20091230

Bluecoat Gin becomes 'official'

William M. Dowd photo

When I was a newspaper editor for more than 40 years, the joke used to be that too many people didn't think anything was official until they read it in The New York Times.

In today's Times food section, Florence Fabricant refers to "A new gin from Philadelphia, Bluecoat ... ." So, I guess it's official.

There is one problem with that pronouncement. I first wrote about Bluecoat 36 months ago, when it really was new.

Bluecoat is a formidable entry in the resurgent gin category, packaged in a beautiful blue, embossed bottle with a wooden stopper that give it an old-fashioned, enticing appearance.

I gave it the usual gin taste test -- straight and in a traditional martini. It passed with flying colors in both ways, and a follow-up tasting with several other people met with uniformly high marks.

Bluecoat is a 94-proof concoction with the distinctive, earthy gin flavor of organic juniper berries, but noticeably balanced with notes of citrus, spice and florals. Its smoothness is evident, thanks to batch distillation that requires very slow heating of the pot, allowing for maximum separation of alcohols and removal of impurities. That is particularly apparent in the straight-taste trial, and also aids in the mixing with Noilly Pratt dry vermouth for a superb martini.

Suggested retail price: $28 for the 750ml bottle.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

A true Irish liquor cabinet

From the UK Press Association:

Irish diplomats in Saudi Arabia smuggled in alcohol concealed as furniture to dodge the Islamic state's drink ban, official files show.

Department of Foreign Affairs papers from 1977-78 show the embassy in Jeddah used an Italian company to secretly ship in cases of wine and whiskey.

The then-ambassador Eamon O'Tuathail insisted cargo documents be marked "preserves or furniture" to throw police off the scent, as Saudi officers were posted on security outside his home and office.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091229

Craft distilling guru goes between the covers

As the American craft distilling field gathers momentum, it is developing not only its own flavors, but its own literature and human catalysts.

Take Bill Owens. A craft distiller as well as being the founder of the American Distilling Institute, he has just published a pair of glossy paperback books on the craft -- "The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits" (Quarry Books, $24.99), written with Alan Dikty, and "Modern Moonshine Techniques" (White Mule Press).

(Full disclosure: I had nothing to do with the latter book, although I did contribute -- at no fee -- the cover photo.)

"The Art ..." is the glossier of the two books, chock full of Owens' color photos as well as distiller profiles, explanations of a variety of liqueurs, the machinery used in the distilling process and the science behind the art.

"Modern Moonshine Techniques" is more of a how-to book, with a variety of historic woodcuts, sketches explaining such things as how to build such devices as a mash tun, a corn cooker and different types of stills.

In addition to his distilling expertise, in 1989 Owens opened Bison Brewing in Berkeley, CA. It was the nation's first brewpub. He also was publisher of American Brewer and BEER magazines.

Dikty is the author of "The Buying Guide to Spirits," and manages Allied Beverage Tanks Inc., a company that builds craft breweries and distilleries.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

What will they think of next? (Jan. 2010 edition)

I'm releasing the first edition of this feature for 2010 a few days early so you can go through it to select some New Year's Eve cocktails. For that reason, the offering is double the usual trio of suggestions. They've been culled from the monthly recipes shared throughout 2009. I'm leading off with one of my own creations. Tipple, tastefully and carefully, into the new year.

DOWD'S MARTEANI

2 oz. Arizona Green Tea w/honey and ginseng
2 oz. all-grain vodka (Blue Ice, Beldevere, etc.)
4 drops Angostura Bitters
Splash of Galliano or Strega
2 orange slices
1 mint leaf

In a metal cocktail shaker, combine tea and vodka. Add bitters and splash of Galliano liqueur, or the more herbal Strega if you prefer, plus a handful of ice cubes. Stir briskly, then strain quickly into a frosted martini glass. Twist the juice from an orange slice into the drink and let it meander through the solution on its own. Garnish with an orange slice and a mint leaf for color.

ABSOLUTLY ROCKING

Brit bartender Gianluigi Bosco created this drink to win the Flair Bartending category in the World Cocktail Championships in Berlin. The spelling of the drink is an homage to Absolut Vodka, one of the event sponsors. His flair: He wore a big felt hat and juggled apple juice and vodka bottles to the tune of “My Sharona” sung by The Knack. Go here for a video of him in action, sans hat.

3 parts Absolut vodka
⅓ part mango juice
⅓ part apple juice
2 drops vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Lime, apple and red currants for garnish

Shake all ingredients with fresh ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish.

TRIPLE ORANGE MARGARITA

Ronaldo P. Colli, mixologist at the Americano restaurant in San Francisco, was asked by the makers of Gran Gala Triple Orange Liqueur to come up with a seasonal margarita showcasing their product.

1 1/2 ounces ultra premium tequila
3/4 ounce Gran Gala Triple Orange
1 ounce orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 ounce agave nectar
1 lime wheel
1 orange peel

Pour Gran Gala, tequila, orange juice, lime juice, agave nectar and orange peel into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled margarita glass if you prefer your margarita up. Garnish with a lime wheel and the same orange peel on top of the cocktail. Salted rim is traditional, but optional.

(Agave nectar is a natural sweetener. Adjust according to desired sweetness. Available at gourmet stores or from online retailers.)

FISH HOUSE PUNCH

The origin, if not the name, of this concoction dates to as early as 1732. It is the official drink of what purports to be the oldest club in America, the Schuylkill Fishing Company, founded by Philadelphians with a love of fishing.

2 parts dark Jamaica rum
1 part cognac
½ part peach-flavored brandy
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 to 1½ parts (to taste) simple syrup
2 parts (more or less, to taste) water

Stir with ice and serve in a punch cup. If you make it in bulk, do so in a sizable punchbowl with a large block of ice. You may decorate the punch with thin slices of lemon.

