January 18, 2017

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How Does a Whiskey Get Its Proof?

How Does a Whiskey Get Its Proof?

Liquor drinkers throw the word proof around like it’s a badge of honor, not really understanding how that honor was earned. Proof is a big part of a whiskey’s description, letting the drinker know how much alcohol they are about to consume.

In the United States, it is required by law for every alcoholic beverage to list its alcohol content by volume. On a whiskey bottle, the proof will be listed right next to that, and reflect exactly two times the alcohol content. This may seem superfluous, but the reasoning is imbedded in the history of spirits.

Whiskey “Proof” is Explosive

Three centuries ago, the production of whiskey was rudimentary. There were no high tech tools lying around to help distillers figure out how much alcohol their blend contained. The best way (at the time) to find out was to pour a small amount over gunpowder and set it on fire.

Whiskey that had been diluted would not spark the wet gunpowder. Instead, it would quickly fizzle out. This showed that there was a very low alcohol content to the bottle. Strong whiskey would cause the gunpowder to catch fire, and even spark, giving the distiller the “proof” they needed that their blend was an intoxicating one.

Eventually the method became a little more scientific, and numbers were assigned to indicate the point at which there was enough alcohol in the whiskey to spark the gunpowder. In some cases, that point was too much, which is why we sometimes see a proof that is over 100.

Proof Becomes Outdated

In the 1730s, the hydrometer was invented, which allowed for a more accurate measurement of the alcohol percentage per volume. This eliminated the need to waste good whiskey by setting it on fire. Still, the term stuck because by that point that is what the consumer expected.

By the turn of the 19th century, United States distilleries had a very simple method of measuring alcohol by volume in place. The government began requiring that the alcohol content be displayed by percentage on each bottle. This is the ABV number you see printed. Whiskey distillers are still allowed to print the proof as well, which is twice the amount of alcohol, even though that information is technically already there.

So Why Keep Proof?

Since the bottling laws in the U.S. obligate whiskey distillers to list the actual alcohol content as a percentage by volume, having the proof displayed would seem redundant. Yet, traditionalists prefer to refer to their favorite spirit by its proof. Just imagine how it would sound asking for a Jack Daniels, 50% alcohol to your local bartender. A glass of 100 proof Jack straight just sounds cooler.

The art of distilling whiskey has been evolving for centuries, yet there are some components that we are just not willing to give up. Distilleries may have abandoned actually setting their liquor on fire, but the word proof won’t ever lose its place on the bottle’s label.

January 12, 2017

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American Whiskey Weeps as It Says Farewell to Parker Beam

American Whiskey Weeps as It Says Farewell to Parker Beam

Parker Beam, a longtime master distiller at the Heaven Hill distillery passed away on January 8, ending his long-standing love affair with American whiskey. Beam was a part of the Heaven Hill family for over half a century, and his loss is a profound one for the company.

Heaven Hill Brands

The Heaven Hill Distillery was established during the Great Depression, just after prohibition had ended in the United States. This was a family owned and operated venture, located in the heart of Kentucky. The five Shapira brothers and a handful of investors started the distillery from scratch, filling barrel #1 with Bourbon Falls in 1935.

In 1946, Earl Beam from the Jim Beam Company joined the Heaven Hill team as their master distiller. He brought his son Parker to the distillery from time to time, allowing him to do small jobs around Heaven Hills. In 1960 he officially joined the business and 15 years later he took over his father’s job as the master distiller. Parker held that coveted position until 2013, when he turned the reins over to his own son, Craig. He stayed on at Heaven Hills as the master distiller emeritus, ensuring that the brand maintained the high quality that he and his father had worked so hard to instill.

For decades, Heaven Hills has been a leading American Whiskey producer, and today it is the nation’s sixth-largest distilled alcohol supplier. They are also the world’s second largest holder of bourbon whiskey, with hundreds of barrels in stock awaiting their time. The primary focus of Heaven Hills Distillery has always been on bourbon, particularly the widely popular Evan Williams Bourbon. They are also responsible for Christian Brothers Brandy, Elijah Craig Single Barrel and Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey among others.

Parker Beam and his Bourbon Whiskey Legacy

According to the Heaven Hills web site, Parker Beam passed away in the evening of January 8, 2017. He had been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – or Lou Gehrig’s Disease – for six years. That battle was a public one, with the entire Kentucky bourbon community rallying for his recovery and a cure for the disease.

