Archives for posts with tag: booze hound

Profits are through the woof.

The GrogDog does not have an MBA, but understands well the potential for big dogs to bully the small ones out of business. Here I present the case for respecting the big dogs whose very existence helps protect the small ones.

As with dogs, it’s not the size of the breed but the environment that counts. In terms of liquor, yes, there are huge global corporations that own many brands of spirit, liqueur, beer, and/or wine. And they protect their brands fiercely – they don’t want to share shelf/bar space with their competitors for the same reason a Chevy dealer doesn’t keep a Ford on the lot for test-drives. That does not necessarily make them bad companies or poor stewards of the craft. The truth is that without corporate investment, many small producers would have gone out of business (and did), leaving us all thirsty for high-quality ingredients and a good cocktail experience. One can argue that company “controls” have stripped out character and quality, and in some cases that may be true. But the resurgence of cocktail culture owes something to the companies that caught on to the expanding market for craft liquor and are giving their customers and their shareholders what they want.Big Dog Small Dog

It’s up to us, the drinking public, to continue to demand the quality and craftsmanship that will support profitability and continued investment in small, local producers. And, of course, directly supporting your local craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries will give the big dogs a run for that money!

Being a free canine spirit, the GrogDog doesn’t appreciate having a “master”. Knowing a master, however – someone with a lifelong dedication to acquiring knowledge about a specific topic – is an entirely different proposition. Masters of knowledge not only teach, but engage, and are passionate about sharing their interest with others. When the topic is liquor, and the sharing adds to the sum total of happiness in the world, it’s the Master who’s earned a good scratch behind the ears and a most excellent job as an expert drinker.

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham:

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham: “It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” (1789)

I met such a master this week at a tasting event at Petite Cellars (Ellicott City, Md.). Nick Crutchfield is a Master of Whisky with Diageo, “the world’s leading premium drinks business“. The topic was bourbons and Tennessee whiskeys (and ryes), and Nick spoke about the resurgent American “brown spirits” with the reverence and delight of a man who has found his true calling.

The nice folks at Petite Cellars put together an excellent written introduction to bourbon and whiskey for their guests, which described their history and definitions, processes, and ingredients and equipment used in making whiskey (or whisky). After a brief introduction to the differences between bourbon, whiskey, and rye (which involve much more than nomenclature), we tasted, learned about, and compared six spirits, each with a distinctly different character: IW Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon, George Dickel No. 12 Sour Mash, George Dickel 9 Year Petite Cellars Single Barrel, Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon, Bulleit Bourbon Rye, and Orphan Barrel Forged Oak.

As dedicated GrogDogBlog readers know, I advocate taking the time to learn not only what you like to drink, but why you may like a particular flavor profile, and how to use that knowledge to enhance your overall pleasure in drinking. Whiskey Master Nick echoed the GrogDog’s drinking philosophy when he recommended people drink good liquor for “the escapism of that first sip”. This is why I highly recommend attending a tasting of your favorite spirit at your local liquor retailer. Not only will you learn a lot about the spirit in general and have a chance to ask questions of a master (or at least a very knowledgeable expert), but you’ll have an opportunity to taste different variations side by side for a reasonable price. The knowledge you will gain about your own preferences can save your happy hour or salvage a bad day. It can also help you be attentive to the preferences of friends, family, and party guests who may discover a new cocktail experience from your carefully selected gift or well stocked bar – thus increasing the sum total of happiness in your inner circle. That’s always a good thing!

Keep in mind that just because they work for a specific company doesn’t mean the experts won’t give you good advice, or honest assessments of particular brands or products. Mr. Crutchfield spent many months in formal, hands-on training at Diageo’s properties to learn the histories and nuances of each product, how they are made, why they are made that way – and getting to know the people who make them. (George Dickel, for example, has about 30 employees total, and no plans to get bigger; Bulleit is dedicated to sustainable, zero-impact production.) His insights have made my drinking experiences more enjoyable, and I’ll be less apt to judge a bottle by its branding now that I know more about how it’s produced and (most important) how it tastes.

Dog PhilosopherMany thanks to Whiskey Master Nick Crutchfield and Petite Cellars for a fun and informative event!

p.s. Petite Cellars is a candy store for cocktail culturists (or cultists, if you prefer). They have a huge selection of small batch spirits, craft beer, and fine wine, along with hard-to-find liqueurs, premium mixers, unusual bitters, and an impressive number of miniatures so you can try out a new cocktail or spirit before investing in 750ml. The owner and staff couldn’t have been more accommodating of their tasting guests, and laid out a generous charcuterie/ cheese plate to accompany the drinks. They clearly care about giving their customers a good experience, from the attractive decor to the sensible layout and knowledgeable staff. As an extra added bonus, Petite Cellars also offers a growler program for craft beers, a selection of cigars, and gift-boxed handmade chocolates, which are not only beautiful but decadently delicious. If you’re in the Central Maryland area and love craft cocktails, go there!

Friday night is the GrogDog’s favorite unwinding night of the week – an ideal evening for themed drinking at home to kick off the weekend without incurring a large bar tab or a massive hangover. (Saturday is chore day, and chores aren’t nearly as much fun to do with a pounding head and roiling stomach.)

A booze hound, and young Joan Crawford

As a fan of the classic cocktail and longtime student of the Prohibition era (and the Jazz Age that preceded it), I have many recipes to build personal theme nights around, but I keep coming back to the Charleston – the drink, the dance, and the exuberant attitude that post-WWI America exported to the world.

The Charleston

The Charleston

The Charleston cocktail is 1 part London dry gin, 1 part kirsch, 1 part maraschino liqueur, 1 part sweet vermouth, and 1 part dry vermouth. Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

While you’re enjoying your drink – from a cocktail glass or the flask tucked discreetly under your garter – put on a little hot jazz and try a few steps of the Charleston!

The Charleston

The Charleston

The Charleston is an energetic dance performed to a ragtime rhythm, made popular in the 1923 Broadway musical “Runnin’ Wild”. The Charleston is easy to learn and a fun way to work off the cocktail calories. (Fans of the 1959 film Some Like It Hot, set in the 1920s, will remember Marilyn Monroe performing the song “Runnin’ Wild” with band mates Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, who perform in drag as part of the dance band Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators.)

Other popular 1920s dances included the Black Bottom and the Shimmy (or Shimmie). For some very danceable (modern) performances of popular Jazz Age songs, check out the Hot Sardines on iTunes. (You can get a taste of their style in this irresistible video.)

Rudolph Valentino as The Sheik

Rudolph Valentino as The Sheik

If you’re not feeling that energetic, stir up your Charleston cocktail and put on one of the era-defining movies that thrilled postwar audiences with daring dress, drinking, and debauchery, like The ‘It’ Girl starring Clara Bow, or The Sheik starring Rudolph Valentino. Both films (and many more silents and early talkies) have been nicely restored and are available for purchase or download.

So don’t be a Mrs. Grundy! Stir up some giggle water and make some whoopee some Friday night – creating your own 1920s cocktail theme night is the bee’s knees!

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The GrogDog is never too busy to drink, but is sometimes too busy to blog. For those looking for their cocktail fix, I recommend you check out “Booze Traveler“, a new show on the Travel Channel. Featuring a true booze hound, former bartender and adventurer Jack Maxwell, this show explores some far-out libations in far-flung locations. Maxwell believes that there are no strangers at a bar (or Alpine lodge, or Mongolian yurt) – only friends you haven’t met yet. As one of the commenters on the show’s site says, I thought I was over being jealous of other people’s jobs…