Visit my latest project, The World Cocktail Brain, now hosted at The WCB is a new way to expand your cocktail knowledge, discover new recipes, find cocktail facts and more in a dynamic, new viewing environment. It may take a few seconds to load, but it's worth waiting for! Click on this link to open The World Cocktail Brain in new tab/window. Click on this link to open My Blog Roll embedded in The World Cocktail Brain.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Champing at the bit – sparkling wines under $20 for your 2012 New Year’s celebration

Even in Salt Lake City it’s time to get ready for the champagne occasion of the year: New Year’s Eve.  Wine connoisseurs and most card carrying cocktailians are all aware that real (capital “C”) Champagne comes only from France.  The French discourage others from using the appellation “Champagne” on their sparkling wines, and many of the quality wineries (especially those who wish to sell their wines in France) comply, so most sparkling wines (bubbly for short) will not say “champagne” on the bottle, although some do.  Unfortunately there are few (none?) legitimate Champagnes available in the under $20 (for 750ml.) price range.  If you would like to learn more about Champagne, including the names of the big Champagne houses, check out the New York Times Champagne navigator page

For those of us on a recessionary (or depressionary) budgets who still want to celebrate with some sparkling wine, the Utah State Liquor Store system has obliged us with a great selection of American sparkling wines for under $20 with some pretty good ones for under $10.   (Those of you who live in bigger markets should be able to buy all of the wines mentioned here, although they may or may not be on sale.)  When cocktail recipes call for champagne, it’s usually more economical to use a good sparkling wine.  Drink your high quality Champagne (and high quality domestic bubblies) straight so you can appreciate them.  For champagne cocktails, like the French 75 and the Kir Royale, there are some very good sparklers under $20 (or even $10) that are ideal for mixing.  Readers should always have a bottle or two of better quality champagne around for celebrations and several less expensive bottles for mixing.  If you have a spare fridge in the basement, keep it stocked.

As usual, this post will only recommend wines from houses that have had some of their sparkling wines score at least 85 or 90 points by some well-known rating service like Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast.  Although quality will vary year to year with the vintage, etc., it’s safe to assume that these winemakers know what they are doing and will turn out a good product.  That means that while individual wines mentioned here may not have been rated (or not rated high enough to brag about), you will be buying a reliable product and not junk wine.

Under $20
Before we get into the real bargains, lets look at the bubblies that price out closer to $20. Gloria Ferrer makes some excellent sparkling wines that are among my favorites.  Although not on sale this month (that’s a shame) their Blanc de Noirs ($18) and Brut ($17) have both been highly rated by multiple rating services.  Domaine Chandon is another producer of highly rated bubbly in our price range.  Their Brut is on sale this month for $16, and Chandon Blanc de Noirs, while not on sale, is good at $19.  Rated only a couple of points lower is Mumm Napa’s Brut, on sale this month for $19. 

Around $10 and less
Korbel used to be the best of the budget bubblies, their Brut has been rated respectably in the mid-eighties and is on sale this month ($10.5), as are several other of their sparklers, a sweet Rosé (great in a JTJ Cocktail) and a Chardonnay among them.  Now, however, they have some competition in their price range.  Domaine Ste Michelle, also scoring in the mid-eighties, is another bargain bubbly on sale for $10 this month.  The real bargains in this price range, however, are some of the sparklers from Barefoot Bubbly.  Three Bubblies (Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay Brut, and Chardonnay Extra Dry) are all on sale for $8.  Wine Enthusiast gave one of their bubblies an 87 rating and a Top 100 Best Values award several years ago.  Barefoot Bubblies are a great value; the first time I tasted one I couldn’t believe the price.  Barefoot’s sparklers are very drinkable on their own, and are great in any champagne cocktail you might care to try.
There are some even less expensive bubblies on sale this month: André and Cook’s are on sale for as low as $4.  Needless to say, these are not among my recommendations, and so far as I know they have never been highly rated.  They can work quite well in punches or in other concoctions where “champagne” is a minority ingredient or is overpowered by the other ingredients, but my recommendation is that you avoid drinking them straight.

If you have an affinity for some other bubbly (domestic or imported) that is available for under $20, please share the information with others by adding a comment to this post. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Celebrate the New Year with the JTJ Cocktail

A special cocktail is in order for a big celebration.  Late last summer, as my daughter’s Labor Day wedding was approaching, the Utah Mixologist was in search of a signature cocktail for the reception that was to be held at the Red Pine Lodge at the Canyons Resort.  Regular readers are aware that the Utah Mixologist creates his own cocktails from time to time, and some of them are not too bad (the Rum-based Rapture and the Rye-based Rapple come to mind), but for his daughter’s wedding he wanted something really good; that meant getting a professional involved.  Finding where to find someone capable of creating a great cocktail recipe seemed like a good job for social media.  One of my Twitter friends, @LocalBonVivant, (a.k.a. Christian Schnurr in the real world) came to mind.  Christian is the bartender up in Park City, and a real professional.  He enthusiastically volunteered to develop a signature cocktail recipe for the big event and came through with a beauty!  Christian’s creation, dubbed the JTJ Cocktail (for the initials of my daughter and her (then) fiancé), was a big hit with the guests based on the bar bill I received from Canyons catering.  Everyone I saw with one loved it.

The recipe is not overly complex, making this a good candidate cocktail for your New Year’s Eve party.  This is probably a good year to go high-end on your New Year celebration since it may well be (at least according to the Mayan calendar) the last New Year’s party you ever have.  There’s a good chance you have everything you need, except perhaps the St. Germain Liqueur (CS# 066836 in limited distribution in Utah, so be sure to call ahead).  Ketel One® Vodka, a small batch hand-crafted Vodka that sells around 2 million cases a year (seems a little contradictory, but it is good Vodka) goes great in Vodka Martinis, and works well here, too.  You should enjoy the interplay between the orange from the Grand Marnier and the floral notes from the elderflowers in the St. Germain.  As for the Rosé, there are a lot of sparkling Rosés out there, at home we went with Korbel based on their other sparkling wines, which are pretty decent.  The frozen grapes will melt faster than you think, but warn your guests to be careful before biting down just the same.

