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6a00d83451bdba69e2015437daae76970c-450wiAnyone who is a serious student knows about the Volstead Act which ushered in the era of prohibition.  Not many know about the Cullen-Harrison Act which was signed by FDR on March 22, 1933.  It allowed for the sale of 3.2% beer and wine.  It then took until December 5, 1993 for the states to ratify the Act.  It was at this time that national prohibition was officially repealed.  But, get this: it took another 33 years until all 50 states repealed their own laws.  Mississippi was the last to go.

But some forms of prohibition still remain in what are known as “dry counties”.  See the map below.

Map showing dry (red), wet (blue), and mixed (yellow) counties in the United States.

Map showing dry (red), wet (blue), and mixed (yellow) counties in the United States.

For those of you unfortunate enough to live in one of these dry areas, I offer a non-alcoholic toast.  For the rest of my lucky readers, I suggest you remember our past by cracking open a craft beer and watching the short film below.

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1Nothing cures the rainy day blues like a good whiskey. As my luck would have it, Saturday, November 5th was wet and gloomy. Tucked away between Seattle’s Safeco and CenturyLink Fields, Piranha Shop hosted The American Whiskey Experience, a benefit event supporting Northwest Folklife. The venue offered an intimate space away from the dreary Autumn weather, most notable for its simple-yet-quirky decor (I’m looking at you, mounted deer head wearing a tie). At the back, guest Chef Dezi Bonow of The Carlile Room served up a delicious array of Southern-inspired foods that complimented the beverages perfectly. In total, there seemed to be about 20-30 attendees throughout the entire event.

Of the 27 brands listed in the program, I had the opportunity (and stamina) to try about half of them:
2Redemption: Redemption had three rye whiskeys at their tasting bar: their flagship Straight Rye Whiskey, Straight High Rye Bourbon Whiskey, and Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
The Straight Rye was my personal favorite of the three, and was specifically designed with cocktails in mind. The flavor is spicy with apricot notes, and sits in the center of your tongue. This would be an excellent option for making your next Manhattan.
The Straight High Rye Bourbon offered a very different taste: it was smoky, and rose in the nose after sipping. The spirit is incredibly smooth, and offers a slightly herbal aftertaste.
The Straight Bourbon took a while to rise in the mouth, and was light on the nose. But once the flavor peaked you could distinctly taste the same apricot notes as the Straight Rye. The Straight Bourbon is decidedly drier, though, and best sipped alone.
4Knob Creek: Knob Creek’s offerings had a uniquely ‘salty’ taste to them, that reminded me of the way sea salt and caramel compliment each other. The extra savory kick really added something to these drinks: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and the Straight Rye Whiskey.
Of the four, the Straight Bourbon Whiskey was the most impressive. The bottle I tasted from was a limited edition from 2001, that had sold out the first day of the tasting. I considered myself lucky to get a taste, and was not disappointed: the taste was light but packed a serious punch. The way I described it in the moment was a “gentle smack in the face”. Hints of caramel, molasses, and spice gave the drink a complex flavor palette, but one that did not overwhelm.
My second favorite was the Straight Rye, which immediately reminded me of one of my favorite brewed teas: lapsang souchong. Anyone who has had this particular tea can tell you it is like drinking a campfire; the Straight Rye was just as smoky, but smooth with a slow burn. This was definitely one I would be interested in tasting again!
Basil Hayden: Basil Hayden had one bottle of Old Granddad Rye, which I found hard to describe. The liquor had less body than most of the others I had tried before, with spiced fruity notes that were hard to pinpoint. The closest I could come to was a raspberry-peach flavor.
Bookers: Bookers Bourbon was one of the selections I immediately understood would be best served over ice. Full bodied, it has a sweet and slightly smoky edge to the flavor, which rises slowly in the mouth. You really have to let the drink sit on your tongue for a moment; as it warms, the taste moves from savory to something like ‘smoked creme brulee’. This was one of my favorites from the afternoon, and comes with a high recommendation.
7Templeton Rye: Templeton Rye boasts its Prohibition-era recipe, touting that they were the favorite drink of mobster Al Capone. If that is true, the man had good taste. Their 4-year standard Rye is sweet and fruity, with raspberry undertones. It is bold and full-bodied, and smooth on the tongue.
The 6-year standard Rye takes the flavors of the 4-year and kicks them up a notch. Heartier and richer, the fruit notes mellow out in favor of a dry smoky edge.
Noel (left) getting behind the action

Noel (left) getting behind the action

Rebel Yell: Rebel Yell’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was purportedly patented in 1936, soon after the Prohibition ended. Light-bodied, it offers some of the same creme brulee taste that Bookers Bourbon had, but much softer. The flavor washes over your tongue slowly as you sip.

