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New Don Q Spiced Rum & A Spicy Chai Piña Colada

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.

Don Q Spiced

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.

Spiced Chai Pina Colada

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.

Wanderlush: House Spirits Distillery in Portland Oregon

House Spirits bottles

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.

Christian Krogstad

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Zen and Tonic: Savory and Fresh Cocktails for the Enlightened Drinker & Massive Bar Swag Giveaway!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Superfood Spotlight
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!

Art of Auchentoshan & My Pretty Whisky Glass!

Founded in 1823 by Irish refugees settling in the Scottish Lowlands, on the edge of Glasgow, Auchentoshan, (pronounced ‘OKKen-TOSHan’) is a single malt whisky that is triple distilled, resulting in a delicate, approachable, and very mixable Scotch whisky; The perfect gateway Scotch for people who may be intimidated by the stuff, or who tend to favor lighter, Irish-style whiskies.

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Art of Auchentoshan is all about our journey to perfection. Our triple-distilled process to craft the smoothest single malt whisky. But it’s about more than just our approach to making our whisky. It’s about what we value. Attention to detail. Crafting our own course. Driven to be the best.”

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Last month, during Portland Cocktail Week, Auchentoshan Single Malt Scotch Whisky announced their Art of Auchentoshan program conceived to celebrate the art that bartenders create when they’re NOT behind the bar. This national campaign, in association with the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, is a year-long call to action for bartenders to share all forms of their original art, from music to photography, painting and sculpture, and every artistic expression in between. From now until September 2016, a panel of art experts will be evaluating submissions and will then choose a number of pieces to be exhibited or performed at a gallery.

To help celebrate this exciting, creative launch, a handful of spirits writers, media and photographers were given the incredible opportunity to learn how to blow their very own whisk(e)y glass at Brooklyn’s UrbanGlass. It was terrifying because, hi I’m a super clutz, but so fun. And, just look at how pretty it turned out!

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I MADE this with molten glass, a long tube and my own powerful lungs!!! (And a LOT of assistance from Esteban). A lovely “A” for Auchentoshan was etched onto the glass after it had cooled – I clearly didn’t do that part, but I was still pretty proud of what I had done!

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I was SO excited to see the finished product when I finally got this in the mail recently. The perfect vessel for my Auchentoshan whisky!


If you are a bartender and interested in submitting your artwork to Art of Auchentoshan, you’ll need to share a visual representation of your art in either a photograph or 15-second video on Instagram and tag #ArtofAuchentoshan. Once submitted, the image or video will be ‘on view’ on the dedicated Auchentoshan Tumblr site.

For more information, including all terms and conditions, visit http://www.ArtofAuchentoshan.com.

The Bubbly Boulevardier

We like to keep things fairly light-hearted here in the boozy world of Bit by a Fox. Cocktails (and cocktail culture) are happy making for the most part. And the tone is a pretty jovial one. Today’s cocktail post was created (originally) to honor the recent launch of the gorgeous book Paris Cocktails, written by Doni Belau creator of the popular site Girl’s Guide to Paris. And I don’t want to take away from that. But in light of the multiple tragedies that took place in Paris just a few days ago, I realized this post can’t help but take on a different tone. I couldn’t NOT address the world outside the bubble of this care-free blog, even for just a moment.

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I lived in New York City during the World Trade Center attacks. It was a devastating time. But the city, and the world around us, came together in a way that still moves me when I think back on it. When first hearing of the coordinated attacks on the beautiful City of Light this last Friday, I was immediately reminded of that overwhelming heartbreak and helplessness. I was also reminded of the generosity of spirit from total strangers and the solidarity that the rest of the world showed us during our city’s darkest hour. That was so crucial in the healing of our city.

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To show my own sort of solidarity, I’d like to dedicate this post to the people of Paris, whose joie de vivre, lust for life is forever an inspiration to me and this little blog. The City of Light will not be dimmed by the dark hearts of others.