  • 1 oz Ketel One® Vodka
  • 0.75 oz St. Germain® Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Grand Marnier® Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
  • Sparkling Rosé (for fill, anything works here as long as you don't go too cheap)

Add all ingredients, except Rosé, into a shaker filled with ice. Hard shake and then strain into a cocktail glass. Fill with chilled Rosé. Garnish with frozen red grapes on a skewer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – December 2011

When Utahans walk into the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores this month, they may think that Santa came early.  As far as Special Price Adjustments (SPA) go; there is a lot on sale for the December holidays.  These deals are great for gifts (given or received), or for stocking your bar.  (Note: later in the month there will be a separate post on pre-New Year’s price adjustments (actually available all December) on sparkling wines.)  Ready for some Christmas shopping? Don’t forget to look at the gift items that may be found on the top shelf of the Utah State Stores. These gift packages usually contain a bottle of liquor and items like glasses or a shaker (Courvoisier even has a decanter for Cognac) for around the same price as the bottle without the gift. Some of them are pretty nice, others might be a little tacky.  Shop early in the month for a better selection and buy one for a lazy relative to give you for Christmas.  Now, let’s get down to business.

If you’re into a Dickensian Christmas celebration, you might want to start off with some Gin.  This month there is a variety of Gins marked down, most of the good ones between 10 and 15%.  Gins with price adjustments include Bombay Sapphire®, Tanqueray®, Beefeater®, and even the surprisingly good, bargain Gin: New Amsterdam® 1750ml for $24 (CS# 031473).  While you’re picking up a nice bottle of Gin, pick up a bottle of Campari® (on SPA this month) and try one of my favorite Gin cocktails, a Negroni.  You can look up all of the prices for yourself by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month; then search on “gin” or the product of your choice. 

This is a great month to stock up on your favorite Liqueurs or buy them as gifts.  Di Saronno Amaretto® ($22) and a favorite for cocktails, Amaretto Di Amore® ($10), are both marked down.  Godiva Chocolate Liqueur® ($27) and Kahlua Coffee Liqueur® ($17) are on SPA, along with a variety of Irish Cream Liqueurs and Liqueurs like Alize® and Midori®, and another favorite Triple Sec substitute: Gran Gala® Orange Liqueur ($20).

There are 15 different Bourbons on SPA this month, so it’s a great opportunity to stock up.  Most of the major brands are represented, and there are single barrel offerings from Branton®, Eagle Rare®, and Evan Williams®.  There is so much available, that this post will have to be continued at a later date…
As to any other sale or clearance items, if you see anything at your local state store that other cocktailians might enjoy, post a response to this article.  See the following list “Suggested by the author” for information on how to use the Utah DABC website.  You can check out what else is on sale (e.g. the wines etc.) by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ending Prohibition: Utah led the way on Repeal Day

Although Prohibition has been over for almost ninety years, Americans are still fascinated by the period, and Utahans, especially in the liberal hotbed of Salt Lake City, are proud of Utah’s link to Repeal Day, December 5, 1933.  This year we enjoyed Ken Burns critically acclaimed three-part series “Prohibition” on PBS that covered not only the usual topics of gangsters, bootlegging, and police raids, but examined the social movements leading to Prohibition and the impacts Prohibition had on society.  The popular HBO series, “Boardwalk Empire” follows the tribulations of gangsters active at the beginning of Prohibition (circa 1920).  Now, thanks to Ken Burns, when Nucky or Jimmy talk about making a deal with George Remus of Cincinnati, we know that he’s a real person and how his life turned out.

Prohibition is a good example of unintended consequences.  While the intent was to achieve worthy goals like less alcohol abuse and less abuse of women and children, and Prohibition did make some progress on these goals, it also contributed to the growth of organized crime, decreased respect for the law and the government, and (on a more positive note) helped give birth to women’s liberation.  Legend has it that one of Prohibitions positive contributions (perhaps the only lasting one) was an increased interest in cocktails and in cocktail recipes, mostly due to the poor quality of the booze that was available.  In reality, Prohibition did the cocktail culture a lot of harm.  Many bartenders were put out of work (at least temporarily) and there was a diaspora of some of the best to other countries where they could ply their trade of making high quality cocktails.

It’s hard for us to believe that Prohibition actually lasted thirteen years.  Ultimately, though, people came to believe that the bad outweighed the good and a movement to repeal prohibition gathered steam.  Repeal was a plank in the Democratic Party platform in 1932, and FDR promised to support repeal in his campaign.  Because Prohibition was implemented via constitutional amendment (the 18th), it could only be repealed via constitutional amendment (the 21st).  The 21st amendment was proposed by congress in February, 1933, and sent to the states for ratification.  Three quarters of the states had to ratify within seven years for the amendment to pass, but the deed was done in less than one.  Most constitutional amendments are ratified by state legislatures, but the 21st was to be ratified by state constitutional conventions.  This anomaly may be the reason why, over the objections of the LDS Church, which pointed out some of the good things prohibition had accomplished, on December 5, 1933, the great state of Utah became the 36th state (and the third state that day, thanks to being located in the Mountain time zone) to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus repealing Prohibition.  So when you celebrate Repeal Day (you will, won’t you?), be sure to raise your Gin cocktail (what better liquor for Repeal day?) in the direction of Utah (if you’re not already there) and drink a toast to the state that brought the Repeal of Prohibition to all America.

Note: links have been provided to all sources used for this article.
Public domain photo of the Detroit Police during Prohibition from the National Archives

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Celebrate St. Andrew’s Day with this trio of Scotch Whisky cocktails

It’s late November and Salt Lake City cocktailians with any sort of affection for Scotland (or Scotch Whisky) are preparing to celebrate Saint Andrew’s Day.  Saint Andrew has been the patron saint of Scotland since the tenth century, a date that pre-dates Scotch Whisky by four or five hundred years.  Nevertheless, celebrating his day is an excellent excuse for toasting Scotland with a some good Scotch Whisky.  Many will salute the day by sipping a glass of single malt, but those of you who enjoy cocktails have more options.  The Utah Mixologist usually uses a blended Scotch in cocktails.  If you have a favorite blended Scotch, stick with it, but if you don’t have one yet, you might want to give Dewar’s™ White Label (CS# 004866, $25) a try.  Once you have a bottle of blended Scotch in hand, you are ready to select a cocktail.  Here are three classics that you should enjoy that all have three things in common.

The venerable Rob Roy is over 100 years old.  There is a recipe for the Rob Roy in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), although the proportions of Scotch to Italian Vermouth (1:1) are not the ones in general use today (2:1). The Rob Roy is perhaps the classic Scotch Whisky cocktail.  If you enjoy making Manhattans, you already know the recipe: just substitute Scotch Whisky for the Bourbon or Rye.  If you’ve never had one, you’re in for a treat.

Our second cocktail can also be found in the Savoy.  The Bobby Burns is another cocktail using Scotch and Vermouth and sounds a bit like the Rob Roy, but has a little Benedictine thrown into the mix to reflect Bobby Burns less warlike and more poetic nature.  You should enjoy the interesting blend of herbals in the Vermouth and Benedictine combined with the peaty taste of the Scotch. 

