Reviews

Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin: This new gin from the Glendalough distillery in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, is one of the most intense gins I've ever had. There must be something to the sustainable wild foraged botanicals that make up Glendalough's flavor profile.

It is clean and crisp, but a bit more complicated than your typical dry gins. Pine shoots and woodruff are noticeably different from gins I've tasted. Then there's a bunch of floral notes from elderflower, rose petals, daisies and heather flowers. You get a real bouquet of scents of this part of the Irish countryside. 









Nazca Mohica:
The Dupont Circle area Peruvian restaurant has a great bar menu including an all-pisco cocktail menu and bar bites. (See yuca fries and a Pisco sour left.)
The bartenders showed off the Agwa De Bolivia coca leaf and tea spirit in an Agwa pisco sour (right). The Cucumber Chilcano (below) is a mix of three pisco infusions, chili, lime and amarillo. There's cucumber pieces, ginger beer and a sprig of rosemary in there.


 














Cotton & Reed Allspice Dram: Released this coming Sunday, Allspice dram by D.C.'s rum distillery should be a big hit. This versatile spirit is drier than other allspice spirits. It has dried lime, allspice, clove and nine other botanicals, and it is made from first strike and black strap molasses. Here it is used in a Daiquiri-like cocktail, showing off how well it works as a tiki bitter ingredient as well as an addition to the classic Old Fashioned.










D’USSÉ VSOP cognac: D’USSÉ is a new cognac with an artfully designed bottle. The brass double cross is both very modern looking and a nod to France's long history of making excellent cognac.

The spirit itself is very well balanced, with round oak and fruit notes. There's some spice, but it doesn't overwhelm. It is smoother than some of the Remy Martin products I've tried, a little less pronounced, but that is not a detraction. I mean that the finish is very long if you look for it, but it doesn't force itself on you. After tasting a lot of cognacs lately, I find it is rare that a cognac doesn't have an excessively sweet taste or an overly fractious bitterness in the mid sip that just breaks up the pleasurable experience of drinking it. D’USSÉ has few flaws (none of the above) and is sure to be a lure for new brandy drinkers and mixologists.
Proof: Adonis
Thanks to Proof for sending me this photo to use on my blog. Proof is a wine-focused restaurant and they make good use of fortified wine on their cocktail menu. The Adonis is an oldie but a goodie, a sherry and dry vermouth cocktail with orange bitters. It imitates a Manhattan in flavor but has half the alcohol, so you can drink more of them.
Himitsu
Himitsu is a tiny Japanese restaurant in the Petworth neighborhood of D.C. Get there early and secure a seat at the bar where Carlie Steiner (owner and bar manager) makes sherry cocktails that pair with the food. The Pineapple En Rama (left) is awesomely slammable and refreshing.

This unusual combination of Fino Sherry and aloe vera is extremely hydrating and a little funky. It is called the Melon Hi Chew, named after the Japanese candy that tastes exactly the same.


Carlie made me this Adonis with D.C. local Capitoline Rose vermouth and oloroso sherry. I love the glassware at Himitsu, this old style cocktail glass, and the silver cocktail picks really look elegant.  








Sherry makes a great addition to a Negroni, since it substitutes for the sweet vermouth. Aperol and Hayman's Old Tom gin makes this Negroni a better match for spicy food and a little wetter and more quenching than the full-bore Campari Negronis. 
Bar Dupont: A District Welcome

D.C. is home of the presidential inauguration, of course, and hotels are doing their part to welcome guests who are new to the city. People coming to see the spectacle of the outsider president, outsiders themselves, will want to feel welcomed, regardless of how locals feel about having their streets taken over by the masses.

To that end, Bar Dupont at Dupont Circle Hotel is using local spirits to give visitors a taste of the city. This is a gin sour with District Distilling Co. Checkerbark gin. This is a dry gin with a ton of spice, perfect for winter. Then there’s Capitoline rose vermouth from D.C.’s first vermouth distillery. It has baking spices that go with those cloves on the garnish. Finally, the cocktail is enriched with D.C. local Don Ciccio & Figli Nocino, a nutty and spiced walnut liqueur that thickens and warms the cocktail.
Mandu on 18th Street

Mandu is D.C.’s Korean cuisine hot spot with an outstanding bar program. The Big Paw Paw (top) shows off the pink puree from the local paw paw fruit, something that Hannah Burris said she created this drink and used paw paw fruits picked in Virginia. Quince puree, Gin Lane Pink Gin, Yzaguirre vermouth and quince make this cocktail good for the winter months as a sort of fruity Martini.









Hogwash is an inventive cocktail that takes Breckenridge bourbon that’s bacon washed and adds sweet sweet Brandy and Benedictine herbal spirit and a dash of peach bitters to balance the bacon bourbon. It’s perfect for pairing with Korean cuisine.

Finally the Bittersweet Bulleit is Bulleit rye, St. Germain elderflower liqueur (a very small amount just for sweetness) and bitters. A very drinkable Manhattan variation.

Archipelago:
Tikis of the world, ignite! The bartenders at Archipelago are not afraid to play with fire. Above, the volcano bowl cocktail, All Bets Are Off, is fueled with a high proof lemon oil extract and the bowl is full of banana animals, like a dolphin and squid, as well as blossoms. Cinnamon sprinkles flame on and add a toasted spice flavor. This serves 3-4 drinkers.
Below there is the Pineapple of Hospitality, which serves 2. The fire is the same lemon spirit burning in a lime hull.











 



Bar Charley:
Jared Foster at Bar Charley in Adams Morgan is playing with fire. He’s scorching a ceder plank to make smoke for the Step Dad, a smokey cognac and Cynar cocktail that you build in the smoked glass.

Bar Charley is also a secret tiki den with only the tiki tap handles and a handful of tiki mugs stashed behind the bar.



Busboy's And Poets: Langston Cooler: I was going to post this review of this cocktail in my last article on rum cocktails. It didn't make the cut, but I wanted to use it to illustrate the old thinking about mixing with rum.

Since whiskey and cognac have the lockdown on sipping spirits, distillers started marketing flavored rums to compete with vodka for addictive punch drinks. In this way we expect rum to do the work of vodka. You can see that approach here with the Langston Cooler, which is pretty much a Sex On The Beach with spiced rums.

A float of Captain Morgan Black spiced rum does a lot to change the nature of the drink from a candy cooler to something more piratical.

It's not a coincidence that the Langston Cooler is on the menu at Busboy's And Poets, a restaurant that celebrates Black history and culture, particularly the literary accomplishments of Harlem Renaissance writers.

It is by pure happenstance, though, that drinks like Sex On The Beach and Woo Woo are popular with African Americans of a certain age. (The college 90s spring break origin story of Sex On The Beach is by no means inclusive of minorities, so there must be some other explanation of the cocktail's popularity with African Americans.) While they have been popular with everyone at one time or another,  I think that these celebratory drinks evoke a feeling of vacation and transgression that appealed to young drinkers. African Americans who go for these peachy punches tend to be of a certain age--meaning that they are old enough to remember drinking these cocktails when they were new in the early 90s.

