Blog Entries Tagged as spirits

Cocktail Culture

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: spirits

We talk, and write, a lot about what wines pair well with which foods, and which beers pair better than those wines with those foods. But what about cocktails? Typically, it’s, “let’s grab a drink before dinner,” or “let’s grab a drink after dinner.” The during is usually cocktail-free. 

I attended two events last month that have reopened my eyes to the cocktail culture that continues to thrive in this country and how spirits too can pair equally as well as wine or beer with food. 

Skyy Vodka recently named chef Marcus Samuelsson as its first culinary ambassador. Samuelsson is a James Beard Award winner and also is Food Network’s Chopped All-Stars champion this year. He is the owner and chef of Red Rooster in Harlem where I got to experience first-hand what his partnership with the vodka brand will entail. From September to December, Samuelsson will focus on how to create high-quality cocktails at home that he has developed using his culinary skills through a program called Captivating Cocktails. At the Red Rooster we sampled some cocktails from the program: Basil Gimlet paired with skagen toast, an Apple Spiced Martini paired with a turkey meatball slider on a biscuit with cranberry chutney, and an Earl of Harlem cocktail made with Earl Grey Tea, coriander syrup, lemon juice and orange rind paired with chicken and waffles with spiked Skyy syrup. Other cocktails passed throughout the evening included The Savoy (made with red and white grapes, lemon juice and agave syrup) and a White Sangria.

While I’ve sampled my fair share of culinary crafted cocktails, I was surprised to find the cocktails to be light, refreshing and balanced with the food choices that weren’t your typical dinner items.

Further downtown, it was a Sunday brunch and Patrón Silver cocktails at Maya, a Richard Sandoval restaurant, specializing in modern Mexican cuisine. The newly redesigned restaurant now includes Tequileria Maya, a bar and lounge with more than 100 agave-based spirits and 30 house-infused tequilas. Cocktails that day included a traditional margarita, a pineapple sage margarita, spiked agua frescas, tequila punch and a Maria Verde made with tamatillo, chiles, cilantro, jalapeno and lime all paired with small Mexican plates like chef’s special chicken enchiladas, tacos and tortas like smoked brisket tacos and cazuelas (baked eggs served in cast iron skillets) like eggs albanil—scrambled eggs, chicharron, black beans, salsa verde and crema fresca. 

Tequila for brunch isn’t the normal go-to cocktail, but as the tequila culture continues to grow, consumers are learning that tequila can be enjoyed in many cocktails and even sipped like a fine cognac. In fact, Sandoval has partnered with Herradura to craft his own limited-edition double barrel reposado tequila. Following the traditional barrel aging process, this reposado was then rested in new toasted oak barrels and aged for an additional 30 days. Only 240 bottles are available. The tequila has aroma notes of fruit and vanilla and caramel-like flavors derived from the cooked agave and aging in oak barrels. It has a sweet finish with a light alcohol taste. Salud!  

BevStar Awards 2012: We Finally Have Our Winners!

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: spirits

After a lengthy judging process involving a record number of entries this year and a self-imposed media blackout until the official winners' issue started arriving this week, we are very pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Beverage World BevStar Awards. For those just joining us, the BevStars recognize new product innovation across all of the major beverage categories.

We received a particularly robust shower of entries in the Energy & Functional category—so many that we decided to split it into two separate categories this year. It really reflects the level of innovation in those segments. If you recall from our 2012 State of the Industry report, energy drink volume returned to double-digit growth last year, with an increase of more than 17 percent in 2011, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Without further ado, here's the list of this year's winners. For details on all of these brands, read the July 2012 issue of Beverage World. Congratulations to all!

BEST IN SHOW
Ruthless Rye IPA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

BEER
Gold: Ruthless Rye IPA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Silver: Deviant Dale's IPA, Oskar Blues Brewing Co.
Bronze: Bronx Pale Ale, The Bronx Brewery

BOTTLED WATER
Gold: MyCause Water, Panacea Beverage Co.
Silver: Elevate Enhanced Fiber Water, 912 Corp.
Bronze: Karma Wellness Water, Karma Kulture LLC

CARBONATED SOFT DRINKS
Gold: Spindrift, Spindrift Soda co.
Silver: Dr Pepper Ten, Dr Pepper Snapple Group
Bronze: HotLips Cranberry Soda, HotLips Soda Co.