Our third cocktail is the Blood and Sand.  The Blood and Sand, the youngest of the trio, is more of a concoction, containing Scotch, Vermouth, Cherry Heering Liqueur®, and Orange Juice.  Don’t let the color put you off, the flavor will surprise you.  You have probably noticed by now that all three of these cocktails have Scotch and Vermouth in common, and yes, the Blood and Sand may also be found in the Savoy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rapple Cocktail reminds you of autumn in the country

Salt Lake City cocktailians may be serving wine or cocktails with their Thanksgiving dinners this Thursday.  Those considering cocktails might like to try a simple cocktail that was just developed by the Utah Mixologist, the Rapple.  The Rapple was developed at the request of a friend who wanted a signature cocktail for Thanksgiving dinner.  New cocktails always require a little thought.  Browsing some cocktail recipes that used Whiskey and maple syrup got me interested in giving that combination a try, so those ingredients sounded like a good starting point.  While you can serve strong cocktails like a Manhattan with dinner, people do tend to drink more while eating a meal, so including some juice or a mixer is a good idea to dilute the alcohol a bit.  Apple juice was a good fit for the season, as was the Maple syrup, and the orange peel garnish delivers a little extra fruitiness that goes well with your Thanksgiving menu.  Rye was chosen because its extra spiciness is strong enough to come through the maple syrup and apple juice.  The syrup delivers sweetness, but there is also the richness of the maple that gives this cocktail a little something extra. 

If you don’t happen to have any Rye Whiskey in your bar, the Utah DABC sells Jim Beam® Rye (CS# 027056, $15), a good, basic Rye to use in Rye-based cocktails that is in general distribution.  This cocktail is delicious served up in a cocktail glass, but if you want to serve it with dinner, you might want to serve it on the rocks to make it last longer and to keep it fresh and cold during the meal.

  • 1 ½ oz Rye Whiskey
  • 2 oz Apple Juice
  • 1 tsp Maple syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura® Bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass 2/3 full of ice.  Stir until well chilled. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  (You may also build it in a rocks glass.)  Twist a slice of orange peel above the glass, rub it around the rim, and drop it in, or garnish with a fresh orange twist.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A turkey tail full of cocktails for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is celebrated in many ways in Salt Lake City and across the USA, but one of the most common is at a family gathering featuring a turkey dinner.  In school we all learned that Thanksgiving Day commemorates the day of giving thanks that the Pilgrim Fathers celebrated (and President Lincoln later established as a holiday) after their first harvest at the Plymouth Colony on Cape Cod.  Cocktails at Thanksgiving used to be for before dinner and after dinner affair, with wine (or beer or non-alcoholic beverages) served during the meal.  In recent years, thanks to the craft cocktail revival, there has been a shift toward serving cocktails with Thanksgiving dinner.

Pairing cocktails with Thanksgiving dinner presents the same challenges as pairing wines.  Sweet or dry?  Subtle or flavorful?  (Flavorful might be a better choice for the variety of flavors likely to be found in Thanksgiving dinner.)  Personal tastes (yours and tour guests’).  Here’s a selection of cocktails that should please you this Thanksgiving.  Some are sweet, some are dry, but there should be something to please almost everyone.

Plymouth® is a brand name for a distinct type of Gin that legend says was used in the first Martini cocktail, and it’s the Gin that Dale DeGroff used when he made me a Martini at Portland Cocktail Week.  Made at the Blackfriars Distillery in Plymouth (it used to be a monastery) it was probably the last Gin the Pilgrim Fathers drank before (and perhaps while) sailing to Massachusetts.  It makes a great Pink Gin.  The poor Pilgrims probably didn’t have any cocktail bitters and had to drink their Gin neat, but we can do better.  

If your taste leans more toward Whisky, especially Scotch Whisky, you might want to try a Bobby Burns.  While Scotch, Italian Vermouth, and Benedictine were most likely in short supply among the Pilgrims, that doesn’t mean you have to do without, and it is almost St. Andrew’s Day.

While the Pilgrims were far from New York (and even further in time considering their seventeenth century travel technology) a Manhattan just tastes good this time of year.  So if nothing has appealed to you so far, give this classic a try; it’s sure to please. 

The Cape Codder, named after the peninsula where the Plymouth Colony was located, is a simple drink with only two ingredients: Orange Vodka and Cranberry Juice.  It’s easy to make and will compliment the traditional turkey dinner.  Think of it as a form of liquid cranberry sauce.

Rum is the quintessential liquor of the new world, so what better way to beat the winter weather than with a Hot Rum Toddy?  The poor Pilgrims probably didn’t have any Caribbean Rum at the first Thanksgiving, but why should you suffer?  This might be a selection best served after dinner.

One pleasant memory is how at Grandma’s house every Thanksgiving back in the fifties the kids could be found either running around “like wild Indians” (commemorating Thanksgiving?) or drinking glass after glass of non-alcoholic eggnog.  Meanwhile Grandpa would be serving up Old Fashioned’s for Dad, Mom, and the aunts and uncles.  Here’s hoping that this cocktail reminds you of the Thanksgivings d’antan as it does me.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wines to get your bird’s attention at Thanksgiving dinner

While turkey is the center of the “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner, it is by no means a requirement, and many families have different traditions.  Salt Lake City is home to many different ethnicities that each enjoy their own traditions, so many different meals will be served this coming Thursday.  If there is one Thanksgiving tradition that is even more widespread than turkey, it is to have a large variety of a lot of different tasting foods.  This, in combination with the fact that not everyone will enjoy the same wines with the same foods, makes finding the perfect wine pairing difficult.  If you’re hosting a large family dinner and have done so in the past, ask yourself what worked (or didn’t) before.  If you hit upon a wine that everyone raved about last year, then your best bet is to stick with the same selection or something very similar.  If you’re not that lucky, then you have a little work to do.  If you know your guests’ wine preferences, that should be an important input to your decision, so keep it in mind. 

Although tradition dictates that white wine be served with white meat, the complexity of the typical Thanksgiving dinner eases that restriction.  Three reds that work well for Thanksgiving are Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Beaujolais.  If you decide to go red, try a Pinot Noir with medium body that won’t overpower white meat and with medium acidity to cut through some of the fatty foods likely to be part of the dinner.  Zinfandels tend to be fuller bodied, but work well if you have a lot of spicy foods, while Beaujolais tend to be lighter wines that won’t overpower the flavors of the food.

