Writers Wanted

Queen City Drinks was founded on the idea of multiple authors all writing about different drink related topics in Cincinnati. From better beer bars to the best mixologists and morning coffee spots, if it’s drinkable in Cincinnati that’s what we want to talk about. However it’s has basically turned into “my” beer blog that Ginny writes for occasionally. It’s time to try and get back to the roots and get more people involved talking about more things. Here’s a couple of areas I’d like folks to cover.

Bars & Restaurants

I don’t live downtown and don’t go out to new bars too often. I’m kinda a home body and normally just go out to MadTree or Dutch’s. So I’d really like to find someone who wants to talk about all the bars around OTR and across the city.What they have on the taps or the top shelf, what their speciality in-house mixes are, the overall vibe, bands or music selection, stuff like that. For bars that have food or for restaurants then being a foodie is definitely an upside. Or just saying what kind of food it is and how good or bad it is in generally works as well. Or whatever you want to write about.

Wine

Covering the few, but growing, number of wineries around town. Reviewing bottles of wine. Spreading general wine knowledge about styles and how to taste them and what to look for and how they’re made. Or whatever you want to write about wine.

Beer Reviews

I used to thrive on doing beer reviews but I’ve kinda gotten burned out on it. I’ll still do them on occasion but I don’t feel I do enough that need to be done. So I’d love to have somebody write some beer reviews for us. Preferably about new local beers coming out as well as going back and trying older year-round or seasonals. I don’t want someone writing a new review every week about some hard to obtain beer. I say that but I’m not going to tell you what not to write about. And again… or whatever you want to write about beer reviews.

Whatever You Want to Write About

Most importantly is an open forum for you to speak your mind about beverages, preferably alcoholic ones, in the greater Cincinnati area. The three things above are what I’d like to cover if I could but I don’t have all the time, or money, in the world to talk about all these things. But I remain open to other ideas and concepts that you may want to talk about. If you want to talk about something there are strong odds that a lot more people want to read about it. So pitch me your ideas and we’ll hammer things out.

If you just have one idea for one post that’s great and I’ll be happy to post it. If you have a couple ideas that’s even better. If you think you have something shoot it to me and we’ll hammer it out into a solid piece of work. I don’t claim to be the best writer but I’ll gladly proofread your posts for spelling and grammar if you want, though flow has always been more important to be personally.

What’s In It For You?

Honestly, not a tremendous amount unless you work for it. And no actual cash money pretty much ever. You can, if you work it, successfully use this as a launch pad for other businesses like Ginny has done with Tonic Tours. You will get to meet a lot of awesome people and have plenty of great times. If you get into reviewing drinks you will very likely get free samples delivered to you. The same likely goes for restaurants and bars but I can’t personally speak to that as I’ve never gone far down that route. But really the payoff is in the awesome people and the great times.

Have I sold you on the idea of blogging? If so shoot me an email at Tom@QueenCityDrinks.com and let’s talk about what you want to talk about.

Few Spirits Gin Review

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I have written in the past about the boom in craft distilling and how heartbreaking it can be when the cute little distillery with the beautiful bottle that you just paid $50 for turns out to be putting out less than impressive product. So it was with excitement but also a little cynicism that I opened my box of samples from Few Spirits in Evanston, IL. The samples included three different gins, a bourbon, and a rye whiskey.  My first thought on seeing the whiskeys was to wonder where they were sourcing from. When I read the informational materials and learned that Few ferments, distills, and bottles all of its products from scratch in their distillery I had to reevaluate my expectations. Turns out that the Few Spirits blew those expectations out of the water. Charlie and I tried the three gins included in the sampler, Few American Gin, Barrel Gin, and Standard Issue Gin on Episode 137 of The Charlie Tonic Hour and I can tell you that it was one of the most enthusiastic drink segments of the show’s history. Here are the details of the three gins.

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Few American Gin: First the basics. It’s made with a bourbon mash of 70% corn, 20% wheat, and 10% malted barley and flavored with 11 botanicals including juniper, bitter orange, lemon peel and fresh vanilla and weighs in at a modest 80 proof. The nose is sweet, heavy on the corn but I can smell mint and vanilla as well. It is smooth with a gentle burn on the finish. The juniper isn’t overpowering but it is not as citrus heavy as other American-style gins I have tried. There is almost a hoppy quality to the flavor but it is nicely balanced by the sweeter notes. The vanilla is surprisingly easy to pick out. When I watered it down I felt that the flavors got too diluted but I think this would make a lovely gin and tonic. Retails for $39.99.

