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Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

Maison-Leblon-Selecao-Verde-2011-1Way back in 2009, GSN reviewed the original Leblon cachaca (We even used a different rating system back then!)  Now six years later, the spirit has truly caught on in the United States and there are many brands to choose from.  So, we were excited to learn that Leblon was introducing a special limited edition crafted from sugar cane harvested just last year.  The cane is hand cut and then pressed within three hours.  After fermentation, the juice is distilled in an alambique still and then aged in ex-cognac barrels for up to six months.  Finally, it is bottled unfiltered at still-strength (no water added).

Leblon Seleção Verde Cachaça 2014 Harvest (90 proof)
Visual: Crystal clear.
Nose: Deep funky sugar cane with a buttery, bison grass character.  Some lychee and asian fruit adds a brighter tone.  Finally there is a fresh peppery high note.
Taste: Clean, clear and bright with a lot of biting, spicy high notes.  The grassy quality is quite fresh, but not in your face as it seems to have been toned down by the sweetness of the cognac cask.  At the end there is a curious salinity.
Finish: Long and dry with a peppery finish.
Overall: Very nice and smooth with a depth and body that is greater than the Leblon flagship style.  This cachaca holds up well in a caipirinha cocktail quite well, but also makes for a fine sipper.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Leblon Cachaca

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6a00e553b3da20883401b8d0e62077970cThe story of Vov goes back to 1845 when it was first created by Gian Battista Pezziol of Padua who was not a distiller, but rather a pastry chef who was known for his egg white nougat. He felt that discarding the yolks of eggs was wasteful, so he began experimenting with making a popular high protein “energy drink” called zabaglione. Pezziol’s beverage caught on quickly and was recognized and awarded by the Archduke of Austria just eleven years later. During WWII, Vov was even rationed to Italian troops as a source of nutrition and alcohol.  During the arid years of the 1960’s and 70’s, beverages like Vov fell into decline as an “old man’s drink”.

Today, Vov is making a comeback as a beverage served in ski resorts and as a component in modern cocktails.  And in case you were wondering where the name comes from, vovi is the Venetian word for eggs.

VOV (35.6 proof)
Visual: Vanilla custard.
Nose: Vanilla custard.  (no, it’s not a typo).
Taste: Sugary, slightly eggy and with a touch of alcohol.  It has a rum-like flavor and character instead of wine.  Very, very sweet.
Finish: Intense sugar bomb that goes on for ages.
Overall: A definite dessert liqueur.  Much sweeter than Advocaat or Eierlikör, I’d definitely recommend this served on ice to dilute it a bit.  The flavor is good, but I feel like I’ve just eaten a bowl of breakfast cereal à la Calvin & Hobbes.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: 375 Park

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APEROLA distant relative of Campari, Aperol Aperitivo was created in 1919 in Padua, Italy.  No doubt due to two world wars in Europe, its success was slow in coming, taking a quarter of a century to finally gain a foothold in the mixology world.  Today, the Aperol Spritz is well-known and perhaps it’s most iconic legacy.

On the shelf, one might mistake Aperol for a less expensive version of Campari, and to a degree it is (it is even owned by the same company).  Made with rhubarb, cinchona, gentian, bitter and sweet oranges, it has the familiar chalky bitterness, but is much lighter, sweeter and milder.  Coming in at only 11% alcohol, this is less boozy than most wine and less than half the proof of Campari.

We here at the GSN offices have been experimenting with what we’re calling a Negroni Primavera, a lighter spring-like version of the Campari-gin-vermouth cocktail.

Add equal parts of Aperol, Old Tom gin and Lillet Blanc to an ice-filled rocks glass, then add a dash of orange bitters.  Stir and serve.

Aperol Aperitivo (22% abv)
Visual: Candy apple red.
Nose: Grapefruit, orange peel and framboise.
Taste: Sweet with a light bitter edge, almost like eating candied grapefruit peel.  A thick mouthfeel with an friendly and direct flavor.
Finish: Medium long with more of that candied citrus sensibility.
Overall: Definitely a gateway drug to Campari.  This works exceptionally well with Prosecco, gin, and even on its own over ice.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Aperol

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5007822_Limoncello_di_CapriLimoncello has been produced in Italy for over 100 years, and there are plenty of different brands available.  Today, we’re focusing on Limoncello di Capri which is the biggest seller worldwide.  Created by Vincenza Canale in the late 1800’s as a digestif, she used locally grown Sorrento lemons in her recipe.  Today, the company uses organically grown Sorrentos, and helped pass regulations that specify this type of lemon must be used in order to be called a Limoncello.  The company was also the first to trademark the name Limoncello in 1988.

