Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cuban Rum - Drinking Notes

At long last, the Cuban embargo is over! Well, at least, it’s over enough. A little more than a week ago, President Obama relaxed the embargo on Cuban goods, including allowing licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba to bring home merchandise worth up to $400, of which $100 can be spent on alcohol and tobacco combined. Say no more, Mr. President, because we called us up some travelers and bingo: two bottles of Cuban awesome hit our shelves in a matter of days. Which two? First the immortal rum base of the world, true Havana Club 7 Year (besides the U.S. who has labored under the long reign of over-commercialized Bacardi swill for most of our lives); the second, extra anejo Santiago de Cuba, 12 years encased in oak.

Friday, November 21, 2014


To 'E' or not to 'E'? That is the question. So let us provide you the answer... maybe. What the hell are we talking about, you ask? Well, maybe you have noticed that some of your bottles of whiskey are spelled with an 'e' in them, while in others, it is omitted. What's the deal? Today, arguably whiskey is famed in four locations in the world - Scotland, Canada, Ireland, and the United States. Traditionally, Scotland and Canada spelled it without the 'e.' In the late 1800s, Scotch was not the same product you know today - it was poorly distilled and allegedly near undrinkable. Irish exporters to the U.S. didn't want their good whiskeys to be mistaken for swill, so they added an 'e' to distinguish their product from the Scots. The U.S. followed suit at home and added 'e's to their homegrown whiskey.

Now, we have recently come to the end of another of our favorite series on HBO - Boardwalk
Empire. In the opening of each episode, Steve Buscemi's character, the corrupt Nucky Thompson wanders off the boardwalk onto the beach amid scores of Canadian whisky bottles, labels prominent, washing up on the shore. Only thing is that the lables have 'e's! Someone call IMDb for the goof page! Well... maybe. Thing is, all kinds of whiskeys don't follow the general rules. Most prominent among them is George Dickel's Tennessee whisky without the 'e' and Old Forester and Maker's Mark bourbons without the 'e'. Maybe Nucky Thompson's whiskey is a Canadian exception or maybe, since the Thompson family is proudly Irish, they are bringing in Canadian whisky with the 'e' added labels in order to sell swill as premium product during prohibition. I like the second explanation. Either way, we will offer you a good-bye cocktail of Nucky Thompson's era, the Lawhill Cocktail.

Lawhill Cocktail
Classic Pour Series

1 1/4 ounce Canadian Club whisky
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1 dash Absinthe
1 dash Maraschino
1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients well and strain into a small coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist if desired.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Texas Beers - Drinking Notes

This summer we went south. That we would bring back liquid treats was a given. And with stops in
Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, we ended up with a lot of treats! To start with, let's expose you to two of the tastier beers we came across in Texas. First up is Real Ale Brewing's Devil's Backbone Belgian-style tripel from Blanco, Texas.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Butterscotch and Cream

I love pouring drinks, most people know that. However, every once (or twice) in a while, I spend the entire party night in the kitchen. Like Victor Frankenstein, I exhaust the night splicing ingredients together, reveling in the creation. By the small hours, the party-goers dwindle to a handful and I always go, ‘Damn, I didn’t even get to talk to so-and-so!’ That’s why Cody Love was a life-saver. You see, Cody is a bartender out West (check the Loves Shack Pool and Pub) and whenever we partied, he would see a drink I was pouring and say, ‘Hey, man, there’s a shot like that drink you’re pouring!’ Then he’d take the bar, pour shots and I got to slink away to talk to people. Shot glasses in my house finally got used; ragers raged. Everything was good.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Yale College Punch

I had to take a break from drinking and Halloween to coach at a national mock trial tournament at Yale University this weekend. That doesn't mean you have to stop drinking. So let me leave you with a punch recipe from Yale that is probably as old as Skull and Bones, yet pretty easy to concoct.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Russell Edgington Cocktail

After seven seasons, they finally stuck a stake through the heart of True Blood. It probably went on three season too long, but the last season was well worth watching as the vamp-laden southern soap returned to its blood-soaked and sexy roots. Since it was an admirable summertime time-waster for so long, we wouldn't let it leave the Domain without a night cap at the Firewater Lounge. I happened to have some spicy purple jalapenos that had turned red on the tips, so I grabbed a muddler and a glass and I made something hot and bloody, just like Russell Edgington would have loved.