WARD 8


This concoction, sort of a variant on the whiskey sour (see that recipe below), was dreamed up in Boston at the Locke-Ober restaurant bar in 1898, according to the most persuasive version of the story. Ward 8 was the section of the city that consistently delivered a winning margin of votes to the powerful Democratic political leader Martin M. Lomasney, who reigned for a half-century. The drink supposedly was created to honor him.

There are variations on the drink, using bourbon or rye or blended whiskey, and using lemon juice or lime juice or no juice. This is the original version re-introduced to legal drinkers at the Locke-Ober after Prohibition was repealed.

2 ounces rye whiskey
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon grenadine
Maraschino cherry

Shake the whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice and grenadine with ice. Strain over ice into a chilled Collins glass or Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a cherry. (Originally, the drink was decorated with a small paper Massachusetts flag.)


THE LAST WORD


This is an old classic that long ago fell out of favor. Now, however, it's making a comeback, particularly on the Seattle bar scene, according to a story in the Seattle Times. The most popular bartender making it apparently is Murray Stenson at Zig Zag Café. Besides its taste, its price is a big drawing card: $4.75.

½ ounce gin
½ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce green Chartreuse
½ ounce maraschino liqueur

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Shut up and drink it.

[Go here for all the monthly installments of this feature.]

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091226

Bruce Willis a diehard Belvedere man

John McClane, actor Bruce Willis's action hero character in the "Diehard" movie trilogy, took a lot of chances. But, he could always forget about them once the director yelled "Cut!"

Willis's newest character also is taking a chance. It's his real-life role as a spokesman for Belvedere, the French wine and spirits maker that is having a financial dip.

He has signed a four-year "strategic agreement" that allows the company to use his image for advertising purposes in exchange for giving him a 3.3% share of its capital as part of a long-term investment, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.

It's a particularly interesting arrangement in that Belvedere, the world's No. 7 vodka producer, is operating under bankruptcy protation while it restructures a $760 million debt.

Belvedere, however, has a better prognosis for improving its financial situation since it introduced the bargain-brand Sobieski to its U.S. pipeline.

In the fall of 2007, Sobieski -- a quality spirit packaged in a plastic bottle that helps cut its cost to the below-$20 range --i was ranked the No. 1 premium vodka by the Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) in a blind tasting of 108 vodkas, the largest review of vodkas in its history, and earned both a gold medal and Best Buy Award.

Go here for one of my reports on Sobieski, and look for a live link to my tasting notes as well.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

Why a $5.79 case of vodka costs $61.92

Shannan Bowen of the Wilmington (NC) Star News has traced a bottle of Aristocrat Supreme 80-proof vodka –- the state's top-selling brand of liquor -– from its distillery in Bardstown, KY, to when it is purchased at a government-run N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control store.

Her story details how the initial cost/value of the vodka skyrockets as it goes through the various layers of government-mandated steps before reaching the consumer.

"The state's ABC Commission sets prices on liquor uniformly throughout the state, as governed by state statute," Bowen writes. "And, on every delivered case of spirituous liquor approved for sale, there is an 80.8% markup from the distiller's price, in addition to other charges."

You can get the full story by clicking here.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091219

Do's and don'ts for holiday partying

'Tis the time of year when inhibitions go out the window.

Office parties, gatherings of friends, family feasts, New Year's Eve ... Ah, how the drinks do flow.

Unfortunately, too many occasional drinkers tend to overdo in such circumstances, to the regret of not only themselves, but those around them who are (a) embarassed, (b) annoyed and/or (c) disgusted by their behavior.

Simply telling people to drink responsibly won't avoid all such negative experiences. But, armed with a little knowledge of one's own alcohol capacity and how well you metabolize what you drink, you and those near you will get through holiday partying in a dignified, enjoyable way.

A few don'ts:

(1.) Don't "do" shots. Spirits are not for "doing." They are for slow enjoying. The only reason to do shots is to get drunk, which mature adults try to avoid.

(2.) Don't assume mixed cocktails are much less potent than straight whiskies, rums or vodkas. Many mixers -- red or white vermouth, for example, in Manhattans, Rob Roys, Martinis, etc.; various liqueurs in other recipes -- have a significant alcohol content on their own, so drinking too many cocktails made with them still lets the impact mount.

(3.) Don't be fooled by how easy a drink goes down. Fruit juices and liqueurs add color and flavor, but they also mask temporarily how much alcohol you're ingesting.

(4.) Don't use diet sodas as mixers. You need sugar in cocktails since it helps metabolize alcohol. Using diet sodas results in a higher concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream.

A few do's:

(1.) Do bear in mind that drinking whiskey can result in a worse hangover than drinking vodka. That is according to recently-released research by scientists at Brown University. They say the reason may be because of the number of molecules called "congeners" which whiskey contains compared to vodka (Their study was just published in "Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.")

(2.) Do order water. In my family, we have a running joke that if you're given water when you ask for something to drink, you should inform the server "I'm thirsty, not dirty." However, alternating alcoholic drinks with glasses of water makes sense on several levels. You'll stay hydrated, important since alcohol tends to dehydrate you and creates a hangover; you'll satisfy the desire to have a beverage without loading up on alcohol.

(3.) Do avoid topping off your drinks. Get a refill only when you've finished so you can keep track of how much you're drinking, something that's easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of a party.

(4.) Do stay aware of calories. A piña colada has about the same number as a Big Mac. A straight shot of alcohol has about 90 calories but mix it with orange juice or pineapple juice, for example, and the calorie count climbs to 150.

There are, of course, one major do and one major don't to keep in mind at all times. Do have a designated driver and don't drink and drive. Even if you ignore the other do's and don'ts, following those two will help you have a safe, happy holiday season.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091207

Israeli firm corrals a chunk of Drinks Americas

It's difficult to think of, oh, say Willie Nelson, as Israeli. Or Donald Trump. Or Kid Rock.

