Imbibe Hour


Monday, August 30, 2010

Ginger Peach Julep - how to make!

Summer comes and Summer goes, just like everything else in life. Orchard fruit comes in abundance then suddenly it's as rare as hen's teeth. Coming up on the end of Summer my wife makes sure to get her peach fix in. She is without question the biggest peach connoisseur I have ever known. There is nothing better than to share with someone the joys of the finer things in life. Peaches don't just make good eating, they make a great cocktail as well.

I came across a recipe for a cocktail in the Washington Post some time ago. It was written by the spirits columnist Jason Wilson, and he talked about a fantastic drink that was part of a competition in 2009 at the Tales of the Cocktail contest in New Orleans. My wife who loves to just cut out recipes for everything under the sun, and the comes to me and says... can you make this???? found this knowing my love for Bourbon and Juleps and her joy of peaches. At least this time it wasn't Peking duck.

I love mint juleps. This is without question one of the greatest American drinks ever created. I used Kentucky Colonel mint which works like a charm. My wife being the peach aficionado is the one who found the recipe and figured this could make something beautiful marrying my love for juleps, Bourbon, and cocktails with peaches. Some things are just meant to be true...

Here for you I present my adaptation of an adaption done by Wayne Curtis, drinks correspondent for the Atlantic, which I first saw in the Washington Post back in 2009. The Ginger Peach Julep. If you want to see the recipe click here.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back to basics with the man of the hour. Mr. Booze comes to the rescue with great tips and the joys of the home bar

Enter the realm of cocktail goodness. Where drinks are served with time and care. Here, there are no noisy patrons that talk over you, with pumping music coming in every direction. Here there are no egos and strangers who will break your concentration as you take the time to make the perfect drink. Sour mixes... forbidden... soda guns... get your nightclub high-jinxs out of my face!! Welcome back... to the homely comforts of your home bar!

The home bar. I swear unlike other things that have been made part of home life that are so common place, the tv room, the man cave, the home office with laptop computer, what happened to this old relic? For once as us imbibing enthusiasts truly know, every house should have one.

If you know me and have been following, I have a good selection and have been learning the craft of cocktail for some time. Yes, it is a wonderful pursuit, nothing beats a hard day of coming home from work and putting in the effort to make a good drink. And sometimes it's not even that hard.

I just returned recently from a meeting setup by the American Cocktail Society at the Occidental Hotel in DC. Here there was a special guest who does have a real name, but has a better identity of Mr-Booze!! Mr. Booze provided several attending guests with the craft of setting up your personal home bar. This event was brought to us not with just knowledge and basics of what you should have (strainers, shakers, lemons, limes etc...) but also with libations to be served as you consumed all this knowledge within the comforts just off Pennsylvania Ave, about a block from the White House.

Here was a wonderful setting decked out with plenty of wood to make the Black Forest jealous. True to being only blocks from the White House, much of the venue was decorated with patrons pictures ranging from former presidents, to pictures of journalists and your typical Washington folk politicos. This is one part of DC, but trust me there are others, but mostly this event was all about the drink.

Spending time with others who want to attend and learn more about drink and the art of it is a great joy, and there seems to be no shortage of folks who want to do so. The seminar was attended with a very enthusiastic crowd, asking questions of everything under the sun.

I always say, there is something to learn, and if even one little 3 minute tip is something that you hadn't heard before, then it's all worth it. The reality is the event was filled with more knowledge that even someone who just was starting to create their own home bar would be ready set with plenty of information to get started. Some tips from the event that I never considered but were hugely important:
  • Bring back the punch bowl for parties.
  • Don't make your home bar a candy store for entertaining, provide a basic menu and let guests pick that way you know you're ready.
  • Trim the tips of your lemons for squeezing, it's like a car crash zone for juice extraction so get rid of it.
  • Make some ambiance that fits the mood.
Ah yes ambiance. Agreed we all want something to set the mood and nothing does that better than some tunes. In my enjoyment as the event went on suddenly the PowerPoint presentation flashed up two albums that came out of nowhere. One from none other than the classic thrash metal band.. Megadeth. HORNS UP! It was as if my reptilian brain took over my heavy metal roots and I flashed a hollering OH YEAH WHOOT!!. What could I say... hey our hero is a die hard metal fan. While we all had a chuckle though, Mr. Booze proclaimed... "This is not the type of music you want to hear and play while indulging in a cocktail."

