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whiskey-society

After a month that seemed to take far too long, Jen and I got together with 8 other like-minded drinkers from Philadelphia for the express purpose of opening and consuming a bottle of whiskey that at least one of us had been meaning to try. Due to some really fortunate timing and a tip from a friend of a friend, I was lucky enough to snag a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year from the Old Rip Van Winkle distillery. It’s one of those bottles that everyone wants and no one can find, and opening it just to finish it definitely messed with some of my hoarder tendencies.

With 10 people, it worked out that everyone got a decent 2.5 oz neat, with water or with an ice cube, depending on preference. Honestly, what I had expected to be an intense dissection of flavors actually turned more to 10 people sitting in a room drinking quietly, grunting in approval. I can’t say I blame anyone because (as we discussed once the initial joy faded a bit) it was goddamn delicious. Absurdly rich and spicy in a way that reminded me of rye with a smooth vanilla tone, it was SO good. The hype is not exaggerated and at no point did I regret a cent of the price. After a few minutes of praising the liquor, we turned to just drinking and bullshitting about random topics, which is probably the way whiskey was intended to be enjoyed. We followed the Pappy with a much softer couple bottles of Jefferson’s Bourbon, which while obviously not as good, served as a pretty nice dessert to the Pappy main course.

All-in-all, I’m a big fan of whiskey club. I’m excited to have a group of people that are as interested as I am, and we’ll be putting one together monthly. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone else interested in whiskey to do the same and tell us how it goes! I’ll be trying to talk each of our monthly hosts into doing a guest post on their selected bottle, so look forward to that!

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Last week, after the kind of brainstorming that only happens over drinks with friends, we had an idea for getting to drink more whiskey than a reasonable person could afford. Since there are so many types of great whiskey out there, but it’s impossible to try without dropping a hundred or more on a bottle you might not even love, we decided a little divide-and-conquer might be in order. We recruited a group of about 8 people that all really enjoy whiskey to start a club that will meet once a month to split a bottle of something we’ve been thinking of trying (or flat-out lusting over) for a while.

It’s going to work like this:

Each month, a rotating member of the club will host, and the host will get to pick what whiskey we’ll be drinking – Rye, Bourbon, American, Scotch, Japanese and Irish are all fair game. All other participating members will come, pay their portion of the bottle, and we will sit and drink it in one sitting. It’s not the most unique or innovative thing in the world, but I’m certainly looking forward to getting to taste all the whiskey I’ve been hunting for a pretty reasonable price.

For the first meeting, I’ll be hosting, and I’m excited to say that I got my hands on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 year.

I’d encourage other people to try it out too. I would love to hear about what everyone thought about their whiskeys in normal terms…professional reviews are never much help to me. All you really need is a few friends, some extra rocks glasses, and the urge to drink something delicious.

Untitled Whiskey Experiment #3

0.75 oz Pendleton Canadian Whiskey
1 oz  Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey
1 oz Art in the Age Sage
0.5 oz Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot
o.25 oz apple cider vinegar
2 dashes Bolivar bitters

Shake ingredients well with ice and strain over a large ice cube. Garnish with a cherry.

NOTES: Interesting, but not there. I may have gotten a little ambitious and tried too many things at once. The Sage is misused here, and Orchard Apricot gets shadowed by the stronger flavors. I’m not generally a huge Canadian whiskey fan…for me it’s almost sweet like bourbon-but not sweet enough, and spicy like rye-but not spicy enough. It’s only one guy’s opinion, but I just don’t enjoy the balance of it no matter how many times I try to convince myself otherwise. Tempered with the Irish, however, it turned into a flavor I liked a lot more. The idea of using the straight apple cider vinegar is also something I’d like to explore more. It mixed with the whiskeys in a pretty neat way. Worth revisiting, maybe as shrub. Overall, not a very successful drink, but it gave me a few ideas for trials going forward. And I WILL make something I like with the Sage if it’s the last thing I do.

A little aside about the cherry we used: We went with a pickled sour cherry we got canned from Green Aisle Grocery, which was really good. If you live in the Philly area, I HIGHLY recommend you check out their canned stuff. When the weather is nicer, they generally have a booth at the Headhouse Farmers Market, and they’ll let you try just about anything they’re selling.

