Categories
Cocktails Drink Recipes Rum Spirits

Celebrating National Rum Day

Everything under the sun has its own day. And today is rum's chance! (Apparently August is also National Rum Month, but that seems to be pushing it a little.)

Rum is probably my favorite spirit. It encompasses so many different possibilities. Sweet, spicy, dry, fiery, toasted, smoky, mixed in a cocktail, or enjoyed on its own. If there's something spirituous you have in mind, rum can probably make it happen.

El Dorado 12 Year OldMy favorite rum to drink neat is El Dorado 12 Year Old. I have many more expensive rums in my collection, but this remains a favorite. It's affordable, versatile, and delicious. Costing under $30 a bottle, it makes a great cocktail, but is also a pleasure to sip like a fine whiskey or brandy.

El Dorado is a demerara rum from Guyana, so it has a rich flavor of brown sugar, along with fruit and spice. It's not overly sweet, though, and some find it slightly smoky (although it's very subtle). It's easily one of the best rums around.

My favorite mixing rum is probably still Appleton Estate V/X. I adore Jamaican rums in general, and the V/X works well in so many different drinks. Plus it costs less than $20 a bottle.

There are dozens of rum cocktails I love, including the Mai Tai, Daiquiri, Mojito, Planter's PunchScorpion, Hurricane, and so many more.

It's hard to beat the classics, but if you're looking to try something new, here are a few recipes that you might want to explore further.

All drinks

For a twist on a classic, try substituting an aged rum for bourbon in a Manhattan.

Rum Manhattan

2 oz. Ron Zacapa 23 Rum
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Another classic with a slight difference.

Deck Hand Daiquiri
Adapted from a recipe by Tony Abou-Ganim

2 oz. Shellback Silver rum
3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz. Simple Syrup
Fresh, seasonal fruits and berries

In a mixing glass, muddle fresh fruits with simple syrup. Add lime juice and rum, then shake with ice. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a thin slice of lime and fruit of your choice.

Looking for something savory? Try this.

Garden Mojito
Adapted from a recipe by King & Grove

1 1/2 oz. Brugal Extra Dry Rum
1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
4 Cucumber Slices
6 Basil Leaves
Club Soda 

In a mixing glass, muddle cucumber and basil with simple syrup. Add remaining ingredients (except soda) and shake with ice. Strain over crushed ice, then top with club soda. Garnish with a cucumber slice.

Do you like sweet and easy? Here you go.

Port Royal Punch

1 750 ml bottle Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
1 32 oz. bottle Pineapple Juice
3 cups Mango Juice
4 1/2 oz. Grenadine
3 Oranges (sliced thin and quartered)
1 cup Soda Water

In a punch bowl or large serving vessel, add the ingredients and stir. Serve over ice in a punch glass.

Happy Rum Day!

Categories
Spirits Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Stagg Jr. Bourbon

Stagg jrStagg Jr.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Grade: five stars(Highest Recommendation)
Price: $50 (750ml)


Buffalo Trace Distillery
has long been one of the most aggressive whiskey outfits when it comes to experimenting with and producing new bourbons. Their latest is one that's already generating a great deal of interest: Stagg Jr.

A younger version of the highly sought-after George T. Stagg Bourbon, this new bottling is, like its Dad, barrel-proof, uncut and unfiltered; clearly a whiskey designed to appeal to the bourbon connoisseur.

The first batch of Stagg Jr. comes from barrels aged for eight or nine years. (The regular Stagg is aged for at least 15 years.) So it's not a young bourbon by any means. It's coming in at a whopping 134.4 proof (67.2% ABV).

The aroma of the Stagg, Jr. bursts out of the glass. Rich, candied fruit, with moderate ethanol fumes. You can tell it's going to be a strong one.

Taking a few sips, I immediately tasted a burst of caramel sweetness, followed by a delicious grain flavor, and finally closing with a lingering spicy finish. It has quite a kick, but it's a welcome one. This is definitely a hot spirit, but not an overpowering one.

A splash of water brought out even more of the unctuous, almost honeyed sweetness. Stagg is made from Buffalo Trace's "Mash Bill #1," which is their low-rye version, containing a higher percentage of corn. Even so, you can taste the rye influence. There are some pumpkin pie spice hints of cinnamon and clove that help balance out the sweetness.

Stagg jr bourbonInterestingly enough, just a little more water overpowered the spirit. You'd think that a bourbon this strong could handle a lot of dilution, but I found that the flavor started to drown very quickly. So add water with a very strict hand.

