Monday, August 24, 2009

Some new contests and other news

So I'm sitting here on a beautiful day, sipping a fantastic Rhum Clement Ti Punch in my hammock and enjoying a rather lazy day. I'm not sure that there is a rum drink more suited to a lazy day than the Ti Punch. Simple, easy and elegant and Rhum Clement is the perfect rhum agricole for this drink. Try one at home soon, you'll be quite happy that you did.

In other news, its come to my attention that Tabasco is now marketing a tequila. I know almost nothing about Tabasco tequila, but I have to admit, I'm slightly intrigued and perhaps a bit worried about how this might taste. I'll let you know if I ever get the opportunity to taste it.

Next up, I received some Black Box wine recently. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical about drinking New Zealand sauvignon blanc from a box and was actually planning on using it for cooking, but I poured myself a glass and I'm glad I did. I'm not going to tell you that this is world class wine. Its not. But its good table wine and perfectly acceptable for a weeknight dinner. I still prefer my wine in bottles, and I don't see it being a prejudice that I overcome soon, so I probably won't be buying this wine the next time I'm at the grocery store but I'm glad to have tried it.

The first contest up is a pretty easy one open to everybody. Martini & Rossi is celebrating the launch of their new Martini & Rossi Rose (I can't tell you how it is, I haven't had the chance to taste it). Long story short, you fill out a simple online form for the chance to win a NYC Spa vacation for you and 3 of your friends. The estimated retail value is over 8k and there are lots of 2nd and 3rd prize options as well. Hurry up though as the deadline for entry is the 31st of August. Enter at

Next up, one of my favorite liqueurs, Benedictine is celebrating its 500th anniversary. To celebrate, they David Wondrich choosing some new Benedictine creations for inclusion in stand alone cocktail guide and the grand prize is a personal stand alone profile in the March issue of Esquire magazine. I don't have a deadline on this one, but I always recommend hurrying up on these things. Your original Benedictine creations can be sent to Based on the info that I do have, this one looks to be industry only.

Finally, the Ultimate Cocktail for a Cure contest (open to both amateurs and pros) ends on the 31st. Make sure to get your submissions in and support this great cause.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Please excuse the link problems in the MixMo post

I've double and triple checked and the links are correct. It appears to be a Blogger issue. I'll remove this post once I know that the links are working properly again.


Monday, August 10, 2009

MxMo XLI: Vodka is Your Friend — The Kingyo No Funi Cocktail

Well, another MixMo is upon us and lets be honest, I’ve taken a lot of months off since I last participated. Why? I can blame some of it on getting ready to join the magic at Beaker & Flask, but that will only get me so far. To be honest, I’ve just had a pretty busy life recently. I’m back though, and, surprisingly, I’m participating in a MixMo focused on vodka. As our host Amelia, over at Felicia’s Speakeasy points out;

The theme of August 10th’s Mixology Monday is “Vodka is Your Friend.” The recent high profile bashings of vodka interspersed with a few weak “yeah, buts…” left me wondering, is vodka the axis of evil, our most dangerous enemy? While it may not be the life of the party, experts agree: Vodka’s obituary does not have to be written just yet....
Vodka also offers a Zen-like simplicity. Because it is relatively flavorless, using vodka as a base of a cocktail means you get to start with a blank chalkboard. Beginner’s mind. What flavor would you like to be today?

I don’t hate vodka. I really don’t. Vodka has a very long and respectable history. There are some great artisan vodkas on the market, Martin Ryan, Apia, and the cool milk and maple sugar vodkas from Vermont Spirits are all very unique and interesting spirits. Unfortunately, they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. My issue is probably more one of fatigue than it is of anything else. Vodka drinkers by and large are a pretty boring lot. I either get the businessman who wants a bone dry vodka martini shaken with blue cheese stuffed olives extra cold but with no ice chips floating in it (A- that’s not a martini buddy, that’s merely a double vodka up B- I don’t put dairy products in my martinis and you shouldn’t either and C- Shaken? Really?) or the guest who really wants to know if I take a lot of pride in my Cosmos and when I tell her that I take pride in all of the cocktails that I make, keeps turning the conversation back to Cosmos and wanting to know if it’s the best drink I make. For the record, I make a great Cosmo. Its kind of hard not to if you’ve made over 10,000 in your bartending career and even bothered to taste one or two, but its hardly a challenge and doesn’t spur the excitement that say, a sazerac order does from me. In fact, when I get bored, I’ll oftentimes ask people if they’d like to try a new juniper flavored vodka that’s just outstanding. I’ve got some great cocktails that they’ll love if they are up for it. I live for converting vodka drinkers to gin.

As for my personal tastes, I rarely if ever consume vodka. I keep the Holy Trinity of Ketel One, Grey Goose and Belvedere on hand for guests as I’ve found that as long as you have those three, your vodka drinkers will be happy. I drink about everything else, but vodka tends to collect dust around the house. That’s what makes this MixMo so interesting for me. Here is a product that I rarely ever use, and I wanted to look at vodka in a different way. Lets move on to the cocktail and I’ll expostulate on the ingredient list more afterward.

