Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

Basil Hayden's Bourbon

Bourbon keeps growing in popularity, and we love trying the premium brands. The good folks at Basil Hayden’s Bourbon were kind enough to send us a bottle, and we definitely enjoyed trying it straight and one the rocks. The first thing we noticed was the stylish bottle that tells the history of Basil Hayden, Sr. distilling the first bottle of his bourbon way back in 1796! It has a memorable, spicy flavor that you can savor. If you’re looking for a small-batch bourbon to add to your home bar, you’ll want to try this one out.

Also, here’s a refreshing recipe to try as the weather warms up:

Basil Hayden’s Bluegrass Punch
4 parts Basil Hayden’s ® Bourbon
8 parts Blueberry Juice
8 parts Passion Fruit Juice
Sparkling Wine or Club Soda
Fresh Mint Leaves

Method:
1. Add Basil Hayden’s, blueberry juice, passion fruit juice and ice in a cocktail shaker and shake.
2. Top with club soda or sparkling wine

Blueberry Ice Ring
Freeze one bag of frozen blueberries with water in a bunt cake pan. Dip frozen ring into hot water for a few seconds to unmold. Place in punch bowl with blueberry side up.

Give it a try and enjoy!

BH_Bluegrass Punch

  

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Drink of the Week: The Montenegro Sour

The Montenegro Sour. Lately, we’ve been featuring a few cocktails made with really good booze sent to me by the dark forces of the liquor-industrial complex. Today’s post is a bit different as the much appreciated gift of free booze came not from some shadowy Sidney Falco, but from Ron Shishido, a very old junior high/college buddy who’s probably taught me how to appreciate a good booze concoction as much as anyone else on this planet, including Rachel Maddow.

Amaro Montenegro is, on it’s own and served neat, quite a lovely drink. It’s a member of the amaro family of bittersweet liqueurs which occasionally pop up in cocktails. It’s popular enough in Italy to be featured in a series of slick commercials of the kind we use to sell highish-end beer in the States, and that’s for a reason. With a hard-to-pin down but relatively fruity flavor, it’s a kinder, gentler, vastly more drinkable brew than, say Torani Amer or the superior — but still two-fisted — Amaro CioCara. As bitter digestifs go, this one’s pretty sweet.

Perhaps because it’s so readily drinkable all on its own, I had a hard time finding a cocktail made with this particular amaro. However, Food and Wine bloggers Carey Jones and John McCarthy came to the rescue with a few recipes. I chose one featuring my all-time favorite non-alcoholic cocktail ingredient, egg white.

I’m not sure the drink is so accurately named, however. Whatever alleged citrus flavor there is comes from the mysterious herbal blend from which Amaro Montenegro is made, so it’s really more bitter, in a good way, than sour.

On the plus side, that means no potentially messy juice squeezing is required this time around and that definitely speeds up the cocktailing process. That’s good because I’m breaking my usual rule against recipes requiring home-made syrups. Yes, there’s a tiny bit of extra work involved, but be bold and read on.

The Montenegro Sour

1 ounce Montenegro Amaro
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 fresh egg white or equivalent (see below)
1/2 ounce honey syrup (see below)
1 dash aromatic bitters, Angostura or similar

Combine the Amaro Montenegro, bourbon, syrup, and bitters in cocktail shaker. First, as always with egg or egg white cocktails, we do a “dry” shake without ice to emulsify it. Then, we shake again, very vigorously and with plenty of ice, and strain it into a chilled cocktail glass or smallish rocks glass. We then enjoy this delightfully refreshing beverage and toast our amaro’s namesake, Princess Elena of Montenegro, the World War II-era queen consort of Italy known, for the most part anyway, for her good works.

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Despite the fact that I often tell publicists with recipes that make-it-yourself syrups are off the table, I decided to make an exception this week for a couple of reasons.

First. the honey syrup for this recipe is ridiculously easy to make. Just mix equal parts honey and hot water, then stir. I put 1/4 cup of honey and that much water in the microwave for 30 seconds, stirred the stuff, and then put it in the freezer for a few minutes so it wouldn’t be too hot. Low on both muss and fuss.

The second reason we’re using the honey syrup is that I actually tried this drink more than once with my usual Master of Mixes Simple Syrup and it just didn’t do the trick. Too simple. Apparently, you need that little bit of honey flavor to complement the bourbon and amaro.

I used three different brands of bourbon. The always outstanding 80 proof Basel Hayden’s yielded a nectary result that went down very easy indeed. 94 proof Wathen’s, a brand that’s I recently bought out of curiosity and which I’m quite liking, produced a boozier, but also more full bodied, result.

