The contestants

Feats of cocktail-making magic are always a privilege to witness; knowing the action supports breast cancer charities only makes it better. Sunday, January 8, I had the good fortune to attend the sixth national Speed Rack competition, hosted at Washington Hall in Seattle, WA. Established in 2011, Speed Rack’s purpose is to celebrate women in the bartending industry: putting the focus on female mixologists while raising funding for breast cancer research. To date, the organization has donated more than $500,000 to breast cancer charities around the world.

For the Northwest regionals, a group of 21 talented young women from the West Coast went head-to-head in speed contests, shaking their way to the top in front of a panel of four judges. The panel included Kathy Casey, founder of Liquid Kitchen, Paul Clarke, executive editor of Imbibe Magazine, Tan Vinh, the cocktail columnist for the Seattle Times, and Charlotte Voisey, director of brand advocacy for William Grant & Sons. The charismatic emcee for the event was Co-founder of Ford’s Gin, Simon Ford.

The judges

The judges

Off the stage, attendees were treated to a smorgasbord of distilled beverages and swag bags. I personally may have come away from the event with a few new pins for my denim jacket, but chose to decline the free pair of sunglasses and beaded necklace I was offered by one vendor. Representatives from multiple spirits producers were present, including Ford’s Gin, Four Roses, Knob Creek, Jameson, Campari, and special guest: Imbibe Magazine. About 150+ attendees swarmed through the hall at any given time, dispersed over two stories of premium spectator space, with great views of the cocktail-shaking action. The crowd was a healthy mix of Seattle’s best: ranging from hipster techies, to biker babes, to suburban dads. As the event went on, the cheers became louder and more enthusiastic, no doubt lubricated by the free-flowing alcohol and synth-pop beats of DJ Sissy Chablis.

The cocktails

The cocktails

Cocktails chosen for the competition were pulled from a list of 50 accepted industry-standard classic recipes, and ranged from a classic Paloma to a Blood and Sand. The Seattle-favorite, the Last Word, also made an appearance in one of the final rounds. The regional competition was fierce, but in the end Jacyara de Oliveira of Rob Roy and The Hideout came out victorious. In 2015, Jacyara won Miss Speed Rack Chicago in the fourth national tour, and made it into the top 8 over 5 consecutive years. She advances to the national finals in New York ‪on May 21, 2017.


The winner!

(All photos courtesy of Wagstaff Worldwide. Article written by GSN West Coast correspondent Noel Frodelius-Fujimoto)

imagesToday is National Hot Buttered Rum day!  And a perfect day for it too, since here in Upstate New York, it’s below freezing and snowing.

Here’s a recipe from Dale DeGroff which is both easy and a time-saver if you’re making a lot over the winter.

Hot Buttered Rum
2oz aged rum
0.75oz demerara simple syrup
1 tbsp spiced compound butter (see below)
Hot apple cider
Cinnamon stick
Glass: any mug or glass appropriate for hot drinks
Preheat glass or mug by filling with hot water.  Then drain the water and pour the syrup in the glass along with the compound butter and a little hot cider. Stir well to melt the butter. Add rum and more hot cider to fill, then give it a light stir with cinnamon stick.  Then smile.
Spiced Compound Butter
1 lb softened butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Add all ingredients to bowl and mix well.  Store covered in refrigerator.


Samuel Adams was one of the first craft brewers to offer rotating beers that capture the essence of each season, and now, from January through April, the brewers are introducing drinkers to two new seasonal beers: Samuel Adams Hopscape and Fresh as Helles. It may be unconventional to have two seasonals at one time of year, but Sam Adams has never been known to follow the rules. The brewers felt that these two brews capture the essence of the ever-changing season across the country from January through April.

Available January and February, citrus and piney hop flavors with a nice lingering bitter finish make Hopscape best enjoyed during cold, brisk temperatures. While the honey malt aroma and orange blossom notes of Fresh as Helles make it a perfect pairing to welcome late spring weather during March and April.

“At the start of 1988 we introduced our first-ever seasonal beer, Samuel Adams Double Bock, a traditional spring beer originally brewed by German monks,” said Jim Koch, Samuel Adams founder and brewer. “While we pioneered rotating beers for the season, this season’s beers have changed more times than we can count. The variety in the weather during this time of year begs brewers and drinkers to explore flavors that match the ever-changing season. It might seem crazy, but after we brewed a few test batches of Hopscape and Fresh as Helles in our Nano Brewery, we knew we had two seasonal beers that captured the essence of the schizophrenic weather around this time of year.”