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The Boulevardier is a pre-prohibition era cocktail that is often described as a whiskey Negroni. Bourbon or rye takes the place of gin. Like the Negroni, it is traditionally made with equal parts Sweet Vermouth and Campari. When I was asked to recreate a classic French cocktail or put my own twist on a favorite, I immediately thought of The Boulevardier. It’s easily one of my favorites, and is remarkably adaptable by switching out or adding additional ingredients. While this cocktail was actually created by an American ex-pat, Erskine Gwynne who was  living in Paris at the time and founded a Paris literary magazine in the 1920s called…the Boulevardier(!), the drink is most associated with Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. I thought it fitting to include a cocktail that is part New York City and part Paris. We’ve always adored one another!

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What makes this particular version even MORE French is the addition of French Whisky, Bastille 1789 (the year of the French Revolution). Hand-crafted in the Cognac region, this blended whisky, made in a Scotch style and aged in French Limousin oak, is softer and lighter than the usual bourbon or heavy-duty rye. Oh! And did I mention there’s Champagne?!

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That’s my big twist! I ADORE adding bubbly to a Negroni. And it totally works with The Boulevardier as well. It makes it feel even more festive. This is actually the perfect type of drink this time of year. And four ingredient cocktails are a must when entertaining for the holidays…

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Speaking of the holidays…Paris Cocktails would be a delightful gift for anyone in your life who is a Francophile, cocktail enthusiast, avid traveler or aesthetically inclined. Belau documents the rise of the cocktail culture in Paris and profiles many of the go-to bars and the bartenders that have helped shape that scene. There’s also a TON of cocktail recipes both classic and modern, inspired by the City of Light. Purchase the book directly from Belau’s site: Girls Guide to Paris.

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The Bubbly Boulevardier
1 oz Bastille 1789 French Whisky
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Brut Champagne
cocktail cherry for garnish

In a mixing glass filled with ice, stir whisky, Campari and sweet vermouth for 30-40 seconds, until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass with a cocktail cherry already at the bottom of the glass. Top with Champagne. Santé

Foxy Friends: Eataly New York’s Beverage Director, Emily Hand

For the second installment in our Foxy Friends series, we are featuring another Jersey girl! Emily Hand is the Beverage Director for Eataly New York, the 50,000 square foot food and drink mecca devoted to all things Italian.

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Emily Hand started working at Eataly as a sommelier in early August 2010, just before the store opened. Although she had been studying wine on her own for a couple of years, it was her first foray into the wine world. In April 2013, Emily was appointed to her current role as Beverage Director for Eataly New York.”

Emily Hand has a big job – a dream job for anyone into wine and food and Italy and LIFE, but a very big job, to be sure. She oversees all 7 (SEVEN!) wine and beer lists for each of Eataly New York’s restaurants (which change-up every week!), she leads a knowledgeable team of sommeliers, keeps track of inventory, year over year sales, and even teaches food and wine classes at La Scuola…in her spare time. That’s actually one of her favorite parts of the job. Sharing her vast knowledge of Italian wines in a casual and approachable style is already Emily’s trademark. And she’s done this all in just a few short years. She must be doing something right! Here’s an inside look at Emily and her job as Beverage Director at Eataly.

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Prairie Rose: What is an aspect of the job that would be the most surprising to people who don’t know what you do?

Emily Hand: The most surprising part of the job is probably the least glamorous parts such as organizing cases upon cases of product, and crunching lots of numbers as part of being a responsible buyer.  I can certainly be spotted tasting wine with various sales reps and with my team throughout the week, but I am a spittin’ fool. Cant be slowed down by drinking!

What was it that initially drew you to wine? Have you always been interested in Italian wine, in particular? What’s your favorite region?

