Archive for the ‘rum’ Category


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!


Nobler Holiday Gift Guide – Owney’s Rum

December 11, 2012


With all of the craft distillers opening up within NYC, you can’t really go wrong with gifting a bottle of local spirits. But if you are looking for a stand out option amongst the many contenders, I’d suggest you pick up a bottle of Owney’s Rum. In fact make it a few; you’ll want to keep one of these for your own collection as well…


Last night the founder of The Noble Experiment distillery, Bridget C Firtle, hosted the Noblers for a tour and tasting and what we saw was both exciting and impressive. Bridget clearly has a knack for the historical relevance of the craft distillation boom in NYC and despite the tendencies of many to focus on American Whiskey (us included), her first product, Owney’s Rum is a throwback to the true original US distillate. She reminded us all of a time before the revolution where molasses from the British tropical territories was used to produce Rum in the some of the very first American distilleries. A major molasses tax, a revolutionary war, and some western migration later, corn and grain based spirits became the quintessential leaving Rum a bit forgotten.


But after trying Owney’s Rum, it’s easy to get excited about what Bridget is doing to bring back rum in a big way. And I say Bridget, because one of the most impressive components of The Noble Experiment without a doubt is that from creation to batching to labeling (so yeah, just about everything), this operation is a one employee show. She called it crazy, we call it impressive, but no matter what you call it, it’s pretty inspiring.

And luckily for all of us, her efforts are rewarded with a unique and one of a kind spirit that makes a great addition to any liquor collection. Unlike the big named white rums out there, Owney’s is smooth and delicate to enjoy on its own but still contains the complexity needed to stand up to cocktail creation. Bridget herself is working on infusions and simple syrups that work well with Owney’s but just from a few tastes, I can tell you that this rum will be one of my go-tos in my own recipe making. Currently, there is only a handful of liquor stores selling Owney’s but you can grab yourself a bottle online at Astor Wines just in time for the perfect Holiday present.

Thanks to Bridget for a fantastic Nobler Gathering and best of luck with the Noble Experiment!


The Admiral Schley Punch

September 25, 2012

As you know, I love to mess around with all sorts of ingredients in coming up with new cocktails. But, sometimes, finding a classic recipe that hits the spot is even more exciting. And when that classic recipe is named after a 19th Century Naval Officer involved in a controversial battle near the end of the Spanish War, it’s easy to get all jazzed up and slug a few of these while imagining life on board the USS Brooklyn, the flagship of Winfield Scott Schley’s Flying Squadron.

The Flying Squadron and the USS Brooklyn in particular were key players in the defeat of the Spanish Navy in the summer of 1898. But the historical records of Schley’s role aren’t as clear cut. His rival and senior in rank, William Sampson, felt Schley’s actions were rogue and disobedient. When a historical account of the US Navy was published with Sampson’s input and approval claiming Schley to be “caitiff, poltroon, and coward”, shit got real. Schley was never able to fully reverse the claims but since has remained a strongly considered war hero and is buried with honors in Arlington National Cemetery. So take that Sampson…

But maybe his most important contribution to modern day society is this cocktail (okay, that’s probably not reasonable). It isn’t entirely clear (besides the Caribbean and American liquor combination) why this drink was garnered as his namesake, but the little I’ve read about Schley makes me think he enjoyed his booze. So much so that he couldn’t choose between bourbon and rum and realized how delicious they were together. When I first saw this recipe I wasn’t so sure how this combination would be. But it turns out the two liquors play off each other extremely well. The age of the bourbon with the molasses like sweetness of the rum matches with the lime juice to make a seriously strong and flavorful punch.

And the real proof of cocktail greatness: I had two of these and felt like I could command a warship…

The Admiral Schley Punch

 1 ½ oz Bourbon

1 ½ oz Dark Rum

1 ½ oz Lime Juice

1 tbsp honey

Mix all of the ingredients vigorously in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. For the best results, stir the honey and the lime together in advance so the honey does not clump. Pour into a glass with the ice and garnish with a lime. The original recipe called for mint and a pineapple wedge as garnish which sound delicious but I didn’t have. Feel free to mess around with these and other garnishes.


The Dark and Flashy

September 5, 2012

We’ve all been told a million times that the greatest discoveries and/or inventions typically stem from an accident. It’s why we’ve always told my little brother he was our family’s greatest discovery. Just kidding Joe. Just checking in to see if you are still reading…

But in all honesty, there’s a fundamental reason that this story holds up over time. Unintended outcomes aren’t always great, but when they are, it’s easy to get a bit more excited about them. Which takes us to Island Blues in Coral Bay, St. John. There we were, ready to get our dark and stormy on, when we got chatting with the bartender and owner, Colette. She had purchased the bar back in November and was planning on staying open through the hurricane season because, well, she understood something that resonates quite well with the Nobler Experiment: someone has to stay open and serve the locals.

