Dizzy Recap: Kahlua Cinnamon Spice Launch

When a major spirits company launches a new product, the event is usually a flashy affair featuring an exclusive Manhattan locale and maybe even DJs, models and B-list celebrities. To introduce Kahlua Cinnamon Spice Liqueur, a blend of rum, arabica coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (a traditional Mexican spice), I was invited on a press trip to the Hudson Valley for apple picking and an autumn-inspired dinner at the scenic Bedford Post Inn. Let me tell you, this was a brilliant way to get NYC writers' attention--pull us out of the cold gray city and bus us an hour north where fresh air, foliage and seasonal scents awaited us. LUPEC NYC president and mixology maven Lynnette Marrero whipped up the cocktails for the evening (recipes below), highlighting the liqueur's surprising versatility by using aquavit, Cognac and tequila as base ingredients.

Durango Royale 3/4 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice 1 oz. aquavit 1/2 oz. lemon juice

Top with dry french fermented sparkling apple cider (Cidre Doux Eric bordelet). In a shaker, add all ingredients except sparkling cider.  Strain into a flute and top with dry fermented cider.

Zócalo Sidra (cider) 1 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice 3/4 oz. lemon juice 1 1/2 oz. Martell VS Cognac 2 barspoons apple butter 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Place all ingredients in a shaker. Shake and strain into a couple glass and garnish with cinnamon stick

Montanya Mermalada 1 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice 1 oz. Avión Tequila Blanco 1 oz. lemon juice 6-8 concord grapes

Muddle Grapes. Add rest of the ingredients. Shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.

Dizzy Recap: Bols Barrel Aged Genever Preview

From guest blogger Stephanie Moreno:

“Genever needs to be courted.”  --Gaz Regan

On a recent rainy, chilly August afternoon, an invitation to a dark, cozy lounge seemed a perfect idea. I was further enticed with the promise of a sneak peek of the new Bols Barrel Aged Genever to be released in September (and expected to retail for about $50).  Held at NoHo’s The Vault at Pfaff’s bar, invited guests were given an opportunity to meet and listen to Piet Van Leijenhorst, Bols’ Master Distiller.  Frank Cisneros, their Brand Ambassador, was on hand to shake and stir cocktails, and I couldn’t wait to learn (and taste) it all.

As we waited for the presentation to begin, we were given an “aperitif” so to speak:  a Genever Collins cocktail.  I loved the bright and sunny lemon drink as it was such a stark difference from the wet and rainy day.  The Genever’s weight added a nice richness with a touch of sweetness that balanced the acidity of the drink.

Subsequently, Van Leijenhorst began his discussion of the product he clearly is proud to make.  He discussed his desire for Americans to think not think of Genever as a gin, but rather more like a whiskey.  He then explained how their Genever is made, and so shall I:

Genever technically is a type of gin, but to all intents and purposes, it is best to think of Genever as its own category.  In fact, in 2007, it was given protected spirit status like Cognac. There are a few types of Genevers out there, but let’s just talk about two:  Oude (old) and Jonge (young). These are types that do not refer to the Genever’s time aging, but rather the amount of “malt wine” that is used in its production. Oude has to use at least 15% malt wine, Jonge is less than 15%. It is easy to remember in the sense of old vs. new school methods.  In Bols' case, they use over 50%.  But, what is this malt wine?

According to Van Leijenhorst, it is a “critical thing” and “the overwhelming taste comes from the malt wine.”  It consists of rye, wheat and corn that is triple-distilled (once in column and twice in pot stills) and then allowed to marry for six to eight weeks. The juniper and other botanical distillates (which include hops, anise, cinnamon and ginger root, among others) are then added to the malt wine.  This is then aged for at least 18 months in new and used Limousin oak barrels.

As the education continued, we were given the Aged Barrel Genever neat in an Old Fashioned glass, sans ice. Upon nosing the spirit, I found subtle wood spices from the wood aging with the tasting profile leading to a lush and spicy sip.  Notes of juniper, vanilla, pine, mint and cinnamon were some of what I discovered.  Variations of the classic cocktails the Manhattan and the Mint Julep were served to highlight the idea that Genever can be a substitute for American whiskey. I do agree with this sentiment, but as lovely as the cocktails that Frank made for us were, my favorite “cocktail” was just slowly sipping the Genever neat, room temperature.  My hope is that whether you are a gin lover or a whiskey lover, you ease into a relationship with Genever. As Gaz Regan said, Genever “…deserves to be courted and loved for its very distinctive personality.”  Hear, hear, sir!

Stephanie Moreno is a professional spirits taster and can be found on Twitter @brooklynwino.

Coming to a Fridge Near You: Sixpoint Gets Canned

By now, you know this blog is mostly about booze, but considering it's Memorial Day weekend, let's take a break and talk about beer. There was some big news in the craft beer world earlier this week when Redhook brewers Sixpoint Craft Ales announced its release of four beers in 16 oz. can format. After six years of being only available on draft, the opportunity to have a take-home version of The Crisp, Bengali Tiger IPA, Sweet Action and Righteous Ale excited many fans of the brand. In fact, Sixpoint announced today on Twitter that its wholesalers in NYC and Massachusetts have already sold out for this week. "Trying to ship more for next... will be tight," reads Sixpoint's latest tweet.

In the meantime, you can head to Whole Food's Bowery Beer Room for a tasting of the cans today from 5 to 8 p.m. If you want to try your luck, here's a list of stores in NYC selling the initial round of Sixpoint cans. They are going for about $10 per four-pack.

