Archive for February, 2013


Monkey See, Monkey Drink

February 26, 2013


I like science. I like alcohol. So when the two of them come together for a pretty interesting insight, I’m all ears. Which is why I found this brief ScienceNews article so fascinating. The basic premise: the ability to metabolize alcohol, allowing us all to imbibe and delight in modern day spirits, may have stemmed from an evolutionary shift in primate behavior and a concurrent enzyme activity optimization.

Essentially, as primates shifted towards spending the majority of their lives on the ground, fallen, damaged fruit having been exposed to natural yeast and having gone through some fermentation became a typical source for consumption. The evolutionary theory suggests that those primates that developed the ability to metabolize the ethanol present in those damaged fruits, would have had a “leg-up” on survival.

As the article suggests, these studies are only the beginning of understanding the origins of alcoholics alcohol metabolism but either way, I think it’s a pretty cool notion. Plus, I’ve been known to act like a “big dumb animal” when I’ve had a bit too much to drink, so maybe that can be used as another data point. I should probably email the Chemist in charge of this study…


New Cocktail: Gin and Juice

February 25, 2013


Grape is one of the hardest flavors to utilize correctly. Think about all of the awful examples out there. Grape cough syrup tastes like someone designed it to suck. Grape soda, while being sort of delicious, tastes nothing like grapes. And grape jelly…well okay, I kind of love grape jelly. But as I was thinking of new ways to utilize my juicer and dreaming of spring and summer days filled with fresh fruits and veggies, I found myself fixated on this childhood favorite: the red seedless grape.

It turns out, fresh “squeezed” grape juice is wonderful. Not at all cloying like the crap you buy in the grocery store and vibrant in its purple color. I added a bit of lemon to the juice once it was squeezed to preserve that color and balance a bit of the sweetness. But once I paired it with my rosemary simple syrup and some strong proof gin, that’s where some serious deliciousness took place. Lay back, put your mind on your money, and your money on your mind and sip some of my “gin and juice”.

Gin and Juice

1.5 oz strong proof gin (I love Bluecoat)

3 oz fresh squeezed grape juice (with a touch of lemon to preserve color)

1 oz rosemary simple syrup (see recipe below)

splash of seltzer

1 rosemary sprig and three grapes for garnish

In a rocks glass mix the gin, grape juice and rosemary syrup. Fill glass with ice and finish with a splash of seltzer and your rosemary skewered grapes for garnish.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

4 large sprigs of rosemary

1.5 cups water

.5 cups of sugar
Juice of half a lemon

In a sauce pan over medium heat, bring the water, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil. Add the rosemary sprigs and simmer for 10 minutes. Cut the heat and let sit for an additional half hour before removing the rosemary sprigs. Cool before using. This syrup is a bit less sweet than I would normally make as the grape juice carries the sugar for the drink.


Maker’s Misses the Mark

February 19, 2013


I guess I wouldn’t be much of a liquor blogger if I didn’t weigh in on the current Maker’s Mark situation…

For those of you not obsessively interested in your alcohol, you may have missed the news that the folks at Maker’s Mark had announced a fairly straightforward way to deal with increasing demand: watering down their 90 proof bourbon to be sold at 84 proof. As you might imagine, increasing supply of bourbon isn’t exactly a fast response as the aging process presumes a bit of “proper, prior planning”. So they figured, let’s just add water. Sell less bourbon per bottle, and voila! you’ve got yourself more bourbon available to bottle elsewhere. Well it turns out, in the “every piece of news is the end of the world, let’s tell everyone we know on twitter” world we live in today, that wasn’t going to fly so well with all of those folks who live and love Maker’s bourbon.

As Nobler Mark said perfectly, “the increased demand was for 90 proof bourbon, not 84 proof bourbon” and I couldn’t agree more. It seems like a giant gaff for a successful brand to assume that just because they claimed the taste profile would remain almost identical, that loyal consumers wouldn’t mind paying the same for essentially less. Other brands (you see this a lot in non-alcoholic beverages) have quietly reduced packaging size to deal with similar issues and in these cases the response tends to be a bit more subdued; most people simply don’t notice the difference. But in the liquor world of pretty consistent bottle sizes, I’m not so sure this would have been an option either.

