Category Archives: Events

It’s Kind of a Big Deal

 

Follow you nose

Over the years I have gained fondness for many types of spirits, beers, wines etc. Often times I have also held prejudice against a given libation due to general persona and well frankly a lack of information or experience with it. I had it with Vodka and California wines until I was forced to stretch beyond my comfort zone and well, palates change. I used to hate spinach when I was growing up. Mostly because it was the mushy, make you gag, canned sort but there is nothing like fresh spinach. Much of my experiences with Vodka have been in simple, boring cocktails and new world wines were the cheap, cloyingly sweet and flabby reds or overly oaked whites. But over the years I have come to realize that one simple experience should not type cast an entire category. This brings me to Scotch whisky, the point of this blog and my next tasting event.

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My 1st experience with Scotch was not a pleasant one. When my friends said they were going to drink some fine single malts on a cool and crisp early fall evening I jumped at the offer as it seemed like a perfect night for alfresco drinking. I also had no idea what to expect. Somewhere in my head I was thinking “Scotch and butterscotch must be similar.” Well, needless to say I did not enjoy it.

Then over the years due to the fact that I work in the restaurant industry I was constantly exposed to new spirits and flavors. One night when I was a bartender I must have served 100 Johnny Walker Black and cokes for a young group of College internationals. It seemed like a waist to me as it was a top shelf brand but if they liked it I guess that’s all that mattered. At the end of the shift I just needed to have some Johnny Black. I had it on the rocks and I didn’t mind it, in fact I was mildly enjoying it. Over the years my love for Scotch whisky has grown and for me it is the standard that I sometimes foolishly judge all whisky. But as my love and understanding for fine single malts grew there was one category that I ignored. Oddly enough it was the 1st whisky I enjoyed. That was the complex, subtle elegance of a great blended Scotch whisky.

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So lets do a bit of defining her. A Single Malt Scotch is a whisky that has been distilled in a pot still which gives a rich, heady aroma that is comprised of 100% malted barley coming from a single distillery hence The Macallan 12 yr Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. This is 100% malted barley from the Macallan distillery. A Blended Malt Whisky or “Vatted” Scotch is a blend of 100% malted barley whiskys coming from two or more distilleries. In short if I took some Macallan and blended that with, oh lets say Glenlivet I would have a “Vatted” Scotch. The next category is Blended Scotch Whisky (no Malt on the label). This is a blend of a grain spirit (corn or wheat) that has been distilled through a continuous still making a softer and purer spirit much in the same way vodka is distilled. Then that whisky ,whether it be Cutty-Sark, Dwars or Johnny Black is blended with a selection of single malt whiskys to create a softer, easier and more subdued spirit.
There is a silly notion that only great Scotch whiskys come from a single distillery. Hog Wash. The Macallan would not exist if it were not for blended whiskys. Look at it this way. 95% of all Scotches sold are blends. That means that as a distiller, once 95% of your production is of age it is sold immediately. This also means the ONLY product you have left is 5% of your production. This is gravy folks, pure profit. In fact Scotch whisky and the great The Macallan would never be savored if it were not for brands like Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse and Johnny Walker. Why you ask? Well lets take a trip back to the 1850’s:

Golden Promise

During the 19th and early 20th century the British government controlled the market for Bordeaux, Oporto,  Jerez (Sherry), Armagnac and Cognac. What up’d the ante was when British parliament passed a law allowing what many grocery store owners like John Dewar or Johnny Walker already knew. That there is no perfect whisky and so blending a touch of Macallan’s rich headiness and Auchentoshan’s subtle elegance with a note of Glenrothes’s honeyed aroma and drop or two of Ledaig’s salty edge can make a fantastic dram and in 1853 it became legal to sell these blended malt whiskys. dewars

