GSN Spirited News: October 27th 2020 Edition

Palm Bay International and Buffalo, New York-based Tommyrotter Distillery have collaborated on Tommyrotter Napa Valley Heritance Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a 95-proof, four-grain Bourbon consisting of corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley, finished in Cabernet Sauvignon casks from Napa Valley for three months. A permanent addition to the Tommyrotter range, Napa Valley Heritance Cask is launching across New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, retailing at $50 a 750-ml.

San Francisco-based Hotaling & Co. is introducing Hine Antique XO 100th Anniversary 1920-2020 Cognac. A rare cuvée blended with a 100-year-old eau-de-vie from vintage 1920—with the balance of the blend featuring Grande Champagne Cognacs aged a minimum of 20 years—the luxury offering is limited to 270 hand-numbered decanters in the U.S., priced at $300 apiece. Made by cellar master Eric Forget, it commemorates the first blend of Hine Antique XO in 1920 by Georges Hine.

Gonzalez Byass is launching Fundador Light in the U.S. Debuting in California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, New York, and Oregon, the 28% abv brandy-based spirit retails at $14 a 750-ml. and is intended to appeal to “current Fundador consumers and a new generation looking for a lighter option to traditional Spanish Brandies,” according to Nicolas Bertino, CEO and country manager of Gonzalez Byass USA.

Manassas, Virginia’s KO Distilling has announced Bottled-in-Bond Distiller’s Reserve Straight Bourbon whiskey. The 50% abv spirit is distilled from a mash of 70% corn, 20% wheat, and 10% malted barley, all sourced from Virginia. The new whiskey is KO’s first bonded release and joins the company’s portfolio alongside Battle Standard 142 gin and the Bare Knuckle whiskey line, which includes unaged, rye, wheat, and Bourbon whiskies. KO Distilling’s new bottled-in-bond whiskey will be available in November in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland for around $70.

Diageo has announced the latest release in the Singleton line of single malt Scotch whiskies. The new release was distilled at Glen Ord and matured for 38 years in a combination of ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry, and new American oak casks before bottling at 49.6% abv. This limited release was drawn from eight casks and is rolling out now around the world for a suggested retail price of roughly $2,760 (£2,100.) 

Former Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge has partnered with Blue Run Spirits to introduce Blue Run 13-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Retailing at $170 a 750-ml., the newcomer is at 113 proof and is rolling out to the Kentucky (RNDC) and Georgia (Savannah Distributing) markets this month in an edition of 2,600 bottles. Rutledge will have more whiskies coming under the Blue Run banner, a new company formed by former Nike and Facebook veterans, among others.

Edrington has unveiled the latest expression in The Macallan Fine & Rare Collection—a vintage Scotch distilled in 1993. The new whisky matured for 27 years in Sherry-seasoned American oak and is bottled at 50.2% abv. Only 256 bottles are available worldwide, retailing at a suggested price of $18,000 a 750-ml. The Fine & Rare Collection now includes 57 vintages from 1926 to 1993.

Diageo has expanded Smirnoff Spicy Tamarind into 15 new markets across the U.S. The 35% abv vodka is sweet and spicy, according to the company, and initially found popularity in Mexico before expanding into the U.S. It retails for around $13 a 750-ml. and will be a permanent addition in Texas, California, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, and New Mexico; and a limited release in Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, New Jersey, Massachusetts, North and South Dakota, Louisiana, Maryland, Wisconsin, Vermont, Georgia, and Nevada.

Chicago-based cocktail mixers company Zing Zang has unveiled a range of spirits-based RTD cocktails across 20 U.S. states, with further distribution to follow. Including Bloody Mary, Margarita, and Bourbon Whiskey Sour expressions, the Zing Zang RTDs are at 9% abv and retail at $13 a 4-pack of 12-ounce slim cans.

Woody Creek Distillers of Basalt, Colorado is launching a Limited Edition Wheated Bourbon. The new label has a mashbill of 70% Colorado corn, 15% Colorado barley, and 15% Colorado wheat aged 6 years in 100% American oak barrels. The Limited Edition Wheated Bourbon will be available in Colorado and a few other select markets for the holiday season, retailing at $60 a 750-ml. Woody Creek’s spirits portfolio includes a Potato Vodka, Roaring Fork Gin, Colorado Bourbon, and Colorado 100% Straight Rye.

