Category: bourbon
Tiki Month 2018
Rule 2

Tiki Drink: Lion’s Fang

I don't have a lot of time right at the beginning of this year's Tiki Month, but I wanted to get some content quickly out of the box. In the days leading up to this little blogvent, I start trying a lot of the recipes I've bookmarked since the last Tiki Month. I've been drinking a fair number of Lion's Fangs for the last two weeks.... The Lion's Tail is a classic bourbon cocktail that the PeguWife and I both love. It's a drink I've been debating for a while about whether to include in a Tiki Month. In the end, I just didn't think it is quite "Tiki" enough. The Lion's Fang is a much more Tiki-Compliant riff from Chad Austin of Bootlegger Tiki. I actually find the Fang better than the Tail. And it is much more in the Tiki style.
  • 1 1/2 oz. Demerara rum (Hamilton's)
  • 1 oz. bourbon (Wild Turkey 101)
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. falernum
  • 1/4 oz. Allspice Dram (St. Elizabeth)
  • 1/4 oz. Demerara syrup
  • 2 dash Angostura bitters
  • 6 drops absinthe (Pernod)
Shake all ingredients well. Strain into a low mug or old-fashioned glass with fresh, small ice. Garnish with something sharp and pointy.
Basement Bar
Rule 4

The Best Value in Each of the Six Base Spirits

Value-Quality-puzzle-pieces 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.

1. North American Whiskey

In the whiskey category, I immediately discarded the Scotches and Irish. (It's OK, we Scots-Irish have been discarded for centuries.) I love both, but neither is remotely a common cocktail spirit. I settled on a bourbon simply because of market share. My choice will be familiar to long-time readers: Four Roses Yellow Label Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The price wobbles a bit, but you can almost always hand over a single Andrew Jackson and get your Yellow Label back with change. Four Roses Yellow Label I've blogged quite a bit about Four Roses already, and I don't want to do anything like a full review of these six bottles anyway. Suffice to say, you can put a bit of this in a glass with some water, frozen or not, and hand it with confidence to just about anyone and know that if they turn their nose up at it, they are not a connoisseur but an ungrateful jerk. Further, it possesses enough character and polish to feature well in spirit-forward cocktails, but enough fortitude to remind you it's a bourbon drink in more... distracting recipes.

2. Gin

Among gins, I'm going with one that I've never blogged. It is also the closest call on this list. Among these six bottles, it's the only one I don't naturally reach for when looking to try a new recipe at home. (Gin is my first cocktail love, and I tend to overspend within the range. Sue me.) At about twelve bucks a bottle, it is damned hard to touch New Amsterdam Gin. New Amsterdam Gin New Amsterdam is no sipper. But much as I love gin, if you like to sip gin you either have an unlimited budget, or a drinking problem... quite possibly both. (Sorry Angus, you know I love you.) With in the two main categories of gin today, New Amsterdam was among the initial vanguard of citrus-forward, "New American" gins that have risen with the resurrection of cocktail culture. It is a solid cocktail gin that may fall short for a Martini lover, but be a super entrance drug for your juniperphobe friends. It's consistent, reliable, free from any unpleasant notes... and it is twelve damn dollars.

3. Rum

You cannot just say "this is the best rum". It would be a bit like saying "this is the best motor vehicle". Silver, Gold, dark, and Spiced rums all serve different, sometimes extraordinarily different purposes. But the rum I chose to put on this list, Plantation Grand Reserve 5-Year, is obscenely good for the price (about twenty-two bucks) and very versatile. Plantation Grand Reserve Plantation 5 Year Rum is a Barbadan gold, and as I said, quite versatile. They make great rum on that island as a rule, but this bottle has just a hair more character than most. It also far, far too good on the rocks all by itself for any low-twenties purchase. It pairs well with Jamaican pot-still in a Mai Tai, yet slips easily into a standard Daiquiri as well. It's the baritone of rums.

4. Brandy

Here's the thing about basic grape brandy: Americans are only now beginning to grasp what it takes to make it really well. For now, and a while to come, I expect, if you want a brandy to stand up with other world-class products, you go to France. But Courvoisier is in the mid thirties for just a VS, and cognacs tend to go up from there. That's tres cher if you are whipping up a round of Sidecars, or if you are curled up on the couch on a Tuesday night, catching upon NCIS and craving a snifter of something. And then Maison Rouge VSOP entered the State of Ohio, and my life, at just over twenty bucks. Maison Rouge VSOP I do not understand this product. Yes, the packaging is painfully boring. No, no one in the US has heard of this juice since Hardy spends no money on marketing, as far as I can tell. But it is a perfectly fine sipper for non-special occasions, and it is as good a mixing cognac as you will find. And it clocks in at about two-thirds of the big names' entry offerings, while Maison Rouge is a VSOP. If you can find it, buy some. You are welcome.

5. Tequila

Choosing a bottle in the tequila category was easy. Añejos and Extra Añejos, delicious as many are, are mostly too delicate (and too pricey) to mix with. Some of the best tequila cocktails I've been served were made with Reposados, but let's be honest, tequila as a category simply doesn't need wood the way whiskey does to be a legitimate, finished product. Silvers are the most versatile tequila category, as well as the best value. And the price and quality curves are so strong for Olmeca Altos Tequila Plata, I hardly buy much else from the tequila section these days. Olmeca Altos Blanco Is it special? No. Is it unique in some way? No. It is just good. You could sip it, I suppose. You can definitely shoot it, with no need to lunge afterwards for salt or lime. And you can mix the hell out of it. There's a balance in making tequila in commercial quantities between over-reliance on traditional methods, which can add taste elements here and there that can narrow the appeal of a product, and over-indulgence in industrial processing, which usually either sands so many edges off the profile it doesn't feel really like tequila... or just makes it taste like ass. Olmeca seems to have hit the sweet spot, and I hope they stay right there.

