Review: Copper & Kings American Brandy (2017) and Destillare Orange Curacao

Louisville’s Copper & Kings continues to push the craft distilling envelope, this time venturing into the world of triple sec. Today we look at the new product, Destillare, while taking a fresh spin through the company’s flagship brandy.

Copper & Kings American Brandy – This is the same spirit as the old C&K Craft Distilled Brandy, which we last encountered under its old name in 2015. Brandy seems always to be in flux, so let’s take a fresh taste of this spirit. This one still has no formal age info (it’s at least two years old), but it’s aged in approximately 90% Kentucky Bourbon barrels and 10% new American oak. Quite gentle on the nose, there are significant mint notes here, plus raisins, bourbon-soaked vanilla, and an ample wood character. The palate showcases cherries, spice-laden apple pie, and some coconut, leading to a rustic, scorched-sugar finish. Looking at my older notes, I see some departures, but I think the overall profile remains about the same. Basically, I (still) think it’s just fine. 90 proof. B / $33

Copper & Kings Destillare Intense Orange Curacao – The product of a complex process: “Orange peels and spices are macerated for 12 hours in apple brandy low wine. Macerated peels with addition of honey is then double distilled. Additional peels & lavender petals are also vapor distilled at the same time. Vapor basket botanicals (in a bag) are then macerated in the double-distilled apple brandy for 30 minutes for additional citrus extraction, and some color. Distillate is then aged in a Copper & Kings American Brandy Barrel for an additional 3-6 months to add color and polish and soften the spirit. This process harks back to more original, traditional antique curaçaos. Orange Blossom Honey is infused in to the distillate pre-bottling as a back-sweetener as opposed to typical sugar.”

Whew! In the spectrum of orange liqueurs, Destillare lands somewhere between a super-sweet triple sec and a brooding Grand Marnier. Its apple brandy base is immediately evident, offering enticing aromas of apple butter, almonds, and some wet wool alongside sharp citrus — orange, but grapefruit too. The palate is again brandy-forward, with the orange coming along later. There’s a lot more almond here, along with a significant earthiness that you won’t find in a typical triple sec. The finish winds up a bit astringent (from the brandy) and a bit muddy (from the orange), but overall it’s a decent success. I wouldn’t hesitate to experiment with it as part of any modern cocktail. 90 proof. B / $35

copperandkings.com

Recipe: Sweet Effort

We’ve written about the Tahona Society Cocktail Competition in the past, where tequila is the name of the game and where bartenders from all over the world compete to create a unique cocktail. The most recent installment concluded with this winner from Jeppe Nothlev of Helium bar in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It’s a sweet little number with lots of complexity — though the rhubarb syrup may be a bit tricky to obtain. (Olmeca Altos — now often going by just Altos — provided us a pre-mixed sample, making this a bit easier.)

Sweet Effort
50ml Altos Plata tequila
10ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
30ml rhubarb syrup
30ml lime juice
dash of egg white
grapefruit soda

Mix the Altos Plata, Pedro Ximénez Sherry, rhubarb syrup, lime juice and egg white, shake and pour into a highball glass and top with grapefruit soda.

Review: Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey Cask Strength 9 Years Old

Clyde May’s is becoming well known for its “Alabama style whiskey” — though it is currently sourced and bottled in Florida — which adds dried apples to the barrel to impart some sweetness to the aging spirit. The latest release from the company is a cask strength release, bottled at 9 years old.

This is the highest-proof expression of Clyde May’s that we’ve seen to date. Let’s see how that pans out.

A bruiser at full strength, the whiskey is pungent and overloaded with alcohol notes. While hard to access at full power, the whiskey shows aromas of intense baking spice (with lots of cloves), plus almonds, some coconut, and a hint of cocoa powder. The nose benefits from ample exposure to air, but the palate remains tight: A scorcher with indistinct sweetness save for an apple-heavy finish.

Tempered with water, the whiskey finds a massive improvement, not just in approachability but in overall flavor, too. Here the apple notes inherent in the spirit come to the fore, and the nose exhibits notes of well-aged wood, sultry vanilla, and substantial baking spices. The palate’s on the sweet side, those apples meandering toward more of a ripe peach flavor, filtered through cream soda and vanilla syrup. On the finish, oak and milk chocolate flavors mingle and dominate, closing out the experience on a more satisfying and reasonably balanced note.

117 proof.

B+ / $100 / clydemays.com 

Review: Firestone Walker Helldorado Blonde Barley Wine Ale (2017)

Barrel aging has become wildly popular in the craft-brewing world, but it remains, for the most part, a process almost exclusively applied to darker beers like porters and stouts. No strangers to pushing the envelope with their brews, California-based Firestone Walker Brewing Company bucks that trend with its Helldorado Blonde Barley Wine Ale, which is brewed solely with English and American pale malts. It’s a risky move given how well the caramel notes in whiskey (and whiskey barrels) complement darker styles of beer. So how does this lighter beer fare with barrel aging?

