Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tequila 301: Let's try some Tequila Cocktails!

Tequila is an amazing spirit to play with. There are sweet types, barrel-aged types, types that are infused with other flavors. It can be a little daunting but go out there and have fun with your spirits. Just remember, if a brand works great in one cocktail, it doesn't mean it's the best. It also doesn't mean it's great in every cocktail. Experiment, that's what life's all about, especially when you're drinking tequila.


Salt, 1 1/4oz Tequila, Lime wedge
Pour yourself a shot of tequila. Wet the back of your hand and shake some salt on it. 
Lick the salt, take the shot, and bite the lime. Enter any home in Mexico as a guest and you will probably be greeted with a shot of mezcal or tequila. This is a healthy thing to partake in and you should really know what tequila can taste like straight. This may not be the social style of shot seen in Mexico, but it's a common Americanized form that does have proper roots. Tequila used to be medicine; it would be prescribed by doctors. Some drinkers found the spirit straight a bit harsh. The salt opens up the palette and the lime helps cleanse it. Plenty of variations exist using sugar, lemon, or orange. 


2oz Silver Tequila, 1oz Cointreau, ¾oz lime juice
In a mixing glass add all the ingredients with ice. Shake and strain into a salt-rimmed margarita glass with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel. 
The first Margarita was arguably made by Carlos "Danny" Herrara in 1938, but that's not my favorite story. My favorite story is more about how the Margarita became popular. There was a bartender by the name of John Durlesser who competed in and won the 1949 All American Cocktail Contest with a drink called the Margarita. He did not explain the name of this drink. The drink became wildly popular across the globe. Over twenty years after the competition he revealed the true story about why he named the drink Margarita. 23 years before the competition he had gone hunting with his girlfriend. She was shot by a stray bullet and died before she could get medical care. In my opinion, the most amazing thing is that the drink gained so much popularity without the story being out.

Tequila Sunrise
2oz tequila, 4oz orange juice, 1/2oz fresh grenadine
In a highball glass with ice, add the tequila and the orange juice. Slowly dribble the grenadine around the inner rim of the glass. The denser grenadine will sink. Garnish with an orange and cherry. 
The original tequila sunrise was actually made with tequila, creme de cassis, lime juice, and soda water. This was back in the '30s at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. From the '70s to the present day the common recipe is what you see here.

2oz Blanco tequila, 3oz grapefruit juice, 1/2oz lime juice,  Club soda
Rim half a highball glass with salt and fill with ice. In a mixing glass with ice, add all the ingredients except the club soda. Stir all the ingredients together and strain into the highball glass. Top with about an ounce of club soda. Garnish with a lime wheel. 
Paloma, meaning dove, is another fairly simple highball cocktail. In Mexico, these drinks are even more popular than the Margarita. Ideally one would use grapefruit soda (Squirt), which you can find in the right stores. Commonly in America, one would use white grapefruit juice in this with club soda to get a similar result. 

special mention to: bee sting

“I’ve created a new drink! I'm calling it the Piñata Colada! It’s sweet and tasty, but when you wake up the next morning your head feels like it’s been hit with a stick.” 
- José N. Harris

Photo Credit: Wikimedia, pixabay

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Gin 401: Dissecting the Gin and Tonic

I once read that some Japanese bartenders and bar enthusiasts regard the gin and tonic as the face of the bar. Some students of mine may remember a few stories I told featured in this manga: Bartender. The story I'm referring to, however, takes a slightly less melodramatic approach than the first chapter. This chapter explains how every little detail of a Gin and Tonic affects how it ends up.

  • What is the water source? Is it filtered or purified?
  • Is it machine made or natural?
  • How clear or cloudy is the ice?
  • What is the size of the chunks?
  • What shape are they?
  • How many pieces do you use?
  • Do you keep it 2:1 or go a bit stronger or weaker?
  • What brand do you use?
  • How much do you use?
  • Do you use a syrup or go prepackaged? 
  • What brand do you use?
  • How much do you use?
  • Do you just build it in the glass?
  • Do you stir the cocktail?
  • What garnish do you use?
  • How do you cut it?
  • Do you extract any juice or flavor from it?
  • If so, do you add another bit for presentation

Most places, of course, use machine-made ice and it's typically not the largest size. Typically the glass is filled. The Gin, more often than not is whatever the customer requests or whatever is in the well. The tonic is often dispensed by the gun, Schweppes is the most common brand. Most bartenders don't mix it and just slide a lime wedge on the side, maybe a sip stick as well.

Try this drink with harder ice.
Try different gins. Bombay Sapphire East has a nice peppery note. Bluecoat is more citrusy
Schweppes is quite sweet. Try something citrusy or herbal like Fever Tree or Fentimans
See if your guests stir their G&T's. Some like keeping things separate.
Try squeezing in your juice or use the skin oils on the rim, or use some cucumber or lemon grass

For my new guests, I make my G&T's like this:
A tall thin highball glass is filled with hard, large, cubed ice
Add 1 part Tanqueray gin and then carefully float 2 parts Fentimans tonic water on top
Place a lime wedge (1/6 lime) on the rim of the glass and slide in two sip sticks
This is for a number of reasons. Hard ice melts much slower than cubed ice so the drink waters down slower. The guest can wait for there to be more water if they want. Tanqueray is a very popular gin but remains quite well rounded, not very citrusy or herbal. Fentimans is a nice herbal change of pace not everyone is used to. This is where I sort of make my mark. A guest will usually note something fairly unique about this and either smile curiously or require something sweeter or more acidic. I layer it so the guest has the choice of how to drink it. Some guests prefer sipping the gin straight through the straw and sipping the chaser from the rim. The thin glass helps keep the fluids separate as well. The lime I offer, and if the guest discards it I know not to offer it again. If they drop it in or squeeze it in I learn more about their tastes, that they like some acidity.

For myself, I usually make my G&T's like this:
A large rocks glass with a clear massive king cube that I crack with a bar spoon, maybe two. 
Add 1 1/2oz Bombay Sapphire East and then float 2oz Fever Tree Indian Tonic
Squeeze a lime wedge in, discard it, and put another one on the rim, take a sip stick and stir
I know I like my Gin and Tonics mixed. My choice of product has a nice Indian spice to it, in the gin and the tonic water. The cracked ice gets it cold quickly enough but will melt more to my liking at the end of the drink. I like to linger with my drinks and I like some variety in a drink. It starts with a nice spice and a dash of citrus and slowly gets easier to sip as I stir and the ice melts. If I want I can take the lime and zazz up the drink if it gets dull at all. 

