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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Champing at the bit – sparkling wines under $20 for New Year’s Eve

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and that’s the champagne occasion of the year.  It’s not too late to get to the liquor store and get ready for the big night.  First, there is a difference between sparkling wine and Champagne.  Wine connoisseurs are all aware that real (capital “C”) Champagne comes only from France, as are most card carrying cocktailians.  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 many sparkling wines (bubbly for short) will not say “champagne” on the bottle, although some do.  Unfortunately there are few (no?) 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.  It’s a little out of date, but some things don’t change very quickly.

For those of us still on recessionary budgets who still want to celebrate with some sparkling wine, the Utah Sate Liquor Store system has obliged us with a selection of American sparkling wines for under $20 with some pretty good ones for around $10.   (Those of you who live in bigger markets should be able to buy all of the wines mentioned here for similar prices.)  Regular readers are doubtless aware of my love for champagne cocktails like the French 75 and the Kir Royale.  When cocktail recipes call for champagne, though, it’s usually more economical to use a good sparkling wine.  Drink your high quality Champagne (and high quality domestic bubblies) unsullied so you can appreciate them.  For champagne cocktails, there are some very good sparklers under $10 that are ideal for mixing.  Prudent readers will 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.

This post recommends wines from houses that at some time or another 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., I usually assume that these winemakers know what they are doing and will turn out a good product.  So 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, let’s 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 SPA this month (that’s a shame) their Blanc de Noirs ($18) and Brut (both $19) have both been highly rated by multiple rating services.  Domaine Chandon is another producer of highly rated bubbly in our price range.  Their Brut runs $19 and their Blanc de Noirs is on sale this month for $17.  Rated at the same level 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 Extra Dry has been rated respectably in the mid-eighties ($15), and the Brut is on SPA for $11.  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 $9.  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.
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, but don’t dawdle, time is running out.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spice up your drinks with home-made Grenadine

Scofflaw Cocktail will put your Grenadine to good use.
Research on the Scofflaw Cocktail for a recent post encountered one major roadblock: the drink just didn’t quite taste right.  More research and a little more analysis soon found the root cause of the problem: store bought Grenadine.  Now the commercial Grenadine was not bad, but it just didn’t add anything to the cocktail.  In the Scofflaw, the Grenadine must offset the sour from the lemon juice, the dryness from the Vermouth, and even a little dryness from the Rye whiskey.  What was needed was something a little sweeter, but also with a little more pomegranate flavor.

At this point in the process, the research focus moved to finding a recipe for home-made Grenadine.  There are several recipes online that sound very tasty.  Some were very elaborate; Imbibe has a recipe that includes orange flower water and pomegranate molasses.  Cocktail guru Paul Clarke, in his Cocktail Chronicles blog, compares a hot and a cold process (the hot is where you cook the syrup).  Jacob Grier, a cocktail consultant from Portland, experiments with both of Clarke’s recipes and develops a hot recipe of his own in this very interesting post.

Starting from a position of laziness and being in a hurry, Clarke’s cold recipe (that he in turn had borrowed from yet another cocktail guru, David Wondrich) seemed like a good place to start.  It worked so well that I decided to stick with that one until it fails me, so here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup + 1 oz. Bakers’ Sugar
  • 1 cup Pomegranate juice (POM works well)
  • 1 oz. Vodka (as a preservative)

In a large jar, combine the cup of Pomegranate juice with the cup of Bakers’ Sugar and the Vodka.  Screw on the lid and shake well until the sugar is dissolved (it’s okay to take a break or two).  Add the final ounce of sugar and shake once more until it’s dissolved.  Keep refrigerated.

Santa arrives early as Utah DABC rolls out sales for December 2012

A Rob Roy cocktail will put some blended Scotch to good use
When Utahans walk into the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores this month, they will expect to see Santa on the way out the door.  There are over 550 items on Special Price Adjustments (SPA) 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.)  Need a Christmas gift for Dad (or Mom)? Don’t forget to look at the gift items that are often 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 for about 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.

Let’s start with the Whiskeys: There are 50 Whiskeys on SPA this month, so it’s a great opportunity to stock up. 15 different Bourbons:  Most of the major brands are represented; try Buffalo Trace, or there are single barrel offerings from Blanton, Eagle Rare, and Evan Williams.  Four Irish that normally retail around $25 are available. Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey is marked down for Christmas; my friends and I almost killed a whole bottle Saturday, so it’s time to stock up. Try it in a Rye cocktail like the Scofflaw Cocktail.  There are 21 Single Malt and Blended Scotches marked down, including Glenlivet French Oak 15 year.  This is your big chance to cheer up and impress the old man.

Now is your chance to stock up on your favorite Liqueurs or buy them as gifts.  Di Saronno Amaretto ($23) and a favorite for cocktails, Amaretto Di Amore ($11), are both marked down.  Godiva Chocolate Liqueur ($27) and Kahlua Coffee Liqueur ($17) are on SPA, along with a variety of Irish Cream Liqueurs (great gifts for light drinkers) and Liqueurs like Alize and Midori.  A favorite Triple Sec substitute: Gran Gala Orange Liqueur ($20) is on SPA, or feel free to go upscale with Grand Marnier ($37).  Surprisingly, there is a shortage of Rums on sale this month.  Appleton Estates VX Jamaica Rum is the best of the bunch; sadly there are no high-end premium Rums to put under your tree.

If your Mom is a Gin lover, you can make her happy this holiday season.  This month there is a variety of Gins marked down, most of the good ones between 10 and 15%.  Gins with price adjustments include offerings from Bombay Sapphire®, Tanqueray®, Beefeater®, and even the surprisingly good, bargain Gin: New Amsterdam for $12.  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.  Oh, and there are 31 non-flavored Vodkas marked down this month too, if that’s your thing.

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.  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.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Celebrate Repeal Day with a Scofflaw Cocktail

The Scofflaw Cocktail is a great way to celebrate Repeal Day
The term “scofflaw” originated during Prohibition to describe people who drank in spite of the fact that liquor had been outlawed.  Shortly afterward, in the same year, the Scofflaw Cocktail was created at Harry’s Bar in Paris.  Harry’s, luckily for them, probably was able to use better quality liquor than was available in Prohibition era America.  Harry’s Bar, in case you’re interested, is still in business at 5 rue Daunou in Paris, serving drinks to (what seemed to me) a mostly Parisian crowd.  Stop in when you’re in the neighborhood (1st arrondissement).

