Originally posted at PRZman.com.
Marshall and SeanMike of Scofflaw’s Den are two of the cocktail bloggers who inspired me to start A Jigger of Blog. They’re incredibly knowledgeable and are great guys to boot. It’s exciting to see that they are now offering both consulting services and classes. The classes are being held at Last Exit in Mount Pleasant. Here’s the description of upcoming classes:
Have you noticed your bartender adding dashes and drops to that cocktail you ordered? Ever wondered exactly what that stuff is? The sheer number of cocktail bitters currently on the market can be intimidating for the home bartender or craft cocktail newcomer. In this class, Marshall from Scofflaw’s Den will walk you through what bitters actually are, their history, their various uses and walk students through a tasting of various types of bitters. We’ll discuss cocktails where a specific type of bitter is mandatory and some where the kind of bitter can vary depending on you or your guests individual tastes.
Basics of the Home Bar
In this class you will learn what basic tools you will need in your home bar. We will go over the uses of each tool, why one tool is used over another and alternatives you can use in a pinch. You will also receive hands-on instruction and practice using each tool, such as shaking, stirring and muddling, so you’ll look like a pro at your next event. We will discuss basic spirits to stock and learn three recipes that utilize the tools and recommendations on where to purchase any of the tools used. Students will also receive a set of professional grade bartending tools to take home!
Drink Like Mad Men
Want to learn how to make and the history of the drinks that are flowing at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Advertising Agency? In this class you will learn what relaxes (or stokes the creative process) of Don Draper and colleagues, how the drinks are made, a history of the ingredients and cocktails themselves. Each student will receive recipe cards so they can recreate the cocktails at home while watching or hosting their own Mad Men party.
The schedule is:
March 4th: Basics of the Home Bar
March 11th: Basics of the Home Bar
March 25th: Drink Like Mad Men
April 15th: Bitters
Exciting news in the nation’s capital! Some of the District’s top female craft bartenders have united to form a DC chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. They have a slick new website and will be doing events in the near future.
From the statement announcing their formation:
We aim to spotlight iconic drinks (as well as their variations) and the women who make them in our great city. Proceeds from our events will go towards benefiting breast cancer research, the Museum of the American Cocktail, and subsidizing education and advanced certifications for our ladies.
Our founding members are some of the most influential ladies in the D.C. cocktail scene. Lead by Chapter President, The Passenger’s Alexandra Bookless, and including Tabard Inn’s Chantal Tseng, Macchu Pisco’s Melanie Asher, Room 11′s Iris Ho, Mixtress Gina Chersevani, We Love D.C.’s Jenn Larsen, Columbia Room’s Katie Nelson, Jackie’s Sidebar’s Jungha Park (JP), Laughing Cocktail’s Angie Salame, The Passenger’s Jade Aldrighette, Jack Rose’s Rachel Sergi, Estadio’s Alexandra Nichols, Chef Geoff’s Elli Benchimol, and The Passenger’s Julia Hurst.
“I’m proud to be a founding member of an organization that includes some of the most innovative, groundbreaking, and creative cocktail minds in Washington D.C. and beyond. These ladies are pushing the boundaries of bartending, cocktail writing, and even distilling. They have all added something special to D.C. and I’m honored to be counted among them.” – Alexandra Bookless, LUPEC D.C. Chapter President.
Originally posted at PRZman.com
New Orleans is one of America’s greatest cities for fine food and drink. Unfortunately Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras is not the best example of what NOLA has to offer. If you’ve grown past sickeningly sweet Hand Grenades but still want to enjoy a taste of New Orleans this Mardi Gras, check out the following classics. Happy Fat Tuesday!
The Sazerac is one of my favorite cocktails in the world and one of the oldest American cocktails, dating to the first half of the 19th century. If you’ve never had it, you owe it to yourself to give it a try, especially if you’re a fan of whiskey cocktails like an Old Fashioned.
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 3 oz rye
- 2 dashes absinthe
Fill a small rocks glass with ice and allow it to chill. Empty the ice into a second rocks glass. In the first glass, add the syrup, bitters and whiskey and stir. Pour the contents of the first glass into the ice filled second glass. Pour the absinthe into the first glass and twirl the glass (preferably in the air with great enthusiasm) to coat it well. Discard the remaining absinthe. Strain the contents of the second glass into the absinthe-rinsed first glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twisted over the top of the glass.