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Few Barrel Gin: The info materials state that the Barrel Gin is made with a more neutral base spirit which I am interpreting as having fewer botanicals than their American or Standard Issue gin. Then they age the gin in a mix of new American Oak and used bourbon and rye barrels. The Barrel Gin is 93 proof. Barrel aged gins have been popping up all over the place lately. I can see how some people might think that they are a bit gimmicky I have to admit that I kind of love them. They just taste like nothing else out there. Few Barrel Gin has a lot more body and spice than other bourbon barrel gins I have tried. I think using a blend of different barrels was a very good choice. The predominant flavors are mint and a sweet cinnamon with notes of vanilla. The only problem with barrel gins that I have found is that they really don’t work in cocktails for me. Few recommends making a “Ginhattan” with it but I am skeptical. So far I have stuck with sipping it. Retails for $49.99.

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Few Standard-Issue Gin: This gin is 114 proof. I mention that first because the high-proof is a big part of what defines this style of gin, which is often referred to as navy strength gin. The story behind this is that when British sailors received their daily ration of gin it had to have enough alcohol so that the gunpowder could still ignite if the gin was accidentally spilled on it. Along with the higher alcohol content a navy gin would have been drier than American gins. To balance this dryness Few added a hefty dose of fennel to balance it out. The result is a gin that will put hairs on your chest but is also surprisingly reminiscent of those candies you get at an Indian restaurant. Surprisingly smooth for the proof, the juniper flavors come on strong and there is a bitterness you can feel on the tongue rather than taste, but the finish leaves a strong impression of licorice. With water the burn was greatly diminished and the softer flavors came out more. I think this would be a great cocktail gin, perhaps with a gimlet. Retails for $39.99.

Right now Few Spirits are not available in stores in Ohio and Kentucky but you can order them online. Next time I am in Chicago I will make a point of visiting the distiller and picking up a few bottles.

Bourbon Classic 2014

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The Bourbon Classic was held last weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. The event drew bourbon fans from around the country to join with distillers, bartenders, restaurants, and media representatives in celebrating all things bourbon. I was lucky enough to be among them and I left feeling very lucky to be living so close to bourbon country.

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The Run Down of Events:

The event began Friday night with a cocktail competition that paired local bartenders, chefs, and sponsor distilleries in pairing bourbon cocktails with small plates of food. The cocktails were great that night but the food was outstanding, including the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had. Saturday afternoon began with a welcoming question and answer session with master distillers. MC’ed by Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women and bourbon authority for the Kentucky Derby Museum, the question and answer session featured Wes Henderson (Angel’s Envy,) Fred Noe (Jim Beam,) Jimmy Russell (Wild Turkey,) Harlen Wheatley (Buffalo Trace,) Tom Bulleit (Bulleit Bourbon,) Drew Kulsveen (Willett,) Willie Pratt (Michter’s,) Daniel Preston (Widow Jane,) Colin Spoelman (King’s County,) and Dave Schmier (Redemption.) This event was easily the highlight of the day for me. Listening to stories, learning more about the industry, and even witnessing some moments of tension on stage was all fascinating.  We spent the rest of the afternoon in “Bourbon Classic University.” Guests got to attend two classes during the sessions including ‘Bourbon Recollections…A Trip Through Time’ with Fred Noe and Fred Johnson, as well as a variety of other classes like bourbon pairing with cheese, entertaining with bourbon tastings, bourbon and beer, bourbon and chocolate, and home bar essentials.  The final event was a night of bourbon tastings, with books signings from well-known bourbon authors like Charles Cowdery and Joy Perrine.

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Highlights:

You can read a more detailed and bourbon-focused recap of the event over on Bourbon & Banter and Charlie and discussed the event in detail on The Charlie Tonic Hour, but here are a few of the best moments of the event from my point of view.

– Hanging out with Jonathan Piercy of “What’s Cooking Now” and his lovely wife throughout the weekend.

– Spending time with Molly Wellmann at Friday’s cocktail event and seeing Tom Bulleit call her up to take a bow at the distiller’s welcome on Saturday. He credited her, along with countless other bartenders across the country, in helping to bring about the bourbon revival.

– Getting to talk once more with Wes Henderson from Angel’s Envy. Such a down-to-earth and great guy.

