0403-whiskey-battle-970Whisk(e)y is such a ubiquitous spirit that it is hard to imagine cocktail culture without it.  Think of all the iconic drinks from the Old-Fashioned to the Manhattan to the Sazerac to the Penicillin.  And there are nearly as many countries known for their own particular take on the “water of life”.  Scotland, Ireland, Canada, America, Japan are just the major epicenters of distillation.  Then, you’ve got a variety of styles.  Single malt, single grain, blended, unaged, aged in a plethora of different wood barrels.  It is truly amazing.

So, on this day, toast with a glass of your favorite either neat, straight up, on the rocks, or mixed into a cocktail.  Without whiskey, our lives would be lacking a little joy.


The Editorial Staff

jamesbeardawardfb. James Beard Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2015 James Beard Awards at the James Beard House in New York City (the semifinalists were announced last month). The Book, Broadcast and Journalism Award winners will be announced on April 24. The winners in the chefs and restaurant categories will be announced on Monday, May 4 at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago.

2015 James Beard Foundation Book Awards


Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, with More than 500 Recipes
Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan (Ten Speed Press)

Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail
Dave Arnold (W. W. Norton & Company)

Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes
Talia Baiocchi (Ten Speed Press)

Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages

“In New Orleans, Terrific Cocktails Never Went out of Fashion”
M. Carrie Allan

“Into the Vines”
Gabrielle Hamilton
The Washington Post

“OMFG it’s the PSL!”
Allecia Vermillion
Seattle Met

Outstanding Bar Program

An establishment that displays and encourages excellence in cocktail, spirits, and/or beer service.

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans

Bar Agricole, San Francisco

Maison Premiere, Brooklyn, NY

Trick Dog, San Francisco

The Violet Hour, Chicago

Outstanding Wine Program

A restaurant that displays and encourages excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, a knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine. Candidates must have been in operation for at least 5 years.

A16, San Francisco

Bern’s Steak House, Tampa, FL

FIG, Charleston, SC

McCrady’s, Charleston, SC

Spago, Beverly Hills, CA

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional

A winemaker, brewer, or spirits professional who has had a significant impact on the wine, beer and spirits industry nationwide. Candidates must have been in the profession for at least 5 years.

Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE

Ron Cooper, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, Ranchos de Taos, NM

Ted Lemon, Littorai Wines, Sebastopol, CA

Rajat Parr, Mina Group, San Francisco

Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY

2015 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America Inductees

Allan Benton
Pork Producer and Purveyor
Madisonville, TN

Dale DeGroff

Wylie Dufresne
Chef and Restaurateur

Nathalie Dupree
Cookbook Author and Television Personality

Maricel Presilla
Chef, Restaurateur, and Cookbook Author
Hoboken, NJ

whiskey-bottlesHere in New York State, we are blessed with a wide variety of entrepreneurial farmers and craft beverage makers.  So, it is always a pleasure when the GSN staff are sent a product that is 100% locally made.  This time, it is a blend of two.

Crafted through a partnership between a locally sourced food purveyor in the Catskill Mountains and an award-winning distillery in the Finger Lakes, New York Honey Whiskey is a perfect example of how using the best of two different worlds can create something that transcends them both.

Catskill Provisions has been specializing in products such as honey, maple syrup, and pancake mix since 2010. Fingerlakes Distilling has been making everything from fruit brandies, gin, whiskies and liqueurs on the shores of Seneca Lake for the past seven years.  The combination is a whiskey marriage.

Fingerlakes Distilling uses a blend of 80% rye and 20% malted barley, and ages it for three years in first fill charred American Oak.  It is then infused with raw wildflower honey harvested from bees who have been feeding on chestnut, maple, goldenrod, sunflowers, cornflowers, asters, and daisies.

Catskill Provisions New York Honey Whiskey (80 proof)
Visual: Summer gold.
Nose: Sharp and crisp rye notes beckon with a subtle honey tonality.  There is no doubt that this is whiskey.
Taste: Immediate peppery rye shot through with a healthy dose of barrel wood.  Within seconds, a golden sweetness envelops the experience like a blanket, toning down the heat and adding a lovely mellowness.
Finish: The rye comes through again towards the end, reminding me of a thick slice of hearth-baked bread baked with just a touch of honey.
Overall: One of the more interesting flavored whiskies I’ve had.  What I particularly like about it is that the honey adds depth and support rather than just being a novelty.  Quite unique and tasty.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Catskill Provisions

indexDiageo has partnered with Emmy-winning celebrity chef and editor Sandra Lee for the launch of a new line of premixed Margarita cocktails. Sandra Lee Cocktail Time Margaritas are available in Key Lime and Strawberry and made with real Key limes and strawberries, pure cane sugar, blue agave silver Tequila, Triple Sec liqueur and natural flavors. The RTD is gluten-free and has fewer than 150 calories per 4-ounce serving, the company says. The release comes ahead of Cinco de Mayo and summer entertaining. It’s being supported by Lee’s consumer magazine as well as social activations on Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook, in-store promotions, point-of-sale material, and a cause-marketing campaign, Cocktail Time for a Cause. Sandra Lee Cocktail Time Margaritas (13% abv) are available nationwide, retailing at $15.99 a 750-ml.