"I exercise extreme self-control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast." 
-W. C. Fields

Photo Credit: wikimedia

Monday, December 22, 2014

Amatuer Flight: Aperitif / Digestif liqueurs

This is my first posting of an amateur flight. I've done several posts I call beginner flights, simple, accessible samplings for beginners to get their feet wet and experience the different varieties of spirits. This one I call an amateur sampling as I think one should have a foundation on spirits before they try a flight of these liqueurs straight. Most beginner drinkers might find some of these off-putting or too bizarre. Don't get discouraged, it took me a while to start to enjoy these flavors. 

Aperitifs and digestifs are a daunting group of spirits. Everyone knows vermouth is used in martinis and manhattans, but few even know what it is. You can drink these spirits on their own and in cocktails. They were not designed to be drank mixed up like so many liqueurs today. Most of them have a very long history and ought to be tried in their pure form.

1. Campari:
Campari is a fairly bitter liqueur first made in 1860, that most Americans admittedly don't like at first. It does take some getting used to. Americans are used to sweeter more savory things. Evolutionarily speaking bitter flavors became associated with poisons. Most medicines tend to carry a bitter flavor as well. Campari has a sweet note as well as a bitter one which can be a bit confusing, but once you start to feel the levels of the spirit you can start to see it's versatility in cocktails. One of my favorite drinks actually is the Boulevardier: bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It's very similar to a Manhattan but instead of Angostura Bitters, it adds this nice semi-sweet orange note to the drink, as well as having a color with a bit more pop.

2. Aperol: 
Aperol was created in 1919, coincidentally the year prohibition started in the United States, but it gained popularity in other countries. Some people think of Aperol as a more mild form of Campari. It pairs well with sparkling white wines and other more delicate flavors. In fairness, the proof is less than half that of Campari. The sugar content remains the same, however. When tasting this spirit straight you will say it tastes sweeter, as the other flavors are lessened the sweetness shines through a bit more. The flavor remains quite similar to Campari, bitter orange, with other notes of gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona. While Campari typically pairs with some more heavy spirits like whiskey and some gin cocktails, Aperol is more at home among softer flavors.

3. Fernet Branca: 
Fernet is an Italian amaro, made from a number of herbs and spices like myrrh, aloe, and saffron built over a grape spirit base. Fernet Branca has developed a massive cult following among craft bartenders. The herbal flavor profile again not very palatable to a number of drinkers not familiar with the craft cocktail world and assorted types of amaro. This liqueur has almost developed a sense of elitism. Ask any craft bartender if the like Fernet and they will smile and start to treat you with a higher level of respect unless you're like me and say you don't like it. It is served as a digestif, meaning it is taken after dinner to close the palette. Sometimes it will go with some coffee or espresso. The aroma is a lot like black licorice.

4. J
Jägermeister translated it means "Master of the hunt". Jäger has a great following of loyal drinkers. They don't see themselves as better educated though, or different in any way. They just like a rather odd drink. Jäger has a strong flavor of black licorice; some people actually equate it to cough syrup. It has gained a decent following in dive and college bars from the novelty of the Jäger Bomb. That combined with the iconic, near-indestructible, bottle and the old stories of deer blood in the recipe, along with the German prayer written on the label of every bottle and you gain quite a name for yourself. Not everyone will drink Jäger, but everyone knows what is. Jäger is quite unique in that it's one of very few spirits meant to be served ice-cold, yet straight. You can actually buy a custom Jägerator refrigerator to dispense instant ice cold Jager. Zehn kleine Jägermeister.

"There can't be good living where there is not good drinking." 
- Benjamin Franklin

Photo Credit: Wikimedia, Food Facts

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rum 302: Let's try some Tiki Cocktails!

Rum is one of the most playful spirits there is. There are some amazing aged rums that are great on their own or even can be used in similar pairings to whiskeys. Most people see rum as very sweet, which it is. It is constantly paired with fresh fruit juices and syrups to create stunningly beautiful concoctions. These are a few classic tiki drinks that are a pretty good jumping-off point into the world of complicated rum heavy cocktails.


Light and Dark Rum, Passion Fruit Juice, OJ, Lime, Simple Syrup, Grenadine
Squeeze juice from half a lime into a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour 2oz of light rum, dark rum, and passion fruit juice, 1 oz of orange juice, and a splash of simple syrup and grenadine into a large mixing tin with ice. Shake well. Strain into a hurricane glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a cherry and an orange.
The Hurricane came about in 1939 at the New Orleans World Fair. It was named after the style of the glass it was served in, which was actually modeled after a style of lamp. The story is that Pat O'Brien, the creator of the drink, started creating incredibly rum heavy drinks to get rid of the rum stock the aggressive rum distributors coerced him to buy. Again many bartenders just wing this drink, throwing in other fruit schnapps or pineapple juice instead of using passion fruit juice. Good old New Orleans. When life gives you rum, have a party. 

Bahama Mama
Light Rum, Malibu, Banana Liqueur, Grenadine. OJ, Pineapple Juice
Add a 1/2 oz of light rum, coconut rum, banana liqueur, and grenadine to a mixing glass. Add equal parts of orange juice and pineapple juice to fill. Add a mixing tin and shake. Strain into a decorative glass with fresh ice.
The Bahama Mama is actually a pretty popular cocktail despite it having no clear history or origin. It started to gain popularity on the beaches of The Bahamas, but there is no credited creator. Because of this, it is hard to find an agreed-upon recipe. Some variations call for lemon juice, cherry liqueur, or even coffee liqueur. 

Pina Colada

Light Rum, Pineapple Juice, cream of coconut,
 Pour 2oz of light rum, 2oz pineapple juice, and 1 1/2oz cream of coconut into a large mixing tin with ice. Shake well and strain into a poco grande glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
This drink was created by Ramon Perez at the Beachcomber Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Pina Colada probably actually originated as a frozen drink. Feel free to try this drink blended with a bit of cream or ice cream for texture. I simply don't want to see you trying to make a blended concoction with a pre-bottled mix.  The scale of this drink will naturally need to be adjusted depending on what glass you use or if you try it blended. There is actually a variation of the Pina Colada, the Kappa Colada, which uses brandy instead of rum. 