I love the way wine incited such passion in people as they spoke about it…maybe it was the Italians, they are a passionate people. I became very interested in Italian wine when I went to Italy during college for a week-long wine trip/scholarship. There is much to offer from opening up a bottle alone, but to backtrack through the import/export process and back into the vineyards and wineries, to meet the people behind the wine, that is what sealed the deal for me. I’ve studied (and tasted!) wines from around the world, and enjoy other old world wine regions as well, but I’ll always come back to Italy.  My favorite region is Toscana because that is where I fell in love with Italian wine.

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What would you consider a (perhaps, lowbrow) guilty pleasure?

I truly don’t consider it lowbrow, but if I’m out at a bar after work, you’ll almost never catch me drinking wine (dinner, yes, bar, no). I love tequila…not frozen margaritas per se but a nice aged tequila on the rocks with lots of lime…that’s my jam.

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People are always looking for a deal but still want quality. What is your go-to, bang for your buck pick right now?

My bang for the buck will typically come from the lesser known regions of Italy, and usually fall geographically on the outskirts, the far north such as Trentino Alto Adige and Valle d’Aosta  or far south such as Calabria, Sicila, Sardegna. You can pick up the Odoardi Terra Damia (Gaglioppo) on the shelf at the wine store for $20.80, it’s a crowd-pleaser.

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With the seasons changing, what do you foresee being in everyone’s glasses in the next couple of months?

Whisky, Whiskey and more WHISKEY– tis the season for the beverage that warms you from the inside out.  There are a lot of local distilleries breaking onto the scene right now, just as local food is all the rage (and hopefully a permanent ideology), the movement of handcrafted, small-batch spirits is making waves. I like the whiskey lineup from Hudson distilleries. Also cider, I am a big cider fan so that’s what will be in my glass. I’d like to add some cider influenced cocktails to the lineup. I experimented with that last weekend. Research is exhausting 🙂

Do you have a favorite cocktail to make? To drink?

My favorite cocktail to make is a Bloody Mary because I feel like a chef with all of the ingredients and variations, it’s a challenge to create the perfect balance. I’m a savory cocktail nut, always have been. My favorite cocktail to drink is a dirty vodka martini, the more olives the better. So dirty I want the bartender to blush.

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What are you most excited about right now at Eataly?

That’s a tough question because so much is going on…I get excited as the seasons change and we delve deeper into the fresh and local bounty of the tri-state area. We integrate seasonal changes into the cocktails and beer/wine selections just as the chefs do on the food menus. Right now I am excited about two huge wine events we are hosting, a walk-around Brunello tasting with Jancis Robinson and Walter Speller (exclusive 2010 vintage!) and a seminar with Angelo Gaja, that man is a legend!

What has been your biggest learning at Eataly to date?

My biggest revelation here at Eataly has been my ability to roll with the punches, and that managing people-not just managing them but investing in them, caring about their development as much as your own, is the key to success.

BOOK GIVEAWAY! The Art of American Whiskey By Noah Rothbaum

Hey there! Do you consider yourself a bit of a whiskey nerd? Are you also into American history, and like to geek out over vintage advertising, graphic and industrial design? Am I just describing myself? Is this a dating profile?? Stay with me here.

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I KNOW I’m not the only one around these parts who is a fan of all of the above. Even if you only have a passing interest in history, design and American whiskey, but appreciate a thoroughly researched, visually appealing page turner, you’ll very much enjoy The Art of American Whiskey: A Visual History of the Nation’s Most Storied Spirit, through 100 Iconic Labels by Noah Rothbaum.

Unlike the glut of whiskey books out there concentrating on what is inside the bottle, The Art of American Whiskey tells the story of this revered spirit by focusing on what has been created to appear on the outside.

Fans of historic Four Roses would be sure to spot this ornate box decorated with its signature flowers on the pharmacy shelf. This particular bottle was prescribed to a patient in Sparks, Nevada, in 1924. According to the label, two ounces of whiskey were to be mixed with hot water.” (excerpt from the chapter: Prohibition)

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Four Roses, p 32 (Photo courtesy of Four Roses)

Turns out, the iconic labels and packaging that have helped to market the spirit that is so ingrained in American culture and history, have their own story to tell.

