Archive for October, 2012


Mason Jar Bourbon

October 29, 2012


With the energy around small batch distillation impacted the likes of entrepreneurs and home enthusiasts to brand new magnitudes, the idea of small batch barrel aging has been all the rage. You can find a number of options online now offering small, ready to go barrels, allowing you to simply add un-aged whiskey and then wait patiently for the outcome. But I have been thinking more and more about how there has to be another way. Another way, that maybe isn’t as traditional, but takes advantage of the same principles of barrel aging and allows for a potentially quicker but definitely more adaptable approach.

The beauty of mason jar bourbon is that to some extent, I have no idea how this will turn out. Although in fact, this is very similar to the prospects that distillers face when starting a new aged spirit. I remember when we asked the guys at NY Distilling how they thought their then-aging Rye would turn out and as an answer, a chuckle was about all we needed.

But we can try and simplify the process a little bit. We know a few things for sure that have been working for centuries. Take for example the 53 gallon barrel that has become synonymous with aging. These barrels interact with the whiskey contents through the porous nature of the wood. Overtime, the wood exchanges, the whiskey extracts, and the flavors develop to be rich and complex. And although some variations do occur, this 53 gallon barrel tends to have one thing constant: the surface area to volume ratio (wood to whiskey).

Luckily for me, I love calculations. Translating the SA/V ratio for the barrel to a small mason jar was simple enough, but mason jars are of course made from glass, not from wood. So what about using oak chips? Turns out, American oak chips are readily available at most home-brew stores as many home-brewers use the chips for a similar purpose. To impart barrel aged flavor into their beer. Brilliant. Now we were in business.

Except for one major issue. Bourbon barrels are flame treated to bring out the wood based sugars for the perfect extraction. Enter my creme brulee torch. I knew this thing would come in handy for more than just burning sugar! So here we are, with some flame treated wood chips soaking in a mason jar full of moonshine. Now what? When will it be ready? How will I know? The answer to those questions are also admittedly straightforward. I have no clue. But I’m pretty damn excited to keep you posted!


And the mustard winner is…

October 26, 2012

Despite a valiant attempt by Nobler Mark Alu to continue his winning streak, it was simply not meant to be. Because after hours of algorithm data mashing and wild blogosphere forecasting of who would be the winner of the third Nobler giveaway, one name remained, carefully chosen by Microsoft excel’s RANDBETWEEN function. Congrats to Mike Mangone, you may now collect your mustard. I hope you’ve prepared your speech!

As for the rest of the Cow Thievery taking place these days, this weekend marks the unveiling of our new set of labels for the two delicious wheat beers we bottled just a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to tasting both now that they are fully carbonated!

For those of you dressing up like sexy pirates or styling like Gangnam for Halloween, I hope you have a great time and drink well. And by drink well, I mean hopefully you avoid the candy corn vodka. If you have better drinks in mind and are looking to continue the pumpkin beer theme but are getting a little sick of the typical offerings, here is a great post from Serious Drinks on a few unusual spins on this fall favorite.

Have a great weekend and congrats again to Mike!


Cigars and Whiskey

October 25, 2012

After what seemed like way to long of a hiatus, we came together last night for the 11th Nobler Gathering. For the previous ten installments, we’ve shared the experiences and insight that makes the world of liquor so fascinating to us all. We’ve covered bourbon, scotch, aquavit, the NYC distillery scene, and a whole lot more. But it occurred to me recently that we had missed out on an activity so connected to the enjoyment of aged liquors, so connected to the history of groups like ours, that it was about time we lit up some stogies.

Let me take a quick second to say how fantastic Velvet Cigar Lounge is. I am by no means an expert on the matter, but by reserving the bar area in advance, we were treated to a cigar of our choice, a little knowledge from our host Maegan, and our favorite feature, a BYO policy that jives pretty nicely with the Nobler. It’s a great spot; comfortable and intimate and I’m pretty sure the group will be back soon!

