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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.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lillet Royale: something different in summer coolers

The long, cool spring in Salt Lake City has produced a bumper crop of Mint in the yard of the Utah Mixologist (for information on growing your own mint, check out this article).  Now the problem is how to make good use of all that mint in your cocktails.  You can, of course, try the warm weather classic Mojito, an always delicious blend of Rum and mint.  Then there’s the springtime classic, the Mint Julep that you probably enjoyed while watching the Kentucky Derby.  The more adventurous may have tried David Wondrich’s variation on the Mint Julep, the Prescription Julep, a sublime combination of Rye Whiskey and Cognac.  There’s also the Blueberry Mint Cooler, a refreshing blend of Vodka and (of course) mint.

These tried and true cocktail recipes are great summer coolers, but what if you’re ready for something different? And what if you have a bottle of Lillet Blanc® in your bar that you’re working your way through at, let’s say, half an ounce at a time making Vesper Martinis?  And what if you have a load of fresh mint?  Maybe it’s time for a Lillet Royale.  The lime juice offsets the sweetness of the Lillet while the Angostura adds a little bitters to the herbal tones of the Lillet.  A great variation on this cooler is to leave out the ginger ale and serve it in an Old Fashioned glass.

Lillet Royale

3 oz Lillet Blanc
½ oz freshly squeezed Lime juice
1 dash Angostura® Bitters
5 fresh Mint leaves
Ginger Ale (cold)

Pour the Lillet Blanc into a shaker half full of ice and add the bitters and lime juice.  Shake briskly while humming La Marseillaise until the shaker gets frosty, then let it rest.  Crush the mint leaves, rub them around the inside rim of a chilled Collins glass, and drop them in.  Fill the Collins glass 2/3 full of ice cubes, strain in the contents of the shaker, give the glass a quick stir to mix in the mint leaves, and top off the glass with cold Ginger Ale.  Garnish with a lime wheel, a sprig of mint, or both.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – June 2011

It’s June in Salt Lake City. Summer is upon us and a new set of “Special Price Adjustments” is in effect at the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores.  If you like Appleton Estate® Rums, you will like the Rum deals this month.  Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaica Rum®  (CS# 042020) (a blend of 20 Rums, each aged a minimum of 8 years in used Jack Daniels® oak whisky barrels) is coded as discontinued and priced at $13.51, a reduction of around 50%.  Appleton Estate Special Gold Rum® has also been discontinued and is on sale for $8.10.  The Reserve is an excellent sipping Rum, and goes especially well in a Rapture cocktail.  At this price, it will move fast, so be sure to call ahead to check availability if that’s all you plan on buying.

There is a good variety of Gins marked down this month: there are offerings from Tanqueray®, Beefeater®, and even Bombay Sapphire®.  My favorite “economy Gin”, New Amsterdam®, is also marked down.  Sounds like a good time for a Classic Martini. 

There seem to be even more Scotch Whiskies than Gins available this month.  SPAs include 12 year old offerings from: Glenlivet®, Glenfiddich®, Dewars®, and Chivas Regal®.  There are four different Glenlivets available, and the 12 year old is the youngest of the bunch.  These are all good sipping Scotches, if you’re looking for something to put in your Blood and Sand, you might want to try the Dewars® White Label, also on SPA.

Tequila lovers may be disappointed this month at the smaller than usual number of Tequila SPAs.  El Jimador® Reposado is marked down, but less than 10%.  If you’re looking for a good Silver (or Plata or Blanco) for your Margarita, Sauza® Tres Generaciones Plata or 1800® Silver might be worth a try.
As to any other sale or clearance items, if you see anything good at your local state store, 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: