Absinthe is the drink that needs little introduction, its reputation precedes it more than that of any other spirit in the world. La Fée Verte (The Green Fairy), as it is known, is distilled from the herb Grande Wormwood an ingredient used in many herbal drinks, including Bitters. Usually, Absinthe is bottled at very high strength and it is made with neutral alcohol and various herbs. Traditional variants are made with white grape spirit, though absinthes are often made using alcohol distilled from grains, potatoes of beets. The three main ingredients, sometimes known as the “Holy Trinity”, are Florence fennel, Green Anise and Grande Wormwood. Other flavourings include star anise, angelica, coriander and nutmeg. There are various styles of Absinthe, including Blanche (also known as la bleue) which is bottled immediately after distillation – it is clear in colour. Verte absinthe is coloured with a mixture of herbs post distillation, and Verte absinthes are similar to the Spanish Absenta – which differs in slightly in flavour (the addition of Alicante anise brings added sweetness). Bohemian Absinthe, often known as Czech-style absinthe, is made with very little or no anise or fennel, relying on wormwood for its flavour – it also has a very high alcoholic content. The French Method of drinking absinthe involves the traditional slotted absinthe spoon. Absinthe is poured into the glass first. Then the slotted spoon is place atop the glass with a sugar cube on it. Using a slow drip fountain, water is gradually dripped onto the sugar cube, and into the glass until the cube is dissolved, the spoon is then used to stir the drink. Note, it will become cloudy thanks to the Louche Effect. The Bohemian Method (We recommend you do not attempt this – it’s rather dangerous!) involves using a traditional heat proof absinthe glass, absinthe is poured into the glass, the slotted spoon is placed on top of the glass and an absinthe-soaked sugar cube is placed on the spoon. The sugar cube is then lit, and the cube is dropped into the drink and allowed to burn out – this removes some of the alcoholic content, as well as things like eyebrows and fringes (note – not a recommended grooming method). Did you know?... ...Thujone is not exclusive to absinthe; there is actually thujone present in many herbs, including sage
Denomination of Origin (DO) Rías Baixas is renowned for the Albariño grape, an indigenous variety that produces some of the world’s foremost white wines. Located in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, the DO was formally established in 1988. Albariño has always been the flagship of this coastal region. In Rías Baixas’ unique climate, Albariño shares the same mineral-rich soils and cool climate as the world’s other renowned white wine-producing regions, including France’s Loire Valley, New Zealand, and the Rhine region of Germany. While the different sub-zones express subtle differences, the Albariño grape shares a number of characteristics. Pale golden lemon, they are all crisp, elegant and fresh. These wines are bone-dry and aromatic, packed with flavors of white peach, apricot, melon, pineapple, mango and honeysuckle. They share good natural acidity, have mineral overtones, and are medium bodied with moderate alcohol (12%).
Besides being home to quaint villages that might be confused with holiday gingerbread houses, Alsace puts out some of the world’s most age-worthy, dry, white wines. Whether it is Riesling, Sylvaner or Pinot Gris, Alsace wines showcase their terroir as much as any others in the world.
When we think of American whiskey, we usually think of rich, sweet corn-based bourbon, or perhaps spicy and grassy rye. Rounded and biscuity malt whiskies, especially the revered single malt, seem to be exclusively in the Scottish domain. But American distillers are increasingly bucking tradition and setting their sights on growing the fledgling category of American malt whiskey, with surprising—and delicious—results.What makes a malt whiskey a malt whiskey? The answer, in a word, is barley. That noble grain, well loved in beer, bread, and tsampa, is also the essential ingredient in malt whiskey. The name 'malt' derives from the malting process, in which the grain is soaked in water, made to germinate, and then dried with hot air to prevent full germination. This process develops enzymes required to convert the starches within the grain into sugars, and we all know how central sugar is to fermentation. It's true that other grains undergo the malting treatment as well on their way to becoming alcohol (rye, spelt, wheat, you name it), but barley gets the nod as the historical king of the hill. So in the world of whiskey, when you hear malt, think malted barley!
Vodka was first imported into the United States in commercial quantities around the turn of the 20th century. Its primary market was immigrants from Eastern Europe. After the repeal of National Prohibition in 1933, the Heublein Company bought the rights to the Smirnoff brand of Vodka from its White Russian émigré owners and relaunched Vodka into the U.S. market. Sales languished until an enterprising liquor salesman in South Carolina started promoting it as "Smirnoff White Whisky — No taste. No smell." Sales started to increase and American Vodka, after marking time during World War II, was on its way to marketing success. The first popular Vodka-based cocktail was a combination of Vodka and ginger ale called the Moscow Mule. It was marketed with its own special copper mug, examples of which can still be found in the back shelves of liquor cabinets and flea markets of America.Today Vodka is the dominant white spirit in the United States, helped along by its versatility as a mixer and some very clever advertising campaigns from the various producers. One of the most famous of these was the classic double entendre tag line: "Smirnoff — It leaves you breathless."