Several years later the cocktail appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), one of the classic cocktail books written at the height of Prohibition by the great Harry Craddock, barman at The American Bar in the Savoy Hotel, London.  The Savoy book has been the source for many delicious, classic cocktails, and the Scofflaw is another one that will remain in my cocktail repertoire. 

When the time came to select ingredients, Noilly Prat Vermouth seemed like a logical choice for this cocktail of French origin, although you could use Dolin or your favorite.  Noilly Prat has long been available in Utah, but why talk about Utah?  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. 

Utahans, especially in the liberal hotbed of Salt Lake City, are proud of Utah’s link to Repeal Day.  Repeal was a plank in the Democratic Party platform in 1932, and FDR’s campaign promised to support it.  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.   So when you celebrate Repeal Day, drink a toast to the state that put the Repeal of Prohibition over the top for all America.

The Utah DABC improved their Rye selection last year by adding Bulleit Rye to their list.  At around $25 the Bulleit is a nice, medium-priced Rye that improves a lot of my cocktails.  Of course, if you really want to show support for Utah, you could spring for one of Park City, Utah’s High West Ryes that could improve your Scofflaw and your celebration of Repeal Day.

Scofflaw Cocktail
  • 1 ½ oz. Rye Whiskey (Bulleit)
  • 1 ½ oz. Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
  • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ oz. grenadine
  • 1 dash Orange Bitters

Pour ingredients into a shaker ¾ full of ice.  Shake hard until your shaker frosts up. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, drape a lemon twist gracefully over the edge of the glass, and enjoy while being thankful for the post-prohibition quality of your booze. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – November 2012

Find something on sale to make a nice Manhattan.

Salt Lake City cocktailians will be disappointed to see that the Special Price Adjustment (SPA) list this month is a lot leaner than it was last month.  This is just the normal pre-December doldrums that we experience every November; Santa Claus comes next month, and his SPA list is usually very generous in December.  We will soon be presented with a cornucopia of liquor oriented gift items and sparkling wines for New Year’s celebrations.

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 bottles of Ketel One that are marked down from $25 to $22.  There are also a bunch of Vodkas and the usual large number of flavored Vodkas on SPA.

This month the Gin to try is Tanqueray, marked down from $25 to $22. 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. 

November is not a total desert in the cocktail arena, however.  If you’re into Bourbons, and if you like something a little pricier, Jack Daniels® Single Barrel (CS# 026906) is available for $43 (that’s a generous $3 off) should make a great Bourbon Manhattan.  All 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 Johnnie Walker® Red or a large (1750 ml.) bottle of Dewars® White Label.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vesper Martini will help you Bond with Skyfall

You can also mix Vespers by the pitcher,
but they will be stirred, not shaken.

The new James Bond film, Skyfall, opens this week-end.  Roger Ebert thinks it’s the best Bond in years, so it should be a good one.  A new James Bond film always brings attention to Bond’s hard-drinking life-style, and Bond’s drink of choice, the Vesper Martini, is named after James Bond’s girl in Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd.  Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, was a noted bon vivant as well as a famous author.  According to cocktail legend, Fleming asked noted bartender Gilberto Preti at Duke’s Hotel, London, to design the Vesper in sixty years ago.  In the book, Bond orders his Martini and then tells the bartender exactly how to mix it: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.”  Thus contributing to the great Martini shaking vs. stirring controversy without ever uttering the phrase “shaken, not stirred”.  The cocktail has also been credited to Fleming’s friend Ivar Bryce.

Preti’s recipe is an interesting one when you consider why the vodka is in there at all.  Vodka is not a particularly strong flavored liquor, and during the length of Bond’s literary adventures Martinis made with Vodka (yes, they’re not really Martinis) slightly outnumber Martinis made with Gin (yes, I know, “made with Gin” is redundant).  The Vodka can only be there to tone down the taste of the Gin to bring out the flavor of the Lillet.  Kina Lillet, has a distinctive orange-based flavor that differs from the Vermouth used in a Martini, and changes the character of the drink a bit.  There are two ways to create a pretty good approximation of the original Vesper, even though Kina Lillet hasn’t been made for over 20 years.  It turns out that Kina is another name for quinine.  So adding two dashes of Angostura Bitters to the mix will move the flavor a little closer to what James Bond actually was drinking.  The second way is to use Cocchi Apertivo Americano, the closest thing to Kina Lillet that is currently available in many markets, and which is, sadly, not available in Utah.

As for the Gin, lately I’ve been enjoying my Vespers with Plymouth Gin.  Give it a try if you have any around and let me know what you think.  Next, using a half-ounce as a “measure” is recommended.  Using an ounce will result in a cocktail that is a solid double, a pretty stiff drink that will probably have warmed up a bit by the time you finish.  Better to start with a smaller cocktail, and then have a fresh, ice-cold one later if you want more.  Finally, if you will be driving to see Skyfall, plan on enjoying your Vesper when you arrive back home.

Vesper Martini
  • 1 ½ oz Plymouth Gin (or premium gin of choice)
  • ½ oz Ketel One Vodka
  • ¼ oz Cocchi Apertivo Americano (or Lillet Blanc with Angostura)

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass half full of ice.  Stir very well until ice cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Twist a lemon twist over the glass to express the oils, rub it around the rim, and then drop it in or drape it gracefully over the edge of the glass.  (An olive in place of the twist is optional, but then it won’t be a Vesper.)   Straighten your bow-tie (you are wearing your tux, aren’t you?) and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Coctails

Watch out! Those Zombies can kill you.
Need cocktails for Halloween? Look no further. Here is a great selection of Halloween cocktail articles.  Have a great Halloween and drink responsibly. 

Portland Cocktail Week wrap-up

Volunteers set up for a whiskey tasting.
Portland Cocktail Week (PDXCW) is over, and now it’s time for reflection.  PDXCW was first organized two years ago by Lindsey Johnson of Lush Life Productions and bartender Dave Shenaut.  This celebration of craft cocktails and cocktail culture is “organized by bartenders, for bartenders,” and has a friendly, informal vibe.  PDXCW has doubled in size every year.  When I asked Lindsey how much she expected attendance to grow, I was surprised that she expressed misgivings about the event getting much bigger.  At the current size, she knows most of the people who are involved, and she is accessible to just about anyone who wants to talk to her.  If too many people start coming, PDXCW might change and become more like some of the larger, more commercial, cocktail weeks.