Another really great cocktail – a bit more complex than the Sazerac, at least as far as the ingredients go. It is native to New Orleans’ Monteleone Hotel, whose Carousel Lounge slowly revolves around the bar.
- 3/4 oz rye
- 3/4 oz brandy (I prefer with cognac)
- 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
- 1/8 oz Benedictine
- Dash Peychaud’s bitters
- Dash Angostura bitters
Build over ice in an old fashioned glass.
Cocktail a la Louisiane
The a la Louisane is a 20th Century New Orleans cocktail, though it clearly takes its cues from the Sazerac and has a lot in common with the Vieux Carre. Taken together, these three New Orleans drinks represent the very best of classic cocktails have to offer.
- 3/4 oz. rye
- 3/4 oz. Benedictine
- 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
- 3 dashes absinthe
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Stir with cracked ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
On Valentine’s Day, I went to The Columbia Room’s special drink and dinner offering with my bride to be. It was a remarkable experience, as always, with both phenomenal cocktails being made by Derek Brown and a full meal prepared beside him behind the bar. If you haven’t yet been to The Columbia Room, I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s easily one of the best craft cocktail bars in the country and the experience is unlike any other American bar.
One of the cocktails Derek served was the Flame of Love Martini, a drink created at the request of Dean Martin. What strikes me as unique about it is that was the only vodka-based cocktail I could ever recall Derek serving (we realized afterwards that the original menu of The Passenger had a vodka drink called Tatanka).
Flame of Love Martini
2 1/4 oz. Vodka
1/2 tsp. Amontillado Sherry
2 orange peels
Shake and strain into chilled glass that has been sprayed with the zest of a flamed orange. Use second orange peel to flame zest on top of drink as well.
The double flaming makes this Martini variation unique. The small amount of Amontillado goes a surprisingly long way in the cocktail. It’s surprisingly rich and flavorful. Dare I say, it’s the first vodka Martini I’ve ever enjoyed. I’m not about to abandon my Fifty Fifty any time soon, but I think having an interesting vodka Martini in one’s repertoire is important, given how popular they are with the uninitiated.
Dale DeGroff makes predictions for cocktail trends in 2012 and writes:
One trend I expect to gain traction is the celebration of simple and unadulterated classics, like the Daiquiri, Manhattan and Vieux Carré. (Williams & Graham, which just opened in Denver, features more than three dozen old standbys!) In the name of creativity, many bars now offer an endless number of twists on standards; as a result, it’s hard to find a naked drink. I venture to say that some bartenders relatively new to the profession are so wrapped up in creating variations that they may have neglected to master the originals.
Here’s to hoping DeGroff is right. While I enjoy the rampant creativity of the craft cocktail movement, the cocktails which have become classics maintain over the decades and centuries because of their functional perfection. Yes, I like trying new things and any visit to a cocktail bar will involve sampling drinks which are likely unavailable anywhere else. But after a bit of dabbling, I tend to return to the drinks that I know are great. For me, depending on the bar and what sort of mood I’m in, it will vary. But my standbys remain the Dry Martini, Manhattan, Mai Tai, Daiquiri, Hemingway Daiquiri, Negroni, Americano, Cocktail a la Louisiane, Old Fashioned, Margarita, Dark and Stormy, Sazerac, and perhaps in the summer a Painkiller or Pina Colada. If I’m out for brunch, a Bloody Mary with gin.
The same goes for when I drink at home. If it’s not beer, wine, or straight whisk(e)y, I’m probably drinking one of the cocktails listed above. Sure, I might play around with amari and do lots of Negroni or Americano variations, but nothing too wild. If I’m in a Tiki mood, I may explore Tiki cocktails which I’m unfamiliar with, but I rarely spend time crafting my own originals.
For my home bartending, I practice making a better Martini or a better Daiquiri than I can get elsewhere. If I’m in the mood to really test a bartender’s skills, I don’t look for their craziest creation, I see how well they can execute a classic. Creativity is a great thing, but timeless drinks are timeless for a reason. Across all the cocktail bars, speakeasies, and restaurants and hotels with legitimate bar programs, there might be tens of thousands of original cocktails created by contemporary mixologists. If there are ten original, contemporary cocktails of our era which are still being made in fifty or 100 years, it might be a lot. That’s because creating a timeless, classic cocktail is very hard. It must be unique, but simple. Approachable, yet complex. Popular, but alluring. There are certainly some contemporaries which have a good shot at surviving the tests of time (Audrey Saunders’ Gin-Gin Mule comes to mind).
