Category Archives: In the library

Review: Tasting Whiskey, by Lew Bryson

On the cover of Lew Bryson’s Tasting Whiskey, there’s a quote from the whiskey writer Charles Cowdery: “I shouldn’t say this is the only whiskey book you need, but it probably is.”

Mr. Cowdery’s reticence is understandable; he writes whiskey books, and he wants to maintain his comfortable lifestyle. I don’t know if I’d go so far as Cowdery. I’ve read some damn fine whiskey books in my years as a tippler, and I’d recommend them all.

Tasting_Whiskey

But I will say this much: this is the book you want and need if you’re just starting out in whiskey.

Bryson maps the major styles of whiskey, from bourbon to rye to Canadian, from Irish to Scotch to Japanese, and from craft to the various world whiskeys (that is, from growing markets such as India and Taiwan). He describes what sets the various styles apart from one another; so, for example, he details the grains that are in each style, the barrels it’s aged in, the climates and warehouses that hold it, and the length of time its aged.

Scotch, for example, is made primarily or exclusively from malted barley; it’s aged in used barrels (normally bourbon, but with some sherry and other wine casks tossed in for additional flavor); it ages in a cooler climate that enables longer aging; and it can age for up to 30 years or more without getting too woody.

Bourbon, conversely, is made primarily from corn, with other grains in the mix to add accent flavors; it ages in new oak barrels that impart more woodiness than do scotch’s used barrels; it ages in a warmer climate that ages it more rapidly than Scotland’s cooler climate; and therefore, it usually reaches its peak at roughly 10-12 years.

Each individual style is different, and Bryson masterfully explains how those differences affect the flavors of the finished product.

Every whiskey drinker starts somewhere. I started with bourbon and moved to scotch and then rye and on to other styles. When I started drinking scotch, I couldn’t begin to understand what made it unique until I started reading books that helped me puzzle it all out. Tasting Whiskey is such a book.

Its other strength is the infographics the book uses to illustrate some rather complicated concepts. I write about whiskey, and so I know that it’s not always easy to describe, in words, the effects of barrel aging, or how barrel placement in a warehouse affects how quickly or slowly the whiskey ages. These infographics, illustrated masterfully by Andrew Heath, demonstrate these concepts concisely and thoroughly.

49_cAndrewHeath_StorageLocation_TastingWhiskey 60_cAndrewHeath_EvolutionofFlavor_TastingWhiskey

Excerpted from Tasting Whiskey (c) Lew Bryson. Illustrations by (c) Andrew Heath. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

After describing the major styles, Bryson then provides advice on how to drink the stuff, in an enjoyable chapter on water, ice, and cocktails. Is it okay to drink your whiskey with a bit of water? Bryson tells you. On the rocks or neat? He has some answers for that as well. Cocktails? Of course! What I enjoyed about this chapter was how conversational and story-oriented it was. No recipes at all, just a description of how to make a damn good Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

I’ve met Bryson in person; we were in Kentucky together earlier this year for Jimmy Russell’s anniversary celebration at Wild Turkey. He impressed me with his approachable and avuncular temperament, and that personality shines through this book.

If you’re new to whiskey, and you need a friendly guide to the topic, Bryson’s book is for you. But if you’ve been around the block a few times, you’ll still find this book to be enjoyable and useful. I learned quite a bit from it.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book, and Lew Bryson is a personal friend of mine.

Review: Chasing the White Dog

My brother Bill runs a still on the hill
Where he turns out a gallon or two
And the buzzards in the sky get so drunk they can not fly
Just from sniffing that good old mountain dew.

In popular conception, moonshine is a hillbilly thing. Imagine a bearded, overall-clad, avuncular fellow manning his still. Meanwhile, his good-ol’-boy nephews are straightenin’ the curves, staying one step ahead of the county sheriff while delivering the goods. If that’s your view of ‘shine, well, you’re not alone.