The Smoking Jacket

The Smoking Jacket
1.5 oz Sandeman tawny port
1 oz Island of Geese Islay Scotch
0.75 oz Grand Mariner
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Baked apple slice
Cinnamon stick

Cut a thin slice of apple and put it in the oven on 400° for about 10 minutes. When the apple is done, take it out and let it cool. Combine the remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Strain over the apple and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

NOTES: I picked up a bottle of the Island of Geese to see how it would work in cocktails, because we both love the peaty flavor of Islay Scotches, but don’t really want to waste Lagavulin or Laphroaig in mixed drinks that might fail anyway. In the end, it was a pretty good call. I probably wouldn’t drink a ton of it straight, but as a mixer, it turned out to be a sturdy alternative for around $30, rather than the $60-100 that most Islay will cost you.

As for the drink, I had actually expected the Port to really mellow out the drink more than it did. Initially I went with 0.5 oz Grand Marnier, but the drink needed a little boost. In the end, while stiffer than expected, it turned out to be a pretty good cocktail. Smoky and kind of velvety with a nice, well-rounded Scotch kick. Overall, very happy with this one. The second half of the drink gets even better after the cinnamon has had a little time to soak, and the apple slice at the bottom of the glass is pretty tasty, too.

This past Wednesday, Art in the Age was kind enough to invite us back to another of their launch parties, this time for for their newest liqueur SAGE. The whole thing took place in the cocktail lounge at Vedge, which is already one of my favorite places to drink in the city. The extremely well-balanced cocktails were created by Vedge’s bar manager Daniel Miller (running one of the most underrated bar programs in Philadelphia at the moment, in my humble opinion), and for the most part featured very little liquor other than SAGE in order to showcase the new spirit.

Sage itself is a pretty neat liquor when you get down to it. Very close to a gin, but without the juniper, and the herb-driven spiciness that the sage provides. The flavor isn’t as strong or defined as AITA’s other three liqueurs (ROOT, SNAP and RHUBY), but in this case, I think that works to SAGE’s benefit. While I do love ROOT, the opportunity to drink it or mix with it is a little rare. It has the same problem that I assume most bold liqueurs have in that it has a clearly defined role in drink mixing, and can’t venture too far out of that niche. SAGE, on the other hand, is mild enough that it could easily sub for gin in any number of cocktails – the type of drink foundation that I think AITA has been missing in their past ventures.

All of this is great news for Jen, who loves both sage (the herb) and gin more than I do, but I definitely enjoyed the SAGE cocktails and look forward to picking up as bottle as soon as the PLCB gets it together and starts stocking the stuff. I’d recommend the same for anyone building a bar and looking for something unique, yet versatile.

SAGE should be on the shelves in PA any day now for $32.99. Thanks to Art in the Age for including us at another event and Vedge for the great cocktails and snacks. Seriously, if you haven’t gone to Vedge yet, you should really get on that. 

A Good Man is Hard to Find

It’s been a little while since we posted updates, sorry about that! It’s been a busy summer. Since the last post, we had another cocktail party to try out some of our more summer-y drinks on friends to see what’s working and what’s not. In addition to The Pennsyltucky and the Gatsby Swizzle, one of the new experiments was this rum and peach cocktail.

A Good Man is Hard to Find
2 oz Amber rum
1 oz burnt peach syrup (see below)
0.5 oz Luxardo Amaretto
4 drops peppercorn tincture
3 oz seltzer water

Muddle a quarter of a peach in a mason jar. Combine the other ingredients in shaker with a healthy amount of crushed ice. Shake well and pour into glass, unstrained. Garnish with mint and a peach slice, serve with a straw.

NOTES: When we first created this drink, we both really liked it. It had a good spice to it, and a lot of good, rich sweetness. Upon making them at the party, however, the peppercorn ended up tasting out of place. On the second drinking, we decided to remove the peppercorn altogether, and it improved the drink, but dumbed it down slightly. I still like the overall theme of the drink, but I think it needs one more thing to give it a little kick. We’ll be circling back to this one next time we make the syrup.

