Take a look at the photo of this cocktail. You see what I did there?  A visual pun.  The garnish is in the shape of a “C” for Camino, and the glass is decorated with rays.

Anyway, this is an amazing drink courtesy of Ted Henwood.  The ingredients are so disparate, that it looks like a Frankenstein’s monster.  And yet…  An aged tequila works beautifully with a dry sherry.  If you think of this drink in basic terms, it has all the requirements: base spirit, wine based modifier, sweetener and bitters.

Lovely, and each ingredient enhances the other.  Great job, Ted!

Camino Del Ray
1.75oz anejo tequila
1oz oloroso sherry
0.5oz drambuie
1 dash rhubarb bitters
garnish: lemon twist

Stir with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add lemon twist.

whiskey_sourOne of the venerable cocktails from Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862) that seems to have been largely ignored in the cocktail renaissance.  Here’s the original recipe.

Whiskey Sour
(Use small bar-glass.)
Take 1 large tea-spoonful of powdered white sugar,
dissolved in a little Seltzer or Apollinaris water.
The juice of half a small lemon.
1 wine-glass of Bourbon or rye whiskey.

Fill the glass full of shaved ice, shake up and strain into a claret glass. Ornament with berries.

It does seem a bit intimidating when written this way.  Instead try either of these versions.  The first more simple, yet authentic take courtesy of David Wondrich; and the second a 21st century creation via Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

Whiskey Sour
2 ounces bourbon
2/3 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar

Shake the bourbon, juice, and sugar well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass (unless you happen to have a Sour glass). Resist, if you can, the impulse to decorate lavishly with fruit, although a maraschino cherry will raise no eyebrows.

Whiskey Sour with Marmalade
2 oz. 100-proof bourbon
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
1 tsp. orange marmalade
1 egg white
3 drops Angostura bitters

Combine bourbon, juice, syrup, marmalade, and egg white in a shaker filled with ice; shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Add bitters, and using a toothpick, swirl into whites.

bone-bourbonTexas-based Bone Spirits is introducing a new Bone Bourbon offering, made exclusively with Oklahoma rye and Texas corn. Retailing at $45 a 750-ml., Bone Bourbon is 90 proof and aged in charred white oak casks. Initially launching in Texas and Oklahoma, it will expand into all Southwestern states by the start of 2016. Bone Spirits’ other offerings include Smiths vodka, Moody June gin, Fitch’s Goat corn whiskey and Fitch’s Goat moonshine.

011371-1Constellation Brands has unveiled Serpent’s Bite Apple Cider Flavored Whisky. Rolling out nationwide, Serpent’s Bite features a blend of Canadian whisky distilled from corn and rye with an infusion of apple cider flavors. The 70-proof entry, positioned primarily as a shot option, is available in 1-liter, 750-ml. and 50-ml. formats, and retails at around $15.99 a 750-ml.

resizeDiageo is extending its Smirnoff Sours flavored vodka range with a Berry Lemon offering. Targeted at the shot occasion and the millennial demographic, Smirnoff Sours Berry Lemon joins Green Apple, Watermelon and Fruit Punch flavors in the Sours lineup, which retails around $16 a 750-ml.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily


511rbpaarHL._AA160_The Beer Bible by Jeff Alworth (Workman Publishing)  In spite of the massive 644 page count, this book really only represents a well rounded primer on beer.  Beer is like wine, in that there are so many varieties and styles from around the world that one book can’t contain everything.  Still, all of that taken into account, this book is an excellent introduction into finding out which beer styles you will enjoy the most.  Broken down into four sections (ales, lagers, wheat beers, and tart/wild ales), each has subsections on variations of style, highlighted breweries, recommended brands and the processes used by brewers around the globe.  The writing is easy to read, but somewhat dry.  This would make a great textbook for a college course on beer.  About the only thing I wish had been added would be short tests after each section to test the knowledge you hopefully learned.  GSN Rating: A-