If you decide to go white, you may discover that slightly sweeter whites go well with a Thanksgiving dinner.  A friend’s son looked askance at the bottles of Vouvray that I had brought for their Thanksgiving dinner until he tasted it with the meal, then he was a convert.  One white wine that shouldn’t be ignored is Sparking Wine.  Champagnes are so versatile that they can even go with chocolate.  If you want to go a little sweet, get Extra Dry, and if you want to go dry, get the Brut.  This month there are not many Sparklers on sale (they’re waiting for the big December blow-out), but a pair of Korbels and Domain Chandon Blanc de Noirs are marked down.

There are several other whites that will work well with a turkey dinner.  Riesling has the acidity to stand up to most of the foods it will encounter, and you can find it ranging anywhere from dry to sweet, so decide what degree of sweetness you want and check the label.  Gewürztraminer is fruity and spicy enough go well with turkey and dressing, and also comes in sweet or dry.   Pinot Grigio is another favorite that can deliver good flavor over  fatty holiday gravy.  Sauvignon Blanc and (reliable) Chardonnay are two other possibilities that will serve you well.

Lastly, if you will serve wine with dessert, keep in mind that a dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert, so if you chose a dry, white (or red) wine for dinner you should definitely trade it out for something sweeter with dessert.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – November 2011

Salt Lake City cocktailians will be disappointed to see that the Special Price Adjustment (SPA) list this month is about as lean as it was last month.  This should just be the pre-December doldrums, though; Santa Claus comes next month, and his SPA list is usually very generous in December.  If you’re looking for cocktail ingredients on clearance this month, there is one item of interest to cocktail lovers in the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores this month, DonQ® Cristal (CS# 043426) is a good quality Puerto Rican Rum that should work well in any cocktails that call for light Rum, like the El Presidente.  Interestingly, Esteban Ordoñez, Brand Ambassador for DonQ, spoke about their sustainability programs during Portland Cocktail Week.  The Cristal was $12 and is marked down almost 50% to $6.47.  This item is almost out of stock, residents of Heber, Vernal, and St. George have the best chance of scoring some.  Be sure to call ahead to check availability if that’s all you’re looking for.  There are also some wines on clearance, so check your store’s end cap displays.  If you see any other good items on clearance at your local state store, post a response to this article. 

My favorite “economy Gin”, New Amsterdam® (CS# 031475), is marked down 20% from $15 to $12 this month. Try it in a Tom Collins.  If you have an open bottle of sparkling wine but you’re in the mood for something a little stronger that a Champagne cocktail, try a French 75 – a reliable champagne (and gin) cocktail that is sure to have just the kick you need. 

The standout Tequila deals this month are a pair of El Jimadors®: the Reposado and the Blanco are both marked down from $20 to $17.  Regular readers will know that a good Silver (or Plata or Blanco) is an essential ingredient in the ever popular Margarita, but this Reposado also makes outstanding cocktails.  For those who love Vodka Martinis, this month it’s the one liter bottles of Ketel One® that are marked down.  There is also the usual large number of flavored Vodkas on SPA.

November is not a total desert in the cocktail arena, however.  If you’re into Bourbons, Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey® (CS# 017086) is available for $22 ($3 off) and makes a great BLT.  If you like something a little pricier, Jack Daniels® Single Barrel (CS# 026906) is available for $40 ($4 off).  Most of the Scotch Whiskies marked down this month are blends, so if you’re looking for something to put into your Rob Roy you can get some Chivas Regal®, Johnnie Walker® Red, or a large (1750 ml.) bottle of Dewars® White Label.

Friday, November 4, 2011

BLT: can the cocktail be better than the sandwich?

The Utah Mixologist picked up some ideas and recipes to bring back to readers in Salt Lake City at the receptions and seminars during PDX Cocktail Week. One of the best seminars was the “Art of the Simple Cocktail” presented by cocktail diva Elayne Duke, head mixologist for Diageo Wine and Spirits.  Elayne’s presentation concentrated on three cocktail basics: the base, the modifier, and the flavoring agent and how they interact. It’s surprising how many classic cocktails follow this simple formula; take, for example, the Margarita, Daiquiri, Sidecar, Mojito, and Manhattan.

One of the cocktails served at the seminar was the BLT.  In this case the BLT stands for Bulleit, Lemon, and Tonic.  Just as the better known BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) is a perfect sandwich: simple, delicious, and with a great mix of flavors; the BLT cocktail is (you guessed it) simple, delicious, and has a great mix of flavors.  Bulleit Bourbon (CS# 017086, $25) is in general distribution in Utah, and this and other recipes are presented on the Bulleit website.

BLT Cocktail

1 1/3 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
Lemon wedge (about 1/8 lemon)

Squeeze the lemon wedge into a rocks glass 2/3 full of ice. Add the Bulleit and top off with Tonic.  Garnish with a generous wedge of lemon or a lemon twist.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Skulled Holiday Cider delivers a Halloween treat

It’s getting close to Halloween in Salt Lake City.  The frost is on the pumpkin, and there was ice on my pond this morning.  When an email arrived about making Halloween cocktails with Crystal Head® Vodka (yes, that’s the one that comes in a bottle that looks like a glass skull), it was obviously an idea whose time had come.  Crystal Head® Vodka (CS# 034152, $50) uses ancient glacial water from an aquifer in Newfoundland, Canada, and is filtered through 500-million year-old quartz crystals (known as Herkimer diamonds) after being distilled four times.  Created with the participation of screen legend Dan Aykroyd, Crystal Head contains “absolutely no additives.” It’s probably the purist Vodka around, and just about the smoothest I have had.  If you want to be impressed, read the legend of Crystal Head

One of my earliest memories of Halloween is going to a neighborhood Halloween party at the local FOP Hall where they served apple cider and powdered sugar doughnuts, so when I saw a cocktail recipe with apple cider in it, I was hooked.  Call it a nostalgia thing.  This drink is easy to make and surprisingly good, as a bonus, it will work as a summer cooler as well as a Halloween drink. The spiciness of the Ginger Ale plays off well against the vanilla liqueur, while the Angostura Bitters adds some depth.  Be sure to give this one a try.  If you enjoy your Skulled Holiday Cider, think of the Vodka Martini you could stir up with this great vodka.

Click here for all of my Halloween cocktails.

