Monday, November 26, 2012

Distilled Beer?

Photo Credit: Serious Eats

As first glance, "distilled beer" seems like an odd beverage idea.

But when you think about it, that's essentially what whiskey is: fermented grains--hops, rye, corn, etc--produce something pretty close to beer, which is then distilled to make whiskey.

The "beer" that gets turned into whiskey isn't made for drinking, but what if you made whiskey from real, drinkable beer?

Enter Charbay R5 Hop-Flavored Whiskey

According to Serious Eats"Charbay has selected a very hop-forward IPA for a whiskey profile unlike any other. The Racer 5 IPA gets double distilled in copper pot stills—it takes about 10 gallons of handcrafted suds to produce a gallon of finished whiskey. The aged version then mellows in French oak casks for 22 months, which the clear is bottled straight from the tap. (Yes, those pricey ingredients make for a pricey final product: the aged goes for $75 and clear sells for $54.) When faced with such a concoction, the only natural approach is to try it side by side with the brew from whence it came—which is exactly what we did."

Read more to learn about the beer they use, and they different whiskeys that come out of it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Women Who Whiskey: Ward III Monday Night Whiskey Tasting

At the beginning of October my friend Samantha and I took a little trip to Ward III to check out their Monday Night Whiskey Tasting, which was a splendid evening.

So last week I planned an official wWw Monday Night Whiskey Tasting at Ward III for the rest of the ladies to come check out the event. 

We got there around 7pm to enjoy the requisite cocktail at the bar before the tasting started at 8pm. 

I had my signature spicy ginger bourbon bespoke cocktail, which is always a delight.  

Amanda had them whip up a bourbon apple cinnamon version, with a twist of orange. 

And Mary wanted something similar to Amanda's, but with a bit more citrus and fruit.

All our bespoke cocktails were quite delicious, and I even indulged in a Maker's Mark Manhattan before we moved on to the tasting.

This time there were two tastings set up--both whisky--each sampling four different kinds, so we were quite spoiled! 

Compass Box Whiskey Co. 

The first was Compass Box Whiskey & Co, a boutique Scotch Whiskeymaker & Craft Blender. 

Compass Box isn't a distiller, so they don't make their own whiskey, but they produce a variety of whisky blends. 

Great King Street Blends: Artists Blend and New York Blend
The first two were the Great King Street Blends: the Artist's Blend and the New York Blend.  Normal blends are about 70/30 grain/malt, but Compass Box uses a 55/45 ratio, which gives the whisky a much smoother more palatable taste. 

Both were extremely drinkable and almost a bit fruity. 

Flaming Heart, Peat Monster, Flaming Heart

Next up were two single malt blends: Peat Monster and Flaming Heart, which won the blend of the year award with a score of 95.5/100.

Neither of these uses caramel coloring or chill filters--steps taken to improve the aesthetic of whisky, often at the cost of taste. 

The result is a clean, smooth, rich taste, both neat and with a bit of water, which is how it's meant to be had. 

Myself and Robin, posing with giant bottles of whisky

Robin Robinson, the Compass Box brand ambassador who curated the tasting, gave us some excellent advice about how to properly savor a good whisky.

You pour it onto the "dead spot" of the tongue, letting it slowly spread over the rest of the tongue, "chewing it," as the Scottish say.

He also explained that to really taste the different layers of flavor, diluting it with a little water is ideal, as the higher the alcohol content, the more the alcohol numbs the tongue to the flavor nuances. 

Bringing it down to 25% alcohol--about half water, half whisky--allows you to perceive the balance and flavor of the malt. 

Lark Tasmanian Whiskey

Lark Tasmanian Whisky--which not being produced in Scotland, can't be called Scotch--is a single malt from Tasmania. 

Though regulations now prohibit many new foreign whiskys from calling themselves Single Malt, Lark, being over 20 years old, was grandfathered in.

Lark is produced in three strengths: 86 proof, 92 proof, and 116 proof. It's aged in Port barrels sourced from the producer of Grange wine.

Scott's Selection

We also tasted three rare single malts from Scott's selection. 