My posts have told you about a lot of the fun at PDXCW, but bartenders also come to the cocktail week to improve their craft.  Local Oregon Bartenders Guild is a chapter of the US Bartenders Guild.  All 34 chapters of the USBG were represented, with attendees traveling to Portland from 26 states for a total of around 500 bartenders.  Many bartenders also volunteer.  Volunteers are a key contributing factor to the success of PDXCW.  Volunteers help set up for tastings and events and pick up afterwards so that classrooms may be turned around quickly.  There were always volunteers available to pitch in and do what needed to be done.  

PDXCW has plenty of sponsors that provide support, sponsor events, and provide food and drink for tastings and other events.  On the sponsors’ page you will mostly see brand logos, but behind many of those brands are large corporate sponsors like Diageo and Pernod Ricard.  In addition to the sponsors, other craft bartenders devote days or weeks to develop seminars on topics referenced in other posts like molecular mixology or cocktail photography.  Camper English of Alcademics organized two days of seminars called the Drink.Write program on cocktails and writing with, of course, some tastings and fun thrown in. 

My apologies if any significant contributors were missed or if credit was misattributed.  Please let me know and it will be corrected.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Extra-curricular activities at Portland Cocktail Week

Vendor drink cards feature cocktails
made from new products.
After the long school day is over at Portland Cocktail Week (PDXCW), it’s time for extra-curricular activities.  As in high school, students are encouraged to participate because it will eventually help them gain admission to cocktail college.  Activities are sometimes held in the big tent at the Jupiter Hotel (a semi-permanent structure) and other times at local bars or clubs.  There is usually a band, a DJ, or some other entertainment, food, and (of course) cocktails.  On Tuesday night there were five different activities scheduled, beginning at 4:30, 7:00, 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 PM respectively.  The first was hosted by Drambuie, who was celebrating Drambuie 15, a tasty concoction of 15 year old Scotch with the same spices as classic Drambuie, but only 1/3 the sugar.  A Drambuie punch was on offer as you came in the door, and it looked like there were three Drambuie 15 cocktails available, too.  One of the tricks to being able to navigate back to your hotel room after a number of these functions is to not drink everything that is offered to you, and not to finish every drink you accept.  Your success at doing this may vary with how much you enjoy each cocktail.

Rather than hiring a run-of-the-mill caterer for this event, Drambuie hired a food-truck to park outside the club and serve food on demand.  The food in question was poutine; the truck seemed to have twenty kinds of the dish that consists of french-fries smothered in cheese and gravy and more cheese.  Each mouthful of poutine seemed like another cholesterol-laden nail in my coffin, so I only ate a partial serving to ensure that the coffin was not firmly sealed and to leave some opportunity for escape from the tomb.  It was then, with only a little food in my stomach, that I decided to sample the cocktails.  My favorites were the Fortified Cup (Drambuie, Sweet Vermouth, Cocchi Americano, Punt E Mes, and lemon) and the After School Special (Drambuie 15, Orgeat, Angostura Bitters, lemon, and soda).  At this point I discovered another bar with three more cocktail recipes, and decided it was time to move on to the next activity.

The House of Zwack is a Hungarian firm that produces a nice Amaro named Unicum and is introducing a sweeter variation of it that is aged with plums in the barrel named Unicom Plum, and sixth generation descendant of the founder, Isabella Zwack, was present to talk about her family history.  They also were serving some Hungarian dishes that appeared to have a lower cholesterol content than the poutine.  Just looking at them made me feel healthier.  For cocktails, the House of Zwack not only had some original recipes, but had world-class bartenders serving them: Tim Philips (Hemmesphere, Australia) is Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year 2012, and Ricky Gomez (New Orleans) is U.S.World Class Ambassador Winner 2012.  Two of the cocktail suggestions had caught my eye, one was made with Scotch and Unicum, and the other with Rye and Unicum Plum.  I asked Tim for a recommendation, and he suggested the Safety Deposit Box (Unicum, Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Mezcal, and Bianco Vermouth with a twist of lemon).  It was an excellent, well balanced cocktail, and made by a great bartender to boot.

The night was still young, and there were only three more parties to go!  Even astute readers will have difficulty determining how much I had to drink, and so did I. Don’t forget that in addition to all of the cocktails and partial cocktails I had at the first two parties, that was building on the foundation of all of the damage I had done during my day at cocktail school.  While I’m sure that there were some hearty souls who made it to all five parties, I decided that I would not attempt to be among them, and caught a bus back to my hotel.  Before casting aspersions, just remember that two out of five means you’re batting 400.

A school day at Portland Cocktail Week

Samples of Jameson Whiskeys await tasting.
At Portland Cocktail Week (PDXCW), your day will normally start with a school bus ride sometime after breakfast.  Cocktail week actives do not tend to start too early in the day (10:30 AM is standard here), but as the week wears on 10:30 AM seems to come earlier and earlier.  The headquarters and venue for many evening parties is the Jupiter Hotel, and that’s where most of the “scholarship” students reside, but the daytime classes and seminars are scheduled for McMenamins Kennedy School Home, a school building that has been converted to a hotel full of meeting rooms, restaurants, and (best of all) bars.

This labyrinthine hotel seems to be short on maps, but the staff is very helpful, so the diligent student can usually find his or her destination.  Cocktail week classes operate on what is known as “bartender time,” which means they start late. My first class on Tuesday was “Modernist Techniques for the Cocktail Bar,” presented by Dave Arnold, Don Lee, and Tristan Willey.  The class ran over two hours and the key message was that these techniques should be used to make cocktails taste and look better and to create a better customer experience, not in an attempt to impress people.  After a discussion of the tools you will need to employ these techniques, along with safety considerations, the presenters wowed the students with the intensity of the flavors they were able to extract from herbs and spices and infuse into the liquors they gave us to sample.