American whiskeys may often be categorized as pertaining to toastiness, spice and vanilla sweetness. This is in large part due to the generous use of new charred oak (predominant in most styles of US whiskey, and used exclusively in the production of bourbon), which lends stunning sweet flavors such as vanillin, and other flavor compounds. Rye whiskey is made with a mash bill that mainly features rye. The result of this is a more spicy whisky with lots of complexity. Great examples include Sazerac rye whiskey and Pappy Van Winkle's Rye. Tennessee whiskeys are essentially bourbons which undergo the "Lincoln County Process", developed by the world famous Jack Daniel. This involves filtering the spirit through sugar maple charcoal. Moonshine is becoming increasingly popular, and you'll find a range here, as well as rarer artisanal US whiskeys such as single barrel and small batch bourbon, straight wheat and straight corn whiskey.
If you love Malbec, and sales figures around the country suggest that just about everyone does, there’s no place better for it. The picturesque landscape of Mendoza contrasts towering Andean peaks with vast vineyards producing some of the best values in the New World. But don’t get it twisted. Some of Argentina’s finest Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon is as precise as Lionel Messi’s left foot.
There is so much more than greets the eyes at first impression, in Australia. Not only are there endless micro-climates, but the grape varietals that the Aussie’s are championing extend far past the most notable, Shiraz. Riesling from Claire Valley. Semillon from Hunter Valley. Chardonnay from Margaret River. Cabernet from McLaren Vale. It’s all here, folks.
Vineyards in the Beaujolais wine region located just south of Burgundy. It began as an early release wine, drunk by vineyard workers, to celebrate the end of harvest (and probably to give the people something to drink for harvest work). Beaujolais Nouveau started as a race to see who could deliver the new harvest’s wine to Paris first. Gradually, the wine started to appear at local cafés and bistros in Lyon and other towns of the Beaujolais region. We are still scratching our heads in amazement trying to figure out how 30 million bottles of wine can be produced, packaged and shipped all over the world within ~2 months of being grapes in a vineyard… in France. Drink this wine while it’s young. This is not a wine to be cellared, but to be enjoyed chilled!
A rather curious drink, primarily used for adding flavour to cocktails, Bitters are a little like the salt and pepper of the cocktail world (as in the condiment and not the hip hop outfit).Bitters are made with various bitter herbs, barks and other flavourings, with an alcoholic base (often rum). They are not intended for neat consumption, due to their very (and unsurprisingly) bitter flavour, but when added to an Old-Fashioned cocktail, or a Manhattan, they impart all sorts of complexity, bringing maturity and great depth. Bitters started life, as did many of our favourite drinks, as a medicine. The famous Angostura bitters were created by Dr Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert as a remedy for sea sickness and stomach ailments. The original recipe was named after the town of Angostura in Venezuela (and not after the bark from the tree of the same name – also named after the town). Exports started to Trinidad (where the Angostura company is now based) and England. The Royal Navy (which was, at the time, an ardent promoter of some of the more beneficial qualities of alcohol) took to adding a few dashing of Angostura bitters to Gin, a concoction known as “Pink Gin”, which was said to placate tummy woes. The list of ingredients used to make traditional bitters reads a little like a who’s who of archaic remedies: Angostura bark, cassia, gentian, even quinine (the favourite anti-malarial of the old colonists). Bitters are simply made by macerating a bitter agent (often one or more of the above mentioned barks), and a selection of other herbs and spices in strong spirit. Did you know?... ...In Trinidad and Tobago, Angostura bitters are often added to coffee – well worth trying!
For hundreds of years, the grand chateaux of Bordeaux set the standard in fine wine with their rich, complex, and age-worthy offerings. Especially with the recent discovery of China has a vital market, First Growth Bordeaux continues to be the pinnacle of wine collections everywhere. But don’t fret, lesser known chateaux from both the Left Bank (Cabernet Sauvignon based blends) and Right Bank (Merlot based blends) continue to release incredible values that are ready to drink right away, and don’t need the same decanting treatment that their more expensive brethren do.
American whiskey really is a fascinating thing. It was the Irish and Scottish immigrants who brought distillation to the country. We associate American whiskies with those wonderful high notes, a sort of tangy, sharp quality they offer. We like our American whiskey a little rough around the edges. That is not to say it's inferior, far from it, rather it's more rustic. Due to the warmer climes it also matures much faster, thus it is rare to see American whiskey any older than in its early twenties. Bourbon is America's national spirit. It is made stringently: there must be at least 51% corn in the selection of grains for distillation. There must be no caramel colouring and it can be distilled to no more than 80%abv.
No single wine region fascinates and befuddles more industry professionals as their cutting their teeth in the business. The single vineyard plots, hillside soil types, and varying expressions of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the world have driven prices into the stratosphere for many of the best offerings, but there are still tremendous values to be had under $30 if you’re willing to look. More than any other region, buying Burgundy is best when you develop a trusting relationship with your local wine steward.
What else can be said about Cabernet Sauvignon that hasn’t already been said? The King of red wine grapes, and also the world’s most planted red variety, it achieves classical heights throughout the globe. From California and South America, to France and beyond, Cab can show off the power of Tyson with the complexity of Ali.