I have not had the pleasure of tasting the original George T. Stagg, nor many of the other highly acclaimed bourbons like Pappy Van Winkle. But I am quite confident when I say that this is the best bourbon I've ever tasted.

Expect this whiskey to be almost impossible to find. Once it hits the shelves, people are going to swarm on it like locusts. Stagg Jr. will be available in select markets beginning in August of this year — but not for long.

Categories
Ingredients Mixology Spirits

Stocking a Home Bar: Spirits

Properly stocking a home bar can be an expensive proposition. There are many different products you likely will want to buy, and a lot of them aren't cheap. The good news is, you probably won't be going through the bottles that quickly, and most alcohol stays good for a very long time.*

Liquor
GIN
There are three different major styles of gin: London Dry, Old Tom and Genever. (You could also throw Plymouth Gin into the mix.) The good news is you only need to buy one bottle to start: London Dry. Tanqueray has long been my favorite, but Bombay Sapphire and Beefeater are excellent as well. Buy whichever one is cheapest.

VODKA
It's easy to spend more money on vodka then you need to, especially if you reach for the Grey Goose because you "heard it's the best." By all means, pick up an expensive bottle if you're feeling flush. My favorite, which is medium-priced, is Stolichnaya. But you'll get by very well with some Sobieski.

RUM
Rum is a little more challenging, because rums vary a lot depending on what country they're from, what color they are (light/white vs. gold/dark), how long they're aged, etc. I would recommend starting out with two bottles, one of white rum and one of gold rum. Cruzan (from the U.S. Virgin Islands) is recommended — both cheaper and better than the ubiquitous Bacardi. But if you can find Flor de Caña (from Nicaragua) it only costs a little more and is excellent. If you don't drink much rum and only want to buy one bottle, I suggest you get some Appleton V/X, a very versatile and tasty rum.

TEQUILA
Tequila has grown enormously in popularity over the past several years, which means there are now a lot of great choices on the shelves, in all kinds of prices. If your goal is to make Margaritas and other similar drinks, you'll want a silver tequila. I recommend either Camarena or Milagro. They're both affordable and easy to find.

WHISKEY
This is a tough one, because there are so many types and so many choices. Do you go with a Scotch, Canadian or Irish? Bourbon, rye or Tennessee? If I were buying just one type, I would probably go with bourbon, and would probably get Maker's Mark. Maker's isn't the favorite whiskey of a lot of people, but it's a very good one and it's something that almost any whiskey drinker will drink without complaining. If you want to branch out and add a Scotch, I'd go with Johnnie Walker Black. Again, not always a favorite, but a crowd pleaser.

BRANDY
Cognac (which is brandy made according to certain rules in a particular area of France) was hot a decade or so back when the hip hop community discovered it, and brands like Hennessy and Remy Martin were name-checked in rap songs. It's cooled off since then, so there are plenty of good bargains to be found. (And also plenty of bottles that will cost you as much as a nice vacation.) If you want a simple brandy, I find Raynal to be quite good. It works fine in a lot of cocktails and won't set you back much at all. If you're looking for something a little more sophisticated, go for one of the cognacs made by Pierre Ferrand. (Their Ambre is very good and only costs around $40.)

ORANGE LIQUEUR
If you're going to make any kind of cocktails, you're going to need some modifiers, with the most common being an orange liqueur. It might be triple sec or Curacao, but in order to make a Margarita or a Sidecar or Mai Tai, you're going to need something. There are many different types of orange liqueur, ranging from cheap to expensive. Unfortunately, the cheap stuff is usually not very good. On the upside, a bottle will last a long time, so it doesn't hurt as much to splurge. If you want a dryer liqueur, go with Cointreau. If you want a sweeter one, go with Grand Marnier. Yes, they're expensive. But they're so good that you'll be glad you spent the extra money.

VERMOUTH
If you're planning to make Martinis or Manhattans, you'll need to get some vermouth. Sweet (red) vermouth goes in a Manhattan and dry (white) vermouth goes in a Martini. There are some high-end brands that are delicious. But on the affordable end of things Martini (sweet) and Noilly Pratt (dry) work very well. 

You're not going to get this done without spending a couple hundred bucks. But once you do, you'll be able to make a lot of drinks — and save yourself a ton of dough over what you'd spend in a bar. Plus, with a little practice, you'll be able to whip up some great cocktails that will quickly make you the envy of all your friends and neighbors.