This is not a knock on the creativity of American craft bartenders. Not in the slightest. Waves of creativity are required if our epoch is to produce a drink that achieves the timelessness of the Old Fashioned or Sazerac or the ubiquity of the Margarita. By all means bartenders should be creating. But I do think establishments can and should take cues from some of Japan’s best bartenders, as Derek Brown of The Columbia Room has done, and practice simplicity and perfection of craft over creativity. In this regard, I really hope DeGroff is right about a resurgence of naked, unmodified classic cocktails. I know that if I were to open my own bar, the menu would be almost entirely made up of classics, with a few modern contenders in the mix too. Partly that’s because that’s what I love and partly because I think that the best pathway to exposing the American public to the true grandeur of well-made cocktails.
By Matt Hamlin
The holiday season is a time for punch. But not your standard pirate’s fair of Caribbean fruit juices and rum. The cold weather of Christmas and New Years beg for something rich and luxurious. For many, that means Egg Nog. Egg Nog can be a delightful holiday drink (Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland, Oregon’s Clyde Common has mastered it). But most Egg Nog comes pasteurized, with no alcohol and a horribly chemical flavor. As with any craft cocktail, fresh ingredients are best.
An alternative to Egg Nog that will impress your guests is the Tom and Jerry. It’s a dairy-based hot punch made with dark rum and brandy, with the traditional holiday spices that will make it seem familiar and comforting even to people who have never had the pleasure. Unfortunately, it’s also an involved process to make, more akin to baking than most bartenders care to hazard.
A holiday punch alternative to Egg Nog that I’ve always liked is a very old Scandinavian mulled wine called Glögg. First, the name is great. Second, while the holidays offer a variety of mulled wine and cider drinks, Glögg is unique for it’s heavy does of cardamom and the inclusion of raisins and almonds. Lastly, wine-based holiday punches are accessible without carrying the risk of knocking your guests out with hidden alcohol.
My preferred Glögg recipe comes from punch master Dan Searing and his book, The Punch Bowl. His recipe includes:
3 cardamom pods
2 750 mL bottles of red wine (cheap and dry is best)
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
3/4 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup raisins
1. Using the flat side of a knife, smash the cardamom pods, reserving the shells and seeds.
2. In a large pot set over medium heat, mix the wine, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom pieces. Simmer 5 minutes, then turn off heat and let the mixtures steep for at least 2 hours. Strain, if desired.
3. Return pot to a low simmer, then slowly add the sugar, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the vodka.
4. To serve, put a scant tablespoon each of almonds and raisins into a mug, then pour 6 ounces of Glögg on top. Serve with a teaspoon so guests can eat the almonds and raisins as they drink.
Phil Greene of Museum of the American Cocktail is working on a new book about Papa Ernest Hemingway and the drinks that helped define his life. I got to talk to him at the DC Craft Bartenders Guild’s fourth annual Repeal Day Ball earlier this month and we spoke about one of my favorite Hemingway drinks: the Green Isaacs Special. Called a Tomini in Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, it’s a brilliantly refreshing Caribbean take on a Tom Collins.
The following is from a post on Greene’s seminar on Hemingway cocktails:
From “Islands in the Stream,” guests enjoyed the Green Isaacs Special (named for the Isaacs Islands, just north of Bimini), and read from the novel:
“Where Thomas Hudson lay on the mattress his head was in the shade cast by the platform at the forward end of the flying bridge where the controls were and when Eddy came aft with the tall cold drink made of gin, lime juice, green coconut water, and chipped ice with just enough Angostura bitters to give it a rusty, rose color, he held the drink in the shadow so the ice would not melt while he looked out over the sea.”
Green Isaacs Special
2 oz Hendricks Gin
4 oz green coconut water (Vita Coco, available at Whole Foods)
1 oz lime juice
4 drops Angostura Bitters (or “just enough Angostura bitters to give it a rusty, rose color”)
Build in Collins glass.
I haven’t had this with Hendricks myself. I prefer my Green Isacs Special with a London dry gin like Beefeater.