Their biggest seller is the Small Batch Rye, which is still as light as the Straight Bourbon, but much smoother. The burnt smoky flavor of the former, however, disappears in favor of a wash of dark currant.
Something new I hadn’t seen before was their new line of infused whiskeys, that include flavors like ginger and root beer. Obviously meant for mixed drinks or boozy floats, they were interesting none-the-less. The ginger was the best of the options available, and retained a lot of the ‘spice’ of most ginger drinks.
Yellowstone: Their Bourbon Whiskey is a blend of 4, 6, and 7-year bourbons, and offers a complex citrusy taste, while staying smoky on the nose.
Their limited edition blend takes 4-year and 12-year bourbons, and brings them together for an incredibly smooth and balanced drink. This was perhaps the most well-rounded selection of the many that I tried. Lightly smoky, it takes about 15-20 seconds for the flavor to fully blossom on the tongue.
9Four Roses Bourbon: Four Roses had several options at their tasting bar, including their Yellow Label Bourbon, which smelled sweet and offered caramel notes in a light body. The brand has reportedly been actively expanding into the Seattle area, and can be found at most local bars these days.
Their Small Batch combines four corn recipes into one drink, giving it a strong spicy kick at the tip of your tongue. The body is light, but the taste complex.
Their Single Barrel OBSV is their most balanced and accessible whiskey; one I would highly recommend to anyone interested in learning to enjoy whiskies, who has not found ‘the one’ to get them started yet. The heat lasts on the tongue, but isn’t overwhelming. The body is also smooth and robust, and has enough sweetness to appeal to anyone.
11Bird Dog: Bird Dog offered two Bourbon Whiskies: an 8-year and a 10-year. They are the same recipe, with one benefiting from an additional two years of aging. Of the two, the 10-year was my favorite. The smokiness was up, and had a much richer body. This was another expression I would recommend sipping over the rocks.
12Buffalo Trace: Buffalo Trace was my second-to-last stop on the tasting tour. Their double gold Bourbon impressed me with its balanced body and taste, but I felt the drink would be better served on the rocks. The Sazerac Rye is made from a pre-Prohibition recipe, and can be described as an “excellent, smooth, and rich-bodied” whiskey that gives hints of apple on the nose after sipping. The bottles are relatively affordable, and would blend well in any drink.
132bar Spirits: I ended the afternoon at the only local distillery represented at the tasting: 2bar Spirits. Located in the heart of Georgetown, they operate a small storefront that showcases their unique flavors. The whiskies are mostly corn-based, giving them a much stronger kick than many of their competitors. My initial reaction upon tasting their flagship Rye was “refined moonshine”. Though heavy with corn flavor, the drink is incredibly smooth, and just slightly ‘sour’. I would highly recommend a taste to any adventurous whiskey lover, looking for something different!
GSN West Coast correspondent Noel Ozma Celeste Frodelius-Fujimoto attended the 12pm session of The American Whiskey Experience in Seattle, WA on November 5, 2016

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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 2014’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

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b42086b2206396354f7173a543355bc0“85% of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N’N-T’N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme. The drinks themselves are not the same, and vary between the Sivolvian “chinanto/mnigs” which is ordinary water served at slightly above room temperature, and the Gagrakackan “tzjin-anthony-ks” which kills cows at a hundred paces; and in fact the one common factor between all of them, beyond the fact that the names sound the same, is that they were all invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other worlds.” – Douglas Adams

Be that as it may, we here on planet Earth will be celebrating International Gin & Tonic Day this weekend.  Cheers!

Gin and Tonic
2 oz. London dry gin
Tonic water (from a fresh bottle)
1-2 ample wedges of lime
Plenty of cold ice cubes
Highball glass

Preparation
1) Chill the glass. You may want to fill it with ice, then empty it and refill, as some bartenders do with a martini glass.
2) Fill the glass with whole ice cubes. If you wish, take a wedge of lime and moisten the rim the glass with it.
3) Pour the gin over the ice, which should be cold enough that it crackles when the liquor hits it.
4) Fill glass almost to the top with tonic.
5) Squeeze one wedge of lime into the glass. Drop the squeezed lime into the drink as a garnish if you like; it’s not necessary, but can add a bit of extra flavor. (If you do, notes Dale DeGroff, make sure the peel has been washed.) Serve.

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liqueurs2There are more liqueurs out there than you may realize.  A few of them are crucial for classic cocktails (triple sec), many are liquid desserts (Irish creams), and a few are totally unique (coca leaf liqueur).  What exactly is a liqueur, you ask?  Basically take a distilled spirit, add some sugar, and voila.  But that’s only part of the picture.  Often, liqueurs are flavored with fruit, citrus rind, berries, herbs, spices, and particularly in the case of Chartreuse the liqueur takes on the color of the ingredients.