So this is where I backtrack on my befuddled response to the Maker’s team. Despite the negative press and the assumptions that greed dictates all, I can’t help but recognize the complexity of the situation. You might respond to me, “if you don’t have the bourbon to sell, then too bad” but here’s one of the most recognizable brands attempting to bring more bourbon into the hands of bourbon lovers. I myself am not even a Maker’s drinker but for whatever reason, I still can’t completely blast these guys for what they did. Unless I am just a naive pawn in their evil game of branding…

Due to the quick and unified response to the news, Maker’s has already backtracked. With a simple message “You Spoke, We Listened”, the bourbon will remain at 90 proof. So what if this was all just an elaborate scheme that was never meant to be fully executed. A few weeks of bad (but constant) press leads to the brand thanking its consumers for providing their strong opinions and essentially handing off the reins of brand management. “This is your brand”. Could it be that somehow this was intended from the beginning. Well some folks think its more than a bit reasonable and I think that says it all right there.

So does any of this matter? Well not a ton for those who love their Maker’s. You have your 90 proof consistency and a bit of a “win” in your personal tally. But for brands and conglomerates a like, this is a scary example of just how quickly you can shatter what you’ve spent years building. We’ve developed into fickle consumers, and for those competing in a highly competitive (and increasingly so) industry, this isn’t exactly the greatest news.

So what do you think about the Maker’s mess? Comment below to get the conversation rolling:


Wine Wins…

February 15, 2013


Despite impressive arguments by myself and Mark, it looks like Adam and his wine won out for Valentines Day. Don’t tell him I told you this, but I actually had some wine, and no whiskey so it looks like I didn’t help my own cause. But anyway, I’m glad you all enjoyed our debate and hope you all had a great fake holiday.

As for some other news, the Night Cap NYC tickets are moving and there aren’t many left at this point. I know we’re still a few weeks out but if you want to make sure you can join us for another unforgettable tasting, grab your tickets today. Otherwise have a great weekend and enjoy the extra day (if you have it).

Night Cap NYC: Back to Basics




Valentines Day – Beer, Wine, or Whiskey?

February 14, 2013


Here at the Nobler we have some pretty strong opinions. But unlike what has become so typical around the country on Valentines Day, you won’t hear us bash this Hallmark Holiday. Yeah we get it. There are a lot of stupid details surrounding this so called love-fest that make it quite easy to hate on: the ridiculous gift expectations, the inherent competition of who has the best boyfriend, and worst of all, the pre-fixed dinner menus that are disappointing and overpriced all contribute to the growing counter-movement against Valentines Day. But we say screw it. Embrace the day, give a little love to your friends, family, or significant other but no matter what you do, it most certainly should involve some booze.

But what booze to choose? Remember I mentioned those strong opinions

A Nobler Debate: What should you drink on Valentines Day?

(Disclaimer: Adult topics discussed below)

Wine, Defended by Adam – I can’t believe we are even discussing this on the Nobler today…wine is and forever will be the only choice for V-Day. Why? Because wine makes you think of sex, case closed. Seriously, do you ever see characters in a movie slugging beer or whiskey and then doing the deed?  No. Why?  Because beer makes you feel fat, and whiskey can give people performance issues…Wine on the other hand makes you feel sexy. On V-Day, give me a glass of champagne any day, and lets head to the bedroom.

Beer, Defended by Mark – Ok, so it’d be a little absurd to try to claim that there’s a beverage out there that’s more romantic than wine, but that doesn’t mean a case can’t be made for beer on Valentine’s Day. And the crux of that case is this: Its goddamned cold on February 14th.  When it comes to Humans v. The Elements, for thousands of years our ace in the hole has been hearth and home. Meat sizzling on a roaring fire, animal skins and piled blankets, and a tall, belly-warming, vitamin-rich, life-sustaining flagon of ale.  Add to these the most primal of all human activities and I’d say you’re doing it right.  Save the wine and whiskey for the spring thaw.  For now let’s get warm, full, and naked.  