The next class was a tasting of Jameson’s Irish Whiskeys.  Master Distiller Barry Crockett had been scheduled to appear, but had been hospitalized and had to be replaced by Patrick Caulfield, who very ably led us through the tasting.  After a brief history of Irish Whiskey and a discussion on its increasing popularity, Patrick talked about the four whiskeys he had brought for us to taste: Jameson Black Barrel, Jameson Gold Reserve, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, and Red Breast.  The first two blend pot and column distilled whiskeys, and the last two are both single pot still whiskeys.  The Midleton (~$350) has not yet been released in the US, and the US will only receive 12,000 cases, so Utah may not see much of this excellent whiskey.  We each had four wine glasses, each with about ¾ ounce of one of the whiskeys, and while the normal protocol at a tasting is to just drink a bit, all of mine seemed to disappear by the time it was over.

By now you will have noticed that Cocktail Week school differs from most other schools: they serve cocktails in class… lots of them.  My next class, “It’s not the size of your Barrels, It’s how you use them,” presented by Gable Erenzo, Hudson Whiskey Ambassador, was no exception.  This class was a little more scientific than most; it came with PowerPoint slides of tables and graphs that summarized the research on using smaller barrels to age whiskeys.  The findings were very interesting.  Small barrels greatly accelerate the aging of whiskey.  Rather than checking the barrels yearly and then perhaps monthly, small barrels must be checked monthly and then daily when they approach maturity.  60% of the flavor of a whiskey comes from the barrel, and while whiskeys age faster in small barrels, their taste at maturity will not match that of the same whiskey aged slowly in a larger barrel.  Gable led us through the tasting of four excellent whiskeys, including a white dog corn whiskey that was surprisingly smooth for not being aged.

The school day ended with a ride back to the Jupiter in a school bus where liquor samples were being poured and shared.  It was one of the more raucous school bus rides I have ever had.  When school is out, though, the day is only half over.  On this evening, there were four different extra-curricular activities scheduled.  They will be covered in the next post.

Dale DeGroff enthralls audience at Portland Cocktail Week

Dale DeGroff sings at the
2011 opening reception.
Cocktail luminary Dale DeGroff, often credited with kicking-off the modern cocktail revival, has taken the history of the American cocktail and his bartending experiences on the road in an (almost) one man show titled “Dale DeGroff – On the Town,” presented last night at The Living Room Theater in downtown Portland.  As part of the festivities scheduled for Portland Cocktail Week, this sold-out event presented a panoramic view of the history of the cocktail, an American invention.

Much of the time, DeGroff talks about his first love: bars and bartending.  He is a talented raconteur, and one gets the feeling that he is just scratching the surface of the stories he could tell about bars he has worked in or visited, and the gossip about the famous people who frequented those bars.  The multi-media presentation covers events in 300 years of cocktail history, from the rise of Rum in colonial America (George Washingtom owned five stills) through the cocktail glory days of the late nineteenth century and the down to the dark days of prohibition.  DeGroff’s own part of the story begins in 1969 when he went to New York as a young man looking for work, and continues through the cocktail revival until today.

On cue during DeGroff’s presentation, cocktails related to the era being described were served.  The drinks, some historic cocktails and others developed by DeGroff, included Punch Royale, The Fitzgerald, Absinthe Frappe, and a Major Bailey.  Dale has provided the recipes here.  If you have ever had the chance to meet Dale DeGroff, you know that he is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people around, and his personality really comes through in his show.

If you love cocktails and cocktail culture, this is an event worth seeing.  The show usually only plays only one night, so if it might come to a venue near you, keep an eye on the schedule and buy your tickets early.  Ticket sales for the event, sponsored by Pernod Ricard and Hendrick’s Gin, benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.

Portland Cocktail Week opening reception rocks Portland

Bartender Kevin gives his opinion
of the "The Barry Wall" cocktail
Portland Cocktail Week opened with a boisterous reception in the Emerald Ballroom at Portland’s Tiffany Center.  "the Radical revolution" performed music that featured popular songs from the eighties. The music was very good and very loud. Early in the evening the vibe was more freshman sock hop than senior prom as the band played, but few people danced.  Later, as the cocktails flowed and the crowd warmed up, dancers began to fill the floor.

In keeping with the high school theme of the cocktail week, the room was outfitted like a school gym.  The pennants, however, were for Pernod Ricard brands (sponsor of the event) like Absolut and Altos (a new Tequila) rather than for teams like the Wildcats or Utes.  There was one major difference; there were drink stations all around the perimeter of the gym: it was never like that in high school!

The drink stations at a cocktail week function are normally staffed by one or two bartenders who make one or two drinks that showcase the sponsor’s brands.  Tonight was no different; there were new cocktails calling for Jameson’s Whiskey, Olmeca Altos Tequila, Absolut Vodka, Pernod Absinthe, and Beefeater 24 and Plymouth Gins. The best drink of the night was The Barry Wall (see photo), made from Beefeater 24, Carpano Antica, Orange Curaçao, and Orange Bitters.

Ginger appears to be holding its own as the go-to cocktail ingredient this year.  Several cocktails used ginger or ginger syrup or ginger beer. Jameson's had a whiskey cocktail with ginger syrup and a lime wedge. Altogether, Pernod presented three drinks with either ginger syrup or ginger beer.  One might say that the party was fueled by hot music and hot ginger.

Cocktail lovers and bartenders gather in Portland

Sunday evening marked the kickoff event for the third annual Portland Cocktail Week (PDXCW2012).  The 2012 edition, which runs from October 21 through October 25, boasts an expanded schedule featuring two days of seminars and vendor presentations directed toward professional bartenders on Monday and Tuesday, and even more seminars and vendor presentations targeted at writers and bloggers on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a final round of events on Thursday.  Attendance has doubled from 2011; 472 bartenders and cocktail professionals pre-registered and have come to Portland this year.  All 34 chapters of the US Bartenders Guild are represented, with attendees traveling to Portland from 26 states.

One of the reasons people come to cocktail weeks is for the festivities, and festivities there will be.  While the days are devoted to liquor oriented education on topics ranging from writing a business plan for a cocktail bar to cocktail photography, the nights are devoted to parties and celebration.  Tuesday evening seems to be the party peak; there are no less than four vendor sponsored events scheduled at different watering-holes around the city, and your correspondent will try to cover as many of them as is possible.

