Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crispin Cider Cocktail Contest

This one ends at midnight on Fathers Day so be quick about it!

The Crispin Cider Company of Minneapolis is inviting aspirant and expert mixologists and hard cider fans to create the next great Crispin cocktail. The clean-finishing, natural apple flavor of Crispin plays well with almost anything — the possibilities are both numerous and refreshingly delicious.

Summer’s around the corner, so we’re particularly looking for refreshing cocktails that complement either a backyard BBQ or a sophisticated restaurant meal.
Enter in one or both of the following categories:
Lazy Bartender — The most creative two-pour cocktail. That means Crispin + one other beverage + serving suggestion + an optional garnish.
Creative Mixology — Anything goes.
The winner of each category receives a $75 gift certificate to MGM Liquor stores. Two runners up will receive Crispin Gift Bags.
Submit up to two recipes for the next great Crispin cocktail by midnight Sunday, June 21 to:
Rules And Other Details:
Heavy Table will publish the two winning entries and the two runners-up.
Cocktails should have a name, a list of ingredients and garnishes, instructions for how to prepare the drink, and clearly defined measurements — either a ratio, or shots / teaspoons / tablespoons / jiggers / etc.
Attach a photo of your cocktail if you wish; it’s not a requirement. Photos may be published if the submitted cocktail wins a prize.
Specify whether you’re using Crispin Original, Brut, Light, or some kind of mixture.
The contest runs from today (May 26) until midnight Sunday, June 21.
A winner will be announced in early July.
Crispin Cider Company & Heavy Table staffers are not eligible

Naked Grouse Blended Scotch Debuts

In Minneapolis of all places. Has anyone tasted Naked Grouse? I'm dying to, as I like the Famous Grouse quite a bit. And to be honest, with a name like Naked Grouse, I think you are in the same territory as Sheep Dip, Pig's Nose and Monkey Shoulder (another one I'd love to try someday) with a distinctive name thats rather unusual. I understand that Naked Grouse is aimed at the Johnnie Walker Black segment of the market, the upscale blended scotch drinkers. I'm intrigued if nothing else... Best of luck to them.

Win the Ultimate ManCave with 1800 Tequila

Ok, I don't usually shill for contests, but two have come to my attention that are pretty cool. First off, 1800 Silver Select Tequila has a very easy and cool contest to win $10,000 to outfit your ultimate ManCave. Imagine, 10k to buy a great stereo system, big screen tv, game system, big couches and a nice supply of 1800 Tequila. I already entered, it just takes a minute and you can find the entry screen here.

Dear Dalmore

To my friends at the Dalmore,

Please forgive me for listing the price of the Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III (not the easiest name btw) as $250 rather than the correct price of $200. The fact that I did this twice leads me to believe that perhaps the fault is not my own and in fact that you are selling a great whisky too cheaply. Perhaps I am wrong. Feel free to send some more and I will very happily go about retasting this beautiful dram in an attempt to make a final determination as to what I think the proper price point should be. As it is, I will be tearing the house apart, rooting for spare change in between the seats of the couch, raiding my rainy day fund, and offering to mow the neighbors yards in an attempt to acquire enough funds to buy as much of this fine spirit as I can before you come to your senses and raise the price point of your whisky.

Your friend,


Monday, June 15, 2009

Fathers Day Gift Guide- Luxury Spirits

Its been a tough year for most people. Your fathers 401k probably tanked like everyone elses, but he has less time to make it up before retirement. Or maybe he is upside down in his mortgage because of the mess that it. Whatever it is, there are times in life when a truly great spirit or wine will let him know just how much you care about him. After all, he probably coached your little league team, taught you how to drive a car and might have just put you through college as well. Isn't he worth it? With this Fathers Day approaching quickly, here are my favorite luxury spirits and wines. I've personally tasted each of these, and any of these would make a wonderful gift. As I'm focusing on luxury spirits and wines right now, I'm only looking at products that have a retail cost of $100 or more. I'll be covering more affordable options later this week.

Cognac & Cognac Based Spirits

Hennessy Richard Hennessy (approximately $2000) is perhaps the finest cognac made. A blend of over 100 eaux de vie, Richard Hennessy shows the complexity, rancio and staggeringly long finish to be expected from a cognac of this provenance. Can't afford $2000 for Dad? Try the Hennessy Paradis (around $500) or XO (around $125) for excellent luxury cognacs at a more affordable price point. Both are excellent cognacs, the Paradis in particular is one of my favorites.

Remy Martin Louis XIII (about $1700) is another top tier cognac. I get a lot of leather and tobacco notes with this spirit, and, perhaps a shade more spice than the offerings from Hennessy. Remy XO also offers bang for the buck with a $150 price tag for one of the finest XO cognacs in existence.

Martell L'Or (approximately $1200) may be the best value among top tier cognacs, offering a wonderfully intense and long finishing spirit for the price. Martell XO (approx $140) also makes a wonderful gift for the Father who enjoys good cognac.

