8.07.2008

Infusing...This Time With Wine

For those of you who are familiar with Bermuda, you are also familiar with that most wonderful of Bermudian condiments: Sherry peppers. Since I have been cooking regularly, I have found that I am almost unable to cook without my secret ingredient, the aforementioned sherry peppers. They are quite hard to come by in the States, and I didn't get to Bermuda this year.

What to do? Well, I could just get off my lazy butt and, you know, make them. In addition, Outerbridges, the only company which makes sherry peppers commercially (as well as rum and sherry-rum peppers) gets quite the pretty penny for them: $7 for a five ounce bottle or $23 for a fifth. On the other hand, I can make a batch of about half a liter of peppers for under ten bucks, and about ten minutes of my time. Moreover, I can then customize the sauce to my liking.
Sherry Peppers (Basic Recipe)
  • 2 c. - Sherry (Amontillado, preferably, just stay away from cream sherry)
  • 3-6 - Hot Peppers, quartered (Bird peppers or Scotch Bonnets would be traditional, but go with what you like.)
Allow to steep for at least two weeks, and up to a month, then strain and bottle.
There you go. Simple, easy, and while it takes a while, it barely takes any active time. However, I wanted to get a bit more flavour out of my sauce. If it was really that easy, the Outerbridges would be out of business. To get a bit more flavour out, I used a mix of peppers, and added a little more spice:
Scrivenal Spiced Sherry Peppers #1
  • 640 mL - Sherry (Taylor Gold)
  • 1 tsp - Ginger root, grated
  • 1 - Scotch bonnet pepper, quartered
  • 2 - Jalapeno peppers, quartered
  • 25 - Cloves, whole
  • 1 nut - Nutmeg, coarsely crushed
  • 1 stick - Cinnamon
  • 10 - Peppercorns, whole
Put ginger root, peppers, and sherry in airtight jar and allow to infuse for two weeks. Add cinnamon stick and peppercorns, and infuse for two more weeks. Add cloves and nutmeg and infuse for one to two days. Strain, season appropriately, and bottle.
That is the recipe I am following. Hopefully it will work out. I am hoping to get more complexity out of this batch, preferably something which I can also use as cocktail bitters.

This is the second of four posts I am presenting for Wine Blogging Wednesday. You can read the others from the original post, which you can find here.

This is the the first of several posts documenting my August Dramproject.

Well, that's all I got. Enjoy,
The Scribe

8.06.2008

Hello, Hello!


I am writing to you from the new Dram of Brine, also known as A Mixed Dram. Yeah, I know, name changes, and everything. If you are on the old Dram of Brine site on Blogger, you should be looking at the new blog on Wordpress. If you would rather have the URL, it's:

http://mixeddram.wordpress.com

The site is not 100% live yet. I am still getting the indexes linked up and I need to also get the graphic up for the main page, which should be up by this weekend. In addition, as I make the move, I am also going through old posts and updating them with photos where I have them. So, what is new at the Dram? Things should be continuing more or less as planned, though I am starting a new little tradition of a monthly project, which I'll get into on Thursday when I announce the first one. Otherwise, I have put up a few new features with the move:

  1. Comprehensive ingredient index. In the categories to the right, you will find a list of ingredients. You can find any drink I have published based on what is in it.
  2. Alphabetical indexes of both cocktails I have published here and also all the products that I have reviewed to date.
  3. List of ingredients I have on hand so you can see what I am playing with.

In other, slightly less exciting news, I also got both David Wondrich's Inbibe as well as Dale deGroff's The Craft of the Cocktail today, and I have a bunch of other wonderful books coming in the mail. As a little celebration, it seems appropriate that we make a cocktail to restart things, as it were:

The Manhattan from The Craft of the Cocktail

  • 2 oz - American Whisky (Old Overholt Rye)
  • 1 oz - Italian Vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
  • 2 dashes - Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
Stir with ice until chilled and serve in a cocktail class or champagne coupé.
My only complaint is that I cannot get anything other than my username to show up as the post author. I would prefer to use a nickname ("The Scribe") if anyone knows how to do this, please let me know.

If you are reading this on Blogspot, please note that I will no longer be updating this blog, so you should change your feeds and bookmarks to the new page.

Welcome to my new home,
The Scribe

8.04.2008

The Times, They Are A Changin'

Just giving you all a heads up. A Dram of Brine is changing. I've been playing with Wordpress and I find it to be better than Blogger. To be honest, this website was mostly to start getting out there so when I moved to a domain (which should be happening within the year) I wouldn't be starting from nothing. While I am not sure that Wordpress works with domains easier than Blogger, I do find it to be a better publishing tool than Blogger, so just a heads up. The move isn't going to be made until I have moved all my posts over to Wordpress, and have the site completely up and running. Look for a change within the month.

As a complete aside, I may be looking at school on the West Coast specifically within the University of California system. If you have connections within the engineering school at places like UC Santa Barbra, I would like to know about it.

Take care now,
The Scribe

8.02.2008

The Grape and the Grain

While the conventional wisdom is that you should never mix the grape and the grain, when I ducked into Downtown this afternoon, they seemed against that. They were offering tastes of Lowlands whisky, and Australian wine.

Sizing it up for the Scotch was Auchentoshan Select, a mixture of unspecified ages, but likely around eight years or so. This was a light whisky, as the Lowlands malts tend to be. It had more in common with Irish whiskey to my palate than to its landsmen. They were also offering Glenkinchie 12. This was a reasonably Scotch, though it was a bit rough on its own. Lastly, they were offering the Littlemill 12. This was the best of the bunch, and actually quite tasty. However, given that the pricetag is double that of many amber spirits just as fine, it's a bit beyond my budget.

In addition, a brand rep from an Australian winery was offering his product. As I recall it was either Madison or Mason Hill. However, I could not find either in an online search. They were offering their chardonay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz. All the wines were quite nice, and, as I recall reasonably representative of their vintages. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared to stop in, as I just ducked in to get out of the rain, so I couldn't take any notes. The wines seemed a bit high to my sensitivities, but as a Chicagoan, I still haven't really adjusted to Boston prices.

Stay dry and drink up!
The Scribe

8.01.2008

The Session: A Celebration

For those of you who are new to the Dram, what I do here is blog on beer and cocktails, in roughly equal portions. This month I am also blogging on wine. However, in general, you can find reviews of beer, usually three per month, plus beer cocktails, and other cocktails as well. Anyway, onto the Session:

Unfortunately, I couldn't get a six pack of Tuckerman's, which I usually drink when I get down from the eponymous backcountry ski area, one of the deadliest in New England. Otherwise, I tend to drink a sparkling wine for celebrations. However, this ale made this selection hard. In addition, since this is wine month here at the Dram, I had to find a barleywine, which is a style I don't tend to drink. Then, serendipity struck.

This weekend was my roommate's twenty-first birthday. This seems like the sort of the special occasion asked for by our good host. One of our guests even brought a little Sierra Nevada barleywine bottled under the name "Celebration Ale." Honestly, could the synergy be any better?

It is an interesting beer. It's a miserable winter seasonal, because it is not much of a winter warmer. However, it made an excellent summer cooler. It is my honor to present:

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.: 2007 Celebration Ale

Tasting Conditions: I enjoyed this winter warmer after work one day. I drank it from the bottle from, which had been sitting in the fridge for a few days. I drank it from a British pint glass of one imperial pint with room for some head proud of the pint mark.

Eye: This is a wonderfully honey amber ale. It had a lot of surge on the pour, but it subsided fairly quickly. The bottle is a fairly standard Sierra Nevada bottle, though it was in a winter theme.

Nose: There was a lot of good spicyness here, as well as some good hops, and some pleasant herbal notes.

Mouth: In the mouth this was a sweet ale with a pleasing bitterness. It was surprisingly refreshing for a winter beer, and had some Belgian tripel notes. There was also some sour, though more along the lines of cranberry than citrus.

Conclusion: I enjoyed this ale as a summer libation. However, I am not sure how it would taste in the dead of winter. In addition, I find winter ales to be the best seasonals. While this was good, other winter warmers do a better job in this regard.

Be sure to check out the wrap-up over at the Barley Blog.

May we have many more special occaisions,
The Scribe

August is Wine Month

That's right! Here at the Dram, I decided to make August wine month in honor of Wine Blogging Wednesday's four year anniversary. Here is what you can expect in the following month:
  • Wine reviews. Whether you like 'em sparkling, still, fortified, or infused, we'll be talking about them. The spirit review will be replaced by a fortified wine review, and the usual beer review will be replaced by barleywine.
  • Wine cocktails. That's right, we'll be mixing it up with wine, port, and vermouth.
  • The Session. In about...oh, three hours, I'll be posting a celebratory barleywine (yup, wine again) in honor of this month's Session.
  • Wine Blogging Wednesday: This month's theme is getting back to your roots, so only the best kosher wine will do.
  • Mixology Monday: I'll be digging through the annals of Boston and Chicago mixing to find a good wine-based local cocktail.
  • Experimentation! Yup, I'll be playing with wine, and other stuff, to try and make interesting cocktails.
For those with other drinks of choice, I will be featuring rum and beer in the coming months, though I may take a month or two off in between.