But, in the global alcoholic beverage industry, ownership makes for strange bedfellows.

Drinks Americas Holdings Ltd. has sold a chunk of its brands portfolio to its partner, H. Pixel International Trade Ltd. of Israel.

The deal reportedly calls for a $3 million total payment over the next 15 years.

Drinks Americas concentrates on high-profile names in developing, marketing and distributing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic premium beverages. Among its holdings are Willie Nelson's Old Whiskey River Bourbon, Trump Super Premium Vodka and Kid Rock's BADASS Beer and Aguila Tequila.

It also owns such other labels as Olifant Vodka and Rheingold Beer. The company has a working partnership with Universal Music's Interscope, Geffen and A&M Records to develop and launch beverages.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091203

Glenfiddich 50 in very short supply

William M. Dowd photo illustration

This is part of "Gotta Have ...", an ongoing series of occasional postings on unusual spirits products.

This is almost not worth mentioning, simply because the domestic supply is virtually non-existent. However, in the interest of keeping up with the good life ...

Glenfiddich has announced the U.S. debut of its Glenfiddich 50 Year Old expression, but it will be in extremely limited supply -- "a tiny handful" of bottles, the company says. If you really want to get your hands on a bottle, you can always join in the bidding at a charity auction where precisely one bottle will be sold off.

"For half a century, two casks of whiskey have aged undisturbed in Glenfiddich’s Warehouse 8, under the tender care of the industry’s most experienced malt master, David Stewart," says a company press release.

"Beginning in December, the results of Stewart's extreme patience will be available exclusively at just three U.S. hotels. American drinkers can bid for a single bottle of the fabled hooch at a charity auction held concurrently at New York’s Mandarin Oriental hotel, the Peninsula hotel in Los Angeles and Miami’s Fontainebleau hotel Monday. These establishments will be the sole locations where the whisky will be available by the glass, at least until the next batch -- started in 1960 -- is released in 2010."

Auction proceeds will go to Friends of Scotland, the charity founded by Sean Connery to benefit war veterans. Call (646) 356-8350 if you're a serious bidder.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091202

What will they think of next? (December edition)

This month's trio of cocktail recipes takes aim at holiday entertaining needs. To hit that target, I'm republishing a lineup of recipes introduced last Deceember but regularly requested by readers since then.

CONQUISTADOR

Ryan Duvenage won the 2008 International Bartending Association World Championships qualifying spot from South Africa. This is one of the two original cocktails he created en route to the title.

50ml Havana Club Anejo Reserva
12.5ml Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
10ml Monin Raspberry
10ml Monin Blackberry
10ml Balsamic Vinegar
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail or champagne glass. Garnish with an orange twist and a nasturtium flower.

GOLDEN CADILLAC
The International Bartenders Association, which turned 59 this year, has a list of "official" cocktails. This is one of the after-dinner ones.

2 parts Liquore Galliano
2 parts Créme de cacao (white)
2 parts fresh cream

Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake briskly for few seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

IN-LAW HOUSE RULES COCKTAIL

This cocktail was inspired by the in-laws of owner Chris Ojeda for The Edison restaurant and lounge in Los Angeles. It's a hot toddy-ish recipe you can make to sedate your family after holiday dinners. There, I said it.

2½ ounces applejack bonded or applejack
3 ounces of hot water
½ ounce mulling spiced syrup*
Slice of a baked apple**
Lemon peel (expressed in the drink)
Star anise
Grated nutmeg

In toddy glass or mug place the baked apple slice in the bottom and slightly muddle to break up. Pour the applejack, mulling spiced syrup and water and stir. Add the star anise and grated nutmeg for garnish.

(* Mulling spices syrup: Make simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water) and let the spice steep like you would a tea over a low heat. Turn off heat and let them steep for 30 minutes and strain out. Mulling spices are available at most grocery stores or health food stores.)

(** Bake an apple for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.)

[Go here for all the monthly installments of this feature.]


To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Spirits Notebook
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091201

Canned tequila cocktails hitting U.S.

We live in a world in which convenience is the key to marketing most things. Even cocktails in a can.

The latest thing in the RTD (ready to drink) niche comes from El Jimador which is sending its New Mix canned tequila cocktails to the U.S. market.

El Jimador, made by Casa Herradura and owned by Brown-Forman of Louisville, KY, is the top-selling tequila RTD in Mexico. This month it is being made available in California, with a nationwide rollout of the product targeted by next spring.

The product line includes the Paloma, the most popular tequila cocktail in Mexico, the Margarita and the Spicy Mango Margarita. Each cocktail comes in a 12-ounce can at 5% alcohol by volume (10 proof), and is sold by the can or in a four-pack.

El Jimador New Mix was introduced to the Mexican market in 1997. The can being sold in the U.S. has a slightly different design that emphasizes the El Jimador brand name more prominently.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091130

A celebri-quote: Jim Murray

Jim Murray, author of the United Kingdom's renowned Whisky Bible, ruffled a lot of feathers with some comments he made while releasing the 2010 edition of his guide, the top-selling such publication in the UK. His top pick was Sazerac 18 Year Old, a Kentucky rye.

"There is still a sneering attitude in some quarters that, if it is not made in Scotland, then somehow it is not proper whisky.

"I don't think the Scots have a lot to be complacent about at the moment in terms of whisky. While the best is still exceptional, there is a lot of Scotch whisky out there which is really not good at all."

[Go here for more celebri-quotes.]

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

Guide names Sazerac Rye world's best whiskey

Sazerac Rye isn't the most recognized whiskey in the world, but it certainly is a respected one.