When it was publicly announced that Parker Beam had been diagnosed with the incurable condition, the leading American distilleries banded together to help find a cure. Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey, Fred Noe of Jim Beam, Greg Davis of Maker’s Mark, Chris Morris of Woodford Reserve, Jim Rutledge of Four Roses, and Harlen Wheatley of Buffalo Trace all donated a bottle of bourbon to Parker. The master distiller took each bottle, along with one of his, to make a special blend called the Master Distiller’s Unity.

Two bottles of Master Distiller’s Unity were made available for sale at an auction, netting $8,500. That money was donated to the ALS Association, a charity whose main goal is to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since that time, Heaven Hills has generously donated a portion of the sale of Parker’s Heritage Collection bourbon to the Parker Beam Promise of Hope Fund, sponsored by the ALS Association. To date, this has led to over a half a million dollars being raised for the fight against this deadly disease.

Heaven Hill Brands of American Whiskey

The Heaven Hill distillery is responsible for a large variety of whiskies. Each one is distinct, giving you a different blend of flavors to suit different occasions and tastes.

  • Bernheim Straight Wheat Whiskey – This original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey is the first ever to use winter wheat for its primary grain. The end result is a sweet flavor with a medium finish.
  • Elijah Craig Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Available in both 18 and 23-year old versions, this is one of the oldest single barrel bourbons available in the entire world.
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – An award winning premium bourbon, Elijah Craig Small Batch is bottled exclusively with a blend of alcohols ranging between 8 and 12-year old.
  • Evan Williams 1783 – Named for Kentucky’s first distiller in 1783, Evan Williams 1783 is a small batch extension of the Black Label that was aged just a wee bit longer than the rest.
  • Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond – A 100 proof bourbon that is a minimum of 4-years old and the product of one distillery in one production. There are only a handful of bourbons in the world that are able to share in that distinction.
  • Evan Williams Bourbon – This is a time-honored spirit that still uses the same processes and traditions which made the brand an icon in the whiskey industry.
  • Evan Williams Single Barrel – Like the name suggests, this single barrel bourbon is crafted solely from one barrel that was hand selected by Parker Beam and his son Craig.
  • Fighting Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – This is a 103 proof bourbon that has been aged 6 years to help smooth out the flavor and make it easier to get down.
  • Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey – Sold in small mason jars, Georgia Moon is a tribute to moonshiners across Kentucky who use corn grain to make their own ‘shine.
  • Henry McKenna Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Brought to Kentucky from Ireland in 1852, Henry McKenna is an old-time sipping whiskey that you’ll want to share with friends.
  • Henry McKenna Single Barrel – Look closely at the label and you will find it has a handwritten note authenticating the single barrel it came from and how long it had been aged.
  • Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon – Wheat replaces rye as the third grain, giving this bourbon a soft and sweet taste.
  • Mellow Corn Whiskey – In order to qualify as a corn whiskey, this blend is made up of at least 81% corn grain, giving it unique flavor qualities that you don’t find with tradition bourbon.
  • Old Fitzgerald Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Dating back over 120 years, Old Fitzgerald is an award winning brand that is well known for its practice of extra aging.
  • Parker’s Heritage Collection – Named in honor of the late master distiller, Parker’s Heritage Collection features super premium spirits in a variety of different styles.
  • Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey – Pikesville is the only brand left to represent the pre-prohibition Maryland Rye industry. This is a premium straight rye, drawn from barrels that have been aged for at least six years.
  • Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey – This classic whiskey can be found in both 80 proof or 100 proof varieties. It has a robust flavor that is only attained by sticking with tradition in distilling practices.

Whiskey Awards for Heaven Hill Brands

Before his passing, Parker Beam had the opportunity to see the distillery he helped grow gain worldwide recognition. Last year at the annual Icons of Whiskey Awards hosted by “Whiskey Magazine” Heaven Hill Brands was named the Global Distiller of the Year. This was after receiving the American Distiller of the Year Award, Brand Ambassador of the Year and the Visitors Attraction of the Year for their Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. This was the third time the company had been recognized as the American Distiller of the Year, but the first win for them in the global category.