Don't change that dial!
The Scribe

7.30.2008

Right Place, Right Time

There are some beers which are tied to a very specific place. For me, this is one such beer. already reviewed another offering from this distinguished brewery, their Pemi Pale Ale. The Pemi is by far my favorite Woodstock offering, but there is a place in my heart that loves their darker ale. Whenever we go up to the Loj, a log cabin in the White Mountains that Tufts owns, it is inevitable that we go over to the brewery and get some fresh brewed growlers of their Pig's Ear Brown. Two weeks ago we even got a fresh brewed keg of the Pig, as we affectionately call it. Without further ado, I give you:

Woodstock Inn Brewing Co.: Pig’s Ear Brown Ale

Tasting conditions: It sat in the fridge for about a month before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just before dinner after a hard day.

Eye: A dark amber brown with no visible bubbles. The head remained for a little bit which suggests a decent quantity of protein in the beer, though the initial poor did not reveal significant initial head. The bottle was brown glass with just a traditional wood-look Woodstock Inn logo, and a cartoon pig.

Nose: The beer had a nice nutty odor that was noticeable with a sniff, but not neatly as in-your-face as the Smuttnose Pumpkin.

Mouth: The taste was quite nice. There was a nice hoppy front-end followed by a pleasant sweetness on the back end with a nutty aftertaste. On a second taste, the front had a slight spice-taste (that is a taste of spices, not a hot taste). The end had a nice slightly bitter hint that really gave a nice contrast to the rest of the beer.

Conclusion:
Pig’s Ear reminds me of nights at the Loj, the log cabin owned by my school, often before leaving for a trip up some mountain or another. Tasted alone, the beer is good, quite good, actually, but not nearly as good as it was at the Loj. That’s not to say it’s bad, but I realize that a certain amount of my affection for the Pig is sentimental. I would still highly recommend this fine ale. It is an incredible beer.

A note on the photo. I am 99% sure that this photo is the right beer. However, the Pig was one of the earliest reviews I did, and it was before I put the bottle in the review, so I can't be one hundred percent sure.

Fair travels,
The Scribe

7.29.2008

Drink Softly, and from a Big Glass

If you look at cocktail blogs and sites across the 'Net, you can find literally millions of way to combine alcohol with everything from Tabasco to rock candy to bacon. People will turn it into a gummy bear, shake it up with ice and myriad other ingredients, or simply drink a pure solution of ethanol and water. Mixologists around the world are concerned with taking whisk(e)y, rum, brandy, vodka, gin, and a variety of more exotic spirits and turning them into interesting drinks. But why must all mixed drinks be either alcoholic, and usually extremely so, or overly sweet concoctions? Whether it is to allow children to sit with their parents at a bar, even to let college students just over and just under the legal drinking age to hang out together there, simply to make it easier for the designated driver to have a good time, or if it is only to expand our drinking horizons, we should also try non-alcoholic and minimally alcoholic cocktails.

The easiest drink is to take a soda and put in a generous splash of bitters in. Stirring's bitters are even non-alcoholic, making them quite well suited to the task. One drink I have been enjoying recently is:
Ginger Tonic
  • 1/2-1 oz - Bitters (Stirring's Blood Orange)
  • 4-8 oz - Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
Build in a long glass with ice. Garnish with a cherry or orange wedge.
This is, of course, a very simple drink. However, we have the juices of a hundred fruits, bitters, sodas, waters, and a thousand different syrups. We can even use ice cream, as in the beloved root beer float, or coffee, or both as in an Israeli cafe au lait. We can infuse various herbs and spices into the drink as we please. An iced chai is little more than water infused with herbs and spices, and then mixed with milk.

If you have some interesting virgin drinks, either post them on your blog, or let me know in the comments. They may not help your heart, but they may help a friend.

Cheers!
The Scribe

(For any of you who may be scarred, I will not switch to non-alcoholic drinks. It is just a subject I have been thinking of a bit recently.)

7.28.2008

MxMo: Cocktail Etoufee

Now without a doubt, this MxMo will break down into three distinct groups. The tikiphiles out there will whip up a bunch drinks from Don the Beachcomber, a New Orlinian. The classicists out there will be slinging milk punches, sazeracs, absinthes suisse, and vieux carres like they're going out of fashion, not coming back in. Meanwhile the innovators will be modifying more modern New Orleans specialties like the obituary cocktail, the corpse reviver, and even the hurricane.

I hate going with trends, and I'm nowhere near good enough to make something that will stand out if I were to go with the trends, so that kind of leaves me stuck without too much to go on. I mean, the theme is New Orleans, and if I'm not going with a drink hailing from New Orleans, how am I to fill that challenge? As I was thinking this and despairing, an old joke came to my rescue:

"How does a creole chef change a light bulb?"
"Well, fus', he make a roux..."

And how does a creole chef make a cocktail?
"Well, fus', he make a roux..."

And with that I was off and running. After that, I got another bit of inspiration from one of my good friends from New Orleans, the guy who gave me my first mixed drink. The drink was known as a "Witch's Brew" and I think has more to do with college than it does with New Orleans. First, you take an American pale lager, and to that you add a shot of whatever cheap spirits you have hanging around. Sounds yummy, dunnit? The last thing I needed came from a previous post on chocolate pairing, where I thought to use a solid, food ingredient, as a "virtual ingredient" in the cocktail.

With my three bits of inspiration together, I was ready to go. The first step, was a roux. A roux, for those of you who aren't familiar, is mixture of roughly half fat and half flour that is cooked over medium heat. It is the mother the French "mother sauces" and thickens everything from gravy to gumbo...to cocktails. That was my hope was to get a nice thickening effect to get some extra mouth feel. Meanwhile, the proteins in the flour would act the same way egg or milk proteins do in egg and milk drinks. The longer you cook a roux, the more flavor you get out of it, but the less it can thicken whatever liquid you add it to. You start out with a white or blonde roux, and you progress in slowly darkening color until you get a "black roux," which is when your roux burns and becomes useless. In Creole cuisine, the tradition is to use what is known as a brick roux which is where you cook your roux until it is brick red. Unfortunately, that's about a shade shy of the black roux, and thus very easy to overcook. Instead, I went with a peanut butter roux, which was cooked until the color you can see at the right.

I had prepared a beer syrup in advance, using a cup of decarbonized beer, and a packed cup of brown sugar for reasons that will soon be apparent. I slowly added the cold syrup to the hot roux, stirring the entire time until it was all combined. The flour, in addition to everything else, also acted as an emulsifier. With a roux made up of a quarter cup butter, and a quarter cup flour, the whole mess came to a cup and a half of roux-thickened beer syrup.

I paired a chocolate chip shortbread with my cocktail. This used half of the roux-thickened beer syrup (3/4 c.), one and seven eighths of a cup of butter, two cups of brown sugar, which were mixed together, and then three cups of flour and a generous amount of chopped chocolate was added in. The mixture was poured into a sheet pan to bake for twenty minutes, then cut into finger-sized pieces.

All that was left was to assemble my cocktail:
The Witch's Broux Cocktail
  • 3 pt. (2.25 oz.) - Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
  • 1 pt. (.75 oz.) - Roux Thickened Beer Syrup (see above)
  • 7-8 dashes - Aromatic Bitters (Peychoud's)
Shake whiskey and syrup in a shaker and strain into an short tumbler full of ice. Spread thickened syrup over a piece of shortbread, and serve next to the cocktail. Garnish with a brandied cherry, and sprinkle bitters gently on top, instructing the drinker to give a stir before drinking.


While I did not have any cherries handy, the layering of the bitters on top gives the drink a pleasant appearance. In addition, by putting the bitters in at the end, the aroma of the bitters fills the glass, which is a pleasant bonus. I find that cherries tend to work as an excellent garnish for anything containing Peychoud's bitters as it has some very pleasant cherry notes. It would be interesting to cut back a tad on the syrup, or at least its sweetness, and coat the glass in marascino to accent the cherry notes. Even without any actual cherries, this cocktail has a pleasant cherry taste, which plays quite nicely with the fruitiness of the summer ale I used for the syrup, and especially with the apple notes in the rye. My only other question for this cocktail was whether I should call it the "Witch's Broux cocktail" after one of the key inspirations or whether I should call it the "Cocktail Etoufee" as etoufee is a roux with onions, pepper, and seafood cooked in it. My thought was to reserve the cocktail etoufee for more of a savory cocktail, but let me know what you think in the comments.

Be sure to check out the wrapup and also my previous entry, which I put up when I heard MxMo was delayed.

