Category Archives: Spirits

Fried Chicken + Bubbles = the Dream Team

I love sparkling wine.
I love fried chicken.

(I’d like to meet someone who doesn’t agree with the above. … actually, I don’t think we’d get along, so NM.)

Street’s Fine Chicken sent out a press release, and they have the right idea: fried chicken + sparkling wine. The pairing is classic, and one of my favorite things in the world is to pair haute elements with food that comes in a cardboard container of some sort.

So, of course, I HAD to do some “research” to verify that their fried chicken did, in fact pair nicely with sparkling wine. And, research I did. (Not like I didn’t know what the research would return, but it’s best to do your due diligence.)

Luckily, my results were correct. Using bubbles to mitigate the richness of the chicken is just about perfect. Acid can act as a palate cleanser, which is why you’ll often see pickled items served alongside fried items. Since sparkling wines usually ring in 2.5 to about 4.5 pH, their acidity helps to cut the richness and greasiness of the chicken. Choosing a dry sparkling wine helps to push through the fat, and makes for a delightful experience.

Street’s Fine Chicken’s signature fried chicken is “brined for 24 hours and fried in herbs from various French Provinces.” They take their time to do it right, and they get it right. They also offer sparkling starting at just $5 a glass and $18 a bottle, so you can try out the pairing for yourself. (Enjoy.)

 


STREET’S FINE CHICKEN
streetsfinechicken.com
3857 Cedar Springs Rd. | 469-917-7140
5211 Forest Lane, #108 | 972-803-5181

Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Dry Riesling

I don’t know about you, but I like to know the history behind what I drink. Call me a booze dork, but knowing the story behind each drink makes it seem to taste that much better.

Chateau Tanunda is located in South Australia—about an hour outside of the town of Adelaide. It was built in the late 1880s and is home to some the oldest vines in the Barossa Valley. The Chateau is the largest and oldest wine Chateaus in Australia. The Gerber family purchased the Chateau in 1998 and continues to revitalize and restore the buildings to keep its history alive. If I ever make it Australia, this for sure will be on my bucket list of wineries to visit.

Chateau Tanunda recently sent me a bottle of their Grand Barossa Dry Riesling, and I was eager to sip, smell, and enjoy it. This fresh, crisp wine has aromas of citrus fruits such as lemon and lime. When most people (myself included) think Riseling, they think sweet, because the higher the acidity of the wine, the more sugar can be in the wine without leaving the sweet taste. If you haven’t had a riesling in a while, or have always been turned off due to the sweetness, you should try a dry riesling. You will be pleasantly surprised.

P.S., I loved reading that most of the grapes in this variety are from old vines that were planted on the estate in the 1920s!

Tasting Notes
Grape Varietal: Riesling
Color: White/clear
Aroma: Lemon and lime
Palate: Bright citrus flavors with a slight acidity
ABV: 11.5%

CHATEAU TANUNDA
chateautanunda.com
Grand Barosssa Dry Riesling: ~$10
can be found in a liquor store near you
YouTube |Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Disclaimer: I was given complimentary product from Banfi.

Howdy, Smithworks Vodka!

I recently had the privilege of welcoming Smithworks Vodka into the Lone Star State with an amazing Blake Shelton concert at the famous Billy Bob’s Texas!

Smithworks Vodka was launched in early 2016 and I’m happy to say that Smithworks has recently expanded its distribution to Texas. Over the next few months, Smithworks will be available in twenty- four states.

Smithworks is an American-made vodka that is made with corn from Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma and water from Lake Fort Smith. Smithworks is distilled three times and charcoal filtered for a smooth taste and clean finish. It’s finished and bottled with pride in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and named after the dedicated team there and their hardworking values are symbolized through the tractor icon. They say, “Born and bred in the traditions and values of America’s Heartland, Smithworks embodies the values of the place in which it comes from – local pride, simplicity and hard work.”