Its latest accolade comes across the pond, where the 2010 Whisky Bible, the UK's top-selling guide, has named the 18-year-old Sazerac Rye from Kentucky THE best whisky/whiskey, including the UK's beloved Scotches.

It topped 3,850 other whiskies that were considered, with Ardbeg Supernova from the Hebridean island of Islay as No. 2 after dominating the awards for the past three years. Interestingly, an Indian whiskey, Amrut Fusin from Bangalore, was No. 3.

Jim Murray, author of the guide, described the rye as "reaching previously unknown heights. ... In beating all other world-whiskey types, Sazerac 18 has set the bar for rye whiskey and it will be fascinating in forthcoming years to see what is bottled to at least match it."

Harlen Wheatley is the master distiller at the Franklin County, KY, facility of Buffalo Trace, which makes Sazerac and other brands.

Murray told news media that "There is still a sneering attitude in some quarters that, if it is not made in Scotland, then somehow it is not proper whisky. I don't think the Scots have a lot to be complacent about at the moment in terms of whisky. While the best is still exceptional, there is a lot of Scotch whisky out there which is really not good at all."

In recent years, Buffalo Trace has emerged as arguably the world's top whisky maker if one goes by industry awards.

Malt Advocate magazine's Malt Society names the Sazerac 19 top American whiskey in 2001 and 2005; Malt Advocate Distiller of the Year in 2000, 2005 and 2006; Whisky Magazine (a UK publication) Distiller of the Year in 2005 and 2007; Wine Enthusiast Magazine Distiller of the Year in 2006, and so on.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091129

A celebri-quote: Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga (a/k/a Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta), 23, is arguably the hottest dance music star in show biz today. The irrepressible, gaudily-attired American singer (her latest album is "The Fame Monster") didn't get that way by wasting her time doing the club scene, as she noted in an MTV interview.

"I don't go to nightclubs. You don't see pictures of me falling out of a club drunk.

"I don't go -- and that's because I usually go and then, you know, a whiskey-and-a-half into it, I got to get back to work.

"Because I love my work so much, I find it really hard to go out and have a good time."

[Go here for more celebri-quotes.]

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091128

First English single malt going to market

Chalk up one more single malt whisky for the UK, but don't credit this one to Scotland.

The English Whisky Co., which operates St. George's Distillery in Norfolk, has gone to market with its own single malt, complete with a label showing St. George in dragon-slaying mode.

David Fitt, distiller at St. George's, tells local news media the reaction from the Scots has been fast and sometimes furious. One angry e-mail proclaimed, "You've betrayed Scotland."

The whisky which will go on sale beginning December 16 has been aging since 2006, when the first barrels were produced.

St. George's is the first and only registered whisky distillery in England. It is using barley grown in Norfolk along with Breckland water. Forsyths of Rothes, which has been servicing the whisky industry since the late 1800s, built the equipment in the distillery, including the copper stills. Iain Henderson, a former manager at the Laphroaig Distillery, oversaw the initial production.

The company says next year it will bottle a peaty spirit distilled by Henderson. It also plans to experiment with sherry and Madeira casks, and plans a special English whisky for the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in the UK.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091126

New vodka a protein-infused style

Some years ago, in a TV commercial for a certain brand of cheese, an actor turned up his nose every time the voiceover informed viewers that a competing brand contained "casein."

To many people, that meant casein -- from the Latin word for cheese and pronounced kay/scene -- was a bad thing. To those who know it is the main phosphoprotein that makes up 80% of the proteins in cow's milk and cheese, we wondered what the big deal was. But, as always, advertising won out.

The creators of a new vodka called Devotion are hoping drinkers will accept casein as a good thing, because they've added it to their spirit and are pushing the drink as a jolly way for athletes to hydrate for muscle recovery.

Devotion Spirits is a San Francisco company founded last year by Drew Adelman, a nightlife and dining aficionado and fitness buff. The 80 proof vodka, triple distilled from corn, is infused with PeptoPro® casein.

“My own personal mantra has always been, if you are going to be bad you might as well be good,” Adelman said. “With Devotion Vodka I can stay devoted to my regimen while stepping out for a good time. I used to actually take my own protein out with me when I went for a night on the town. Then I realized there were millions of people like me who wanted to take care of their bodies and also have a good time. From that passion, Devotion Vodka was born.”

The new spirit is being marketed for $29.99 for the 750ml bottle in California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut at the moment. Market response will dictate its future distribution.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091118

First Ontario micro-distillery goes to market

Ontario Province's first micro-distillery has released its first spirit to the domestic market.

Still Waters Distillery, located in Concord, Ontario, has created a single malt vodka from two-rowed Canadian barley usin artisan distilling techniques. It is made by hand in small batches using a pot still.


Unlike most vodkas, which are produced by industrial processes from a mix of grains, Still Waters Distillery uses only single malt barley, similar to Scotch whisky. Its vodka is distilled from the grain then triple distilled.

Still Waters Vodka retails at $36.95 ($35 US) for a 750ml bottle. It is being supplied to Canadian outlets now, with a U.S. launch in the near future.

“After years of planning, we are excited to be Ontarioʼs first true micro-distillery, joining the growing artisan distilling industry in North America," said Barry Bernstein, co-founder with Barry Stein of Still Waters Distillery. “We personally produce our vodka starting with handling of the grain, through distillation and final packaging.”

Still Waters Distillery started production in March of this year. It also is making single malt and rye whiskey to be available in several years once it has matured in locally-constructed oak casks.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

Heaven Hill tops U.S. Whisky Icons

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Heaven Hill Distilleries has been voted the best distiller in the U.S. in this year's "U.S. Icons of Whisky," conducted by Whisky Magazine.

The judges said of the family owned company that it had "quietly been getting on with the job and releasing some stunning whiskies."