Before you turn your nose up at a drink with its roots in the dark ages of cocktails, try this one. I quite enjoyed it. You will too if you approach it with an open mind, and it really improves the experience when you sit at the bar at a Busboys And Poets, chat with the bartender and other guests, and listen to jazz music surrounded by images of Black history icons.


D.C. Local Distilleries: This year the number of distilleries producing local liquor in and around the D.C. metro area has grown substantially. I've only started my collection of local spirits. Not pictured here are One Eight Distillery's vodka and gin and Green Hat gin. These are a few of the newest of newcomers, though. On the left is Buzard Point rum, a deliciously complex white rum from District Distillers. It's made of panela sugar, which is funky and a little old-world. Lyon dark rum is made in nearby St. Michaels, MD. It is a very old-syle colonial rum with lots of molasses. Cotton & Reed Distillery makes this awesome dry spiced rum that I can't wait to use. Angelica root, orris root, cubeb berries, make for a very gin-like rum. Vigilant District Dry Gin is from the Jos. A. Mangnus distillery here in the city limits. It is a very complex London Dry Gin that has thyme, white grapefruit, sesame and bergamot orange flavors. For a more grain-forward gin, go for Commonwealth Gin from Richmond, VA. This really downplays the juniper and other botanicals and gives you a great cocktail base that doesn't force the pine tree-ness of gin onto your cocktail.


Cotton & Reed Rum Distillery: Negroni Lucconi
When is a Negroni not a Negroni? When it is made with rum. Lucas B. Smith, formerly at Dram & Grain, has his namesake Negroni at his new job as mixologist for Cotton & Reed. In addition to white rum and Campari, this cocktail is made with Smith's own rum tincture of macerated herbs and aromatized rum. Like gin, this tincture has juniper, bitter orange peel, angelica root, orris root (as a fixative that gives the liquid elasticity) licorice and coriander. The tincture gives the drink a "saffron-gold hue under the Campari," says Smith. "Negronis don't look like that."
















Proof: Fall Cocktails      
Adam Bernbach has done it again. The cocktails on Proof's menu this fall are all outstanding. I limited my review to just the original creations and signature cocktails--not aperitifs.

Ozark: This is a dark and oaky cocktail with lots of herbal bite to keep it from getting too sweet and syrupy. Rittenhouse rye is the spicy backbone to Bonal gentian spirit, Cynar, and Bitter Truth celery bitters.
Seven Ten Split: Check out this smoky and bitter cocktail has the toasty flavors of a pain au chocolat. That is because Pig Nose scotch providing the smoke, goes well with the light Amaro Montenegro, spicy Bigallet China-China and Xocolatl bitters. This is a dessert drink if anything.


The Widow's Kiss: Actually, this is a classic with Bernbach's twist of selecting quality ingredients. Busnel Calvados is dry and spicy for a base with really fun liqueurs like Benedictine and green Chartreuse to add sweetness and herbaceousness. Angostura bitters makes it slightly pink.
Our Lady Of The Harbor: This is an Irish whiskey drink that is similar to the Irish Fix and the Shamrock. Any creme de menth is omitted in this one and real mint garnish takes its place. Pineapple and lemon juices keep it light and tropical, but Jameson and green Chartreuse make it strong.







Meridian Hill: I'm not sure how this drink relates to the hip D.C. neighborhood, but this sour whiskey cocktail is pretty hip itself. It's a Four Roses bourbon and lemon juice sour with Manzanilla sherry and a hint of grapefruit in the form of bitters and a grapefruit twist.








Byrrh Grand Quinquina: I was in the market for another sweet vermouth to replace my Antica Formula. The French are known for dry vermouths, not so much the sweet. But Byrrh is like vermouth on steroids. It's a bitter wine aperitif with floral (violet?) scents and berry flavors and a soft backbone of quinine. It won't do for all sweet vermouth cocktails, but it certainly can't hurt for some. I'm looking forward to making a Byrrh Cassis and re-doing other classics with this!

Cleveland Bourbon: This is the black label of the Cleveland distillery known for its rapid ageing process using oxidation and pressure to accomplish in days what it takes most distilleries years to do. And Cleveland bourbon is therefore not bourbon--which requires at least four years to age in charred oak barrels. The flavor, however is very much like a bourbon, well within the style. It has a mellow wood taste and a noticeably mixed grain flavor like that of Segrams 7 Crown without the sourness on the nose. It's great for rocks sipping as well as mixing. Expect it to show up in more of my cocktails.


Political Themed Cocktails: 701 Restaurant 
Bartender Max Hill is at 701 Pennsylvania Ave. to bring you two candidate's drinks. The Donald Trump drink is a non-alcoholic cocktail called Make America Grape Again. It is made with moondrop grape juice that's flavored with spiced sorghum syrup (with mace, ginger, black pepper and clove) to give it an old-world candy-like taste. The moondrop grapes are so full of tannins that they make the drink look black.

The I'm With Her cocktail is really strong, with Dickle Rye and Flor de Cana (4 year aged) rum, Leopolds peach liqueur and an apple shrub.









Political Themed Cocktails: Oval Room
Max Hill designed the 2016 political themed cocktails for The Oval Room. He made a non-alcoholic drink for Donald Trump (because he doesn't drink) with grape muscat (like a puree with less pulp) a spiced syrup, champagne vinegar and a soda top. The Hillary Clinton cocktail is Madame President. It is a Cava cocktail with apricot brandy and Cynar (the artichoke amaro) and a little Angostura Rum (not bitters) to stiffen it up. 










Political Themed Cocktails: The Rye Bar
Rye Bar is the Rosewood Hotel's cocktail bar that specializes in American whiskey. Their rye selection is outstanding, but so are the cocktails. This year Diego Zeballos, manager of Rye Bar has come up with three cocktails representing the Republican, Democrat and Green parties. The Thyme To Decide is a Hendrick's gin cocktail with a red color that comes from blackberries and a floral flavor from St. Germain. A thyme sprig adds to the herbaceous scents.


The Pacific Blue represents Democrats with an American flag shade of blue that comes from blueberry juice and blue curacao added in that order to prevent it from turning purple. There's muddled mint (strained) lime juice and maraschino liqueur all bolstered by Tito's vodka. This drink tastes like a Mojito, but it is garnished with blueberries and a lemon twist.

The Green Card is Rye Bar's most popular and controversial cocktail. People order it because of the name, Zeballos says. It is Del Maguey "Vida" mezcal with honey, lime juice, ginger syrup and muddled basil strained into a rocks glass with a basil garnish. It's very fresh and aromatic, an exotic flavor for the more adventurous drinker.







Pallett 22: Palette 22 is a street food restaurant (small plates and tapas) in Shirlington, Virginia. Their bar menu has to pair well with spicy shrimp lettuce cups, porkbelly bao buns, mussles and octopus.

Their drinks are citrus and chili spice with lots of fizz. They are medium strength, not "up drinks," so you can easily try more than one. I had three.

The Pina A La Parilla (left) is exactly the kind of drink I've been enjoying lately, tropical and spicy, but it is made with Jim Beam rye! The spicy rye goes really well with habanero water and grilled pineapple syrup. It's garnished with fresh pineapple and an orange slice.