And that’s when it happened. With our buzzed chatter the focus of all of our attention, I caught out of the corner of my eye the second round of Dark and Stormys being poured and noticed one of those “accidents” in the works. Rather than the canned ginger beer finishing off the rum and few dashes of bitters (a great addition to a dark and stormy by the way), it was a slim can of the Green Flash making its way into my cocktail and it was too late to stop it.

Green Flash, a product of the St. John Brewers who happen to make some damn good mango beer as well, is the Caribbean replica of Red Bull. I’ve never been a huge energy drink fan, but as I made clear to our bartender, I’m not a big proponent of waste either. And who knows, maybe this accident was actually a great new invention. And considering this post would be awfully boring if the drink sucked, I think you can guess what happened next.

The drink was pretty damn perfect considering what the alternative energy drink and booze combination typically amount to. Red Bull and Vodkas are not exactly delicious, although they certainly do the trick (remind me to tell you about my Berlin dance club experience at the next Gathering…). But the Dark and Flashy, our cheeky named new cocktail actually tasted good. The dark aged rum and the bitters help counteract that classic energy drink flavor profile and with a little lime to break up the sweetness, we had ourselves a hit. Such a bit hit that Colette was serving these guys up in cocktails and in shooters the next night to a packed crowd. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Island Blues where I can only hope the Dark and Flashy remains forever!

I doubt you can get the Green Flash in the states but Red Bull should do the trick here. And in that case…

The Dark and Bullish

2 oz dark aged rum (I like Mount Gay)

4 oz Red Bull

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 orange wedge

1 lime wedge

Mix the first three ingredients over ice, preferably in a plastic cup, preferably at a beach bar. Squeeze both the orange wedge and the lime wedge for garnish.


Rum Punch Drunk

September 4, 2012

Over brunch a few weeks ago, I proclaimed that after a few cups of coffee, I was pretty sure I could do anything. Kill a bear. Solve a rubix cube. You name it, I’ve got you covered. So you can only imagine my excitement when I re-confirmed this weekend, that it isn’t just a few cups of the caffeine that makes me invincible. It turns out a few rum punches on an isolated beach in the Caribbean does the job just as well…

Look, you don’t come to this blog to hear me complain but I got to be honest: I’ve never needed a vacation more than I did this past weekend. So when we took off for St. John I had two goals in mind. (1) Relax at all costs. (2) Rekindle my love for some fruity rum punches; a love affair that started a few years back on the island of Culebra.

The rum punch is a tricky thing. There are very few places on this wonderful earth that a rum punch is acceptable. In the bar, it’s too sweet. In your home, you’re a child. But on the beach, there may not be a more perfect cocktail. With $8 bottles of Cruzan aged rum by our sides and a little mango, pineapple, and peach juices mixed and ready to go, each and every beach day was a little more perfect than the last. And the key here, is just like a good vacation, you need to be flexible. There isn’t one perfect recipe. The fresher the juice the better, and some limes are a must to help balance the sweetness, but honestly I’ve even used some Hawaiian Punch in the past with great success. Because at the end of the day, there is nothing like floating in the sun drenched ocean rocking a buzz…


A 7 Year Old Conspiracy

May 30, 2012

Bachelor parties thrive off of two inherently conflicting forces of celebration and punishment. On one hand, we as friends do our part to ensure, you the bachelor, are having the time of your life. This is about you, my friend! But then again, I guess we’re also supposed to push the limits? Embarrass you? Put you through the ringer? I’ll be honest, and admit, I’ve never understood how far some folks take this portion of the “fun”, which is why I’m glad to say, this past weekend’s festivities, celebrating our fellow Nobler’s impending marriage, was way more of the former making for a pretty stellar Brigantine/AC weekend. Although, when I took a look at this bottle of Old Monk Very Old Vatted XXX Rum, I was pretty sure this had to be part of the “punishment”.

“Posession by persons other than defence personnel is strictly prohibited”

This fantastic disclaimer and the plastic bottle alone had me convinced but the burning sensation and immediate panic as my esophagus started to dissolve (anyone know if this is possible? would love to remove that from the anxiety list), sealed the deal. In this way, this rum was hysterically appropriate for a bachelor party. “Keep drinking buddy!”

But here’s the thing: As I started to do some research on the impressively quick AC bus ride home, all I could find was link after link of praise. Apparently the third largest sales based rum distributed world-wide, Old Monk is touted for its word of mouth popularity, as advertising has never been a part of their business model. Additionally touted for its strong vanilla flavor, the few reviewers I could find online seem to prefer this stuff over some of the more common brands I was aware of. I’ll agree with the vanilla flavor as one of the other guys astutely commented “It tastes like grain alcohol flooded with vanilla extract”. This for you, still a little slow from the extra day off, was not a compliment.