As a master distiller for Heaven Hill, Parker Beam’s tenacity was legendary. Throughout his career he was recognized with numerous awards and accolades, and is known for changing the way in which the world views Kentucky bourbon. His passing is a major loss to the industry. More importantly, he will be missed by his wife Linda and his son Craig, who will continue to move Heaven Hill forward in the way his father intended.

January 11, 2017

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Whiskey and Cigars – Finding the Perfect Pairing

Whiskey and Cigars – Finding the Perfect Pairing

Cigar in the right hand, whiskey straight in the left. This is the ideal image of relaxing sophistication. Just like certain wines are better complements to specific types of foods, every cigar has a type of spirit it should follow. In order to get the optimal pleasure out of an epic “gentleman’s” evening, you should first take the time to find that perfect pairing.

Cigar lovers typically stick with brown liquors when looking for that relaxed atmosphere. There is a certain mingling of flavors and aroma that is intensified with darker alcohols. This includes scotch, whiskey, bourbon, brandywine, and even dark rums. These work better with cigars in comparison to vodka and tequila because brown liquors have many of the same flavor notes as cigars. When you want a straight drink to go with those smoking embers, it is much easier to find something to match when drinking dark spirits.

Choosing a Whiskey for Your Cigar

To start with, it should be the other way around. It is much easier to first pick your poison before trying to pair it with a cigar. Whiskey lovers typically have an idea of what the base flavor is for their favorite drink, allowing them to then choose the cigar that best complements it. Figure out whether the whiskey is earthy, fruity, sweet, spicy, malty or floral, and then find the cigar that mirrors that flavor.

Choosing the cigar that suits your drink is as simple as pairing sweet with sweet, spicy with spicy, and so on. Once you have learned that basic rule of thumb, transforming that relaxing image into your reality will be much easier than you expected.

For example, Irish whiskey is notoriously malty, calling for a cigar that hints at charred wood or bread. If your cocktail of choice centers around a peaty Scotch, a stogie with a floral base will accentuate those flavors. Working all of this out may require some planning in advance, and a bit of knowledge, but the payoff will be well worth the effort.

Contrasting Flavors of Whiskey and Cigars

For those with a more discerning palate, contrasting the flavors of your drink with your cigar can highlight those flavors you love, while cutting down on others. This is a trick that takes patience, and a strong ability to discern among the various flavors present in both the whiskey and your cigar. It is an experiment, but one that you will find pleasant to partake in.

Pairing your favorite whiskey with a stogie is driven by your personality and acquired tastes. There is no exacting formula, but once you find a pair that fits, you have created the ideal recipe for a relaxing evening. Not to mention the fun you’ll have during the experimentation process. Alternating between sips and puffs is not just a picture perfect combination, it can enhance your enjoyment of two distinct passions once you’ve discovered the right cigar to go with your whiskey.
January 09, 2017

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4 Japanese Whisky Cocktails to Make You Fall in Love With Spirits Again

Japanese whisky is the tastiest trend in new cocktails

It wasn’t too long ago that finding Japanese whisky was like discovering an obscure bird. Rare, and once found, you never wanted the experience to end. Although distilleries in Japan have been producing whiskey for years, it is only recently that the western world has discovered their rich pleasure.

Being introduced to Japanese whisky can be likened to a vacation for your taste buds. All of the familiar elements of whiskey are there, but there is also a distinct flavor that makes it stand out. Yamazaki 12 is a great example of a high-quality Japanese whisky. Aged for 12 years, the whiskey is an ideal starting point for someone who already loves the flavor of bourbon. This single-malt whiskey is a bit sweeter than what one might expect, with unmistakable honey notes that you will grow to love.

Japanese Takes on Classic Whiskey Cocktails

In order to introduce these new flavors to whiskey lovers, mixologists have found creative ways to highlight their flavors in cocktails. These drinks all have an obvious Asian flair, making them even more appealing to the adventurous drinker:

The Amber Cocktail

Found on the menu at the trendy SakaMai in New York City, the Amber Cocktail mimics the classic whiskey sour. Yamazaki 12 is blended with a citrus known as yuzu, egg white, and wasanbon – which is a type of Japanese sugar. For effect, a small amount of that sugar is also brûléed on the top of the cocktail, providing a sweet scent to this delicious drink.