Brewer Megan Parisi continued, “With Hopscape, we knew we wanted to brew a hop-forward beer to match the bitterness of the cold. Our Sam Adams Nano Brewery gave us the chance to experiment with a variety of hop trials until we nailed the citrusy and piney flavor profile we were going for. On the flip side, for the more fickle side of this season, we knew we wanted to brew a more delicate beer. We found that our helles recipe created the perfect base for balancing the flavor of tangy Mandarina hops and floral orange blossom petals. As brewers, half the fun is brewing multiple trials until we get just the right flavor – or in our case flavors – that we’re looking for.”

Hopscape, the first new brew for 2017, is brewed with four varieties of West Coast hops that add bold pine and grapefruit notes to the deep golden wheat ale. Chinook, Citra, Centennial, and Zeus hops impart citrusy, dank resin and grapefruit rind aromas that lead into a balanced flavor of bright citrus and piney hop character. White wheat and a two-row pale malt blend add a crisp, light sweetness, and the beer finishes with a slightly lingering bitterness.

Fresh as Helles is a refreshing light amber, medium-bodied helles brewed with Mandarina hops and orange blossom petals. The beer’s lively, citrus flavors pair perfectly with the changing season. Soft citrus notes of orange blossom add a bright accent to the slightly sweet honey malt notes, leading to a round, smooth finish.

Flavor: Dry wheat, with a simple hop profile to round it out from other wheat ales.
Aroma: Distinct wheat and balanced low acid hops give it a warm aroma.
Hop: Mellow, but lemongrass is forward in the aroma.
Malt: Low malt, more dryness with a slight caramel note.
Carbonation: Well carbonated. Some bite without being too bubbly.
Mouthfeel: Dry and creamy.
Color: Hazy yellow/tan
Head/Lacing: Rich foamy head with scattered lacing.
Body: Light-Light/Med.
Rating: 3.75/5

Fresh as Helles
Flavor: Slight sweetness with noticeable orange blossom that ties in well with the subtle hops.
Aroma: Light and flowery, with a bit of butterscotch.
Hop: Light bitterness. Very subtle.
Malt: No malt presence to hinder the subtle floral nuances.
Carbonation: Under carbonated for a helles. Not quite as crisp as most others.
Mouthfeel: Bright and smooth
Color: Light amber
Head/Lacing: Creamy head with light lacing
Body: Light
Rating: 3.5/5


Allaire was created by three cousins, Santiago, Javier, and Andres who chose the name by combining the words allure and billionaire. Produced along with spirited cousins Allaire rum and Allaire tequila by The Bar Company, the vodka is sourced from Wielkopolskie grains, distilled six times and filtered another six times before being brought to proof and bottled.  The bottle by the way, stands a massive 14.75″ high and easily is the tallest bottle on my back bar of over 300 bottles.  But, this one will run you $100+, and the tequila and rum are even pricier.  Is the vodka worth it?  Read on…

Allaire Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Crystal clear.
Nose: Clean, light and elegant. Judging by the slight spiciness of the nose, I’d guess this is a rye grain bill.
Taste: Yes, definitely rye. More spice on the palate and yet, still quite smooth and balanced. There is a touch of heat, but also a warm and slight marshmallow flavor. Certainly not lacking character, this vodka will stand up on its own quite well.
Finish: Medium long with just a touch of dry slate finishing things off.
Overall: Very well done and certainly a fine sipper, I’d recommend this vodka as one to gift a friend who is an aficionado.  As a vodka for entertaining or cocktail use, it is most likely to be found on menus at upscale bars in Vegas or LA.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Allaire Privee


400 years ago, Gripsholm, Sweden was known for a different kind of cannon. In 1580, King Karl IV of Sweden built the Åkers Styckebruk foundry in Gripsholm to produce cannons for the Swedish army – and the distillery to make vodka for its workers. Reputed for quality, orders for the cannons of Åkers Styckebruk came from as far as Russia, America, Brazil and even China. Naturally, the high demand for cannons saw an increase in vodka production as well.