indexSazerac Co.’s Buffalo Trace Distillery has unveiled the latest entry in its Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. collection, a 100-proof Bourbon aged in cured oak barrels. While most oak barrel staves are placed outside for six months before being made into barrels, Buffalo Trace’s Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Cured Oak Bourbon is aged using barrel staves left outside to dry for 13 months. The small-batch, bottled-in-bond offering is available in limited quantities starting this month, priced at around $69.99 a 750-ml.

indexBeam Suntory’s Hornitos Tequila brand has extended its lineup with the launch of Hornitos Spiced Honey. A blend of natural honey, vanilla and spice flavors and 100% agave Tequila, Hornitos Spiced Honey is currently available in 750-ml. and 1-liter formats, priced at around $19.99 a 750-ml.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

IMG_7904-800I knew this cocktail tasted familiar, but the name didn’t ring a bell.  So, I tracked down Eric Alperin who told me the origin behind this tasty libation.

“It’s a spicy highball that we make with our homemade ginger syrup, lime and rye. It also goes by the name “Presbyterian”. I have been making them since my time working in the Milk & Honey family in NYC. When I partnered on The Varnish and opened it back in 2009 the Cablegram made it on one of our early menus. I remember that between the choice of using the name “Presbyterian” and “Cablegram” we chose the later.”

I agree.  I’d much rather be surprised by a cablegram than a Presbyterian at the end of the day.

2oz bourbon
1oz lemon juice
0.5oz simple syrup
ginger ale

TeelingSmallBatchThe Teeling family has a long history with crafting Irish whiskies which date back to 1782.  Walter Teeling was the first to begin distilling when he set up shop in Dublin.  Amazingly enough, there were at that time thirty-seven different distilleries operating in the city.  Over time with the vagaries of economic disaster, two world wars and prohibition every single distillery shuttered their doors.  But, as of December 2014, the current owner Jack Teeling will open the first new distillery in The Liberties area of Dublin’s Newmarket in 125 years.  In celebration of this milestone, Teeling Small Batch debuted earlier this year.

It is a blend of 65% grain and 35% malt whiskies, aged between 4-7 years, then re-matured in ex-Flor de Caña rum barrels for up to half a year.  Non-chill filtered and bottled at 92 proof, this is one unique Irish whiskey.

Teeling Whiskey Small Batch (92 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: A lot of high, bright and spicy, sweet notes.
Taste: Rich and malty, with some barley sugar tendencies.  There is a surprising amount of wood spice here which mellows out with a splash of branch water.  Almost no detectable citrus, this whiskey instead goes for more vanilla, caramel, and baking spices.
Finish: Medium long with a tender sweetness that undoubtedly comes from the double dose of aging in used rum barrels.
Overall: A perfect Irish for use in cocktails, the higher proof adds more depth and body.  If drinking straight, definitely add a good dose of water or a large cube of ice to open it up.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Teeling Whiskey

190008-rueverte-explore-goudoulin-setArmagnac is one of those spirits that, unfortunately, gets little attention outside of France.  It’s a shame because often Armagnac outshines the Cognac that is exported throughout the world.  To help remedy this situation, RUEVERTE offers mail order Armagnac flights to introduce this wonderful spirit to the consumer who wants to learn more.

Here is a basic lesson on what Armagnac is and how it differs from Cognac.  Armagnac is made in the Gascony region of France in three areas: Bas Armagnac in the west, Armagnac Ténarèze in the center, and Haut Armagnac in the East and South.  Each has its own particular type of soil which lends character to the grapes used in the production.  The aging of Armagnac generally runs from 1 year (VS) to Hors d’Age (10 years).  The RUEVERTE explore set differs somewhat, offering 8 and 20-year samples and an Hors d’Age of unknown age.  So, these are all exceptional brandies.

Here are my thoughts on this particular set from the House of Goudoulin which dates back to 1935 and is based in the Bas Armagnac region.

8 year: Deep yellow-orange color with a vibrant and appealing nose.  Flavors of juicy apple and pear.  Light, smooth and well-balanced.  There is an interesting funky woodiness that seems down to earth and honestly rustic.

20 year: Color is only slightly lighter (oddly enough) than the 8-year-old.  A deeper nose with granny smith apple and marzipan notes.  Heavier and with a lot more body and character.  The woody character has been tempered down creating more vanilla and soft caramel flavors.

Hors d’Age: The color is similar to the first two brandies.  A venerable nose that hints of years in cask.  No fruit, just spirit, and wood.  The flavor is miles and away quite different from the others.  Dark, enveloping, rich and with dried fruit.  Hints of cinnamon and cranberry pop in.  I am left with a feeling of Christmas.

The three bottlings can best be summed up as seasonal.  Summer, Autumn and Winter.  It makes for an interesting Armagnac flight from one distillery.

You can read my review of the Absinthexplore sampler here.

For more information go to: Digestif.com

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