Archive - Spirits RSS Feed

Best of the Holiday Spirits to You!

GPOY, as the kids say

GPOY, as the kids say

This really is a gift: the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages. I should start a Tumblr dedicated to this rarefied art form: the inspirational fitness quote, overlaid on a photograph of someone determinedly working their way through a bender.

Originally stolen from TheChive.

Vancouver Gin Society Launch

Vancouver Gin Society Launch

Wasn’t that a party?

Finally, finally, finally, just in time for me to leave town for at least a year, the Vancouver Gin Society (here they are on Twitter) has launched, ushering the Wet Coast metropolis into the realm of Cities That Can Hold Up Their Heads In Public.

Imagine my surprise to find out that the current gin Renaissance is a Cascadia-driven phenomenon. And here I thought I was the only gin fan in the world sometimes. If the 57+ gins at Killjoy hadn’t clued me in, perhaps I shall blame the 57+ gins for the fact that my brain clearly wasn’t working properly to pick up all the clues, including more new, local gins than this part of the world has seen since prohibition (technical question: is each bathtub designated a microdistillery?). BC alone has 12 microdistilleries at or near production. Washington State has 80 or so.

The society is the brainchild of James Lester, proprietor of the squeaky-new Sons of Vancouver distillery; they launched with just one vodka, but they have big plans for diversification in a teeny-tiny space. After meeting James at the Northern Voice blogging conference afterparty back in the Spring, I have no doubt that they will do whatever they DO do, well.

Vancouver Gin Society LaunchGene Shook was shaken and stirred by the turnout

The Vancouver Gin Society is (as can be guessed from their web page) inspired by the very active Seattle Gin Society (there’s also a branch in New York), and we had Gene Shook, the head of that illustrious organization with us for this launch party. Something close to 60 of us sat down in the dining area of the enormous Legacy Liquor store to get in the spirit of things by downing these spirits in spirited company.

That’s enough of that. This is what I get for blogging sober: cheap wordplay.

Vancouver Gin Society Launch
The table filled out later. And the bar was already full when we got there.

Vancouver Gin Society Launch

That’s Oxley, Schramm, Victoria Oaken Gin, plain old regular Victoria, Long Table Distillery, Sound Spirits, Big Gin, and Big Gin Bourbon Cask.

According to Gene and James, the Cascadia region is where it’s at for innovation in gin. First the craft beer revolution, then the renaissance of cocktail culture, now ginnovation. Is there any wonder nobody ever wants to leave??? He’s right, of course. Victoria, BC’s Oaken Gin has been around for years (and their Hemp Vodka), the product of a family business. They’ve also got a plain old regular gin, which is far over to the floral and volatile ends of the respective spectrums, and they just happened to go into production the year local bartenders were going wild for barrel-aged cocktails. What with bourbon casks being disposed of after one use, it wasn’t too hard to see what they’d do for their next product, and it’s been a strong seller ever since.

I started my tasting with a bit of the Ebb & Flow. It’s the first gin legally distilled in Washington State since Prohibition. I found it floral, with vegetal notes like cucumber poking through. Like a garden after a rain. Very smooth on the palate.

Bartender and Author (yes, both are capitalized in THIS blog!) Mark Sexauer, whose cocktail book Aphrodisiacs with a Twist was featured at the launch, mixed our drinks and in between spoke about the way an official appreciation society brings together the producers, bartenders, and the public, all of whom have a vested interest in supporting the spirit they love. Alcohol and good society enhance one another and if done right (and moderately), elevate the public discourse.

Spanking-new Long Table was the first official pour of the night. It took three years to bring the downtown distillery to fruition, although only 4 1/2 months to produce a decent gin. Their standard gin features 8 botanicals: it’s a London Dry style, juniper forward, with orange, lemon, coriander, and earthy afternotes and a bit of burn from the two different kinds of peppers. I bet these guys are no strangers to mescal! This summer they went a little crazy and produced a cucumber gin with cukes from Pender Harbour in the Gulf Islands. It’s cuke and pepper and only available at the distillery, so get your butt to Vangroover if you want some!

The Long Table was presented to us in a beautiful rosy-pink cocktail featuring a cordial made of blackberries, verbena and honey. It’s called a Blackberry Bramble, and it’s a perfect patio drink, although the dark and stormy winter night outside was NOT what we ordered.

