Category - Whisky

Scottish Alcohol Responsibility Disclaimer
Mainstreaming of Cocktail Culture: The Blacklist
Business Insider Shows Off Its Cocktail Chops… or Lack Thereof
Taking “The Flask” for a Testdrive

Scottish Alcohol Responsibility Disclaimer

This learned-looking individual is Simon Brooking, Beam Suntory’s much-awarded Scotch Brand Ambassador. He just visited Columbus to educate the bar-noscienti on Laphroaig, Bowmore, and Auchentoshen. I got a chance to meet him at our USBG presentation. I’ve said it before, and I’ll iterate it here: If you are good enough to be a major brand Global Ambassador, I will happily listen to you talk all day.

I won’t go into the details of his presentation, because I was enjoying myself too much to take notes. But I did want to post here about the fact that Simon began his talk with a Scottish responsible drinking disclaimer. I was unaware that my ancestral people had drinking disclaimers. I was under the impression that Scots knew it was time to stop drinking when they started missing their mouths with the glass…. Anyway, here is the one he read:

Being moderately taken, (whiskey) sloweth age. It strengthen youth. It cutteth phlegm, abandon melancholy, lighten the mind. It preserveth the head from whirling, the tongue from lisping, the teeth from chattering, the stomach from wombling, the heart from swelling, the hands from shivering, the veins form crumbling.
Truly, it is a sovereign drink… if it be orderly taken.
Holinshed’s Chronicles—1578

Wait. 1578?!? They had safe drinking messages in 1578?

Livers didn’t have superpowers back then either. Honestly, I see nothing debatable about this, even today.

Mainstreaming of Cocktail Culture: The Blacklist

Blacklist Megan Boone James Spader
Among the more important elements in growing and sustaining the cocktail movement is the way it is seeping into the popular culture, particularly the entertainment media. The obvious leader here is Mad Men (the show no one watches, and everybody talks about), with its loving ruminations on the importance of a well-made drink. If the world of fine cocktails wants to move beyond the strong fad or wave of fashion stage and embed itself firmly in a place in modern society similar to that of fine wine, it needs shows like Mad Men. But more, it needs scenes like the one that popped up this week on a new NBC show called The Blacklist, a show no one is talking about, but everyone is watching.

Below is the entire second episode, embedded for your perusal. NBC doesn’t seem to want to let me embed a clip or set the start time, so fast forward to 12 minutes for the scene that concerns us here. NBC may take a few moments to interest you in some insurance or soap before you can watch the video….

Here we see the series’s heroic villain (villainous hero?) proantagonist, Raymond “Red” Reddington sitting down with young FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen at a Montreal restaurant. Before I get to the cocktail implications, I’m going to do a brief review of the show, because regardless of your cocktailian proclivities, it is worth a watch. Red is a former government agent who currently holds down the number four spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, yet he has turned himself in to the feds solely in order to screw with the mind of Keen for some unknown and likely nefarious reason that we’ll get a little bit closer to understanding each Sweeps Week. Red is played by James Spader (you know, Ultron), who chews the scenery in a delightfully understated manner and he uses the rest of the cast, and the FBI as a whole, to accomplish lots of Really Good Things, by Really Dubious Means, for reasons that no one understands, but that we viewers imagine are Really Bad. He is stylish, unflappable, decisive, and nearly omnicompetent. He loves a really good drink. Oh, and he’s a textbook sociopath.

Red’s keeper/protegé Liz is played a bit too strongly in the first two episodes as an innocent with things to prove. I think this is to provide contrast to the dark and twisty road that Red (and probably her own past and her apparently too good to be true hubby) will take her on.

The rest of the cast is to this point unfleshed out. Most so far remain stock characters that you’ve seen in a host of other shows. The team leader, Cooper, needs to get some interest quickly before he turns into a black Basil Exposition. Malik is the sweet-faced CIA agent forced upon the team because… Justice always likes to have the CIA around to keep an eye on the FBI or something. Her main role on the show so far is to torture suspects right in front of FBI agents because the CIA is unbound by any law, and to just generally give some ambiguity to Red’s evil by being just as heartless. Finally the young FBI field agent Ressler is on the show to look smashing for the ladies while almost being blown up every episode.

I snark about these characters because snark is what I do. There is potential in each, combined with Red’s already fascinating portrayal and the generally strong stories, this could make for an ongoing hit. Think White Collar, with Hannibal Lecter instead of Neal Caffrey.

Now, back to the scene. It was crafted, I guarantee you, by someone who is a genuine cocktail snob who wants to show cocktails as superior to wine, not just a writer in search of a display of sophistication and mentoring (grooming?). Let’s break it down.

