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.