Victoria Spirits Gin was released in 2008, and was Canada’s first premium gin. True to their vintage spirit, they use spring water from the property and a wood-fired still, leaving those of us with pervy minds with ample fantasy material (if you’re into sweaty blacksmith and fire-stoker fantasies, not that we’d know anyone like that! Ahem!). They do tours if you want to objectify observe them for yourself. This gin has 10 botanicals including roses, accounting for the bouquet-like aroma, and a secret ingredient that they assure us isn’t all that secret but I’m too lazy to dox a gin right now, so it shall remain secret. There. Don’t say I never did nuthin for ya. The botanicals steep overnight right in the pot, unlike some gins where the botanical essences are added after distillation. Once begun, distillation takes about six hours. The result is less juniper, more citrus, as could be predicted by anyone who’s ever left unpeeled lemon slices in a pitcher of water overnight.

Vancouver Gin Society Launch

They gave us a lovely, lemony cocktail called the Hartland, which I could happily quaff all night long, but that’s no surprise: Solomon Siegel is legendary. It’s refreshing, not too sweet, not too alcoholic, and on the other hand not too “your 17 year old cousin will be safe with this.” It’s a sophisticated cocktail at the same time as it is an approachable one.

Schramm gin, from the Pemberton Distillery up near Whistler, BC, is a potato-based gin. I’ll let you think about that for a minute. Potato. Based. Gin. We’ve already covered what potatoes do for vodka (wonderful things), and they do exactly the same things to gin. The result is a silky texture unlike any other gin I’ve ever tried. The volatility of the spirit seems evened out, as if someone put the handbrake on the evaporation, but only one notch. It lets the flavours of the liquid itself come forward and disclose a lovely, heavy-bodied, balanced gin with that distinctive texture. Most of the botanicals come from within 15 km of the distillery, and they include hops and rose hips. We also tried it in a Schrammbuie, a cocktail of 1 part Drambuie to 3 parts gin. Although I loathe Drambuie with a fervor that will never die, I quite liked this cocktail.

Big Gin is named after Big Jim, father of Ben Capdevielle, a third-generation booze producer and the man behind Captive Spirits in Seattle. I never knew the man, but I have known the gin for awhile now, having first tasted it at the aforementioned Killjoy on a juxtaposition-themed outing.

Capdevielle explains that although he is a third generation distiller, “This is our first TAX PAID distillery.” His family made whiskey during Prohibition, and his presentation style reminds me of Tom Bulleit of Bulleit Bourbon; it’s the same “oh, he’s a character” character that seems to go so well with fine spirits. “I swear to god, tonic is the reason people don’t like gin,” he says. “Ours is a gateway gin. It swings both ways.”

Big Gin is a London Dry style, very juniper-forward. “If you don’t like juniper,” he says, “you don’t like gin!” And the floral gin makers at the table didn’t DARE contradict him. He uses the peel of bitter orange to give it an elegant edge, and it has absolutely no florals. Like with good bourbon he hand-numbers each bottle just because he likes the old-fashionedness of it. It shows that real people are making this stuff; it’s not being churned out by robots in a factory.

Bourbon barrel Big Gin is self-explanatory, and extraordinary. It’s finished for six months in the oak, and it shows. It has a reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally savoury, oily aftertaste, and smells like a clean, wet dog. These are good things. God knows I’ll never be hired by a marketing department, but when you get this stuff in your glass you will know exactly what I mean and you will be glad you bought it.

Sound Spirits of Seattle are close to my heart if only for the octopus on the label. And they immediately take up the tonic challenge gauntlet; they have brought their own, home-made tonic water. It’s historically accurate; originally, tonic water wasn’t carbonated, and it certainly wasn’t clear. Most tonics today use powdered quinine, but this Kina Water uses the real chinchona bark and amply qualifies for the highest hipster accolade, “artisanal.” This leads to a discussion of the medical uses of tonic and alcohol, and a reminder that the reason cocktails and cordials came into being in the first place was to be used as medicines. Then certain clever ancients decided to be slightly ill all the time and thus an industry began.

