Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Jager Bomb with a Hammer

This was a little trick I decided to adapt for a small party I was throwing. These days every cocktail enthusiast and their grandfather has a spherical ice mold. I saw a trend going around for hollowing them out and serving a cocktail inside the ice sphere. I just did my own variation.

You don't need much equipment for this. You'll need a freezer naturally. You'll also need a heat source and a metal point to heat, though a soldering iron does the job brilliantly provided it's clean. You'll also need a small funnel, though a syringe or meat injector works a bit faster and when dealing with ice, speed is very important. Lastly, you'll need a spherical ice ball mold, one that you can flip upside down and remain stable. I prefer the style pictured. The only other things needed are the liquids, Jagermeister and Red Bull. 

The basic premise is that ice freezes from the outside in. The trick is just stopping it before it freezes too much. Fill your ice ball mold with water, add the top half of the mold, and put it in the freezer. After an hour and a half flip the mold over. This allows for the ball to freeze evenly as different parts of the freezers have different temperatures. Also, any air bubbles and impurities would float or sink throwing off the thermal conductivity. Otherwise, parts of the ball would be very thin and others very thick. After another hour to hour and a half remove the partially frozen ice ball. Bear in mind that these times are relative to what I find to be the average home freezer. You may need to extend the time.

Rinse the outside of the mold with warm water, not hot or you may crack the ice. Now we need to hollow out the mold. Heat an ice pick or use a soldering iron to poke a hole in the top of the ice ball. Draining can be a tricky part. You can, in theory, flip the ball over and drain it out but it will take ages because of the lack of airflow. Using a meat injector seems to be the fastest way of sucking out of most of the liquid. You can also use a straw and blow sharply into the ball to eject a good portion of the ball's water while it's upside down to drain it much faster. Though this technique certainly isn't really suited to a bar environment. 

Next either using a funnel or the meat injector fill the ball with Jagermeister. plug the hole with something, preferably something that allows the ball to stay upright. A cherry with a pick through it works well as could a coiled twist of citrus. Add the ball to a large rocks glass and fill the glass with Red Bull. Serve with a small hammer to let the guest smash the ball open.

Great Artists Steal

My cocktails are designed to pair with Mediterranean cuisine, primarily those with a strong Italian basis. My aperitif is designed to pair with a lovely appetizer of prosciutto with fig, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

1 oz Zacapa No. 23
0.5 oz Cynar
1.25 oz Cold Brew Coffee
0.5 oz Fever-Tree Tonic Water
2 dashes Frangelico

Rub a lemon wedge along the side of a Nick and Nora glass and dust the glass with sea salt creating a salt strip. Place the Ron Zacapa No. 23, Cynar, and cold brew coffee into a shaker tin with ice. Add your tonic water to your Nick and Nora glassware. Shake your cocktail and strain it into the glass over the tonic water. Dash a bit of Frangelico on top of the drink for aroma and serve. 

In terms of my digestif cocktail, an old chef friend of mine taught me that artichokes contain the chemical cynarin which chemically seems to make everything taste sweeter after you consume it. Some people have even found the taste of water oddly sweet. Quite a few chefs use it during their penultimate course to make dessert taste even sweeter without having to add excess sugar. This drink would thus be complemented by a creamy low-sugar dessert like a floral panna cotta. The artichoke brings out the natural saccharine flavor of rum and pairs well with other bittersweet flavors like coffee. Zacapa pairs particularly wonderfully with coffee given its nutty nose and notes of spice and dried fruits which come from its partial aging in PX sherry and ex-cognac casks. It's also a favorite of my Italian mentor.

Good Artists Imitate

My cocktail is designed to pair with Mediterranean cuisine, primarily those with a strong Italian basis. My aperitif is designed to pair with a lovely appetizer of prosciutto with fig, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. 

1 oz Tanqueray no. TEN Gin
0.125 oz Poire Williams
0.25 oz Elderflower Liqueur
2.5 oz Sparkling Mineral Water (preferably San Pellegrino)
2 small Sprigs of Rosemary
12 julienned Strips of Grapefruit Peel

Start by placing the gin, elderflower liqueur, and Poire Williams into a wine glass. Add enough ice to fill the glass about a third. Add the rosemary and julienned grapefruit peel and give a quick stir. Fill the glass with ice and add the sparkling mineral water. Stir again to distribute all the ingredients evenly and beautifully. Add a straw and serve

To make julienned grapefruit peel, carve off a couple swaths of grapefruit peel with a y peeler about 3 inches long. Then use a knife to cut the swathes into thin strips. Conversely, you may use a julienne peeler but they have a habit of getting jammed. 

