November 30, 2005
Vital Stats: 100 proof corn whiskey
Typical Price: Less than $15 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Slogan: Less than 30 days old
Initial Thoughts: We made some bold claims about whiskey alternatives this week, but we're not afraid to come right out and say that for a brief moment, we were afraid we weren't tough enough to drink Georgia Moon whiskey. "Bottled" in a Mason jar, this stuff is supposed to be reminiscent of moonshine (AKA corn likker, AKA white lightning, AKA white dog, AKA liver varnish), and it does a good job. Other snobs who expect their whiskey to be aged might have turned up their nose upon seeing the "less than 30 days old label" - we were excited to try some fresh whiskey.
Georgia Moon is clear, and upon twisting off the cap we were hit with the potent tang of sour liquor, followed by the smell of sweet corn. We took our first belts directly out of the Mason jar, as nature intended, and found that the taste was a bit sour too, especially in comparison with the sweetness of bourbon and other American whiskeys. It wasn't unpleasant, however, and we found ourselves swishing it around in our mouths and marveling at the straightforward and simple taste once we got used to it. For a crew used to searching for complexity in our booze, the simplicity of Georgia Moon was, well, intoxicating. That and the fiery 100 proof trail it blazed down our gullets, of course.
Cocktail Recipes: We actually didn't mix any recipes with Georgia Moon. We just joked about putting on some overalls, slugged it out of the jar and reminisced about that old Bugs Bunny cartoon with the feuding hillbillies. When we searched the InterWeb to find drink recipes, we couldn't find any, but we did learn that the episode we were thinking of was called Hillbilly Hare.
Finishing Thoughts: Corn whiskey isn't something we'd normally think of when browsing in the liquor store, but it's definitely a unique drink. We're glad we tried it, and while it might not go into our regular rotation, for the price it's worth it to have the jar around as a conversation piece alone. We recommend Georgia Moon for late nights when your still is broken, romantic evenings with your shotgun bride and those not-so-rare evenings when you feel like drinking out of a wide-mouthed jar.
Georgia Moon is part of the corn whiskey family distributed by Heaven Hill - the other labels include Mellow Corn, Dixie Dew and J.W. Corn. Learn more about Heaven Hill's "Other Whiskeys" at their website.
November 28, 2005
Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum
80 proof blended golden rum
Typical Price: Less than $20 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Initial Thoughts: We like rum. In fact, there was a time when we would drink it quite often, mixed with ginger ale or orange juice. That was back before the Screech Rum debacle of '05, however, and it's taken us a few weeks to get our rum legs back under us. In Appleton Estate V/X, we've found a drink that can soothe the hurts and make things right.
Appleton Estate V/X consists of various types of rums aged between five and ten years, which are blended together in oak vats and allowed to age for a few months. The result is a spirit somewhere between white and dark rum, which smells like molasses and brown sugar, with even a hint of maple. When you taste it, it's not too sweet, however, and the sweetness is balanced out by citrusy, nutty flavors. The rum has a creamy, mellow finish that is dry on the tongue and resilient enough to last until your next sip without being overwhelming.
Cocktail Recipes: We tried a few recipes suggested by the Appleton Estate website, and two of our favorites are included below:
1 ½ oz. Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum
3 oz. Bloody Mary Mix
Season to taste with horseradish, Tabasco, pepper, salt, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice. Rim highball glass in sea salt and/or pepper. Garnish with celery stick, olives, tomolives. [Note: We're not sure what tomolives are; we just stuck to olives.]
1 ½ oz. Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum
2 ½ oz. Cranberry Juice
3 ½ oz. Orange Juice
In a highball glass, pour rum and cranberry juice over ice. Slowly add orange juice and garnish with an orange wedge.
Finishing Thoughts: Appleton Estate V/X is unique and tasty rum, and a good way to dip a toe into the aged rum category without breaking the bank. It would make a great base for your typical tropical drinks without being too strong or too sweet, and we liked it on the rocks as well. One of our reviewers described it as tasting good without being "too rummy," and that just about sums it up for us.
