Monthly Archives: October 2009

Don’t be bitter, and don’t be left out!

This is the final week, ladies and germs, to enter the Don’t Be Bitter contest. We’ve had fewer entries than I expected, which means I hope you’re all just a bunch of procrastinators like I am. Go back to the original post to review entry guidelines. Also, if you have entered, please check back in the original post to make sure either that there’s a pingback to your post or that you’ve left a comment with a link to your post. Or both! You have a rare bottle of bitters to lose, so a belt-and-suspenders approach makes sense.

Reminder: Beefeater 24 Bitters!

We’re midway through the month, people, and we don’t have many entries yet. Get on (or behind) the stick, or you’ll lose out! I know there are some of you who groused, when Samantha ran the earlier contest on her blog, that you couldn’t get to a New York or San Francisco bar to be photographed with a bottle of these bitters. Stop complaining and enter this contest! You don’t need to get to SF or NYC, you only need to move your mouse to your bookmark bar and click the bookmark for your blog’s dashboard. How hard is that, really?

Don’t make me break out my grrrrrr face. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Ad of the week: William Jameson Irish whiskey

VF, 1/35 (be sure to click through and hit View All Sizes; it’s interesting what you’ll see on the ad):

William Jameson

Now, this is fun. The Jameson you can buy today is John Jameson–the brand from last week’s ad. This is William Jameson, and if you click through, you’ll see William in italics throughout the ad, and you’ll see it in red type on the label.

Sad story here: by the time this ad ran, the William Jameson distillery was closed, its stocks were being sold off, and its physical plant was being demolished to make way for housing. The site for the Irish Whiskey Trail has the full story. But I learned something about Irish whiskey when I was studying for BarSmarts, and now’s a good time to pass it on.

Irish whiskey was once the dominant whiskey in most parts of the world, much the way Scotch whisky is today (everywhere except the U.S., of course). What happened to change this?

First, it was the Irish war for independence that began in 1912. You see, one reason Irish whiskey was so dominant was that Londoners loved it. And when they colonized the rest of the world, they took it along with them. But when these upstarts in Eire got their knickers in a twist and kicked the English (mostly) out, London balked at Irish whiskey. Sales plummeted. At any other time, the Irish might have turned their eyes toward the American market. After all, think of how many Irish emigrated west in the 19th century. But, ouch. In 1919, Prohibition dropped itself onto America and suddenly the market for Irish whiskey nearly dried up entirely.

Hundreds of distilleries across Ireland closed down during these years, and Irish whiskey as a product category very nearly completely disappeared. Of the distilleries open in 1912, only three survived to today. A few new companies have taken up the craft since 1990, but the Irish whiskey business is barely a shadow of what it was at its peak.

The other thing of note about this ad is the text and the way this Irish is being marketed. I’ll reproduce here the part I’m interested in:

Ireland’s Oldest Whiskey comes to America just in time to “fill the gap” in the rapidly dwindling stocks of fully aged American whiskies. Every drop of this choice Irish Whiskey is a FULL 10 YEARS OLD.

Think about when this ad ran. 1935. Just two years after the ignoble experiment, Prohibition, ended in the United States. The ad’s correct; there would have been very little aged American whiskey in the U.S. Thanks to Prohibition, every distillery was shut down and every bottle (supposedly) destroyed. When production ramped back up with repeal, of course whiskey makers resumed distilling, but they would have had nothing ready for sale by 1935. It appears that the William Jameson company took advantage of this to try to unload its own remaining stocks into the U.S. market.

According to the Irish Whiskey Trail site I linked out to above, the Wm. Jameson people even went so far as to blend their whiskey with young American whiskey in the 1930s, as a way to extend the life of its remaining stocks.

Do dooo de do do, do do de do, do dooo de do do, de do do…

Recently, I received samples for review of House Spirits Distillery‘s Aviation Gin and Krogstad Aquavit. I’ve bought several bottles of Aviation over the last couple of years. I like it, even though it’s considered a “New Western”-style gin–meaning it de-emphasizes juniper to focus on other botanicals. Now, I like a juniper-forward gin. I always have a 1.75L bottle of Beefeater to keep on hand and threaten the cats with, and to my mind there’s no better martini than one made 3 parts Beefeater to 1 part vermouth. But I also like tripping through other styles of gin, and Aviation’s no exception.

