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Whiskies to Relish

I recently ran across two whiskey blog posts on the always excellent Relish. Both listed ten favorite whiskeys. Both by two men in the know. The first post by #accomplishedeater Andrew Mark Veety gives some of his favorites that will also be available at the upcoming Whiskey in the Winter. The second post, by Jeff Stettner, owner of 33 Wine Bar, the home of one of the best appointed whiskey selections in St. Louis, lists some of Jeff’s favorites available at the Whiskey in the Winter event as well as at 33.

After reading these posts and enjoying and buying quite a bit of whiskey this weekend, I thought I’d put my own list together. But what to include? I drank half a liter of Schnucks Private Stock Bonded Bourbon Friday. I bought bottles of Van Winkle 12 year and Sazerac 18 year on Saturday. But a list of my recent whiskey purchases and consumption is of no value to anyone, least of all me. Then there’s that glass of Pappy Van Winkle 23 year I enjoyed on the first Tuesday in November of 2008. Or how about on the day my wife went into labor, I had a dram of Midleton Very Rare while preparing the house for its coming occupant. Those are two situations where the context may have out shown the whiskey itself, but a list of greatest pours of my life would be too subjective. Therefore, I thought I’d just toss out ten favorites that would be my suggested whiskies to add to a home bar.

  • Old Fitzgerald Bonded Bourbon – This $11 bonded bourbon is the bourbon that many of my favorite cocktails are prepared with at Taste. Generally if a bourbon is good enough for Ted Kilgore to pour, it’s good enough for little old me.
  • Elijah Craig 12 year – My rail bourbon of choice. Delivers more flavor than Buffalo Trace, especially when mixing. I’ve got two single barrel EC12’s at home as well. The quintessential mixing bourbon.
  • Parker’s Heritage 2012 – My bottle clocks in at 131.6 proof. That’s hot. Yet, this over proof bourbon is a sipper, I’ll take mine neat. If you’re looking for an over proof bourbon for mixing in something like Jeff Morganthaller’s Amaretto Sour, go with Booker’s.
  • Rittenhouse Rye – Why mess with Wild Turkey, George Dickel, Bullet, or whoever else is bottling ryes now, just mix with the original. This bonded rye brings enough spice and enough kick to be my go to be it; Algonquin, Manhattan, or Old Fashioned in my mixing glass.
  • Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye – Occasionally you want a rye for sipping and Colonel Taylor delivers. Add a splash of water to cool a bit of the heat, but the body and rye flavors will still be there waiting. Try it in a Sazerac and let that heat cut through the absinthe.
  • Trybox New Make Rye – A true uncut whiskey. This beauty is unaged Rittenhouse and falls under the white dog category, and unlike those watered down versions you often see now that white dogs are cool, it’s 125 proof.
  • Yamazaki 12 year – I have to agree with everything Mr. Veety and Mr. Stettner wrote about this fine scotch. In addition, this is my favorite mixing scotch. Be it a Blood and Samurai or a Rusty Nakiri, I reach for the Yamazaki.
  • Ardbeg 10 Year – Laphroaig Cask Strength could just as easily made this list, but I believe the Ardbeg is a bit more approachable, but still delivers the funk.
  • Powers Gold Label – During my time in graduate school I was fortunate enough to travel to Ireland where I researched a paper on how the geology and geography of the Emerald Isle affected the evolution of their whiskey. While I was there I noticed everyone was drinking Paddy’s and Power’s, I chose the latter.
  • Redbreast Cask Strength – Whether your toasting a baby’s birth or a good man’s death, you need something at the home bar that’s up to the challenge. This is your whiskey.

SLAINTE!

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Bottled Cocktail Time

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It has been a very mild winter here in the StL and Monday night was no exception. I was running late getting home, but knew I wanted to have a drink on the porch. Not wanting to waste any time putting together ingredients, I went for my bottle aged Martinezes.

A Martinez is a gin Manhattan at its core. It is also the perfect vehicle for Hayman’s Old Tom Gin. As I mentioned earlier this week, when mixing gin into cocktails that have components traditionally mixed with rye or bourbon, Old Tom gin is the gin to use. This is also the time to pull out the Boker’s Bitters you mixed up after reading the “Everyday I’m Bittering” offering from A-D.

