2013 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.

Craft Beer Club

If you have a beer lover on your list, you can give him or her the gift that keeps on giving. The Craft Beer Club discovers exceptional craft brews from around the country and delivers them each month direct to you or your gift recipient. Every selection is produced by small-production, independent brewers who use only traditional brewing ingredients and time-honored brewing methods. In addition to traditional bottled beers, they also embrace the hundreds of small craft brewers around the country that offer their hand-crafted beers in cans. It’s a great way to enjoy craft beers and it’s ideal for the holiday season.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

If dad, your buddy, your tomboyish gal pal or anyone else on your holiday list loves a very good bottle of Scotch, then consider this rather dandy, unusually enjoyable single malt. Outstanding on the rocks, with a splash of water or soda, or neat for you purists, the Laphroaig 10 Year Old is also more mixable than you might assume; on the other hand, it’s good enough that many will consider even the finest cocktail made with it a crime against nature. The website tells us that it’s got traces of salt and seaweed along with the usual peat and smoke flavors, but we don’t completely agree. It’s definitely got smoke – indeed, you might get hungry for barbecue after you take a good whiff and, yeah, that’s some salt in there, but that’s not all. Every good Scotch has its share of several indescribable tastes and smells of nature. We haven’t been to Scotland, but we wouldn’t be one bit surprised to find ourselves tasting the essence of this concoction in the clear cool air of the highlands. Cheaper than super-duper premium single malts but nearly double what you’ll likely pay for Chivas Regal, this is an outstanding gift for a true blue Scotch enthusiast.

Brugal 1888 Dominican Rum

If you’re in search of a bottle for the man or woman who’s drunk everything, Brugal 1888 is something genuinely new under the sun and it’s completely remarkable. An aged Dominican rum that thinks it’s a premium Scotch or Bourbon, it has the tantalizing, woody and astringent flavor you might get in very a high-end single malt, plus a hint of something that somehow reminds us of our dad’s old fake-leather chair. (That’s a good thing, believe it or not.) At the exact same time, it has a boldly sugary undertone that goes well beyond what you’re likely to find in the sweetest bourbon. We tasted more than a hint of maple syrup or maybe turbinado. Regardless, it’s delicious and probably not like anything you’ve had before. You can drink this on the rocks, with a bit of water, or neat. You can also put on your mixologist hat and go to town as this is a flexible beverage that won’t be out of place in an Old Fashioned, especially if you use real maple syrup in place of the usual sugar or simple syrup. High priced for rum but worth every gosh darn penny, this is one boozy gift that won’t be forgotten.

Cabo Diablo

This is the best new spirit we’ve tried in a long time. Cabo Wabo is known now just as much for its excellent tequilas as it is for its founder Sammy Hagar, and this new Cabo Diablo should attract many more fans. Cabo Diablo features a delicious coffee flavor and tastes amazing when you drink it straight. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and it’s not think and syrupy like some liqueurs. So it’s a fantastic sipping drink that men and women should both enjoy. But better yet, it’s a tequila, so it’s also a great way to get a party going, as tequila makes everyone a little nuts at times. It is made with 100% blue agave Cabo Wabo Silver tequila, then kicks in notes of fresh roasted coffee, vanilla and chocolate for a striking combination. It’s excellent served chilled or on the rocks. With the holidays around the corner, this makes for a great gift for men and women, and it’s a great bottle to bring to a gathering to get the party started!

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Grand Marnier Signature Collection No. 2 – Raspberry Peach

grand marnier raspberry peach_409x550

The good folks at Grand Marnier sent us their new Signature Collection, the smooth and delicious Raspberry Peach. The Signature Collection Series is a unique annual flavor offering from Grand Marnier featuring an all-natural fusion of fresh fruit ingredients and exotic orange essence, blended with premium Cognac. Here’s how they describe it: “The House of Marnier Lapostolle is proud to present our latest expression, Signature Collection No. 2 Raspberry peach. The natural flavors of succulent European raspberries and rare red peaches from Ardèche, in the South of France, are combined with world-renowned Grand Marnier, made from our exceptionally smooth Cognac and wild tropical Haitian oranges.”