The Krogstad, though, is new to me, and to be honest, so is aquavit as a spirits category. I can’t really judge the Krogstad except on its own merits, since I’ve never sampled its competitors. I really like it, though. It carries notes of anise and caraway right at the front, and it’s very tasty. I’m looking forward to what some might consider an unconventional use for it. I have a recipe for home-cured salmon, and where this recipe calls for Pernod, I’m planning to use Krogstad in its place. Yummy, yeah?

Mah Nà Mah Nà

UPDATED with photo by Jennifer Hess

But I’m not here today to review the products or speak of charcuterie. I’m here for cocktails, and I have a doozy that I whipped up to showcase these spirits. I call this the Mah Nà Mah Nà. If you want to know why, you’ll have to buy me a drink and I’ll tell you. This quaff, though, is a botanical bomb, all the more reason to love it.

Mah Nà Mah Nà

  • 1 oz. Aviation gin
  • 3/4 oz. Krogstad aquavit
  • 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. yellow Chartreuse
  • lemon twist, for garnish

Shake it over ice like Animal, strain it into Miss Piggy’s slipper, and enjoy.

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/kfXKZYRf_NY&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&border=1

Vote for me on Foodbuzz!

A Dash of Bitters has been nominated for a Foodbuzz Award in the category Best Cocktail/Spirits Blog! And the competition is stiffer than the drinks around here: I’m up against Jay Hepburn from Oh Gosh!, Marleigh and Dan Miller of Sloshed, and Jeffrey Morgenthaler of the wittily named Jeffrey Morgenthaler blog. I know it’s cliché to say these things, but I am honestly honored to be in this company. I know and like all of these people, and I read their blogs avidly. I’ll be happy no matter who wins, but I’ll be even happier if I win!

If you’re inclined to vote, go here and vote! You have until October 29th. They do want you to register, but all you need provide is name and email. You do not need to vote in every category. Cheers!

Fall 2009 column is now online

Hey, folks. My fall 2009 column for Edible Rhody magazine is now online. As a reminder …

The focus of the column is on using seasonal, local ingredients in cocktails. Each column will have two recipes–one that I mix and one from a local bartender. Trust me, my focus will always be on classical techniques and interesting spirits.

So, now you can see whether I made good on that promise. First, though, the stunning cover:

Edible Rhody Fall 09 Cover

Who knew there were cranberry bogs in Rhode Island? I didn’t! Now, the column (if you want to read the text without squinting, click here):

Mix Master, Edible Rhody Fall 09

Photo for the article is by local photographer Chip Riegel, and boy did I have fun mixing drinks for a photoshoot at 9am.

Apple Sage Old-Fashioned

For this drink, I was inspired by traditional Thanksgiving flavors, particularly apple and sage stuffing.

  • 2 ounces Calvados apple brandy
  • 1/2 ounce sage simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (when I made this at home, I used Fee’s Whiskey Barrel Bitters, which were superb in this, but aren’t for sale in Rhody as far as I know)
  • Apple slice, for garnish

Build in an old-fashioned glass over ice. Add garnish.

Sage Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves

Add sugar and water to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat. Add sage leaves and stir. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a jar (discard sage leaves) and refrigerate. Will keep for one month.

Apple Sage Old-Fashioned

photograph by the ever-loyal Jennifer Hess

Pippin’s Pear of Aces

This drink is by Providence bartender Bonnie Siharath. At the time of writing, she was at Chinese Laundry, but that restaurant closed just a week before this issue was released. I have not yet followed up to see where she’s landed. The food at Chinese Laundry was inspired by the tastes of East Asia, and this drink follows that theme.

  • 1/2 fresh pear
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 ounce Wokka Sake vodka
  • 1 ounce Gray Goose pear vodka
  • 1 ounce Asian pear nectar
  • 1/4 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • pear slice, for garnish

Gently muddle pear and cinnamon in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, vodkas, nectar, and lime juice. Shake well and strain through a tea strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.