Tag Archives: whiskey

Whiskey Trail: Day Two

Day two was our Suntory-Beam visit.* We started the day by sleepily boarding the bus at 7:30 a.m. After an uneventful (and half-asleep) drive, we reached Jim Beam. This visit was one of the most interactive tours we experienced, and started out with guests getting the chance to scoop grains into the mash cooker.

Probably the coolest part of the tour was being shown around by Fred Noe, Jim Beam’s seventh generation master distiller. He’s a character, to say the least. When your dad is Booker Noe, I think being colorful is pretty much an expectation. His stories…man, his stories. I could tell you, but it’d undermine some of the pitches I have placed or sent.

From there, we headed to the Maker’s Mark Distillery. It was rustic, picturesque and absolutely gorgeous. It’s the type of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to see a man in a frock coat running to catch a well-trimmed buggy.

And did I mention that part of the aging warehouse has a ceiling designed and created by Dale Chihuly? It’s stunning. We exited through the gift shop and it was time to depart.

One of the things that was most interesting to me was that both of these distilleries allowed visitors more access to unfinished bottles. At Jim Beam, they allowed us to rinse our own Knob Creek bottles and then to fingerprint the wax when it was still warm. At Maker’s, the gift shop has the option that allows you to dip a bottle in their red wax and let it drip down the sides.

Then it was back to the bus for the ride to Louisville. We ate out, and then caught drinks at the Seelbach Bar in the lobby of our hotel, the Seelbach Hotel. It’s. Gorgeous.

Tomorrow, we visit Woodford and Wild Turkey. I’m looking forward to visiting both, and will be sure to take enough notes to recap the day.

*Suntory bought/merged with Jim Beam (which owns Maker’s Mark) in May.

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Whiskey Trail, Day One

On Monday evening, I opened up the bar at Octane and then left. From there, I went home, packed, ate, and went to pick up my rental car. You know it’s going to be an interesting night when your reservations specify a “Toyota Camry (or similar)” and the person behind the counter asks if you’d rather a SUV or minivan.

When I walked into the parking deck and spotted my white Ford Expedition, I immediately named her White Lightning. She was bigger than the foyer of my apartment building and handled like a yacht. Driving in such a contraption was both awesome and terrifying, and I blasted CHVRCHES and my trashy, trashy road trip playlist.

One uneventful drive later, I stopped by No. 308 in Nashville to see Alan and crash the local USBG party that was going on there. Five words: Lucky Charms and Jameson punch. It was rad.

The next morning, I bade White Lightning farewell and hopped on the Discus (Distilled Spirits Council) bus to the George Dickel distillery. It was (shamefully) my first ever distillery tour, and the combination of whiskey, food, nerdery and scenery was so cool.

From there, we rode to Lynchburg, TN to the Jack Daniels distillery. During our time on the property we toured, ate, and spoke with both their master distiller and assistant master distiller. After dinner, the group hopped back on the bus and headed to Bowling Green, KY to spend the night.

Thanks to the excessive amounts of espresso and tea I consumed to make it through the drive, I didn’t sleep much that night, which meant the rest of the day was kind of surreal. But if the week keeps up at this pace, I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

I’m lumping my late night drive into this entry because I want to. So there.

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How Not To Live Your Dreams

I’m on the American Whiskey Trail* and I’m writing. Some of the pubs of my bucket list have accepted my writing on the topic. It’s intoxicating. Literally.

But I’ve spent a lot of time not doing a damn thing to further my writing. Sometimes I spend the day as the middle of a blanket burrito wondering what I did to someone in a past life to suck so much. The experiences leading up to the crappy days have taught me how I can avoid living my dreams, and I thought I’d share:

1. Distrust your intuition. In business, it’s good to make well-reasoned decisions, but if you have a squicky feeling about a setup, follow your gut. It’s easier to walk away amicably before crap gets real than afterwards.
2. Don’t write anything down. I’m probably not going to remember what I have to get done today if it’s not logged in a to-do list. Last month, I had an idea for a novel…and didn’t bother to write it down. It was something about a woman and a dog or a unicorn, but it was bestseller-quality.
3. Let rejection dictate your day. Just stahp. What can you learn from this and do better next time? Can you reshape it to mesh with another publication’s needs? If yes, do it, then eat ice cream and binge watch Arrow. Not the other way around.
4. Procrastinate. Believe me, I’m a BOSS at putting off assignments I dread. But it also makes me a hostage to my whims rather than indulging them off the clock. Just do it, man.
5. Go at it alone. If it wasn’t for my friends, I’d be in an asylum. They’re my support group and cheering squad and wine — I mean book — club wrapped into one, and I’d be a mess without them. They’re also quite literally the only reason I started writing journalistically and have the resources to keep doing badass work.

*More on that later.

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#allthewhiskey

I found all the whiskey.

I found all the whiskey.

Two weeks ago, I was invited to go on a media trip around the American Whiskey Trail. After a few seconds of indecision, Adam convinced me that I would be crazy not to.

So far, he’s been right. Before I left, I successfully pitched six related articles. I feel more legitimate about calling myself a writer than ever before. Bonus points: three of them are in a new-to-me publication.