Liz orders first, a glass of chardonnay, as boring and prosaic as you could imagine from someone who isn’t really a world class sophisticate. Red immediately overrides her order to the waiter, in French. When the waiter returns with a purple cocktail, Red explains, “Aviation Cocktail. From the 20’s. Tastes like… Spring, doesn’t it?” The great cocktail in place of the boring wine is meant to be a gift, and also represent another step in taking control of her. But the clear implication here is that he upgraded her.
Blacklist Megan Boone
The Aviation is less popular today with the top of the cocktail set, but it used to be the cocktail fraternity’s Secret Handshake. It is a gateway concoction, and you largely find it on menu these days in markets or areas where the industry is still impressing on the minds of its clientele that cocktails have a next level. Red is using a gateway cocktail as part of a gateway conversation. And like the most effective gateways, the subject doesn’t know what she’s getting into, with the drink or her relationship with Red. The show also takes great pains make the drink look appealing: It is generally backlit so you can appreciate the exotic purple coloring, etc. (Incidentally, there is no way whatever is in that glass is actually an Aviation. That jewel-like color means there is no lemon juice present, and the purple is so dark you’d need 50% Creme de Violette to get there.)

We also get meaning from what Red drinks: a glass of neat whisky. Culturally, this is a cue that here is an older, more mature, and thoroughly masculine man, possessing both wisdom and perhaps inner pain. The scotch symbolizes him.
Blacklist James Spader
Scenes like this are essential to the mainstreaming of cocktails. First, it appears on a broadcast network, with an audience six times larger than a Mad Men, and ten times as diverse. Second, the drinks are portrayed as distinctly superior, in taste and sophistication, to wine. Third, the drinks are used to advance the story, and at multiple levels. Also, this episode is evidence of how far toward that end cocktails have come, for exactly the same reasons.

In the event you haven’t had an Aviation lately, or ever, I think I’ll finish with what I think is the best recipe, along with a picture of what one really looks like (equally as gorgeous, but perhaps less videogenic.) This is the exact recipe I happened to have just made for myself before my wife and I sat down and hit play on the DVR to watch this week’s The Blacklist. The looks on our faces at the twelve minute mark were priceless, I’m sure.


  • 2 oz. light, floral gin (Bombay Sapphire or a good New American style like Aviation)
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • scant 1/4 oz. creme de violette

Combine ingredients with plentiful ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass, then gently place a single brandied cherry in the bottom.

Business Insider Shows Off Its Cocktail Chops… or Lack Thereof

I like Business Insider. It is an interesting source of all sorts of information on business and even politics. In their new cocktail post, 8 Tips for Drinking Whiskey Without Looking Like a Newbie, Business Insider really shows off its knowledge chops as a… business and politics site.

The post seems based on a visit to Noorman’s Kil, a whisky and grilled cheese bar in Brooklyn, New York City.

Wait. Just wait.
A grilled cheese bar?
I’m going to take a wild guess and say this place must be located in Williamsburg, not just any random neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Googling now… Yup. Williamsburg.

And that just gives further credence to my opinion about pieces like this one by Business Insider: No journalist writes anything about Williamsburg that does not make knowledgeable readers want to laugh derisively… or hit something while laughing derisively. To be clear, I’m not slamming Noorman’s Kil, or the concept of a Whisky and Grilled Cheese bar. I may in fact try a nice grilled cheese with a Manhattan this evening, as I suspect the flavor profiles will mesh nicely.

I don’t know what it is about writers who go to the Burg and publish about what they find their, but they either find the most ridiculous things and write about them credulously, or they misconstrue what they hear is ridiculous ways. This is not my first time posting on weird Williamsburg writing, by the way. I just guess that rampant hipsterism achieves its central goal of being subtly incomprehensible to, well, everyone.

In this case, I find it difficult to believe that these 8 rules are ungarbled advice from Marcel Simoneau, because if you were to follow them as written, you may not look like a newbie, but you will look like a maniac. Not all are bad, but some are awful. Oh, and the first step to not looking like a newbie, oh Williamsburg Writer, is to know that when referring to Scotch, do not use an ‘e’ in whisky!

Spell-check always rejects ‘whisky’, but spell-check is known to have terrible taste in liquor. I hear it drinks schnapps-based Appletinis….

Let’s start with number two: “Relax. You’re not doing it wrong.”
I think, I pray, that point two is one of those times where the subject says one thing, and the writer understands something else entirely.

Simoneau has seen every request, from a Laphroaig 10 year Manhattan (a cocktail usually prepared with rye) to Johnnie Walker Blue and ginger ale.

I’m sure Simoneau has seen every request. I strongly doubt, however, that he up and suggested that anyone wanting to learn more about whisk(e)y just throw whatever sounds nice in a glass and experience the magic. If he did, do not go to his bar! Both of these are wrong, for different reasons.
A Manhattan is not usually made with rye, but with bourbon. (As it happens, I make most of my Manhattans with rye, because it is better that way. But I’m not most people.) Casually dropping the statement that the Manhattan is “usually” a rye drink is a great way to appear to be a newbie. Say, “Manhattans are better if you make them with rye instead,” and you sound like you know what you are doing.

