Friday, February 25, 2011

Vermouth, Who?

It's all fun and games until someone breaks out the Rye
 About 15 years ago I was introduced to vermouth as a cocktail, not just a mixer. There were a few high end vermouths that I would sip on a regular basis. At that time it was only dry vermouth that I was interested in. I never put much thought into trying sweet vermouth. Actually, I never understood what sweet vermouth "really" added to a cocktail.

Last night my world opened up. Earlier on in the week a customer of mine asked me to special order Carpano sweet vermouth. He also insisted that I get a bottle for myself to try. Twist my arm.

High West Double Rye and Carpano Sweet Vermouth
As soon as I brought the glass up to my nose, I was greeted with sweet herbal notes with hints of clove, cinnamon, and black cherries. On the palate it showed some licorice, mint, orange rind, nutmeg and dried herbs. It was a flavor assault on the front of the palate and then subsided fairly quickly to a finish that left me thinking about what other herbs and spices I might get with the next sip. It was awesome. Then I decided to drop a couple of ice cubes in the glass and swirl it around a bit. I went at it again. Wow. The ice opened up all of the fruit, softened the herbal qualities and mellowed the spices. This time the finish was long, sweet and elegant. This was amazing.

Since I was drinking vermouth, I decided I would make a half-version of a Manhattan; vermouth and whiskey. I immediately reached for the two ryes that I had open in my stash of whiskeys. I got two rocks glasses, filled them with ice and threw in one part vermouth to three parts rye. The two ryes were High West Double Rye and Tuthilltown Hudson Manhattan Rye. 

The Manhattan Rye proved to be a bit too herbaceous, earthy or gritty/grainy with the vermouth. The Double Rye seemed to be more of a contrast in flavors with the vermouth. I think it created a much better balance between the delicate flavors of the vermouth and the robust flavors of the Double Rye. 
An Empty bottle of Manhattan Rye = Sad Times

Later on in the evening, I had dinner with my fiancee and some friends at our local favorite farm-to-fork restaurant, leFarm. I brought the bottle of vermouth there, too. The other couple that we met there just happened to bring a bottle of Whistle Pig Canadian Rye by pure coincidence. Or was it? Hmmm... Makes ya think. Anyway, Whistle Pig + Carpano = better. This time, I tried something different. I poured two parts vermouth to one part WP neat. Yup. That was perfect. leFarm was perfect, too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I have to admit; I believe I'm sinking into a "Cocktail Crisis". When I would get home from work, I used to crave a glass of wine. I was always the wine guy in the liquor stores where I worked. You could probably find me at a craft beer bar sipping on a pint of some obscure belgian beer on a rare occasion, but I was a wine drinker for the most part. Right now, however, I'm a little lost.

I have been drinking a lot of tequila, scotch and bourbon lately. They were always an option throughout my career. I just never paid that much attention to them. Being in the industry our distributors would flood us with knowledge and information on the products that we sold. I took that knowledge and imparted it to my customers so just being in the store would give me enough to pitch a product. Now that I own my own store with my beautiful fiancee, I have no choice but to put that knowledge into practice. Since my fiancee doesn't drink hard alcohol I've taken it upon myself to jump in head first to "specialize" in the booze.

The Dark Rum & Pedro Ximinez 
Scotch for me was always a beverage that my father drank. Blended scotch was what was always on hand. I never really "enjoyed" any of the brands that he had. What he had was what I knew and that was that. Those flavor profiles were what I what I had to work with until recently. Now I think I am looking for something new, something different and interesting. I want something that is going to knock my socks off. When it comes down to it, I might be bored. That's why I decided to bring home bottle of of BenRiach scotch.

The bottle I decided crack open was the 15 year Dark Rum Wood Finish. I was always curious about this bottle every time I came to work. It would always call to me. I just resisted the purple label. It never struck me as a serious scotch. With that said, the price tag alone would make me sad if the bottle wasn't up to par.