Dizzy Recap: Bootlegger 21 Vodka's Amateur Mixology Showdown

On a stormy Saturday last month, three budding bartenders went shaker-to-shaker for the inaugural Bootlegger 21 Vodka Amateur Mixology Showdown. Held at a secret location in SoHo that was later revealed to be the former townhouse of Andy Warhol, the cocktail competition kicked off a Cotton Club-themed night of vintage cocktails, swing music, cigar smoking, poker playing, burlesque and all-around tomfoolery. The event, hosted by Adam Aleksander and Michael Arenella, celebrated the launch of Bootlegger 21 Vodka.

After announcing the contest here and narrowing down the finalists, the live showdown all came down to a people's choice vote for the winner. It was an extremely close contest--I for one was impressed with the way the finalists managed to present cocktails that were both complex and well-balanced. They also served about 200 guests without missing a beat. In the end, Veronica Criswell (check out her demo video here) edged out Tom Flaschen and Garret Richard to win first prize, netting her four tickets to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala. Each finalist went home with an OXO barware kit.

Watch out for these budding mixologists--they might not be amateurs for long!

First Place: Brooklyn Pearl by Veronica Criswell 1 oz. Bootlegger 21 Vodka 1 3/4 oz. Velvet Falernum 1/2 tsp rose water 1 egg white Method: Shake vigorously with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has been rinsed with Cointreau.

Tie for Second Place: Martinez Blanc by Tom Flaschen 2 oz. Bootlegger 21 Vodka 1/2 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth 1 tsp Maraschino liquer 2 dashes grapefruit bitters Garnish: maraschino cherry Method: Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with maraschino cherry.

Tie for Second Place: Panacea Cocktail by Garret Richard 1.5 oz Cacao-Infused Bootlegger 21 Vodka* 1 oz Tawny Port (10 yr.) .25 oz Cherry Heering .25 oz Benedictine 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

*Rapid Cacao Infusion Add 500 ml of room temperature Bootlegger 21 Vodka to a whip cream whipper Add 75g of cacao nibs to your whip cream whipper Charge with 2 8g chargers of N20 and swirl for 30 seconds Settle mixture for 1 minute and 30 seconds Vent the excess N20, and let it settle for 1 minute Strain mixture, and bottle


Announcing: Bootlegger 21 NY Vodka’s Amateur Cocktail Showdown!

Bootlegger 21 Vodka, made right here in New York, is hosting a cocktail competition for budding drink-slingers. Three finalists will compete in a live showdown at the Bootlegger 21 launch party, an exclusive Cotton Club-themed bash in SoHo on April 16. Finalists will serve a crowd of thirsty industry veterans [including yours truly] and the winner will be selected by popular vote. Use of Bootlegger 21 as the primary ingredient, flavor, creativity, appearance and practicality will all be factors.

The contest is calling for original cocktail recipes that express the spirit of the Bootlegger and the Jazz Age.  Bootlegger 21 is distilled six times from 100% corn and made in the Hudson Valley.  The vodka has been awarded Gold medals from both the New York International Spirits Competition and from Beverage Testing Institute.

Requirements: * Recipe must use Bootlegger 21 Vodka as the primary ingredient * Please use no more than 5 ingredients (not including garnish) * Include your story of how you came to appreciate mixology * Submit a photo

The winner will celebrate their victory with 4 tickets to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala on May 13, win the title of Bootlegger Amateur Mixologist 2011, and have the opportunity to mix cocktails at an upcoming Bootlegger 21 event.

Entrants must be 21 years of age and older. Cocktail recipes must be submitted by 5 p.m., Friday April 8 to BootleggerMixology@Gmail.com.

Good luck!

Dizzy Recap: ZU Vodka Cocktail Lab

By guest blogger Amanda Schuster:

ZU is a Polish brand of vodka flavored with bison grass, known as Zubrowka, that has been a national drink for centuries. It was previously banned in the US due to a blood-thinning component found in bison grass called coumarin. However, it has now been re-worked for American consumption using a blend of botanicals from the bison grass area, with a very close approximation of flavor of the real deal. A real strand of bison grass, with an allowable amount of coumarin, comes in every bottle.

The spirit has an herbaceous, citrus and marshmallow nose that has more vanilla and honeysuckle on the palate. Think gin, minus juniper. For this reason, it lends itself beautifully to a variety of cocktails from deep, dark bitter to light fruit.

Recently, ZU held a Cocktail Lab at Astor Center to celebrate its launch to the New York market. Guests were greeted with a ZU toddy before brand ambassador Daniel Undhammar gave us a short presentation on Poland and Polish culture. Then he got into the booze mixing, demonstrating two cocktails, one was an Aviator spinoff and the other was fresh grapefruit juice-based, before it was time for the rest of us to play. There was quite the bounty to choose from: tables piled crazy high with a variety of fresh fruits, botanicals and spices and others stocked with a dream bar of liqueurs, vermouths and bitters.

With so much to choose from, it was a bit daunting at first, especially with the level of professionals surrounding me, but I decided to go with a light vs. dark tactic to test the versatility of the spirits. I made what I am calling "The Gypsy ZU Twinkle." It’s kind of a Negroni riff with ZU, Amaro, Punt e Mes, Campari and Bittermen’s Burlesque bitters (hence the “gypsy”) with an orange twist. The Amaro brought out the nutty flavors of ZU, while the Campari and bitters added some spicy zing. This Frankensteined concoction was alive, alive!