Russell Edgington Cocktail
Holly's Original

2 ounces of chilled vodka (try V1)
3 ounces of chilled Efferve blood orange energy water
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Jalapeno peppers

In a rocks glass or square coupe, muddle a couple of seeded jalapenos in a half ounce of chilled vodka to taste. Add ice if desired. Pour in remaining vodka and Efferve; stir gently. Add two dashes of New Orleans Peychaud's bitters to float. Do not stir. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cream Soda - Drinking Notes

The Hollenberger’s favorite pop, cream soda, never lasted very long in the domain. My sister and I love it, but we’d also have to fight Dad for them. The very first bottle of liquor I ever bought was Bacardi 151 (yikes, I know) which obviously needed to be mixed. I had an idea of what it would taste like, so I picked up some A&W cream soda as a mixer knowing that I’d drink the A&W regardless. I actually made my first drink that night; a cloying concoction of cream soda, peppermint schnapps and 151 named ‘cream silk’ because it hid the 151 burn quite well.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Milwaukee, May 2014 Part 3

In the last post, we promised the conclusion of our Milwaukee trip and left you at the bourbon bar Distil with their signature version of the classic Old Fashioned. After Cindy and I finished our drinks at Distil, we traveled down to the riverwalk to take in the last of the patio nightlife. Still thirsty, we wandered down to Rock Bottom Brewery to grab some suds. Cindy was content to skip the beer, but I partook in the libations of the establishment by ordering a Naughty Scot Scottish Ale. This ale comes from the tap colored in a deep, dark mahogany with a bit of a head which leaves pleasing lacing throughout the drinking experience. Not really one for the hops lover, this ale is all malt and sweetness, mainly coming in the form of caramel, honey, and sugared nuts.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Milwaukee, June 2014 Part 2

Last time we started you on a recap of our last Milwaukee adventure, drinking at the old 1938 cocktail lounge, Bryant’s, and ending at Happy Hour at Walker Point’s Sabbatic. Now after having a double whiskey and a shot of tequila, any more liquor and driving a car would be out of the question (mainly because the next drink was going to be another double and our lonely friend at the bar was likely to buy more and more shots as the night went on). So we had to say goodbye to the naked half-mannequins and the violated nun lithographs of the Sabbatic and head back downtown to drop off the car at our hotel.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Milwaukee, June 2014 Part I

When Cindy and I got a chance to break away from the kids for the weekend and everyone knows it's time to try some new establishments and old haunts. We stayed close to home this time, kicking up our heels in Milwaukee, one of my favorite places to imbibe. And imbibe I did, so I will take you through my wonderful tour of downtown, Walker's Point, and Mitchell Street neighborhoods.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Whiskey Smash

Drink: Whiskey Smash
Establishment: Rainbow Room
Location: New York City, New York
First Connoisseur: Holly (someday)

This drink was made famous by James Beard award-winning barman Dale DeGroff. We are modifying his classic recipe to the one it looks like he pours on the new Showtime documentary,  Hey Bartender. It is a smash, so remember you're going to smash up your mint. It's ok, you're also going to double strain!

2 lemon quarters
3 to 4 mint leaves
1 1/2 ounces Makers Mark bourbon
3/4 ounce Pierre Fernand dry curaçao
1/2 ounce simple syrup

Muddle lemon quarters, mint and simple syrup in the bottom of a Boston shaker glass. Add bourbon and dry curaçao and shake. Double strain into a rocks glass packed with ice. Garnish with lemon wedge and a mint sprig.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Belmont Jewel

This year’s Belmont was a huge letdown again, what with California Crome tanking the Triple Crown and his owner going ballistic, comparing Chrome’s loss to thumping a kid in a wheelchair in a game of hoops. All of that nonsense necessitates a drink. Since we have given you the official drink of each of the other Triple Crown races, let’s finish off with the Belmont’s current recipe. It’s only a couple years old, since their last recipe, the Belmont Breeze, had six ingredients, two garnishes, and a shake with mint- talk about a pain when you have to pour thousands of them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Earth Tones