ENERGY
Gold: Monster Rehab, Monster Beverage Co.
Silver: Slap Frozen Energy, Brain-Twist
Bronze: Berry Rain, RevHoney

FUNCTIONAL
Gold: Neuro Sun, Neuro Beverage
Silver: Ralph & Charlie's Aloe, Ralph & Charlie's Beverage Co.
Bronze: Modjo Hydrate Elite, Cellutions

READY-TO-DRINK TEA & COFFEE
Gold: Honest (Not Too) Sweet Tea, Honest Tea
Silver: RealBeanz, RealBeanz LLC
Bronze: Tao of Tea, The Tao of Tea

SPIRITS
Gold: Purgatory Vodka, Alaska Distillery
Silver: Apple Pie Moonshine, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery
Bronze: BuzzBallz, BuzzBallz LLC

WINE
Gold: FlasqWines, JT Wines
Silver: Blanc de Bleu, Premium Vintage Cellars
Bronze: Xavier Flouret La Pilar Malbec, Cognac One LLC

For those brands that entered but didn't take a gold, silver or bronze in any of the categories, don't fret. Competition was particularly stiff this year and the decisions were all very difficult for all of us on the judging panel. And there's always next year. We'll be announcing a call for entries some time in December.
 

Women & Whiskey

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: spirits

If you aren’t familiar with an initiative called Women & Whiskies, here’s a little background: Launched in 2010 through Campari America, Women & Whiskies is a platform for females only to get together and chat about whiskey, sample different products and learn about different whiskey producing regions and styles.
Expanding the program into seven markets in the United States this year, Campari America recently invited a group of female editors to experience what Women & Whiskies is all about.

The evening started in the intimate setting of Raines Law Room, a speakeasy-style spot in Manhattan with sex appeal, where a group of six food and beverage media professionals sampled cocktails from the establishment’s head bartender Meaghan Dorman (also recent winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s Macbeth Mixology Contest in March).

On the cocktail menu: Lion’s Tail (2 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 1/2 ounce all-spice dram, 1.5 ounce Wild Turkey 81 bourbon; shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass), and Imperial Court (2 dashes of mole bitters, 1/2 ounce apricot liqueur, 1 ounce crema de mezcal, 1.5 ounce Yamazaki 12 year; build in rocks glass, add ice, garnish with orange twist).

From there it was off to Rye House across the street for a sampling of whiskies from the Campari America portfolio—Auchentoshan Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland), Bowmore Islay Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland), Hibiki Japanese Blended Whisky (Japan), Wild Turkey 81 (U.S.)—with small bites like Fried Pickles, “Dale’s” Truffle Beer Cheese, Truffle Grilled Cheese and Sloppy Joe Sliders with Kobe beef.

The idea is to get women together in an environment where they not only can learn about whiskey, but also gain confidence to order a whiskey cocktail or a whiskey, period, at a bar.

It’s been in the headlines for some time now that brown spirits are on the rise with more and more consumers taking to whiskey, bourbon and scotch, and as a result, the industry has seen some innovation in the category.

Wild Turkey 81 and Wild Turkey Rye, for example, are two new expressions this year from Campari America. Jim Beam has introduced some flavor extensions of its Red Stag Black Cherry including Honey Tea and Spiced. Jack Daniel’s also has joined the flavor trend with its Tennessee Honey last year.

It’s funny to me how when I order a whiskey or bourbon cocktail at a bar I still get a surprised look from a nearby male, or when dining out, the waiter or waitress assumes the dark spirit cocktail is for the male at the table.

This time around though, it was just a group of women sipping on whiskey.

Making History Hip

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: spirits

What’s new? New styles, new watering holes, new apps, new electronics, new cars…the list can go on and on. There’s no question that today’s consumer is obsessed with all things new—and when he or she does find that shiny, new thing that no one else has yet discovered they make it known. Do you like this jacket? It’s new. Did you see this app? It’s new. Have you been to (enter bar or restaurant name here)? It’s new. You get the idea.

But lately there’s also been an obsession with what’s old. I’ve never been a history buff myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have an appreciation for the events that have helped shape the modern world.

In the spirits world, there’s been a newfound love for what’s old, where a return to the classic cocktail and iconic brands that date back more than a century are becoming what’s new again.

