San Antonio Cocktail Conference in Seven Cocktails

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Well I survived the San Antonio Cocktail Conference for 2014 and I have finally sobered up enough to write about it. I was initially invited to attend the San Antonio Cocktail Conference because of my writing for Bourbon & Banter, (and for full disclosure I should let you know that they paid for my ticket and my hotel room,) but I can’t go to something like that without bragging about it to my Queen City friends. The four-day event consisted of educational cocktail sessions lead by some of the biggest names in the industry during the day and amazing parties each night where spirit brands had their own bartenders whipping up cocktails to show off their products. A full recap would take far to long so I decided to pick seven stand out cocktails from the weekend as a way of telling the story.

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The Imbibe 75 and the Come & Take It

The first two drinks of the weekend happened at the Imbibe Happy Hour at the Esquire Tavern. These two drinks really stand out in my mind as being some of the best of the weekend but that could be because they were the only two drinks I had while completely sober. The Imbibe 75 was a take on the classic French 75 cocktail but with the addition of lemongrass and cilantro for a really fresh taste. The Come & Take It was made with Glenroth Select Reserve whiskey, ginger liqueur, pineapple, lime, bitters, and garnished with a Luxardo cherry. Both were excellent and the band that night was great. The Esquire Tavern should absolutely be a stop if you are ever in San Antonio. 

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Angel’s Envy Manhattan at the Evolution of Barrel Aging Class

On of the things I was most excited about for SACC was to meet Wes Henderson and attend his class on the evolution of Barrel Aging. The class did not disappoint. Not only did I get an hour and half of hearing Wes discuss creating Angel’s Envy, his father Lincoln Henderson, and the changing field of barrel aging whiskey, I also got to try a selection of really fine whiskeys including Angel’s Envy cask strength and rye whiskeys. All of that and then they brought out an Angel’s Envy Manhattan. I would have normally thought that Angel’s Envy was too sweet a bourbon to use in a manhattan but this one was wonderfully balanced. I also got a chance to sit down and interview Wes Henderson for Charlie Tonic and you can hear that whole interview here.

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Palma Fizz in the Home Mixology Class with Sasha Petraske

One of the embarrassing things for me was how often I attended an event with someone at SACC and only later realized just how big a deal they really were. Such was the case with my first class of the session, a home mixology class led by none other than Sasha Petraske, the man behind Milk and Honey and one of the leaders of the cocktail revival movement. I learned a great many wonderful tips and tricks for my next cocktail party and got to try one of his signature drinks, the Palma Fizz, made with vodka, lime, ginger, rosewater, and seltzer. I loved how the rosewater added a strong dimension of smell that completely changed the way the other flavors interacted.

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The Pink Lady in the Women Behind Bars class

The Women Behind Bars was a seminar that looked at a history of women from both sides of the bar. The session, lead by Ladies United for the Presevation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC) looked at women’s historic roles as tavern keepers, prohibitionists, customers, and bartenders while the audience sipped on a few vintage cocktails. The Pink Lady was my favorite of the two. Made with gin, apple jack, lemon, egg white and grenadine, it is a wonderfully sophisticated drink. I really appreciated how well prepared this cocktail was considering they were making it in such large batches. That foam head is not always an easy thing to perfect in a cocktail.

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Martini made by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric of The 86 Co. and Employee’s Only

Another memorably interview of the weekend was when Charlie and I sat down in the media room with Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas. These two legendary bartenders started Employee’s Only in NYC, which won best cocktail bar in the world in 2011, and have since gone on to create The 86 Co., a bartender-focused spirits company.  If you still don’t quite understand why I was geeking out about this go watch the documentary, Hey Bartender, which features the two of them heavily. Having now had a cocktail made for me by these two, I feel as if I’ve truly arrived. You can hear that interview in Episode 109 of the Charlie Tonic Hour.

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One of the best parts of the evening parties, aside from all the free drinks, food, music, and dancing, was getting to try new spirits that are not yet available in Ohio or even Kentucky. This cocktail from Friday night’s event Texas Spirits Night, was one if just many gorgeous drinks featuring Texas-made spirits. Made with Red River Rye Whiskey, it was a simple cocktail.  The anise and amaretto added sweetness without overpowering the whiskey and I loved the elegant little star floating as a garnish.

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Charlie as an Old Fashioned and me as a Gin and Tonic

Two of my favorite drinks of the weekend were not the kind you can drink. We attended two different events at The Brooklynite, a very hip bar near the riverwalk in San Antonio, and the drinks at both events were incredible. But at the after, after, party we attended there on Friday we go the chance to have our caricatures drawn by Dave Stolte. His book, “Home Bar Basics (and Not-So-Basics),” has been nominated for best cocktail book by Tales of the Cocktail and now we have a picture of ourselves as two of our favorite cocktail by him. It is one of my most treasured souvenirs of conference.