We recommend drinking Appleton Estate V/X on a beach somewhere; if that's not possible, crank up the heat in your house, sprinkle sand in your living room and crack open a bottle to emulate the experience.
Learn more about Appleton Estate V/X and the other rums in the Appleton family at the Appleton Rum US website.
November 24, 2005
BJ's Beer Pong Tables
Folding portable beer pong table
Prices start at $69; Buy One Now
There's no excuse for how long it has taken us to post this review. Well, actually, there's a great excuse - we were busy playing beer pong. We've had our BJ's portable beer pong table for a couple weeks now, and if you've noticed a drop-off in our posts lately, it's because we've been having trouble tearing ourselves away.
BJ's makes tables in two sizes - "Dorm Room" which starts at $69, and "Classic House Party" which starts at $139. The Dorm Room model is 2'x7', and folds up into a 2'x3.5' briefcase that weighs about 25lbs. The Classic House Party is considerably beefier, starting out as a 1.5'x4' briefcase that weighs 45lbs, and folding out into a 3'x8' table. Both tables feature a cool, glossy finish, and they have raised foam-rubber skid plates to keep your cups from sliding around.
The thing we really liked about this table, however, was the customization option. You can replace the BJ's logo in the center of the table with whatever image you want. It obviously costs more for a customized table, but we figure it's short money for the chance to have yourself immortalized on your very own beer pong table. If your picture is on your beer pong table, people are going to know whose it is, and they'll give you the respect you deserve (and maybe give you a phone number? We haven't tested that yet). Or, if you're on a team and you put your team's logo right on the table, you'll put the fear of Jeebus into your competitors.
Learn more about BJ's beer pong tables, and pick up a stock or customized table of your own, at BJsBeerPong.com.
November 23, 2005
Battery-operated glowing shot glass
Typical Price: $9.99 each (or $7.99 each for 4 or more) plus $5 for shipping. Buy Now
You'd be surprised by the number of situations where a glowing shot glass might come in handy. Finding your glass after you've had a couple too many, gaining the element of surprise in a drinking game, escaping a mine cave-in...the list is endless. We've seen a few glowing shot glasses around, and may of them seem to be cheap plastic jobs with lighting mechanisms that are shady at best. Not so the Envious Ounce, a glowing shot glass we covered a couple weeks ago.
The Envious Ounce is made of frosted glass, with a little electronic doo-hickey attached to the bottom. It looks just like a regular shot glass until you whack it on a table (not so hard, Hercules). A nice, firm thwack of your Envious Ounce (not as dirty as it sounds) causes the glass to glow with a warm red light, opening up all sorts of possibilities. One thing they suggest on the Envious Ounce site is to use it to change up the game of quarters, and we can definitely see the posibilities in that, if everyone tries to get their quarter in before the lights go out. And don't forget about other possibilities, like convincing primitive cultures you're a god.
For $10 (or $8 each if you order four or more), you can get your hands on an Envious Ounce. It might seem a bit spendy, but money is no object on the path to illumination. We've enjoyed ours immensely, mostly as a way to torture the interns. We hide behind the couch, thwack our Envious Ounce and try to convince them we're the ghost of drinks past. They're not really buying it, but oh, the good times we have.
Learn more about the Envious Ounce and get your own at Envious.com.
November 18, 2005
Shotgun Party Beer Opener
Slogan: One Trip to the Lip
Typical Price: Ranges from $3.95 for one to $0.50 apiece for 10,000. Order Now
A couple weeks ago, we told you about the Shotgun Party beer opener. In our initial coverage, we were foaming at the mouth when we read about how easy it proclaimed to make shotgunning. We got our hands on some as quickly as we could, and we did our review before you could say "Let's shotgun a beer." Due to some technical difficulties with our camera we have been waiting to get our pictures from that night, but instead of making you wait any longer we decided to go ahead with the review (which is too bad, because some of them were pretty funny).
