Toast Tuesday: Sour Beer

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I’m a bit of a slacker this week, not for failing to do the assignment, but for failing to give this a proper write up.  I’m teaching all week at work and have a spent most waking minutes prepping for that.  Including the 120 minutes I sat at a bar with a highlighter and my lesson making notes to myself.

Our guide

Our guide

This is week 29 and is a tour of sour beers…

I had my first sour beer a few years ago at Portland’s Cascade Brewing Barrel House.  According to their site, they are “a pioneer of the NW style sour beer movement.”  I had my doubts, but most of what I have tried there was quite yummy.

Fast forward back to the present state of Tennessee and I had fewer options.  I found one sour beer at a local bottle shop, monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale.  As it turns out, this is one our author mentions and it’s from Philly (did Meg stick close to home this time?).  It has nice notes of sour cherry, but wasn’t the best sour I’ve had.

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As I mentioned, I spent a little time sitting at the bar this evening.  I tried three different sours; Lagunitas Aunt Sally, Lucky Town Gose Gamblin’, and Yazoo Embrace the Funk Series: Puncheon.  Aunt Sally was sweet and tart with a hoppy finish.   Lucky Town has been on my list to visit for awhile, but today my brain wasn’t looking for “a lawnmower beer. It’s low-alcohol. It’s tart and salty.” That awesome quote is from Lucky Town brewmaster Lucas Simmons, and was too good not to share.

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I went for a glass of the Yazoo and it did not disappoint.  Sour and sippable.  I really could have had another, but exercised some restraint.

Now, run along and find yourself a pint.

Here’s to another Tuesday and our Year of Drinking Adventurously!

Toast Tuesday: Cognac

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I spent National Mojito Day drinking cognac. Seems a little wrong, I know. This is week 28 in our Year of Drinking Adventurously and also this week, on July 14th, is Bastille Day. So we are off to France.

Jumping right in, the law limits Cognac to not only the best parts of the grape, but to only three different varietals. After the initial process of making the wine under stringent specifications, it is then distilled twice in a copper pot still. The final, and most important step, is aging.

If you are anything like me, you’ve seen these labels and have some idea what they stand for, but have no real idea of what they mean. What I am referring to are the designations of:
V.S.   Very Special must be aged at least two years.
V.S.O.P.   Very Special Old Pale is a little older, usually aged at least four years.
X.O.  Extra Old… The youngest cognac to go into this blend is at least six years old and are often far older.

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Per the norm, I didn’t read the book before I went shopping,and truth be told, I just went in and asked what airplane bottles they had. I came home with two different cognacs and as our author advised, the subtle differences between the two were almost lost on me. I could tell the younger had a boozier bouquet. The VSOP had a warmer, earthier finish.

I was sitting on the patio trying to wrap my head around this, when I was drawn to making a cocktail. One thing I’m really coming to discover in this adventure is that there aren’t a lot of boozes I just want to sip straight. The ones I do enjoy might surprise you, but that’s a post for another day.

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According to David Wondrich of Esquire, and the Punch cocktail book, one of the best things to come from prohibition is the Sidecar cocktail. With that kind of hype, how could I not give it a whirl. I found three different recipes, and went with one from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. I’d probably enjoy different proportions better. It was a lovely little cocktail, but siting on the patio listening to the frogs and crickets, I really would have preferred a mojito.

Run over and see what Meg drank.

Here’s to Toasting another Tuesday! Cheers

Toast Tuesday: Madeira

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This weekend has been so delightfully cocktail filled that when it came time to try the madeira, I was up for the challenge!  This is week 27 is our Year of Drinking Adventurously.  I can’t speak for anyone else on this adventure, but I keep telling people how this was one of the best, and most expensive, gifts I’ve ever gotten.  I’ve been having so much fun trying and tasting my way through this book.

Our guide

Our guide

This week, and the last two, I’ve had some trouble with.  Fortified wines in the summer just seems ridiculous.  I’ll say, at this point, this is truly my only complaint with the book.  That being said, having had madeira in a cocktail before, I knew I had options.  When I went to the liquor store, I didn’t spend a lot of time reading labels; I didn’t even consult with the author or Vivino.  I just picked one under $20.