So there you have it. I wish we lived in some kind of a Star Trek future where you could reach into the pictures I post try them all yourself. There were so many other amazing drinks and events from the weekend that I am leaving out. If you want to see and hear everything head over to www.charlietonic.com where you can hear all the interviews and see pictures from each day of the event. And if you are looking for a starter cocktail conference I can’t recommend San Antonio highly enough. It has a beautiful city, great weather, friendly people, and a weekend of amazing drinks. I am counting down till next year already.

Celebrate National Bourbon Day

Happy Bourbon Day Queen City Drinkers! What’s this you say? You’ve never heard of Bourbon Day before? I suppose this means you didn’t get me anything either? That’s OK, I’m disgusted at how commercial the holiday has become anyway. Remember, Elijah Craig is the reason for the season. Yes legend, or perhaps just a good marketing department, has it that in 1789 on this date, June 14, Baptist minister Elijah Craig first invented bourbon by aging his whiskey in a charred oak barrel before sending it down to New Orleans where it became a hit.

Although this story is likely apocryphal, that isn’t going to stop me from celebrating. For today’s cocktail I recommend a classic bourbon cocktail, the horse’s neck.

I first made this drink for Episode 41 of The Charlie Tonic Hour. Charlie and I talked about our trip to the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar where, in addition to sampling a nice selection of rye and bourbon whiskey, I also tried a classic bourbon cocktail. The Horse’s Neck cocktail dates back to at least the 1890’s when it was more typically made with brandy. Today it is most associated with bourbon and has a history within the Navy as a typical officer’s drink. It gets its name from the garnish, a long peel of lemon that hangs over the glass. I love ginger and bourbon so this was a great drink for me. Make it with the bourbon we featured in the show, Ancient Age 10 Year, and you won’t be disappointed.

Horse’s Neck

1 Lemon
2 ounces of Bourbon or Rye
Ginger Ale
dash of bitters

Carefully peel a long sliver of lemon zest and arrange it in a highball glass and add ice.
Add the bourbon and bitters, top with ginger ale and stir.

Summer Bourbon

blackberry bourbon fizz

For some reason, as the temperatures rise it seems only natural to switch from darker drinks to lighter. Maybe it is the color or the flavor but this rule applies to beer, wine, and especially to spirits. People associate whiskey with warming you up on a winter evening while white rum and vodka drinks dominate our summer cocktails. But just because the days are getting longer and the pools are opening doesn’t mean you should put your bourbon back on the shelf till fall. Just take a look at this recipe I found on Facebook:

blackberrybourbon

Ok the language may be a little course but it is clear that bourbon can hang with the fruity summer drinks just as well as it’s un-aged cousins. But since the picture is a little vague let me help you out.  Here is a recipe that worked well for me.

Blackberry Bourbon Fizz

4-5 fresh blackberries
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce ginger liqueur
club soda
fresh basil
Muddle the blackberries at the bottom of a glass.
Fill the glass with ice and add the spirits.
Top with club soda and stir well.
Garnish with a fresh piece of basil.

You can also use plain old ginger ale in place of the club soda if you don’t have any ginger liqueur. You can hear me make this drink and get a review of Elmer T. Lee single barrel bourbon on Episode 15 of Bottoms Up. And if listening isn’t enough for you, this is one of the cocktails that I will be demonstrating at the Summer Cocktails class I am teaching June 20th at Cork n Bottle.  Hope to see you there.

Beer Review: Victory Silverback

After my recent post on Victory’s Storm King imperial stout the comments on reddit brought to my attention a delicious idea I’d never heard before. Turns out that at the Victory brewery you can order a beer called a Silverback, now you won’t find this on any store shelves, it’s a mixture of half Victory Golden Monkey and half Victory Storm King. The white head from the Monkey on top of the black body from the Storm King give this brew it’s Silverback name. I’ve had a black and tan before, Guinness stout & Bass pale ale, and quite enjoyed them. However I have no idea what to expect from a stout and a Belgian tripel except for one thing; both of these beers are over 9%,so I will be drunk!

I poured the Golden Monkey first and ended up using a bit more then half of that before I got to the Storm King. I’d read that this didn’t separate this well like Black & Tans so I tried a trick and poured the Storm King on a spoon over the Monkey, as you’ll see it didn’t layer well either.

Very interesting appearance for sure. Kind of a dark brown or purple color beverage with a milky white head with streams of brown from the Storm King.

Woah, pungent aroma with plenty of roasty malt action as well as some flowery hops. Oh and a strong dose of alcohol.