Palett 22's bubbly cocktail, Impressionism, is an Asian pear drink with pear infused vodka, lemon juice and Asian pear and topped with prosecco, a lemon peel and a blackberry.
What The Fuzz (left) a drink I had to try because of the name is a fizzy peach cocktail made with the quixotic Tanqueray Stirling vodka, Massenez creme de peche liqueur, ginger and lemon juice. It tastes like a peach cobbler, not the drink, the dessert. It is a great summer drink that blends into fall with spicy flavors.











Whistle Pig 15 Year Old Rye: So I got this cute sample of Whistle Pig's ultra-luxury rye. Whistle Pig is a very new distillery in Vermont. Until now they have been barreling rye from other distilleries for their different expression.
The 15 year is aged in Vermont White Oak from on and nearby the WhistlePig fam ”
Whistle Pig is serious about Farm to Bottle practices. Their rye is grown, dried and distilled in the same county. The whiskey barrels are made from Vermont white oak  cut from nearby woods. The 15 year old expression first aged in former bourbon barrels for a decade before it is transferred to the white oak, which adds to it a unique oak flavor.

The whiskey itself is complex with baking spices and vanilla with a stiff rye backbone. It is also more mellow than many rye whiskies due to extra aging.


District Commons Barreled Manhattan: Every time I go to District Commons in Foggy Bottom, I have the same reaction: District Commons' beverage program is really on top of things. Then I wonder why I don't hear this confirmed as often as I do so many other restaurants. Their food menu is on point as well.

This Barrel Aged Manhattan is a mix of 32 different whiskies that the bar staff combines in used bourbon barrels and ages for four to six weeks. It is then bottled and served to order with all ingredients included. The real upside of this is that District Commons has a unique drink you can't get anywhere else. The other upside is the size of the pour for the guest. Look at the size of that Manhattan!




TAKODA Beer Garden and Whiskey Bar has an Old Fashioned that's pretty newfangled. They are using beer syrup to flavor their cocktails. Yes you'll find rye, muddled fruit and bitters in your Old Fashioned, but the sweetness and hoppy flavor comes from a syrup made from beer that is cooked down slowly and sweetened. The drink takes a different form with the kind of beer used.

The original TAKODA Old Fashioned was made with Flying Dog Bloodline ale--an ale that is rich in blood orange flavor. They also use sweet and chocolatey Port City Porter and spicy 3 Stars Peppercorn Saison.







Ashlar: Morrison House Inn on Old Town Alexandria is unveiling a cocktail menu that dates back to the 18th century. You won't find much in the way of Martinis or Manhattans. New York was a small town when these drinks were being enjoyed in the colonies. Things you will find are ale cocktails, lots of egg, sherry, and strangely, nutmeg. Lots of nutmeg. It was just a matter of what alcohol was available in the late 1700s, Virginia. These cocktails would have been favorites of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The shrub cocktail to the right is a vodka drink (though originally it might have just been white whiskey) with red bell pepper shrub, marjoram stem, and seltzer.

Below from left to right are the Rattle-Skull: blackstrap rum, Laird's apple jack, and port city porter. That's nutmeg on top.
I've never had a Diamondback #5 before. This is a potent drink made with rye, applejack and green Chartreuse.
The Syllabub is a scary looking meringue drink (very fluffy egg white and lemon zest on top) with tokaji wine, oloroso sherry and cream.




I enjoyed Ashlar's Ale Flip (left), a nutmeg topped beer and rum cocktail with dry curacao and vermouth. It's shaken with a whole egg to give it fluffy richness. The Old Fashioned Cock-Tail (right) has no whiskey. Instead it is really old fashioned with spiced rum, rustic sugar, cardamom bitters and decanter bitters.

A Plethora of Mojitos at Cuba Libre: A recent trip to Cuba Libre, H Street's exotic rum bar, shows off what they are known for. Their Mojitos are the best because of their fresh mint preparation (no muddling, just a smack) and their imported guarapo, or sugar cane juice. Pictured here are the Don Q Grilled Pineapple, Pyrat XO, and Brittany Gold Shipwreck Mango Mojito. The shorty glass is a Caipirinha.
I went back to DBGB for a not-so-French dinner and got an original cocktail with my burger. This boozy Colonial, is a mix of apple brandy, rye, Smith & Cross Jamaican rum and demerara rum and tiki bitters. It was very complex with cinnamon spice and bitterness, a kind of nuttiness, rising and falling in a very long sipping drink. No ice meant that when the cocktail warmed up it became more aromatic.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon Tiki Bar: Jack Rose has a rooftop tiki bar that's open in good weather on Thursday through Saturday. They are demonstrating, in a small space, excellence in tikis. They have your typical Navy Grog (right) and Pain Killer (below), but they also have a number of originals. They are the brainchild of bartender Denise Jauregui, formerly at Dakiya.
The Coco Face (bottom center) is a spicy sweet treat served in a coconut shell. It’s made with Hamilton Demerara rum and it gets its sweetness and spice from pineapple juice, house made coco-almond syrup, and cinnamon-chili honey. Then there’s the rye drinker’s Righty Tighty (bottom left) with Dickel rye, tropical tea infused dry vermouth, tiki bitters, lime juice and house-made almond syrup. Finally, don’t overlook the ocean blue Tidal Wave, (bottom right) with guava nectar, lime juice and Tanqueray and colored by blue curacao.



Farmers Fishers Bakers: This Georgetown restaurant is known for its dedication to the tiki arts. Now they have their own line of mugs that include inscriptions of the restaurant logo. The Silenco Nights (foreground) is proof that tikis are not just sweet rum drinks. It's a El Silencio mescal drink with lime juice, spicy Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, bitter Aperol and Cynar and lime juice.

The Tiki Enlightenment is a sweet baking spices rum cocktail with passion fruit juice, lime juice, and falernum. 1703 Cocktail (right) is a coffee-forward tiki with coffee syrup made from French pressed coffee. It's a bourbon cocktail with passion fruit and pineapple juices.





Archipelago: There's a tiki bar on U Street now! Archipelago is a funky place with grass huts, palm trees and tiki carvings. They specialize in authentic and original tikis in spectacular mugs. Pictured here, the Lonely Mermaid with navy strength rum, aged rum, lemon juice and buttered pineapple syrup. It comes in this really cool surfer girl mug and garnished with flowers and a mermaid swizzle stick.
The Retired Stripper (left) has tequila, rum agricole, and a special house-made melon liquor. The bourbon, Aperol and passion fruit juice drink in the fish mug is called If The Phone Don't Ring, It's Me.











Remy Martin 1738 Accord Royal Cognac: This cognac is the first I've had that is more than a silky and oak aged brandy and stands up well to single malt scotch. Remy Martin is champagne cognac, produced from the Champagne region with grapes of that varietal. It is aged in toasted French oak casks with lots of sherry notes mixed with dry fig, baking spices and toffee. It is complex and round and has won me over to cognac as enjoyable sipped neat in a snifter. But I can't have a spirit without mixing with it. I'll be selective in the kinds of cocktails I attempt, giving the Remy Martin room to express itself and not cut it down with citrus.
Teeling Irish Whiskey: Seen here are two select bottlings of Teeling whiskey that are more luxurious than the already fine signature blend with rum cask aging. Teeling single grain whiskey is more mellowed from longer aging in sauvignon blanc cask and white oak barrels. One pleasant flavor note of the single grain is it's whiff of brown sugar.  It has a bronze color as showed off by the bottle. Single grain, in Irish whiskey terms, is a little misleading. It really refers to a single recipe of grain mixture in the mash. That includes corn, malted barley (for enzymes), wheat and rye. What exists in this bottle is a blend of barrels that adhere to the same recipe for more consistency.