The recipe is simple.  Using only the thin oil laden peels, the citrus is rested in a neutral grain spirit until the color and flavors are infused, and then sugar and water are added.  The typical cloudiness is due to the emulsification of sugar and oils, similar to what happens with ouzo and absinthe.

Limoncello di Capri (64 proof)
Visual: Cloudy lemon yellow.
Nose: High lemony citrus notes, quite fresh and mouth-watering.
Taste: Luscious lemon tang with enough sugar to keep it from being tart.  The mouthfeel is slightly thick, but in no way is it syrupy.
Finish: A slight bitter edge reminiscent of lemon peels creeps in, keeping things from getting too sweet.
Overall: This tastes like the whole lemon, and not just the peel and sugar.  One of the better limoncellos I’ve had.  Great as a brunch opener or a nightcap.  Mediterranean summer in a glass.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Limoncello

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bigbottle_105Now just a cherry picking minute!  Here are a few facts you may not know about this fruit.  The Marasca cherry grown in Yugoslavia is what Maraschino (pronounced mer-ə-ˈskē-nō) liqueur is made from.  The neon colored cocktail garnishes are in no way related.  But, Bols Maraschino isn’t really either.  Instead, it is made from Morello cherries grown in the Black Forest region of Germany.  Instead, it is closer to kirschwasser (cherry-water).  But, Bols has added a sweetener and some herbs to keep it from being an eaux de vie.  So, it is an interesting hybrid.

Bols Maraschino (48 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Dark, sweet cherry fruit.
Taste: Definite cherry with a sweet and light touch.  It’s a kind of funky, fruity Black Forest dessert aspect.  This would make a great ingredient in whipped cream.
Finish: Sweet cherry goes on for a long while.  Think cherry bubble gum.
Overall: Not as complex as Luxardo or Maraska maraschino, but will do in a pinch.
GSN Rating: B-

For more information go to: Bols

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liqueur-sambuca-molinari-caffe-70clFor those of you who are more adventurous spirits, Molinari Caffè may be just the coffee flavored liqueur for you.  Made with coffee beans from Guatamala, the Dominican Republic, Java, Togo and Congo; it has a base spirit of anise flavored sambuca.  In a sense, this is a cafè corretto liqueur.

A popular tradition in Italy, “correcting” one’s coffee or espresso involves adding a splash of grappa, brandy or sambuca to fortify both the beverage and the imbiber.  The Molinari company located in Colefelice, Italy has been making Molinari Caffè for the past twelve years, but the brand is a relative newcomer to the U.S. market.

Try some in place of your usual coffee liqueur in your next Black or White Russian and see what you think.

Molinari Caffè (72 proof)
Visual: Dark cola syrup.
Nose: An intriguing blend of strong coffee and licorice.  Very unusual and almost spice cake-like somehow.
Taste: Thick glycerine mouthfeel with the sambuca taking the lead.  The coffee flavor is well-balanced with dry and bright tones.  It tastes like coffee and that’s a good thing.
Finish: The anise subsides fairly quickly and you are left with a sugary espresso flavor that goes on for quite a while.
Overall: This is a bit sweeter than what I’d prefer to drink straight.  I think this will work well over ice and as a shot in your next coffee though.  No need to add any sweetener.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: 375 Park

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J.R. Revelry BourbonTake a look at the logo of the J. R. Revelry company and see if you notice anything unusual about it.  Yes, the catchphrase is in Spanish.  What gives?

It has to do with Ricardo Tapia, a Peruvian native who now makes his home in Atlanta, Georgia where La Bodega Internacional is based.  In fact, the J.R. in the whiskey brand’s name stands for Jesus Ricardo Tapia who came up with the recipe and flavor profile.

Oddly enough, the whiskey is not “hecho en Tennessee” however.  It is distilled at the Seagram Distillery in Lawrence, Indiana and then bottled in Nashville, Tennessee.  I was unable to find out where it is aged.  Regardless, it’s a multi-state endeavor.

J.R. Revelry Whiskey (90 proof)
Visual: Rich gold.
Nose: Sweet corn and barley candy with a touch of oak. Slight notes of new leather and rubber.
Taste: Quite woody with a lighter caramel and vanilla touch than typically found in bourbons.  The higher proof does well to make this almost seem like a bottled-in-bond older style.  Aggressive, but also fully confident and self-aware.
Finish: Long with a see-saw back and forth between smokey barrel and sweeter roasted corn.
Overall: I’ve been enjoying this bourbon straight, with a rock, and in Manhattans.  It does it all folks!
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: J.R. Revelry

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