Archive for November, 2011

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Happy Thanksgiving from the Nobler Experiment

November 24, 2011

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When it Rains, We Pour

November 23, 2011

Last night we gathered for the second time to enjoy one of the American classics. Rye as I have mentioned previously is in the midst of quite the revival having been widely forgotten after prohibition. And the Noblers are happy to do their part…

We started the night off with a true Old Fashioned. While most bars use bourbon for this iconic cocktail, Rye is said to be more original. Either way, the Old Fashioned is a perfectly balanced drink. We followed up with a simple and pure whiskey sour, relying on fresh lemon for the tangy punch. But the highlight for me was a few fingers of Bulleit’s Straight Rye. As we all agreed, this is not a whiskey for the tame…

And because I can’t help myself from putting together a little food for the Noblers, we had a few batches of these “reuben nachos”. Rye toast topped with corned beef, sauerkraut and a homemade pickle russian dressing smothered in shredded gruyere was not only a nice nod to the liquor of the evening, but damn delicious as well.

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Thanksgiving Dessert

November 22, 2011

I don’t know about you, but after all that Thanksgiving food, all I’ll need is a glass of bourbon. But just in case your family gives you a hard time, slice an apple ring for the perfect flavor infusion. Who needs pie anyway?

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One of the Brews Brothers…

November 21, 2011

A few weeks back I posted about my growing desire to brew my own beer. Not so much so that I could become some great brew master, but more because I was curious as hell to see how the process went. Well, after brewing 5 gallons each of American Pale Ale and an Indian Pale Ale yesterday, I can truly say, it’s pretty damn awesome.

These brew kits make the process incredibly straight forward. If you follow the instructions, you should end up with a decent product in the end. That being said, much like folks describe baking, there isn’t much room for error. Time and temperature seem to be the two most important factors which is why I’d say it’s definitely at least a two man job. My partner in crime yesterday, Larry Gordon, had brewed his own beer a few years back which made all the difference in getting it done without any major issues (we think). We now have close to 120 bottles worth of beer fermenting away to be bottled and to be potentially even ready for Christmas.

I’m pumped to see how they turn out and share our brews with everyone…bottling and labels to come next!

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A Little Introspection

November 18, 2011

Late in college, a good friend and I went through a single malt scotch phase. This may sound odd to some, as most college liquor phases include cheap vodka and a porcelain bowl, but for us, the single malt represented something more. We both pretended we were worthy of evaluating the nuance of the Scottish distillations. The peaty varietals from the Islay. The more rounded offerings from the Highlands. But at the core it was about remembering those iconic bottles our Dads would pour out of at the end of a long day. It was a symbol of maturation.

Truth be told, I kind of hate the stuff…

Okay, hate maybe a strong word. But I can’t say single malt is on the top of my list these days. Don’t get me wrong. It has its place. And every whiskey lover should probably have a bottle. But it’s an aggressive liquor. Yes, the best and most popular are smooth and complex, but still aggressive nonetheless.

So why the ramble? Last night I was cooking up a beef tenderloin and a potato gratin for my client’s dinner party and there it was. That bottle of 12 year old Macallan. The same bottle that I linked to my so-called maturity. It made me laugh.  Maybe some day, I’ll be a single malt guy. But for now, I’m pretty happy with my bourbon…

Despite my personal feelings, I will say that single malt has a pretty cool story. The name “single malt scotch” implies two key characteristics. First, and my favorite of all the whiskey regulations…call it a scotch and it must be made in Scotland. Love that rule! Secondly, single malt implies that the product was made from only one grain, malted barley, and only one distillery. This is why there is so much to argue about. Single distilleries located in distinct parts of Scotland create true one of a kind flavor profiles. It’s on my short list to take a trip to Scotland to check out the madness!

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Gift Guide for the Whiskey Lover

November 16, 2011

It may not be Thanksgiving yet, but it is never too early to begin thinking about gift giving. And for the whiskey lover in your life, it always helps to have a few unique items on the list…

I spoke a bit on Monday about the proper glassware for cocktails. Maybe more so than others, I’ve become a big believer in the significance of the glass I drink from. Many blogs will tell you the most proper whiskey glass is the Glencairn, but I think there is more to the story than just proper drinkability. You can find some pretty interesting stuff at thrift stores and even online. The point here is, the glass is almost as important as the whiskey itself. It should be personal. No pressure…

As for other ideas, Jim Murray’s annual Whiskey Bible is supposed to be pretty fantastic. I’ll admit I have never read through one, but the reviews and online chatter suggest that this is a must own for any whiskey fanatic. One of my favorite parts of the bible is how compact it is. While it’s great to get large coffee table (or in our case, liquor table) books, they tend to get one or two pass throughs. This almost pocket-sized guide feels like it would be referenced quite a bit. Maybe if I was good, I’ll find this sucker in my stocking this year…

“But what about the booze?”, you’re probably asking? Well that’s easy…

To me, there isn’t a better bottle for the money right now than the Bulleit Bourbon or Rye. But I have to slightly disagree with Refinery29’s ultimate gift guide …. while the Bourbon is amazing, I believe the Rye is the better Holiday gift. As I’ve mentioned previously, Rye is a classic american whiskey and is making a serious comeback in ways of popularity. But either way you can’t go wrong; I just love the looks of those bottles. This one definitely won’t end up tucked away in the liquor cabinet!

For a little more indulgence, the Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey is the real deal. A founding member of the Nobler received this as a gift a few years back and we (of course I found a way to have some) nursed that bottle to the last drop. I haven’t talked much about Irish Whiskey’s on the Nobler to date, but that’s not because I don’t love them. And trust me, this isn’t your standard bottle of Jameson.

