In Mexico, a well-stocked bar -- behind bars

Chihuahua State Prosecutor's Office photo.
We've all heard the term "country club prison," used to describe minimum-security jails housing non-violent and sometimes celebrity prisoners. In the northern Mexican state of Chihauhua the country club prison also has a bar.

An inspection of the facility turned up, among other things, 200 cans of beer, 12 bottles of tequila, 20 bottles of vodka -- plus several pool tables and a serving bar.

Jorge Chaires of the Chihuahua state prosecutor's office said the deputy director of the prison was fired after police discovered the prison bar. Also discovered were three guns, numerous cell phones, heroin and marijuana.

This wasn't the first time the facility was found to have accumulated banned items. Three years ago, a similar police inspection collected dozens of flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, computers, cell phones, microwave ovens and other electrical goods.

Electrical items confiscated in an earlier raid.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Pittsburgh getting new micro-distillery

PITTSBURGH, PA --  The city's first distillery in nearly a century will open in the Strip District this summer.

Wigle Whiskey, a micro-distiller, will operate on the ground floor of the Pittsburgh Wool Co. building. Its owners, Eric Meyer and his father, Mark, and other family members named the whiskey after Philip Wigle, one of two men convicted of treason and sentenced to hang for his role in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.

The last legal distillery in this part of the state was the Schenley Distillery in Armstrong County which closed in the 1970s. The last distillery in the city is believed to have been Joseph S. Finch, which closed by 1920 and moved its operations to the Schenley plant after Prohibition ended.

The Wigle hanging is commemorated in the new company's label, with the rope incorporated into the name. Incidentally, the aforementioned Strip District is a popular mile-long dining and nightlife neighborhood that runs along the Allegheny River just northeast of downtown. Many of the businesses are in former warehouse and industrial buildings.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.


Chili and 'gator -- a hearty treat

Photos by Bill Dowd
I love it when a plan comes together. Especially if it creates itself.

I'd planned a leisurely few hours of making chili to start my long holiday weekend today -- peeling Vidalia onions, yellow bell peppers and crisp jalapeños, cutting up the beef, sauteeing it all in olive oil before adding garlic, beef broth and sweet vermouth, simmering for a looong slow time, then adding the dark red kidney beans and re-seasoning the concoction with a bit more thyme, basil, chili powder, salt, smoked paprika and Tabasco green sauce, then letting it all slowly marry over a very low flame until the fragrance overwhelmed us and we had to dig into a bowl.

That part went as planned. What I hadn't anticipated was the extra treat of a bottle of the latest Scotch whisky from Ardbeg, a little something called "Ardbeg Alligator," being delivered by the FedEx guy.

Since there are no alligators in Scotland, I was intrigued by this advance release. The Islay non chill-filtered single malt is aged in new, severely charred -- thus the "alligator-ing" effect -- new American white oak barrel. The resulting product is blended with "regular" Ardbeg 10 Year Old, then aged another year in refill casks before being bottled at 51.2% alcohol by volume (102.4 proof).

Don't go scrambling to your local spirits shop just yet, though. Ardberg Alligator won't be on the market until September.

Oh, why the chili? Bill Lumsden, master distiller and director of whisky creation for Arbeg, Glenmorangie and others, is so rhapsodical about the many notes and nuances of his new product -- particularly with such words as "spicy" and "barbecue sizzle" -- that I just had to pair it with a potent dish to test its strength.

How did it fare? Go to Dowd's Tasting Notes to see.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.


New Beam Devil's Cut good from the wood

CLERMONT, KY -- Mellowing in wood is a "must" for bourbon. But Devil's Cut, a new style of bourbon from Jim Beam, has taken that to a new level by extracting the whiskey from the very pores of the wood itself.

"The barrel is the soul of any bourbon. It always has been," said Fred Noe, seventh-generation Beam family distiller and great-grandson of Jim Beam. "With Devil's Cut, we're breaking new ground by unleashing that trapped bourbon from the barrel and giving people a chance to really experience that bold flavor in a way that they never have before."

Once barrels are emptied, Beam is using a proprietary process to extract the richer, darker remainder from the wood itself. That extract then is put back into extra-aged six-year Jim Beam Bourbon to create the 90 proof (45% abv) Devil's Cut.

The name Devil's Cut is a play on the term Angel's Share, which refers to the amount of spirit lost during evaporation. While it is gone, the Devil's Cut is recaptured.