Since there was fresh lavender on the offer I decided to take advantage of it, and using my internal slot machine of flavor matching, went for fresh blackberries (the two muddled together), shaken with ZU and a small amount of Disaronno to balance the tartness, poured over ice and topped with Fever Tree bitter lemon soda. The lavender highlighted the vanilla in the ZU, while berries and lemon soda sang with the herbs. Daniel tasted both. Loved Gypsy but wanted to walk off with this one, let’s call it the "ZU Spring Tease" in honor of the short-lived warm weather snap.

Looking around the room, people were having fun: cracking eggs, slicing fruit, trying out new bitters, shaking things up. Soon the impressive Polish feast brought in from Greenpoint was set up with pickled salads, stuffed cabbage, pierogis, kielbasa and other goodies, and we ate with our concoctions and tasted each other’s drinks. Na zdrowie!

Dizzy Recap: Absolut Wild Tea Launch

By guest blogger Mary Van Hagen:

Earlier this week, Absolut introduced their newest flavor, Absolut Wild Tea, with a guest list-only party in Chelsea’s Hiro Ballroom at The Maritime Hotel.

Absolut Wild Tea--Absolut flavored with elderflower and black tea. Hmm, where have we heard this one before? It’s been speculated that about a year and a half ago, it was originally released as the Absolut Boston limited-edition series, however, in addition to the tea and elderflower flavors, there are hints of red apple and citrus, making this an easily mixable spirit.

Despite the frigid cold this winter, not even 10-degree weather accompanied by blustering winds could prevent massive crowds from lining up for this eclectic event. It was also evident that everyone who gathered to access the event were all on the guest list, translating into an agonizing 40-minute wait to get in.

Once inside, the crowd warmed up with DJ Becka Diamond, a New York “It” girl, who spun current hits with 90’s favorites while a fire-swallowing dancer performed nearby. Aerial dancers hung from the ceiling, swaying and gyrating over the crowd. There were also Asian inspired appetizers, including sushi rolls, chicken satay, spicy tuna on cucumber slices, and miso eggplant that were carried by wait staff for the party goers.

The featured drinks for the evening were: Absolut Wild Tea Gimlet (AWT with fresh lime juice and simple syrup), Absolut Ginger Tea (AWT with ginger beer and a squeeze of lime) and Absolut Secret Citrus (AWT with lemon-lime soda with a squeeze of lime). Of the three, the Ginger Tea was the most impressive, but I did happen to notice a few drinkers preferring the vodka straight up.

It seemed no matter where you turned there was a face to be seen, including David Yontef, a millionaire from Season Four of Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker.  Minus the crowds of people and frustrating door situation, this party seemed to have a little bit of everything, from wild entertainment, to delicious cocktails, to dance-able music and an extremely diverse crowd.

Absolut, you have come a long way into building your brand. Hats off to yet another successful flavor launch!

Sip & Tell: Graham Wasilition of Tenneyson Absinthe

"All experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move." --Alfred Lord Tennyson

I first met Graham Wasilition during the SXSW conference in Austin last March thanks to an introduction by the Lush Life Productions crew. During an Austin spirits event, Graham let myself and another blogger, Emily Cavalier, try a sample of his then-unreleased new absinthe, Tenneyson Absinthe Royale. I was immediately fond of the product, especially since it was the first absinthe I've tried that included a hint of juniper. I also appreciated the mildness of the anise flavor compared to many other absinthes. Emily and I were also impressed that Graham, at 27 years old, was creating his own brand.

Earlier this week, Tenneyson appeared on store shelves at Imperial Wines (First Avenue at 88th Street) on NYC's Upper East Side. I caught up with Graham online to learn more about the launch.

Q: When did you decide to get in the business of creating absinthe?  

A: After I graduated from Virginia Tech in Materials Science Engineering, I went to Austin to work for an international semi-conductor manufacturer and had eye-opening experiences in global travel, as well as food and drink. This was right around the time when absinthe resurged globally. My commitment to absinthe came when I got in touch with consultant/expert David Nathan-Maister (the author of The Absinthe Encyclopedia and a world-renowned absinthe and ancient spirit historian). There were so many products rushing to the market with false promises, information, and inferior quality. We saw an opportunity to bring together the best available resources and create a product that people could respond to and be excited about. Little did I know how long it would take us, along with Master Distiller Dominique Rousselet, to create a truly unique and high-quality brand that we could consistently deliver. 

Q: How did you find the distillery in France? How did you create the recipe? A: After developing a plan with David Nathan-Maister, he became a partner in the Emile Pernot Distillery in Pontarlier, France. This was such an incredible break because this distillery is one of two historic and active distilleries able to produce absinthe in the famed "Absinthe Town" of Pontarlier, France, former home of the most infamous brand in absinthe history, Pernod Fils. It also gave us unprecedented access to some of the highest quality herbs and aromatics available anywhere, and the most authentic to true absinthe history. We wanted to utilize French skills and century-old copper alembics to create a Swiss style juice because it is lesser known than the traditional French style and a little less polarizing. It also is traditionally lower in alcohol and therefore more widely approachable. We went through many, many iterations of the recipe and ended up using a take on a traditional Swiss recipe with a hint of juniper berry and orange peel which gives Tenneyson a New Western twist. We are very happy with the subtle and authentic profile which we finally settled on.