Niche Imports, part of Marussia Beverages, is now the importer for Finnish vodka Koskenkorva. The 40% abv spirit is distilled from barley in its namesake village in Western Finland. The Koskenkorva distillery is run 100% on bioenergy, primarily provided by barley husks. Koskenkorva vodka will be available across the U.S. and will retail between $20 and $23, depending on the market.

Courtesy of Shanken News Daily

GSN Review: Crazy Steve’s Bloody Mary Mixes & Garnishes

originalSo, who is Steve and why is he crazy?  It has something to do with an abundance of homegrown cucumbers, a Sister Hazel song and his Slovakian grandmother.  You can read the whole story on his website.  But, in the end, it’s the products you’re interested in, right?

Crazy Steve’s makes pickles, salsas and Bloody Mary mixes.  Quite a few varieties in fact, but Steve sent GSN the following four products for review.

Crazy Steve’s Badass Barnacle Bloody Mary Mix (32oz)  Thick and tasty with just enough heat to wake up your mouth.  The spice blend is well-balanced, while the tomato has a slight sweetness to it which is juicy and fresh.  All you need to add is ice, vodka and a stalk of celery, and you’re ready to go!   GSN Rating: B+

Crazy Steve’s Ghostship Bloody Mary Mix (32oz)  Containing the mouth scalding ghost pepper, this Bloody Mary mix is not for the faint hearted.  One sip and your mouth with feel the heat for a good long time.  For those who are into “the burn” this is great stuff, but in my opinion the pepper overwhelms the other flavors to the point where all subtlety is lost.  I prefer the Badass Barnacle version by far.  GSN Rating:  C-

Crazy Steve’s Cajun Cukes (16oz) I’ve been snacking on these for several days.  The jar is filled with a variety of spices, herbs and a salty brine.  They have a defined crunch and a bit of heat.  Not too garlicky or salty, but retain much of the original cucumber flavor.  These are discs as opposed to quarters or a whole pickle, so I’m not sure how they would work as garnishes.  But, as bar snacks, they will do fine.  GSN Rating: B-

Shot Over the Rim Spicy Bloody Mary Salt (6oz)  Yeah, this is spicy, but not overly so.  This will make a good rim for a Bloody Mary and add some saltiness and extra heat to the drink.  Reminiscent of spicy BBQ potato chips.  The texture is pretty granular and cakes up to some degree, but overall it stays on the glass where it should.   GSN Rating: C+

For more information go to: Crazy Steve’s

Imbibing Mr. Boston: Bloody Scotsman Cocktail

IMG_4297-800As I’ve stated in a previous review of the ubiquitous Bloody Mary, it is THE one cocktail that has endless variations.  So much so, that it is almost an artistic statement.  One of the latest versions was created by my friend Jonathan Pogash.   I asked him where the idea for using heavily peated Scotch whisky came from.

“Inspired by whiskies of Islay and originally created and served at the Carnegie club in NYC, on of the bar programs I work on… It’s a smoking lounge so it fit perfectly. Also the base recipe is my fathers and appears in his book “Bloody Mary”.”

The recipe is a punch, so I redacted the amounts to make a single serving.  It works quite well.  The drink itself is tasty with an unusual sweetness along with the smokiness.  I’d order one of these on a Sunday morning!

Bloody Scotsman
(Makes 14-16 servings, single serving amounts are in parentheses)

24oz smoky scotch whisky (2oz)
24oz tomato juice (2oz)
24oz V8 cocktail juice (2oz)
1 cup ketchup (.66oz)
3oz lime juice (.25oz)
3oz simple syrup (.25oz)
0.75oz worcestershire sauce (1/4 tsp)
1 tsp ground white pepper (dash)
1 tsp ground black pepper (dash)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (just a hint)
fine sea salt (dash)

Mix ingredients together, stirring often, in a large container, adding salt to taste.  Chill for at least 24 hours before serving.  Serve in ice-filled old-fashioned glasses.

