On behalf of fathers everywhere, let me make this clear: don't buy a lame gift for Father's Day. If your dad likes to relax sometimes with a glass of something that wears its age well, here are a few suggestions for bottles that will make much better gifts than any tie or coffee mug ever could.
'liquor' on Serious Eats
While you can always improvise your way into a half-decent gin and tonic or even a martini (assuming you don't mind a little variation in your drinks), cocktails that require more than a couple of ingredients typically follow common structural formulas that have been honed over time.
But how to share that excitement with others? What's a good way to try to create that sense of sudden wonder in a mixological virgin?
A big part of being an adventurous eater is the experience of DIY--of starting with basic ingredients and utilizing heat, time, a deft hand and a little salt to come up with culinary brilliance. (At least, that's the way it's supposed to work.) As it goes with food, so it goes with drink.
I've been covering spirits and cocktails for the better part of five years, and while I've plumbed deep on rum, American whiskey, absinthe, and other spirits, scotch has long eluded me as a subject of fascination.
Around last year's tax day I put up a post called Cheap(er) Drinks: Tips for Enjoyable Drinking Without Going Broke. Well, compared to now, April '08 was downright rosy, and in this post-Madoff era, "drink cheap" has become the imbiber's new mantra.
Spiced rums are dodgy creatures. True, the sweet, vanilla-tinged Captain Morgan has an agreeable enough flavor, but for rum fans the Captain's appeal is not unlike that of fast food--satisfying on a certain level but ultimately disappointing and altogether forgettable.
The good news is you can find that bottle of single-barrel bourbon, Dutch gin, or small-batch bitters online more often than not. Bad news, though: it's a royal pain to find it and buy it, and oftentimes it's illegal. Some states prohibit all shipments of liquor, while the others cherry-pick which states it's acceptable to order from or ship to
As the interstate sale of wine and spirits has blossomed in the Internet era, the rules have only grown muddier.
It's good to get excited by the growth of small-scale distilleries, but as more people enter the industry, products of questionable quality will inevitably show up on shelves, bearing the boutique label and a hefty price tag. To better establish a standard of quality for this rapidly growing industry, it's a good idea to keep talking up the distilleries that are doing it right.
Meaty drinks have been gimmicks for so long that it's hard to take the concept seriously (witness the bacon martini at Las Vegas' Double Down Saloon, made with vodka stored in a bottle with slices of bacon), but the level of attention being given to the idea by top-flight mixologists such as Klemm and Freeman suggests this unusual approach may well have legs.
While quality sloe gin is as scarce as blackthorn trees around here, for the past few years the Black Friars Distillery in England--maker of the wonderful Plymouth gin--has been producing a traditional sloe gin using natural ingredients for the European market.
My previous experiences with sherry had mainly been with either the super-dry finos or the sweet and rich dessert sherries like the creams and the noteworthy Pedro Ximenez; exploring the classes of dry yet robust wines really gave my palate something to get excited about.
Think of a big hotel ballroom filled with tables stacked with bottles of whisky (the pour list topped 250, if you include the handful of rums and gins tossed into the mix), typically served either by guys in kilts, with rich Scottish accents, or by guys in jeans and boots, with thick Southern drawls.
Bitters aren't particularly big in America--and here we're talking potable bitters, as opposed to aromatic bitters such as Angostura which are used in drops and dashes--with a few notable exceptions.
It may not carry the same fear-inducing firepower as challenging foods like tripe, brains, or other "variety meats," but there's an ingredient in occasional use behind the bar that sometimes rattles the unsuspecting customer: raw eggs.
Even after Prohibition, the Manhattan continued to rival the Martini for dominance at the bar until a demand for lighter spirits--coupled with the ascendance of vodka and, later, the Margarita--pushed the Manhattan into semi-retirement as king of the cocktail heap.
Fans of classic cocktails often run into the same problem: Many distinctive ingredients called for in vintage recipes have disappeared from the local liquor store, and sometimes from the face of the earth. One such ingredient is the French aperitif Amer Picon.
Vodka is the top-selling spirit in the United States, but this liquor-market leader has taken a couple of very public punches in the last few days.