Devil's Cut now is being rolled out in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Ohio, North Carolina and Oregon, and will go nationwide in the summer.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

June is teatime, sometimes with a kick

I love tea. Not that frou-frou flower petal sort of tea, but real, honest, potent tea.

I drink tea year-round -- a mug or two in the morning instead of coffee (for which I never developed a taste) and several glasses of iced tea during the remainder of the day. I even like the rapper/actor Ice T on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," despite the fact he misspells "iced."

Now, The Tea Council of the U.S.A. has decreed June "National Iced Tea Month," which is OK with me. I long-ago declared the other 11 months the same.

For those who like to avoid the powder-based iced tea too often encountered at restaurants too lazy to make real tea, The Tea Council suggests using this method:

• For small quantities, bring fresh cold tap water to a full, rolling boil. Use 50% more tea than if you were preparing hot tea to allow for dilution by ice. For example, use 1½ teaspoonfuls of loose tea or 1½ tea bags per 5-to-8-ounce cup of water. Pour the boiling water over the tea. Brew 3-5 minutes. If you prefer your tea less strong, add more water after brewing. Pour over ice.

• For large quantities, prepare a concentrate as follows: Bring one quart of cold water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add 8-10 tea bags per quart of brewed tea desired. Steep 3-5 minutes and add ice cubes. To serve, pour into tall glasses filled with ice, garnish and sweeten as desired. For extra flavor add your favorite fruit, such as lemons, limes or even strawberries or peaches.

However, some of us also like our tea with a bit of a kick. A number of distillers have created tea-infused spirits, such as Absolut Wild Tea Vodka, UV Sweet Green Tea Vodka, Southern Comfort Sweet Tea Cocktail (a ready-to-drink beverage), Burnett's Sweet Tea Vodka, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and others.

Another alternative is to whip up a cocktail I created a number of years ago and have shared several times in print and online. Here it is once again:


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.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.


Esquire's best bar list welcomes newcomers

Esquire magazine's 6th annual Best Bars In America list is anything but a salute to tradition. This year, it consists of bars that, for the most part, are less than two years old.

The just-released list was curated by David Wondrich, the magazine's drinks writer.

Wondrich, incidentally, has a chapter in my upcoming whiskey anthology "Barrels and Drams," to be released in September by Sterling Publishing.

The list:
  • The Thirsty Crow, Los Angeles
  • Painkiller, New York City
  • Maison Premiere, Brooklyn
  • Spirit of 77, Portland, Oregon
  • Comstock Saloon, San Francisco
  • Cure, New Orleans
  • Bar Congress, Austin, Texas
  • The Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas
  • The bar at Sra. Martinez, Miami
  • The Drawing Room, Chicago
  • The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., Philadelphia

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.


Lollipop, lollipop, oh tequila lollipop

There is no end to innovation when it comes to spirits-based treats.

One of the latest I've heard about is a $1,000 tequila lollipop.

True. The Marquis Los Cabos Resort in Mexico has begun offering the lollipop, made with Clase Azul Ultra tequila and 24 carat gold flakes. The resort says it is the world’s most expensive tequila lollipop. Considering I know of no central registry for such facts, I can't argue with the claim.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

The case of the Canadian Whiskey fungus

A scanning electron microscope image (500X) of the mold.
From Wired magazine.

The air outside a distillery warehouse smells like witch hazel and spices, with notes of candied fruit and vanilla -- warm and tangy -- mellow. It's the aroma of fresh cookies cooling in the kitchen while a fancy cocktail party gets out of hand in the living room.

James Scott encountered that scent for the first time a decade ago in a town called Lakeshore, Ontario. Just across the river from Detroit, Lakeshore is where barrels of Canadian Club whiskey age in blocky, windowless warehouses. Scott, who had recently completed his Ph.D. in mycology at the University of Toronto, had launched a business called Sporometrics.

Run out of his apartment, it was a sort of consulting detective agency for companies that needed help dealing with weird fungal infestations. The first call he got after putting up his website was from a director of research at Hiram Walker Distillery named David Doyle.

Doyle had a problem. In the neighborhood surrounding his Lakeshore warehouses, homeowners were complaining about a mysterious black mold coating their houses. And the residents, following their noses, blamed the whiskey. Doyle wanted to know what the mold was and whether it was the company’s fault. Scott headed up to Lakeshore to take a look.