Whiskey, Defended by Ricky – Mark makes a convincing argument but my animal skins are at the dry cleaner. As for Adam, I’m not so sure what “performance issues” he is alluding to, but that’s for another conversation. And yeah, I get it: wine is romantic, sensual, etc. But it’s also a bit of a sleeping aid. So sure, share some wine and head to the bedroom… for a wonderful night of sleep. Not so much with whiskey because with whiskey you have no idea what’s coming. And that’s exactly what the perfect Valentines Day should be like. Make a few strong whiskey sours and I guarantee sparks will fly. Maybe those sparks are in the form of some whiskey rage, but hey, at least you can you say your night was exciting.


Happy Birthday Steve!

February 12, 2013


As we cruised around the aisles of New Beer on Saturday in preparation for the Nobler Gathering, I stumbled upon a 4-pack of some serious nostalgia. I’ll never forget the day my freshman year in college when I opened up a gift from my older brother Steve and came across one singular bottle of beer. My immediate reaction was, as you could imagine it, rooted in a bit of confusion. Of course, these were the days of 30-racks and beer pong tables where the thought of 1 singular beer worthy of shipment didn’t exactly register. But then I looked a bit closer at this Samichlaus and there it was, 14% ABV.

At the time, Steve was attending Ithaca College and besides having some great local beer of their own, they also had a number of great distributors. Steve told me this Samichlaus was a seriously intense brew meant to be enjoyed on a cold winter day. And being the good listener I was, I waited until the perfect moment to crack that sucker up. Sitting on the futon of a suite mate, with the Lord of the Rings: Two Towers DVD spinning and cranking through our Best Buy speakers, it was then, I took my first sip of beer reality. But let’s fast forward past the really embarrassing drunkenness that ensued leaving me sleeping through the second half of the movie, and get to the real point…I consider myself damn lucky to have an older brother like Steve. That Samichlaus was just one of many examples of Steve’s quiet and subtle direction he’s provided as a role model. It may sound silly to distill this perspective down to a 14% ABV beer, but it’s true. I think my passion for quality without pretension in my booze started on that day to some capacity. Who knows, maybe there wouldn’t even be the Nobler Experiment without that Samichlaus.

And the reality is, the older we get, the more I appreciate what he means to me (and our little bro Joseph). As I’ve already mentioned on the blog, I had one of the more memorable trips of my life spending the Super Bowl weekend in New Orleans as Steve worked his ass-off for NFL films.  But it wasn’t until Steve made it to our seats of the Super Dome that the weekend really took on some meaning. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any Samichlaus on tap for me to show my appreciation, but hopefully my Budweiser and Jambalaya offering worked as a placeholder.

Happy Birthday Steve!


Bourbon in a Sea of Beer!

February 11, 2013


One of my favorite parts of planning the Nobler Gatherings is just that: the planning. I love focusing on the liquor selection, planning a bit of a menu, or even organizing the specific activity. But when it comes to beer I know it’s best to sit back and hand the reins off to Dan and Doran. Back in the summer, these dudes put on one of the more memorable Nobler Gatherings as we went to town on some amazing Saisons and seriously good ribs. So when it was time to organize the winter addition, and I heard words like Smoked Porter, Chili, and Kluskis I was both excited and a bit confused.


Let’s start with the confusion. “What the hell is a Kluski?” you might be asking? Well my friends, a Kluski is a gift from heaven. Almost a pierogi without the filling or a potato dumpling with a bit more character, these Kluskis were a recipe from Dan’s grandfather that he cranked up a bit with the addition of bacon. Paired with some pickled cucumbers, string beans, and okra, we were set to eat like Polish Kings. And that was before the chili arrived. Frank gets a special mention for his spicy and smoky chili that  cooked down with a porter style beer making this the perfect addition to the menu.


But the main excitement came from the 14 or so big time beers that Dan and Doran picked out at one of the best distributors in town, New Beer. I joined them for the fun this time around and watched as they filled a cart and eventually our backpacks with a variety of winter favorites. Stouts, Imperial Stouts, and Porters were book ended by two slightly lighter offerings in Allagash’s Victor and Goose Island’s Juliet and the group systematically and methodically took them all down with some real highlights along the way.  Plus for those of us who enjoy our winter beer with a glass of whiskey, a bottle of Blanton’s brought by our second Nobler Dan hit the spot perfectly. 


