Archives for posts with tag: Bourbon

The Grog Dog, being something of a lone, er, wolf, is not a parent and has never regretted it. But I respect and admire dog dad kneeparents in general and especially those who teach their children well – as in, teach them good things and teach those things in the right way. In the context of parent “holidays” like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, this means giving up an entire day of doing things they want to do and modeling gracious acceptance of items and activities they may not have chosen for themselves… pretty much like any other parenting day, but with cards and handmade gifts and questionably edible breakfast in bed.

If you and your dad (or mom, or the person who is like a parent to you) would like to quietly celebrate their importance and influence in your life, I recommend the Nocturnal. This deep, mellow, slightly bitter nightcap can accommodate a variety of brown bases, so just about any bourbon or rye you prefer will work. You can also adjust the bitterness by using Amaro instead of Fernet Branca, but with either variation this is going to go down better after dinner, as the sweet maraschino liqueur and Cointreau (triple sec) make it slightly syrupy.

The Nocturnal is 1.5 oz bourbon (or rye), 0.75 oz Fernet Branca (or Amaro), 0.5 oz maraschino liqueur, 0.5 oz triple sec (Cointreau), 1 dash Angostura bitters. Stir well in a mixing glass with lots of ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist. This drink opens up nicely as the ice melts, and the cold will cut the sweetness.dog dad 2

While most of the parents I know could use a day off, for the best of them, that’s just not an option. And they wouldn’t want it to be. So raise a glass to Dad, and give him the next best thing: a quiet night with a good drink.

Thanks to my drinking buddies at Kindred Cocktails for offering cocktail enthusiasts an excellent forum and cataloging tool!
Image credits Hanna-Barbera, LovePet

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!

As a cooking as well as cocktail aficionado, the Grog Dog believes in following a recipe… at least at first. It takes a few run-throughs before I’m comfortable with the timing, techniques, and last-minute fixes that mean the difference between a dish that looks like the picture in the cookbook vs. one that looks like, well, the dog’s dinner.

If you want to know what a proper cocktail looks, smells, tastes, and feels like, check online reviews and take a field trip to the bar that’s most highly rated for their ability to serve a good drink. Decor, ambience, price even – none of that matters if the bartenders really know what they’re doing. (The proof of this principle is the success of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives“.) Once you’ve had a good-quality sample of the cocktails you like most, you’ll be better able to re-create them for yourself.

Image: startcooking.com

Image: startcooking.com

Most US drink recipes are given in (no surprise) US standard measurements – ounces, tablespoons, etc. Occasionally you’ll come across a recipe where the ingredients are given in “parts”, which are simply ratios – 1 part gin, 1 part Campari, 1 part sweet vermouth (Negroni; stir with ice in a rocks glass). I’m a fan of using parts as opposed to ounces. First, the standard US measurements are not universal, and it’s pretty arrogant to push our scheme, especially when we’re the one major holdout from the metric system. Second, it allows for scale. Sometimes you want a 3-oz drink; sometimes you want a double. The recipe is the same ratio of spirit to juice to liqueur, just more of each.

Regardless of the absolute numbers, ratios are important. When you’re baking a cake, it’s not critical that your measuring spoons are crafted to space-shuttle precision; it is critical that your set of measuring spoons is accurately proportioned to one another, or you’ll end up with a cake that’s flat as a brownie.

So once you know what a really good Jack Rose tastes like (2 parts applejack, 1 part lemon or lime juice, 1/2 part grenadine; shake with ice; strain into a cocktail glass), and you’ve made it a time or two by the book, you can riff on the recipe according your taste. I tend to like sours and herbal cocktails, so I’m liberal with citrus and bitters. But some days I have a sweet tooth and add an extra dash of syrup.

Another important measurement every drinker should know is his/her alcohol tolerance.