Q: Why the name Tenneyson? A: After the creation of the formula, we wanted to try and convey the idea of the brand through the name. The twist of using some slight gin technique by including a little juniper berry and orange peel led us to try and come up with a UK-inspired name that played to the history of our absinthe. The UK poet Alfred Lord Tennyson was a famed absinthe drinker and I came across the spelling TENNEYSON in a British baby name book. I thought the name related closely to the history of absinthe and played on the UK inspiration. I have since found some information that Tenneyson is also a derivative of Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine, which also seems quite fitting. We get comments about what a great name we have and I completely agree and am excited that we were lucky enough that no one was already using it.

Q: Is NYC the first city to sell Tenneyson? What is the price point? Which other cities will see it this year? A: NYC is the first city in the world where Tenneyson is available. There is a lot of  competition there, but that allows for the quality brands and good values to come out on top. We are working on the availability as we speak and want to be able to provide Tenneyson to as wide of a group as possible. However, we do not want to over-extend ourselves. We want to move into markets that will appreciate Tenneyson and be able to sustain consistent business. We make Tenneyson in small batches and need to manage the introduction with this in mind. It is currently retailing in NYC for around $50 and we will soon be offering it in the hot and up-and-coming markets in Texas. I'm sure we will see it in many more of the major markets across the country this year and even online very soon.

Q: What is your favorite way to drink Tenneyson? A: This is kind of a loaded question because the easy answer would be off the coast on a boat with friends and family. When we are talking specific cocktails, I like to drink Tenneyson a few ways. The traditional absinthe drip (sans sugar) works great and is perfectly balanced because the Pontarlier Wormwood is historically a little sweeter than wormwood sourced elsewhere, so I think it is sweet enough. I also think a simple prep is to drink Tenneyson with tonic water. Tonic water is basically the 21st century sugar water and the slight gin notes of Tenneyson Absinthe make an interesting profile. The beautiful louche is also a conversation starter and you can garnish it with an orange to bring a different color. We also do a cocktail with Orangina that tastes kind of like a twist between a mimosa and a screwdriver that is perfect for brunch. You can check our website for a few other cocktails. Many people think that absinthe needs to be prepared only one specific way, but there is no reason that it cannot be enjoyed as flexibly as any other great spirit.

Q: As far as you know, are you one of the youngest founders of a spirit brand? A: I'm not sure that I am one of the youngest founders of a spirit brand. I have been working on this since my early 20's, but it is my experience that a lot of innovation and energy comes from the younger generation. I'd also say that my naivete as a young entrepreneur with a head packed with illusions of grandeur actually helped me to keep moving forward when people were negative or professed that things would never work out. As an example, I was told that the name Tenneyson would not be available to trademark, but I followed up and did my research and proved that notion wrong. My age doesn't normally come into play, but it is kind of fun being able to do "business" until last call and still be able to get up and at 'em early the next day with a clear head and strong conviction.

Q: What hurdles have you had to overcome to import your absinthe? A: Well, there are too many to list here. I think that anyone starting a business of any kind will come across roadblock after roadblock, but you have to deal with each one as they come. We have dealt with things from raising money, writing contracts, distillation consistency, sourcing ingredients, securing distribution, shipping logistics, government compliance, currency exchange rates, to things like self-doubt and convincing people that we aren't crazy. Trying to stay on budget and schedule seem to be the overwhelming pressures while being true to the craft of distillation and the history of absinthe. When in doubt the latter is our priority!

Q: Future plans? A: To get a good nights sleep! But seriously, I love the industry and the category so I'm in no rush to go anywhere. I would love to grow the brand of Tenneyson and expose consumers (specifically in the U.S.) to the actual history of absinthe and enlighten as many as possible, whether they are drinking my brand or a comparable competitor. It's fun being in the business and I'm looking forward to future opportunities with respect to Tenneyson and/or anything else that comes along. I'm not very good at being bored and I love having fun and pushing the limits!

File Under: New Bottles to Rock

Isn't it time to add some luster to your liquor cabinet? Whether you're looking for bottles to spark up your next party, to bring to the holiday dinner table (always a solid move) or to sip on while Aunt Margaret drones on about her latest knitting project, here's a few new and noteworthy spirits bound to impress:

Banks "5 Island" Rum: This white rum shatters convention with its vegetal, grassy nose, robust ginger spice and dry finish. Composed of rum from five islands--Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Java--each rum is aged between three and 12 years, filtered, and then blended with a touch of arrack. Launched in August, this rum has already earned a 96-point rating from this year's Ultimate Cocktail Challenge, a 95 from The Tasting Panel and Best White Rum at the 2010 RumFest U.K. Retails for $28 for 750 ml.

The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask: Responding to the appeal of 2008's limited edition 17 Year Old Rum Cask, The Balvenie's latest release is a beautifully balanced whisky. Aged for 14 years in oak casks, the whisky is finished in Caribbean rum barrels for a few months, providing notes of honey and toffee.  Retails for $50-60 for 750 ml.


Excellia Tequila: And for another twist, how about tequila aged in Cognac casks? Made from 100 percent Blue Agave, Excellia Tequilas are separately aged in Grand Cru Sauternes Casks and Cognac barrels then carefully blended. The grape notes soften the finish, making this tequila an ideal choice for drinking neat. Retails for $55 for the Blanco 750 ml, $60 for the Reposado 750 ml and $70 for the Anejo 750 ml.

Sneak Peek: Beefeater Winter

Get ready to kick your winter cocktail game up a notch with Beefeater London Dry's Winter Edition, coming to the U.S. in late November-early December, with an official launch in NYC on Dec. 6. Following the success of Beefeater's Summer Edition, Master Distiller Desmond Payne created this holiday-inspired gin featuring notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and pine shoots. Although I haven't tried it yet, if it's anything like Beefeater Summer, I know I'm in for a treat.