Those familiar with the Manhattan and the pre “dry martini” martini, will recognize the ratios in the Martinez.

Martinez
2.0 Gin
1.0 Sweet Vermouth
.25 Maraschino Liqueur
Boker’s Bitters to taste

Stir in an ice-filled mixing glass and garnish with a lemon twist. Remember, as always, double strain.

So that’s how you make one, but what about a bottle? I usually fit about eleven drinks in an empty fifth bottle. Bottles are usually 750 ml. So do the conversion with ounces to milliliters and get it exact if you like, or mix up a dozen drinks, fill your bottle, and enjoy the remainder.

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The boys and I truly enjoyed our time on the porch, and didn’t lose out a bit on flavor. The bottled Martinez is a softer, smoother, more integrated drink. It’s more like drinking one ingredient as opposed to four ingredients stirred together.

I did a bit of research before writing this blog and came across a bottled Vieux Carre recipe. A Vieux Carre is like a juicier Manhattan with the addition of the Cognac. I first stumbled across the drink on a visit to Sanctuaria. Knowing i was a fan of the drink and that it sounded like something that would do well in a bottle, I decided to do up a bottle of these classic New Orleans cocktails for myself.

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Vieux Carre
1.0 Rye
1.0 Cognac
.50 Sweet Vermouth
.25 Benedictine
Dash of Angostura

Stir in an ice-filled mixing glass and double strain into a single old fashioned. Garnish with a homemade brandied cherry.

Some recipes call for equal parts sweet vermouth, rye, and Cognac. I like my bottled cocktails to be especially boozy, so I drop the modifier down to a half ounce.

To make a bottle of these lovelies, simply make a dozen in a pitcher, fill the bottle, enjoy the remainder. Hide the bottle in a cool dark place and enjoy in a year.

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A YEAR!?!? Yes, now my Martinezes didn’t sit a year, but they’ve improved over the last four months and everything I’ve read says sit them down longer.

I’ll likely crack my VCs open during the holiday season, so more like eleven months, but you get the point.

Dr. Elmegirab’s Jerry Thomas Project blog covers the history of bottled cocktails. In it he mentions Clyde Common and their bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Morgenthaler also has a great cocktail blog, but really, mine is the only one you need. For a great in depth article on bottle aging check out this one in CLASS magazine. CLASS is the swankest cocktail and liquor magazine I’ve come across. Imbibe is great, CLASS is grand. This particular article is written by one of the best bartenders in London and the man who helped start this trend.

Clyde Common has spearheaded much of the barrel-aged and bottle-aged cocktail development here in the States, but the bottled trend started in London. The wife and I had lunch and a few drinks at Clyde Common, located in Portland, and really enjoyed ourselves, but I’d still argue Ted Kilgore makes a better drink. If you’re ever at Clyde Common be sure to mention Ted; you’ll be treated like a regular and may get a discount.

You may have seen imbue on our local liquor store shelves. This bittersweet vermouth is the child of a Clyde Common bartender and Patton Valley Vineyards, a Willamette Valley winery that I personally love. I don’t have any imbue as it’s somewhat pricey and I’m not sure how I’d work it into my repertoire.

Another thing I saw in my research was bottles with a piece of barrel stave inside the bottle. Tuthilltown will sell you a 375 ml bottle for $13. There are also places that will sell you unaged rye and a one liter charred oak barrel together for a small fortune. I’ll do a separate blog on barrel aging things, but for now I’ll tell you I use oak barrels ltd to buy my barrels. They will ship for free if you order $75 worth of products. A one liter barrel will cost you $28 and with $40 in unaged rye you are ready to go. And you’ll have a spare half-liter of high proof booze. I use the Trybox Series rye, which is unaged Rittenhouse, it’s great on the rocks with a cherry. Clocking in at 125 proof it’s a great nightcap. It’s available at the Wine Merchant.

