Jameson Caskmates

Sometimes the best creations come through cooperation. Apparently Irish whiskey is no exception. The result of cooperation with craft breweries in Ireland, Jameson has created these Caskmates editions. In both the IPA and Stout editions the process starts by aging Jameson in the traditional barrels, which are then sent to the brewery where they are used to create an aged beers. After some time the flavor exchange creates better beer, and leaves the barrel with hints of the flavors therein. These barrels are shipped back to Jameson, who then refills them with Jameson and leaves them to rest for a finishing period. The results are more flavorful and complex, both are delicious and very worth trying.

IPA Edition –

A softer, more gentle version of Jameson. The notes in the nose, are very floral and crisp, a very fall friendly flavor, almost you could expect like walking though an apple orchard. The taste is more citrus forward with a little bite and spice on the finish that doesn’t linger nearly long enough.

Stout Edition –

This is a bigger more full flavored Jameson, The nose is rich and full of sugary, chocolate and caramel aroma. This leads into an equal rich taste. The first sips wrap the tongue in smooth sweet notes of oak and cocoa. This was my favorite of the 2 caskmates editions, mostly due to its complexity, sweetness, and finish.

Both are fairly readily available, and are priced in the $32-$37 price range. Highly recommended for any liquor shelf, it allows for a bit more adventure, experimentation, and conversation than the Jameson you usually buy.

Midori

Let’s talk Midori!

This bright green Japanese melon flavored liqueur, like most, is fairly low in alcohol content, just over 20% abv (42 proof) always pops up on cocktail menus twice a year, once for St. Patricks and again around Halloween but is one of our favorites for summertime because it makes a refreshingly fruity drink that sips well poolside or at a bbq.

The base for Midori is made from grain neutral spirits (with a bit of brandy). It’s signature flavor is derived from a several varieties of sweet Japanese melons and more similar to honeydew or cantaloupe than watermelon, and the color (sad to say) is mostly food coloring.

Midori (the Japanese word for green) was the brand name added to Suntory’s Hermes Melon liqueur when it began selling in the United States in 1978. That same year it was featured in the cocktail that won the US Bartender’s Guild championships “the Universe” by tiki cocktail legend Bobby Batugo.

Midori is a very sweet and heavy. Tastes great as an accent flavor and works well as a float for a sour or cream drink but can be a bit too much on it’s own. If you’re looking for a sweet summery sipper try it with rum (Bacardi silver is our favorite) and sprite/7up.

Image courtesy of Brenda Lewis Gomez, via SCVhistory.com

Amaro

If you’ve ever been out drinking with a bartender, they’ve probably convinced you to try drinking some Montenegro, Campari, Aperol, or the “Bartender’s Handshake” Fernet Branca. One of two reactions were likely, 1: you enjoyed it and appreciated the complex herbal flavors, or 2: you wanted to slap them for not warning you that you’d be drinking something that’s akin in flavor to cough syrup. Either way you’ve just experienced an Amaro!

Amaro actually isn’t a brand or even specific type of alcohol, it’s essentially a classification of a variety of spirits that has been around for hundreds of years.

Amaro literally translated from Italian means “bitter”, and Amari (the plural form of the word) can be used to describe any herbal liqueur. These range in flavor from lighter orange and citrus flavors to bold heavy anise or mint, and have alcohol content ranging from just above 20 proof to nearly 100.

Generally drank as a “digestif” after a meal these spirits are presumed to help the body digest and calm any indigestion. There are also legends of hangover prevention associated with them, though we have no personal research to prove the truth of these claims.

Traditionally consumed without mixers, and slowly trickling into the cocktail scene since around 1920. Amari have become more and more understood and available in recent years. This means they are quickly finding their way into a variety of adventurous and herbaceous cocktails.

Some of our favorite Amari and their Cocktails are:

Aperol (11% abv): Red in color, orangey, herbal and wood flavors blend well into this very mixable amari.

