Saturday, May 9, 2009

Luxardo Maraschino

Finally. After two years of searching through several states, my local liquor store has special ordered a case of luxardo maraschino for me to try out. Unfortunately, i had already ordered a bottle of it online, but oh well. I was a bit surprised, because on a previous occasion (at Details) i had tried the Luxardo Maraschino and been surprised to find almost no cherry-flavor - just the overwheleming burn of alcohol. However, after trying a bottle that i have bought myself, i do taste the cherry after all - it's just not a pronounced cherry flavor that you find at the front - it's more in the back. Surprisingly, as i noted before, the cherry flavor does come through quite well in mixed drinks.

What i did, specifically, was to try a drink made with the luxardo and without the luxardo. I made, basically, a daquiri (sweetened a bit for modern times, with simple syrup) and a version of the florida daquiri (sweetened half with simple syrup and half with luxardo). Could i tell the difference? Yes. The cherry flavor comes in pretty well - although you only taste it after the sourness of the lime juice. I can definitely see why luxardo would be a nice liqeueur to mix with, and why it was so popular way back when. Will definitely be trying it out in a number of different drinks - especially the "old" version of the Aviation - which is made with creme de violette - which will be coming in the mail at some time in the near future.

If you're any kind of serious mixologist, you should definitely have a bottle of luxardo maraschino laying around for making "real" drinks. Taking a look at the website, it is featured in 211 classic drinks - compare to Cointreau - an obviously popular liqueur - which is featured in 226 drinks. I'm just happy that after a few years i was able to get a bottle or two of the alcohol to play around with. Just wish stupid Ohio would revise its idiotic liquor laws.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Return to Details

Here I am with some picture, finally. Pictures taken with my digital camera that i thought i would use a whole lot more but then didn't. But here they are. Details, if you remember, is the new "bartender's" bar in Columbus, where the bartenders and staff are a whole lot more professional than the ones you will find at most other places in Columbus. I ordered two drinks from there, the Aviation and the Singapore Sling. Both drinks are ones that I think show a good bit of thoughtfulness.

The Aviation, i was surprised at, in part, because I had spent the previous week trying Luxardo Maraschino and Creme de Violette by themselves - and let me note that I was not particularly impressed. The Luxardo does not taste much of cherry when drunk on it's own (in part because of the high alcohol content), and the Creme de Violette, while very perfumey, tastes like cotton candy and/or artificial grape flavoring. Mixing them up with something sour (or diluting them to reduce the alcohol content), however, apparently makes their flavor more apparent. You start to taste cherry more, and the perfume of the creme de violette becomes something that you taste more in the drink.

At Details, the Aviation (as noted) is made with Creme de Violette. The way that they serve it, is unique - the Creme de Violette is carefully slipped into the bottom of the drink - and moreover, some Creme de Violette is also shaken in with the rest of the ingredients as well. The effect, i think, is great. Towards the end, you start to really taste the effect of various intensities of Creme de Violette in the drink. But at the same time, you still get to taste some of the perfume from the beginning. It was an extra added effect that I think showed some real thoguhtfulness on the part of the bartender.

The second drink i ordered was the Singapore Sling - a drink that I've made a few times myself. When i first saw the drink, I thought they made it wrong. I make mine with Cherry Heering - and the result is that the drink takes on a pinkish hue. The bartender assured me that they do in fact use a cherry brandy when they make their drinks - but it is one that is kept a secret. (He suggested it was made in-house or something along those lines). The drink was made with freshly squeezed juices - which was interesting, in part because you got a lot more "pulp" from the pineapple juice. The only thing I guess i missed was more cherry flavor - I didn't really seem to taste it as much as I would've liked. Then again, they're making it using their own cherry brandy, and if they want to de-emphasize the cheery, then that is fine. It was a tasty drink nonetheless.

Definitely check the place out if you're ever in Columbus.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Old Overholt

Old Overholt. Probably the most inexpensive rye whiskey that you could ever get. If you're obsessed with making drinks the historically accurate way, then it's a cheap way to make a Manhattan correctly. And it does make a good Manhattan.

How does it taste? It's not enormously complex. Sweet, but not very full-bodied. Some have described the taste as similar to sunflower seeds. I can't disagree with that - but think sunflower seeds sans the "roasted" and "buttery" flavors. Although not very full-bodied, it is distinctive. The taste could be a turn-off when drunk straight, but it is quite mixable.