The Teeling Single Malt is exactly what it sounds like. It's an unpeated malted barley whiskey with extra age in the barrel. Rich malt flavor and round, but not overpowering, oak and vanilla notes stand out in this rare whiskey. The color is a lighter golden glow compared to the single grain expression.


Glendalough Irish Whiskey: Unlike all other Irish whiskeys that are distilled in large quantities from a handful of major distilleries, Glendalough is going it alone as an independent distiller. Their everyday sipping whiskey is the Double Barrel. This is a crossover whiskey that imitates the flavors of bourbon. It's aged in sherry and ex-bourbon barrels and contains a high component of European corn. It's easy-going and as good in cocktails as it is neat.

(Pictured left: Double Barrel punch with green tea, Cynar and bitters)

The Jack Rose Dining Saloon hosted a Glendalough tasting this March that I attended. It included individual pours and cocktails. Below are the featured cocktails. I only tried two. Left: the Mountain Tea is made with the double barrel expression and Irish breakfast tea infused dry vermouth. It was said to taste like Earl Grey tea. Center: The Wild Irish Rose was a champagne drink with Alberecht sparkling rose and Glendalough 7-year-old. There was too much lemon, though, and the chamomile mint gomme syrup did little to cut the dryness and acidity. It actually tasted like stomach acid, so I sent it back. I know I have my individualized tastes, but I like to think I can be objective. And it isn't outside the realm of possibility that Jack Rose makes a few bad drinks from time to time. Right: a perfectly acceptable cocktail called Lough and Key is made with Glendalough 13-year-old, sherry, port, and green Chartreuse. It was a little on the busy side, but it didn't ruin such a high quality whiskey. Omitting the Chartreuse might have helped reduce the sweetness, and maybe orange or grapefruit bitters (to go with the grapefruit peel garnish) would have helped tie flavors together better.




Dubonnet Blanc: So I just got a bottle of Dubonnet blanc to make some of my favorite white aromatized wine cocktails with. I was hoping that it would replace Lillet blanc, which is getting harder to find. It does so marvelously and in a way that makes Dubonnet even more of a stand-out in a cocktail. Lillet blanc and Dubonnet blanc are both quinine infused wines from the area of French colonialism. Lillet has recently made its recipe sweeter, but Dubonnet blanc is still a bitter and dry aromatized wine. In this way it comes closer to many of the original cocktails that called for Lillet blanc.

The rouge is still one of the best spiced red wines and it is popular in about fifty cocktails that I have already made. There's still a few Dubonnet rouge drinks I am looking forward to making, so I'm sure you'll see these on my homepage soon.




Catoctin Creek Distillery: It's a Catoctin Creek holiday this year. So many rich drinks can be made with Catoctin Creek 1757 brandy and their 92-proof Roundstone rye. Lately I've been making fall cocktails with Catoctin Creek apple brandy, which is a very colonial American spirit and perfect for old punches and mulled spice drinks.

I'm giving Watershed gin as a Christmas gift to someone who likes gin. The number of botanicals in gins are just going up, and this gin has a secret recipe that boasts more than most. It's very dry and balanced with a sweet mouthfeel and licorice and anise notes. It is made with 100 percent rye and is sure to change your opinion of gin as something that tastes like Christmas trees.



Mockingbird Hill: Shaw's sherry bar is a place I like to stop by every so often to try their creative sherry cocktails. This was just in time to get a sneak preview of their Halloween tiki drink for next weekend. It's called the 28 Sherries Later. It's a Zombie with bitters and grenadine for blood and bite, but it also has lime juice and amontillado, muscatel, and fino sherries to give it grape and nutty flavor. Don't let this one sneak up on you!
First Aid For Street Fighters is like a whisky and sherry sour combined. With lemon juice and orgeat syrup, this drink tastes very tropical, but there's a little bit of scotch smoke that will surprise and entertain you.
Palenque Sour is a mescal version of the above, but with Manzanilla sherry and honey syrup. That stuff floating on top is grated nutmeg and lapsang souchong tea--that great smokey Chinese tea--that accentuates the smoke of the Del Maguey Vida.
MH's Manzanilla Margarita is more than just the addition of sherry to a Maragrita. It's got El Silencio mescal and agave, and the reddish color comes from orange bitters rather than triple sec.
The Ce Soir (left) is one of the stranger drinks at Mockingbird Hill. I think it would be better served in a coupe glass or cocktail glass. The large stemless kind of hides the liquor, which is oddly colored when you have these ingredients: Jerez brandy, Cynar, yellow Chartreuse and bitters. It was heavily herbal flavored and spicy. Sherried Old Fashioned (right) is a tasty twist on the original with a PX sherry and bitters to offset the bourbon.
 
The Oval Room: Head bartender Max Hill hales from England were he was trained as a sommelier, a skill he puts to good use as a mixologist. Some of his creations are pure genius and some teeter on the edge of madness. Take the Mycelium Tremens, for example. It’s the first drink I’ve encountered that makes use of ingredients from the fungi kingdom. He made a bitter syrup from cola nut that tastes a bit like flat Crystal Pepsi that he mixes with brandy for this rocks drink, but then he rims the glass with porcini mushroom powder and salt. The effect Hill was going for was a dark salty flavor on the sip that launches you into a sweet center of the drink that Hill says “will balance out the flavor and surprise you.” I still haven’t made up my mind about this one. 




Mycelium Tremens                                                                                               Lady Michelle
Lady Michelle is one of the standard drinks you can get every day at the Oval Room. Max says it's like a French 75 but with lavender syrup and Creme de Yvette.








Hummingbird Charm
This is one of Max's genius creations. "Growing up, I had a lot of Afro-Caribean friends. Their mothers made pineapple syrup by boiling down the skins until it was...nothing. That was the sweet flavor I was going for." The syrup is spiced, as is the Angostura rum in the drink.







L'Hommage Bistro Francais: L'Hommage is a true French cafe style restaurant that does Paris better than the French. A little Americanized with it's large seating area and bar, not to mention the selection of liquor, but from the decor and furniture to the menu, it the restaurant is authentically French. Their cocktails from a D.C. or New York inspired style with fresh fruit and French liqueurs (The French don't cocktail), but they are examples of the best use of these liqueurs.

Chaleur de La Passion: This drink doesn't shy away from sour and bitterness with passion fruit syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and Grey Goose Vodka.






Saint Tropez: Bartender Muriel Beer says this cocktail tastes purple, and it does. With Creme de Yvette violet liqueur, Beefeater gin, pomegranate and lemon juice, and blackberries, it looks as good as it tastes.