Right around this time several distillers started playing with Aeneas Coffey’s continuous still which was making that subtle and light spirit. They soon realized that adding this light grain whisky to the richer, robust malted whisky made for a pleasant expression of flavors. But in the end mans foolish idea that he can outsmart nature changed everything in Scotland for the better. In the 1870’s some ridiculous French botanist though it would be a great idea to bring from the new world (actually around Colorado) some grape vines to plant next to Frances greatest vineyards. What the French didn’t know was that there was a louse which we now call Phylloxera making their living on the root stocks of these vines. What happened next changed everything. The European native vine vinifera could not withstand this louse and soon they almost all began to die. Now, what does this have to do with whisky and blended Scotch,? Well, the British had really taken a shine to these lighter blended whiskys because they were forced to. Once the Cognac region of France or Jerez region of Spain could no longer supply an expanding empire its vises they had to look elsewhere. This would become a boom time for Scottish distillers. In fact our beloved Macallan did not bottle their own whisky until the 1970s’. Up until that time it was only for blends. The Gorgeous and delicate Glenlivet can not survive with out blended Scotches. In fact just about every single malt you enjoy is a blend. It is rare to find a single cask or barrel Scotch. A master blended working for a distillery will blend several barrels trying to reach a common style form year to year. Take the Dalmore 12 year for example. Richard Patterson (not to be confused with Roger Patterson of the old Bigfoot fame) needs to make sure that the Dalmore 12 year is always the same. He will take nuances of different proprietary barrels and blend them together. The youngest of these barrels that he uses can be no less than 12 years old. 64-Year-Old-Trinitas-002

Johnny Walker Black is one of the best selling whiskys in the world and it is a blend of whiskys. Each one being unique. Each one is terroir based and speaks of its water source, climate, specific barley selection, malting process, distillation technique, barrel cooperage and storage location. The grain whisky (corn and wheat in the continuous still) comprises about 50% of that bottle but there are roughly 40 to 50 other whiskys blended into the mix. Some of those distilleries are long gone and the last of the barrels have run dry. What to do? Follow your nose, it always knows. They figure out the nuances and subtleties of other whiskys and blend until they strike gold.

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What these Grocers back in the 1850’s realized was that the intense, heady richness of a Dalmore was not what the general population wanted or understood. This also made it possible for the every-man to enjoy a delicious and complex dram. You just take all the nuances of what you like and add in a bulk of good but less expensive ingredients and you’ve got butter… butterscotch

Applied Alchamy

I began playing around with my own “grocers blend” like Johnny Walker and John Dewar did back 100 years ago. It is a fun way to think of Scotch Whisky and shed off some of the silly stereo types I have given Blended Scotches. When I started making a blend of malt whiskys I thought that this could be a fun experience for other to partake in. On Tuesday the 17th of June I will be holding a blending class and challenge in Saloon. Each guest will get a pour of my house blend as well as samples of each of the five whiskys I used to create it.Awesome_1379965377179

As a group we will taste each, come up with a conclusion as to what each scotch is and then blend them until they come up to the closest pour of our “grocers blend.” Of course you can also just enjoy the whiskys and make your own creation but the dram that I feel is closest to mine will also get a prize and who after all doesn’t like prizes?

 

It Don’t Mean a Thing

When a Black Man’s Blue

On March 19th, 1935 at approximately 2:30 pm a young Puerta Rican man of color named  Lino Rivera walked into the Kress Five and Ten store on 125th st in Harlem and tried to steal a simple 10 cent penknife. Noticed by the store owner and manager a scuffle ensued. What happened next shook the city and ended a cultural institution. The police came to take the young Rivera away through a back exit as an ambulance arrived to inspect the store manager and shop owner for superficial wounds, but when it left empty the growing crowd grew suspicious. As misfortune would have it a hearse happened to pull up across the street at what one would deem the absolute wrong time. The people of Harlem feared the worst (and for the time with good reason).  The truth was that the hearse’s driver  was actually visiting his brother-in-law but these series of events were the final spark that would ignite the Harlem Race Riots. They also helped to set a stagnant stain on America’s perceived view of culture, diversity and race. It solidified an economic wall for the haves and the have nots and was the end to an American institution that launched careers for legends like Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Lena Horn and the suave leader of one of the greatest jazz ensembles of all time, Duke Ellington…  The Cotton Club

Police Officer Leading Injured Man

 Black and Tan Fantasy

During the turn of the 20th century the Brahman of old Harvard yard began to discuss what the great American music would be, and who would be our  Bach, Mozart or Paganini. At the time the assumption that this gift to the world’s stage that would inspire an organic growth in culture due to their godly talent would be one of their own. Not just by education but by birth right (which at the time would have been one in the same).