As I tried to snicker and hide into my tortoise shell, heck.. with that... I couldn't agree more. While chasing Manhattans and Sazeracs, somehow listening to Holy Wars The Punishment Due, Into the Lungs of Hell, or Symphony of Destruction does not fit the bill. Shots of cold Jagermeister sure, but not the event we witnessed tonight.

Bring me some Django Reinhart, or to fit my DC atmosphere Duke Ellington. There is a right time and a right place... for everything!

As Mr. Booze mentioned, We were not all just students/enthusiasts planning on sitting back to take notes.. oh no no.. for that time and effort, well spent drinks were to be served for sure! Pictured of course on the left, was a classic Sidecar dressed with a nice lemon rind slice, perfectly aromatic. The event was focused on some real basic drinks, and really emphasized another portion of home bar tending which is not hard, extremely important, but often overlooked, and that is the creation of syrups.

Probably the highlight was something mentioned as a Fall drink. A Fall drink?? I know Summer and Winter... I figured that was all there was... oh how wrong and it comes from America's truly first great spirit. Laird's Applejack is the predominant ingredient and what some will say is truly America's FIRST spirit (yes even before Bourbon) in the creation of a Fall drink that was served tonight known as a Stone Fence.

This was truly a fantastic drink. Earthy. Apple goodness, not too sweet (I don't normally care for cider), cloyingly refreshing, spicy, like a pumpkin patch and leaves rotting in Fall, a wonderful muted sort of brown/pink color. For once a drink felt like a different season, it is a drink everyone should make when Summer turns to Fall. This without question, was the highlight of the night.

Mr. Booze has a great website that you can get lost in so make sure to check it out. For a true imbibing enthusiast there's a lot of fun to see there! He's also a bit of a collector and sported much of the memorabilia that comes with cocktails as well. While I am not so much on memorabilia, I had to be mighty impressed with the array of cocktail glassware, tiki mugs!, and the retro album covers that adore his website.

But the kicker.. the case

Color me impressed! I am thinking about one of these on my next trip... but as we all know with the world we live in now, TSA regulations and such and such, somethings just well have almost gone the way of the dodo. But who wouldn't want to pack this unsuspecting little case complete with jiggers and glassware and whatever bottle you could think of?

With that the night was a great success and it still never ceases to amaze me how much us imbibing enthusiasts can have so much fun.

So go to those garage sales, find those old glasses on ebay, get some basic liquor for your basic bar, and get your ice ready.

It's really that simple. Just keep it cool.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

There is GOLD in dem dar mojitos! Organic sugar becomes diamond in the rough

While going back and tasting libations, there is much to decipher. Summer is coming to a close in DC, suddenly there is a hint of chill in the air. This is not a bad thing, it has been particularly hot this summer so we are all ready I think for a change, and with change comes different imbibing. However, the mint has been revived a bit and I went back to try some of my other rums and still mojitos and daiquiris still keep calling.

The gold rums I tasted were all very good (if you refer back to my blind rum tasting). The last rum I tasted however though was the 10 Cane a product from Trinidad/Tobago. While I did conclude that it was good I had to admit the other golds were superior with the Oronoco being just sublime. Just to note the Oronoco rum is not worth a mojito it really should be drank on the rocks with NOTHING. There was nothing to hate about the 10 Cane rum but it needed to be tested, I couldn't "TASTE" anything off of it. To cut to the chase, I decided to try the 10 Cane with my standard mojito making and also in a daiquiri. There was one slight difference though, I pulled out another weapon in my arsenal for making of the mojito. Something I wish I used more often... a bag of organic sugar.