Back to the point I was trying to make, don’t get the bottles with the staves in them. If you want to add wood, grab some barrels. A year in a bottle with a stave will likely be too woody, so you won’t be able to age it long enough to have the ingredients truly integrate. I find that empty booze bottles work just fine, but for a classier option look for a classier bottle. I like the ones with the metal hinged and rubber sealed toppers.

Try some bottle aged cocktails of your own. Nothing with egg or fruit juices in them. The Negroni is a popular one. Maybe do a bottle now and let it sit until a summer brunch. Or put some Manhattans down for the holidays, or wait a few months and start a batch for Father’s Day 2013.

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Robert Burns 2.0

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St. Louis St. Andrews Society Robert Burns Dinner tonight at the Hyatt. Haggis and Scotch, lively dress, and revelry. A nice opportunity to celebrate the McConkey side of my family.

Getting ready for the evening with the help of a glass of Benromach, a very smooth Speyside single malt, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, a very smooth and much under appreciated rocker.

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The Stanley flask is waiting full of Ardbeg 10 year old Islay single-malt. That’s the frugal play. Buy a glass of something interesting and then pour your own drams from Stanley the rest of the night.

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Should be a good night. Hoping to learn some Scotch wisdom so I can spread the word of the single malt as only an amusing douche can.

Sláinte!

(Yes I know Sláinte is the Irish cheers)

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Burns Night

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“I’ll have a scotch on the rocks, please. Any scotch will do, as long as it’s not a blend, of course. Single malt, Glen Livet, Glen Galley, perhaps, any Glen.”

It being Burns Night in honor of Robert Burns the famed Scotsman I thought the base for the evening will be that sometimes smokey, sometimes seaweedy or salty, sometimes medicine cabinety, sometimes oily, but always complex intoxicant, single malt whiskey or Scotch.

Scotch can be an acquired taste. It’s not as clean as Irish whiskey and not as sweet and full of baking spice as bourbon, and drinkable, unlike Canadian whisky. It can be pretty funky at it’s best. Lagavulin 16 is fantastically insane in taste and great as a bed time snack. Scotch can also be very smooth and quite mixable.

I generally stick with single malts, so in that sense I’m a snob, but I have no problem with scotch type products from other nations. I’ve got Japanese, Indian, American all in my cabinet.

Scotch is by far the booze I have the least knowledge of and experience with. This is odd since at age twenty I usually kept a bottle of Dewars around wherever I hung my hat, I played cards with a J&B deck through highschool, and have put down more than a few pints of Johnny Walker Red on the golf course. But these aren’t single malts, and single malts are where the action is.

Right now I’m enjoying the Ardbeg 10 year. It’s a medium to firm bodied whisky with a smoked fish nose and a long smokey peaty finish with a touch of iodine. It’s reasonable at around $45 a bottle. It’s deffinately more of a bed time malt, so unless you’re having a crowd over for a night cap, a bottle should last you awhile.

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When you do go out and feel like a scotch, scan the bar or ask for a list, please don’t be “that guy.” Chances are they will have the above quoted Glens. Just order one of those if you aren’t positive they have a larger selection. Only an unamusing douche stumbles through pronouncing Auchentoshan, Bruichladdich, Fettercairn, or Teaninich. Don’t do that. But, do drop a money line from Swingers such as,

“Um… a malt Glen Garry for me and my friend here. And if you tell that bartender to go extra easy on the water, this 50 cent piece has your name on it.”

And if the beautiful baby waitress gets the quote, quintuple the tip.

A better scotch ordering line based on a great Swingers line and Burns Night relevant would be “I’ll have the Glenmorangie in the age of Romanticism.”

Anyhow…

As I start to grow my single malt scotch repertoire I will occasionally blog about it. Its clearly A-D material as I feel it’s like having a working knowledge of wine, in order to be a true douche, one must be able to talk scotch beyond just “any glen will do.”

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Profile picture?

Possible profile pic for this extremely douchey food and mixology blog of nonsense. All blogs of this type have an extremely self important douche bag quotient, we here at Amuse-Douche just plan to embrace said tendency as made clear by this sentence.

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