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On this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast we’re talking about one of the most misunderstood elixirs ever created and consumed – The Green Fairy, La Fée Verte, Absinthe! The social lubricant of choice for 19th century bohemians, artists and creatives – said to have aided their creativity and yet, driven them mad. It has been made all the more mysterious by a worldwide ban of the stuff for nearly 100 years. The ban was lifted in the states almost eleven years ago now, but a lot of misunderstandings still surround this spirit.
Most likely, you’ve heard the dark stories…about how “real” absinthe will make you hallucinate, turn you violent and drive you mad if you have too much. But what is the real story of absinthe? Can we get an authentic version in the states? And why was it banned for so long if it is truly harmless? Hopefully we’ll be clearing all that up over the course of this podcast.
My guest Ted Breaux is a researcher, scientist, artisan distiller, and leading authority on absinthe. He created Lucid Absinthe Supérieure – the first genuine absinthe made with real Grande Wormwood to be legally available in the United States, and he had a major role in overturning the ban in America eleven years ago. He’ll be talking about how he first got interested in absinthe, was the first person to disprove any claims that absinthe was dangerous, and how he helped to overturn the ban.
Kellfire Desmond Bray, absinthe educator and co-host of a monthly absinthe celebration and awareness party in New York City called The Green Fairy at the Red Room, will be joining us towards the end of this episode to describe the Continental Pour – the proper way to consume this boozy elixir.
Listen to Episode 5: Absinthe with Ted Breaux” – me
According to Bray and Breaux, you don’t really need the sugar. However, the traditional French Method does involve diluting sugar in the glass to sweeten it up a bit. This ritual is such a lovely one, I thought I’d share that as well.
This is what you’ll need to prepare absinthe using the traditional French Method:
- Bottle of genuine absinthe
- An absinthe spoon – a flat, perforated spoon or even a large fork can work!
- Sugar cube
- Tall glass, large enough for 6 ounces
- Carafe of ice water
- Pour about one ounce of absinthe into the glass
- Place a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon and lay the spoon across the rim of the glass
- Slowly pour the very cold water over the sugar and saturate it
- Wait a moment for the sugar to dissolve a bit
- As the water dilutes the spirit, the botanical oils are released, herbal aromas “bloom” and the clear green liquid turns cloudy, a result that is called the “louche”
- Continue to slowly pour the water over the sugar until you have poured in about 5 ounces and the sugar is mostly dissolved
- Allow the louche to rest, and then stir in the remaining undissolved sugar
Let me be mad, then, by all means! Mad with the madness of Absinthe, the wildest, most luxurious madness in the world! Vive la folie! Vive l’amour! Vive l’animalisme! Vive le Diable!”
― Marie Corelli, Wormwood: A Drama of Paris
The Green Fairy, La Fée Verte, Absinthe – One of the most misunderstood elixirs ever created and consumed. Made all the more mysterious by a worldwide ban of the stuff for nearly 100 years. After the ban was finally lifted in the states ten years ago now, some myths are still perpetuated by a few brands capitalizing on its mystique.
Most likely, you’ve heard the dark stories…about how “real” absinthe will make you hallucinate, turn you violent and drive you mad if you have too much. Well known writers and artists such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allan Poe were all said to have benefited creatively and yet suffered negatively from the effects of their consumption of absinthe. But what is the real story of absinthe? Can we get an authentic version in the states? And why was it banned for so long if it is truly harmless?
Absinthe, for those of you unfamiliar, is a highly alcoholic distilled spirit, (not a liqueur as it is often mistaken for, because it is not traditionally sweetened with added sugar) made with macerated herbs – primarily aniseed, sweet fennel and wormwood – the main flavor components in the spirit. The various botanicals is what also gives absinthe its famous natural green color, inspiring the nicknames “Green Fairy” and “Green Goddess”. At its height in popularity, towards the end of the 19th century, when the French were drinking up to 36 million litres of absinthe per year, the nearly 30,000 cafés in Paris were transformed every day at 5:00 p.m. into l’Heure Verte, the Green Hour.
