Archive for the ‘Rye’ Category

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Atsby Vermouth – Redefining a Classic

April 23, 2013

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It’s no wonder that when I first reached out to Adam Ford of Atsby Vermouth to set up a tasting for the Noblers, he offered to try to coordinate with the folks at Tuthilltown. After getting to meet Adam in person and try his two insanely delicious vermouths on Saturday, it’s clear he shares the passion and knowledge that make Tuthilltown and the spirit resurgence so exciting. 

Now you might be wondering, “Vermouth? Who the hell drinks that stuff?”. And if so you are not alone. In fact, up until recently, I myself had no real concept or appreciation for the history of this fortified wine and how through complacency and poor utilization, vermouth as a product had lost its way. You see, most of us know the stuff as that dusty bottle in our parents liquor cabinets used inconsistently and on a seriously limited basis. In fact, most of my experience with vermouth came from the bar at the French restaurant I worked at where vermouth was used to “flavor the glass” by pouring in and pouring out before a heavy dose of vodka or gin finished the job. Pair this with the fact that most folks don’t realize that vermouth, being the wine based spirit it is, goes bad, and goes bad a lot quicker than you’d think, and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid explanation for the lack of vermouth appreciation. So yes, if you or your parents have a bottle of 20-year-old open vermouth, it’s probably time to throw the crap out.

In our tasting with Adam, he mentioned noticing many of these same observations. But after experiencing the peak of vermouth in his travels overseas, he came back with a plan to change these notions. Honoring the historical production of infusing botanicals into a mix of wine, brandy, and sweetener but upping the ante by starting with high-end nuanced products instead of the traditional bland wines and neutral spirits, Adam has created two modern-day vermouths, utilizing New York based sourcing to re-invigorate and create recognition for a truly delicious product category.

Atsby now has two vermouths on the market in its Amberthorn and Armadillo Cake varietals. Vermouths often come as “dry” or “sweet” but Adam took a more middle ground approach to make two delicious and versatile offerings. By leaning closer to the middle of “dry” and “sweet” for each of his products, the real distinction comes in the use of the many botanicals like French lavender in the Amberthorn and cardamom and shitake mushrooms in the Armadillo cake. Both were delicious but my preference for the Armadillo Cake probably stems from my preference for whiskey. The Armadillo Cake and Tuthilltown’s Hudson Manhattan Rye are a match made in heaven.

I was excited to start experimenting with Atsby Vermouth in my own cocktail creation but last night, I decided to start with a classic. The Manhattan is by far one of the most famous whiskey based cocktails out there and while it might be simple in execution, the utilization of specific products is where the flavors can really take off. So being a bit inspired by Adam’s passion, I decided to use my own homemade spirits to make my version of the perfect Manhattan. Make sure you pick up a bottle of Atsby Vermouth and enjoy this delicious cocktail!

The Great Atsby

2.5 oz Bourbon or Rye (I used my own, but choose your favorite)

1.5 oz Atsby Armadillo Cake Vermouth

4 drops of Orange Bitters (I used my own here, but choose your favorite)

Lemon rind for garnish

Stir the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters in a whiskey glass. Add one large ice cube and garnish with the lemon rind. The classic recipes call for a maraschino cherry and an orange wedge but I prefer my drink a bit less fruity. Enjoy!

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Tuthilltown Spirits – One of a Kind

April 21, 2013

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For close to two years, I’ve been sharing my passion for all things alcohol here at the Nobler Experiment; so much of which has stemmed from the complex and fascinating role in which Prohibition shaped the way in which we currently enjoy liquor, wine, and beer. It’s why, as I’ve mentioned countless times before, to be a part of the modern-day spirit resurgence, is more than a little exciting. Visiting and supporting the up and coming distilleries, working on new cocktail recipes to drink with all of you, and bringing people together to share in the total experience of the Nobler Experiment is a passion that keeps growing. And after our visit up to Tuthilltown Spirits this past Saturday to celebrate my birthday, it’s safe to say, this passion is at an all time high.