Finally, there was the version using an old DOTW favorite that’s been returning to my local stores of late, “bottled in bond” 100 proof Old Fitzgerald, which remains the best bourbon bargain I’ve found at, in my case, less than $15.00 for a bottle. It produced a sweet, tangy, and very punchy attitude adjuster that, at that particular moment, was very much what the doctor ordered. Admittedly, however, that doctor would not be a liver specialist.

Finally, I have to add a few more words on the enormous power of egg whites to really transform a drink. Contrary to the common assumption, whites in drinks are not even slightly slimy but add a smooth, almost milky, froth to a drink. The froth smooths over the rough edges of the other flavors and unites them as well as anything I’ve ever experienced.

Still, many folks resist, and not all of their reasons are bad. I’ve been talking to an expert or two lately about what I still believe are the very low risks of using raw egg white. However, I’ve been told that, for people who are concerned, caution may still be in order especially right now for a number of reasons, cost-related reductions in government inspection among them, no doubt. (God forbid big government should stand in the way of a microbe’s ability to grow and prosper in a free-market environment.)

I just crack open a large egg and maybe wash the shell first. However, people with real health concerns of any kind  about this should very definitely consider using about 1-1.5 ounces of one of the many brands of pasteurized egg white on the market.

  

3 Liquors Hip-Hop Heads Love (and Recipes for Each)

ID-100170534 whiskey
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Liquor is a staple in the hip hop world.

Flashy cars, hot girls, stacks of money, and of course … the partying.

Rappers like Eminem, 50 Cent, Ice Cube, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, and many others get behind their brands. There is no shortage of the hard stuff whenever you catch one of their videos and if you happen to catch them in a club you’ll quickly see them poppin’ bottles at a table.

This love for the booze has even gone as far as to catch the attention of researchers which found that out of 700 top billboard hits almost 23% of them had some mention of alcohol.

The question becomes … which ones and what kind of drinks can you make with ‘em?

1. Wild Turkey

Whiskey and bourbon are two fine choices you’ll often hear mentioned in videos.

These are the drinks of gangsters – to whom many rappers try to replicate at least in image.

The aged drink shows sophistication and says that you’re not just there to chug down grain alcohol.

Of these brands, the Island of Kentucky has been putting out some of the best.

At around 86 proof (43% alcohol) you can expect to get turned up on one of these bottles.

If you want to drink with sophistication than consider the Sazerac:

• 2 oz Bourbon Whiskey
• 1 tsp Ricard Pastis
• 1 tsp Water
• 2 dashes Peychaud Bitters
• 1/2 tsp Superfine Sugar
• 1 twist of Lemon Peel

Preparation

Chill an old-fashioned glass. In a separate mixing glass, muddle the sugar and Peychaud bitters together. Add the whiskey and ice to the bitters mixture and stir. Rinse the chilled glass with Ricard Pastis by pouring a small amount into the glass, swirling it around and discarding the liquid. Strain the whiskey mixture from the mixing glass into the old fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe courtesy of Snooth.com.

2. Patron

Ah, Patron.

The tequila that doesn’t taste like the devil and a favorite among rappers.

Patron is going to set you back a bit of money depending on the size of the bottle (expect to pay about $45 and up for a decent size) but it’s worth it once you taste the difference.

You ain’t going bottom-shelf on this one.

This legendary alcohol has been a favorite among rappers for decades. Tequila is usually one of those drinks that completely floors you but everyone has seemed to take a liking to Patron (probably because it doesn’t give you the rot gut, massive hangover the next day, as easily).

Drink with style via Patron Diablo:

• 1 1/2 oz Patron Silver Tequila
• 3/4 oz Creme de Cassis
• 1/2 oz Lime Juice (fresh)
• 1 splash(es) Ginger Ale

Preparation

Fill cocktail glass with ice then add the Patron Silver Tequila, Creme de Cassis, and fresh Lime Juice. Top off with Ginger Ale. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Recipe courtesy of BartendingMadeEasyandFun.

3. Hennessy

Cognac.

Now there’s a drink for the ages.

Hennessy go real popular once the hip hop crowd found it with big mentions by the likes of Tupac, Biggie, Drake, Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang, and a bunch of others. The reason why you’ve probably heard of the name is most likely because of a hip hop song.

Drinking it straight is always choice but if you want to be adventurous then try a Tap that Ass:

• 1 oz Hennessy® cognac
• 1 oz Alize® Red Passion liqueur
• 1 oz Alize® Gold Passion liqueur
• 1 splash cranberry juice
• Top with soda water

Preparation

Fill the hurricane glass with ice. Pour the Hennessy, Red Alize, and Yellow Alize. Splash in some Cranberry Juice and top it off with soda. For garnish you can add a slice of pineapple and cherries.

