Archive for the ‘Vacation and Travel’ Category
Monday, October 5th, 2009
Something that is particularly enjoyable for me about the arrival of cool weather and the colorful change in seasons is getting to visit beer tastings here in USA’s Beer City (East) that feature one of my favorite seasonals: the pumpkin ale.
After a fairly slow rise in popularity, there are now a good variety of these available on the market, ranging from those offered by smaller crafters across the country, to more mainstream companies like Blue Moon, who offers their own Harvest Moon pumpkin ale for purveyors of the pulpy punkin pour.
Recently, Culture of Spirits writer Christopher McCollum joined my girlfriend, my younger brother, and I in attending a generous sampling of different pumpkin beers at our neighborhood brew supply shop Hops and Vines. Among the beers Alex, Chris, and the gang supplied us with, we tried an 8.0% ABV imperial pumpkin ale made by Weyerbacher, cited as “the mother of all pumpkin ales.” Indeed, Weyerbacher’s brew is spicier, more caramelly, and offers a bit more pronounced pumpkin flavor than many of the others. “We have added lots of pumpkin along with Cinnamon, Nutmeg and a touch of cardamom and clove giving this beer a spicy, full-bodied flavor,” the company’s website states. “This truly is an Imperial Pumpkin Ale.” Indeed, this was one of the most interesting pumpkin beers I’ve tried to-date, but there were a variety of others that presented spicier, more fruit-filled (or rather, vegetable-filled, since pumpkins are in the squash family) surprises.
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
It’s late summer, and in spite of the tropical environment here on the Isle of Palms in sunny South Carolina, Daiquiris have begun to finally lose a bit of their zest. I’ve spent the last several days indulging in the semi-sweet citrus concoctions, mixed with a healthy diet of jogging twice a day on the Atlantic shoreline, swimming during the hotter parts of the day. Leading such an unaffected lifestyle, cool cocktails comprise the later portions of most weekdays; thus, in a mild state of desperation, I decided to try and spice-up my beverages before fall arrived (and without having to resort to purchasing spiced rum). An attempt to do so led me to an almost forgotten aspect of mixology in my own extensive repertoire, resulting in both a tasty–and semi-historically accurate–mixed drink capable of ending most any business day with a light (sweet) kick: the Cuba Libre.
According to fairly recent legend, “¡Por Cuba Libre!” was the battle cry of the Cuba Liberation Army during the war of independence, which ended in 1878. An infamous collision involving the United States and Spain, the Spanish-American War, upon ending, provided a window by which Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders” could land for a brief excursion in Cuba. Most proponents of Daiquiri and Rum-and Cokes cite that one hot afternoon, a group of off-duty soldiers from the U.S. Signal Corps met in a bar in Old Havana. A young messenger by the name of Fausto Rodriguez would later recall how a captain came in and ordered Bacardi Gold blended with Coca-Cola (keep in mind, this soft drink wasn’t introduced to Cuba until 1900) on ice with a wedge of lime. The captain was said to have “drank the concoction with such pleasure that it sparked the interest of the soldiers around him.” Thus, the onlookers urged the bartender to mix a round of the captain’s new-found pleasure for them, too. “The Bacardi rum and Coke was an instant hit,” states the Bacardi website, and in honor of their recent battle cry, “¡Por Cuba Libre!”, the beverage was named thusly.
Friday, September 11th, 2009
Last night while visiting a friend out in the boonies of Etowah, North Carolina, COS writer Christopher McCollum and I managed to catch up with our good friend Bob from the Netherlands. In addition to sharing many of our favorite vices of the alcoholic variety, Bob brought with him a variety of delicious Gouda cheeses, sausages, and candies, which provided the perfect victuals to enjoy along with the spirits we were sharing.
While Chris and I enjoyed our bourbon neat (reveling in the honey brown sweetness of the aged Kentucky whiskey), Bob sliced up a delicious cold Fijre Cervelaat sausage. It was a bit fatty, but in small quantities makes for a delightful treat, and complimented the bourbon very well. Before we had time to finish the delicious meats, Bob had brought out of the refrigerator two varieties of Gouda cheese: a Holland extra-belegen, as well as a variety infused with Kaas seeds, which provided a unique herby-flavor unlike much anything western audiences are used to. As the conversation drifted from our recent penchant for Campari here at Culture of Spirits, we began to discuss yet another clandestine European liqueur: Benedictine.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
As if moved to do so by some subliminal suggestion from within my subconscious (perhaps the hedonistic, expensively-robed bastard with a cigarette holder who lives, repressed, in the decadent backdrop of my psyche), I was unable to counter the urge to stock up on some cool, late-summer spirits today; particularly of the foreign variety. Campari Italian liqueur sat almost glistening on the shelf, thanks to the recessed lighting of the liquor store (its luminescent quality was made stranger by the hail pounding the street outside, piling mounds of ice that fell so quickly they gave the impression of a strange, late summer snow). I knew I’d found my concoction.
In addition to its unique flavor served by itself (though the stinging bitterness of the herbs used in its creation tend to warrant ice, orange, or even soda water), Campari is a unique aperitif that doubles as (you might have guessed) a bitter for a variety of fine Italian cocktails. One such favorite is the Venetian Spritz.
Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
A collection formerly owned by a late US whisky enthusiast, purported to be the largest and most varied collection of spirits yet to appear at auction, will be presented for bidding later this year by Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers. The extremely rare collection is said to contain close to 3,000 bottles of whisky.
Well-respected auctioneers of art, pictures, collectables and motor cars, Bonhams also employs a whisky specialist named Martin Green. In a statement released yesterday, Green told BBC News that in his more than 20 years of conducting whisky auctions, “this is the most exciting collection I have ever handled.”