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Never in their wildest dreams would they have thought that names like Jelly Roll Morton and Bessy Smith would become the biggest names in American pop culture. Those names became the grandparents to rock and roll, funk, disco, R and B and hip hop.

At the time many of the premier clubs like the Cotton Club  were whites only establishments but the elaborate choreography and exotic numbers  by the all black performers were too much for people not to want to see.  When the the club began in 1920, boxer Jack Johnson opened it under the name Club Deluxe without much fan fare. It took a bootlegger turned mob boss to transform the softly spoken speakeasy into the screaming lion as these musicians roared their swan songs into the heart of the roaring 20’s. Owen Madden purchased the club while incarcerated at Sing Sing prison in 1923. Johnson remained as the house manager but by then the venue was mostly used to sell Madden’s beers and liquors to those who were clambering for more dancing, music and libations in a way that they had never seen before. In 1927 the club was looking for a new house band and a young, handsome man who was known simply as the Duke walked in and and changed music forever. It was quoted in the New Amsterdam News that “Ellington until recently now was a comer, today he has arrived. Watch his dust from now on.” 260px-Duke_Ellington_hat

I’m sure that the Harvard elite would have been happy to sit and excitedly watch the lovely Lena Horn dance to what was called Ellington’s “Jungle Music” and still wonder where our Mozart was, all while snapping their fingers and tapping their toes.

Creole Love Call

 On April 29th 1899, Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington D.C. to James Edward Ellington and Daisy Kennedy Ellington both accomplished pianist. At 7 he began to play the piano and was surrounded by what his mother considered “dignified” women to help him distinguish manners from barbarianism. He had an easy way about him. This along with his dapper, crisp appearance made people take notice of the young man. His friends soon called him Duke because of his noble air. At 15 he wrote his 1st peace, a fun and jumpy rag time number called “Soda Fountain Rag.”  At this point it was apparent that Duke was no ordinary child. He was already a serious musician and composer. In 1917 Duke’s Serenaders (his 1st band) played to a packed house at True Reformer’s Hall where he took home a whopping 75 cents and played dual roles as band leader and booking agent.

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He later moved to Harlem and was an intricate part of the Harlem Renaissance where the Charleston was all the rage and jazz legend Eubie Blake began African-American musical theater.  halmen

The 1920’s were an explosion of culture, art and music in Harlem. The music scene was extremely competitive and those who made it had to be at the top of their game. Duke was relentlessly hard working cutting 8 records in 1924. In 1925 he helped to compose songs for Chocolate Kiddies which was an all African-American revue that introduced European audiences to the sights and sounds of the black experience.

Echos of Harlem

When the now infamous Cotton Club had a house band opening, Duke was recommended for the job. His small 6 piece band had to grow to 11, as was the house rule, but it was obvious at the audition that no one else would be better suited for the job and began on December 4th 1927. The Cotton Club was a widely known speakeasy. Like most of the day, if you were “off the give” there was someone “on the take” as blind eyes turned eagerly to stare at the “Tall, Tan and Terrific” dance girls swinging their hips to the Dukes suave and effortless style of orchestration. The Cotton Club’s weekly radio show helped to bring curious whites from the safety of their neighborhoods into the Harlem nights seeking drink, music and sexuality. Duke was like a drug to them and they couldn’t get enough. In 1929 a short film called Black and Tan Fantasy” as filmed by RKO where Duke Ellington was set as the star of this all African-American cast.  black-and-tan-29-photo-1

It would seem by many that Duke Ellington had arrived and achieved what the Harvard elite would have thought impossible as famed Australian composer Percy Grainger had once said “The three greatest composers who ever lived are Bach, Delius and Duke Ellington.  Unfortunately Bach is dead, Delius is very ill but we are happy to have with us today The Duke.” In 1931, the Duke left the cotton club to broaden his musical focus, craft his style and technique and help many young writers like Billy Strayhorn compose jazz standards such as “Lets Take the A Train.” He was a musical genius and a savvy business man who developed a gratuitous and self-sufficient empire. What he created was not “jungle music” or just another form of jazz, swing, big band or bee bop but what he simply called American Music. This is the sound of our soul, or legacy and our culture. He was and is our Mozart