In his book, Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine, author Max Watman explores this view of ‘shine and finds that it’s far from the whole picture. In researching his book, released February 2010 in hardback and earlier this year in paperback, Watman shadowed prosecutors and federal agents, talked to the legendary Junior Johnson, and drove through the hills and forests of Virginia and the Carolinas on the trail of hooch.

As Watman recounts in this entertaining and well-researched book, however, there’s far more to illegal distillation than just podunk corn likker. Watman recounts his own efforts to get an illegal still going, and the sometimes-comical, sometimes-delicious results. He tracks down microdistillers–places like Colorado’s Stranahan’s–that specialize in small-batch, craft distilling.

Many of the folks involved in the craft distilling scene started out making artisan spirits at home, prior to going pro, and Watman speaks to a few of these people as well–men and women making whiskeys, eaux de vie, and applejack for their own use or to share with friends.

Now Preacher John walked by, with a tear in his eye
Said that his wife had the flu
And hadn’t I ought just to give him a quart
Of that good old mountain dew

But Watman also examines an area of illegal distillation that few people are paying attention to–one that’s become a serious problem in urban areas. Y’see, Uncle Jesse’s been branching out. Ol’ Jess learned a few years ago that there’s not much money in making a few gallons for his neighbors in Hazzard County. So Jesse’s gone big.

He invested in an industrial-quality still and started buying pallets of pure sugar. If he’s very careful, he can hide behind the old cornpone stereotypes, while making vast quantities of something called sugar jack. This stuff ain’t no mellow sipper, meant for you to enjoy while barbecuing.

No, sugar jack is rotgut; it’s harsh and acrid. Jesse can pump it out fast, cheap, and in massive amounts, and it’s not meant for rural consumption. Most of it is sold for a dollar a shot at so-called nip joints, or shot houses, which are unregulated, unlicensed establishments. Aimed mostly at the urban poor, nip joints foster other criminal activities in addition to illegal hooch: gambling, narcotics, and prostitution, namely.

The sugar jack itself is nasty work; Watman describes his only taste of it in terms that are both funny and frightening. You can easily believe the liquid itself poses significant health risks. In conjunction with the nip joints in which it’s sold, though, it has become a deadly serious public-health problem, especially in cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia.

There’s an old hollow tree, just a little way from me
Where you lay down a dollar or two
If you hush up your mug, then they’ll give you a jug
Of that good old mountain dew.

But it’s not all sinister. As I mentioned earlier, Watman talks to hobbyists, and briefly becomes one himself, who make artisan brandies and white-dog whiskeys with very small stills. And he asks himself, why is this illegal?

And make no mistakes here: unlicensed small-batch distilling is entirely and completely illegal in the United States. You can lose your home and all of your assets if you’re caught, and then you’ll get to go to jail. Now, the likelihood of such dire consequences isn’t high; after all, law enforcement has far bigger problems with sugar jack production and nip joints. But you need to be aware of them anyway.

I’ve blogged on this topic before, first when I reviewed Matt Rowley‘s book Moonshine and again in a three-part interview about small-batch home distilling, with Rowley, Mike McCaw, and Ian Smiley [part 1, part 2, part 3]. I think the conclusion of most rational human beings (it’s certainly Watman’s conclusion) is that, yes, large-scale unlicensed distillation can and should remain a felony, punishable by serious jail time and property seizure.

But the law really does need to make some provision for small-batch distilling. Set limits on how much you can make, sure, just as there are currently limits on how much beer and wine a person can make at home. Retain a prohibition on selling home distillates. But for god’s sake, allow a person to bring home a few bushels of apples from the farmer’s market every October and make some bloody applejack! Where’s the harm in that, really?

My uncle Mort, he is sawed off and short,
He measure ’bout four foot two,
But he thinks he’s a giant when you give him a pint
Of that good old mountain dew.

They call it that good old mountan dew,
And them that refuse it are few.
I’ll hush up my mug if you’ll fill up my jug
With that good old mountain dew.