L'Hommage also uses French fruit brandies and spirits. The Point L'Evecque uses calvados (apple brandy) and apple puree, spices and egg white to make a whipped pie tasting drink. The Annabelle is unabashedly tart and pear tasting with Trimbach Poire pear brandy, cognac, Benedictine and lemon juice.

Point L'Evecque                                                                                                   Annabelle










The Source: Wolfgang Puck's modern Japanese cuisine restaurant at the Newseum has a lot to offer foodies and cocktail buffs. The renovated lounge will feature Chef Drewno’s acclaimed dumplings, wok-fired dishes such as roast duck fried rice with crispy duck tongues and a goose egg, and barbeque dishes including a grilled Sichuan sausage with cilantro, toasted cumin and coriander pickles.

This is the Samauri Sword--my favorite drink on the Source cocktail menu. It makes use of Hibiki Japanese whiskey, Cointreau, fresh ginger, lemon juice and honey. I like the sweet taste of the whiskey that comes through, and serving it in a large stemless glass with a single cube means you can smell the interplay of flavors.
The Papa Doble a.k.a Hemmingway Daiquiri is a sweet grapefruit drink with Zacapa Sistema Solera 23 rum and Luxardo. It is pretty tasty and will satisfy non-rum drinkers with maraschino fruit flavor. This is a version of the Grapefruit Cocktail but it doesn't add complexity with the addition of 23-year-old rum. Give it to me with gin and I'll be happy.










I liked the Bespoke Negroni for its unabashed bitterness. Using Campari will do this, but there was also Carpano Antica and Hendrick's gin, which made this rocks drink a real treat. Consider having this with sushi, especially the eel roll with its dark flavors to match the the Negroni.












Pepino's Revenge is a tequila drink that relies on natural ingredients for flavor. Muddled basil and Asian cucumber make it herbal and interesting. Lime juice, salt, and Sauza Blanco make it a familiar tequila cocktail.


 
Sushiko, in Chevy Chase, MD, has an amazing bar program. Here they are not afraid to do pretty unconventional things to get their drinks to pair well with traditional Japanese food. They use cucumber, matcha powder and bamboo in drinks that are refreshing and rich. Their go-to citrus ingredient for spritzers is yuzu, not lemon, and chili pepper infusions add heat but Japanese seven spice becomes the flavor of a drink. Here bartender Ian Chyun poses with Minka Old Fashioned.





Jack Rose Saloon and Dram & Grain
I went to Jack Rose for a tasting of The Last Drop, a new 48-year-old blend. Last Drop Distillers are known for making Johnnie Walker Blue, Chivas 18, and selecting the Classic Malts. This is an extremely rare bottling of malts and grains, the youngest of which was distilled in 1965. Pretty pricy is an understatement when bottles are going for around $4,000. It's not released yet, but there will only be about 500 bottles produced. It's truly a once in a lifetime experience.
 

Last Drop was sweet and fruity on the nose like spiced pear. Lots of honeyed peaches and toasted oak describe the palate. The finish was long and light with chocolate and almond notes. No cloying bitterness, no wrong turns or unpleasantness. This is truly a masterwork of a scotch.



Dram & Grain is the speakeasy room in the basement of Jack Rose. There I also tried Singin & Swingin, a Pig Nose scotch and champagne drink with Lustau Amontillado sherry, orgeat and orange bitters. It was a fizzy before dinner drink that seemed like







They also have a unique take on a Maime Taylor. The bartenders called it "Say You, Maime?" The most impressive thing about the drink was the huge CO2 tank they used to carbonate the nectarine flavored ginger beer they make. The next most impressive thing was the size of the hand cut ice. A woman complimented me on the size of my cubes, no lie. But I couldn't help feeling like the scotch, Benronach 10, was poorly served in the drink. It has such a wonderful and rounded taste by itself, and it holds up well to the peppery ginger beer, but I felt that either a sweeter or saltier scotch would have made its presence felt. As it was, I preferred the scotch by itself.













Chart House: Another Look
I am liking what Chart House is doing with their bar more than McCormick & Schmick's. I know they are the same corporation and they use most of the same ingredients at the bars, but the cocktail menu is a little more classic and the drinks themselves are stronger. It's always good to get a white sangria at one of these corporate places because, in my experience, the drink is strong and fresh. Here is s Riesling Sangria with Bacardi Citron. I had the Twisted Negroni with Aperol and an Amari and Boulivardier with Bulleit bourbon and Luxardo. I was really pleased with these options and wish we had a cocktail menu like this where I work.

 Riesling Sangria                                  Twisted Negroni                                   Boulivardier


A&D Bar
I liked A&D Bar (1314 9th St NW) for it's happy hour drinks and food. They are a small operation that does mostly beer and their cocktails that are keeping pace with the changing scene. I also get their humble model for a beverage program. Serving every drink in jars from beer to cocktails is cute but it is a cost saver as well. It forces the bartenders to work outside the box (or container) to make a drink interesting. Take the Corner Smokey, a margarita made with El Silencio mescal and green Chartreuse. There's the Millions of Peaches with Temptation Bourbon, R&W Peach liqueur, lemon juice and soda. These are interesting drinks that look mostly the same until you taste them.

Corner Smokey                                                         Millions of Peaches





Irish Whiskey Public House 
I just wanted to report on the weird experience I had at Irish Whiskey Public House. I don't usually post negative reviews, and I am not sure this is one, but I tend to leave out less than satisfactory things. First of all, I am proud to have drank there and really enjoyed myself. The bartender Eric Christiansen was very friendly and helpful and even let me try a free shot of Paddy Whiskey while he promptly did one himself. Kudos to him! I only wish I could do the same at my job.

He made my funky drink to order and it was really excellent! I really couldn't ask for more from a pub. Irish Whiskey Pub has a huge selection of Irish whiskey and liqueurs, and the bartenders are knowledgeable enough from experience. This obviously wasn't a cocktails place, though. The vermouth was full of flies and Eric was very adept at getting the one out of my drink. He didn't comp the drink, but maybe that was why the shot was free. If it weren't for the whiskey selection, this would be a dive bar, I'm thinking. But there are no dive bars on 19th street and there were too many millennials there for it to qualify as a dive bar.

If you're looking for good whiskey at a good price, don't pass this place up. You take your chances with cocktails, but--hey, it's a pub.





















The U.K. Invasion
It's been eight straight years of bourbon's dominance in the American liquor market. A combination of women drinking whiskey and choosing bourbon for its smooth vanilla characteristics, and Southern milleniels coming to terms with the drink of their roots has meant that bourbon sales have been through the roof. This comes at the expense of international whiskeys. The single malt scotch movement appears to have stalled and, for a while, no one gave much of a thought to Irish whiskey.

Recently these misfits have showed up and started getting attention. Barrelhound and Glendalough have just arrived in the U.S. in select markets and are shaking things up. Barrelhound is the scotch that doesn't taste like scotch, with its corn component and bourbon flavors. Glendalough has a double barrel expression of malt barley and corn that also passes for Irish bourbon and is sure to do well in the already crowded American whiskey market.