I bid you good drinking,
The Scribe

7.27.2008

My Bowl Floweth Over

Last night we celebrated my housemate's 21st birthday in the appropriate style with lots of carrying on and suchlike. While we offered a full, if low end, bar to our guests, the focus was on a rum and sparkling wine punch.
Pomegranate Birthday Puncheon
  • 3 L - Sparkling Wine (We used J. Roget which is "methode moderne" or gas injected. Please use better wine.)
  • 1 L - Rum (Bacardi works, but something like 10 Cane or a good gold would work better.)
  • 1 L - Pomegranate Juice (Bottled is, of course fine, but fresh is always better.)
  • 1/3 L (1.5 c.) - Simple or invert syrup
  • 1/4 L (1 c.) - Fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 L (1/2 c.) - Fresh orange juice
  • 25 dashes - Peychoud's bitters
Mix together in a large punch bowl. Chill with very large ice cubes (freeze water in a bowl) and garnish with cut up fruit from the juice, and pomegranate seeds if available.
While this punch was entirely drinkable, and masks a pretty massive kick behind a somewhat sweet fruit taste, it wasn't wonderful. For a start, the sparkling wine being cheap American stuff (even worse than Andre), not only failed to add to the taste but, indeed, subtracted from it. In addition, since sparkling wine that gets its bubbles from gas injection holds its bubbles much worse than either the methode tradicionale or the metodo Italiano, the hoped for bubbly effect was not present. My reworking of the recipe was:
Scrivenal Sparkling Pomegranate Puncheon
  • 8 pt (1.5 L) - Sparkling Wine (Cava or prosecco would probably be better than Champagne.)
  • 4 pt (750 mL) - Gold Rum (Mount Gay works well.)
  • 2 pt. (1.5 c.) - Lime juice
  • 1 pt. (3/4 c.)- Grenadine (Use the real stuff from pomegranate juice. If you find this a bit sweet, cut the grenadine with pomegranate juice reduced by half.)
  • 1 pt. (3/4 c.)- Pomegranate liqueur (Pama works, but so would DeKuyper.)
  • 1 dash/oz. rum (25 dashes) - Peychoud's bitters
Stir together with a generous pinch each of cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a punch bowl. Garnish with lime wedges, spent fruit shells, pomegranate seeds if available, and fruits of the season.
This, to my mind, is a much better punch, and at 27% alcohol packs an even stronger punch, while still tasting even better. In addition, by using the grenadine, or reduced juice, the taste of the juice comes through much stronger. The sweetness can be easily adjusted by mixing all of the ingredients together except the grenadine, then add the grenadine slowly, tasting as you go. Once you reach the ideal sweetness, make up the difference with pomegranate juice reduced by half. I find pomegranate juice only a bit on the sweet side, so it gives flavour without affecting the balance of the drink quite as much as grenadine does.

May good drinks and merriness follow you all the days of your life,
The Scribe

7.26.2008

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Okay guys, I hate to do this, but I have read one too many recipes which call for orange infused vanilla simple syrup with a hint of bacon. While there is nothing wrong with such an ingredient as such (though it is a bit hard to make), that isn't "simple syrup." Simple syrup or sugar syrup, also known to chefs as cottage syrup, has two ingredients: sugar and water. If you want to make it slightly more complex, you can add gum arabic, though technically, that gomme syrup, or a drop of lemon juice, which is technically invert syrup if you cook it long enough. If you add vanilla to it, you have vanilla syrup, if you add orange to the picture, you have orange syrup, and so on. It's kind of like a martini. Martini's have up to four ingredients: Gin, vodka, fortified wine, and possibly bitters. Just as a "sour apple martini cocktail" is not a martini even if it may be a cocktail, so too is a "sour apple simple syrup" not simple, even if it is a syrup.

I will give you infused simple syrups if you must. Technically, I guess if you used vanilla or some other sort of infused sugar to make a simple syrup, that could be considered an infused simple syrup since you are still sticking to the sugar, water, and nothing else formula of simple syrup.

Since you all probably want to get something useful out of this post, I just thought I would pass along a cool trick I got from a baker roommate of mine. First however, I just want to clear up some terminology as it relates to this blog:
  • Simple syrup refers to one part granulated sugar, one part water by volume.
  • Rich syrup refers to two parts granulated sugar, one part water by volume.
  • Brown syrup refers to one packed part dark brown or raw sugar, on part water by volume.
  • Rock or rock candy syrup refers to a supersaturated sugar-water solution.
  • I probably won't be using gomme syrup, but if I ever do it refers to a syrup that requires an emulsifier to hold together.
  • If I modify any of the above sugar types with "invert" it means that I used the aforementioned quantities and used invert sugar to make it.
Which leads me to my little tip. Invert sugar is wonderful stuff. It's effectively what honey is made out of and is sweeter per unit volume than an equivalent syrup, thus being healthier, and, even better, it keeps at room temperature for about six months. Sound good? It's not too hard to make. Start with whatever syrup you like, and add just a touch of lemon juice or other acid to it. A touch. We're talking about one percent here, which is about half a teaspoon per cup. Let it cook for about twenty minutes, and whamo presto: invert syrup. It was strongly recomended to me that I allow the mixture to cool without touching the pan, as jostling could start the crystalization if you aren't careful. Incidentally, looking this up online says that heat alone will slightly invert the sugar. Alternately, if you work somewhere where you have a pastry chef available, just ask them.

Sweet times,
The Scribe

7.25.2008

Welcome to My Life...

So I get home from the liquor store and read the review of orange bitters over at Oh Gosh! and discover the Stirrings blood orange bitters I had bought weren't really cocktail bitters at all, though I suspect they'll go nicely in soda, and a bitter soda is another treat I enjoy. Anywho, I headed back to Downtown today and picked up a bottle of Regan's #6, and discovered that between when I went in on Monday and when I was there today, they had also gotten in a shipment of Peychoud's. Anyway, now I'm well stocked up with bitters. Next subject to pursue: Getting my modifiers up to snuff. I need some vermouth, some triple sec, and maybe some St. Germain or Chartruse, and possibly even a bottle of le muse verte.

Incidentally, looking at Regan's and Peychoud's bitters together, I noticed that they are almost identically packaged. The bottles are the same, they both have a stylized letter on the plastic seal, the label even has the same textured feel. I wonder if they are commonly made or bottled. If you know anything, please drop it in the comments.

7.24.2008

A Bitter Victory

About six months ago I went to my better spirits shop looking for bitters (yes, I have three package stores, my cheapie, Hillside Liquors, with crappy selection but good prices, my better spirits shop, Downtown Wine & Spirits, which is more expensive but has whatever you are looking for whether it's premium spirits, exotic beers, or wines, and my big box, Kappy's which is pretty far, but has the advantage of being cheap and having a pretty decent selection, but I digress) and they had one, count it one bottle of Angostura bitters collecting dust on the shelves behind the counter. When I went there the other day looking for Peychoud's bitters, they had expanded their selection to Regan's #6 and Stirrings...and they said they were looking into more! They recently remodeled and now every concievable cocktaily treat is within easy read, from arrack (and arak) to ahm....zwetchenswasser. Actually, I somehow doubt they have zwetchenswasser, since CocktaiDB says it's hard to find outside of Germany, but you get the point.

Anywho, I just thought I would share this news about the local occurance of this national phenomenon.

Best of health!
The Scribe

7.23.2008

An Out of This World Liqueur

For those who are fans of Alton Brown and Good Eats as much as I am, the idea that pomegranate is an alien fruit comes as little shock. For the rest of you, and you are missing out, it still shouldn't be a big shock. Pomegranates are pretty fussy things, and kinda weird. Regardless, for the dinner I did at the beginning of the month, pomegranates were one of the key fruits. I used them in all sorts of applications, and I picked up a bottle of Pama to help in both cooking and whipping up a cocktail. We already covered the cocktail, well, mixed drink, as well as the banquet. However, here I have the liqueur. Apropos of last night's post on reviewing, since I did this review quickly in the midst of a very busy day, I just used a simple juice glass:

Pama: Pomegranate Liqueur
Tasting Conditions: I had a sip of this to taste it before making cocktails and cooking with it. I was fairly rushed as I had a lot of food to prepare. I had it warm, fresh from the store, and in a juice glass of about six ounces.

Eye: A crimson red liqueur that is gorgeously presented in the bottle. A square bottle tapering downwards elegantly presents the contents as a top shelf liqueur. In the glass, thick legs hint at a sweet digestif.

Nose: The nose is slightly mellow pomegranate, unadulterated by much else. However, there is barely any burn in the smell hinting at a very smooth dram.

Mouth: The taste is pure pomegranate with a bit of almost artificial sweet and sour on the back, and just a hint of alcoholic burn. A second sip makes the alcoholic burn and the artificial chemicaliness shine through more. There is very little complexity. Honestly, this could just by pomegranate syrup with a shot of vodka.

Conclusion: While I was tasting it, I happened to have some pomegranate juice next to me that I had reduced by half. The two were absolutely identical except for the slight chemical taste and a bit of alcoholicitiy. Now, I will suggest that you can get a bottle of overproof vodka or rum and a bottle of pomegranate juice (ubiquitous under the POM label), reduce the juice by half, and add it in a proportion of about three parts reduced juice to one part overproof spirit, and you probably have the same thing at two thirds the price for half again the volume.

7.22.2008

Reviewing Spirits, Beer, Wine, and Some Miscelania

I thought that I would put forth my review methodology and some things I think are important in reviewing. I do this both so you all have a standard by which to judge my reviews and so that the internet community can give me suggestions on to how to improve my process.

First off, the glass. I currently use a Ministry of Rum official tasting glass for my reviews. It is a tulip shaped glass of approximately six ounces. Older reviews used a snifter of approximately eight ounces. Both are pictured to the right. Unfortunately, while I lived in a dorm, my care for my glassware wasn't incredibly good. While I did clean glasses before each review, they were allowed to air dry. However, the only spirits that were reviewed in my room were the Pampero Aniversario, the Bogle port, the Gosling's Black Seal and the Old Bushmills. Since then, I clean my glassware meticulously, and hand dry and polish it before each review. For beers, I try and use a British-style straight sided pint glass. I alternate between a sixteen and twenty-two ounce option. Obviously for larger beers, I use a larger glass.