The Spicy Suntory Sidecar

Charred, whole jalapeños are added to Yamazaki 12 to bring out its smoky flavors. This is then balanced with a touch of Cointreau and lemon juice to make a savory sidecar. You’ll find this interesting concoction served at both locations of the upscale sushi restaurant KOI in New York City, but it is simple enough to try making at home.

Mountainside

Yamazaki translates to Mountainside, which happens to be the name of a trendy cocktail being served at the exclusive Momofuku Restaurant in New York City. This variation of the Old-Fashioned calls for homemade fennel to be blended with the Japanese whisky. Orange bitters are then added before the drink is poured over ice and placed in your hand.

Après-Ski In Fuji

This sweet variation of the Manhattan uses Hakushu 12, another whiskey distilled in Japan. The sweet vermouth Antica and St. Germain are blended with the whiskey to help bring out its smoky flavors while cutting down on its sharp punch. Patrons of New York City’s 15 East will find this unique cocktail on the menu, along with an array of zesty sushi creations.

Atholl Brose

At a French café in the West Village of New York City, whiskey lovers can indulge in a Japanese version of the classic dessert drink. The Atholl Brose is a Scottish cocktail that blends honey and cream with Yamazaki 12. Topped with a thick layer of whipped cream, this drink provides a warm ending to a cold New York evening.

What You Need to Know About Japanese Whisky

For some, it came as a shock when “Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible” named Suntory’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 the best whiskey in the world for their 2015 edition. Yet for those who have already had a taste, this came as no surprise. Japanese whisky has been heading towards the mainstream drinker for decades, with a history that is as rich as its bold flavors.

Japanese Whisky is Not as New as You May Think

The first whiskey distillery in Japan was built during the 1920s. The Yamazaki distillery was constructed near Kyoto, producing whiskey that was consumed throughout Japan for most of the 20th century. In recent years, its unique flavors have become popular in Europe and across North America. This can be attributed to savvy campaigning, and a taste for something different in the market.

Japanese Whisky is Modeled After the Scot’s

The first master distiller of Suntory – Masataka Taketsuru – studied in Scotland before bringing those methods back home to Japan. Not only were pot stills used to make Yamazaki whisky, some distilleries went so far as to import malted and peated barley from Scotland. This makes for a new whiskey, which still has roots that date back hundreds of years.

Lost in Translation

Actor Bill Murray may be partly to blame for the sudden surge in popularity of Japanese whisky. In the 2003 film “Lost in Translation” his character, Bob Harris, heads to Japan to work for the Suntory distillery. The distillery even had its own tagline in the movie: “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time”, a sentiment that is well understood after the first sip. Those spots featured in the film did actually appear during the 1990s, but it was actor Sean Connery who appeared in them.

What’s With the ‘E’

Since Japanese whisky has its roots in the Scottish varieties, it takes its cue from them when it comes to spelling as well. Unlike American and Irish versions, which put an ‘e’ in whiskey, Japanese whisky brands leave it out.

Japanese whisky has been earning awards and grabbing the attention of experts around the world since the beginning of this century. An international tasting event held by Whisky Magazine in 2001 named Nikka’s Yoichi Whisky the “Best of the Best”. Suntory has been earning awards at the International Spirits Challenge since 2003, along with accolades and kudos from experts in all areas of the industry.

Japanese whisky is divine straight, or with your favorite classic mixers. It also has those unique elements which lend themselves to creativity behind the bar, and a whole new generation of cocktails to fall in love with.
January 04, 2017

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The Rise and Fall of Irish Whiskey

The Rise and Fall of Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is one of the oldest styles of whiskey known to man, and arguably one of the best. Yet during the last century a number of factors led to its decline in popularity. The 21st century has brought a resurgence of demand for Irish whiskey, and it now falls in fourth place for the most popular style, trailing behind scotch, bourbon and Canadian whisky.

The Early Years of Irish whiskey

Missionary monks are thought to be the first to bring distilling to the island of Ireland, decades before the technology reached other parts of Europe. These first distillates were called uisce beatha, a Gaelic term for “water of life”. Over time, that phrase was changed to the easier whiskey, but the meaning still holds significance today.

During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign during the 16th century, barrels of Irish whiskey were brought to her kingdom to be drunk by her court. This made it fashionable to be found drinking Irish whiskey in England for the next 300 years. Even in the 18th century, Russia’s Peter the Great admitted that “of all the wines of the world, Irish spirit is the best”.