Lets just cut to the chase. I remember when doing the tasting that the rum didn't have much sugar coming off of it in the taste. The Mount Gay Special Reserve seemed to fit that a bit better. However, when making the mojito with the organic sugar something wonderful happened. Suddenly the drink exploded in flavor.

Organic sugar has a much different appearance. it is slightly gold and brown much like it's gold rum namesake and partner. It's as if they were made for each other. When pairing the organic sugar with the 10 Cane suddenly the rum came alive, there was bouquet, vapor, the mint came off even more, and there was a lingering sweet finish but not a harsh sweetness. Long story short, it seemed the sugar brought out the rums flavor considerably.

I still had to be convinced and even used a light rum with the organic sugar for another mojito (Appleton). Still great, but the sugar didn't bring out the flavor profile as much, somehow it seemed the 10 Cane and organic sugar were in harmony.

Some things just happen by accident, some by research, other times you just get friggin lucky.

Unfortunately, I traded my Special Reserve Mount Gay for some 7 year dark, I am now missing it so for this drink. I am trying to get in as many 10 Cane organic sugar mojitos as I can, before time runs out... Seems like summer... is coming to and end.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ah how sweet it is! Vermouth tasting becomes a romp of greatness.

Vermouth. That wonderful little aperitif, that seems to be pushed to the background. My experience with vermouth up to now has been nearly non existent. The only thing that seemed to be ubiquitous with vermouth was a bottle of Martini and Rossi. Some feel this is also where the name for the Martini cocktail came from, although that's a subject for another debate.

What I am getting at is that my impression of vermouth has always been that it was something to be pushed aside, it is just a simple little ingredient you add to a better drink, such as buying just cheap tequila (which is not REAL tequila) to a giant bucket with crummy sour mix.

However, when doing this blog and research it became obvious as my drinking and imbibing skills have improved considerably from my younger days, there was a whole entire world about vermouth that I was unaware about. I first learned about this from my wife who when in Europe would have great chilled glasses of straight vermouth on ice. I soon realized that this was a common thing, that there were specific vermouths that were not just made for mixing and an afterthought for something else. There were even vermouth bars, some (those Spaniards) would even mix vermouth with olives and then head out for a fantastic lunch.

It became apparent that I was not appreciating this drink well, and so I set out to change my attitude. I tasted 4 vermouths, 3 of which were common place the other... might as well have been from a different planet. Within one sniff I was suddenly transported into a world that I had never been before, and realized... I had been missing out.

To understand more, watch the red vermouth tasting below in the video. From here on this is a drink worth exploring more for the true imbibing enthusiast. Great vermouth to be had for the cocktails (Manhattan etc..), but sometimes you just want to have it for yourself all alone!

The four red sweet vermouth tasted were:
  • Stock
  • Martini & Rossi
  • Noilly Prat
  • Antica Formula

Cheers and Enjoy!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mary Mary quite contrary, how much rosemary does this garden grow?

Garden herb.. though hath run amok. Taking over. How is this possible... What am I going to do with all this???

The irony of the pictured bushy rosemary that you see before you is that I had the hardest time ever for years growing it. In my herb pot I planted some about 2-3 years ago and no matter what it just NEVER seemed to grow.

Then suddenly, in the past year and a half... it took over.

I was happy but aside from making a million marinades, seasoning with rosemary what else could be done? Well thinking back to the imbibing blog, there had to be someway I could use this in a drink right? Well there was I thought and I came up with the idea of a real simple basic cocktail with a little twist, a rosemary infused syrup Lemon Drop.

It worked like a charm after some experimenting. The interesting bit is that you would think a lemon vodka would suffice, but when I made the drink with a lemon vodka it hid all the rosemary taste and bouquet and just tasted like lemonade. Not bad tasting, but not what I was after, who doesn't like grown up lemonade for adults???

