A blog about Pegus...

and other assorted ramblings on the cocktail life.

Buttermilk Maple Gin Flip
Scotch Experts Drink Cheap American Whiskey
The New James Bond Heineken Ad Is Pretty Badass
Academia Patron Comes to Columbus

Buttermilk Maple Gin Flip

Buttermilk Maple Flip
I’ve really come to love egg cocktails lately. And it is not just because they piss off all the right enemies, like the clueless nutrition nazis and the overzealous food safety inspectors. Eggs can do things for a drink that nothing else can really even approximate. The fats in a yolk can provide a rich, unctuous texture on the tongue that is pleasantly… sturdy. Even heavy cream doesn’t make the mouth seem as full as a good egg yolk. And whether it was the finest professional molecular mixology I’ve had across the land, or my own feeble efforts, I have yet to see a foam that matches the frothy protein matrix of a well shaken egg white. Certainly there are fat or foam effects that you can’t manage with an egg, but for the basic task of creating sheer cozy decadence in a glass, there is no substitute for the incredible, edible egg.

That said, I don’t drink a lot of egg cocktails. They double the prep time of a drink, and usually the cleanup time too. And egg drinks are calorie bombs, too. I can’t help getting older, but I do make sporadic attempts to stop getting fatter. So while egg drinks are a serious indulgence, they do have the good graces to taste like one too.

Now that I’ve convinced you to drag a few eggs down to your basement bar, what shall we do with them? How about a Flip? Flips are one of those magnificent cocktail multi-tools, like Rickeys, Sours, and Juleps, that are not so much recipes as templates. A Sour is: spirit, citrus, sweet. Juggle the specific ingredients and ratios to your taste. A Flip is: spirit, egg, sweet, and spice. (If you add cream, you technically have a Nog.) You will often these days see the yolk of the egg swapped out for cream. I think this is because cream is a lot easier to employ that egg yolks, and even the hardest-working bartender in the world can get kinda lazy fast when customers start clamoring for eggs. I think this tendency is why I have never been totally satisfied with Flips I’ve been served in bars, and why I had not really experimented with them at home, because Holy Foghorn Leghorn, is an egg white and yolk Flip a cut above an egg white and cream one.

Kids, that’s a convoluted Risky Business reference. It was a movie from back when we thought stories about how the way to get into Princeton was to run a whorehouse out of your parents’ home and milk your buddies out of their college funds were logical and reasonable.
It was the 80’s, you wouldn’t understand.

This Flip, lifted from Serious Eats, shows off both the awesome power of the egg, but also the wonderful opportunities for matching specific spirits in multi-tool cocktail categories like Flips.


  • 1 whole egg, separated
  • 1 oz. buttermilk
  • 1/4 oz. maple syrup (1/2 in the original)
  • 2 oz. gin (I used Watershed’s Guild Series Chamomile, which you probably can’t get.)
  • nutmeg (optional)

Plop the yolk in your shaker with a few ice cubes and shake break it up. Add whites, buttermilk, syrup, and gin with more ice. Shake for up to a minute. Strain into a cocktail coupe. Grate some nutmeg over the top if needed.

I chose this recipe because I was looking to use this delicious, but frankly weird, Guild House Chamomile Flavored Gin I just bought. It is a custom expression for Cameron Mitchell’s Guild House restaurant by Columbus’s Watershed Distillery. It’s defining characteristics are of course the chamomile, but also a distinct nutmeg element. The Guild House is not a delicate gin, but it is bright, and I guessed, correctly, that the sturdy flavors of the buttermilk in this recipe would stand up to this gin in a complimentary fashion. I omitted the nutmeg, which is the traditional spice in a Flip, because the Guild House brought its own to the party. And I halved the maple syrup called for in the original recipe because I think maple is a cocktail bully that will take over any cocktail it is in if you don’t keep it under control.

The only place to buy the Guild House by the bottle is at the distillery, so if you want to try this variation elsewhere, I’d try something like Bluecoat. Definitely add back in the nutmeg, though.

Finally, remember this is a Flip. Do whatever the hell you want with it. It’s a template. Drop the gin entirely and use a rum or rye. I think I’ll actually try some tequila next. I’ll swap the maple for agave syrup, and drop the buttermilk. I doubt nutmeg will work, though. Any suggestions for a spice?

Scotch Experts Drink Cheap American Whiskey

Yes, I know this is #Old (at least in internet terms, two weeks is old). But I think it is fun, and almost no place I’ve seen it posted has any insight beyond pulling quotes from it. Let’s watch, and smile, shall we?

The two experts are Rick Edwards, Glenlivet’s American Master of Scotch, who evidences here in spades that unique quality of charm that you see in every single star brand ambassador in the world, and Kat Aagesen, who is… a stand-up comic.

If you didn’t watch the video, perhaps because you are at “work” right now and your “boss” is all “unreasonable” about you watching videos on the company bandwidth instead of doing your “job”, two scotch lovers are separately given five different every-day-person-priced American whiskeys, and asked to opine. Hilarity ensues. These are not really “cheap” whiskeys, by the way. And only three are actual whiskeys. The other two are a knock-off of a venerable flavored booze, and the other is a war crime in a bottle.