We went to a party with a pocketful of the little red devils, and when we broke them out we were gods among men. People were completely fascinated by the idea, and when we did our first "demo" shotgun they were even more blown away. Just hold the beer upside down, attach the Shotgun Party opener to the bottom of the can, flick your wrist, and suddenly you're ready for a shotgun. No more fiddling with the hole to make it bigger or twisting back those irritating little metal shards you make with your keys. The people at the party were lining up to try it, and the place was bedlam. But it was nothing compared to the chaos that would ensue from what we pulled out of our pants next.
You see, while the red shotgun beer opener is great, it's not perfect. We spoke to its inventor and he told us he felt the hole the gizmo makes is too small, the tab opener gets in the way of popping the hole, and there are a few other production-related problems. That's why he has designed a next-generation beer opener, which we've lovingly christened Shotgun 2.0.
The 2.0 has a wider head on it so it makes a bigger hole, and the prototype model we had allowed us to do the fastest shotguns we've ever been a part of. We seriously think we may have beaten some world records. Bigger, faster, stronger, better; the new technology has been rebuilt to remedy the production flaws that made the first generation slightly less-than-perfect. In all honesty, even if you already have a Shotgun Party tool we recommend you pick up a new one when they're released on December 1. Whether you want to make shotgunning easier, hope to shave a few seconds off your time, or just cherish all things that are beautiful, the 2.0 will suit your needs. Have we ever steered you wrong before?
We think it's imperative for all Liquor Snob readers to get their hands on one of these magical beauties (and use it responsibly, of course). Also, we're going to be getting a batch of these suckers when they're released, so keep an eye on our site for discounts or even free giveaways in December. If you can't wait (and we completely understand that), order a shotgun key of your own at the Shotgun Party site. They make a great gift too - we're sure Grandma would love one.
To learn more, go to ShotgunParty.com.
November 16, 2005
80 proof Imported Swedish Vodka, made by Absolut
Typical Price: Around $30 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Initial Thoughts: We're going to let you in on a little secret - we like to drink. That's why we do what we do. In fact, our general rule is that the more we drink of something, the more we like it, as we rinse away our judgment and common sense. The trick, therefore, is to find liquors we like right away...that's how we know they're the genuine article. Level vodka is one of those liquors.
The first thing we noticed when we opened the bottle was a whiff of citrus and booze, like a lemon that had been soaked in Absolut, and we mean that in a good way. When we poured it straight it had some bite, but left a fragile lemony tang that dissipated quickly and finished smoothly.
Cocktail Recipes: Level is a high-end vodka, so we went high-end; martinis all the way. We usually like our martinis extra-dirty. With Level, we found we liked them as dry as possible so the vermouth wouldn't take away from the taste of the vodka. And that's saying something - vodka martinis are usually two parts vodka to one part dry vermouth, and we usually add another part of olive brine (or Dirty Sue) to give it that filthy texture. The fact that we wanted to drink ours dry (as little vermouth as possible, for you martini virgins), with only a twist of lemon, says something about the quality and smooth taste.
In fact, we liked our Level martinis so much, we did something we normally wouldn't do. We noticed a cocktail recipe on the site that we would normally scoff at, and we just so happened to have the required ingredient in the office, so we decided to mix one up. And so, we present to you:
The Level Rosemary Martini
1 part Level Vodka
1 dash dry vermouth
1 sprig of rosemary
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass without ice for a few seconds.
Add ice cubes and stir for a few seconds more.
Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
We're not sure what possessed us to mix them, but we have to admit the rosemary added an interesting level of complexity to the drink. We also have to say we liked it...and admit we drank them with our pinkies extended.
Finishing Thoughts: We're not classy guys, but we're pretty sure we know it when we see it, and Level oozes it with their vodka as well as their packaging. Level comes in the kind of bottle that you want to break out of the freezer for someone you're trying to woo, because it will let you pass for the debonair 007 type you're really not. We recommend Level for romantic evenings, intimate get-togethers, and nights you just want to get suavely plastered.
Learn more about Level and find recipes and more at LevelVodka.com.