Once I got ready to open the bottle and taste, I did a little googling to check on my selection.  For a $19 bottle, it got decent reviews.  One even said  “Rainwater is a pleasant and approachable style – perfect for those starting to explore it. The Broadbent has pleasant exotic fruit and toffee notes with a clean finish. Try it with crab bisque or pâtè.”  Pate… oh this was going to be good.

I tasted a nip on it’s own and I got the toffee notes, but certainly not something I’d really want to sip on it’s own.  I could see though how it was going to pair nicely with some other spirits.

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Last night I hosted my first cocktail class here in Memphis.  I had a small group of guinea pigs friends who sat through two hours of me yammering about glassware and bar basics with a few cocktails thrown in.  One of the ladies asked about a cocktail she drank at her speakeasy watering hole back in Philly, a Brown Derby cocktail.  I whipped it up and it was quite tasty.  Bourbon and grapefruit juice… I had my doubts until the first sip.

When I found on google a cocktail that had madeira, rye, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit juice, and bitters I had to try it.  As I told my friend, its softer than the Brown Derby and went down quite easily.  Perfect for a summer evening  while sitting on the patio watching a storm rage or for hiding in the bathroom bunker, as was the case in our house.

Now, run over and see what Meg did this week.  And here’s to tasting another Tuesday!

Toast Tuesday: any Port in a storm

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I really couldn’t muster it in me to try some new port this week. Seeing as this is an adventure, I decided I’ve ridden this ride and don’t need to get off at this stop. This is our official halfway point; I really should have planned a party or something.  This is week 26 in our Year of Drinking Adventurously so I decided to revisit one.

Our guide

Our guide

First though, I’ll give you my .02 on Port before I completely move to something else. Port can be quite nice sipped after a lovely meal. To me, the nose is reminiscent of a liquefied fruit cake, heady and kinda sweet. When I only want a small nip and no one else is interested in drinking port, it’s a real waste to open a bottle.  So I didn’t waste.

What I did drink this week, purely in the name of research, was to loop back to whiskey.  I wanted to see what whiskey could do in the summer, other than a julep.  So I took to the interweb to see what it had to offer, in comparison to what was in my pantry, and what I came up with was a margarita.  WHAT? Shut the front door!

The recipe I found called for an unaged whiskey, but I decided to go crazy and use  gently aged Old King Corn Whiskey from Tenn South Distillery.  On the nose, the aromatics are delicate and the taste is delicious.

Whiskey Margarita
1 1/2 ounce Old King Corn Whiskey
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce lime juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail or rocks glass. Salt and lime garnish as desired.

This is a winner.  I really did not have high expectations, but this will be one for the books.

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Alright, now run off and see if Patsy, I mean Meg, got her homework done this week.

Cheers to the halfway point and another Tuesday!

Toast Tuesday: Oh, Sherry

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I really had intentions of blowing off this week and just regurgitating the history in the book, but the call was just too strong. If you know me, or you’ve come to know me, you know what a crafty booze loving word nerd I am.


One of my new friends here in Memphis is encouraging me to start teaching some classes on home bar basics and how easy it really can be to make good, simple cocktails. Since she planted this idea just a couple days ago, this is all I’ve thought about. Hard to believe, but I’ve been thinking about cocktails more than usual. I came up with a rather complete outline for my class in no time at all. Another girlfriend has already told me how excited she is to learn my secrets. I think that’s why I mustered for this week’s sherry. Purely in the name of research.

We are entering a period in our Year of Drinking Adventurously that baffles me a bit. For the next couple of weeks, we are going to be discussing fortified wines. To me, Nothing says summer less than a heavy wine. But what does says summer to me is rum, so when I went to the Google box searching for a recipe this combination really caught my eye.  It is with this recipe in mind that I made my purchase.  Had I actually read what our author had to say before I went to the store, my purchase most certainly would have been different.

Sherry is typically produced with white grapes, where ports usually use reds, and we will discuss that more next week.  According to our author, there are some fine sherries that are bone dry.  Historically, we think of sherry as sweet and only consumed by old ladies in England.  What I got was sweet, and to be honest, I wasn’t really willing to plunk down the dough for something really nice, that may or may not end up collecting dust.