518mLT5pdpL._AA160_Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker by Fred Minnick (Zenith Press)  Lord knows there are already plenty of books written about whiskies.  Not too many focus exclusively on Bourbons.  After explaining what makes a bourbon (there are legal regulations), author Minnick delves into the intrigues behind some of the biggest brands and their sometimes controversial histories.  This makes for interesting reading that few people have access to.  The next section of the book goes into ingredients, techniques and how to do informed tastings.  But, the bulk is devoted to the many different brands, agings and expressions available today.  You could easily spend a small fortune buying each bottle listed here.  Perhaps a better choice is to take this book with you to your local well-stocked whiskey bar and sample a few shots per week.  But, even if you don’t, this book will make you want to.  GSN Rating: B+

51NJo2sASrL._AA160_The Cocktail Chronicles by Paul Clarke (Spring House Press)  Paul Clarke celebrated the 10th anniversary of his blog by publishing this book, essentially a redistillation of the hundreds of articles he’s written over the years.  Starting with the cocktail renaissance, which began right around the most recent turn of the century, author Clarke quickly recaps some of the best cocktails from the past 150 years along with the particular spirits, liqueurs and modifers that each utilize.  The next chapter highlights five of the cocktail powerhouses that have inspired countless other variations: the Daiquiri, Old-Fashioned, Manhattan, Martini and Negroni.  Another section is devoted to contemporary drinks, whether soon to be classics or those just interesting enough to garner a mention at this point in history.  Many of the recipes come from the leading lights of the world’s best cocktail bars post-2000.  The book closes with a short section on the tools needed to make the drinks.  Overall, the book reminds me of Dale DeGroff’s ubiquitous tome, “The Craft of the Cocktail“, minus the pretty pictures.  But, Clarke’s book has a certain mid-century modern charm to it by using simple autumnal colored illustrations scattered throughout.  GSN Rating: A-

512u8W-290L._AA160_The Seeker’s Guide to Bartending by Jennifer Crilley (TheSeekerGuides.com)  This is not a cocktail guide, or even bartending skills 101.  This is a book designed to help any working bartender learn to love their work, and do it stress-free.  In just a few hundred pages, you will learn how to focus on what is in front of you (tools, customers, work station, fellow employees) and move beyond the distractions (money, time, relationship issues, emotions).  Each chapter focuses on one aspect of using your holistic self to become one with the job at hand, and gives examples of how they translate into the everyday issues that all bartenders face.  If any of you have heard Gary ‘gaz’ Regan talking about his Mindful Bartending program, you will recognize many of the same techniques here.  The most useful aspect of this book is that there are dozens of workbook pages devoted to helping you to clearly define your thoughts and goals, while also working out solutions tailored to you.  A great book that is not only practical, but a valuable asset for everyone behind the stick.  GSN Rating: A

41E9h4EZbPL._AA160_The Umami Factor by Robert Rivelle George (Schiffer Publishing)  What makes a great drink?  Some would argue it is the recipe, or perhaps the skill of the bartender.  Maybe it’s just the locale, the company you’re with or the mood you’re in.  This book argues that it is you yourself via taste receptors in both your mouth and stomach.  Umami, literally “deliciousness” is the fifth taste sensation.  The other four being, salty, sweet, sour and savory.  Umami was a Japanese term created over 100 years ago that has been scientifically borne out.  Author Robert George, himself a brewer, states that the combination of unique yeasts and grains or fruits creates an umami in all fermented beverages.  Gaining an understanding of how different combinations interact and beget new flavors is fascinating in itself.  But, as a bonus, there are dozens of recipes for making obscure beverages like metheglin and braggot, along with more familiar drinks like beer, whiskey and rum.  The only real disappointment is that all the measurements are in grams rather than ounces, making extra work for us backward Americans.  This is a fascinating book that will enlighten you as to why fermentation is the basis of why we like to drink.  GSN Rating: A-

Usquaebach 3 Bottles Old 900W

Most whisky lovers know the phrase ‘usage beatha’, literally translating into “water of life”.  Usquaebach references this phrase in their name (pronounced “oos-ke-bah”). You can see how similar this sounds to the English word “whisky”.  All that being said, the Usquaebach brand goes back over 200 years, but wasn’t trademarked until 1877 by the Laing family.