In the end simple base vodka worked best, making a balanced cocktail. I am not a vodka drinker, it doesn't seem to offer much. It's a neutral spirit upon where you could sort of add your own color to what you are doing. I seem to reference vodka mostly with mouth feel than anything. I seem to remember a Polish vodka specifically made from potatoes that I liked called Luksusowa, but that was sometime ago and I am not sure I would hold or care for trying it again. It seems there are so many other things that are abound with tastes, smells, and complexity that offer more to me than vodka...

Regardless, I made this drink and if you want to know how I made it... check out the video below


Saturday, August 7, 2010

First true taste of bourbon becomes more work than planned!

It seems when you get over analytical... you can get lost. Friends and family can sometimes tell me that I over analyze things. In many ways its perfect for reviewing and being critical, in other ways it's a hindrance. I can get so ahead of myself that my left brain doesn't know what my right is doing. In the past I discovered my first instinct was always correct, but my over processing would cause me to doubt and change my mind. It's sometimes a hard habit to break. But other times it's crystal clear... Other times, I walk and slam head first into obvious walls.

In preparation for the first bourbon tasting I was ready. I took my time, did some research, asked a lot of questions. I changed my approach after consultation with others. I spent some time on the Bourbon Enthusiast forum getting feedback that was helpful.

"You shouldn't try to taste more than 4-5 whiskey's at a time", one person mentioned. Also break your tastings into groups such as proof or year age.

I was set. However, in the back of my head a bit of anxiousness was evident. Tasting and talking about just about anything was never an issue, but whiskey (Bourbon) in this case was another animal. It can be a beast unleashed which as someone has said... Whiskey must be treated with respect.

I did the low proof tasting as planned. It went well, I learned things, but in the taping I got lost and made upon playback contradictory statements that upon review (to me) didn't make sense. It was an important learning experience.

In my first tasting of 5 low proof Bourbons, I pushed my face into a glass of Evan Williams. Not much seemed to be going on... but then after tasting it I felt something... and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I figured it was on the nose as well. So when I went back to refer to it after tasting others I would say it was there... but it just wasn't.

I was so consumed with trying to find that caramel that it made me say things that weren't there. As my friends have said, you need to slow down sometimes and take it easy. I couldn't help put noticed I repeated a particular phrase 4 times during the taping.

I still agree with the over all assessment of the tasting, and there's going to be more to compare. Jefferson's I seemed to be surprised I didn't like as much as the others, something that should easily have stood out from all the rest. It's an expensive whiskey made differently from the rest right so it should be good right? It should be the best of these 5 right?? Truth is... it did stand out. It had the nicest nose, there were items to taste, cedar, forest/piney, but somehow that should be oak... True? I don't bury my head in oak barrels, I don't know the difference between French and American oak say for wine... this is where tasting and education helps, I have to start somewhere and this is truly here and now. But somehow after the tasting was over I felt like I abandoned TJ there... sitting all alone in pale silhouette, he would coldly stare at me it seemed, "How dare you even THINK that turkey is better than me!! I helped FOUND THIS COUNTRY!!!!" heh heh

In the end though, I was over run by taste and smell, I was starting to doubt, but in the end I had to stick with what I originally said. So if there is confusion about what you think I said, just remember my first impressions are the ones I usually stick to.

In the end the first Bourbon tasting is online and you can watch it down below in 2 parts. The entire video segment is about 23 minutes.



Stick around, Round 2 will be

  • Makers Mark
  • Makers 46
  • Knob Creek
  • Rock Hill
  • Wild Turkey 101
  • Wild Turkey Rare Breed


Friday, August 6, 2010

Tasting the Post one day at a time

Dinners.... Engagements... upcoming weddings... When I first started the imbibe blog I thought, jesus... what am I going to be writing about?? Liquid libations in life abound but who hasn't talked about it or heard it all before? You can only tune out cause sometimes there's only so many ways to have a certain drink right? I could show you how to make it and... we're done right?? Well, I am discovering that day by day something always comes up to write about, many of times under unexpected circumstances.

