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Celebrate the Fourth of July with American Spirits

It just doesn't feel right to toast the Fourth of July with vodka. Or with scotch or aquavit, for that matter, or any of a number of other spirits that are perfectly appropriate pretty much any other day of the year. But for a celebration on the Fourth, it's not a bad idea to keep the drinks in theme, and turn to a classic American spirit for the day's festivities. More

Is Tequila Going Downhill?

Today, tequila is still one of the fastest-growing categories in the spirits world, but some of the bloom is off the rose. As a rising tide of new brands has flooded the market, tequila's story has become more tangled, and some recent debuts have seemed to be little more than a marketing plan and a fancy bottle with an afterthought of a low-rent liquor inside. More

Hot Weather Booze: Essential Summer Spirits

With a successful Memorial Day weekend now under our belts (along with untold quantities of pulled pork and potato salad), the summer entertaining season is officially open. To best prepare for everything from weekend barbecues to warm, quiet evenings on the deck, it's helpful to lay in a stock of summery spirits so no glass need ever go empty. Here are a few things I make sure to keep on hand for summer entertaining. More

Thinking Big for Summer Party Drinks

The large-format drink is the savior of the summer party. When everything heads outdoors starting with Memorial Day weekend, pitcher drinks and cooling punches seem especially welcome, and they can make hosting a barbecue or backyard get-together much more convenient. More

Coming to Terms with Scotch Whisky-Based Cocktails

My attitude toward cocktails based on scotch whisky can be neatly summarized: I like scotch whisky, and I like cocktails, but I (almost) never like scotch whisky-cocktails. But I'm noticing a few new drinks based on scotch whisky on bar menus around the country, and some of them are worth trying. Have you come across a scotch based cocktail that you'd add to the "keeper" list? More

Meet Sotol, Tequila's Northern Cousin

Not that long ago, tequila and mezcal were déclassé, the spirits that you were likely to reach for only if you were vacationing in Mexico (or the backup option, sitting in a Mexican restaurant), or looking to venture into the "Damn, did I really do that?" realm of inebriation, or possibly both. Today, of course, tequila's reputation has changed into one with a lot more gleam and glitter, and artisanal mezcal's 15 minutes in the spirituous spotlight has turned into two-plus years. But as delicious as these agave spirits can be, it's worth taking a few minutes to explore another of Mexico's distilled spirits: sotol. More

Ron de Jeremy Rum: Celebrity-label Booze Takes a Weird Turn

Just in case years of entertainment-industry headlines and reality television have left any doubt, let's state it up front: many celebrities are quite fond of their booze. Increasingly, high-profile personalities have been formalizing this liquor/stardom arrangement by using their image, name and fame-slash-notoriety to sell spirits or even launch brands of their own. More

The Rise of Organic Spirits

Unlike the food world, where emphasizing local and seasonal and working to diminish food's ecological footprint have become recurring themes, the bar has always approached things a bit differently. But that's changing. As the craft-cocktail movement matures in its second decade, some procedures are starting to more closely align with those in the food world. The use of fresh fruit and other produce is now de rigeur in cocktail bars, and today, it's not unusual to see a bottle of organic spirits somewhere in the mix. More

Tales of the Cocktail Takes the Show to Canada

Last week the organizers and sponsors of Tales of the Cocktail brought this signature New Orleans event to Vancouver, B.C. How did the event function in another, less notoriously party-hearty city? Did it translate into Canadian? After spending several days in Vancouver for before-and-after celebrations, as well as for the main event on Monday, I can say with a little surprise that the answer is "mostly yes." More

Two New Whiskies Rev Up Bourbon and Rye

For devotees of American whiskey, these are exciting times. Bourbon has brushed off its once tarnished reputation and has reinvented itself as a sippable, collectable spirit. And rye whiskey, only a decade ago mostly written off as an archaic relic, has seen its popularity surge and is now considered a staple ingredient in most craft bars. In the last couple of weeks, the selection of American whiskies has become a little more interesting with the debut of two new spirits from a couple of familiar names. More

An Introduction to Cynar

Let's get this out of the way at the start: Cynar doesn't taste like artichokes. The edible thistle is only the most prominent name in an array of more than a dozen botanical ingredients that make this liqueur so memorable. More

Tippler's Taxonomy: A Guide To Cocktail Categories

Almost from the moment the first drops of liquor dripped from the end of a still, humans have been mixing these potent spirits with wines, fruits and other substances in pursuit of bibulous glory—or simply a tasty tipple, depending on your priorities. Over the centuries, many different styles of mixed drinks have emerged; some have faded, some have evolved, and some have endured for generations. Here is a guide to the major categories of cocktails. More

What's the Deal with Cocchi Aperitivo Americano?