When the word whiskey was added to “The Dictionary of English” in 1755, Samuel Johnson made special note that “…the Irish sort is particularly distinguished for its pleasant and mild flavor”. It was the most popular whiskey in the world during the 19th century, and became the most popular spirit when French Cognac grape crops were destroyed by disease during the 1880s.

What Happened to Irish whiskey in the 20th Century?

It was the introduction of the Coffey Still that started the decline of the Irish whiskey industry. The competition was able to make their spirits quicker, and at a lower cost, while the Irish distilleries still relied on the slower (yet more flavor-producing) pot still.

Then there was Ireland’s fight for independence at the beginning of the century. Once independence from England had been achieved, the distilleries in Ireland lost access to their largest market at the time. This was devastating for the industry, especially after prohibition was declared in the United States. Not only did this halt sales to the “new world” for over a decade, bootleggers were passing off cheap whiskey as being Irish. As a result, an entire generation of spirit lovers became wrongly turned off to the real thing.

The final blow to Irish whiskey was World War II, when over 150 distilleries were destroyed or had to shut down. Now, only Midleton, Bushmills, and Cooley remain, making Irish whiskey the way it has been for centuries.

Is Irish whiskey making a Comeback?

So far, the 21st century has been good to the Irish whiskey industry. A new-found love for classic Irish coffee is helping to propel its popularity, along with traditionalists who seek out these brands for their crisp flavors and authentic distilling methods. The sale of Irish whiskey abroad may have been stagnant for a little while, but they are back on the rise.
January 03, 2017

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Mixology 101 – 9 Rules for Whiskey Cocktails

Mixology 101 – 9 Rules for Whiskey Cocktails

While creativity behind the bar is certainly encouraged, there are some rules that must be followed for flawless crafting of cocktails:

1. Know the Classics

Whiskey sours and Manhattans have been favorite whiskey cocktails for decades, with good reason. Whiskey just works better with certain ingredients. Know the basis of your classic cocktails, and you will be better equipped for experimentation.

2. The Whiskey is the Most Important Ingredient

A good cocktail celebrates the flavor of whiskey, without trying to disguise it. Use a generous hand with the spirits and be stingy with the rest of the stuff and your cocktail will be a win every time.

3. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Ice

Sure, a “straight” bourbon may seem like the epitome of sophistication, but ice serves two distinct purposes. For one, it chills the drink. Secondly (and arguably more important), it slightly dilutes the whiskey and helps to release the flavor.

4. Avoid the Common Mixers

Boxed juice and bottled sodas contain a long list of ingredients that typically don’t belong in a whiskey cocktail. Use fresh ingredients instead for a better tasting (and healthier) cocktail.

5. Simplify the Ingredients

A great cocktail will not contain more than two or three ingredients. Any more than that and you are complicating the art of drink making, and taking away from the fun of it.

6. Think the Whole Drink Through

The whiskey cocktail should taste just as good at the last sip as it did on the first. This can be accomplished by blending flavors that work well together so that a single one does not dominate. Don’t rely on a strong drink that makes you not care how it tastes by the time you see the bottom of the glass. Instead, focus on making cocktails that are just as good to the last drop.

7. Impress With the Appearance

A whiskey cocktail should look as good as it tastes. Even a small touch like a sprig of mint or a frosted glass will make a big difference in how it goes over.

8. Not All Cocktails Are Meant to Be Shaken

Sure it looks cool to shake the drink with vigor before straining it into the glass, but that is only necessary when you are mixing the whiskey with a fruit juice. With anything else it is not only overkill, it is killing the flavor of the drink. Cocktails that do not contain citrus rely on the aroma of the whiskey, something that is better enhanced with a simple stir around the ice cubes.

9. Have Fun With It

There are dozens of variables that can change the flavor of a cocktail. Don’t obsess over these - embrace them. If you can’t find the exact type of orange called for in a drink recipe, use tangerines. Who knows? Your cleverness could lead to the next whiskey cocktail classic.

Whiskey cocktail making is a science of sorts, relying on specific ingredients, exacting technique, and creativity to be a success. Combine those elements when you’re behind the bar, and you will be well on your way to becoming a mixology master.