So am I missing something? Is this a joke someone is playing on me? Old Monk aficionados: explain yourself!



The Dark and Stormy

May 17, 2012

Probably close to 5 years ago, my life coach, Sarah Gordon started talking about something called a Dark and Stormy. Up until this point, I had never heard of it. These were the days prior to nostalgic picture filters and rapid posting, but I still remember catching a glimpse of that drink perched on that cozy Martha’s Vineyard bar next to an order of steamers. It must have been on my flip phone…

To me, the Dark and Stormy is another one of those drinks with serious personality. You aren’t going up to every bartender on any occasion and requesting this delicious concoction. Instead, there is a right time and a right place. Unlike my “clear and sunny” that has an overall pleasant demeanor, the Dark and Stormy has a bit of an attitude. I prefer mine to be heavy on the gingery bite and garnished with a little lime to cut the sweetness. A dark rum with some character only makes this drink better, and honestly, if you haven’t had one, I’ve got a good place for you to start.

The Great Jones Cafe on (you guessed it) Great Jones St has always been one of my favorite spots. Nothing can beat the actual food from New Orleans, but these guys are pumping out fantastic gumbo, po’ boys, and jambalaya and pairing it all with a great beer list and a really chill atmosphere. I actually ate brunch here for the first time not too long ago and can’t understand why it took me so long. Eggs and Jambalaya? Are you kidding me! But this isn’t that old food blog of mine, now is it….

The second I saw that Dark and Stormy (dubbed the Shaggy here), I knew it was going to be that kind of night. But the kicker here is that I had finally thought I found the perfect ginger beer for this cocktail. Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew has a serious bite to it and isn’t cloyingly sweet making it perfect. But this Blenheim Ginger Ale, the Great Jones Cafe is using, may have just out gingered the Extra Ginger. According to their website, Great Jones may be the only place that has this stuff in the city…is this possible? Good thing they sell it online!

As for the recipe, not much to explain here making it even better for your new favorite mid-week cocktail.

The Dark and Stormy

2 oz Dark rum

3 oz Ginger Beer or Bleinheim’s Ginger Ale

1 good-sized lime wedge

Pour the rum and ginger beer over a tall glass with ice and garnish with the squeezed lime. Drink slowly and enjoy the attitude!


The Pirate’s Tea Party

January 13, 2012

Since the last Nobler Gathering, I’ve had quite a few Irish Coffees. But after tasting how good my homemade spiced rum came out, the Pirate’s Tea Party seemed like an even better option.

This one’s a simple drink. For simple occasions. The black tea plays off of the bay leaf, cardamom, and cinnamon and the slight sweetness from the apples and vanilla. A few dashes of lemon bitters and you are good to go. If I read the Sunday paper, this is the drink I’d pair it with.

The Pirate’s Tea Party:

1 mug of fresh brewed black tea

1 heavy splash of spiced rum (homemade here)

2-3 dashes of lemon bitters

1 lemon wedge


Feeling Awfully Piratey

January 9, 2012

I was fishing around for some DIY liquor projects late last week and I found this recipe for a homemade coffee liqueur. Since coffee tends to turn me into an annoying epic story-teller, the combination with rum has to be good for everyone involved. But when I sent the link to another coffee loving Nobler, he mentioned working on a home spiced rum and that got me thinking. So with an excess of some basic silver rums sitting in my cabinet, I decided to give this one a shot. My perspective? Leave work, go home, do this now!

I’ve discussed extracting flavors into alcohol before (here), so I took a very similar approach for my homemade spiced rum. Immediately apples and cinnamon came to mind but I really wanted the flavors to be a bit more complex. I took a quick inventory of what I had in my spice collection and it seemed like I had been preparing for this all along. Cardamom, vanilla, and lemon peel to play off of the apples and cinnamon, bay leaves and Sichuan peppercorns for some real deal complexity. If you haven’t worked with Sichuan peppercorns before, they are the pink looking buds that are more numbing than spicy. Awesome.

As for the process, I toasted up the dried spices to bring out a bit of their oils before adding them to the peeled and halved apples, the lemon peel, and vanilla pods. After topping it all off with the silver rum, I figured it would take a few days to develop some real flavor. But even after a few hours an amber hue could be seen and the flavors were already fantastic. A few more days, and I can only imagine how good this will be. ..


The Scurvy Killer

December 20, 2011

The life of a pirate was filled with adventure: buried treasure, lost islands, and ships stocked with rum. But there was plenty of danger on board and I’m not talking mutiny. If only the pirates had known about the Juice Bar…three sheets to the wind without any fear of the dreaded scurvy!

The Scurvy Killer:

3 oz carrot, ginger, and apple juice

1.5 oz clear rum

1.5 oz seltzer

squeeze of lemon

In a cocktail glass filled with ice mix add the juice, the rum, and the seltzer and stir to combine. Squeeze the lemon and enjoy!

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