I'll think of a special drink for it in a bit.


A fellow cocktail blogger in columbus (Pegudoug) informed me that a real bartender's bar had just opened up in December - it's called Details, and it is a pretty nice place. Perhaps next time i visit i will bring my camera to take pictures. Unfortunately i was able to only order one drink on the menu (i was already kinda drunk at the time i visited). I ordered a Manhattan, and they made it with Maker's Mark, Vya Sweet, Fee Bros. aged bitters, and some Luxardo Maraschino cherries. She made it to order (i ask for heavy on the bitters), and the only problem was that i'm pretty sure she shook the drink instead of stirring it. I must say it was nice to find a place that didn't use Stock or Gallo vermouth in their drink mixing - which in some sense puts it above the rest already. In addition to this, the bartenders were pretty friendly and knowledgeable. I asked to taste the vya sweet by itself, along with luxardo maraschino and creme de violette, and they were more than happy to oblige.

I give the place an 8.5/10 - but i'll be heading back there again, with a camera, to try the place out again.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Barrel 44

Driving down high street a few months back, i happened to notice a new bar/restaurant opening up, next to Surly Girl. It's called Barrel 44, and was somewhat of a refreshing surprise to see in the short north. For people who are more familiar with Columbus and the Short North, the Short North is basically poser central for restaurants and bars that are trying to emulate the food and drink scene of New York City. Essentially, a lot of restaurants have opened up lately that have the look of an NYC bar/restaurant, but yet somehow also have the actual food and drink of a diner - a diner with fancier ingredients, but a diner nonetheless.

Given this, it was interesting to see someone try to open a more upscale whiskey bar in the short north. Because of my earlier exposure to restaurants and bars in the short north, I was ready to whip out my mental pad and paper and write down as many flaws as i could find. As it happens, i didn't find another poser bar in the short north - i didn't find drink/food heaven either - but it was promising to see a place that had transcended it's peers in some significant ways.

The decor was nothing worth mentioning. Slightly upscale but not flamboyant. They had a list of what looked to be 50+ whiskeys. They have at least 3 whiskeys in each category - including straight rye whiskey. The bartender says that they are trying to increase their whiskey menu. Unfortunately, like all bars in Ohio, Barrell 44 has some difficulty in acquiring some of the more interesting whiskeys that you might find in other states. The bartender suggested that they are trying to get their hands on a few bottles of Japanese Suntory whiskey, and a few other single-malt scotches as well, but this is a process that takes time. Moreover, it's not likely that you'll find this many whiskeys at any other bar in Columbus, so this is understandable.

I ordered three drinks from two bartenders. Bartender A did a pretty good job. I asked for a Manhattan. I asked her what type of sweet vermouth they had - she said that it was Martini & Rossi - but it was not (I think it was Stock or Gallo) - fortunately her only mistake. The only fault on the menu's part, was that the menu suggests that the Manhattan is made with "a dash of sweet vermouth and bitters" - but any self-respecting person would want more than just a dash of sweet vermouth. In fact, i asked specifically for a Manhattan with 1 part sweet vermouth to 2 parts whiskey - and a healthy dose of bitters. What was nice about the experience was that i didn't have to ask for either of these three things: (a) bitters, (b) stirring the drink instead of shaking it, and (c) rye whiskey instead of bourbon. Their standard rye whiskey is Old Overholt - which made for a great drink. The drink was a good temperature, had no unsightly ice chips, and tasted quite good - a very balanced drink.

The second drink I ordered was their "new old fashioned" - a curious concoction that replaces the orange slice in the old-fashioned with peaches. The only problem with this drink was the inclusion of what looked to be canned peaches. Now, in actuality, the idea of the drink is pretty sound. Peach is a natural pair with whiskey (i.e., think Southern Comfort) - so it was definitely a good idea. However, the inclusion of canned peaches seemed a little cheap. The only problem is that using fresh peaches is a little problematic - i would think that even with a significant amount of muddling, getting peach flavor from fresh peaches would be difficult. Of course, one could simply muddle some fresh peaches and add a small amount of southern comfort. This is just a small quibble though. The drink was tasty. Not only tasty, but (this will sound odd) their choice of ice shape was nice, and added to the drink.