*Except for vermouth. Vermouth is only good for a couple of months once you open it. And only if you keep it in the refrigerator. And yes, I know vermouth isn't a spirit. Neither is orange liqueur.

Categories
Rum Rum Reviews Spirits Reviews

Rum Review: Shellback Silver Rum


Shellback silver rumShellback Caribbean Silver Rum

Bajan Rum
Grade: two stars(Average)
Price: $16 (750ml)

Shellback Caribbean Rum, currently available in silver and spiced varieties, represents another bold move into the spirits world by E.&J. Gallo, the ubiquitous California winemakers. It’s produced in Barbados by the West Indies Rum Distillery, the company that also make the rum that goes into Cockspur and Malibu.

Shellback Silver Rum is reportedly aged for at least one year in once-used American bourbon barrels, which are the most popular barrels for aging rum. It must be heavily filtered after that aging, because it’s completely clear in appearance. There’s a little bit of spice on the nose, but mostly vanilla. Lots and lots of vanilla. You could easily mistake this for vanilla extract. (This could be from the aging, although a year in wood isn’t very long, but more likely it means the distiller gave it a little help.)

The vanilla also hits you on the first sip. It’s not as strong as the aroma, but it’s definitely there. This rum is sweet, with a fruity, molasses-y flavor. There’s just a little spice and acidity that hits you at the end, but mostly it’s sweet vanilla. It also has an appealing creamy texture. This is the standard 40% ABV, but it goes down very easily.

Shellback Silver Rum is acceptable to drink neat, but it’s obviously designed to use in cocktails, and it  works well there. It’s good in a Cherry Daiquiri or Cuba Libre. Any rum drink that works well with a hint of vanilla would likely taste good with Shellback.

This isn’t an especially sophisticated rum. But it’s a useful one, and the low price — I’ve seen it on sale for $11 — can’t be beat.

Categories
Gifts Mixology

Professor Cocktail’s Holiday Gift Guide: Non-Booze

Last week, we ran our holiday gift guide, with suggestions for spirits in different categories. We had posts with rum recommendationsbourbon recommendationsgin recommendations and other spirits recommendations. Today we're closing out the list with non-booze gift suggestions.

Professor Cocktail's Holiday Gift Guide: Non-Booze

You want to get that special tippler in your life a gift, but you don't want to actually give booze. Here are some suggestions that will get you started.



Pimento bittersDale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters ($19)

The newest addition to the bitters landscape, crafted with the help of King Cocktail himself. These bitters really spice up classics like a Manhattan and are my new favorite for Tiki drinks.


Oxo jiggerOxo Double Jigger ($9)

One  of the keys to making great cocktails is precise measuring. For that, you need a good jigger. This is my favorite one.


Pdt cocktail bookJim Meehan's The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy ($16)

One of the best cocktail books to come along in recent years, this makes for both a useful guide and a fascinating read. Plus, it's a beautiful book.


Waring ice crusherWaring IC70 Pro Ice Crusher ($79)

I've been using this for over a year now and I still love it. If you want to crush ice in style, this is the way to go. (See our original review.)



Tovolo ice cube tray
Tovolo King Cube Ice Trays ($8)

Great for making big cubes, which are very useful in cocktails. Pop one into an Old-Fashioned or Manhattan and it will cool the drink fast, but melt slowly.

Categories
Gifts Liqueurs Spirits

Professor Cocktail’s Holiday Gift Guide: Other Spirits

This week we're running our holiday gift guide, with suggestions for spirits in different categories. So far we've offered our rum recommendationsbourbon recommendations and gin recommendations. We're closing the week with other spirits.

Professor Cocktail's Holiday Gift Guide: Other Spirits

Here is a variety of suggestions for booze that didn't fit into the other categories, but would make great gifts.


Grand marnier cherryGrand Marnier Natural Cherry ($40)

A limited edition flavor from the masters of orange liqueur. One of the most delicious cherry liqueurs you'll find. Buy some before it disappears from shelves. (The regular Grand Marnier always makes a great gift as well.)


Tequila avionAvión Silver ($40)

My favorite tequila, and the winner of our Tequila Taste Test. Makes brilliant cocktails or can be savored on its own.


Karlsson's Gold VodkaKarlsson's Gold Vodka ($30)

Vodka with flavor and nuance? Who'da thunk it! Made from seven different kinds of potatoes, this is primo stuff. Leave the Grey Goose on the shelf and give this instead.

