GSN Alert: May 30th – National Mint Julep Day

mint_julepYou would think that National Mint Julep Day would be held at the same time as the Kentucky Derby, but it is not so.  But, any day is a good day for this iconic American creation.  It turns out that the Mint Julep is most likely the oldest cocktail served in the United States, going back to the original 13 colonies.

Author and cocktail historian David Wondrich recently published his findings in his revised and expanded version of Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar.  Here’s a pertinent excerpt from a recent interview Dave had with Robert Simonson.

RS: There’s new material on drinks in the new book, particularly the history of the Julep, which you say is a much older drink than previously thought.

DW: It’s a much earlier drink. In 1770, in Virginia, there are two solid references to the julep being a recreational drink. That’s a big deal, I think. I had looked at the part on the julep in the original edition and I was shocked and disappointed. I wrote almost nothing about it. I wanted to kick myself, because that’s the most important drink.

RS: You call it the “first true American drink.”
DW: It’s a foundational drink. It’s how we started to be different. The mint julep is also the only drink that I’ve championed that hasn’t been revived yet.

RS: Really? People make nice mint juleps at many places.
DW: Some. Not so much. Nobody really specializes in them. People will make them if you ask.

RS: And it was a brandy drink originally?
DW: In the 1700s, it was a rum drink. The Revolutionary War years and a little after, a whiskey drink. Once the country got rich again and started making money again, it was a brandy drink, up until the Civil War.

RS: Can we say it was originally a Virginia drink?
DW: That seems to be the case. But I think it was [bartender Orsamus] Willard at the City Hotel in New York who popularized the iced version.

And here is Wondrich’s favorite (and authentic) version for you to try at home:

The Prescription Julep
1.5 ounces VSOP cognac or other good brandy
0.5 ounce rye whiskey
2 tsp sugar (to taste), dissolved in 1/2 ounce water
2 sprigs fresh mint, plus more for garnish

Place the sugar and water in a tall glass or julep cup and muddle until sugar is dissolved. Add mint leaves to the sugar syrup and gently press to release the flavorful oil (don’t get too aggressive: smashing up the mint releases bitterness in the leaves). Add the spirits and stir to combine. Fill glass with crushed ice and stir with bar spoon until the glass begins to frost, adding more crushed ice if needed. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint; serve with a straw.

GSN Presents: The 2017 Advent Gift Guide – Day 14

Punch is the highlight for today’s Advent Gift suggestion; and who knows more about punch than spirits historian and author David Wondrich? Produced with industry barware purveyors Cocktail Kingdom this is a gorgeous 18th century-styled triumverate. The centerpiece, a white stoneware bowl, is adorned with a quote from Cicero, “Edamus bibamus gaudeamus. Post mortem nulla voluptas,”, or for those of you who didn’t take Latin in school “Let us eat, drink, enjoy life, after death there is no pleasure.” It’s perfectly complemented by the Captain Morris ladle and eight Georgian-era stemmed glasses.

The entire set is available for only $129.99, a savings of $55 off the separate items.

Get yours for the holiday season and years to come at Cocktail Kingdom

 

GSN Bookshelf: Spring 2015 Spirits, Cocktail & Beer Books in Review

51GdWwTFK+L._AA160_Here once again is a round-up of just a few of the books that have made their way across the GSN review desk this spring.

The Craft Cocktail Party by Julie Reiner (Grand Central Life & Style)  Julie Reiner is arguably the most successful female bartender in the industry, so it is only fitting that she finally has published her own book.  Starting as a student of Dale DeGroff who provides a lovely forward, Julie was instrumental in bringing cocktail culture back from the dead in NYC.  Opening bars such as the Flatiron Lounge, Pegu Club and Clover Club over the past dozen years, her insights and recipes are welcomed into our homes with her first book.  After a  brief chapter on bar tools, garnishes and syrups, Julie gets right to it with enough recipes to satisfy anyone.  Broken into seasonal libations, there are the classics (Martinez, Scofflaw, Hurricane) but more often there are her own luscious creations.  What sets this book apart is her down to earth writing style and easily obtainable ingredients.  Anyone can make these with a minimum of effort both in the liquor store and in the home.  GSN Rating: A-

