Category Archives: WhistlePig

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.

Part One: An Inebriated Truth

IMG_1868Nobody really knows history, the true reasons or methodology of anything. It’s all about the story, the romantic notion that what we live through, taste and love is solely there to create a deeper connection within the world we live. Religion has made a career of this in the way that it has built a society of greater truths and history through which it tries to bind us together or sometimes separate us.

Why am I babbling on like this? Perhaps it’s the open bottle of rye next to me, or the thought that all history is a bit cloudy. That even modern history is much like beauty being in the eye of the beholder; it is in the voice of the speaker and the ears of the listener. In short we take what we are capable of taking from history and give back only what we are willing.

That brings me to this blog and whiskey. This has become one of the most sought after beverages in the last 3 to 5 years. But the modern push for golden power has deep roots in our being. It has caused wars, toppled governments, tamed the heathens and given birth to organized crime as we know it today. It has bank-rolled politicians, divided families and created art. Whether it was the beer drunk by the ancients or the distilled spirits used to tempt the curious Irish into Christianity, which they in turn used to convert the Scots, we are all just looking for a better time, a better understanding of our nature and many times we use this to hide from it.

Whiskey, the child of distilled beer, is an ancient word in and of itself – – or at least its meaning is. The original word for whiskey is Agua Vitae or water of vitality (much like the French “eau de vie”). This is an old Latin word but the process predates the ancient Egyptians who used distillation to create essential oils for religious ceremony.

Greek Alchemists had made massive improvements to this process and created the first stills as we know them today over 2000 years ago to help speed warring Europeans along their bloodthirsty path. As they were embroiled in fighting the crusades, it was actually the Arabs who began perfecting the art to produce its perfumes. Then during the Renaissance in an effort to combat the plague the Dutch began distilling wine to create what they called Brandeweijn or “Burnt Wine”, which later became brandy. Over the centuries the produce changed to suit the needs of the consumer.

So now back to Whiskey. Roughly 600 years ago Spanish monks brought with them brandy to help convert the Irish to Catholicism. It was an instant hit. In no time Aqua Vitae became locally known as uisce beatha (pronounced ishka beyha) or water of life. This later became… (drum roll please)… WHISKEY Because grapes were not easily grown in such a cold climate the monks who set out to convert the heathen Gaelic culture quickly turned to distilling beer. Doubtless, this process helped to convince the Celts that Christianity must truly be a great religion if its priests could create such a fine beverage. It didn’t take long before the Irish monks would do the same for the Scots. Maybe there is a reason for the obligatory shot of Jameson on St Patty’s day.

Much later when the colonies were founded it was actually rum and apple brandy that were first made into spirits. You may ask, why did we drink so much? Alcohol was the safest thing to drink; actual drinking water was the luxury. It did not take long for tilled grains to be consumed for inebriation. Rye was really the main grain used to make whiskey this side of the pond.  Later as we settled the southern states where the climate was warmer and corn more readily available the ever resourceful entrepreneurs began producing what is now known as Bourbon. Even George Washington distilled rye, so no matter what the moral majority may think, it is in our heritage.

Part Two: Whats in a Name?

So what’s in my glass right now? Right now I am sipping WhistlePig Straight Rye. This has become one of the hottest whiskies on the market. It was pictured in GQ magazine back in April right next to a little blurb about Saloon featured as one of the top 10 whiskey bars in the country. Not bad for our little Mickey Mouse operation. Raj Peter Bahkta (former Apprentice star and Pennsylvania politician) teamed up with Dave Pickerell (former master distiller of Maker’s Mark) to create an extremely well balanced and complex whiskey. The rye comes through with such a spicy elegance. The woodier notes (aged for 10 yrs used Bourbon Barrels) are present but soft.The grain offers up a drier aromatic. There are notes of fresh cut grass, granny smith apples and orange peel. You can pick up some of the broader bourbon like structure aromatically from David’s corn-based history but the spice is all rye. Actually 100%.

imageAnd why WhistlePig? Well, here’s a paraphrase. A whistle-pig is really another name for a ground-hog. One day Raj was hiking through the Rockies when a nutty Frenchman was screaming “LOOK! It’s a whistle pig. Do you see him? A whistle pig!” Now I can’t remember the story word for word but as I mentioned earlier, is it really important?

Part Three: Applied Alchemy

Islamic_Tradition_of_Chemistry-5Thinking in terms of a cocktail it is vital to understand how to blend based on the flavor profile of the selected spirit. Although Sour-based drinks always sell and I am convinced that most tequila lovers really prefer orange and lime to the true flavor of agave, a spirit like this should be the focus. It should be the subtle cocoa nib elegance of rye, the cinnamon spice and the dry finish that shines through. More and more bartenders love to use rye rather then its more popular cousin Bourbon because of its drier notes. Because it is unmistakable, whereas bourbon — which, don’t get me wrong, can make a fantastic cocktail — tends to overpower with sweetness and viscosity rather than dance with the drink.

It is hard to improve on the Sazerac, or Manhattan; these are perfect cocktails, but this is one of my favorite WhistlePig cocktails.

 The Mortimer

 1 1/2 oz of WhistlePig Rye

3/4 of an oz of cardamaro (wine based amaro from Piemonte Italy)

1/2 oz of Gran Classico (a softer, sweeter version of Campari with less of the intensely bitter bite and a very subtle rosemary note)

2 dashes of Bitter Truth “Jerry Thomas” bitters

This is placed into a bar glass with ice, stirred and strained into a single rocks glass served up and finished with a swath of lemon.

Just a point on the name; Mortimer is the partner in crime to Mauve, the two pigs who have taken residence at WhislePig farm in Shoreham Vermont.Awesome_1384403805391

Last night we held a “Pigs on Plates’ tail to snout dinner featuring a hand reared, free range organic pig from the WhistlePig farm. Chef Jonathan and bar manager Derek McCluster and bar goddess Tracy Witkin came up with some fantastic pairings featuring both the WhistlePig rye and the WhistlePig pig. It was a great night and I would like to thank everyone involved, those that attended and of course those that worked it.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mortimer and Mauve were not in attendance.