With all of the alcoholic sodas out there these days, it was only a matter of time before soda flavored spirits made their way onto the shelves of your local liquor store.  One of the first we’ve come across is Root Out Root Beer Flavored Whisky.  The product is a blend of root beer flavoring with four-year old Canadian blended whisky aged in ex-bourbon American Oak barrels.

Root Out (70 proof)
Visual: Medium brown.
Nose: Root beer. Not a hint of whisky.
Taste: Alcoholic root beer.  Very much a syrup flavor as opposed to a natural blend of traditional root herbs and spices.  Not bad in any way, just very soda-like.  I don’t detect any whisky character.
Finish: Long, with the root beer character hanging on for several minutes.
Overall: I could see this being a popular shot, along the lines of cinnamon flavored whiskies.  I’d have to be in the mood though.  A curiosity.
GSN Rating: B-

For more information go to: Root Out Whisky



Sangre de Vida “Blood of Life” blanco tequila begins with slowly roasting agave piña hearts in stone-walled brick ovens. This centuries-old art of slow-cooking is then followed by cooling, shredding, and finally squeezing the hearts into a mosto (sweet juice), which then ferments for five days, after which it is then distilled a total of three times (with its final distillation completed in small stills at a higher temperature).

Inspired by Lotería card number 27, El Corazón, this special edition offering of Sangre de Vida Blanco is presented in a stunning, glass heart bottle.  Perfect for lovers or perhaps the Tin Man.

Sangre de Vida Blanco (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Quite funky and almost metallic. The agave seems to be fighting with the oak.
Taste: A bit sweet and thin. The agave flavor is shy, but the barrel flavor is reticent as well. At the tail end of the tasting, there is an unusual strawberry flavor.  It’s tequila, but unlike any I’ve had before.
Finish: Medium, with the sweetness lingering like a bubblegum.
Overall: The bottle is awesome, the tequila less so.  It seems rushed and lacks any real character.
GSN Rating: C+

For more information go to: Sangre de Vida 

Tommyrotter Distillery’s foray into brown spirits began last November with the release of their Triple Barrel American Whiskey and limited edition Napa Valley Heritage Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey. A small-batch distillery based in Buffalo, New York, Tommyrotter’s Triple Barrel American Whiskey is a blend of three different bases — two Indiana bourbons and one Tennessee whiskey aged in two types of white American oak barrels and finished in a red wine French oak barrel.

Tommyrotter is at home in the F.N. Burt building, a 115-year-old paper box factory located in the heart of Buffalo’s historic Hydraulics manufacturing district. At its height of production, the company produced as many as 4 million boxes a day, used to store everything from cigarettes to shoe polish. After decades of dormancy, the building was most recently home to New Era Cap Company. Beginning in 2015, and with new revitalization of the Hydraulics district, Tommyrotter Distillery began distilling small batch craft spirits on this historic site.

Tommyrotter Triple Barrel American Whiskey (92 proof)
Visual: Medium yellow-gold.
Nose: Lively malt patina with milder notes of char, vanilla and leather.
Taste: Exceptionally flavorful and balanced.  The aging is just young enough to add sprightliness, but old enough to smooth out any rough edges.  This is surprisingly like a single malt.
Finish: Medium long with more of the buttery and creamy notes lingering to good effect.
Overall: A new favorite at the GSN offices.  This works equally well straight or in a classic whiskey cocktail.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Tommyrotter

“For Those Times When Your Mouth Wants to Rage, but Your Liver needs to Chill”.  Well, we all have those times, I guess.  I was intrigued by the idea of a pre-bottled non-alcoholic cocktail. Curious Elixirs are crafted in the Hudson River Valley, and combine organic juices, spices, herbs, roots, barks, and botanicals.  So, think of them as lightly carbonated, bittered juices.

Although they list three different flavors on their website, the only one currently available is Curious No. 1, an orange and herbal elixir. Curious No. 2 was a smoky and spicy mix that sold out quickly and will return later this year. Curious No. 3 is currently in development.

Because Curious is a handcrafted fresh beverage, make sure to keep them refrigerated and use them within 30 days.  Curious No. 1 is designed to have an orange wedge garnish.

We tried the sample we were sent in a few different ways.  Drinking it straight without dilution was way too intense.  This is designed to be served with ice.  So, we next filled a rocks glass with a large single cube and poured Curious No. 1 over the ice, stirred for a bit and garnished with the suggested orange wedge.  This was much better, but still lacked a balance.  So, lastly we filled a shaker with several cubes, poured in the elixir and shook briefly.  We then strained this into a coupe and added an orange wheel.  This we found gave a great presentation, along with the desired amount of dilution.

As for the flavor, it was spot on.  A great citrus base with a pronounced dark aromatic bitter quality.  Everything tasted natural, fresh and quite like a cocktail.  You could add a shot of just about any spirit to this and it would work just as well.  But, that of course, would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?

GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Curious Elixirs

The Baltimore Whiskey Co. recently introduced a host of new flavors to the local spirits scene this fall with the release of three amaros. The new offerings will expand the products offered by the distillery, which began operating in 2015 and so far has produced four year-round spirits.

American-made amaro is “still a very small niche” that is growing, co-owner Max Lents said. He and the distillery’s other owners are fans of the herbal liqueur, and wanted to create a homegrown version. “From when we opened, we were kind of amaro enthusiasts and always had some bottles sitting around,” he said, so “we started poking around on it at a personal level.”