[Chasing the White Dog was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes.]

Martini Project: DeVoto Edition

The martini: easily the most-often mixed drink in our household, and the one I have the most fun playing with. As Paul “Birthday Boy” Clarke pointed out recently on Serious Eats, it’s a much more flexible drink than people give it credit for. With the explosion of the gin category in the last few years, there are now many expressions of the martini’s base to experiment with. Vermouth, however…

Until recently, most elbow-benders didn’t have much choice in the vermouth market. You could find Noilly Prat, Cinzano, and Martini & Rossi just about anywhere. If you were in a larger market, you could probably Boissiere and Stock, as well. In the last couple of years, though, that’s changed. I won’t say the category has exploded, but some excellent new vermouths are on the market now, and if you can find them, you’re in for a treat–Vya and Dolin immediately come to mind.

Further, if you expand your definition of martini to include a drink mixed with other fortified wines or aperitifs–sherry, Lillet Blanc, Cocchi Americano, or Bonal Gentiane-Quina, for example–you open up for yourself a number of new avenues for combinations. Until early this year, however, my options in Rhode Island were rather limited. Now, though, the Haus Alpenz portfolio is available to us, and I already have several nearby stores that carry the line of Dolin vermouths. (And I’m working them on the Americano and Bonal.)

With that in mind, it’s time to start playing. The game is, here, I’ll be mixing up various variations on the martini–different proportions, different ingredient combinations, etc. I want to get to a point where I can say, “Hey, I really like Bonal with Plymouth, and I also think Dolin’s the perfect partner with Tanqueray.” (These are just examples, of course; I’ve never mixed them that way yet.)

I’ll begin by tackling the De Voto recipe that Paul mentions in his SE column. In his newly reissued (and handsome) book The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto, first published in 1948, the author and literary critic Bernard De Voto wrote of the martini that …

[t]here is a point at which the marriage of gin and vermouth is consummated. It varies a little with the constituents, but for a gin of 94.4 proof and a harmonious vermouth it may be generalized at about 3.7 to one. And that is not only the proper proportion but the critical one; if you use less gin it is a marriage in name only and the name is not martini. You get a drinkable and even pleasurable result, but not art’s sunburst of imagined delight becoming real. Happily, the upper limit is not so fixed; you may make it four to one or a little more than that, which is a comfort if you cannot do fractions in your head and an assurance when you must use an unfamiliar gin.

Now, most people would probably skip the 3.7 nonsense and go right for the 4:1 measure. After all, that’s easy. If you’re stirring for two, that’s 4 oz. gin and 1 oz. vermouth. For one person, it’s a snap to halve that. But how do you measure 3.7 or 7.4 or 1.85 ounces of anything? I always hit that roadblock and never went farther.

But I’ve been reading one of De Voto’s contemporaries lately, the gourmet, railroad aficionado, bon vivant, boulevardier, and long-time newspaper columnist Lucius Beebe. He wrote of a 1963 trip to Boston, in which he luncheoned in the private Union Club. He writes of their martinis that they’re “magnificent” and mixed “precisely according to the immutable formula laid down by the late Bernard De Voto.”

So to hell with it. I’m a geek, there’s gotta be a way to hack this. I remembered my digital kitchen scale. I placed a mixing tin on the scale and zeroed out the weight. Then I carefully poured 37 grams of water into the tin. That’s a little over 1-1/4 oz. but not quite 1-1/3. Okay, I could work with that. Take 37 grams of gin, 10 grams of vermouth; then it’s simply a matter of scaling that up to make two cocktails. I still needed the digital magic machine to get the right measure, but fine. Anything for you, dear ones.

De Voto Martini for Two

  • 148 grams gin (I used Bombay, which isn’t quite up to De Voto’s standard of 94.4 proof, but it was good)
  • 40 grams Dolin dry vermouth
  • lemon twist, for garnish (upon which De Voto simply insists)

Stir, dammit. Garnish.

