” of the first single malt marketed by its Glenfiddich distillery. To create the 1963 replica whisky, Glenfiddich malt master Brian Kinsman pulled from various casks to match the archived liquid and ledger notes from the original. The finished product is 80 proof, with packaging styled to echo its ancestor, and retails at a suggested $100 a bottle. The limited edition is now hitting the U.S. market on allocation with a supply of 2,000 cases. The launch is being indexbacked by print and digital executions—including full-page spreads in major newspapers—recreated from the original whisky’s advertising materials.

Diageo has officially unveiled a new flavored extension to its Crown Royal Canadian whisky brand, Regal Apple. The new offering is a blend of Crown Royal whiskies infused with natural apple flavors from Regal Gala apples and retails at $24.99 a 750-ml. Regal Apple joins 2012 entry Maple Finished in the Crown Royal flavor portfolio.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

tumblr_inline_moeit2yoeL1qz4rgpProbably most of us have had at least a few Harvey Wallbangers over the years.  My first was served out of a huge plastic trash can at a frat party in Geneva, NY back in the early 1980′s.  My most recent was at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail® in New Orleans where it was served at one of the many parties.  But, few of us know the true story behind this variation on a Screwdriver.  Fellow writer Robert Simonson penned the following article a few years ago and uncovered the fascinating man behind the myth.  So, make yourself a H.W. and spend a few minutes with a legend.

Searching for Harvey Wallbanger by Robert Simonson 

The Harvey Wallbanger has one of the most memorable names in cocktail history. And one of the worst reputations.

A mix of vodka, orange juice and Galliano, it was one of the preeminent drinks of the 1970s, a decade recognized by drink historians as the Death Valley of cocktail eras—a time of sloppy, foolish drinks made with sour mix and other risible shortcuts to flavor, and christened with foolish monikers like Mudslide and Freddie Fudpucker.

Not that Harvey Wallbanger is one of those. It’s actually got one of the best—and most unforgettable—handles in the annals of mixed drinks. This may be why it’s survived long enough to be reappraised. Shortly after Galliano reconfigured its recipe a couple of years ago, returning the Italian liqueur to its original formula, mixologists began to sneak the drink back on respectable lists.

This is all good news for Donato “Duke” Antone, the largely forgotten bartender who, according to longstanding legend, is the creator of the Wallbanger, as well as a number other two-ingredient wonders of the time, like the Rusty Nail and White Russian. Antone, the oft-repeated story goes, ran Duke’s “Blackwatch” Bar on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in the 1950s. The few biographical facts that pop up again and again tell us that he was the brother-in-law of one-term New York State Senator Carlo Lanzillotti, and that he managed featherweight boxer Willie Pep, a childhood friend. He died In 1992 at the age of 75, according to an obit in the Hartford Courant. At the time he was the retired headmaster of the Bartending School of Mixology in Hartford. The Courant notice repeated the claims that he invented the Wallbanger, Rusty Nail, as well as the Flaming Caesar and many other drinks.

So, did he? As much as we hate to doubt a WWII vet and “the recipient of two silver stars, two bronze stars, two Purple Hearts and a Croix de Guerre” (the Courant), the bartending profession has a long history of credit-grabbing. The provenance of almost every famous cocktail is clouded by the claims and counterclaims of various barmen. Even Jerry Thomas, the father of modern mixology, wasn’t above a fib or two.

Certainly, all the drinks associated with Donato display the same, ham-fisted modus operandi. Take a potent, straightforward base spirit (vodka, whiskey), throw in a taste-profile-dominating liqueur (Galliano, Drambuie, Amaretto, Kahlua), maybe some juice or cream, and presto: new drink! But few figures in bartending history can lay their hand to so many famous drinks, so one doubts Donato invented all of them. So this article will concentrate on clearing away as much fog as possible from the most frequent cited of his children.

According to folklore, Donato invented the Harvey Wallbanger in 1952. It is said he named it after a Manhattan Beach surfer and regular named Tom Harvey—a man about whom we can find nothing. But the cocktail didn’t become popular until the early 1970s. This sudden reversal of fortunes coincides with the arrival of George Bednar, who in 1966 became marketing director of McKesson Imports Co., an importing company that handled Galliano. Previously, the liqueur had a staid ad campaign that featured the line “Fond of things Italiano? Try a sip of Galliano.” Bednar somehow found the Wallbanger and hoisted it up the barroom flagpole. The original ads pushed the drink as a replacement at brunch for the Bloody Mary. Round about late 1969, a rather pained-looking, sandal-wearing mascot named Harvey Wallbanger appeared. His line: “Harvey Wallbanger is the name and I can be made!”

And, boy, did the world make him! Soon, reports were cropping up of bowls of Wallbangers being consumed at Hamptons parties and on Amtrak trains. Harvey Wallbanger cakes were sold. A Puli named after the drink won dog shows. By 1976, Holland House was putting out a Wallbanger dry mix and pre-blended bottles of the cocktail were sold. Riding this wave, Galliano became the number one most imported liqueur during Me Decade, exporting 500,000 cases a year to the U.S. (You’d think the Galliano people—the liqueur is now owned by Lucas Bols—would be interested in the origins of their most famous drink. But the company, while curious, had little or no information to offer about the Wallbanger or Donato.)

