White Nights

If you're anything like me, when you hear the words "White Nights" you'll probably flash instantly to the 1986 Academy Award winner for "Best Original Song" featuring the late Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov; a film that somehow, someway managed to incorporate jazz dance, tap, and ballet into the Cold War politics of the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. (click here to watch the original trailer). However, while talking to my buddies Thad and Eric over at Bar Agricole the other day, we discussed the need to throw an epic after-dark party featuring all white spirits. Brown booze has been at the forefront of the industry's attention for the last eight years, and (as I wrote in a post not long ago) while aged spirits are both delicious and fascinating, it's about time that someone did something to showcase all the advances that clear spirits have made while steadily improving in quality outside of the spotlight.

"When are we going to throw an event focusing on white goods?" Thad asked me, "Where we pour gin, and mezcal, and all the other unaged spirits we love so much?"

"It's about time," I answered, "Literally, because the weather is getting warmer and this is the perfect time of the year to sit outside and drink gin cocktails. We should do a night event on the patio and make it a party."

"White Nights?" Thad asked, the tagline having just popped into his brain.

"You mean the old 80s flick with Gregory Hines and Baryshnikov where an American living abroad and a Russian ex-pat have to collaborate, using the power of ballet, to defeat the evil intentions of the Soviet Republic?" I responded.

"No, that's not what I meant, but I think it's amazing that you thought of that first."

"Oh, so you mean a night party featuring only white spirits like gin, vodka, mezcal, tequila, and anything else unaged we can think of?"

After figuring out what exactly we meant by "White Nights", we finally began thinking on the same wavelength. While Thad, Eric, and I figure out the logistics for our epic "White Nights" party at Bar Agricole, let me tell you about the arrival and the return of some new clear, unaged, white spirits here at K&L. This way you can throw your own White Nights party while you're waiting for us to get our act together.

Just yesterday we got in a new shipment of Mike Groener's Genius Gin, from his Austin, Texas-based distillery. We're bringing this in directly, which means we're big believers in the quality of what Mike is doing down there. At 57% "navy strength", the flavors are bold and they explode on the palate, but I've never found that the higher alcohol overpowers the delicacy of the botanicals, nor does the extra proof make the mouthfeel unmanageable. If anything, it adds weight and texture, much like it does with wine. There's a creamy sugar cane note that gets accented with pepper and citrus. This might be something you want to try in your next gin and tonic out on the back patio this weekend.

Genius Navy Strength Texas Gin $29.99 - The Genius Gin from Austin, Texas is one of the best new craft spirits I've tasted in years -- and the price is right where it should be at $29.99. Austin is one of the most up-and-coming cities in the United States, with a cocktail scene and farm-to-table culture that now rivals San Francisco and New York. In 2011, Charles Cheung and Mike Groener created Genius Gin -- a cane-based spirit made entirely from scratch in a tiny warehouse with a tiny still. Utilizing years of tech industry experience, Genius ferments, distills, and bottles with immaculate attention to detail. The navy strength was inspired by Plymouth and Old Tom style gins; the botanicals span from lime leaves to lavender to create a classic gin profile that is quite simple and utilitarian in its profile. It's not some wacky new designer gin, but rather an honest, botonical-driven spirit that's distinct, yet familiar. At 57% it packs quite a punch!

The polar opposite of the Genius Gin would be the Beehive Jack Rabbit Gin, another product we're bringing in directly, albeit from Utah. Erik Ostling and the crew over at Beehive Distilling in Salt Lake City, have created one of the most gentle and elegant gins we carry; very diminutive in flavor, but with a lovely harmony of sage, rose petals, and juniper. I can drink this stuff straight from the bottle (and I have done so many times). We were out for a few weeks, but we just received our latest shipment from the Great Salt Lake. If you're looking to sip on a refreshing gin martini, late in the evening on a warm summer night, then this is a prime candidate for that cocktail.

Beehive Distilling Jack Rabbit Utah Gin $29.99 - I'm always amazed what can be accomplished with grain neutral spirit and just a few simple botanicals. In the case of Beehive's Jack Rabbit Gin, the addition of sage and rose petals to the standard juniper recipe creates an absolutely beautiful balance of spicy, savory, and floral. Located in Salt Lake City (not exactly hard liquor country), Erik Ostling and his team at Beehive Distilling have set up shop in one of the least-friendly places in America for alcohol production, yet have managed to thrive in spite of their challenges. The Jack Rabbit Gin stands out immediately with its creaminess and fullness of texture. None of the botanicals jump out (unlike a Jack Rabbit), but rather linger long in a soft wave of flavor that meanders from classic London Dry to a clean and elegant finish. The quality of the base spirit is to be commended, but the ease of the gin is what ultimately grabs you. This isn't like anything else in your liquor cabinet, but it isn't some strange new variation of gin either. The Jack Rabbit makes a stunning Martini, just straight stirred with ice, but mixes wonderfully into just about every drink I've tried so far. K&L is so far the only retailer on the west coast to carry Beehive, as Erik reached out to us directly. It won't be long, however, until other merchants catch on to what's happening out there on the prairie. Jumpin' jack rabbits! That's some good gin.

And our latest K&L Exclusive white spirit has just arrived in stock today. No more pre-orders. You can now start ordering the best vodka around directly from us as an in-stock item. If I were you, I would just stick this bottle in the freezer and pour it directly into a cold martini glass with a twist of lemon. That, or you could just do what I did after dinner the other night: pour a shot glass, sit on the couch, and savor the creamy and supple mouthfeel of the most elegantly-refined vodka we carry. Davorin's secret recipe is no joke. The proof is in the bottle. Sit outside, listen to the sounds of the night, and think about how Gregory Hines and Baryshnikov tore through Moscow circa 1985, the power of dance driving them to their ultimate goal.

Old World Spirits "St. Blaise" Vodka $34.99 - Davorin Kuchan has been distilling spirits since his early days as a winemaker and eau-de-vie expert back in Croatia. When he established Old World Spirits here on the San Francisco Peninsula (right outside of Belmont), he brought with him the traditions and expertise of old world production methods and used them to formulate West Coast versions of his original spirits. This was right around the pre-Prohibition cocktail craze when vodka was becoming a dirty word, so Davorin instead made gin; never releasing his patented vodka formula state-side for fear that it would never get the credit it deserved. Now that all that prejudice is dying down, however, he felt it was time to bring back one of his most special old world creations. Using a unique finishing process (including granite and active charcoal sedimentation) and an ultra-slow, subsonic, continuous, multi-stage filtering process, Davorin has created a California version of his old St. Blaise vodka; a tribute to the patron saint of Croatia. Based off his eau-de-vie and grappa filtration methods, the idea is to polish and soften the spirit without striping the inherent character. The vodka is proofed with soft California Sierra spring water. The final product is soft, supple, and slightly creamy in texture with accents of sweet fruit in the background. It's one of the most pure and elegant vodkas we've ever tasted and it's being made right here in our own backyard. The pride of Croatia is now the pride of the Peninsula!

Get a bottle of clear booze, pour yourself a cold glass, go outside on your next available evening, and don't forget your leg warmers, lycra shorts, and skin-tight tank top. Feather your hair, put on your most serious face, and embrace the raw power and the emotion of White Nights.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll