The first time I heard the Ramones, I was barely into my teens, and was immediately captivated by their simple, straightforward sound and mutant lyrics. It was punk, and something anyone could do if they knew three guitar chords, a basic beat and cultivated enough attitude. The group’s first four albums would lead me down a tunnel into the wild and wonderful world of punk rock that would become a staple of my teenage years. It was immediate, accessible and led to spending hours in my bedroom learning chords and playing along to dubbed cassettes of endless songs on a half busted Sony Walkman.
My point is that everyone has to start somewhere, and Heather Greene’s Whiskey Distilled is the perfect first book for newcomers to acquire. Quite simply: In the last two years of reading and reviewing books about spirits, I do believe this is might be the most accessible and informative introductory guide I’ve come across.
Versatile enough to welcome everyone with easy to follow language and great anecdotes, Greene leaves no stone unturned in covering the basics. But she also takes the reader through advanced concepts such as chemistry and flavor profiles, distinctions between the various whiskies of the world, necessary hardware for cocktail construction, suggested food pairings, and so much more. She takes time to explain, rather than assume or boast about drinking the rarest whiskies in the world, and her writing style brings a warmth and inclusion often missing from books similar in scope.
This is an outstanding, essential guide for anyone getting his or her feet wet on the big whiskey wave, and is worthy of space on anyone’s bookshelf. Plus on top of all of this? Greene gets kudos from actor/woodsmith/sage Nick Offerman on the jacket sleeve. And if it’s good enough for Ron Swanson, it’s good enough for you.
A+ / $19 / [BUY IT HERE]
Members of a family-run liquor store in Northern Kentucky are currently in court pitted against one another. At stake is an estimated $234,000 worth of rare bourbon allegedly taken without authorization. The troubled Cork ‘N Bottle could benefit greatly from the sale of the stock, as the store has been in dire financial straits as of late. We’ll see how this plays out in Federal court. [BizJournals]
Another day, another beer lawsuit: this time we see Lagunitas Brewing taking Sierra Nevada to court over the design of its IPA label. We’re not sure if this one is going to hold up in court for Lagunitas. The fonts aren’t exactly similar, nor are the colors, background, text or really not much else. [Inside Scoop SF]
Geoff Kleinman posts a rather interesting op-ed of DISCUS, the distilled spirits council’s governing body, and its lack of watchdog tenacity over the industry as of late. Well argued and written, its definitely a must read for anyone who enjoys the “inside baseball” aspect of the spirits world. [DrinkSpirits]
In science news, researchers have found that working more than 48 hours a week increases the risk of alcohol abuse, learned that alcohol is essential for relaxation, and have tested a new hormone therapy to curb the desire for alcohol consumption.
Congrats to the folks over at Buffalo Trace, whose visitor center welcomed a record 123,331 visitors in 2014, a 26 percent increase over 2013. Since the end of 2009, the distillery has enjoyed a 145 per cent growth in visitors. Kudos also to Allison Widdecombe of Denver, who won the 2015 edition of 2015 Woodford Reserve’s Manhattan Experience competition. Her winning recipe? We’ve got it right here:
2 oz. Woodford Reserve
.5 oz. Oolong Tea-Infused Ruby Port
.5 oz. Cardamom-Infused Amèr Nouvelle
.5 bar spoon of Fernet Branca
Combine ingredients over ice in mixing glass and stir. Strain them into a cocktail glass, and garnish with an expressed lemon twist.
And finally today, we received an email from a Marriott Hotel rep asking us to promote its Renaissance Hotels #BarBrag Cocktail Challenge. Simply enter your cocktail at the contest site and be entered to win. Three finalists will be selected and flown to Washington, D.C. for an in-person competition on Friday, February 13th. Good luck! [Bar Brag]
Time magazine publishes an article about 5 beers that are largely considered or were once imported that are now brewed in the United States. Amusingly, Fox News publishes an article on the same topic on the same day. Total coincidence, we’re sure. [Time]
The Napa Valley Register gives its predictions on what will be trending in the world of wine this year. It looks as if mixers, sparkling, and sweetness are making a comeback, which no doubt will please Messrs. Bartles and Jaymes. [Napa Valley Register]
Whisky Advocate reports that Crown Royal is entering the single barrel market, a first for the Canadian brand. Crown Royal Single Barrel Whisky comes in at a sturdy 51.5% ABV and a price tag of about $55. The first 500+ barrels have been already issued, each of which are exclusive to a particular retailer — and only in Texas. Our review will be up in short order. [Whisky Advocate]
Like most people, the staff here at Drinkhacker tend to other jobs throughout the day unrelated to our love of all things spirited and yeasty. However, there are a select few souls whose job is to sit around all day and drink bourbon. CNBC takes a closer look at one of them, Brown-Forman’s Master Distiller-in-training, Marianne Barnes. [CNBC]
In other beer news, over 70 people have been confirmed dead and over 100 hospitalized after drinking contaminated beer in Mozambique this weekend, with rumors of foul play and poisoning coming out. Police believe that crocodile bile was the contaminate. [The Guardian]
And finally today, NPR takes a look into the trend and recent demand for aged beers. Not sure how big of a trend this will become, but if the demand for aged bourbon/scotch is any indication, don’t be surprised if it keeps rising. [NPR]
With the majority of the nation under a bit of a cold spell (as I type this the wind chill in my town just hit a cool and breezy -21 degrees Fahrenheit), we thought it best to revisit one of the best winter drinks around: the hot toddy. A classic drink for these bone-chilling days, the Hot Toddy is best consumed next to the warmest fireplace and under the softest blanket you can find. National Hot Toddy day is technically January 11, but for those of us living on conditions befitting an ice planet, it could very well be any day until April.