Antone, however, is difficult to find during this heyday. He’s not quoted or mentioned in articles or advertisements. The California ABC office can find no listing for a bar called Duke’s “Blackwatch” Bar on Sunset. (To be fair, their computer records are not complete.) Neither do L.A. guides or newspapers from the time mention it. Given that the drink rose to fame with the arrival of Bednar, one can’t help but suspect that good old Harvey was the invention of the Galliano marketing department, and that Antone had nothing to do with it.

The flaw in that theory lies in the Courant obit, which indicates that Antone himself never denied creating the drink. So what came first, the Blackwatch or the Bednar?

I dug up a number of answers in the back pages of the Hartford Courant, which printed a few stories on Antone over the years. It even ran a photo or two, provided pictorial evidence that a short, balding man with thick, black-framed glasses named Donato “Duke” Antone did indeed breathe air. A 1966 Courant article about Antone’s bartending school, located on Farmington Avenue, tells us that he was born in Brooklyn in a Italian-Jewish neighborhood, ran liquor for bootleggers as a youngster, had his first legal bartending job at a place called Diamond Jim Brady’s, and was he was “a likable, fast-talking Runyoneseque character.”

Turns out, there’s a good reason you can’t find evidence of Antone and the Blackwatch Bar in Los Angeles during the 1950s and ’60s. It’s because the man was living in Hartford that entire time. The 1966 Courant piece says he founded his school in 1949 “after he found, when working in Las Vegas, that it was difficult to find good bartenders,” and that it “took him 14 years to perfect the school’s curriculum.” Those would be the years when he was supposed mixing up Harvey Wallbangers for beach bums.

The 1966 story identifies Antone as the author of some new drinks—including the Italian Fascination, which “has won prizes” and “contains Galliano, Kahlua, triple sec and sweet cream”—but the Wallbanger is not mentioned as one of them. However, in a subsequent 1970 Courant story (about how Antone taught his trade to his 12-year-old son!), Antone gets full credit for the Wallbanger. Of course, by that time, the drink was gaining fame and popularity. So what happened between those two date lines?

This sentence in a 1977 Courant piece, in which Antone is “retired,” might hold the key: “Antone…has not limited himself to mixing drinks. Rather, he has been active in all aspects of the liquor industry ranging from restaurant design to marketing.”

“Marketing”! OK, theory time. Could it be that George Bednar, newly hired at McKesson in 1966 and looking for a way to boost Galliano sales, read about Antone’s Galliano-heavy Italian Fascination cocktail, and then traveled up to Hartford to see if the bartender, for a fee, could come up a few more cocktails featuring the liqueur? (Around this time, Antone also invented Freddie Fudpucker, basically a Harvey Wallbanger with tequila.) The tale of the Blackwatch Bar, phantom surfer Tom Harvey, and the sudden appearance of the Wallbanger cartoon figure—that could all well be examples of Bednar and Antone’s marketing acumen. One can see how the two men might have bonded. Antone was a boxing man, and Bednar played football for Notre Dame and the St. Louis Cardinals in the mid-’60s. Booze and sports. They were made for each other.

Noted cocktail historian David Wondrich—who, as it turns out, has been doing his own digging in the Wallbanger—pointed out the Harvey surfer character had been designed by commercial artist name Bill Young, at Galliano and McKesson’s behest. The cartoon figure hit the U.S. like a lava flow in late 1969, “pop art posters, bumper stickers, buttons, crew shirts, mugs and the whole bit,” according to an Oct. 30, 1969, San Antonio Light article uncovered by Wondrich.

“I wonder what the execs at McKesson thought in 1969,” mused Wondrich, “when Bill Young showed them the dopey little cartoon surfer he had come up with, complete with a dopey name, ‘Harvey Wallbanger,’ and an equally dopey slogan, ‘I can be made.’ I doubt they realized what they were in for. With Young’s Harvey to blaze the way, Antone’s simple—even dopey—drink would go on to be the first drink created by a consultant to actually take the nation by storm.”

By 1981, Duke had opened a new academy, Antone’s School of Mixology, and was full-on boasting that he was the genesis of “the Harvey Wallbanger, the Rusty Nail, the White Russian and the Kamakazi, as well as the Freddie Fudpucker.” The reporter of that account, sticking in the word “claims” a couple of times, seemed disinclined to believe him.

Do I believe him? Well, I never had much faith in the story of the Harvey Wallbanger’s creation. (A surfer at Manhattan beach going all the way to Sunset Boulevard for a drink? A Italian-American who gives his bar a Scottish name?) But I do believe Antone had something to do with creating the cocktail. To paraphrase the cartoon Harvey, “cocktail history is the game, and I can be made up.”

