Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail (No. 1)

The Modern Cocktail (No. 1).This might be a little confusing, but just bear with me. You see, although it wasn’t my intention, it turns out that I’ve began another of my occasional trilogies of cocktails, and these are all called “The Modern Cocktail,” though it’s hard to say what was particularly modern about them back in the earlier part of the 20th century. However, they’re unusual in that they include Scotch, rarely a go-to base spirit, though one I’m quite fond of in mixed drinks, at times.

My original plan was to simply follow-up last week’s drink, the Modern Cocktail, which was based on a surprisingly harmonious combination of sloe gin and Scotch, with the Modern Cocktail (No. 2) from 1930’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” which actually does not include the original 1905 Modern Cocktail recipe I went through last week. Got that? In any case, I was sidetracked by some difficulties with locating decent brands of sloe gin at my local stores.

More about that next week, but in the meantime, we’re going to go with the first drink bearing the name “Modern Cocktail” included in Harry Craddock’s epochal cocktail book. This one is sloe gin-free and a drastically different taste experience. However, the recipe is similar enough to the first Modern Cocktail that it’s tempting to wonder if the whole thing isn’t some kind of a typographical mutation. It’s close to being the same drink, minus the sloe gin or, really, any kind of sweetening.

Yes, this is a drink for a select few who really want their booze to be boozy and relatively unadorned and unsoftened. See what you think.

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2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Booze

Walk into any liquor store and you’ll see hundreds of options. You can zero in on someone’s favorite drink when picking a gift, or you can get creative and choose something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Also, remember that you don’t want to come to a party empty-handed, so get in the habit of at least bringing a bottle.

And for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Laphroaig Select Scotch Whisky

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We sometimes like to imagine master distillers as mad scientists of sorts, mixing up solutions late at night as they eagerly search for the next cure-all elixir. The story behind Laphroaig’s Select Single Malt Scotch Whisky, while not as dramatic, confirms at least a few of our suspicions. Select is a combination of four Laphroaig whiskies — Quarter Cask, PX Cask, Triple Wood and 10 Year Old — brought together in new American Oak casks for a final maturation period. The resulting creation is described by Master Distiller John Campbell as “peat, ash and spice wrapped in a blanket of sweetness.” Our thoughts exactly. Upon first taste, one cannot escape the wave of smoke that permeates the aromatics and personality of this scotch. This is what the island of Islay is known for producing, after all. The signature peat may feel overpowering to the novice drinker, but subsequent sips reveal a surprising uniformity and balance underlined by a soft sweetness. Its subtle complexity invites the drinker to further exploration, without a punishing burn. All in all, we found Laphroaig Select to be a very approachable scotch, both in taste and in price ($44.99). Well-liked by our friends and family, we certainly recommend it for yours.

Crown Royal Vanilla Whisky

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Crown Royal Whisky has always been easily identified thanks to the distinctive purple velvet bag with gold drawstrings that each bottle comes in. It’s been that way since 1939, when King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth visited Canada and were honored with this blend from Manitoba. But Crown Royal has continued to innovate since then, with each release being sold in a uniquely colored collector’s pouch. Their latest creation from the Flavor Series is Crown Royal Vanilla Whisky, boasting infused Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. And as one might imagine, you don’t create a flavored whisky on the premise that the flavor is subtle. No indeed, the vanilla is unmistakable. The vanilla scent is upfront but fairly balanced, yet immensely amplified in flavor when sipped. There’s no doubt that it’s smooth, however, with just a little heat upfront that quickly dissipates before being usurped by the vanilla extract. We thought it a little too sweet to be sipped neat but were intrigued by its potential on enhancing some familiar cocktails. We mixed it into a simple whisky and coke and loved it. From apple ciders to Old Fashioneds, this whisky makes for a great twist on holiday drinks. This would be a great addition for your alcohol loving friend, and best of all, you can even customize the bag on Crown Royal’s website to make them feel like royalty.