We used the BeerAdvocate scoring system to at least gauge our expectations and I was somewhat surprised how the ratings seemed off at times. But at the end of the day, we certainly didn’t drink a bad beer all night! My favorites were Rogue’s Chocolate Stout which shouldn’t surprise me since everything Rogue does, I love. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, a classic, was also at the top of our lists; so perfect in it’s execution! But lastly, it was another Goose Island in the Night Stalker Imperial Stout that really blew me away. I’ll be grabbing a few more bottles of the Night Stalker to store up for the next big winter storm and my next batch of Kluskis!


Hop is King!

February 7, 2013


Despite the fact that I tend to ramble on and on about the NY distillation scene, I think it’s important to remember it was the craft brewers that really got this resurgence started. Similar legislation changes have been opening the doors for the “small” batch brewers and they haven’t disappointed; without a doubt, a few of my favorite beers are made in NY (including Cow Thieves). So when a Cow Thief cousin (thanks Sandra) sent me this Kickstarter Campaign, it’s pretty easy to see why I got all jazzed up.

As the campaign describes, Hops were one of the original specialty crops in New York taking advantage of the optimal soil and climate conditions. That was until (like so many related industry stories) Prohibition and in this situation a widespread case of mildew almost completely decimated the business. Farmers switched to other crops and dairy production leaving a hole in the locally available hop sourcing channel. That’s where Condzella Hops comes in. They saw the opportunity and potential partnerships building in the local craft brewing scene and began their own hop farming initiative just a few years ago.

Now they are looking to take their efforts to the next level. They are looking to procure a fairly expensive hop harvesting machine and are looking for help in raising the necessary funds. I think what makes their request a bit more special however, is the real mission behind the machine. They envision a symbiotic relationship between farmers and brewers sharing in the benefits of this community resource bringing efficiency back to the New York Hop Industry. Or as they say, HOP IS KING!

Check them out here on the Kickerstarter page to help support the cause and you can also follow them along at their Facebook page here. I wish them the best of luck and hope someday soon we can make a special brew of cow thieves with their hops in honor of their success!


Celebration Distillation: A Must Visit in NOLA

February 5, 2013


After another weekend in New Orleans (this one for the Super Bowl thanks to my amazing brother Steve) I’m once again convinced that this town is a figment of my imagination built my magic elves that analyze my hopes and dreams and make them a reality all just for me!

Well okay, that probably went a bit far, because if that was the case, those elves would have had the Eagles in the Super Bowl and I’d have one more brother and his name would be Lebron James. But even still, I never manage to run out of things to do in the Big Easy and this trip was no exception. A major highlight for me, despite the obvious, was my solo Nobler Gathering at Celebration Distillation down on Frenchmen St just about a ten minute cab ride from the French Quarter.


I had read about the tour/tasting online but didn’t know exactly what to expect. After a number of NYC distillery tours with the Noblers, I’ve grown to appreciate the nuances in these small-scale distilleries and let me tell you, if you are looking for nuance, Celebration is the place to be. Founded by James Michalopoulos, a celebrated local artist, in 1995 in an abandoned cotton warehouse, this distillery is packed with history in its near two decades of existence. Considered the longest continuously running rum distiller in the U.S., Celebration uses a local resource in sugar cane to produce a series of amazing rums. My favorite by far was the cajun spiced, which utilizes a few traditional ingredients like ginger and cloves along with some real local favorites like chicory. The folks down there didn’t think you could buy the stuff in NY but this linked popped up when I tried it from home. Looks promising! And this is definitely the spiced rum you want on your bar.


As for the rest of the tour, with a cocktail in hand, we got to see the production scheme start to finish. One of the most interesting and compelling components to the Celebration story is their experience through Katrina. Like so many establishments in New Orleans, the devastation was immense. A piece of tape remains signifying the 8 ft water mark inside the distillery but it was the strength of the community, like so many other stories you’ve heard, mixed with James’ artistic soul that got them back up and running as quickly as they did. With the help of the employees and locals alike in clearing out the mess, James and team focused on re-building and repairing their one of a kind, self-produced stills. By learning the methodology and becoming focused on the process in advance of it’s founding, Celebration bypassed the purchase of an expensive still set up and is creating wonderful rum packed with a sense of true passion and creativity.