Skulled Holiday Cider
  • 1 1/2 oz. Crystal Head Vodka
  • 1/2 oz. vanilla liqueur
  • 1 oz. apple cider
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Ginger Ale

Add the ingredients in the order listed to a highball glass filled with ice. Give a quick stir and garnish with an apple slice on the rim or inside the glass.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chambord Candy Apple Martini is a treat for Halloween

Salt Lake City is getting ready for Halloween.  According to my son and his GF, one of the picks this year is the Fort Douglas Cemetery tour, late the afternoon of October 29, featuring Clem, the fort’s resident ghost.  Another way to celebrate Halloween is with a Halloween cocktail.  One pick that popped up in my email this year is the Chambord Candy Apple Martini, featuring Chambord® Black Raspberry Liqueur.  Chambord Liqueur (inspired by the raspberry liqueur produced in the Loire Valley of France 400 years ago, and still made on the grounds of an historic chateau) is an infusion of raspberries and blackberries with the exotic flavors of black raspberries, black currant, Madagascar vanilla and Cognac.  Chambord is available in Utah (CS# 064676) for $33.  Chambord is an extremely versatile liqueur, doing yeoman service in cocktails like the Chambord Margarita Royale, a delicious variation on the classic Margarita.

Tuaca® is a “vanilla citrus liqueur” that is golden brown in color, originated in Firenze 500 years ago, and is available in Utah today.  Its ingredients include brandy, citrus (orange?), and vanilla. Tuaca is sweet tasting, with vanilla as the dominant flavor.  It’s available in Utah (CS# 077786) for $26.  Even though you only need a splash for the Chambord Candy Apple Martini, it’s worth picking up a bottle so you can try a Tuaca Tropical Margarita when Margarita season comes around again.  (Yes, it’s always Margarita season.)

Click here for all of my Halloween cocktails.
Chambord Candy Apple Martini
  • 1 oz. Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Finlandia Vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Apple Schnapps
  • Splash of Tuaca Liqueur

Rim a cocktail glass with caramel (for a Halloween effect, use enough that it runs a little, but not so much that it drips off the glass). Add ingredients to a mixing glass 2/3 full of ice, stir until well chilled, and strain into the glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Speed Rack ladies battle for bar cred

The Speed Rack National Tour came to town on the last day of PDX Cocktail Week as 16 lady bartenders competed to determine who would be the next Miss Speed Rack Portland.  The event, part of a nationwide program, was a benefit for breast cancer research.  In a round robin format speed competition, two ladies went head to head in each round, racing the clock to make four cocktails specified by the panel of judges.  The judges, a group of Portland cocktail cognoscenti, then tasted the results and added time penalties for:
  • Being a “little off” (0:05”)
  • Being a little more off (0:10”)
  •  Being barely drinkable (0:15”)
  •  Being terrible (0:30”)

Penalties could be assessed for each of the four cocktails in a round, so if a contestant became confused, they could really add up.  Tensions ran high, mistakes were made, glasses were knocked off the bar.  Each round was a little more exciting as the better contestants went head to head.  A crew of volunteers set up the two stations between rounds with a variety of mixing glasses, spoons and shakers for preparing the cocktails. Then the contestants had a chance to do some fine tuning on positioning and familiarization with the set-up.  At the starter’s signal, the contestants went to work on the four cocktails. Some made their four cocktails in series (one after the other), while others made them in parallel.  In the early rounds, some peeked at their ingredient lists, but by the later rounds they all knew their stuff and the times got faster.  When the Speed Rack National Tour comes to your town, be sure to attend to support breast cancer research and cheer on your local lady bartenders.

For more images from Speed Rack Portland, see my slideshow on

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Robots vs. Human Bartenders: the battle of the millennium!

The headline event for Saturday, the third evening of PDX Cocktail Week was dire: Robots vs. Human Bartenders.  That’s a title that summons the image of a sweaty John Henry in a torn wife-beater, coal-dust stained face dripping wet, holding a dented silver cocktail shaker.  The combat was staged at the Jupiter Hotel downtown, and combatants arrived from all over the country.  Some traveled in comfort, while others traveled in crates and had to be assembled here.  As a futurist, the Utah Mixologist can’t help but wonder: is this the future of the cocktail?  Robotic cocktail machines have been around for a while; human bartenders have been around for a lot longer.  Human bartenders make cocktails with care (most of them do, anyway) while Robot bartenders make them with precision (that’s the theory, anyway).  What is our goal? Quality or speed or both? These are deep issues, not to be trifled with.

There were three invaders from the future (and from the SFO area): Chassis, the drink serving robot (he’s available for parties), the Cosmobot Drinkbot (a.k.a. Lonestar One) built in the shape of a retro 1950’s rocket, and Drink Making Unit #2 (a.k.a. Short Circuit #2), a complex collection of beakers, pumps and test tubes.  Chassis was the only one with mobility, he could move around the room with a shaker full of ice in one hand and a stack of plastic cups in the other.  He was pre-loaded with a batch of Tequila Manhattans that flowed from a chrome spigot in the middle of his chest.  The Cosmobot Drinkbot, charged with dry ice, issued fog and three different cocktail recipes from the nozzle of his rocket (one of them a Cosmopolitan, of course).  DMU#2 was the most flexible recipe-wise, allowing you to select five ingredient units from a control panel (e.g. four parts Vodka and one part Vermouth) and then (after a wait) pouring them into your pre-positioned glass.

As the only robot with mobility, Chassis entered the arena (the stage) with three human bartenders.  The battle was won by Chassis, although one suspects that the judges chose him because he was the cutest!  This crop of robots is no threat to human bartenders in the short-term.  The long term future will be a different story.  Robots with mobility and manual dexterity will be able to make (not design) many cocktails as well as a human bartender when both speed and accuracy are considered.  Humans should hold the edge for artistry and entertainment value for a while after that, but commodity bartending, as well as many cooking jobs (fast food will be the first to go), will ultimately move into the robot domain.  Technologies at this early stage of development often appear ridiculous, but never confuse current appearance with long term potential…
For more images from Humans vs. Robots, see my slideshow on

Saturday, October 22, 2011

DonQ rocks the night at PDX Cocktail Week

The second evening of PDX Cocktail Week was highlighted by a bash sponsored by DonQ Rum called “DonQ Yacht Rockin Night” at Lola’s Room in the downtown Crystal Ballroom.  The room was decorated in a semi-Caribbean/Key West theme, the staff and guests were issued simulated old, beat-up yachting caps and old 70's & 80's tunes blared over the amp; there were even some models in hot pants. The mascot was a giant red crab (see photo). What was not to like? Later in the evening a live band named "Karaoke from Hell" showed up; it was everything you would imagine upon hearing the name. They played oldies like "Brandy", "Ring of Fire", and "Sunday Afternoon".