Aperol Spritz

Light, refreshing and easily sippable, close your eyes and the classic Italian aperitif cocktail might make you feel like you’re on a balcony with a view of the Mediterranean.

3 oz Prosecco

2 oz Aperol

1 oz Soda

Orange Garnish

 

Averna (29% abv): The flavor profile here is lighter with crisp notes of pine, juniper, and licorice

Black Manhattan

This cocktail is a newer spin on a classic. Taking the traditional Manhattan and switched out the sweet vermouth with Averna resulting in a richer, more earthy, more herbal finish.

2 oz rye whiskey

1 oz Averna

2 dashes angostura bitters

 

Campari (24% abv): Bright, vibrant and above all bitter, Campari has a good middle of the citrus-herb spectrum flavor.

Negroni

Classic cocktail exemplified, this drinks origins are direct from Italy itself, as a result of the popularity of the Americano in 1920, Count Camillo Negroni asked his local barman to add some gin, and thus the Negroni was born.                  

1 oz gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth

 

Cynar (16.5% abv): Full of citrus, lavender, sage, and basil flavors, means that Cynar tastes a bit like walking through an Italian herb garden with a basket of fresh lemons, and that’s not a bad thing.

Presbyterians Revenge

Lemon and Grapefruit accentuate the citrus notes of Cynar while balancing the smoke and wood notes of the scotch.

2 oz Scotch

1 oz Cynar

.5 oz sweet and sour

Squeeze of Grapefruit

 

Fernet Branca (39% abv): Definitely on the herbal end of the spectrum, Fernet kicks hard with menthol, cinnamon and anise flavors strong enough to “put hair on your chest”

Hanky Panky

The Hanky Panky was originally created in 1903, by Ada Coleman at the Savoy hotel. A boozy balance of gin, Fernet Branca, and sweet vermouth, this classic cocktail packs a smooth and savory punch.

1.5 oz gin

1.5 oz sweet vermouth

2 dashes Fernet Branca

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Montenegro (23% abv): A fairly lightly flavored Amaro, rich in citrus and vanilla notes.

Monte Pres

This boozy bitey beverage is one of our favorite after meal cocktails, the ginger flavors pair harmoniously with the fragrant aromatics in the Montenegro and create a delicious digestif.

1.5 oz Amaro Montenegro

2 oz Ginger Beer

2 oz Soda

 

Nonino (35% abv): Sweeter than most Amari, orange and mint are the most forward flavors.

Nonino Fashioned

An interesting twist on a classic, this cocktail came straight from the Grappa Nonino folks. Sweet, strong, bitter, and smooth perfectly matched in this drink.

See recipe here

 

 

Jägermeister (35% abv) (Yes, that Jager): Though not technically a true amaro, it’s herbal qualities of anise and its syrupy sweetness make it worth mentioning and it works well in a cocktail.

Surfer on Acid

You’d expect a Jagermeister based cocktail like this to be something you’d order from a beach bar on spring break, but the flavors are actually very mature in this almost Tiki cocktail.

1 oz Jägermeister

1 oz Coconut rum

2 oz Pineapple juice

Completing The Grog Log ~ Day 1

The journey of 78 drinks begins with a single cherry…well, at least mine did.

Hey everyone! This is Bella, the Luna half of Pierce and Luna, and I’m going to take you along on my alcoholic adventure to completing the famous Grog Log at Tonga Hut in North Hollywood. Bradley completed his log and earned induction into the “prestigious” Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard in March 2017. At that time I was about 5 months into my first try at the log. You are given one year from the date of sign up to finish all the drinks on the list and I, shamefully, EPICALLY, failed. I think I only got through 25 of them.

But this time will be different!

…she proclaimed, fist high in the air. This time I will be triumphant and you’re going to be with me for every drink. My second go at the Grog Log started on March 14, 2018.

I began with a Blue Hawaii because vodka is my goddess. Throw in some Blue Curacao and pineapple juice and you’ve got yourself a sweet and simple drink. Then comes the cream to laden this puppy down! Overall, it’s quite yummy, but sits heavily and is filling. Probably not the BEST way to start off a night of drinking, but lovely if you’re going for just one or looking to knock yourself out for the night! Bradley said: “S’alright. Nothing special.”

