Before it really took off, I remember how excited I used to get for winter offerings like Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale and Shiner Cheer. They weren’t the best beers in the world, but they were part of the season – basically the bro version of PSLs (that then mutated into basically an extension PSLs as the market became overrun with seasonal stuff, but that’s a whole other thing.) Now that everything is flavored for the holidays with the same dash of chemicals, finding something that stands out in this group is very hard.
In a seemingly unrelated note, when Susie offered me the chance to try CALI, a new whiskey from Sukkah Hill Spirits, I perked up. First, the idea of beach whiskey is just wonderful to me, but it’s also not like this is two surfers distilling in a bathtub. They turn out highly rated, award winning liqueurs and did not seem like the type to take branching into such a competitive area lightly. If you’d like to learn more about them, this November Q&A from Saloon Box is a great place to start.
The backstory also touched my heart – husband and wife make booze, wife loves whiskey, husband decides they need to make something delicious they can both sip together. It’s a tale as old as time…or something. So, on a nice January day, I opened my sample bottle, sat down on the patio (go Texas winter weather!), took a few sips then immediately picked up my phone and texted Susie a photo and a rambling explanation of how good this was.
The whiskey was very smooth and, despite not being intended as such, had a distinct holiday flavor – led by cinnamon and all spice, but not in that Fireball sense we’ve all become accustomed to tasting everywhere. There were also hints of baked apple, nutmeg and other spices – but again, I have to stress that none of it was too sweet or overpowering. The result was incredibly easy to drink and, while I was told the whiskey was perfect for a hot toddy, it was 70 degrees and I was enjoying it neat too much to consider anything else. This was the exact same feeling I got from those first sips of Celebration and Cheer – something unique to the season that was just fun to drink. It wasn’t officially a winter whiskey, but the spices and flavors line up well with the holiday season.
Right now, CALI whiskey is only being sent for reviews as they prepare to make the product available sometime this spring, but this is definitely a bottle to keep an eye out for as it becomes available.
Aged: less than 2 years (not an aged whiskey) Proof: 85 Nose: baked pumpkin bread, orange peel and baked apples Flavor: nutmeg, allspice, molasses and dark bread Price: $32-36 for 750mL
Y’all … this weather is weird. 30º one day, 60º the next … it’s enough to give anyone a sniffle. The best cure? A hot toddy.
The Hot Toddy (or tottie or “hot whiskey”) is traditionally made using a dark spirit (usually whiskey, rum, or brandy), hot water, sugar, and some spice. Typically, we see lemon added to make it … you know … more “medicinal”. And while they’re said to be a good way to mitigate cold symptoms, I’ve found that I enjoy them whether I’m sickly or not.
The word “toddy” itself comes from the Hindi work tārī, which was a drink they made using the toddy palm. The British adopted and adapted the drink (as they do), and then it made its way to America’s deep south and they did the same using rum and local spice and sugars, but these drinks were served cool. The more well-known HOT version is thought to have come from Scotland and was used as a cold cure.
Wherever it came from, I’m a fan. That said, I came up with a version that will add some (literal) spice to your holiday …
Hot Toddiablo 1½ oz Maker’s Mark
1/4 oz Ancho Chili Demerera Syrup*
1 bag Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea
3 oz hot water
2 dashes Orange bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, then stir until combined.
Glass: hot drink glass Garnish: orange slice and cinnamon stick (and slice of ancho chile if desired)
Ancho Chili Demerera Syrup
2 cups demerera sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
1 cup water
2 ancho chilis, stemmed and seeded
Bring ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain through a find sieve, and let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
The Whiskey Sour … the name describes it well enough that I don’t need to. While there are multitudes of ways to make it (with an egg white, garnished with a lemon/orange/lime, or with sour mix (blasmphemy)), the basics remain the same: whiskey, lemon, and sugar.
The first time the mention of a Whiskey Sour was written was in Jerry Thomas’s The Bartender’s Guide all the way back in 1862, but it came from an old sailor’s recipe to fend off scurvy … and get a little boozy in the process. Initially the egg wasn’t included, but in Dale DeGroff’s The Essential Cocktail, the egg white is first mentioned as an optional inclusion.