Taste is curious as well definitely picking more of the stout here then the tripel. Strong malt body and taste with citrus and pineapple hops not found in any other stout I’ve encountered. Hints of chocolate, caramel, orange peel, and lots of “zest”.

Holy carbonation Batman! I’ve had fresh soda flatter than this, man those are some tingly bubbles, all riding atop a smooth medium body.

This has to be one of the most interesting beers I’ve tried. Not nearly my favorite by any means but most interesting for sure, no style has ever come close to this menagerie of taste and flavors. They’re good and all but not great, and that carbonation is a little over powering. This is certainly worth a try just bring a friend to split it with. Remember what’s interesting isn’t always the same as what’s good.

Patron Margaritas Available at Chipotle

margaritas chipotle

While lining up for lunch at your local Chipotle you may have noticed that they offer margaritas as one of your beverage choices but if you are like me, you’ve probably never really thought much about them or even considered ordering them. Chipotle is looking to change that. The fast casual mexican restaurant has established its brand as the fresh, caring, Michael Pollan-approved fast food restaurant and they are trying to bring some of that mystique to their margaritas. I was invited to head to the Chipotle on Fountain Square to try one with their marketing director and see what I thought.

patron margarita chipotle

So the first thing I have to admit right away is that I am a huge fan girl of Chipotle. If I have one of those too-busy-to-cook-no-food-in-the-fridge kind of nights and I just need something fast kind of nights it is my number one choice. There is really no other restaurants offering food that tastes that good, at that price point and convenience level. Plus I don’t feel guilty for eating their carnitas because it comes from happy little piggies who were probably so grateful for their loving farmer that they were only too glad to lay down their life to support him financially. So yeah, this is probably not going to be an unbiased review

making margaritas chiptole

So what is different about these margaritas? First of all they are ditching the pre-made sour mix and are using fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice instead. This is really what makes a big difference. Just using fresh juice takes the taste out of the bar standard hum ho cocktail and creates something that catches your attention. The next thing they have changed is allowing guests to choose to have their drink made with Patron for a few dollars extra. Patron may not be the absolute best tequila out there but it is probably the most well known brand and  it is incredibly smooth. They use an ounce and half in their margaritas and the one I tried had minimal alcohol flavor. It was nice, heavy on the citrus, and very tasty. I would very much enjoy sipping on one of those while eating chips and guacamole after work.

mixing margaritas chipotle

Which gets to the problem that I think Chipotle will continue to have with their margaritas. Nobody I know goes to Chipotle for happy hour. We go there for a quick, delicious, and reasonably priced lunch or dinner. On the piece I recorded for Bottoms Up, Laura from Cincinnati Nomerati and I both agreed that $7 for a Patron margarita made with fresh squeezed juice was a good deal. But it is also the same price as a burrito and ordering one with my dinner will mean doubling my bill. When I head out for a nice dinner or to have drinks with friends I am prepared for that but on my Chipotle nights not so much. So as much as I love Chipotle, (I will be eating there tomorrow night for their Teacher Appreciation, buy one get one free special) I don’t think I will be ordering their Patron margaritas nearly as often as I might like.

Chipotle on Urbanspoon

Domaine de Canton: Review and Cocktails

domaine de cantonOn this week’s episode of Bottoms Up, Charlie and I reviewed Domaine de Canton, a wonderful ginger liqueur from France. I was first turned onto this liqueur after having a Red Headed Stranger at Bakersfield and was so impressed I decided to go out and purchase a bottle for home. This is a very high quality liqueur that makes a wonderful bottle for both professional and amateur mixologists. It has a very clean flavor, lightly sweet and with a really wonderful ginger bite. What makes this liqueur different from others is that it is cognac based, dating back to the French tradition of making herbed elixirs with eaux de vie or cognac instead of wine or grain alcohol. Although ginger is the dominate flavor, the recipe also includes vanilla and orange blossom honey. Domaine de Canton has been well received by the critics since it was reintroduced with a new recipe in 2007. The liqueur won Double Gold Medal (Best of Show) in the herbal/botanical liqueur category at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Proof66.com designates Domaine de Canton as a “Tier 1” liqueur based on expert reviews. For tasting purposes on the show, I made Charlie a selection of cocktails using the liqueur, including a Dark and Stormier, a Red Headed Stranger, and one of my own creation that I have decided to call the Honey Buzz. It has a more gentle bite than the other two drinks and the combination of honey, ginger, and lemon are a proven winner. Try one for yourself.

The Honey Buzz

1 1/2 ounces Wild Turkey American Honey Bourbon
3/4 ounce Domaine de Canton
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled shaker, shake well and then pour into cocktail glass.
Garnish with twist of lemon and enjoy!

Bottoms Up Podcast: Angel’s Envy Bourbon

bottoms up podcast

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

thefordtheatrereunion.com

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