PDXCW2012 is not the only cocktail week, but it is rapidly becoming one of the ones to attend. Cocktail weeks are becoming more popular every year. New Orleans' Tales of the Cocktail is the most well-known; it lasts ten days and is likely to destroy the liver of anyone who attends the entire event.  Better known cities with vibrant cocktail scenes that host events include New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London, so if you love cocktails and can’t make it to PDXCW2012, keep an eye out for an event in a city near you.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Portland Cocktail Week offers scholarships for Utah bartenders

Chassis the Robot won the 2011 PDXCW Human vs.
Robot Bartender Competition

Portland Cocktail Week is offering a great opportunity for Utah bartenders: scholarships to the third annual Portland Cocktail Week, October 21-25 2012.  The application is available online, and is humorous enough to be worth a read even if you’re not thinking of applying.  If you are interested, apply soon: places are going fast!

Scholars will be granted access to all parties, events, seminars, and tastings, and have their hotel rooms paid for, but must provide their own transportation to Portland and pay for most of their own meals.  While Portland is not “right next door” to Salt Lake City (unless you live on the east coast), flights are not unreasonably priced, and it’s drivable (640 miles) in a pinch.

Some of the highlights of last year’s Portland Cocktail Week include:

It was a great gathering, and this year’s is bigger, and is shaping up to be better.  To track emerging developments, follow @PDXCocktailWeek on Twitter.  While you’re at it, be sure to follow the @UtahMixologist.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – October 2012

Vieux Carré may be served up,
or on the rocks.
Utah cocktailians can rejoice that it’s October, and the colder weather means it’s time for cocktails that are brown, bitter, and stirred.  The Utah DABC State Liquor Stores number of items marked down seems to be returning to normal.  The number of items on SPA (Special Price Adjustment) this month (318) is almost flat against the 312 in September, but it’s not too late to get ready for cold weather cocktails by stocking your bar with October bargains.  So as the nights grow cooler and the early autumn days grow noticeably shorter, here are some cocktail ideas that, combined with these sale items, can reduce your monthly cocktail spend.

Now that Diageo markets a Rye Whiskey, we don’t have to wait for one to go on sale as long as we used to for Jim Beam Rye.  Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey (CS# 027025 marked down 12% to $22) has been well-reviewed and rated as a good value.  Try it in a Rye cocktail like the Vieux Carré.  If you are into Bourbons, two good examples this month are Ridgemont Reserve 1792 Bourbon (down 7% to $28) and Woodford Reserve Bourbon (down 13% to $30).  If you want to make a very mellow Manhattan, try one with some Woodford Reserve. 

If you are tempted more by imported, brown liquors, there are a couple of good, blended Scotch Whiskies marked down, too, so if you’re looking for something to put into a really top-shelf Blood and Sand, you can get some Chivas Regal 12 Year ($32) or a bottle of Dewars Special Reserve 12 Year ($30), both marked down around 9%.  How about Rum? Appleton Estate Rums, are represented this month.  Appleton Estate V/X Rum (a blend of 15 Rums aged 5 to 10 years) is marked down 15% to $17 this month, try it in a Rum Old Fashioned. If you like dark Rums, Mount Gay Eclipse Barbados Rum is marked down 11% to $17, use it in your next Rapture

If even this late in the year, your taste runs to liquors of a lighter color, there are still some deals for you.  It seems like there are fewer Tequilas than normal marked down in October, but Familia Camarena Tequilas, one of my favorite brands for mixing, have the Silver and Reposado both marked down 10% to $18.  If you’ve never tried one, give the El Diablo a try.  Deals on Vodka this month include liter bottles of Absolut (CS# 034007 down 12% to $23).  (Great in a White Russian.)  You might also like to try Belvedere (CS# 034155, down 7% to $28) (or even Belvedere Intense) in a Vodka Martini.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autumn is apple cocktail time

Bob for Apples combines the flavors of Rum,
cinnamon and apples
October is the time for fresh apples, apple juice, and apple cider.  My memories of childhood parties in October always include apple cider and powdered-sugar donuts.  Adulthood, however, expands our autumn horizons.  There is still apple juice and apple cider (and perhaps even powdered-sugar donuts), but now those liquid refreshments can be combined with adult beverages to create delicious fall cocktails.

Apple juice and cider are very versatile; they easily combine with Whiskey, Rum, and other liquors.  Astute readers are aware that cider and juice are not the same thing; indeed cider and cider don’t always taste the same.  Cider, which sports a more robust flavor than its tamer brother, is often unpasteurized, and “the real deal” is usually available only close to the apple harvest. Always experiment a little with the ingredients you have.  You may need to adjust the recipe by varying the amount of cider or juice to get the flavor of your cocktail just where you like it.

My first choice for a Whiskey and apple cocktail is the Rye-based Rapple. It’s a great mixture of spicy Rye, apple, and maple flavors, and is guaranteed to remind you of autumn in the country.  As you can imagine, Bourbon also goes very well with apple juice.  You might want to try the Status Update that I found on Bourbon Buzz, which tartens things up a bit with the addition of lime juice.

If you prefer Rum in your autumn cocktails, you might like the Bob for Apples.  What’s not to like about Rum, cinnamon, and apples?  It will remind you of homemade apple pie, but with more of a kick.  A nice alternative is Epicurious’ Happy Apple Rum Twist, which also tartens things up a bit with lime juice.

If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, Hard Cider, which has its own rewards, is more widely available than it used to be. Sweet or dry, it’s pleasures are well worth exploring for those that have the inclination.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Autumn: as the leaves turn brown, so should your cocktails

A Rapple Cocktail will prepare you for autumn.
The first day of autumn, September 22, is fast approaching.  Are you ready with your fall cocktail menu?  Your friends will need something other than a light jacket to warm them on these chilly autumn nights.    Autumn, of course, is the season for fresh apples.  Why not try a Rye-based Rapple Cocktail. It’s a great mixture of spicy Rye, apple, and maple flavors, and will remind you of autumn in the country.  If you prefer Rum in your autumn cocktails, you might like the Bob for Apples.  What’s not to like about Rum, cinnamon, and apples?  It will remind you of Mom’s homemade apple pie, but with a kick.