Imbibing Mr. Boston: Bloody Mary Cocktail

IMG_4219-800Much has been said about the origin of the Bloody Mary, so I will not repeat it here.  Suffice it to say, that no one will know for sure who created this drink, but it most likely started out as nothing more than tomato juice spiked with vodka.  If you want to delve deeper into the story, I’d suggest picking up a copy of “Bloody Mary” by Jeffrey M. Pogash, which I’ve reviewed here.

This particular version of the Bloody Mary as published in the Mr. Boston guide is unfortunately rather lackluster.  I’m not sure why it calls for lime juice, instead of lemon, but it doesn’t serve it well in my opinion.  As well, the proportions are off and the garnishes are minimal.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, the Bloody Mary is the one cocktail that has a virtually endless array of variations.  Be that as it may, the one key is to “roll the drink” as opposed to building, shaking or stirring.  It takes a little practice, but is well worth it in the end.  Plus, it looks très cool in front of the person who will be drinking it.

Bloody Mary
1.5oz vodka
3oz tomato juice
0.25oz lime juice
4 dashes worcestershire sauce
2-3 drops hot sauce
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Garnish: lime wedge, celery stalk

Roll with ice between both halves of Boston shaker.  Strain into ice-filled old-fashioned glass.  Garnish with lime and celery.

Imbibing Mr. Boston: Bloody Maria Cocktail

IMG_4208-800

It makes sense that tomato juice and tequila go together.  They both have a sort of sweet and salty quality, plus the Sangrita (little blood) cocktail is made with tomato juice and is designed to be consumed along with shots of tequila.

However, that being said, I felt that this Mexican version of the Bloody Mary, didn’t work very well.  It seems lacking in depth and vibrancy.  I think the ratios are off.  I’d up the tequila to 1.5 ounces and the tomato juice to 4 ounces.  There is promise here, but not the way this recipe is published.

Bloody Maria
1oz blanco tequila
2oz tomato juice
0.25oz fresh lemon juice
1 dash hot red pepper sauce
1 pinch celery salt
Garnish: lemon wheel

Stir with ice.  Strain into ice-filled old-fashioned glass.  Add lemon wheel.

Imbibing Mr. Boston: Bloody Bull Cocktail

IMG_4191-800To be honest, the Bloody Mary is one of those drinks that for me, I can only have on a rare occasion.  I’ve never been big on vegetable juices, although I love tomatoes.  I came to an appreciation of the iconic brunch-y cocktail several years ago on my first trip to New Orleans.  While I was there, I decided I should try one since it was on the menu.  Surprisingly, I enjoyed it to some degree.

Over the years, I’ve had several different kinds ranging from homemade pale pinks versions where fresh tomato puree is strained through cheesecloth; to hot and spicy versions that left my mouth burning.  One that I never tried until now is the version that calls for beef bouillon.  I figured I’d have one sip and toss the rest down the drain.  Not so.

In fact, this version worked wonders for me.  I finished it in under five minutes and was left wanting more.  I used an organic tomato juice (R.W. Knudson) and “Better Than Bouillon Beef Base” (instead of the usual bouillon cube or powder).  I feel that both of these choices took the drink into the luscious category.

Give this one a try, and see what you think.  You may never look back.  Oh, and if you happen to be in New Orleans, you can order one of these at Commander’s Palace, where the Brennan family originally created it.

Bloody Bull
1oz vodka
2oz tomato juice
2oz cold beef bouillon
Garnish: lemon wedge, lime wheel

Pour into ice-filled highball glass.  Stir.  Squeeze and add lemon.  Garnish with lime wheel.

GSN Review: The Murph’s Famous Bloody Mary Mix

41FT7P520oL._SY300_There are plenty of Bloody Mary pre-mixes out there, each with a claim to be “the best”.  The latest version by The Murph’s is certainly one of the tastier versions I’ve tried.  Stephen Murphy is the creator behind this blend, and he’s done a nice job.  Quite balanced, with a subtle heat and a tangy tomato base, this is very drinkable on its own.  The consistency is thick and will hold up well to dilution over ice.  I recommend using gin instead of vodka, or for an extra kick of flavor, try it with an anejo tequila.  GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Murph’s Famous

GSN Review: Winter 2011 Cocktail Guides

Loads of new cocktail books arrived via Reindeer-driven sleigh to the GSN review desk last month.  So, without further ado (ok, just one cocktail before I start. ….  there, that’s better), let’s see what the jolly old elf brought me.