– Sitting in an audience and listening to stories from legends of the industry like Fred Noe and Jimmy Russell, as well as hearing the perspectives and explanations of newer and/or non-producing brands.

– Attending a session on bourbon tastings with a rep from Blanton’s that will help me when contacting bourbon tastings in the future.

– Talking with bourbon lovers from around the country and starting to feel more like I am a part of a wider, boozy community.

– Leaving the over priced after-party at Milkwood to go drink bourbon and sodas at a dive bar called The Levee.

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The Bourbon Classic was a success all around, despite the notable absence of one of my favorite distilleries, Four Roses. At a length of just a day and half, give or take a promotional dinner or hung-over breakfast, it is a perfect amount of time to immerse yourself in bourbon and the perfect balance between educational and drinking events. Bourbon lovers in Cincinnati who are ready to take their knowledge and enthusiasm to the next level should definitely look into making the drive south for next year.

Follow Friday

I’m personally not a fan of the #FollowFriday thing on Twitter. Mostly because I can never squeeze everyone I think you should follow into 140 characters and I don’t want to pump out 20 tweets for it. Instead I’ve decided to just do a full blog post of all the other beer blogs (or quasi-beer related blogs) on Twitter, Facebook, or just blogs that I think you should follow. There is no order of importance here, just how they popped into my head and/or Twitter feed.

Continue reading “Follow Friday”

Salazar and The Eagle Open in Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine’s dining and bar scene continued its quest to take over the rest of the city, with two great new restaurants, Salazar and The Eagle, opening within two blocks and two days of each other this past December. I’m here today to give you a quick run down on their food and a deeper discussion of their bars.

To The Queen (yes that is marigold leaves as the garnish)
To The Queen
yes that is marigold leaves as the garnish

All of my foodie friends in Cincinnati have been eagerly awaiting Jose Salazar opening his own restaurant and a few weeks ago it finally happened. Salazar is located on the corner of Republic and 14th Street in Over the Rhine and serves food that can perhaps best be described as gourmet french comfort food. The menu is rustic and farm inspired but with a degree of class that belies its comfortable bistro style seating. The food I’ve had is incredible but the bar menu is what we are here to talk about.

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The 71 South
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The Coco Del Cielo

In the interest of full disclosure the bar manager, Jacob Trevino, has become a good friend since he first waited on Charlie and me at Japp’s. Not only have we interviewed him on our podcast, he came to our Boxing Day party so he’s basically family now. That being said, I have been genuinely impressed by the bar menu he came up with for Salazar.  Cincinnati has a wealth of great places doing retro/classic style cocktails and I love them all. But Jacob is making drinks that are more forward thinking and original than a lot of other places in Cincinnati. Several of his drinks are less sweet than you might expect for a restaurant cocktail and none of them taste like anything that other people are serving. Perhaps because he came to Cincinnati via Texas and New Orleans, the spirits, combinations, and even some of the garnishes are just not what you would expect and I think that is a great thing.

Just to give you an example, his Creole Gimlet has gin and lime but it also uses a house-made falernum and creole bitters. I’ve had just about everything on the menu at this point. They are all amazing but the 71 South, Pinky Swear, and the Coco Del Cielo were three of my favorites. The beer selection was smaller but focused, with a few quality examples of several types of beer from both local and national microbreweries. Do yourself a favor and get in there to check out the restaurant and bar soon.

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While Salazar had the breathless anticipation of the foodie crowd in Cincinnati, The Eagle seemed to have just about everyone waiting to get a seat once they opened. Owned and operated by the same people who have Bakersfield, The Eagle also opened in late December and is located on Vine Street, just a few blocks away from Salazar.  The Eagle is located in an old post office and continues the trend of doing high-class cheap food, this time with fried chicken. For a more detailed review of the food check The Eagle Has Landed, but I thought it was very good. The price was right and I liked all of the sides a lot. The fried chicken was actually kind of too spicy for me. I am pretty sure they use tabasco in the batter so be warned.

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The Moscow Mule
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OTR Lemonade

Rather than focusing on craft cocktails that pack a punch, all of the house cocktails at The Eagle are classic drinks served in large glass mugs that really make you feel like  you are getting your money’s worth. The Moscow was my favorite but the OTR Lemonade and the Bloody Mary were also enjoyed by my group. The beer selection was very good, much bigger than similar sized restaurants in the neighborhood. The downside of The Eagle is the wait. Be prepared to wait 1-2 hours for a table on the weekends. If you go I recommend putting your name in and then heading to Salazar for a cocktail and some warm olives while you wait.

