Posted by: Matt Hamlin | September 16, 2011

The Distiller

Awesome video about Brad Estabrooke’s process of starting the Breuckelen Distilling Company.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | September 1, 2011

Amor y Amargo

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.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 31, 2011

Vote RumDood!

Via Doug at The Pegu Blog, I see that Matt Robold aka RumDood is one of 20 finalists in Tommy Bahama’s First Rumologist contest. You can vote for Matt after liking Tommy Bahama’s Facebook page. Oh and you can vote once per day, so vote early and often!

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 29, 2011

The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary is one of Hunter S. Thompson’s best books – a novel based in part on his own time as a journalist in Puerto Rico. It’s a great story and this movie should be pretty good too. Also, there will be lots of rum.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 24, 2011

Wine Tasting & Curry Contest

I normally don’t run these sorts of reader contests, because, well, I guess I’m a bit selfish and like to keep the good contests to myself. But the fine folks at Wines of Chile have been very good to me over the last year and their blogger events are really a lot of fun.

Here’s the deal. Wines of Chile is hosting a blogger tasting of 8 Chilean Carmeneres. They’re pairing the wine tasting with curry recipes. The contest is this: blog readers can submit their best curry recipe. From there, “Culinary Expert Nissa Pierson will choose the best recipe and that recipe will be featured in the tasting kit and in the live tasting. The winner of this contest will receive a kit and an invite to participate alongside the bloggers and winemakers in the live event on Thursday, October 13.”

To submit a curry recipe and enter this contest, email the recipe to curry@thethomascollective.com by Thursday, September 15. Note the name of this blog when you send in your recipe so Wines of Chile can notify me if one of my readers wins win and give this blog credit for finding the winning recipe.

Pretty straightforward, no?

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 21, 2011

Adams Mill Cocktail

Hey, look! A new cocktail recipe original (I think) to me! It’s like 2009 up in here!

Adams Mill Cocktail

2 oz Old Overholt Rye
0.5 oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth
0.5 oz The Bitter Truth EXR Krauter Liqueur
2 dashes Boker’s Bitters

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I made this Manhattan-type variation for my friend Dave, a native of Covington, KY. I was going to call this a Covington Cocktail, but found out with a quick Google search that this is a term which has an entry in the Urban Dictionary and really doesn’t lend itself to use for a fine drink. Instead I went with a neighborhood name – one for a street near where I live.

I tried this with both 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye and 80-proof Old Overholt. I liked it a bit softer and that’s what I printed above, but Dave liked the hotter version with the 100 proof rye. If you want to try it that way, by all means go for it.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 19, 2011

On the $13 Cocktail

This video is in a post by Liquor.com on Huffington Post. The video shows the time, energy, craft, and care that cocktail bars like San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch put into making their drinks and providing their service. It is this time and energy which causes some craft cocktail bars, in some cities, to have drinks that cost $13 or more.

My experience with craft cocktails started in New York City. While I was mostly a dive bar guy, I would occasionally go out with friends to trendier bars and clubs. At these loud, packed meat markets I would regularly pay $10-15 for simple Ketel & Sodas (as I said, this was prior to getting into craft cocktails). To be in New York and to be social involves a certain amount of dramatically overpaying for drinks.

When I discovered craft cocktails through a visit to Death & Company, I wasn’t struck by paying $15 for a cocktail. I was instead struck by the fact that I’d paid $15 for a cocktail and it was worth every penny. There was value and care in the drink. I was willing to pay it again and, ideally, as soon as possible.

The reality is that while a $13 cocktail is expensive for most people, a bad $6 cocktail is also expensive for most people. Wasting a dollar costs the same amount everywhere. While I’ve certainly had some overpriced craft cocktails (I’m looking at you, hotel bars with good cocktail programs!), for the most part the prices for drinks at high-end craft cocktail bars are reasonable for what you get in return.