The Classic Hot Toddy
1 1/2 oz brandy, whiskey, or rum (note: depending on my mood, I’ll opt for either Bulleit, Eagle Rare. or Old Forester as the main event here)
1 tablespoon honey
Juice from 1/2 lemon
8 oz hot water
1 tea bag
1 pinch of fresh ground nutmeg (optional)
Add honey to the bottom of your mug or glass and spread it around. Add the spirit of your choice and lemon juice. Pour hot water and tea bag into glass and stir. Repeat as often as necessary.
Red Hot Ruby Punch
(Courtesy of Jason Cousins, Da Claudio, NYC)
750 ml Tincup Whiskey
16 oz boiling water
8 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
8 oz ruby port wine
8 oz fresh orange juice
8 oz demerara sugar (raw)
4 large navel oranges
Seeds from 1 large pomegranate
In a spice bag:
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 whole cinnamon stick
Completely peel four oranges, avoiding the white pith. Add orange peels to a mixing bowl with raw sugar and muddle, grinding the sugar into the oils. (Reserve the orange fruit for juicing.) Let stand for 30 minutes while the sugar pulls the oils from the peels. Stir in 16 oz of boiling water until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove orange peels and add spice bag. Let sit while preparing the remaining ingredients. Add Tincup, PAMA liqueur, port wine, and orange juice to a 3.5 quart or larger slow cooker. Pour in the orange sugar mixture and keep warm on low heat. Ladle and serve, garnishing with a clove-studded orange disk and a cinnamon stick.
Hello and welcome to the Shopping List, our regular look back at the best and worst products we’ve reviewed over the past several weeks. Lots to choose from for our first Shopping List of 2015, including some excellent editions in the Buffalo Trace Single Oak series (which winds up the spring), and plenty of excellent wines.
Lots of interesting stuff for your consideration today, so let’s get to it:
Trouble in Tuscany: Irate Italians plagued by wine counterfeit scandals. [USA Today]
And now for our weekly update in the wild world of Balcones: Ousted master distiller Chip Tate is now filing a defamation lawsuit against the distillery manager’s wife. And we thought this was turning into a season of Dallas before this lawsuit…. [Waco Tribune]
The Beer Bloggers conference has assembled its second annual 20 Most Influential Beer Websites list. [Beer Bloggers Conference]
Buffalo Trace delivers another ominous message: We may never catch up to meet demand. [The Spirits Business]
With a newly published study, science confirms what we already know: Binge drinking hurts your immune system. [Science Times]
With a newly published study, science finds out why women who drink white wine get depressed or upset. [Tribune]
Shanken reports that analysts believe sparkling wine will help drive industry growth in 2015. [Shanken News Daily]
CNBC investigates Taiwanese whiskey, which won the Malt Maniacs Awards in a big way this year. [CNBC]
Insider Monkey lists out the most expensive rum brands in the world. Saving you a click to the end: J. Wray & Nephew’s $54,000 bottling tops the list. [Insider Monkey]
Gizmodo takes a look behind the scenes at the science and art behind barrel making. Informative for those who are unfamiliar with the process. [Gizmodo]
Hello and welcome to the A-List, our tip of the cap to the stellar products we’ve received and reviewed over the last month. December certainly had its fair share of quality offerings and sent off 2014 on a high note. Plenty to choose from for a wide variety of tastes and price points.
(Rob’s note: for me, this month the inaugural offering of the Old Forester Whiskey Row series was a welcome surprise. I’ve been an OF fan for as long as I can recall, and this variation was a welcome addition to my cabinet, while it lasted.)