Don’t forget to consider some Whiskey cocktails.  The venerable Old Fashioned gets its name because it is perhaps the first cocktail (we won’t consider Punches to be cocktails).  It’s a not well-kept secret that you can make an Old Fashioned with almost any liquor you like (within reason), just check out the recipe.  Another classic that is certain to set off an autumn evening is the Manhattan, I prescribe one nightly at bedtime just because you deserve to go to bed happy.

The Old Fashioned and Manhattan are good with many types of Whiskey, including Rye, but how about some great cocktails that were designed specifically for Rye?  The first of these is the pre-eminent Classic Sazerac; this New Orleans native is sure to please anyone who likes to sip some well-chilled Rye in the evening.  Its (much) younger sister is the newly minted Dale DeGroff Sazerac; these are so good it’s hard to stop after just one.

Even though it’s only autumn, and winter is still three months away, it’s not too early to start planning for those really cold nights.  What better way to beat the winter weather than with a Hot Rum Toddy?  Let’s hope you have some good Caribbean Rum on hand.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dale DeGroff presents new Pimento Bitters for cocktail lovers

Sazeracs are served without ice in a well-chilled glass.
Arriving at home after a week in Oxford, England, what better surprise than to find my long anticipated bottle of Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters.  Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff is the man usually credited with kicking-off the modern cocktail revival.  His books, The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail, are classic cocktail books that belong in the library of every cocktailian.  One thing you will learn in Dale’s books is that cocktails need bitters.  Cocktail lovers are aware that there are many more bitters available for your cocktails today than the “old stand-by” Angostura that we grew up with.  One of them, Peychaud’s Bitters, is a requirement for the classic Sazerac. Peychaud’s has been around for a long time, but used to be hard to find in many parts of the country.

Now Dale DeGroff, along with Ted Breaux, has developed and is marketing his own aromatic cocktail bitters.  Perhaps the most important thing to know about these bitters is that they are not based on the familiar pimentos used to stuff olives; those pimentos are a variety of chili pepper.  Rather, the bitters are based on another, tastier pepper, native to Jamaica, known as allspice or pimenta (often labeled as pimento). In addition to the headline ingredient, cloves deliver the next most prominent flavor.  There also seems to be a more subtle anise flavor, giving a hint of licorice, evocative of Peychaud’s Bitters.  Perhaps it was this echo of Peychaud’s that inspired DeGroff to develop his own recipe for the venerable Sazerac cocktail (one of my favorites), and his new variation really hits a home run.  The original Sazerac was made with Cognac, but most modern recipes call for Rye.  Dale splits the difference and uses an ounce of each in his new cocktail.  You can find Dale’s recipe on his website, or use the simplified recipe below.

Dale DeGroff’s Sazerac
  • 2 dashes Dale DeGroff Pimento Bitters
  • 1 ounce Rye Whiskey
  • 1ounce Cognac
  • Splash of absinthe
  • 1 small sugar cube

Chill a rocks glass.  Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a second glass (or a mixing glass) with the bitters and a teaspoon of water.  Muddle until the sugar cube is completely dissolved.  Add the Cognac, the Rye, and some large ice cubes, and stir well to chill. Pour the Absinthe into the chilled glass, and roll the glass to coat it, pouring out the excess.  (I like to use a food-grade atomizer and mist the glass.)  Strain into the chilled glass. Twist a lemon zest over the top of the drink and drop it in or discard it, according to your preference.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – September 2012

This Martini service will keep your cocktail icy cold.
Utah cocktailians can thank their stars that the August doldrums are officially over and the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores have finally loosened the purse strings.  The number of items on SPA (Special Price Adjustment) this month has doubled from a mere 156 in August to 312 in September, so it’s time to get ready for cold weather cocktails by stocking your bar with September bargains.  So as the nights grow cooler and the late summer days grow noticeably shorter, here are some cocktail ideas that, combined with some sale items, can save you money.

There are a number of Bourbons on price adjustment this month; Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey is available for $23 (8% off) and makes a great BLT.  There are also single-barrel Bourbons from Eagle Rare (10% off) and Evan Williams (7% off).  All of these Bourbons are in the $20-30 price range.

In case you’re looking for liqueurs to accompany the key ingredient of your cocktail, or even be the main ingredient, you might want to try one of the following.  E&J VSOP is a pretty decent Brandy for mixing; it’s marked down 21% to $11, can do good duty in a Sidecar (or any other cocktail), and will hurt your wallet far less than mixing with your favorite Cognac.  If Tiki-style cocktails are your thing, why not try a Tanqueray Taj?  Midori Melon Liqueur is marked down 15% to $17 and is used as a flavoring in many other cocktails.  A favorite Triple-Sec substitute (if you’re still using that $10 Triple Sec, why not treat yourself? If you do, you may never go back...) is Gran Gala Orange Liqueur, marked down 13% to $19.  It’s cheaper than Grand Marnier, but almost as good.

There are some nice Plata Tequilas on sale this month.  Three you might like to try in a variety of price ranges are Sauza Hornitos (12% to $22), Milagro Silver (7% to $27) and Herradura Blanco (12% to $38).  Any of these will make a dynamite Margarita.  Why not mix them with Gran Gala Orange Liqueur (see preceding paragraph)?  There is also a nice selection of Reposados marked down this month, check them out at your local store.

If you like Rum, the state has limited markdowns to dark ones this month.  There’s a trio of Bacardis along with the Cruzan Dark.  If you like your Rum Barbados, however, large bottles of Mount Gay Eclipse® Barbados Rum are marked down over 18% to $28.  Finally, Martini lovers will be pleased to know that they don’t have to go thirsty this month.  Hendricks Gin (6% to $32) and Bombay Sapphire Gin (11% to $24) both make excellent Classic Martinis, so this may be the time to stock up on your favorite Gin.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

You’ll love the hot and spicy St Germain Ginger Margarita

Cocktail recipes have not been difficult to find for many years.  One could argue that there are too many of them.  There are cocktail databases on the web with thousands of recipes (many of them not very good) and blogs by respected cocktailians with their own recipes and often some of the classics (many of these are very good indeed).  Sometimes the cocktail menu at a bar or restaurant will present some good ideas, as well as an opportunity to sample one or two.  This was the case when a family get-together decided on dinner at Kay ‘n Dave’s Mexican Cantina in Culver City, where an item on the Margarita menu caught my eye: the St Germain Ginger Margarita.