Also, if you haven’t read Islands in the Stream, I highly recommend you give it a read. It’s semi-autobiographical, or at least very clearly inspired by Hemingway’s own life. The main character, Thomas Hudson, does some epic drinking of Papa Dobles at port in the book and spends time sport fishing on his beloved boat. It’s a great book, though somewhat heart-breaking. Definitely worth reading for Hemingway fans out there. And if you don’t like reading Hemingway, at least enjoy one of his cocktails.
In the last year or so, I’ve started collecting wine. It’s a new dimension in my life as a connoisseur of fine drink, but something I’ve enjoyed. Generally speaking, I don’t spend a lot of money on wine. I look for good values in the $10-20 range primarily. When I’ve visited wineries or encountered things I know I like, I’ll go up to $30-35. This is certainly more than most people will spend on a bottle of wine at a liquor store, but the point is I’m not going out buying wines for collection or icon wines. That said, I have been given a couple bottles of wine which can age for a long time and have sale prices of around $100.
Tonight I accidentally opened one of them. I can’t decide if this is an EPIC FAIL or an EPIC WIN.
First, the wine: Santa Carolina Herencia Carmenere 2007 from Peumo, Chile. It’s Santa Carolina’s icon wine and it retails around or above $100. It was given to me by the Wines of Chile after I won their #TweetChile trip and blogged about it extensively. My fiance and I had been saving it for a special occasion.
How did the accidental opening happen? I came home after a truly exhausting day at work and an equally tiring workout at the gym. I was wiped out. I didn’t really feel like wine, but Lori, my fiance wanted a glass with our very casual and completely unremarkable dinner. Now, I’d recently received a big shipment of wine from Garagiste and our little wine fridge is completely full with wine that we can’t drink for at least a few months. Lori looked for a bottle to open, but told me, “I don’t think we have anything we can open.” I said, “Nonsense, why don’t we open this bottle of carmenere?” We’ve consumed a ton of Chilean carmenere over the last year and I honestly had forgotten that this was the one bottle we were saving for a nice occasion. I was tired and ready for a glass of wine. I wasn’t really thinking.
It wasn’t until we opened the bottle, realizing in the process that this was a large, substantial and clearly more expensive than usual glass container, that Lori says, “Hey was this the really expensive carmenere that we were saving?” Eep.
Now here’s the good news. This wine is fantastic – one of the best carmeneres I can ever recall drinking. It’s also in the prime of its drinking life, according to the experts.
Before I get to a review of the wine, here’s a quick poll. Was accidentally opening a very expensive wine a fail or a win?
Herencia is a deep, dark purple. On the nose there’s strong spice, dark cherry, and tobacco. The first taste hits of red pepper typical for good carmeneres, as well as bright vegetal and herb notes, with an earthy undertone. It has a tangy-sweet finish with some peppery spice and fairly bright tannins. The finish is long and the balance between sweet and savory notes is truly impressive. I’d initially marked this down as a 90-91 on my scale, but that was before it had really breathed at all (again, when we hadn’t realized what we were drinking). After letting it breath for an hour or so, I’m upping my rating to a 93-94. It’s a picture-perfect representation of what great Chilean carmenere is capable of achieving. This is a fantastic wine and definitely worthy of it’s icon status for Santa Carolina. While I can’t see myself buying another bottle simply because I don’t often spend this much on any spirit, I wouldn’t have been disappointed had I purchased this myself.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m having Thanksgiving with family and friends in New England and for simplicity’s sake, I’ve made one of my fiance’s and my favorite punches. Credit belongs to Gina Chersevani of PS7s, who created it and introduced us to it.
Bourbon Punch by Gina Chersevani
1 bottle of bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1/2 bottle of St. Germain
32 oz of fresh grapefruit juice
1/3 lb of 10x powdered sugar
16 oz of fresh squeezed lemon juice
10-15 dashes of the Angostura bitters
4 oz of mint
16 grapefruit peels or segments (garnish)
32 oz sparkling water
In a bowl, whisk grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and powders sugar together until sugar is dissolved, then add bourbon, St Germain, bitters, sparkling water and stir. Then garnish with peels and mint. Let stand with an ice block in it for about 10 minutes or serve over ice.
I actually find this recipe starts off a bit too tart and dry for my tastes, so I gradually increase the sweetness with extra sugar and St. Germain until it gets to where I want it.