When he arrived at the warehouse, the first thing he noticed (after "the beautiful, sweet, mellow smell of aging Canadian whiskey," he says) was the black stuff. It was everywhere—on the walls of buildings, on chain-link fences, on metal street signs, as if a battalion of Dickensian chimney sweeps had careened through town.

[Go here for the full story.]

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Guest comment: Why subsidize foreign rum?

The author is an architect who is president of kellenPROJECTS. He previously served as director of BBA Now, a coalition claiming 7 million people in support of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He also started the New York City Tea Party and is a former member of the Tea Party Patriots board of directors.

By Kellen Giuda


Earlier this week, the federal government reached the legal limits of its spending authority.

Congressman Paul Ryan and the House Republicans are stressing the point to the Obama administration that government spending must be cut. One of countless programs that can be cut is a wasteful corporate welfare program that will cost U.S. taxpayers close to $20 billion over the next 10 years.

Under the rum cover-over program, the federal government imposes a $13.50 excise tax on each gallon of rum produced in a U.S. territory and sold in the U.S. The federal government returns more than 98% of the revenue it collects from this excise tax to rum-producing territories (like the U.S. Virgin Islands) as economic aid -- and there are virtually no strings attached to how that money is spent. Recently, this program has become an even more outrageous corporate welfare scheme designed to line the pockets of foreign companies at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration confirmed a new loophole in the program that not only increases the program’s cost from $700 million a year to nearly $2 billion a year but also puts in jeopardy the jobs and competitiveness of corn growers and distilleries throughout the Midwest.

In 2008, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) entered a 30-year agreement (renewable for up to 60 years) with the British alcohol firm Diageo. In return for relocating its rum production facility to the USVI island of St. Croix, Diageo will receive almost half of the Virgin Islands' rum tax money, a 90% income tax break, and a property tax exemption. The government will also build Diageo a new state-of-the-art distillery and guarantee — subsidize — sugar prices (sugar is a key ingredient in rum) for the next 60 years. The deal could be worth well over $6 billion to Diageo.

And it’s getting worse.

[Go here for the full commentary.]

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

There's something about vodka

These three news-budget items popped up today in sequence during a Google Alerts search for news involving vodka.

State police search for suspects in vodka theft

State police said they are looking for four people who stole $133.96 worth of vodka from a Summit Township liquor store on Wednesday night. Police said the theft happened at the Wine and Spirits shop at 7200 Peach St. at about 8:30 pm, when a man and ...

Three accused of fleeing Orono store after vodka theft
Bangor Daily News

ORONO, Maine — Police arrested three people late last week after they reportedly fled from the Orono Thriftway Food Center with a stolen bottle of Absolut vodka. Arrested were Hillary Reeder, 19, of Bangor, who was charged with theft ...

Man hides vodka in pants, and more

A 50-year-old homeless man was arrested at 1:17 pm May 12 on the 500 block of Metropolitan Way and charged with theft after he hid two bottles of vodka in his pants and walked out of the ...

These items, by the way, can't compete with the recent news about actor/drinks promoter Dan Aykroyd's vodka loss.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

A cocktail and a bite, all in one

A gin cocktail napkin.
Wine snobs love to use words such as "thick" and "chewy" when they describe a wine. Now, some innovative mixologists are making such words literally applicable to spirits-based goodies.

TodayFOOD has a roundup of "5 Cocktails You Can Eat" that includes such unusual items as a cocktail napkin made of gin, nitrogen-poached aperitifs, fashion ice, a gel-covered cocktail, and even those familiar old Jell-O shots.

My favorite is the gin napkin, which came about as a result of an accident at Rogue 24 in Washington, DC, when a bartender was trying to concoct an alcohol foam to place over food and things went awry.

You can get the lowdown on all of these items online.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Maryland hikes taxes on all alcohol

From The Washington Post

ANNAPOLIS, MD -- In a budget season filled with controversies over taxes, deficits and cuts across the country, Maryland just took a historic step: The General Assembly passed and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the first increase in beer and wine taxes in 38 years, and the first increase in distilled spirits taxes in 55 years.

The case for the new alcohol tax -- a 3-percentage-point addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax -- was strong. It will save lives, prevent crime and help to avert thousands of cases of alcohol abuse or dependence. It will also raise at least $85 million in revenue a year. In the first year, these funds will be used to restore much-needed services for people with developmental disabilities, shore up school budgets and support school maintenance and repairs. In future years, the funds can be used to support expanded access to health care; services for people with developmental disabilities or mental health needs; alcohol, tobacco and other drug-use prevention and treatment, and health-care worker training.