Mai Tai
2oz Jamaican rum, 1oz lime juice, 1/2oz orange curaçao, 1/2oz orgeat
In a shaker, add all the ingredients with some hard ice and give it a light shake, don't water it down too much. Strain into a rocks glass with shredded or crushed ice. Garnish with some mint.
This drink was either created by Trader Vic's or Don the Beachcomber. They were the two original rival tiki bars in California. The name translates from the Tahitian word for good. Most Mai Tais these days are shaken with crazy amounts of fruit juices, but the original was actually built over crushed ice to keep the flavor soft. Many people will opt to do a rum float on top of this as well. This is one of the pure original tiki cocktails, it's pretty stiff and not really that fruity, so do be careful

Special mention to: Zombie, Scorpion Bowl, Planters Punch, 151 Swizzle

Photo Credit: wikimedia

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Speed over Quality?

I recently started tending bar at a new location, a fairly casual restaurant. I was in training so they put me on the service bar. A ticket came in for a Manhattan and we were a bit slow so I naturally took the time to pull out my bar spoon and give it a proper stir. My other, senior,  bartender said, "I can't remember the last time I did that." This sparked a rousing conversation as to, WHY THE HELL NOT? He was used to busier shifts and had grown used to taking the shortcut of simply swirling such drinks. Now I've worked in such bars where these shortcuts are commonplace, but when I have time I've always done things with as much care as possible. I see this more and more these days, I believe it's a phenomenon primarily experienced in America. The fast-paced, fast food lifestyle has lent itself to drink. 

Many bartenders can probably cite Sweet and Sour mix to be the symbol of this phenomenon. Sour mix started as a shortcut some bars would use to save time when batching cocktails in high volume. simply juicing lemons and limes in bulk at the beginning of a shift with some sugar worked as an all-purpose ingredient for countless drinks. Shortly after, store brand sour mix emerged, possibly to make bartending more accessible to the home hobbyist. What's fact is that it started getting used in bars. A blend of artificial sweeteners and dyes and chemical concentrates actually replaced what's fresh that we had right in front of us. It's cheap, doesn't spoil, saves time, and takes less training. 

Now the nightlife thing has caught on in such a big way people have forgotten what things actually taste like. We've become so used to the speedy sugary convenience that we forgot what something of craft tastes like. While bars have always been a home to social interaction, they were also where a bartender was respected. These days people would be fine getting a drink from a robotic gun shooting it into a glass. I doubt anyone a century ago ever imagined someone would order a can of macro beer in a restaurant. The original Irish pub was meant to be a second home. You were to feel as though you were a guest in someone's living room. Perhaps we've come full circle to that and actually started drinking the same swill we get at home for five times the cost just to feel social.

I will yield I got my start in bars and even a bartending school that stressed speed rather than knowledge and technique. I learned that speed comes with practice. Practice the sloppy and rudimentary and you'll quickly become a decent bartender at a sloppy boring bar. Practice style and grace, learn the meaning behind the technique, and soon enough you'll be a great bartender in any bar.

I would apologize for being preachy, but I never met a preacher who apologized for it.

"Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company."
- George Washington

Photo credit: pikist

Gin 301: Let's try some Gin Cocktails!

Gin is actually an ideal ingredient to play with in cocktails. Most gin cocktails are kept pretty simple. Gins already have an array of flavors about them, from botanicals to citrus flavors and even cucumber. Gin can be enjoyed on its own but can also be complemented by so many other flavors and ingredients. 

2 1/2 oz. Gin, 1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth, olives
Add the ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir smoothly. When well chilled, strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an olive on a pick.  
The martini, of course, is the quintessential gin drink. Just two or three simple ingredients in a unique glass and you have yourself an icon. The ratios of this drink have changed a lot over the years. The original Martini was actually 1 part gin and 1 part vermouth. As premium spirits became more and more popular the amount of vermouth decreased. It actually got to the point where people would do drops of vermouth in their martinis. Some people, like Winston Churchill, actually take no vermouth in their martinis. These days people tend to average about 1 part vermouth to 6 parts spirit. 

1 oz. Gin, 1 oz. Campari, 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
Add the ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir smoothly. When well chilled, strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
The Negroni is actually a hundred years old, almost exactly, according to many historians. It was named after an Italian Count who spent time in America as a cowboy and gambler. He would order these drinks when he returned to Italy. It's a very nice aperitif style cocktail. It opens the palette up to enjoy a full meal to come. It's a handy reminder of how other cultures enjoy multi-course meals. Drinks and food are served in waves. We open the palette, we pair with food, and we close on a high note. 

Tom Collins

1 1/2 oz. Gin, 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice, 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup, club soda
Shake the gin, sugar, and lemon juice with ice and strain into an iced Collins glass and fill with soda. Garnish with a cherry and orange slice.
The Tom Collins apparently got started as a part of a joke. It was named partly after the popularity of Old Tom Gin. The main thing was the joke popularized by Americans telling people that there was a guy named Tom Collins who saying talking smack about you at the bar. People would go to the bar wanting to start a fight and would instead be greeted by a crisp refreshing drink. The drink itself originates back in London where a gin punch was just topped with some fizzy water. These days, many people see it as an adult sparkling lemonade. 

Gin and Tonic
1 part gin, 2 parts tonic
In a highball glass full of ice, add the gin, then the tonic. Garnish with a lime wedge.
The G&T is a great staple that probably got started in the British Navy around India. Malaria was a huge problem for such tropical regions. The quinine in tonic water is a natural prevention method for malaria. Straight quinine is a bit unpalatable. Soldiers took to adding lime to it which improved the flavor and also helped fight scurvy. Gin was actually designed as a medicine. Gin was actually rationed out to soldiers and the concoction made sense. 

Special mention to: Aviation, gimlet, gin fizz

Photo Credit: Needpix, wikimedia

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whiskey 302: Let's try some Scotch Cocktails!

Scotch is a very fun spirit, but one that isn't played with quite enough. There are a few staples and simple cocktails, but scotch is typically just drunk straight. This appeals to some bartenders, however. When something hasn't been tinkered with and probed and prodded with it's a chance for a bartender to actually do something fun and unique.