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In some ways I should probably start this post with an admission of sorts. It really is a bit insane it took me this long to get up to Tuthilltown. Even ignoring the fact that they are a simple 1.5 hour bus ride from NYC for just a second, the discussion of a New York spirits resurgence should have probably started with them at the top of our tour list. As the very first New York state distillery since Prohibition, the co-founders, Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee have been pushing the boundaries on local spirit creation since 2003. You have almost certainly seen their Hudson Baby Bourbon and like-bottled whiskeys on the market more and more recently, but what you may not realize is just how committed to locally sourcing their inputs they remain.

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The locally grown wheat and apples for their gin and vodka (not apple flavored, but rather apple distilled) and the corn and grain for their whiskeys are not being utilized as a silly marketing gimmick but rather as a concerted effort to make high quality products with distinction and character. You get this sense perfectly walking around their facility, a beautifully converted Gristmill in Gardiner, NY. Even with more recent updates and increases in efficiency, you really get the sense of just how passionate and involved they are with each and every spirit. Most noticeably, in their “filling and labeling” line where each and every bottle is hand and visually inspected (of course after being tasted) to ensure it meets the standard. Don, our tour guide, joked about their now “up to date” labeling machine and how much time it saves them. Of course, this is the same machine that is still a one bottle at a time, hand crank. So there’s no question, these whiskeys have been given a lot of attention. And it shows in the tasting.

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First off, I can say with confidence, I was there to try whiskey. I had tried the Baby Bourbon and their Single Malt prior to our visit, but was excited to try some of their other offerings, mainly their 100% Rye and their Four Grain whiskey. But I was shocked when I found out they were producing a Gin from 80% wheat and 20% apples that completely rocked my world; most interesting and delicious gin I have ever tasted. But I think unique is what the folks at Tuthilltown do right with everything they touch. In all of their aged spirits, there is a complexity in flavor that I truly love. The market for whiskeys is getting bigger and bigger but my experience of late has been an overwhelming flurry of “regular”. Good, solid whiskeys but without much nuance. Tuthilltown’s spirits on the other hand are riddled with nuance and are great additions to every liquor collection.

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Overall, it was an unbelievable birthday celebration and I have to absolutely thank the team at Tuthilltown for making it so special and welcoming us for such a fun experience. Plus a special thank you for bringing up Adam Ford of Atsby Vermouth who just like the folks at Tuthilltown, is doing some pretty special things with spirits. Check back tomorrow for more on Adam’s amazing products and in the mean time, get booking your trip to Tuthilltown!

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The Future is Now for American Single Malts

January 18, 2013
Allison V. Smith for The New York Times

Photo by Allison V. Smith for The New York Times

Close to a year ago, I posted about the Future of American Whiskey. The notion was simple: as more and more small scale distilleries entered the industry with increased demand and decreased legislation, we were clearly going to see more than just bourbon and rye at the forefront of our whiskey resurgence. As seen in this week’s NY Times article, it looks like the future is now…

Single malt American whiskeys are on the rise and with Balcones Texas Single Malt winning the “Best in Glass” distinction over a number of Scottish perennials, it’s time to start paying attention. The key distinction here, is that while most of the American history of whiskey focuses on corn or rye based mashes, single malt whiskeys use a malted grain, normally barley. As the Times article also points out, this focus on malted barley is a perfect match for many craft distillers who got their feet wet in the beer brewing game. But it isn’t simply a replication of European methodology that is responsible for the excitement.

Many of the US single malt distillers are expanding outside of the fairly narrow rule-set that defines these types of whiskeys elsewhere in the world. Innovation around the aging process, ingredient additions, and weather effects are pushing the limits of what we’ve seen in the past. I’ve had a few of the single malts listed in the article and I’ll be honest, I haven’t loved them all. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying them. Part of the beauty of single malt production is to stay connected to the process. As these guys learn and adapt, the product is only going to get better and better.

On another exciting note, the Night Cap NYC is about to announce our next event and it’s going to be even better the last one. More details will come once we have everything in order, but stay tuned for tickets and much much more. Happy Weekend and go grab some American Single Malt!