I drink my scotch neat. For the noobs out there, that means scotch + glass = neat. There are no ice cubes, no water, no mixers, no crutches. I feel that if the bottle is less than cask strength, they have already added the water. That's enough for me. I want to taste this the way the distiller wanted me to taste it.

I poured it in my glass and I immediately got hit with an amazing aroma of lemon peel with hints of spice, vanilla and orange. On the palate it's soft oak and gentle fruit laced with spicy rum and floral notes. In this particular scotch, the rum flavors really seem to balance everything else out. It's got a pretty long finish with the sweetness of the rum hanging in there all the way through. Don't get me wrong, this isn't  rum. It's scotch with hints of dark rum.

This bottle for me really bridges the gap between rum and scotch. I'm glad that I finally broke down and brought this baby home. It was delicious. It really hit the spot and opened my eyes to a new genre of scotch. I brought home a bottle of the 15 year Pedro Ximinez Sherry Wood Finish as well. I can assure you  that I will write about that bottle as well.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Your New Favorite Cocktail

I always like hanging out in New York City. My fiancee's daughter lives in the East Village. So, we get to go down and visit quite often. It's only about an hour's train ride to Grand Central anyway. Last weekend we took our only day off, Sunday, to go down and blow off some steam. We planned the whole day out. But it was all about the dinner at ABC Kitchen that we had our eye on.

It was a lazy day for us with no specific times for our plans that we needed to adhere to. That's my kind of day. We sauntered into the City early afternoon. We shopped a little until we got that call from our bellies that we were hungry. We headed over to ABC kitchen only to find out that we had an hour to kill until their dinner menu was available. We decided to go on a search for margaritas. Right around the corner is Rosa Mexicano. I had never been to Rosa's. But apparently it's been there forever and is pretty well known. I noticed that they had a decent tequila list. This fact alone made me very happy.

La Paloma with Corazon Reposado
First thing's first. I ordered a delicious margarita. Mimi wanted to have a beer and a shot of tequila. She didn't want to have the whole shot for herself. So, she asked me to share it with her. We decided on the Don Julio 1942 in a snifter for the shot. As always, the 1942 was amazing. If I could drink that every day I would. It's just that good. While we were sitting there, I was perusing the drinks menu. I happened upon a drink that they called La Paloma. It consisted of tequila and grapefruit soda. Simple right? When I was finished with my margarita, I ordered one out of pure curiosity. The only grapefruit soda that I knew of was Fresca. I like an ice cold Fresca every once in a blue moon. The bartender asked which tequila I preferred. I went with the Corazon Reposado. About a minute later the bartender  brings out a shot of tequila, a highball glass full of ice and a Jaritto's Toronja. Hmmm, I haven't had Jarrito's Toronja before. I think the Jarrito's Mandarina is fantastic. Anyway, I asked the bartender why he didn't just mix the drink for me. He claimed that people like to go easy on the tequila. Ha! Not me. I threw the whole shot in the glass and then topped it off with the grapefruit soda.

Corazon Reposado
I stole this picture
from another website
This cocktail was heaven. It was complex with layers of sweetness encased by soft acidity. It was struggling to be tropical only to to be restrained with hints of vanilla bean and caramel. I just found my new drink of the summer. I used to drink gin and tonics on those hot summer nights. I made a vow to myself that those days are long gone. It's all about La Paloma now. It was so good that I was trying to figure out a way to send Mimi and her daughter to eat at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurant and leave me here to throw back a few more of these delicious creations of holy goodness. I knew that wasn't going to happen. I'm only kidding, anyway.

Since that day, I haven't been able to find the Jarritto's locally. I have tried every other grapefruit soda I could find: Goya, Fresca and GUS grapefruit soda. The GUS came the closest to the same flavor. It's just not the same, though. I want to carry Jarrito's in my store. I've been on the hunt for the distributor. Hopefully one of my liquor suppliers will carry it.

I plan to package this together in the summer to sell in our store. I herein deem this summer to be La Paloma Summer!

Really, if you haven't tried one, you need to stop, drop and roll. Go out to your local tequila bar/Mexican restaurant and order this delicious beverage.