There's been a shake up in Ireland as well--whiskey is enjoying a revival and tastes are changing to a whole range of expressions. There's more to Irish whiskey than shots and sours. Teeling arrived in the U.S. last year and is already turning heads with its rum cask expression. It's lighter and more spiritus than Jameson and makes an excellent mixer as well as a rocks sipper. Then there's The Knot. First, it's not whiskey, it's a whiskey liqueur (I think.) It has elbowed itself on to whiskey shelves, though, and is not vying with Irish mist or Bushmills Irish Honey which are having their own war right now. The fact that it is a liqueur is even understated by the faded labeling and lack of wild flavors on the sip. It just tastes like a sweet moonshine. Oddly, The Knot is encouraging people to only drink it as a shot, but I find that it is exactly the flavor that a brandy and whiskey cocktail sometimes needs when it is too dry to taste. 

Watch out for these whiskey troublemakers and enjoy them while keeping in mind that they are not your father's whiskey and they are probably hiding something inside that you won't see on the label.




Daikaya's Summer Cocktails

The Ninkyo Dantai (above left) is a citrusy sling-like drink made with Mugon sochu, lychee syrup, lime juice and coconut water. While sochu and lychee sound exotic, it’s the coconut water—the same stuff that’s consumed for hydration following hot yoga classes—that comes across as unusual. “Coconut is one of those things that you really have to concentrate to get much flavor,” says MacBain (above right). While its presence is barely perceptible, coconut water adds a refreshing sweetness where soda would only add fizz. The heart of the drink is the Mugon sochu, a “highly expensive” spirit made from 100 percent rice and aged ten years in oak. “It’s what gives the drink depth where you miss it from the coconut water itself,” says MacBain



I was astonished by the unusual pairing of Kintaro roasted barley sochu, lemongrass syrup, lemon juice and carbonated hojicha roasted green tea in the Tea Myself And I. Hojicha, a mildly caffeinated tea with rejuvenating properties adds a toasty dryness to this fizzy drink that approximates a barley whiskey sour. Tea Myself And I is reminiscent of Japanese teahouse teas that accompany sesame rice and sushi dishes.






The Mizu Goku (of Dragonball Z fandom) is a sour made from black koji rice and barley sochu, goji berry syrup, lemon juice, and garnished with a blossom-shaped goji fruit leather. The drink is the creation of bartender Denise Jauregui, who found a use for the goji leftovers from squeezing juice. Flavored with Pimms, the fruit leather gives the Mizu Goku the cuteness of a bento box lunch.




 

Red Light is a great desserts cafe on 14th street that just started a savory menu. They do flatbreads, cakes, ice cream dishes with Nutella, but they also do drinks very well. I was especially interested in how none of the drinks seems to be a basic classic recipe–they are all new ideas and combinations that play to each liquor’s strength. Bar Manager Jonny Fellman gets a kick out of using a flame thrower to toast the rosemary garnishes on the Peep Show.

This is the Pseudonym with Evan Williams bourbon, Domaine De Canton ginger liqueur and St. Germain elderflower liqueur.





Dead Man's Tale is Sailor Jerry's spice rum, Benedictine, peach mint, and lime juice. This drink tasted the most unusual with strong spice notes not associated with rum and probably coming from the Benedictine.















Bar Manager Jonny Fellman gets a kick out of using a flame thrower to toast the rosemary garnishes on the Peep Show.

 Peep Show is a Pimms and Gin drink with lemon juice and rosemary and cucumber garnishes.
I really like the classic beauty of the Magdalene with gin, egg white and sugar, and St. Germain. Wonderful floral notes and froth in this drink. Consume quickly because it starts to get a little funky as it warms up.













The Hamilton: Washington’s Cherry Temple is the cherry blossom cocktail at The Hamilton on 14th and F Street. It is richly Michigan cherry flavored, not black cherry or maraschino. They do it with sour cherry juice, wheat vodka, and Leopold’s Cherry Liqueur. The latter is reportedly the best ingredient for an Aviation you will ever find. It is the heart of this cocktail. It doesn’t hurt that The Hamilton bartenders made vanilla simple syrup to sweeten the drink as well.
 District Commons 
Here's a champagne cocktail that whiskey lovers will enjoy. The Skidmore Spritz is named after Eliza Skidmore, the first female board member of National Geographic. What makes it so good is the Leopold's Michigan Cherry Whiskey and 44 North Magic Wheat Vodka which add potency and sweetness to this otherwise dry cocktail.
 
 Mango Tree
Amid all this controversy about bad cherry blossom cocktails in D.C., Tihon Nguyen (below), lead bartender at Mango Tree, has come up with one that definitely doesn't suck. That is because she uses reliable and tested ingredients that hold up to scrutiny. It was a bit like an amaretto, vanilla, orange zest drink with some cherry going on, but the floral scents put it well within the range of a cherry blossom drink.






James Costigan and Grahm Cooke, two Irish bartenders at James Hoban's Irish Restaurant and Bar. This place really takes Irish themed cocktails seriously. No fake green stuff here, and the things these gentlemen can do with whiskey will surprise you.


 (Below Left:) The St. Stephen's Green with gin, St. Germain, sour mix and champagne.
(Below Right:)Hoban's Sour with Tullamore Dew, sour mix and shiraz float.

 
 (Below:) The Spirit Of Dublin with Dublin-made Teeling Whiskey, ginger beer and Travis Hasse's Cherry Pie liqueur.


Tequila And Mescal Festival at Oyamel
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana is a Jose Andreas restaurant that does small-plate style fine dining. Their level 4 Mescalier Jasmine Chae has decided to feature the chili peppers of the Americas in four amazing drinks. The festival goes from March 2-15.
PicaPepino
Milagro Silver, cucumber, serrano and lemon
Paloma de Oaxaca
El Silencio Espadin, grapefruit-jalapeño soda, grapefruit juice
Media Naranja
Fidencio Clásico, sour orange, habanero, egg white and bitters

La capital
Guajillo chili infused El Jimador Añejo, Ancho Reyes liqueur,
Dolin Rouge and orange bitters



Ambar's Amazing Cocktails:
Ambar is a Bulgarian restaurant that has the largest selection or rakia, a common spirit in Eastern Europe, made from distilled grapes. It is often infused with other fruits like plum (known as slivovitz) but you can also do tastings of raspberry, honey, quince (and the list goes on) rakias. You can even get a passport and stamps for each of the 34 flavors of rakia available at Ambar.

This week I was treated to a fabulous meal, four cocktails, and a flight of rakia. Below, clockwise are the drinks. 
Skoplje: Named after the capital of Macedonia, it's made with pear rakia, spiced pear puree, mescal, sour mix and lime. It was truly an international treat.
Simply Bliss: lemongrass, grapefruit & lime infused gin, apricot liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and grapefruit bitters.
Barrel Aged Negroni: Gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, and orange peel.
Strawberry Collins: Strawberry infused grappa, lemon juice, simple syrup, and champagne.
  

 








Fat Tuesday Bartender Mix Off at Black Jack:
The best bartenders in D.C. faced off in a competition to make cocktails using secret ingredients. Bartenders in teams of two representing their restaurants had only a minute to plan and two minutes to make identical drinks after learning that they had to mix with wasabi peas, rum cream, single malt scotch, hibiscus flowers and other wild ingredients. Pictured below is the judging panel including Duane Sylvester, head bartender at Bourbon Steak (left, center). Participating teams included Cafe St-X, Farmers Fishers Bakers, Tico (who won the most rounds and took the prize), Hank's Oyster Bar, Dram and Grain, and Gipsy Soul.