Recipe courtesy of Drinksmixer.

Conclusion

If you’re thinking about stocking up one some booze for your next party or if you just want to have some around the house than these three choices are great for building up that stock.

You don’t have to party as hard as the hip hop heads but you can certainly drink like ‘em.

Try out some of the mixes, too.

Remember: you don’t always have to drink it straight from the bottle.

  

Drink of the Week: The Old Fashioned (Remixed)

the Old Fashioned. I know this will probably drive me out of the cocktail writers’ club, but this week’s recipe-centric DOTW was preempted by a cold. I know this will make me sound a bit wussy to some of you, but I personally do not find that alcohol “kills the germs.” It’s more like granting them superpowers. Moreover, when I’m sick, some generic Alka-Seltzer Plus more or less does me just fine. In short, liquor has not passed these lips in over a week.

On the other hand, being sick also allowed me to wipe my DVR clean of “Mad Men” episodes…including episode 12, “The Quality of Mercy,” which my device decided to turn off about 1/3 of the way through the episode. I tried recording it again last night, but the show my DVR thought was “Mad Men” turned out to be CSI or NCIS or SVU or something else with letters or what not.  I’m sure I’ll catch up with it all by next Sunday.  The point is that “Mad Men” is whipping up more controversy and hysteria than ever, and it’s lovable/hatable alcoholic antihero/hero, Don Draper, has done more than his share to revive interest in classic cocktails in general and one ultra-classic, in particular, the Old Fashioned.

If you want a recipe, as such, you can find not one but actually two if you read my last look at the Old Fashioned closely.  That was just a little over two years ago, but the two approaches to the drink in it remain pretty close to the way I often make it now…except I’m slightly more open-minded about the use of soda water. Still, I say keep it minimal if you use it at all.

On the other hand, that’s not quite what Mr. Draper does in this memorable scene from a long-ago season when he makes a new and short-lived friend in Conrad Hilton by making him an Old Fashioned. Yes, we’re breaking the format this week and in lieu of a recipe, you’re getting this legendary moment in televisionary cocktailing.

Now, watching this again, it occurs to me I’ve never made an Old Fashioned precisely this way. Don uses a bit more soda water than I would prefer. And note how he doesn’t really stir it, but just sort of dashes the bar spoon on the ice cubes a couple of times. On the other hand, his wetting of one sugar cube per glass (they look like rather large brown sugar cubes to me) with Angostura bitters and then muddling them is absolutely classic. The fact that he includes a cheap, bright red, non-Luxardo maraschino cherry in his muddling would, on the other hand, horrify many in the crafty cocktail set, but I don’t think it’s a problem.

No, if I were drinking tonight, I’d probably make pretty much exactly that drink, though I’ve never been a big Old Overholt guy. This rye has become the craft bar standard recently — I can’t speak for its popularity in 1963 — but I prefer my bonded Rittenhouse Rye or Don Draper’s favorite not-quite-rye, Canadian Club. (CC, by the way, sponsors a brief tutorial with their version of an Old Fashioned as an extra on the Blu-Ray/DVD of “Mad Men” Season Five.) Right now, I’d be using Bulleit’s Rye, because that’s what I’ve got. I’m sure it would be decent.

And that’s actually the thing about an Old Fashioned — even more than a Martini or a Manhattan, it’s sturdy and flexible. Paradoxically, it’s also easy to foul up completely, as most non-craft bars do, if you use too much sweetener, water, or even whiskey. One teaspoon for two ounces of whiskey is pretty much the right proportion, and it’s definitely also the maximum if you’re muddling fruit. Also never, ever, use the syrup that comes with the sweet-supermarket maraschino cherries as your sweetener. Don’t.

Still, like I said, there’s that a lot of leeway with your Old Fashioned. You can make the very severe kind with only a teaspoon full of soda water, a sugar cube, bitters, and not very much ice — or, the fashionable craft bar favorite, one giant and slow to dilute cube — or you can make the lusher version I mostly lean towards, in which I muddle an orange slice and maybe a cherry, too, while throwing in a splash or two, or three, of plain water and enough ice to fill my rocks glass.

There’s an idea out there that there’s one way to make a perfect Martini or Old Fashioned, and I’m here to tell you that’s balderdash. I’ve mad dozens of these drinks in dozens of ways — I’ve even served an Old Fashioned up, shaken, as if it was a Martini or Manhattan — and it nearly always works, at least a little bit.