Rob Roy

2oz. Scotch whisky, 3/4oz. Sweet vermouth, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir the drink until chilled. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry
The Rob Roy in reality is just a Manhattan with scotch. which is partly what makes it such a good choice to be on my list of scotch cocktails. Some drinkers will also use orange bitters instead of Angostura. Others will use a twist of lemon or orange to garnish. The drink is named after a popular Scottish folk hero, Robert Roy Macgregor, a sort of Scottish Robin Hood, who was actually portrayed by Liam Neeson.

1 1/2 oz. Scotch, 3/4 oz. Amaretto
In a rocks glass, add the scotch, and then the amaretto with ice. 
This drink has a fun history. The drink is named after the great film but did technically exist before that as a "scotch and amaretto". People found that the drink perfectly represented the film and the mafia. Scotch has always been based on a warrior culture. Amaretto is an Italian liquor that has strong ties to love and family. The warrior and the family man was what the godfather represented. It's also the combination of my two favorite sipping spirits. 

Blood and Sand
3/4oz. Scotch, 3/4oz. Sweet vermouth, 3/4oz. Cherry Heering, 3/4oz. OJ
In a mixing glass add the ingredients. Add ice and shake. Strain the contents into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist or cherry
The recipe for the Blood and Sand first appeared in print in Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book. It's actually a pretty unique combination of ingredients. 3 very different spirits and one juice in equal proportions form an odd blend of fruity and smokey. I will yield, the first time I tried this drink I didn't like it. There seemed to be too many elements that should've been in conflict. Mastery of this drink really does show a great deal of knowledge and balance on a bartender's part.

Sin Cyn
1 oz. Scotch, 1 oz. Cynar, 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir the drink until well chilled. Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
This is a pretty modern drink you can find at the red owl tavern in Philadelphia. It's sort of a spin on the boulevardier, being bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth. This uses scotch instead of bourbon and Cynar instead of Campari. It's quite a similar cocktail but a bit less sweet from the tweaks. Cynar is also an Italian bitter liqueur, but with a prominent flavor of the artichoke. It is actually produced by the same company that makes Campari.

Special mention to: Penicillin, Rusty Nail, Presbyterian, The Modern

“Scotch whisky is made from barley and the morning dew on angel's nipples.”
- Warren Ellis

Photo Credit: Wikimedia, pikist

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ogre Killer

The name was inspired by the anime Yu Yu Hakusho. The character Chu, who practices suiken or drunken boxing, has a secret weapon. He pulls out a flask of what is called ogre killer, the strongest booze in Demon World. He chugs it down, and his skin changes color and he takes a fighting stance, not before immediately vomiting of course. The fight ends with a fabulous knife edge death match, where both fighters stand face to face with their back foot against a blade. They wail on each other in the manliest fashion continuously pressing the others foot into the blade. To any man who has ever enjoyed a fight, even when you lost, try this drink. It gives you very much the same feeling. 

1 oz. Everclear (190 proof)
1/2 oz. Joven Mezcal
1/2 oz. Scotch

Add all the ingredients to a rocks glass. Add ice. Stir with a knife. Leave the knife in to make it authentic. For this picture, I actually left the knife in the ice block mold as it froze. This was to make it more reminiscent of the show

Let's do the math on this drink.
(1oz * 190 proof) + (1/2oz * 80 proof) + (1/2oz * 80 proof) 
= 2oz of 135 proof
This drink is 68% alcohol before ice melt. It is the equivalent of 3.375 shots of 80 proof spirit. Do be careful in the partaking of beverage. It's one and done.

This drink was designed as a challenge for a friend of mine who claimed to have never gotten properly drunk no matter how much he drank. I made him one of these and he was drunk. I've had friends drink this and scream "That should not be legal!" The fun thing is that it isn't in many states. 190 proof Everclear is not for sale in 14 states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington. I could have certainly made a stronger drink, but I wanted something that had a little flavor to it. The pain of Everclear had to be there, but you can still enjoy it. As someone who once dated a dominatrix can tell you, a bit of pain is just part of the fun. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Old Timey Honky Tonk

I made this drink for a showcase for Patron. They were unveiling their new line of Roca Patron and wanted some craft cocktails made with it. It was my first actual in person competition (not that they wanted to call it a competition). It was an amazing experience and I made some amazing friends. I drank a lot of tequila and I learned a lot about it too, A many thanks again to Patron, and congrats to my friend Nate for winning the trip to Mexico. Check out the video of me on stage.

1 1/2 oz. Roca Patron Añejo
1/2 oz. Mezcal
1/4 oz. Grand Marnier
1/4 oz. Strawberry Serrano Infused Agave Syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Cherry Wood Chips

Put the wood chips into a smoking gun. Fill a rocks glass with ice. Light the chips and turn on the gun. Fill the glass with the smoke and seal with saran wrap. While that sits prepare the cocktail in a separate vessel. Add all the liquid ingredients and stir with ice. Remove the saran wrap and strain the drink into the smoked glass. Garnish with a flamed orange twist. 

Feel free to try this without the mescal and simply add more tequila. Only try instead of just smoking the ice, smoke the whole cocktail. Fill a container (I like using an empty Crystal Head Vodka bottle) with smoke and pour the cocktail into it. Seal the container and give it a bit of a swirl to get all the smoke into the drink. Then serve to the guest in a pleasing glass. 

This was a spin on the Old Fashioned. I knew I wanted to really bring out the earthy smokey nature. I thought a bit of pepper would help and I didn't think jalapeno would really earn me any points for originality. I also through in a little sweetness with the GM and the strawberry. In hindsight, I might have improved the garnish. A friend showed me a trick. Take a thin slice of orange and dredge one side in coarse sugar and take a blow torch to it to Brulee the sugar creating a truly amazing aroma. 

The Girl with Honey in her Hair

This was a drink I made for a competition for Bärenjäger. I named it after the great song featured in numerous scenes in Game of Thrones, The Bear and the Maiden Fair. Bärenjäger is a German honey liqueur that translates to be "Bear Hunter". The recipe itself is a modified Jack Rose with a honey foam on top to garnish. 