It distills and distributes such brands as Evan Williams and Elijah Craig bourbons.

The Icons celebrate the people and places behind the greatest whiskies in the world, with the judging process taking place in regional heats including the U.S., Scotland and "Rest of the World." Whisky Magazine, published in the UK, is the world's leading magazine devoted to such spirits.


The awards ceremony took place at Bourbon's Bistro here. The U.S. winners now go head-to-head with the Scottish and "Rest of the World" winners, and the final World Icons will be announced at a ceremony held on the eve of "Whisky Live: London" on February 25, 2010.

Winners were:

DISTILLER OF THE YEAR:
Heaven Hill Distilleries

VISITOR ATTRACTION OF THE YEAR: Buffalo Trace Distillery

AMBASSADOR OF THE YEAR:
Frank Coleman, Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS)

INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR:
Woodford Reserve

RETAILER OF THE YEAR (SINGLE): Park Avenue Liquors, New York

RETAILER OF THE YEAR (MULTIPLE):
Binny's Beverage Depot, Chicago

Heaven Hill, located in Bardstown, KY, won "Distiller of the Year" honors last year from Whisky Magazine, as well as "Visitor's Attraction of the Year."

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091117

Vodka firmament becomes star-studded

When it comes to vodka, celebrity connections pop up in any number of ways.

The celebrity mags and cable TV gossip shows keep reporting on the likes of celebrities such as Donald Trump and Dan Aykroyd appearing around the country, pushing the particular vodkas in which they have a heavy financial stake. For Trump, it's his own Trump brand -- no surprise. For Aykroyd it’s Crystal Skull, sold in a bottle shaped like a transparent skull.

Professional athletes are part of the parade, too. Football Hall of Famer John Elway has a stake in, and touts for, something called Nude Vodka. Veteran golfer Fuzzy Zoeller has Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, which he introduced over the summer.

Then there is model/actress Elizabeth Hurley, who has been getting a lot of press from a recent UK interview in which she breathlessly revealed that now that she’s age 40 she has switched from coffee and wine to vodka as her beverage of choice to help maintain her famous figure.

Even a film classic is getting into the act. Paramount Pictures and Iconic Brands are planning a spring 2010 launch of The Godfather Italian Organic Vodka, named for the series of films.

"The celebrity niche in the drink sector these days is somewhat in vogue and lots of people are trying to do it," said Richard DeCicco, CEO of Iconic Brands. "I think Paramount is realizing what a powerful brand 'The Godfather' is. The fact that (it) has been the No. 1 grossing movie of all time, there seemed to be a nice opportunity."

But these all are just efforts in search of a market. They’re certainly not up to the track record of a certain rapper/actor/producer/clothing designer/entrepreneur of who you may have heard.

He may not hit all demographic groups, but Sean Combs (above) -- a/k/a/ Puff Daddy, then P-Diddy, now just Diddy, unless I've missed a metamorphosis or two -- connects with enough of them to help hike Ciroc vodka sales.

The many-markets mogul began promoting the French vodka just two years ago this month, and sales already have increased by 400,000 cases in that period.

Combs, widely believed to have received a share of the company in addition to major money for his efforts, will have more products to push before long.

Mark Strachan, Ciroc marketing director, has revealed that two new flavors of the grape-based vodka will be introduced to the U.S. market in early 2010: coconut and red berry.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091116

Texas company enters the tequila field

There's a new player on the tequila market: Dulce Vida, which has just released a complete line on a limited basis in the Austin and San Antonio markets.

"This has been a labor of agave love for the past two years," said Charlie Paulette, CEO of Dulce Vida Spirits Inc. "The spirit industry here in Texas continues to grow and gain steam."

The Austin-based company sources its organic agave from the Mexican Pacific Coast Highland region of Tepic, Nayarit. The soil and geography are very different from the better-known lowland tequila areas, and this particular region -- surrounded by both ocean and mountains -- yields larger agave plants.

Unlike most tequilas that are 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof), Dulce Vida is 50% abv, triple distilled and made with 100% single estate, organic blue agave. Its Reposado and Añejo are aged in single-barrel oak Kentucky Whiskey barrels, the Reposado for 12 months and the Añejo for 24.

The entire line is distilled and aged under the supervision of founder and master distiller Carlos Jurado at the Ansan Distillery in Santa Cruz del Astillero, Jalisco.

Suggested retail price for a 750ml bottle is $45 for the Blanco, $50 for the Añejo and $55 for Reposado.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091113

A celebri-quote: Elizabeth Hurley

 Actress-model Elizabeth Hurley, 44, told a reporter from London's Daily Mail that she has switched from wine and coffee to vodka to maintain her famous figure.

"I used to drink an awful lot of coffee, but I was told after the age of 40 you have to be careful with coffee and wine. I don’t miss having a glass of wine because I’ve switched to vodka.

"I don’t really like vodka that much but if I’m at a party, I have a small one with a lot of fizzy water and a huge squeeze of lime. Initially it’s like medicine but I’ve gotten used to it now."

[Go here for more celebri-quotes.]

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091110

Maine seeks fix for tasting law glitch

Picture this.

You're in Maine with a group of friends or family and want to sample a couple of beers or spirits before making your purchase.

No problem, you think. The state legislature earlier this year passed a bill authorizing stores that sell beer or liquor to hold up to a dozen public tastings a year.

Ah, but there is a problem. A last-minute amendment to that law says tastings “must be conducted in a manner that precludes the possibility of observation by children.” It has caused all sorts of complaints from stores.

As a result, Rep. Stacey Fitts, R-Pittsfield, has introduced legislation aimed at addressing the problems, a proposal that has received the unanimous support of the Legislative Council, which reviews all bills proposed for the legislative session that begins in January.