Blake Shelton is part of the Smithworks family. He said that he had been waiting to partner with the right brand and he found his home with Smithworks; Shelton said he shares the same values and mission as Smithworks (Vodka. His favorite way to drink Smithworks is with diet lemon-lime soda garnished with a lime. Simple enough.)

Shelton is quoted as saying, “I grew up in Ada, Oklahoma and was raised on the values of hard work, humility and an appreciation for the simple things that make up a good life. As part of the Smithworks family, I’ve been involved in the development of the brand and I’m excited for everyone to finally taste what we’ve been crafting. At its core, Smithworks celebrates that moments in life are better spent with good people and great drinks.”

For the rich mouthfeel and smooth (lack of) flavor, we were surprised by the low price tag—just under $20. A great price for this smooth, clean vodka.

SMITHWORKS VODKA
smithworksvodka.com
~$19.99 / 750mL

We’re eagerly awaiting distribution in the great state of Texas … a note from Smithworks: For now, you can find Smithworks Vodka in AR, CO, IA, KS, LA, MI, MO, NE, OH, OK, TN, IL, NC, and PA. If it’s in your neck of the woods, ask your favorite local spot about us—it’s usually the personal touch that gets it done.

Banner image courtesy of Smithworks.

Gold Bar Whiskey: It’s What Outside That Counts

I firmly believe there is a time and place for everything in the world of spirits. Yes, it’s nice to find a really great sipping whiskey or a gin with a few different notes that make a unique G&T, but I’m also intrigued by novelties. Visiting a new place? Hit me with your crazy, local novelty liquor. (Even you, Chicago … malört me.) Got a crazy bottle or random flavor idea to throw at me? Well you should know I’m the guy who went on like a full two year moonshine bender, just because I could. And I’m the guy who agreed to review Captain Morgan’s Jack-O Blast for Susie.

If you want to know exactly how Gold Bar Whiskey tastes, the easy review is that it’s fine. It’s a tad sweet with notes of honey and vanilla plus a bit of heat at the end. I would recommend it in a cocktail over it being a sipping whiskey. (And some cocktail recipes are included for you below.) There’s a bit of information on the bottle about being finished in French oak wine casks from Napa Valley (swanky), with a cursory line about the contents being a mash bill of rye, corn and barley. But the bulk of the information is about the gold packaging and the art on it. So, again, this is all fine. You will sip this, nod and go “alright, cool,” like me and our three other tasters, then you’ll start talking about the packaging if it hasn’t already been a large part of the conversation.

So, about the packaging … drumroll … it’s a giant faux gold bar.

Lay it flat and pretend you stole it from the world’s drunkest mint while cackling like a super villain.
… Use it for balance and display it, letting all your friends know that you have achieved the level of success required to drink from a golden container.
… Allow it to be a conversation starter about how the United States made a mistake abandoning the gold standard in the 1930s.
… Do a few “Austin Powers: Goldmember” lines until no one wants to talk to you. “I love goooold … the taste of it, the smell of it, the texture.”
… Use is as a photo prop. (Because, you will.) Make sure to search Instagram for those aspirational shots that will make you feel like you are part of something. By drinking gold, you truly become gold … right?

Ok, if you made it this far, I will again stress the whiskey is fine. You can make a pretty decent cocktail from it. I’d recommend it as a novelty for parties or housewarming parties, because think how cool it’ll be to be thought of every time someone comments on the giant gold bar on your friend’s bar. Again, there’s a time and a place for everything, so if you need to set a scene or mood or just want the pics from your next gathering to pop, this is a cool way to switch things up.