When the Harlem Race Riots erupted in 1935 the Cotton Club relocated to a safer midtown, but after the repeal of prohibition and without the life and color of Harlem the club lacked the vibe, flavor and passion that was one of the most well known, outspoken and culturally important movements this country had ever known.

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Jazz Cocktail

keeping in the tradition of Prohibition I wanted to concentrate on spirits that would available at the time so we stayed with gin and rum both named for Ellington songs.

Honey Suckle Rose

1 1/2 oz Aria Portland Dry Gin
3/4 Barenjager Honey Liqueur
3/4 lemon juice
3 dashes Peychauds bitters
Shake and double strain into a cocktail glass
garnish with a rosemary sprig that is draped with rose water (this will give the aromas of spring without an intense piney flavor that rosemary can add)

Creole Love Call

1 1/2 oz Barbancourt 8 year Rhum
3/4 dry vermouth
1/2 Ramos Pinto 10 year Tawny Port
1/4 Belle de Brillet
2 dashes Fee Bros. Aztec bitters and 1 dash Bittermans Hell Fire bitters
Stir and strain into a cocktail glass
garnish with orange oil and a cinnamon stick (this will change the aromatic as you drink)Awesome_1397758198978

Jubilee Stomp

During the height of prohibition and the allure of the speakeasy
two names stand above all else: Duke Ellington and the Cotton Club.
Join us in Saloon on April 29th for a  $45 three course dinner and pairing with
music, dancing and drink in celebration of the 115th birthday
of Jazz great Duke Ellington with the Lyle Brewer trio
as they play through some of the most iconic jazz selections
from a true jazz master.

The music starts at 7 and the drinks will flow until the well is dry.

 

 

Ommegang Brewery and HBO Bring Game of Thrones to Saloon

I Will Take What Is Mine with Fire and Blood.

Game of Thrones at SaloonWhen you are sipping one of their signature cocktails at the classic, cozy bar of Saloon Davis, your first association may not be the medieval fantasy Game of Thrones. But pre-prohibition has its own dark swagger, and it’s not as far off from the Seven Kingdoms as one may think.

Saloon Davis was the perfect venue for a Game of Thrones event, and it appears that Ommegang Brewery agreed. The Cooperstown, NY brewery approached Saloon about hosting a launch for their latest Game of Thrones inspired beer, Fire and Blood, to benefit the American Cancer Society, and Saloon was more than happy to oblige – opening its doors to hundreds of Game of Thrones fans Thursday, who came ready to celebrate the new beer and the new season of the HBO hit series.

Game of ThronesOn an average night, the dark leather booths of Saloon recall turn of the century pre-prohibition, yet they also provided the perfect place for one to sit in medieval costume and faux animal skins. In fact, the only more suitable place to sit on Thursday was the Iron Throne itself. And this was also a possibility. A replica Iron Throne was available for photo ops, where people mugged for the camera in full costume and business attire alike. It was the only East Coast launch event for Fire and Blood to feature this life-size replica, and Boston.com was even there to capture the action for their Spotted in Boston feature. The throne was impressive — so impressive in fact that it found a home in Foundry (Saloon’s sister restaurant one floor up) when it couldn’t be navigated down into Saloon.

Iron Throne Photo OpFire and Blood joins Ommegang’s previous Game of Thrones beers Iron Throne Blonde Ale and Take the Black Stout. It is a flavorful addition, a red ale with a color that perfectly suits its name. Fire and Blood is inspired by Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons, Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion, and each dragon gets its own unique label created by the series’ visual effects specialists.