Every year, numerous states try to raise their alcohol taxes, and few succeed. Efforts were made in at least 23 states in 2010; none succeeded.

[Go here for the full story.]

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Celebri-quote: Carine Roitfeld

Carine Roitfeld, 55, who in a controversial move recently quit as editor-in-chief of French Vogue, spoke about her roots and her drinking preferences during a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times of London.

Q: What do you like to drink?

A: "What do you like to drink? Vodka? Me, I don’t have vodka at lunch. It will be around 8 p.m. when I go home that I will have a little shot. It’s my Russian roots."

Q: What about champagne?

A: "A problem at fashion parties” [so before she goes out she will have a shot of vodka to ensure she arrives in a good mood.]

[Go here for more celebrity quotes.]

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.


KY's Glenmore Distillery reclaims its name

OWENSBORO, KY -- The former Barton Brands Ltd. is now officially The Glenmore Distillery again.

The distillery was purchased by The Sazerac Company in 2009. The Glenmore Distillery bottles such brands as Mr. Boston, Fleischmann, Firefly Ready-To-Drink Cocktails, 99 Brand and Chi-Chi’s, among others.

Since the Sazerac purchase two years ago, the company has spent $2 million dollars in capital investments for the facility, including new machinery and storage tanks. In addition, it has moved the bottling of several brands from other facilities there to take advantage of Glenmore’s modern bottling facility, resulting in the addition of a second shift.

Mark Brown, president and CEO of Sazerac Company, said, "We are even discussing a long term plan to add tours of The Glenmore Distillery ... which will bring in even more revenue in the community through tourism dollars. This site, linked with our tour operations at our distilleries in Bardstown [Barton 1792 Distillery, which just opened a visitor center] and Frankfort [Buffalo Trace Distillery] will make quite an interesting bourbon trek for bourbon fans and historians.”

The Glenmore Distillery has been a fixture in the Owensboro Community since the late 1800s. Originally called the Monarch Distillery, James Thompson re-named it The Glenmore Distillery after the Glenmore Castle near his birthplace in County Derry, Northern Ireland. During Prohibition, the distillery was one of just four distilleries in the country allowed to operate on a limited scale "for medicinal necessity."

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.


Skinny Girl adds face-saving cocktails

The Skinny Girl logo.
People have many reasons for drinking. Usually not among them are thoughts of slowing the aging process or clearing up their complexion.

At Skinny Girl, that is precisely what the intent is with its new line of cocktails made by Scott-Vincent Borba, a maker of the "skingestibles" line of anti-aging food and drinks.

The brand, created by Bethenny Frankel of the pseudo-reality TV show "The Real Housewives of New York City," usually pushes its products as being health-conscious. This latest one promises a facial remedy.

Frenkel, a chef, mixologist and author of the best-seller "Naturally Thin," began her cocktails line with the Skinny Girl Margarita.

The new cocktails include Watermelon Kiss with vodka, which is made to even out skin tone; and Sweet Enchantment, a combination of vodka, kumquats, vitamins and minerals, meant to help control the result of overactive oil glands; Dollhouse Love, made using pore-unclogging walnut husk, pomegranate, and green tea extracts with Grey Goose vodka, cucumber, lemon, and fresh black pepper.

The cocktails have a suggested retail price of $22.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Whiskey a family affair for Maker's Mark

CEO Rob Samuels
• From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Rob Samuels is a living encyclopedia of bourbon. In conversation, he'll mix tidbits of history, being sure to note dates and names.

He should. Samuels is a scion of the bourbon industry. His family has been distilling whiskey for at least 500 years; the last three generations of Samuels have served up Maker's Mark, which, with its iconic red wax seal, has been ingrained in Kentucky's sense of identity since the 1950s.

Yes, the man knows bourbon.
"Growing up around my grandparents, I live it," said the 36-year-old Samuels. "It's 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was just fun for me to spend my summers here. … I worked every job — from working at the still to hosting visitors."

There was only one job left, and in April, Samuels landed it: CEO of Maker's Mark, to replace his father, Bill Samuels Jr., an outsized figure in the whiskey industry and a Louisville business leader.

[Go here for the full story.]