Burnt Peach Syrup
10 ripe peaches
1 cup brown sugar

Halve and pit the peaches. In a nonstick pan, place the peaches skin-side down in the pan. sprinkle 1/2 cup brown sugar over the top of them and then add 1/4 cup water to the bottom of the pan. Bake at 400° until the sugar on top of the peaches starts to burn slightly and take out of the oven (this took about 35 minutes for me). Transfer the peaches to a pot and add 2 cups of water. Using a muddler or potato masher, crush up the burnt peaches a bit and bring to a boil. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes on low, and then strain repeatedly. Once your liquid is cloudy, but free of debris, transfer to a bottle and allow to cool. Lasts about 2 weeks, 2 months if you add 1 oz of everclear and shake well.

NOTES: This is probably one of my favorite syrups to date. It’s thick and sweet but really retains the peach flavor with a nice char from the burnt sugar. Pretty versatile syrup, but went best with whiskey and rum in the experiments we tried.

The Five-Toed Cat

The Five-Toed Cat
1.5 oz Leblon Cachaça
0.5 oz Brugal Anejo rum
1 oz Spodee

Muddle 2 maraschino cherries with 1 tsp sugar and 3 drops burlesque bitters in shaker. Add liquor, shake well and double strain into a coupe. Garnish with a cherry.

NOTES: My first thought on drinking this was BOOZY. In terms of flavor however, I was pretty happy with it. The Spodee gave it a rich, chocolately flavor while the rum and maraschino cherries gave it a subtle, sweet cherry flavor. Because the drink was a bit unbalanced, in the future I would reduce the cachaça to 1 oz, increase the Spodee to 1.5 oz and leave everything else the same.

The Pennsyltucky

The Pennsyltucky
1 oz Shine white whiskey
0.5 oz Laird’s 100 Proof Apple Brandy
1.5 oz Spodee
3 oz Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Shake Shine, Spodee and Laird’s well with ice, then pour over ice cubes into a frosted mug. Add the ale and stir gently.

NOTES: I’m not totally sure what drove me to try combining the most hillbilly-themed ingredients we had on the shelf, but I’m pretty glad I did. It was hot as hell this past weekend, and this drink went with it perfectly. Really refreshing and light with a great flavor to it. The Spodee is turning out to be a lot more versatile than I expected of a fortified wine. Next time I’m in a place where playing horseshoes is an option, I’ll be making a batch of these.

Gatsby Swizzle

Gatsby Swizzle
1.5 oz Beefeater 24 gin
0.5 oz Rhuby
1 oz strawberry rhubarb syrup
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz lime juice

Shake ingredients well and strain over crushed ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and top with seltzer if desired. (I didn’t)

NOTES: Extremely refreshing – went down like dangerous lemonade. The RHUBY really complemented the drink and strengthened the subtle rhubarb flavor of the cocktail. A perfect summer porch drink!

 

Slow Learner

Slow Learner
1 oz Bourbon (I used Elijah Craig)
0.5 oz Aalborg Akvavit
0.5 oz Benedictine
0.5 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Hella Bitters Wormwood
0.75 strawberry rhubarb syrup

Shake ingredients well with ice and strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with a strawberry and a lemon peel.

NOTES: I honestly didn’t expect this one to work out as well as it did. A little wormwood can go a really long way for me, and I have never actually pulled out the Akvavit to try in a drink, but in the end, this ended up being incredibly crisp and refreshing. To quote Jen, “I really like this one, and that’s saying a lot because we never agree on drinks.” Bourbon flavor came through without any burn, the wormwood added a slight bitterness, and the syrup is just downright delicious. By all counts, this one was a winner.

Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup
10 ripe strawberries
2 rhubarb stalks, cut into 1″ chunks
2 cups water
1 cup sugar

Bring the water and fruit to a boil and then reduce to low heat. When the rhubarb almost completely disintegrates, add sugar and simmer on low for 15 minutes.  Strain a whole bunch of times (I used three different grade strainers in order to gradually get everything). Allow to cool and bottle. Add an ounce of everclear and it should last a couple weeks, refrigerated.

NOTES: Really sweet, and really good. Rhubarb adds a nice tartness. Beware, however, this one yields very little syrup for what you put in. From the above recipe, we only ended up with about 1 cup of usable syrup.

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