Absinthe’s rise in popularity coincided with a rise in alcohol consumption in general. Cheap, poorly made “bathtub” versions were being produced, and alcohol-related injuries and crimes were being blamed on the popular spirit, leading the way to a prohibition of absinthe internationally. The temperance movement as well as the wine industry, threatened by the massive popularity of the drink, leveraged the moral panic against absinthe in Europe at the time, and pushed the idea that it was especially dangerous and led to violent behavior.
Is there any truth to the dangers, the highs, the hallucinogenic qualities that have been rumored and written about and spread throughout the centuries? The truth is, absinthe is indeed potent. It is not to be taken straight as it is so concentrated. It is traditionally bottled at a high alcohol by volume – usually 110-144 proof versus whiskey which is about 80 proof. This is because it is to be diluted with ice-cold water prior to being consumed.
Ted A. Breaux, a scientist, researcher and leading authority on absinthe, had a major role in overturning the ban in America ten years ago. Lucid Absinthe, his creation and the first absinthe in the U.S. market, is still considered one of the top brands in the world. According to Breaux, “pre-ban absinthes contained no hallucinogens, opiates or other psychoactive substances”. The only drug in absinthe is alcohol.
Thujone, a compound found in wormwood, is often referred to as the hallucinogenic component in “real” absinthe. But according to the experts and extensive studies, there just isn’t any truth to this. In extremely high doses, thujone is known to be a dangerous neurotoxin, but pre-ban absinthe and the nearly identical recipes made today have always only had trace amounts. The truth is, there may very well be more wormwood in the vermouth you’re having in your next martini than a glass of absinthe. Aside from being its hallmark ingredient, the name “vermouth” is in fact the French pronunciation of the German word Wermut, meaning…wormwood.
How come, even after ten years of it being legal in the states, there are still so many misconceptions about this botanical beverage? Perhaps we prefer holding onto these romantic notions of madness and drug-induced achievements from some of our most notable creative geniuses. It surely doesn’t help when certain brands market themselves in a way that takes advantage of their naughty past, advertising thujone or wormwood on their bottles in an inauthentic way.
That’s not to say we haven’t come a long way since that 95 year ban. There are a lot of really wonderful brands that are making quality absinthe, each one, with their specific recipe, slightly different from the next. So, what brands should you be buying?
Absinthe educator Kellfire Bray, seen here at the monthly Green Fairy Party produced by Don Spiro in NYC, recommends these bottles to get you started:
Meadow of Love Absinthe from Delaware Phoenix Distillery – American Hidden Gem
Made in the Catskills in upstate New York, Meadow of Love has a floral aroma and flavor interacting with the anise. This absinthe has a powerful louche of rolling, milky cloud banks, and it coats the tongue with flavor.
Lucid Absinthe Superieure – Traditional, Easy to Find
Lucid is the first genuine absinthe made with real Grande Wormwood to be legally available in the United States in over 95 years. Lucid is prepared in accordance with the same standards as pre-ban absinthes. It is historically accurate in EVERY detail.
“Vieux Pontarlier” Absinthe Francais Superieure – Mid-range, Workhorse
Very anise forward and fairly sweet, this absinthe is made in small batches using alambic stills that were specifically designed to make absinthe. Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe evolved from the research and experience of professional Absintheur Peter Schaf, using historic protocols, distilling techniques and equipment from the 19th Century.
Kubler Absinthe Superieure – Mid-range, Swiss style
Clear and colorless in the Swiss style. Along with Lucid, was crucial in petitioning the government to lift the absinthe ban. Anise and fennel dominate but get more complex post louche.
Jade 1901 Absinthe Superieure – Top Pick, Harder to Find
From Ted A. Breaux’s high-end absinthe line, Jade Liqueurs, this bottle was recreated as a tribute to a widely studied pre-ban absinthe, as it appeared circa 1901. A classic vintage-style absinthe, balanced and crisp, with a stimulating herbal aroma and a smooth, lingering aftertaste.