Bourbon Falls was the first whiskey sold by Heaven Hill, which started up right after the end of Prohibition. This striking Art Deco label was used in the late 1930s.” (excerpt from the chapter: Life after Temperance)

Bourbon Falls, p 53 (Photo courtesy of Heaven Hills Distillery)

Bourbon Falls, p 53 (Photo courtesy of Heaven Hills Distillery)

Rothbaum, clearly a whiskey enthusiast, does a wonderful job as story-teller, historian, and booze archaeologist. He uncovers a rich visual history starting in the late 1800s, going through Prohibition and the Great Depression, into “The Swinging Sixties” and even through the “Dark Ages” – The 70s, 80s and 90s, finally taking us up to the present booze-soaked renaissance we currently seem to be in, “The New Golden Age”.

This 1969 label perfectly encapsulates the progression in liquor packaging design, with a sleek Manhattan cocktail image, gold chain link borders, and modern font, while still paying tribute to the brand’s historic roots.” (excerpt from the chapter: The Swinging Sixties)

Jim Beam, p 95 (Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory Inc)

Jim Beam, p 95 (Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory Inc)

In each chapter, Rothbaum includes cocktails of the time, with recipes contributed by legendary bartenders, distillers and spirits writers and historians. The below cocktail, The Scofflaw Cocktail featured in the Prohibition section of The Art of American Whiskey, was contributed by writer, bartender and cocktail legend, Gary (“Gaz”) Regan.

The Scofflaw Cocktail – Contributed by Gary Regan
2 ounces of Bourbon or Straight Rye Whiskey
1 ounce Dry Vermouth
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
2 few dashes orange bitters

Put all ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Giveaway Alert!

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A signed copy of The Art of American Whiskey can be yours! With the holidays coming up, this is PERFECT for that special whiskey fan in your life. It’s also a wonderful addition to your own bar library in case you want to keep it all for yourself. You have a bar library, right?! In the comments below, write about your very first experience (that you can remember) with American whiskey and if the bottle design had any influence on your decision to drink said spirit.


All the labels featured here: “Reprinted with permission from The Art of American Whiskey by Noah Rothbaum, copyright 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.”

Martin Miller’s Gin in Iceland

If you follow me on social media, you are well aware that I went to Iceland this past May with Martin Miller’s Gin. And if you talk to me on a regular basis, you know that I still can’t shut up about it. I mean…

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Like many people, visiting Iceland has been on my “bucket list” for a while. And I sort of STILL can’t believe how lucky I was to be able to have had that experience. Iceland is one of those magical places that truly lives up to the hype, exceeding my expectations, in fact. The sheer natural beauty, the vastness and otherworldly quality is so hard to convey in pictures. But, oh baby, we tried!

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Manned with a GoPro, a Canon S110 and an iPhone 6 (and a couple of lavalier mics for decent sound), producer Joy Barrett and I set out to document the experience.

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Our home base was the stunning coastal capital of Iceland, Reykjavik.

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From there, we traveled to the mystical black sand beaches…

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…day tripped to the breathtaking countryside and volcanic fields…

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…and hit multiple geothermal spas, including the Blue Lagoon, of course!

bluelagoon2But, most importantly, we used our opportunity in this strange and beautiful land to really get to know the process it takes to make Martin Miller’s Gin, and see firsthand why Iceland is so important to their production. We wanted to capture the spirit of this unique product that depends on the purity of Icelandic water to produce such a superior gin.

In order to really immerse ourselves in the Martin Miller’s Gin experience, they had us caravan (in a fleet of Superjeeps!) deep into the country to see their small bottling plant.

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From there we were able to check out the exact spot of the water source for every one of their bottles of gin.

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Martin Miller’s Gin co-founder David Bromige leads to troops out to the gin’s water source.

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Martin Miller’s Gin co-founder David Bromige

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Martin Miller’s Gin was also hosting a global cocktail design competition called We Are The Tastemakers, and had flown out 6 regional winners from all over the world to compete in the Grand Final.