Sounds Spirits are the producers of Ebb&Flow and their Old Tom gin, which is NOT a London Dry style. It is not a floral gin. It is, like I told you, an Old Tom gin, which is the kind of announcement that makes sixty slightly tipsy people put down their glasses and knit their eyebrows (have you tried that after tasting seven gins? It takes a lot of coordination, let me tell you). Their base spirit is made with local barley, and it’s given a “tiny” amount of barrel aging, which gives it a tinge of colour and some savory oils. It’s sweeter, smoother, denser, and spicier than a London gin, and in a truly radical moment that can only come after 7 other tasters, the presenter suggests we try it in a mint julep.

*clutches pearls*

Then everyone went off to the afterparty and I met my friend Cathy for a drink and a burger at the Tap & Barrel next door, since I’d never been. The service was terrific, but the burger was too dry. A deep fried pickle is a nice touch, but it needs to be thicker to stand up to the brutal frying process. The beer, however, was delicious and monumental. For some reason, my notes become illegible right about then…

The next event for the Vancouver Gin Society is a punch-off: gin punch fanciers vs rum punch fanciers: Vancouver gets Beefeater, and the Long Table distillery will be using their London Dry; they go up against the Seattle Rum Collective with Diplomatico Añejo Rum, and our hosts the Shameful Tiki Room will wield Panama Red Rum. Proceeds go to the Harvest Society, and may the best booze win. You can get your tickets on Eventbrite.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Aspirational Libations: The Rum Steak by Julien Escot at Papa Doble

We are not natural enthusiasts of novelty beverages; indeed, we (the royal we) may be called puritanical by some, but we generally prefer cocktails that were invented long before we were born. Let’s face it, a Martini or a Sazerac just outrank a Redbull and Vodka. I once saw a group of girls tossed out of one of my favorite bars for asking for tequila shots. The bartender leaned over and hoarsely stage-whispered, “This is a grown up bar. We do whiskey, and we do beer. If you want tequila shooters and Redbull, you want the Blarney Stone down the street. Come here when you’ve learned to drink like grown-ups.” And out they went, buzz deflated, to party with teens from the outskirts.

But thanks in part to knowing Shawn Soole of Little Jumbo, also known as Liquid Revolution, we are broadening our horizons somewhat. I mean, the last time I saw the man make a Martini he used liquid nitrogen, and water that he’d distilled himself. This is the bartender who invented the Grilled Cheese Washed Rum and the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Martini, which got so much media coverage that now he refers to it as “that bloody cocktail.” So, he is a horizon-broadener of the first rank, because it’s impossible to resist the tasty if deranged things he mixes up.

In any case, our good friend Bart Calendar, he who lives a lifestyle which literally embodies the word “aspirational,” has introduced us to a cocktail so crazy, yet so dazzlingly tasty-sounding, that we simply must try this at home. It is called the Rum Steak, it has rum and steak in it, and it comes from Papa Doble in Montpellier, France.

NSFVegans!

The Rum Steak from Papa Doble

The Rum Steak from Papa Doble

Ingredients:

  • 2oz aged rum
  • 0.2 oz absinthe (yes, it’s a fiddly recipe and everything’s better in ml but I figured you’d want the ounces)
  • 0.4 oz homemade vanilla & spice maple syrup
  • 4 drops Peychaud’s bitters
  • 0.2 oz acacia honey infusion
  • 1 slice fresh beef, cooked according to instructions below.

Stir all the ingredients with ice in the mixing glass and strain into a chilled old fashioned. Garnish with a baked slice of beef marinated in homemade acacia honey infusion.

Now, here’s the backstory, ie how to make the spiced maple syrup and acacia honey infusion…

Vanilla and Spice Maple Syrup:

To prepare 17oz: in a saucepan with maple syrup 17 oz, cajun spice 3 bar spoons and separated (ie seeded) vanilla 2 pods. Leave to simmer and fine strain.

Acacia Honey Infusion Beef Slices:

Mix acacia honey 3,5 oz and angostura bitter 5 dashes. Spread homemade acacia honey infusion over a slice of fresh beef. Bake it in the oven for 4 hours at temperature of 60°C.

