Tag Archives: whiskey

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.

Saloon’s Manny Gonzales Talks Whiskey on WBUR’s “Here and Now”

SaloonSaloon Beverage Director Manny Gonzales stopped by the WBUR studios this afternoon to chat with award-winning journalist Jeremy Hobson on “Here and Now,” the acclaimed radio news show which airs on over 365 stations nationwide, as part of a segment on the American Whiskey Renaissance.

Manny was excited to share his thoughts on the emergence of craft distilleries and the future of whiskey by leading Hobson through a tasting of three whiskies, from different craft distillers around the country.

The first whiskey Manny presented was Dry Fly’s Washington Wheat Whiskey. Hobson notes the way that Manny handles the drink, tasting it as opposed to shooting it. Manny emphasized the importance of tasting, especially with a whiskey like the Dry Fly, which is “soft, delicate… a nice introduction to craft spirits.”

The second, St. George’s Single-Malt Whiskey, which is out of a craft distiller in California, is sweeter than the first, as noted by Hobson. The sweeter notes, Manny shares, are from the barley itself.

The third tasted was Prichard’s Double Barrel Bourbon based in Tennessee, a whiskey Manny praises as “one of the best on the market.”

When asked by Hobson if whiskey is one of those spirits which is better consumed in its raw form, without the additions of mixers or other elements, Manny muses that it often depends on what you are looking for in a drink, and also, which whiskey is at your disposal.  Some are better in a Manhattan or  margarita. Whiskey in a margarita?, you may ask, as Hobson did.  But whiskey is an adaptable spirit, as anyone who has experienced the creative and flavorful cocktails at Saloon can surely agree. The enthusiasm for the spirit experienced at Saloon — and felt by Manny himself —  is contagious. “A whiskerita,” he affirms, “why not?!”

Listen to the segment online.

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.