DonQ makes Rum in Puerto Rico, and offers a full line of different types of Rums.  Drink stations around the room each featured a different DonQ Rum cocktail:
Black Bitter Stirred reminded me of a Whiskey drink and tasted almost chocolaty, quite nice.  It was served up and is a great sipping cocktail. I think it was my favorite cocktail of the evening, it was made from Blackbeard Rum, Fernet Branca, Orgeat syrup, and lemon juice.
Cinnamon Rum Punch was a mixture of DonQ Gold Rum, Darjeeling tea, lemon juice, ginger liqueur, over-proof cognac, honey, ground cinnamon, with some Angostura Bitters thrown in for good measure.  It was quite tasty, the Rum & spiciness of the mix complimented each other. This was really good, too, my second favorite cocktail of the evening.
Okolemaluna Fizz ( Okolemaluna allegedly means "bottoms up" in Hawaiian) was a shaken cocktail (duh, it’s a fizz) with Blackbeard Spiced Rum, lime juice, Hawaiian Chili Syrup, egg white, cream, and Ginger Beer.  Thanks to the Chili Syrup and Ginger Beer, it had a spicy, piquant flavor. This is my third favorite cocktail of the evening.
RWC was a blend of DonQ Cristal Rum, lemon juice, Falernum, orange bitters, and blood orange soda.  There was a nice interplay between the falernum and the soda, and it made for a nice, refreshing cooler.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dale DeGrof at PDXCW Welcome Reception

Thursday evening was the Opening Night reception for PDX Cocktail Week held at Wilf’s.  The evening began with a memorable event: the Utah Mixologist had a classic Martini made-to-order by the hands of no other than cocktail guru Dale DeGroff, who was working the room with a cocktail cart like an itinerant bartender.  The current trend in cocktails is toward using a little more quality Vermouth in Martinis (fresh Vermouth, not the Vermouth that’s been in your bar since the cocktail party in 2008 (a.k.a. spoiled Vermouth)), so Dale made me a 3:1 Martini with Plymouth Gin and Dolin’s White Vermouth, stirred (not shaken) of course.  This was one of the cooler moments of the UM’s life, especially since he owns Dale’s cocktail books.  Unfortunately, there was no WiFi at Wilf’s, otherwise the news would have been live-tweeted!  While he was preparing my Martini, Dale mentioned that he wasn’t drinking himself because he was going to sing later in the evening.

The room was so dark that the camera on my iPad was almost useless: I could only get shots of the candles on the table, so I used my regular camera, and that’s where I got the above shot of Dale DeGroff when he treated us to his vocal stylings of jazz classics like: “Lulu’s back in town,” “I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter,” and “This is so nice it must be illegal.”  Dale was backed up by a nice jazz combo that played classics like “A-Train” throughout the evening.

 The reception was hosted by Pernod Ricard (well, we had to buy tickets!).  Drink stations were set up around the room, manned by stalwart bartenders (male and female), offering cocktails (classic and nouveau) featuring Pernod Ricard products like Plymouth Gin, Absolut Vodka, Avion Tequila (featured on Entourage), etc.  Avion was featured in a tasty cocktail named the Avion Paloma: Avion, Lime juice, Grapefruit soda, and a Lime wheel. The UM was in heaven, although as the evening wore on, the best strategy was revealed to be one of not finishing the cocktails so that more could be sampled.  This, as always, proved to be easier said than done.

Portland, as a renowned center of fresh produce, is big into infusions.  One cocktail was the MI6, which was a variation of the Vesper Martini with (if I remember correctly) pomegranate infused Absolute Vodka, sage infused Plymouth Gin, and Cinnamon infused Lillet.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rob Roy: this Scottish outlaw may steal your heart

While reviewing the list of cocktail ingredients on sale in Salt Lake City this month (October, 2011) and wondering what cocktail to recommend for the Dewar’s™ White Label (CS# 004866, on sale), the Utah Mixologist realized that he had never written about the venerable (Wikipedia traces it back to 1894) Rob Roy cocktail.  There is a recipe for the Rob Roy in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), although the proportions of Scotch to Vermouth (1:1) are not the ones in general use today (2:1). The Rob Roy is a classic Scotch Whisky cocktail, named after a famous Scottish outlaw (or after an operetta based on his life).  If you enjoy making Manhattans, you already know the recipe: just substitute Scotch Whisky for the Bourbon or Rye.

Connoisseurs of good Scotch will want to save their single malt for sipping, so any decent blended Scotch (e.g. Dewar’s™ White Label) is recommended for this cocktail.  Instead of Italian Vermouth, I ended up using my favorite sweet Vermouth (Quady Vya™, available in Utah (CS# 910764), keep it in the fridge once it’s open).  If you’re not a Scotch drinker, this cocktail will surprise you; if you’ve never had one, you’re in for a treat.  Feel free to experiment with different ingredient ratios, depending on the Scotch you’re using, and let us know the results.

Rob Roy

  • 1 oz Italian Vermouth (Sweet Vermouth, like Quady Vya)
  • 2 oz Scotch Whisky (use blended, like Dewar’s)
  • 1 dash (1/8 teaspoon) Angostura Bitters
Pour ingredients into a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir briskly until well chilled, and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a cocktail cherry and enjoy while it’s icy cold.

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – October 2011

It’s October in Salt Lake City.  As we enjoy a nice spell of warm weather, a new set of “Special Price Adjustments” is in effect at the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores; new, but not overly generous.  I was surprised at the scarcity of SPA-tags this month when strolling through my local outlet (perhaps they’re getting ready for Christmas?).  There’s not much available in the Bourbon category this month.  If you like single barrel Bourbons, Woodford Reserve® ($30) and Ridgemont Reserve 1792® ($28) are on SPA this month.  While these are both good sipping Bourbons, they also make fine Manhattans

Lovers of Brandy cocktails will be pleased to find that E&J® XO Brandy is on SPA for $14 (a 12% reduction); try it in a Sidecar (or any other cocktail), where it will hurt your wallet far less than using your favorite Cognac.  For buyers of sparkling wines, one of the “value” brands is marked down.  Some Barefoot® Bubblies are marked down 20%, to $10.  They make great Chambord and Champagne cocktails.  There is also the usual variety of wine varietals on sale, some marked down as much as 50%.
There is a decent selection of Scotch Whiskies on sale this month.  If you’re looking for something suitable to put into a Rob Roy or a Bobby Burns there is the esteemed Dewar’s™ White Label (CS# 004866 and highly recommended for both of the aforementioned cocktails) and a small selection of Scotches available, including 12 and 15 year olds from Glenlivet® and Glenfiddich®, in case you’re looking for a nice single malt sipping Scotch. 