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Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail

The Modern Cocktail.Since famed cocktail super-historian David Wondrich tells us that it dates back to 1905, clearly the Modern Cocktail hasn’t been particularly modern for a very long time. Indeed, at least up to now, it’s been an absolute obscurity, one that I personally hadn’t encountered until last week. And Wondrich is definitely right that it hasn’t been making its way into your better bars the way so many other of the better rediscovered cocktails have in recent years. He seems to chalk it up to the odd hodgepodge of ingredients, and that may well be correct.

In any case, I agree with him that the Modern Cocktail might not be any more newfangled than an Old Fashioned, but it is amazingly rich and delicious. Let’s keep it simple this week and just get right into it.

The Modern Cocktail

1 or 1 1/2 ounce Scotch whiskey
1 or 1 1/2 ounce sloe gin (probably Plymouth Sloe Gin)
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 dash absinthe (I use an eye dropper; a shaker bottle might be ideal)
1 dash orange bitters
1 cocktail cherry (fun garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients and easily dissolved sugar in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake quite vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Contemplate the likelihood that even having easy access to ice must have seemed incredibly modern at some point.

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Paso’s Peachy Canyon closes in on 30 years

Since 1988, Peachy Canyon has been producing distinct wines from Paso Robles. As with many wineries that have been in Paso that long, Zinfandel stands at the core of what they do. Over the years, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhone varieties, and in a couple of cases, fine Pinot Noir have popped up and made a stand in Paso. However, Zinfandel remains the grape that many people think of and drink when they pop the cork on a bottle of Paso wine for the very first time.

That’s a good thing, too, because Paso Robles has a ton of producers growing and bottling distinct examples of Zinfandel. Some are single vineyard efforts, others Paso wide cuvees, and still more focus on a sub appellation. Peachy Canyon has their fair share of Zinfandels in a wide portfolio. Here’s a look at some current Zinfandel releases, as well as a couple of other fine wines from Peachy Canyon.

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Peachy Canyon 2014 Incredible Red ($14)

This is mostly Zinfandel (98%) with a splash of Petite Sirah (2%) blended in. If you’re looking for that everyday house red that provides lots of hedonistic drinking pleasure for a reasonable price, here’s a more than solid option. Black fruit aromas and Mexican vanilla bean are evident on the nose. The palate is full flavored, juicy and loaded with red and black fruit flavors. Boysenberry, bits of brown sugar and more are evident on the above average and somewhat lusty finish.

Peachy Canyon 2012 Cirque du Vin ($19)

This blend is comprised of Syrah (60%), Petite Sirah (28%), Zinfandel (5%), Merlot (3%), Malbec (2%) and Tannat (2%). Violet and plum aromas lead the nose. The palate is filled with bits of savory herb, dried cherry, raspberry and more. A touch of bacon fat leads the finish along with bits of toast and continued fruit flavors. This seamless blend will satisfy a crowd with varied tastes. The under-$20 price point makes it a no-brainer purchase.

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Drink of the Week: The Smokey Martini

The Smokey Martini.It’s the day after Thanksgiving or Black Friday, if you must. That means you’ve likely overindulged in fowl, carbohydrates and possibly heated political arguments with family members. You also might have had a drink or two, but if you’re reading this, you’re definitely on your way to contemplating another one. It’s possible you’d rather have something that wasn’t too caloric, a bit dry and potent but also kind of interesting.

Well, maybe it’s a good day to consider one of the simplest of drinks I’ve ever presented here. It’s definitely more of a classic martini than, say, a Chocolate Martini or, lord help us, an Appletini. Basically, we’re talking about two great hard liquors that go surprisingly great together. This one’s only for grown-up boozers.

The Smokey Martini

2 1/2 ounces dry gin (vodka might also work)
1/2 ounce Scotch
1/2 ounce dry vermouth (very optional!)
Lemon twist, olive, or cocktail onion (desirable garnish)

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and stir — or shake if you must go full Ian Fleming, but I can’t say I suggest it. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and contemplate how a cocktail can be both simple and challenging at exactly the same time.

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