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the walnut of time

I started this blogpost way way back in August, when it seemed like Portland was in the middle of summer. It’s nice that this weekend I am finishing it, we are experiencing a sort of reminiscence of summer.

It is a bright Saturday morning in August and I am standing outside a small apartment building, waiting to pick-up some furniture from an ex-co-worker who is taking a job in another town. The street is flanked by two enormous walnut trees. The branches are laden with green fruits the size of medium-small limes. I crush one with my foot and notice that the shell and aril is crunchy, but it has not fully developed a seed and shell. The aroma from the crushed green walnut was spicy and slightly citrus. The clear yellowish ichor on the sidewalk quickly becomes a brown stain.

This reminds me that last year I had wanted to make nocino, but missed my chance. This year, I swore, I would do it.

Nocino is a traditional liqueur from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It is made by steeping green (completely unripe) walnuts in hard alcohol, with sugar and a few spices. Recipes vary as to what sort of alcohol to use. Grappa would probably be traditional, and recent interpretations call for vodka or Everclear. Some recipes call for wine to be used in addition to the alcohol.


quiet lately

I’ve been a little too busy lately with other projects to post. I have a wrap-up of this year’s Great American Distillers Festival to post, and a couple of drink recipes. But in the meantime, I figured instead of a verbose excuse for not posting, I’d show you all what I’ve been drinking lately (yes, I have been drinking lately).

BourBonCon 2008 wrap-up

In short: A grand time was had by all. No one got arrested, the house is still standing and all cars still had all their windows intact the next day.

We chose four bourbons to whet our whistles for the evening: Wild Turkey 101, Knob Creek, Elijah Craig & Evan Williams Single Barrel. These are unpretentious bourbon whiskies in the $20 – $30 price range for a fifth at any given liquor store and all very, very fine. In the end, tho, we collectively took on the challenge of that Kickin’ Chicken and destroyed it all that evening.

Wild Turkey 101 is my go-to bourbon – it’s what I ask for at a bar even if I know you’re picking up the tab. This dirty bird kicks back if you’re not careful but packs a huge wallop of flavor. It’s easy to find, relatively inexpensive and is simply delicious. I couldn’t agree more with our sadly departed Michael Jackson when he described it as, “A Clint Eastwood of whiskeys“.

Knob Creek is one year older than Wild Turkey, being aged nine before bottling, but is 1 proof fewer at a straight 100. I find it to be less complex and bold as Wild Turkey 101, but on its own right, it is quite tasty. This was our mixing bourbon of the night and it made some very, very fine mint juleps. Our own Iconotron was manning the muddling for the evening and he made up some drinks that did our most beloved of brown liquors a damn sight finer than most have done on their own. Tasters are less consistent on this bourbon, but I certainly can see the notes of rye in it, which I personally enjoy.

Elijah Craig is the old man of the group at twelve – but you will know where those years have gone when you drink it. This is very smooth and unassuming, and the flavor builds nicely. It makes a fine drink with just the addition of a few ice cubes. The lower alcohol content – only 94 proof – certainly adds to its smoothness. I won’t turn this down, but it is a little mild for my tongue and yet another bourbon that tends to polarize its tasters.

The last bottle opened that night turned out to be quite a surprise, the Evan Williams Single Barrel. I don’t recall the vintage, but it may have been circa 1996 and was well worth the wait. This was more complex than Knob Creek but smoother than Elijah Craig, a truly excellent balance of flavor and smoothness. Certainly seek out a bottle if you can find one, ours was well worth the $30 we spent on it.

The Gentlemen’s Auxillary of the North American Booze Council also enjoyed the afternoon, as we had a shaving swap meet for lots of double-edge razors, blades, aftershaves, soaps and other goods, but the real deal was the fine drinking that went on that evening. We introduced many to the delicious brown liquor in various forms – neat, with water, in a mint julep and my preferred preparation, over ice. One internet celebrity in attendance spoke of it later as saying, “I did not fully expound upon bourboncon, but it was a life-changing event… it was not long ago I had sworn off corn-based liquors forever, and now I feel very differently about the subject. [N]ow I’ve only sworn off crappy corn-based liquors.”

“My children, bourboncon is a place inside us all.” Enjoy bourbon frequently, friends. It is proof that “Bob” loves you and wants you to be happy.

In closing, we have met the brownest of the brown. And it is us.

Qi on the North Shore

Qi White and North Shore no.6

Misuba, a stalwart of the Bibation Analysis Laboratory here at the Prince of Cups and a good friend, was recently in California. He made a point to stop at Ledger’s Liquors1 during that trip, and procure a couple bottles. He brought back bottles of North Shore Distiller’s Gin no.6 and St.George Spirits Qi White, neither of which we had not been able to find in Oregon2.

The North Shore Distiller’s Gin no.6 is a wonderful juniper and spice and citrus gin that it quite amazing. I taste lime peel, juniper, and pepper in it, and I’m sure

The Qi White liqueur is a silky sweet orange liqueur. None of the cognac notes that Cointreau or Grand Marnier carry are evident in the Qi. There is a hint of earthiness from the tea, and I imagine the silky sensation to be from the tannins, but the white tea buds do not seem to contribute a major flavor.

A fine gin, a fine orange liqueur. What else to mix but a Pegu?

In a shaker, pour over cracked ice
◇ 1½oz North Shore Distiller’s Gin no.6,
◇ ½oz Qi White liqueur,
◇ ½oz lime juice, and add
◇ a dash of Angostura bitters.
Shake, and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a twist of lime peel.