See what he did there?

And more to the point, a “Manhattan” made with scotch is a Rob Roy. It already has a name. If you want to arbitrarily call one drink by another’s name, why not just f’n call it a Mojito?

And I’d now like to apologize to the mighty Angus Winchester, from whom I totally stole that joke.

Also, Rob Roys are usually made with blended whisky, and for a reason. Throwing the second peatiest single malt in the world into one will leave the impression not that you are a noob, but that you are a dangerous lunatic.

As for the idea of placing Johnny Walker Blue in the same glass with ginger ale…! A reasonable scotch lover would beat up the perpetrator for using a high end scotch like that in such a way as to make it indistinguishable from J&B. (If you don’t want to be mistaken for a newbie, one of the most important things you must learn is that sweet sodas will make the finest liquor indistinguishable from its cheapest mainstream competitor.) And a real Scot would beat up ginger ale boy twice. Once for ruining the Blue, and once for wasting so damn much money! We are a frugal folk, if you hadn’t heard.

How about tip number three? “Look for ‘distiller’s editions’.”
Um… Look, if you are seeking advice from a column about how not to look like a newbie, it kinda implies that you in fact are still a newbie, or at least still unsure of yourself. A quick way to look like a newbie is to assay an advanced maneuver you can’t carry off for sure. Yes, there are plenty of “distiller’s” or other special edition whiskies. Yes, many are indeed a “tasty, rare, and expensive treat.” But until you’ve worked your way through understanding most of the bigger, common bottlings of various genres of whisk(e)y and know what the hell you actually like, the emphasis will be on “expensive”, not on “tasty”. Drive some regular sports cars before you pop for the Maclaren.

Incidentally, the article casually refers to un-aged grain liquor, or “white dog”, as “whiskey”. This sort of thing will not get you branded as a newbie, since all too many people in the industry itself have lately begun to do it. Regardless, all right-thinking me and women need to stamp out this dangerous affectation right now. Alcohol which has not at least seriously made out for a while with some charred wood is not whiskey. In fact, make sure at every turn to denounce this practice with all the inquisitional fervor of a medieval Catholic bishop confronting the Aryan Heresy. No one will suggest you are a newbie, and you’ll be doing God’s work….

Tip number eight is, “It’s fine to shoot flavored whiskey.”
No. No, it is not. Unless you are doing it like this....

In fact, I can think of no finer use for flavored whiskey.

Tip seven, “Get Local”, will either save you from the newbie label, or brand you with it indelibly. Yes, craft distilling is in a renaissance right now, but it is in the early stages, especially when it comes to whiskey. Craft brewing is much more mature than distilling, and there are still a huge number of craft beers that taste like ass. Add in the fact that distilling is much, much harder than brewing in terms of skill, time, and governmental overhead, and noble an effort as craft distilling is, the results are very spotty. Confidently ordering one of those disasters while thinking that it’s “local and artisinal”, will get you pitying looks behind your back. Pitying looks and a glass of ass… overpriced, poorly aged in too-small barrels, ass. On the plus side, on a later date when some other poor schmoe orders the same poorly executed “bourbon”, you can share condescending looks with the bartender and whisper, “noob!”

Tips one, four, and five are pretty solid, for what it’s worth. One points out that for most vodka or other non-whisk(e)y drinkers, bourbon is the place to start. Move on to scotch (or rye) once you get used to the effects of wood. Four notes correctly that the age listed on bottles is not a reliable indicator of the relative quality of the liquid inside. It kind of glosses over why and how this is, or what you should do about it, so while true, it’s not exactly useful. Five is very true, in that it notes the joy of experience you can have when you “branch out” to more and more different labels and varieties of whisk(e)y. Again, it’s kind of unimportant for the purposes of this list, since, once you’ve drank enough to be able to “branch out”, you will by definition not be a newbie!

Taking “The Flask” for a Testdrive

So Oakley is making a carbon-fiber, steel, and aircraft aluminum flask for The Macallan. Their test-drive exceeds the specs for your average drinking flask… just a little bit.

Run over it with a modern sports car: Check.

Drag it around behind a variety of classic and modern sports cars: Check.

Refill it in a moving convertible with a hose from a helicopter: Check.

Drop it onto concrete from the aforementioned helicopter: Check.

Drive right up and deliver flask to a beautiful, naked model in her bathtub in the middle of the test track: Check.

For those of you who need a flask with operational specs like this, you can pick one up for a mere $900. Or for $1,500 you can get one with a bottle of The Macallan 22 to fill it.
Oakley Macallan The Flask
Via: LikeCool

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