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…
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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!