Second off, the atmosphere. Since I believe that atmosphere and mood can play a huge role in how the spirit is reviewed, I do try and make a note of any especially relevant situations, be they health issues, mood issues, or whatever. I usually drink my drinks around ten or eleven in the evening, and almost always do so at my computer. I suppose I ought to make a standard tasting playlist, but that seems a little excessive. I also try and make note of anything special about the bottle. For example, whether it is new, or has had time to oxidize.

Third is my procedure. I usually clean the glass and grab an ice cube, and toss the ice cube in a clean auxiliary glass. Ice in our house doesn't tend to last a week, but I make sure that any ice is only a few days old at most, so it is pretty aroma free. Then I come upstairs to my room, pour out between an ounce and an ounce and a half, and take pictures, usually with both glass and bottle. Then I start writing the review. First I write down any relevant tasting conditions, then I describe the bottle, the colour of the spirit, and give the glass a swirl. I am looking for legs here, the dribbling down of the remnant spirit. I am not sure exactly what legs signify, and depending on who you read, they can suggest anything from the sweetness, to the alcohol content. After that is a swirl or two to help aerate the spirit a bit, and then I nose it. I usually do two simple sniffs, and then I tilt the glass until it is about to spill, and run my nose from low to high then high to low. I make sure I sniff it at least a total of three times. Then a sip neat, and two more. Each time I try and go deeper into the spirit. Then I add a bit of melt from the ice. I try and aim for a dilution of one part water to between three and five parts spirit. Three more sips, and I add what remains of the ice. After I add the ice, I try and wait a bit before I take my remaining sips. I should also note that I swallow. And that's how I review. For beer it is pretty similar, except I focus less on the nose, and obviously I only sip it neat.

The last piece of administatia is that, as you probably noticed, I put an add up on my site. I feel it is fairly unobtrusive, and I hope you don't mind it. I am trying to move the site to its own domain, but I am trying to allow advertising revenue to pay at least half of the cost. I hope you all do not mind.

Best wishes,
The Scribe

7.21.2008

Mixology Monday: The Search for Peychoud's Bitters

So, there are no Peychoud's bitters in Boston, at least none that I can find. This proved a bit of a determent to my New Orleans inspired cocktail, but more on that in a week. Yes, indeed, MxMo has been postponed for a week. However, I will give you a mini-MxMo. Pfiff says I to those who need time to "recover" and "travel." I need none of those things! Okay, so I wasn't at Tales, but I can, you know, pretend...

Anyway, my mini-MxMo is a review of the Maple Tree Inn in Chicago. It truly is a little piece of the Big Easy in the Second City. They have all sorts of New Orleans specialties from crawfish etouffee to barbecue shrimp, and, of course, classics like fille gumbo and jambalaya. The bar, meanwhile, serves probably the most authentic sazeracs and hurricanes in the Windy City, and has an excellent beer selection as well with twenty brews on tap. This is a bar that never put "appletinis" or even cosmos on its menu, but would be more than happy to serve you an old fashioned with your choice of Angostura or Peychoud's bitters, and probably has a bottle of orange bitters behind the bar as well. With that said, I doubt the barstaff have ever even heard of Jeffery Morgenthaller or Paul Clarke, or anyone else who writes online about the resurgence of classic cocktails, but they cannot imagine a world where you cannot get a properly made negroni or Manhattan, and have been making them the same way for thirty years.

Charlie, the owner, is a great guy, and is vaguely reminiscent of the walrus that serves as the inn's mascot, and, if you give him notice, is more than happy to mix up specialties that aren't on the menu. My parents swear that one of his shrimp dishes is the best example in the world. I call it "shrimp beyond veal" since I have absolutely not idea how to spell it. My best shot would be shrimp bingion vie. If you have any idea about the dish to which I refer, please let me know in the comments.

The restaurant is liberally decorated with various Marti Gras style decorations, especially during that time of year, as well a folk- or liberal posters and slogans. A recent visit had signs suggesting that January 20th, 2008 would be the end of America's great mistake. Other signs suggest that you drink more, though only quality hooch. Meanwhile, the restaurant's motto is "Sit long, talk much." and if you aren't talking enough, Charlie will come talk with you.

Good food, good drink, good service, good atmosphere, good prices. What else can you ask for? Check it out:
Charlie's Maple Tree Inn and Louisiana Brasserie
13301 S Western [That's Old Western, there are two Western's in Blue Island]
Blue Island, IL 60406
Or give them a call at (708) 388.3461.

I bid you good eating,
The Scribe

7.19.2008

Have I Got a Tale For You

As anyone who reads more than one cocktail blog knows, this weekend in Tales of the Cocktail, a mongo convention of bartenders, distillers, cocktail bloggers, mixologists, and other people involved in the industry. If I am really the only blog you read, well, I'm honoured. Anywho, I'm not there. I know, bummer. However, I have been keeping up on the fifty or so bloggers who are there, and there's lots of great stuff happening.

This Monday, which happens to be MxMo, I'll be whipping up a really yummy cocktail. It may or may not contain elements of molecular mixology, or whatever you want to call it. It will definitely include some culinary non-traditional ingredients. Regardless, I'm pretty stoked about this cocktail. You'll see it in two days.

Today, however, I would like to give you a cocktail I culled from the other bloggers around the internet. Since the only people who are probably reading this right now are beer bloggers, I'm going with a beer cocktail:
Maggie's Midnight
  • 2 oz - Port Wine (LBV)
  • 1/2 oz - Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
  • 7 oz - Stout Beer (Rogue Shakespeare)
Shake stir port and bourbon to cool, pour into a beer goblet, and top with chilled beer. Stir gently to combine.
Enjoy!
The Scribe

7.16.2008

A Fearless Spirit

When I was in Dublin, I had the joy of going to the Bow Steet Distillery where a very special spirit has been manufactured for over two and a quarter centuries. I wrote about the experience for Refined Vices, and you can read about it here. When I was in Israel, I stopped by the duty free. They had some very expensive bourbons (about twice what they cost in the States), some Scotch that was, while undoubtedly inexpensive, still more than I wanted to spend. Their selections of other spirits were...well...undistinguished. However, their price on Jameson Irish Whiskey was quite good. And so, now I give you my review:

John Jameson & Son: Original Irish Whiskey

Tasting Conditions:
I had a glass of Jameson after a day of work and an evening of classes. The bottle was room temperature, and freshly opened. I used a tulip glass of approximately six ounces (a Ministry of Rum tasting glass).

Eye: In the glass, the whiskey is a wheaty-honey color with thin, bulbous legs. The bottle is, appropriately, green glass, with the Jameson logo, the Jameson family crest, and some details. While I could not find an age statement on the bottle, the whiskey is allowed five years in the barrel.

Nose: The nose is quite bready, alsmot like a very strong beer. Given that whiskey is, after all, basically very strong beer, I guess that is appropriate. There is a fair amount of burn, which almost covers up the vanilla notes, and some nutty notes.

Mouth: Neat, as the Irish take it, the spirit is just a little sweet, but the burn obscured any other flavours on the first sip. Another sip gave me a little bit of oakiness, and a slightly sour flavour on the finish. The more I sipped, the more rancid it tasted, so I elected to add a bit of water. The water improved it immensely. While it still had the same notes, the sweetness took on a more honeyed tone. The rancid, sour note moved towards citrus, and the burn stopped off a lot. The oak moved slightly towards caramel, but not much. Next, I added a cube of ice. After giving the ice a minute to melt, I took another sip. The ice further smoothed it, leaving citrus notes, as well as burnt sugar. The sweetness retreated a fair bit. However, on reflection, I think that the burn sugar was the source of the rancid taste I had earlier.

Conclusion: This whiskey was probably worth just about every penny I paid for it, but not much more. If I saw it again at duty free or on sale, I think I would probably pick it up, as a mixing whiskey, if nothing else. However, given what it costs in the States, I think I would stick with either Bushmills or Fleck'n as long as I am not taking it straight. However, for the occasional James and ginger, or the cocktail which calls for whiskey, this will make a nice addition to my liquor cabinet.

Slainte!
The Scribe

7.13.2008

A Dark Art

I have been enjoying a new desert recently: A glass of quality rum, and a square or two of chocolate. We currently have a large quantity of premium Monbana chocolate in the house, and I also brought back some Max Brenner chocolate truffles. Both are wonderful products. The Monbana comes in 53%, 60%, and 70% cacao. Meanwhile, as far as Max Brenner goes, the guy is slightly crazy. He is trying to create a whole "chocolate culture" with hot chocolate ceremonies similar to East Asian tea ceremonies. With that said, he makes darn tasty chocolates.

Now, for me, pairing a pleasant rum or whisk(e)y (or brandy, of course, but I don't really have any of that on hand) with a square or two of chocolate is a wonderful desert, not to mention quite possibly one of the healthiest deserts I can imagine. Scientists have found that about about 20 mL of ethanol per day (the equivalent of a beer, a glass of wine, or an ounce and a half of spirits) helps convert bad cholesterol (HDL) to good cholesterol (LDL), as well as help prevent cancer and Alzheimer's and other bad things. . Meanwhile, a high cacao dark chocolate is full of anti-oxidants, and other healthy nutrients.