By 1775, King Gustaf III had monopolized alcohol production to fund his many wars and even borrowed money from the owner of Åkers Styckebruk, Joachim Von Wahrendorff. Unable to pay his debt back to Von Wahredorff, King Gustaf made Gripsholm a Royal Distillery.

Freed from state regulation it became the largest distillery in Sweden, producing over a million liters a year and employing nearly 300 workers. In 1792 Gripsholm fell prey to royal whim – King Gustaf was shot and his successor Gustav IV Adolf outlawed the private production of spirits. Having no debt to the distillery himself, he preferred to reap the revenue of a state monopoly. Gripsholm was closed for over 200 years until Sweden lifted the monopoly in the 1990’s and Kanon Vodka owner and founder Peter Hjelm set out to revive the Gripsholm legacy. Construction began in 2008. In 2010, with a production process founded in a tradition started 400 years ago, the first cases of Kanon Organic Vodka were shipped to New York.

400 years ago distilling with wheat from a local source was self evident. Kanon took that as their starting point. The entire production process, from wheat to bottle, is done inside a three-mile radius. They use water exclusively from their own artesian aquifer, and wheat sourced directly from local farmers who grow according to EU and USDA organic standards.

In addition, Kanon’s leading-edge technology is pushing industry standards. The entire distillery is run on electricity sourced from wind and waterpower. Their offices are heated from steam produced in the fermentation process. The by-products are reused in other industries or recycled into bio-fuel for local buses. Even the bottles are made from recycled glass, and are 100% recyclable. It doesn’t get much greener than that.

Kanon Organic Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Loads of fresh, vibrant rainwater essence.  Quite a lot of character with an olfactory body touched with mint, pepper, and vanilla.
Taste: Extremely smooth, yet with a lovely deep essence of authenticity and small batch mentality.  The best of both worlds.
Finish: Medium long with tantalizing interplay between the sweet wheat distillate and the brooding minerality of the local water.
Overall: One of the best vodkas to come to America in several years. This is an amazing vodka if you can find it.  It adds so much more to any cocktail than the usual multi-distillation vodkas on the market.  Buy a case, you won’t regret it.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Kanon Vodka


Canadian Club has been creating whisky since 1858, and in 2014 launched a 100% Rye Whisky. Dan Tullio, Canadian Whisky Master Ambassador at Beam Suntory says “The rye whisky category has seen significant growth over the past five years, specifically with bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts, so we made it our mission to create the right product that would satisfy their discerning palates. Canadian Club 100% Rye is what the label says it is. No corn. No barley. Nothing but rye.”

To achieve the best balance of flavor, aged whiskies for Canadian Club 100% Rye are selected from three different types of barrels: brand new, white American oak barrels; once­‐used bourbon barrels; and Canadian whisky barrels and blended  to taste.



Canadian Club 100% Rye (80 proof)
Visual: Golden brown.
Nose: Mellow rye spice on the nose with a dry, clean and crisp aroma.
Taste: Somewhat thin and reserved, the rye character still chooses to come through and act accordingly.  The flavor isn’t deep, but it is spicy and toasty.  Yes, rye toast is the direction this whisky is headed toward, just not in the same manner as a “craft” rye.
Finish: Medium long with a curious strawberry fruit essence at the tail end. I was not expecting this, but it adds to the experience.
Overall: A serviceable rye whisky that would be even better if bottled at 100 proof.  As it stands, this is a real bargain and certainly a great rye whisky for beginners.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Canadian Club

Today is National Hot Toddy Day!  A perfect day for it, since it’s only 15 degrees in Central New York at the moment.  The GSN desk was sent a few recipes to share with our readers.  Enjoy!

image001DRAMBUIE® Rusty Apple Toddy
In a coffee mug, add:
3 parts heated Apple Cider
1 part DRAMBUIE® Scotch Liqueur
Juice from one-quarter Lemon wedge

image002Stir briefly. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Hot Tully
1 oz Tullamore Dew
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz hot water

First warm a mug with hot water, then discard and combine ingredients above.  Stir before serving.
Options: Add fresh ginger for a bit of a bite, or infuse the simple syrup with fun flavors such as cinnamon and orange, or apple and ginger.

image003Milagro Hot Toddy
1.5 parts Milagro Anejo Tequila
1 part Agave Nectar
4 Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Whole Anise Star
4 parts Boiling Water
1 Lemon Wheel
Optional: Whipped cream

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