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Jack Daniel's changes bottle, label

Original (left) vs. the newcomer
Fewer words, sharper corners, flat domestic sales. That's the story for Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee whiskey.

The Lynchburg, TN, distiller is in the process of rolling out a new bottle shape and less-cluttered label for its iconic whiskey.  The change comes on the heels of a year of flat U.S. sales, although international sales did rise.

The old packaging had been around for a decade, although the square bottle had been in use since 1895 except for a brief post-World War II period when glass shortages led to use of round bottles. Inside, the whiskey remains the same.

The new bottles already have been delivered to Florida vendors, with New York State being added this week and nationwide rollout during the summer with overseas markets affected in the fall.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.


BAMA Vodka goes big on relief effort

Donating a percentage of your business's profit from a certain day or two is commonplace in America when it comes to lending a hand to those in need. BAMA Vodka has raised the bar.

The Tuscaloosa, AL, distiller has pledged to donate all its May and June profits to those in need after the devastating storms that ripped Alabama on April 27.

In an announcement, the company said, "A minimum of $1 for each bottle of BAMA Vodka sold in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama will be donated to local tornado relief efforts.

"Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones. We express our deepest sympathies and prayers to everyone who has been impacted by this storm and BAMA Vodka is pleased to be able to assist in the recovery efforts."

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Barton Distillery opens new visitor center

Cutting the ribbon to open the Barton 1792 Distillery Visitor Center in Bardstown, KY. L-R, Chuck Braugh, former plant manager; Mark Brown, president and CEO, Sazerac Co.; Gov. Steve Beshear; Johnnie Colwell, VP/Operations, and Ken Pierce, master distiller.
BARDSTOWN, KY -- Tourists will find the Barton Brands of Kentucky operation here a lot more accessible after the official opening of a visitor Center at the Barton 1792 Distillery.

The 1,000 square foot facility containing branded "1792 Distillery" merchandise and a tasting bar. It also serves as the base of operations for the distillery's tours, which have been enhanced with new areas to view.

Visitors now taking the tour can learn about the history of the 130-plus year-old-distillery, see the area where the grain is received, plus the hammermill and the still used in making its bourbons. The complete tour will wend its way through the aging-barrel warehouse, the bottling hall and the finished-products storage warehouse.

"We're proud to say that we have, despite the challenging economic environment, significantly increased our investment in the distillery, hired additional staffing and committed to keeping this vital industry alive in this part of the state," said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer for Sazerac, which owns the Barton 1792 Distillery.

Sazerac purchased the former Tom Moore Distillery from Constellation Spirits in 2009 and has since heavily invested in renovating the site to making it visitor and tour-friendly. The facility employs nearly 200 people.

The new visitor center is projected to bring in 10,000 tourists to the region its first year. It will be open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours start every hour on the hour. The last tour is at 3 Monday through Friday and 2:00 on Saturday. Entrance to the Visitor Center is at 501 Cathedral Manor (31 E-New Haven Road). Phone: (866) 239-4690.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Cracking the case of Crystal Head

Aykroyd at a vodka promotion.
In an amazing coincidence of timing which I, for one, refuse to look at in a suspect light as perhaps, mind you just perhaps, a publicity gimmick, actor/booze seller Dan Aykroyd has reported the theft of 21,000 bottles of his Crystal Head Vodka from his California warehouse.

Meanwhile, in what I am absolutely convinced beyond any shadow of suspicion is an unrelated development, Aykroyd and colleagues are pushing the DVD release of his "Yogi Bear" animated film.

In a statement, Aykroyd says, "My partners and I are sorry to lose this much vodka to theft and do not condone criminal activity in any fashion, but we are happy that some consumers will be afforded the opportunity of tasting it at significantly lower than retail price."

The heist is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Unconfirmed reports say at least one theory involves an ursine character with a record of theft of edibles and drinkables, usually contained in a pic-a-nic basket.

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.


Drinking smart for Cinco de Mayo

A confession: I never got wasted on tequila in college.

A follow-up confession: I never got wasted on tequila any time.

Reason: Most of those people who automatically equate drinking tequila with getting sick, drunk or s---faced in general do so because (a) when they were in college drank only crap that was affordable for students, (b) had/have no self restraint, or (c) are only parroting what they have heard other people say.