Last night I was at a TastePost dinner. The Washington Post newspaper has a group membership for people who like to dine. Our hero here who loves to cook is also a food nut, and had the opportunity to sign up for the group last year. The TastePost club offered members to pay for a meal downtown in the Reagan building. To cut to the chase, I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to write about for my blog and focus on the wine that was served with the "Urban Farm Table on the Plaza" menu.

Now I know what you're thinking. Ethan, you said you wouldn't write about wine... And I agree I wasn't going to focus on it for this blog. But this is an imbibing blog, and this was a perfect opportunity to do this, and after quaffing there was definitely something I could write about. I am always sheepish about writing about wine. I have consumed and been drinking wine for a long time and have a myriad of tastes and flavors that I love to find. Drinking wine, is like trying to find god, but it's so varied (I am always trying to find god in the bottle in everything I drink). I have had so much and so many varietals from places all over the world, I would make my notes, but then those notes would be discarded. Many times... I could not refer to the vast library that I had in the past consumed. And to this day many times I still can't. Perhaps after today, that may change, when I write something down it seems to stick to memory better. Perhaps this is a new beginning.... maybe...

The next step would be to really start buying and making some room for bottles. But who has the room and money for this? Pfft.. not me! True... you don't need to spend LOTS of money on good wine, trust me you don't. The spirits realm made more sense. Open a bottle, have a little... it keeps (except maybe sweet vermouth), no worries, back on the shelf you go for some other day. Open up a bottle of wine and it's gone unless... you have another bottle! Gets kind of pricey don't you think??

However, I consume wine like no tomorrow, and my wife is not a big drinker. Wines that we buy seem to take a long time to get drunk cause my wife just likes to drink occasionally and has bottles sit around forever. I remember when I first met her she had bottles of wine that had been sitting around in a wine fridge and I started drinking them and then there would be nothing left for her. However, many times I saved her the trouble since she didn't drink so often, many of those wines she had left had turned to vinegar. So if I buy something now... I have no room... and I have to share... pfft.. or buy a lot (where am I going to put all this stuff???!? the spirit bottles are everywhere in my house now...)

The other thing is the elitist sometimes cult attitude and upper-crust snobbery that comes with Oenophiles (wine afficiandos). I have a tendency to stay away from this, in many ways wine has an intense cerebral connotation to it, there is so much going on and so much you can find and so much to disagree on. Wine in this form and its appreciation I find is divisive, we have to agree to disagree, and many times I don't find the same things the "experts" do or tell us. For example, Robert Parker who is basicaly the living breathing godlike wine expert on the planet, isn't someone I always agree with. Does that mean he's wrong... uh who the hell am I to tell him so? He does this thing for a living and has gods cellar in his house I am sure, so that answer is no. But I discovered that the 90-93 wines he rates I enjoy much more often then anything he rates higher than that. So interestingly enough it's a neat comparison, but I also know he has had WAY more wine than I can ever try to catch up on currently (lord knows I'd like to try some day).

I always had a saying in comparison:

Wine sometimes is the great divider, where as beer is the great communal bond, it emancipates everyone it can bring everyone together! Well okay... I am waxing a bit too poetic there, and that isn't always true, the point is (and lets get back on topic) tastes are not always shared no matter what we drink, but we all agree we enjoy it. Cheers!

So it seems as much as I want to write about imbibing, wine will be a part of it in some fashion and last night was a good excuse.

The evening first started off with some simple bites with some bubbly. I wish I could have made some notes on it... but I forgot and didn't think about writing for this blog until we sat down for dinner. A woman came by to join us who was from the Washington Wine Academy and was telling us that they had picked the wines for tonight's dinner. Suddenly the lightbulb went off in my head!!