The Kingyo No Funi Cocktail

1 oz cocoa infused Ketel One vodka (more on this later)
½ oz Good Health Brand orange drinking vinegar
¼ oz Veev acai spirit
¼ oz Rum Jumbie
3 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
2 dashes Scrappy’s chocolate bitters
2 dashes Night Train bitters (more on this later too)

Build dry in a mixing glass, add ice, shake vigorously and strained into a stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

How to make cocoa infused Ketel One vodka

I’d love to take credit for this idea but I saw an article in the Sunday NY Times a few weeks back about a bartender in NYC who makes a cocoa infused tequila. What is nice about cocoa infusions are that they come out exceptionally dry which is nice as a base for cocktails. Try this recipe with bourbon too. To make cocoa infused vodka, simply take 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa (I think I used Scharffenberger) and add two 750 ml bottles of Ketel One vodka. Let steep for 72 hours, then filter through a double layer of coffee filters. This takes forever to filter through but I think you’ll like the results.

How to make Night Train bitters

1 bottle Night Train fortified wine (made by the fine people at E&J Gallo. You may have to hit skid row to find this stuff)
1 stick cinnamon
½ tsp wormwood
½ tsp orris root
½ tsp calamus root
½ tsp cassia bark
1 pinch of bayberries, crushed
1 star anise pod, crushed
1 pinch quassia

Add all ingredients to a jar, cover and keep in a cool dry place for at least 1 week. Strain out solids and bottle. Look for my Thunderbird bitters to come soon.

This cocktail actually came out very well. The fruitiness of the Rum Jumbie and the Veev are a nice counterpoint to the dry cocoa vodka. The addition of the three bitters each adds an important element, but I have to say, it’s the Night Train bitters that bring this whole thing together and provide balance and depth. While I probably won’t jump at the chance to make more vodka cocktails, I’m pretty happy with this month’s submission to MixMo and its good to be back.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Restraining orders and modified Palomas and other notes

So I've been amiss in writing recently. Its more because of some weird personal things that have been going on than anything else. For the first time in my life, I appeared in court to ask a judge for a restraining order. In fact, its not even a regular restraining order but instead a Stalking Protective Order that I received against a perfect stranger. I don't want to go into much detail, this individual has already pushed himself into too much of my life as it is, but let me say that things were pretty scary for a while there. Anyway, things are finally starting to get back to normal after the last few weeks, so I'll be writing a lot more.

As for this heat, its been pretty brutal in Portland recently. I've taken to drinking a modified Paloma with Seco Herrerano instead of tequila as the base liquor. If you aren't familiar with Seco Herrerano, its the national drink of Panama, essentially a neutral cane spirit. It tastes almost exactly like vodka but with a bit of a distinctive cane sugar blast right at the end. Anyway, it works really well in a modified Paloma in this heat. Unless you live in New York or Miami, you probably won't find Seco Herrerano in your local liquor store which is really too bad. There is definitely a market for this product here in the US.

The Modified Paloma
2 oz Seco Herrerano
1 1/2 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 1/2 oz club soda
lime wedge garnish

In a salt rimmed double rocks glass, add all ingredients. Add ice. Stir to mix, garnish with lime wedge.

I'm also thinking about gin a lot these days. I just found out yesterday that I have a recipe featured in Gary Regan's newest book, "The Bartenders Gin Compendium". I have to say, I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.

In other gin news, my old friend Jason Neu from Milwaukee is now consulting for Great Lakes Distillery. Their Rehorst gin sounds very interesting, what with sweet basil and Wisconsin ginseng in the botanical mix. They also have some interesting brandies and even a Pumpkin bierschnapps. An absinthe is in the works too. Perhaps I'm overdue for a trip out to the Midwest for some spirits tasting.

I've also just received some Port of Barcelona gin from the same people who make Obsello absinthe. It may take me a little while to open it though, I'm waiting for this heat to break before I do too much serious tasting and evaluating.

Finally, two other cool things are going on in my life. Next month, I'm headed to Kentucky for the Kentucky Bourbon Festiva. I cannot tell you how excited I am by the opportunity to go to Kentucky and tour some of the great distilleries there. Also, while I probably shouldn't say whom I'll be working for, I think its safe to say that I'm going to be the resident whiskey writer for a pretty major website. Once that really starts to roll, I'm going to have to drop whiskey related posts off of this site and focus on everything else instead. Lastly, I also just picked up about 10 American whiskies that were released right after the repeal of Prohibition. Once I get everything set up and going on the new website, look for my upcoming reviews of these whiskies. I've got a lot of long lost brands and some American classics, including some George Dickel from 1937. It should be pretty interesting.