1 1/4 oz. Applejack 
3/4 oz. Bärenjäger 
3/4 oz. Lemon Juice 
1/2 oz. Fresh grenadine 

Shake and Strain into a Sours glass. Garnish with a Honey Foam 

Honey Foam Recipe: 
10 oz. Heavy cream, 3 oz. Bärenjäger, 2 eggs, dash lemon juice 
Whisk the eggs, Bärenjäger, and lemon juice. Start incorporating the cream while mixing. Pour into an Isi whipper and charge with NO2. Shake well and chill in the fridge for a few hours. Feel free to modify ratios to fit your own palate 

I had been playing with good flavors for foams and whipped creams, and honey liqueur just felt natural. I took a honey-based recipe from ISI's website and just switched out the runny honey with Bärenjäger. It also pairs well with a number of desserts and warm drinks. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rum 301: Let's try some Rum Cocktails!

Hopefully, by now you have a decent grasp of what rum is and how it's made. Rum has been an amazing asset to the drinking man's lifestyle since long before prohibition, and, of course, throughout and afterward. Any rum drinker ought to know some of the classic historical rum drinks that inspired so many drinks of today.


2 oz. Rum, 3/4 oz. Lime Juice, 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
Shake all the ingredients in a mixing tin with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
The Daiquiri takes its name from the Cuban mining town of Daiquiri. It was simply created with the three most abundant ingredients they had on hand, limes, sugar, and rum. The daiquiri is simple, and that's what makes it so beautiful. Over the years, bartenders and hobbyists have invented an amazing array of daiquiri recipes including berries, lemons, mangoes, and other flavors. In many supermarkets, you can even find strawberry daiquiri mix (which is essentially just strawberry puree with a bunch of other sugars and chemicals). Start with a simple canvas, and then play and add your own colors.

2 oz. Cachaça, 4 Lime Wedges, 3 Spoons of Sugar
Slice a lime along the equator cleanly in half. Take a half and slice that into quarters. Add the sugar and the cut pieces of lime to a glass and give it a firm muddle. The juice and sugar should start to form a slight syrup. Add cracked ice and Cachaça to the glass and give a nice stir. 
In terms of flavor, this drink is nearly identical to the daiquiri. The three ingredients are nearly identical: water, sugar, lime, and of course rum, at least each region's styles of rum. You'll probably find that this drink is much sweeter, and yet at the same time a little harsher. Because the Daiquiri is shaken it feels a bit lighter and airier. This drink also uses the whole lime, skin and all, as well as the pith which creates a new flavor altogether. Again, many bartenders have played with this drink, adding other flavors to give their bars a sense of fun and uniqueness. 

Cuba Libre

1 oz. Gold Rum, 2 oz. Cola, Lime wedge
In a highball glass filled with ice, simply add one part rum and then fill with 2 parts cola. Garnish with a lime wedge. 
As Tom Cruise said, "You bitch, why didn't you tell me it was a rum and coke." This drink is so common in popular culture, people sometimes don't bother to learn the history behind the drink. Translated it means "Free Cuba". Many people throw this drink back to the story of Teddy Roosevelt. During the Spanish-American war, Cuba was a battlefield. The Americans and Cubans worked together to defeat the Spaniards and get Cuba's independence. The merging of American cola and Cuban rum (Bacardi at the time) lead to the Cuba Libre. Also, if you'd like the reference, coca-cola in those times still had cocaine. There are a few plot holes in this story in the Coke wasn't exported into Cuba until a decade after the Cuban liberation, but it's not impossible to believe that American soldiers brought Coke with them. 

2 oz. Light Rum, Sugar, 3 Lime Wedges, 3-5 Mint Sprigs, Soda
Add three bar spoons of sugar to the glass. Then add 3-5 mint leaves and the lime wedges on top of the sprigs. Muddle the contents applying pressure to release the oils of the mint. Add 2 oz. of light rum and fill with ice. Stir the drink, top with soda, and garnish with a mint stalk. 
The mojito has had an odd rise to popularity. For some time, it was regarded as a fairly posh, or even gay drink. It requires fresh ingredients and has a light crisp fruity note to it. The origins of this drink might actually date back to the 1500s in Havana Cuba. You'll note that a great many rum drinks originate in Cuba. In the ocean and sea around central America, disease and scurvy were very common. Limes were used to fight scurvy, and rum was used to fight a number of other conditions. Add some sweetness and a bit of mint and bubbles, throw it on ice and you have yourself a Mojito.

Rum, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.
- Ambrose Bierce

Photo Credit: Needpix, Wikimedia

Monday, November 17, 2014

Whiskey 301: Let's try some Whiskey Cocktails!

Now that we have a foundation of what whiskey is, how it's made, and how to appreciate it, it's time to use it. Whiskey is a key tool in any bartender's arsenal. These drinks are designed to showcase the whiskey so don't skimp too much. Bourbon is the staple for each of these, but you can use almost any North American whiskey for these.

Old Fashioned:

2 oz. Whiskey, 1 Sugar Cube, Angostura Bitters, Orange Twist
Soak the sugar cube in bitters. Place the cube in a rocks glass and muddle it with a little water or club soda. Add ice to the glass and then add some whiskey, typically bourbon. Stir lightly and garnish it all with an orange peel.
Where better to start drinking cocktails than with a classic that remains great to this day? Also known as the old fashioned whiskey cocktail. This drink dates back a very long time. Most likely, the origins of this drink go back to the 1700's. All a cocktail was historically was a spirit with sugar and bitters. The old fashioned holds true to this and just throws a little garnish in there. The garnish of an old fashioned is very up to debate. An orange slice, orange peel, lemon peel, a cherry, or a combination thereof are all commonly used.

2 oz. Whiskey, 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth, 2 Dashes Bitters, Cherry
In a mixing glass add all the ingredients. Add ice and stir the drink until it is well chilled. Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.
The Manhattan is a more modern retelling of what the old fashioned was. Instead of using regular sugar, however, one uses sweet vermouth. The origins are a bit shady and there are many myths behind it, many of them were disproved. This was invented in the late 1800's or the early 1900's. Thus, the original recipe is a bit hazy as well. These days craft bartenders make their Manhattans with a ratio of 2:1:2. Possibly coincidentally, 212 is the area code of Manhattan, New York. 

Mint Julep:
2 ½ oz. Bourbon, 1 oz. Simple Syrup, 2-4 Mint Sprigs
Lightly muddle 5 or 6 mint leaves with the simple syrup in a julep cup. Add about an ounce of bourbon to the cup and then fill with crushed ice. lightly stir the drink and add the remaining bourbon and a bit more ice for presentation. Stir again and garnish with a sprig of mint. 
The Mint Julep is actually the Mint Sling. First recorded in 1793, the original recipe did call for cognac rather than bourbon. This is one of the staple drinks of the Kentucky Derby. The immense cold of this drink and the nice sweet notes of the sugar, as well as the oils of the mint, create an amazing refreshing beverage for a hot day that doesn't skimp on the whiskey.

