Archive for the ‘The Nobler Gatherings’ Category

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The Noblers Know Cocktails: Part 2

May 23, 2013

cocktails

When the Noblers gather, it tends to be for a real purpose. And last night’s Gathering was no different. Because while we always share in the enjoyment of good drinking, sometimes you have to get back to the basics. The basics of delicious cocktails.

As I’ve said before, everyone should have an arsenal of drinks to pull from. Different cocktails work for different reasons, but knowing you have a few gold standards to draw upon is a wonderful feeling. And last night I think we came up with a new one to add to the list in the Ed Wood (see below for the recipe).

With a few basil juleps, some fantastic Old Fashioneds (with my new batch of bitters), and a couple of Manhattan’s rounding out the cocktail experience, I think it’s safe to say it was another successful Gathering. Thanks again to Mark and Kelly for hosting!

The Ed Wood

3 oz Gin (I used Bluecoat)

1 oz fresh lime juice

1.5 oz rosemary simple syrup (recipe below)

Ed Wood loved himself a few gimlets, and I think he’d love the woody addition of the rosemary. Mix all three ingredients and pour over ice. Garnish with a rosemary skewer.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

2 cups water

1.5 cups sugar

Half a lemon

3 bunches of rosemary skewers

Bring the water and sugar to a boil. Add the rosemary and lemon juice and lower heat to a simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool. Strain the rosemary and keep refrigerated.

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Bourbon in a Sea of Beer!

February 11, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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Celebration Distillation: A Must Visit in NOLA

February 5, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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#EatDowntown

November 6, 2012

The guys over at Immaculate Infatuation eat out more than most of us could ever imagine. And for good reasons! If you haven’t checked out their site or their app, you are seriously missing out. But starting yesterday, they are eating out for much more than restaurant reviews and delicious food. The guys have launched yet another instagram contest, “#EatDowntown” encouraging us all to get out and support the local bars and restaurants that lost so much in the wake of Sandy. They themselves offered the first 8 entries a spot at their #EatDowntown meet-up at Prima on Thursday night but it doesn’t stop there. Encouraging everyone to organize their own meet-ups, that they themselves hope to stop by for if possible, is a brilliant and simple way to increase the influence.

So, I’m taking their advice, and planning a Nobler Gathering meet-up for next Wednesday. More details are pending but I’m thinking a little tour de support for some of our favorites…

Check back later for some more details and make sure you check out Immaculate Infatuation as you are planning your own meet-ups!

*Note: The photo was taken from the Immaculate page originally taken by photographer Randy Scott Slavin. You should check out his NYC unplugged album here!

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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!

 

 

 

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The Nobler Mixer and Bathtub Gin

September 17, 2012

“I… (insert name here)… Member in good standing of the He-Man Woman Haters Club… Do solemnly swear to be a he-man and hate women and not play with them or talk to them unless I have to. And especially: never fall in love, and if I do may I die slowly and painfully and suffer for hours – or until I scream bloody murder.”

– The Little Rascals

We at the Nobler Experiment are not nearly as barbaric as those Little Rascals. However, for the nine times we have gathered to date, the Noblers have met sans the ladies. So for our tenth installment of the Nobler Gathering series, we felt strongly it was time to to branch out. And branch out we did, at the Nobler Mixer…

Just like we had in the past, we showcased one particular type of liquor, one of which made it’s name close to 100 years ago during Prohibition as men and women gathered for cocktail parties just like ours. Well sort of. Their cocktail parties were held in secret locations with the added excitement of breaking the law but that’s just semantics. One major difference however, was their drink of choice, bathtub gin, was driven by necessity, not preference. As the high (or even average) quality liquor became wildly expensive and hard to locate, folks looking to let loose and throw a party were forced to buy low quality, and in some cases dangerous alcohol. Let’s ignore the purchasing of wood based alcohol (which actually can kill you) for now, and focus on the “Popov” like grain liquor that was nearly un-drinkable.

We’ve all had the plastic jug vodka before, and we all know how nasty it can be. Vodka is kind of ironic in that way. We typically pay more for the stuff to taste like less. But for both taste and finish alike, these plastic bottle, $7.99 vodkas are a good comparison to what our Prohibition friends were faced with. These folks were smart, however. By adding herbs, spices, and other ingredients, they were able to mellow the grain alcohol and add some well needed flavor. In many cases, juniper berries were used to impart that “gin” like flavor profile as the strength of this flavoring went a long way for drink-ability. So why the bathtub labeling? Turns out, in order to mellow the grain liquor even more, bottles were topped off with water. And the most efficient and hidden method: using the bathtub faucet.

For our Mixer, I made three “bathtub gins” and served them in three fantastic cocktails. My lavender and honey martini was a perfect way to kick off the evening as we snacked on cucumber sandwiches, homemade ricotta and sweet pea and mint puree. Following up the martini was a citrus “bathtub gin” that had bright flavor notes from the lemon and orange peels paired with rosemary and lemon thyme. Mixed up with a rosemary lemonade and a cucumber slice, this cocktail was wildly refreshing (see top photo).  And last but not least, a more traditionally flavored “bathtub gin” with juniper berries, cardamom, rosemary, and fennel seed made for a perfect gin and tonic.

While the drinks went over exceptionally well, the food was just as delicious. Co-host, Kelly created some of the more memorable bites of the night with her mushroom and olive stromboli and most amazingly with her plum and rosemary tart with sweet corn ice cream. Friggin delicious! And to be completely candid, it was nice having the ladies there. They make us all look good!

So what to do if you are looking to make your own “bathtub gin”. It’s actually amazingly simple. With a few mason jars, and a couple bottles of decent vodka, you can replicate the process with almost any flavors of your preference. This is a great time of year as your herb gardens are dying for new applications and the fall months are perfect for a stiff drink. While it was really fun to replicate the traditional gin flavor, my favorite of the bunch ended up being the lavender. I used a few sprigs of fresh lavender and tasted daily. After about a week, the flavor was perfect. With a little bit of honey and a squeeze of lime, this martini is unreal.

The Nobler Martini:

4 full sprigs of fresh lavender

32 oz average vodka (don’t skimp but don’t go crazy)

4 tbsp honey

1 lime

1 lemon

In a 32 oz mason jar steep the lavender in the vodka for one week. Strain the vodka to remove the lavender and pour through a coffee filter to remove small impurities. Add the honey, the juice of the citrus, shake and keep in the refrigerator until ready. Shake 4 oz of the mixture in a cocktail shaker with ice and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime peel.

 

 

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