What's In My Glass, Vol. 1
It’s been a busy few months for this Alcohol Professor - new bars have opened, old standbys have had a spring cleaning, and a fresh crop of whiskey and gin has entered the landscape to mix with seasonal ingredients. Presenting the first installment of a series featuring a roundup of some of my favorite things that have splashed into my glass lately.
A standout bar visit this season was to Patent Pending, a speakeasy style affair located behind Patent Coffee in the cellar of the Radiowave Building which had once housed Nikola Tesla’s lab - finally a cocktail bar for science nerds! The decor features clever light bulb and radiowave themes, which also coil throughout the cocktail menu, a triumph of graphic design divided into themes of Energy, Frequency, Vibration and Descent. Dead Rabbit and BlackTail alums Harrison Ginsberg and Nick Rolan successfully experimented with bold flavor combinations such as Mr. Muir, which deftly balances gin and calvados with other ingredients. Cosmic Rays features pisco, American gin, dry vermouth, green apple, elderflower and kaffir lime. Hit
By a Taxi (ordered by my companion who actually had been years ago) consists of Japanese whisky, Armagnac, sweet vermouth, Pu’erh Tea, curaçao and star anise. One can find Patent’s coffee in some cocktails too, along with offerings of beer, wine and bar bites.
Older Bar, New Menu
It’s taken Joaquín Simó a few years, but he has finally designed a spring menu for Pouring Ribbons to honor his half-Cuban heritage. Illustrated renderings of photos of iconic places (and a few recognizable people peeping out from within if you know where to look) highlight the drinks inspired by late 1950s Cuban pop culture. These transportive experiences include the pillowy blue Havana Riviera sprayed with Manzanilla sherry, the rummy Bye Bye Batista, the tiki textured Sons of Santiago, the cheeky Fox Movietone News (inspired by a drink found in Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean that from all appearances looks and sounds deplorable, but this “fake news” version is more fair and balanced), and the complex bourbon-based Bel Air served in a black sesame rimmed glass. Bartender Brooke Toscano is passionate about sustainability initiatives and drinks such as the Azucar Negra and Daisy de Machito incorporate syrups made from discarded lemon and pineapple waste.
E.H. Taylor, Jr. Four Grain Bourbon 2018 - I can cross “sign historic barrel” off my bucket list! On a recent trip to Buffalo Trace Distillery (which bears more mention than this paragraph - more to come), I had the honor of participating in the filling of their 7,000,000th barrel and attending the ceremony as it was rolled into its one-barrel bonded warehouse by beloved distillery manager Freddie Johnson and his grandson. Johnson’s late father rolled in the 4 through 6 millionth barrels, and there was hardly a dry eye. We also dedicated a new warehouse on the distillery’s newest campus and got a personal tour of Warehouse X, where temperature and light controlled whiskey maturation experiments are taking place (more about that here). Along the way, there was opportunity to engage in fascinating discussions about the whiskey industry with CEO Mark Brown and master distiller Harlan Wheatley over some pours, and the newest Taylor release - with its roasty, toasty, hardy structure of corn, wheat, rye and malted barley - was a standout favorite. Bottled-in-bond at 50% ABV, $70
What is “lady whiskey”? With all the controversy surrounding expressions such as Jane Walker, it was a pleasure to taste The Gael, the first release of J.J. Corry Irish Whiskey from the Chapel Gate Whiskey Co., owned by women - it’s just good whiskey! Louise McGuane purchases stock from distilleries all over Ireland, blends them, and ages them in a bonded warehouse (incidentally, Irish whisky need not be 100 proof, so some releases might not be labeled as “bonded” in the states). The Gael consists of some 26 year old sherry cask finish with teenaged bourbon cask malt, other younger malts and grain whiskey. 46% ABV, $75 in limited release
Others that excited my taste buds this season have been:
- Paul John Kanya - unpeated single malt produced in Goa, India matured in American oak for 7 years. The name is a tribute to the Indian equivalent of the Virgo sign, and its creamy, nutty, sesame flavor profile is a terrific treat for a nightcap. 50% ABV, price varies