The Seeker Wines

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Those of you who know me know that I know my way around booze and I also know my way around steampunks. (If you don’t know what steampunk is, think Jules Vern carried into the 21st century.) So it is fitting that I first discovered The Seeker Wines through the steampunk world. A friend of mine is a representative for Seeker Wines and he also hosts one hell of a room party. But when I got the chance to review Seeker Wines for my podcasts, I was thrilled to try them somewhere other than a party at a steampunk convention. Being constrained by a corset and already drunk are not the ideal conditions for a thoughtful and balanced tasting.

The Seeker Wines is a small, family owned company that seeks to source the best family owned wineries around the world and to bring them to the world with elegant labels and affordable prices. They have also hitched their wagon pretty firmly to the steampunk movement. Each wine has a whimsical flying contraption on the label and a steampunk explorer character who supposedly “discovered” the wine in some far off place. It has been awhile since I studied world explorers in 5th grade and at first I thought these were actual historical figures. Then I noticed that many of them were wearing goggles and one talked about fighting a giant metal octopus on his journey. I realized my mistake quickly at that point.

Seeker  Wines currently has three red and two white varieties available and so we did a two-part tasting on the podcasts. The Charlie Tonic Hour Episode 67 features the reds which I am reviewing here, and for the whites you can listen to Bottoms Up Episode 8. So without further ado, here is what I think of each of the wines.

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Pinot Noir 2011

Discovered: In France by Colette Bourgogne

Winemaking: “Cold maceration” “Fermentation in open-top barrels” “Maturation in tank on light lees”

Tasting: “Red fruit and spice” “Balanced acidity and ripe fine tannin” “Food friendly

Just to be honest to my own limitations, I am sadly unsure what many of winemaking phrases mean but I did gather that this is a wine that is not aged in oak and I could tell that right away. The fruit is more forward in this wine and there is a lightness and brightness that you don’t get from oak-aged wine. I found the tannins rather strong and it does have a very long finish. Personally I felt that the sweeter, fruitier notes on the front were a little weak in comparison to the strong finish but it does balance out better after breathing for a bit. Overall this is all an enjoyable wine but not one that I would seek out if it was inconvenient.

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Malbec 2011

Discovered: In Argentina by Esteban Colombo

Winemaking: “Hand picked” “Cold maceration” “Aged in French Oak for six months”

Tasting Notes: “Black cherry and dominate spice” “Smooth and robust with a spicy finish”

Very much spicy and woody nose and a big bold taste. You can pick up on the oak very definitely. Unlike the Pinot Noir, this one did not calm down as much after breathing. This was one of Charlie’s favorites but for me I felt the oak was too dominate. However I could see this one working well with a steak or some strongly seasoned barbecue. On its own it might be too much but when paired with a flavor that can stand up to it I can see it improving.

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Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Discovered: In Chile by Isadora Cortez

Winemaking: “Cold maceration” “3 pumpovers per day” “Aged in 20% new oak, 50% American/French for 5 months” “Reserva-level Cabernet Sauvignon”

Tasting Notes: “Ripe black and blue berries with a touch of vanilla” “Creamy tannins” “Beautiful structure with chocolate and toffee”

This one was the clear taste winner for both Charlie and myself. It helps that Cabernet Sauvignon is my usual go-to variety of red wine but this is a particularly complex yet well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon. It is one of the few wines that I find the vanilla flavors to be really apparent but at the same time it is not overly sweet. In this wine the oak aging really does add a subtle and lovely hint of chocolate that rides just under the berries and then finishes with an assertive but not intimidating show of spice and tannins. I highly recommend this one.

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Chardonnay 2011

Discovered: In California by Wolfgang Masterssen

Winemaking: “Ferment 12 days at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks” “5% Gewürztraminer grapes for floral notes and richness”

Tasting Notes: “Light scents of citrus and floral. Flavors of ripe pineapple, golden apple and Anjou pear are balanced by citrus notes and a smooth, creamy finish.”

I do prefer un-oaked Chardonnays to oaked so this wine started with an advantage for me. The fruit is much heavier than any floral notes for me. Pear, citrus, and pineapple came over much stronger than anything else but it does have a really nice creamy mouthfeel. Good but not mind blowing.