61afxn+C62L._AA160_Imbibe! Updated & Revised Edition by David Wondrich (Perigee)  One of the most important mixology books published in the first decade of the 21st century, Dave Wondrich’s insightful volume into that most American of pursuits gets an upgrade.  Using the life of Professor Jerry Thomas, author of the first cocktail guide back in 1862 as a jumping off point, Wondrich focuses on the histories of early cocktails including the ubiquitous Mint Julep which surprisingly dates back to colonial times.  New information reflecting other prominent bartenders who preceded Thomas, the revival of long-lost spirits and liqueurs, and nearly two dozen excellent Golden Age cocktails that you have never enjoyed before.  This one book will give the reader more of an appreciation for the art of mixology than any other.  Like Jerry Thomas, David Wondrich is a showman and captures the reader with well mixed and tasty prose.  GSN Rating: A++

51zWyNW+oPL._AA160_Distilled by Joel Harrison & Neil Ridley (Mitchell Beazley)  When faced with shelf after shelf of spirits at your local liquor store, how do you choose which ones to take home for an evening of getting to know one another?  This book by the authors of the popular website CaskStrength.net do your homework for you.  Focusing on the most interesting versions of everything from absinthe to whiskey (and then some), the reader gets some insights from craft distillers from around the world, 10 spirits in each category to try, and some cocktail recipes.  Loads of evocative full-color photographs make this more than just a treatise of alcohol though.  You will have fun trying to track down some of the spirits and perhaps even having a tasting party at home with friends.  GSN Rating: B+

51QyXIKEsyL._AA160_Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails by Warren Bobrow (Fair Winds) “Bring me a shrubbery!” This classic line from Monty Python’s Holy Grail was not about fruit vinegars, although it could have been as they have been around for hundreds of years in the Arabic speaking world.  Mr. Bobrow’s latest book in his cocktail trilogy is all about the bitters and the shrubs.  Geared for the experienced home enthusiast, this 150+ page volume is full of recipes for making your own cocktail mixers and bitters.  Be prepared to invest in a lot of bottles and labels as well as setting aside plenty of room in your refridgerator to keep them all.  The drinks are creative, clever and a bit on the tart and aromatic side.  You may find each recipe needs a little tweaking to find the right balance for you.  Overall though, this is a fun book for those who don’t mind waiting a few days to a few weeks to have house-made ingredients on hand.  GSN Rating: B+

51OnBaUpZZL._AA160_Beer For All Seasons by Randy Mosher (Storey)  We here at Good Spirits News sometimes do take a break from hard liquor and cocktails to enjoy the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage, beer.  This book serves as an introduction to the hundreds of styles, flavors and brands available.  Plenty of background on the history of brewing, sprinkled with beautiful photographs of glasses and bottles of beer and people enjoying them makes up the first third of this quick read.  The middle section is devoted to seasonal beers (bocks, shandys, Märzens and stouts to name but a few), and the book is concluded with a list of the 100 top beer festivals around the world.  Any beer lover will appreciate this book, but for the most part this book is geared for the drinker just starting their journey.  GSN Rating B-

GSN Alert: Coming Soon – 2015 Cocktail Books (April-June)

Here are some GSN recommended books to be on the lookout for in the next few months.