The preparation to drink absinthe may seem intimidating. Do you need the correct tools? Is there sugar AND fire involved? How much is the right amount? It is all pretty simple, really. In fact, according to Bray, you don’t even really need the sugar. You’ll just need to slowly dilute 1 part absinthe to 3-5 parts iced water from a specially made absinthe fountain or even by hand with a carafe. As the water dilutes the spirit, the botanical oils are released, herbal aromas “bloom” and the clear green liquid turns cloudy, a result that is called the “louche”.
The traditional French Method, however, does involve placing a sugar cube on top of a slotted spoon over a glass of absinthe and pouring iced water over the sugar in order to slowly dissolve it and mix with the absinthe. Since absinthe is not made with added sugar, some people prefer to sweeten it up this way. But according to nearly all authorities on absinthe, DO NOT soak that sugar cube with liquor and then light it on fire. This “Czech Method” is not traditional and was actually started in the late 90s as a spectacle for tourists and to mask inferior spirits. We’re all better than that!
So, go ahead and celebrate the progress we’ve made in the last ten years, and get acquainted with the Green Fairy! Raise a glass to the magical, herbal delights of this cloudy wonder…without going completely mad! Vive la absinthe!
All photos provided by Rose Callahan, of the Dandy Portrait fame, and our photography partner on the Bartender Style series.
Last Saturday night, Cointreau, the iconic French orange liqueur, partnered with Jeremiah Brent, TV personality, interior designer and handsome hubs to Oprah bestie Nate Berkus, on a beautiful, travel-inspired evening as part of their “The Art of La Soirée” tour of events.
The fête, set inside the stunning Big Daddy’s Antiques in Los Angeles, is part of a series of events set in five different cities – Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and New York City – each one curated by a different artist with a slightly different inspired entertaining theme. Last Saturday’s soirée showcased Jeremiah’s passion for travel and global discovery – the Collection de Voyages Soirée.
The immersive experience was a Moroccan summer’s night meets Croatian holiday crossed with a Mayan Riviera getaway. And the cocktails, curated by Jeremiah, also drew inspiration from those cities that made the most impact on him through his travels – Tulum, Mexico; Marrakech, Morocco; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Split, Croatia. Los Angeles, of course, played a role in the night as well. Despite feeling transported, the beautiful guests, unusual, dual-purpose event space, and the hip DJ, electric guitarist entertainment for the night helped to remind us that we were still in La La Land!
Oh, and, look who I ran into?! The lovely powerhouse mixology couple, Kyle and Rachel Ford, profiled on this here blog last year in our Bartender Style series. This event actually marked Kyle’s last as Cocktail & Spirits Expert for Rémy Cointreau. And with the decision to focus primarily on their revamped consulting firm, Ford Marketing Lab, Kyle has officially passed the Cointreau torch. I have no doubt the Rémy Cointreau family will miss him!
It was an enchanting night! And I sort of felt like I went on a mini 3-hour vacation to some exotic locale with elegant natives, citrusy cocktails and dazzling light fixtures everywhere. Jeremiah Brent, can you curate my life, please?
If you are interested in attending one of The Art of La Soirée events, check back in to Cointreau’s site to see about a soirée near you!
All photos courtesy of Shannon Carpenter from This Aperture.
Hey guys! You know Al Roker? Yes THAT Al Roker of “Today” show fame and highly optimistic weather updates and everyone’s favorite morning jokester uncle…well, he has a multimedia production company, Al Roker Entertainment that he’s been running for the last 20 years!!! Not just a weather man, guys!
Roker Labs is their digital media incubator of sorts and they are dipping their toes in the live streaming content game, with much success. And, guess who’s going to be doing some cocktail segments with them?!