WHISKEY SOUR 2oz whiskey (your choice)
1oz lemon juice
1/4oz simple syrup (I use demerera syrup)
1 egg white (if a richer texture is desired)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled (and extra long if including an egg white). Strain over ice and garnish.
Garnish: whole cherry with orange/lemon peel
Glass: double old fashioned glass (if served with ice)
Ice: ice ball or cubes
NOTE: my cocktail turned out much lighter since I used egg white and a large cube.
With the classic cocktail resurgence that has been seen over the last couple decades, I realized recently that I didn’t know how to make many of them. That said, we’re all going to learn together with my new series, #SusieDrinksClassics.
Our first less is the Boulevardier. This cocktails is the whiskey version of an Italian favorite, the Negroni. Since the whiskey warms the cocktail, it makes it a perfect transitional cocktail for the fall.
Last year I put a little (read: very little) spin on the Mint Julep for a Maker’s Mark Trifecta Challenge. This year, they asked the #TrifectaChallenge participants to put our twist on the Belmont Stakes’ signature drink, The Belmont Jewel. The traditional Belmont Jewel is quite simple–bourbon, lemonade, and pomegranate juice. A bit of a yawn, no? Needless to say, I was eager to spice this cocktail up a bit; and I went for the daily double.
THE JELLIED BELMONT JEWEL
1.5 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whiskey
2 oz lavender lemonade
1 egg white
Jellied pomegranate wine*
Combine the Maker’s Mark, lemonade, and egg white in a sturdy shaker. Shake vigorously for one minute, then add ice and shake for another minute. Strain into a chilled julep cup, drizzle jellied pomegranate wine on top, then garnish with dried lavender and a lemon curl.
*Jellied Pomegranate Wine
1.5 cups pomegranate wine
0.75 cup fresh lemon juice
1 oz gelatin
0.5 cup white sugar
Combine wine, lemon juice, and gelatin in a pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a hearty boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
While we can’t drink this from the August Belmont Memorial Cup (which happens to be cast in silver and made by Tiffany & Co.), you can still shake one up at home. If it sounds like too much effort, go for the traditional Belmont Jewel.
THE BELMONT JEWEL
1.5 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whiskey
2 oz lemonade
1 oz pomegranate juice
June 1, through midnight on June 3, stop by Maker’s Mark’s Instagram account and LIKE AND COMMENT on my recipe to help me win a trip to the distillery. Pretty please?
I received these a bottle of Maker’s Mark to try out some recipes without payment.
I lived in the heart of Uptown for 2-1/2 years … a mere 5 minute walk from Nickel and Rye and only went a couple times. Like a rookie, I allowed those times to be weekends in the wee hours, a time which happens to be the great equalizer of all Uptown establishments (read: drunk people acting ridiculously). I was recently asked to stop in for dinner and did so begrudgingly. Holy shit … was I wrong to have thought like that. Nickel & Rye shattered my previous misconceptions of this gem.
First things first: they have a large and diverse selection of traditional and rare whiskies. (Yessssss.) In fact, they’re so proud of their whiskey options that they even offer their “V. Rye P. Club” that rewards you for trying whiskey. Just try a certain number of whiskeys and you’ll be treated to parties–not kidding. Look for Pappy van Winkle, local options, and some with a little Nickel & Rye twist, all for pretty decent prices.
Beyond that, they don’t settle for the run of the mill cocktails. They infuse liquors, make bitters, and generally do things pretty damn well. And their cocktail list has a little something for everyone.
Nickel & Rye’s Maple Bacon Manhattan is one of their signature cocktails and has been for quite a while, no double because of their delicious bacon-Infused bourbon with maple syrup and the slightest hint of Averna Amaro. Their second most popular cocktail, the Sparkling Cucumber (New Am Vodka, elderflower, cucumber, lemon, and champagne) is light, flavorful, and is a perfect cocktail to enjoy on their fan-fucking-tastic patio.
