Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Scots Love Their Contests

Okay, I don't actually know whether or not those of Scottish decent have a proclivity for contests, but I did happen to stumble upon a couple of interesting booze related contests both rooted in Scottish products.

The first Scottish booze product, you can probably guess. It's called scotch -- specifically, a brand new 40 year single malt from Highland Park, a Highland island (not Islay) distillery in Orkney (right off the northern coast of Scotland). Anyway, Whisky Magazine is having a contest wherein they're giving away a bottle of the prized 40 year old, which Highland Park claims will be part of the permanent line-up rather than a limited release. The bottle is retailing at £899, which I can only assume is a great sum of cash (a little over $1,600, but who's counting). The cheapest I've found it is at Loch Fyne Whiskies where they're letting it go for a scant £638.30 (you can do the math on this one). The point is, I can't afford it and, most likely, neither can you. So enter the contest already. And if you win, perhaps you could offer a wee dram to your favorite booze blogger. Don't bother clicking it, it's just me.

The other contest, while not as boozy, has an equally boozy source, Hendrick's Gin. Extra points if you somehow saw this as the next obvious Scottish liquor. Their website, The Unusual Times is giving away a fittingly unusual musical instrument, the theremin. If you're not familiar, there's a link to a nice video on the contest website. I personally prefer this video though:

If somebody wins this, I'll also be expecting a wee dram. You heard me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Alaskan Brewing Company

So, it's about time I write a little something about the cruise to Alaska and, of course, the booze involved. While our pub tour in Victoria was canceled, we did still get to thoroughly enjoy our trip to Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau. We were encouraged to grab a sample beer (or our second) so that we could start the tour. I was also pleased that our guide gave an intermission during the tour specifically so we could refill our glasses.

In addition to all their mainstay brews (and the seasonal Summer Ale), we also were able to taste their coffee brown ale. That's right, a brown ale brewed up with a healthy dose of real coffee. While not a huge coffee fan, I am a brown ale fan. And having been disappointed previously by such travesties as raspberry brown ales, I was a little wary of the concept. I must say, though, that I was very pleasantly surprised, and I hope that this tasty brew will be available outside of Juneau, Alaska shortly. As a fan of mixology and beer, seeing craft breweries creating products like this makes me very happy. It's just sad that, not unlike other quality forms of booze, the demand (while growing) is still rather low. Still, if you're ever in the area, for whatever reason, stop on by the brewery. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Second Greatest Cocktail of All Time -- The Sazerac

The title is, of course, a matter of personal taste. There are, however, many cocktailians and mixologists who agree that the Sazerac is far too often neglected, and must be revived so that we might show others that their drinks need not be laden with Red Bull or sour mix.

The Sazerac is a superb drink, which comes to us from New Orleans. In fact, we can thank one man in particular, a Haitian pharmacist of sorts from the early 1800's named Antoine Amédée Peychaud. Along with the Old-Fashioned (which I personally consider to be the only cocktail superior to the Sazerac) is part of a very small group of the very first cocktails to ever exist (to our knowledge). It is a sad thought that we teeter on the edge of forgetting this wonderful concoction along with the others.

While the Sazerac most likely has taken its name (indirectly) from a particular brand of cognac, the original predominant spirit, it is now made with rye whiskey. In a pinch, another whiskey can be used. But this is not advised. The bitters, however, should not and cannot be substituted. Some have tried to use Angostura in the place of Peychaud's bitters, perhaps due to the difficulty of acquiring any bitters other than Angostura. However, this is no longer the case due to the internet and inexpensive nature of aromatic bitters. You no longer have an excuse. Pick up some Peychaud's wherever you can find it. See? No excuse. In fact, come to think of it, find yourself a nice bottle of rye soon thereafter. It's what the internet was built to do. Not to mention, a surprising amount of these once-hard-to-come-by ingredients are popping up at (gasp) grocery stores. Okay, enough ranting. Onto the recipe...


