indexSanta Cruz, California-based Venus Spirits is launching a rye extension to its Wayward Whiskey brand. With a 60% rye mash bill, the whiskey also includes organic corn, malted barley and malted wheat. Wayward Rye’s spicy character is balanced by corn sweetness and grain notes, the company says. It was double distilled in a copper Alembic still and aged in charred new American oak barrels for seven months. Wayward Whiskey Rye (92 proof) will be available in limited quantities in the Bay Area through Southern Wine & Spirits beginning this week for a suggested retail price of $52 a 750-ml. bottle.

indexDenison, Texas-based distiller IronRoot Republic has debuted its first two craft spirits entries—Blue Norther vodka and Carpenter’s Bluff moonshine. Made with hand-selected Texas grains, Blue Norther is an 80-proof, non-chill filtered vodka, while Carpenter’s Bluff is billed as a 90-proof Texas corn whiskey produced using heirloom red corn. Both offerings are priced around $25 a 750-ml. and are currently distributed by Glazer’s throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth and Denison markets. Along with Blue Norther and Carpenter’s Bluff, IronRoot—which specializes in spirits made with local, non-GMO ingredients—plans to launch its Texas Drought gin later this spring, with a Texas whiskey and Texas Orange Muscat brandy also in the pipeline.

indexMassachusetts-based Blue Vase Marketing has partnered with New York artist Blake Emory to develop a new spirits brand, Emory Vodka. The super-premium, 100% corn-based spirit is aligned with Emory’s Zebra Love design concept, with the limited edition bottle featuring artwork and a trademarked red stiletto icon on frosted glass. The newly formed Zebra Love LLC imports Emory from South Africa and bottles the product, while drinks marketing firm Pearson & Pearson is teaming with Blue Vase to handle the brand’s strategic marketing efforts throughout the year. Emory Vodka will retail at $29.99 a 750 ml., taking an off-premise focus this spring in key cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

00-00-07-57-16-69-7571669_2474354Seattle’s Batch 206 Distillery has linked with craft spirits distributor Legacy Spirits (part of Heritage Wine Cellars) to debut its lineup in Illinois. On June 5, Legacy Spirits will officially launch Batch 206’s Barrel Raider Bourbon, Counter gin, Barrel Aged ‘Old Tom’ Counter gin and Batch 206 Mad Mint vodka into the market, with Old Log Cabin Bourbon to follow later this summer. Illinois marks the 20th state in Batch 206’s footprint.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily


Craft mixers are slowly gaining a foothold in bars, after the deluge of bitters flooded the market.  Entrepreneurs were wondering what they could do next.  Taking the idea a step farther, Jennie Ripps and Maria Littlefield actually hearkened back to the idea of the traditional punch which almost always included tea, citrus, sweetener and spices.  It makes for a richer taste experience and adds a touch of elegance to the cocktail.

The duo own Brew Lab Tea based in NYC, which made for a perfect fit as they began to experiment which flavor blends. They happened to be the first company to introduce tea based mixers which gave them a huge edge in terms of marketing.  They managed to get product into Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma andBevMo, which is no small feat for a new company of only two employees and two owners.

The Classic – English Breakfast and lemon peel and is sweetened with agave:  Very nice.  It does remind me of waking up in the morning.  Mellow tea flavor with just the right amount of citrus and sweetener.  You can’t go wrong.  GSN Rating: B+

Coco-Lada – Black tea, coconut, chai spices, pineapple juice and agave: Perfect for tiki drinks.  The tea flavor doesn’t come through so much, but the coconut and pineapple are well-balanced and the touch of spices keeps this from being too much in the pina colada camp.  I like this one a lot.  GSN Rating: A

Pink & Black – Black tea, hibiscus, lemon peel, and agave, splashed with strawberry and lemon juices: Quite tart, and again the tea flavor doesn’t overwhelm.  It’s more of a palette on which everything else hangs.  Overall, I’m getting strawberry lemonade.  GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: The Owl’s Brew

NegroniWeek2015_Horiz_LIGHT Personally, the Negroni is one of the go-to cocktails at the GSN offices.  Complex, incredibly easy to craft, and one that forces you to take time to contemplate life as you sip it.  The original recipe is a 1-1-1 mix of gin-Campari-sweet vermouth with an orange peel twist.  But, if you are looking for something a little different, see below for some new ideas.