The interaction of the North Shore and the Angostura bring the spice load of the gin to the fore. This is the heady vapor that one might imagine filled the nose of the spice speculator as he boarded a ship bearing his fortune docked in the harbor of Amsterdam. There is nothing held back in this, even the sweet citrus from the Qi and lime provide foundation for pepper and cubeb3. The cocktail is all notes sharpened, bright like the Chicago sound; it compels your attention.

1. Ledger’s Liquors is a great package store in Berkeley California. I generally make a point to stop there whenever I am in the East Bay and recommend it to everyone I know in that area.
2. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s rather byzantine administration of booze sales makes it difficult for retail to shelve many products. At least, in our observation, they do seem to make sure that Oregon-produced spirits are available for sale in the state, although whether this is due to some sort of expedience on their part or stubbornness on the distillery’s we cannot say.
3. And those seed peppers that are not genus Piper: cloves and grains of paradise and elaichi and galangal.

Just Ten Bottles

Over at Kaiser Penguin, Rick proposes the question What if you could only have 10 bottles of alcohol for the rest of your life? Obviously the bottles would be replenishable, but you could never have any other spirits or even brands of a particular spirit. What would you choose?

Before anyone states that this is another desert island contrivance and is in no way applicable to the real world, let me put forward my opinion that it is a fine excuse to consider how to stock the bar at the dascha or on the yacht (the moonbase has its own considerations) or as an outline of a contract rider.

  • Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 12 Bridges Gin (Integrity Spirits)
  • Krogstadt Aquavit
  • Blanton Bourbon
  • Carpano Antica
  • Luxardo Maraschino
  • Campari
  • Qi White
  • St George Spirits Absinthe Verte
  • Chartreuse VEP (green)

We shall assume an even supply of citrus fruits and sugar, and various teas and herbs to be used for steeping.

BourBonCon 2008

This this is real and is happening. And it’s happening at my house.

Updates have been sparse, but there’s been far more action behind the scenes. Namely, our very first BourBonCon held in the City of Chicago, County of Cook, State of Illinois in the foul year of Our Patron Saint 2008. This very weekend, 2008 August 15 – 17, many folks from all over the country are descending on my historic Chicago bungalow to enjoy drink, company and to find out who is the brownest of the brown.

Pictures, updates, drunk dialing will commence later.

Mixology Monday – August 2008 “Local Color”

Mixology Monday This month’s Mixology Monday (which happens to be the 30TH!) is hosted by Kevin of Save the Drinkers. The theme Kevin has called out this month is local flavor. As it turns out, this weekend I toured one of Portland’s several distilleries and then brought a favorite summer drink based on local produce to a friend’s party.

One that is Not Cold is Scarcely a One at All

a Red One - tinned, cool, and clammy, this is not one \"hot tomato\"

Mixology Monday – June 2008

Mixology Monday

Tonight’s Mixology Monday post will be fairly brief1.

This month, Mixology Monday is brought to us by the ne’er do wells at Scofflaw’s Den who have chosen BOURBON as the required ingredient. Bourbon is a great favorite here at the North American Booze Council2, and I hope that some of our other members will testify to its strengths later this week.

We’ve been rather busy here at the Prince of Cups, and Mixology Monday crept up on us. This evening I decided to call an emergency session of the Bibation Analysis Laboratory. Unfortunately, only one of the staff of the B*A*L* was available.

I selected a set of bottles to pull down from the cabinets and set about making a drink. It took three iterations4, but I present you with the

Marc Antony
Pour over ice
◇ 1½oz bourbon,
◇ ½oz Ramazzotti amaro
◇ ½oz falernum5, and
◇ ½oz orange juice.
Garnish with an orange twist.

The result is a cocktail of medium-brown hue, a bouquet of lime and exotics, and a fine balance of citrus, spice, and bourbon. It is slightly suggestive of a Lion’s Tail, and perhaps recalls a Bronx. But the spice load is completely different from either8.


how to ruin a bottle of framboise

A couple-three weeks ago, a Blair and I were at Teardrop Lounge here in Portland. Somehow he ended up with a whiskey sour that included a reduction of framboise or kriek. I’m not sure who the progenitor was: whether Blair called it out by ingredient or if David was inspired and put the combination together. But it was tasty, and the next time I was there I asked David for the same. We discovered a couple of things about the framboise or kriek reduction and a couple of things about bourbon.

I went home and reduced a bottle of Lindemans Framboise Lambic to one-third its volume (in a saucepan, over low heat, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan occassionally with a spatula, taking 30-40min). It becomes a thick liquid with a purple cast. It tastes very strongly of raspberries and is fairly sweet and tart. It is almost a syrup and probably would be fantastic drizzled over some of that vegan coconut cream icy-dessert stuff.

It took about a week of play before I felt that I had a formula down. This is a tasty drink, combining flowers and berries in the aroma and setting up the sweet and sour against the bourbon. The drink holds up to ice melt, which will be great as the summer warms up.

Whiskey-Framboise Sour
Build in the glass, over cracked ice, pouring
◇ 2oz bourbon,
◇ ½oz lemon juice,
◇ ¼oz framboise reduction, and
◇ ¼oz rich simple syrup.
Float a teaspoon of rosewater over the top.
Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Last Wednesday I entertained a couple friends at the Prince of Cups. One of the drinks I offered was this one. I used Buffalo Trace bourbon and Elizabethan Pantry rosewater.

Jamie Boudreau wrote a blog post (in September 2007) recommending a similar process on 3-5 various beers (including a pumpkin ale!). His procedure is to produce a syrup from the ale and additional sugar, then dilute that syrup with vodka to make a liqueur. He suggests letting the bottle sit open overnight to help blow-off dissolved CO2.