And the Fire and Blood was surely flowing on Thursday, served up in souvenir custom Game of Thrones Fire and Blood glasses. Along with the beer, Saloon offered a signature cocktail – the Battle Axe. Saloon is known for their creative and tasty libations, and this simple specialty made with brandy, honey and lemon was no exception. But it was a beer event, after all, and so it was only fitting that Saloon work in the main attraction by creatively topping the cocktail with a GOT beer float.

Beverage Director Manny Gonzales was especially excited about the event. While he has yet to get into Game of Thrones, he appreciates the fandom. He has utmost respect for the costumed revelers, admitting that he never had the guts to take it that far.

Chris, Boston, MA

There was no shortage of costumes at the event, with outfits ranging from animal carcass headgear to medieval inspired dresses and armor. While many people had to create a costume especially for the event, Chris from Boston happened to have one ready to go. He is a medieval reenactor and wore part of his actual costume. But he is quick to add — the lion detail makes it a perfect Game of Thrones homage to House Lannister.

Alyssa, Holden, MA

Alyssa from Holden, MA also had her costume prior to Thursday’s event. She made it herself for a Game of Thrones event at King Richard’s Faire. A dedicated fan, she read the first book with the first season of the HBO series – but ended up finishing the rest of the books before the start of season two!

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The beer makes its nationwide debut on Monday, March 31st — right in time for the following Sunday’s season premiere.

Local Events Bring Together Friends (Old and New)!

SaloonOne of the things that sets Saloon apart – and there are many – is its welcoming hospitality and its connection to the community. Saloon prides itself as a local Pre-Prohibition style bar with a speakeasy vibe, a neighborhood watering hole where old friends can catch up and new friends can be made. It’s a warm, cozy hideaway – the perfect place to dip in for a drink to unwind after a long day, or to set up shop in a deep, comfortable booth and spend a relaxing evening giving your taste buds a workout.

Saloon’s connection to the local community can also be found in its personal and intimate tasting dinners. The events are spirit-based, with dishes that compliment the flavors of the spirits, whether it’s rum,  whiskey, or mezcal.

The events are kept small, often limited to 25 people, to maintain the intimate feel of a dinner party. Beverage Director Manny Gonzales enjoys these personal experiences, sharing that “there is something special about smaller events.” Held in a warm, inviting dark wood alcove off the bar, the space is conducive to meeting people, chatting with fellow diners, and making new acquaintances.  Manny reflects fondly on past events where previous strangers had met, broke the ice with cocktails and conversation, an ended up talking all night.

Lending itself to this friendly comfortable atmosphere is not only the location but, of course, the libations. Manny carefully chooses the spirits and nurtures long relationships with local companies.  He believes that the great reps who are passionate about their product make the drinks stand out and add a personal identity to each event.

This past summer, Saloon hosted a whiskey themed event in conjunction with Bully Boy Distillers. The founders of the local Boston-based distillery, Will and Dave Willis, were present for the four-course paired dinner and were happy to chat with guests about the product. It’s these personal touches that make Saloon events so special.

November saw a whiskey and pork dinner that featured rye-based cocktails made with WhistlePig rye. Reflecting on the event, Manny pulls a hand-blown glass bottle from a shelf above the bar, a reminder of the successful event. The particular bottle, he shares, is called “102 for the 802” – 102 being the proof and 802 being the area code of the Vermont distillery.  And this is just another one of the personal touches that make Saloon events one of a kind.

But, for Manny, the recent mezcal event was personal for a different reason.  The Mexican spirit is a favorite of Manny’s and one that has ties to his lineage. His mother is from Mexico, and so the flavors of the smoky spirit and tastes of the Mexican inspired menu relayed a personal connection that made the event particularly special.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend one of these unique events, stay tuned and be sure to check the calendar for updates. Whatever the spirit of choice, with Manny and chef Jonathan Schick planning the menu, you know you are in for a memorable and flavorsome evening.