 Casa Luca

Robin Miller explains that the world class kitchen staff at Casa Luca helped in choosing bay leaves, as well as blood orange and Cynar, for the Bullet Rye infusion barreled Spaghetti Western, a tribute to Italian-made western movies made during the 60s and 70s.










The Bombay Club
Marta Chapman tells me how she makes the Bombay G + T at The Bombay Club, a swanky Indian Club style restaurant frequented by U.S. Presidents. Only a block from the White House, Bombay club has one of the best happy hours I've seen. Specialty cocktails, including the G + T are $7 dollars and food is free upon request. And man is it good! The G + T is Ashby's Gin that's been infused with green chiles, with the requisite tonic and lime in a sugar-rimmed glass. Two peppers on the menu--it's really hot




 Bibiana

Bartender Melvin Azldana know how to mix hot and cold. His Hot and Cold Gin Fizz combines Cold River gin, lemon and sugar that is chilled and served under a hot lemon egg spuma (below.) The Belladona (above) is a rich gin drink that uses G Vine wine based gin that's infused with lemon tea for a couple of hours, then served with lemon juice, sugar and pear juice. Who thought gin would be so good in the dead of winter.

B Too

This is a Belgian restaurant near Thomas Circle on 14th Street. It's best known for its beer selection. One of the most unusual cocktails they make is The Bubbles. It's Absolut Mardarin with St. Germain and champagne topper. An easy one to try at home.











Barcelona 

Micaela, a bartender at Barcelona on 14th Street, makes a Bee's Wings, a star anise spiced gin drink with yellow Chartreuse, orange blossom water and egg white. Really amazing, and pretty far from the basic Bee's Knees.
I also really liked the Spice Rack and Whiskey Root, two bourbon drinks pictured below.














Daikaya

This Japanese noodle restaurant near Chinatown has a great selection of Japanese whiskeys and shochus. Shochu is a distilled spirit made like saki but using any starch, including barley, sweet potato, rice, or sugar cane to name a few. Bar Manager Jamie McBain invented these shochu cocktails. Sesame Street--Yuzu juice (which is like bitter lemon), Beni Otome sesame shochu, ginger beer and a float of Angostura Bitters. Yum. Then there's King of the Monsters. It's a barley shochu and Cocchi Americano  with Chinese 5 spice bitters.

Bourbon (Adam's Morgan, D.C.)

This is Jaime Ramerez and Jessica Dallesasse holding the $100 dollar barreled cocktail barrel. They use it to make a barreled Mint Julep that is stronger than the rocks version with deep oak and infused mint flavor. Not too sweet, and lots of Old Forrester bourbon for a winter treat.





Barrel

Barrel in D.C.'s Eastern Market neighborhood specializes in barreled cocktails. They put whiskeys, gins, even mescals into barrels with ingredients of the cocktails. Here they are both aging the current and future menu options right at the bar.







 


Rye Bar at Capella 

Rodavan Jankovic makes some pretty impressive drinks at Rye Bar. He told me he makes his own tonic and let me try a sample of the shrubs and modifiers he prepares for his cocktails. Rye bar specializes in rye cocktails that are pretty stiff, but easy to sip. A very luxurious place to spend a few hours in the winter. There's high backed leather chairs and a fireplace, all with a view to Georgetown's canals and locks. 








Mockingbird Hill

Matt Ficke makes the High Kirk. Mockingbird Hill is a Derek Brown restaurant that pretty much does only sherry and ham. This is the only scotch cocktail and it has Manzanilla sherry as the base. According to Matt, it won the National Sherry Cocktail Competition.










 

Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Andy Bixby makes his creation, the Uncharted Seas. It’s a scotch drink with Auchentoshen Three Wood, red wine, and a muddled orange slice and cherry. Jack Rose has the largest collection of whisky in the U.S. That is scotch, Irish, bourbon, American, Canadian, Japanese...you name it!






Smoke and Barrel

A great place to go for bourbon and rye. This is their barreled Boulevarder that is bottled High West bourbon with Gran Classico bitters and Campari. It's served neat and warm (which is O.K.) or ask for it chilled or on the rocks. They also have a barreled Manhattan.













Bar Charley
Julian Garcia makes a Glasgow at Bar Charley. He slow stirs all the whisky cocktails, measures the tiniest drops, and taste tests with a drop on the back of his hand. Below you can see the Glasgow in the crystal glass and a happy hour Manhattan





















Spiked Mocha: McCormick & Schmick's

This drink gets mentioned because it combines unusual ingredients for a hot drink. Coffee, cocoa, Chambord, and Stolichnaya Vanilla. Topped with whipped cream, it is a decadent dessert drink. One thing that's unusual about McCormick and Schmick's is that they have five hot drinks all year long.

















































James Nelson: Appleton Of My Eye  
 
Head bartender at Poste Modern Brasserie, Nelson has focused on making unique hot drinks. This uses heavy cream, brown sugar, cider and a bit of salt. He finishes it with Appleton XV rum and a caramel coated apple slice. He's experimenting now with a cedar bitters bourbon hot toddy and will soon make a smoky cocktail using grilled lemons.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Josh Fatemi: Mary Todd

Bartender at MaClelland’s Retreat uses a swizzle stick to make the Mary Todd. This technique of spinning crushed ice makes the glass extremely cold. When done correctly the drink becomes a frozen cocktail with a frosted outside. Drinks made in this way fall into the category of Swizzle.
The Mary Todd uses Fatemi’s own homemade ginger butternut squash syrup along with white and Jamaican rum.
 






Joni Hector: Akuma

Morning bartender at Hank’s Oyster Bar. She’s using a recipe written by hand in that bound notebook there to make the Akuma. This uses Junmai Gingo Sake, Dolin Dry vermouth, cranberry-corn syrup & a habanero extraction. She says it is a pick-me-up drink when you’ve had a lot to drink already.

I don’t usually go in for sake drinks, and this was not one I liked much. I was intrigued by the the cranberry corn syrup and habanero. It was a soft, wineish drink with a bit of warmth at the finish. I can see how it might wake someone up after a night of drinking.




Bourbon (Glover Park, D.C.)

 The restaurant in Glover Park has one of the largest collection of whiskeys around. Here is a flight of American whiskey: Templeton, Pritchards and Baby Bourbon. Come for good eats, tastings, and classic cocktails.




















































Love in The Time Of Cachaca:

This tiki style drink is like a cachaca daiquiri with cinnamon syrup. I tried it at Bourbon on Sunday night! 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Midnight In The Garden Of Rye:

This cocktail is from Bourbon. It’s Old Overholt rye and creme de violette. Nice aromatic drink that is softer than expected.
 
 
The Chart House (Alexandria, VA)
Here’s the rundown on their drinks:
First, the Mango Mojito that uses Malibu mango rum and juices in addition to the usual ingredients.