Of course what that means is that most of us don’t get to have a bar like Bourbon & Branch or The Columbia Room as our nightly, neighborhood bar due to the cost associated with it. But as a matter of fact, that’s what made me build a bar at home. If you like those $13 cocktails, but don’t want to pay that much every time you want a killer Manhattan variation, find out the recipes, buy the ingredients and make them for yourself at home! It’s cheaper in the long run to learn how to mix these high-end cocktails yourself. The sole caveat I’d add is that home bartending doesn’t lend itself to having lots of different tinctures, custom bitters, and bizarre infusions. You can still do these things, but the time incentive is less on your side than, say, going to the store and picking up some Rittenhouse 100, Carpano Antica and Angostura bitters.

The moral of the story is this: embrace the $13 cocktail until the point where it hurts to regularly spend that $13 on a single drink, then start building your home bar and try to emulate the practices and methods which made that drink at the craft cocktail bar taste so great.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 5, 2011

Michael Neff on Vodka Sodas

Bartender Michael Neff of Ward III and The Rum House in NYC has a post at Serious Eats, titled “On Vodka Sodas and First Dates.” While the relevance to working at bars and witnessing first dates is somewhat minimal to people who aren’t professionals behind the stick, his description of the Vodka Soda and why people drink it is pretty spot-on.

That said, vodka-soda drinkers are like jilted lovers; they’ve often had brief relationships with other spirits in the past, and walked away feeling scarred and skittish. Reluctant to open old wounds, they have trained their palates to crave neutrality. The phrase I hear most often is, “I don’t want to taste the alcohol.” In effect, they want the punch but not the flavor.

I don’t especially blame them. Many of us learn about alcohol in college, at bars where quantity trumps quality, and the goal is to drink as much as possible on limited resources. When people say, “I don’t like gin,” they usually mean, “I don’t like cheap gin.” Blended scotch is a beautiful thing, but 100 Pipers blended scotch tastes like cough medicine.

The rest is worth reading, as is the context that Neff uses to comment on the Vodka Soda: a blind date at a cocktail lounge.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 5, 2011

Champagne for your real friends…

Originally posted at PRZman.com

A Champagne Cocktail for National Champagne Day

I don’t know who decides these things, but August 4th is National Champagne Day. Champagne is one of the most overlooked cocktail ingredients in modern American drinking. While it has a deserving place as a beverage to be drank while celebrating World Series wins, promotions and engagements, it’s also good to drink at any and all other times! Cocktails like the Mimosa (orange juice and Champagne) or the Bellini (peach puree & Champagne’s Italian cousin, Prosecco) are great for brunch year-round.

f you really want to step up your Champagne cocktail game, though, I suggest trying one of these classic cocktails featuring Champagne.

Created by author and famed drinker Ernest Hemingway and named after his famous book about bullfighting in Spain, Death in the Afternoon is a Champagne cocktail with absinthe.

Death in the Afternoon

1 oz absinthe or substitute (eg Pernod)
Champagne

Pour absinthe into a Champagne flute. Top with chilled Champagne. In the words of Hemingway, “Drink three to five of these slowly”

A World War I era cocktail that’s said to have been created by British soldiers who combined their gin ration with Champagne while serving in France, the French 75 is named after France’s 75mm howitzer artillery gun used during the Great War. As a rule, cocktails named after artillery are worth drinking.

French 75

1 oz gin
1 oz simple syrup
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz Champagne

Combine gin, syrup and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled Champagne glass. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

“Cocktail” Bill Boothby was one of America’s most famous bartenders at the turn of the 20th century. Originally from San Francisco, but working at top bars around the country, Boothby created a variation on the Manhattan which elevates the drink to magnificent heights.

The Boothby Manhattan

2 oz rye
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dash Angostura bitters
1 oz Champagne

Stir rye, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, add Maraschino cherry, and float one ounce of Champagne on top.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 2, 2011

Campo Viejo Riojas

Spain’s Rioja region has long been one of my favorite wine producing regions. Even before I knew much of anything about wine, I enjoyed Rioja tintos – red Riojas – particularly Tempranillo. In fact I’d say that Tempranillo’s from Rioja were the first grape and geographic combination that I knew to look for on wine lists.