From the press release, Desmond says, “I wanted to create a gin that would enhance the traditional Beefeater recipe and make it even more suitable for hot punches and cocktails that are popular during the winter months. Beefeater Winter captures the familiar aromas of the season using a balanced combination of botanicals that are synonymous with that particular time of year.”

To get you in the holiday mood, here's a recipe for Winter Punch:

50ml Beefeater Winter Gin 100ml Madeira 10ml lemon juice 1 tsp honey 1 tsp brown sugar 1 pinch cinnamon (ground) 1 pinch nutmeg (ground) 1 clove lemon twist orange twist

In a saucepan, gently heat all ingredients—do not let the mixture boil. Decant into teacups or toddy cups and serve.

Dizzy Recap: Maker's Mark Distillery Visit

Just as Bourbon Heritage Month came to a close last month, I was invited* to embark on a trip to Loretto, Ky, to visit the Maker's Mark Distillery--my first-ever visit to a commercial distillery. On a 90-degree September day, I arrived at the Maker's Mark campus -- a sprawling collection of quaint black barn-like buildings with bright red trim -- to see firsthand how the iconic red wax-capped Kentucky bourbon is made.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived--after an hourlong ride from the Louisville airport, which featured scenery of vast tobacco farms, Jesse James-era taverns, and one property with an endless collection of lawnmowers--was the sweet and sour aroma of fermenting grain. It's fitting to compare the smell to baking bread, since the recipe for Maker's Mark was reinvented in 1953 after Bill Samuels Sr. baked several loaves to experiment with various grain formulas. He settled on the use of winter wheat instead of the traditional, harsher rye, giving Maker's Mark its signature soft finish.

At the boardroom, I was greeted by Victoria MacRae-Samuels, Director of Operations, and Dave Pudlo, Distillery Education Director.  I learned that the distillery has a long history, along with the Samuels family. Established in 1805 as a gristmill distillery, Maker’s Mark is the oldest working distillery on its original site, and a National Historic Landmark. A 10-acre spring-fed limestone lake provides pristine, iron-free water for the bourbon. Victoria told me how Bill Samuels Sr., a sixth-generation distiller, purchased the Loretto distillery the same year that he set fire to his 170-year old family recipe and created Maker's Mark.

After a hearty lunch that included sliced ham with all the trimmings and Derby Pie (a chocolate and walnut tart doused in bourbon sauce) for dessert, Dave led me on an intensive tour of the distillery. I saw how the corn, malted barley and winter wheat are first inspected and then sent through and old-fashioned rollermill, and then the grain is cooked in a massive open cooker. Dave even let me taste the sweet yeast that goes into Maker's Mark, which uses cultures left over from one batch to the next, meaning that some cultures can be traced back to Pre-Prohibition.

After fermenting in large wooden vats, the mash is double distilled--once in a 16-plate copper column still that reaches through several floors of the distillery, and again in a copper pot still before reaching 130 proof. The white dog is then placed in charred white oak barrels and stored in warehouses (called rack houses or rickhouses) for six to seven years, and the barrels are rotated from top down to ensure temperature variation. Finally, a panel of tasters (who wouldn't want that job!) select barrels at different stages and balance them for the final bottling at 90 proof.

For more than 50 years, Maker's Mark has proudly stuck to their one expression of bourbon, but in June of this year, the brand turned heads by releasing something for the next generation of whiskey drinkers--Maker's 46. Developed by former Master Distiller Kevin Smith ( recently hired as Beam Global Spirits & Wine's Director of Bourbon and Distillery Operations), the classic Maker's Mark is aged an additional two months or so in barrels featuring seared French oak staves--not charred, but seared. This wood "recipe" was the 46th variation created by Brad Boswell of the Independent Stave Company, giving the new bottling its name. The result is a more toasted version of Maker's Mark, featuring bolder spice yet still lots of vanillans and a soft, long finish. Best of all, the 94-proof Maker's 46 is only about $10 more than the original Maker's, retailing for about $35.

Maker's Mark goes to great lengths to retain the level of craftsmanship that started their brand, and this was apparent throughout every step of my visit. It's why the labels on the bottles feature Marjorie Samuels' (wife of Bill Samuels Sr.) original lettering and each bottle is hand-dipped in wax. This year, Dave said Maker's Mark hopes to produce 1 million cases, a company milestone. About 25,000 cases of Maker's 46 are expected to be released this year.

I want to thank Victoria, Dave, and new Maker's Mark Master Distiller Greg Davis for showing me such hospitality, and also to Evins Communications for arranging my visit.

If you have the opportunity to visit Maker's Mark or any other stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,  do it--you'll experience an American tradition, and best of all, taste the results.

*Maker's Mark paid for my travel and accommodations. I was not compensated in any other way or expected to write a review.

On Tap: NYC Distilleries Now Pouring


 "When I sell liquor, it's called bootlegging; when my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, it's called hospitality."--Al Capone

On Sunday, August 1st, I nearly shed a tear as I witnessed a historic moment in NYC drinking culture--the first spirits distilled here since the days of Prohibition were served to the general public at two Brooklyn locations. Kings County Distillery, the little moonshine makers that could, poured their unaged corn whiskey--which also features malted Scottish barley for added complexity--at UVA Wines & Spirits in Williamsburg, while Breuckelen Distilling Co. flung open its Sunset Park doors to a thirsty crowd for tastings of its wheat-based gin and tours of its small factory centered around a 400-liter German copper still.