Fellow boozy babe, Emily Arden Wells from Gastronomista and I are partnering with @RokerLabs for this exciting new cocktail series that will stream live 5pm (EST) on Periscope for the next couple of Tuesdays starting TONIGHT! For our first segment “All About That Mix”, we are heading to Polynesian oasis, Mother of Pearl in New York’s east village. Our bartender for the evening will be industry vet, bartender extraordinaire and total babe, Jane Danger, pictured below (with a shock of blue in her blonde locks) from our Bartender Style shoot at Mother of Pearl last month:
I know what you’re thinking…what is this Periscope hooha? Why do I have to get another weird app on my phone? Is that the only way I can watch it? Listen, grandma, I totally understand. I was pretty intimidated by this new technology too, until LAST NIGHT, in fact. Up until I tried a test run with Emily I really couldn’t wrap my brain around it. But it is SO easy, and pretty fun, in fact. It’s like live chatting, face timing and youtubing all at the same time, if that means anything to you! And IF you just can’t be bothered with watching us in real time, this will be saved and posted on our sites. But, just know this, Al Roker is probably more tech savvy than you. So just upload that Periscope App, follow @RokerLabs (and @BitByaFox, of course!) and prepare to get your tiki on tonight. Welcome to the future!
Soooo, my life has clearly been taken over by this weekly podcast and I PROMISE to post other content on the blog besides these podcast posts, buuuut in the meantime…It’s FriYAY! And that means there’s another Bit by a Fox Podcast heading right towards your earholes! I hope you’re having as much fun as I am. If you ARE, then please write a snappy review, give it all the stars, and share with your frennnz. Self producing is a hustle!
This week we’re talking about The Dark Ages of Cocktails – that ill-fated time period between the late 1960s all the way through the late 1990s. When people happily drank garbage drinks like the ones pictured below.
Since launching the podcast, we’ve already talked a lot about the craft cocktail resurgence over the last 20 years, and we’ve touched on what it was like to come out of the sour-mix-drenched 90s where vodka was king and everyone’s palates were deadened by preservatives and sugar. But how did we get there in the first place?
In this week’s podcast, I go all the way back to prohibition and the following years that made it possible for drinks with names like Sex on the Beach, The Fuzzy Navel and Slippery Nipple to…become a thing. Hoo boy, it was a sexy and gross time.
Listen to Episode 4: The Dark Ages of Cocktails” – me
For this episode, I thought I’d feature a cocktail that has a special place in my heart. One of the first drinks I’d order on the regular when I first started drinking cocktails, and at the time, was never NOT made with sour mix: The Amaretto Sour. But I wanted to share a better version – with fresh juice and more of a kick. This creation is from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the famed Portland, Oregon bartender of Clyde Common and Pepe Le Moko. Jeffrey is considered to be one of the best bartenders out there, and I love the fact that he has made it a point these last few years to bring back the cocktails from the dark ages and improve upon them. I love his explanation for this version of his Amaretto Sour.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour
1½ oz amaretto
¾ oz cask-proof bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
1 tsp. 2:1 simple syrup
½ oz egg white, beaten
Dry shake ingredients to combine, then shake well with cracked ice. Strain over fresh ice in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon peel and brandied cherries, if desired.
Photo by Zandy Mangold.
Photo by Philippe Levy
I’m really excited for you all to listen to this week’s episode of the Bit by a Fox podcast. It’s a special one. I spoke with my friend and author, and someone who has seen first hand the bloom of the cocktail movement in New York City and internationally, Georgette Moger-Petraske. Georgette is also the widow of the late Sasha Pestraske, the legendary bartender who opened a little speakeasy cocktail bar in the lower east side of Manhattan about 18 years ago called Milk & Honey. Sasha and his bar are really responsible for much of what we’ve come to know about modern day craft cocktails. Milk & Honey has been called one of this century’s most influential drinking dens. Sasha was extremely well regarded as a leader in the industry until his untimely death in 2015. He was 42.
Georgette and Sasha had only been married for a few months at the time of his death – interrupting their life together as well the cocktail book they were to create together. Only a brief outline existed when Georgette made the decision to write what was to be Sasha’s first cocktail book, Regarding Cocktails. I wanted to talk to Georgette about her story, how she met Sasha, her husband’s legacy, his iconic bar Milk & Honey, and how Regarding Cocktails is a tribute to him as a man and also a love letter to all he contributed to the cocktail world.
Listen to Episode 3: Regarding Cocktails with Georgette Moger-Petraske
A girl and her book. Georgette and Regarding Cocktails outside Paris bookstore La Belle Hortense. (taken by moi)
Recent photos from Paris Cocktail Week taken by Philippe Levy.
