Recipes: Labor Day Cocktails 2016

So for this, the 250th recipe post to Drinkhacker, we celebrate the unofficial arrival of summer’s end. However, with the continuous reports of record heat around the globe, it appears that summer isn’t going quietly this year. So until the arrival of everything pumpkin spiced and cooler temperatures, hang out with one of these this holiday weekend.

Midori Melon Oasis
Created Los Angeles mixologist Yael Vengroff
1 part Midori melon liqueur
1 1/4 parts light rum
1/2 part peach liqueur
3/4 part lime juice
3/4 part pineapple juice
6 mint leaves

Combine Midori liqueur, light rum, peach liqueur, lime juice, pineapple juice and mint leaves in a blender with ice. Blend on high and pour into a Hurricane glass. Garnish with mint, sliced peaches and a pineapple wedge.

Caitie McCabe PhotographyBaker’s Citrus Sazerac
1 1/2 parts Baker’s bourbon
1/2 part grapefruit liqueur
1 tsp of simple syrup
1 dash of Angostura bitters
1 dash of Whiskey Barrel bitters

Spritz a chilled Sazerac glass with honey whiskey liqueur. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir well. Pour into the spritzed Sazerac glass and garnish with a grapefruit twist.

(Note: Bourbon snobs hear me out. I know to use a higher quality bourbon like Baker’s in a mixed drink borders on sacrilegious, but it’s actually pretty great in this instance. Give it a shot.)

image008Drambuie Mixed Berry Sangria
3 parts Drambuie
1 part triple sec
1 cup Chardonnay
1 part orange juice
1 part lime juice
1 part honey
2 cups frozen berries
10 dashes cherry bitters

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with skewered berries with basil sprig.

unnamedFrozen Boulevardier
3/4 oz. Aperol
3/4 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
3/4 oz. Bulleit bourbon
1 Quenelle of tangerine sorbet
Zest of lemon
Hand-Crushed Ice

Crush ice in a bag, pour into a rocks glass. In a mixing glass, combine Aperol, Carpano Antica and bourbon. Add fresh ice. Stir for 30-45 seconds, strain over crushed ice. Garnish with a scoop of tangerine sorbet and lemon zest.

(Note: Regarding Hand-Crushed Ice, you can totally use crushed ice if you have that setting on your fridge. And if you can’t be bothered with making a Quenelle, just use a regular scoop of sorbet. No need to get precious about this if you don’t want to. It’s just as good.)

Review: 2014 Sequoia Grove Chardonnay Napa Valley

Sequoia Grove’s latest chardonnay release offers no real surprises, an oaky-buttery wine with equal emphasis on both oak and butter. This year’s offering finds some tropical and golden fig elements bubbling up late in the game (let the wine warm a bit to find more fruit in the mix), with a finish that evokes notes of brioche. That said, if vanilla and lumber-heavy notes aren’t your bag, take a pass on this one.

B / $28 / sequoiagrove.com

Review: Redemption Aged Barrel Proof Straight Rye 8 Years Old (2016), High-Rye 9 Years Old, and Bourbon 9 Years Old

redemption bourbon aged barrel proof 9 years old

In late 2015/early 2016, Redemption Rye took the unexpected move of releasing three well-aged straight rye whiskies, all “honey barrels” representing the brand at 7, 8, and 10 years of age.

Now Redemption is back again with three more entries into its Aged Barrel Proof line. The twist: Only one is a straight rye; the other two are bourbons, one from a high-rye mashbill and one from a lower-rye mash.

We got the entire trio to review, and without further ado, let’s hop right into it. Technical specs on each whiskey can be found in its respective writeup.

Redemption Aged Barrel Proof Straight Rye 8 Years Old (2016) – Note: This is a newly batched rye with a slightly higher proof than the 2015 version of the 8 Year Old Straight Rye. It is still however made from a mash of 95% rye, 5% barley. Bigger butterscotch notes lead things off on the nose, with aromas of black and cayenne pepper. Considering the age, there’s a surprising level of granary character on the palate here, with an almost pungent level of savory, dried herbs bringing up the rear. The finish is spicy and heavy with notes of leather and fresh asphalt. A serious letdown over last year’s rendition. 122.2 proof. B-

