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.
[caption id="attachment_10909" align="aligncenter" width="550"] You are watching science in action, folks![/caption] I'm continuing with my YouTube/Trivia/Humor blogging while I set up posts of a more substantive nature for Tiki Month.... This one is of a comedienne and a bicep aficionado who decide to do some practical tests about all those rumors you hear regarding what a Brita water filter will or will not do to a variety of liquids. Spoiler Alert: Several of the liquids are alcoholic, and they have a lot of time on their hands between samples while the Brita does its work. (Or doesn't, as the case may be. There are two major lessons to be learned from this video.
- Brita filters are very good at their job.
- If you want your Bud Light to taste like a premium craft brew, filter a little through a Brita, drink that, then the Bud Light will be freaking awesome in comparison!
[caption id="attachment_10401" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Feet—You drink with the other end, people![/caption] To follow me on this, you will need to accept two fairly unbelievable things:
- There are people in Denmark who spread around the urban myth that if you soak your feet in booze, you will get drunk.
- There are scientists in Denmark who a few years back had so much free time that they conducted a scientific study to determine this myth's validity, then wrote up their findings and published them.
Heck, while we're at it, let's dock everybody from Norway, Sweden, and Finland by five, just for being fellow Scandinavians.Sorry he did that drive-by to friends, Tiare, but this is about Science™. Anyway, I think I'm far enough into this post that I won't spoil things by revealing that they found that no, you cannot get drunk through your feet. So how did Doctors Hansen, Færch, and Kristensen determine this breakthrough discovery? First, they experimented on themselves, in the grand, selfless humanitarian tradition of Jonas Salk. Our scientific heroes/guinea pigs performed their test by sitting around for three hours with their bare feet soaking in a tub of Slovakian vodka. The primary metric was BAC:
...Blood samples were taken to the laboratory for immediate analysis by the study nurse (and) measured as soon as possible in case of rapid and potentially fatal increases....Selfless risk-takers in the name of science they may have been, but I'm glad they made sure to be as safe as possible. (Though to be fair, they appear to have been pretty cavalier about the far greater possibility of laughter-induced herniation in the nurse when he or she was told of the protocol for this experiment.) But wait, this was a rigorous study! A single measurement of drunkenness was insufficient for our intrepid trio. Perhaps this foot-ingested intoxication is undetectable in the bloodstream.
Hey, that makes as much sense as claiming that "toe chugging" will get you drunk in the first place!The additional metrics were a mix of factual observation and self-evaluation, to wit: Self-confidence, the urge to talk, and spontaneous hugs. The results are represented in the following chart: Alas, in these measures as well, the mysterious foot-ingested, bloodstream-avoiding intoxicating effects were essentially invisible. [caption id="attachment_10404" align="aligncenter" width="550"] "But I do question how it is that we haven't done a show segment on this yet...."[/caption] The discussion section of the paper outlines some conclusions of various degrees of usefulness, ranging from "Driving or leading a vessel with boots full of vodka seems to be safe", to "Importantly, students experimenting with transcutaneous alcohol absorption should move on to more relevant activities."
When you translate that last one from Faculty to English, you get "Go out to a bar, have a drink, and meet some people. You will never get laid sitting around a lab with your bare feet soaking in booze. And if your wise-ass roommate has filled your shoes with Aquavit, don't worry. It's still safe to drive." My Faculty is a bit rusty, so I just copy and pasted that directly from Google Translate....I do want to note that this study, while new to me, is Old™. I got it from Seriously Science's Flashback Friday. I'll leave you with an expansion on the scary thought with which they finish their introduction. I'm not sure about the development-to-market time-frame in the infused spirits industry, but if anyone in the vodka biz reads this piece, we could be seeing this ad any damn day now.... [caption id="attachment_10411" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Sorry Pinnacle, but you deserve this for making me live in the same world as Cupcake-flavored vodka.[/caption] (Seriously, in all honesty these scientists are geniuses. They richly deserved an igNobel Prize for this. They were clearly angling for one, and it is a crime that they lost out to the guys who studied why some patients literally explode during colonoscopies.abc
Twenty Grand Vodka Infused with Cognac. The shelf tag, in addition to revealing that this new item was already marked down, proclaimed it to be "Good as Money." Apparently two dollars a bottle less money than initially thought...I was out shopping for rum the other day, and as I passed down the aisle of the liquor store, my eyes fell upon an eye-catching bottle that I didn't recognize. It was in the brandy section, so I bent down to examine closer, and my eyes beheld the following product:
I squatted there in the middle of aisle, stunned. My mind whirled, trying to grasp how you could make a product that, aside from its merely tacky vessel, is stupid in nearly every possible way. Let's start with the marketing stuff. The name is Twenty Grand. Um. Why? Is this some magical number that the Culture has decided is the price of class?