One of my favorite flavor pairings is grapefruit with rosemary. Rosemary pairs incredibly well with pork and oily flavors and I really wanted to start with a dry cocktail to contrast the richer flavors of this first course. The extra citrus kick of Tanqueray no. TEN is a natural choice for an aperitif given its botanical profile. The citric acid and carbonic acid of the sparkling mineral water help cut through the richness and help to stimulate the palate for the upcoming meal. Pear and fig are natural complimenting flavors that go with pork and have a mild floral component that pairs with elderflower and chamomile. I enjoy having complimenting flavors with contrasting sweetness when regarding food and drink pairing.

Review: Whistlepig Piggyback 100% Rye

Color (5%):  Faint light caramel, to golden hay hues. Doesn't really thin out at the edges at all. 5/5

Nose (10%):  nice roasted aroma. rye, baking spice, tobacco, peppercorn, heather honey. fairly light on the aroma for the proof. lightness is alright but I expected more punch. 8/10

Palate (20%): starts with light brown sugar sweetness. dry oak, leather. a nice sweet and spicy whiskey, a good oaky note given the 6 years in a colder environment. good for mixing in cocktails. decent on its own. 14/20

Finish (10%): actually a swift hit of spice that very quickly fades into a light mild finish. medium length. Not a rough alcohol burn at all. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): Not my favorite whiskey for sipping neat but seems perfectly good for sours or other cocktails. It's a pretty balanced rye all around but nothing exceptional in any particular direction. It's clearly made by a professional and doesn't have that harsh ethanol burn many whiskeys have had for me lately when I sip them neat. Very similar to other Canadian ryes I've had.  17/30

Retry on Ice (25%): I do think this genuinely makes it better. Things really start to come out in terms of spices. much more bite and punch. Still very clean but the flavor is more pronounced. 22/25

Total Ranking: 73% Legendary, Amazing, GreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $28
Actual Price: $50

Conclusion: Apparently Dave Pickerell designed this whiskey for the purpose of it being used in cocktails and as a more budget-friendly to the more expensive Whistlepig options. I have extreme respect for the late Dave Pickerell. The thing is it's still a pricey rye. I can see how certain bars could use this for signature menu cocktail options as a promotion. In fact, my current place of employment uses this for one of their drinks at the $16 price mark. I wouldn't buy this at MSRP. It's fine though but there are better options for sipping at that price and cheaper options for cocktail purposes. 

Fact Sheet: 100% Rye
Distillery Location: Vermont, source from Canada unknown
ABV: 48.28%
Age Statement: 6 years in American oak barrels

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Review: Early Times Bottled in Bond

Color (5%):  Very dark brown. Little crimson. Thin edges. 5/5

Nose (10%): Big orange peel note right off the bat. decently big booze kick. Honey sugars. actually requires a pretty heavy draw to get much more subtlety. I like orange but nothing too complex or nuanced. 5/10

Palate (20%): a bit of pepperiness from the rye. still some sweet orange character. Nice round creamy texture. pretty nice. not too wild and complex again, but hard to dislike. Nothing unpleasant at all. 16/20

Finish (10%): nice and creamy at the back actually. medium light finish. not very long at all. the pepper is there at first but not for very long. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%):  22/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The creaminess is still there which often fades out with dilution. Not bad at all, but it doesn't improve anything or eliminate any shortcomings. it is fine, again not legendary status but fine. 20/25 

Total Ranking: 65% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $26
Actual Price: $21 per Liter

Conclusion: This is probably wonderful in a whiskey sour, especially in a New York Sour or a Stone Sour. I can see this being an excellent well whiskey at a lot of bars. That said It's not something I'd hunt for if I were looking for a manhattan or an old fashioned. There are more fun options. This is fine for a whiskey coke. It's not going to be anyone's top ten but it is good enough to do its function. This is still good for the money. It certainly can find a home in many houses but it isn't going on my display of great and legendary bottles for friends to experience. This is a well rail bottle at a pretty nice bar. one that can slot into most roles and not disappoint. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Louisville KY
ABV: 50% 
Age Statement: at least 4 years
Ingredients: 79% Corn, 11% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