Yes, it does sound like hella work, but it also sounds absolutely amazing. I’m going to ask Bart for a debrief after he has one (or quite possibly more) of these on his next visit to Papa Doble. By the way, it retails for $17.

Happy Birthday to Moi: essential pressie

Yes, it’s a Milestone birthday for raincoaster today, and you know what that means: GUILT! You didn’t get me anything, did you? Oh well, it’s not too late to get me something I want. As a friend said, “You’re the easiest person in the world to shop for because given the funds, there is nothing you would not buy for yourself.” Here is the perfect example.

Silver Monkey Straw

Silver Monkey Straw

This solid silver monkey highball straw would be a fine start to the birthday haul. Yes, it is solid sterling silver from Tiffany. Yes, it is utterly ridiculous. The latter is why I covet it.

 

Sunday Food Porn: the Diddlebock Cocktail

Diddlebock

The Diddlebock Cocktail was created during perhaps the greatest bar scene ever filmed, a ten minute scene in the deliriously wacky 1947 Harold Lloyd flick The Sin Of Harold Diddlebock (that sin was drunkeness, it goes without saying or would, if I weren’t paid by the word). You can read a review of it here. Poor, straightlaced Harold has lost his job and his love and his purpose in life, and he is being led by his new pal the racetrack tout to an underground bar to have his first sip of the sweet nectar. The bartender is a poet at heart, who is inspired to new heights of achievement by the special occasion. This man is an epicurean of everclear, a De Sade of spirits, a Byron of booze.

The ingredients include vodka, crushed ice, astrology, corn liquor, and a breathtaking alcoholic erudition. It would be the greatest of all possible birthday presents (other than Julian Assange with a bow around his neck) for someone to present me with one of these. Pour yourself the beverage of your choice and settle in for ten minutes of glory.

“It has always seemed to me that a cocktail should approach us on tiptoe, like a young girl whose first appeal is innocence.” Magic.

Apparently, as far as Google and I can find, nobody has ever attempted to reconstruct a Diddlebock Cocktail in real life.

Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted

Happy National Gin Day!

Killjoy Martini

Killjoy Martini

Longtime readers of the blog (ie me, the Manolo, Mr Henry, and possibly the Liquor Locusts, plus all of my creditors) will know that of all the spirits in this world or the next, the one dearest to my heart — if not my liver — is gin. And today is the day on which the nation joins together to venerate this most sublime if most mercurial of libations. Raise an ice-cold Martini with me in honor of this glorious occasion.

Wait, what? You tell me they make Martinis with vodka nowadays? Well, yes, there has always been the Vodka Martini class, and what would we do without people like that, upon whom to look down?

One of gin’s greatest qualities is its infinite variety: floral, vegetal, crystalline, even spicy. No other form of alcohol has as large a range of natural flavors (of artificially flavored spirits we shall not speak, except in four-letter words).

Killjoy Bar

Killjoy Bar

My good friend and favorite bartender Jay Jones oversees a weekly celebration of gin at Gin & Sin nights at Killjoy in Vancouver’s fashionable Yaletown neighborhood, featuring special pricing and a different featured gin each week, although they always keep the largest selection in town on hand. A couple of weeks ago they started upping the Sin content by bringing in burlesque dancers to spice things up after 10; it’s useful to bring the entertainment on after the audience has gotten good and warmed up. A famous burlesque dancer once remarked that alcohol was essential to a good performance, “a little for you, a lot for the audience.”

Two weeks ago, the sponsor was the very fine Broker’s gin. Broker’s is, like Plymouth, a great example of the London Dry style, crystal clear, neither vegetal like Tanqueray nor floral like Hendrick’s. It’s versatile and smoother than others of the same type. You don’t have to feel guilty putting it in a G&T, nor cheap putting it in a Martini. It simply works either way. Lemon twist, olive or even lime in your Martini; it’s your choice, and all of them will succeed as flavor notes. In fact, this kind of gin is excellent for experimentation and creativity with the garnish, since they will not overpower the oils with their own orchestra of aromas.