Sad to say, there is only one Gin (Broker’s®) marked down this month, but if you like Vodka Martinis, Ketel One® (it’s great with a lemon twist) is marked down 8%.  If you like Rum, Mount Gay Eclipse® (Barbados) is marked down 11%.  Try it in a Rum Old Fashioned.  Appleton® White is marked down, too.  Tequila lovers will be greeted by a near desert on the Tequila shelves, there are almost no Tequila SPAs (three!), and nothing special (although some especial). As usual, the number of Rye Whiskies marked down this month is low: zero. 

Items on clearance this month mostly include the usual mass of miscellany, no outstanding brands with perhaps one exception: Glenfiddich® Snow Phoenix (CS# 004999) is marked down from $94 to $77, but that’s a little too expensive for mixing in cocktails (perhaps a little early Christmas shopping for Dad?  This may be hard to find, so be sure to call ahead).  If I missed something good, stock up and then share with other readers by posting a response to this column.  As to any other sale or clearance items, if you see anything at your local state store that other cocktailians might enjoy, post a response to this article.  See the following list “Suggested by the author” for information on how to use the Utah DABC website.  You can check out what else is on sale (e.g. the wines etc.) by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – September 2011

It’s September in Salt Lake City.  As the weather begins to cool, a new set of “Special Price Adjustments” is in effect at the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores.  Items on clearance this month mostly include the usual mass of miscellany, no outstanding brands.  If you know of one I missed, stock up and then share with other readers by posting a response to this column.

There is a decent selection of Scotch Whiskies on sale this month.  There are 12 year olds from Balvenie®, Glenfiddich®, and Highland Park® if you’re looking for a sipping Scotch.  If you’re looking for something more suitable to put into a Blood and Sand there is the usual selection of lower priced Scotches available.
If you like single barrel Bourbons, Blanton®, Eagle Rare®, and Evan Williams® are on SPA this month across a range of prices.  Other sale Bourbons include Bulleit® Frontier and Elijah Craig®.

If you like Rum (and like a lot of it) the 1750ml. bottle of Mount Gay Eclipse® (Barbados) is marked down almost 20%.  Try it in a Rum Old Fashioned.  The large bottle of Cruzan® Light is also marked down.
There is a nice variety of Gins marked down this month including offerings from Tanqueray® and Hendrick’s®.  The 1750ml. bottle of my favorite “economy Gin”, New Amsterdam®, is also marked down, although only by $2.  Try the Hendrick’s in a Classic Martini.  If you like Vodka Martinis, 1750ml bottles of Ketel One® are marked down 10% this month.

Tequila lovers will be greeted by the usual number of Tequila SPAs.  Two favorites this month are Herradura® Reposado and Herradura ® Silver (it’s great in a Tequila Mojito, and your mint crop won’t last long now), both marked down $5.  Milagro® Reposado and Milagro® Silver are also marked down, but only $2.  I plan on trying some Sauza Hornitos® Plata.  Regular readers will know that a tasty Plata (or Silver or Blanco) is an essential ingredient in the ever popular Margarita. 

As usual, the number of Rye Whiskies marked down this month is low: zero.  There are, however, a number of whiskies from north of the border as well as from across the sea in Ireland if you like cooler sources.
As to any other sale or clearance items, if you see anything at your local state store that other cocktailians might enjoy, post a response to this article.  See the following list “Suggested by the author” for information on how to use the Utah DABC website.  You can check out what else is on sale (e.g. the wines etc.) by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month.

Suggested by the author:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – July 2011

It’s July in Salt Lake City, which means a new set of “Special Price Adjustments” is in effect at the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores.  Items on clearance this month mostly include the usual mass of miscellany, but you lovers of the bubbly might be interested in some Domaine Chandon sparklers that have been discontinued.  One can never tell if “discontinued” means it’s gone for good or if the distributor is changing, but it’s still a good opportunity to stock up.  Domaine Chandon Riche Extra Dry (CS# 770435) is discontinued and marked down to $10.26, as are splits (keep a few in the fridge) of Domaine Chandon Brut (CS# 745403) marked down to $6.47.  Be sure to call ahead if that’s all you’re looking for.

If you’re into single barrel Bourbons, that variety of Evan Williams® and Jack Daniels® are both on SPA this month.  Other Bourbons include Buffalo Trace® and Jack Daniels® Black Label.

There is a good variety of Gins marked down this month: there are offerings from Tanqueray®, Bombay®, and even Hendrick’s®.  The 1750ml. bottle of my favorite “economy Gin”, New Amsterdam®, is also marked down.  Sounds like a good time for a Classic Martini.  If you like Vodka Martinis, Teton Glacier® is marked down this month.

If you like Appleton Estate® Rums (they’re some of my favorites) you will be pleased to find Appleton Estate V/X Rum® (a blend of 15 Rums aged 5 to 10 years) marked down 15% to $17 this month, so if you didn’t stock up on Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaica Rum®  (discontinued last month), it’s not too late to score some good Jamaica Rum.  Try it in a Rum Old Fashioned.  If your preference runs to Barbados Rum, the 1750ml. bottle of Mount Gay Eclipse® is marked down almost 20%.

Tequila lovers will be greeted by the usual number of Tequila SPAs.  Two favorites this month are Milagro® Reposado and Milagro® Silver (it’s great in a Tequila Mojito), both marked down around 13%, along with the usual bunch of industrial Tequilas.  Regular readers will know that a good Silver (or Plata or Blanco) is an essential ingredient in the ever popular Margarita. 

As usual, the number of Rye Whiskies marked down this month is low: zero.  The good news is that the well-reviewed Bulleit® Rye is now available on special order; let’s hope it moves into general distribution.  Can’t wait to try it in a Rye cocktail like the Boulevardier.

After being very generous with their Scotch Whiskies last month, the DABC is pretty tight this month.  SPA items appear to be limited to Laphroaig® 10 year, so if you’re looking for something to put into your Blood and Sand let’s hope you got some Dewars® White Label that was marked down last month.

As to any other sale or clearance items, if you see anything at your local state store that other cocktailians might enjoy, post a response to this article.  See the following list “Suggested by the author” for information on how to use the Utah DABC website.  You can check out what else is on sale (e.g. the wines etc.) by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month.

Suggested by the author:

New Seasonal Cocktail Menu at Wild Grape New West Bistro

The award winning Wild Grape Bistro in downtown Salt Lake City has been open over two years now, and never fails to please.  The bistro tries to emulate a small town café, but with gourmet quality food.  It frequently updates its seasonal menu of regional dishes cooked from ingredients that are mostly “fresh, local, organic” and sustainable.  The food is great (try the Ballard Pork Chop), but since I’m the SLC cocktail examiner, you can probably guess where my true interest lies.