December 30, 2016

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To Decant or Not to Decant – That is the Whiskey Mystery

To Decant or Not to Decant – That is the Whiskey Mystery

We have all seen that image in movies or on TV – that array of rocks glasses strategically placed around a beautiful decanter full of honey colored liquid. The “too cool for a bottle” character walks over, pulls the top off and pours himself a glass. This subtle act automatically lets the viewer know that we are watching a savvy person in a position of power.

That is the image that a whiskey decanter invokes, which is one of the reasons why so many spirit lovers choose to trade in the labeled bottles for a crystal one the moment they enter the house. Yet the question of whether or not this is necessary is up for debate.

It All Started With the Wine Decanter

There is a scientific reason why wine connoisseurs will pour a perfectly good blend out of the bottle it came in and into a fancy decanter. This process helps to remove any sediment while allowing oxidation. Oxidation will “open up” the flavors of wine, hopefully for the better. The extra exposure to the oxygen in the air changes the flavor of wine over time.

This is due to two factors found in wine; tannins and alcohol. Wine is rampant in tannins that derive from the grapes, while there are only trace amounts found in whiskey from the barrel it was aged in. The absence of tannins, whose flavors can change dramatically over time, allow whiskey to maintain its flavor even after it has been removed from the barrel.

The higher alcohol content in whiskey – a minimum of 40% – also makes it more resistant to major change. Very few chemical reactions will occur outside of the human body when there is that much alcohol involved. Since most wines have a considerably lower alcohol content, they become more susceptible to having their composition altered when exposed to oxygen.

The same cannot be said for whiskey. Once whiskey has been removed from its barrels, it is pretty much a finished product. A 20-year-old bottle of scotch will always be a 20-year-old bottle of scotch, even if you keep it in a decanter for another 100 years. Exposure to oxygen has little to no effect on the quality of whiskey, making the entire decanter debate an aesthetic one.

What Will Affect Whiskey

Sunlight and temperature fluctuations can have an impact on the taste and quality of whiskey, but even that is minimal. Sunlight can kick-start any chemical reaction that whiskey has left, a lot faster than exposure to oxygen will. Dramatic sudden temperature changes can also cloud some spirits, but that doesn’t do anything to the taste or smell of the drink.

One look at the design differences in decanters should tell you that it is all about the look. Wine decanters don’t have a top, encouraging the liquid to interact with the air. On the other hand, whiskey decanters are typically elaborate in design, with a large crystal top to keep you from spilling any of your spirits. Whether air gets in or not is of little concern, so long as you look like a million bucks while pouring yourself a nightcap.
December 29, 2016

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Trending Ingredients for Craft Whiskey Cocktails

 

7 whiskey cocktails with a strange new twistCocktails have gotten complicated over the years, and bartenders more creative in finding ways to complement your favorite whiskey. Mixologists from all over the world are constantly trying to reinvent new cocktails by pairing whiskey with an assortment of new ingredients. Tired of the standard splash of coke with your Jack? Then you might be ready to try one of the latest drink concoctions:

Foie the Hell of It

The average person doesn’t even know what foie gras is, let alone want to see it on top of their mixed whiskey drink. Yet the bartenders at Ox, a Portland restaurant, cleverly found a way to mix the two into a rich cocktail that packs a serious punch.

The list of ingredients include apple brandy and bourbon, lemon juice, ginger syrup, pureed rhubarb and strawberry preserves, egg white, lemon bitters and a dash of pepper. The frozen foie gras is saved for the end, shaved to form a frothy layer on top.

There are a few ingredients in this drink that make it distinct (rhubarb and egg whites?), but it is definitely the addition of foie gras that stands out. Foie gras is French for fat liver, in this case, that of a duck or goose that was force fed corn for its short life span. The result is a decadent and buttery protein that apparently pairs perfectly with a nice bourbon.

The French Quarter Smash

For this award winning whiskey cocktail, you will need to get your hands on some moonshine, or you could substitute it with a cheap whiskey. But moonshine is not the eccentric ingredient for this cocktail; that would be the 2 spoons full of wild blueberry preserves.

Start by muddling lemon wedges with almond syrup in a cocktail shaker until all the juice and oil is extracted. Add the moonshine, an ounce of brandy (E&J XO is lovely here), fresh mint leaves, blueberry preserves and ice before shaking vigorously.