Whiskey Sour:

1 ½ oz. whiskey, ¾ oz. simple syrup, ¾ oz. lemon juice,
Shake all the ingredients with ice in a shaker and strain either into a rocks glass with ice or a sours glass. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry
The whiskey sour came about between 1850 and 1860. This is a playground for bartenders. Try it with a little orange juice for a Stone Sour. Float some red wine on top for a New York Sour. Change the glass and add a little soda on top and you get a John Collins. Different places will change the ratio of whiskey to sour mix. 

Special mention to: the Highball, John Collins, Jack and Coke, and Sazerac

"Give an Irishman lager for a month and he's a dead man. An Irishman's stomach is lined with copper, and the beer corrodes it. But whiskey polishes the copper and is the saving of him." 
-Mark Twain

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Beginner's Flight: Tequila

This is going to be a series of posts about how to start sampling different types of spirits if you are a beginner drinker. What's the difference between bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey. How is London dry gin different from American or Indian made gin? The best way to figure out what you like is to go out and try things. With so many options out there I thought it would be nice to give newbies a jumping-off point into their world of spirits. Today, I'm talking Tequila. 

Tequila is actually a much bigger category than people give it credit. People are used to going out and seeing a bottle of Jose Cuervo and Patron on the shelf and that's it. There's a world beyond just those two. Patron has 9 different tequilas and a number of liqueurs as well. Jose has at least 6 varieties of tequila. Tequilas are aged and flavored and produced in a number of different styles.
1. Casa Noble Blanco. 
This is a personal favorite of many bartenders I know. You could certainly find a cheaper Blanco tequila, but I believe in paying credit where credit is due. This was introduced to me by a dear friend, Luciano. A lovely sweet note to this tequila comes through, it isn't harsh from the alcohol or smokey from any aging. It comes across as very pure. I see it as a fine standard of what a Blanco tequila ought to be. That being said, aged tequila ought to be held in high esteem too.

2. Cabo Wabo Reposado. 
The reposado classification of tequila has always been an interesting middle ground. Anejo tequila has an aged nature and character to it, it feels mature, not so sweet and light. Reposado tequila is just rested. So it has a bit of complexity from a light nap in oak barrels but still is accessible to someone who likes the sweeter side. This allows reposado tequila to be a bit more versatile and I do see it a lot in a number of cocktail menus in order to try to appeal to anyone. Some would say jack of all trades master of none, but as anyone who has played a tabletop RPG knows, you sometimes need a jack of all trades.

3. Patron Roca Anejo. 
There are many great aged tequilas out there. I chose the Patron Roca because it certainly does showcase an old-world technique and a fantastic aged quality. It is aged about 14 months in old bourbon barrels. It gains a rich earthy tone from the oak as well as the typical flavors of some vanilla and caramel. The longer aging leads to a delightful oak spice that really appeals to me as a whiskey drinker. Try this in an old fashioned. Seriously, it holds up.

4. Monte Alban Mezcal. 

This is technically not tequila, it is mescal though. All tequila is mezcal, it is simply made in the tequila regions of Mexico. Mescals tend to much more earthy. They feel smokier, perhaps less filtered than what most people are used to in tequila. Also, I can't talk about tequila without talking about the worm. Yes, there is a worm in this bottle. It's a tradition. It's a sign of quality from back when you would check the proof of a spirit by dropping a worm (technically a moth larvae) into the bottle and make sure it died. If your spirit was too weak the worm would still be wriggling when it hit the bottom of the bottle. Now go on, drink it.

5? Jose Cuervo Gold. 
Normally I stick to a 4 brand list here with a few special mentions. I think Jose gets such special mention it warrants a taste from a rookie so that they know it's not like any other tequila. It's a mixto tequila so it's only 51% tequila and it's a gold tequila so it's got other flavorings thrown in too. you can smell the difference. One should learn the full spectrum of tequila on the market. If you enjoy this, that's fine. I'll never tell a guest they're wrong to like something. But a clear comparison can be made.

special mention to: Patron Burdeos, Avion, Sauza,

"A man's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink."
- W. C. Fields

Photo Credit: Wikimedia, 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Beginner's Flight: Gin

This is going to be a series of posts about how to start sampling different types of spirits if you are a beginner drinker. What's the difference between bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey. How is London dry gin different from American or Indian made gin? The best way to figure out what you like is to go out and try things. With so many options out there I thought it would be nice to give newbies a jumping-off point into their world of spirits. I'm trying to find bottles that are available at nearly every liquor store or can be tracked down easily enough. Today, I'm talking about gin. 

To a novice drinker, they might think that all gins are the same, but when you think about it gins are as diverse as flavors of vodka. Any martini drinker will tell you their favorite gin. And they do have a favorite, due to its specific flavor profile and mouthfeel. Different gins from different regions tend to be flavored with different styles of botanicals.

1. Tanqueray.

Tanqueray is one of the oldest gins in production today. It's been around 180 years. It is one of the most juniper prevalent gins on the market today with less than a handful of other flavoring agents. This is very much a pure form of what gin's history was. The juniper does come through in a big way which many purists love.

2. Bluecoat. 
Bluecoat is an American made gin. It's made right in Philadelphia with their local waters. I suppose that's not the best selling point but people like supporting local products. Many beginning gin drinkers like this gin because it has a very strong citrus note. The new flavor of juniper isn't very appealing to a lot of the younger crowd, but the citrus from the lemongrass is a bit more accessible.

3. Bombay Sapphire East. 
Bombay does a large range of gins. Bombay Sapphire East is actually inspired by old Indian recipes with a bit more of a spice to it than the more botanical London Dry Gins. This uses peppercorns to add flavor. It pairs very nicely with some Fevertree Indian Tonic Water. This makes for a very fun tool to use in some new and classic cocktails.

4. Hendrick's.

Hendrick's gin is actually Scottish made. This gin actually uses some unconventional flavoring agents. It has strong notes of cucumber. This is a very playful gin that does kind of break the mold a bit as to what people are used to and has thus become a favorite ingredient for bartenders across the globe. The Hendricks Negroni is a real fan favorite. Some do prefer a more floral or fruity gin, but Hendrick's is certainly worth giving a shot.