I visited both distilleries last month before they opened, and the yeast-scented anticipation hanging in the air was nothing short of infectious. Hard at work on a daily basis since spring, Brad Estabrooke of Breuckelen and Kings County's Colin Spoelman and David Haskell--all in their early 30s--represent the new generation of distillers pioneering the artisanal spirits renaissance. Recent changes to state law have made microdistilling easier and more affordable. But unlike their rural New York counterparts, these guys face the unique challenges of their urban environs.

"I don’t think there’s any distillery in the country doing what we’re doing," said Colin, who works by day as an architect before spending up to 8 hours a night at Kings County's 325 square-foot warehouse in East Williamsburg. "Our stills are 8 gallons each. We’re essentially doing what a home distiller is doing, but times four. It offers certain taste advantages, certain integrity advantages."

Colin, a Kentucky native, has been a moonshine hobbyist for years, while David, a magazine editor, had a bootlegging great-grandfather. Along with their three apprentices, they continuously monitor the cooking of organic New York corn and malted Scottish barley into their fermented mash before sending it through their small pot stills.

Due to the limited size of the operation, David and Colin bottle their moonshine in 200ml flasks selling for $20. Kings County is also placing its white dog in 5-gallon oak barrels, to eventually be bottled as bourbon. And they recently purchased another space within their building on Meadow Street that will be turned into a tasting room.

With a production output of about three times the size of Kings County's, Breuckelen Distilling Co. at 77 19th St. is a dream come true for Brad, who came up with the idea to start a distillery with his girlfriend, Liz O'Connell.

"We were sitting around having drinks one day, discussing how we don’t like our jobs," said Brad, a former bond trader who grew up in Maine. "We thought it would be rewarding to produce something. Then I was reading an in-flight magazine article that mentioned that the federal rules for distilling had changed, and that there was a revolution in micro-distilling. I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do."

At Breuckelen, organic New York wheat is milled and fermented before going into the 16-foot still with eight plates which can be adjusted to result in a stronger or lighter wheat flavor. Brad then returns the wheat spirit to the still with juniper berries, lemon peel, grapefruit peel, rosemary and ginger to produce his gin. The nutty wheat grounds the botanical notes of the gin, offering a unique product for $35 per 750ml bottle. Brad said he is considering bottling the wheat spirit on its own, and is already planning a winter edition of his gin.

"I think people who are interested in trying different spirits, not just the mass-marketed big brands, will want to try our gin," said Brad.  "People who appreciate local and artisan crafted, not assembly line.  Anyone who wants to see where and how their spirits are made."

Kings County's moonshine can be purchased at UVA and Thirst Wine Merchants in Brooklyn and at Astor Wines & Spirits and Park Avenue Liquor Shop in Manhattan.

And click here for all of the locations to buy Breuckelen Gin in addition to their Sunset Park tasting room.

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse...

  • In reponse to the Gulf oil spill crisis, The New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society will be selling a limited-edition bar towel during Tales of the Cocktail at the Tales Gift Shop. With a suggested price of $5, 100 percent of proceeds from the sale of this bar towel will go directly to oyster shuckers who have recently been laid off due to the heartbreaking spill.
  • Also in response to the oil spill, Don Q Rum will host the Louisiana Coastal Rehab Benefit Party featuring Cowboy Mouth and ReBirth Brass Band at 10:30 p.m. on July 22 at Tipitina's in the French Quarter. Tickets are $10 and cocktails will be sold for $4 each, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Greater New Orleans Foundation Gulf Coast Restoration Fund. Star mixologists are even expected to jump behind the stick!
  • And while we're on the subject of New Orleans, The Bitter Truth's Creole bitters ($15) will be arriving on U.S. store shelves soon. Described as bitter, sweet and spicy, the bitters include notes of anise, caraway and fennel. [I can't wait to try it!]
  • Don't snuff out those vuvuzelas just yet--the World Cup comes to a hot international climax this Sunday, and you can catch all the action at a massive block party hosted by Brass Monkey. The tri-level bar has secured a permit to take over the block of Little West 12th in front of the bar, where they’ll convert a parking lot into a beer garden with picnic tables, two movie screens, and refrigerated beer trucks filled with 200 kegs of Blue Moon, Coors Light and Spaten for $6 (that’s per cup, not per keg, homeslice). You can also expect a variety of sandwiches and bar fare available for purchase. The outdoor beer-soaked festivities start at 11 a.m. and go ‘til 6 p.m., while inside the bar, flatscreens on both floors plus a screen on the rooftop will keep things kicking ‘til 4 a.m. Brass Monkey, 55 Little West 12th St. (10th Ave. and Washington)
  • New Yorkers looking for plans on Sunday night, look no further--hereby consider yourselves invited to the July edition of LES Salonnieres, a monthly artists' salon, supperclub and speakeasy held in an abandoned rooftop tenement. In addition to a potluck BBQ, burlesque, live painting, live butchering (and cooking) of a chicken, yours truly will be mixing up cocktails and punches using Maker's Mark and Bluecoat Gin for $6 a pop. This event, organized by the luminary Adam Aleksander, is not to be missed! The revelry goes from 7 to 11:30 p.m. 124 Ridge St. (Stanton and Rivington Sts.)