Prior to dilution, that comes out to 188 grams or approximately 6.63 oz. for two cocktails. Just about perfect for my glass size, with a little left in the mixing glass. Now, an Imperial variation.

De Voto Martini for Two, Imperial

  • 5-1/2 oz. gin
  • 1-1/2 oz. vermouth
  • lemon twist

Stir, dammit. Garnish.

That’s not quite to the 3.7 standard, but it’s as close as you’ll probably come with traditional bar measures. That gives you 7 oz. of martini, prior to dilution, for a ratio of 3.66667 to 1.

And now even I’m weirded out by the geekery of this post.

DISCLAIMER: I was sent a review copy of The Hour.

My month of rum: The Lytton Fizz (and a bonus cocktail)

My month of rum continues today, with a couple of drinks featuring Cruzan Black Strap Rum. One of my goals for this project is to explore the depth and breadth of rum; there are very many different styles of rum out there, and yeah, that’s one reason I find the category a little intimidating, but frankly it’s also why it excites me. The idea of tasting my way across the category is pretty cool.

One thing I didn’t really explain last time was that I used Mount Gay Eclipse rum for the Royal Bermuda cocktail. That recipe calls specifically for a Barbados rum, as I mentioned, and I went with the Eclipse because, well, in part because it’s inexpensive, a good bargain at the 22 bucks my local pharmacy charges. (I think they’re overcharging a tad, but they’re so convenient that it’s worth an extra buck or three.) Also, in a rum-101 post, Matt “Rumdood” Robold recommends it as a good starter rum, in the amber/gold category. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now in various things and I find it to be a great mixing rum. It even sips fine, neat or on the rocks, although it’s a little simple for sipping; you’d probably want to go upmarket in the Mount Gay brand for that, and try the Mount Gay Extra Old, which is just delicious.

CruzanBlackStrapRumLTRBack to the black, now. The Black Strap is an interesting beast. You may have seen black-strap molasses around at the grocery and you may have even used it in, say, baked beans, but let’s step back and look at molasses for a moment. To make molasses, sugar producers take sugar cane, extract the juice from it, and then boil the juice so the sugar crystallizes. The molasses this first boiling produces is very sweet because sugar still remains in it. So to economize and wring out as much sugar as they can, producers then boil the sugar out again, and then finally a third time. It’s this third boiling that produces blackstrap. Interestingly, blackstrap molasses is one sweetener that’s actually good for you. The boiling process concentrates all the nutrients in the molasses, so blackstrap is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron.

Blackstrap has an important benefit for distillers. Because it ferments quickly, it doesn’t form as many fusel alcohols as other ferments do. Without delving too deeply into distillation-101, let me just say that a certain amount of fusel alcohols are necessary for certain spirits, but if you have too many, the flavor is rough. So they must largely be removed from a distillate before it can be bottled. (It’s the presence of these that in part explains the “rotgut” reputation of plastic-bottle spirits and mason-jar moonshine.) Blackstrap, because it lacks some of these fusels from the start, creates a smooth and easily drinkable rum.

Which also means it mixes well into cocktails, and isn’t that why you’re here? So let’s get on with it.

Lytton FizzThe first drink I have today is something called the Lytton Fizz. I’m not just drinking my way through the rum world right now, I’m also reading it. One of the books on my current reading list is Wayne Curtis‘s excellent And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. I’m probably the last cocktail geek on the Internet to read this book, shamefully, but that’s okay. The Lytton Fizz is not one of the ten titular drinks, but it does appear in an appendix at the back. It’s the creation of bartender John Myers of Portland, Maine. It’s the last cocktail in the book, and it appealed to me for its seasonal ingredients, mint and Thai basil, both of which we had on hand. There’s a problem with it, though. Here’s the recipe as it appears in Curtis’s book, skipping the herbs:

1/2 oz. falernum
1/4 oz. lime juice
2 dashes of bitters
1/2 oz. dark rum

Hm. Equal parts rum and falernum? That falernum stuff is sweet. Very sweet. And what makes this a fizz is that it’s topped off with fizzy ginger ale. Not to second-guess Messrs. Curtis and Myers, I knew this had to be a simple typo, or the drink would be unbalanced and overly sweet. I told Jen I thought the 1 had gotten lopped off somehow and it should be 1-1/2 oz. rum. So I hit Google and sure enough, the results of the 2005 Rum Fest were posted, and I was right. There, Myers’s recipe calls for an ounce and a half.

