The Fourth of July is a drinkers Holiday. Fireworks, beer, bbq...what better way to celebrate our independence than by doing exactly what everyone else is doing? At my house we do it a little different. We celebrate our country's independence by celebrating our personal independence. That means this year we're going to do the standards from scratch, just to prove we can. Grinding our own meat, stuffing our own sausages, making the condiments - an idea that is both gratifying and delicious. The one thing I won't be doing is distilling or brewing my on hooch for the party, so instead I'm going to be very unpatriotic and sip the delicious Del Maguey Espadin Especial. What I'd love to know is how you're going to make your 4th special? If it's Milwaukee's Best and Farmer John's franks don't bother, but if you do something special to show how much you LOVE freedom, please let us know.
Oban is one of my favorite distilleries. While it's not known for exciting or unusual bottlings, we occasionally see special limited release products beyond the standard 14 year. Oban is not about overpowering the senses or lambasting the palate. It's about elegance and enjoyability. The 14 year is a standard and should be appreciated as such, but this Limited Edition 18 year is truly where Oban starts to shine. Coming from a small batch of " American Oak Casks" this is new bottling of the 18 Year is made EXCLUSIVELY for the US market. Often we assume that American Oak casks implies exclusively bourbon aged, but in the first whiff you can tell there's at least some Sherry influences here. American Oak is often used for the production of Sherry Casks and throws a distinctly different flavor and color than its European cousin. The color is a beautiful amber hue. This is even better than I remember it, but then again distance does make the heart grow founder. Salt and Malt all the way. A touch of warehouse floor brings me right back to Scotland. With a bit of air really this stuff truly blossoms. Very rarely does a malt that encourages the appetite so significantly. I would definitely feel comfortable serving this as an aperitif. On the palate the fruit and salt take center stage, while the smoky malt tip toes around the back. It's so utterly appealing, I can't stand it!!! Has some semblance of the 14 year, but every aspect is AMPLIFIED. At 43%, this needs nothing, but a bit of air in the glass. This is a total classic so please take advantage while you can.
Pardon the interruption but the spirits blog is being temporarily infiltrated by - gasp - lightly fortified wine! In all seriousness, I would like to take a moment to thank both David Driscoll and and David Othenin-Girard for allowing me to use this forum to talk a little bit about one of my passions: sherry. I can only aspire to reach close to the level of both of my colleague's fine prose and as for pictures, well let's just say that Driscoll has a fancier camera and better photographic eye than I do! At any rate, I hope that you enjoy these sherry posts, and as both a colleague, fellow blogger and reader of this site, I appreciate all the effort that goes into continuing to create new content, as well as the invitation to contribute to the site. In the parlance of our goofy beer commercial, bromance picture and faux reality TV comedy filled times, "I love you guys, man!"
We're going to start off with some definitions useful for understanding sherry. There are many more terms to learn, but I hope to tackle at least a few of them in greater detail during the course of several more posts. I will also profile some of the bodegas whose sherries we stock. If you're more of a pictures type of person, then scroll down to get to some very cool, artfully drawn symbols which were used in a sherry seminar I participated in several months ago.
Capataz - the cellar manager, and most importantly the person who determines a base wine's initial categorization (fino or oloroso)
Crianza biológica - ageing under flor as is practiced for fino and for amontillado
Crianza oxidativa - oxidative ageing as is practiced for amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado and pedro ximenez
Criadera - The "escalas" or stages of a solera system. 1era, 2nda, 3era, etc. The more the number goes up, the further away you are from the actual solera level, or the source of the finished sherry.
Sobretabla - a young, recently fortified wine which is ready to enter into a solera system
Solera - 1.) the system in which a sherry is made; 2.) the entire group of criaderas that produces a particular wine, usually given a name that appears on what is commercially bottled (e.g. Valdespino Fino Inocente); 3.) the last barrel(s) of a group of criaderas, which will be bottled and released to market
Almacenista - Someone who makes sherry, stores/ages it, and sells it on to sherry shippers (whose name is the one that appears on the bottle). Lustau has trademarked the term "almacenista."
Rocio - Transferring of wine to refresh a criadera or the solera itself
Palo cortado - classically defined as a potential fino whose flor dies off prematurely, enabling it to possibly be categorized as "palo cortado" after some oxidative ageing. Many different definitions exist for this style; the explanation you receive really depends upon whom you ask.
Amoroso, generoso, abocado, pata de gallina - all terms referring to a lightly sweetened (through the addition of PX) sherry. Pata de gallina is the least sweet of these (Lustau's Almacenista Pata de Gallina is a good example).
Here are some artfully drawn symbols observed several months ago during a sherry seminar. Check them out and feel free to comment with any questions about these.