2 oz rye
1/2 simple syrup
1-2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1/4 oz absinthe or absinthe substitute*

The serving glass (a rocks glass for the Sazerac) is prepared by first chilling, then coating the inside with absinthe. The chilling can be done with a simple ice bath. That is, while preparing the drink in a mixing glass, fill the serving glass with ice and water. The absinthe should be applied later, although I have seen reputable Sazeracs prepared by adding the absinthe to the ice bath. I personally don't think that this imparts enough of the flavor and aroma. To do an absinthe rinse, merely place a small quantity (roughly 1/4 oz or so) in the glass and swirl it around so that it coats the entirety of the inside of the glass. Those inclined to aspects of flair bartending opt to accomplish this by turning the glass sideways and throwing it up into the air, spinning it vigorously. I'll leave this decision to you and your glassware budget. Robert Hess has an excellent idea which I have not yet tried, but sounds quite nice. Instead of a traditional absinthe rinse, he uses an atomizer to apply a few quick sprays of absinthe mist in order to coat the walls of the glass. Finally, a use for those "vermouth spritzers" which give the dry martini a bad name.

During the ice bath and before the absinthe rinse, one should prepare the bulk of the cocktail in a mixing glass. Combine the rye, simple syrup, and Peychaud's bitters with ice and stir vigorously for several seconds. Quickly, but effectively, apply the absinthe. Then strain the cocktail into the prepared rocks glass. Squeeze a piece of lemon peel over the top of the drink, but (if you're a purist) do not place the peel in the glass. If you do desire the lemon peel to rest in your drink, be certain not to include any of the bitter white pith. You'll notice that this drink, despite being served in a rocks glass, has no ice in the finished product. This will cause the glass to be far from full. Resist the urge to add ice or anything else to your Sazerac. Simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the second greatest cocktail of all time.

*Absinthe was at one point difficult to acquire within the United States (and many other countries). This is slowly changing as more and more countries are realizing that the rumors of absinthe's hallucinatory and highly toxic nature were far from true. If you do happen to have an absinthe substitute like Herbsaint, Pernod, etc. feel free to use it. It will still produce a highly tasty drink. However, as always, there is no complete substitute for the real thing. Perhaps, a Sazerac revival and an absinthe revival could lead each other back to our shelves. Here's hoping.

Back From Hiatus

I apologize for the recent posting dry spell. To make it up to those who drink well, I'm bringing you two consecutive postings. Enjoy.

The first is to introduce an original of mine. Let's call it the "Gimdom Cuke", paying homage to it's resemblance to a gimlet laced with a healthy dose of the fantastically herbal Bénédictine, and rounded out with the currently ever-so-trendy (yet still worthwhile) inclusion of cucumber. The dom, of course, is a reference to the initials D.O.M. which grace the bottle, and which stand for "Deo Optimo Maximo" roughly translated as "To God, most good, most great". Sorry, I needed to get something out of my classics degree. I hope I made my professors proud. Poor Latin translations aside, it is quite a tasty and well balanced drink.

Gimdom Cuke

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz Bénédictine
3-4 heaping tablespoons cucumber (don't use the skin though)

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

For a more gimmicky gimdom cuke, feel free to exaggerate the cuke-ness by substituting for the cocktail glass, a vessel carved from the cucumber itself. Simply slice off one tip, close enough to the end that there will be no seeded portions for the drink to slowly drip through. This will be the base of the glass, which will end up shaped vaguely like a Collins glass. If you wish to make a cucumber stemmed glass, no such slice is needed. Merely, take the cucumber and very carefully stab the bottom with a plastic (or glass) stem. The next step is to decide how tall you would like your glass. At this point, slice off the rest of the cucumber. Use a knife or spoon to carefully hollow out an appropriately sized section of the cucumber. The flesh that you've scooped out should be more than sufficient for the cucumber which will be used as an ingredient. Be sure to not puncture, even in the slightest, through the bottom of the glass. This is a surprisingly easy mistake to make during your first time creating this glass.

Whether you use the gimmicky glass outlined here, a standard cocktail glass, or even throw the libation into a rocks glass, be sure to thoroughly enjoy it -- and to thank God for giving us those nice monks who make our booze. Amen.