This whiskey cocktail should be double strained before it is poured into an old-fashioned glass to ensure its smoothness unless you like little particles of fruit to be floating around your drink. A bartender in Washington D.C. came up with the recipe and used it to win top honors in a Berry Cocktail Contest back in 2015.

Snake Whiskey

Technically not a cocktail, Snake Whiskey has become a “thing” in bars across Asia. To make this fearful drink, a live snake must be added to a perfectly good bottle of whiskey.

Some bars up the creative bar by also adding snake venom, hot peppers, berries or ginseng to the mixture. The theory is that this concoction will make men more virile, and could even prevent hair loss, although some could argue that the same could be said for a bottle of 12-year old scotch without the snake.

Since you won’t find Snake Whiskey on your local bar’s shelf, we suggest ordering the highly potent snakebite in its place. This simple concoction is a mix of Yukon Jack with lime juice; a sweet and tart combination that will make your lips pucker before you ask for another.

Truffle Smoked Fashioned

Bars across the United Kingdom have begun serving this new take on the old-fashioned. Served in a retro lab bottle, the glass top serves to hold the smoke in place, making this a drink that is as much for the eyes as it is for your taste buds. Bourbon is used as the base and mixed with truffle oil, bitters, and sugar before being adorned with a classy sprig of thyme and that mysterious cloud of smoke.

Smoking a drink requires the use of a small gadget known as a smoker. This device has a small hose that allows you to blow smoke directly into any cocktail. Smoke infusion adds a layer of complexity to the bourbon. So even without the truffle oil, an old-fashioned turns into something new and exciting.

Bacon and Egg Martini

Mixologists at The London Cocktail Club have taken an American whiskey to make this breakfast-like cocktail. The ingredients include bacon-infused Jack Daniels (because bacon can make even Jack taste better), egg white, maple syrup, lemon juice and Angostura bitters. These are mixed in a cocktail shaker and then strained into a martini glass which is then garnished with a nice slice of bacon because, well… bacon.

Infusing Jack Daniels – or any other whiskey – with bacon is fairly easy. Start by cooking 4 or 5 strips so that you get an ounce of fat. Go ahead and eat the cooked bacon while you let the fat cool to room temperature. Pour that into a storage container and add your Jack Daniels. Freeze the mixture overnight and then strain your Jack into a bottle, removing any remnants of meat that were left over. Now your Jack is full of bacon-goodness.

Mint Julep

A cool Mint Julep is the perfect way to cool down a hot summer day. You will need to plan ahead however by making ice cubes flavored with mint. Then simply pour mint-infused bourbon over them for a refreshingly simple, and tasty, cocktail. This is a traditional drink from the south that has been made even cooler by bartenders at a London lounge.

Colonel Parker

This is the dessert drink with a serious kick. Made like a milkshake, all you have to do is combine Four Roses Bourbon with vanilla ice cream and peanut butter inside of a blender. Top that off with a big dollop of whipped cream and you won’t even feel the spirit going down. This frozen miracle was named after Elvis Presley’s manager, and we all know that the king had a serious thing for peanut butter.

Experts know that a good whiskey shouldn’t need an accompaniment, but they do work at keeping drinking interesting. If you’re looking to impress some guests, start by adding unique ingredients to your favorite whiskey cocktails. This new trend has re-kindled interest in the warmth that only whiskey can offer.
December 28, 2016

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Are Whiskey Stones Better Than Ice?

Are whiskey stones better than ice?

For the real whiskey enthusiast, spirits are served neat with just a splash of water to bring out the flavor. However, for the majority, it’s “on the rocksto help soften the blow. Whiskey stones are a way of chilling the alcohol without watering it down, but is this the right way to drink it?

What are Whiskey Stones?

Whiskey stones are nothing more than fake blocks of ice. Small containers made from plastic or other safe material - are filled with water and then kept inside of a freezer. This allows drinkers to keep a drink chilled without the melting ice affecting the strength and flavor of the drink. A problem that on the rockswhiskey drinkers have unless they are downing the cocktail quick.

The “Neat” Drink

There is a reason why whiskey enthusiasts drink it warm with just a splash of water. Water helps it bloom. In other words, a small amount of water added to whiskey will bring out the aromas and flavors that are being masked by the alcohol. Without it, the drinker may not appreciate the brand’s unique taste qualities.