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The bartenders Lisandro Araoz from Argentina, Markus Muller from Germany, Gorge Camorra from Australia,  Allen Cheng from Taiwan…

as well as Alex Lawrence and Megs DeMeulenaure both from the UK, each presented their original Martin Miller’s Gin cocktails for journalists from the UK, USA and mainland Europe. There was so much ingenuity, and thought that went into every one of these cocktails, it was so difficult to choose! In the end, the winning cocktail was the delightful River Martini from Germany’s Markus Muller.

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The entire experience was pretty spectacular. And while I was already a fan of Martin Miller’s Gin, I really came away from this visit with a new-found respect for the passion behind producing this spirit and the importance of the water that they use. Using Icelandic water because it’s the purest in the world, when your main operation is in the UK is no easy feat! That is commitment to quality gin!

In the below video that Giggle Water Productions created from our visit last May, Martin Miller’s Gin C.E.O., Jacob Ehrenkrona, stressed how important it is to actually make the kind of trek that we did to truly understand the product. I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of it. It really was the Summer of Gin!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know that we will be launching an original web series called “Wanderlush” in the fall, that will essentially bring the blog to life. It will merge travel, style and drinking culture. And, Iceland is our first stop! We gave you a sneak peek in July and a taste of what’s to come in this post but we will finally reveal our first episode next month! Stay tuned for more Icelandic magic!

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This post was made possible by Martin Miller’s Gin. All opinions are my own.

Boozy Babes in “All About That Spritz” 4:30 pm (EST) Today at Saxon + Parole…on Periscope!

Update: Watch here until 4:30 EST 9/3/15

We’re at it again! The Boozy Babes, Emily Arden Wells from Gastronomista and myself are hitting the sauce on live Periscope TV again…later today! What could go wrong?!

BoozyBabes

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This time we’re making, sipping & chatting ALL about the SPRITZ! With Labor Day looming and the warm days waning, my favorite summer aperitif gets extra attention in this special segment with the always charming Masa Urushido at downtown hot spot Saxon + Parole.

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Tune in today at 4:30 pm EST either through the Periscope app on your phone or on Twitter. But you have to watch this through Roker Labs profile in either place. Just start following Roker Labs, and look out for the link when we go live! If you do watch live, please ask us questions so we can answer on air. It’s more fun if it’s a party! See you later!

Tales of the Cocktail 2015 Recap

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Tales of the Cocktail is the largest cocktail conference in the world, so it makes sense that it takes place in the booziest town in the world, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Tales (as it’s affectionately referred to by those in-the-know) attracts the top bartenders, brands, industry leaders, media and influencers – a collection of who’s who of the cocktail world – as well as enthusiasts, from as far away as Spain, Australia and Peru. So, it’s basically 25,000 international booze nerds crammed into the French Quarter for 5 days straight, during the steamiest, sweatiest, and stinkiest time of year in the deep south – smack dab in the middle of July. I’ve been equally terrified and desperate to go to Tales ever since I got involved in this spirited industry. This past July marked the 13th year for the cocktail fest and it marked my lucky 1st! It was pretty special, you guys. Want to hear about it? Oh, good, because it’s been almost exactly a month and I’m DYING to tell you!

Did I mention that it was hot? Like, HOTTT. Think about the hottest you’ve ever been in the elements and then double that and then add a few more degrees of HOT, subtract half the oxygen in the air, and then add a permanent veneer of sweat over everything. Oh, and Nola just happened to be going through a heat wave during Tales week, so it was even more of a human crawfish boil than normal! Luckily, we were staying in a lovely ice box, high above the chaos of Bourbon Street!

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Ok, now try to imagine driiinking in that atmosphere. There are bottles of water everywhere, branded fans are given out alongside marketing materials and whenever and wherever possible, the AC is cranking. A lot of effort goes into keeping the crowds hydrated and chilled. Despite all that, you’re still sweating 100% of the time. Luckily there are cocktails to distract you from all of this. Soooo many cocktails.