We started with the 1977 Bunnahabhain (right), a 92 proof Single Islay Malt with more of a briny than peaty taste. There are only ten cases of this whiskey left in the world.

Second we had the 1989 Macallan (center), an 104 proof Single Highland Malt, aged in bourbon barrels, of which there are only 3 cases left in the world.

Finally we tried the 1978 Glen Mhor (left), a Single Highland Malt from a "silent distillery," no longer producing Scotch. There are only two cases of this left in the world.

All three has distinct textures and flavors, and among the group we all had different favorites. But as Richard, the brand ambassador, put it, "Whisky is all a matter of taste. Like the company you keep, the music you listen to, even the people you marry."

Well said, Richard. 

11 Reade St.
(corner West Broadway)
Monday Night Whiskey Tastings
Mondays 8-10pm
Free with the purchase of a cocktail at the bar

Thursday, November 8, 2012

5 Essential High-Proof Cocktails

We all know how much booze warms you up. 

So it makes sense that the colder the weather, the boozier the drinks! 

Wine spritzers and sangria are great for a hot summer evening, but when you're snuggling by the fire--or radiator, for us city folk--something a smidge stronger is in order. 

Michael Dietsch, at Serious Eats--our go-to for boozy inspiration--put together a list of Five High-Proof Cocktails for winter.   Let's see what they are! 


[Photograph: Jennifer Hess]

Higher-Proof Old-Fashioned

Take an old-fashioned glass and fill it with ice; then, splash in some simple syrup, dash in yer bitters, and add a healthy three ounces of whatever nice high-proof bourbon or rye that you can find. Then maybe add a small splash of water. George T. Stagg is a great choice if you can find it. This year's release tops out at 142.8 proof, or 71.4 alcohol by volume. Sip it slowly and savor it, and then go take a very long nap. If Stagg is intimidating or too expensive, or if you simply can't find it, there are several great options in the 100–110-proof range.

[Photograph: Jennifer Hess]

Higher-Proof Martini

Martinis made with high-proof gin kick ass, and not in just the obvious knock-you-under-the-porch way. Several brands now offer high-proof gin; depending on where you live, you may be able to find Plymouth Navy Strength, Martin Miller's Westbourne, Junipero, New York Distilling Company's Perry's Tot, or Royal Dock Gin. Even if you use a healthy amount of vermouth (I like a 4:1 ratio of gin to vermouth), you still get get a boozy cocktail with a rich flavor.


You build this one right, and ain't nothing in it but 100-proofers and up. Start with rye; I like Rittenhouse 100 in this. Add some applejack, preferably Laird's Bonded, also 100 proof. Finish with 110-proof green Chartreuse. Stir and strain and stand back.

[Photograph: Jennifer Hess]

Negroni / Boulevardier / Etc.

Another family of drinks that's all booze. The Negroni, of course, is gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. The Boulevardier is similar, with bourbon (or rye), vermouth, and Campari.
Another variant is the Kingston Negroni, from Death & Co. in NYC. The Kingston Negroni is even boozier than the original. It calls for Smith and Cross Jamaica Rum, a rich Navy-strength rum bottled at 57% alcohol by volume. This gets mixed with Campari and Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.

[Photograph: star5112 on Flickr]

Last Word

Another drink that capitalizes on richly herbaceous (and boozy) Chartreuse. This one blends gin (a high-proofer here will work nicely, but it's not necessary), lime juice, green Chartreuse, and maraschino liqueur.

Read more about high-proof cocktails!
About the authorMichael Dietsch approaches life with a hefty dash of bitters. He resides, physically, in Brooklyn, New York, and digitally on Twitter at @dietsch.                                        

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Whiskey & Chocolate Pairing

It's starting to get chilly out--perfect for Whiskey--and the impending holiday season just screams chocolaty goodness, so why not pair the two? 

From smoky Scotch to smooth milk chocolate to syrupy Bourbon to sharp dark cacao--a few combinations are tasty enough to get you salivating. 

In a piece for Liquor.comJacques Bezuidenhout--a national cocktail and tequila ambassador for Partida Tequila and the master mixologist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants--explains how to perfectly pair up these two tasty treats. 