The temperature of the whiskey doesn’t make a difference with the flavor, although it can take some of the edge off of a strong dram. And some people just like to be served a cold drink over a room temperature one. For them, especially if they are taking their time with the glass, whiskey stones with a splash of water does provide a sensible solution.

The Problem With Whiskey Stones

Some whiskey enthusiasts suggest that whiskey stones are typically given as gifts by people who don’t truly appreciate the qualities of spirits. There are a few problems with whiskey stones that make many discard them after only one use:

  • Whiskey stones may chip the glass – or even teeth. Depending on the material they are made from, whiskey stones can roll around the glass while you sip, rocking against the glass and causing small fractures in it. If they unexpectedly make it past the lips, a whiskey drinker could end up with a chip on the front teeth.
  • Keeping whiskey stones chilled is not always convenient. These need to be washed and then put back into the freezer after each use. One could make a similar argument for an ice cube tray, but with regular ice cubes, the drinker does not need to worry about any sanitary issues.
  • The drink is not being watered down the way it should be with whiskey stones. Where they are most useful is with mixed whiskey drinks, such as a Jack and Coke. Drinkers want these served cold, but added water from ice definitely alters the flavor – and not in a good way.
Few true whiskey connoisseurs can say that their drinking habits have been enhanced by the introduction of whiskey stones. While the concept of a cold drink without watering down seems like a good one, the general consensus is that this novelty is better suited for lemonade.
December 27, 2016

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Whiskey 101: How to Stock Your Home Bar for a Party

Whiskey 101: How to Stock Your Home Bar for a Party

Most of us don’t start off with a home bar that can rival your neighborhood favorite. In fact, it is usually a bottle here, and another one before you realize that you do have the ability to make your signature whiskey cocktail in the comfort of your own home. However, if you are planning a party and want a home bar that is set up to please any type of guest, there are a few items that will be essential to have.

The Liquor Cabinet

The brands will be chosen by your personal preferences, but in order to be ready for any type of drink you will want at least one each of:

  • Blended Whiskey
  • Rye Whisky
  • Bourbon
  • Scotch
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Tequila

In addition to the main ingredients, it is also good to have certain liqueurs on hand for mixed drinks:

  • Dry Vermouth
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • Campari or Chartreuse
  • Kahlua or Crème de Cacao

A small dash of bitters brings out a drink’s flavor, adding depth to the cocktail. Impress your guests by having an array of orange, aromatic and artisan bitters. These will make it simple to complete any cocktail request thrown your way.

Hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce are also common ingredients in mixed drinks, and good to have in your home bar. Other spicy flavors can be added using horseradish, tomato juice or even olive brine. Don’t forget to also invest in sweet sauces, like a pre-made sour mix and grenadine.

Juices for Variety

Fruit juice is the base for a number of mixed drinks, and is also used as a single accompaniment for whiskey and other spirits. To nail them all you will need to have:

  • Lime Juice
  • Lemon Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Pineapple Juice and
  • Cranberry Juice

Don’t forget about an array of carbonated drinks too. Cola, seltzer, club soda and ginger ale are most commonly used for cocktail parties. If you plan on getting really serious with your bartending skills, add tonic, ginger beer and lemon-lime soda to the list.

Drink Garnishes

To make drinks at home like a pro, you will have to have a wide assortment of garnishes. Most of these can be cut ahead of time and stored in a covered container:

  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Oranges
  • Citrus Peels
  • Maraschino Cherries
  • Olives
  • Cocktail Onions
  • Coarse Salt
  • Sugar Cubes

The Right Tools for a Home Bar

You may have all the ingredients on hand, but they won’t do you any good if you don’t have the tools to get them mixed together properly. Any home bar worth its whiskey will contain a:

  • Jigger Measure
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Cocktail Strainer
  • Cocktail Stirrer
  • Bottle Opener
  • Wine Opener
  • Muddler
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Blender and
  • Fruit Juicer

Glassware

Having basic glassware in your bar should be able to cover all of your cocktail requests. Rock glasses are a must, as are high balls for drinks like Jack and Coke. Stock up on shot glasses if you are expecting a rowdy crowd, and wine glasses for your more refined friends.

With all of these essentials stocked in your home bar, any occasion can be turned into a cocktail party. Familiarize yourself with the recipes for standards like a Whiskey Manhattan, and learn a few new tricks, and your little soiree will be a raving success.
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