I was recently invited to an online tasting of Campo Viejo’s line of red wines. I ended up having a work conflict and couldn’t make the live chat with assistant winemaker Roberto Vicente, but recently went through and did the vertical tasting with some friends. Founded in La Rioja in 1959, Campo Viejo has three different bottlings, each with the same ratio of grapes, but with varied fermentation, maceration, and aging methodology. The result are three distinct, enjoyable, well-priced entries that show the talents of their winemakers and the quality of their fruit.

The Campo Viejo 2007 Crianza is their entry-level wine, priced at $10 a bottle. Like all three of their wines, it is 85% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo. It was fermented at 77 degrees, mascerated for 12 days, and aged for 12 months in American and French oak, then finished in bottles for five to six months before release. It has a dark red-purple hue which was common across the three bottlings. On the nose is dark stone fruit, berries, oak and a mild hint of alcohol. The taste is lead by cherry, then followed by vanilla. The fruit flavor is slightly sour. The wine has fairly light tannins and the finish is long, with a hint of leather. For $10, this is a great deal, as the Crianza is enjoyable and extremely drinkable.

The Campo Viejo 2008 Reserva has the same grape ratio as the Crianza, though how the fruit is used is different. The Reserva is fermented at 82 degress, then aged for 18 months in French and American oak, followed by 18 months in bottles before being released. It has a similar deep ruby red color, but the nose shows a marked different. While there’s still cherry, there’s also orange and baking spices like clove and allspice. The taste begins with sweet cherries and there’s a noticable smokiness from the oak. The Reserva has a great textured mouthfeel, with a medium amount of tannins and some spice. It’s well balanced and has lovely body, though the tannins fade a bit fast for my preference on the finish. It retails for $14 and is another very good value.

The Campo Viejo 2003 Gran Reserva is the high-end offering from the winery. Though it is made from 85% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo, it’s fermented at 82 degrees like the Reserva, but is aged for two years. During that time, it is 80% in French oak and the remaining 20% in American oak. It is then aged in bottles for another three years prior to release. The color is slightly more deep purple than the other bottlings. The nose is incredibly complex and layered, with a thin cherry scent giving way to vanilla, spice and oak. The taste is balanced, with a lot of the oak character coming through and a mid-level amount of smooth tannins. The finish is bright, with some more spice coming through. While I’d say this was the best bottling on the merits, it seemed to lack the body I was hoping for. At $21, it’s still a good deal, though.

Tasting these three wines together was really special. The commonality of the grapes that go into each bottle allows for the difference between different fermentation and aging methods to show themselves. The result is that the craft of the winemakers shows through, all at once. It was a fun way to do a tasting and all of my guests had a good time with it. Opinions varied about which was their favorite, but I think all three wines acquitted themselves well.

Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received free bottles of Campo Viejo Crianza, Reserva & Gran Reserva for the purposes of sample and review.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | August 1, 2011

Sipping Sangria

I have a new post up at PRZman.com on sangria. Included in it is a recipe for a white sangria that I originally posted here in 2009. The article is at the first link, but here’s a rehashing of the recipe, which is truly delicious:

Sangria Blanco

375 mL cachaça
375 mL pisco
375 mL St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
125 mL fresh lime juice
750 mL semi-sweet white wine (Riesling works well)
750 mL white cranberry juice
3
75 mL soda water

Add ingredients to an ice filled pitcher and stir. Garnish with sliced kiwi, grapes, apple, cucumber, lime wheels, and fresh sage leaves.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | July 26, 2011

PRZman: Cool Summer Cocktails

My latest piece up at PRZman.com

p>It’s hot out. And when it’s hot out, there’s nothing better than staying cool with a refreshing cocktail. While there’s no doubt that frozen tiki cocktails like the Piña Colada or Missionary’s Downfall are as cooling as it gets, most of us don’t bring a blender to the beach. Below are four of my favorite cocktails that will keep you cool without requiring an electrical outlet.

