Category Archives: Spirits

Home Macerated Gin – Part 1

As part of the Mixoloseum’s Beefeater series, I was inspired to try and recreate it at home. I had been wanting to try a home-steeped gin of the sort I’d been reading about on the blogs. Obviously, I couldn’t redistill after maceration for a proper gin, but perhaps something potable could come out of it. I read (incorrectly, as it turns out) on the internet that Beefeater was made from the following botanicals: juniper, coriander, angelica root and seed, cassia, licorice, bitter orange peel, and lemon peel. Well, since I have all of those except angelica seed, I decided to give it a go.

Starting with a base spirit of 47% alcohol from a blend of vodka and high proof unaged whiskey, I added the juniper in the evening before bed. In the morning, I added the rest of the ingredients. The pungency of the juniper in the morning made me hopeful. Smells like gin!

ginbottleSylvania Gin #1

  • 350 ml 47% alcohol
  • 1 Tbsp crushed juniper (purple)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried angelica root
  • 1/4 tsp licorice root
  • 1″ stick of cassia (‘regular’ cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp lemon peel (fresh zest)
  • 1 tsp Seville orange peel (fresh zest) + 1 big dash of dried orange peel tincture

Soak juniper for 24 hours, rest of botanicals for 9 hours. Fine strain.

In the evening, I filtered out the botanicals with a fine nylon strainer bag, and then I tasted it. The juniper pungency got  a little lost under the overload of citrus peel. In fact, I seem to have made orange gin. Checking back with my sources, I realized that I had screwed up the ratios. I s’pose that’s what I get, trying to invent recipes early in the morning before work. Anyway, the coriander amount is supposed to be half of the juniper, the rest of the spices one tenth of the juniper and the peels one hundredth of the juniper. Good thing I have an accurate scale for the next batch.

In order to taste my new gin, I mixed a fitty-fitty martini with some Martini and Rossi Bianco. I did not add orange bitters, since I definitely overdid it on the orange addition. Surprisingly, the cocktail was pretty good! The sweetness of the Bianco balanced out the bitter orange of the gin quite well.fittyfitty

Unfortunately, after making up the batch, I discovered that the ingredient list I had found was wrong. For the record, the correct 9 botanicals are: juniper, coriander, angelica root and seed, bitter almond, orris root, licorice, bitter orange peel, and lemon peel. Can you guess what Part 2 of this post will be?

Beefeater Gin Review

As part of a series of Beefeater product features over at the Mixoloseum, last Thursday’s Drink Night (TDN) theme was Beefeater gin. As usual at the Mixoloseum Bar, many original drinks were created, submitted and enjoyed. The next online event will feature Beefeater 24, a new luxury gin and its introduction to the American market. This new product is differentiated from their original one by the additions of Japanese sencha and Chinese green teas, as well as grapefruit peels.

Dan Warner, brand ambassador for Beefeater gin, joined in the fun. He shared with us some fascinating facts about Beefeater, like the fact that there are only 6 employees at their sole plant in London producing 2.4 million cases a year. Beefeater is the only major distiller left producing London Dry gin in the city of London. He also dropped tidbits like the Negroni being a favorite of Desmond Payne, Beefeater’s celebrated Master Distiller. Dan even hinted that he might return on the TDN discussing Beefeater 24 on 4/30.

beefeater

The Gin

I’ve always been pleased with Beefeater as a mixing gin, but in order to taste the individual components, I tasted it neat and then slightly diluted with water. The first smell on opening a bottle yielded the sharp aroma of juniper and citrus. Upon sipping the undiluted spirit, I tasted the rounded soft spiciness of the coriander. The mouth feel was rich and even a bit oily. The mid palate had a bit of a pleasant woody flavor, probably from the licorice and angelica root. The finish was bitter but not lingering. Overall the impression was very crisp and clean.

They don’t call this London Dry Gin for nothing. Beefeater is proud of their 24 hour maceration claiming that the “long steeping time gives a gentler extraction, but builds complexity, and fixes the aroma in the spirit more solidly.” The resulting bold and clean flavor makes it a great mixing gin. I love the sharp citrus tang of Beefeater relative to other gins. When you mix a drink with Beefeater, you know that you’ve put gin in there! Sometimes you want the gin to be the star, like in a gin and tonic, a Martinez, or a Clover Club. Orange drinks like a Bronx or Monkey Gland really benefit from a bold gin like this; otherwise the drink can get a little soft on you. But other times you want your gin to play more of a  supportive role. For a drink like a Suffering Bastard, I recommend a mellower, more rounded gin.

Just recently at the market, I happened to come across fresh bergamot fruit, and having been waiting over a year and a half  since reading about the following recipe at Married with Dinner, I snapped up the last one and made the following:
fridayafterfive

Friday After FiveMarried with Dinner

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 ounce bergamot juice
  • 1 dash Herbsaint, absinthe or Pernod

Shake over ice, and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a bergamot twist, if desired.