White Negroni 1 pt G’Vine gin 1 pt Vermouth 1 pt Suz Bitters In a mixing glass, combine gin, bitters and vermouth. Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Tegroni 1 oz Partida Blanco or Reposado tequila 1 oz Campari 1 oz Sweet Vermouth Stir with ice and serve over fresh ice in a rocks glass with an orange slice or strain up into a chilled cocktail glass with an orange twist.

The Normandie Cocktail 1 oz Apple Brandy (Boulard Grand Solage Calvados) 1 oz Campari 1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica) 1 dropper Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters Stir all ingredients with ice until cold; strain into a rocks glass with a large ice-cube. Express with lemon, include or discard peel.

Lucano Negroni by Damian Coren 1.5 oz gin 1 oz Amaro Lucano 0.5 oz Martini Gran Lusso 3 dashes Angostura bitters Stir all ingredients and serve on the rocks. Garnish with an orange slice and lemon zest.

Diplomatico Negroni 1 oz Diplomatico Blanco Rum 1 oz Campari 1 oz Carpano Antica White Sweet Vermouth Orange Zest In an Old Fashioned glass, combine one large cube of ice, rum, Campari and vermouth. Grate orange zest over the top of the cocktail and serve.

As well, in honor of Negroni Week, Merchants of Beverage, has put together three outstanding collections –

—  to celebrate one of the world’s greatest classic cocktails while also raising money for charity during Negroni Week. These curated cocktails were made in partnership with IMBIBE’s & Campari’s Negroni Week (June 1st – June 7th, 2015) where 5% of the profits from the Merchants of Beverage Negroni Kit Collections will go to the No Kid Hungry Campaign.  Click the links above to find out more.

Lastly the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) is hosting the inaugural Negroni Week “Team Negroni” Bicycle Ride benefitting the Helen David Relief Fund in partnership with Campari. They are looking to raise funds to assist women in the bar industry who are fighting breast cancer. On Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015, a group of bartenders and Negroni aficionados will be riding from the Campari America offices in Levi Plaza, San Francisco for a 43 mile bike ride to Tiburon and back. Click the link to donate your support!

For more information go to: NegroniWeek.com

mint_julepYou would think that National Mint Julep Day would be held at the same time as the Kentucky Derby, but it is not so.  But, any day is a good day for this iconic American creation.  It turns out that the Mint Julep is most likely the oldest cocktail served in the United States, going back to the original 13 colonies.

Author and cocktail historian David Wondrich recently published his findings in his revised and expanded version of Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar.  Here’s a pertinent excerpt from a recent interview Dave had with Robert Simonson.

RS: There’s new material on drinks in the new book, particularly the history of the Julep, which you say is a much older drink than previously thought.

DW: It’s a much earlier drink. In 1770, in Virginia, there are two solid references to the julep being a recreational drink. That’s a big deal, I think. I had looked at the part on the julep in the original edition and I was shocked and disappointed. I wrote almost nothing about it. I wanted to kick myself, because that’s the most important drink.

RS: You call it the “first true American drink.”
DW: It’s a foundational drink. It’s how we started to be different. The mint julep is also the only drink that I’ve championed that hasn’t been revived yet.

RS: Really? People make nice mint juleps at many places.
DW: Some. Not so much. Nobody really specializes in them. People will make them if you ask.

RS: And it was a brandy drink originally?
DW: In the 1700s, it was a rum drink. The Revolutionary War years and a little after, a whiskey drink. Once the country got rich again and started making money again, it was a brandy drink, up until the Civil War.

RS: Can we say it was originally a Virginia drink?
DW: That seems to be the case. But I think it was [bartender Orsamus] Willard at the City Hotel in New York who popularized the iced version.