First off, we have All the Gin Joints by Michael Turback.  The dedication is to David Embury (of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks fame) so you know this is already ahead of the pack in terms of content.  Containing a brief introduction about gin and bar tools, the real meat of the book is the collection of 101 recipes by a vast array of cocktailians from Keenan Ahlo to Dushan Zaric.  Most bartenders are from major cities on the East or West coast, but also some relative newcomers to the cocktail scene are represented including some from Phoenix, AZ; Salt Lake City, UT; Clayton, MO and Ithaca, NY.  A lot of fun stuff here with some background info from the mixologists themselves.  The only downside to this affair is that there are zero pictures.  That being said, this is a fantastic tome for any gin lover and is highly recommended!  GSN Rating: A-

The American Cocktail by The Editors of Imbibe Magazine  Imbibe magazine is one of the few publications that I regularly read cover to cover when it arrives.  I was excited to see that they are branching out into books now.  The focus here is on original cocktails (although a few classics like the Seelbach, Ward Eight and Tom & Jerry are included) broken down into regions of the USA: South, Northeast, Midwest, West and West Coast.  The photographs are ultra high quality, as they are in the bi-monthly magazine and the recipes are simple enough that no obscure ingredients or tools are necessary.  Of particular note are the lists of online resources and U.S. distillers.  Truly a snapshot of American cocktail culture one-tenth of the way into the 21st century, this book is well worth adding to your book collection and using regularly.  GSN Rating: A

Bloody Mary by Jeffrey M. Pogash  This is a unique limited edition letterpress printed book,and more of a collectible broadside than something you’ll be refering to on a regular basis.  The focus here is on the history of the Bloody Mary, its creation and creators.  Did I say creators?  Without giving too much away, you will discover within its brief 34 pages who the most likely candidates are and the pros and cons supporting each.   At the end of the book is a recipe for the World’s Best Bloody Mary (according to Mr. Pogash, anyway) which makes a gallon of the stuff.  Nicely done and an interesting read.  Perhaps there will be more of these cocktail books printed in future.  I know I’d certainly be interested.  GSN Rating: B+

Cocktails with Bompas & Parr  I was most excited to see this volume, as the authors are quite well-known in Britain for their unusual cocktail events (aerosol G&T’s anyone?) and bizarre sensory approach to food and beverage.  Loaded with many equally bizarre cocktail photographs (eyeball floating in a Sazerac?), this book also includes a lot of great recipes.  Thankfully, the measurements are given in both British and US terminology.  Half of the book is given over to the usual classics and bar tool info, but the latter half is full of some truly great cocktail finds broken down into the following categories: Old & Obscure, Punches & Party Drinks, and Cures.  There’s also a section on bar snacks including what is undoubtedly a food item that won’t be making an appearance on many American bar menus: Quail Cottage.  All in all, a kind of hybrid coffee table book and at the same time a compendium of British mixological eccentricism.  GSN Rating: A-

Extra Dry, With a Twist by Shaun P. Daugherty  Not a new book, as it was published in 2008, but one that is new to me.  A manual on the qualities and mindset of bartending and not a cocktail guide, this book should be required reading for anyone entering the field.  Honestly, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by sitting down for a few hours and reading this book.  Forget bar school (a waste of money, IMHO) this book will teach you the real things you need to succeed.  I can sum them up here: basic behind the bar skills, customer service, and personal integrity. What makes this book more than just a dry manual, is the personal experience that the author shares.  He gives relevant examples in a conversational way that never speaks down to the reader.  I highly recommend this book as a refresher course, even if you’ve already been bartending for several years.  GSN Rating: A+

Food & Wine Cocktails 2011 – This series has been published going on seven years now and this latest edition gets a thumbs up from none other than Anthony Bourdain, host of “No Reservations”.  You can’t do much better than this book to find out the latest cocktail trends happening around the USA.  A compendium of the “who’s who” of up and comers in the American cocktail world, there are more original recipes in here than virtually any other cocktail guide I’ve seen.  Easily approachable for the novice, this also challenges the thinking of many established bartenders by including sections on cocktail/food pairing, mock-tails and seasonally based drinks.  Personally, I find the resource lists of bar tools, food recipes and top-rated bars across the country to be well worth the price of admission.  This series keeps upping the bar year after year.  Great stuff!  GSN Rating: A+