Helldorado pours a great rose gold color. There are subtle tropical fruit and raw honey notes on the nose and less of the roasted cereal aroma typical of darker barrel-aged beers. It’s deceptively refreshing. Where darker boozy brews caution patience, this thing begs to be gulped. It’s initially crisp but with a huge body. On the palate, there are sticky sweet biscuit notes, vanilla, dried coconut, and more honey. Many darker beers slowly develop a slightly bitter finish, but Helldorado’s sweetness lingers like cream soda. Don’t get me wrong. I love my barrel-aged stouts and dark barley wines, but it’s very exciting to see lighter beers that barrel-age so well.

12.8% abv.

A / $15 / firestonebeer.com

How to Make the Perfect Sazerac Cocktail

So you’ve mastered mixing the manhattan, the old fashioned is old news, and you can recite the difference between a gin martini and a vodka martini in your sleep. And yet, that classic cocktail itch is still there. Well read on, because today we’re going to explore another simple, early cocktail, one that isn’t as well-known as the others. If you want to impress your whiskey cocktail-loving friends, try to mix up a Sazerac and see what they think.

The story of the Sazerac goes back to New Orleans in the 1830s, where apothecary Antoine Amédée Peychuad began providing Cognac toddies using a bitters of his own design. The toddies became such a local sensation that a bar called the Sazerac Coffee House began buying his bitters to use in their own cocktail, mixing Cognac with absinthe, bitters, and sugar to make the Sazerac, which is claimed to be the first-ever ‘branded’ cocktail (the old fashioned was around at the time, but was generally just referred to as a ‘cocktail’). Eventually, the Sazerac Coffee House simply bought the rights to Peychaud’s bitters entirely, and when an insect epidemic destroyed French vineyards used to make cognac, the heart of the drink was switched to rye whiskey. In a big blow for Sazerac lovers, absinthe was banned in the US in 1912, and for the next hundred years Sazeracs generally used an anise-flavored liquor called Herbsaint in its place, though in these enlightened days absinthe is freely available again. Now that you know the history, let’s gather our materials and see what we can do with NOLA’s historic (and official) drink.

The ingredients for a Sazerac might sound familiar if you make a lot of classic cocktails: a sugar cube or sugar syrup, 1.5 ounces of rye whiskey (bourbon if you’re a modernist; Cognac if you’re feeling really old school), a quarter ounce of Herbsaint or absinthe, three dashes of Peychaud’s bitters, and a lemon peel for garish. The Sazerac company, no longer a meager bar but now an enormous multinational corporation most well-known for owning Buffalo Trace, of course recommends its own Sazerac brand rye for the job, which is a solid, spicy, and fairly inexpensive choice. We here at Drinkhacker are always fans of Utah-based rye wizards High West, or for a rounder drink you can try Old Grand-Dad’s rye-heavy bourbon. For bitters, there’s only one choice: the Sazerac was built around Peychaud’s bitters, and without it, it’s hardly a Sazerac at all. Peychaud’s is lighter and more floral than the more commonly-used Angostura bitters, and will highlight different aspects of the rye in the glass. The choice of absinthe isn’t quite as vital as the choice of rye, since as you’ll see you really use a very small amount of it, but Lucid is a perennial favorite in our Sazeracs. Just like with an old fashioned, sugar syrup works just as well as a sugar cube and requires much less work, but if you’re serving for guests and want to go through the whole ritual, muddling a sugar cube will add to the mystique.

Now that you have your materials, let’s start making the drink! First, pack an old fashioned glass with ice, and in a second glass mix the sugar with the bitters. If you’re using a sugar cube, pour the bitters on top of it before muddling; if you’re using syrup, just make sure it’s well-mixed with the bitters. Add the 1.5 ounces of whiskey to the glass with the sugar and bitters and stir well — don’t shake. Now that your first glass is sufficiently chilled, dump the ice and add the absinthe. You’re really just using the absinthe to coat the glass, swirl it around good and get it on as much of the inside surface as you can, and then discard the remainder. Finally, add the contents of the second glass to the old fashioned glass with the absinthe rinse. Garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel, and enjoy!

The Sazerac might sound a lot like an old fashioned, but the change in bitters and the addition of the absinthe both show that little things can have a big impact on our cocktails, in this case giving the drink a more complex, herbal character. It’s a unique treat for fans of classic cocktails, and is sure to impress at your next gathering. Try it out and let us know what you think in the comments, and as always, if there are things you’ve always wondered about in the world of alcohol but have been afraid to ask, send us an e-mail to [email protected]

Review: Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine IPA

Vermont is pretty serious beer country, and brewers in the state have managed, in a few short years, to make New England style IPA a unique and respected variety across the USA. Whereas West Coast IPA is usually clear and shows piney dankness and a strong, bitter finish, New England IPA appears hazy and presents tropical fruit flavors with far less bitterness at the end. Sip of Sunshine is one of the most popular and coveted examples of the New England style. Lawson’s recently expanded production, which means that instead of waiting in long lines to get the beer in Vermont, people can wait in long lines to get it at stores throughout New England, where it sells out in hours and sometimes sooner.