Grand Marnier Cuvee Du Centenaire (approx $135) is a wonderful after dinner accompaniment with candied orange and tea spices on the finish, but even more impressive is the Cuvee Du Cent Cinquantenaire (approx $225). The Cuvee Du Cent Cinquantenaire is one of my favorite spirits of any sort. Outstanding cognac mixed with the finest oranges from Haiti, the finish on this lasts 15 minutes plus. Perhaps the best value in the spirits world today.


Partida Elegante (approx $340) is an outstanding extra anejo tequila. This is perfect just being sipped neat and one of the greatest tequilas ever produced.

Don Julio Tequila Real (approx $320) is another outstanding extra anejo tequila. This spirit comes in a beautiful bottle that is a work of art both inside and out. Father who enjoy good tequila shouldn't be denied the opportunity to try this one.

North American Whiskies

Hirsch 22 yo Rye Whiskey- (approx $120) My second favorite rye whiskey, this is a memorable and delicious rye whiskey. Hard to find, but worth the effort.

Pappy Van Winkle 's Family Reserve 20 and 23 year ($200+ if you can find them)- All I can say is that if your Father likes American whiskeys and you come across a bottle of this, jump on it. Extremely rare but I've tasted both offerings and they are simply incredible.

Canadian Club 30 year (approx $250) is simply one of the best spirits I've ever tasted. The finest example of Canadian whisky in existence.

Single Malt Whiskies

Suntory Yamazaki 18 year old (approx $120) is an oustanding introduction to the world of Japanese single malts and a delicious dram that will be appreciated this Fathers Day.

The Dalmore King Alexander III (approx $200)- Master Distiller Richard Paterson's masterpiece, finished in a variety of woods, this is a heady and rich single malt.

Ardmore 30 year ($450)- This and the CC 30 rank as the two finest whiskies I've ever tasted. Brilliant.

Macallan 1841 (approx $200) is an excellent dram and an interesting piece of history. Light and silky, with orange and pear notes, this might be the perfect gift for Fathers interested in the evolution of single malts.

Balvenie 25 year old (approx $400) is a wonderfully honeyed dram and a fine example of one of the better Highlands malts.

Highland Park 25 (approx $250) is another Highland malt that I just adore. Complex, with apricot, currants and some smoke to it, this has a wonderfully long finish and is a great nightcap.

While I am sure there are many other luxury brands out there that deserve consideration, this represents a few of the better brands that I've tasted and enjoy. I should perhaps add Ardbeg Airh Nam Beist,Glenmorangie Signet, Johnnie Walker Blue and Dewars Signature as well, but time and space constraints are preventing me (lets just note that I enjoy all four). Any of these brands would make a very special gift this Fathers Day, and I hope that this luxury guide makes some of your purchasing decisions easier.

The Whiskies I'm Drinking Right Now

Of course, not all at once, but here is what I'm enjoying right now. To be completely honest, I've been on more of a single malt scotch and Canadian whisky run recently although I love my bourbon. Here is what is getting consumed in my liquor cabinet right now. This is not a complete listing of my whiskies, just the ones that I'm into for the moment.

Irish Whiskey
Michael Collin's Single Malt- All I can say is WOW. I really enjoy this with just a single cube of ice while I'm waiting for the bbq to heat up. I get a lot of honeysuckle out of this whiskey which just seems to match perfectly with a warm spring evening.

Kilbeggan- I want to thank Siobhan over at Imbibe Magazine for this recommendation. A beautiful example of a blended Irish whiskey for an exceptional price.

Redbreast Pot Still 12 year- Delicious stuff, I'm rationing this out pretty slowly as I'm afraid I'll run through it too quickly.

Canadian Whisky

Canadian Club- Much better than I remember it being. Perfect for mixing.

Canadian Club 12- More complex than the standard CC offering, I've started using this for some Manhattans.

Canadian Club 30 year- What can I say? One of the world's greatest spirits.

Crown Royal Special Reserve- As far as I'm concerned, this is the best offering from Crown Royal. Delicious.

Blended Scotch

Black Bottle- All the single malts of Islay in a blend? Consider me sold.

Dewars 12 year- An excellent blended scotch, especially considering the price. I'd really like to get my hands on a bottle of Aberfeldy, the single malt at the heart of Dewars to see what its like on its own.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label- I don't drink it often, but its terrific. And no, I won't share. This is my private stash.

Single Malts

Suntory Yamazaki 18- I'm truly amazed by the quality of this single malt. It has me ready to explore Japanese single malts much more in depth. One of my favorite drams.

Arran Single Barrel Bourbon Cask Finish- A very appealing dram from Scotland's newest distillery. I'm excited about Arran's future.

The entire Ardbeg line (except Supernova)- I have tried and tried but have yet to get my hands on the Supernova. As it is, Ardbeg is my favorite distillery in Scotland and top to bottom, I love all of their offerings.

Caol Ila 12 year- Another of my favorites, rather light for an Islay malt, but I just love the pepperiness on the palate. I love a bit of Caol Ila with food.