You, my reader, however, did not come here to read random health babbling however, and, to be honest, as long as it wasn't a major health risk, I would continue doing it regardless of the risks. Now, you may ask, what have I learned? Well, first off, a good pairing can make a borderline decent rum quite pleasant. I especially recommend the Max Brenner truffles with Appleton V/X. If you take a few sips of the rum right after a nibble of the truffles, you could swear you were drinking a rum twice as good, and while I am not the greatest fan of neat V/X, with the addition of the chocolate, the rum is a pleasure to sip. On the other hand, the Monbana 70% was a bad idea. The rum turned all bitter in my mouth as well as becoming surprisingly rough.

This brings me to the biggest thing I learned this week: The darker the chocolate, the the darker the rum required to enjoy it. This is obviously not necessarily a hard and fast rule, but I think it is fairly applicable. While I enjoyed the Monbana 53% with the Cruzan Estate Light, it was clear to me that had I tried anything much stronger it would have killed the rum. On the other hand, a glass of Pamapero Aniversario was an excellent good pairing with the 70%, though it was better with the 60%.

Without a doubt though, the standout pairing was the Appleton V/X with the Max Brenner. I think, based on tasting, that the truffles contained some amount of amber spirit in them. However, the most interesting thing, to me, was how the flavours of the chocolate stayed with the you over several sips of rum. For me, the small nibble lasted a good six or seven small sips. This brings me to my next point of interest. I am not sure whether this is considered molecular mixology, or simply good pairing. However, I would be interested in baking a "cocktail cookie" or perhaps using other solid, eaten ingredients to "mix" cocktails in the mouth. Perhaps a mint leaf dipped in lime syrup and bruleed paired with a nice rum would make for an interesting take on the mojito. Hmmm...Something to try...

Bete'avon!
The Scribe

7.09.2008

You Are Feeling Sleepy

If you aren't, then the next review might make you. The most noticeable thing about the beer I am about to review is its spirally label. In fact, some of my friends called it "That spirally beer" for a long time, and some continue to do so. Regardless, the Magic Hat brewery produces a large number of wonderful ales. I am about to review their flagship "#9" while their somewhat imaginative wheat beer (which I believe is available) is considered their "unfiltered offering" or "UFO" for short. It's a quirky brewery that generally produces quite good beer. Thus, I give you:

Magic Hat Brewing Co.: #9
("Not Quite Pale Ale")

Tasting conditions:
It sat in the fridge for about two months before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just after dinner after a day of school. A touch of a cold did impair me a little.

Eye: A nice honey brown beer ("not quite pale," indeed!). A minimal head appeared on pour, but quickly dissipated. The bottle is traditional brown glass with a somewhat spiral-y “9” logo.

Nose: An ale-y honey meets the nose. Again it wasn’t super obvious, but it was there. A bit of a cold might have impaired my schnoz slightly.
Mouth: My first sip was unpleasant. The first thing I noticed was a bitter front. My second was quite nice. The front end sweetened up. The finish had an almost chocolate flavor, with a honey-caramel in the middle with just a bit of nutmeg.

Conclusion: The first sip was quite a turn off, and despite remembering enjoying the old #9 before, I was prepared to retire to the couch and end the review right there. However, a little perseverance paid of big. While I’m not sure I would keep this beer on hand, if a bar had it, I would certainly order it.

7.07.2008

Molecular Mixology Woes and Cocktail Goodness

So, as promised, I did, indeed, attempt to create "caviar." One was a pomegranate-soy caviar and the other a ginger infused pomegranate-lime syrup. The former was supposed to be the topping for a really cool sushi-inspired dish I was working on. It was supposed to be a play on a classic caviar presentation of sour cream on a bellini topped with traditional fish roe caviar. Instead I was planning on a nori and sushi rice bellini with a bit of torro, a squirt of wassabi creme fraishe and the pomegranate-soy caviar. The second was supposed to make a cocktail I was making to go with the dish much more complex. The cocktail was supposed to be Cava (a Spanish sparkling wine), Pama (a pomegranate liqueur), and the lime-ginger-pomegranate syrup caviar. In its way it would have been a play on a Cava sour, sort of. I was hoping for the effect Jamie Boudreau mentioned with his cocktail, the Leigh's Lava Lamp with the bouncing of the caviar.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite get the solidification of the caviar that I was hoping for. I may not have added enough gelatin to the mixture. I added about a packet of gelatin to a half cup of ingredients and while it seemed to bead up nicely while sinking through the oil, when I tried to strain it, the caviars went right through the strainer. This was a bit of a problem. I'm hoping to try it again. Unfortunately, it takes about an hour per shot, and I was in the process of getting ready to plate a ten dish, nine course tasting menu, and was running a bit short of time.

Otherwise, the meal went fairly well. To be fair, I did let the grill cool down a bit too much so the tuna, while done just about perfectly, didn't get a good sear on the outside. I also forgot my camera until the last course. The sorbet that I was making ended up as a granita, and I forgot to put out water pitchers. We also didn't end up with port or coffee to end the meal since we didn't quite make our way through the three bottles of wine that went with the dinner.

Big ups go Tiarre and Forrest from the Ministry of Rum forums for their recipes for baked papaya and papaya sorbet, respectively, as well as both their and the other forumers' help in putting together the cocktail. Surprisingly, what I ended up with was exactly what was on the menu I had created beforehand, including the freezing of the sorbet into a granitta, and the simpler Cava cocktail. I present you, however:

The Grenade Royale:
  • .5 oz. - Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
  • 4.5 oz. - Sparkling wine (a fruitier sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco works better than Champaign)
Chill both bottles well. Then pour wine over the liqueur, and serve. Use a lemon twist or, better yet, pomegranate seeds for garnish.
Pictures of the baked papaya to follow.

Enjoy!
The Scribe

7.03.2008

A Hop-ining Place

Two nights ago we went to the Hopleaf bar in Chicago. The Hopleaf is Chicago's best beer bar. It features a whopping 45 beers on tap, which rotate regularly, and a bottled beer list of eighteen pages. Now, you might assume that with such a huge number of beers, people probably only come for the beer, and don't worry about the food. Not so! Our onion rings were exquisite, as were our oysters, which are the house specialty. My father enjoyed his Montreal smoked meat. Moreover, the prices are reasonable, with sandwiches around $12-$13 and appetizers a few bucks less.

But the beer! Oh the beer is wonderful. It's a lot of fun to pick random beers to try. I had a Crooked Tree IPA from the Dark Horse brewery, a Tripel Karmeliet and a Special Block 6 from Brouwerij de Block. The IPA was a nice IPA, quite bitter, and a little sweet. The Karmeliet was probably my favourite of the evening. It had interesting citrus and mint notes and was vaguely reminiscent of the Woodstock Inn Pemi Pale Ale I reviewed last month. As for the #6...well...I remember it was fairly subtle and a little sweet, but not much more than that.

My mother had the De Koninck and the Kwack. Both are Belgian beers (as were the Karmeliet and the 6). At this point I should point out that one really cool thing about the Hopleaf is that they serve beer in its proper serving vessel. The Kwack and the De Koninck were fairly similar with fairly subtle flavours, though the Kwack was a bit sweeter and brighter. They had pleasant citrus notes. I would say I preferred the Kwack. The Kwack also came in a yard glass which made it ever so much cooler.

This brings us to the beers enjoyed by my father. He had North Coast's Old 28 Stout, a Duppel 8 from Maredsous, and a Gulden Draak from Van Steenberge. While I don't recall the latter two too well, since I only had a sip of each, I really enjoyed the stout. It had nice berry-raisin and chocolate notes.

7.02.2008

True Hoppines?

So, I think I'm starting a short string, or at least two, posts inspired by that most divine of flowers, the flower that gives beer its wonderful flavour: Hops. Today, I review Wyerbacher's Hops Infusion IPA. I acquired this bottle quite by accident, since I usually don't enjoy ales that are too hoppy. Here are my tasting notes:

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
: Hops Infusion IPA

Tasting conditions: It sat in the fridge for about two months before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just after dinner at the beginning of a Saturday night.

Eye: A cloudy falernum brown beer (think orange-honey for those not familiar with this Caribbean aperitif). On the pour it had a large head of about an inch and a half which subsided relatively rapidly to a more modest half inch head. The bottle is a dark brown glass with pictures of hops on the label. The words on the label are all in a sort of neon-light font which I find intriguing but slightly tacky.

Nose: Quite hoppy in the nose, as the name suggests, with a bit of honey behind it.

Mouth: Quite interesting in the mouth. It was a cool soapy-hoppy, almost sweet-lager-y front with an almost horseradish bitter finish. The second sip helped confirm my initial impressions with a very sweet middle reminiscent of honey, and a bitter finish, though the bitterness of the end was less than on the first sip. On my third sip, the sweetness really came through, though there is not much of an ending to this beer. Ultimately the best way I can describe the taste is similar to that of grapefruit pith.

Conclusion: While the first two sips hinted at some complexity, the remainder of the beer was simply sweet in the front and tasted more like a classic light lager on the finish with just a hint of horseradish. The flavor profile was very one dimensional. I could not find a price point for this beer, and did not buy the bottle I enjoyed. However, if it is in or above the price range of the Woodstock Inn, Long Trail or Harpoon ales, I will give this a pass. On the other hand, the sweetness might be welcomed by those who are less familiar with beer

So, as you can see, it wasn't quite a hit. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera handy when I wrote this review, so no pictures.