Cocchi (pronounced "COKE-ey", not "COACH-ey") Americano has made itself comfortable in craft-cocktail bars across the country since its wide-scale release in mid-2010. Largely unheard of only a year ago, and still a boutique novelty in the cities where it has popped up, Cocchi has nevertheless turned the heads of scores of bartenders and thousands of curious drinkers in just a few short months, sparking stories in the several publications recently. So what's the deal? More

Valentine's Day: Does It Have to Be the Worst Cocktail Day of the Year?

Many Valentine's Day drink suggestions include the use of chocolate-flavored spirits or liqueurs, and this is where things usually go off track (assuming they were ever on the right track to begin with). Chocolate is a beautiful flavor when properly delivered, but most often when the flavor appears in the cocktail realm, it's the kind of chocolate with a chemically saccharine, tooth-achingly sweetness. Let's talk about ways to use chocolate liqueurs without turning your drink into an alcopop. More

What Are Your Favorite Hot, Boozy Drinks?

For a huge chunk of the country, winter is currently at its frigid worst. With weather like this, you can be forgiven for needing a little bump in your coffee, or a little wahoo to a chill-busting mug of hot cocoa. What are your favorite hot, boozy drinks? Here are some of mine. More

Lower-Alcohol Cocktails Catch On

Often made with a base of vermouth or another aperitif wine, low-octane cocktails are popping up around the country. Aromatized wines such as vermouth and quinquinas have an elaborate complexity of flavor, so a cocktail based on these wines can have a robust character without the alcoholic firepower to knock you off your barstool. More

A Fresh Look at Apricot Brandy

Several years ago, when I first started exploring drink recipes from the early- and mid-20th century, one question kept recurring: exactly what was up back then with all the apricot brandy? It's not an unreasonable question. More

Michael Neff and Carey Jones Look Back on Tales of the Cocktail

Carey -- thanks for the shout-out on the vermouth seminar; it's a sleeper topic, but we're all very excited about how it's starting to grow. Great to meet you at Tales, albeit very briefly.

Michael -- I think my favorite new product was Larceny bourbon, from Heaven Hill, which debuted during the Saturday tasting session. Wheated bourbon (essentially Old Fitzgerald w/ a different age and proof), to be marketed at an incredibly reasonable $25-ish retail. Groundbreaking? No -- but at a time when certain Kentucky distilleries are relabeling their old stock and introducing it in the $40 and up range, an incredibly refreshing approach for a very respectable product.

Hot Weather Booze: Essential Summer Spirits

Gaaah! How could I forget the Pimm's!?! Agreed, an essential in the summer arsenal--thanks for reminding me...

Ron de Jeremy Rum: Celebrity-label Booze Takes a Weird Turn

Nice one -- I look forward to a slew of these.

Time for a Drink: Arancio Americano

No, this is the typical sweet red vermouth (aka Italian or "rosso" vermouth) -- blanc or bianco vermouth is sweet white vermouth, but it doesn't have the same level of sweetness or balance of flavor that you're looking for in this drink. The Cocchi vermouth in the photo is a brand of sweet Italian red vermouth that's just entering the U.S., not to be confused with Cocchi Aperitivo Americano, a white aperitif wine from the same producer.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Drinks

@Umama: Will's right -- it wasn't me.

Two New Whiskies Rev Up Bourbon and Rye

Every Kentucky-produced bourbon is made using a column still, even Woodford Reserve, which uses pot stills for part of its production. This has been the case for well over a century, and Kentucky distillers produce more than 95 percent of all bourbon. Even the small-batch bourbons bottled in limited quantities under boutique labels are produced at one of the major (read: industrial) distilleries, then purchased by the barrel and bottled by these smaller firms.

Small-scale artisanal distilling is a nice idea and a noble goal, but for bourbon, things haven't worked that way in generations.

Two New Whiskies Rev Up Bourbon and Rye

Bulleit is priced in the mid-$20s; Knob Creek is upper $30s

A Fresh Look at Apricot Brandy

You don't see a lot of apricot eau de vie on the shelf; one I really enjoy is Blume Marillen from Austria (it's imported by the same company that brings in the Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot, and there may even be a connection between the brandy and the liqueur but I'm not absolutely sure of that). There's also Zwack Barack Palinka from Hungary; it's been years since I've tried it and I can't recall the quality.

Bachelor's Jam: Preserving Fresh Summer Fruits with Booze

@Simon - if you're looking for neutrality, I suppose vodka is the definition; I usually try to either use something that's a good cross-platform spirit (brandy or a light or amber rum), or something that's well-suited for a particular fruit -- cherries and/or peaches are dandy with bourbon. Grappa may be very grappa-ey, but if you like that edge, then go for it. And I should note that for fruits such as plums, gin is a good way to go -- there's a certain level of neutrality, but the botanicals work well with the stone-fruit flavor.

@aubreyb - you mainly just want a non-reactive container (so, no plastic or metals that may react with acid / alcohol). Glass is fine, you just want to keep it in a cool, dark place -- and as long as you're using 80 proof or higher spirits, no refrigeration is necessary until you strain off the liquid.