Beyond their two best sellers, they have a couple lot of other winners. The Summertime Sadness (Exotico Blanco, mint, roasted jalapeño, cilantro, and lime) was a surprise with a lot of complexity thanks to the oddly, but well-paired flavors. The basic Old Fashioned is even a winner–gotta love the old standards. If you’re bold, let the talented barmen behind the large, concrete bar go crazy. Tell them what you like and what you don’t and watch them work. One of their newest creations from one of these adventures in bartending even uses Blue Curacao (that apparently is making a resurgence … yikes) and a smoked wood plan to give it an oddly smoky sweet flavor.
The cocktails aren’t the only thing that Nickel & Rye is doing right. Their food, all made in-house, is damn delicious. (And their parent company, Kirby’s Steakhouse, would see to that.) They took basic food items and made them either VERY well or just a tinge haute. Site: their Lobster Quesadilla. Eat this now. Also not to be missed is their charcuterie board and their Brussels sprouts. (If you’re a reader, you know that it really doesn’t take much from Brussels sprouts to impress me … but these were so good I almost ordered a second dish. What!? They’re vegetables.)
Of the McKinney Avenue spots, this is one place that you should hit for a happy hour that is sure to surprise. Make sure to log some time on their patio before it gets too hot. Because it will … and all the chilly cocktails in the world won’t be able to make being outside bearable.
Hey, y’all … I’m Susie’s new friend! My new mom adopted me a couple weeks ago from TLC Rescue where my name was CeeLo (because I have really short arms … I get those from my corgi mom) and Susie changed my name to Tullamore D.O.G., but you can call me Tully. (She said that she wanted to name me after one of her very favorite things … Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey!)
The last two and a half weeks have been a big change for me … I went from running around in the country alone stealing pies from windowsills to hanging out in a condo in Dallas with food set right in front of me when I want it. Oh, and my human takes care of my doodoo. (One less thing to worry about, you know?) Life is good. Now … I’m not saying that everyone should go out and get one of my buddies I was at camp with, but they sure would appreciate it.
Tonight we tried on our St. Patrick’s Day parade outfits … do you like my green paws!? (The tip of my tail is green, too … you can see it on my mom’s Snapchat–@susieoz–along with a bunch of other cute videos of me being adorable.) Susie got me some super cool hair spray made just for pets and a bowtie so I could look cool on Greenville!
To make things even MORE fun my first couple weeks at my new home, my birthday is tomorrow, Saint Patrick’s Day!!! I have a Pup-pie to look forward to, but I wanted to tell y’all about a few of my mom’s favorite Irish whiskey cocktails so you can celebrate along with me! You’re welcome, human.
I hope you have a great time celebrating … I’ll see you all on Greenville!
TRADITIONAL IRISH COFFEE
1 jigger Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey (or 1.5oz)
1 cup of fresh, high quality hot coffee
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Real whipped cream
Combine Tully and coffee, add sugar, and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Top with whipped cream.
MIDORI GREEN EYED GINGER 1 part Midori® Melon Liqueur
2 parts 2 GINGERS® Irish Whiskey
2 parts Ginger Ale
Build in order over ice in a tall glass. Garnish with a lemon & lime half moon wheel on the rim.
CRABBIE’S MOSCOW MULE
3–4 mint leaves
¾ oz lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
1½ oz vodka
Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Muddle the mint gently in the bottom of your glass. Add the lime juice, simple syrup and vodka, fill with ice, then top with Crabbie’s.
Vet – verb \vet\ the careful and critical examination of quality
Vetted Well, the new bar above the recently-opened Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, may be one of my new favorite places. Damn good food, a great beer selection (complete with 10 perfectly-paired boilermakers), one of the best rooftop patios in Dallas, themed private karaoke rooms, and a location directly above a quirky movie theater make for a great experience.
While Vetted Well does a lot … well … they have done well in not specializing in anything at the expense of others. Perfect example: they have a damn good (local) beer selection (cans, bottles, and a bunch of drafts), but also have awesome cocktails and a small (but thoughtful) wine list. They have some healthy food, but also some food that makes you want to break your Lenten commitment not to eat fried food (oops …).