So, enough of that. Here’s the recipe from the Rum Fest page:

Lytton Fizz

In a Collins glass, muddle

  • 4 fresh mint leaves
  • 3 Thai basil leaves
  • ½ oz. Falernum
  • ¼ oz. lime juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Fill with ice. Add 1 ½ oz. Cruzan Black Strap Rum and top with ginger ale. Stir.

Be sure to muddle gently, though. Press too hard on the mint, and you’ll open veins in the leaves that will express bitter oils into your drink.

Bonus: Corn ‘n’ Oil

Corn 'n' Oil

  • 2 oz. Cruzan Black Strap Rum
  • 1/4 oz. Falernum
  • 1/4 oz. lime juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Build over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Stir.

Cocktail photographs by Jennifer Hess.

A Month of Rum: Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail

I have said this before: rum sits squarely in my blind spot when it comes to mixing cocktails. I find the category a little overwhelming, I must say. Rums span the globe; you can get good rums from just about every continent except Antarctica. Rums made from sugarcane juice or molasses. Rums aged for many years or very few. Rums from Barbados, Cuba, Panama, Guatemala, Martinique, Mauritius, Mexico. Light rums, amber/gold rums, dark rums, spiced rums, flavored rums, overproof rums. It’s … intimidating.

But dayam is it good! I quite enjoy a great martini, a balanced Sidecar, a lovely rye old-fashioned, a good peaty single-malt alone in a glass. But a good sipping rum? I could come around to the notion that there’s the pinnacle of drinking. And rum, used wisely in a cocktail, marries well with a range of flavors.

So it’s finally time to man up, look rum straight in the face, and stop flinching.

From now until mid or late September, I’ll be exploring a month’s worth of rum cocktails–a drink a week that I think really exemplifies what rum brings to a cocktail. And to force myself into unfamiliar territory, there won’t be a daiquiri, Cuba Libre, or Dark and Stormy in the lot. And I am finally going to begin my exploration of the El Presidente, which Matt “Rumdood” Robold recommended months ago, when I was hoping to start exploring rum cocktails.

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail

photograph by Jennifer Hess

First up, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail. I brought this one up as an idea for rum-running, before I decided on the El Presidente. I think I first encountered this drink when Doug Winship covered it during his Tiki Month, earlier this year. Even though I gave a lot of thought to running through it for the blog, I still managed to forget about it entirely, until I came across it again in Vintage Spirits. Doc Cocktail doesn’t have much information about it, but it’s apparently an early creation of Trader Vic Bergeron, a pre-Tiki tropical classic. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club still exists, by the way, but I don’t see any cocktails listed on any of its menus, so I don’t know whether they still serve this drink.

The recipe, curiously, calls for Barbados rum rather than a Bermudan variety. I’m not sure I understand that. The other interesting ingredient is Falernum. I didn’t have the resources to purchase the ingredients to make my own, so I relied on the dusty bottle of John Taylor’s Velvet variety.