We ended our episode this week with the Gin & It cocktail, a favorite of the couple’s – so much so it was passed out in mini mason jars at their wedding.
Gin & It – served up in a coupe glass
2 oz Gin
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
garnish: lemon twist
Stir the gin and vermouth in an ice-filled mixing glass until sufficiently chilled. Strain into an chilled coupe glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass to extract the oils. Then garnish the drink with the twist.
The Last Word, like the Negroni is an equal parts cocktail, but with the added fourth ingredient being citrus, it is shaken, not stirred. Akin to the Negroni, this drink is also having a sort of renaissance with bartenders and home cocktail enthusiasts alike.
Supposedly born at the Detroit Athletic Club around 1916, the Last Word has become more of a modern classic. It went into relative obscurity until the recipe was dug up by Seattle bartender Murray Stenson in the early 2000s. He discovered it in Ted Saucier’s 1951 cocktail book “Bottoms Up!” (which credited the Detroit Athletic Club), and after adding it to the menu at the Zig Zag Café, word spread and a classic was reborn.
People love an equal parts cocktail. You don’t have to remember proportions; They’re brilliant! There was even an entire book devoted to these recipes, but they don’t always work. The balance has to be just right. And you’d think with such dominant spirits as gin, green Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur, that it would all be too much. But somehow that equal parts addition of fresh lime juice sucker punches the rest of those flavors into a bright and herbaceous delight.
I’ve noticed recently that this cocktail is also especially in the zeitgeist at the moment. We are currently in the midst of an international Instagram “event” wherein cocktail enthusiasts and brands and regular ol’ instagrammers are being called upon to create their own riff on this often riffed on cocktail and then post their version. I’ll actually be posting my variations (featured here) right after this post goes up!
I thought that playing with these recipes was a great opportunity for me to experiment with this lovely bottle of Sunday Gin from new San Diego distillery, You and Yours Distilling Co.
Distilled from grapes instead of the usual grain (wheat, barley, rye), the botanicals are softer with a hint more citrus than your typical American style gins. But I found this Sunday Gin was still able to hold up to the other powerhouse flavors in this cocktail. It worked especially well in the Fizz.
My first variation is close to the classic recipe. It was important to keep it equal parts, but I just wanted to sub out the maraschino liqueur for one of my favorite and most versatile liqueurs out there at the moment, Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur. When working with green Chartreuse you need something that can match its intensity if you don’t want it to dominate. And Barrow’s is the perfect accomplice to this potent spirit.
Intense Last Word
3/4 Sunday Gin
3/4 Green Chartreuse
3/4 Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur
3/4 Fresh Lime Juice
Shake all ingredients with ice until well chilled. Strain into a cooled coupe glass. Garnish with your favorite herb.
For the second variation, I knew that I wanted to make a fizz, still keeping it equal parts of the original ingredients but adding egg white and seltzer to see if that worked. Uh, it does. It SO works.
Refreshing and a little lighter than the classic version, this may very well be what I’ll be sipping this Sunday for Easter brunch. I’m sure you’ll have some extra eggs lying around, right?!
Last Word Fizz
3/4 Sunday Gin
3/4 Green Chartreuse
3/4 Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 Fresh Lime Juice
1 Egg White
In a cocktail shaker add gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, egg white and lime juice and “dry” shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 20-30 seconds. Strain mixture into an ice-filled highball glass. Pour seltzer into shaker to loosen up remaining froth and then top the cocktail with that. Garnish with your favorite herb.
Piña Coladas are one of those guilty pleasures that pretty much EVERYONE likes. Unless you are allergic to pineapples or coconut or fun, DO NOT TELL ME YOU DON’T LIKE A PIÑA COLADA. I’ll just end up calling you a lying liar. Because they are happy making. They are dessert with booze. They are vacation. They are worth every calorie. Seriously.
Created in San Juan, Puerto Rico in the early 1950s, their national drink since 1978, the traditional Piña Colada recipe called for white rum. But over the years, bartenders and home mixologists alike realized that aged, dark and spiced rums had the potential to add a depth of flavor…and next level yumminess!