File Under: Hot Dates

  • File under sipping & swinging: Just a few mere hours left to purchase advance tickets for the Liberty Belle Spectacular, a real treat of a Fourth of July showcase channeling the roaring '20s--complete with a view of the fireworks. Hosted by Dances of Vice, The Champagne Riot, The Salon, and Wit's End, the rooftop swing party will feature Brooklyn vaudeville duo Gelber & Manning and the Star Spangled Orchestra, rockabilly ballads, boogies and blues by SIT & Die Co, bugle boy extraordinaire Bob Leive, performances by tap sensations The Minsky Sisters, mesmerizing burlesque by Jezebel Express and Perle Noire with special guests The Rhinestone Follies, cocktails by mixologist Fredo Ceraso from Loungerati, and the dapper MC Dandy Wellington! Hurry, tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. July 4, Empire Hotel Rooftop, 44 W. 63rd St.
  • You have not one, but two upcoming opportunities to taste Maker's 46, the first new product from Maker's Mark in more than 50 years, for free: a tasting party from 8 to 10 p.m. Monday at Rye House featuring Maker's 46 cocktails as well as food, and a more education-oriented session from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at Louis 649's Tuesday Night Tastings. To make the 46, original Maker's Mark ages for several more months in casks lined with seared French oak staves, giving the signature Kentucky bourbon a more prominent toasted spice profile. Rye House, 3 W. 17th St.; Louis 649, 649 E. 9th St.
  • Also on Tuesday, Justin Noel and Martim Ake Smith-Mattsson bring a taste of Jamaica to the Bowery with a night of specially-priced Appleton Estate Rum cocktails from 7 to 10 p.m. Madame Geneva, 4 Bleecker St.
  • Harlem's 5 & Diamond is joining with Domaine Select Wine Estates to host a summer cocktail tasting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Expect farm-to-table nibbles from chef David Santos and Jonathan Pogash behind the stick. Five and Diamond, 2072 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (Corner of 112th St. and 8th Ave.)


Elsewhere in the Liquiverse...


  • Hot on the heels of news that William Grant & Sons has purchased Philly's Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction brand, including its ROOT liqueur, AITA is now bottling its next organic spirit, SNAP, based on a Pennsylvanian Dutch black strap molasses ginger snap recipe. The bottles will be on Pennsylvania shelves later this summer; widespread distribution of both SNAP and ROOT to be announced.
  • Craft beer fans (like myself) will sate their thirst and then some at this Saturday's Fourth Annual New York Brew Fest on Governor's Island. More than 300 styles of beer from more than 100 breweries from New York and beyond will be sampled from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $55 and include water taxi to and from the island.
  • It's that time again--the New York Bar Show is this Sunday and Monday at Javits Convention Center. Although last year's show seemed to highlight the clash between nightclub-style bartending and cocktailian bartending, it will be interesting to see if this year's show will take itself a little more seriously. The agenda includes Le Cognac's cocktail competition awarding $3,000 in prizes, USBGNY mixology demonstrations, and a cognac seminar led by Dale DeGroff, Dave Wondrich, and F. Paul Pacult. Tickets are $50 for the floor show and $150 for all-access to seminars.
  • And on June 23, the Indy Spirits Expo rolls into town from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Touch nightclub. [Odd venue for this, but the club is centrally-located.] The expo will feature tastings and presentations from some of the best artisanal spirits producers around. Tickets are $55.
  • Earlier this week, the team behind Scottish gastropub Highlands got approval to turn the former Allen & Delancey space into their next concept, Mary Queen of Scots. Billed as "Highlands meets Vivienne Westwood and the Sex Pistols," the brasserie will feature whiskey cocktails and is slated to open in the fall.
  • Scientists are getting closer to growing livers, which is good news for those of us who may be beating them up more often than we'd like to admit. [No need to worry Mom, I take my milk thistle!]
  • Summer cocktail season is upon us, and I was honored to contribute a write-up of the best summer cocktails in town for this week's issue of Time Out New York. It was hard to choose from so many delicious drinks at so many of my favorite bars, but for you, dear readers, this is the kind of research I go to great lengths to do.
  • In case you haven't heard already, Albert Trummer, proprietor of Apotheke and the recently-unveiled Theater, was arrested Saturday night after undercover fire marshals witnessed his signature fire show at Apotheke. The Apotheke bartenders I've spoken with say given the size of the bar, it's doubtful that the flames were six feet wide, and the bar also does not have curtains, as The New York Times reported. The bar, which does not have an open flame permit, reopened the following night. Trummer is facing charges of reckless endangerment and criminal nuisance, both misdemeanors.

Dizzy Recap: Beefeater Summer Launch, St. Germain Can-Can Classic, Zagat's Preview of Theater and Absolut Brooklyn Launch!


So many parties, so little time! June officially kicked off summer party season in NYC, and so far it's been quite the bender:

Beefeater Gin launched its limited-edition Beefeater Summer  featuring hibiscus, elderflower and black currant at the Ace Hotel. This gin has balanced sweetness and can be sipped straight--clearly Master Distiller Desmond Payne knows what he's doing. Refreshing summer cocktails by Jamie Gordon, fish and chips, and a live twitter screen made this event a hit among the bartender, blogger and cocktailian crowd.

St. Germain's Third Annual Can-Can Classic brought 13 bartenders from across the states to compete in a cocktail competition judged by Dave Wondrich, Andy Seymour, Lynnette Marrero, Toby Maloney and Phil Ward. The top $5,000 prize went to of Bobby McCoy of the Eastern Standard in Boston (winning cocktail recipe below). Afterwards, St. Germain kicked off its 1920s-themed Harvest Fair Party at the Bowery Hotel, complete with sword swallowers, carnival games and a live band.