Special mentions to: Beefeater, Aviation, Plymouth

"I like to have a Martini, two at the very most; three, I'm under the table, four I'm under my host!"
- Dorothy Parker

Photo Credit: Wikimedia, pikrepo

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Robot Behind the Bar

For a while now I've heard people saying that bartenders are getting too pretentious or that they just pour booze into a cup. For some bartenders that might be true. Working at the service bar some of us do turn into robots. A ticket comes in, it is made and sent out to a table. There is no real customer interaction and that is really what makes a world-class bartender. Though not all people want a conversation or a show with their drink. In this day of instant and Keurig coffee, why not apply the same appeal to alcohol.

The first actual robot bartender I heard about was the Cocktails for you. This was a fairly simple robot featured on the BBC show Gadget Man in 2012 with Stephen Fry. Jeremy Clarkson commented that the spinning bottles and glowing blue lights made it seem very gadgety. Originally costing about $7,500, holding ten bottles, with a touch screen display, it was quite impressive for its time.

The Monsieur gained a tremendous amount of publicity on Kickstarter and raised over $40,000 beyond its original $100,000 goal. You can check it out here or at their original Kickstarter page here. Costing around $4000 per unit, they say it is ideal for businesses, nightclubs, and of course home use. As a bartender/mixologist myself, I personally took issue with a few points. The main one being that in my opinion, it is not versatile enough. It only holds eight bottles of ingredients. My personal bar was bigger than that before I even turned 21. In terms of just syrups and mixers that is fairly lacking, let alone liqueurs, and assorted call brands. Do I expect a 20-inch cubic unit to have Campari or every flavor of vodka? No, I suppose that's unreasonable. I could see high volume places supplementing their production with machines like this, using smartphones and tablets to put in drink orders and automatically billing guests, but they would never fully replace a stocked bar and competent bartender.

The last thing I'd like to share is a lovely article featuring commentary by Isaac from The Love Boat. This article showcases a futuristic cruise ship being made today that will have a fully robotic bartender. There are robotic arms that can shake tins and serve drinks rather than having them come out of a tap. The Makr Shakr, I will admit, is pretty cool. I do, of course, hate plastic cups, but I suppose I wouldn't trust a robot that looks like it came straight from building a Mustang with crystal stemware. It does certainly have the potential to eventually make some incredibly impressive cocktails. utilizing various call brands, and possibly eventually making its own syrups, shrubs, and rapid infusions. A bit of programming and a few gadgets added to check sugar contests and acid levels and the like and a machine like this could create drinks that human beings couldn't compete with.

That said, bartenders do a lot more than make drinks. We are hosts. We cater everything to our guests. I've made a gin and tonic fifty different ways for different guests in different moods. I like being greeted in a bar by a warm smile, a hearty handshake, and a general sense of welcoming friend on the other side of the bar top. I tell jokes and stories, do flair and magic, and provide guidance and consolations to those that need it. I have quelled arguments and provided remedies for the sick. While the Monsieur can tell when you come home late and offer a double, or a celebration drink when your sports team wins. I may sound cocky, but bartending and customer service is a lot more than that.

“Let us remember that the automatic machine is the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic consequences of slave labor.”
- Norbert Wiener

Photo Credit: Pikist, Wikimedia

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Beginner's Flight: Whiskey

This is going to be a series of posts about how to start sampling different types of spirits if you are a beginner drinker. What's the difference between bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey. How is London dry gin different from American or Indian made gin? The best way to figure out what you like is to go out and try things. With so many options out there I thought it would be nice to give newbies a jumping-off point into their world of spirits. These will be fairly medium-priced spirits. I mean these lists to be accessible so probably nothing more than about $30 a bottle, that said, there's no reason for anyone to buy a $6 handle of Vlad vodka and drink it straight. First, I'm talking whiskey.

I think the ideal beginner's flight of whiskey should be one from around the globe. These are the staple whiskeys and they will give a well-rounded view as to the style of each region. When trying a whiskey sample it neat then try it again with a few drops of water added to it. This opens up the aroma and releases some of the oils that may have been hiding.

1. Makers Mark Bourbon. 
I describe this as a staple bourbon. They spell it "whisky" instead of "whiskey" because they feel it is of a caliber high enough to compete with any old world whisky. Made with corn is has a smooth sweetness to it. The bite is there, but it won't kill any rookie. This is great to sip or in any whiskey prominent cocktails, like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.

2. Jameson Irish Whiskey. 
This Irish whiskey is known around the world. Jameson is always the starting drink of a night of binge drinking. Irish whiskey is commonly seen as the lightest style of whiskey because it really doesn't use any smoke in its process. College students regularly drink half a bottle of this or more by themselves in one night. Just remember, just because it flows down your throat like water does not mean that your body can handle it like water.

3. The Famous Grouse Scotch. 
Famous grouse is the highest-selling scotch of Scotland for the last 30+ years. It is a blend rather than a single malt, but it does an excellent job of conveying quality and authenticity. The whiskeys used in the blend come from Highland Park and Macallan, two very fine scotch brands. (Hi Jason, thanks again for all the tastings)

4. Bulleit Rye. 
Yes, another American company pops onto the list. I thought of doing a Canadian whiskey, but they tend to work in rye these days. Bulleit is 95% rye in the mash. Rye whiskeys are often seen to have a spicy flavor to them. not really a jalapeno spice, more of baking spice.
special mention to: Booker's bourbon, Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, Southern Comfort, and any and all moonshine

Aye, but today's rain is tomorrow's whiskey.
- Scottish Proverb

Photo Credit: Pixabay, wikimedia

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rum 101: What's the difference?

There is an amazing spectrum of rum out there today. From aged to spiced to flavored to over-proof and regional rums like Cachaça, it's hard to know what will best suit your cocktail creations.
There are a number of variables to keep in mind when choosing a rum. The main one I would argue is the age. Much like tequila, rum can be totally unaged or can be aged in barrels. Some rums are aged up to fifty years. The staple rum in America, Bacardi Superior is unaged, but even they have a whole line of aged rums. Aged rums tend to develop a slight caramel and vanilla flavor, like many whiskeys but tend not to have a smokey or burning finish. Many people actually enjoy sipping aged rums straight as well as in fine cocktails. 