I decided to follow with dealer’s choice. With all the power at her finger tips, Lisa Marie decided to serve me up a Mango Cooler. This drink followed in the vodka vein but added Cointreau, and juices, including orange, lime, and mango nectar. It was so fresh, it asked for my number the moment it hit the table. It’s funky citrus aftertaste definitely ruins it’s chances at a second date though. Try it! You may love it, if you’re into that sort of thing. Bradley said: “Vodka!” (He may have been drunk when giving this review)

“We’ve only just begun…”

So that’s the first two off my list of 78! Well…technically three because the Mai Tai is checked off as a freebie. Let’s face it, if you’ve never had a Mai Tai, you’re a sad excuse for a tiki drink imbiber!!!! Okay, not really, but seriously, get on that ASAP because they are delish.

I’ll be back with plenty more in the weeks to come!

xo, Bella Luna

 

A Study In Absinthe

What is Absinthe and how is it made?

Generally people use the word “Absinthe” to refer to a strongly flavored and potent liquor made from, with, or flavored by wormwood. Absinthe is actually literally the French word for wormwood. It was originally a herbal elixir, a form of natural medicine, and became quite popular as an aperitif, or spirit to open the stomach before a meal. It is also known as “the Green Fairy”.

Unlinke many other types of spirits, most countries have no legal definition for absinthe. As a result, producers and purveyors can label a product as “absinthe” or “absinth” without meeting any defining standards. This has been the cause of many of the spirits issues and stumbling blocks, even leading to it’s nearly worldwide ban. It is believed by many that reports of it’s toxic and hallucinogenic effects were due to the inexpensive but toxic substances being used. In the 19th century, various herbal extracts such as oil of wormwood, impure alcohol, and even poisonous chemical colorants, like copper, were being added to produce more profitable versions of the drink.

Popularized in modern culture through various books including several of Ernest Hemingway’s writings and movies, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, From Hell, and Moulin Rouge (which includes a psychedelic scene involving “the green fairy”), the legend of Absinthe has been carried on throughout, and perhaps partially because of, its ban.

Absinthe is made by mixing a cocktail of herbs and botanicals (traditionally a maceration of wormwood with the likes of anise, hyssop, licorice, fennel, peppermint, coriander, and lemon balm) in alcohol, using one of two basic methods. Distillation sees the herbs being mashed and mixed with the bases before and during. Cold mixing adds herbs and allows them to infuse the spirit after the distillation process is complete. Very few modern distilleries produce absinthe equal to pre-ban spirits. this is simply due to the fact that the recipes and techniques have been lost to time and the true craft of creating absinthe is still being re-learned.

Is Absinthe legal?

Disclaimer: Our focus is on the legality of Absinthe in the United States because thats where we are based, if you are living in another country please check your laws locally because we didn’t. If you drink illegally and get busted, it’s not our fault.

Absinthe was banned throughout most of Europe and the Americas for several decades – it was never banned in the United Kingdom, Czech Republic or Spain.

The French brand “Lucid” became the first genuine absinthe since 1912 to be approved for import into the United States. A few years later in December 2007, St. George Absinthe Verte, produced by St. George Spirits, became the first American absinthe brand since the ban was placed.

On March 5th 2007 (a day now known as “National Absinthe Day”), the United States lifted their 95 year ban on absinthe, with some very important limitations. According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (The TTB for the sake of expediency) stated in the new law that:

The product must be thujone-free. (Thujone is a naturally occurring chemical by product of wormwood distillation, and the compound in absinthe believed to cause hallucinations.)
The word “absinthe” can neither be the brand name nor stand alone on the label.
The packaging cannot “project images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic, or mind-altering effects.”

American absinthe drinkers can also legally buy true, thujone containing, wormwood based absinthe online, and it is generally legal to import provided it is not intended to be sold.

What does Absinthe taste like?