Monday, October 3, 2022

Review: Wild Turkey Rye 101

Color (5%):  Dark golden amber, thin edges, rich, well-aged. 5/5

Nose (10%): high alcohol evaporation for sure, I'm diving in deep to warm myself up lately, it seems. honestly pretty bland flavor notes at first impression. light roasted apple pie notes. honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, pie crust, light brown sugar, butterscotch but not so sweet, fairly middle of the road. Nothing intense other than the initial booze buzz, vin du table. 6/10

Palate (20%): That's actually pretty good for the heat. mild numbing heat, a big hit in the back of the throat, hard to do a session with but not bad as a slow sipper kissing the tongue. not for glugging. certainly suitable for mixing. potent spike but rather monotone. 14/20

Finish (10%): the heat is long. There's a great flavor at the start but the heat lingers a hair too long on the first sip. 6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): Not something I'll be waiting for and savoring as a treat for myself. That said, it does serve a function. It's a mixer and certain notes can hold up in a highball or boulevardier / black manhattan. I don't imagine any awards coming through for it, but it has a home as a mid-tier spirit at the right price. 19/30

Retry on Ice (25%): This does ease the painful heat of the first impression. As ice always does. Oddly, the burning finish lingers longer. something about polyphenols I'm sure. still an excellent mixer, but it lacks any nuance that I look for in a sipping whiskey or even a highball with soda. 16/25

Total Ranking: 66% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $29
Actual Price: $21

Conclusion: Still above average for some higher proof stuff I've had. Definitely worth it for the money. but this is a mixing whiskey. It will not break out of that tier. Get the soda water and the mountain dew. It's also good in cocktails as previously mentioned. Not perfect but good enough for bulk batches. It's a budget choice but a good one.

Fact Sheet: Straight rye
Distillery Location: Kentucky
ABV: 50.5%
Age Statement: aged in new oak

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Review: Callisto Botanical Rum

  Color (5%): water clear, slightly higher viscosity.  4/5 

Nose (10%): Yeah, that smells like gin. Not like a pine tree but that citrusy botanical quality is huge. If I had to guess, bergamot, cardamom, and citrus peels. No licorice notes to speak of, no real pepperiness, slight white floral notes.  9/10

Palate (20%): Quite dry albeit the sucrose flavor is there. It's gin, but with a few undertones. It reminds me of some gins I've had using honey as a base or apples. It doesn't have the pepperiness of most gins but as a "botanical gin" this hits the mark. 17/20

Finish (10%): the spice character does linger quite a while. but it's pretty dang clean. Not nuanced, but lingering and clean 7/10

Overall impression (30%): Overall, this is a non-juniper forward, sugarcane-based gin. this is not a rum on the palate. Rum is sweet, it is dry, it is robust, it is nuanced. there are fruity notes in rum and floral. rum can taste like cognac or whiskey, but when it tastes like gin, that means it's so mild a distillate is belongs in the flavored spirit category. like gin. That's not a bad thing. I genuinely enjoyed this, but it's not a rum. I'll be docking points from an otherwise rather high score based on the marketing. 22/30

Retry on Ice (25%): That gets a bit hotter with ice. The spice and the booze hits more for sure. certainly a step down. 16/25

Total Ranking: 75% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $42
Actual Price: $39

Conclusion: The story is nothing too impressive, a Bermuda gentleman moved to California with the desire to have rum be taken seriously. Not really the ambassador I'd expect, but the product is on point. For use in cocktails, this is a gin or akvavit substitute. I am curious to see how it fits in a lot of classic gin drinks. but you wouldn't put this in a daiquiri and call it a daiquiri. A few tiki cocktails could be given some interesting nuance from this spirit but they would be totally different from their standard. That all said, I do like this. It's tasty and well made. The marketing/labeling is just confused. It's a cool talking point bottle and creative types can easily find some inspiration for new cocktail inventions. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Petaluma, CA, USA
ABV: 40%, 80 proof
Ingredients: California sourced botanicals, blend of charcoal-filtered rums from Trinidad and Nicaragua