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“Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall.” –Charles Bukowski

Professor Cocktail

Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Tullamore Dew

Tullamore-dewTullamore Dew
Blended Irish Whiskey
Final Grade: B
Price: $20 (750ml)

Tullamore Dew is an old brand of Irish whiskey, first distilled in Tullamore, Ireland in 1829. It's gone though many changes, owners and locations over the years, and is currently owned by spirits conglomerate William Grant & Sons, makers of Glenfiddich and The Balvenie scotches, amongst other brands. It is currently made at New Midleton Distillery in County Cork, although Grant & Sons recently announced plans to build a new distillery in the town of Tullamore.

Tullamore Dew, sometimes referred to as "Original," is the entry-level expression of the whiskey. (There are also 10-year and 12-year-old versions available.) It has a pale-gold color in the glass, accompanied by the sweet, honeyed aroma of cereal grain that fades quickly. So far it is about what you'd expect of a basic blended Irish whiskey — those familiar with Jameson or Bushmills will recognize it.

Those traditional characteristics continue on the palate, with a medium-sweet, honey flavor, with a fair bit of heat on the finish. Tullamore Dew isn't as smooth as most older whiskeys, or those containing a higher proportion of malt whiskey (like my favorite, Bushmills Black Bush), but the finish is quick, so it's not unpleasant to sip. From the taste, I assume this is made with a high percerntage of grain, rather than malt, whiskey.

There really isn't much about Tullamore Dew that is distinctive. The distiller clearly wasn't trying to break any new ground here. Rather it is a well-made, traditional Irish whiskey blended to a middle-of-the-road, but still pleasing, profile. It is a tasty, well-balanced spirit, good enough and affordable enough to drink every day and to mix in the cocktail of your choice.

Report Card

Quality Grade: B
Value Grade: B
Final Grade: B

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"The light music of whiskey falling into a glass – an agreeable interlude." –James Joyce

That's it for now. If you have any suggestions for next week's round-up, please let me know.


2012 Spirited Awards – Finalists

The organizers of Tales of the Cocktail, the most popular cocktail festival in the United States, have announced the finalists for the 6th Annual Spirited Awards. The awards recognize the bartenders, bars, writers and cocktail experts that are working to drive the cocktail industry into new, exciting directions.

The complete list of finalists is included after the jump. Congrats to all the nominees!


Rum Rum Reviews Spirits Reviews

Rum Review: Denizen Aged White Rum

Denizen Rum is something of a paradox. It’s a Caribbean rum, but it is blended in Europe. It’s an aged rum, but it is crystal clear. It’s a quality rum, but it is sold at a very affordable price. One thing is no mystery, however: this rum is a winner.

Denizen begins with aged Trinidadian rum from the Angostura distillery, which is charcoal filtered to remove all color. It is then blended in the Netherlands with small amounts of 15 different pot-distilled Jamaican rums, giving it much more flavor and body than is typically found in clear rum.

And clear it is. Denizen has a bright, clean appearance, accompanied by a subtle floral, sugar cane aroma. It has a silky, medium-bodied mouthfeel — it’s immediately apparent that this rum hasn’t been distilled to death. There’s still a lot of character here.

The flavor is spicy and dry, only slightly sweet, with a medium-long finish. It definitely has some heat to it that reminds you you’re drinking rum. You can also taste the vanilla and oak that indicate it spent some time in wood.

Denizen is certainly a rum you can sip neat, especially with a couple ice cubes to cool its fire a bit. But it really shines in cocktails. Almost any drink that calls for a white rum, from a Daiquiri to a Mojito to a Piña Colada, will be improved by the use of Denizen rum. Its versatility means you can use it virtually anywhere with good results.

Best of all, this rum won’t break the bank. You can buy a bottle from DrinkUpNY for only $17. Most of the time you can’t even find Bacardi for that cheap, and this rum runs circles around that better-known brand.

Currently, Denizen is only available in New York State, but hopefully they’ll be getting wider distribution soon. This is a rum that’s too good to pass by. [Edit 7/8/14: This rum is now more widely available. Check their website for details.]


Cheat Sheet Links

The Cheat Sheet: The Professor’s Guide to the Best Cocktail and Spirits Links

“When you stop drinking, you have to deal with this marvelous personality that started you drinking in the first place.” –Jimmy Breslin