The Second Call For Last Call

Saloon1“A friend showed me recently an unpublished letter of Henry Clay, written a hundred years ago. In this letter Clay said that the movement for temperance ‘has done great good and will continue to do more’ but ‘it will destroy itself whenever it resorts to coercion or mixes in the politics of the country.’ Franklin D. Roosevelt -August 27th 1932 Sea Girt, New Jersey

I think we all can agree the Prohibition was a complete and utter failure. It destroyed business and created a greater divide among the classes. It was also the catalyst for some of the worst criminals in our Nation’s history. How did it get to that point? Why did the Washington establishment, many of whom drank like fish allow this to happen. It was not as simple as a bunch of prudish do-gooders wielding axes and bibles or cowering politicians on the take. In the end the movement gained momentum because we drank too much, short and simple. Breweries and distillers were completely unregulated. Their fight to stop government from interfering in their profits or their demonetization of the opposing industry toppled their houses of proverbial cards in a drunken stumble. In short, they had it coming.

I think there needs to be some empathy for the Carrie Nations or Henry Clays of the world. The suffering of women, the poor and those who struggle with the drink were often ignored in the name of progress. Just another part of the collective myth that our greatness — or right for greatness — is a birth right, as long as you are born in the right place. We are told this when we are first told anything. In the end, we looked at those who could not control their reaction to alcohol as less than those who could or that it was simply not their fault at all, and by removing the bottle from them we shall solve any issue that lead them to drink in the first place. There are those who still believe that poverty, alcoholism, victims of sexism or a lack of education is a mark of character, not circumstance. So let’s step back for a minute and look at where the greater issues began.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the yada, yada, yada. Ok, maybe not that far back, although I’m sure the Aztecs did not remember the conquistadors after a night of drinking Jerez with much kindness.

To Anacreon in Heaven, where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition,
That he their inspirer and patron should be.
When this answer arrived from that jolly old Grecian:
Voice, fiddle and flute no longer be mute,
I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,
And besides I’ll instruct you like me to entwine
The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’ vine.

These are the words to a tune that Francis Scott Key used to write the “Star Spangled Banner.” It was in fact a famous drinking song. The tune was actually a very common one in London bars. The seeds of over indulgence were already planted in our most prized and renowned sense of being. The only problem was the amount it would be ingrained in our culture and our lack of understanding of the body’s chemical response.

As breweries became more established, taverns popped up all around the country in both large cities and small towns. But not like today. Imagine walking into a tavern with a long oak bar that serves only Bud, or Miller, or PBR. These bars were contracted out or downright owned by major brewers and in great numbers. In some communities there were taverns for every 150 people including children. These were not the posh cocktail bars you might find on E 23rd Street or even a cool subterranean hangout in Somerville, MA. Several of these bars were set up in poorer immigrant neighborhoods where people had little opportunity for the American dream. All they had was beer and whiskey. Some of these places were so dingy and dirty that they reeked of men relieving themselves right at the bar. That’s why those handy little foot rails are by your feet. Bars were so busy that if you had a place at the bar you stayed belly up at the bar. When nature called, you took take a drink, unzipped and order another round. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. Many had a stainless steel troth running along the floor of the bar with a faucet on one end and a drain on the other for just such occasions.

These places also lured people in with the promise of gambling, prostitutes and food — free food. Happy hour is born. The discontent for the immigrant fueled the temperance fire, but there were some good elements to having the ol’ watering hole. Different classes of men could mingle, talk, trade ideas, share a meal or a drink, and if the need arised, have a good old fashioned shoot out. Heck, Thomas Jefferson even wrote the Declaration of Independence at a tavern. But, in the end, the effects of drunken stoopers were too much for the poor women who had to bare the brunt, in many ways, of the good ol’ American bar. Drink responsibly was not in the vernacular.

By 1893 when the Anti-Saloon League formed (kind of like a boring, turn-of-the-century Justice League) the roots of the temperance movement were so widely spread that many states had already  adopted the prohibition model. It was really only a matter of time. What’s funny is that if these brewers and distillers self-regulated and worked together instead of pointing the blame at one another, or if Uncle Sam stepped in when children came home intoxicated (which was common in many communities), this unthinkable and silly solution could easily have been avoided. After all, once you tell someone what they can’t have, they will undoubtedly want it with a vengeance.