Flavored rums have been gaining incredible popularity. The flavored rum that everyone is probably most familiar with is Captain Morgan. Captain Morgan is slightly aged, up to a year, and then is flavored with a secret blend of Caribbean spices. There are a number of other flavored rums as well. most of which done with a simple infusion process by soaking fruits and spices in the rum to impart their flavor into the spirit. Some flavored rums like Malibu are made by blending a light rum with a flavored liqueur. Sometimes this does lead the rum to become a liqueur depending on the final sugar content. Kahlua, for instance, uses a rum base. 

Different regions, of course, produce their own styles of rums as well. Rums are made everywhere, from Asia to Australia to Africa. The majority of rum is made in the Caribbean and Central America. Cachaça, Brazilian rum, is actually the national spirit of Brazil. It is made from the juice of the sugar cane and is typically unaged. Some rums use molasses while others use fresh sugar cane juice or syrup of the sugar cane. Each style and technique bringing a very different style of sweetness to the rum. 

Whatever style of rum you like best I encourage you to experiment and expand your palette. When I started drinking rum I was like most people, drinking a simple rum and coke, either with Bacardi or Captain Morgan. Then one day I had a Dark and Stormy. I immediately asked what rum they used as it wasn't very sweet or spicy. It was mature. These days I will sip on a glass of Appleton or Pyrat either neat or with ice. That said if someone wants to drink a Malibu Bay Breeze made extra sweet I will smile and make it, as it's exactly what they want at that moment in their life. 

"Is the glass half full or half empty? It depends on whether you're pouring or drinking."

Photo Credit: Px Fuel, wikimedia

Friday, October 31, 2014

Beginner's Flight: Vodka

This is going to be a series of posts about how to start sampling different types of spirits if you are a beginner drinker. What's the difference between bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey. How is London dry gin different from American or Indian made gin? The best way to figure out what you like is to go out and try things. With so many options out there I thought it would be nice to give newbies a jumping-off point into their world of spirits. I'm trying to find bottles that are available at nearly every liquor store or can be procured easily enough. Today, I'm talking about vodka. 

A lot of people think that vodka is just booze that's meant to be mixed and can't really be appreciated. I hope a little sampling of straight vodka can change their minds. These vodkas should be enjoyed neat if you want to really figure out the differences between them.

1. Grey Goose. 
This is a fairly new vodka to hit the shelves french made but has already made a big splash into the market. Grey goose uses an interesting recipe featuring French wheat fairly prominently and using water from the cognac. It has a very smooth almost floral citrus nature. This is a favorite for a great many vodka drinkers due to its light nature.

2. Ketel One. 
This vodka goes all the way back to a distillery in the Netherlands from 1691. Its current recipe is only about 30 years old, however. It again uses European wheat. This one does have a bit more of a tingle to it than Grey Goose. I find that this feels a bit more authentic than the french made GG.

3. Chopin.

This is actually a personal favorite vodka of mine. It is a polish made potato vodka. It has an almost creamy texture to it. Many people think all vodka is made from potatoes. Most really aren't; they are made from various grains from region to region. That oily nature does still leave a little burn in the back of the throat. The mouthfeel of this vodka is truly unique.

4. Smirnoff (red label). 
This is actually one of the oldest Russian vodkas in production today though in fairness it is now made all over, including the United Kingdom and the US. The price point is cheap and it is quite versatile in cocktails. Smirnoff is probably the highest distributed vodka in the US. That said, when drank straight against any more premium brand one can really see a difference in smoothness and flavor.

Special mentions to: Russian Standard, Tito's, Belvedere, Ciroc, Absolut

I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade... And try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.
- Ron "Tater Salad" White

Photo Credit: pxfuel, Me Pixels

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tequila 101: What's the difference?

A lot of people just regard tequila as one simple spirit and in fairness, many cocktail recipes do see it as such. When a recipe calls for tequila it is usually totally up in the air whether it would be best with an aged tequila or a Blanco, a mixto or 100%, or even nice mescal instead. Tequila does have a number of distinctions strictly enforced by the Mexican government.

First things first, all tequila is mescal. Mescal is the technical term for a spirit made from the Weber blue agave plant. tequila simply has to come from the designated tequila regions.

Tequila breaks down into five basic classifications, as well as two extra categories. The first classification is silver tequila, also sometimes called platinum, Plata, white, or Blanco. Blanco style tequila is unaged and thus has a totally clear color and a sweeter finish, free of any harsh smokiness. The next grade is Reposado, or rested tequila. Repo tequilas are aged for between two months and a year. They develop a slightly yellow or golden tint to them and have a balance of sweet and smoky flavor, creating a nice balanced complexity. Anejo tequila is aged between one and three years. It has a nice rich yellow color and a rich smoked flavor like some milder whiskeys or aged rums. Extra Anejo is the classification for any tequila aged longer than three years. Extra Anejo can sometimes shift in color so dramatically it becomes as brown as whiskey on brandy. Many premium extra Anejo tequilas are aged in specially selected used barrels to infuse that old flavor. The Patron Burdeos uses old French Bordeaux wine barrels giving the tequila flavor notes of brandy, making it ideal for sipping straight.

You may have noticed that I only listed four classifications there. The last classification is Gold or Joven tequila. When tequila is aged it takes a bit of work. It adds complexity to the tequila. Aged tequilas, those that have that yellow color, thus tend to cost a bit more. When a bartender picks up a bottle of tequila and pours out that gorgeous gold liquid instead of clear, you knew you were getting the more complex and expensive brand product in your cocktail. Gold tequila decided to bank on this idea. They took a Blanco tequila and added caramel food coloring and flavoring to attempt to give it the appearance of aged tequila. These tequilas are usually much lower quality mixto tequilas and tend to result in the poor experiences many people associate with tequila.

Lastly, I come to mixto tequilas, a separate way to distinguish types of tequila. The majority of tequila companies make their tequila with only 100% Weber blue agave. Mixto tequila means that you are not using only the agave plant as the only sugar in distillation. Mixto tequilas use sugarcane and other sweeteners while maintaining at least 51% agave. Essentially if you don't see the words 100% blue agave on the bottle, you can assume only half the bottle is actually pure tequila. Many people often associate blended sugars with how many people get hangovers after drinking low-quality tequila.

"Tequila. Straight. There's a real polite drink. You keep drinking until you finally take one more and it just won't go down. Then you know you've reached your limit."
- Lee Marvin

Photo Credit: Matador Network,