I thought it would be interesting to put up a list of what I view as the single best value out there in each of the six great cocktail spirit categories. To be clear, these are hardly the best exemplars of Whiskey (North American), Rum, Gin, Brandy, Tequila, and Vodka, nor are they the cheapest. Far from it in both instances. These hit the sweet spot where the price and quality curves intersect. Prices, of course, will vary wherever you are, and in what mood the bottlers, distributors, and Chet behind the counter are in... These bottles also are Swiss Army Knife products, in that they aren't just good, they work well pretty much across the spectrum of drinks you might make with each. There might be a better gin, price to quality, if you only make Dry Martinis with it, but that gin might not be so great a value in an Alexander or a Pegu. So let's begin.
This lovely little video tells a bit of the story behind one of Columbus's fine local distilleries, Watershed. It is a student project by Kelly Insinga here at Columbus College of Art & Design. The quality of this little six minute documentary says great things about Insinga's talent, and the instruction at CCAD. I've featured Watershed's products on this blog before, as well as a (far less impressive) video of my own, but they are worth talking about again. And again. There are small distilleries popping up all over the country, and I visit every one I can when I travel. I have taken to using Watershed, which I have studied since they opened, as a benchmark by which to measure all these other brave ventures. And most every visit to another micro, whether I'm impressed with what they are doing or not, leaves me a bit more impressed with Watershed in one way or another. Their Four Peel Gin is my favorite among their products. I like the citrus-forward profile. The price is reasonable. But most importantly, They have locked it down. Gin is a deceptive spirit to make. It requires no aging, so the economics make great sense for a startup, but it is devilishly hard to make consistently over time, especially for a small manufacturing concern. Watershed definitely had some wobbles after a great start in their first few batches. I know a number of people who first tried it back when their production first started to accelerate... um. I had some of those early two-digit batches myself. I didn't find them bad, just not as special as those very first runs were... or as special as the current gin is, batch after batch. Consistency is the key in gin, and Watershed has had it for a while now. Right now, you can only get their products in Ohio for the most part. Given Watershed's success so far, and the way they've achieved it, I expect that will change in future years. In the mean time, come visit Columbus. Drop me a line.abc
Mixology Monday One Hundred and Six! This month's theme is "Spring Break". One of my favorite Twitter follows, Joel DiPippa, is hosting the rodeo this time around at the Southern Ash blog. The reasoning behind Joel's theme this month is similar to my rationale for having Tiki Month in February: We are done with Winter. Even a mild one like this one. (Shut up Washingtonians! You had it coming.) We are invited to present a liquid interpretation of what Spring Break means to us, to hurry along that blessed celebration of the return of Spring. So what does Spring Break mean to me? The classic, Hollywood-approved image of the holiday is of beach parties with people like this. [caption id="attachment_11022" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Sadly, all the ice in her Navy Grog seems to have melted...[/caption] Or these fine beach party goers... [caption id="attachment_11025" align="aligncenter" width="750"] You didn't think I'd get through a Tiki Month without a Rule 5 post, did you?[/caption] One more image of the classic Spring Break, because rule 5 posts at the Pegu Blog always serve up something for everyone: [caption id="attachment_11026" align="aligncenter" width="750"] I apologize to the ladies for that girl who is in the way...[/caption] Do these images work for me? No. (Well...) By "no" I mean that I grew up on the beach. In the South. Beach vacations in March always seemed a bit silly to me, so I never partook in the whole "Mardi Gras outside Miami" thing. For me, the actual arrival of Spring is more associated with being able to get outside and (try to) hit the tennis ball. [caption id="attachment_11027" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Not pictured: Me[/caption] And my tennis drink, the single most refreshing sports beverage there is, is the venerable Gin Rickey. Gin, ice, soda. Done. It quenches thirst, drives away cramps, and softens the memory of that overhead you just butchered (possibly because this is your second Gin Rickey). But this MxMo comes in the middle of Tiki Month, so I've spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to make a Tiki Gin Rickey. (And figure out a good name that wasn't already cruelly plagiarized from me four years before I myself thought of it.) It is harder than it looks. Crossing a Rickey with a Tiki drink is a bit like crossing a peach with an aardvark. There isn't a lot of common ground. Rickey's are simple, clean, and strident. Tiki drinks are complex, indefinable, and melodious. I ended up keeping most of the clean simplicity of the Rickey, added a few classic Tiki background notes, and for judging purposes gave it the most ridiculously over the top presentation I could come up with.
RICKEY'S DUGOUT DELUXEYes, it's ridiculous. But I couldn't shake the image of playing tennis in an Hawaiian shirt, then casually sipping from a pineapple half on changeovers... [caption id="attachment_11028" align="aligncenter" width="675"] "Man, could I use a Rickey's Gin Dugout right about now!"[/caption] Now, the thing is, I succeeded beyond my expectations. This drink really kind of works, so I had to go back and do a practical version that you might make as something other than a lark.
- 2 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
- 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz. homemade falernum
- 4 oz. Perrier
RICKEY'S DUGOUTIt's my first MxMo in ages, folks! I'll try to not be such a stranger. abc
- 2 oz. Bombay Sapphire
- 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz. falernum
- 1/4 oz. pulpy fresh pineapple juice
- 4 oz. Perrrier
One of the greats returns to cocktail blogging. Kaiser Penguin was the very best, back in the early, heady days of the cocktailosphere. His camera skills were exceeded only by his creativity with garnishes. His first post in years shows that he's lost none of either.abc
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