It sounds incredible, and it totally lives up to the hype. Just pour it into a cocktail glass with some ice and you have a delicious drink with a nice kick. It’s not too sweet or syrupy like some liqueurs and it makes for a great sipping drink. If you’re a fan of Grand Marnier you have to try this, and we recommend it to anyone who enjoys spirits.

Here’s a punch recipe provided by Grand Marnier and created by mixologist George Carney that you can serve if you’re hosting a holiday party, though we like the Raspberry Peach so much we would serve it straight on the rocks:

GM Raspberry Peach Holiday Punch
2 quarts Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
1 ½ cups cinnamon syrup
2 quarts water
1 quart lemon juice
1 quart overproof rum
4 oz apricot brandy
Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl and serve. Optional: freeze raspberries and pieces of peach in purified water and add to punch bowl.

For individual portions:
2 oz Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
1/2 oz cinnamon syrup
2 oz spring water
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz overproof rum
1/8 oz apricot brandy
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a punch glass.

With the holidays coming, Grand Marnier Signature Collection No. 2 – Raspberry Peach is a great choice to bring to a party. It can also be a great gift for both men and women as the flavor will have broad appeal. Buy an extra one for your home bar!

  

KAPPA Pisco offers a unique option for your bar

KAPPA PiscoWhen you’re stocking your home bar, you always want to make sure you have the staples like vodka and bourbon, but you definitely want to offer your guests some unique spirits as well, particularly with the exploding popularity of unique cocktails.

One item to consider is KAPPA Pisco, produced by the Marnier Lapostolle family that is best known for its Grand Marnier Cognac. Pisco is like Cognac in that it’s a spirit made from the double distillation of wine. However, unlike Cognac which must be aged in oak, Chilean Pisco can be either aged or unaged in oak. KAPPA is the unaged variety that results in a delicious white spirit that offers an excellent option when mixing cocktails. It’s definitely unique and the beautiful bottle from renowned designer Ora-Ito will look great on any bar.

The grapes for KAPPA Pisco are sourced from the Elqui Valley in Chile which boasts 300 days of sunshine a year and fresh water from the Andes Mountains.

You can use KAPPA Pisco for all sorts of cocktails, and you can find tons of great drink recipes on their website. Cinco de Mayo is behind us, but margaritas are always popular. Here’s a recipe for what they call the “South American Margarita.”

Ingredients:

1.5 oz KAPPA Pisco
0.5 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
0.5 oz agave nectar
1 oz fresh lime juice

Shaken, strained over fresh ice into rocks glass, garnish lime wheel.

Give KAPPA Pisco a try and you just might find a new staple for your home bar or something to order when you go out.

  

Drink of the Week: The Capone

Image ALT text goes here.I’m not sure if it’s a good omen that the first DOTW of 2013 is celebrating Al Capone. Especially considering what we’re all about here, we might be prone to forgive the bootlegging and the gambling the man was involved with, but his probable involvement in mass murder is something we have to come down a bit harder on here at DOTW Central. On the other hand, it appears he had good taste in rye whiskey.

This week’s drink was suggested to me by a mysterious — though, I’m sure, entirely law-abiding — benefactor who was kind enough to send me a bottle of what we are told was the real original Scarface’s favorite whiskey and “the good stuff” well-heeled folks might have enjoyed at a real Chicago speakeasy during prohibition days. Made in nearby Iowa, Templeton Rye alleges itself to be a recreation of what my long-deceased reprobate Great Uncle Ben might have personally swilled at certain Chi-town establishments.

I have no idea whether or not that’s true, but I do know that this is some very good rye whiskey. A bit less peppery and less reminiscent of the stuff I eat with yellow mustard and pastrami than other ryes, it nevertheless sports a delightful potpourri of flavors with a bit more bourbon-esque sweetness than is usual. The fact that it’s 80 proof probably helps allow for a bit more gentleness than in your bonded 100 proof ryes.

As for the cocktail the Templeton people have created in the name of Al Capone, it’s much nicer than the man most people assume was behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre must have been.

