Calamity Labs and Stillwrights Spirits

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Calamity Dawn and Dorian Bridges are: Calamity Labs!

It is hard enough keeping up with new breweries, distilleries, and bars opening in Cincinnati. Trying to keep a handle on what is going on in Dayton seems like just a little too much to ask these days. Luckily, I have a couple of friends in the area who invite me up when things get interesting.

Award-winning moonshine

Calamity Dawn and Dorian Bridges are the geeky bar-tending duo behind Calamity Labs. Together they roam the Eastern United States bringing booze, informative panels, and killer room parties to steampunk, comic, gaming and various other conventions, as well as doing private events. I got to know them during my misspent years with the steampunks. Calamity was one of our first guests on The Charlie Tonic Hour and created our official cocktail. I have followed the development of Calamity Labs as they have gone from doing panels at regional shows to leading presentations at DragonCon and competing and placing in The Bourbon Social Cocktail Competition. On Tuesday they hosted a test run of the latest panel that they will be presenting at shows this spring, Mixology 320: Mixology in Motion and they were kind enough to invite Charlie and I up to participate.

The three competitors wondering what the hell we got ourselves into.

The event was hosted by Stillwrights Spirits at their Flat Rock Distillery in Fairborn, Ohio. Stillwrights has only been on the market for the past four months but Calamity Labs became fans right away. I was thrilled to be able to combine a trip to see friends and experience a fun night with learning about a new distillery that I didn’t even know existed. Stillwrights primarily makes flavored moonshine but they have a straight moonshine, bourbon and rum as well. One interesting thing about this distillery is that the owners were in the machine business before starting the distillery and were actually able to fabricate their own still. In addition to the traditional moonshine flavors I was excited to try some of the more tropical flavors they had like Margarita and Key Lime Pie. You can do a tour and tasting there on Saturdays for $10 so if you are in the Dayton area I encourage you to stop by and check them out.

The winning cocktail. It wasn’t mine.

The panel itself was a lot of fun. After a brief intro about the distillery and the basics of cocktail making, three audience members were chosen to go up to our mixing stations and were given twenty minutes to create an original cocktail recipe. I was able to compete and decided to play it safe by mixing ginger beer and grapefruit bitters with the Stillwrights Peach Cobbler Moonshine. Unfortunately for me, Calamity Labs rewards boldness and innovation, plus I over did it with the ginger beer a bit so I did not win. I did however, have a wonderful time. I think everyone learned a lot about the subtle art of cocktail creating. Along the way we were able to try a skill that was out of our comfort zone, and I got to see several good friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The three competitors with two of the owners of Stillwrights

If you want to learn more about Stillwrights or Calamity Labs they both have Facebook pages you can follow and you will find Calamity Labs at a variety of conventions in the coming year. You can hear more about the panel and our interview with the owner of Stillwrights on Episode 151 of The Charlie Tonic Hour.

Devil John Moonshine

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The Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucky is having a special on moonshine (or as classy people like to call it: white whiskey) in their store this week and  its a great chance to try out some unaged whiskey if you’ve never had the chance. I picked up a bottle of Devil John Moonshine, a brand I had the pleasure of tasting while visiting Barrel House Distillery in Lexington a few weeks ago and I was intrigued enough by the taste that I wanted to experiment with  making a few drinks with it.

As many of you already know, whiskey gets most of its flavor and all of its color from the barrels during the aging process. Most of the distilleries who are making white whiskey specifically to sell and drink use a different recipe than they do for the batches they will be casking and this is the case with Devil John, which is a mixture of corn and sugar. The smell reminds me of straw but the flavor didn’t quite match up with that. Sugar with a slightly grainy flavor and a mild aceton burn on the finish. It is much sweeter than other moonshine I have tried and considerably smoother. That is probably because most of the moonshine I’ve tried has been the kind that you can buy in a mason jar out of the back of a pick up. But even compared to other professionally distilled moonshine Devil John is sweeter and smoother. Other than corn, sweetness, and alcohol I don’t pick up on a lot of individual flavors. This isn’t something I could ever see myself sipping neat and given the choice between a white whiskey and one that’s done it’s time inside an oak barrel, I will take the whiskey every time. But the taste was different enough from vodka or white rum that I though it might make for some interesting mixed drinks.

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For the mixed drink I tried the recipe that Barrel House recommends for their moonshine, a Kentucky Moonbow. Basically this is a tequila sunrise but made with moonshine. In a highball glass pour 1.5 ounces Devil John, 4 ounces orange juice and 1 ounce Grenadine over ice and drink with a straw. Personally this had way too much mixer for my taste and with all the juice I might as well have been using Burnett’s vodka.  I didn’t finish it because all the Grenadine in the bottom. But it was a pretty drink.

Overall I think that white whiskey is something that is interesting to try but not likely to become a go-to drink for many people. The romance and history of moonshine are compelling and this was nice to try but I don’t see this earning a permanent place in my liquor cabinet. Maybe some of the mixologists out there can recommend a drink that will showcase the unique flavor of moonshine a little better than the Kentucky Moonbow. In the meantime I think I will be patient and wait for my whiskey to grow up a little before drinking it.