"I originally thought that most chocolate would pair easily with most whiskies. That turns out not to be the case. Too many variables—wood, peat, age, proof and grain—have to work with the array of different styles and flavors of chocolate available. Hours into it, with a liquor buzz and a sugar high, I still felt like I had only scraped the surface.

Pairing chocolate with whiskey is an interesting exercise, since it is an assault on all your senses. Chocolate coats the mouth and tongue, blunting your taste buds, and whiskey’s complex aromas overwhelm the nose. But it’s worth the effort, because when the combination is right, it really sings."

Here's what he discovered:


This Irish powerhouse is fantastic with the dark bitterness of a high-cacao chocolate. The bitter notes are balanced by that hint of sweetness from the whiskey. It is pure happiness.


I really love how these two play together. All the new-American-oak flavors clash a little with dark chocolate, but with milk chocolate it makes the spice in the rye explode.


All the rich sherry-cask notes that come through in this Highland malt pair wonderfully with the almonds and rich creaminess of the milk chocolate.


Oak does not overwhelm this Scotch, so it allows for the hints of fruit to come through. Those notes, combined with the high proof of the spirit and the spicy bitterness of the chocolate, are an intensely cheeky experience.


A salted truffle perfectly complements the notes of the sea and peat smoke in the Bowmore. And the sweet nutty chocolate loves the sherry-cask flavor. I could imagine myself sitting at the distillery on Islay enjoying both and having no worries in life.


This bourbon actually pairs well with many of the chocolates above, but one cannot always enjoy only fancy confections. I love how the peanuts and caramel react to the beautifully aged whiskey.

Read more here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Business Cards!

Just sent off my new Women Who Whiskey business cards to the printer! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"American Spirits" at the National Constitution Center

Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

Prohibition is fascinating. 

From the birth of secret speakeasies to rise of gangsters against the backdrop of flappers and jazz, it's an era that we tend to romanticize. 

"Yet that movement altered the Constitution in a radical fashion, extending its reach to matters once considered personal and restricting freedoms rather than expanding them. In effect from 1920 to 1933, Prohibition drastically altered the legal system of every state, and overturned ordinary citizens’ behaviors and expectations. While claiming high virtue and utopian prospects, it inspired spectacular violations and grotesque criminal violence.
We tend to think of Prohibition now as some kind of crazed moral paroxysm, reflecting the worst in the American character. Or it inspires facile parallels with contemporary political movements while producing some fine folk tales about Eliot Ness, Al Capone, pious preachers, flappers, bootleggers, the Charleston and the speakeasy.
And those elements are all on display at the new exhibition at the National Constitution Center here, “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.” But the show also asks, “How did we get here?” And with its 120 artifacts, gallery stage sets, videos, games and diversions, it doesn’t just round up the usual suspects."  For more information, read more in this NYTimes article

WHEN AND WHERE Friday through April 28. National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street, Philadelphia. The show then travels to other cities.
INFORMATION (215) 409-6600,
WHERE TO DRINK Tip a few at one of these Philadelphia speakeasies: the Farmers’ Cabinet, 1113 Walnut Street, (215) 923-1113,; Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company, 112 South 18th Street, (267) 467-3277,; Hop Sing Laundromat, 1029 Race Street (which has a dress code: no flip-flops, no sandals, no sneakers, no shorts and no hats),


Stay tuned for information about an upcoming Women Who Whiskey field trip! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

3 Things You Might Not Know About Whiskey

Serious Eats is back with more whiskey fun facts!

(Photo credit: Serious Eats)

1. President Taft is responsible for our current definition of whiskey.

As whiskey came of age in America, no one was sure how to exactly define it. Could blended whiskey and bonded straight whiskey both be just be called "whiskey"? The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 stipulated that whiskey must come from the same distillery, be made in the same season, be at least four years old, and be bottled at 100 proof to be labeled "Bottled-in-Bond" or "Bonded." But that didn't fully answer the question, and producers of blended and straight whiskey were both adamant that their product be called simply "whiskey"... Keep reading!