Pisco portonPisco Portón ($35)

Pisco, the brandy of South America, is a spirit on the rise, and Portón is the best one I've tasted. Would make a great gift for the drinker who likes to try new things.


Carpano anticaCarpano Antica Sweet Vermouth ($27, 1L)

The champion of all sweet vermouths. Makes delicious cocktails, including perhaps the best Manhattan. It's pricey, so a lot of people wouldn't buy it for themselves. That's why it makes a great gift.

We've included links for each suggestion to K&L Wines (where available). K&L is a great spirits store, with impeccable service and a sterling reputation. You can order from them with confidence. Send them an email to see if they ship to your state. (Note: We're not being compensated for these links.)

Categories
Gifts Rum Spirits

Professor Cocktail’s Holiday Gift Guide: Rum

This week we're running our holiday gift guide, with suggestions for spirits in different categories. So far we've offered our bourbon recommendations and gin recommendations. Today we're doing rum.

Professor Cocktail's Holiday Gift Guide: Rum

Rum doesn't get the respect that whiskey does, but it's just as wonderful a spirit. Although it shines brightest in cocktails, the right rum is also delicious on its own.


Cruzan rumThe Bacardi Alternative: Cruzan Aged Light Rum ($14)

Both better and cheaper than the ubiquitous Bacardi, this rum is aged for two years and then filtered to remove the color. A very good all-purpose rum.


Appleton rumThe Best Jamaican Rum: Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year-Old ($35)

My favorite rum for a whole slew of cocktails, including the Mai Tai, this is also great all by itself. Everyone needs some in the cabinet.


El dorado rumSip, Sip Away: El Dorado 12 Year-Old ($26)

Rich, balanced and bursting with flavor, this is my favorite sipping rum. One of the best buys in all of spirits. Try finding a 12 year-old Scotch this amazing for under 30 bucks.


Banks rumThe Ultimate White Rum: Banks 5 Island ($26)

A great addition to any cocktail. It will make your Daiquiris, Mojitos and everything else sing.


Mount gay rumRum for Whiskey Fans: Mount Gay Extra Old ($40)

Convert the whiskey lover in your life to rum with this dry, complex spirit. Hailing from Barbados, the birthplace of rum, everything Mount Gay makes is good and this is probably their best.

We've included links for each suggestion to K&L Wines (where available). K&L is a great spirits store, with impeccable service and a sterling reputation. You can order from them with confidence. Send them an email to see if they ship to your state. (Note: We're not being compensated for these links.)

Categories
Ask the Professor Spirits Vodka

Ask the Professor: Allergic to Yeast and Corn

Jacqui M. writes in to ask:

I have recently developed a severe
allergy to corn and yeast. Can you imagine how difficult it is
to find something to drink for a cocktail? Help would be greatly
appreciated. I love vodka. Can you recommend a brand that would
be safe for me?

I'm not qualified to give medical
advice and you'd be crazy to take it. But I can comment on the booze.

One thing I can say for certain is that all alcohol is made using yeast. It is the key
ingredient in transforming sugar (glucose) into alcohol (ethanol).
Once the process of fermentation and distillation is finished,
however, I do not believe there is any yeast left in the final
product. But whether or not it is safe for you to consume is a
question for your doctor

Vodka is distilled from starch/sugar of
one kind of another. It can be made from corn, other grains (like
wheat or rye), potatoes, grapes, sugar beets and God knows what else.
The same goes for gin (which is basically vodka that is infused with
various botanicals like juniper).

In the United States, all vodka and
gin must be labeled with the commodity from which it was
produced. However, the statements don't have to be terribly specific.
So if you have a vodka "distilled from grain," you wouldn't
necessarily know if it was made from corn or wheat.

If you stick to
potato vodka (e.g., Chopin or Luksusowa) or grape vodka
(e.g., Cîroc), you can be sure it won't have any corn in it.
Some other vodkas trumpet their source ingredient — wheat with Grey
Goose, rye with Belvedere — so those would presumably be safe
as well.

As for other spirits…

Bourbon and corn whiskey are, by law, made from corn. Rye whiskey often has corn in it, although there are some 95% rye whiskeys out there (the other 5% is malted barley) and even a few 100% ryes.

Single malt Scotch is made from malted barley. But other whiskeys — blended Scotch, Irish or Canadian — could potentially contain corn.

Brandy (and Cognac) is made from
grapes.