Originally made at Shoomaker’s in Washington, DC by Democratic lobbyist Col. Joe Rickey in 1883, the Gin Rickey is the official, native cocktail of our nation’s capital. It’s my favorite summer cooler, as the crisp line and gin combination has the effect of air conditioning in a glass.

Gin Rickey
2 oz gin
Juice of half a lime
Soda water
Juice half a lime into a wine glass and drop the lime shell into it. Add gin and ice, top with soda water.

The Ridgely is a creation of a family friend, but is one of the first rum cocktails that I ever fell in love with. Tart and crisp, it’ll cool your core when you’re lying poolside.

The Ridgely
2 oz dark rum (Mount Gay works best)
Juice of half a lime
Tonic water
Ginger Ale
Add rum and lime juice to an ice-filled highball glass. Top with equal parts tonic water and ginger ale. Garnish with a lime wedge.

The Dark ‘n’ Stormy is a quintessential rum highball. Made with rich, dark Bermudan rum and spicy ginger beer, it is both refreshing and flavorful. Goslings Black Seal Rum is required to make it a real Dark ‘n’ Stormy. My favorite ginger beer brands are Regatta and Goslings ginger beer.

Dark ‘n’ Stormy
2 oz Goslings Black Seal Rum
Ginger Beer
Lime
In an ice-filled highball glass, fill with ginger beer and top with 2 ounces of Goslings. Squeeze in a lime wedge and enjoy.

Finally, to change things up, I recommend trying a whiskey-based highball, a Horse’s Neck with a Kick:

Horse’s Neck with a Kick
2 oz bourbon or scotch
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Ginger ale
Spiral lemon peel
Peel a lemon in one-piece spiral and extend this into a Collins glass. Add ice, bourbon and bitters and top with ginger ale.

All of these drinks are refreshing quaffs that are perfect for outdoor summer drinking. You don’t need a blender to stay cool, but as you can see plenty of ginger ale, ginger beer, club soda, and tonic water will help your cause.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | July 19, 2011

Saving the Irish Coffee with Glassware

Legendary political reporter Warren Hinckle recently had a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle about the demise and rebirth of one of San Francisco’s classic cocktails: the Irish Coffee. Apparently due to a supplier ceasing to make the traditional glassware, there had been a decline in the ability of local establishments to serve it. The main purveyor, Buena Vista Cafe, had switched their supplier from a company in Ohio to China, with the plans to resell the Chinese glasses of lower quality to other Bay Area restaurants. Unfortunately the Chinese glassware was no substitute and in San Francisco, the glassware makes this cocktail. Fortunately the original purveyor of 6 ounce Georgian Irish Coffee glasses, Libbey Glass Company, was convinced to re-start production (at a great cost) so the city could continue to serve proper Irish Coffees in their proper glasses.

The whole article is an interesting read and I recommend you check it out yourself. In the mean time, here’s a recipe for a San Francisco-style Irish Coffee:

Irish Coffee
6 ounces brewed coffee
2 sugar cubes
1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
heavy cream, lightly whipped

Fill glass with very hot water to pre-heat, then empty. Pour hot coffee into hot glass until it is about three-quarters full. Drop in two cocktail sugar cubes. Stir until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Add full jigger of Irish Whiskey for proper taste and body. Top with a collar of whipped cream by pouring gently over a spoon. Enjoy it while piping hot.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | July 14, 2011

DC Officially Recognizes the Rickey

Last summer I was part of selection committee for the DC Craft Bartenders Guild’s annual Rickey Contest. I spent a whole lot of time trekking around DC and Northern Virginia with Derek Brown of The Columbia Room (and others) drinking modern Rickey variations. One thing I remember most from this experience was talking with Derek about the historic place of the Rickey as the quintessential DC cocktail. The Rickey was created by Colonel Joe Rickey and bartender George Williamson at Shoomaker’s Bar in 1883. Originally made with whiskey, it quickly became popular with gin as its base. As Derek is fond of saying, a Gin Rickey is perfect for DC’s swampy summer weather as it is effectively like “air conditioning in a glass.” Derek had the idea that the city of DC should commemorate and honor the Rickey as Washington’s native cocktail and get a plaque put on the J.W. Marriot hotel, which sits on the site of Shoomaker’s, to honor the history of the cocktail’s creation there.