  • In the New York Times, Robert Simonson takes a Tiki tour around the greater New York area.
  • More from Robert Simonson, also in the Times: some classic cocktails don't deserve to be rediscovered, as this panel discussion related.
  • Also in the Times, the great Mark Bittman lists twelve summer cocktails that actually taste like booze.
  • Wayne Curtis wanted to have part of an iceberg sent to Manhattan. Turns out it was a lot harder than he anticipated.
  • In the Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Rothbaum reports on the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which took place over the past several days.
  • More from Rebecca Rothbaum, also in the Journal: cocktail nerds are visiting a Brooklyn bar for the chance to mix drinks in a cocktail shaker once owned by Charles H. Baker Jr.
  • In Forbes Magazine, Steven Bertoni does a tequila tasting with John Paul DeJoria, the billionaire founder of Patrón Tequila. (There's a short article, but most of it is a video.)
  • For ABC News, Nick Watt discovers the gin revolution and the return of the Martini. (Article plus video.)
  • In the Kansas City Star, Anne Brockoff writes about the growing popularity of shrubs, drinking vinegars that are usually made from various types of fruit.
  • Good news! There are some new videos up on The Small Spirit: Robert Hess shows you how to make a Blood and Sand and an Attention.
  • Inc. Magazine interviews "rising tequila stars" Moy Guindi and Danny Schneeweiss of Milagro.
  • In the Austin American-Statesman, Emma Janzen takes a comprehensive look at what's happening in tequila today.
  • On CLASS Magazine, Simon Difford and Ian Cameron round up 5 hazelnut liqueurs. They give top marks to category leader Frangelico.
  • Also in CLASS Magazine, Camper English visits Washington, D.C. and reports back on four bars to visit. The only one I've been to is the Columbia Room and I highly recommend it.
  • Writing for the Reuters wire, Kara Newman talks about Dawa, Nairobi's "medicinal" cocktail.
  • More from Kara Newman, also on Reuters: a trip to Chile to sample some pisco, the traditional South American brandy.
  • More pisco news: in The Oregonian, Paul Clarke discusses the spirit's status as the perennial "next big thing."
  • On Serious Eats, Will Gordon tries Gosling's pre-made Dark 'n Stormy drink. He gives it the thumbs-up, although wonders how necessary it is. My reaction was pretty much the same.
  • In Details Magazine, Christopher Ross says that he's finally found the first good cocktail app: Bartender's Choice. I'm going to have to give it a try.
  • On the Whiskey Advocate blog, Mike Miyamoto, master distiller for Suntory, explains Hakusku Japanese whisky.
  • The Huffington Post offers up recipes for 10 easy Champagne Cocktails, courtesy of Saveur Magazine.
  • Also in the Huffington Post, Tony Sachs suggests a dozen aged tequilas to sip. I haven't tried most of these, but this looks like a really good list.
  • On Food Republic, Emily Saladino rounds up the 8 best airlines for drinking. "Hands down, the best airline drinking is on Virgin Atlantic."
  • Bacardi has triumphed over Pernod Ricard in their fight to use the Havana Club name in the United States. As a result, Pernod registered a new brand name for the U.S. market, Havanista, in hopes of one day selling Cuban rum here.
  • The AP reports that Maker's Mark has won a court case protecting its exclusive use of the wax seal on its bottles.


Cheat Sheet Links

The Cheat Sheet: The Professor’s Guide to the Best Cocktail and Spirits Links

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.” –-Mark Twain

  • In the Washington Post, Jason Wilson writes about Buffalo Trace Distillery's Single Oak Project. As I mentioned before, I find this fascinating.
  • Also in the Washington Post, more from Jason Wilson: the James Hotel (New York and Chicago) has an "in-room mixology experience," where they'll send up a tray full of tools and mixers to go with the booze in the mini-fridge. That way, you can mix real drinks with quality ingredients.
  • Also in the Washington Post, Paul Abercrombie visits France's Cognac country and finds a lot to drink in.
  • In the San Francisco Chronicle, Gary Regan writes about a new drink: a whiskey Cherry Cobbler, made with rye whiskey and ruby port. Sounds tasty!
  • In the Chicago Tribune, Zak Stambor has good things to say about Redbreast Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey.
  • In Arrive Magazine, Kara Newman writes about moonshine. I haven't tried any 'shine yet. I suppose I should. I do, after all, live in Virginia.
  • On, Larry Olmstead has a three-part series on gin. Part 1 covers gin and the classic cocktail renaissance. Part 2 discusses London Gins. Part 3 features the original Martini gin and a distillery tour.
  • Also from Kara Newman, a report for Reuters on the spirits scene in Glasgow — it's not just Scotch.
  • In the National Post (Tortonto), Margaret Swayne visits Guyana, home of Demerara rum. (The El Dorado 12 Year Old is one of my favorites.)
  • In Details Magazine, Christopher Ross writes about the mash-up between Tiki drinks and amaro. Yes, please.
  • In New York Magazine, Matthew Latkiewicz tells you everything you need to know about carbonated cocktails.
  • In the New York Post, Max Gross writes about the Asian influences showing up in New York City cocktails.
  • In the New York Daily News, a pair of cocktail recipes from Audrey Sanders and Jim Meehan: the French Pearl and the Strawberry Rhubarb Daiquiri.
  • CLASS Magazine rounds up 6 top vanilla liqueurs. Their favorite is Navan from Grand Marnier. (I believe this is no longer produced.)
  • Also in CLASS, Ian Cameron writes about Ian Burrell, the Ambassador of Rum.
  • On, Jacques Bezuidenhout shows you how to make a Margarita, Paloma and Spiced Old Fashioned.
  • There's a new entry in Serious Eats guide to various spirits — this time the subject is mezcal.
  • Also on Serious Eats: Maggie Hoffman suggests 5 silver tequilas you should try. (I haven't tried any of these! We did our own tequila taste test a while back.)
  • The Denver Post visits Adrift, a new Tiki bar in the Mile High City, and gives it the thumbs up.
  • Las Vegas Weekly reports on the success of Tito Beveridge and his Tito's Handmade Vodka.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Beam is booming, with first quarter sales up by 13%.
  • The 2012 World Beer Cup was held recently and the winners have been announced.