This list is by no means exhaustive but its a damn good pre-turkey start…more to come soon…

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An Open Letter

November 14, 2011

A cocktail is nothing without the proper vessel…

In an age where innovation and re-invention pummel our social standards, glassware has remained classic. A martini glass is and always will be. And you wouldn’t dare to drink a single malt out of a high ball. Yet, a terrifying trend has been ripping through the NYC bar scene. Strong, complex and enticing cocktails are being served in dainty and soft “champagne coupes”.

There are two fundamental issues at work here. One: more can be said about a person through their choice in drink than in their political persuasions. Are you a Jameson man or a Jäger dude? Do you love to be seen rocking a PBR tall boy or are you the most interesting man in the world? Regardless of your decisions and despite their natural or intended reactions, we are what we drink. Which is why the last thing my bourbon laced cocktail should be held by is a friggin’ coupe. In fact, no liquor deserves such treatment. 

Issue number two is a bit more straightforward. I will never be a person that complains about a high-priced, well executed cocktail. Presumably, the $14 price tag comes with a decor and experience that warrants such a payment. But even I have my limits. A coupe is capable of providing a mere 5 oz when topped to the brim. When those 5 oz are champagne for a special toast, no problem. But when those 5 oz are my $14 cocktail…we’ve got issues. Some may argue that a strong and balanced drink needs no more than a few oz for enjoyment. I am not one of them. But for the sake of argument, do those 5 oz really deserve to be crammed to the very top of the glass only to be sloshed overboard by inevitability.

So to all of you bars and bartenders thrilled with your coupes, consider this your warning. I’ve just started a coup against your coupes!

 

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Extractions

November 10, 2011

The idea of flavored liquor often brings back memories of a gag-reflex induced by a cherry vodka shot or  even worse, the cloying sweetness of a mango rum cocktail. Luckily those vivid memories have been efficiently replaced over the last few years with infusions…

“Infused” liquors to be enjoyed on their own or mixed in cocktails are not a recent phenomenon. Throughout history, extracting the flavors of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices in alcohol was commonplace. Some of the most popular spirits continue to be made in this way. However, the “home” or “small batch” infusion process that has begun to re-invigorate this practice in bars and gatherings around the world has made for some pretty exciting stuff (I don’t think ancient civilizations were sipping on pork infused liquors…)

But while infusion sounds really cool, this process should really be dubbed what it is…an extraction. As discussed before at the nobler, flavor components are made of small molecules. Take this tomato and black pepper vodka I made last year for my version of a straight up bloody mary. The flavor molecules from the ingredients are literally extracted by the alcohol. This same concept is used for all sorts of extraction methods because of how “easily” molecules dissolve in alcohols. For this reason, when purity matters, it’s a perfect process for an infinite number of creative opportunities.

Honestly, this is a no brainer to start trying at home. Use anything you like (fruits tend to impart the quickest and most obvious flavoring) and I promise you, you will never buy a flavored vodka again.

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Rosemary’s Gin

November 7, 2011

Gin is a polarizing spirit.

Originally developed for medicinal purposes, Gin garners its prominent flavor from juniper berries which is where the divide begins. To some, the woodsy taste and aroma of a gin cocktail is enough to persuade towards the more neutral vodka. But then there are those that swear by the stuff. Ask a true martini drinker if he prefers Vodka or Gin, and he’ll respond with only “I said a martini, didn’t I?”. Yet, despite being myself a gin fan, I get the other side of the argument. I think my rosemary lemon gin fizz can act as the mediator…

This gin cocktail acts by balancing the bold juniper with the brightness of the lemon and the aromatics of the rosemary. The key is in the creation of the rosemary simple syrup before hand so that there is just enough rosemary and just enough sweetness. This simple syrup method is perfect for extracting flavors. You could use other herbs, citrus peels, or even whole spices to infuse future cocktails. The rosemary version is a great starting place:

Rosemary’s Gin:

2 oz gin

3 oz rosemary simple syrup

1 oz lemon juice

1 dash of lemon bitters

splash of seltzer

In a cocktail shaker mix the first three ingredients until well combined. Pour over ice, add the last two ingredients and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Rosemary Simply Syrup:

4 cups water

2 cups sugar

6 rosemary sprigs

In a sauce pan bring the three ingredients to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes on med/low heat. Turn the heat off and let sit for 30 minutes. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Many recipes call for equal sugar and water but I prefer to have a more dilute version to control the sweetness.

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The Wednesday

November 4, 2011

As it’s nickname would suggest, Wednesday signifies that the hard part is over or more importantly that it’s all down hill from there…

This notion clearly impacted my most recent cocktail. For starters, my typical rapid fire brain storm of ideas was a bit sluggish. As if I had a few impaired synapses, a great multilayered drink was not to be. However, as I stumbled into the liquor cabinet my bottle of lemon bitters caught my eye. And it just so happened to be resting up against some Bulleit…

With an orange wedge and a dash of lemon bitters as the ice slowly melted into the bourbon, this drink truly was perfect for a Wednesday; all down hill from there…

So what’s with bitters? Growing up I became aware of the famous Angostura Bitters because actually its great for digestion. But bitters, or herbal essence infused alcohols are making a huge dent in the cocktail world these days. Celery bitters, lemon bitters, and the more standard aromatic bitters are readily available and are perfect for imparting a subtlety to mixed drinks. The slight bitterness helps balance sweetness and acidity. Now, it’s easy to go overboard with bitters and regret it rather quickly but only you can tell how much of the stuff you like. Either way, go pick up a bottle or two and start practicing..its just one more excuse for a drink!

The Wednesday:

3 oz bourbon (I prefer Bulleit)

1 large orange wedge

1 dash of lemon bitters

Pour bourbon over ice in a rocks glass. Add a dash of bitters and a squeeze of the orange wedge. Simple as that!

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