Sip of Sunshine is a bold, assertive New England-style IPA, somewhere between an IPA and a double IPA. There is balance and complexity in this beer, but not subtlety. Poured into a glass, the beer appears hazy and bright orange-gold. The nose offers an array of tropical fruit including lots of fresh pineapple and grapefruit. There is a touch of malt as well. The palate follows the nose, with a burst of tropical fruit, but there is a fair amount of bitterness as well, which contributes to the beer’s crisp finish. The malt introduces a little sweetness, adding complexity.

There is a lot of hype surrounding this beer, and I have to say, Sip of Sunshine manages to impress. It is bold, balanced, fresh, and flavorful. Some people who enjoy this beer recommend that it be enjoyed soon after purchase since the flavors can fade if it languishes in the closet or in one’s refrigerator for too long. But if you like IPA at all, I don’t think you have to worry.

8% abv.

A+ / $15 per 16 oz. four-pack / lawsonsfinest.com

NaNoWriMo Special: Great Authors’ Great Cocktails

It’s that time again. November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, where authors of all ages and experience levels challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word novel in a mere 30 days. Whether you’re already hard at work on your next opus, or you’re getting things ready for an attempt next year, get those creative juices flowing with a look at four great Jazz-age authors and the cocktails they loved.

Ernest Hemingway

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”

Notable works: The Old Man & The Sea, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Hemingway is one of the literary titans of the so-called ‘Lost Generation’ writers who were prolific after World War I, a group of bitter young souls who crafted dark, nihilistic prose to strike out against a dark, nihilistic world. Hemingway was almost as famous for his drinking habits as he was for his literary work; this is a man who had a granddaughter named after the French Bordeaux wine Château Margaux. There is enough brainpower put behind Hemingway’s drink of choice that there are debates about which he truly loved the most: was it the mojito, invented in his home-away-from-home in Havana, Cuba? Or the daiquiri, supposedly sipped while he wrote The Old Man & The Sea? We’ll put both drinks down here and the reader can decide which one is more effective as a source of inspiration.

Mojito

1 1/2 oz white rum, 1 oz lime juice, 2 tsp sugar, 6 mint leaves, soda water.

Muddle mint, lime juice, and sugar in a glass of ice. Add rum and top off with soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Daiquiri

1 1/2 oz white rum, 1/2 oz simple syrup, 1 oz lime juice.

Pour all ingredients into a shaker full of ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Truman Capote

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.”

Notable works: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, In Cold Blood

Truman Capote perfected the art of the literary celebrity, by using his fame from writing pioneering nonfiction works such as In Cold Blood and his larger-than-life force of personality to get adoration from the people around him. A gay man who refused to let himself be ignored by society, Capote took many lovers, hosted massive gala events, partied with Andy Warhol in the ’70s, and remained a dear friend to Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Capote’s drink of choice was the screwdriver, a simple drink with a taste as big and flashy as Capote himself.

Screwdriver

1 3/4 oz vodka, 3 1/2 oz orange juice.

Mix all ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a thin orange slice.

Dorothy Parker

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”

Notable works: Enough Rope, A Star is Born

While Dorothy Parker doesn’t have a work that stands up to In Cold Blood or The Sun Also Rises, the New York-based poet and essayist had a fiery wit that endures to this day. Parker wrote for Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New Yorker, and countless other famous magazines, and eventually parlayed that success into a time screenwriting for Hollywood, where she was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for A Star is Born. Parker had a known love of the whiskey sour, and she wrote of the effects of too much drink in many acerbic poems.

Whiskey Sour

1 1/2 oz whiskey, 1 oz lemon juice, 1/2 oz simple syrup.

Pour all ingredients into a shaker full of ice. Shake gently and strain into an ice-filled old fashioned glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Raymond Chandler

“As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style.”

Notable works: The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye

Next to Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon, Raymond Chandler is the most influential author on the world of mystery fiction, with every good mystery novel written since the 1939 publication of The Big Sleep at least partially influenced by Chandler’s novel, and his protagonist Philip Marlowe. Like Capote and Parker, Chandler also dabbled in screenwriting, best known for working on the script to Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. Chandler, like Ian Fleming with James Bond, used his literary creation to popularize a drink of choice; Philip Marlowe was fond of gimlets in The Long Goodbye, and the detective’s preference for the drink led to the gimlet really catching on in America.

Gimlet

2 oz gin, 2/3 oz sweetened lime juice (Chandler specified Rose’s Lime Juice).

Mix all ingredients into a mixing glass full of ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.

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Are you braving NaNoWriMo this month? Do you have a favorite boozy author that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!

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