Laphroaig- Not for the faint of heart, a dram of Laphroaig is a perfect way to warm up after one of Portland's gray drizzly days. I'm dying to try their 25 year old release.

Ardmore 30 year- Amazing. Thats all I can say. I was worried that the wood might be too overpowering after 30 years, but this is simply one of the best spirits around. Worth every penny of its $450 price tag. Well balanced, complex and with a wonderfully creamy mouthfeel, I feel lucky to have this in the house.

The Dalmore 1263 King Alexander- A very sherried single malt. this is a rich unctuous dram thats perfect for an after dinner celebration. Don't be put off by its $200 price tag, you get what you pay for with this dram.

Highland Park 12 and 18- Highland Park is one of my favorite distilleries in Scotland. Have they ever produced even an average dram? Beautiful well balanced single malts.

Springbank 15- Another of my absolute favorites, this is an incredible single malt.

American Bourbons and Whiskies

George Dickel- Tennessee's best, this is a great session whiskey. Full of vanilla and caramel.

Hirsch 20 year- A special whiskey best savored with just a touch of water to open it up.

Buffalo Trace- Basically my house bourbon. I'm never out of Trace. Ever.

Four Roses- Another of my favorite bourbons, I'm particularly fond of their single barrel offering.

Bulleit bourbon- I love the rye content of this bourbon, it provides a wonderful spiciness that is very food friendly.

Rittenhouse rye- The 100 proof bottled in bond is my absolute favorite whiskey for making Manhattans. I've always got Rittenhouse in stock.

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey- What happens when you cross a single malt with bourbon? Stranahan's I guess. Possibly the most unique American whiskey on the market. I absolutely love Stranahan's.

I know this may look like quite a lot of whiskies for me to be enjoying right now, but remember, I am a working bartender, so I regularly sample new whiskies not only for my own edification but also to help my guests find the right spirit for them. I'm also a whiskey afficionado. If I could only choose one spirit to drink for the rest of my life, it would be whiskey. All spirits have their charms, but for me, whiskey reigns supreme.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quick and easy vegetable soup recipe

This is a really easy vegetable soup recipe that works well on a weeknight by itself or with a little salad. I like this one too because this soup tastes even better the next day. Budget an hour to make this from prep to table, but it requires very little actual effort.

Quick & Easy Vegetable Soup
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 chopped leeks, white part only
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 carrots chopped into rounds
2 diced russet potatoes
1 head broccoli, chopped
2 quarts chicken broth
2 14.5 oz cans, Hunts Fire Roasted Tomatoes (diced)
1 can corn, drained
freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley leaves (about ¼ c)
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and salt and sweat for 7 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, and broccoli and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the tomatoes, corn, and pepper. Return to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Add salt if needed.Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fathers Day Gift Guide- Absinthe

Father's Day is approaching quickly this month (the 21st for those of you not paying attention), and this year, more than ever, its important to show Dad just how much he means to you.

While I am going to be covering a lot of products in the next few weeks (gin, vodka, rum,tequila, bourbon, scotch etc), I decided to start with a rather unusual spirit, absinthe. While some people do like to enjoy absinthe on its own, I much prefer to use absinthe as an ingredient in cocktails. It plays much the same role as bitters do in a cocktail, it can provide structure and balance if used correctly. Now, absinthes aren't cheap. You aren't going to be able to buy a $20 absinthe, most run in the $60-$90 range, but a little goes a long way.

May I suggest that this year, perhaps more than any other, its time to dig a little deeper for Fathers Day. Its been a rough year and a luxury spirit that Dad can sip and savor will say more to him this year than at any other time. Isn't he worth it? There are some great values out there in the luxury spirits category (Canadian Club 30 and Ardmore 30 both come to mind) and a luxury spirit can provide some comfort and reassurance during these challenging times.

Marteau absinthe ($85) contains both petite and grand wormwood (a true rarity) and is a collaboration between Gwydion Stone and House Spirits. In my opinion, this is the most authentic and well made absinthe made in the United States. It is a great product and one of the few that I recommend for drinking traditionally.

Kubler absinthe ($62)is another of my favorites. Swiss made, this absinthe was scored the best tasting absinthe in a blind tasting of absinthes by the New York Times. A wonderful product, this mixes exceptionally well and is also good on its own.

Trillium absinthe ($60) is a great choice for mixing or sipping. At 50 Plates, Trillium is our house absinthe and gets used in everything from Corpse Reviver #2s to Sazeracs.

Leopold Brothers absinthe ($75) is a delicious absinthe that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to taste while I was in Vail Colorado for the Grand Marnier/Navan Mixology Summit.

Mata Hari absinthe ($50) from Austria bills itself as the "mixable absinthe" and I completely agree. Slightly rough when taken on its own, Mata Hari charms when used in cocktails. That very roughness adds complexity and depth to cocktails, something that I was quite surprised to taste.

Next up is vodka, and I'll have a whole range of spirit recommendations for Fathers Day this year. Just remember, this is the year to really show Dad just how much he means to you and a luxury spirit is the perfect gift this year.