Redemption Aged Barrel Proof High-Rye Bourbon 9 Years Old – This whiskey is made from a mash of 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% barley. Nice color here, a pretty, heavy amber. On the nose, the rye is evident, with clear granary notes, red pepper, and licorice. The palate is a bit more subtle, still laden with brooding spices but less pushy with its heavy grain notes, offering a fruitiness that the straight rye doesn’t feature. The finish takes things back in the direction of tar and grain, though it’s tempered by some interesting notes of baking spice and gingerbread. 109.2 proof. B+

Redemption Aged Barrel Proof Bourbon 9 Years Old – And now, to contrast, this is a bourbon made from a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley. Though the proof level isn’t much different than the High-Rye, it initally comes across as a much hotter spirit, scorching the palate while pushing aromas of well-roasted grains, baking spice, and coffee bean. Ample wood leads the way on the palate, again showcasing crackling grain, caramel corn, and some savory herbal character. While it’s burly with lumberyard overtones, the wood isn’t overdone, and the various elements gel into a fairly cohesive whole. The finish is warming but not as hot as the initial attack, ultimately making for a fine, though fairly orthodox bourbon. 110.6 proof. B+

each $100 / redemptionrye.com

WhiskyFest San Francisco Approaches: September 23

We’re just three weeks away from WhiskyFest San Francisco and it’s shaping up to have one of the best pour lists in years. Get your ticket now before they’re all gone!

WhiskyFest™ Returns to San Francisco for its 10th Annual Event

Whisky Advocate magazine is pleased to celebrate WhiskyFest’s 10th Annual event in San Francisco.

This year’s event will feature more than 375 whiskies for sampling, as well as brandy, tequila, rum, stout, and even a red wine blend that was aged in bourbon barrels. Scotch, Canadian, Irish, South African, Welsh, American, Indian, Taiwanese, and Japanese whiskies will all be well represented. The full pouring list is on our web site: http://whiskyadvocate.com/events/whiskyfest-san-francisco/whiskyfest-san-francisco-whisky-list/

There will also be 12 seminars, with tastings of their own, during the event, each is 45 minutes in length. The seminars will be presented by distillery managers, master blenders, master distillers, and well-versed brand ambassadors. The seminar schedule can be found here: http://whiskyadvocate.com/events/whiskyfest-san-francisco/whiskyfest-san-francisco-seminars/

Don’t miss out! Join in the fun, and plan to attend one of the greatest nights of the year for whisk(e)y lovers on September 23 at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. Tickets are still available, but they are very limited. Buy yours today: http://whiskyadvocatemagazine.com/whiskyfest-tickets/tickets-2016.html

Review: Suntory Whisky Toki

SuntoryWhiskyToki_Beauty2

Japan’s Suntory is well known for its single malts, but it also blends whisky from time to time. With Toki (“time” in Japanese), it’s trying something a little different. Specifically, Toki is a blend of a number of Suntory’s other whiskies, including spirits from Hakushu Distillery, Yamazaki Distillery, and Chita Distillery.

Some addition information from the distillery:

While Suntory Whisky Toki respects tradition, it also challenges whisky convention by rethinking the hierarchy of its components. Suntory blends often use Yamazaki malts as their key component. Inspired by the spirits of innovation, the House of Suntory’s fourth Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo took a fresh approach with Suntory Whisky Toki, selecting the singular Hakushu American white oak cask malt whisky — with its unique freshness, mellowness and spectacular green apple notes — as one of the blend’s two pillars. To complement that selection, Fukuyo chose Chita heavy-type grain whisky as the blend’s second pillar, adding a clean taste with notes of sweetness and vanilla. By pairing these seemingly dissimilar but deeply accordant whiskies, Fukuyo’s insight overturned the old relationship between malt and grain and created a blend that is both groundbreaking and timeless.

Traditionally in Suntory blends, grain whiskies have played merely a supporting role, acting as a broth or dashi to accentuate key malts. But the unrivalled sophistication and wide range of grain whiskies produced at Suntory’s Chita distillery led Shinji Fukuyo to rethink that role. He saw these whiskies, with their exquisite balance of complexity, subtlety and refinement, not as a scaffold for the heroic malt to ascend but as true heroes in their own right.

This unique encounter between Hakushu malt and Chita grain whiskies gives Suntory Whisky Toki its silky taste and vivid character. To give the blend greater depth and complexity, Fukuyo carefully selected two Yamazaki malts. Yamazaki American white oak cask malt whisky harmonizes the Hakushu and Chita components, while bringing roundness and reinforcing the sweetness of Chita heavy-type grain whisky with peach and custard aromas. Finally, Yamazaki Spanish oak cask malt whisky adds woody and bittersweet notes to the blend.