indexWild Cocktails from the Midnight Apothecary: 100 Recipes Using Home-grown and Foraged Fruits, Herbs, and Edible Flowers by Lottie Muir  (April 5, 2015) Lottie Muir is the creator of the Midnight Apothecary pop-up cocktail bar, set in a roof garden in the heart of London, where she also grows many of the ingredients for her mixes. On Saturday nights she sheds her gardening gloves and dons her apron to become the Cocktail Gardener mixologist. Moving from flowerbed to bar, she rustles up seasonal plant-powered cocktails, made with the harvest from her garden and from foraging trips nearby. Starting with The Cocktail Cabinet, Lottie explains both gardening and cocktail-making basics. She tells you what botanicals you will need year-round, including edible flowers, and gives tips on getting the best from your growing space, as well as advice on foraging if you want to venture further than your back garden.
indexTea Cocktails: A Mixologist’s Guide to Legendary Tea-Infused Cocktails by Abigail R. Gehring (April 7, 2015) In classy bars and cocktail lounges across America, tea is making a big splash. Absolut has launched a line of tea-infused vodka, companies such as Owl’s Brew are springing up with teas crafted specifically as cocktail mixers, and foodie magazines such as Saveur and Food & Wine are featuring hot chai toddies and gin-spiked iced teas. Here organic tea company Teatulia partners with Gehring to provide a stunning collection of hot and cold tea cocktail recipes sure to impress any mixologist or tea lover. Learn how to balance the unique flavors of herbal and black teas with just the right spirits to create drinks.
indexDistilled: From absinthe & brandy to vodka & whisky, the world’s finest artisan spirits unearthed, explained & enjoyed by Neil Ridley & Joel Harrison (April 7, 2015) Harrison & Ridley are at the forefront of providing expertise and innovation in the spirits world. From whisky to gin, cognac to exotic drinks, the duo has a wealth of knowledge to share with audiences across the globe. They write about whisky on their award-winning website Caskstrength.net and regularly pen articles and whisky features for a number of different publications such as Whisky Magazine, Imbibe and the Evening Standard, as well as becoming judges for the World Whisky Awards and the prestigious I.W.S.C. awards. Joel and Neil approach the drinks world with an irreverent, independently-minded spirit and, in the last two years, the duo have hosted over 250 whisky and other spirits tastings around the world from Japan to Lithuania.
indexImbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar by David Wondrich (April 7, 2015) The first edition, published in 2007, won a James Beard Award. Now updated with newly discovered recipes and historical information, this new edition includes the origins of the first American drink, the Mint Julep (which Wondrich places before the American Revolution), and those of the Cocktail itself. It also provides more detail about 19th century spirits, many new and colorful anecdotes and details about Thomas’s life, and a number of particularly notable, delicious, and influential cocktails not covered in the original edition, rounding out the picture of pre-Prohibition tippling.
indexClassic Cocktails (revised) by Salvatore Calabrese (April 21, 2015) Salvatore “The Maestro” Calabrese is one of the world’s foremost cocktail experts—and drinks lovers will salut this expanded version of his classic guide. The New York Times called the original edition “a must-have,” and now it contains even more: new chapters and loads of new images; up-to-the-minute information on the most exciting cocktail trends, tastes, and techniques; and newly uncovered historical tidbits (like the true origin of the Bloody Mary). Fifty new recipes include long-buried favorites like the turn-of-the-century New Orleans classic Absinthe Suissesse, a barrel-aged Blood and Sand, and the Prohibition-era The Angel’s Tit. This elegant volume also includes DIYs for essential cocktail ingredients like Velvet Falernum, recipes for flavored syrups and homemade shrubs, and advice on throwing the very best at-home cocktail parties ever.
indexThe Tippling Bros. A Lime and a Shaker: Discovering Mexican-Inspired Cocktails by Tad Carducci & Paul Tanguay (April 21, 2015) In The Tippling Bros. A Lime and a Shaker, Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay, who collectively have 55 years of professional experience in the beverage industry, step in to provide their expertise on Mexican cocktails. Their 72 exciting recipes go past the classic margarita and include traditional, craft, and spicy drinks such as the Blood-Orange-Cinnamon Margarita, San Fresa Frizz, and Smokey Pablo. The authors also cover the history of tequila, explain the difference between different tequilas, and offer bonus recipes for aguas frescas, syrups, salts, and some of their favorite Mexican dishes. With vibrant photographs throughout, this is the must-have book on the subject, perfect for home cooks, bartenders, and those who just want to know more about tequila and mezcal.
indexBitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails: Restorative Vintage Cocktails, Mocktails, and Elixirs by Warren Bobrow & Philip M. Dobard (May 1, 2015) The Cocktail Whisperer, Warren Bobrow, has been using bitters and shrubs in his quest for added zest in many of his craft cocktails, adding depth and mystery to a generic mixed drink. Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails will send your taste buds back in time with 75 traditional and newly-created recipes for medicinally-themed drinks. Learn the fascinating history of apothecary bitters, healing herbs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and vinegars that are making a comeback in cocktail and non-alcoholic recipes. If you love vintage cocktails, you’ll surely enjoy this guide to mixing delicious elixirs.
indexThe Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita, with Recipes & Lore by Gary Regan (May 5, 2015) The Negroni is one of the simplest and most elegant drink formulas around: combine one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari, then stir and serve over ice. This bitter, sweet, and smooth drink has inspired countless variations as well as legions of diehard aficionados. In The Negroni, Gary Regan–barman extraordinaire and author of the iconic book The Joy of Mixology–delves into the drink’s fun, fascinating history (its origin story is still debated, with battling Italian noblemen laying claim) and provides techniques for modern updates (barrel aging and carbonation among them). Sixty delightfully varied and uniformly tasty recipes round out this spirited collection, which is a must-have for any true cocktail enthusiast.
indexThe Craft Cocktail Party: Delicious Drinks for Every Occasion by Julie Reiner & Kaitlyn Goalen (May 5, 2015) Julie Reiner, the co-owner of The Clover Club in Brooklyn and The Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, has written a book that provides inspiration for the rest of us, not only the cocktail geeks. She wants to balance the needs of the everyday drinker with those of the passionate mixologist. Recipes are organized around seasonality and occasion, with different events and themes appropriate to the specific time of the year. Each section will include a mixture of holiday-inspired drinks, classic cocktails, and innovative new drinks, all along with fun cocktail lore. Tricks, tips, and techniques–such as batching and infusions, tools of the trade, notes on spirit types, and easy substitutions to utilize what you already have on hand–will round out the amazing amount of information in Reiner’s book.
indexCocktails & Dreams: The Ultimate Indian Cocktail Book by Yangdup Lama & Gitanjali Chaturvedi (May 15, 2015) Cocktails and Dreams is put together by people who represent the modern, young India a bartender and a well-travelled development professional in some senses an unlikely cocktail. It comes at a time when India now exposed to the outside world does not consider drinking as a social taboo but enjoys a fine cocktail or two. With a significant change in urban lifestyles, the fifty original recipes help people to look beyond the traditional whisky on the rocks and rum and Coke.
indexVermouth: The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture by Adam Ford (June 1, 2015) Previously fallen from grace, vermouth is once again the next big thing in spirits. Over the years, vermouth has fallen from grace, but the truth is, without vermouth, your martini is merely an iced vodka or gin. Now, once again, vermouth is being touted as the hottest trend in spirits. It is showing up in copious amounts on the best cocktail menus in the best cocktail lounges around the country. Vermouth has a rich history, deeply intertwined with that of America, and this book offers the first-ever detailed look into the background of this aromatized, fortified wine, as well as vermouth’s rise, fall, and comeback in America.
indexThe Cocktail Chronicles: Navigating the Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker & Glass by Paul Clarke (June 15, 2015) From Paul Clarke, the 2014 Best Cocktail & Spirits Writer and founder of the groundbreaking spirits blog, The Cocktail Chronicles, comes an approachable guide to the cocktail renaissance thus far and—as the name implies—a chronicle of the cocktails that have come along the way. The Cocktail Chronicles is not a lab manual for taking the cocktail experience to a molecular level; nor is it an historical monograph tracing the details of our forebears as they developed and mixed the drinks we enjoy today. Instead, The Cocktail Chronicles is a collection of approachable, and easily replicable drinks that all share the same thing: a common deliciousness and a role — both big and small — in the ongoing and thriving cocktail renaissance. This collection of expertly curated recipes represent a photo album of sorts—snapshots of people encountered over the years, with some close friends and family members depicted alongside a few dimly remembered strangers.