One of the greatest mixers in the world is coffee. It literally pairs with just about everything: spirits of all kinds, bitters, spices, herbals, beers, liqueurs, and even citrus juices that you’d be surprised about. The typical trick with coffee cocktails is to either concentrate the coffee or add a coffee liqueur like Kamora or Kahlua to the mix (see the classic Spanish Coffee). Since it’s spring, we went in another direction. We decided to use a bold tasting blend to balance a drink without the coffee actually bulling itself to the forefront. A solid choice is the local Brewhaha Roaster’s Buxom Blend whose earthiness we thought would match well with hazelnut, honey, and mint. See if you agree!

Earth Tones
Holly's Original
2 ounces cold Buxom Blend Brewhaha coffee
3/4 ounce Frangelico
1/4 ounce Drambuie

Muddle 4-5 mint leaves in a half ounce of Buxom Blend at the bottom of a mixing glass. Remove mint and add ice to the coffee. Add remaining ingredients and shake lightly. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with a spanked mint sprig.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Black-Eyed Susan

Unfortunately, the Preakness is somewhat the ugly step-sister of the Triple Crown races- its in the middle, doesn’t have the tradition of the Kentucky Derby, and doesn’t have the million eyes on it if there is a possible Triple Crown winner like New York’s Belmont Stakes does. However, Maryland does have one thing going for it- they know how to drink. The only state whose college students routinely top Wisconsin college students in binge drinking, Maryland has the liver for the Preakness to live up to. Hence, the Preakness offers the Black-Eyed Susan.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Barrel Aged Deshler

On Facebook, we hinted at a project that we would unveil for Winterfest XXI.

If you made the party, you know about (and drank) that project. If not, we thought that a month was long enough to wait. Just after last Christmas, I met with Grant Hurless, bar manager at Heritage in Madison, about barrel-aging pre-mixed cocktails. That discussion led to a barrel and a search for a classic recipe to put in it. I finally settled on a classic cousin of the traditional Manhattan called the Deshler. A potent mix of Cointreau, Dubonnet, and rye, the Deshler would stand up to the wood well and provide a smooth product in the end.

At this point if you are wondering how to barrel-age, here's how.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Roosevelt's Rough Rider

Drink: Roosevelt's Rough Rider
Establishment: Murphy's Pub & Grill
Location: Rapid City, South Dakota
First Connoisseur: Holly

2 1/2 ounces of Patron Café (we used Cabo Diablo)
1 1/2 ounces Absolut Vanilla Vodka
Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat Sweet Stout
Splash of cream
Splash of soda water

Fill a pint glass with ice. Build, starting with the Patron, vodka, and cream. Stir well with a bar spoon. Add a splash of soda water. Top with refrigerated Buffalo Sweat. Stir a couple of gentle revolution. Since this drink contains cream, don't let it sit for long - it will curdle.

South Dakota is not really a drinking mecca; drinking in the tourist trap that is downtown Rapid City means drinking domestic and Colorado craft beers. And although Murphy's Pub & Grill's idea of cocktails are mostly just large versions of shooters, the Rough Rider is a bit different in that its cousin is the classic Colorado Bulldog - only with tequila and beer. Yeah, it's that down-home, but for only $6 a pint, who's complaining?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pirate's Cove

In part two of our look at macadamia nut liqueur, we thought that this winter was so darn cold that a little tiki would be in order. Macadamia nut liqueur rarely would be the main player in a drink; it is far to much of a cloying bully. To feature the liqueur, the multiplicity of ingredients and the acidic backing of a tiki drink can tame the macadamia sweetness to a level that is a more than drinkable - and you can actually have more than one.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Court Martial