With speakeasy-type bars in demand and consumers tuning into shows like “Mad Men,” classic cocktails are getting a second look. Mixologists are bringing the sexy back to drinks like Moscow Mule, Negroni, Old Fashioned or Rusty Nail with a spin that brings these cocktails to another level.

What’s helped fuel this trend, in addition to pop culture, is the investment iconic brands are making to teach consumers about their history and the cocktails made with them.

Campari, an aperitif that dates back to 1860, is used to make the Negroni: one part Campari, one part gin and one part sweet vermouth. Last year, a contest in New York City asked bartenders to come up with their own version of the Negroni causing a spike in menu placements for the drink around the city. History lesson: Campari originally got its rich red color extracted from a cochineal beetle native to South America.

Bacardi, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, is widely recognized for the Mojito: 1.5 ounces of Bacardi, 12 fresh spearmint leaves, half a lime, 7 ounces of club soda and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup. This cocktail, which dates back to 1862, was originally called the Draque, invented by Richard Drake, a pirate on board the ship of Spanish explorer Francis Drake.

Today, the Mojito recipe is often altered and made with a variety of fruit flavors and flavored Bacardi rums to get a customized version of the classic. History lesson: Bacardi got its bat symbol because bats were found in the rafters of the original distillery.

Glenfiddich celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. In honor of its anniversary, the brand is promoting cocktails that create a modern take on the historic brand. The Pioneering Spirit: 1.5 parts Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, 2 parts pear juice, one-half part agave nectar, 1 part lemon juice. History lesson: Founder William Grant and his nine children built the first Glenfiddich distillery by hand over the course of a year.

While these cocktails, and the brands that help make them, aren’t necessarily “new,” they are classic—and that’s one thing that never gets old. 

Is it last call for the independent neighborhood tavern?

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: spirits

“Steve believed the corner bar to be the most egalitarian of all American gathering places, and he knew that Americans have always venerated their bars, saloons, taverns, and ‘gin mills,’ one of his favorite expressions. He knew that Americans invest their bars with meaning and turn to them for everything from glamour to succor, and above all for relief from that scourge of modern life—loneliness. He didn’t know that the Puritans, upon landing in the New World, built a bar even before they built a church.” — “The Tender Bar,” J.R. Moehringer
 

In his 2005 memoir, “The Tender Bar,” J.R. Moehringer recounts how the local tavern in Manhasset, Long Island, where he grew up, served as his home away from home, with all of the people who frequented it nurturing him and helping him grow into the man he is today. “Americans have always venerated their bars,” Moehringer writes.

That is, until recently. Times change, and so does, apparently, where Americans like to stop for a drink. For better or worse, the independent neighborhood tavern is disappearing from the American landscape. According to a recent article in USA Today, “Neighborhood taverns, which for generations were cornerstones of Chicago’s ethnic communities, are being squeezed out by the economy, gentrification, changing tastes and city regulations that make it more difficult to operate in residential areas.” The article goes on to say that in Chicago, the number of tavern licenses has dwindled from 3,300 in 1990 to about 1,200 today.

And the U.S. is not alone. Even in the U.K., where the neighborhood pub has been even more important to the social fabric, a similar trend is playing out. Six British pubs were closing every day, according to one recent survey, a trend attributed to the smoking ban, the huge discounts for alcohol offered by retail chains, and, of course, the effects of the recession on extra spending money.

Here in the U.S., a big part of the reason also has been the proliferation of national chain restaurants, with their flashier, brightly lit bars and big-screen TVs. I’d venture another reason as well—the rise of social media. In “The Tender Bar,” Moehringer describes how the other bar-goers became his extended family. Log onto Facebook today and our lists of friends have become the digital equivalent. That’s not to say we don’t still want to see them in the flesh to hoist a real, not a virtual, pint. But with all that Facebooking, friending, Tweeting and FarmVilleing, how much time does that leave for a trip down to the neighborhood bar?

Is this for better or for worse? I’d argue it’s for the worse. America has become a country where people of different political persuasions or different social strata rarely come into contact with one another. And that is an important ingredient for a healthy democracy to function. To mull this issue or that over a beer with your neighbors at the corner bar used to be as important as the U.S. Senate debating and filtering down the latest piece of legislation. Just think of all the mulling we’ve been missing.