I have to say that this was my first experience with a real bergamot and I was totally impressed. As soon as my peeler bit into the peel, the pleasantly sharp odor of fine Earl Grey tea sprang into the air and surrounded me. I peeled the whole thing and set the peels out to dry for later use. This bergamot was quite tart, so I ended up adding a dash more Chartreuse to sweeten it a bit. The Friday After Five was still pretty tart, but the aromas of the bergamot peel worked well with the aromatics of the gin and the herbal sweetness of the Chartreuse. I was reminded of Audrey Sander’s MarTEAni, made with Earl Grey tea infused gin. So much so that I was inspired to invent the:

Trans-Europa

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/4 oz Earl Grey infused gin (Tanqueray – 4 tbsp loose tea to a bottle for 2 hours)
  • 3/4 oz bitter Seville orange juice
  • 1/4 oz green Chartreuse
  • 1/4 simple syrup (or more as needed)

Shake, strain and serve up with a bitter orange twist.

I’m a big fan of Beefeater gin because of its bold, high quality taste coupled with its affordable price point. I have been stocking Beefeater as my house gin for some time now because sometimes you just need a gin with some oomph when mixing. Personally, I’m really excited about the American release of Beefeater 24. I hope you can come on down to the Beefeater 24 TDN we are having on 4/30.

Rye – Back from the Brink

There was a time not too long ago when rye whiskey almost disappeared, another victim of Prohibition. It didn’t, though, and thanks to the internet, rye has enjoyed something of a revival in America. So much so that there have even been shortages caused by its rapid return to semi-popularity. However, despite this new popularity, you can still get blank stares from cocktail waitresses on Main St bars and questions like, “Is that a kind of whiskey?”

Yes, Virginia, it is a kind of whiskey. Believe it or not, a whiskey made from rye, which is a close cereal relative of wheat. For American producers to label their bottles as rye whiskey, the mash bill must be at least 51% rye, among other things. Using the word ‘straight’ adds a requirement of at least 2 years of aging in new, charred oak barrels. Canadian producers are under no such restrictions, and currently very little rye is used in whisky making north of the border. The ever reliable wikipedia even claims that Canadian law allows the label ‘rye whisky’ on products that contain no rye at all! That said, there are a few 100% rye whiskys (Alberta Springs, for one) being made in Canada, and I’d love to try them. Banff is lovely this time of year…

Rye can also feature in the recipe for a bourbon whiskey. Bourbons are only required to use 51% corn, leaving plenty of room for other grains, especially one as distinctive as rye. It is commonly used and a number of bourbons show more or less of rye’s unique musty and spicy flavor. For instance, the Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon could be mistaken for a rye in a blind tasting and the Four Roses Single Barrel 100° is 35% rye.

rye Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Old Overholt and Rittenhouse are the major brands on the market. Other ryes are basically specialty items, with the possible exception of the Sazerac 6 year old – called the ‘Baby Saz’ to differentiate it from its 18 year old stablemate. Pikesville Rye is the only surviving Maryland rye, and has limited distribution. Moving up the price scale a little, you’ll find the Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye and Michters US1. In the ‘very expensive’ category, look for A.H. Hirsch, Van Winkle, Black Maple Hill and Sazerac.

I recently acquired the Thomas Handy Sazerac from the Buffalo Trace 2008 Antique Collection. Maybe I’ll make a Manhattan with some Carpano Antica and cherry vanilla bitters one of these days. For now, I am content to sip it with some water and a bit of ice as it is barrel strength, a tongue blistering 127.5 proof. It is truly a joy of a sipper, starting out with a vanilla, filling the mouth with a wonderful buttery texture, and finishing with notes of black pepper and cloves.

Mixing wise, rye is a great ‘bottom’ or ‘bass note’, that pairs well with sweeter or brighter things like citrus, Benedictine or St Germain, yet has enough punch not to get lost in the mix. One of the best ways to enjoy it is in an Imbibe!-style Fancy Rye Cocktail or a Sazerac.

SazeracSazerac (a là Imbibe!)

  • 2 ounce rye whiskey (Rittenhouse)
  • 1 scant teaspoon simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 dash absinthe ( as a rinse)

Stir with fine cracked ice, strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a nice curly lemon twist.

Wow, that is fantastic! Ordering these out at bars usually results in a sickly sweet rye syrup, and when I usually make these freehand they have much more bitters than this. Carefully following Thomas Handy’s (by way of Wondrich) recipe is well worth it.

Another classic cocktail utilizing rye is the Manhattan. However, only having space for one more drink, I couldn’t neglect that wonderful Negroni variation known as the Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

Boulevardier

  • 1 ounce rye whiskey (Old Overholt)
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1-2 dash rhubarb bitters (optional)

Stir well over cracked ice for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry or a twist of orange peel.

A fine, balanced cocktail with the Campari and rye characters tamed but still present to be savored. Another plus – the basic recipe is simple enough that you might be able to get a decent one out of your bartender.

A few links for those interested in further reading:

Here’s Mud in Your Rye

How to Make it at Home

All but Lost, Rye Is Revived as the Next Boutique Find

For some tastings of various ryes, check out Paul Clarke’s nine post series at The Rye Chronicles and LeNell’s Rye Class.