In 2011, we decided to create some drink recipes that included macadamia nut liqueur for a Christmas gift exchange. Sweet as sugar cookies with just a hint of earthiness, macadamia nut liqueur makes for a great substitute for simple syrup in many drinks (if you are looking for a syrup substitute without the nuttiness, grab a bottle of Licor 43. Note, though, 43 will have just a bit of herbal citrus in the background). The obvious pairing with macadamia is coffee, so we stayed away from those recipes. I wanted to go classic and emphasize this liqueur's non-sweet properties. The best way to do this is to put a bitter amaro in the mix. Nut liqueurs and amaro are like peanut butter and jelly to Italians. Consider the wonderful combinations of nocino (walnut liqueur), gin, and Compari in a nut-driven negroni. For this recipe, we thought that using a classic American rye would be fun.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Simon Creek Hazelnut Port - Drinking Notes

If we neglect anything in the Firewater Lounge, it is probably wine. The Badger State is known for beer and brandy which sends the Wollersheims and the Door County wineries to the back burner. It's a shame too, since Wisconsin sports some really stunning wines and meads that deserve wider appeal. One of these overlooked vineyards is Sturgeon Bay's Simon Creek Vineyard and Winery. Less commercial than Door Peninsula, Simon Creek offers a number of interesting selections from muscats to merlots, from  Gewurztraminer to their table wine Untouchable Red.

The bottle that we were most interested in was their Hazelnut Port. Port is a favorite cocktail ingredient because its higher proof and bolder flavor holds up to strong spirits. Simon Creek's Hazelnut Port is no exception - its velvety sweetness, deep fruit and moderate spice holds up in bourbon and brandy well while proving itself eminently drinkable in its own right. We are a bit worried here in the FWL that the Hazelnut Port was a limited bottle for Simon Creek since it doesn't seem to be offered on its website (maybe it is seasonal), however, given the quality of this winery, it is worth your while to stop in post-Packer game to taste-test a few bottles yourself. Their Speakeasy Red table wine (pictured) makes for a wine for cheesecake or a replacement for cocktails that call for Dubonnet.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Xmas Leftovers

Being the kind of guy I am, I tend to get alcohol for Christmas. I think that was why New Years was invented - to drink your Christmas liquor! Well, my gracious parents-in-law set me up with a bottle of Speakeasy Bourbon this year, and I have to say, by late January, it's just about gone. There's a good reason for it. One of Willett's newer offerings, Speakeasy delivers a huge caramel nose and taste with edges of of vanilla and coffee. Perfect for Christmas because the flavor blends with the Christmas spices of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. I decided to use it to craft a new holiday cocktail to ring in 2014.

Given the sweetness of Speakeasy, I needed an acid to pair with it. The classic holiday acid is cranberry which, like Willett's booze, is one of my favorite flavors to pour into a glass. So I attempted a cranberry-ginger syrup for heat and tang. Here's the way to make it...

Pour 2-3 coups of fresh cranberries in a large sauce pot. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups of white sugar and stir to dissolve. Heat to boiling and reduce to simmer. Peel a 2-3 inch piece of ginger root. If you are new to this, use a spoon to scrape the brown skin off - it is much easer than using a knife. Once the skin is removed, cut root into thin slices. Add the slices to simmering cranberries; smash softened berries to have them yield more juice. After 20-30 minutes, remove the syrup from stove top, strain and cool.

Xmas Leftovers
Holly's Originals

2 ounces bourbon (I used Speakeasy)
2 ounce cranberry-ginger syrup
1 ounce Benedictine
1 ounce triple sec

Mix all ingredients into a mixing glass that had already been filled with ice. Stir with a barspoon for 40 revolutions. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe. Enjoy what's left of this really cold winter... with leftovers!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Recreation of Shackleton's 1907 Mackinlay Scotch - Drinking Notes

 My favorite Christmas present this year was a bottle of scotch. Cindy procured a bottle of the recreated 1907 scotch whisky from the ill-fated Shackleton expedition to the South Pole from 1907-1909. The whisky was buried under the hut that Shackleton and his crew built as a staging ground for his expedition. See more here and here. The whisky was then abandoned under ice until their rediscovery nearly 100 years later in 2007. The recovered bottles were analyzed by  Richard ‘The Nose’ Paterson, Master Blender at Whyte & Mackay, the owners of the original Mackinlay brand. They then painstakingly recreated the whisky.