There are so many misconceptions surrounding absinthe, and it's time to set the story straight. (Just here to drink? I've got 5 essential absinthe cocktail recipes for you, too.)
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Cognac. To many, it's the ultimate in brandy. Now, you may ask why? Does it taste better? is it the expense? The time to make it? The grapes? The history? I'd say it's all of those things, and more. But what is cognac? How's it made, and what makes it special?
When I mention brandy, you probably have an image already in your head. An older gentleman, sitting quietly in a leather armchair, perhaps smoking a pipe while listening to Brahms, swirling a snifter of brandy around in his hand. We think of brandy as an Old World after-dinner drink. And I have to say, it serves that purpose beautifully. But if you limit it to that, you're missing out on a lot.
Japan has the largest number of whisky distilleries after Scotland and the United States, but up until very recently, Suntory was the only brand of Japanese whisky available for sale in the US. Almost all Japanese whiskies are made in a Scotch-like style: here's our guide to what's available stateside and what these whiskies taste like.
I don't know about any of you, but I'm a boozer who likes to drink rye whiskey year 'round. Winter, summer, whatever, no day's too hot to enjoy a nice rye old-fashioned. But normal people, I hear, think of rye as a cold-weather treat. Its spicy, robust character and bone-dry palate certainly help take the edge off a brisk, autumn day. And since we in the Northeast have had several such days lately, it's time to talk all things rye.
Genever today tastes malty (similar to a light Scotch) with subtle undernotes of herbs and spices. If you don't like gin's piney qualities, please do not assume you'll also dislike genever.
In some ways, you can think of gin as a juniper-flavored vodka. Here's a bit about gin's history and production, and a guide to the different types of gin you might find.
Vodka. Associated with Appletinis and overly sweet versions of the Cosmo, vodka has a bad rep with booze snobs like me. "It has no flavor," we say. "It has no character," we say. All that may arguably be true, but it overlooks the sales behemoth that vodka has become.
Mezcal is our friend tequila's older, mysterious, and poorly understood brother. People have a lot of misconceptions about mezcal (no, it doesn't contain mescaline) but it's worth taking a minute to see what this stuff is really all about. Let's learn a bit about how mezcal is made from roasted agave and what's up with that worm you sometimes see in the bottle.
Our trek through the world of spirits takes us today to Western Mexico, more specifically to the state of Jalisco and the mid-sized town of Tequila. Perhaps for some of you, the very sound of the word tequila makes your stomach churn and your cheeks flush with shame, but there's far more to this beverage than shot after shot at a college bar.
We're going to shift our eyes and livers one step to the south this week, and look at bourbon's delicious and popular cousin: Tennessee whiskey. What is Tennessee whiskey, and what distinguishes it from bourbon?
This week, just in time for a certain mid-March holiday, I'll look at the definition and history of Irish whiskey, discuss what distinguishes it from its Scottish cousin, and talk about the major distillers and brands. Slàinte!
Until the 1800s, there was very little Scotch available for sale in cities such as Edinburgh or Glasgow, let alone London or New York. Scotch, at the time, was considered the equivalent of moonshine—a drink enjoyed by unrefined highlanders, aged in sheep bladders and filtered through tartan. No one of refinement drank the stuff; instead, urban elites enjoyed the finest European wines, along with sherry, port, and cognac. A number of factors converged in the latter half of the 19th century to change everything.
Last week, we examined the distinction between single malt and blended Scotch whiskies. Today, we'll step back a bit and take a more detailed (much more detailed) look at the single malt. I'll describe what single malts are, explain how they're made and aged, discuss the concept of Scotch terroir, and explore some of the regional variations. Grab a tasting glass and let's get started!
January 15, 1919. North End of Boston. A large tank holding 2,300,000 gallons of molasses bursts, flooding the streets at 35 mph. The sticky wave plows through men, women, children, and horses. The molasses flow is strong and swift enough to knock down buildings and even buckle an elevated railroad, knocking a train off its tracks. The great Boston Molasses Disaster claims 21 lives, not including horses and dogs, and injures 150. And yet, when rum was dubbed kill-devil, I don't think this is what its critics had in mind.