The drinks menu is impressive, and the staff is knowledgeable and prepared to tell you all about it, and to recommend pairings for food.  The wine list is really well thought out with something for everyone, a wide range of prices, and almost everything available by the glass.  The standard cocktail menu features almost 20 cocktails made from flavored vodkas and gins infused at the restaurant.  Other ingredients include fresh fruits and herbs, in addition to some house-made bitters.  The new seasonal cocktail menu includes some old favorites and some new additions.  One is the Grape Mint Julep.  Mint Julep fans like the Utah Mixologist might (did) wonder how the Wild Grape could mix a decent Mint Julep under Utah’s liquor law regime that dictates only 1 ½ oz of liquor per drink (additional alcoholic “flavorings” are permitted, but there aren’t any of those in a Julep). The Grape Mint Julep was served cooler-style in a Collins glass and was quite tasty; basil syrup was substituted for simple syrup and white grape juice was added to make a cooler of it.  The result was an enjoyable, if not traditional, Julep.

Other interesting concoctions that arrived at our table were Strawberry Fields (muddled strawberries, grapes, and peach, with Hendrick’s® Gin and sparkling wine added) and the Wild Grape French 75 (Gin, lime juice and prickly pear, again with sparkling wine).  Old favorites like the Sergeant Pepper (a whiskey sour with fresh squeezed sour mix, cracked black pepper, and Bourbon) are still on the menu and are well worth giving a try (you’ll love the crunchy peppercorn bits) if you haven’t done so.  The Wild Grape Bistro is highly recommended.

The Wild Grape New West Bistro
481 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gift Ideas for Dad: Fathers’ Day and all year round

What are the best gift ideas for Dad in Salt Lake City?  First: know your audience (your Dad).  Does Dad like cocktails, or does he go for simplicity?  If he has a bar, there may be opportunities for barware or glassware, but check out what he already has: try to find something he needs or can actually use.  If glassware might work, you can find new, modern glass barware at Salt Lake City stores like Sur la Table (10 North Rio Grande Street, in the Gateway), Pottery Barn(602 S 500 E, in Trolley Square), and Bed Bath and Beyond (six stores around Salt Lake City).  You can also shop flea markets and antique stores for something really cool that he will also use.  (Check out the glassware in the movie Midnight in Paris so you’ll know what to look for.)  An Absinthe fountain may not be the best gift for your Dad unless he is either a confirmed Absinthe drinker or into antique glassware. 

What if you’ve waited until the last minute and don’t have time to shop around?  In that case, it may be best to move in the direction of a simple (but not too simple) bottle of liquor, but first there are things to be considered.  If he’s not a drinker, liquor is not the right gift for him.  If he has a drinking problem, or if his doctor has told him not to drink, again this is not the right gift for him.  Finally, if you are not of legal drinking age, this is not the way to go.  If none of these obstacles are present, and if your father is a drinker, what type(s) of liquor does he like to drink?  What does he enjoy after a holiday dinner?  If he already has a multi-year supply of his favorite brand (thanks to prior gifts from you or your siblings), it might be time to try something different.  Sometimes tried and true gift ideas get tired, especially when you may have tried them too many times.  If not, let’s take a look at some spirit oriented gift ideas.
A tried and true, age-old gift idea for Dad is a bottle of his favorite hooch; this is true even in Salt Lake City, where the Utah DABC stores have a pretty god selection of items that might make Dad happy.  (If you’re trying to save a few bucks while making Dad happy, the Utah DABC stores usually cooperate during holiday months.  You can check out what’s on sale this month in Utah here.)  Here are some ideas to help get you thinking along the right lines. If you know your Dad’s brand (you do, right?) a good idea is to get Dad an “upgrade.”  If he is a whiskey drinker, gift the old man an older bottle, say the twelve year old version, of whatever brand he usually drinks.  If he loves Tequila, upgrade him to a Reposado; if he is into Rum, there are some excellent aged Rums and Añejos available.  (Appleton Estate® 12 Year Jamaica ($30) is a great example.)  On the other hand, if he loves to make craft cocktails, you might be able to locate a bottle of a hard-to-find ingredient that he would love to try out.  You could even get him something easy-to-find that he might not have tried, an aperitif like Lillet Blanc® ($18) or Campari® ($25), for example.

What to do, though, if your Dad is a Vodka drinker?  There’s not much available in the way of “aged Vodka,” so you might want to try going for something unusual instead.  Crystal Head® Vodka ($50) uses ancient glacial water from an aquifer in Newfoundland, Canada, and is filtered through 500-million year-old quartz crystals (known as Herkimer diamonds) after being distilled four times.  Containing “absolutely no additives,” Crystal Head is probably the purist Vodka around, and just about the smoothest I have had.  Just the legend of Crystal Head will impress Dad, and think of the Vodka Martini he will be able to enjoy as he contemplates increasing the inheritance of his favorite child.

Gin, like Vodka, is a spirit that is not normally aged.  (Citadelle Réserve® Gin, a limited edition Gin, is aged in oak for 6 months, but may be hard to find.  It’s not available in Utah.)  Be aware of the style of Gin your Dad enjoys, do a little research, and buy him an “upgrade,” especially if he’s into the Classic Martini.  If he’s a Scotch lover, you job is a little easier.  A variety of brands are on special price adjustment in June, with ages like 10, 12, 15, 16, and 18 years there must be something old enough for Dad to enjoy.  If he likes blended Scotch in, say, a Blood and Sand, he might like a bottle of Dewar’s® White Label ($22).

Casa Noble® Tequilas are, sadly, not available in Utah, but traveling Utahans and readers from other states have plenty of opportunities to enjoy their high quality, certified organic Tequilas.  Reading their website gives one an idea of the craftsmanship and care that goes into creating gold medal winning Tequilas like Casa Noble Añejo, from cultivating the blue agave to the aging in French oak barrels.  If Dad is a Tequila lover, he will certainly enjoy sipping a glass of Añejo.  Casa Noble even provides recipes for cocktails like the Skinny Margarita, that uses their Crystal.

Four Roses® Bourbons are another item you will want to look for as you move around the country.  Four Roses actually makes ten different Bourbon recipes that are aged in French oak barrels and blended into a variety of whiskeys.  That is dedication to the distillers’ art.  Their flagship brand, Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon, is a blend of all ten.  After enjoying an excellent Four Roses Mint Julep in Chicago (of all places), I’m hoping to see this Bourbon become available in Utah soon.