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.
In today's Washington Post, Jason Wilson dips into this broad family of sparkling coolers that generations of thirsty Americans have used to beat back the fiercest sweltering weather. As Wilson notes, there's not a great deal of variance on paper between these drinks, but these seemingly minor differences can mean a lot when the drink is in your glass.
It's hard to imagine that fruity, freewheeling rum drinks would be something to get too worked up about. But in the past week, news of a settlement in a lawsuit over one such drink has been resonating through the bar world, and the public-relations disaster the lawsuit has prompted could have repercussions for years to come.
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.
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.
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.
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?
The premise behind the Single Oak Project is simple: much (some say most) of a whiskey's character comes from the spirit's interaction with wood during the years it rests in an oak barrel. So what happens to the whiskey if you tinker with the wood and other variables in different, tightly controlled ways?
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.
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.
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.
While April's arrival means putting away the heavy sweaters and antifreeze until they're needed again next December, the changing of the seasons also has an impact of the bibulous sort, as we put aside the winter warmers and deep, richly flavored drinks in favor of the lighter, brighter flavors of spring.
The segue from ambrosial elixir to undrinkable muck can be due to something as simple as a mangled or misunderstood recipe, and as complicated as a gradual shift over time in the quality, composition, or mere existence of a necessary ingredient.
Now, as more small-scale craft distillers are starting to get into the whiskey business, the American whiskey part of the liquor store is becoming a much more dynamic place. As Malt Advocate publisher John Hansell noted last week on his blog, the boundaries between old-school, large-scale distillers and brand-new, small-scale startups are becoming increasingly blurred.
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."
Increasingly, Irish whiskey is becoming a big player behind the bar, and with some once-obscure brands becoming more widely available, it's worthwhile to take a closer look at this easy-to-embrace style of whiskey.
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.
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.
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.
It's too soon to tell if 2011 will be pisco's year, but expect to see this distinctive South American brandy, produced from several styles of grapes, popping up in new places.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The original goal was to make saag paneer (sometimes called palak paneer), an incredible Indian dish of spinach and freshly made cheese. It's time-consuming and not exactly a Dinner Tonight, but it would have been undeniably tasty. I was politely...
If I had a hideaway in Montauk, I'd be hiding there right now. But I don't, so I just pretend I'm by the sea--and these shrimp rolls do a pretty good job of setting the scene.