And here is Wondrich’s favorite (and authentic) version for you to try at home:

The Prescription Julep
1.5 ounces VSOP cognac or other good brandy
0.5 ounce rye whiskey
2 tsp sugar (to taste), dissolved in 1/2 ounce water
2 sprigs fresh mint, plus more for garnish

Place the sugar and water in a tall glass or julep cup and muddle until sugar is dissolved. Add mint leaves to the sugar syrup and gently press to release the flavorful oil (don’t get too aggressive: smashing up the mint releases bitterness in the leaves). Add the spirits and stir to combine. Fill glass with crushed ice and stir with bar spoon until the glass begins to frost, adding more crushed ice if needed. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint; serve with a straw.

indexVoli Vodka is launching its 80-proof extension into seven new markets this year. Previously, the offshoot had only been available in Florida. Initially entering New York and California, Voli Vodka 80 Proof is also set to expand into Georgia, Colorado, New Jersey, Texas and Tennessee by the end of the year. The 80-proof offering, which is produced in Cognac, France, will be available in 750-ml. and 1-liter bottles, priced at around $24.99 and $29.99, respectively. In addition to 80 Proof, the Voli range includes the brand’s core Original Light, Mango Coconut and Lemon expressions (all of which are around 60 proof), which retail at $19.99 a 750-ml.

indexAmerican whiskey liqueur Sweet Revenge, a 77-proof shot-geared offering that is part of the Independence Spirits Company portfolio, is entering several new markets this year. The pink-colored liqueur opened Indiana—its 34th U.S. market—last month, distributed by RNDC. Meanwhile, Sweet Revenge, which retails from $17-$20 a 750-ml., was introduced in New Mexico and Mississippi earlier this year, and will enter Virginia on July 1. The brand’s largest current markets are Pennsylvania (its production base), Texas and California.

indexSazerac Co.’s Buffalo Trace Distillery has released a new pair of French oak-aged Bourbons under its Experimental Collection series. The two 10-year-old whiskies include Buffalo Trace’s 100% French Oak Barrel Aged Bourbon, which was matured entirely in French oak, and French Oak Barrel Head Aged Bourbon, which was aged using both French oak heads and American white oak staves. Rolling out this month, both 45%-abv Bourbons are packaged in 375-ml. bottles and will be available for a limited time, priced at around $46.35 each.

indexNew Orleans craft distiller Atelier Vie has released Euphrosine Gin #9 Barrel-Finished Reserve. The barrel-aged gin was matured in second-use American whiskey barrels. The latest gin offering, as well as the original Euphrosine Gin #9, are rolling out in a new packaging design that includes embossed labels showcasing the brand name and a historic New Orleans street map on the back labels. More products from Atelier Vie will feature the new packaging in the months ahead. The Barrel-Finished Reserve is 90 proof and retails for $40 a 750-ml. bottle, while the standard Euphrosine gin is $30. Atelier Vie’s spirits portfolio also includes Toulouse Green Absinthe Verte, Toulouse Red Absinthe Rouge, Riz Louisiana Rice Whiskey and Buck 25 Vodka. Its brands are distributed in Louisiana, as well as to select retailers in Arkansas, Illinois and Indiana.

indexMoët Hennessy USA is set to launch a new special edition under its Ardbeg single malt Scotch whisky brand at the end of this month. Forbes reports that the new Islay single malt entry, which is launching in recognition of Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary this year, is called Perpetuum and will retail at $100 a bottle. Ardbeg’s latest special edition is non-chill filtered and bottled at 47.4% abv.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

IMG_8187At first glance, this doesn’t even sound like a cocktail.  Coffee liqueur and soda water?  But, it’s one of the few thousand cocktails chosen for the 75th Anniversary Edition of the Mr. Boston Bartender’s Guide, so I have to give it a try.

Where this drink originated is a mystery.  About all I can figure is that it is a nod to the popular custom of drinking sparkling water and espresso, but that’s just a hunch.  In any case, this cocktail tastes better than expected.  I’d gladly have one of these at the end of the day.  Even the lime adds a bit of refreshment if you give it a squeeze over the glass.  Salud!

Cafe Cabana
1oz coffee liqueur
soda water
Garnish: lime wedge

Pour liqueur into ice-filled Collins glass.  Fill with soda water and stir.  Garnish with lime.