Today DC Council Member Jack Evans officially honored the Rickey:

Local liquor aficionados will join D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans on Thursday in reading an official proclamation declaring the Rickey as Washington’s native cocktail, according to the AP. July will be officially known as “Rickey month” in the District.

Additionally, this weekend a plaque commemorating the birthplace of the Rickey will be put up at the J.W. Marriott.

This is a great day for DC and the evolution of the nation’s capitol as a place that knows and honors the history of craft cocktails and the importance of cocktails in our national culture. Congrats to Derek and every other member of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild who helped make this happen by promoting, reinventing, and remembering the Rickey as DC’s native cocktail and one of the finest instances of creativity in the history of American cocktail culture.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | July 6, 2011

The Original Rickey Recipe

Col. Rickey's Recipe for a "Rickey"

Via Derek Brown, David Wondrich has a handwritten recipe by Colonel Joe Rickey for the original Rickey. Here’s what I think it says:

Col. Rickey’s Recipe for a “Rickey.”
Long glass – Ice
Whiskey [illegible] -
Lime Juice
Carbonated Water
Don’t Drink too Many
JK Rickey

Anyone want to take a guess at what the word(s) after “Whiskey” say?

Update: Consensus is clear, the first line is “Whiskey or Gin”. Thanks for the help everyone!

On Twitter, Dave Wondrich addresses my confusion that Rickey’s original recipe called for whiskey, not a choice between the two:

Rickey wrote that in 1895, at which point he was resigned to the ubiquity of the gin version

So while this is not the original recipe for the Rickey, as created at Shoemaker’s in Washington DC by Col. Joe Rickey, it is the first written version tied to the fine Colonel.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | June 29, 2011

Leather Hammock

Leather Hammock

Leather Hammock, Image from Gaz Regan

Another good cocktail today from Gaz Regan’s email list. This comes from Chad Larson of Barrio Lowertown in St. Paul, MN. Larson says it’s similar to a Blood & Sand, but I see greater similarities to the Bronx cocktail family and specifically the Peto Cocktail. I suppose the flavor profile of this is closer to Blood and Sand (smokey, citrus, rich), but the ingredients don’t match up that well.

Leather Hammock

1 oz Illegal mezcal reposado
.75 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
.33 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
.75 oz fresh orange juice
Brandied cherries, as garnish
Orange peel ribbon, as garnish
Orange twist, as garnish

Shake vigorously over ice and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnishes.

However the inspiration came, this looks like a delicious cocktail that I plan on trying at my earliest possible convenience.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | June 27, 2011

Magical Apples: Spanish Cider

Spain is known for its hard apple cider. Unlike most other hard ciders, it isn’t bottled with carbonation. Instead, an essentially flat cider must be aerated before serving. Traditionally that is done by holding the bottle and glass as far apart as possible and pouring the cider into the glass. The fall and the impact add air to the stream of cider, giving it a bit of fizz. That process traditionally looks something like this:

Photo by Bostonian on Flickr

While I was in Madrid last week, I got to partake in some traditional Spanish cider and really enjoyed it. However, instead of the acrobatic pour by a server, the restaurant I was at had this delightful contraption:

Magic Apple

A Magic Aeration Apple

And this is what it looked like when it was in use:

The Magic Apple in Use

The Magic Apple in Use

The apple doesn’t add C02 to the cider – it just propels it out of the bottle and into the glass at a very high speed, with the impact adding the desired aeration and bubbly mouthfeel. Unlike Irish or English or American hard ciders, this was incredibly dry with almost no sweetness at all. While the Magic Apple was a cool contraption, I still think I would have liked to see someone make the long pour into a small glass.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | June 24, 2011

Know Your Gin

Originally published at PRZman.com

There are two kinds of men—those who drink gin and those who are scared of gin. If you fall into the first category, you’re going to enjoy this post, but if you’re someone who isn’t a gin fan, this should give you the information you need to get past your phobias and start enjoying the base spirit that is king in the world of cocktails.