We’ve heard the phrase “new year, new you” all over Twitter in the past few days, and that’s good news to hear. We can think of many people who need to take this mantra to heart. One company really going for it in ’15 is Great Lakes Brewing, which has announced a total overhaul of its packaging, and released its seasonal schedule for the entire year. [Beer Pulse]
Our nation’s capital is about to welcome in a third distillery opening within its borders. One Eight is on target to open this Saturday (January 10th), and WTOP spills the details. Elsewhere in DC, Mitch McConnell and the entire bourbon industry is still holding on to hope that the now mythical “Bourbon Summit” will eventually take place between he and President Obama. [WTOP]
New England Brewing Company is coming under fire for putting Gandhi on a beer label. The bewildering Gandhi Bot features a cyborg replicant of the famous non-violent, fasting-prone resistance leader. The company has since apologized but insists that Ganhdi’s grandkids “admired” the artwork. [BBC]
Japanese whisky legend Takeshi Taketsuru has passed away at the age of 90. The Nikka master distiller and son of distillery founder Masataka Taketsuru was credited with the much of the brand’s modern success. [The Spirits Business]
Cosmos magazine tackles the debate of whether or not wine making is an art or science. Who says it can’t be both? Haven’t most scientists over the ages felt there was beauty and grace in their work? [Cosmos]
Chivas has unveiled a new look for its 21 Year Old expression. It is expected to be released in February and will arrive in three different bottle colors: sapphire, ruby and emerald. There’s also a 28 year old Aberfeldy coming out soon, and Sku digs up two new Jack Daniel’s expressions: a single barrel rye and a barrel proof version of the original recipe. [Billionaire]
While the big moment on New Year’s Eve usually calls for champagne, we found a few recipes worthy of your time and consideration to serve prior to the stroke of midnight.
Sugar and Spice
1 oz. Ketel One Citroen
1 oz. cranberry juice
½ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
¾ oz. honey syrup
Drop of allspice dram liqueur
Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
24 oz Fords Gin (1 750ml bottle)
8 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
6 oz lime juice
6 oz agave nectar
2 oz absinthe
24 oz water
1 750 ml bottle champagne or sparkling wine
2 grapefruits, sliced into thin wheels for garnish
1 cinnamon stick, for grating
12 star anise pods
Combine all ingredients except sparkling wine in a large punch bowl. Add a large block of ice. Add sparkling wine and stir slightly. Garnish with grapefruit and star anise. Lightly grate cinnamon on top.
Ruffino Holiday Sparkler
3 oz. Ruffino Prosecco
3/4 oz. apple cider
3/4 oz. cranberry juice
1 tsp. maple syrup
Squeeze of 1 lemon wedge
Add ingredients directly to a mixing glass with ice and stir briefly. Strain into a chilled champagne flute that has been rimmed w/ cinnamon sugar. Garnish with a mint leaf floating on top.
Casa Santo Domingo
1 ounce Zacapa XO Rum
1/4 orange liqueur
6 dashes Angostura Bitters
3 dashes Peychaud Bitters
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Orange twist for garnish
Combine Zacapa Rum XO, orange liqueur, Angostura bitters, Peychaud bitters and orange bitters in cocktail shaker. Stir gently. Strain contents into cocktail glass.Garnish with orange twist.
Snap, Crackle, Drop
(Created by mixologist Salvatore Calabrese)
1 1/2 ounces Tequila Don Julio Reposado
7-8 dashes Angostura Bitters
4-5 twists freshly ground cracked black pepper
Stir Angostura Bitters and pepper on a saucer until it turns into a paste. Coat on side of a lime wedge with the paste and serve on the side of the drink. Pour Don Julio Reposado into shot glass.
Things are winding down for 2014 and we’re getting ready to welcome in 2015 with a bang tomorrow. Here’s what’s been happening since we were on break for the holiday season:
• In case this wasn’t already obvious to everyone, a new report claims we drink more in the winter months than any other time of year. [CBS Detroit]
• In another victory for evolutionary theory, scientists got a bunch of birds drunk to find out if they slur their speech. They do. [Washington Post]
• NPR’s Noah Adams files a report about the demand for bourbon barrels reaching record levels. [NPR]
• The New York Times‘ Clay Risen provides an excellent and balanced account of the Balcones Saga. As an epilogue to the story, Chip Tate’s lawyers are now suing him for legal fees. This whole situation could very well serve as Season 2 for Serial. [New York Times]
• This one’s for the ladies: NPR (which now stands for National Pub Resource apparently) continues the much-needed coverage of women in the whiskey industry. Bustle supplements the article with a listcle of things one should not say to a lady ordering whiskey at a bar. [Bustle]
• If you’re in the UK, it might be a good idea to switch from vodka to something else this year. A warning has been issued over deadly, fake vodka now on sale around the country. [Telegraph UK]
• Finally — and most importantly today — while you’re enjoying New Year’s Eve, please do be mindful to enjoy in moderation. And should you find yourself being a bit overserved, do err on the side of caution and find a ride home. There are plenty of local free ride services available, and we want you back for more fun in 2015. Have a safe and happy time kissing 2014 goodbye!