Possibly the dumbest liquor product I've ever seen on a shelf. pic.twitter.com/fibjrJj42z— Doug Winship (@dawinship) March 4, 2014
Well, it might be. An old guy like you would probably have missed a cultural marker like that....Well, if so, the Culture is wrong. Unlike anyone misfortunate enough to purchase this product, I have actually had twenty grand in ready funds lying around from time to time during my long toil upon this Earth. At none of those times did the "Beautiful People", despite my culturally significant bank balance, "Hit Up" "My Digits" with invitations to go clubbing.
Hmmm... Perhaps the beautiful people are not as dumb as they look.Further, what kind of catchphrase is "Good as Money"? Have you seen money? I'm not drinking anything like that. I'll forgive, or at least leave aside, the bottle's stopper, which looks like a cheap doorknob and is nearly as big, because it is not totally hideous at first glance, and because I like stoppers on liquor bottles and like to encourage the practice. Instead, I will put on my Font Nazi hat and bitch about the label instead. What the hell is this supposed to be, with all the background engraving, faux aged border, and "anti-counterfeiting features", a bearer bond? Now, I will grant that, given the whole Good as Money theme, it is a clever conceit. But a bond like this should have little coupons that you tear off each time you consume an ounce of this fluid. Turn in a label's worth of coupons and get a pony or something. Because anyone sad enough to have drunk a bottle's worth of this is sad enough to deserve a pony. This is the frilliest main font ever devised by man. At full size, it is nearly impossible to read, and when it suddenly changes color and shrinks toward the bottom it becomes not so much illegible and practically invisible. Then we get an abrupt, pointless typeface change for the one word on the bottle that you could read from the other side of a bar, especially in bad lighting after a round or two. You are changing the typeface and color on your label in the middle of the name of your product? Or is the name simply Twenty Grand, with "vodka infused with cognac" being the product type? And what a confusing product type that is! Is 20K a vodka or a cognac? A dessert topping or a floor wax? As their website asks, "uptown or downtown"? It sure looks like they want it to be a Cognac. It is the only legible word on the label. The bottle and stopper, and the material inside all look Cognac-y. But it is worded like it is an infused vodka. Does half the team think that it has to be a "vodka" because that's all the Wall Street suits who are funding them want, while the other half think the only people who will buy it want "cognac"? Perhaps the group all met in Synergy 224 while getting their MBAs. Most likely, honesty (with some help from the FTC) compelled them to call it Vodka infused with Cognac. And now we get to the meat of the issue. The actual alcoholic beverage inside the bottle. An important disclaimer here: This is a totally unfair post, in that I have not actually consumed any Twenty Grand myself. I am not going to. Don't send me any. My liver only has so many miles left in it, and I won't waste so much as one of them on Twenty Grand Avenue. I don't actually have to taste it, because Mr. Vuitton has. Mr. Vuitton is a YouTuber who vlogs about Louis Vuitton products from his blank-walled apartment with laundry stacked on top of his Louis Vuitton bags in the background, all while wearing Ed Hardy shirts. His video review of Twenty G will either be the best or worst 11 minutes of your life you have ever spent on YouTube. Whether you watched that or not, I'll discuss it a bit as a lead back to my thoughts on Twenty Grand. First, how about that cinematography? I've never seen a clearly practiced and polished video style that consists of a continuous, unedited mirror selfie shot which keeps the phone unerringly blocking the view of his mouth. I genuinely admire his dedication to his craft. He held that phone up for eleven minutes! My arms would fall off. But then I'm old. The video tells a tale actually—the tale of a man who may not have the most extensive liquor knowledge, but who does in fact appear to have a fine and developed sense of taste and smell. It is a tale of a man who is excited by a new product, who tries it for the first time on camera, only to discover that the phrase Good as Money is true in the sense that I spoke of above. Our hero doesn't want to be mean...