The intent of the new law was to give sellers of spirits and specialty brews the same marketing tool that has helped Maine wine shops draw additional customers. But, since it went into effect in September, vendors have gone through all sorts of machinations to keep children from seeing any tasting activities.

For example, Leslie Thistle of Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. told the Bangor Daily News she has to cover her front and back door windows with black and drape a sheet across the large storefront windows, giving her shop the feel of a speakeasy during her monthly tastings.

"The law also means that she could be found in violation if a parent with children in tow comes into her shop to purchase a bottle of wine during a tasting event," the newspaper said. "She also pointed out that there are no laws shielding children from the sight of people drinking alcohol while seated on a restaurant’s outdoor patio."

Other wine and beer shops have taken similar steps to cover their windows or discourage minors from seeing inside during an event.

“Many stores that traditionally never had a problem conducting wine tastings are being hurt by this onerous requirement,” Fitts said in a statement. “My bill would instead mandate that a sign be placed at the entrance to an establishment when an event is being held, so all patrons are aware of the taste-testing.”

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

Drinking to the beat

It's not always what's inside that counts when it comes to marketing Scotch whisky.

Ballantine's, a brand that is one of the world's top seller in its category but not often mentioned in the same breath as the most highly rated Scotches, has come up with a new gimmick to help attract attention from bar and cocktail lounge visitors, particularly the younger ones.

It's a new dark blue bottle that has a design incorporating a graphic equalizer. It gives the appearance of reacting to sound passing through it just as it would if dialed up on a computer, CD player or other device.

The container was designed by the UK agency The Core and made by a UK company called Kandoo from molded plastic. The label works by using electroluminescent technology.

The bottle currently is being used in Germany, accord to Packaging News UK, "and 35 other markets around the world have ordered the bottle, including Thailand, Mexico, Spain and Russia." No word on when it will reach our shores.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

Highland Park releasing '64 whisky

William M. Dowd photo illustration

This is part of "Gotta Have ...", a series of occasional postings on unusual products at unusual prices.

Anyone who is into rare and limited whiskies may want to gear up to lay claim to a 45-year-old single malt about to hit the market.

Highland Park, the world’s most northerly single malt distillery, plans to release 290 bottle of the vintage whisky for retail sale at $6,275 US per bottle.

The new release is the oldest of Highland Park’s Vintage releases, which date to 1964. It will be accompanied by a full strength 40 year old version, priced at $3,764 US.

Highland Park, founded in 1798, matures its peated whiskies in sherry casks to deepen their flavor. It is the only distillery on Orkney. It malts its own barley and uses locally-cut peat.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

Makgeolli now biggest seller in Korea

The November edition of my "What Will They Think of Next?" cocktail series featured makgeolli, the traditional Korean fermented rice wine.

Now comes a report from the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo that "Makgeolli is rising in popularity in Korea as more people are health-conscious even when it comes to drinking."

Couple that with the relatively inexpensive prices of makgeolli products, and you have an 87% increase in sales from January to October compared to the same period last year, with younger consumers leading the way.

According to convenience store chain GS25, revenues from makgeolli sales in September overtook those for whiskey for the first time with sales of the fermented rice wine coming in third place after beer and soju," Chosun Ilbo reports.

Makgeolli, also known as takju, is made from rice which accounts for its milky appearance. It is made by fermenting a mixture of boiled rice and water, and is about 6.5 to 7% alcohol by volume (13 to 14 proof). It was originally most popular among farmers, who called it nongju, which means "farmer liquor."

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091104

Diddy + Ciroc = Smash hit

He may not hit all demographic groups, but Sean Combs --a/k/a/ Puff Daddy, then P-Diddy, now just Diddy, unless I've missed a metamorphosis or two -- connects with enough of them to help hike Ciroc vodka sales.

The pop music/clothing design mogul began promoting the French vodka just two years ago this month, and sales have increased by 400,000 cases in that period.

Combs, widely believed to have received a share of the compnay in addition to major money for his efforts, will have more products to push before long.

Mark Strachan, Ciroc marketing director, has revealed that two new flavors of the grape-based vodka will be introduced to the U.S. market in early 2010: coconut and red berry.

Ciroc is co-owned by drinks giant Diageo, which among other brans owns Ketel One and Smirnoff vodkas.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091102

A celebri-quote: Kate Hudson

• Like her mom, the actress Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson has never been on the chubby side. Quite the opposite, as discussed in an interview with the actress in the current issue of Elle magazine. She dropped to about 105 pounds for a movie role as a terminally ill woman.

"I love my glass of wine. I love tequila.

"To be in New York for two weeks and not have one beverage! I'm not sure I've ever done that.

"I'm not, like, 110 pounds, but I'm probably heading towards that."

[Go here for more celebri-quotes.]

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091101

What will they think of next? (November edition)

Sometimes you have to wonder if certain cocktails are intentional, or the result of too many other cocktails. This month's trio of recipes to add to your collection come under the oddball category.


DOS RITA

This unusual concoction comes from Ruby Tequila's Mexican Kitchen in Houston, TX. Rather than a standard garnish, it has a Dos Equis beer bottle stuck neck first into the glass.

1 bottle Dos Equis beer
1 frozen margarita

Upend a chilled bottle of beer in a frozen margarita in a classic wide-mouthed glass and let it gently bubble into the slushy as you imbibe the margarita through a straw. Garnish with a slice of lime.

MAKGEOLLI COCKTAILS


Makgeolli is a traditional rice-based Korean liquor, considered the nation's oldest such drink. The milky spirit brews in clay pots, is lightly carbonated and sweet, and about as alcoholic as a good beer.

For the most part, makgeolli had for generations been relegated to farming areas where the rice was plentiful, or to low-rent bars. Now, in the capital city of Seoul, it is making a pop culture comeback.