But back to the heart of the matter: For most of us, cigar smoking is not in our wheelhouse. Admittedly, I’ve have had no more than 15 cigars in my lifetime but never like last night; the way it now seems so obvious, a cigar is truly intended to be appreciated. As we sat around the bar and chatted, we puffed away slowly, trading drags for sips of our J&B scotch, a choice we made with a bit of nostalgia.

As we stood in the liquor store, looking to grab a bottle of something special, we saw the J&B and commented on how we had all seen it in the liquor cabinets of our fathers and grandfathers alike. It seemed like the perfect choice. As a simple blended scotch, it was a nice baseline for the cigar to work off of and the swirling smoke added to the whiskey aroma making a damn good pairing. Another successful gathering!





Nobler Giveaway #3: Saison Mustard!

October 24, 2012

For the latest Nobler Giveaway, I’ve created my best batch of Cow Thieves mustard to date. Of course being ranked 1 of 2, isn’t all that impressive but this Saison Beer Mustard will probably remain one of my favorites for many batches to come. Our crisp Saison style ale balances with the apple cider vinegar and coarse mustard seeds as if these three were destined for the perfect mustard relations. (Mustard relations?)

But in all honestly, for a simple re-post, like, or comment, you’d be foolish not to get in on this little competition! This mustard is damn delicious.

Also, an important reminder that the Night Cap tickets are available here, and we’re starting to reach the home stretch. Only 11 tickets left for sale and after reviewing the tasting list with the guys this morning, you are not going to want to miss this. Let’s just say you all are in for a special night! So give in to your FOMO and get your ticket now, before they are all gone…


Need Help, In a Wine Bind

October 23, 2012

I may often paint my fellow Noblers as booze-fiending, loyal followers of the experiment but…Well that’s true. However, some of them can write…

A ton of us have been in this scenario before: we’re on our way to a friend’s house for dinner and we forgot to pick up a bottle of wine beforehand from our go-to store.  We pop into the closest place we can find that is selling wine and we’re at a loss of what to buy.  While there is a ton of amazing wine out there, there’s also a lot of plonk, and if you too have been in this situation before, you’ve probably found yourself wondering if the hosts would be ok with you bringing a nice six-pack of craft beer instead of risking a bad bottle. DON’T DESPAIR! If you follow these five scenarios, you’ll make it out just fine, with good bottle of wine in hand:

Scenario 1:  As my friend Keith Beavers, of Alphabet City Wine Company, always says: trust the wine merchant.  If you’ve happened upon a true wine shop and you didn’t have to pop into a corner liquor store or a big box spot like Kroger, there is a good possibility that the guy or gal behind the counter has tasted the majority of the wine they are selling.  Don’t be afraid to go right up to them, tell them what type of wine you like and what you are willing to spend and let them recommend a bottle.  They want to make sure you’re happy, so don’t be intimidated, just ask.
Scenario 2:  So you aren’t in a wine shop and the guy behind the counter seems more well-versed in wines like Boons Farm than Merlot’s from California’s central coast. What do do? First take a quick survey of the store and see if they have anything from the Languedoc region of France.  The guy behind the counter probably won’t know what you are talking about, so you’ll have to check the labels, but Keith taught me a long time ago that the most consistent affordable wine comes from this region of France, so you’re safe with a bottle from here.  This trick goes for wine lists too!
Scenario 3:  Shit, you looked at the back of the labels, talked to the stock boy/girl and still no luck.  At this point you just want to grab a red and get out of there.  One of the most crowd pleasing reds is Malbec, so see if you can’t find one from Argentina.  One winery I particularly like is Punto Final. If you can find it, grab it.
Scenario 4:  You hate red.  So, grab a white Bordeaux.  It’s crisp, clean and you can generally find a really nice one for under 20 bucks.  It’s a reliable go-to, especially nice if you know your hosts aren’t red drinkers.
Scenario 5:  You found a store that doesn’t sell wine at all!  In this case, a nice IPA always does the trick! 