The Libertine

LIBERTINE
4oz Gold Bar® Whiskey
2oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2oz Simple Syrup
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
2 Tsp. Orange Marmalade
1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice
1 Egg White

New York Sour

NEW YORK SOUR
2oz Gold Bar® Whiskey
1oz Lemon Juice
1oz Liber&Co Gum Syrup
.5oz Red Wine


Gold Bar Whiskey
goldbarwhiskey.com
$39.99 -$49.99 per 750ML bottle
ABV: 80 proof, 40% ABV
Mash: blended whiskey, approximately 88% corn, 9% rye, 3% barley
Finished: French Oak Cabernet wine casks from the Napa Valley
Age: no age statement

Available in 27 states and 12 countries globally. Distilled in San Francisco, CA

***Brian was given a bottle of Gold Bar Whiskey to try out for a complete review.*** Images courtesy of Gold Bar Whiskey.

Get Ready to Rumble with Balcones

Balcones, Texas’s original whisky*, and Dude, Sweet Chocolate, Dallas’s signature chocolates, are teaming up. Starting in September, you can now find whisky-infused chocolates at DSC. Our team was invited to be some of the first to check out the partnership … and this was what Tiffany found …

I knew it would be a good time when I was greeted at the door of Dude, Sweet Chocolate with a cocktail. Considering that the late summer Texas humidity was particularly heavy and thick that evening, the refreshing Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky concoction was more than welcome.

Toné Castillo, Balcones brand ambassador extraordinaire, was present to tell us more about the Original Texas Whisky from Waco, Texas. Balcones takes great pride in being the first whisky to be legally produced and legally sold in Texas since Prohibition. The distillery has become quite the destination, and tours are constantly at capacity during tasting room hours. I’ve personally never visited the distillery, but after sampling the welcome cocktail and eyeing the whisky pairings that I had yet to try, I felt compelled to plan a trip.
*Note from Susie: I’ve visited. It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. Go. Taste all the things.*

As far as events go, anything that involves pairing Katherine Clapner’s chocolates with the Balcones portfolio you KNOW it’s going to be good. This is especially true when Katherine refers to one of Balcones’ spirits as “the magical unicorn”—not surprisingly, the eponymous Rumble, which is intriguingly made out of fermented Texas wildflower honey, Mission figs, and turbinado sugar. I had never heard of such a creation! And true to the name of the event, the Rumble didn’t just get one pairing this evening; it got TWO: DSC’s Flower Child truffle featuring Earl Grey tea flavors, and the FDA Salami, a playful chocolate comprised of California marizpan, dried figs, dates, cocoa nibs, and chocolate rolled to resemble a savory salami.

Katherine paired the Texas Rye 100 Proof whisky with her Vietnamese coffee house-style Hanoi fudge. I am a sucker for Vietnamese coffee, so this was an easy favorite. The TX Single Malt paired exceptionally well with Dude, Sweet’s Rooibus Chai chocolates with its toasted malt and honey notes and hints of cinnamon and cloves.

However, the showstopper was the last tasting pair: Balcones Brimstone, which tastes of campfire, brûléed sugar, and pepper, paired with BACON. FAT. CARAMEL. SKULLS.


Take a moment to let that sink in.


Brimstone’s intensity was tempered beautifully by the bacon fat and caramel, which coated the tongue like velvet.

The crowd got to walk around from station to station and taste the pairings at their leisure while Katherine and Toné walked around to answer any questions we had. The vibe was super casual and fun, with music, conversation, and laughter punctuating the subsequent hours.

I left with a warm belly, a happy spirit, and of course, a Dude, Sweet bag of goodies that I just couldn’t leave without purchasing. Sweet, indeed.


DUDE SWEET CHOCOLATE
dudesweetchocolate.com
multiple locations

BALCONES DISTILLING
balconesdistilling.com
225 South 11th Street (Waco)
(254)755-6003

Axe and the Oak

You guys… I may have found my new favorite old fashioned! Okay okay, it’s at least in my top three. But let’s back up.

Last week I went to 3Eleven Kitchen and Cocktails for the launch of Axe and the Oak Distillery to try out some cocktails featuring their Colorado Mountain Bourbon and Incline Rye Whiskey. If you haven’t heard of Axe and the Oak Distillery, that could be because they operate out of Colorado Springs, CO and just started distributing to Texas—and they made Dallas their first stop!