Zagat Survey hosted this week's much-anticipated reveal of Theater, the new Tribeca cabaret-themed cavern from Apotheke's Albert Trummer. Also billed as a celebration of Internet Week New York, Trummer opened the doors to his not-yet-officially-open space at 114 Franklin St. featuring a bar designed to look like a stage, a VIP room behind the stage, and an upstairs balcony and DJ booth. Zacapa rum cocktails and Sigmund Pretzelshop pretzels kept this party going strong.

And just last night, hordes of Brooklynites packed into the PowerHouse Arena in DUMBO to celebrate the launch of Absolut Brooklyn, featuring a red apple and ginger flavor (although more like a hint of ginger). With special guest Spike Lee, DJ Spinna keeping the crowd bumping, professional dancers and a steady supply of refreshing cocktails, this party was off the heeze and further proof that Absolut throws some of the best parties in NYC! For more pics, check out Ucwhateyec.com.

Whew! Off to drink more water and take a nap... until the next!

Elixir Alpestre by Bobby McCoy, Boston, Eastern Standard

2 oz. Bols Genever 3/4 oz. St-Germain 1/4 oz. Becherovka 1 Dash Angostura Orange Bitters 6 Drops Pernod Absinthe

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin over ice and shake.  Strain into a large coupe glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

Announcing: Beefeater Summer Gin

With 80-degree weather coming our way for Derby Day tomorrow, everyone's thinking about seersucker suits and mint juleps served over crushed ice. As summer nears, I also start to dream of crisp, refreshing gin. And wouldn't you know it, Beefeater London Dry Gin is launching a limited-edition Summer Gin on June 2. Following the success of Beefeater 24, Master Distiller Desmond Payne created Beefeater Summer Gin to celebrate the season with prominent floral notes including elderflower, blackcurrant, and hibiscus.

"It has a slightly lighter characteristic," said Payne, who took a moment to speak with me by phone recently. "Beefeater 24 is aimed more at bartenders and for mixing in more high-end cocktails, while the Summer Gin is more for the consumer. Think summer parties and BBQs, and with pomegranate or cranberry juice, it makes a lovely long drink."

Payne, who has been making gin for 42 years, said he is "having a great time" experimenting with new varieties of Beefeater while upholding the classic method of distilling. "It's a chance to spread out a little bit, but very much in the Beefeater way," he said. "This is an interesting and exciting time for gin."

Breaking: Creme Yvette on Shelves in NYC!

She's finally here! Although she's more of a reincarnate than a newborn, Creme Yvette, the highly anticipated liqueur from the makers of St-Germain elderflower liqueur, is now on sale at Astor Wines & Spirits for $41.99. I'm still finding out which other liquor shops are stocking it--Park Avenue Liquor expects to have it soon and there is already a customer waiting list! Featuring notes of berries, spices, honey, vanilla, and a hint of violet petals, Creme Yvette disappeared in 1969, but Robert Cooper’s family has the rights to the recipe and has been fine-tuning it for relaunch.

Over the past two years, Creme de Violette has been a hit with mixologists seeking the missing link to a proper Aviation. Classic cocktails that include Yvette are the Blue Moon (2 oz. gin, 3/4 oz. lemon, 1/2 oz. Creme Yvette) and the Union Jack (1 1/2 oz. gin, 1/2 oz. Creme Yvette).

I'm excited to see the reddish-purple Yvette make a splash on NYC cocktail menus. Have an idea for a cocktail recipe featuring Creme Yvette? Comment below, and I'll experiment with some of them--the best recipe will win something cool, I promise!

*Correction: I originally said the original recipe for the Aviation, as found in Hugo Ensslin's 1917 book, "Recipes for Mixed Drinks," included Creme Yvette--it did not, it calls for Creme de Violette--my apologies.

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse...


Sip & Tell: Brandon Lieb of Ron Atlantico

Given the recent opening of the city's first rum-centric bar, Roneria Caracas in Williamsburg, rum may very well be the next premium spirit to win over NYC's cocktail crowd. So it was good timing that Brandon Lieb, the Miami-based co-founder of Ron Atlantico, recently made an extended visit here to share his sipping rum and get to know the NYC cocktail scene.

"I'm not here to sell anything," said Brandon, who launched Atlantico in Miami over a year ago. "I want to let people make up their minds about it."

Brandon, who formerly worked for Bacardi, founded Atlantico with Aleco Azqueta, whose family owns the Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic. There, they found a third-generation master blender to produce Atlantico from small-batch, aged rums that are blended and then aged in bourbon casks. Composed of rums between 15 and 25 years old, the additional aging process uses the solera method (typically used for sherry), which allows the flavors to mellow and marry. A true dark rum, Atlantico has gentle vanilla and toffee flavors without the overpowering sweetness of a spiced rum. It's lusciously complex with a smooth finish, and is best sipped neat, on the rocks, or mixed in a daiquiri.

When he first arrived in New York a few months ago, Brandon introduced Atlantico to the Dominican neighborhoods in the Bronx and Washington Heights before hitting Manhattan hotspots such as Rose Bar, Le Cirque, and Philippe. He said the Latin communities of New York and Miami have embraced Atlantico, preferring to sip it neat, although in Miami the daiquiri is approaching the cult status of the mojito.

Today, Brandon is headed back to Miami, just in time to skip the winter chill in NYC. Meanwhile, he'll be watching from afar to see how Atlantico and other sipping rums fare during the dark spirits season here, where rye, scotch, and bourbon are popular methods for keeping warm. He hopes imbibers will notice Atlantico's cigar-inspired label as bars increase their stock of premium rums.

"We're not trying to be the biggest rum, but we're trying to be one that people appreciate," said Brandon.