Milla: A Chamomile Liqueur

October 22, 2012

Friday night, out in Sea Cliff, I had the opportunity to try one of the more interesting wines ever produced. How many glasses of wine have you ever seen poured from a Grolsch bottle? I’m guessing not many…

In all seriousness, Em’s dad Larry, and my partner in Cow Thievery, brought out some of his own, 20-year-old wine and it was surprisingly good. I say surprisingly, because the grapes came from their arbor, they were smashed by Em and her friend Nikki’s childhood feet, and somehow lived to tell about it two decades later. Pretty darn cool!

But none of that could have prepared me for what I got to taste on Saturday night…

This bottle of Milla, a chamomile infused grappa is quite possibly the most insanely delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. Paolo Marolo started his distillery in 1977 with an eye towards crafting a trans-formative grappa. Grappa is made by distilling the pomace, or the leftover bits from the wine fermentation process. The skins, the seeds, the pulp and the stems all end up contributing, making the quality of the grapes a major factor; so it certainly isn’t a coincidence they set up shop in Piedmont. But Marolo’s real breakthrough is rooted in something near and dear to my heart. By infusing herbs into his Grappa he manages to create a truly unique offering that is somehow familiar and exotic all in the same.

This Milla is created through an 11 month chamomile steep. The fully ripened and dried leaves have plenty of time to impart their comforting flavor notes and the outcome is spot on. You can’t help but relax as you sip away on this amazing example of thoughtful production. You should get a bottle of this stuff immediately.


The Cabral

October 19, 2012

Part of the reason I love making cocktails is that the ability you gain from experience is exponential. Just like I used to rant on about on the food blog, once you discover that a quality dish or drink requires a certain balance of flavors the list of ingredients available for your experiments expands tremendously.

The Cabral, named after the Portuguese Noble(r)man whom discovered the land of Brazil where the key ingredients in this cocktail originate from, is a perfect example of this learned balance. A while ago I posted about a classic recipe for the perfect margarita. 2 oz tequila, 1 oz orange liqueur, and the juice of half a lime. Over some crushed ice, this recipe makes you wonder why you’d ever purchase a pre-mix again. So when I first got my hands on this new macerated Acai liqueur (Cedilla) from the Leblon team, it was my natural inclination to start off with something simple, something just like that margarita recipe.

In this case the combination of cachaça with the acai liqueur is another success story. Not surprisingly as Leblon is producing both products but the balance between sweet, crisp, and acidity in this cocktail makes it refreshing and delicious. Plus the color is dynamite. The point is, sometimes it’s hard to break away from the standard purchases at the liquor store, but recipes like this showcase why it’s worth trying new things. After you’ve had one or four of these, you won’t be disappointed to have cachaça and Cedilla in your cocktail toolbox.

Enjoy the weekend and don’t forget to grab your ticket to the Night Cap NYC!

The Cabral

2 oz Leblon Cachaça

1 oz Cedilla

Juice of half a lime

Lime for garnish

In a cocktail shaker full of ice mix the first three ingredients until well combined. Strain over some crushed ice and garnish with the lime slice. Can’t be more simple than that!


Tickets on Sale for The Night Cap NYC!

October 18, 2012

I am so pumped to share with you all the news of our newest endeavor, The Night Cap: Liquor, Wine, and Beer tasting series. In collaboration with Nobler Adam, and Keith Beavers from the Alphabet City Wine Co. we have created a late night event series that will be unlike your typical tasting experience. For us, it’s truly about curiosity. We simply enjoy the discovery, the interpretation, and the invention that comes with pursuing great alcohol. And now we get to share this all with you!

Tickets are available for the first Night Cap to be held at 12:30 AM, Sunday 11/4. This of course is actually Saturday night, in case there was any confusion. There is a limited number of tickets so make sure you buy yours soon!

Click here for your tickets!

I hope you will be able to join us for what will be a truly special night. But just in case you are unable to make it this time, send us an email at or leave a comment on this posting to be added to our mailing list. In addition, don’t forget to follow us at @NightCapNYC for updates and musings.

Special thanks to Adam and Keith for all the hard work in turning our inspired idea into reality!