Bourbon is a relatively modern American spirit, so it probably isn’t the perfect fit for this century’s old holiday. Thanksgiving cocktails would probably be best served with rum, but this punch is too good to pass up.
What are you drinking on Thanksgiving?
There are times when you see something and, as a cocktail nerd, you think to yourself, “There is some serious WTFery going on here.” Such was the case when I saw on Twitter this morning from Frederic of Cocktail Virgin:
Hmm, a beautiful Pousse Cafe-style drink based around a Negroni with egg white foam and a raw egg yolk. There’s so much to both like and not like about this!
I wasn’t familiar with a Knickebein cocktail, but fortunately Frederic has a great post on the Knickebein from a past MxMo. Dating back to the late 1870s, the Knickebein is
His concoction was equal parts Curaçoa, Noyeau, and Maraschino (mixed) filling a port-wine glass two thirds of the way up. On top of that, he layered an unbroken egg yolk, and topped it with whipped egg whites sprinkled with drops of Angostura bitters.
Frederic also pulled out the detailed instructions for how it should be consumed:
1. Pass the glass under the Nostrils and Inhale the Flavour –- Pause.
2. Hold the glass perpendicularly, close under your mouth, open it wide, and suck the froth by drawing a Deep Breath. — Pause again.
3. Point the lips and take one-third of the liquid contents remaining in the glass without touching the yolk. — Pause once more.
4. Straighten the body, throw the head backward, swallow the contents remaining in the glass all at once, at the same time breaking the yolk in your mouth.
Well it certainly sounds like a pretty crazy drink.
When I encounter a cocktail like this, I immediately both want to try it and am completely and utterly repulsed by it. A raw egg yolk is no thing to underestimate, especially when you’re instructed to break the yolk in your mouth before swallowing. That said, I love the Negroni and am usually open to trying any Negroni variation. So while I haven’t tried this yet, I may in the future, but make no promises…
Frederic popped by the comments and pointed out the recipe for the Knickroni:
.5oz Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz gin
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
Mix Campari and Sweet Vermouth in a 2oz sherry glass. Layer egg yolk. Layer .5oz gin. Top with meringue and 1 dash of Regan’s orange bitters.
The rise of craft cocktails has been accompanied by micro-distilled spirits, handmade bitters, and flavorful tonic water bottlings, and craft syrups. The goal of these higher-end products is to make better cocktails. Undoubtedly Fever Tree or Fentimen’s tonic waters are superior than Canada Dry-style sugar water. But is tonic all that it can be?
Bittermens founder, Avery Glasser, pretty clearly thinks the answer to that is a resounding no. At a recent visit to Amor y Amargo, Avery and I spoke about tonic. Avery’s theory is that because both bottled tonic water and tonic syrups don’t have alcohol in them, they are limited in bitter (or how “tonic-y”) they can be. Bittermens’ solution is the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial. By having a cordial with 21% alcohol, they can use more bitter and less sweet in the tonic. Boy did they succeed. This carries with it a hearty dose of quinine, making it bitingly bitter. That’s only a problem if you want to drink it on its own (and I’m sure there are some members of the Cocktail and Spirits Writers Online Group who will anyway).
The recommended recipe for a Gin and Tonic with the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial is:
1.5 oz London Dry Gin
0.75 oz Bittermens Commonwealth Tonic Cordial
5 oz soda water
This is a remarkably light and refreshing Gin and Tonic. Because there is more bitterness, there is less sugar needed and thus less sugar present. That makes the drink light, but bitter. I think it’s a great improvement, especially over anything involving a conventional tonic water.
But what I really like to use the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial for is a recipe from Bittermens’ site that plays on a Vesper.
Eva Green – Mayur Subbarao’s interpretation of a Vesper
2 1/4 oz Plymouth Gin
3/4 oz Cocchi Americano
1/2 oz Bittermens Commonwealth Tonic Cordial
Stir and serve up in a coupe glass with a lemon twist
The Eva Green has already put a significant dent in my stock of Commonwealth Tonic Cordial and just about cost me all of my Cocchi Americano. Seriously, this is a cocktail that is for you if you like gin, bitter, spirits-only drinks.
As for the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial, I definitely recommend it. There are lots of good choices for tonic water or tonic syrups these days. But if you want a crisp, light tonic without the extra sweetness, the Bittermens bottling is for you.