This was one hot and spicy cocktail (thanks to the ginger), and while some ingredients were listed on the menu, all you really needed to know about the ingredients was given away in the name.  It was easy to build a recipe based on the 2:1:1 ratio of the classic Margarita.  Just substitute St Germaine elderflower-based liqueur for the more pedestrian Triple Sec, add some ginger, and you are on your way.  If you haven’t used ginger in a cocktail before, you can find cubed ginger preparation instructions here. If you’re worried that the ginger flavor may be overwhelming, feel free to start out with a little less than specified and work your way up.  A final caution: many of my Tequila cocktail recipes use Agave Nectar as a sweetener, but it’s not recommended here because it easily overwhelms the more subtle florals of the St Germain. So with a tip of the hat to Kay ‘n Dave, here’s my version of the St Germain Ginger Margarita.

St Germain Ginger Margarita
  • 2 oz Plata or Blanco Tequila (use your favorite)
  • 1 oz Saint Germain Liqueur
  • 1 oz Freshly squeezed Lime juice
  • 1 Tsp Simple Syrup
  • 1 Tbsp finely cubed fresh ginger

Combine the Tequila, St Germain, and Lime juice in a shaker 2/3 full of ice.  Shake well and let it rest.  Put the syrup and ginger in a well-chilled cocktail glass and mull thoroughly to release the ginger flavor.  Fill the glass ½ full with ice cubes and fill about half full from the shaker. Stir well to mix in the ginger and syrup, add  a little more ice and the remaining contents of the shaker and stir again.  Garnish with a lime wedge and serve with a smile.

Spicing things up: preparing ginger for your cocktails

Cubed ginger ripe for muddling.

Ginger has uses in cocktails that go beyond mixing with Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer.  This hot and tangy root (it’s actually a rhizome, but luckily we’re not in science class) has a bit of a bite along with some sweet and citrusy undertones.  It has just the mix of flavors and sensations to add an extra kick to your cocktails.  You may have used Ginger in stir-fries, or had it in dishes at restaurants.  Either way, you’re probably at least familiar with the taste.  Preparing some cubed ginger for use in cocktails is not that hard if you follow these simple steps.
  • Wash and dry your ginger as you would any root from the grocery store.
  • Cut off any unwanted protuberances.  (Note: A nice section of our demo root trims down to a regularly-shaped piece of ginger.)
  • If possible, cut off a nice straight piece to use in cubing, a regularly shaped piece will be easy to peel and cut up.  Your ginger may have a very irregular shape, so you may have to peel it with a paring knife or a vegetable peeler.  Sometimes you can use a Chef’s knife if, due to the symmetry of the piece, it’s easy to cut off the skin.
  • Cut the piece into thin slices based on the desired size of the cubes.
  • Next, stack the slices and cut them into strips.
  • Gather the slices and start cutting off the cubes until the ginger is cubed.

When preparing a cocktail, we will normally muddle the ginger, sometimes alone, sometimes with simple syrup, and other times with citrus juice.  Try it in a St Germain Ginger Margarita.  Whichever way you mix it, be prepared for a treat.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrate National Rum Day with a delicious Rum cocktail

The Rapture Cocktail will float you up to heaven.

It can be argued that Rum is more of an American drink than Bourbon.  Demon Rum was manufactured in New England as early as 1664 when the first Staten Island, New York, distillery was established.  Originally made from molasses, a waste product of cane sugar manufacture, Rum was the drink of choice in colonial times, and our hearty forefathers consumed it in “mass quantities”.  (Don’t forget that in those days, the water could kill you.)  Rum is perhaps the most legendary of liquors, having associations with pirates, patriots, rum runners, the sea, the tropics, and even Tiki bars.  (For more on Rum and its history, see Wayne Curtis’ book “and a Bottle of Rum”) or even Wikipedia.  Now, however, to help you celebrate National Rum Day (August 16), here are some classic (and new) Rum cocktails for you to try this evening.

The Rapture cocktail is named in honor of events set to occur on Judgment Day.  Ingredients include fine Demon Rum, Campari, Cointreau Orange Liqueur, and Sweet Vermouth.  Judgment Day calls for earthly ingredients redolent of the Garden of Eden, and the Rapture will not let you down.

The Daiquiri  is one of the classic Rum cocktails.  Beloved of Ernest Hemingway (and countless others), this blend of Rum and freshly squeezed lime juice (plus a little sweetener) is hard to beat.  The Mojito , another classic Rum cocktails, is easy to make and even easier to enjoy.  Rum, lime, sugar and mint: who would have thought that those simple ingredients could taste so good?

You have read about my love of Mai Tais on this site, and about my introduction to this ambrosial cocktail sitting in a semi-private tea room at a Japanese restaurant in Chicago.  This cocktail is perhaps the quintessential Tiki tropical concoction.  The preceding link is for a delicious, touristy (i.e. sweet) Mai Tai.  If you’re looking for a drier, cocktail-style Mai Tai closer to Trader Vic’s original recipe, follow the link in this sentence.  It has very little fruit juice and more Rum flavor.

When you get to Hawaii, be sure to kick back on the lanai and enjoy a Piña Colada (follow the link for my rocks recipe).  Upon arrival in that most pleasant of states, get to the grocery store and/or the ABC Store and buy some Rum and the necessaries for Piña Coladas.  Piña Colada is a delicious cocktail, especially if you enjoy sweeter cocktails, Rum-based cocktails, or Tiki cocktails (or all three).  Finally, the Rum and Coke is a long-time favorite. This cocktail (don’t forget the lime) is simplicity itself, and is hard to mess up.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Big Black Cherry Coke cocktail may surprise you!

Southern Comfort has added to its stable of flavored liqueurs with the release of the new Southern Comfort Big Black Cherry.  The sight of the signature bottle may give you a flashback to your college days, as it did me.  The bottle brought back memories of my senior year, living in a shared apartment that was immediately behind the biggest liquor store in Terre Haute, Indiana.  Southern Comfort was always high on the student shopping list because it mixed so well with our soft drink of choice, Coca-Cola.