I had the chance to chat with some of the Axe and the Oak team that came into town for the launch. Everyone was so excited about the expansion into Texas and they couldn’t stop gushing about their experience with the distillery. They said the best thing about their brand was that “they’re surrounded by the best people in the world.” The vibes were almost contagious as everyone enjoyed snacks, cigars and most importantly, the whiskey.

Now, about that old fashioned. For the launch, they had ingredient driven provisions being served. The one I sampled was a delicious variation of a Kentucky Mule. But, I’ll be honest; their signature cocktail was the real show-stopper—the Tobacco Old Fashioned. It was almost as fun to watch them make it as it was to drink it. They got the deep smoky flavor by torching a plank of wood and then trapping smoke inside the glass before they added the bourbon … and other good stuff. The smoky flavor wasn’t overbearing and the other flavors were perfectly mixed by beverage manager, Jay Khan.

Axe and the Oak was awarded the New York International Spirit Competition “Colorado Whiskey Distillery of the Year.” You can now find their Bourbon and Rye Whiskey at Specs, Goody Goody and Siegels (with even more retailers coming soon) starting around $42 a bottle.

For more information, visit them at www.axeandtheoak.com.

8 Cool Whisky Cocktail Recipes

Written by: Roy Hansen

Whisky remains one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in the world, with millions of people enjoying a tipple each week. While purists will usually drink whisky “neat” or with a small amount of water, it can also be used to make some delicious cocktails. Whisky’s unique combination of flavors can add a lot of colour to drinks and make them much more interesting than vodka or gin cocktails.

If the idea of a whisky cocktail sounds appealing, this is the article for you. We’ve scoured the Internet to find the 8 coolest whisky cocktail recipes. These drinks are exciting, delicious, and very different from a boring Martini or Margarita.

Know your whisky

Before we jump in and start making whisky cocktails, it is important to understand that the type of whisky you use and the quality of the whisky will dramatically influence the taste. To research which whiskies are the best have a read of our favourite whisky review site Whiskeybon to get an idea. As for the type, have a read of these:

American whiskey
You may already be familiar with American whiskeys like Jack Daniel’s, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, and Maker’s Mark. They are very sweet whiskey’s that are distilled in America and aged in barrels. The most common flavors in American whiskey are vanilla, citrus, oak, caramel, berries, spices, and cherries. There are 3 subcategories of American whiskey:

Bourbon Whiskey
Distilled from at least 51% corn, with the remainder usually consisting of rye and malted barley

Rye Whiskey
Distilled from at least 51% rye, with the remainder consisting of corn and malted barley

Tennessee Whiskey
Bourbon Whiskey that is filtered through charcoal to achieve a smoother flavour. It must be distilled in Tennessee to be given this name.

Scotch whisky
Scotch whisky must be created in Scotland. It is created using malted barley and water and aged for at least 3 years. It has a complex flavor palette which may include vanilla, nuts, cedar, oak, smoke, malt, tobacco, earth, and various fruits. It tends to be less sweet than American whiskies and is smokier. Most Scotch whiskies are double distilled. There are two main categories of Scotch whiskies:

Single malt Scotch whisky
Distilled at a single distillery using malted barley

Blended Scotch whisky
A blend of different single malt Scotch whiskies

Canadian whiskey
Canadian whiskey is distilled and aged in Canada for at least 3 years. It is usually made using 51% or more rye. It is a very light and smooth whiskey, even lighter than Irish whiskey.

Irish whiskey
Irish whiskey is distilled in Ireland and aged for at least 3 years. It is not peated, so is less smokey than Scottish whisky. Irish whiskey is triple distilled, which give is a smoother taste. They tend to be less sweet than American whiskies.

