There’s a lot of variety between different styles of gin. From juniper-intense London Dry gin to softer International Gins with a variety of botanical flavors … there’s a gin for every palate. If you like floral gins (which I really do!), I recently tried one from France that I’d highly recommend: G’Vine.
G’Vine is made from Ugni Blanc grapes that are pressed and converted into wine and then distilled into a neutral grape spirit. This base is mixed with grape vine flowers and other botanicals including juniper (of course) ginger, lime and green cardamom. The result is a delicate and lightly sweet gin that pairs really well with fruit and herbal flavors. The ginger balances nicely with the sweeter aspects, giving it a bit of a kick.
If you’re the type who likes to make up new cocktail recipes with fresh ingredients (Ahem, like the recipes the book DIY Cocktails talks about), then this is a good gin to experiment with. If you like Hendrick’s Gin, G’Vine may be right up your alley. (At about $35, G’Vine is at a similar price to Hendrick’s.)
If you only like super intense juniper London Dry gin, this probably isn’t going to do it for you. But it does make a mean Gin & Tonic. I like to use Meyer Lemon instead of lime as an accent for a G&T made with G’Vine. This would also be a good candidate for my favorite variety of G&T: gin, tonic, generous squeeze of grapefruit juice and a few dashes of DIY Rhubarb Bitters.
Familia Camarena sent me some tequila to review, along with a cute little cocktail tool kit. All I could think when I saw it was “Margarita time!” But all the summer fruit around made me want to get a little more creative than that. Since I couldn’t get Margaritas off my mind, I mixed up some Cherry Margaritas. I made this a little strong, since I like to taste the tequila and this is nice tequila. You can adjust the tequila and lime to your tastes.
(After the recipe, I’ll give my thoughts about Camarena Tequila.)
12 cherries (pitted)
1 ounce light agave nectar
2 ounces silver tequila
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
Muddle the cherries and the agave nectar at the bottom of a shaker or mixing glass. Add the tequila and lime juice along with ice and then shake vigorously. Strain into rocks glass with fresh ice.
The Macallan teamed up with Oakley on an impressive package that pairs (extremely delicious!) 22 year old scotch with a stylish, high-tech flask. There are only 400 packages available at $1,500 a pop (looks like you can get the flask by itself). I’m not going to go on and on about the price, because we all know that’s a lot of money. What I care about is what it tastes like, and luckily they sent me a small sample for review. You know what? Damn, it’s good.
(More on the flask itself after the jump, because … there’s 22 year old Macallan to talk about!)
The Macallan | The Flask
Facts: Single malt, aged 22 years in American oak seasoned with Sherry (a first for Macallan)
When it comes down to it, this was one of the best drams of scotch I’ve had.
The nose is nutty and malty with a lemon undertone. Once it actually hits the tongue, oak and a very mild smokiness come in with a hint of orange and honey. I’m trying not to wax poetic about it, but it’s hard. The Macallan 22 is smooth and harmonious–with an interplay between sweet and smoky that ends on just the right dry note. Not a long finish, but long enough to leave you wanting more. (Besides, I am getting annoyed by the peat attacks that take four toothbrushings to leave my mouth.)
Yeah, it’s expensive … and it tastes like it is. (Perhaps this would be Jeff Winger‘s scotch of choice.) The quality of the oak flavor is exactly what makes this stand out from other scotch I’ve had, including other Macallan expressions. I was a Macallan fan going into this, and this raised my esteem for them. I hope this flask combo isn’t the last we’ve seen of this maturation method.
Brugal 1888 is one of my favorite spirits hands down. When I first tried it, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do because, when it comes to sipping spirits, rum isn’t usually my choice. But Brugal 1888 is a rum that drinks like a whiskey. (Rum lovers, don’t be scared! It’s still very much a rum.) Continue reading
Naturally, I think that my book, DIY Cocktails, makes a great Christmas gift. But maybe you and all your friends and relatives already have my book and are looking for other cocktail-related books. Here are some that I recommend:
Seasonal Cocktail Companion, by Maggie Savarino ~ This book combines fun DIY projects like making your own bitters or liqueur with cocktail recipes–all based on seasonal ingredients. The flavor combinations are unique without being weird. It’s creative without being too challenging. This book is a good choice for people who want to get a little culinary with their drinks and are willing to spend a little time and effort on that. The focus is on projects, although there are quick and simple cocktail recipes mixed in as well.
Savoy Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock ~ Anyone who is into classic cocktails will love this book. It’s a collection of Prohibition-era recipes from the period’s most famous bartender. But it goes way beyond the familiar recipes and even the biggest cocktail nerd will learn something new. These drinks are strong and dry, so this wouldn’t be the right choice for people who like their drinks on the fruity and sweet side. My only real complaint about the book is the organization: There’s no index, and the recipes are categorized and sequenced in a way that doesn’t always follow how most people look for drink recipes. But it’s worth flipping around to find new and exciting cocktails to try.
Luscious Liqueurs, by AJ Rathbone ~ The liqueur recipes in here are delicious, but they’re also easy. I often find that people over-complicate homemade liqueurs, so I was pleased that this book has a direct and practical approach. You can trust the methods and descriptions, which is saying a lot when it comes to liqueur projects. It’s not just for those with a sweet tooth–it also features amaro and herbal recipes.
Jelly Shot Test Kitchen, by Michelle Palm ~ This is definitely a specialty book, but it’s a lot of fun. The flavor profiles of the shots are good overall, so you don’t have to worry that it’s just a bunch of sugar bombs. There’s a lot of variety to the recipes, and it’s ideal for anyone who has a lot of parties. You do, however, have to be quite patient to get your home versions to look as cute.
The first party I went to at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail was the William Grant & Sons/Tales of the Cocktail 10th birthday extravaganza at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Though I do use the word extravaganza loosely in my day-to-day life, this was a party of epic proportions that deserves the moniker.
William Grant & Sons represents about a gazillion liquor brands (Stoli, The Balvenie, Hendrick’s, Sailor Jerry, Glenfiddich, Milagro Tequila, Hudson Whiskey, and Lillet, to name just a few) and each of them had a cocktail station set up all around the museum (inside and out). It was fun to drink cocktails inches away from Dutch master paintings or next to a Magritte sculpture. As far as I know, no works of art were harmed in the process.
There weren’t a whole lot of new spirits introduced at Tales this year, so I was excited to try Montelobos Mezcal … not only because it was new, but also because I have very little experience with mezcals and so I like to try them.
I like that Tales of the Cocktail has a sense of humor about the tics and affectations of bartenders, mixologists, liquor industry people, and cocktail enthusiasts in general. (It was no surprise to me that I met two people at Tales who are in this “Mixologist” parody music video that gives self-serious bartenders a good ribbing.) I especially like when this cheekiness is accompanied by a good drink, which it usually is.
If you haven’t noticed, bartenders favor the facial hair, so I got a kick out of the “Whisky & Whiskers” service that Auchentoshan put together. (That’s pronounced “Okken-toshen,” which is super fun to say.) A pedicab whisked people to a fancy-schmancy barbershop for a shave and a whisky. I was about to complain about how gent-centric this was until I discovered that ladies get a massage, a far better accompaniment to whisky, if you ask me.