More Spirits for the Holidays

Booze is always an essential part of the holidays. People want to have fun this time of year, so naturally we love to enjoy some drinks and holiday cheer. Forbes recently did a survey on the subject and the results were pretty interesting.

Heavy Holiday Spender: More than three quarters of male respondents estimated that they spend more than $1,000 on alcohol during the holiday season!

Food or Booze? Holiday Indulgence Priorities: More than 70% of respondents revealed that if they had to cut down on either their holiday food or alcohol consumption, food would be the first to go.

Get the picture? People take their booze seriously this time of year, especially guys. That’s why we always include some liquor suggestions in our holiday gift guide in the “Guy Stuff” section.

If you’re throwing a party, the booze is critical. If you’re going to a party, you better not arrive empty handed. There’s nothing like a nice bottle of good stuff to make everyone happy. Also keep in mind that it’s always a great idea to have some special cocktails ready for a party, and you can get some great ideas, including holiday drinks, from our Drink of the Week series.

Here we’ve added some more suggestions for gift ideas and to stock a holiday party bar.

Smirnoff Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow

The first thing to consider is DON’T FORGET THE LADIES! Women like to drink as well, so make sure you have some special drinks available for them, particularly if you’re throwing your own party. One thing to consider is flavored vodka. Women love this stuff and you can make all sorts of cool cocktails. Smirnoff has come out with two very sweet options with their Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow flavors (see image to the right). This stuff tastes so good that you can easily drink it straight on the rocks. Pair them up with orange juice or orange pop and you’ll have a creamsicle for adults.

The key to your booze selection for a party is to have something for everyone, and these flavored vodkas are a great addition to any party.

Ron Abuelo’s Aged Rums

Everyone appreciates a good rum. It makes the setting even nicer when you’re partying in the tropics, and it makes a cold winter night a little warmer when you’re partying up north. Ron Abuelo rum produced entirely from estate-grown sugar cane in Panama by the family-owned Varela Hermanos. The company dates back to 1908 when Don José Varela established the first sugar mill in the recently-formed Republic of Panama, the San Isidro Sugar Mill. Almost 30 years later, Varela began the distillation of alcohol from their sugar cane crop in 1936. Currently run by the third generation, Varela Hermanos has approximately 1000 hectares of land devoted exclusively to the cultivation of sugar cane. Today, the range is composed of four authentic dark oak-aged rums: Añejo, 7 Años, 12 Años and the limited edition Ron Abuelo Centuria.

We tried the 7 Años rum with a nice cigar and loved it. Sip it straight or make up some killer cocktails. Either way this stuff is a great addition to you holiday bar.

Van Gogh BLUE

Everyone loves a good Martini, especially the ladies. So check out our article on Classic Drinks Every Guy Should Know How to Make and then pick up some Van Gogh BLUE vodka.

This is the world’s first vodka made from three international wheat sources (central France, southern Germany and Zeeland in Holland). Hand-crafted in Holland, this triple distilled, triple wheat vodka has an exceptionally smooth, polished taste with a neutral flavor full of subtle nuances from the three European grains. It’s a great gift idea for vodka lovers and it’s naturally a great addition to your holiday bar. The bottle also looks very cool and everyone will wan to try it! You’ll find vodka at every party, but it’s always cool to bring something new and interesting, so people will appreciate trying a new and interesting alternative.

So drink up, be safe and enjoy the holidays!

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Drink of the Week: The Rob Roy

The Rob RoyFor the second week in a row, I’m revisiting classic variations of classic cocktails that have been mentioned here before but not fully explored. Though supposedly created by an anonymous bartender at New York’s Waldorf Hotel and named for the legendary hero of Scottish folklore, the Rob Roy is a pretty clear case of cocktail plagiarism at its finest. All it really is the Manhattan but made with Scotch rather than with rye, bourbon, or Canadian whisky. Still, as I noted in the second edition of DOTW, a Manhattan is really just a martini made with whiskey and capitalizing on the natural sweetness of rye, bourbon and Canadian whiskey, as opposed to the dry tang of modern day gin.

I also said at the time that I hadn’t figured out yet how to make a Rob Roy taste any good. It did take some time to revisit some recipes and experiment a bit with the more smokey and biting flavor of the Scottish brew in comparison to the sweeter rye and the almost-candy-like-in-comparison bourbon. Here’s the trick as I see it right now: We still use bitters, but we use them more sparingly.

The Rob Roy

2 ounces Scotch whisky
1/2-1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash bitters (angostura or orange)
maraschino cherry or lemon peel (garnish)

Add Scotch, vermouth, and bitters — using a light hand on the bitters — in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake most vigorously and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail class and sip, preferably while pouring over a volume of Robert Burns’ poetry.

****

It’s true that the best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley, and the hole in my plans was that I ran out of my beloved dry Noilly Pratt and forgot to try the dry version of the Rob Roy, which appears to be more popular than the less frequently discussed dry Manhattan. Both drinks simply use dry vermouth in place of the sweet variety and, traditionally, change the garnish from the cherry to a lemon peel or, if you’re me, an olive. If so, I would be extra careful with using Angostura bitters especially as Scotch is already a relatively harsh brew compared to North American whiskeys.

In general, though, to reiterate, the major distinction I would make between the Rob Roy and the Manhattan is that I strongly counsel being stingy with bitters on a Rob Roy, while I counsel greater generosity with them on Manhattans. Scotch is a pretty tough form of booze all on its own.