Today, savvy marketers battle for liquor store shelf space (and visibility to customers) through the introduction of flavored spirits.  Vodkas, of course, lead the pack, but Whiskies, Rums, and even Gins have followed suit.  Brown-Forman’s Southern Comfort is no exception; Big Black Cherry is their third flavor variation on Martin Herron’s original 1874 New Orleans concoction.

It will come as no surprise that “SoCo” Big Black Cherry is smooth and sweet.  It has a strong Cherry flavor, but you should catch hints of vanilla and other spices.  While it’s a little sweet to drink neat, it mixes great with many soft drinks (colas especially) and the types of fruit juices (like cranberry and pineapple) usually found near a home bar.  Southern Comfort is promoting the introduction of “SoCo” Big Black Cherry with Coke Zero; it makes a great, cherry-flavored Coke cocktail, and the Coke Zero will help out those who are counting their calories.  It’s great on a hot, summer afternoon when it’s too hot for cocktails and all you want to do is kick back and relax.

SoCo Big Black Cherry & Coke Zero
  • 1½  oz. SoCo Bold Black Cherry
  • 4 oz. Coke Zero (or cola)

Fill a Highball glass with ice cubes. Add the Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry. Fill with Coke Zero, stir lightly, and garnish with a cherry.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – August 2012

White Russian: the Dude's cocktail of choice.

Every year in August the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores enter the summer doldrums.  Sailors of old knew the doldrums as a location where they might be becalmed and get stuck, sometimes for a month or more. Today the term doldrums describes conditions of stagnation or inactivity.  There is no better work to describe the number of items on SPA (Special Price Adjustment) in Utah this month; it has dropped from around 250 in July to a more mere 156 in August, and it will last a month...  August usually marks the beginning of a cooling trend as the days grow noticeably shorter.  This year has stayed warmer than normal, so when cocktail hour rolls around, Utah’s amateur mixologists should have plenty of takers for their cocktails.  The problem is that there’s not much in the way of quality ingredients marked down this month.  Here are some cocktail ideas that will save you money by taking advantage of items that are.

Deals on Vodka this month include liter bottles of Ketel One (CS# 034457 down 10% to $27) and 1750ml bottles of Absolut (CS# 034008 down 12% to $37).  Try these in a White Russian or a Vodka Martini.

Lovers of Brandy cocktails will be pleased to find that E&J XO Brandy is on SPA for $13 (a 19% reduction); try it in a Sidecar (or any other cocktail calling for Brandy), where it will hurt your wallet far less than using your favorite Cognac.  If you’re looking for a sweet treat, Bailey’s Irish Cream is marked down 8% to $22 this month; try it on the rocks for something cool or in coffee for something a bit warmer.

A classic Gin cocktail from The Savoy Cocktail Book is the Corpse Reviver No. 2.  This month you might want to try one using Beefeater Gin (1750ml CS# 028088 down 11% to $38), an “old reliable” Gin.  If you’re looking for something to go into a summer cooler like a Tom Collins, try some New Amsterdam Gin (750ml CS# 031475 down 20% to $12), an excellent economy Gin.  You can check 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. 

High West launches a new Bourbon whiskey blend

Manhattan: an all time favorite Whiskey cocktail.

American cocktail lovers are no strangers to Bourbon.  Sales of that corn-based elixir continue to increase year over year as cocktailians consume more and more of it in Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and iconic Mint Juleps.  While Vodka and Rum marketers are not looking over their shoulders in concern, sales of everyday Bourbons and specialty small-batch or single-barrel Bourbons are climbing rapidly.  Now, the master blenders at High West Distillery in near-by Park City, Utah, have launched their newest product: American Prairie Reserve, a blend of two mature Bourbons, one aged six years and the other ten, that should go well in your favorite whiskey cocktail or in a glass on the rocks. 

High West Distillery is known for its line of blended Rye whiskeys like High West Rendezvous Rye whiskey, High West Double Rye!, a Rye-Bourbon blend named Bourye, and even one named Son of Bourye.  American Prairie Reserve is their first exclusively Bourbon blend.  High West remains faithful to their Rye roots, however, with the mashbills of the two Bourbons weighing in at 20% and 35% Rye respectively.  That makes the Prairie Reserve a little “hotter” than your run of the mill Bourbon.  I’m always impressed by High West’s products, and American Prairie Reserve is no exception.  If you have tried it, post a response to this post and let us know what you think.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – July 2012

July is usually the hottest month of summer, and this record-setting year seems to be no exception, bringing plenty of hot weather to Utah.  Hot weather means that when cocktail hour rolls around, Utah’s amateur mixologists should have plenty of takers for their cocktails. The number of items on SPA (Special Price Adjustment) this month dropped from around 350 in June to a more penurious 243 in July, but there are some quality cocktail ingredients on sale this month at the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores, so you can get what you need to make some great cocktails.  What’s needed this month are some great summer cooler cocktails in time for your barbecue or pool party.  Here are some suggestions that will save you money by taking advantage of items that are marked down this month.

The classic Gin cooler for hot weather is the Gin and Tonic.  This month you might want to try one using New Amsterdam Gin (1750ml CS# 031473 down 10% to $24), an excellent economy Gin.  It goes well in a Tom Collins, too.  If you’re more interested in a Classic Martini, pick up some Hendricks Gin (CS# 028625 down 12% to $29) or some Bombay Gin (CS# 028206 down 14% to $18).

Two great Tequila coolers are the Margarita Cooler and the Tequila Mojito.  Some of my favorite mixing Tequilas are marked down this month: try Milagro Tequila Reposado (CS# 089583 down 12% to $28), Milagro Silver (CS# 088116 down 13% to $25), or El Jimador Reposado (CS# 089278 down 15% to $17).  All three of these go well in a classic Margarita, too.

Deals on Vodka this month include Ketel One (CS# 034456 down 12% to $22), Absolut (CS# 034006 down 15% to $17), and liter bottles of Stolichnaya (CS# 034747 down 11% to $24).  Try these in a Cosmo Cooler, a descendant of the classic cocktail.

Two of my favorite Rum coolers are the Mojito and the classic Rum and Coke (with lime, of course).  This month try some Mount Gay Eclipse Rum (CS# 042666 down 16% to $15).  If you’re in the mood for some Bourbon instead, try some Buffalo Trace (CS# 018006 down 12% to $21).