Tequila is a noble, romantic, delicious spirit, made from the juice of roasted blue agave plants. The first time I walked into a tequila distillery in the Mexican state of Jalisco, I was struck by the light floral fragrance that permeated the facility. Rather than becoming a quickly forgotten moment such as the first time I entered a whiskey distillery or a brewery or a winery, the experience heightened my appreciation for the many nuances of tequila.

So, here we are on the eve of Cinco de Mayo, a date known mostly in non-Mexican neighborhoods as a time to party and drink. (It actually is a Mexican civic holiday held on May 5 to commemorate the Mexican army's upset victory over French soldiers at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.)

To help those who wish to celebrate with a purely Mexican spirit, here are a few cocktail recipes that might bring pleasure without bad behavior.

Jalapeño Cucumber Margarita

8 1/8-inch slices of jalapeño pepper
8 1/8-inch slices of cucumber
1/4 cup sugar
8 oz. Cointreau or orange juice
10 oz. blanco or silver tequila
Juice from 2 limes
4 lime wedges
Large ice cubes
Kosher salt

Using a mortar and pestle, grind 4 slices jalepeño, 4 slices cucumber into 1/4 cup sugar. Pour mixture into a shaker. Add tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Fill shaker with ice and shake heavily.

Rub rim of 4 highball glasses with lime wedges and coat with salt. Fill with ice. Give the shaker one more shake and strain contents into each glass. Garnish with jalapeño and cucumber slices. Serves four.

Jalisco Breeze

2 oz. 100% agave tequila blanco
1/2 oz. Pama pomegranate liqueur
Juice of one-half fresh lime
1 1/2 oz. ginger ale
In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila, Pama and lime juice with fresh ice.

Shake vigorously over fresh ice in an old-fashioned tumbler, top off with ginger ale and a slice of lime for garnish.

One Hot Minute
1¾ ounces Partida Silver Tequila
2 ounces cucumber and apple juice puree
½ ounce Lillet Blanc
¼ ounce agave nectar or simple syrup
1 teaspoon Tabasco Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce
1 cucumber
1 ounce unfiltered apple juice

To make the puree: Peel cucumber, cut into slices, place in a blender and blend into a puree. In proportion. mix equal parts of cucumber puree with unfiltered apple juice.

To make the drink: Shake all ingredients together and strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Garnish: Thin cucumber slices fanned and one chile pepper placed on the side of the glass.

• Triple Orange Margarita

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.)

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Cruzan adds its 11th flavored rum

Cruzan Rum has unveiled yet another member of its line of flavored rums, Cruzan Strawberry.

The distillery, located on the island of St. Croix in the American Virgin Islands, is producing the new flavor by using its basic rum plus cane sugar, strawberries and a touch of ginger.

Strawberry is the 11th flavor in Cruzan's portfolio. Its release coincides with May being National Strawberry Month.

Gary Nelthropp, master distiller, notes, "We developed the strawberry recipe with classic cocktails in mind. The ginger gives this spirit a subtle, spicy finish, so it breathes some new life into favorite summer drinks."

The new expression is available nationwide at a suggested retail price of $15.99.In addition to the flavored rums, Cruzan also produces spiced rum, aged light rum, aged dark rum, single barrel estate rum and black strap rum.

[Go here for my report on a visit to the Cruzan distillery on St. Croix.]

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Guides home page.

Next: George Washington's beer coming back


NEW YORK -- First we had the re-creation of George Washington's rye whiskey from his own recipe. Now we're about to have his beer formula brought back to life.

The New York Public Library, which owns the beer recipe, announced today it is teaming up with the Coney Island Brewing Company in Brooklyn to make 25 gallons to celebrate the library's centennial this year. It will be called "Fortitude's Founding Father Brew."

Unfortunately for fans of craft brews, it will not be commercially available. Fortunately, members of the public will be able to sample it on the beer on Wednesday, May 18, at Rattle 'N' Hum, a Manhattan bar, and at the library's 100th birthday gala on Monday, May 23.

The handwritten recipe is part of a collection of Washington documents housed at the library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue.

"We are thrilled to transform Washington's recipe into an even more complex and flavorful robust porter using a delicious array of the best small batch dark malts and hop varieties to produce a truly spectacular celebration for the contemporary beer connoisseur," said Jeremy Cowan, founder of Shmaltz Brewing Company, the parent of Coney Island Brewing Company.

Here's the first president's recipe "To Make Small Beer" (letters in parentheses have been added for clarity):

Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses (sic) into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask—leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working—Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."

To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Tasting Notes latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks home page.