Gin was invented by the Dutch, but perfected by the English. Jenever is the Dutch style of gin, which, though made with juniper, is malty and pretty unrecognizable from the modern style of gin. Only recently has jenever made a comeback through the craft cocktail movement.

English gin is a more approachable affair, made of neutral spirits flavored with juniper and other botanicals. What we usually think of when we think of gin is London Dry Gin, the most common style of English gin. It’s a staple in every bar in the United States, with brands like Beefeater, Bombay, Boodles and Tanqueray leading the market. It’s great in Martinis, with tonic water, and with any range of classic cocktails.

A popular style of gin amongst bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts is Plymouth gin. Both a unique brand and a unique style of gin, it’s not as dry as London Dry Gin and has softer juniper notes that lend incredibly well to mixing in cocktails.

Old Tom Gin is stronger and sweeter than London Dry Gin. It was common in Pre-Prohibition era cocktails, but is making a strong comeback. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is now widely available and some markets have a micro-distilled version from Oregon called Ransom Old Tom Gin that is truly outstanding. Old Tom is found in the Martinez, an 18th century classic that is believed to be a predecessor to the Martini.

The last major type of gin is New Western Dry Gin. Made all over the United States and Western Europe, these new styles of gin focus less on the juniper and more on other botanicals and citrus elements. Hendrick’s from Scotland brings forward cucumbers, while Tanqueray No. 10 has a strong lemon presence. Aviation and Bluecoat are two great examples of American micro-distilled New Western Dry Gins, but my personal favorite is Anchor Distilling’s Junipero, which is made by the same folks who do Anchor Steam Beer. It’s a powerful, dynamic, captivating gin that goes great in just about any gin cocktail I can think of.

The first step to loving gin is knowing how many choices you have out there. Armed with a basic understanding of different gin styles, you can now approach any bar or cocktail menu with an understanding of the role different gins can play in a drink.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | June 22, 2011

PS7s Gin in Food Creations

Via Camper English, Chef Peter Smith of DC’s PS7s restaurant and bar is apparently doing some really cool things cooking with used gin botanicals.

One bright brainwave, two remarkable results: Washington’s Peter Smith is making culinary use of the botanical byproduct of gin production known as ‘mash,’ and in doing so, is providing the gin industry for the first time ever with a sustainable market for its waste. He is the first chef in the country to cook with gin mash.

Distilleries typically throw away 30-40 pounds of spent botanicals for every batch of gin produced, a wet compound that looks like old brewed tea and tastes like super concentrated gin: an intense combination of juniper, orris root, lemon, coriander, and other flavors that is so highly alcoholic Smith says “it’s nearly a biohazard.” Working with the mash from two different gin distilleries, Blue Coat of Philadelphia, whose product is 95% organic, and Catoctin Creek of West Virginia, the first distillery in the area since Prohibition, Smith gives new life to the erstwhile waste product by converting it to aromatic oils and powders at his hip downtown restaurant, PS 7’s.

The used gin mash is going to use in his own experiments with charcuterie – a breseola modification with dry aged beef and a pancetta variation. I haven’t had these yet, but will plan on trying them the next time I’m hanging out at the bar, enjoying Gina Chersevani’s cocktails. Gina is also the brand ambassador for Blue Coat gin and I’m guessing she helped get this project rolling too.

Posted by: Matt Hamlin | June 14, 2011

Tiki Tuesdays @ The Passenger

Awesome video by Sarah Cannon as an announcement for The Passenger’s Tiki Tuesday series. A stop-motion video of a Scorpion Bowl! Here’s the recipe:

Scorpion Bowl

1 oz brandy
6 oz light rum
6 oz orange juice
4 oz lemon juice
2 oz orgeat

Put it in a bowl, add ice and lots of comically big yet socially convenient straws.

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