Up to now, when I have purchased sherry, it has been purely for cooking purposes.  This leads to a tiny rant about Memphis and it’s lack of good groceries.  Finding wild rice here has been almost impossible.  Almost.  Thank goodness for Whole Foods.

According to our author, a nice dry Fino sherry can be consumed like one would a nice white wine and can pair with almost any meal. Now I wish I had made a better purchase. These sherries are aged under a film of yeast that acts as a barrier between the liquid and the air. This process helps Fino develop its signature characteristic, which is typically light in body and a pronounced minerality.

What I got was an Oloroso sherry, and in contrast to the Fino, has not been aged and tends to be richer and have a far fuller body. These tend to be paired more with red meats and stews.

The Oloroso I got was a sweet wine and I could easily see this pairing with a rich dark chocolate cake. The nose was that of a port, so I was a little surprised the sherry itself was so drinkable.  The cocktail I made was not something I’ll make again. If I do, I’ll change the proportions. I can see there is potential. This recipe paired the sherry with a dark rum. I didn’t have the best dark rum, but I could see it pairing with an aged rum better. Overall, I preferred this sherry as a sipper rather than mixed, but I’m not giving up on that avenue.

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Be sure to see what Meg drank this week. Also, please leave a comment to share your favorite home bar tricks and tools. 

Here’s to Toasting another Tuesday!

Toast Tuesday: Gin

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I’m going to tell you honestly, I really didn’t read this chapter in the book. I just looked in my liquor closet and followed my tastebuds. I have three gins and a genever in my collection.

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When New Deal began making gin, I was certain I didn’t like gin. What I soon realized was I hadn’t had any good gins. I’d only had old school gins that tasted only of rubbing alcohol and juniper. New gins were a beautiful balance of flavors and different notes that just juniper.

When New Deal was experimenting with the gins, we’d pour them in the tasting room to get people’s feedback. We made two gins; one of the gins is a little more traditional, and the other something very unique and herbaceous, that really took folks by surprise.  I fell in love with Gin No, 1, the weird kid.  Before I moved I stocked up on #1. It has a soft green hue and is quite versatile.  It is great for a martini, in a Bloody Mary, or with savory elements.  I know the thing you are scratching your head about there is the Bloody Mary, but a good bloody has layers of spice, and so does No. 1.

Another gin that is great in a bloody is the barrel aged Abernathy Gin from Tenn South Distillery.  This is made in the New American style where juniper is not the only flavor element.  This has a soft hints of floral and citrus.  I knew at first sip this was going home with me.

The other thing I drank this week was Bols Genever. Genever is the precursor to the gin we know now, first made by the Dutch. It’s very malty, both on the nose and the pallet. You can make an interesting Old Fashioned with it. What I did was the Improved Gin Cocktail and followed cocktail historian David Wondrich’s tasting notes and mixed it with maraschino liqueur and bitters.  The maltiness came through and made a delicious little cocktail.

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I also made a cocktail called the Jasmine, that I found I had saved in my drinks file a couple years ago and again last week.  Clearly if I’ve saved it twice, it was time to make it.  I used Martin Miller’s Gin.  This is my favorite commercial gin a soft juniper flavor and citrus flavor.

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This week I am hosting my ladies group for my Happy Hour at home. I’ve really struggled with what to serve this week. I want to make classic cocktails that are intended to be savored and sipped. Most of these ladies want koolaid that can be sucked down in a flash. So as a compromise for myself, I’m making one classic cocktail, one simple cocktail, and one fluffy, but interesting, cocktail.  oh the decisions…

Be sure to see what Meg drank this week.  I’ll keep you posted on how the ladies fare with the gin.

Here’s to another great Tuesday and drinking adventurously!

Our guide

Our guide

Toast Tuesday: the ‘shining

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I’m mooning over moonshine. I think this should be a country song if it isn’t already.

This week in our Year of Drinking Adventurously, I may or may not have gotten my hands on some “moonshine” that may or may not be legal.