Happy sipping!
The Scribe

What's Coming Up In July

Wow! Another month down already. How quick it all goes. So it's now July. I have lots of great stuff coming up in the coming month as well. Hopefully as I get unpacked this blog will hit its stride and do all I promised to do. In the next month you can expect:
  • Bar reviews! I have been to some good bars, and hope to go to some more goodies. Of course, I will let you learn from my triumphs and mistakes.
  • Booze reviews! That's right. I have even more products coming your way with the full Scrivenal treatment.
  • More cocktails! I am working on something for my parent's anniversary, decoding and balancing the cocktails presented at the Chicago rum event, and, of course, creating my own drinks for your enjoyment.
  • Molecular Mixology! Yes, I know I have been making promises for the last several months, but I'm hoping to fulfill those promises soon. I'm making "caviar" either tomorrow or the next day, and hopefully I'll bring it to bear on drinks.
  • Mixology Monday and the Session! I have some ideas to make some interesting stuff for the two regular drinks bloging events I take part in every month.
  • And, of course, even more!
To a healthy month,
The Scribe

PS: My apologies on spelling in this post. Not only had I just gotten back from a wonderful bar, but I was also having computer difficulties.

6.29.2008

Swilling in Chicago

Yesterday I went to the Chicago Rum Festival hosted by Ed Hamilton from the Ministry of Rum. This was a great event, and I had a great time. While I only went to the rum tasting, I am sure the distiller's seminar, the dinner with the distillers, and the island music festival were fun as well. I missed the first two because of my travel schedule and the last because of a dinner with the fam.

Regardless, the rum tasting was a ton of fun. The pours were generous, and they were as willing to serve you a mixed drink (generally a caipirinha or a mojito) as they were a dram of rum, and there was no hording of the good stuff. You wanted the 18 year Flor de Cana, they were perfectly happy to pour it for you, which, as least to me, is always a good sign. As far as what I drank:
  • Santa Theresa Gran Reserva
  • Santa Theresa 1796 Solera
  • Pritchard's Fine Cranberry Rum (I think, this was the last rum I had)
  • Old English Harbor 5 Year
  • Flor de Cana Gold 4 Year
  • Flor de Cana Gran Reserva 7 Year
  • Flor de Cana Centenario 18 Year
  • El Dorado 12 Year
  • El Dorado 15 Year
  • Gosling's Black Seal
  • Gosling's Old Rum
  • Cruzan Estate Diamond 5 Year
  • Cruzan Gold (Either 14 Month or 2 Year)
  • Cruzan Single Barrel
  • Cruzan Blackstrap
  • Rhum Neisson White
  • Rhum Neisson Eleve Sous Bois
  • Rhum Neisson Vieux
  • La Favorite White
  • La Favorite Vieux
  • Leblon Cachaca
  • Cubana Cachaca
  • Tommy Bahama Golden Sun
  • Sagatiba Cachaca
  • Rubi Rey Single Barrel Reserve
  • Kilo Kai Spiced Rum
  • St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • Alpenz Batavia Arrack von Oosten
  • Scarlet Ibis
  • Red Stripe Jamaican Lager
  • Rio D Cachaca
  • And so many more...
I also had several cocktails, including Mount Gay's Rum Punch which was outstanding, as well as Sagatiba's mojito, which was probably the best mojito, and, of course, Gosling's serving up Dark 'N' Stormy's. The lowlight was probably Rubi Rey, as well as the Batavia Arrack which would probably do well in a cocktail, but, by itself, wasn't very good. Also I was disappointed with myself that I forgot my camera, and also the Mount Gay Extra Old. Another disappointment was the Rio D Cachaca. The woman there asked if I wanted it as a cocktail, and when I asked for a caipirina, she didn't know what I was asking for, and just handed me the neat cachaca. On the other hand, I did get a muddler out of the bargain, so I can't complain too much.

Lastly, Bacardi and the United States Bartender's Guild sponsored a rum seminar run by Debbi Peek, of Bacardi, Bridget Albert of Southern Wine and Spirits, Charles Joly of the Drawing Room, and Peter Vestinos of Sepia. The seminar covered the Bacardi cocktail, the mojito, the daiquiri and the mai tai. They presented first a traditional cocktail recipe, then a modern interpretation. Debbi did the Bacardi cocktail, then did a strawberry-balsamic "Bacardi" cocktail, which, to my mind was more of a sophisticated take on the strawberry daiquiri than anything else. Then Peter presented the mai tai and his peach mai tai. Next up was Peter Vestinos with a daiquiri and a more sophisticated daiquiri using egg whie, St. Germain, and orange water, which I thought was the best cocktail served. Finally, Bridget presented the mojito and:
The Blueberry Mojito by Bridget Albert
  • 1 oz. - Dried Lavender Syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup dried lavender)
  • 10-12 - Mint Leaves
  • 10-12 - Blueberries
  • .5 oz. - Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1.5 oz. - Bacardi Superior
  • Soda Water to top
Muddle mint leaves, syrup, blueberries, and lime juice eight times with a large muddler in a double old fashioned glass. Add rum. Fill glass with crushed ice, and top with soda water. Garnish with a straw and mint leaf, stir to combine.
All in all, a wonderful event. Hopefully I can continue to go to more festivals. If you have the chance to go to any Ministry of Rum events, I encourage you to go. Hopefully I'll get pictures from Ed to post here.

Cheers!
The Scribe

6.25.2008

Again With the Lateness

Hello everyone. Today I did the review I meant to do last week: Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey. I found it to be quite yummy. On a related note, I'm leaving Friday night for Chicago. I will be making an appearance at Ed Hamilton's Chicago Rum Festival for the tasting Saturday afternoon as well as the Windy City Series, where I am sure the White Sox will tackle that other team they are facing quite handily. Of course, I will also be able to see lots of friends and family. I will be back in Boston on the following Monday, but in the meantime, I will be posting from Chicago. But anyway, onto the review:

Bulleit Distilling Co.: Frontier Bourbon Whiskey

Tasting Conditions: I enjoyed the Bulleit as a nightcap after a day of leisure. As per usual with spirits, I enjoyed it first neat, then with water, and finally a cube of ice in a brandy snifter of approximately eight ounces.

Eye: The most striking thing about Bulleit is its packaging. The packaging is clearly inspired by images of the old West. The form is vaguely reminiscent of an over sized hip flask. The cork fits well. The glass is embossed with the words "Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey" and then a label below repeats that information as well as all the other information that is needed. The spirit is a pleasant amber with slender legs. It is bottled at 90 proof and I could not find an age statement, though I would appreciate an idea of its age if anyone knows.

Nose: The first sniff really burned my nose. Again, a snifter might not have been the best idea, and I would generally drink this in a rocks glass anyway. The aroma is not the most pleasant with turpentine being the dominant note. Beyond that there are strong apple notes and a lot of nuttiness, with peanut especially strong.

Mouth: On the mouth this is gorgeous. Despite the aroma, it is silky smooth. It tastes almost like a Whatchamacallit bar with toffee and peanut tastes quite strongly. the peanut dominates the front with toffee and honey coming in on the middle and a vanilla notes finishing it out. A second sip leaves me nothing else, though I should note that the strength is quite evident with just a little numbness in the palate necessitating a brief wait between sips. Next up, the addition of water. I added just a dribble diluting it by no more than one part water to three parts whiskey. The water really doesn't change too much perhaps bringing out the vanilla just a bit more. Next up, the addition of a cube of ice. A swirl to cool and a sip... The ice really tones back the peanut flavors, which is to the good. It reveals more fruitiness which could be the apple I smelled. It also really brings the toffee notes to the fore, and adding them to the finish. For me, I think a cube of ice is the way to go with this spirit.

Conclusion: I really like the Bulleit. It is wonderful. It's like drinking candy from a first class confectioner. It is not overly sweet, and I found it a bit nutty until I added the ice, but with a cube of ice, this began to sing. It also works great in an old fashioned, especially when I used maple syrup or a vanilla syrup. This could well become a staple of my liquor cabinet.

Wishing you green pastures,
The Scribe

Picture to follow.

6.22.2008

It's A Peach!

For me, two fruit have always signified the height of summer: The peach and the cherry. Today, I am tackling peaches, and cherries will have to wait for another day. The peach, along with it's half sister, the nectarine, were always around in our house during the summer. I picked up a half dozen peaches the other day at the grocery, and, naturally, I felt a need to make stewed peaches. The recipe is very simple. Take a syrup of two parts water to one part sugar, and add one other flavour element that plays well with peaches, in this case a healthy splash of vanilla extract (yes, yes, the bean is better, but being a poor college student, I have extract). Bring the syrup to a simmer and toss in halved or quartered peaches, and let them cook in the syrup until somewhat softened. Pull out the peaches, and reduce the syrup by half to a quarter (giving you 1-1 or 2-1 syrup). Serve the peaches with vanilla ice cream and a splash of syrup. Store the remaining peaches in syrup.