As a bartender, learning about whiskey making and everything that goes into it gives me personal knowledge of the subject. Touring distilleries gives will give me a sense of the place where it’s made. Talking with distillers gives me ideas for new ways to use spirits in cocktails. Traveling opens me up to new experiences and people and ideas.

During the trip, I’ve been using the travel time (other than the drive up, duh) to work. I’ve gotten a blog post and a fact-check assignment nailed down, and I’ll hopefully get to work on other things during our drive to Lexington.

If you want to follow the fun in real time, I’ll be using the tag #allthewhiskey to label my tweets and Instagram posts. Over the next few days, we’ll be visiting distilleries including Bulleit, George Dickel, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve. We’ll also be participating in a small producers dinner and touring Vendome Copper.

I’m a happy camper – I’ll be sippin’ and writin’ all week long. Bring on the whiskey, y’all.

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Content and Context: Cocktail Syrups

Behind the bar at Octane. Photo credit to Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

Behind the bar at Octane. Photo credit to Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

Hi, my name is Clair, and I’m a nerd. For more than a year now, I’ve been writing a column for mentalfloss.com on cocktail chemistry. This setup combines my love of science with my passion for classic cocktails, and helps me to find new ways to communicate complex topics in food science.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about flavored syrups: grenadine is used in a surprising number of classic shaken whiskey drinks, and other flavored syrups can class up a simple drink in a hurry. There are many, many ways to make syrups, but they all have their pros and cons. Check it out: How To Make Flavored Cocktail Syrups.

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Cocktail of the Hour — the Ward 8

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Out of all the contentious drinks I’ve featured so far, the Ward 8 might just top them all. With at least three origin stories and hundreds of recipes, the diversity of its manifestations almost rivals the Old Fashioned’s. In fact, when a New York Sun writer called for readers to submit their Ward 8 recipes in the 1940s, he received more than 500 replies.

People get territorial over their whiskey cocktails.

According to the available mishmash of cocktail history, Boston was definitely the Ward 8’s birthplace. It was probably created within a decade of 1900, and is most likely named for one of the city’s voting districts. The most popular backstory is that it was created to celebrate a political boss’s election victory in north Boston, but this story seems to have originated in 1951. Other sources credit other bartenders who worked at the hotel where this alleged party occurred and yet others give credit to other venues.

The Ward 8 is a whiskey sour sweetened with grenadine. The use of orange juice and the amount of grenadine varies by recipe, but however it’s made, it usually turns out light, spicy and slightly dry. Since so many recipes for this beverage exist, I’m not going off the reservation by saying that if my recipe doesn’t suit your fancy, tweak it until it does.

Ward 8
1 tsp – .5 oz grenadine (to taste)
.5 oz lemon juice
.75 oz orange juice
2 oz whiskey
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin. Shake vigorously for 13-17 seconds or until cooled through and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

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Cocktail of the hour — the Sazerac

Thanks, Angel!

Thanks, Angel!

Do you regularly pronounce New Orleans as “nawlins?” Would you rather chug a Jaeger Bomb than sip an Old Fashioned? If you’ve answered yes to the second question, the Sazerac may not be the drink for you. If you said yes to the first, you might need to befriend some actual New Orleans natives. Either way, if you’re feeling adventurous or like whiskey at all, give it a chance — you might be surprised.

As another descendent of the 18th century cocktail (liquor, sugar, bitters and maybe a splash of water), this variation adds in a few elements that will please drink nerds: a cool history and boldly flavored, relatively hard to find ingredients.

Though the  first written recipe for the Sazerac wasn’t printed until the early 1900s, the history of the drink itself starts around 1850. At that point, Sewell T. Taylor gave up his bar and went into the liquor import business. One of his products was Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. Aaron Bird, the man who bought Taylor’s bar, renamed it the Sazerac House. Their specialty was the Sazerac Cocktail, a brandy-based drink made with Taylor’s brandy and (supposedly) bitters made by the neighborhood apothecary, Antoine Amedie Peychaud.

Since then, the Sazerac House was bought and sold many times. At some point during Thomas Handy’s ownership, he either wrote down the Sazerac recipe or shared it with someone. In any case, it ended up in the 1908 edition of The World’s Drinks and How To Mix Them — with one change: this cocktail called for “good whiskey,” not Sazerac cognac.

During that time, Europe’s grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River to the Mississippi.

However the change happened, the spice of the rye compliments the bitters beautifully. Using just a touch of absinthe to rinse the glass gives the drink an herbal nose, and finishing the drink with a lemon peel adds depth and a light, citrusy note.

Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters*

.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)

2 oz good rye whiskey (don’t skimp — use the good stuff)

lemon peel for garnish

Combine all ingredients except the lemon peel over ice in a mixing glass. Stir well to combine. Roll a few drops of absinthe around in a chilled rocks glass to rinse, and strain the mixture into the rinsed glass. Garnish with a lemon peel and enjoy.

*Angostura bitters aren’t part of the original recipe, but they’re a traditional ingredient.

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