Here are some of the many liqueurs that GSN has reviewed over the past several years.  Everything from ancho chili liqueur to bacon liqueur.  As an added bonus, I’ve included a video by the inestimable Robert “DrinkBoy” Hess which will show you how you can use as many liqueurs as possible in a single classic cocktail .

1921 Tequila Cream Liqueur

300 Joules Cream Liqueurs

Agwa Coca Herbal Liqueur

Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur

Bärenjäger Honey & Bourbon

Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur

Berentzen Liqueurs

Berentzen Bushel & Barrel

The Bitter Truth Liqueurs

The Bitter Truth Pimento Dram

Bols Foam

Caffe Borghetti

Charbay Nostalgie Black Walnut Liqueur

Cointreau

Cointreau Noir

Crave Liqueurs

Crave Chocolate Truffle Liqueur

Domaine de Canton

Galliano L’Autentico

Galliano Ristretto

Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur

Heering Coffee Liqueur

Hiram Walker Caramel Apple Liqueur

Hiram Walker Triple Sec

House Spirits Coffee Liqueur

Jaan Liqueur

Kahlua Coffee Cream

The King’s Ginger

Kringle Cream

Licor 43

Love Potion #9

Lovoka Caramel Liqueur

Mama Walker’s Liqueurs

Mandarine Napoleon

Mandarine XO Grande Reserve

Marie Brizard Chocolat Royal

Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur

Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur

Patron XO Cafe Dark

Pierre Ferrand Ancienne Methode Dry Curaçao

Punzoné Lemoncino

Pür Likör Liqueurs

Root

Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur

Sorel Hibiscus Liqueur

St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Liqueur

Xanté

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logo-2016The World’s 50 Best Bar awards took place earlier today in London, UK. Congratulations to all of the winners! I guess I know where the GSN staff will be going on vacation in the next twelve months.

  1. The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog, New York
  2. American Bar At The Savoy, London
  3. Dandelyan, London
  4. Connaught Bar At The Connaught, London
  5. Attaboy, New York
  6. The Gibson, London
  7. Employees Only, New York
  8. Nomad Bar At The Nomad Hotel, New York
  9. The Clumsies, Athens
  10. Happiness Forgets, London
  11. Manhattan At The Regent, Singapore
  12. The Baxter Inn, Sydney
  13. Licoreria Limantour, Mexico City
  14. 28 Hong Kong Street, Singapore
  15. Speak Low, Shanghai
  16. The Broken Shaker, Miami
  17. Candelaria, Paris
  18. Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam
  19. Nightjar, London
  20. Maison Premiere, New York
  21. Operation Dagger, Singapore
  22. Black Pearl, Melbourne
  23. High Five, Tokyo
  24. Little Red Door, Paris
  25. Linje Tio, Stockholm
  26. Central Station, Beirut
  27. Lobster Bar And Grill At Shangri-La Hotel, Hong Kong
  28. Mace, New York
  29. Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco
  30. Bar Termini, London
  31. La Factoria, Old San Juan
  32. Oriole, London
  33. The Jerry Thomas Project, Rome
  34. Dante, New York
  35. Trick Dog, San Francisco
  36. ABV, San Francisco
  37. The Walker Inn, Los Angeles
  38. Nottingham Forest, Milan
  39. Aviary, Chicago
  40. Baba Au Rum, Athens
  41. Quinary, Hong Kong
  42. Himkok, Oslo
  43. Lost & Found, Nicosia
  44. Ruby, Copenhagen
  45. PDT, New York
  46. Bulletin Place, Sydney
  47. Bramble, Edinburgh
  48. Callooh Callay, London
  49. Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires
  50. Buck & Breck, Berlin

 

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vodka_glass_gl_16dec10_istock_bIn honor of National Vodka Day, Good Spirits News is proud to share some of our many reviews from over the years, plus a few original flavored vodka cocktails created by Blair Frodelius.  Cheers!

Alchemia

Aylesbury Duck

Bak’s Bison Grass

Bengerminz

Bootlegger 21

Boru

Cariel

Chopin

Crystal Head

Deep Eddy

Double Cross

Exclusiv & here

Golia

Karlsson’s Gold

Ketel One

Leaf

Michael Godard

Orange V

Oval

Purity

Rehorst

Reyka

Russian Diamond

Smooth Ambler

Sobieski

Spring 44

Tuthilltown Indigenous

Vesica

Wódka

Orient Express
2 oz citron vodka
1 0z grand marnier
0.5 oz canton ginger liqueur
0.5 oz lime juice
2 dashes Fee’s orange bitters
Shake and strain into cocktail glass.  Spear a piece of pickled ginger on bamboo skewer and lay across top of glass.

Admiral Perry
2 oz absolut pear vodka
1 oz original cinn schnapps
1 oz dry vermouth
0.25 teaspoon white creme de cacao
Add all ingredients to mixing glass and stir with ice until chilled.  Strain into cocktail glass.  Garnish with a thin slice of pear.

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