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail

  • 2 oz. Barbados rum
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes Cointreau (I’d use 1/8 to 1/4 oz. for ease of measuring)
  • 2 tsp. Falernum

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Haigh’s pioneering champions, part 2

Following up on part 1 of this series, here’s the second batch of online “pioneers” featured in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails:

  • Darcy O’Neill, Art of Drink. Darcy brings a unique perspective to the world of bartending and drinking: he’s a chemist, who understands the complex reactions that occur when you mix a drink. If you ever want to know what it means to be a super-taster, Darcy’s the man to ask.
  • Marleigh Riggins Miller, Sloshed! Graphic designer, nerdling, and all-around all-right gal, Marleigh’s been at this just a little longer than I have. Her new husband, Dan, has joined her in her blogging efforts. I met them both in New Orleans last year, and they’re good people. Check ‘em out.
  • Michael Dietsch, A Dash of Bitters. I’m including myself just to show where I fall in the line-up.
  • Rick Stutz, Kaiser Penguin. A gifted photographer with an yen for creative garnish, Rick blogs from the Keystone State. One excellent feature of Rick’s blog is the recipe comparison, where he tries several variants on a single recipe and discusses what works for him and what doesn’t. Rick’s also a helluva cook, from what I hear, and a fan of throwing cocktail parties, so if you’re planning a trip to PA, invite yourself to Rick’s. Everybody comes to Rick’s, as an old movie once said.
  • Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, The Liquid Muse. As a mixologist, cocktail-book author, and educator, Natalie’s usually got a pretty full glass in front of her. Her first book is Preggatinis, which features virgin cocktails for expecting mothers, and frankly for anyone else who’d prefer an alcohol-free sipper.
  • Lauren Clark, Drinkboston.com. New York, San Francisco, and Seattle usually top the list of cocktalian cities, but I believe that Lauren’s beloved Boston deserves a place in that list, with such excellent bars as Eastern Standard, Green Street, and Drink. A founding member of the Boston chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, Lauren set out to document Boston’s bar scene, putting her on the front line for the cocktail resurgence in the Boston area. Lauren’s been branching out lately into video presentations of classic and new cocktails, and the videos are excellent, so check them out!
  • Karen Foley and Imbibe Magazine. Huge fan of Imbibe magazine. Huge. If you’re not familiar with Imbibe, the first thing you need to know is that it’s not just about alcohol. Imbibe covers all liquid culture, whether that’s coffee, tea, soda, or yes, beer, wine, or spirits. Imbibe Unfiltered is the blog portion of this endeavor, and it’s excellent. In fact, if you go there now, you’ll see the scope of Imbibe’s coverage–riesling, beer, the French 75 cocktail, mango green tea, a wine shop, and a daiquiri video are all on the front page right now.
  • Camper English, Alcademics. Camper, like Paul Clarke, is living the dream–he’s a full-time, paid spirits writer. His blog has a different focus from many here. He doesn’t write up cocktail recipes, for example; he tracks news about spirits, bartending, drink trends, and the like. His is one of the most informative blogs in my RSS reader.
  • Craig Mrusek, Dr. Bamboo. The only cat I know who illustrates every post with a new line drawing. As I said in this space a year ago, I think Craig’s a damn good cartoonist. Anything else I could say about the guy I’ve already said, but I’ll add this. His monicker always reminds me of perhaps my favorite character from Bewitched.
  • Jeff Berry, Beachbum Berry’s Grog Blog. Here, I think, is where we start to move into some new territory. For the most part (Karen’s an exception, and there may be one or two others), everyone I’ve talked about so far became “known,” to the extent that we’re known, because of our online writing. Jeff, though, was a published author first and a blogger second. One of the finest minds in tiki, the Beachbum peered past the kitsch to see the craft behind tiki classics. He interviewed retired tiki bartenders to learn the recipes they used and the techniques they employed. The Beachbum shows that there’s more to tiki than palm fronds, coconut-shell glassware, pink umbrellas, and cheap rum.
  • Gabriel Szaszko, Cocktailnerd. Writing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gabriel’s a generalist like me; he’ll try just about anything, and if he screws up with a drink, or if something just doesn’t work for him, he’ll talk about why instead of just dumping it in the sink and making an old-fashioned.
  • Blair Reynolds, Trader Tiki. Having just come off a week as a cocktail apprentice at Tales of the Cocktail, Blair’s one wiped-out tiki nerd, but he hasn’t let that slow him down. Check out his site for rum reviews, tiki drinks, and explorations of tropical culture.
  • Gary Regan, World Wide Bartender Database. Listen. Gary Regan merits an entire book, let alone a few lines in an appendix at the back of one. Gary’s The Joy of Mixology was the first cocktail book I owned, and I’d suggest it to anyone who wants to start mixing drinks at home. But Gary’s in this book for another reason, and that’s the bartender database he started. Open only to people who work in the hospitality industry (and the marketers who cater to them), the database provides resources for bartenders–job listings, news about mixology competitions, events, and the like. What people don’t seem to know is that for many bartenders (Jeff Morgenthaler and Jamie Boudreau among them), tending is a career. These folks are pros. They’re not pulling pints and shaking drinks while looking for a “real” job or going to school. What Gary’s given them is a virtual watering hole where they gather to exchange information and support each other. It’s huge.
  • Sonja Kassebaum, Thinking of Drinking. As Ted points out in the book, Sonja stands alone in this list. She’s not just a drinker and a cocktail nerd, and she’s not just a blogger. Oh no, Sonja’s actually a distiller to boot. She and her husband own North Shore Distillery in the Chicago area, making gins, vodkas, and other boutique spirits.