November 14, 2005
Ikon True Russian Vodka
80 proof Russian premium vodka
Typical Price: Less than $15 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Initial Thoughts: One of the things we find interesting about vodka is the fact that it's not really supposed to have a taste. Other liquors brag about their distinctive and bold flavors, but with vodka it's more like, "We taste the most like water." OK, maybe that's an oversimplification, but one of the things we liked about Ikon vodka was the fact that it had such a clean taste without an overpowering alcoholic tinge. We did some reading on the stuff, and that might have something to do with the fact that it's quadruple-distilled, and then filtered through birch wood four times before it's bottled.
We're not sure what effect the birch wood has on the taste, but we were impressed with the clean nose when we sniffed a glass of it straight. When we first discovered Ikon we were impressed by the vodka's lineage and the awards it has won all over the world. When we took our first sip, we were impressed by the taste. Clean and distinctive, it offered a slight mineral tang but it was never overpowering or oily on the tongue. When we sipped it over ice we liked it even better, and all in all we found it lived up to its claim that it could "out-Ketel" Ketel One. On top of everything else, typical retail price is somewhere in the neighborhood of $12.99, a damn good price for a damn good vodka.
Cocktail Recipes: We went simple with Ikon, enjoying it the most on the rocks or mixed with a splash of seltzer or tonic water. We also mixed up a mean martini that was a hit among the interns, and we were big fans of the Vodka Chiller, a recipe we found on the Ikon site:
1.5oz Ikon Vodka
7oz Ginger Ale
Garnish with Lime Wedge
Finishing Thoughts: Not only was Ikon great-tasting vodka, we were impressed with the value. You can get a bottle of the stuff for about the price of a twelve pack of micro-brewed beer. The last time we paid less than $15 for a bottle of vodka we nearly regretted it, but Ikon has once again restored our faith that great taste doesn't have necessarily have to be accompanied by a high price. The next time you're reaching for a top-shelf brand, think about picking up a bottle of Ikon instead, especially if you'll be using it as a mixer. Your tongue - and your wallet - will thank you.
Learn more about Ikon vodka and find out where to get a bottle near you at IkonVodka.net.
November 9, 2005
Paula's Texas Orange Liqueur
80 proof liqueur reminiscent of an orange lemoncello
Typical Price: Under $25 for 750ml; currently only available in Texas
Initial Thoughts: The first thing that hit us when we opened the bottle was the strong, citrusy smell that wafted up from it. On our first taste, we discovered that Paula's Texas Orange has a distinct and natural orange flavor, but it's not overpowering or too sweet, even when you sip it straight. We thought the natural-looking color of the drink was a nice touch as well - if this stuff was made by a big corporation they probably would have dyed it the color of Sunny D or Tang.
Cocktail Recipes: During our tasting, we whipped up a few cocktails with Paula's Texas Orange, two from Paula's site and one we came up with on our own.
The first drink we tried was Austin's Own Martini, a combination of Paula's and another Texas favorite of ours, Tito's vodka. We have to say that while we usually like our martinis on the dirty side, this one was crisp, clean and very tasty. One thing that's dangerous about this one is between the two liquors there's not a strong alcohol taste, which is great but you could get yourself into some trouble if you're not paying attention.
AUSTIN'S OWN MARTINI
1 part Paula's Texas Orange
3 parts Tito's Vodka
Shake over ice and serve in a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a fresh jalapeno or olive.
Drink number two was the signature recipe, Paula's Awesome Margarita. They call this a "turbocharged" margarita, and we can certainly understand why...
PAULA’S AWESOME MARGARITA
This one will make you buddies for life. One good lime generally makes enough for 2-3 margaritas.
1 part fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 part water
2 parts Paula’s Texas Orange Liqueur
2 parts premium tequila
Mix ingredients. To serve martini-style, shake with ice and strain into chilled margarita glass. For a more refreshing version, serve over lots of ice.
Drink number three is one we've had dancing in our heads since we first heard about Paula's, a combination of the liqueur with Orange V vodka, which we call an Orange-plosion. Yeah, we know it's a stupid name, but you'll understand it when you try one. The two spirits come together to form one of the strongest orange flavors we've had this side of biting into one.