Image: Dreamstime.com

Image: Dreamstime.com

I’m not talking about the legal limit (though knowing what it is in your state is probably a good idea on general principle). I mean, how much alcohol can you take in before the pleasure is outweighed by a fuzzy head and twisted tongue? By embarrassing behavior or unpleasant mishaps? By snoring during the movie?

This will vary according to circumstances, so pay attention to how your flavor profile and tolerance changes before or after eating, seasonally, when you’re stressed, etc.

Identifying your own tastes and limits – How much vermouth is too much? How strong a drink can I tolerate and stay awake through a rom-com? – will make it easier for you to make, order, and even invent new drinks. You’ll have a core set of cocktails that you’re good at making, so you can always whip up something that suits your mood without having to think too much. And you’ll be able to order something you know you will enjoy from any drinks menu, saving money and the disappointment of choking down a cocktail you dislike because you can’t bear to let alcohol go to waste. (We’ve all done it…)

Image: dogtime.com

Image: dogtime.com

The true measure of a good cocktail is how much pleasure it gives you in the moments you are drinking and how much it enhances your pleasure in the event you’re engaged in. The more you know about your own drinking preference, the more confidence you have in your mixology capabilities, and the more recipes you have in your book, the more pleasure you’ll take from every cocktail engagement – from a solo sip of toasty bourbon after work to a fruity, fizzy brunch Bellini.

Cheers to a happier happy hour!

p.s. I cannot stress this enough: Do not give any dog alcohol, any time, for any reason.

The GrogDog believes in the healing power of alcohol – after all, it kills germs when applied topically, so why not from the inside? Earlier this winter I posted a recipe for a bourbon toddy that has several cold-busting elements: lemon juice (vitamin C), honey (soothes the throat), warming hot water (it’s important to hydrate!), and of course alcohol to induce rest and beat that cold into submission.

Another cold-fighting super-ingredient is ginger. Though it has been used for millennia as an all-purpose tonic, ginger is hot again (pun intended), for its spicy flavor and versatility as much as its medicinal properties.

Ginger is also a popular base for liqueurs and cocktail ingredient, and while it makes many delicious drinks, I consider its best use a cold-fighting toddy booster. Its flavor marries well with bourbon, rye, gin, or rum, so you can choose your base according to taste.

To double or triple the ginger mojo, layer in a slice or two of fresh ginger and/or sweeten your toddy with ginger syrup.

Image credit: TummyRumble.Hultberg.org

Image credit: TummyRumble.Hultberg.org

Ginger Toddy

2 oz bourbon, rum, rye, or gin

1 oz ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton or other brand)

1 oz ginger syrup* (substitute honey if you’re too exhausted to make syrup, or you have a sore throat)

1 oz fresh lemon juice (if using rum, try fresh lime juice instead)

Fresh ginger slice (optional)

Boiling water

Stir all ingredients in a sturdy mug. Sip slowly while bundled up in warm pajamas and wooly socks.

Image credit: Imgur

Image credit: Imgur

*Ginger syrup: Boil 1 cup each sugar and water with a handful of slices of fresh peeled ginger. Stir to dissolve sugar; remove from heat, cover and let steep until completely cool. Strain into a clean jar; store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Note: Bundled-up dog image is for illustrative purposes only. Please do not give your dog a toddy, or any alcohol, any time, for any reason.

The GrogDog feels a cold coming on, which is never fun. But a recently released study from the Oregon Health & Science University suggests that small amounts of alcohol can help strengthen your immune system. With that in mind and a bourbon toddy in the body, GrogDog hopes to kick this cold to the curb!

Bourbon Toddy

Combine 1.5 oz bourbon and the juice of 1/2 lemon in a mug. Add 8 oz boiling water and 1-2 Tbsp honey (to taste). Stir to combine and drink while warm.

This all-purpose cold-busting toddy will un-stuff your head, give you a shot of vitamin C, soothe your throat, warm you up, and carry you off to sleep fast.

Here’s to your health!