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There are seminars starting at 9am that come equipped with generous samplings, brand luncheons with multiple cocktail pairings served by noon at the latest, and floor upon floor of tasting rooms occupying much of the official Tales headquarters at the Hotel Monteleone, home of the famed Carousel Bar, happening ALL DAY LONG.

ZT4A1593-Edit_watermarked for social mediaNot to mention, there are huge, conceptual brand parties that cap off each day, stretching into the wee hours, and as you can imagine, drinking is encouraged!

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Snapshots from the William Grant & Sons Yonderyear Party

Despite everyone’s enthusiasm to try errrrthang, it’s just not physically possible. Frequent attendees and Tales workers are fond of telling you to pace yourself. You’ll hear a variation of “Tales of the Cocktail is a marathon, not a sprint” multiple times before the week is out. But, it’s a great reminder because 1. you want to TRY to remember everything you’re tasting 2. you don’t want to be THAT PERSON and 3. you do not, repeat DO NOT want to be hungover in that heat. It’s probably the meanest thing you can do to yourself.

Despite the insane heat, the struggle to stay sober, and the constant FOMO because I couldn’t be everywhere at once, I had an amazing time! I brought some foxy friends along with me for the journey who also helped document the experience. Here are my highlights!

This band in Jackson Square.

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This view over coffee every morning:

lafitte guest houseThis wise ass at The Grill who was kind enough to let me have grits past noon:

thegrillThis sunset taken right before our flawless backyard dinner at Bacchanal:

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And, this – the magical Beam Suntory Jul(e)p Hour House…

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Imagine, it’s a 95+ degree day in Nola, and you walk into the most genteel French Colonial home, where you are greeted with a cool, damp cloth for your forehead, live ragtime music coming from a dapper gentleman at the baby grand, and all the whisk(e)ys in the world served to you in ice cold julep form. Well, all the whiskys in the Beam Suntory portfolio, that is. Which is quite impressive. It is NOT a dream. You have arrived at Jul(e)p Hour and you may never want to leave. At least I didn’t! 

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Alberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky made one of my favorite juleps!

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The impressive Beam Suntory whisky line-up.

With Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Laphroaig

With Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Laphroaig

Every room in this French Quarter oasis was dedicated to a different whisky and their own signature juleps for the occasion. We also had the advantage of having the ambassadors and master experts on hand to answer any questions and taste the good stuff on its own. From sampling traditional juleps made with Maker’s Mark to sipping on a pineapple and peat version made with Laphroaig, and a top shelf julep with newly launched Japanese whisky, Hibiki Japanese Harmony, we were able to get our julep on, and then some!

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The House of Suntory Whisky introduced a new expression from the Hibiki Range: Hibiki Japanese Harmony.

The very first tasting I attended when I arrived to Tales was actually one of my favorites. It was held at “Café Torino”, a beautiful, very Italian pop up installation from Martini & Rossi. The tasting was a kick off to a week of them hosting a (much appreciated) coffee shop during the day with vermouth cocktails at night. At the tasting, I was able to try two new expressions in their Martini Riserva Speciale line – Ambrato and Rubino (amber and ruby).

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Martini’s Master Herbalist, Ivano Tonutti and Master Blender, Beppe Musso led the tasting

The Ambrato, made from Moscato d’Asti and golden in color is floral and aromatic, slightly bitter, with a touch of honey. In other words, totally my jam. The Rubino is true to its name and is a stunning ruby red color. The addition of full bodied Nebbiolo and Central African Red Sandalwood makes for a rich and complex vermouth that is really wonderful on its own but I could also see it making a spectacular Manhattan. At the end of the tasting Giuseppe Gallo, Martini’s Global Brand Ambassador asked us which expression was our favorite. And it was truly difficult to pick! All I know is vermouth is having a major moment right now. And it’s exciting that a classic brand like Martini & Rossi is continuing to be innovative, pushing superior products to the forefront. Speaking of which, I was also able to taste their limited edition Gran Lusso Vermouth, released for the company’s 150th anniversary a few years ago, but not yet sampled by me! Holy smokes, that’s a vermouth! A Barbera base that is then fortified with oak-aged Moscato must extract and a botanical blend based on a recipe from 1904, this is truly a sipping vermouth, meant to be appreciated neat or with a few cubes of ice.