You used to be like that, didn't you, Doug?He doesn't want to be mean as the stuff assaults those excellent senses of taste and smell, or perhaps he just doesn't want to admit to himself or his viewers that he has wasted twenty seven dollars that likely tasted better than the Twenty Grand in the bottle. Some epic, revealing quotes:
It's a vodka, obviously. [Snif]Yeah. Ah...damn. Yeah. It's... of course, the smell is alcohol. [grimace] Yeah... it's, uh, it's gonna be rough, guys! Sh*t...
[Sip]Yeah. [Forced grimace] It's sweet. It's, um, really, really sweet. There's an, um, thickness to it. It's is definitely not vodka. It doesn't taste like vodka. Doesn't feel like vodka.
Yeah. I can taste the vodka. More like vodka and... syrup. You could really call this "vodka, mixed with honey" or syrup...The earnest hope in his voice when he decides to throw in some ice is endearing.
Yeah, I'm sure this will be... This'll be definitely a lot better.You will be shocked to watch as his hopes are dashed. I kept thinking I'd abandon the video after each new moment of pathos, but it just kept on going so hilariously I couldn't stop. Bear with the attempt to remove the plastic shrink-wrap from the stopper with one hand, while the other holds the phone, the rest is worth it. Listen, I feel for the guy. I've searched desperately a time or two to find something nice to say about a dog product, either on this blog or in person. I just think he should learn that it is wise to know what you are reviewing before you review it, especially if you are going to act as if it is live TV. As I said before, Mr. Vuitton appears to have a much better senses of taste and smell than I ever had, but I knew what he was going to taste before he ever opened that bottle, and I (again) have never experienced the stuff. Because old age and experience beat youth and talent every day. Before my brain had finished processing what I was looking at in that aisle, I knew. The words Early Times were flashing in my brain. Scores of bottles in that same store that call themselves Blended American Whiskey could just as well have labeled themselves as Vodka infused with Bourbon. They look just like Bourbon, just as 20K looks just like Cognac. The marketing theory behind blended whiskies is that they are smoother and more approachable than the full straight stuff. The truth is that vodka is cheap as hell to make, and faster than it is cheap. Twenty Grand is not vodka infused with cognac, it is cognac diluted with vodka, at somewhere between 1:1 and 6:1 vodka. But vodka is clear and flavorless, so if that's all you served up, you'd have a very pale-looking and pale-tasting product. To get the color and flavor back, blenders add colorants and flavorants, mostly caramels of one type or another, to the mix in an attempt to counterfeit the natural ones occurring in the wood-aged product of the base premium liquor. American blended whiskey makers have had decades of experience and the millions spent in the Lost Laboratories of Seagram's Gone By to perfect the mix of sugars and colorants needed to make a pleasing and visually satisfying counterfeit for a light bourbon. Twenty Grand? The color is perfect. To my knowledge, this is the first Blended French Brandy of its kind, and I doubt that the good folks at Citispiritz of Wilson, Wyoming have the kind of resources needed to reproduce the decades and millions it took to get as far as Early Times. Bravo to them for trying, I suppose. Or jeers to them for giving the Pernod-Ricards of the world ideas.... A final disclaimer: As I said, I haven't tasted the product myself. And Twenty Grand has absolutely the least informative liquor product website to be found on the web. It consists of good photography, bad recipes, and no frigging text to speak of at all! My description of what 20K is and how it is made is merely my own informed speculation. And if you can't get Twenty Grand Vodka infused with Cognac near you, perhaps you could find their new product: Twenty Grand Rosé. It is vodka infused with flat Rosé Champagne!abc
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