With the recent release of Don Q’s Oak Barrel Spiced Rum, I thought it was a great opportunity to spice up one of my favorite blended drinks.
This is the first foray into the spiced category for the brand and they wanted to do it right by creating an elevated version of what currently dominates this segment in most bars and liquor stores at the moment. Don Q’s Oak Barrel Spiced Rum is a blend of Puerto Rican rums that have been aged for a minimum of three to six years and is slightly higher in alcohol, coming in at a healthy 90 proof – ideal for cocktails.
The Spicy Chai Piña Colada recipe came together once I tasted this rum on its own. The warm kitchen spices, most notably the clove and black peppercorn notes, reminded me of the spices in Masala Chai. A creamy coconut chai drink with BOOZE?! Uh…YEAH!
Because I wanted to make a chai spiced syrup, I decided NOT to use the traditional, already sweetened Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut, and opted to use the slightly lighter, unsweetened coconut milk in its place. It was just as creamy and lush but it also allowed for the rum and spices to truly shine.
Spicy Chai Piña Colada – makes 2 drinks
3 oz Coconut Milk
3 oz Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum
5 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Chai Spiced Syrup*
1/4 cup Fresh Pineapple
Juice of 1 Lime
1 1/2 cups of ice
Garnish: pineapple wedge, rum soaked cherry, chai spices
Add all ingredients including ice to a blender and blend until frothy. Pour into well chilled glasses and garnish with pineapple, cherry and a pinch of spices.
Chai Spiced Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 Chai Spice teabags
Heat water in a saucepan until boiling. Remove from heat and add in tea bags. Infuse for about 5 minutes. Once the tea has fully steeped, remove the tea bags and return saucepan to stove to bring to a slow boil. Stir in the sugar until completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Let stand at room temperature until cool and then refrigerate. Will keep for 2-3 weeks.
Sponsored: This post was made possible by Don Q Rum and was fueled by Spicy Piña Coladas! All opinions are my own.
Last month I had the opportunity to visit House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon, tour the facilities with head distiller, Andrew Tice and get to know founder & distiller, Christian Krogstad – one of the pioneers behind America’s craft distilling revival.
House Spirits Distillery, a forerunner in Portland’s craft distilling community, is now in their 12th year of operation. And after leading the development of the city’s first Distillery Row in Southeast Portland, making the move into a shiny, new $6 million production facility with tasting room last November, they’ve solidified their position as the largest distilling operation in the Pacific Northwest.
The new 14,000 square foot space includes a 3,000-gallon copper and stainless steel whiskey still, one of the largest on the west coast.
The new production facility allows for them to distill six times their previous distilling capacity and they have more than doubled their production of their flagship spirit, Aviation American Gin.
They’ve only been in their new digs for about eight months now, but according to Krogstad, demand for product has them already outgrowing the building. They may soon have to look for another space entirely for the different legs of production. But in the meantime, they’re running a tight ship, producing excellent products and having fun while doing it.
After having spent some time with Krogstad, I can’t help but think that the convivial atmosphere around the House Spirits Distillery is in large part due to his leadership.
A Seattle native, Krogstad spent some formative years post college in Hawaii where he first got into home brewing. After settling in Portland in ’91, initially drawn by the city’s craft beer boom and working in that industry for 12 years, he then looked to craft distilling as the next big thing. Observing the success of the microbrew scene informed his decision to test the industry waters. But it was the resurgence of craft cocktails and ultimately his partnership with local bartender Ryan Magarian that helped to launch Aviation American Gin as we know it, designed with cocktails in mind.
As a longtime fan of Aviation Gin (and after having celebrated their 10th birthday in July with an original cocktail), I was eager to learn about and try all the other products House Spirits is producing.
Volstead Vodka, cheekily named after the father of Prohibition, Andrew Volstead, was also created with cocktails in mind. Made with pure Cascade mountain water and filtered through charred coconut husks, this vodka went on to win the 2013 Gold Medal at the 2013 SF World Spirits Competition.