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Another highlight of the week was getting my very own TinType portrait taken by Legendary photographer Victoria Will for StGermain Elderflower Liqueur’s French Embassy Cocktail Party. TinTypes, popular at fairs and festivals in the 19th century, are created by having the photographer shoot a picture and then develop it quickly by hand onto a thin sheet of lacquered metal. As you can imagine, it was also VERY popular at this festival! I felt extremely lucky to have been able to squeeze into this shoot!

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My Victoria Will TinType portrait:

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I was also excited to meet Camille Vidal, StGermain Global Brand Ambassador, aka Madam St-Germain in person finally! This French beauty is such a perfect representation of the brand and I’ve admired everything she’s been doing to get this wonderful product out to the masses. She lives and breathes the French aperitif life!

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What’s so wonderful about Tales of the Cocktail is that there are experts on hand at every tasting and event. Everywhere you look there is a legend in the spirits industry. From an intimate, exclusive sneak peek and tasting of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye (both to be released later this year!) with Jimmy and Eddie Russell, themselves…

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Three generations of Wild Turkey: Jimmy Russell, Eddie Russell and Bruce Russell

…to a personal tasting and bonding sesh over all things gin related with Beefeater Master Distiller, Desmond Payne – Tales is a booze nerd’s fantasy.

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If you haven’t yet had a chance to try Burrough’s Reserve Barrel Finished Gin, do yourself a favor and treat yourself. Distilled in small batches and rested in French oak Lillet aperitif wine barrels, the result is less gin-like and more…like an aperitif, actually! It’s on the slightly sweeter side, with floral hints, is incredibly smooth and the botanicals are subtle. One of my favorite products I tried at Tales.

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Another fantastic thing about Tales is that you have the opportunity to connect with so many of the other writers, bloggers, influencers and cocktail geeks out there that you only really know from their work online. I’ve developed a lot of amazing virtual relationships these last couple of years and it was amazing to finally be able to put real life faces to names and websites. I had the great pleasure of meeting Greg Mays and his wife Lisa Mays, the dynamic duo behind Simple Cocktails out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not only do they run a really solid website, but they do a fun boozy podcast as well! On my fourth day into Tales, we sat next to each other at a fantastic Jägermeister luncheon and then, afterwards shared a car back to the Hotel Monteleone. In between that, I participated in one of their podcasts! I was so honored that they asked me to be a part of it and psyched to be among such top cocktail talent. Check out this special Tales Podcast that also features Camper English, Tanya Cohn, Ivy Mix (this year’s American Bartender of the Year!), Dale Degroff (King Cocktail!), and Philip Dobard.

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Lisa and Greg Mays from Simple Cocktails

So, these are just SOME of the highlights of Tales of the Cocktail 2015 for me. While this is an epic post, I could go even more in depth on almost ALL of these experiences, New Orleans and the incredible people I was able to meet and spend time with last month. But I will save your scrolling finger for now and wrap it up right here!

However, you will hear more from me on Tales. Some posts in particular will detail two Spirited Dinners I was lucky enough to participate in – one with Maker’s Mark at the legendary Commander’s Palace with some truly spectacular company, and the other with the founder of Tres Agave Tequila at Nola hot spot Johnny Sanchez. Look out for more Tales recaps to come!

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Special thanks to my foxy friend entourage who accompanied me on this sweaty, boozy journey and helped document the amazingness along the way! In particular, the very talented Shannon Carpenter from This Aperture.

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