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Sauvingnon Blanc 2012

Discovered: In New Zealand by Captain Cornelius Weatherbee

Winemaking: “Cool fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks to capture fruit purity. ” “Aged on fine lees two months for added weight and richness.”

Tasting Notes: “Prominent fresh acidity which is balanced by an intense core of fruit where characters of lime and apple come to mind.”

This is one of the more unique Sauvignon Blancs that I’ve ever had, and I’ve had quite a few because it is my mom’s wine of choice. It has a a stronger bouquet than is typical for this wine and a really nicely complex flavor. This is the first Sauvignon Blanc I’ve had that has a mint taste, and it came across very distinctly in addition to lime and apple flavors. Very light and bright, the flavor has an almost sparkly quality to the tongue even though there is no carbonation. And yet there is also an undertone of earthiness. Almost a moss flavor that does balance the spark and spice of mint and citrus. This was my favorite of the whites and one that I will consider ordering for my mom to get her opinion.

If you want to try some of these lovely wines yourself you will have to order them from your local wine shop or online merchant. Or I have a more fun proposal for you. Seeker Wines is the official wine of The Steampunk Empire Symposium here in Cincinnati. At the show parties both nights, The Seeker Wines will be available to try for all party goers. Despite what I said that the beginning of this article, parties at cons might not be the best place for serious tasting, it is officially the most fun way to try a wine.

Bottoms Up Podcast: Angel’s Envy Bourbon

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As some of you may know, I do a weekly podcast called the Charlie Tonic Hour. My co-host Charlie and I like to describe it as an alcohol-soaked culture podcast with a side of sexy but mostly it’s just Charlie and I discussing music, events, popular culture and whatever else crosses our mind. Every show has had a “bottoms up” segment where we talk about a drink of some kind. It’s always been my favorite part of the show, a chance to talk to local bartenders, try a new spirit, beer, or wine, or just practice mixing up a new cocktail to try. Well, I liked it so much that I talked Charlie into starting a second podcast that was all alcohol. It’s called Bottoms Up with Ginny and Charlie, and it goes live every Friday. At just about 15 minutes in length, it’s a short shot of alcohol to kick off your weekend. Charlie and I will be heading out to local bars to talk to people, attending Cincinnati events, trying new things and making new drinks. If you like cocktails, spirits, beer, or just the local drinks scene, I think you will enjoy the show. We started a few weeks ago with Angel’s Envy Bourbon, and I thought I would go ahead and share it with the good people here at Queen City Drinks. If you like what you hear, you can subscribe through iTunes or download it from the site. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

FULL SHOW NOTES FOR THIS EPISODE
Run Time: 11 Minutes, 19 Seconds

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Angels’s Envy
 From the official website (angelsenvy.com):

Created by Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, Angel’s Envy is worth coveting. Aged up to 6 years in charred white oak barrels and finished in ruby port wine casks, Angel’s Envy is an artisan’s masterpiece, unlike any other bourbon.

When Wine and Spirits Magazine calls you a “Living Legend,” it should mean one thing. You’ve still got work to do. Lincoln Henderson wasn’t content resting on his laurels. He’s always been a malcontent. You don’t spend 40 years defining the spirits industry and earn a spot in the Bourbon Hall of Fame without a few unconventional ideas.

Angel’s Envy is what happens when 200 years of tradition meet an independent master craftsman’s instinct to improve. It’s a total return to craft first, hand-blended batches of 8 to 12 barrels at a time. We start with the finest local ingredients distilled in micro-batches and aged in American oak. Lincoln personally tastes every barrel throughout each step of the process to ensure that the spirit meets his malcontent’s standards.

This would be enough for any other premium bourbon, but Lincoln had other ideas. That’s why we finish every batch in ruby port wine casks. There’s no set time for the process. It’s only Angel’s Envy when we say it is. The ruby port wine finish adds subtle nuance without ruining the integrity of the bourbon. The result is a rich, exceptionally smooth and rare bourbon. Sin aside, we work every day to inspire envy, even if it takes a little longer.

Ginny Tonic’s April 2012 Article on Angel’s Envy
Angel’s Envy Makes The Angels Beg

Charlie Tonic Hour #14 Where We Originally Discuss Angel’s Envy
Angels Envy, Powerful Females and the Road to Gem City

Photos from Our Tasting
  
The Music You Hear Throughout the Episode

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Photo by Cara Suppa at MOTR in January 2013
Brought To You By the Same People Who Created
The Charlie Tonic Hour | Tonic Tours