The third drink I ordered was one that they didn't offer on the menu - a plain old old fashioned. Speaking of which, one other small quibble would be that their menu didn't include enough whiskey drinks. (Think of them more as a WHISKEY bar, as opposed to a whiskey BAR). That said, even though they didn't have the old-fashioned on the menu, the second bartender was happy to oblige me. This drink was also quite tasty - in fact i liked it better than their other one. What really struck me most was that the bartender actually knew what was in a regular old-fashioned - and was willing to prepare it for me. In fact, this bartender (a guy instead of a girl) seemed to be pretty on the ball. While he wasn't quite what i would call an expert, he did demonstrate a passion for whiskey and bartending, and also a professionalism that i just don't see at bars anymore. In general, i would say kudos to the bartenders at Barrel 44.

Now, onto one last complaint. The last drink that i attempted to order was one that neither of the bartenders had even heard of - in fact it was a drink that the owner had never heard of - the Sazerac. In fact, they didn't have the ingredients for a Sazerac - which is not surprising, because there aren't too many drinks that you would ask for that contained Peychaud's bitters and pastis. While this might seem a horrendous oversight on their part, i'm not going to fault them too much for it. I take it they're more "whiskey" people than "mixology" people - and so their unfamiliarity with the history of cocktails is forgiveable. That said, the Sazerac is one of the oldest and most well-known drinks in the mixology community - and it would be interesting to see them pick it up - at laest for the sake of authenticity.

All in all, i would give them 7 1/2 out of 10. Given that they've just opened, i would expect that they'll continue to get better, and i sincerely hope that they succeed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

King Eider Dry Vermouth

On a random trip to a friend's house to watch the presidential debates tonight, i decided to stop by the liquor store (i hadn't been in a while). I've been trying to collect more vermouths lately, and to my surprise there was a bottle of vermouth that i hadn't heard of - called King Eider. I bought it, along with a bottle of Wild Turkey Straight Rye Whiskey and a bottle of Noilly Prat sweet. I took it with me to the debate and gave it a spin. Slightly bitter herbal notes, some soft orange, and moderately sweet - really not what i would expect from a "dry vermouth", but kinda tasty.

I tried to look up information on it, but couldn't find anything of note - other than it had stopped going into production in 2007. The bottle must've been sitting there for a while, so i'm glad i found it. Don't have much else to say about it yet, but i'll ask around. Have yet to try and mix with it, and i'm almost sad that i opened it, because i'll have to use it up somewhat quickly.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jersey Appletini

Last week, Mixology Mondays had a theme of "guilty pleasures", and while i did create what ended up being a guilty pleasure, i thought i'd tackle the issue a bit more seriously in my post this week. I don't think i've really had a post where i tried making a new drink (last week didn't really count, since it's just too much work). The project was to try and make a better appletini, using that really horrible ingredient, sour apple pucker.

I actually don't have DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker, but i do have the Mr. Boston version - one that i take to be superior, in part because it tastes more like natural apple. (There is another version called something like "Too Sour Pucker" or something like that at Kroger, but i'm not even going to touch that right now).

According to one Gary Regan, the first version of this drink was actually made for a whiskey festival - and there, it was made of 2 parts whiskey and one part sour apple liqueur. This recipe was one that i actually tasted at a local bar (Club Diversity), who titled the drink a "Grand Appletini". Since that'd been done already, i tried to think of a different base liquor to mix with sour apple. What i did like about whiskey was the fact that it had its own flavor to bring to the party, and its own color. The former was good because it made the drink more complex - the latter was good because the drink stopped looking like a prop for a Nickelodeon show. Given this, i thought a good substitute for vodka or whiskey might be Laird's Applejack. Laird's Applejack is, of course, based in New Jersey, and so i suppose that is where this drink will get its name. Applejack is sort of an odd-ball - it's not used in many drinks - but it does have its own subtle apple flavor. Somehow, its addition both enhances the apple flavor AND tones it down.

Jersey Appletini:
2 pts Laird's Applejack
1 pt Sour Apple Liqueur (Mr. Boston brand)

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve with a cherry.

Here, we see the Jersey Appletini, served in a cocktail glass. It is accompanied by one of my new cocktail picks, and a brandied cherry that i made all by myself!