Saloon2By 1932, when FDR gave his speech calling for the end of prohibition, the temperance movement had all but fizzled out. As speakeasies grew in popularity, the amount that people drank also grew. But it had become more and more serious as people began drinking beverages that were potentially hazardous. Bathtub gin was the drink of choice. No sazeracs, old fashioneds or Champagne cocktails. This was the time of the sours. These were made to cover the awful flavors of chemically laced spirits.

Canadian whisky was king brown, bars had trap doors, loose floor boards and drop out bar tops. For the first time women who were not ladies of ill repute were allowed to cavort with men in the same bar. The water closet became common place (this was another prohibition first). This was the benefit of the Volstead Act, but raids and gang warfare became a reoccurring theme in 1920s America. When FDR was seeking the presidency the idea that the bible giveth and the bottle taketh away was losing steam. And although that mentality is still at times in our subconscious thought, it was plain to see by its supporters that this great plan for American piety was not working. But alas we live and learn… kinda.

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

Saloon3Because brandy would finally be accessible in 1933 I decided to have a go at one of my favorite spirits while writing my little rant here: brandy. Today it’s not fine Cognac, but but rather Spain’s great brandy Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva by Gonzalez-Byass. This is a brandy from Jerez, Spain; better known as sherry (the British bastardization of Jerez pronounced hair-eth). Lepanto is produced in la Frontera de Jerez on the southwestern coast of the country. In a previous blog post we discussed the simple process of brandy being distilled by grapes, so we need to go no further with the basics other than it is the Palomino grape used here, and as the name implies, it is the work horse of Jerez.

The brandy is aged in a system of barrels called solera. This is when you layer oak casks on top of one another. They are all connected and when the bottom batch is ready to be bottled the upper levels of spirit filter down unto the level below, then new batch is added to the top. This will always keep a constant flow of brandy present in barrel. No matter when you start your solera the first wine — or in this case brandy — will always be present in the casks. This will maintain a very steady style of brandy. Because it is aged for 12 years in used Jerez barrels, there is a rich nuttiness on the nose with notes of brown sugar, flan and caramel. The mouth feel is broad and well-structured. It is not the custom of brandy producers to have too much alcohol in the bottle, so the mellow 40 % leaves a creamy texture on the palate. The flan comes through on the mid palate with notes of butterscotch and soft nutmeg on the finish. It is warming without imposing any heat to the chest. It is complex and balanced, and the flavors linger on with a little bit of Mexican chocolate, vanilla and burnt orange peel.

Applied Alchemy

I was originally going to make a riff on the Sidecar as it would have been commonly consumed by prohibition’s repeal, but I opted, by the advice of a friend, to create an Old Fashioned instead. Because there is a subtle elegance in the glass, I wanted to have a relaxed cocktail, I also wanted to bring out some of the richer Jerez-oaked notes and play on the nuttier aromatics by using Fee Brothers Black Walnut bitters in conjunction with the brighter spice if Angostura orange

Saloon4Pedro’s Angel
Gently muddle one slice of Clementine and one Luxardo Maraschino cherry with 2 dashes of Fee Brothers  Black Walnut bitters and 2 dashes of Angostura Orange bitters

  • 2 oz Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva Jerez Brandy
  • 1/2 oz Gonzalez-Byass Nectar Pedro Ximenez Jerez
  • 1/4 oz Bigalett China-China

Add ice and stir and roll into a double rocks glass

Turning 21

Saloon5Thursday, December 5th  is the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. The 21st Amendment brought a lot of changes for much of the drinking culture in the United States. What we now call the Old Fashioned was given its fruit; the larger brewers who could afford to sell soda instead of beer were able to maintain an empire of watery, weak beer as smaller breweries waited in the shadows until the mid 1990s. The wine world lost a lot of footing and unless your name was Paul Mason or Gallo your “Boutique” label would have to wait its turn for the flavors of Reunite on ice to run its course. But with every slow evolution comes a strong revolution. We are now on the footsteps of great distillers, brewers and wine makers. Unlike the German brewer, Scottish distiller or French wine maker we have been given license to innovate. This is why some of the best distillers, brewers and wine makers throughout the old world have begun to see refuge in our colony of libations. Hopefully they are met with more kindness than their predecessors were 200 years ago.