Australian and Japanese Whiskey
There have been many award-winning whiskeys from distilleries in Australia and Japan in recent years. The style of whiskies produced in Australia and Japan varies greatly — from delicate floral whiskeys that taste similar to Irish whisky through to strong single-malt whiskies that taste similar to Scotch whisky.

Cool Cocktail Recipes

Manhattan cocktail
This is a classic cocktail recipe that is delicious and presents well. It is also simple to create, which makes it a good place to start.

60 ml of Canadian/Irish whiskey, bourbon or rye whiskey
30 ml sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Cherries and a toothpick

Pour liquid ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherries skewered with a toothpick.

Whiskey Sour
This drink is another classic cocktail that oozes class. It has been around since at least the 1870s and has seen a big resurgence in popularity in recent years. The combination of sweet and sour makes it a delicious drink.

45 ml of whiskey (any type)
20 ml simple syrup
45 ml fresh lemon juice
(optional) Egg white
Maraschino cherryfor garnish

Pour liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into chilled glass with or without ice. Add egg white (optional) and Garnish.

Irish Coffee
This cocktail is sweet, indulgent, and will give you a nice boost of energy! It is one of our favourite coffees for drinking while sitting around a fire on a cool winter night.

120 ml of hot coffee
45 ml of Irish or Canadian whiskey
2 teaspoons brown sugar
30 ml lightly whipped cream

Brew the coffee, then combine it with sugar in a mug or heat proof glass. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the whiskey and stir again. Add some cream on top.

Espresso Old Fashioned
This is another stimulating coffee themed cocktail. It works will with almost any American whiskey and is very easy to make.

60 ml of espresso coffee
30 ml of bourbon or rye whiskey
10 ml simple syrup
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
1-inch lemon peel

Shake all of your liquid ingredients in a shaker. Pour into a glass containing ice and stir for 30 seconds. Rub lemon peel on edge of glass.

Carthusian Sazerac
This cocktail is sophisticated, delicious, and has a very cool name! It’s the perfect whisky cocktail to make for any house guests you are trying to impress.

75 ml rye whiskey
Dash of green Chartreuse
15 ml simple syrup
Absinthe
Lemon twist
2 dashes lemon bitters

Place a small amount of absinthe into a coupe glass and swirl it to coat the glass. Discard excess absinthe. In a separate glass mix the whiskey, Chartreuse, and simple syrup with ice. Strain into the coupe glass, topping with lemon bitters. Garnish with lemon twist.

Manhattan
There is something about the Manhattan that makes it a cool cocktail. Perhaps it’s the many movies where famous characters stroll into a smokey bar and order one. You’ll be happy to learn that this classic cocktail is simple to make.

60 ml bourbon whiskey
60 ml sweet vermouth
1 to 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange peel
Maraschino cherries

Shake ice, whiskey, vermouth and bitters in a shaker. Rub orange peel around rim of glass. Pour into class and add cherries.

Hard Cider Spritz
This is a fantastic drink on a warm summer afternoon — refreshing and delicious.

30 ml rye whiskey or bourbon whiskey
120 ml hard cider
45 ml apple cider
Dash of Aperol
Dash of fresh lemon juice
Club soda
Apple slices

Combine all of the liquid ingredients into a glass filled with ice. Gently stir and garnish with apple slices.

Mint Julep Cocktail
The mint julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. It is a sweet drink that works well in the warmer months, which is why so many people living in the southern United States enjoy it.

75 ml bourbon whiskey
2 sugar cubes of 15 ml of simple syrup
10-15 mints leafs

Add the mint and simple syrup to a collins glass or julep cup. Muddle well to dissolve the sugar and release the aroma of the leaves. Add bourbon and crushed ice. Stir well and garnish with a mint sprig.

 

Tequila Patrón—the Spirits

I always feel bad for characters that are misunderstood.  I mean, the Bumble in “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” wasn’t a bad dude … he just had a toothache.  That said, I thought I knew all about Tequila Patrón … a big company that makes a great product.  I drank it, I mixed cocktails with it, I enjoyed it … I left it at that.  After being invited to see Hacienda Patrón at the end of 2016, I have a much deeper appreciation not only for the tequila, but the craft behind it and the company that makes it.