And that wraps up this look at Haigh’s pioneering champions. You’ll have to read the actual book to see what we all have to say about drinks and spirits and whatnot, but I wanted to provide a run down of the list for those of you unfamiliar with my fellow Internet wonders.

Haigh’s pioneering champions, part 1

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago. Ted Haigh’s seminal cocktail guide, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, entered into a new edition this week, and I’m honored and humbled to have a small part to play in the book. I’m part of an appendix to the book, called “Pioneering Champions of the Forgotten Cocktail,” in which Ted profiles 25 people he terms the “most influential online cocktail pioneers.”

In his introduction to the appendix, Ted explains that the forgotten cocktail is about more than just the drink itself, it’s also about those who mixed, drank, and popularized them in the media. Ted’s first edition profiled many of the bartenders, bon vivants, and scribblers who contributed to the birth and growth of cocktaliana.

Cocktail writing online has blossomed in the years since that first edition; I’ve seen it expand manifold in the three years I’ve been doing it, and Ted says that we have “influenced recipes, bartending, and even the spirits industry.” I’m honestly surprised to think of my blog playing such a role, but if Ted says it, I won’t dispute it. Ted wanted to ensure that we too have our place in the historic record.

The company is humbling, I must say. I have long respected everyone on this list; it’s a bit like finding yourself up for a James Beard award. Ted has them in chronological order by the date the Internet forum, discussion board, or weblog was established, and that’s the order I present them. Where the site in question still exists or is actively maintained by its founder, I’ve provided a link. If my site merits your attention, the others do all the more so.

Here’s the first batch; the remainder will follow later this week or early next:

  • Craig Goldwyn: America Online Food & Drink Network. Goldwyn appears to be no longer associated with the network he founded.
  • Paul Loberg: Webtender.com. The web design may appear dated, but the message boards are very active and peopled by influential bartenders and other cocktail experts.
  • Paul Harrington, Laura Moorhead, and Graham Clarke: Cocktailtime.com. Owned and formerly operated by Wired magazine, this site is unfortunately defunct. Harrington tells Ted that he and his partners tried to buy the rights from Wired and revive the site, but were shot down. Harrington also wrote a book, Cocktail, that is out of print and now somewhat expensive to purchase.
  • Chuck Taggart, Gumbopages.com/looka. A New Orleans native now living in California, Chuck’s the first of many in this appendix whom I’m honored to call a personal friend. Like me, he’s not a spirits professional, just an aficionado. His blog is excellent, and he has personally helped revive one of the finest cocktails around, the Vieux Carré–rye, cognac, vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters. I’ll be pouring one tonight and toasting Chuck. UPDATE: Looka just turned 10; amazing work, Chuck!
  • Robert Hess, groups.msn.com/DrinkBoy. Defunct. Never fear, though, Robert’s still active at Drinkboy.com, the Chanticleer Society (where you’ll also find me), and the Cocktail Spirit series of video podcasts. Robert, incidentally, shares a name with my father in law, but I don’t hold that against either of them.
  • Hanford Lemoore, Tikiroom.com. I’m not much of a tiki drinker, so I’ve never spent much time here, but the forums are poppin’!
  • Jamie Boudreau, Spiritsandcocktails.com. Another friend, Jamie tends bar in Seattle, and he has an Amer Picon replica I’ve been threatening to make for over a year now.
  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler, jeffreymorgenthaler.com. Two things you need to know about Morgenthaler: 1) He loves Aquaman, 2) He’s an avid vodka collector, 3) He’s one hell of a juggler. Wait, that’s three things. Damn, that Vieux Carre is smoove. Jeff tends bar in Portland, Oregon, and we learned recently that we have a mutual friend, someone I met in NYC who later returned home to Oregon. Small world.
  • Jimmy Patrick, Mixographer.com. I’ve never met Jimmy, but his was among the first cocktail sites in my blogroll. A direct inspiration for ADOB.
  • Paul Clarke, Cocktailchronicles.com. Like Jimmy, Paul’s was another direct inspiration for this blog. When I chose to start a blog, I hit Google and started searching for other blogs. Paul’s, Jimmy’s, and Jamie’s were among the first I found. Paul’s a helluva guy and one of the most prolific cocktail writers on the scene. You can find his work in Imbibe magazine; the San Francisco Chronicle; the New York Times‘s Proof blog (currently on hiatus); the website Serious Eats; and the Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen. If Paul’s writing career in any way sucks, it’s because he has too much to do.
  • Erik Ellestad, Egullet’s cocktail forum, Underhill-lounge.flannestad.com. Erik’s a busy guy. Between posting at the Egullet forum (his nick’s EJE; mine’s Dietsch), and writing up his epic Stomping Through the Savoy posts for his own blog, Erik holds down a day job and also guest-bartends every week. I don’t know how he does it. It can’t hurt that he has a charming and patient wife.

More to come.

Vintage Spirits is re-go-go!

Exciting news! The seminal cocktail guide, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, enters into a new edition on July 1. Or, just because it’s fun, let me provide the full title:

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond. 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them

That alone gives you some idea what to expect. Drinks you’ve never heard of. Drinks you have, without knowing what’s in them, or what the classic recipe is.

Preorder your copy today!

Author is Ted Haigh. By day, he’s a graphic designer for the talking picture show.  He’s worked for Superman and John Adams; for samarais and snickets; for gangsters, vampires, and spies. By night, he’s Dr. Cocktail, historian, raconteur, and bon vivant.

new-cover

Vintage Spirits is a legendary book among cocktail geeks. It has been out of print for a couple of years now, and I’m among the fools who don’t own the first edition, so it’s legendary in part for being so elusive. More than that, though, it’s legendary for introducing readers to defunct spirits. Or, should I say, no longer defunct spirits. To name only one example, the book discusses a liqueur called crème de violette, a delicate liqueur made from violet petals and a staple ingredient in such drinks as the Aviation and the Blue Moon. Crème de violette, however, has reentered the market since Doc’s book premiered, in no small part because of Doc’s attention and the laments of serious bartenders everywhere.

But, if I may, there’s another reason I’m excited about the book.

I’m a small part of it.

Ted contacted a few folks who’ve helped spread cocktail love across the Internet and asked whether we’d consent to an interview. I, no fool, said yes. I’m flummoxed and flattered that Ted asked for my participation, and was very happy to help. I can’t wait to see my copy of the book, and I’m sad that I won’t get to see Ted next month to thank him personally and get his autograph.