- Joe Manekin
I had the pleasure of hosting some of the owners of 69 Colebrook Row last week. Considered to be one of the best cocktail bars in the world, I only had one night out to prove that Los Angeles was up to snuff. 69 Colebrook is known for reinventing the classics as much as it is for establishing modern ones. Tony G, who runs the cocktail program and is generally a bar superstar, has been at the cutting edge of the modern mixocological revolution. His originals appear on bar lists throughout London and his ideas are confounding and inspiring bar managers across the imbibing nations. Only one place in Hollywood could show off the many sides of LA drinking.
The Roosevelt Hotel is quickly becoming one of the premier cocktail destinations on Hollywood. There are 5 totally different bars being run throughout the hotel. The Roosevelt is better known for attracting debaucherous socialites rather than culinary cocktail crowd, but there's clearly some overlap in that business these days. The Tropicana Bar is the typical pool bar, not serious, not cheap, but good for what it's worth. Public Kitchen & Bar is fine, although I went during the first few weeks and presumably the system has improved. Beacher's Madhouse is ridiculous, not that I speak from experience, but I think if you look it up you'll understand what I'm talking about. IT is the final 2 locations that truly bring me to the Roosevelt. The first is the Spare Room. With a bar program developed by the illustrious Aidan Demareste and helmed by the wonderful and creative Naomi Schmick, the Spare Room is definitely in the running for classiest space in the city. Two beautiful bowling alleys stretch down the perfectly adorned lounge area. While it's always a struggle to get through the door, something about keeping the place sparse is extremely appealing. Of course you must get through the door to appreciate it, which is why you should call ahead and plan to go on a Wednesday. With Naomi at the stick you can expect to get the finest classic available. Unfortunately it's just not cool to take pictures in there...
A stark contrasted to the old school style of Spare Room, the magnificent Library Bar is wedged in the far corner of the foyer. Small and dark, this bar is reserved for the adventurous. Probably making a killing on the party crowd asking for Red Bull & Vodka, the drinks aren't cheap, but you won't regret it. With a veritable nursery of farm fresh fruits, herbs, and veggies, the aromas are intoxicating. Matt Biancaniello is the mastermind behind this outrageous off the books menu. Everything made in house, infusions, emulsions, and artisan ingredients make for a unique experience. Soon, Matt's own sage honey from bees he's raised will be part of the mix. Creatively named and always ingredients driven, not every drink works for every person, but Matt's got something for everyone. Here is the run down from last week, they all had names and specific ingredients, but I never remember that stuff. I should bring my notebook out, but I really don't want to be "that guy." When you're there you should drink whatever Matt want you to drink.
That's fresh blossoming sage in this incredibly spicy cayenne heavy cocktail...
This is Cactus infused tequila with citrus and fresh black berries. Just the aroma of the black berry was enough to get me interested, although very spicy drink that proceeded was a tough act to follow. Super refreshing nonetheless.
This is a Library Bar classic and should be ordered by name if you haven't had it already. The Last Tango in Modena is Hendrick's Gin, 25 year Balsamic, fresh berries, and a St Germain Foam (this time modified with a cayenne kick). A modern classic...
Another ultra spicy drink. Here the kick came after the lovely tang of blood orange juice. Too much for my British accomplices, but right up my alley.
Possibly my favorite drink of the night, this was somewhere between fresh watermelon juice and a Bloody Mary. Cucumber, salt, horseradish, fresh juice. Just insane. I wish I remembered what this was called...
Dessert...Cynar milkshake with a Cynar espresso drink. A bit much by themselves, but absolutely perfect together. Needless to say, everyone should have a go at the Roosevelt. They are definitely creeping to the top of the heap...
I'm leaving K&L in a few minutes for a long vacation, but that doesn't mean I'm going to leave you all without any booze to taste. Here's this week's schedule and next week as well.
Redwood City - Martin's West Gastropub - 6 PM - Tuesdays - Tuthilltown Whiskies
I retasted New York's young Hudson whiskies the other day and I have to say that I enjoyed them much more this time around than previously. They show a bit more depth and poise than I remembered from before, so I thought they might make a fun tasting for those of you who have never tried them. Check out their website if you're unfamiliar with their whiskies and come by Martin's West for some samples.
June 27th - Tuthilltown Hudson Baby Bourbon
July 5th - Tuthilltown Four Grain Whiskey
San Francisco - Gitane - 5:30 PM - Thursdays - Yamazaki Japanese Whiskies
Since I cannot make it taste with you all, I've requested that former SF bartender and current Yamazaki employee Neyah White come by to help guide you all through the tasting. The one thing I learned from Neyah that blew my mind was that both the Yamazaki 12 and the Hibiki 12 were designed to be drunk with ice and soda water, so we're going to give you a choice. You can choose to drink your pour straight, or have it as a highball to experience how it was intended to be enjoyed. Neyah is an encyclopedia of info so I would recommend that you take advantage of drinking with him. He's quite amazing.
June 29th - Hibiki 12
July 7th - Yamazaki 12
Please come out and enjoy some whiskey! See you all in a few weeks.