I was invited by Patrón to take a few days to explore Jalisco and tour the distillery, and I’d be an idiot not to go, right?  Right.  I went (with some shiny, noisy AF) bells on—I was fucking stoked.  After my immersive experience, I learned some remarkable things that took me from a consumer to a loyalist.

First I’ll say this, Patrón not only produces their own spirits, but they do it expertly.  For those of you claiming that Patrón is “fake” … go suck a piña.  Yes, when the company was founded 1989, they produced their spirits in a facility they didn’t own, but they did so while adhering to their strict standards and following their exacting recipe.  In 2002 they opened The Hacienda and have been producing their own product since.  And yes, the company was started by a beauty product mogul, but he knows enough to have hired people that know the industry.

**UPDATE: Patrón Spirits was sold to Bacardi in January 2018.**

QUALITY.  To ensure perfection in every bottle, everything is done on-site with one exception.  Every one of their products is distilled with great oversight by the best in the business.  Many distilleries in Jalisco will produce multiple brands under one roof (there are 1700+ brands of “tequila”, but only 140 distilleries), but NOM 1492 only produces Patrón.

CONTROL.  The distiller behind the spirit, Francisco Alcaraz, has been the artisan who has helped the brand maintain the integrity of the product while meeting the ever-growing demand.  He has a really difficult job (I’m only kind of kidding) … he tastes every single batch of product before it’s bottled to ensure consistency and quality.  If he’s out?  It takes four expert tasters to take his place.

They don’t stop there.  Patrón claims that at least 60 hands will touch the product before it leaves The Hacienda.  That’s 60 hands checking every step of the process and ensuring that every step of their painstaking process is followed to the letter–from distillation to packaging.

INGREDIENTS.  The only part of the aforementioned process that doesn’t happen on The Hacienda’s property is the growing of the agave itself. Since it takes more than seven years to hit the sweet spot (pun intended) for the maturity of the agave piñas used in distillation, they decided that, instead of trying to own every step, they’d simply ensure they had the very best ingredients possible.  That meant reserving (and paying for) “first dips” on the best Blue Weber Agave from carefully selected fields in the Highlands of Jalisco.  Only the best.  Since Patrón only produces 100% blue weber agave tequilas, they obviously need quite a bit.  (Other brands that don’t call it “mixto”, which only had to be 51% agave)

No flavors, dyes, etc added to any tequilas

PROCESS. After harvesting, the agave is taken to the Hacienda where jimadores remove the leaves the old fashioned way (with a coa) to get to the heart of the agave, the piña.  The piña is then baked in their ovens for 79 hours for the perfect sweetness.  From there, the agave is either taken to a tahona or the roller mill–the tahona is a two-ton volcanic rock that painstakingly crushes the agave to remove the juices.  Patrón’s core line utilizes tahona and roller mill (more modern and efficient) distillates and blends them (55%/45%, respectively) to create the flavor we all know so well.

Why the mix?  Agave macerated using the tahona tends to be slightly sweeter since it allows more of the agave’s fibers themselves to lend flavor, giving the spirit more complexity.  (There are only four other tequila distilleries making tequila with a tahona, none of which operate the wheel daily.)  After tasting distillates from each production method, I love the flavors of the tahona-produced tequila. Lucky for me, Patrón’s newer line, Roca Patrón, is 100% tahona-produced.

INNOVATION. You may have seen a few new Patrón bottles popping up at your local bars–Roca, Piedra, Bordeos, Sherry Cask, XO, Citrónage, Platinum, Patrón en Lalique, etc.  The beauty of that is that they’re never done exploring new ways to make an incredible product even better.

Stay tuned for more about Patrón in upcoming posts!