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Another Great Holiday Nobler Gathering

December 21, 2012

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No better way to celebrate the end of the world year then to gather with the Noblers! For our annual Holiday Gathering we shared a bottle of Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey for the second year in a row and once again were blown away by the smoothness and balance this blend brings to the table. For me, it’s one of the more enjoyable whiskey’s on the market, hands down, and while the price tag doesn’t exactly make it an everyday pour, this I am sure will be a staple in many of the Noblers’ home bars in the future.

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As we have grown in size over the past year, it was only fitting to add another bottle to the mix. But instead of going double down on the Midleton, we grabbed a bottle of E.H. Taylor Straight Rye Whiskey. You might remember me posting about the Barrel Proof Bourbon a few weeks ago which at 135 proof packed some serious punch. Their Straight Rye Whiskey pays homage to E.H. Taylor’s involvement in passing the Bond Act of 1897 as one of the first steps in American Whiskey production focused on guaranteeing quality to the consumer. “Bottle in Bond” signified a whiskey bottled at 100 proof from a single distillery from a single season stored in bonded warehouses for at least four years. This holds true for this modern-day bottle which is intensely flavorful and warming. This is a Rye drinkers heaven.

As for the rest of the night, we feasted on a pork shoulder and poblano stew, shared in a few special beers brought by Nobler Luke, and celebrated another great year at the Nobler with a little gift exchange. We even had a virtual visit from one of our founders, Jacob, who now resides in Colorado. It was a special night!

As for the actual Holidays, I’m off to Costa Rica tomorrow for a week’s worth of paradise so my posting will most likely be limited. But I’ll be back just in time for New Years with a lot more exciting things coming to the Nobler in 2013!

Happy Holidays!

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An Open Letter to Average NYC Bars

November 17, 2012

As you know, I rarely post on the weekends. So you have to imagine there’s a damn good reason for me to be writing this today. And to be honest, while I always write for you guys, this post has a slightly larger target audience:

Dear Average NYC Bar:

When serving a whiskey, particularly a good one, an ounce and a half or two ounce portion for $10 is no longer acceptable. We, the whiskey drinkers of New York, are reasonable people (most of us at least). We now, more than ever know what we like, and more importantly know what things ACTUALLY cost. And the thing is, we don’t really care if you charge us $10-$12 dollars for a glass. We get it. You have to make money too! But please, please please please, pour us a real glass of whiskey.

– The Nobler Experiment

In all honesty, it’s really amazing how often I come across this these days. There are so many bars in this city and way too many of them suffer from the light handed pour. And it shouldn’t just be the drinker that has a problem with this. The small brand distilleries that have spent years and years mastering their craft, finally pushing through to gain the respect they deserve in the whiskey community should be just as pissed, maybe more. The human brain is fickle and while it might not be the distilleries fault the bartender and the bar owner are ripping off their consumers, it does impact people tendencies towards whiskey loyalty. And it’s a shame.

One could only hope these words are meaningful to the bar owners of NYC, although unless you all share this a million times over, I doubt it will matter much. But as a drinker, a bar goer, you can at least make a choice. And that choice should always be to frequent and support bars that care just as much of your experience than they do their bottom line. Happy Saturday!

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Time to Get to Know Apple Jack

November 9, 2012

A few months back I posted about my friend’s Dad’s backyard apple jack he starting making in small batches over the last few years. The process is as gloriously DIY as you can imagine. Pick apples, create cider, ferment cider, freeze outdoors until the water content separates from the alcohol, remove “ice”, drink alcohol. The stuff was amazing and at its core American. Which is why I was so excited to start seeing and hearing about Cornelius Apple Jack from the folks at Harvest Spirits.

Fruit based spirits are nothing new. For centuries the fermentation and in some cases distillation of grapes, pears, apples, plums and much more have been a staple of cultures near and far. But Apple Jack itself, almost more than the Bourbon we all tout as the true American spirit, is directly tied to the ingenuity of the brave colonials who began this great nation (why not a little national pride during election week, right?). Freezing the fermented apple cider in barrels and tapping the liquor from the bottom worked on the same principles as I describe above in the case of my friend’s backyard. And while the product is delicious, inherently apple forward and strong for a purpose, the folks at Harvest Spirits know they can do better.