2. Charred barrels weren't always the norm.

After the Louisiana Purchase was added to the United States, Kentucky distillers were sending whiskey down to New Orleans in uncharred barrels, but no one was buying it. Veach theorizes that it the Tarascon brothers, who hailed from France and handled trade between Louisville and New Orleans, came up with the method of putting whiskey in toasted oak... Keep reading!

3. If the bourbon mash bill has less than 10 percent malted barley, enzymes are added.

We know that bourbon must be at least 51 percent corn and that other grains such as wheat, rye, and malted barley are used to complete the mash bill. Distillers can adjust how much of each grain they're using, and there is no minimum amount of malted barley that bourbon is required to contain... Keep reading!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Make Mine Manhattan

 The Manhattan...

"’s a cocktail that requires a whole host of decisions. Rye or bourbon? Perfect (composed with equal measures of sweet and dry vermouth), or just sweet vermouth? Bitters? Garnish? Rocks? My advice is to try the Manhattan every which way (just not all at once), because different versions suit different moods. 

According to legend, the Manhattan was created some 140 years ago, at New York City’s Manhattan Club, for a banquet held by Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s Brooklyn-born mother. This tale has been debunked, but I still like to think it’s true, for the strong sense of time and place it suggests."

Read on for more about the Manhattan. 

{Photo credit: Sarn Kaplan, NYT}

And here are two of the best recipes found in New York:


  • 2 oz. Basil Hayden’s bourbon
  • 3/4 oz. Punt e Mes Italian vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Apricot liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 Luxardo cherry.


1. Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish: Luxardo cherry.
Moo's Manhattan


  • 2 1/2 oz. Old Overholt rye whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Carpano Antica Formula
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 1-by-3-inch slice lemon peel
  • 1 brandied cherry.


1. Pour wet ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Add another dash of Angostura to a chilled coupe. Twist the lemon and orange peels directly over the coupe. Vigorously rub the peels inside the coupe, then discard them. Add 1 brandied cherry. Strain the liquid into the prepared glass.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

WWW Homework: Whiskey Tasting at Ward III

One of the best parts of being the founder of Women Who Whiskey is getting to plan future wWw events. And one of the best part of planning for the events is doing the homework.

I never plan an event in a place I haven't personally tested out myself--I'd be remiss if we showed up and our expectations weren't met.

Last night Samantha and I went on a recon mission to Ward III.

Indeed, we have already been to Ward III for an event, Women Who Whiskey: Graduation Edition.

But last night was special: Whiskey Mondays at Ward III, where booze reps come in and host a free tasting of a selection of liquors.

It's a recurring Ward III evening I'm hoping to plan a Women Who Whiskey event around, and I'm pleased to say that it was a delightful and educational experience.

We tried three different alcohols: rum (light and dark), whisky, and absinthe. Below are my photos and notes from the tasting.

Banks Blended Rum

Banks Rum is a blend of 21 different rums from a number of different countries, which gives it an even, spiced flavor that isn't too sweet. Both the dark and white rum has a butterscotch bouquet, but the flavor was far from syrupy--which is what I usually dislike about rum, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Florent, the charming and handsome (and French) brand manager told us all about the different rums they blend together--from Indonesian rum to Jamaican rum--and gave us a booklet of Banks rum cocktails. 

Banks Negroni

2 oz. Banks 5-Island Rum
.75 oz. Luxardo Bitter or Campari
.75 Lustau East India Sherry or Martini Sweet Vermouth

Add all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a tumbler over ice, or unto a chilled coupe. Garnish with an orange twist. 

Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch

Monkey Shoulder is different from other blended scotches because it's a blend of only single malt whiskys. Most blended scotches use a single malt to cover up the taste of grain alcohol, which makes up most of the volume.

Monkey Shoulder is a Triple Malt Scotch--a blend of three single malts--which is why it has a smooth taste, superior to other blended scotches like Johnnie Walker or Dewars. 

It was started by David Stewart, the oldest serving distiller in Scotland--who's been doing it for more than 50 years. It's called Monkey Shoulder, after the common injury that malters use to get from turning the malted barley by hand.



Freddy, the brand rep, taught us how to make the Jam Old Fashioned, a cocktail he came up with consisting of a couple of ounces of Monkey Shoulder Scotch, two dashes of bitters, a couple of splashes of lemon juice, and a dollop of whatever jam you have on hand. Shake it with some ice and strain over ice in a tumbler.