Well, this is pretty awesome and much higher production value than we usually see from events connected to cocktails. This is all to promote Spirits in Black, the October 30th Halloween party at American Ice Company, featuring cocktails by Patrick Owens, Gina Cherservani, and Owen Thomson. More details here, but as you see in the video, it’s a costume party.
My latest post at PRZman.com, “A Guide to Bitters”
Bitters are fundamental to cocktails and bartending. In fact, they were integral to the first definition of a cocktail–any combination of spirit, water, sugar and bitters. But during Prohibition, production stopped on most bitters brands and as a result, their variety plummeted. As America moved from drinking complex cocktails to beer and vodka on the rocks, the craft of bartending suffered and bitters fell even further out of use, to the point where a common bartenders joke went, “What lasts longer, a bottle of Angostura bitters or your marriage?”
But what are bitters? Essentially they are a high-proof spirit that is macerated with a variety of herbs and spices. Usually bitters run around 35-40% alcohol, though they are so concentrated and powerful, you will rarely see more than 2-3 dashes in a cocktail. They add complexity and basically make a cocktail more interesting than it would be otherwise.
The most common types of bitters are aromatic bitters, such as Angostura Bitters. You’ve probably seen this brown bottle and oversized white paper label collecting dust on the back bar of your favorite dive. Aromatic bitters add a bitter depth to any drink they’re used in and are a critical ingredient to many cocktails.
The next most common and important type of bitters is orange bitters. Used in a host of old school cocktails, orange bitters are great in a Dry Gin Martini or even a Manhattan. There are a number of brands making orange bitters these days, but I prefer Regan’s No. 6 Orange Bitters.
The last famous type of bitters is Peychaud’s bitters. A required ingredient in the Sazerac, Peychaud’s is a New Orleans staple that has a distinctive bright red color and lighter, sweet, anise flavor.
Angostura bitters are widely available and most good liquor stores will now carry an orange bitters and Peychaud’s. But there are also an ever-growing number of bitters brands making more unusual flavors, from grapefruit and lemon to rhubarb and chocolate. A number of makers are even rediscovering recipes for bitters that were common in the 19th century and bringing them back to life. If you’re interested in a wider selection of bitters, look at the products from Bittermens, The Bitter Truth and Fee Brothers, though there seem to be more bitters makers coming out with interesting products every month.
Here’s a great, classic New Orleans cocktail that includes both Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters:
1 ounce rye whiskey
1 ounce Cognac
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Bénédictine
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Mix all ingredients in a double Old Fashioned glass over ice; stir.
Last week I got to participate in another blogger wine tasting with Wines of Chile. The tasting included eight Chilean Carmeneres, with a live video chat with winemakers from each of the vineyards. Half the wines came from the Colchagua Valley, one of my favorite regions for Carmeneres. Carmenere almost entirely unique to Chile, as the grapes went extinct in Europe due to the phylloxera plague. Chile’s natural barriers of mountains and ocean kept phylloxera out and preserved these grapes, though through the course of time, Carmenere was believed to be lost. The story I’ve heard is that in the early 1990s, a group of French oenologists were visiting Chile and asked some winemakers what a particular grape was. The Chileans said they were Merlot, to which the French responded, “Um, no, that is not Merlot.” A more fact-based account of the rediscovery of Carmenere is on <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmenere#Rediscovery”>”>Wikipedia.
Carmenere is actually one of my favorite varietals. It has ranges of red fruit, berries, and spice, with some good vegetal notes. It should have a decent amount of tannins, but at its best remains very drinkable. It’s great with flavorful food, but is also mild enough to drink on a warm summer night. Seriously, if you haven’t tried Carmenere, seek it out, it’s a great grape to bring into your wine rotation.
The tasting by Wines of Chile included a good range of Caremenere. What I love about horizontal tastings like this is you really get to see how much terroir and the choices of the wine makers influence taste. Eight bottles from of the same grape, many from the same part of Chile, tasted unique. We tasted the following wines:
- Emiliana Natura Carmenere 2010
- Casa Silva Los Lingues Gran Reserva Carmenere 2008
- Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Carmenere 2008
- Montes Alpha Carmenere 2008
- Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere, 2009
- Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2009
- Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2009
- Haras de Pirque Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere 2007
I was familiar with half of these wineries going in, both from my trip to Chile earlier this year and from the wide availability of some of these wines on the US market. All of the wines tasted were under $25 and most represented a good buy.