James Beard Foundation Awards

The James Beard Foundation, a group dedicated to celebrating, nurturing, and preserving America’s diverse culinary heritage and future, gave out their annual awards recently. The awards for Books, Broadcast and Journalism were given out last week, and the Restaurant and Chef awards were given out last night.

They presented dozens of awards in numoerous categories related to food, dining, cuisine, and the like. They have increasingly been paying attention to bars and spirits in recent years, and it is those awards that I'm posting below. (I'm also including those awards related to wine.)

Beverage (Book)
Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, & Formulas
by Brad Thomas Parsons
(Ten Speed Press)  

Food-Related Columns (Journalism)
Lettie Teague
The Wall Street Journal
On Wine: Lettie Teague: “Drink, Memory: How to Remember that Wine;” “In Praise of the One-Cabernet Lunch;” “May I recommend: Lessons of Great Sommeliers”

Humor (Journalism)
Brett Martin
The Hangover Part III

Personal Essay (Journalism)
Cal Fussman
Drinking at 1,300 Ft: A 9/11 Story About Wine and Wisdom

Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages (Journalism)
Sarah Karnasiewicz
Fizzy Business

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
Paul Grieco
Terroir (NYC)

Outstanding Wine Program
No. 9 Park (Boston)

Outstanding Bar Program

Congratulations to all the winners!


Rum Rum Reviews Spirits Reviews

Rum Review: Cockspur Fine Rum and Cockspur 12 Rum

Cockspur_rumCockspur Fine Rum
Bajan Rum
Final Grade: B+
Price: $18 (750ml)

Cockspur 12 Rum
Bajan Rum
Final Grade: C
Price: $30 (750ml)

Barbados is the original home of rum, and one of the better known Barbadian (or Bajan) producers of the spirit is Cockspur. They currently make two rum expressions that are distributed in the United States: Cockspur Fine Rum and Cockspur 12.

Both of these are gold or amber rums, distilled from fermented molasses. They are typical of the Bajan style: more dry than sweet, with a toasty, floral aroma.

Cockspur Fine Rum is the "entry-level" bottling. It is lighter in color than the Cockspur 12, and has a spicy, brown sugar smell. Its taste is smooth, with an initial burst of caramel, followed by a dryer flavor of oak. The finish lingers a bit on the tongue, with a nice, tingling presence, but not an overhwhelming amount of heat.

Although the Cockspur Fine is primarily intended as a mixing rum, it was still quite suitable for sipping neat. It would go well with a little Coke or ginger beer, if you'd like something on the sweet side. I mixed it in a Daiquiri and it was delicious. A very sold rum, especially for the price.

The Cockspur 12 Rum, however, did not accord itself so well. When compared to the Fine Rum, I found it lacking in most ways.

The Cockspur 12 starts off well. It is beautiful in the glass, a gorgeous dark amber color with medium body. Its smell is close to the Fine Rum: brown sugar and alcohol with a little oak. Once I took a sip, however, the disappointment set in.

This rum was very hot and rough for a blend of spirits aged so long. (Cockspur 12 is made from the oldest rums in the distillery. It is not technically a 12-year-old spirit, but some of the rums in it are that old.) The flavor is dry and oaky, with a touch of vanilla. There is almost no sweetness to this rum. It has a bitter, almost leathery flavor that I didn't care for.

Even after some time in the glass, I found it less than ideal for sipping. I did try mixing it in a cocktail — a Daiquiri, naturally — and it was very tasty like that. However, a rum like this has to rise or fall when drunk on its own.

The Cockspur 12 does have some things to recommend it. It has a lot of complexity to its flavor profile — there's a lot going on here — and a long finish. If you're used to drinking single malt Scotch, this is a rum you might like to try. For my taste, however, I'll be reaching for a different bottle.

Report Card: Cockspur Fine Rum

Quality Grade: B+
Value Grade: B+
Final Grade: B+

Report Card: Cockspur 12 Rum

Quality Grade: C-
Value Grade: C+
Final Grade: C

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"Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off." –Philip Marlowe (Raymond Chandler)