Robert Simonson writes about spirits, cocktails and wine for such publications as The New York Times, Imbibe, Edible Brooklyn and Manhattan, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and GQ. He holds an advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and another from the Beverage Alcohol Resource. He was nominated for 2012 Spirited Award for Best Cocktail Writing. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertOSimonson

f123ea_8a39469fbbd2b993474d28805a0d9146.png_srz_p_475_661_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzInfused spirits have been around for over 1000 years starting with flavored vodka.  In fact, gin is the most popular form of this alcoholic beverage.  But, the hundreds of flavored vodkas available today are a far cry from the original styles which left the botanicals, fruits and spices to steep in the bottle.  Imagine marshmallow, fruit loops or bubblegum steeping in a bottle.  Not very appetizing visually, and not flavor-wise either.  Avoid those.

Infuse Vodka seeks to use old school techniques with a modern twist.  Using five times distilled Kansas corn and nothing more than the ingredients you can see in each bottle, what you see is what you get.  All natural, no added sugar and taking on the color of the infusions.

The company makes several interesting flavors.  GSN was sent the following four for review.

Lemon (80 proof)
Visual: Extremely pale gold with tiny particulates.
Nose: Fresh lemon zest.
Taste: This is obviously vodka and not just a flavorless distillate, but the lemon takes it into a higher dimension.  Not sweet in the least, this is a dry and crisp flavor which has a roundness and tang.
Finish:  The lemon goes on for quite a while, with a peppery essence that keeps it from being one-dimensional.
Overall: In some ways, this is almost a cocktail on its own.  Throw three ounces in a mixing glass with ice, stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Voilà! A Lemon Martini, and a good sight better than many I’ve had.
GSN Rating: A-

Orange Clove (80 proof)
Visual: Pale gold with particulates.
Nose: Definite orange zest with a slight top note of clove.  Reminiscent of the holidays.
Taste: The citrus is sweeter than the lemon, but the clove adds a sharp bite to tone it down and broaden the flavor palate.  The vodka itself seems to work against this combination to some degree with some seemingly harsh edges.
Finish: A fairly long semi-bitter finish that undoubtedly comes from an abundance of clove.  Looking in the bottle, I can see six cloves.  I think one or two would have served it just fine.  Clove is one of the strongest spices and can easily overpower a drink unless used judiciously.
Overall: I like the overall flavor blend here, but I think it is unbalanced.
GSN Rating: B

Cinnamon Apple (80 proof)
Visual: Golden brown with particulates.
Nose: Spiced apple.
Taste: Somewhat sweet and with a defined cinnamon spice.  The apple is rich and surprisingly strong.  I’m curious what species is used.  The mouthfeel is thick and viscous with a dessert character.
Finish: Fairly short, but dry and crisp.
Overall: A much more pleasant apple vodka than the majority of artificial flavored ones on the market.  This would be awesome in a cooking sauce, whipped cream or as an added Autumnal kick in an Old-Fashioned or Manhattan.
GSN Rating: B+

Chili Pepper (80 proof)
Visual: Quite pale gold.
Nose: Vegetal, almost spinach-like.
Taste: More of the vegetal taste comes through which certainly lends character.  There is a surprising sweetness as well after which is a generous portion of mid-palate heat.  The corn distillate works well here to create a sweet and hot vodka.
Finish:  The odd vegetal taste disappears, but the heat lingers on for several minutes.
Overall: I can’t think of a better use for this than in a spicy Bloody Mary, but this would also work well as a shot chased by a pilsner ale.  Heat wise, this is a 3 on a scale of 1-10.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Infuse Vodkas

b195e70c-cbb2-4cae-b243-64d35a1b3f0cI find that the design of label and bottle on a spirit has an impact on the consumer.  Look at the bright, neon-colored graphics and plastic caps on bottom shelf spirits and you know what to expect.  Look at sleek, elegant and artistic bottle and label design and it indicates what lies inside.  Thus, it is interesting that rather than seeking to make itself stand out on the shelf, Black Bottle remains quietly subdued, yet speaks volumes.

Originally produced in the late 1870′s by the Grahams of Aberdeen, Scotland; Black bottle found itself going through a series of hardships that nearly caused the blend to be long forgotten.  World War I caused a shortage of black glass from Germany, ironically causing the whiskey to be sold in green glass.  Later, the distillery itself caught fire and left the business in decline.  Finally, twenty-four years ago, the blend was reformulated using Islay single malts and today for the first time in 100 years, the whisky is once again sold in a black glass bottle.

Black Bottle (80 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Light peat smoke with a mouth-watering maltiness.
Taste: Sweet, smooth and viscous at first, upon swallowing the mild smoke flavor hits leaving a chewy and mild cigar-like flavor.  Plenty of vanilla and caramel come through at the end bidding a fond farewell.
Finish: Fairly short, but tasty.
Overall: This is a fine blended scotch that gives you more of an Islay character than let’s say Famous Grouse.  The smoke never overwhelms, but instead supports the malt, giving it an extra depth of richness.  Try this in your next Blood & Sand and see what you think.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Black Bottle

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