At bars, I’ve had two truly great Old Fashioneds. One was for probably $15.00 at a very high end joint in Century City on November 4th, 2008 and used Michter’s Rye (or maybe Bourbon). The other was a $3.00 happy hour beverage with the well bourbon (Evan Williams, I think) by a nameless bartender at the Hudson in West Hollywood several months back. I’m sure they were made in completely different ways.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that these recipes — all of them — are guidelines. I’ve veered between the various poles of making Old Fashioneds and I’ve yet to find a consistently great way to make the drink, but some of my tries have been very good. Some have also been disappointing. I still think the official recipe I wrote two years back is the most reliable, but my results always vary.

It’s pretty much the same way as it goes with a great television series like “Mad Men.” Maybe the season closer will be a real humdinger, or maybe it won’t. We should all just relax and let it be whatever it is.

Unless, of course, the nuttier online tea-leaf readers are right and the Manson Family or stand-ins really do end up killing Megan Draper. That, my friends, would be more stupid than sweetening your Old Fashioned with two tablespoons of the cheap maraschino cherry syrup.

  

Drink of the Week: The Brancamenta Giulebbe di Menta

The Brancamenta Giulebbe di Menta. So, yeah, last week we hit Cinco de Mayo pretty good here at DOTW central, and we pretty much ignored Derby Day, but better late than never as we’ve got a very nice Mint Julep variation with a bit of an Italian or perhaps Argentine twist. I’d love to also make a connection to Mother’s Day somehow. Well, if mom likes bourbon and mint, we’ve got something for her, too.

This week’s drink comes to us via the good folks at Four Roses bourbon as well as the manufacturers of Fernet Brancamenta, the lesser known mintier, sweeter cousin of the world’s most hairy chested herbal cult liqueur, Fernet Branca.

There are times when I wonder why I get so much free stuff, as I’m actually pretty honest about how I feel about things in my own polite way. If I seem fairly positive for the most part, it’s probably that most widely marketed premium products taste pretty good, I suppose. Also, if I’m likely to really dislike something I tend to ignore the pitches. At the same time, something that doesn’t wow me on its own might working amazingly well in a cocktail and sometimes, it’s kind of the reverse.

This weeks’s products, however are definitely, right on the money. I’m still trying to figure out what else can be done with the Branca Menta, but I can tell by tasting it that it has great possibilities. The folks in Argentina love it with Coke, I’m told. And Four Roses Yellow Label is just a very good, basic bourbon. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. This week’s cocktail is also pretty good, despite not having any bitters, and it might have been a complete revelation if only I was able to master the art of cracking ice.

Part of the problem is that I tend to make these drinks relatively late at night. It turns out that it takes more to properly crack ice than to simply wrap some ice up in a towel and give in a solid tap. Apparently, you’ve got to whack it with all of your might. Well, I was too afraid of A. Waking somebody up and B. Destroying kitchen linoleum with my little meat tenderizing hammer to give my ice the throttling it needs and deserves. The result was perhaps not as ice cold as it should been. One of these days I’m going to have a julep that’s practically a bourbon Slurpee, and I’m going to love it.

Still, we make do.

The Brancamenta Giulebbe di Menta

2-3 ounces Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
2 teaspoons of sugar
12 fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon Fernet Branca Menta
Perrier or other soda water/club soda
Mint sprigs and orange slice (garnish)

Place sugar, mint leaves, and maybe a splace or two of your Perrier or other soda in the bottom of a chilled, tallish glass — Tom Collins or what not — or one of those metal julep cups if you’ve got one.  (I don’t.) Lightly muddle the mint and the sugar. You don’t want to muddle the mint too hard or it might get a tad bitter. You also might have better luck working with the sugar if you use superfine sugar, like I do. (Simple syrup might well work just as well here.)

Add lots of ice — as cracked as you can make it — as well as your bourbon, adjusting a bit for taste between 2 and 3 ounces, and a teaspoon/bar spoon of Brancamenta. Add just a little bit more soda, too. Stir well and throw in some additional mint leaves and a orange slice for a garnish if you like. I think the orange slice helps a bit with the taste.

Once your drink is ready, if you can think of something that’s Italian or Argentinian  and also Kentuckian (for the bourbon), toast it by all means. Make sure it’s good and cold, and drink up.

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This is where I usually comment about different brands and what not, but there’s only one Brancamenta  that I know of. I can’t stop you from trying different bourbon brands with this. It’s a free country and all that. Still, the relative lightness of Four Roses, which is the rare premium bourbon that’s only 80 proof, works well here.

  

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