But what to do with the syrup? Well, peaches are a southern thing. What else is a s'uth'n thing? Bourbon. What takes syrup and bourbon? An old fashioned! Sooo....
Scrivenal Peach Old Fashioned
  • 2 oz. - Bourbon (A smooth bourbon with nice vanilla notes would work great, but all I had was Boulleit.)
  • .5 oz - Vanilla Peach Syrup (described above)
  • 2-3 dashes - Bitters (I used Angustura Aromatic, but Fee's Peach might be nice.)
Build in a tumbler as you would a normal old fashioned. If you can think of an appropriate garnish, let me know, but maybe a peach wedge.
Unfortunately, I didn't get an opportunity to photograph the drink, but it was darn tasty. And yes, I don't really garnish drinks for my own personal consumption. I make them how I like them, so I don't need the ability to customize the drink.

Pleasant drinking,
The Scribe

6.20.2008

A Willing Foe and Sea Room

Today at 8:00 this morning over one hundred boats set sail for Newport battle wind, waves, and most importantly, each other to be the first to Bermuda. The biennial Newport Bermuda Race is one of the highlights of the racing schedule and at the send off party last night one drink was being consumed far in excess of any other. I speak, of course, of the dark and stormy. The dark and stormy is one of my favorite drinks, and, for me at least, a unique drink because it is the only drink I mix by colour.

The story goes that shortly after the Great War, the Royal Navy started offering ginger beer instead rum in an attempt at temperance. Upon being asked whether they wanted ginger beer or rum, limeys answered that they would take both. They poured both rations together, drank it, and thus was born the dark and stormy.

It's a nice story but some variation of the rum and ginger has been around for ages. In fact, it hardly starts with rum. Ginger is a flavour that tends to go well with most amber spirits. Some experts believe that the first spirit and mixer style drink was likely ginger beer and brandy.

Now all that history is nice, Mr. Scribe, but how does one go about making a dark and stormy?
The Dark and Stormy
  • Gosling's Black Seal or Bundaberg rum
  • Bermuda stone ginger beer (Barritts or Regatta work well with Gosling's, or use Bundaburg with Bundaberg)
  • Lime wedge
In a long glass pour a healthy measure or rum and add ginger beer to taste. When I make it, I pour ginger beer until it has roughly the color displayed to the right. Squeeze the lime wedge, stir gently to mix, and add ice to fill.
Now we just came to one of the huge debates in making the dark and stormy: to lime or not to lime? In Bermuda the lime is verbotten. In the States, and most of the Caribbean, ubiquitous. Were I a bartender, or entertaining, I would simply provide the lime wedge as garnish and allow my guest to use the lime as he or she saw fit. As for me, I like it both ways. If I am in a bar, I drink it as provided. In Bermuda, I drink it without the lime. When my father makes it, he adds lime. When I make it, it depends on my mood. The one I was drinking this evening can be seen to the left, and, as you can see, has a lime.

Now I had hoped to make a cocktail out of the dark and stormy. I saw rum, ginger liqueur, and perhaps lime bitters. Unfortunately, while I did see ginger brandy, I had heard bad things about it. As for something decent like Giffard's Ginger of the Indies or Canton, well, the cheap liquor (Hillside Liquors) I go to for staple products would never carry something like that, and the more upscale place I go to for my sippers and specialty liqueurs (Downtown Wine & Spirits) was in the process of remodeling and didn't have it in stock. Meanwhile, my housemates with cars were working ten hour days and didn't feel like driving me to Kappy's. So we needs must languish without the cocktail and leave it for another day.

And so, in the spirit of Friday and the Race, I wish you,

A willing foe, and sea room to race her,
The Scribe

6.19.2008

The Old Jameson Distillery

Silvio from Refined Vices contacted me the other day about a more in deapth review of my tour of the Old Jameson Distillery. I was happy to oblige. You can now read the review over on his site. It seems Irish whiskey has been getting a lot of play here recently...

Slainte!
The Scribe

6.18.2008

Better Late Than Never

I meant to go with the whole MxMo Bourbon thing and whip out a review of the Bulleit which was enjoyed in so many concoctions recently, including my own. Unfortunately, Wednesday rather snook up on me, and I did not recall that I owed you all a review until about three minutes ago. Unfortunately, with almost five minutes until midnight, I cannot really review a new product in the detail it deserves. Luckily, in addition to dozens of beer reviews stocked away, I also have a single spirit review as well. While I was really trying to keep the third Wednesday to sippers, I guess I will have to make an exception this week. I present you:

Old Bushmills Distillery: Original Irish Whiskey

Tasting Conditions:
I was at a party where we were each supposed to bring some nips (50 mL bottles) of different spirits to try. Since my liquor store gets the same price for Bushmills and vodka, the choice was easy. At the end of the night, I brought this spare bottle home. I decided to pop this one open since it was a glass bottle and I was moving. It was stored in indifferent conditions for under a week, and tasted in a snifter of approximately eight ounces.

Eye: In the bottle, Bushmills is a yellowish flaxen color. In the glass, the color doesn’t change at all. A swirl reveals legs that start thick, but get quite narrow as they slide down the class. The whiskey comes in a square bottle that tapers as it gets to the top. Certainly compared to the other nips I bought, it was the nicest. Having seen the full size bottle, it is quite similar to the nip.

Nose: There is a nice aroma with just a hint of smoke. The aroma is fairly smooth without too much alcoholic kick. Otherwise the aroma is slightly bready and quite nutty, though the two are fairly similar. There was also a hint of vanilla and a lot of peanut.

Mouth: I started, as I always do, with neat spirit. The taste was quite rich, and surprisingly smooth for such an inexpensive spirit. The front was buttery and smooth with a bit of honey and caramel, and perhaps a touch of vanilla. As it moved towards the back, the caramel became almost more like a nut brittle, and I got a lot of peanut butter on the finish. There was also a somewhat spicy element there as well. I moved on to the second stage: dilution with still ice water. The water did not change the flavor noticeably, though it became even smoother with less bite. The spiciness was also a touch more noticeable. The texture became slightly more buttery, but not much. For the final taste, I added a cube of ice. The ice really brought out the nuttiness on the front, while it became less noticeable on the finish. It also brought vanilla notes to the fore.

Conclusion: This is a wonderful whiskey, certainly for a beginner, which I undoubtedly am. It was smooth and yummy and creamy, and, most important, extremely cheap. At $15 for a bottle (buying nips), this is almost the same price as drinkable vodka or decent white rum, and yet it’s completely sipable neat even by palates that aren’t so used to straight spirits. I would be interested in using this as a mixing spirit. This is definitely staying on the shelf. How you drink it is up to you. I am not sure how I will, because it’s quite good however you enjoy it.

I should add that I enjoyed this spirit a week or so later. I didn't find it quite as nice. Perhaps it was the choice of glassware...or lack there of. While it faired nicely in a snifter, when moved to a plastic keg cup, it didn't do nearly as well.

I meant to have a picture to post, but unfortunately I forgot to take one. Next time!

Best of health,
The Scribe

6.16.2008

MxMo: Bourbon - Catch a Bulleit

Good afternoon lover of boozahol the world over. It is time for this month's installment of Mixology Monday. This month we are focusing on the wonderful product of the a bunch of rummers who didn't want to pay taxes: Bourbon whiskey.

Just like last time, I have two drinks for you one is a sour, and the other I just recently came across. For our first trick we go with the same inspiration for last month's post: the whiskey sour. This time, however, instead of staying fairly tradition with the mixers, and changing up the spirit, we keep the spirit traditional and change up the sweetener. Now, this drink is as much an invention of necessity as anything else. Being freshly moved in, I looked in my fridge and said, "What ingredients do I have in my fridge?" The answer was exactly two fruits: mango and orange. Luckily, one is sweet and the other tart, which gives quite nice balance, and the two flavours work well together. Thus, it is my honor to give you the Amber Daughter:

The Amber Daughter:
  • 2 oz. - Bourbon Whiskey (Bulleit)
  • 1 oz. - Finely Chopped Mango
  • 1 oz. - Orange Juice
  • Dash - Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Muddle the mango and orange juice together in the bottom of a short tumbler. Fill with ice, and add whiskey. Simple syrup can be added to taste.
I apologize for the quality of the photo. I am just learning to take pictures of drinks, and this one was a little haphazard anyway. Sill it was quite enjoyable. I think a splash of lemon would have made for a better drink, or, perhaps, lime.

While I was having lunch yesterday, I came across another interesting drink: The Mark and Stormy. Combine Maker's Mark bourbon with ginger beer to taste. Garnish with a lime. I will be trying it as soon as I get Maker's Mark and ginger beer.

Happy MxMo,
The Scribe

Now in Technicolor!

Hello everyone. Now that I have resolved the driver issue with my camera, I have PHOTOS! Lots of photos. I will slowly be updating past posts, but from now own, I'll try and have a photo in at least two out of three posts, starting with the upcoming MxMo, which should be out in several hours. Stay tuned.

Slainte!
The Scribe

6.15.2008

Through a Crystal, Darkly

Go into a bar today and order a mixed drink, and, unless you happen to be in a tiki bar, odds are very good your drink with come in either a short tumbler (rocks or old fashioned glass), a long glass (collins or tall glass), or a cocktail glass. If you happen to get a Champaign cocktail, you might end up with a champaign flute, or you might get a glass mug (Irish coffee glass) if you are getting a hot drink. What amazes me is the fact that had you gone into a bar in an earlier time, you would see drinks served not only in those five glasses, but a coupe, especially before the advent of the flute, a wine glass, a sherry glass, a cordial glass, a snifter, or any of dozens of other glasses.