GSN Alert: 2014 James Beard Awards Beverage Finalists

James-Beard-AwardsBack in February the James Beard Foundation released its “long list” of restaurant and chef semifinalists, and the livestream of the James Beard Foundation nominee announcement in Chicago begins today, March 18th, 2014 at 10:30 EST. Awards already announced this year include the Lifetime Achievement Award (Sirio Maccioni), the Humanitarian Award (Matt Haley), the America’s Classics Awards, and the Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America. The nominees listed today are the finalists in beverage categories.

Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages Books
· Ray Isle, Food & Wine, “The Battle for America’s Oldest Vines”
· Josh Ozersky, The Wall Street Journal, “Bourbon Mania!”
· Besha Rodell, Punch, “40 Ounces to Freedom”

Beverage Books
· The Cocktail Lab: Unraveling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes, Tony Conigliaro (Ten Speed Press)
· The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks, Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books)
· The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste, Jon Bonne (Ten Speed Press)

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
Ron Cooper, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, Ranchos de Taos, NM
Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY
David Wondrich, spirits educator, Brooklyn, NY

Outstanding Wine Program
A16, San Francisco
Bar Boulud, NYC
The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
FIG, Charleston, SC
The Little Nell, Aspen, CO

Outstanding Bar Program
Bar Agricole, San Francisco
The Bar at the NoMad Hotel, NYC
Clyde Common, Portland, OR
Maison Premiere, Brooklyn, NY
The Violet Hour, Chicago