Today, the three expressions are overseen by Master Blender Stewart Laing.  The ‘Reserve’ Premium is a blend of 16, 17 & 18-year-old whiskies along with younger malts.  The 15 Year Old ‘Pure’ is 100% Highland single malt aged for at least 15 years in European Oak and Sherry barrels.  GSN was not sent a review sample of the ‘Grand Whisky’.

Usquaebach ‘Reserve’ Premium Blended Scotch Whisky (86 proof)
Visual: Mild gold.
Nose: Rich, malty headiness with delicate floral notes.  There’s a hint of brine here too, with a bright saltiness that beckons the sea.
Taste: Quite sweet and round.  Almost to the point of similarity to an Irish Whiskey.  A curious menthol edge kicks in after a moment, bringing things back down to an entirely different level.  Robust and masculine, the flavors are intense and need a bit of opening up with water to reveal the more delicate notes of apple, caramel and clove.
Finish: Medium long with a low spiciness way at the back of the palate.  Otherwise, more of the vanilla and caramel remain up front and finish things off with a crème brûlée type of finish.
Overall: A more rustic style of Highland Scotch for sure.  Perfect in a snifter with a large cube of ice.
GSN Rating: B+

Usquaebach 15-Year-Old ‘Pure’ Malt Scotch Whisky (86 proof)
Visual: Dark yellow-gold.
Nose: Dark, almost apple brandy tones.  Thick, intense aged malts with a dose of fresh-cut oak.  Saddle leather, and autumnal warmth lingers deep in the glass.
Taste: Completely different from the Reserve Premium, this is full of burnt caramel and vanilla cream.  The apple aspect is still there, and adds to the experience in a fruity way that is unusual for a Scotch.
Finish: Fairly long with a pleasant dessert-like satisfaction.
Overall: A great sipper as is, served neat.  This also does well on the rocks, or especially in a Rusty Nail where it marries well with Drambuie.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Usquaebach

Famous_Grouse_Blended_Scotch_Whisky_294640The Famous Grouse is truly a family endeavor.  Matthew Gloag from Perth, Scotland started a wine merchanting business in the mid 1800’s.  By 1860, his son William began making blended whiskies.  Thirty-six years later, his nephew Matthew took over the reins of the company.  He was the one who created the blend known as The Grouse Brand.  Less than ten years later, it was a best seller and renamed The Famous Grouse.  Matthew’s daughter Phillippa designed the iconic label featuring the Red Grouse, the national game bird of Scotland.

The single malts used in the blend include Highland Park and The Macallan.

The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky (80 proof)
Visual: Gold.
Nose: Slightly smoky malt with a nice balance of wood spice.  Light, approachable and friendly.
Taste: Very mellow and smooth with more of the malt character coming out than any wood.  Some vanilla, but not too sweet; some pepper, but not too spicy.  Everything here is in total balance making this a top blended scotch for use in those tricky Scotch based cocktails.
Finish: Medium long with some darker tones coming in towards the end.  A final show of elegance and richness.
Overall: A fantastic Scotch whisky that every bar should have on hand.  Great for shots, served neat in a snifter, on the rocks, or in a cocktail.  I highly recommend Famous Grouse for the Blood & Sand, especially.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: The Famous Grouse


Cocktail cherries have been around for almost as long as cocktails themselves.  The Fabbri Company of Bologna, Italy has been crafting their own style of cherries since 1905.

The story begins in Portomaggiore, when Gennaro and Rachele Fabbri opened a general store in the town near a wild cherry orchard. One day, Rachele picked, pitted, cooked and candied them for her husband.  To thank her for her gift, Gennaro gave her ceramic jar to keep them in, made by Faenza artist Riccardo Gatti (1886-1972).  Ever since, the cherries have been sold in a similar jar.

The company is overseen by the fourth generation of Fabbri’s, and now produces seventeen different products.  But, the cherries are the number one seller worldwide.

Amarena Fabbri Cherries – If you’re looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous Luxardo Maraschino cherries, this is a great choice.  Candied in syrup that is thick and bursting with flavor (I always add a dash of syrup to my Manhattans along with a cherry), these Amarena cherries are smaller, lighter in color and less “chewy”.  The white and blue glass jar looks spiffy on your bar, and each 1.32lb container holds about 75 cherries.  GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Fabbri 1905

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