If you are heading to New Orleans for any reason, these guys have to be on your list of to-dos. Thanks again to the whole team for a wonderful experience!


DOJ Blocks InBev’s Acquisition of Grupo Modelo

February 1, 2013


Man, has it been an interesting time for legal battles in the beer industry recently. You’ll remember my recent post on the continued fight for exclusive rights to the name “Budweiser”. Well InBev is back in the news as of yesterday as the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit attempting to stop their acquisition of the 50% share in Grupo Modelo that they don’t currently own. As you’ve probably realized, in the U.S., the market for beer has become completely dominated by the two biggest players (InBev and MillerCoors). Grupo Modelo is the third largest beer maker riding the wave of Corona’s growing success. The DOJ has concluded that this type of consolidation would seriously diminish competition in the industry shifting power further towards InBev in terms of market share, pricing power, and control over new product offerings. Like any legal circumstance of this magnitude, I am sure the news from yesterday is only the beginning of a long and complicated battle. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the circumstances and don’t pretend to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. Luckily for all of us, field correspondent for the Nobler Experiment, Timmy, was present and feverishly recording notes at a secret meet-up between the three parties. Below is his detailed account, although in fairness, he did mention he had a number of Bud Light Platinums and Corona Lights before recording…Hope you enjoy. Happy Friday!


InBev: Halo

Grupo Modelo: Hola

InBev: There’s something I’ve got to tell you…

Grupo: Si?

InBev: I’ve been watching you for years. You’ve got a great thing going on here in Central America and you’ve really impressed me with the way you’ve made your presence felt in North America, especially the US.

Grupo: JAJAJA, Si!

InBev: I don’t know if you know this or not, but I too know a thing or two about those Americans. A fickle bunch, but tell them to do something crazy with their beer and they’re like putty in your hands.

Grupo: Si, los limones?

InBev: Exactly. We even convinced some of those redneck fellas to put salt directly into their beer. Can you believe that?

Grupo: JAJAJA! Gringos, ¿me equivoco?

InBev: You got it! So listen, let’s cut to the chase here. I want you to join the team. Together we can take over the world and teach those Americans a thing or two about capitalism.

Grupo: Hmmm. Ganar más dinero?

InBev: Mas dinero!

Enter the Department of Justice wearing a Dane Cook tour tshirt, bermuda shorts with black socks and a pair of wraparound oakleys.

DOJ: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What’s the big idea? Who invited you two jerks!

DOJ extends a hand for a handshake. As soon as Grupo Modelo goes to shake it, DOJ pulls away.

DOJ: Too slow Amigo. (To InBev) Sheesh, I thought they were all Speedy Gonzales? Booyah!

InBev: Alright, alright. What do you want DOJ?

DOJ: Relax my man I’m just getting some sun and making sure America’s always number 1. You feel me?

InBev/Grupo: ….

DOJ: But seriously, nerds. What’s this I hear about you two trying to gang up on the bros of America? You think that’s gonna fly on my watch?

InBev: You’ve got it all wrong DOJ. We’re not “ganging up” as you say. Just trying to join forces to run a more efficient business.

DOJ: Efficient? What’s that french? Never heard of it.

Grupo smacks forehead.

DOJ: But seriously. This shit ain’t happening on my watch. You think I’m going to let you two run a train on ol America? Hell no, and that’s the bottom line because…

InBev: Please stop. You’re embarrassing yourself.

DOJ grabs InBev’s hand and starts smacking InBev in the face with it

DOJ: Well at least I’m not the one hitting myself.

InBev: Enough! Grupo, I can’t do this. Let’s table this for now and revisit it once DOJ is distracted by the next episode of 2 1/2 Men.

Grupo: Convenido

InBev and Grupo Modelo both shake hands and begin to walk away.

DOJ: Later losers. Looks like the USA just won another war!

DOJ hops in an iRoc Z and peels out. American beer drinkers chug a thousand beers and puke all over a box of cold Wendy’s french fries.

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