- Nomad Outland Whisky - produced in Speyside, Scotland this 5 to 8 year-old is brought to González Byass in Jerez, Spain to finish aging in Oloroso casks, but I like sipping it in Brooklyn during a spring storm. 41.3 % ABV, $50
- Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond - the inaugural release of what is to become a limited edition series celebrating a heritage bourbon label is an 11 year-old bottled bourbon bottled in a blingy, old school decanter. 50% ABV, $110 in limited release
- Speyburn 15 Year-Old Scotch - matured in both American and Spanish oak, this Speyside beauty (the 10 year-old won silver in the 2018 NY International Spirits Competition) made me stop and pause to savor its tangy richness during a stressful week. For a limited time, until June 30, bottles can be personalized. If doing so for Father’s Day or late June birthdays, make sure your order is in by June 3rd. 46% ABV, $60
- Two new ryes with tons of character for stirred and boozy cocktails - Knob Creek Cask Strength (aged 9 years, 119.6 proof, $70) and Kentucky Peerless Rye Straight Rye (a mighty tasty whipper snapper at 24 months, 107.6 proof, though perhaps a tad spendy at around $100)
Gin, Cherries and Rhubarb
Spring is when I tend to seriously gin up my cocktail routine, and I’ve been experimenting with some fun recipes. Believe it or not, I still have some of last year’s preserved cherries left, and I decided I’d use them as garnishes for a Cherry Negroni, made with Don Ciccio & Figli’s sumptuous Cerasum cherry bitter aperitivo as the centerpiece. I experimented with various measurements and base gins. While I have settled on the specs, I’ve decided that there’s no “best” gin for this recipe, it just depends on how much fruit, herbaceousness or richness I’m in the mood for. Here is the recipe, followed by some gin suggestions according to flavor profile:
Practice making this in time for Negroni week, starting June 4! This event, partnered between Campari and Imbibe Magazine, is now in its 6th year, and has raised over $1.5 million for various charitable causes. To find out about events in your home own and/or if you’re a bartender/bar owner and want to get involved on the hospitality side of the fundraisers, please go here.
- 1.5 oz/44 mL gin*
- .75 oz/22 mL Cerasum
- .5 oz/15 mL traditional style aperitivo such as Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Rubino (gold medal winner, 2018 NYISC) or Campari
- Garnish: preserved cherries
Add all ingredients to double Old Fashioned glass and stir until combined. Add ice (preferably one large cube) and stir until well chilled. Garnish with preserved cherries.
*Gins to Try
- For a fruitier sipping experience, choose Monkey 47 (the Cerasum spotlights its lingonberry and other fruity botanical notes nicely) or D. George Benham’s Sonoma Dry Gin (for a hint of lemon, silver medal, 2018 NYISC)
- For a more herbaceous flavor and for those who prefer their Negroni to stay in the bitter spectrum, try Old Town Dry Creek Gin (with a slightly minty taste, silver medal, NYISC) or Concullin Irish Gin.
- To enhance the warmer textures of the other ingredients, go for a classic dry style, such as Malfy Originale (far less of the lemon in this expression), NY Distilling Co. Dorothy Parker Gin or Sipsmith London Dry
Speaking of SLD, I was intrigued by a recipe I found online combining it with an infusion of my favorite spring perennial, rhubarb, which Sipsmith has graciously allowed me to reproduce. Here’s a delicious way to stretch out that teasingly brief window of time to use fresh rhubarb and preserve its flavors, well, so long as you don’t gulp this all up in a few days (the original recipe by Master Distiller Jared Brown can be found here):
Rhubarb Gin Liqueur
- 500 grams/2 brimming cups chopped rhubarb
- 500 mL water
- 200 grams/ .75 brimming cup sugar
- 5 - 6 strawberries
- Sipsmith London Dry Gin
Combine first four ingredients in a pot. Simmer, covered, on low heat for 30 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft. Set the pot aside and let it cool. Strain through a cheesecloth. Measure the resulting liquid. Add an equal measure of Sipsmith London Dry Gin. Best enjoyed in simple servings such as on the rocks with a splash of tonic.
Next installment will feature new rum, new tequila, brandy and other luscious libations - stay tuned!