Tequila is distilled from the agave
plant. However, unless the label states "100% agave," it
can include other substances and spirits, including vodka. (This is
the case with the basic Jose Cuervo expression, for example.) So if
you want tequila that you're sure isn't made from corn, look for the
100% agave label. (You should do this anyway, as mixto tequila is
vile.)

Rum is distilled from sugar cane or
sugar cane byproducts like molasses. So in generaly it doesn't contain any
corn. You should be aware, though, that rum can legally have a small
amount of additives in it. So I suppose they could slip some corn
syrup in there, although it's unlikely.

Most liqueurs and cordials — the
fruity, spicy, nutty, sweet stuff that goes into cocktails — are
made from a vodka base, so they could contain corn.

I hope that helps!

Categories
Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Bourbon


John Bowman BourbonJohn J. Bowman Single Barrel

Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Grade: three stars(Above Average)
Price: $50 (750ml)

I've been a resident of the Old Dominion for the past ten years, so I have a particular interest in Virginia spirits. This is especially true when it comes to the products made by A. Smith Bowman, since I lived just a few miles from the site of their old distillery for a big chunk of that decade.

The Bowman distillery was founded shortly after the end of Prohibition in a part of Northern Virginia that at the time was still very rural. Despite being less than twenty miles from Washington, DC, the area consisted mostly of farms and forestland.

Abraham Bowman and his sons began making whiskey there in 1934, and the company continued doing so for over fifty years, most of it sold under the Virginia Gentleman label. Although it is commonly believed that bourbon must be made in the state of Kentucky, this is not true. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. In fact, when settlers first started making bourbon in Kentucky, it was still part of Virginia.

As Northern Virginia became increasingly developed, and property taxes climbed, the Bowman distillery had to move sixty miles south to Fredericksburg. Eventually it was sold to the Sazerac company, owners of Buffalo Trace and many other brands of fine whiskey.

John J. Bowman bourbon is triple-distilled — the first two times at Buffalo Trace in Kentucky and the last time in a copper pot still at Bowman. It is then aged in barrels in the Bowman rickhouse in Fredericksburg. The climate of Northern Virginia is similar to that of Kentucky, but more variable, which has an effect on the aging of the whiskey. (Although I couldn't tell you what that is.)

This bourbon has a sweet, lively aroma of caramel and chocolate. The taste is dry and bold, more spicy than sweet. It's moderately hot at 100 proof, but not unpleasantly so. John J. Bowman has lots of flavor and a kick that will warm you down to your cockles. The finish is long and oaky with hints of vanilla. The bottle doesn't have an age statement, but it definitely has some years on it, probably north of ten.

I tend to prefer my whiskey a little less dry, but this is a very interesting spirit. It has a big, bourbon taste that I think a lot of whiskey drinkers are going to love, along with elements that remind me of aged Barbados rum like Mount Gay Extra Old. It's great to see the tradition of fine Virginia bourbon continuing, over two centuries after the colonists first began making it.

Categories
Liqueur Reviews Liqueurs Spirits Reviews

Liqueur Review: Bols Pumpkin Smash

BolsBols Pumpkin Smash
Fruit Liqueur
Final Grade: F
Price: $12 (1L)

If you're anything like me, the idea of a nice, spicy fall-like cocktail sounds delicious. And one of the most quintessentially fall flavors is pumpkin. A pumpkin cocktail sounds great, right?

So around this time last year I headed for the liquor store in search of pumpkin booze. I figured I could whip up a tasty cocktail using it without much trouble.

As you might expect, the pickings are pretty slim. But Bols makes one called Pumpkin Smash. Bols isn't the best producer of liqueurs around, but they're a lot better than most. As bottom-shelf stuff goes, they're usually pretty good.

But not the Pumpkin Smash. It is not pretty good. It is not even a little good. In fact, it can best be described as "foul." Or perhaps "rancid." Even better: "It tastes like something you should never put in your mouth."

I can't tell you exactly what it tastes like, because there's no way I'm trying it again. I recall a sweet chemical-like flavor, utterly lacking in anything resembling pumpkin. It's like the people at Bols declared war on the pumpkin — and royally kicked its ass.

A lot of Bols' other products are good. I use their ginger, banana, peach and some other flavors when I'm not using the more expensive stuff. And I think their Triple Sec is one of the better cheap orange liqueurs.

But if you're looking for an autumn-esque alcoholic treat, look elsewhere. Because this ain't it.

Report Card

Quality Grade: F
Value Grade: F
Final Grade: F