Because it blends so well with virtually any kind of fruit and spice, most bartenders have taken to chopping up such things as mango, melon or citrus fruits into chunks and popping them into a blender with the makgeolli.

THIS IS IT


The Michael Jackson film finale, "This Is It," is getting mixed reviews. It also is getting mixed drinks at the Movie Tavern chain of cinema restaurants, most of them located in Texas.

The four specialty drinks on the "This Is It" drinks menu include the "This Is It Cooler" (Absolut Vanilla Vodka, Parrot Bay Rum, pineapple juice and a splash of Grenadine); "Dangerous" (Bacardi Rum, Peach Schnapps, cranberry juice, pineapple juice and a splash of Grenadine); "Black or White" (Island Oasis Banana, rum, Dreyer's Ice Cream, Hershey`s Chocolate Syrup, whipped cream and cherry), and the "Billy Jean"
(tequila, Finest Call Triple Sec, Island Oasis Wild Berry and Sweet and Sour).


[Go here for the archive of monthly "What will they think of next?" cocktail recipes.]


To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091030

Under the influence of T.G.I. Friday's

Police in Sheboygan, WI, may want to call this one to the attention of the TV reality show "Cops."

A man sentenced to a court-ordered intervention program because of several driving-under-the-influence convictions showed up for his regular check-in and blew an .07 on the Breathalyzer, yet denied he had been drinking.

His excuse: He had eaten a Jack Daniel's-infused steak the night before.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

Knob Creek flowing again

Knob Creek Bourbon is about to resume flowing to liquor sales points after a controversial production stoppage this summer.

Bill Newlands, president of Beam Global Spirits & Wine U.S., and Fred Noe, the seventh-generation Beam family distiller, officially restarted production at the distillery in Clermont, KY, yesterday, presiding over the opening of the first mature, four-char barrel dating to 2000.

That officially ended the "drought" of fully matured Knob Creek that was announced in the summer and blamed on sales outstripping production. The company even sent out empty bottles to spirits writers as part of the announcement.

In the views of some, however, the "drought" was a public relations gimmick, something the company steadfastly denied.

"We want to thank Knob Creek fans everywhere for their patience and understanding these past months, and promise it was worth their wait," Newlands said. "Accelerating production and compromising quality, by a few weeks, even days, was never an option we considered. Knob Creek fans have been in touch, many thanking us for doing things the right way. It is very gratifying, and validating."

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091028

Whiskies of the World Expo changes hands

The 11th annual Whiskies of the World Expo and Artisanal Spirits Fest will be held here at the Hotel Nikko on March 27, 2010.

The consumer tasting event, which was founded by whiskey authority Riannon Walsh, will be host to hundreds of whisky expressions from major brands to small independent labels. Walsh has been succeeded in managing the event by new hosts Douglas and Lana Smith of San Francisco.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

Woodford's latest Master's Collection spirit ready

Sunday, November 1, will bring you something more than a return to Standard Time.

It is when Woodford Reserve releases the latest bourbon in its Master’s Collection, the fourth in the series of limited edition bottlings.

This one is called "Seasoned Oak Finish." It is finished, says master distiller Chris Morris (below right), in barrels crafted with wood that has been seasoned longer than any previously used in the industry.

“Of all the distillers in our industry, we are the only bourbon company that crafts its own barrels, giving us unique knowledge and control of the process,” Morris said. “As the rough oak staves are exposed to seasonal weather changes and subsequently dried, this natural cycle develops a new range of flavors in the wood.”

As Morris explains for those unfamiliar with what wood-aging does, the seasoning progression changes the wood by reducing tannins and ultimately creating a new range of flavor compounds. The staves for most bourbon barrels are seasoned for three to five months. "Seasoned Oak Finish" combines fully-matured Woodford Reserve with barrels crafted from wood that has been exposed to the outdoors for three to five years, the longest seasoning known in the bourbon industry.

Previous releases in the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection series were the Four Grain, Sonoma-Cutrer Finish and Sweet Mash products. The spirits are released periodically at the master distiller’s discretion. They are 90.4 proof, or 45.2% alcohol by volume.

Woodford Reserve Distillery is located in Versailles, KY.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091026

G'Vine bartender competition has a twist

William M. Dowd photo

Every now and then a new twist on an old product can be welcome. It helps shake up any complacency you have about your spirits selections.

In the matter of gin, I'd long ago fallen into a Bombay Sapphire rut. A wonderful concoction, that Sapphire. So perfect for my palate that even when I felt the urge for a change of pace I had difficulty zeroing in on another label. Until G'Vine came along.

As my "Tasting Notes" comments reflect, one of the key ingredients in this handcrafted, limited edition 80-proof French gin is the rare and subtle green grape flower. It had made G'Vine a standout since its introduction to the market in 2007.

In an effort to put G'Vine on the lips of more people, in a variety of ways, the maker has launched an international search for "the most exceptional gin bartender" as part of the G’Vine Connoisseur Program.

I'm told there already are more than 190 entrants from around the world.

The competition’s 12 global finalists will be flown to Paris and Cognac for a week of challenges, seminars and the opportunity to run their own bar at the G’Vine Spring Ball. The winner will receive $3,000 in prize money and a trip for two to Amsterdam, London and Paris to explore the past, present and future of gin.

Each entrant is required to complete an online examination process that includes five "interactive modules" which together make up an extensive overview of the gin category. The exams are supervised and graded by Philip Duff, a noted international spirits expert and owner of Liquid Solutions Bar & Beverage Consulting and Door 74 in Amsterdam. The deadline to complete all exams is December 15. Contenders also must create an original G’Vine cocktail and include it on their bar‘s cocktail list until January 31, 2010.

