Drink of the Week: The Marconi Wireless

the Marconi Wireless.I’m fond of quoting Arthur C. Clarke’s famous truism that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Well, despite a pretty good K-12 and college education courtesy of the great state of California, I’ll never quite understand in any visceral way how sound and images can be transmitted literally through the air. Yes, even old-fashioned low-tech radio seems like magic to me.

Indeed, wireless radio transmission must have seemed quite a magical miracle in the early 20th century and certainly worthy of its own cocktail. You can nevertheless argue that inventor Guglielmo Marconi was shortchanged in the mixed drink department because his liquid memorial is actually, like last week’s Añejo Manhattan, a pretty direct lift of one of boozedom’s most basic cocktails, albeit with just a couple of very simple alterations.

It’s the difference in base spirits that drew my attention in this case. The Marconi Wireless replaces Manhattanite whiskey with applejack, the apple brandy that appears to be America’s first truly indigenous spirit. Having just bought myself perhaps the most authentic of the very few remaining applejack products on the market, I was definitely raring to give this one a try. It might not be as masterful a cocktail as the Jack Rose, but it’s super easy to make and will tantalize the tired tastebuds of even fairly jaded cocktail snobs.

The Marconi Wireless

2 ounces applejack
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes orange bitters
1 cocktail cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Shake or stir vigorously as you prefer, and strain into a cocktail shaker. I guess you have no choice but to toast Signor Marconi who, after all, made mass entertainment as we know more or less still know it possible.

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I usually like to try at least two different brands of my base spirit but sadly there’s basically one brand of American apple brandy on the market, and it’s Laird’s. I used their 80 proof blended applejack on the Jack Rose and was quite delighted with the results. However, I’ve been meaning to try out their 100 proof unblended Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy and it’s definitely even better, especially if you don’t mind a little alcoholic burn. (Apart from a regional brand, also manufactured by Laird’s, called Captain Applejack which may or may not be identical to Laird’s, the only real competition to applejack is France’s apple brandy, Calvados.)

On the other hand, I was able to mess around a bit with my vermouths. As you might expect, the solid and popularly priced Noilly Pratt produced a simple yet sophisticated result while the more expensive and voguish Carpano Antica added a more complex, bitter bass note to this fine Manhattan transfer.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Añejo Manhattan

The Añejo Manhattan.I love tequila probably more than gin and and almost as much as whiskey and rum. Indeed, the first cocktail I ever had that made me realize there was a real art to this sort of thing was a fabled prickly pear margarita I enjoyed some time some time around Y2K at the long gone Las Vegas branch of the fabled Santa Fe, New Mexico restaurant, Anasazi. The only reason I don’t feature the fabled Mexican derivative of the blue agave plant as often as other base spirits is that it’s a pretty late arrival to the U.S.’s long cocktail party. There simply aren’t as many interesting recipes for it as for standard Yanqui boozes.

Still, as high quality tequila has grown ever more accessible, there’s absolutely no reason we can’t move beyond the Margarita which, let there be no mistake, is as great as any classic cocktail when made in the proper way.  (Shaken, not blended!)

As by far the best known high end tequila, it makes sense that today’s cocktail comes to us courtesy of Patrón. Here’s where I have to mention that I was gifted by the tequila titans not only with their very tasty, very smooth and extremely mellow añejo, but with a holiday gift box that also offers artisanal aromatic bitters from Dashfire and some very nice coupe glasses you might see pictured here from time to time. Even so, I don’t think I was overly swayed when I say that, if you use the right vermouth and the right amount of bitters, this is one heck of a variation on a cocktail super classic.

The Añejo Manhattan

2 ounces añejo tequila (presumably Patrón)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes aromatic bitters (Dashfire Brandy Old Fashioned Bitters, if you’ve got it)
orange peel or cocktail cherry (highly desirable garnishes)

Yes, this is pretty much a Manhattan with the aged tequila subbing for whiskey. So, make this pretty much as you would a regular Manhattan. Combine all of the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake, depending on your personal preference. Patrón says you should shake it gently if you’re going that route, which worked fine for me.

Strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass. Add your orange peel or cocktail cherry, sip, and salute the great nation of Mexico. Like los Estados Unidos, it’s a country with many problems but also one of the world’s most fascinating culturas.

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I initially tried this drink pretty much as per Patrón, using Noilly Pratt sweet vermouth and the Dashfire bitters, which are sweeter and smokier than your basic Angostura type, with the distinct presence of cloves. It a very nice change of pace from the usual Manhattan. Still, when I tried it again using the more expensive, more bitter and more complex Carpano Antica, which has become the go-to sweet vermouth for many a cocktail snob, I suddenly remembered why that was the case. The slightly bitter, chocolatey bottom took that iteration of the drink into the stratosphere.

After that, however, I had a hard time recapturing the magic of that second attempt. Later on, I actually found myself enjoying this drink more with Noilly Pratt and, despite my picture, I think the addition of cocktail cherry suits the flavor more than an orange peel but then, like everything else, I’m likely to change my mind on that point, too.

 

 

  

Patrón XO Cafe Incendio

Patrón XO Cafe Incendio

I love premium tequila, so naturally I’m a fan of everything from Patrón. So when I tried their delicious new offering, Patrón XO Cafe Incendio, I knew it would live up to the brand’s high standards.

This spicy and sweet liqueur is delicious and it offers a great new option whether you’re looking for a drink to savor and enjoy, or whether you’re getting a party going with shots. And we all know that few things get a party going like tequila, and this sweet drink should win over more tequila fans, particularly among the ladies.

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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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Ron White Still Loves His Scotch, But Now He’s Talking Tequila, Too

RonWhiteALU1

Earlier this month, I had a chance to chat with comedian Ron White – you probably know him best from his work on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour - in conjunction with his latest round of tour dates featuring a night in my home town of Norfolk, Virginia. We chatted for quite some time…enough time, in fact, for me to pull together a piece for the Pilot (“Interview: Comedian Ron White Prefers His Shows Live“), an altogether different piece for AntennaFree.TV (“Pilot Error: Comedian Ron White Reflects on ‘Señor White’ and Takes Us Through ’12 Miles of Bad Road’“), and still have a bit more material left over.

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It’s not really “left over,” though, as I made a point of keeping this portion of the conversation for Bullz-Eye. I mean, come on: if Ron White talking about the tequila company he co-owns with his brother-in-law, fellow comedian Alex Reymundo, isn’t something that’s got “Bullz-Eye” written all over it, I don’t know what does. 

Once upon a time, White was quoted as saying, “There were years when I was a beer and tequila guy, then I got real fat. And then I found that you could actually go on a diet and drink scotch. Then I got hooked on scotch, and if you get hooked on scotch, then everything else just tastes wrong.” Apparently, he’s changed his tune a bit on tequila now that he’s selling the stuff. Then again, from the sound of it, this tequila probably tastes a hell of a lot better than the stuff he was swigging back then.

The topic of tequila came up somewhat offhandedly, when I asked White about his writing regimen. In the process of explaining that he writes most of his material on the road, getting input from the team of folks who travels with him, he began listing off the travelers by saying, “I’ll have an opening act, usually my brother-in-law, who’s also my partner in my tequila company. He and I own a company called Number Juan Tequila. Best tequila in the world.” He didn’t mention it again after that, but having thrown that tidbit into play, I decided to pick it up and run with it a few minutes later.

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