My review was actually my second visit … my first visit was with a couple girlfriends after a movie to catch up a bit. We enjoyed a shit ton of popcorn (which, if you order in the bottomless popcorn in the theater, you can continue working on finding the bottom upstairs), a Darker & Stormier (a seriously delicious take on the Dark & Stormy–apply brandy, Black Seal rum, ginger, lime, and crushed ice) and The Traveling Man (Eagle Rare 10 Yr. & Karback Weekend Warrior whiskey). I was so excited to come back, that I nearly died when I saw the email inviting me in for a review.
I was spoiled with a couple boilermakers, a couple cocktails, and alllllllll the food (more on that later because, cocktails). Their Moscow Mule was the traditional recipe (vodka, lime, ginger beer) and was well mixed, but the copper vessel was badass–because I’m kind of over copper mugs. Next out was the Kentucky Buck (bourbon, strawberry, lemon, bitters, ginger beer), which was completely refreshing and I cannot wait to sit on their patio and sip one three of these on a warm, spring afternoon.
Let’s get back to those boilermakers. Ten options, all decidedly Dallas with names like The Grassy Knoll and The Big Tex, make for a good challenge. I’m four down so far, (… not as accomplished as Kevin, but I’m working on it) and I’m enjoying the progress. Paired thoughtfully, my favorite so far is The Sears & Roebuck (Gran Classico & 512 Pecan Porter), but I look forward to trying the remaining six to see if it stays on top. (There was talk about the technique behind drinking a boilermaker. Do you take the shot of whiskey then sip the beer, sip both at once, or dunk the shot?)
Now … the food. Everything they make is as homemade as possible from the mustard to the … other delicious stuff, and they also source from local vendors like Empire Bakery. They’re currently serving lunch from their kitchen with brunch and then dinner to follow, but if you’re up there for dinner now, you can get items from the Alamo Drafthouse kitchen. They bring it up with a dumbwaiter, which they claim can hold 200 pounds … and I’m still upset they wouldn’t let me ride in it. (Read: stay tuned for a staged dumbwaiter incident complete with live Twitter feed.)
We started with the Biscuit Beignets. They hit the table and I knew my Lenten “no fried food” pledge was in trouble. I figured that, as my mom says, Sundays are cheat days … and I’d been to church earlier. So, I dug in. I’m damn glad I did. These fluffy, fried nuggets are perfectly light and come with dippable cinnamon sugar, raspberry syrup, vanilla bean crème, and spiced rum caramel. Hot damn. Next up was more fried goodness (because why just be a little bad?), Croquettes with smoked gouda, potato, bacon, and green onion, and served with a dill-lish dill ranch. (Terrible joke … sorry.) To round out the first “course”, they brought out the Panzanella Salad which, aside from the Brussels sprout I snuck off the plate while taking a picture, was snapped up before I could take a bite.
The heavy hitters of the meal were still to come–the 24-Hour Brined Pork Chop, Chicken Fried Chicken with Local Honey, Carved Turkey on Hippie Bread, and the Cubano sandwich. All delicious and all recommended. They mix it up by serving the pork chop with a waffle–take that chicken and waffles! I’ll be having this one again thanks to the incredibly flavorful chop. My other favorite was the Cubano (roasted pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, house pickles, and beer mustard served with traditional tostones).
I’m actually upset with myself for not requesting the Vetted Well Burger … this thing is a work of art–a burger with pork beans and pork belly? That’s some genius shit right there.
Overall, Vetted Well is quite the delight. The patio is unreal–both the front and back one. The front patio has a great view of Downtown Dallas and the back patio is complete with locally made furniture and a giant outdoor screen where they’ll show classic movies a couple times a week. If that’s not enough entertainment, check out one of their four themed private karaoke rooms for rent by the hour to accommodate 6-20 people. You know I’ll be hitting those rooms hard with some hardcore Hall & Oates. The karaoke rooms will be open to the public starting Thursday.
I can’t wait for the next rainy weekend when I can commit to spending an entire day bouncing between the theater and Vetted Well to get my hands on their burger. Who’s with me?
Overall, I think their name is deserved. I was told that “vetted” is used often in the military as a quality check. While I’m not military, I feel as though I can still give this place my seal of approval–it has been vetted … and it’s gooooood.