Our two pundits are clearly in on the joke, which I was surprised to realize as I watched the first time, because BuzzFeed is terrible. (Link goes to a Cracked.com post from back before Cracked became terrible.) I was expecting this to be in the genre of experts secretly given plonk and who either embarrass themselves by extolling its virtues, or visibly contort themselves in desperate knots trying to find something polite to say. Instead, we are treated to an $18 bottle tasting in the style of a $60 one.

Aagesen’s commnets are funny, and actually harsher than Edwards’s, but it is the latter that I think illustrates the valuable point to take away from this video: Judge booze (or any product) for what it is. Are Wild Turkey and Jim Beam four star bourbons in the overall constellation of American whiskey? No, of course not. But are they four star products in the world of mainstream consumer bourbons? Hell yes. At the least. Kickin’ Chicken is one of the venerable bourbons in history, and the Beam family practically defines 20th Century American distilling. Is there “a little rubber” in Wild Turkey’s profile? Sure. But there are (admittedly a lot fewer) rubber tones in that $60 single barrel you bought, too. Is there a waxiness to Jim Beam White Label? Eh, probably. But add a mixer, or even just a glass full of ice and no one who orders $20 bourbon will notice it as anything other than “my bourbon”. Measure products against their competition. That bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is certainly no 1er Cru Bordeaux, but the question that matters is, “is it better or worse than that $14 bottle of Napa Valley SB?”

And speaking of worse, if you watch nothing else about the video, jump to 1:55 and enjoy the Fireball segment. It is a reminder, at the end of this sweet little video, that Buzzfeed is indeed cruel, with a mother-in-law suite built into its corporate soul for Beelzebub. But it reminds us that, for all my sermonizing about comparing within a product’s market, some fluids are just objectively bad.

The New James Bond Heineken Ad Is Pretty Badass

The new James Bond Heineken ad celebrating Spectre is pretty cool.

What I like about this is, it is actually a classic beer ad, i.e. the suggestion that the mere presence of the advertised beer will make your life a fantasy come true. In that way, this Specter ad is very similar to the Skyfall one from 2012.

Interestingly, the earlier one was very much in line with the Skyfall spirit: A chase of our hero through dark and somewhat surreal realms. Meanwhile this new one is almost distinctly Roger Moore in character, down to the Hervé Villechaize appearance. I find it hard to believe that Spectre will have quite that level of joie de vivre, though. What do you think?

Academia Patron Comes to Columbus

On October 5th, Tequila Patron brought its Academia Patron program here to Columbus, and I was fortunate to join a host of USBG and other industry types for the all day event. Patron only puts on a few of these education seminars a year, making us fortunate to see it here in Columbus. Attendance was tremendous, and we had bartenders making the journey here from as far away as Pittsburgh and Louisville. The presentation was densely packed with information, some of which I already knew, and some of which I really didn’t want to know, but it was overall hugely interesting and useful. This will be long enough without trying to digest the whole day’s training, but I thought it would be fun to go over some of the things we discussed that stood out to me as either fun or particularly useful.

The first two-thirds of the seminar was presented not by Patron, but by Consejo Regulador del Tequila, or The Tequila Regulatory Council. This is the Mexican quasi-governmental agency that regulates everything tequila, from agave farming to labeling.

Legally, “Tequila” is an Appellation of Origin, a legal definition the same as for “Cognac”, and more strict than, say, bourbon. The differences are technical, but suffice to say that the tequila folks are far pickier about how and where you can and cannot make tequila. Imagine if all bourbon had to be made with one and only one variety of corn….

Among the most important things to be clear on as a consumer or purveyor of tequila is that there are two distinct categories of the spirit: Tequila 100% Blue Agave, and Tequila. The former is made from only the Weber Blue Agave plant. The latter may employ up to 49% sugars from other sources. The distinction here looks similar but is fundamentally different from the distinction between, for example, single malts and blended scotches. Blended whiskies add other alcohols after distillation, whereas the other sources of sugar, principally molasses, are added into tequila before the initial fermentation begins. All tequila, in both categories, can use only Weber Blue Agave. If you want an agave liquor made from other agaves, try mezcal, which conversely may not legally contain any Weber Blue.

To make tequila, you cut all the leaves off of your mature blue agave, leaving you with a stem that looks like a gigantic pineapple, so much so that it is called just that, a piña. The piñas are then very slowly roasted in a sealed oven or autoclave to break down the sugars to something that won’t give yeast indigestion. The piñas are then subjected to any of a variety of processes each horrible enough to have given the Spanish Inquisition pause in order to extract the juices. If you are not making 100% blue agave, you add your molasses or other sugars at this point. Tequila can be distilled in either pot or column stills, and pot still tequila is usually twice distilled directly to bottling strength, while column still tequila must be diluted back down.