"The bubbly you're drinking tonight is the same that was served at Chelsea's wedding! ", she quipped. Huh what wait a minute, I thought... shoot... what? I had already two glasses and now I could not remember exactly everything about it. Bubbles are fun, but it isn't what I go for in general when it comes to wine. I do remember it was better than say... regular store everyday occurrence stuff, we were definitely not drinking something ordinary, but unfortunately I could say there wasn't much too memorable about it. If there was I could easily tell you right now. Did I like it, sure it was a great start particularly with the seafood bites that were served. I don't think there was much of a mousse on it... I can't remember... shoot.

Speaking of bites, my wife got an oyster when we first arrived. Instant flashback and animal instincts took over as soon as I saw it, it was as if I was transplanted back in time to the oyster festival in St. Marys county MD again. DUDE I nearly screamed... Where is mine? (there was only one on the plate), oh we'll be back, the waiter chimed... He was... but I went without an oyster as the creature disappeared from sight never to been seen again...


So unfortunately Chelsea's bubbly took a back seat and got upstaged by the oyster.

However, imbibing was to soon come.

We sat down to dinner and I realized we had wine with each course.. DUDE you can write about this.. And so... here we go... please keep in mind that I will be talking about the WINE in this blog and not so much the dishes that were served. I could but I am going to try and stay as focused as I can on this. I would at this part like to thank someone for the pictures who was attending the evening. Pamela Lynne Sorenson was someone (among many others) I met across the table who was very charming and real nice. She took the pictures below. She also has a website which I would recommend you check out and find out about food and events going on around DC. You can see it here --> Pamela's Punch perhaps she will make note about the event as well (See her August 8th posting).

Entree 1: Sweet Pea Veloute - Grilled Carolina Day Boat Shrimp and Pea Tendrils Olive Oil Foam

Wine: Albrecht Reisling Reserve 2009 (YO DUDES YOU SPELLED Riesling wrong on the menu!!! HA HA!!!) hey I love to kid...

Nose: A bouquet consisting what I thought was mostly some type of bitter melon. Definitely melon, but not cantaloupe or something sweet, there was also a very slight floral scent on the nose I thought. I got a faint whiff of lavender.

Taste/Feel: Quite good, acidity? hard for me to judge, is this low/high/med what the heck? It's comparisons like this where I can get lost cause it's not as if I try 20 Alsace Rieslings a day let alone in a month and I can compare acidity... This is where some possible practice would help. There truly was a bitter melon type of finish on it to me. I enjoy wine from Alsace a lot, I really dig the Gewurztraminers that come from this region.

Pairing with food: Long story short, I didn't think this wine was an ideal pairing with the entree. The entree didn't complement the flavors of mellon since it was earthy pea tasting, and contrasting tastes didn't fly for me either. Later in the evening a gentleman who runs and works with the WWA asked us about the pairing and mentioned that many people liked it. I personally thought that a wine that could go good with this pea could have been something more earthy, the soup reminded me of soil.. earth... minerals... there should have been something to match that I thought. But hey... nobody is complaining!

Entree 2: Grilled Golden River Trout Summer Succotash, Benton's Tennessee Ham, Sweet Corn Vinaigrette

Wine: Nautilus Pinot Noir 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)

Nose: medium bodied, dark cherry fruit possibly some blueberry on the nose as well, jam smell.

Taste/Feel: very light bodied almost Valpolicella like, fairly medium tannins? Who has tannins? I need more tannins to compare!! (see this is why I have a hard time reviewing wine). Slight tobacco on the finish.

Pairing with food: Overall it was a good pairing surprisingly. Good piece of trout too by the way.

Entree 3: Fire Roasted Ayrshire Farm Beef Striploin, w/ Stuffed Baby Zucchini, Morel Mushrooms, Oca Potatoes, Roquefort Beurre "Maitre d'Hotel:
Wine: Bodega Weinert Malbec 2004 (Argentina)

MALBEC!!! DUDE I love Malbec! Ah ha and here's why!!!

Nose: Somewhat floral, but mostly herbal. Tea like, rosehip and/or black. Potpurri bouquet. Faint cinnamon, maybe some cloves also. I could bury my face in this all night, lots going on. love it!