The Capone

2 ounces Templeton Rye Whiskey
1 ounce champagne (i.e., sparkling white wine)
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
1 dash bitters
Lemon twist (crucial garnish)

This is a pretty easy one. Combine your liquids in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Rim the glass with a very thin slice of lemon peel (none of the white stuff) and “twist” it over the drink to express the lemon oils into the drink. (This is actually standard practice with a twist of lemon, but I’m going into detail because it’s more important than usual.) Toast whomever you like when you sip this, but do me a favor and consider making it something or someone other than Mr. Capone. I’m going out on a limb here and expressing my vehement opposition to organized crime.

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Very, very observant readers might note here that I’m going against my usual practice and actually suggesting you use only Templeton Rye in making this particular drink. Far be it from me to curtail experimentation, but I have to say that I actually tried this drink first with a different brand of rye, a fun-size bottle of Korbel I happened upon, and Cointreau in lieu of Grand Marnier. It was nasty.

Here’s where I have to thank my benefactors again who went well above and beyond the call of duty and, in response to some of my habitual whining, actually sent me some Grand Marnier (which is very tasty but not cheap, hence my whining) as well as some very quaffable Yellow Tail Sparkling White Wine. Sure, Australia is a long way from the Champagne region of France, but it did just fine.

While the Capone turned out very nicely using the more or less originally specified ingredients, there is some wiggle room here as far as your choice of bitters goes. Your standard classic Angostura works just fine here, but there was a slight aftertaste of the wrong kind of bitterness I wasn’t overly fond of. Using the kinder, gentler Peychaud’s bitters yielded a nice enough result, however. I also had decent luck with Regan’s Orange Bitters, which I think worked nicely with the Grand Marnier.

Still, for all of that, I’m so taken with Templeton Rye, it’s reputed evil origins notwithstanding, that I’m expecting even better results when I try it in something where it can really stand out on it’s own. I’ll be having that Templeton Old Fashioned I think. Right…about…now.

  

Drink of the Week: The Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club CocktailYou all probably know the one-liner, developed by Groucho Marx and reiterated by Woody Allen in “Annie Hall,” about not wanting to belong to any club that would have the speaker for a member. At this point, I have to admit that I certainly don’t feel like a member of the Pegu Club whether or not they’d have me. Of course, as I’m not a Britisher hanging around Rangoon circa 1920-1930, I wouldn’t expect to be had.

You see, the Pegu Club Cocktail, which apparently was favored by English imperialists messing about in Burma, aka Myanmar, has defeated me. I’ve tried it in a number of permutations and none seem to work. Sure, I still don’t have as much time at present as I’d like to experiment, but no amount of adjusting the proportions of ingredients made this thing come together for me and I have a feeling I could work with it for an entire month and not have much more luck. I’ll give you some leeway and maybe you’ll do better. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with the ingredients separately.

The Pegu Club Cocktail

1 1/2 – 2 ounces gin
1/2 – 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 – 1 ounce orange liqueur (Orange Curacao, Triple Sec, Cointreau, etc.)
1-2 dashes Orange Bitters
1-2 dashes Aromatic Bitters (Angostura, etc.)

Combines ingredients in a cocktail shaker and pour into a chilled cocktail shaker. I’d suggest you toast Aung San Suu Kyi but, in my opinion, she deserves a better balanced drink.

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Do I sound bitter? Well, after finding myself underwhelmed by The Maiden’s Prayer a couple of weeks back, I’m just starting to wonder how debilitating Project Empty My Liquor Cabinet Pre Moving is going to continue to be. Well, the good news is that it will be over soon. Drink of the Week Central looks to be moving from Northwest Orange County to the central San Fernando Valley community of Van Nuys within a matter of weeks. Huzzah.

Nevertheless, I will offer one suggestion should you be curious to try this one for yourself: be darn sure not to forget your bitters. As it is, the orange liqueur or the lime juice has a tendency to completely dominate this drink depending on your proportions and never in a particularly good way, no matter what my choice of liqueur seemed to be. (I didn’t, however, try Grand Marnier, so who knows.) Without bitters, as my old buddy Kevin learned one Sunday recently, this can be on freakin’ syrupy drink if you lean on the liqueurish side of the spectrum. Serves me right for effectively celebrating British adventurism so close to the 4th of July.

I guess that’s it. I wonder if any great cocktails were invented in Van Nuys. No doubt we’ll be finding out the answer to that one together.

  

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