So without moving away too far from tradition, but relying a bit on some more “modern” technology, the Cornelius Apple Jack from the Hudson Valley is indeed distilled not once, not twice, but actually three times rendering a more refined apple liquor that has a smoothness the freeze distillation simply can’t create. But they aren’t done there. By aging the spirit in previously used bourbon barrels the apple “brandy” takes on some of the residual bourbon characteristics and adds serious depth in flavor. What I also love about these guys is that they are using all the so-called “ugly” fruit for production. The fruit that folks like us wouldn’t buy because of how it looks tend to be perfect for these types of projects. And being that we are making our way into the fall pretty quickly, this is a bottle of booze you’ll want to add to your collection, and quickly.

For those looking to experiment a bit on their own, I have some other ideas inspired by a bit of ingenuity. If you live near a farmer’s market, which so many of us do these days, go take a look at the apple availability and pick up some of your favorites. With the bottles of bourbon and rye, I know you have in your liquor cabinet, begin playing around with apple infusions. Vary the variety, vary the time of infusion, vary the amount of apple used, and you’ll be shocked at how delicious the outcome is. Perfect for sharing with friends and family this Thanksgiving!

*The above picture was taken from Serious Eats.

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The Noblers Know Cocktails

April 3, 2012

The art of the cocktail had for years lost its way. A cocktail list read more like a candy aisle with pomegranate this and chocolate espresso that. But even with the sudden resurgence of simple and elegant concoctions, it’s still possible to be overwhelmed and disappointed. So before you go off grabbing rare bitters, elderflower liqueur, and ice cubes from the arctic, I’d say start with my Basil Julep.

Which is exactly what the Noblers and I did this past Friday when we gathered…

We’ve all taken quite a liking to the Old Fashioned. Particularly with Rye as the base, it is hard to beat this guy. But part of the reason its close to unbeatable is it’s simplicity. Sugar, bitters, water, and Rye makes for a quick fix while most other interpretations of “cocktails” end up muddling your enthusiasm after you see all the steps involved. Which is why, when I’m working on new blends, the simpler the better. Take the Bertha Palmer for example. By making a big batch of this in advance (and this time adding some fresh mint to the steeping tea), all we needed was a steady pour (easier in the beginning of the night), and a solid splash of Woodford Reserve. Like I said when I originally posted the Bertha, I will most likely drink a million of these this summer.

But I was even more pumped about this Basil Julep. With the Kentucky Derby in our sights, I’ve been working on a menu for our soon to be annual party. The Mint Julep, while synonymous with the Derby, has never done it for me. In fact, I don’t think anyone likes the Mint Julep. I think no one wants to be the first to speak up so I’m doing it for you! Mint, while delicious, carries the sweetness of the drink a little too strong for me. Which is why I thought basil would be the perfect fix. Turns out, it is and once you’ve made this basil simple syrup (which is absurdly easy) the drink comes together even quicker than an Old Fashioned. Now you see why I’m so excited.

Even the newest member of the Nobler Experiment, Hoagie, was overwhelmed by how good this drink was!

Disclaimer: No pug puppies were actually drinking during the Nobler Experiment. What do think we are? Neanderthals!

The Basil Julep:

4 tsp basil syrup

1 lemon wedge

3 oz Bourbon (we used Buffalo Trace)

Mix all ingredients in a rocks glass with ice and garnish with a fresh basil leaf! Pair this sucker with some homemade pimento cheese!

Basil Syrup

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups of sugar

Juice of 1 Lemon

1 large bunch of basil

In a sauce pan, bring the water, sugar, and lemon juice to a simmer until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the basil. Let the syrup come to room temperature and store in the fridge. At this point you can remove the basil but the longer it stays in, the more intense the flavor. My recommendation is to remove the basil after 12 hours for better keeping.

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