Well, color me curious. Let’s give Toki a try. Here’s how it comes across.

Toki is surprisingly light in hue, reflecting what must be significant youth at its core. The nose is also quite light and spry, fragrant with mixed grains, a bouquet of fresh flowers, and notes of incense and jasmine. It’s all very clean, a gentle counterpoint to some of the world’s more intense single malts.

The palate is equally light and fresh, offering sweetened cereal notes, green apple, brown sugar, and a touch of spearmint. On the finish, it’s more of the same, though the sweeter notes tend to dominate along with touches of ginger and cinnamon.

There’s nothing fancy about Toki, but Suntory has put a lot of care into blending a very light and gentle spirit that surprises with its level of success. This lightness reminds me quite a bit of the recently-reviewed Kikori, again proving that intricate and complex flavors need not come from heavy-handed production methods.

86 proof.

A- / $40 / suntory.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Edition 2016

laphroaig cairdeas madeira cask

Laphroaig’s latest annual Cairdeas release is finally here: Cairdeas Madeira. As the name suggests, this is Laphroaig finished in Madeira-seasoned hogsheads. Unlike some Cairdeas releases, there’s no information on how old the spirit is before it goes into the finishing cask. Traditionally it is an 8 year old whisky, but this year Laphroaig has been mute on the matter of age. This is Laphroaig’s first ever Madeira-finished release, so for novelty factor alone it’s worth a look.

The nose offers classic Laphroaig notes of peaty smoke, iodine, and coal ash — an altogether easy Islay with modest maturity. On the palate, the Madeira at least starts to creep through, offering a slight, wine-laden sweetness that evokes red fruit, macerated dates, and spiced nuts. This of course all comes atop that smoky, briny base that every Laphroaig offers as a given, but that Madeira influence is ultimately very restrained. Unlike some other recent Cairdeas expressions — notably 2014’s comparably lackluster Amontillado — the Madeira seems to be elevating the base spirit, but that impact is subtle, almost to an extreme. The good news is that what’s underneath is solid enough and doesn’t need much doctoring. The Madeira-driven additions don’t add much in the end, but they do give it a little something special to remember… and at the very least they don’t detract at all.

103.2 proof.

B+ / $128 / laphroaig.com

Dining with Sammy Hagar at El Paseo’s Wine Collectors’ Dinner

IMG_8613

What’s better than bringing a bottle of wine to dinner? Bringing about 30 of them, then passing them around so everyone can try a bit of each.

Such is the idea behind the monthly Wine Collectors’ Dinner at Mill Valley, California’s El Paseo, a fine dining establishment perhaps best known for its celebrity ownership, local luminary and legendary rocker Sammy Hagar.

Hagar’s brainchild is organized around themes in the wine world. Each month guests are instructed to bring wines of a particular variety. In March it was pre-2003 Howell Mountain reds. In February, Right Bank Bordeaux. This month, Sonoma Coast and Central Coast pinot noir.

Hagar’s wine collection is legendary, and he always brings exotic offerings to the party. This month was no exception, as he poured a splash of 1980 Chalone for me, which utterly surprised with its amazing longevity and plenty of fruit. Later, he uncorked a magnum of 2012 Williams Selyem Allen Vineyard, which was fun to compare against the 2012 Williams Selyem Peay Vineyard that I brought, both from the Sonoma Coast. Of course, all the guests had wine to share, too — the rule is one bottle per person — which meant ample opportunity to try both classics and obscurities, like a gorgeous pinot from Occidental and an opulent new wine called The Prestige, made by a negociant who was in attendance.

Of course, this is a dinner, and the $125 entry fee gets you a four course meal that I’d describe as rustic French in style. A Wellington-style scallop was a unique highlight, but the tender, roasted veal chop that came after was probably the standout of the night.

Sadly, my picture-taking skills failed me and I forgot to snap a selfie while Hagar and I talked not just wine but also his upcoming spirits projects, which include a spiced rum to round out the Sammy’s Beach Bar line and a hybrid mezcal-tequila he’s calling Mezquila. Both are arriving this fall, so stay tuned… or visit El Paseo during one of the upcoming Wine Collectors’ Dinners and ask him about them yourself.

elpaseomillvalley.com