Taste: Sweet slightly in the mouth, incredibly soft feel tannins, the potpurri really seems to come through on the finish, the wine has more body than of course the previous ones. Full of win!

Food Pairing: Yes it worked, even though the Roquefort/cheese was powerful it was a good contrast. Heck I don't care if it even DIDN'T work I would have eaten anything with this wine because.... I would have the wine to drink! I could drink this all night. Easily the best wine offered at the venue. I don't care just give me more of it.

Dessert: Jasmine Tea Mousse, Plum Sorbet w/ Coconut Cream and Yuzu
Wine: Saracco Moscato D'Asti 2009 (Italy)

Nose: Peaches... easily.. fizzy as well some bubbles.

Taste: peaches once again, and to me a taste of vanilla ice CREAM... specifically "Cream" with a capital "C".

Food Pairing: perfect, probably the most accurate and spot on pairing of the night, and this is coming from a guy who is not a dessert fan at all.

So there you have it!

Seems there is always something to imbibe on, and it also seems to reinforce the point I've never had a Malbec I didn't like. Once again thanks again to Pamela for the pictures, and also the Washington Wine Academy for setting this up.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mint under ATTACK!!

In the pursuit of tasty items for beverages, one must need more than liquid sustenance. One must acquire herbs! Herbs can be used as garnish, for flavorings, and also to be used in syrups to create!! Ah the posibilities are endless... It's as if making a cauldron of great potions, and perhaps if you had the will of say... Severus Snape... you could maybe even bottle fame...

This being the time of mojitos for me, I normally rely on my mint plant. It grows without much fuss or more importantly much caring or attention (something for me that is always an issue when it comes to plants).

Lately my spearmint variety seems to be under ATTACK!! and I am not sure if there's anything I can do about it. The thing is the plant seems to never die regardless of what I do. The history of how this wirey beast came in to my life explains some of the resolve of this plant to just take a beating. But lately it has been getting pale, and eaten. It also doesn't help that this has been a very dry summer for much of the DC area.

In a previous house I was living in, the next door neighbor grew this stuff in their garden which MIGRATED into ours like a weed out of control. I asked my wife when we moved that we take a bunch of it since it was already in our yard. She was not to happy about this since she couldn't stand the site of the thing, but in the end, we gave it a home in a pot and it has never looked back. But told me to NEVER put it in our lawn or there would be consequences.

However, I am on the mint kick. I've had a donation of come chocolate mint which is great, and I am also growing some Kentucky Colonel which is commonly used in one of my favorite drinks, the Mint Julep. The Colonel there is growing by leaps and bounds and should make a tasty addition! Its leaves are fatter and bigger, and they look a little more delicate almost spongy. There is also another variety called (what else) "mint julep", which has a stronger mint smell but different character of leaf. New drinks to imbibe with these are certainly under way! Consider planting some yourself, if my mint is just as indestructible as the ones you get, you'll never be without them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Revisiting the blueberry infusion

After making the blueberry infusion based on the instructions in the Kentucky Bourbon cocktail book, I took some time to revisit the concoction and compare it to the original.

I always wondered if there was a better bourbon to use for infusions. I am sure the best thing is to just taste several, and then determine one that you enjoy. I am sure there's lots of experimenting to be done, and things could be hit or miss.

So what exactly happened when using Jim Beam Black 8 year? Well... I decided to compare them. The most obvious duh difference is the color.

Jim Beam Black has a gold/bronze hue, while the blueberry infused counterpart has a deep cherry/red type color. But what about the important parts?

Well, this was what I discovered. The 8 year black label Beam has a pleasant nose not exactly perfectly pleasant, but not offensive or harsh. However, there aren't flavors to me that were easily detected, but there was a slight.. and I do say slight oak scent on the nose... but it's faint and subtle. In short to me, it's easily missed.

After quaffing the beverage, it's light body is quite pleasant on the palate, but still has a harsh burn to me, and there was no oak to be tasted, in contrast to what was detected on the nose. To me the oak is in the bouquet (although barely).