La Clandestine Absinthe

Having French and Italian parents, I grew up with Pastis and Sambuca--both with strong anise/black liquorice flavors, which I love--so it's no surprise that I love Absinthe as well. 

I was delighted to find La Clandestine Absinthe on the tasting menu, and it was fun to watch Alan, the brand rep, pour us the traditional Absinthe and water cocktail with a fancy little thingamajig--called a Broulliar--to slowly drip the Absinthe into a glass of ice water. 

The goal is to bring the alcohol content of the absinthe down to the same strength of a glass of wine--about 13 or 14%--from it's original 53%. Normally this is about 3 parts water to 1 part absinthe.

La Clandestine is an old school no brand absinthe, which was started in 1935 by Charlotte Voucher. It was a bootleg recipe that only recently became an official brand.

We also tried La Clandestina, a deliciously crisp and refreshing cocktail.  Mix equal parts simple syrup, lime juice, and La Clandestine. Shake with ice in a mixer and strain into a chilled glass.


It was a wonderful evening--with lots of delicious free samples--and I wholly intent to make a future Women Who Whiskey event out of it. 

In the mean time, I highly recommend checking it out. It's every Monday at Ward III, on Reade St. and West Broadway in Tribeca.

11 Reade St.
(corner West Broadway)
Monday Night Whiskey Tastings
Mondays 8-10pm
Free with the purchase of a cocktail at the bar

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pierre Hotel - Fall 2012 Cocktail Launch

September 25, 2012 was the official launch of the Pierre Hotel Fall 2012 Cocktail Launch, where E Lounge--the hotel bar--debuted it's new line of cocktails for autumn.

I was the lucky recipient of a call from my new friend Christine, asking me to be her plus one to this exclusive PR event. 

When I arrived, fashionably late by 15 minutes, Christine was already there, making the acquaintance of the two other PR girls at our table. They had ordered their drinks but were waiting for me to get mine before trying them and comparing. 

The cocktail menu was crafted to reflect the Taj Hotel's transition from the 19th to the 21st century, with remixes of classics like the Whiskey Sour, the Gimlet, and the Sazerac, as well as original concoctions, such as the My Fair Lady of Cafe Pierre and the Star of Taj (a real showstopper, as you'll later see). 

Star of Taj

The Pierre Sparkle

Rotunda's Whiskey Sour

Cheers! Me and my Whiskey Sour
My Fair Lady
Christine with the Pierre Sparkle
With a jazz trip playing in the background and subtle lighting the mood was intimate and friendly as we chatted over our drinks and took notes. 

The entire evening was comped by the hotel as a promotional event, and so the drinks and food were plentiful, in an effort to sweeten our experience and elicit sincere positive reviews. 

They then invited us to view the making of two of the cocktails, the Gimlet and the Star of Taj--a spectacular drink that involved setting fresh Indian herbs on fire and pouring the flaming mixture into a fruity cocktail.

Indian Spices

Making the Gimlet

JP Getty's Gimlet

This was accompanied by a delicious tasting menu spread of tiny versions of their new fall menu.

Infusing the Indian Spices

Mixing the Star of Taj

Lighting the herbs on fire

When we'd tried everything on new menu, they brought out their regular bar menu and encouraged us to try some of their regular cocktails and restaurant menu appetizers, in case we were still hungry.

Beef Carpaccio

The Antique Fashioned

Charles' Sazerac

Christine and I were impressed by the skill and speed with which the bartenders were mixing gorgeous and elaborate cocktails, so we went up to the bar to watch, as they explained what they were making and how. 

Vintage Stolichnaya Lemon Vodka--one of a limited number of bottles

A glass of Balvenie, neat, to finish off the night. Courtesy of a Nigerian business man who insisted on buying.

I have to say, this may have been a night where my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and on the cab ride home we were quite a bit tipsy. But it was more than worth it--the staff were delightful, the cocktails divine, and the food delicious. 

I highly recommend both the E Lounge at the Pierre Hotel for a vintage evening where no detail has been forgotten.