“Unlike other cocktail competitions where the focus is only on the end-use cocktail created by the bartender, the G’Vine Connoisseur Program is seeking a bartender with an unmatched knowledge, and creativity -- basically a bartender who is obsessed with gin," said Audrey Fort, EWG marketing and business development director.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091017

Ohio drinkers to get earlier start

The world will change just a bit for drinkers in Ohio tomorrow.

That's when October 18 rolls around and a new state law goes into effect, allowing the sale of wines and liquors to begin two hours earlier than now.

Restaurants, bars and carryouts will be allowed to begin sales at 11 a.m., courtesy of the state's need for revenue. The change was part of the state budget bill that recently was passed by the legislature.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091010

Bill's eMailbox: In search of Mongolian vodka

Q: Do you know where I can purchase Chinggis Khaan vodka in the U.S.?

I live in the New York metropolitan area, actually New Jersey. My son lives in Pittsburgh and we occasionally travel. I bought a small bottle in Mongolia and wish I could buy more.

Eileen Satkin

A: You're not the first reader to ask that question. However, even through diligent research I've been unable to come up with a satisfactory answer.

Any time I've spotted Chinggis Khaan in a cocktail lounge, it has been because someone had purchased it in Mongolia or China during their travels. The best info I can provide is to suggest you go here and inquire about buying a bottle or two.

Incidentally, despite the good word-of-mouth reviews this Mongolian product has
been getting, it sells for just the equivalent of $20 US.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

20091001

Report slams NY liquor authority

The official word is out concerning the embattled State Liquor Authority, a bumbling bureaucracy that has been assailed on many fronts. Not surprisingly, it reinforces most of the long-standing criticisms of the authority.

The first part of the New York State Law Revision Commission's two-part report on findings and recommendations notes:
The SLA's current nine-month backlog of license applications reflects a failure in the licensing process, jeopardizes public health and safety, and exacerbates the economic crisis currently plaguing New York. Small business owners, and some large ones as well, are forced to suffer ever-mounting expenses for months on end without the income generated from having these licenses. The situation deprives the state of new revenues from sales and income taxes, and it depresses the growth of new jobs in local communities.
Despite that sweeping condemnation, apparently the SLA was not found guilty of The Great Train Robbery, the hanging-chad controversy in George Bush's election, or the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

The SLA itself was not alone in being chastised by the Commission. In a slap at some in other branches of state government, the Commission said:
"Some people, including those quite familiar with the SLA's budget, have remarked about the backlog: 'What's the big deal, the state has already banked the license fees, the applicants can wait.' This shortsighted view, to be kind, is nothing less than foolish. The 'What's the big deal‚' advocates both in and out of government basically view the SLA as a 'cash cow‚' and care little about the importance of an expeditious, careful and fair licensing process dedicated to the well-being of New York's citizenry and the State itself. ... A New York County [Manhattan] grand jury is in the midst of concluding a criminal investigation into the bribery of SLA licensing examiners by corrupt 'expediters' that is expected to be completed by the end of October. The State Inspector General is also expected to issue a report in the near future detailing the corruption and other problems in the agency."
Among recommendations made by the Commission:
• The SLA should have the authority to declare a moratorium when it deems that the backlog of licenses has ended.
• Give the SLA the needed number of employees to allow it to carry out its mission.
• The SLA should create two positions of regional manager (one for New York City, and one for Albany, Syracuse and Rochester) to oversee daily administration ... including customer service.
• Develop policies that ensure that enforcement focuses on serious violations with an impact on public safety, and more closely monitor businesses with a history of complaints and violations.
• Investigate non-economic incentives such as those adopted by other State agencies to motivate and reward staff and alter the negative agency culture that has evolved over time."
• Owners of restaurants that have a wine, beer or full liquor license pending should be eligible to secure a BYOB (bring your own bottle) permit.
You can go here to read or download Part 1 of the report. The Commission said it "will evaluate the current structure of the SLA in Part 2 of its report."

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.

What will they think of next? (October edition)

Innovation is the key word in trendy cocktail bars these days. Here are a few examples of some unusual drinks I've come across in my research to add to my monthly archival suggestions.

CALIMOCHO

This oddball quaff comes from bartender Lane Ford at Starbelly, a new San Francisco bar. He says it's based on a drink popular with young people in Spain.

6 ounces Coca-Cola
¾ ounce Carpano Antica vermouth
4 ounces of a fruit-forward, full-bodied red wine

Take a classic Coca-Cola bottle. Pour out the Coke until you have 6 ounces left. Add the Carpano Antica and wine. Place bottle in shaker filled with crushed ice. The colder it can get, the better it will taste. Bendy straw suggested.

THE BOTTOM LINE


This drink was whipped up by bartender Kevin Dietrich to win the Bärenjäger Bartending Competition in New York. He had to use the sponsor's Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur.

¾ parts Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
1½ parts Highland Park 18
1 part Manzanilla Sherry
¼ parts Cio Ciaro
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters

Add all ingredients to mixing glass, ice and stir strain into chilled cocktail glass.

GARDEN SOUR HOUR

Christian Sanders, bartender at The Living Room Bar in the W Hotel in Miami's South Beach neighborhood, came up with this drink to win Bombay Sapphire's recent "Inspired Bartender Search" at the Palms in Las Vegas.

1 1/2 parts Bombay Sapphire Gin
1/3 part Galliano liqueur
1/2 part lemon juice
1/2 part Triple Sec
1 part celery juice
1 thumbnail dill paste
2 dashes of orange bitters

Salt half the rim of the cocktail glass with cracked black pepper and Himalayan sea salt. Discard all ingredients into a Boston Shaker. Add ice to the top and shake vigorously for 5-10 seconds. Double fine-strain and garnish with a spring of dill.

[Go here for the archive of monthly "What will they think of next?" cocktail recipes.]

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Non-Alcohol Drinks Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.