Home Bar Basics and Not-So-Basics by Dave Stolte – Gary Regan turned me on to this tiny and quite retro volume.  It’s designed to look like it’s been sitting on someone’s back bar shelf for a few decades with the pages slightly tanned along the edges.  What makes this book special are the illustrations by the author.  They are cute, sublime and memorable.  After reading this book, you’ll most likely picture each image when you make the represented drink.  Only 25 recipes are included and virtually all of them standards that you already know, but there are three listed at the very end which are pretty damn cool and could well become new standards: one from Alembic in San Francisco, one from Milk & Honey in NYC and one from The Varnish in L.A.  An extra bonus is a list of everything you’ll need to make all 25 drinks from hardware to garnishes.  GSN Rating: B+

Mr. Boston 75th Anniversary Edition – There’s something to be said for a book that has sold over 11,000,000 copies since it first came out in 1935.  There is a reason for those sales, as well.  The Mr. Boston Bartender’s Guide has had the foresight to evolve with changing tastes, even to the point of no longer pushing their own brand within its pages.  As a series of books (you could go broke trying to collect every edition), the Mr. Boston guides offer a broad timeline of America’s cocktailian fads, with each succeeding edition weeding out the less than stellar drinks and replacing them with better tasting and more balanced beverages.  This new edition features contributions from dozens of USBG members and luminaries, making it very relevant to what’s actually being served in bars across the nation.  Now is a great time to rediscover what makes this book one you can proudly display on your back bar, and even proudly refer to it when a guest asks you for drink you may never have heard of before like the unusually named “Sunset at Gowanus”.  GSN Rating:  A

The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan and Chris Gall (Leather Edition) – Much has been said of this book in the few months since it was first published.  Comparisons to the esoterically beautiful Art Deco inspired “Savoy Cocktail Book” are particularly apt, as this volume has the same visual appeal due to the edgy and captivating woodcut style illustrations by Chris Gall.  Mr. Gall has even designed custom stamping and a gold embossed graphic for the leather bound version, which is a tongue in cheek PDT (Please Don’t Tell) coat-of-arms (hotdog and all).  As a piece of art, this book definitely gets my vote for one of the most beautiful books published this century.  That being said, what of the text and recipes compiled by PDT’s head mixologist Jim Meehan?

I really appreciate the sections on bar design, and the behind the scenes sections on the PDT experience, etiquette and how they stock their pantry.  It gives you a sense of what it takes to create a successful and easily worked bar in a relatively small space, whether entertaining in your own home or if you’re thinking of opening the world’s next great drinking establishment.  Also of note are the sections on seasonal mixology, online resources and cocktail library suggestions.  The bulk of the volume is a compilation of recipes.  Many classic, many easy to make; others nearly impossible unless you’ve got an unlimited bank account.  Of special note are the sources of the recipes and notes by their creators for many of the drinks.  This gives a sense of ongoing history and connectedness to it all in that we are given a unique glimpse into the mystery of working behind the stick.  Really a book which will prove invaluable to experienced bartenders as well as newbies. Even the hotdog recipes rock.  GSN Rating: A+

Vintage Cocktails: Retro Recipes for the Home Mixologist by Amanda Hallay – Catching some of the retro wave of “Mad Men”, this book is primarily aimed towards women who want authentic pre-1970’s cocktail recipes.  No Long Island Iced Tea, Cosmos or Apple-tinis here (thank god!).  Each generally classic recipe is paired with some thoughts by the author and a brief history of it’s origins.  Some unusual cocktails do make an appearance in here.  The Campari Shakerato and Snowball are listed alongside an Algonquin and a Gin Sling.  Overall tho, aside from the colorful and somewhat kitchsy illustrations, there isn’t much here that I’ve not seen printed elsewhere in a better format.  Regardless, it’s nice to find an author who recognizes that not all women want frou-frou drinks.  GSN Rating: B-