The collection had formerly belonged to a California man named Willard Folsom, who spent 18 years gathering Scotch malts after reading a newspaper article about them in the popular American paper USA Today. According to the BBC report, Whisky from places ranging from Orkney to Speyside to the Lowlands is represented in the collection, including many commemorative bottles never to be released again by distillers. “The sale of the collection provides the opportunity to buy many collectables of the future,” Green says.
Folsom was a former United Airlines worker who toured Scotland with his family, building his collection as they traveled. He died last year at age 64. Although the whisky is to be auctioned by Bonhams in Edinburgh on November 18th of this year, there is a strong possibility that any remaining stock will be returned to the states and sold in New York, as well as in Hong Kong sometime in early 2010.
Thursday, August 20th, 2009
Although it is the most popular distilled spirit in Brazil, the majority of people here in the states know little about the strong South American beverage called Cachaça. In its native land, close to four million gallons of the stuff are consumed annually, with a minuscule one percent of its product shipped elsewhere in the world (mainly to Germany, of all places). Caipirinha, the most popular beverage containing Cachaça, also happens to be Brazil’s national cocktail, although Cachaça can be included in a variety of other excellent tropical cocktails. Therefore, as we ride out on the coattails of summer, I thought Culture of Spirits readers may enjoy learning about the most popular beverage that can be made using this most unique rum-like (and very potent) spirit.
Sunday, June 21st, 2009
Australia, as seen from a little higher up than your potential flight may take you.
Arguably, one of the most appealing things about being a frequent flier is the ability for one to enjoy cocktails while traveling without having to be concerned about getting DUIs and other nice law enforced punishments for imbibing prior to operating a vehicle. Of course, most airlines charge something akin to five bucks per pony bottle of spirits, in addition to whatever soft drink you may want to mix it with. However, this may not be the case for passengers en route to the land-down-under.
Up until recently, Qantas Airlines has been the only carrier to offer unlimited free alcoholic drinks on their flights from Los Angeles to Sydney route, since all other major US airlines have removed such services in years past. However, Delta airlines has now decided that following suite with the provision of free alcohol may help them garner attention from long-distance travelers, by offering free beer and wine on their flights.
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
You may be an alcoholic if you talk to your beer... but what happens if it talks back? Creepy...
FOR YEARS, studies have claimed that the black cream of the Greenwood, Guinness stout, can actually be beneficial to one’s health. Researchers have found that antioxidant compounds in Guinness, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for health benefits that include strengthening the heart because of the way they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls.
Along these lines, you may be familiar with some of the artwork from the 1920s Guinness ad campaigns, in which colorful (sometimes rather odd) themes were used based on findings from market research. Perhaps most famous of all these was how people often told Guinness employees that they “felt good” after downing a pint (come on, who wouldn’t), thus birthing the popular slogan “Guinness is Good for You”. Later, Guinness was told to stop using the slogan, and since that time Diageo, the company that now manufactures Guinness, still will make no official health claims for the drink.
However, back in 2003 BBC News reported that a study performed around the time found a Guinness pint per day “may work as well as an aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart attacks.” Apparently, drinking lager beers does not yield all the same benefits, according to experts from the University of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin team tested the health-related benefits of stouts against lagers administering the brews to dogs who had narrowed arteries similar to those in heart disease (lucky dogs… no pun intended. This could hardly constitute poor treatment of animals in lab tests, eh?).
Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
If you live in New York, there will likely be an unprecedented challenge awaiting the thirsty barfly this Saint Patrick’s Day, aimed at setting a new world record in size and length of famed pub crawls.
My Goodness, My Guinness!
St. Patty’s “Luck of the Irish” Pub Crawl invites folks in the NYC metro to join them for three days of “wearing green and drinking cheap beer”, and though Guinness will be involved, it’s not the dark drink you might have hoped for. Being billed as “The World’s Largest Pub Crawl”, promoters are urging people to join them in breaking the current world record, details of which have been verified according to (you guessed it) The Guinness Book of World Records.
Claims to the present title have been made up until now by The Rich and Bennett Annual St. Patricks Day Pub Crawl based out of Charlotte, NC, which also claims to host the largest Pub Crawl in the World. Last year, the annual event hosted 3,581 “crawlers” on Saturday March 15th, 2008. Now, according to the website saintpattys.com, the new record-breaking event will take attendees on a trek spanning “over 5 Miles, 3 Days and 100 bars”.
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
Some of the finest mixed drinks you could think of off the top of your head include wines as an ingredient, like Martinis or Manhattan cocktails, which both use vermouth, an aperitif wine. But what would you think of a drink that called for champagne… mixed with beer! As strange as it may sound to American audiences, the practice of mixing beer and ale with things like wine, champagne, brandy, and other spirits is not only a tradition; it is quite commonplace.
First up on our list of English beer cocktails is the Black Velvet, a hefty combination of champagne and stout (usually Guiness). I remember first stumbling across this beverage when it was ordered by James Bond at lunch during one of the early chapters of Diamonds Are Forever. According to English tradition, the stout is supposed to represent the lowly “common man”, whereas the champagne is indicative of “nobility”. Celebrated homebrewer Marty Nachel calls this comparison “a tired old stereotype” in his Beer For Dummies, but whatever the case may be, the legend persists. Along these same lines, a Brown Velvet is stout mixed with port wine (probably not as exciting as the crisp-carbonated Black Velvet, honestly). In Germany the recipe differs in that the beer used is schwarzbier, a dark lager, and an alternative name is used for the drink itself: “The Bismarck,” named after 19th century Minister-President of Prussia Otto von Bismarck.