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Alcohol Delivers Flavor, Just as Fat Does in Food

That's why I said "most spirits are diluted with water before being bottled" -- certainly, there are exceptions, but for much of the whiskey in the marketplace, water is added to bring it down to bottle proof.

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Alcohol Delivers Flavor, Just as Fat Does in Food

True, but in this context of talking about the proof of spirits, "bonded" translates as 100 proof.

Time for a Drink: the Michelada

Actually, I'm not the Clamato type, though some folks like it that way. But as far as ruining the beer -- um, I don't think so. This is a pretty common drink in parts of Mexico and increasingly in the U.S.; many, many satisfied drinkers can't be all wrong.

The Kangaroo, a.k.a. Vodka Martini

See? Exactly my point from the closing paragraph.

Let's at least give a hand to the circa 1950 anonymous drink slinger who hung the "Kangaroo" monicker on this cocktail rather than going straight for the big 'Tini. Unknown bartender, whoever you were, a gin-drinking world thanks you for at least giving this new-name thing a try.

The 25 Most Influential Cocktails of the Past Century

Sorry, full article's not online yet (I'll put up a link once it is) -- a quick listing of the drinks is here:

http://offthepresses.blogspot.com/2010/05/imbibe-names-25-most-influential.html

Time for a Drink: Princeton Cocktail

This is for one drink. Two ounces of base spirit plus another ounce or so of lower-alcohol modifier such as port, sherry or vermouth is pretty standard; there are many drinks, old and new, that follow this pattern and use roughly the same amount of ingredients.

Negroni

Campari is an Italian amaro, or bitter liqueur, typically consumed as an aperitif. It's garnet-red and memorably bitter -- it'll scare the hell out of you the first time you taste it, but after a few tries it becomes absolutely captivating.

Here's the full wikipedia entry on Campari, and here's the site for Campari USA.

Time for a Drink: Hai Karate

@david e: I now resolve to create a drink and name it the "Mennen Speed Stick". Might as well come up with an "Old Spice" and an "English Leather" while I'm at it.

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Eggs (Whites and Yolks) in Cocktails

Counts as what, exactly?

Just because the fizz originated as a morning eye-opener around 150 years ago doesn't mean it's constrained to play that role for all time, does it? Historical applications aside, a fizz is flavorful, fizzy, and refreshing -- properties that are valuable even (or especially) after the sun goes down.

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Benedictine Turns 500

@jason_wilson: What, conflicting or inaccurate information sent out in press materials? But that never happens!

Then again, I recall receiving a press release from a PR firm representing a prominent brand of vermouth, in which it was stated that vermouth was virtually identical to absinthe but had been legally available during the long absinthe ban. That one required an intense "WTF?" string of calls and e-mails. Turns out to have started as a translation error that led to a junior PR rep going freewheeling with the facts -- not that it was caught before the release was blasted to journalists across the country.

Thanks for pointing out your info, and for everybody else: this is how the editorial sausage is made.

@sidecar: it's been too long since I had a Voyager -- I agree, very tasty. Hmm, maybe we're due for a Drinkboy cocktail in the Time for a Drink column....

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Benedictine Turns 500

Hmm, I took that tidbit of info from the Washington Post story -- thanks for clearing up that detail.

Holiday Eggnog

@chrisfurniss - the whiskey is not banished; as I mention, you can simply swap it for the rum or brandy (or both) in the recipe, if that's the way your tastes go. But really, try it some time with rum and brandy -- you'll see why so many recipes call for the combination.

@2ndstage - fantastic! Glad she liked it -- and nice improv with the dark brown sugar.

Gift Guide: For the Cocktail Enthusiast

@KinOfCain I second your recommendations on anything Black Maple Hill (my favorite rye out there) and Highland Park, and I need to check out the Lagavulin DE PX. Thanks for the suggestions!

Time for a Drink: San Martin

If you add the ice first, the clock is ticking, and every second it takes you to mix that drink means there's more dilution going on. While the ice is usually added first in the fast-paced environment of a bar, when mixing at home (or in a more leisurely bar, for that matter) you can better control dilution by adding the spirits and other ingredients to the glass first, then adding the ice just before you stir or shake.

Quince Brandy

It's going to depend on your taste -- don't break the bank on an expensive bottle, but also avoid the bottom shelf. I use a basic, no-frills Chalfonte VSOP, as I tend to mix it in cocktails rather than drink it neat. If purchasing one of the big brands -- Hennessey, Remy, Courvoisier, etc. -- a VS should do the trick without hurting your wallet too much, or if you want something a little more plush the Pierre Ferrand Ambre is a lovely cognac that is also quite reasonably priced.

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: How to Make Quince Brandy

Just closing the jar firmly is fine -- make sure all the solids are covered by liquid when you start off to ensure that no spoilage occurs.

Apple Toddy

The apple toddy enjoyed immense popularity during the early 1800s, and continued in regular circulation until Prohibition, when it— along with so many other forms of the liquid arts—was mostly forgotten. More