Traditional absinthe is very strong. Wormwood is quite bitter, and additional herbs are used to improve and mask the bitter taste of absinthe, sometimes resulting in a sinus clearing astringent quality that derives from the many herbs used in its creation. Generally high quality absinthe has a slighty bitter taste, with herbal and sometimes floral notes. Though generally heavily scented and flavored with anise and the licorice like flavors, there are several brands of absinthe that are made without the herbs that create the licorice flavor.

What’s the “right way” to drink Absinthe?

Those who know us know we are suckers for a good ritual, especially if that ritual involves booze. Absinthe drinking has become one of the most well know ritualized beverage creation and consumption process ever.

The traditional French preparation involves placing a sugar cube on top of a specially designed spoon or palate with holes in the bottom, and placing that spoon on a glass partially filled with absinthe. Iced water is slowly poured or dripped over the sugar cube to mix into the absinthe. The mix causes the absinthe to “bloom” releasing the aromas and flavors in the spirit, and becoming cloudy and milky (this is known as louching). The resulting mix (I hesitate to use the work cocktail) is usually about 1 part absinthe and 3-5 parts water.

This process was so popular that “absinthe fountains” were created, generally a vessel of water on a stand with adjustable flow spouts around it. This allowed several drinkers to louche their absinthe glasses at once in an early form of bottle service.

 

The more recently developed “Bohemian method” involves lighting the drink on fire! A small amount of high proof alcohol is added to the sugar cube before placing it on the spoon and lighting it. Water is then dripped onto it until the flames die, or the cube is dropped directly into the glass, resulting in a flaming shot. Many connoisseurs of absinthe suggest that this is completely improper as it doesn’t allow the sprit to open, can negatively affect the flavor of the absinthe.

 

In addition to being prepared with sugar and water, absinthe is sometimes used as in ingredient in cocktails most famously the “Death in the afternoon” one of Hemingways favorite’s that is a simple but elegant mix of absinthe and champagne. There are also many drinks, such as the “corpse reviver” and “sazerac”, that use trace amounts of absinthe in the form of rinses or finishing sprays.

Is Absinthe a hallucinogen?

“Absinthe Drinker” – Viktor Oliva

In short, no, absinthe does not cause hallucinations, at least not with any more frequency than any other high proof alcohol.

The “absinthe effect” is sometimes described as an hallucination. This is not actually the case, the effect on the absinthe drinker has been defined as follows: “clear-headedness; a clarity of not only vision, but thought. Perceptions seem to be sharpened. While you might not be hallucinating images that aren’t there, the images that are there seem to be somehow enhanced — more vibrant. It’s very much a hyper-aware altered state of inebriation.” However, there is debate that the push and pull effect of the cocktail may simply be the result of a mixture of depressant and stimulant herbs.

The chemical thujone in true absinthe can, in large doses, alter the GABA brain receptors that control the muscles and nervous system. In 2000 a University of California study showed a connection between alpha-thujone and nervous system excitation, causing muscles spasms, convulsions and seizures. It seems that thujone has an opposite effect to alcohol and may account for the effects described above. Though thujone can be derived from wormwood, other herbs, such as sage, contain much higher, potentially toxic, concentrations.

Is Absinthe an Aphrodisiac?

Absinthe is claimed to have an impact on the drinker’s senses, increasing their sensitivity. “[After drinking absinthe] all sensations are perceived by all senses at once,” wrote a French doctor in the late nineteenth century. More recently, Paula Manners, an English holistic health practitioner, said “Imagine living your life in black and white, in a world where you don’t even have any concept of colour. You just don’t know what colour is, all you know is shades of grey. Then, imagine your whole world suddenly brightened up with greens and reds and yellows and blues — how would that feel? This is what absinthe does to your senses, all five of them. Now imagine how this translates into the bedroom.”

So, maybe not an aphrodisiac in the purest sense because it likely would not heighten the desire for sex, but if these claims are true, then it could be assumed that intimacy would be enhanced by consuming absinthe.