2 parts Paula's Texas Orange Liqueur
1 part Orange V vodka (you can probably substitute another high-end orange vodka in a pinch)
Shake together and serve on the rocks. Garnish with a (surprise!) orange if you'd like.
Finishing Thoughts: Overall, we were very impressed with Paula's Texas Orange. It definitely lives up to its name, smacking your tongue with a tasty orange roundhouse. In fact, it's there's so much orange going on in your glass it's almost hard to believe this stuff packs the wallop it does, and you'll forget it's 80 proof. It's only available in Texas right now, but if you can get your hands on one we recommend keeping a bottle in your freezer so you can impress your friends with some souped-up margaritas. Oh, and try out the Orange-plosion, and please let us know if you can come up with a better name.
Learn more and find out where to get your bottle at Paula's site.
November 4, 2005
86 Proof, 16 year old Islay Single Malt Scotch
$40 plus for 750ml (Update: $40 was a misprint...we meant to type $100 plus. But what's $60 more for good scotch, right?)
Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Initial Thoughts: We've said it multiple times that all scotch tastes the same to us, and it just so happens that we like that taste, but we had an experience last week that made us eat our words. After dining in a local pub, we asked our server to bring us a scotch we'd never tried before and he instantly perked up. He said he had one variety he liked so much he bought a bottle for the bar because he felt so strongly that they should stock it. He brought it to us, and we couldn't understand what he said when he told us the name. After some back and forth we turned on our hearing aids and realized he was saying "Lagavulin."
We took one whiff and we were instantly in love with the stuff before even taking a drink. Lagavulin is an Islay scotch, a region known for creating peaty whisky, but this stuff had a deep peat smell the likes of which we'd never experienced, and a rich amber color. Between the two, we were given the warm feeling of a campfire. The taste was a combination of sweetness and smoke, and very rugged, sticking around long after we swallowed. We made our server write down the name for us so we could use it for our first scotch review.
Cocktail Recipes: Bite your tongue!
Finishing Thoughts: We'd never had an Islay whisky before, but we've read about it and we're familiar with names like Laphroaig, another scotch from the region. And while we loved Lagavulin, we're scotch novices, so we got in contact with Kevin Erskine, the man who wrote the book on single malt scotch. He was kind enough to share a few thoughts with us, which we've included below:
There has long been a religious war of sorts between fans of Lagavulin vs. Laphroaig, though the discussion is much like the Coke versus Pepsi debate -most people couldn't tell the difference between the two in a blind taste test. As a result either can be considered to be a definitive Islay malt. For example Michael Jackon gives Lagavulin higher points, while Jim Murray gives a slight edge to Laphroaig.
That being said The Lagavulin IS excellent - garnering 99 points from the Beverage Tasting institute, 97 points from Wine Spectator and 95 points from Michael Jackson. This is a whisky to work your way up to. The peat can overwhelm the average palate, and the finish is smoky and sustained. It's been said so much, it's almost a cliche - Lagavulin is an acquired taste, people either love it or hate it.
Well, we're novices and we loved it. Kevin also went on to note that there is a shortage of the Lagavulin, which we assume contributes to higher prices and could make it tough to find. But if you do find it, especially in a bar where you can order by the glass, we recommend you give it a try.
For a plethora of information about a wide variety of scotch whiskies, visit Kevin's site, The Scotch Blog.
November 2, 2005
We went to Beer Advocate's New England Beer Fest last Saturday, and we had a great time. Not only was it absolutely packed despite the snow (we went to the night session on Saturday), we saw great costumes, met great people and drank great beer. Not a bad night, all in all. We put together some thoughts on the beers we tried, and we've included ways to track them down if you're so inclined.
It should be noted that there were four of us at the Beer Fest, and while we started off with the best intentions of taking copious notes, things seemed to derail a bit as the festival went on. Where our notes from the beginning of the night might look something like "A rambunctious hoppy flavor with a malty kiss at the end," the notes from the end of the night were more like "Beer good. Drink more." We've included our favorites in order, exactly as we wrote them. Today's sober comments are included in (parentheses).
Continue reading: "New England Beer Fest Review"