Cow Thieves Quality and Efficiency

October 17, 2012

This past Sunday was bottling day and damn am I excited for our wheat beers. With the help of the priming sugar, the beer will carbonate in the bottle and barring any blow outs (we’ve only had a few to date), we should have another solid haul of 100 beers to enjoy. Bottling day has always been one of my favorite parts of the process; besides the excitement from filling and capping, the taste testing component to filling has become somewhat of a tradition. A glug straight from the bucket is the Cow Thieves way…

And this time around I really couldn’t believe how delicious the un-carbonated beer was. I ended up drinking a whole glass of our lemongrass wheat varietal with my lunch. So if we passed the room temperature, un-carbonated taste test, I think we are in good shape for the final product!

Also kind of exciting is how efficient we are becoming. It may sound silly, but this time around we were almost completely mess free. The only mix-ups occurred when I chose to talk instead of paying attention (I probably had too much coffee) and when I started raving about our new-found speed. (Never over promise!) But you can’t blame me for being excited that our timed capping speed has made it to 12 bottles/min. We have a long way to go to meet some industrial processes running 1200/min but we’re taking baby steps. After all, I was the guy who accidentally drank bleach during our batching production…

In other news, I’m finally making another batch of Cow Thieves Mustard. Check back in late this week or next for a chance to win one in the next Nobler giveaway!


Grapes, Bacteria, and Cans Making Craft Beer Sore

October 16, 2012

The world of fermentation has always been flooded with traditionalists. Year after year, production of historically accurate beer, wine, and liquor is continued and to great success. From a quality and marketing perspective, consumers do enjoy tradition. But like in any long existing industry, technology and innovation find their way in, leading the trend setters into new, uncharted territory.

To round out the little alcohol industry series on the Nobler, I decided to focus today’s post on beer. We’ve seen how the distillation legislation has changed the game for liquor, and how US wine consumption is off the charts but there may be no more obvious expansion and growth, than in the US beer market.

Craft beer has all but taken over the previously popularized term, microbrew, but no matter how you call it, you can’t help but be pumped about what’s on the market today. To think, that I can walk down the block to my local grocery store and find Saison style ales next to the six pack of Bud Light Lime, sort of says it all. Even European consumers have taken note, now demanding US craft beer overseas. One of my favorite trend-setters these days is the Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine. Their specialty beers are thoughtful and delicious, like this pair of wine inspired beers the Victoria and Victor. Allagash mashes in Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc grapes respectively and ferments directly with the barley grain. The result is mind-blowing.

But the innovation in beer isn’t just in style and quality. As more and more beer production has been generated via this craft beer demand, the waste streams have become near unmanageable. The leftover mash/water mix is pretty terrible for the environment and folks in the industry have been looking for solutions for years. Well over the last half a decade or so, breweries have looked to yet another microorganism to help them in their processes. This time asking help from anaerobic bacteria instead of the yeast they rely on for fermentation.

These little guys digest the mash purifying the waste to some degree but maybe more interestingly, create methane gas and CO2 in the process. These byproducts can be harnessed for energy and in some cases, like the Saranac Brewery in Utica, NY it is expected that this process could replace  up to 40% of the current energy utilized. In this example, the beer may not taste any different, but the focus on the future is what makes the US craft beer market so fascinating!

But for the Oskar Blues Brewery it was actually a bit of the past they took advantage of. Because for years, canned beer had a stigma. And that stigma did not fly with craft beer. But for increased efficiency in distribution and storage and a serious dip in costs, cans were the way to go for founder, Dale Katechis. And the decision was obviously wise. Many other brewers have jumped on the bandwagon and now it’s just as easy to find your new favorite in a can as you would in a bottle. By reducing the packaging costs, Dale also managed to lower the hurdle of pricing for his consumers. Making craft beer just a bit more access-able, has simply opened the flood gates.

Starting to make sense why this part of our economy is expanded in spite of all the other BS out there, isn’t it. And what perfect timing to mention BS. Tonight’s the next debate!

Hope you all enjoyed the little mini-series!

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