Then there’s the Fleur de Lis. It’s Malibu cocoanut and Midori liqueur with Prachtree schnapps and orange and pineapple juices.
 This is the Bold Manhattan. It is made with Jim Beam Devil's Cut bourbon and chocolate bitters. A really rich treat, like drinking chocolate cake.


 This Vodka Collins might be my favorite only because it is such a changeup from the original. Using creme de violette, this drink is floral and interesting. A great before dinner drink.















Brughal Anejo Rum
video

The Knot Liqueur
The Knot is an Irish distilled liqueur. It’s not (knot) whiskey. What it is is the Irish equivalent of Southern Comfort but 100 proof. There’s a lot of humorous advertising involving the character Mickey, who encourages everyone to drink The Knot as a shot. I’ve included my own photo of the “Refreshing Cocktail” made according to Mickey’s specifications. Note how much he spills—worse than me.

Green Chartreuse


Chartreuse is produced by the Carthusian Monks of La Grande Chartreuse monastery. Only three monks know of the recipe and it is a closely garded secret. It is produced with 130 berries and herbs from the region and it has a strong citrus/lime flavor with herbal and grass-like notes. It is potent at 55% ABV or 110 Proof. A yellow variety is milder in flavor but not alcohol.

I first encountered green Chartreuse at The Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland. The Last Word was such an amazing gin cocktail, like nothing I’ve ever had. I would enjoy it no matter what color it was, but the light green gives a drink an otherworldly quality.

Now that I have got a bottle after weeks of saving up, I want to use it sparingly. There are so many cocktails (usually gin based) that use green Chartreuse and they are all very similar. Sadly so many cocktails employ it solely for its color with no consideration for the flavor. I would be hesitant to mix it with Irish whiskey and creme de menthe in a St. Patrick’s Day, for instance. Keep following my blog as I figure out what to do with this amazing liqueur.

Luxardo

Luxardo is a maraschino liqueur that is about 40% ABV and very tart. It has almost no color, so it doesn't change the look of a drink much. The label says it is often used to garnish a fruit salad, or you can put a few drops of it into a fruit cocktail (the dessert food, not a drink), and I can see that doing so would give melons and strawberries an especially tangy fresh taste.

Cherry liqueurs are different from cherry brandies. Liqueurs have to have at least 2.5% sugar in their composition so they are pretty sweet. Cherry brandies are distilled cordials that may contain no sugar. Then there are cherry cordials like Cherry Heering, which is sweet and rich. You almost can't see through it. Use Luxardo when the recipe calls for maraschino liqueur and Heering  when the recipe calls for cherry liqueur. If the recipe calls for Kirschwasser, you'd better use neither. Kirschwasser has no sweetener, and the best substitute might be a cherry vodka.


Flavored Whiskey, To Have Or Have Not
Lately there’s a flavored whiskey trend with the bigger  distillers that follows the proliferation of the flavored vodkas in the 90s. You see it with Fireball cinnamon whiskey, Crown Royal Maple, Bushmills Irish Honey, Wild Turkey American Honey, Dewar’s Highlander Honey. From these names you can see that there is a race to corner the market on honey whiskey from the known whiskey regions. It begs the question, when will we see Japanese and Indian honey? But seriously, how important is it that you have one or more flavored whiskey on your home bar?

In one sense that is a simple question to answer: get the one you enjoy drinking. Get more than one if you can find multiple drinks you can make with each and it really improves the quality of drinks you can make at home. Nealson found that honey and flavored whiskeys are popular among young drinkers who don’t like the taste of alcohol. I myself have seen Fireball as the most ordered whiskey shot where I work.

But I am not interested in doing shots with my guests at home, so I apply the same rule to flavored whiskeys as I do with flavored vodkas—If I can make the liquor myself or get the same effect of the flavor by using real ingredients, then I will pass. That means I usually leave honey whiskey alone. Like citrus vodka and any number of bottled infusions, flavored whiskey is a shortcut that reduces the number of fresh ingredients you need but makes the consumer more reliant on a single brand to provide the flavor in alcohol form.

I use real honey, citrus, mint, jalapeno, and any number of herbs and spices to make drinks without the need for a flavored liquor—this keeps my vodka and whiskey selection small and versatile. I buy liqueurs like Cherry Heering, Drambuie, and Irish Mist because they are a combination of ingredients that I cannot pretend to make and because they are used in many cocktails.

Recently I picked up Bushmills Honey as a replacement for Irish Mist. Humorously, I have seen Irish Mist trying to market their product as a honey whiskey (“The Original Irish Honey Whiskey”), not a honey liqueur that contains whiskey. They have changed their packaging to try to compete with Bushmills. After trying Bushmills Irish Honey, I have to say that Irish Mist has nothing to fear from Bushmills. Bushmills is a completely different product. For one it is mostly whiskey with lots of real whiskey flavor that is identifiably the malty Bushmills character. It can substitute as the base whiskey in the cocktail, but it is not the spicy and rich flavor that Irish Mist lends to drinks. I really can’t use it in the same drinks as Irish Mist, like the Bunratty Peg, but I am going through it faster than I would a liqueur. I enjoy it by itself—even without ice. That said, I probably won’t buy it again because I would rather get a plain Irish whiskey for the same price.

So, short answer long, get what works for you. It’s not likely you will be able to make cinnamon whiskey, but you can easily make cherry bourbon like Red Stag. You know yourself. If you are likely to end an evening with a round of flavored shots, get what you like to drink neat, and if there is funky drink involving marshmallow fluff vodka, get that too. I am not judging, really, I’m not. But I would avoid niche flavors that have limited uses—like I am really not sure what I would do with birthday cake Smirnoff.

Rum Chata
Rum Chata or Rumchata is a rum cream similar to Bailey’s Irish Cream. Rum cream liqueurs are a new cream liqueur on the market and other distillers like Cruzan have their own version. These are rich and make great dessert drinks like the Barbary Coast.




Evan Williams Bottled In Bond

Bottled In Bond doesn’t have anything to do with flavor or quality. It’s just an antique way of saying that whiskey is taxed appropriately. Bonded whiskey could mean that you no longer get the original distillery’s label, but in this case it is really a stylistic expression of Evan Williams.
The white label is100-proof and extremely mellow with lots of oaky vanilla notes. Most interesting is a strong hazelnut flavor that come mid sip, partly on the palette and partly on the nose. The perfect accompaniment to a sunset on Virginia’s outer banks.

Lillet Blanc
the French liqueur that the Duchess of Windsor popularized on the American continent, is a rich wine aperitif. It's Bordeaux wine plus orange rinds, including green oranges from Hati, and quinine to make for a crisp drink when chilled. All the most fashionable cocktails in the 20s feature this liqueur. It's not strong on its own, but it stands out in light gin and vodka drinks. Still interested in mixing with brandy, but this is mostly a summer drink or mix-in with lots of potential to add without overwhelming.

1 comment:

  1. I keep looking for a like or 'upvote button' but it doesn't look like blogspot allows that mechanic. Just know that I'm following and spreading the word by mouth as you go!

    I do like this format better though!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your interest in my Jolly Bartender project. I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible to your request or comment. If you would like to contact me about bartending for your event or setting up a home bar, write to me at nathanwilkinson04@yahoo.com