My two favorites of the night were the Santa Carolina Reserve de Familia and Concha y Toro’s Marques de Casa Concha. The offering from Santa Carolina had a strong vegetal nose, layered with blueberry and alcohol. The first impression on the tongue is strong dark plum and red pepper. The finish was spicy blackberry and strong alcohol. It was the strongest wine we tasted, but it had a really big fruit flavor to balance it out.
The Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere was also very fruit forward, with purple fruit and blueberries on the nose. There was a strong plum flavor up front, followed by rich, oaky tannins and a thick mouthfeel. While not as multidimensional as the Santa Carolina, it was still really enjoyable.
We had a large group over to taste the wines and opinions variety widely as to which were the favorites. One thing was clear, though, even with a room full of people who had largely never had Carmenere before, the wines were a hit.
As a reward for making it this far, Matt has created a delicious Daiquiri variation. Enjoy!
2 oz Rhum Agricole Vieux
1 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Chai Tea Syrup (2:1)
.5 tsp Maraschino
Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Dust with fresh allspice and garnish with a mint leaf.
Earlier this week I continued my bad habit of going to a cocktail bar that I’ve never been to and not taking any notes on the experience. As a result, I’m sad to say that Amor y Amargo won’t get the detailed review that it deserves.
Amor y Amargo is a bar by Avery and Janet Glasser, the founders of Bittermens Bitters. It’s located on in New York’s East Village, just a few doors down from Death & Company on 6th Street. It consists of a General Store, with the full line of Bittermens Bitters, as well as other bitters, cocktail tools, and books. It’s a nice selection, especially since finding good bitters can be hard. But things get really impressive when you turn towards the bar.
Amor y Amargo is a cocktail bar focused on vermouth, aperitifs, potable bitters, and, given who runs the place, non-potable bitters. While there are scores of these various spirits, the bar keeps a small stock in other base spirits. The focus is on the bitters.
One of the coolest things about Amor y Amargo is that they have their homemade sweet vermouth and an Americano cocktail available on draft at the bar. The Americano is one of my favorites and as a matter of principle I had to have it first. It comes out deep red, with less carbonated water in it than I usually drink. The emphasis is really on the vermouth and the Campari and it’s frankly fantastic.
From there, Avery made me a Gin Rickey variation using a lime citrate. Amor y Amargo doesn’t have fresh fruit juices, so this was an interesting substitute and a pretty tasty cocktail as well. I got to try a number of Avery’s original creations made special for the friends I was there with (who, wisely, have become regulars). The range and depth of the selection of amari and other potable bitters and aperitifs from France, Italy, Germany and other parts of the world was staggering. I’m at a point now where I’d say that the only two categories of spirits I’m really continuing to collect broadly is rum and amari; the differences of styles, brands, regions, and flavor profiles is incredibly interesting to me and every bottling seems to offer something fairly different.
I was at Amor y Amargo on a Monday night, which is when owner Avery Glasser works behind the stick, with his wife and partner Janet helping keep the house in order while he works. It was great to finally meet him and Janet in person. It’s hard to fully capture the importance of Bittermens Bitters in both my becoming interested in craft cocktails and the growth of craft bartending more broadly. From my perspective, some of the first cocktails I fell in love with were drinks with Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters made by bartenders at Death & Company. The Conference by Brian Miller was the drink that got me hooked, but St. Columb’s Rill and the Oaxaca Old Fashioned by Philip Ward are also outstanding drinks that feature the Xocolatl Mole Bitters by Bittermens. The problem was that in early 2008 when I got to know these drinks, Bittermens was not commercially available for sale. It wasn’t until they took a circuitous path through Germany and a partnership with The Bitter Truth that American consumers could find these special bitters available for home use.
Bittermens is now producing their bitters entirely on their own in Brooklyn, NY. The line includes some really interesting bitters, though the Burlesque Bitters are my favorite, as they’re a great addition in summery gin and rum drinks. In the near future, they’ll be doing some other cool stuff that geeks like me will be very excited about, but I won’t discuss now. Just stay tuned…in the mean time, if you’re in NYC, check out Amor y Amargo. You won’t be disappointed.
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