Our guide

Our guide

A couple years ago at Thanksgiving we did a taste test between a secret stash and some commercial “moonshine”. The clear winner that holiday was the real moonshine, in its unlabeled bottle. It has a sweetness on the nose that the commercial stuff didn’t. A nice finish, with a hint of smoke and warmth. It lingers on the back of your throat, leaving this hmmmm, something familiar, but unrecognizable.  The commercial stuff we tried, didn’t have any depth or complexity.  It just tasted like alcohol.

Back in January when the Normal’s and I went to Bluegrass Underground for the first time, I took a detour and found local Tenn South Distillery to visit.  This was a charming little distillery, off the beaten path, that was well worth the visit. I had the place to myself and got a tour in addition to a tasting.  I left with several great products including an aged gin, a Tennessee whiskey, and one of their moonshines.  They had all the flavored stuff, but I don’t care for those.  Their regular ole’ moonshine is quite nice and sip-able.  Next to my real ‘shine, the nose is a bit boozy, but it has a beautiful sweetness at the finish, like you can almost taste the corn.

I just sipped and savored this week, no cocktails.  Be sure to see what Meg did with this week’s challenge.

Since I couldn’t find a song, I came up with my own verse for
Mooning over Moonshine…

The moon was shining bright
it made me feel quite nice
a nip here and there
had me dancing on the square
I had to get home quicker
since I couldn’t find my knickers

Toast Tuesday: Props to the Elder(flower)s

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This week we are exploring elderflower liqueur.  As our author starts off reminding us, there are so many fads that come and go, and so few that actually stay.  Elderflower liqueur is one of the few that took hold and has become known as the “bartender’s ketchup” because it will fix just about anything.

Our guide

Our guide

It is for that very reason that it has been something I have avoided.  Avoided may be too strong, but steered away from.  I can appreciate the floral flavor and sweetness it can add to a drink.  On it’s own, I found it reminiscent of children’s cough syrup, with a familiar, but undetermined, flavor that lingered in the back of my throat.

I enjoy a cocktail that has balance and nuance, and if it needs ketchup, then it generally isn’t for me.  Brother C sent me a Cucumber Basil Martini recipe with the following quote

Martinis- the first one is divine; the second will make a third seem like a good idea which, I assure, it is not.

 

This is one of the few cocktails I have had where the elderflower liqueur is a complement, and not a cover-up.  With all of the strong flavors in this cocktail, the only sweetness is from the liqueur, and it marries everything together.  I expected it to come on strong and had dialed back the liqueur a touch, but found that the full amount brought balance to the picture.

2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz St. Germain
1/2 oz Vermouth
¼ Large Cucumber
3 Large Basil Leaves
¼ Lime Juice

Directions:
Muddle cucumber, lime juice, and basil together in a cocktail shaker.
Add vodka, St. Germain, and vermouth.
Fill with ice and shake well.
Strain into a martini glass or coupe.

While there are now a few different brands on the shelves, the first, and most distinctive, is St Germain.  The bottle is beautiful and that alone is worth buying it for.  Sadly, the creator of St Germain died earlier this year, a fact I learned while purchasing this week’s bottle.26755325214_2ff1b45a0c_z

So, this Tuesday, we Toast to St Germain, and the fad that stuck around.  Be sure to visit Meg and see what she came up with this week.

Here’s my little monster who photo-bombed my cocktail photo-shoot.

photo bombed cocktail kitty

Toast Tuesday: The Force of Fernet

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This is week 21 of our tour-de-booze.  I really thought 21 should have been the kamikaze, the Irish Car Bomb, or buttershots.  Something you drank when you were 21 and this was a reminder why you never did it again!  This week, though, was the grown up version of something I never need to repeat, but now I have this bottle in my cabinet.  I’ll save it for the date I really want to make never call again.  This shit was terrible.

Our guide

Our guide

I can appreciate it has some value, some interesting herbal notes; but overall, this was a waste of $30.  Fernet-Branca is following up on last week’s exploration of bitters.  This is a bitter liqueur that is most commonly consumed on it’s own or with coke or gingerbeer.  It has a very herbal smell at first.  Second whiff, it’s more medicinal; reminiscent of cough syrup.  It looks like coke-a-cola and once you taste it, you understand the pairing.  It has very similar herbal elements as coke.