The martini of Yog Sothoth

The Martini of Yog Sothoth

If you like, here’s your excuse to get out the vermouth atomizer and the fancy oils and play. I call this one, a Dirty Martini with smoked Cerignola olives, the Martini of Yog Sothoth, which lets me find out at once who’s read their H. P. Lovecraft and who I don’t need to talk to at that particular party. Smoked smoked black Cerignola olives are my new favorite Martini garnish that brings out the masculine side of a well-balanced gin like Broker’s or Plymouth, yet also stands up to a serious knife-and-fork gin like The Botanist.

If you feel more chiffon and rosebuds than Savile Row and leather, switch to Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire and a spritz of rose water, plus a couple of organic rose petals (which you can buy in Indian neighborhoods, should your burb have such a thing, or you may grow them yourself).

If you find yourself at a loss for something to put them in, refer to our earlier post on the perfect Martini glass, plus several fun imperfect ones. Which reminds me of the strip club in Seattle that advertises “100 Beautiful Girls and 4 Ugly Ones.”

UPDATED TO ADD: clearly until my regular photographer returns from her Eastern sojourn, I need to read my friend Kris Krug’s book on iPhone photography. Either that or I have to buy you all enough Martinis to give you gin goggles.

Sunday Food Porn: Puppy Edition

Johnny Walker Puppies

Johnny Walker Puppies

Oh, this is going to be ugly tomorrow morning. Passed-out drunk on cheap blended Scotch is no way to go through life, son.

I aughtta know!

Duck and Cover: it’s the Avengers Shooters

Everything is the Avengers and nothing hurts

Everything is the Avengers and nothing hurts

Well everything in this list is the Avengers, and if you do all of them, nothing will hurt.

Until the next morning.

A little background: I am proud of my country. We have invented many useful household items like the zipper, the electric kettle, and the lightbulb (yes, look it up: Edison bought the patent off two Maritimers). We have also invented some less useful, even possibly noxious things, among them Nickelback and the shooter.

This is a shot glass ostentatiously filled with boozy liquids, sometimes layered, sometimes artistically sculpted, like the Brain Hemorrhage. Always with a catchy name (it’s not the taste that sells these). Think of them as the redneck cousin of the pousse cafe. They are not ordered one at a time, but by the tray, usually by fratboys or those who wish they were fratboys.

Unfortunately, we can’t take credit for the Avengers (Canada trends much more DC than Marvel), that record-obliterating hommage to spandex underwear perverts. So we’ll consider this a hands-across-the-border kind of thing: a roundup of Avengers-themed shooters.

Notice the Black Widow is mysteriously missing. That’s okay, there’s a quite palatable cocktail by that name: just mix one, and pour it into four shotglasses. Instant shooters! Today’s woman doesn’t sit around waiting to be included in a shooter roundup: she just goes out and links herself up a stiff drink.

Now, the roundup, from EXP Bar Online on Tumblr. According to them you must do these in order: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and Hulk. Have the ingredients well chilled in advance so they layer nicely.

Captain America: Doctor Erskine was going to share blueberry schnapps with him, but he couldn’t have it. Also due to his advanced tissues on his organs can’t get drunk. Hence this shot is the weakest.

Iron man: Tony stark has battled on and off with alcoholism so his tolerance for alcohol is high hence the high proof rum, yet he tries to not drink hence the grenadine to dilute the alcohol.

Thor: He is a god. He drinks after battle and can handle his alcohol, yet human alcohol seems to affect him more hence he is the middle.

Hawkeye: Just a normal human with unbelievable accuracy with all fire arms, bow being his weapon of choice. (p.s. Unlike the trailers we here at EXP bar on line do support Hawkeye and think he is bad ass)

Hulk: He’s the hulk, as he so eloquently has stated in the past. “HULK AM THE STRONGEST THERE IS!!!!!” hence he is last.

So there you have it the avengers shot challenge. enjoy.

And the recipes (for all these drinks, you build it in the glass, pousse-cafe style. Although if you call it that, someone will puke on your shoes.

Captain America: Grenadine, Blue curacao, Blueberry schnapps

Iron Man: Grenadine, Blue curacao, Black heart spiced rum

Thor: Wild turkey American honey, Citrus Vodka

Hawkeye:  Grape Pucker, Captain Morgan: Tattoo

Hulk: Grape Pucker, Absinthe (we used NV)

Enjoy?

Iron Man Shooter

Iron Man Shooter

Page 1 of 612345»...Last »