So in comparison what did blueberry infusion do? Well it did some obvious things and some surprises. The bouquet is obviously fruity, but to me it smells more of blueberry only a little bit, not exclusively, and even a bit of strawberry. However, the oak scent... is completely gone. In short I feel it killed it (as small as it was).

The same body is present in the mouth, even slightly jammy if I could say that even though it's light in body, and has a slight fruity taste and doesn't burn as much going down.

So the results were quite surprising. In short fruitiness added, oak taken away, and a better finish. However, the results weren't as dramatic as I expected. I would probably like to duplicate this again with a cheaper bourbon to see if the results are worth it, my gut feels that fusion will kill a bouquet that may contain aromas that are present, by overwhelming it that may be present in more expensive and longer aged bourbons?

We shall see... stay tuned. If you want to see how I made this watch the video below.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

In search of Wild Turkey and other elusive woodland creatures in DC

It seems life throws you all sorts of curves.

In preparation for a bourbon tasting, I had done lots of Internet searching and research and talking to people on various forums regarding bourbon. Such is the glory of the Internet and the ease with which you can quickly acquire information.

Long story short, the first bourbon tasting is about ready to begin. I am going to be tasting several, but they will be done in small groups of 4-6 bottles. I will first be starting off with the basics and low proof bourbons. Then moving on to more expensive higher proofs, then 7-8 years, and a group of 10-12 years.

I was all set when I decided that I needed to find a bottle of Wild Turkey 80. That's no problem. The irony though is that I don't like having lots of left over booze I don't want to maybe drink. Oh sure... nothing like really bad hooch that sits on your shelf that you wouldn't even give to your dog, or worse.. give to guests to punish for a party (maybe I should just invite people over I don't like and serve them nasty stuff??). Friends have already started talking about bottle exchanges with me for some of my light rums... I feel like after the first rum tasting even though 13 was a bit big to begin with, and some of those items were awful, it's like they are my children somehow.. some dysfunctional ones and black sheep... but I can't give them away.

Low proof bourbon is typically cheap (think Jim Beam white, Evan Williams etc...). The good thing though for just a tasting was that I could easily find small 200ml bottles of these to use (these are called half pints in the USA), which made for not wasting alcohol, and also not hurting my pocket book as much. I was even all set to buy minis but I learned that the law in DC is that in order to purchase minis you can't just buy one small mini, you have to purchase SIX of them. Everything is all set... except I am trying to find the elusive small 200ml bottle 80... It's counterpart 101 is an easy find, and a very popular bourbon, in any size it seems.

This is where the irony of where I live and finding cheap small booze became apparent. I was downtown in DC and couldn't find the small bottles of the 80 (the regular sizes are not hard to find). So I figured since I live in a shall we say... less picky customer oriented liquor store neighborhood, which consists of liquor stores behind bullet proof glass, and clientele more concerned about buying lottery tickets, 40 ouncers, and the cheapest gin possible.... That this could be a no brainer. Turns out I was wrong... and this became evident as I repeated this process every 3 blocks which in my neighborhood, you can do easily....

I went everywhere trying to find 200ml bottles (1/2 pints) of this in my area where I live and couldn't. It looks like I'll have to shell out for a big bottle, but luckily it shouldn't hurt the pocket book too much. Hopefuly I'll like it too! I will admit though, one proprietor was very helpful in trying to find what I needed... so Kudos to him.

I just figured I would even be able to find this in my neighborhood but nope, chalk up good micro-brew, fine shiraz cabernet, and Wild Turkey 80 in cheapest form as can't be bought in my area.

Such is life...

The low proof tasting will commence shortly, one of about 5 tastings I have planned. The first group will be in a random blind tasting:

  • Evan Williams
  • Jim Beam White
  • Wild Turkey 80
  • Old Grand-Dad 86
  • Jefferson's (this is a higher quality low proof bourbon), so this one is an exception

I seriously doubt I'd find some Van Winkle, but probably plenty of crappy take out food...