Not having ever been a huge fan of the coke cocktails, I skipped that route.  I tried the fernet on it’s own, just to see how bitter this bitter really was.  The taste is awful. It really is quite bitter.  The weird thing was, it made my mouth tingle when I tried it alone.  Never had that effect when I drank it mixed.

Per the norm, I consulted google to see what the world had to offer in the way of cocktails.  I started with The Late Night Reviver Cocktail.  This cocktail had all of my favorite elements lime, ginger, and gin, so I was off to a good start.  Even mixed, the strong herbal notes come through, but just didn’t work for me.  As I got toward the bottom of the drink, the herbal notes mellowed and reminded me of Pimm’s.   This made me wonder if I could use this as I would Pimm’s.

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The answer is a resounding NO.  I muddled cucumber and orange, added 1/2 ounce of fernet, and topped with gingerbeer.  It had all the flavors of a weak coke-a-cola.  I couldn’t even drink it.  Sad.  What a waste of a good gingerbeer.  Pimm’s being one of my favorite summer libations, I’ll revisit this soon, and properly.  Looking back, I was a little surprised I’ve not covered this one before.

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Alright, enough being bitter about bitter liqueur.  Be sure to see how Meg did this week.  I’m sure the only thing she may be bitter about is her vacation being over.

Happy Tuesday-  Drink up!

Toast Tuesday: Why So Bitter?

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This week, its all about bitters.  Not being bitter because your boyfriend refused to dig a hole for your heart shaped fountain, but taking your cocktails to a whole new level kinda bitter.

Week 20 has us exploring aromatic bitters.  Our author guides us through the classics and a few new staples that we should all have on our bar.  While I don’t have quite the bitters collection I want, I have the staples and a few extras.

the moderately well stocked bar

my moderately well stocked bar

Bitters are used a few different ways in cocktails, but the end result is the same; to give your cocktail that… hmmmlittle something.  Or as it was once described to me, bitters offers that sidestep from being good to being really interesting.  You want something that both complements and enhances.

If you were to only have one bitter for your bar, then the old school standard is Angostura Aromatic Bitters, available at every liquor store across the globe.  There was no rhyme or reason for how I threw the bitters on my counter tonight to snap this picture, but Angostura is 2nd from the left, distinctive in it’s white paper wrapper and yellow top.

Mostly, I have an assortment of new and interesting bitters.  The first bitters that I learned could make a cocktail stand up and sing was Regans’ Orange Bitters.   I don’t even recall the cocktail now, but it made me run out and buy a bottle.

I just realized my new favorite bitters didn’t make the photo shoot because it’s still packed up from last week’s impromptu event on the go.  I’ve been having so much fun with Elemakule Tiki Bitters.  While it has flavor elements specifically for tiki cocktails, I’m finding it adds an interesting element to everything I’ve tried it in.

The little blue bottle on the far right is my own special concoction.  The Meadow in Portland is a little shop that specializes in salt, bitters, and chocolate.  A few years ago I took a bitters making class.  The had about 30-40 different flavor elements for you to taste and smell to combine into your own bitters.  Well, about half way through assembling my creation, I blew out my taste buds and had to ask someone how my final product was.  I didn’t get my sense of taste back until the next day, and found I had created a lovely little bitters that pairs beautifully with the herbal notes of gin.

Our guide

Our guide

I’m not leaving you this week with some fancy cocktail.  I’m leaving you with a simple drink that will make everyone at the party think you are drinking even when you are the designated driver.

Club Soda with a dash of bitters.  Ridiculously simple.  What’s the worst thing about club soda?  The taste.  A couple drops of bitters makes it interesting.

Don’t want to be the designated driver?  Then add an ounce or two of vodka to your soda, a squeeze of lemon, your bitters, and you’ve just made a spritzer.  The world’s easiest, and most refreshing cocktail.

Drink well this week and here’s another Toast to Tuesday.  Let’s see if Meg is enjoying her vacation too much to drink with us this week😉.

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