  

Drink of the Week: The Vodka Martini

vodka martiniSo, this all started when, through the kindness of a smart and generous publicist working for Diageo, two bottles of very good vodka found their way to my door. Ketel One is the solid and very popular brand of premium liquor you probably all know, with its bright, clean taste. With a bit more complexity and bite than we usually associate with what was once marketed as “white whisky,” certified organic Moon Mountain Vodka, a small batch liquor, also came my way. Both are superior vodkas which, I’m certain, would do very well in any good vodka cocktail from a Bloody Mary to a Moscow Mule. Still, I decided to first enjoy them in probably their purest cocktail form, the vodka martini.

Now, careful readers with long memories may recall that we covered the martini — both gin and vodka — in the first ever edition of DOTW. Nevertheless, we didn’t really give the vodka variation its proper attention as a sturdy cocktail in its own right. (Many will insist it’s not the same drink and they’re not half wrong.) Today, we correct that oversight with, really, the first cocktail that ever became “my” drink and only partially because I grew up with James Bond on the brain. You’ll note that we’re using significantly less vermouth this time around.

The Vodka Martini

3 ounces vodka
1 teaspoon to 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1 dash of orange bitters (optional)
Lemon twist or olive garnish

Combine vodka and a tiny, or teeny-tiny, amount of vermouth in a cocktail shaker. Also consider throwing in a very small amount of orange bitters. This may be heretical in some quarters, but we like our vodka martinis seriously cloudy with ice crystals, especially since we’re keeping the vermouth to a minimum this time, so all of these liquids should be poured over crushed ice, if you can manage it. Then shake like crazy for as long as you can stand to. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass with olives or a twist of lemon, though we prefer olives. Sip slowly, this is essentially two drinks in one. (Use 100 proof vodka only at your own risk.)

****

I have to admit to some small consternation when trying this at home that I never quite reached the level of smooth perfection that my very longstanding and extremely good friend, hostess par excellance Dr. R., achieves regularly with her vodka martinis. Apparently, however, her secret involves using just a smidge of olive brine, which technically makes her drink a dirty martini.

I love dirty martinis and I’m sure I’ll cover them at some point later on, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait. Apparently, her trick is to just use a drop of vermouth, and a touch of brine and lots and lots of crushed ice — and no bitters. I like my version but, I have to admit, her’s is pretty damn perfect.

As for which brand of vodka worked better…that depends. The Moon Mountain is better for those who really like to know they’re imbibing alcohol while being kind to the environment, while the Ketel One is slightly preferable for those who’d like to pretend they’re drinking an intoxicating iceberg.

  

Drink of the Week: The Martini

It wouldn’t be right to kick off our new “Drink of the Week” feature with any less of a beverage than this most durable but paradoxically most intimidating of cocktails. It’s the strong but perfect before dinner drink.

A million things have been written about martinis, but the first thing you need to realize is that it’s a specific cocktail and not just any liquid poured into a martini glass. We love a good chocolate martini, because it’s chocolate, but it’s no more a martini than a chocolate bunny is a rabbit. A cosmopolitan is also not a martini; it’s a freaking cosmopolitan.

Here’s our starter recipe:

2 ounces gin or vodka
1 ounce vermouth
1-2 dashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters (optional, but especially recommended with gin)
Olive(s) or twist of lemon garnish

the Martini. Pour gin/vodka and vermouth over ice into cocktail shaker, along with a dash or two of orange bitters if you’ve got them. Shake or stir very vigorously and strain into chilled martini glass or, for smaller portions, a wide-mouthed champagne glass, add olive(s) or lemon twist. Always serve up — i.e., without ice. (We know people who drink martinis on the rocks, but we’ve tried them that way and think they’re wrong. Very, very wrong.)

Now, note that this is a starter recipe. You’ve doubtless heard of the dry martini. It’s possible that the term once simply referred to dry vermouth, but in common usage this is one with very little vermouth. From the “M.A.S.H.” TV series, to “Auntie Mame,” to Luis Buñuel’s surrealist comedy classic, “The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” the extremely dry martini has been lionized and joked about endlessly in low, middle, and high culture. Feel free to experiment in the direction of less vermouth, reducing the amount as much as you dare.

It’s even legitimate to make your martini a la Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell, in the movie) and pour a small amount of vermouth into a glass and then simply discard it, filling it with extremely cold strained gin or vodka afterward. This can work particularly well with vodka. We’re pretty sure, however, that Luis Buñuel was kidding in his autobiography when he suggested merely having a ray of sunlight pass through a vermouth bottle on its way to a gin bottle.

Importantly, don’t be afraid to go in the opposite, not-so-dry, direction. Many would call our recipe, which is in fact similar to what you’ll find on the back of vermouth bottles, a bit overly “wet,” particularly for vodka. Nevertheless, it’s good to use a significant amount of a good brand of vermouth. (Señor Buñuel’s choice of Noilly-Pratt is our default.) The martini is, after all, a cocktail not just a gussied up shot. We’ve even been experimenting with a drink called, “the fitty-fitty” which is, as you would expect, 50 percent gin and 50 percent vermouth. Done right, it’s an extremely smooth martini and highly recommended.

Moving on, our take on the shaken vs. stirred debate is that shaking works really well for vodka martinis, which is what James Bond is mostly ordering in the movies, and we’re still making our mind up about how it works with gin. We’ve had good and less good gin martinis made both ways.

We hope to return to the shaken/stirred and dry/not dry dichotomies at some date in the not-so-immediate future as we continue to explore classic cocktails. For now, just remember that martinis are very much a case of trial and error with your taste buds, but even the errors should be fun.

  

Related Posts