Why do I raise this point? I had a very interesting experience a while back which I was thinking of recently. We went to a local restaurant, and my mother asked for a glass of wine. We heard a crash from the kitchen, and the waiter brought out a cocktail glass full of red wine. He apologized, saying that while getting down the case of wine glasses, we had dropped it, and the restaurant was out of wine glasses. My mother tasted the wine, and it was awful, and offered a sip to the rest of us. It was atrocious. Another waiter came out, having found a wine glass in the dishwasher. I saw the waiter pour the wine from the cocktail glass to the wine glass. When the wine was passed around again it was completely drinkable.

This example goes to show that glassware can have a huge effect on the drinking experience. I feel that in creating drinks, we often overlook that effect. If it has ice, it goes in either tumbler or a long glass depending on quantity, while if it doesn't have ice, it goes into a cocktail glass. People who drink spirits neat or on with water, or simply wine, sometimes spend an inordinate amount of effort picking the precise perfect glass. I think that goes a little far, but if the nose of the cocktail is enjoyable, should we simply be letting it float away out of the glass? I have been noticing that a lot of people recommend that when making a mint julep, you use a straw short enough that the drinker is forced to put his or her nose right in the mint garnish. Why not simply trap those aromas?

Happy drinking,
The Scribe

6.11.2008

An Ode to an Earlier Season

I came across this seasonal offering about a month ago. Now I really like fall and winter beers. They are nice, and spicy and full of yummy deliciousness. Yet the spices we associate with the festive season between Thanksgiving and New Year's (at least in America) are really spices that I associate with the islands: Nutmeg, Pimento, and Cinnamon. Toss a Scotch bonnet in and you have a gorgeous jerk marinade. So in addition to being the flavours or winter, to me, at least, they are also the flavours of summer. With that in mind, I present this quite tasty seasonal offering:

Smuttynose Bewing Co.: Pumpkin Ale

Tasting Conditions: It sat in the fridge for about a month before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it as a celebratory drink after finishing finals.

Eye: A nice amber with a little Champaign-like fizz. Very little head, and dissipated quickly. Nice bottle with a big ripe pumpkin on the front.

Nose: The nose of this beer was very impressive. It hit me like a kick in the butt. There was lots of cinnamon, and just a touch of the namesake pumpkin. The smell was strong enough it was obvious even from the bottle. It smelled almost like mulled cider but without the apple, which suggests cloves, a dash of orange, and a hint of nutmeg. A little harshness on the nose was evident as well.

Mouth: The first thing to hit me was a pleasant sweetness and warmth. A definite taste of pumpkin. The ale had a certain lightness to it, with a very nice effervescence. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of an IPA, though it’s definitely darker. There was a hit of the spices that I smelled, and a very definite cinnamon-like heat, though the other cinnamon flavors were much less noticeable. On the downside, there was a certain soapyness, though I don’t mind that flavour.

Conclusion: A wonderful winter seasonal. I definitely enjoyed it. Perhaps one of the few Smuttynose offerings I can say that about. As a seasonal, I have a hard time keeping it stocked but I'll probably keep an eye out for it when the seasons roll around again.

6.08.2008

Mixing It Up With Infussions

Hello boozahol lovers of all stripes. Today, I bring you my vision of the future, or at least one possible vision. I'm really of two minds about what I am about to post. On the one hand, it's pretty cool, and really interesting in how it opens up the possibilities of future mixing. On the other, it takes much of the art out of mixing and especially distilling, which is something I'm against. (As you will find, I'm pretty old fashioned in my views, especially regarding art.)

Before I begin, I'd like to just take a moment to say I am back from Israel and New York, and am writing this from my new apartment. I should be unpacked in the fairly near (read: within a week), but the kitchen and spirits are already unpacked. I also got an interesting rum in Israel at Duty Free. It may not be too good, but we'll see. But I digress.

My thought is this: Chefs can look in their pantry and take out any ingredient they like. Barkeeps, however, are restricted to a relatively meager stock of ingredients. The fact that we can do as much with our ingredients as we do is staggering. Our ingredients are also incredibly complex compared to, say, a piece of chicken, or even something like an onion or garlic. With the exception of vodka, even simple spirits, beers, wines, and cordials have immense complexity.

What if we could strip away some of that complexity, and, at the same time, open up what we can do with mixology? What I propose is increasing the use of tinctures. In effect, we would take an approach similar to that of exotic (tiki) drinks: Combine say, vanilla rum tincture with orange rum tincture, mango rum tincture, and toffee rum tincture, and you have the perfect rum for whatever application.

I don't know. Especially as I put it out in this kind of detail, I feel really ambivalent about this idea. Perhaps you could use a little bit of one or two tinctures to bring out an element in one specific spirit? I don't know. Let me know what you think!

6.06.2008

The Session: The London Beer & Cider Festival, 2008


Hello all, and welcome to my blog. For those of you who are beer drinkers, and new to my blog, welcome. For those of you who are spirits and cocktail bloggers, and don't know what The Session is, it's basically the beer blogging world's version of MxMo.

This week the topic of The Session is beer festivals. Being freshly legal at home, I haven't really been to any beer festivals in the States. However, while I was in London, I did go the annual London Beer and Cider Festival. Let me just say what a blast it was. The festival was hosted by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. So-called "real ale" for those who don't know, is ale that is unpasteurized and served out of the same container in which the secondary fermentation happens. The way this festival worked was there was an entry fee (£2.50 for non-CAMRA members), and you could either borrow a glass, or buy the festival glass for £3. The glass was really quite gorgeous, and it was large enough that there was room for head proud of the imperial pint line. Then there was a cost per beer.

Frankly, I would have much preferred a higher entry fee, like perhaps £10 or £20, and unlimited beer. I felt that charging by the half-pint meant that I was less willing to simply try beers, which I feel should be a large part of the festival, but only tried the beers that had flavor notes I liked and were types of beer I liked. While I tried a ton of different beers, I had a good recollection of two:

Enville Brewery: Old Porter – This was quite a nice mild porter. It had some slight sweet notes, with just a touch of bitter and lots of fruity complexity. I would love to get my hands on this fine porter.

Fox Brewery: Cerberus Norfolk Stout – This seemed like more of a porter to me than a stout, at least in comparison to Irish stouts like Guinness, Murphy’s, and so on. Nevertheless I enjoyed this beer immensely. It had nice chocolate and raison notes with just the barest hint of bitterness. It was also pleasantly light bodied for a stout, which is a nice change from the more traditional meal in a glass

Thanks for coming to my Session. Next week, I should be mostly moved in, and will be back to live posting.
Cheers!
The Scribe

6.04.2008

A Rum Dear to My Heart

I am about to review Gosling's Black Seal, and even as I was writing the review, I put in the caution that as someone who spent a lot of my childhood in Bermuda, Gosling's has a special place in my heart, whether as an ingredient in cake, or rum peppers, or, on my most recent trip, as a drink. However, I am also not used to sipping mixing rum straight, and while I think the Black Seal is at the top of the mixing grade, I would still class it as a mixer not a sipper. With all that said, my review:

Gosling's: Black Seal Rum

Tasting Conditions: Before I continue, I should point out that I love Gosling’s. As someone who spent a large part of my childhood in Bermuda, I view Gosling’s as one of those things that’s in my blood, like sherry peppers and rum cakes. In fact, I was probably eating Gosslings from birth in the form of rum cakes, rum peppers, and other similar delights. This, obviously, will color my review. Anyway, I felt that a nice dram of one of my favorite spirits was an obligatory birthday ritual. I used a brandy snifter of approximately eight ounces for my taste.

Eye: Gosling’s, is, well, it’s Gosling’s. In the bottle it’s black as a pirate’s heart, while spread out in the glass, it’s gold like a pirate’s treasure. (Like that diametabole there? I did too!) It develops thick, stubby legs, quite slowly. The bottle is a classic wine-style spirits bottle, as opposed to a bubble-necked bottle, with the Gosling’s logo black seal balancing a barrel of rum on its nose. I should note that the origin of the name is in a black seal as in black sealing wax which closed the bottles a century ago, not as in the animal.

Nose: A very potent rummy smell reaches the nose, adulterated with a bit of toffee and caramel. The smell is a bit rough, suggesting that this might perhaps be more of a mixer than a sipper.

Mouth: On first sip, this one kicks like a mule, and you can tell that this, this is rum. This is no delicate brandy or haughty fashionable tequila. This is a rum, and while it is far from the kill-devil that they drank in the days of Captain Kidd, it’s still quite a potent potable. While I think the closest thing it comes to is toffee, as the nose suggests, for someone who is not used to drinking spirits neat and especially mixing spirits at all, it’s an experience. Adding a bit of water makes this a bit less rough, and brings out what might be banana notes, or perhaps even mango.

Conclusion: The black seal will always have a place in my heart, and with a cube or two of ice, is surprisingly drinkable straight given its price point (though at least one of my local liquor stores counts it a top shelf rum…at under $18 a bottle with tax oh joy of joys). That said, I think taken neat it is a bit rough for my tender young palate, and while a bit of water smoothes it out a bit, I still prefer it on the rocks. That said, it’s an excellent mixing rum, especially with a bit of Barrett’s ginger beer.