6 Vodka

The final great cocktail spirit (the youngest or the oldest, depending on how you look at it) is unique in its place for making cocktails. All the others are crafted to bring certain flavor profiles to the foundation of a cocktail. They are ingredients. Vodka is an accelerant. Yes, yes. I know. There are lots of vodkas out there that are "interesting" in one way or another. But vodka is in a cocktail to wake up and otherwise showcase the flavors of the other ingredients. (Unless the cocktail is a Vodka Martini, in which case, it's just there to get you bombed.) For making cocktails, a vodka should offer the highest purity of ethanol (with the lowest number of other complex molecules) to do its job right. Sobieski vodka does the job beautifully, and at about 12 bucks runs about a third of most vodkas of equivalent purity. Sobieski Vodka Sobieski was one of the very first product samples I was ever sent as a blogger. They still have a link to my eight year old blog post about them, right on their website. I shudder to think how much money I've saved since then, not buying other, more expensive vodkas. (Disclaimer: I've still bought a bunch of other, more expensive vodkas... just not as many as I might have) Sobieski has boring, usually plastic bottles. It's marketing is plain, cheap, and highly intelligent. And it lives in an obscure position down on the bottom shelf, low-rent district of the vodka section of your liquor store. Get some. That's the list. What do you think? I'm always open to better suggestions. abc
Tiki Month 2016
Rule 2

Modern Tiki Drink: Honor Amongst Thieves

Honor Amongst Thieves Honor Amongst Thieves is a modern Tiki concoction by Alex Renshaw, and can be found in the 2015 edition of Food & Wine: Cocktails. (The quality of recipes collected in recent editions of this anthology, incidentally, are far superior to what they put out in early days.) I was twigged to this particular entry by Boston's Fred Yarm.
Did you know that Apple's spellcheck does not recognize the word "amongst"? I blame Tim Cook!
To be more on point, Honor Amongst Thieves is yet another of the modern Tiki drinks I'm focusing on this year that do not feature rum as the base spirit. This one goes with bourbon and cachaça as the spirits.
  • 1 oz. aged cachaça
  • 1 oz. triple digit proof bourbon
  • 1 oz. fresh pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. falernum
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
Combine ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice and shake well to get a good head from the pineapple juice. Strain over a large chunk of ice in an appropriate glass. Garnish prettily, but with restraint.
I have several notes on this recipe. Fred gave this the full Tiki treatment, with ceramic mug, and a huge mint and edible flower garnish, but I prefer Alex's original, modernist presentation. While the flavor profile of this drink is squarely in the Tiki zone (boozy/spicy/citrusy), the texture and the finish are less so. It lacks the unctuous mouthfeel of my usual Tiki vision, and the finish is much cleaner than is the Tiki norm. This isn't a criticism, but if you dress Honor Amongst Thieves up like a Zombie, these characteristics are actually highlighted as incongruous. The original recipe calls for 3 dashes of Peychaud's on top as a garnish, but I omit it. I don't think it is needed, and I just can never picture Peychaud's as a Tiki ingredient. A personal failing on my own, I'm sure.... Finally, Fred doubles the simple syrup. If you want to go full Tiki with crushed ice, you will need that extra sugar. Another reason to serve this in the original presentation is that it adds some nice variety when serving a bunch of different Tiki drinks. When every other drink you are serving is in in a hollowed-out pagan idol with a citrus plantation hanging over the rim, the Honor Amongst Thieves actually looks a bit exotic in
Lime Juice
Rule 2
Tiki Month 2016

Modern Tiki Drink: Permanent Holiday

As I said in my Opening Post for Tiki Month, I want to focus to a large extent this year on the new creations that illustrate the strength of the current Tiki revival. The first drink I want to examine this month also illustrates how modern Tiki is expanding upon the previous array of commonly used ingredients to find new ways to create the feelings that somehow define Tiki. [caption id="attachment_10891" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Permanent Holiday Permanent Holiday, by Trey Jenkins via The Hardest Working Blogger in the Cocktailosphere[/caption] Here's the recipe. You'll see that it follows the Tiki formula of a bunch of different boozes, some citrus, and some syrup that defines the overwhelming majority of Tiki drinks. But the alcohols are all out of whack to the traditional eye.
  • 1 part bourbon
  • 1 part Averna
  • 1/2 part Licor 43
  • 1 part (pink) grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 part fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 part passion fruit syrup (Homemade or BG Reynolds')
Shake with ice until well chilled, then strain over crushed ice in a Tiki vessel. I used an orange peel wrapped around a spent tattooed lime husk. Depending on who's drinking it, a sprig or even a bunch of fresh mint would not go amiss.
I was seriously curious how this collection of ingredients was going to come out feeling Tiki. When you think upon the genre, bourbon (though a certain prominent exception applies), Italian amaro, and a Spanish liqueur that did not reach American shores until well past Tiki's formative years are not the ingredients that leap to mind. But it works. First of all, it is a good drink. It tastes good. It is interesting. It has a whole lot going on. Secondly, it has that exotic, somewhat undefined flavor profile that triggers all sorts of different flavor impressions in different people which I associate strongly with the best Tiki drinks. This is just the sort of new creation that will help keep Tiki in the craft's consciousness. Drinks like this one expand the "artist's" palette and creative options, while at the same time expands the Tiki market to that guy thinks Tiki drinks sound great, but "who really only drink (Spirit X which isn't rum)".abc
@DAWInship on Instagram