Developing the amaro recipes took about a year of work, with multiple test batches and revisions, Lents said. The spirit comes in three flavors: Szechuan pepper, coffee, and fernet, which has a bitter, minty taste.

Baltimore Whiskey Co.’s other products include Shot Tower Gin, Charles Street Apple Brandy, 1904 Liqueur, a limited-release apple brandy, along with a unique pechuga and a rye whiskey.

Baltamaro Coffee Liqueur (70 proof)
Visual: Medium orange.
Nose: Heavily herbal and spiced. The coffee scent is comprised of high top notes. Engaging and unusual.
Taste: Somewhat sweet, with notes of orange and clove. The coffee comes through well, with a deep permeating richness and natural flavor.
Finish: Quite long with softer bitter notes tying into the coffee fade.
Overall: Excellent and a perfect after dinner amaro to drink neat or on the rocks.  This also makes for a fantastic cocktail amaro with rye, bourbon, dark rum, and lighter tequilas.  This is an ingenious addition to the amaro world.
GSN Rating: A

Baltamaro Szechuan Liqueur (70 proof)
Visual: Bright yellow.
Nose: Grassy herbality with a slight lemon hint. Hovering over this base is a light wave of peppery heat.
Taste: Medium sweetness with a light herbal touch of lemongrass and ginger.  However, the heat kicks in quickly and while not overwhelming, gives a beautifully subdued warming effect.
Finish: Medium long with the lasting impression being one of cinnamon/ginger/red pepper heat layered over dried herb.
Overall: Wow! Another winner and this one is totally balanced in every way.  We were expecting a blast of pepper that would obliterate everything else.  Instead, this is a subtle and very unique amaro which is just begging for use in cocktails. Try this with light rums in a tiki styled concoction, or with vodka and reposado tequilas.
GSN Rating: A

Baltamaro Fernet (100 proof)
Visual: Darkening orange.
Nose: A massive dose of spiced orange with lighter notes of spearmint.
Taste: There’s a lot going on in this one. The higher proof brings sharper and crisper herbs into play. Not as intensely minty as many fernets on the market, but still quite bitter and rugged.  As the initial flavor wears on, more bitterness creeps out and the menthol kicks in on the front palate.
Finish: Very long with a bittermint finish.
Overall: A good effort that seems to lack intensity.  We liked the overall bitterness, but were looking for something that resembled the traditional fernets we’re used to.  This makes for an interesting rinse in a Sazerac or as a shot to celebrate the end of a shift.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: The Baltimore Whiskey Co.

In 2016, Stölzle Lausitz GmbH (a German glass manufacturer that makes, among other items, the Glencairn whisky glasses) and Romeo Hristov from Chisholm Trail Crafts started the development and testing of new glasses for tequila and mezcal inspired by the drinking jars [jarritos] for pulque and mezcal. The Riedel tequila glass (in its two versions, Ouverture and Vinum), the Waterford tequila glass (very similar to the Ouverture) and the Glencairn glass (apparently the preferred glass in USA for agave spirits tastings) among others, are all reasonably functional glasses. Why more glasses then?  Here’s what Romeo Hristov has to say:

“Stolzle and I were trying to bring a glass(es) that capture not only the flavor but also the historical roots of the drink ware for agave spirits. In much the same way as the agave spirits are unique for Mexico there is the “jarrito” [drinking jar], a unique drinking vessel for alcoholic beverages from agave (both fermented and distilled) which have been used for said beverages for over two thousand years. However, it’s not just the tradition behind it, but also its strikingly modern shape which quite closely resemble a stemless tulip snifter (especially in some of the Pre-Columbian pieces that come without handle) that called our attention. In brief, these glasses are a reinvention of this traditional drinking vessel with a modern design and functionality, and the general shape was intended to bring some of the unique feeling of rustic elegance of Mexico.”

We at the GSN offices have been trying these out for a week now and have to say that they are quite elegant, and serve their purpose well.  These are hand-blown glasses with heavy bases that rest well in the hand.  The shorter version has a slightly thicker rim which feels sturdy and somewhat more masculine, whereas the taller glass has a thinner, more feminine lip. The bowls are both deep and manage to catch and keep the olfactory sensation at a premium.  Having used the Glencairn and Riedel glasses for the past several years, these new agave spirit focused glasses offer a new and more focused experience to the tequila and mezcal aficionado.  Not only that, but they make a fine statement on the bar.  Salud!

GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Chisholm Trail Crafts

1610834_10152862980905943_61540934822568108_nThe Pisco Sour has been around for nearly 100 years now, but you still rarely see it on cocktail menus outside of metropolitan cities.  Hailing from Lima, Peru, it was created by Victor Morris an ex-patriot American.  Designed as a South American spin on the Whiskey Sour, it became an instant hit.  Originally a simple mix of pisco, simple syrup and lime juice, by 1924 the recipe included the key addition of egg white topped with aromatic bitters.  Sadly, only five years later Morris declared bankruptcy and soon passed from cirrhosis of the liver.  Perhaps too much of a good thing.

If you want the total authentic experience, make sure to use Amargo Chuncho bitters which are made in Peru.

Pisco Sour
1.5oz Peruvian pisco (Porton, Barsol or Encanto are good brands)
0.75oz fresh lemon juice
1oz simple syrup
1 small egg white
Amargo Chuncho Peruvian Cocktail Bitters (use Angostura bitters in a pinch)Combine pisco, juice, syrup and egg white in a shaker; and shake vigorously without ice. Add ice, shake well again and strain neat. Place a few drops of bitters on top of the foam.
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