Wednesday, October 1, 2008
2 for 1 Product Review- Hiram Walker Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice Liqueurs
Hiram Walker is not a brand that I usually use. In fact, I haven't carried Hiram Walker in any of my bars in years. I've always considered it a middle of the road brand, more of a fit for your neighborhood tavern or college bar than a good craft bar. In fact, the last time I had to use anything from Hiram Walker, I was at a photoshoot and I threw a temper tantrum because the hosts were trying to substitute Hiram Walker Pear Schnapps for my requested Clear Creek Pear Brandy and the schnapps had turned my cocktail kryptonite green.
Today, I got a couple of samples of product from Hiram Walker. I opened a box and inside was a bottle of Gingerbread Liqueur and a bottle of Pumpkin Spice liqueur.
First up, Pumpkin Spice liqueur. The moment I cracked the bottle the aroma of pumpkin spices floated through the air. My wife, smelling this blind identified pumpkin spice immediately. So far so good. I can't day that I am a fan of the color though, its definitely colored to resemble pumpkin, but being a purist, I'd really rather have a clear liqueur versus something that will get muddy looking pretty quickly once you start throwing other ingredients into a mixing tin with it. Upon tasting, it starts with a pronounced banana bread flavor before moving to pumpkin spices, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and clove. The flavors do not linger, this disappeared off my palate within seconds. The nice thing about the spice profile is that it really hides any alcohol burn making this a very smooth and light liqueur. I wish there was a little more mouthfeel, I do prefer my liqueurs to have a bit more viscosity but overall this is an interesting product. I envision this working really well in a hot drink with steamed milk or as a fall milkshake style cocktail. Add some vanilla ice cream, half and half, some ice and blend this up for an easy, sweet fall cocktail.
Next up, I moved onto the Gingerbread Spice liqueur.I really enjoyed the nose on this, its definitely got a gingerbread, cinnamony nose to it. This actually reminded me of last Christmas eve, watching my sisters in law put together gingerbread houses as the whole house was filled with a wonderful gingerbread aroma. As for flavor, the gingerbread liqueur is more complex than the pumpkin spice, perhaps the nature of gingerbread alone has something to do with this, but this was my clear favorite of the two. I still had some issues with mouthfeel, again, this tasted a little light, I prefer some viscosity in my liqueurs and again these flavors drop off the palate within seconds after drinking. And also, both of these liqueurs are very sweet, Still, I can mix with this gingerbread liqueur, in fact, the moment I tasted it I started to think about rye whiskey. I think the spiciness of rye with the gingerbread liqueur will be a great match and for some reason I really want to mix this with grapefruit juice too. I don't think that I'll put rye, gingerbread liqueur and grapefruit juice together though. Hmm. I'm starting to get thirsty...
Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised by these two products from Hiram Walker. They aren't a fit for every bar, but they offer a better and fresher flavor profile than I would have imagined. I'm not going to be putting these behind the bar at 50 Plates next week, but I will continue to play with the samples and I have a lot of friends who bartend in taverns that will welcome having some very autumn flavors to offer their guests that will be easy for them to mix. Perhaps Hiram Walker should develop a premium line (Hiram, by Hiram Walker. Wait, that sounds like perfume). If so, these two liqueurs would be a good jumping off point for them, with some small tweaks to each, both of these could be invaluable additions to a craft bartenders repetoire. As it is, I will be discussing these Hiram Walker products with both customers looking for unique cocktail ideas for the holidays and tavern bartenders looking for an easy yet tasty new drink to introduce to their customers.