Silver tequilas are essentially the pure distillate, straight from the still. It may be filtered, but can have zero additives. We were told that many true tequila wonks prefer silvers to geek out with, as you get the truest expression of the agave flavors and sweetness. I surmise this means that it is in silver tequilas that the difference between a half-assed product and one made with great care will be most apparent. Despite the requirement that silvers have no additives, you will often see some that have a slight color to them. This is because they may be legally aged in wood for up to two months.

The other main types of tequila are all aged for more than two months. Reposados (literally, “rested”) may be aged at least two months. Anjeos (“Aged”) are aged more than a year. Extra Anjeos (“Extra Aged”) must be aged at least three years. Those are the literal translations. The US legal translations are Reposado–Aged, Añjeo–Extra Aged, and Extra Añjeo–Ultra Aged, because bureaucrats hate you. You will seldom find Extra Añjeos much older than three for two reasons. It is hot in Mexico, which means the angels down there are serious lushes. Also, tequila simply does not age terribly well. The distinctive agave flavor compounds that make tequila what it is are overwhelmed or destroyed by enough time in oak.

There are few restrictions on what barrels are used to age tequila. Distillers use and reuse new and used, and the used barrels come from wine and all types of other spirits. Patron’s aged tequilas are a careful blend of tequilas from several different kinds of barrels. Right off the bat, you can often tell by taste what kind of barrel was used to age a tequila.

If the barrel aging process for reposados and añjeos are all over the place, the last group of tequilas, Golds, are the Wild West. Gold, or joven, tequila is a silver tequila to which colorants and/or flavorings added. The wild west comes in here because the flavorings could be almost anything. Most jovens are colored and sweetened with caramel colors and sugars, but there are some that add only some amount of aged tequila. In other words, your gold tequila could be an Early Times analogue… or a Johnny Walker Black. With almost everything else about tequila so strictly controlled, I do not know why the gold classification is left so wide open. All I got is, again, bureaucrats hate you.

A final important point about the making of tequila is that agave plants take seven to ten years to grow to maturity and harvest. Farming economics being what they are, this has historically lead to crazy cycles of glut and scarcity in agave production. My guess is, the next time you see a sudden wave of premium producers touting the virtues of their mixtos, it is because there has been a scarce harvest, and there isn’t enough agave to make as much 100% blue agave tequila as they’d like.

The main feature of Patron’s portion of the session was the tasting, of course, but it was accompanied by a fascinating discussion of how Patron does business and how their production processes affect the finished product. The government speaker, representing all tequila makers, could not go into many value judgements about how different distilling options affect quality, although she was very strong on the point that 100% blue agave is not an automatically superior liquor. There are applications and significant portions of the market who actively prefer mixtos. But Patron can of course brag all they want about the choices they make. The most interesting point was an admission that in some segments of the craft bar world, Patron is becoming a victim of its own success. Its basic Silver expression in particular is sometimes sneered at as bland because of its ubiquity, rather than any actual blandness. Their response, rather than stomping their feet and insisting anyone who doesn’t like basic Patron Silver is a visigoth, is to suggest their Roca Patron line of expressions as alternatives. I quite like the Roca Silver, a lot. But whatever your personal opinion of this line of expressions, “bland” won’t likely be included.

Patron uses two distinct processes to crush their roasted piñas. One is a modern roller mill, which is highly efficient in extracting the juice from the pulp. The other is an almost pre-industrial device called a tahona which is a giant stone wheel that rolls around a circle, crushing the agave. Patron’s nod to the modern world with this setup is to replace the mule with a tractor to pull the wheel around. The tahona process is much less efficient in extracting the juice, and leaves a lot of the fibrous pulp behind. Patron leaves this pulp in the “mosto” which goes into the stills. For most of their tequila, they blend the resulting distillates together before bottling. But for the Roca brands, they use only the tahona process. The result is a big, vegetal flavor that strikes me as almost rustic. Hipster Cred Status: Restored.

I’ll wrap up with two final interesting things we learned. The first is that due to the unique chemistry of agave, there is a much higher level of methanol in tequila than any other liquor. No, it’s not high enough to be harmful, but yes, it is high enough to be part of the basic flavor profile. In fact, the experts at CSI:Jalisco are usually able to detect illegally aldulterated tequilas simply by demonstrating a low methanol level. And yes, there is actually a tequila board “crime lab” where they ferret out counterfeit tequilas around the world.

Finally, there was the Mexican goddess of fertility, who was named Muyahuel. She had 400 breasts, which understandably caught the attention of the great god Quetzalcoatl. They ran off from her abusive grandmother and had 400 babies, called the Rabbits of Drunkenness. At any rate, wedded bliss was not long for Muyahuel, as her granny tracked her down and killed her. Her husband memorialized Muyahuel by turning her into the agave plant. Now, if you drink too much of her “milk”, one of her rabbit children will come and possess you…

I’m not quite sure what made the god choose this form to represent Muyahuel….
Source: Ben Olivares

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