51GdWwTFK+L._AA160_Here once again is a round-up of just a few of the books that have made their way across the GSN review desk this spring.

The Craft Cocktail Party by Julie Reiner (Grand Central Life & Style)  Julie Reiner is arguably the most successful female bartender in the industry, so it is only fitting that she finally has published her own book.  Starting as a student of Dale DeGroff who provides a lovely forward, Julie was instrumental in bringing cocktail culture back from the dead in NYC.  Opening bars such as the Flatiron Lounge, Pegu Club and Clover Club over the past dozen years, her insights and recipes are welcomed into our homes with her first book.  After a  brief chapter on bar tools, garnishes and syrups, Julie gets right to it with enough recipes to satisfy anyone.  Broken into seasonal libations, there are the classics (Martinez, Scofflaw, Hurricane) but more often there are her own luscious creations.  What sets this book apart is her down to earth writing style and easily obtainable ingredients.  Anyone can make these with a minimum of effort both in the liquor store and in the home.  GSN Rating: A-

61afxn+C62L._AA160_Imbibe! Updated & Revised Edition by David Wondrich (Perigee)  One of the most important mixology books published in the first decade of the 21st century, Dave Wondrich’s insightful volume into that most American of pursuits gets an upgrade.  Using the life of Professor Jerry Thomas, author of the first cocktail guide back in 1862 as a jumping off point, Wondrich focuses on the histories of early cocktails including the ubiquitous Mint Julep which surprisingly dates back to colonial times.  New information reflecting other prominent bartenders who preceded Thomas, the revival of long-lost spirits and liqueurs, and nearly two dozen excellent Golden Age cocktails that you have never enjoyed before.  This one book will give the reader more of an appreciation for the art of mixology than any other.  Like Jerry Thomas, David Wondrich is a showman and captures the reader with well mixed and tasty prose.  GSN Rating: A++

51zWyNW+oPL._AA160_Distilled by Joel Harrison & Neil Ridley (Mitchell Beazley)  When faced with shelf after shelf of spirits at your local liquor store, how do you choose which ones to take home for an evening of getting to know one another?  This book by the authors of the popular website CaskStrength.net do your homework for you.  Focusing on the most interesting versions of everything from absinthe to whiskey (and then some), the reader gets some insights from craft distillers from around the world, 10 spirits in each category to try, and some cocktail recipes.  Loads of evocative full-color photographs make this more than just a treatise of alcohol though.  You will have fun trying to track down some of the spirits and perhaps even having a tasting party at home with friends.  GSN Rating: B+

51QyXIKEsyL._AA160_Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails by Warren Bobrow (Fair Winds) “Bring me a shrubbery!” This classic line from Monty Python’s Holy Grail was not about fruit vinegars, although it could have been as they have been around for hundreds of years in the Arabic speaking world.  Mr. Bobrow’s latest book in his cocktail trilogy is all about the bitters and the shrubs.  Geared for the experienced home enthusiast, this 150+ page volume is full of recipes for making your own cocktail mixers and bitters.  Be prepared to invest in a lot of bottles and labels as well as setting aside plenty of room in your refridgerator to keep them all.  The drinks are creative, clever and a bit on the tart and aromatic side.  You may find each recipe needs a little tweaking to find the right balance for you.  Overall though, this is a fun book for those who don’t mind waiting a few days to a few weeks to have house-made ingredients on hand.  GSN Rating: B+

51OnBaUpZZL._AA160_Beer For All Seasons by Randy Mosher (Storey)  We here at Good Spirits News sometimes do take a break from hard liquor and cocktails to enjoy the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage, beer.  This book serves as an introduction to the hundreds of styles, flavors and brands available.  Plenty of background on the history of brewing, sprinkled with beautiful photographs of glasses and bottles of beer and people enjoying them makes up the first third of this quick read.  The middle section is devoted to seasonal beers (bocks, shandys, Märzens and stouts to name but a few), and the book is concluded with a list of the 100 top beer festivals around the world.  Any beer lover will appreciate this book, but for the most part this book is geared for the drinker just starting their journey.  GSN Rating B-

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