I LOVE a coffee liqueur and House Spirits Coffee Liqueur is a lovely take on the category. Using pot-distilled rum made with Barbados molasses and then blended with cold pressed coffee from Portland’s famed Stumptown Coffee, this stuff was made to be sipped on its own, but would also be fantastic in a cocktail.
Aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit, usually distilled from grain and flavored with botanicals, namely caraway seed, is having a bit of a renaissance. Many bartenders specializing in craft cocktails have discovered it to be as important as a base spirit as vodka or gin. Coming from a desire to honor his family’s Scandinavian heritage, Krogstad had House Spirits produce aquavit early on in their development. They now produce two expressions, the unaged Krogstad Festlig Aquavit, made with only two botanicals, caraway seed and star anise and Krogstad Gamle Aquavit, aged in premium French oak wine barrels for 10-12 months, available once a year.
Rounding out House Spirits’ portfolio is the fantastic Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey launched in 2013. Using locally sourced barley and then fermented with ale yeasts, this malt whiskey, inspired by an Irish style of whiskey making, then has to spend two and a half years in new American oak barrels.
Head distiller, Andrew Tice, had me taste the whiskey wash, also known as distiller’s beer – essentially the beer that is to be distilled into whiskey. This normally is not very tasty, tends to have off flavors, and no one would voluntarily drink this unless they were in the business of distilling. But Westward Whiskey’s distiller’s beer was incredible. Like a Saison ale – earthy, fruit forward, nutty, complex and extremely quaffable! Maybe it’s because both Krogstad and Tice have craft brew backgrounds or they’ve just hit on something magic in the process, but if they ever want to go back into the beer business they may have something here!
In any case, this quality wash also creates a beautiful whiskey. And the new facility will allow for even more of it to be produced and aged. They predict 1000 barrels of the stuff in their first year.
To go behind the scenes on my tour of House Spirits Distillery, check out the Snapchat video I made that day below. Many thanks to Christian and Andrew and everyone who helped facilitate this amazing experience. I highly recommend visiting their Tasting Room the next time you’re in Portland. The space is beautiful, the people are lovely and extremely knowledgable and the spirits (and cocktails!) are top-notch. More info here.
Before I knew Jules Aron as the author of the beautiful, new garden to glass cocktail book Zen and Tonic, I knew her online as the Healthy Bartender. As a certified health and nutrition coach with a background in bartending, she was always transforming green juices and fruit smoothies into boozy concoctions, and figuring out ways to get those superfoods and antioxidants in to help balance out that boozy booze. And now she’s created a whole book of these recipes that lean heavily on the local, organic and seasonal and immune boosting fruits, herbs and veggies.
If you’ve ever gotten a juice or smoothie and thought while sipping on your salad greens or slurping up a fruity ambrosia, “Hey! This would be aMAHzing with a splash of tequila in it!”, (and who hasn’t, let’s be real?!) then this book is for you. Aron breaks the recipes up into different categories: Lush and Fruity, Fresh and Crisp, Garden Fresh, Floral and Fragrant, Sweet and Spicy, and Rich and Creamy. I decided to make a cocktail from the Sweet and Spicy section – the Peach Honey Bomb.
A blend of whiskey, fresh peaches, lemon juice, honey and ground turmeric, this is one of the easier concoctions in the book, tastes like sunshine and looks like it too!
I used a new-ish to me whiskey, the “Alabama Style” Clyde May’s. This is a 6 year old bourbon mash with hints of dried apple and cinnamon…a lovely addition to the bright fruit and spices in the Peach Honey Bomb.
Peach Honey Bomb (from page 199 in Zen and Tonic)
4 ounces whiskey
2 peaches, pitted
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend well. Serve chilled.
Turmeric, the bright orange spice, has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions.
MASSIVE COCKTAIL SWAG GIVEAWAY!
You have five days from today to enter the Zen and Tonic giveaway for the chance to win a signed copy of the book and over $500 in bar swag! Some of my favorites like Love and Victory glassware and Gastronomista jewelry are included in this amazing prize, so you don’t want to miss out on this! Enter HERE for the chance to pimp your bar today!