November 1, 2005
Modern Drunkard: A Handbook for Drinking in the 21st Century
Vital Stats: 205 pages of tips and information that will touch your inner drunkard
Author: Frank Kelly Rich
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
Typical Price: $14.00 ($11.20 at Amazonplus free shipping)
It's no secret that we consider Frank Kelly Rich to be the grandaddy of what we do here at Liquor Snob. Sure, we're more product- and news-oriented while his Modern Drunkard Magazine focuses more on the esoterics of boozing, but it was the spirit that got us interested in writing about spirits. That being said, we've got to say his Modern Drunkard book is one of the funniest, not to mention most informative and useful books we've ever read.
We've all heard the saying "it's funny because it's true," and when we got our copy of the Modern Drunkard book last night we couldn't stop laughing. It's not just because the book is full of witticisms and gin-soaked humor. It's because he offers real-life tips on how a drunkard can survive in a teetotaling world, and insights any drunkard can agree with.
The book is full of indispensable information for today's boozer. Read "Etiquette for Inebriates" for tips on how to make it through awkward drinking situations, like hitting on the wife of the host of the party you're attending. Smile knowingly at the "Know Your Bartender" section because you've seen them all in your travels, from the Mercenary to the Ladies' Man. Learn "Bar Signs" for when you've lost your speech in your local watering hole.
Issue yourself the personal challenge of trying to pull off the Modern Drunkard's "Best Bar Moves," like the unsolicited hug and drinking as war. Learn the "Zen of Drinking Alone," and pick up a few "Party Games for People Who Don't Like Party Games" - we know we'll be playing Your Favorite Band Really, Really Sucks the next time we're at a shindig.
But our favorite part of the book was the final section, entitled "365 Excuses to Get Loaded." We're not going to spoil them for you, but we're especially interested in February 21, which involves a Polaroid, and June 15, which is a great day to drink moonshine. Plus, find out why you should drink 15 pints every December 25.
The Modern Drunkard is a great read and a true boozer's bible, combining tongue-in-cheek humor with tried and true strategies and tips. In fact, we got more information out of flipping through its pages than we did in a decade and a half of school.
Buy your copyat Amazon today.
Plus, get the full experience, subscribe to the monthly magazine and browse the store at Modern Drunkard Magazine online.
October 25, 2005
Bunratty Export Potcheen
90 Proof Unaged Grain Whiskey
Typical Price: Less than $20 for a 750ml bottle - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Initial Thoughts: In Ireland, the word potcheen (AKA poteen or poitin) has a similar connotation to the words "white lightning" in the American South. That's right, potcheen is moonshine, a drink that has been banned since the 1600s and until fairly recently was only distilled in illegal pot stills in remote areas.
There are two reasons we decided to review Bunratty's today. The first is that the Irish version of Bunratty's has the greatest slogan we've ever seen on a liquor bottle (Now Legal!), which would make us buy pretty much anything. The other is that some people around the office had Ireland on the brain (Yes, Jake, we know you took your honeymoon in Ireland. Happy anniversary to you and Kathleen). But we digress.
Continue reading: "Potcheen Irish Moonshine Review"
October 20, 2005
The Instant Expert's Guide to Single Malt Scotch
Vital Stats: 68 Pages of information on single malt scotch, from malted barley to mouth
Author: Kevin Erskine
Publisher: Doceon Press
Typical Price: $8.95 at Amazon
Initial Thoughts: When it comes to the world of scotch, we've always been on the outside looking in. Because of our scotch inexperience we never felt confident enough to go out and buy a bottle of the good stuff, and because we weren't confident we remained inexperienced. That's not to say we didn't enjoy a nice glass every once in a while, on a recommendation or a whim, but single malt scotch wasn't something we were comfortable buying.
That's why we read Kevin Erskine's book from cover to cover the moment it arrived in our mailbox. It's a slim book, but chock full of all kinds of information, including things you would expect like whisky basics to how and where scotch is made. The book is filled to the rim with interesting facts we'd never encountered before about the origins of scotch, and a discussion of distilleries by region. One of our favorite pieces of trivia was about the symbiotic relationship between scotch and bourbon (here's a hint: it has something to do with the barrels they're aged in).
Continue reading: "Instant Expert's Guide to Single Malt Scotch Review"
October 19, 2005
Tito's Handmade Vodka
80 Proof, Corn-based Texas Vodka
Typical Price: Under $20 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Availability: Tito's is available in 40 states; check their website for availability in your state or buy it online
Initial Thoughts: We've been big fans of all the vodkas we've reviewed so far, but there's something very special about this one. We're going to keep our review clean, simple and straight to the point, just like Tito's.
Cocktail Recipes: Tito's is the only vodka we've reviewed so far that we preferred straight; all we needed was a slight chill from the freezer. It was also tasty on the rocks, or mixed in drinks, but it just felt right to drink it on its own. There was very little nose, which is rare for vodkas, which in our experience tend to have at least a whiff of alcoholic tang.
As for the taste, it was straightforward and mostly prevalent on the front of the tongue, with of a woody or herbal back end. Very clean, very pure, very tasty. We suppose this is the advantage to distilling your liquor six times, and we finally understand why this stuff has been so lavished with praise from everyone who's tried it.
Finishing Thoughts:We're going to go out on a limb and say Tito's vodka is the smoothest we've ever tasted. That's not to say there's no better vodka out there, but between the taste and the price, which is an added bonus of a small company with low overhead and no importing costs, we're Tito's converts. We can't think of any reason, barring two broken legs and a restraining order from the liquor store, why we won't always have a bottle of Tito's in our cabinet.
Learn more about Tito's vodka, and by all means, go out and get a bottle of your own. Buy Tito's online at Internet Wines and Spirits.
October 18, 2005
Tommy Guns Vodka
80 Proof, Imported Polish Rye Vodka
Typical Price: About $25 for a frosted 750 ml bottle; about $50 for machine gun-shaped bottle - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Availability: Currently you can buy bottles all over Illinois, and in 13 other states; check with your local liquor store to learn where to find it. We had the best luck finding it in online liquor stores, and the Roaring20s.net site has an online store of its own on the way.
Initial Thoughts: There is something ineffably cool about Al Capone. Sure, he was a thug and a gangster, but he had a knack for giving people what they wanted, as long as they wanted booze...or a baseball bat to the back of the skull. Of course, we're basing that impression solely on DeNiro's representation of him in The Untouchables.
That same vibe of inscrutable coolness permeates Tommy Guns Vodka. When we tried it straight, it had a mellow nose that made us think of a cool breeze blowing down a Chicago street. On the tongue, it was as warm as hot jazz on a chilly night. Sure it's evocative of the '20s, but this is no bathtub affair...Tommy Guns vodka belongs on the top shelf.
Cocktail Recipes: While we liked this vodka on the rocks, it also made some great cocktails. In fact, it had the potential to be as dangerous as a real machine gun, because once you stirred it with the mixer, it was so smooth it was easy to forget there was booze in there. We preferred it in a simple vodka tonic, and it made a spectacular Bloody Mary.
The Roaring 20s site also recommends some other Tommy Guns drink recipes, which we haven't tried yet, but we're sure we will. Shake each with ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Here are some of our favorites:
The "Scarface" Al Capone Martini: 1.5oz Tommy Guns Vodka, .5oz Chilled Espresso, .5oz Remy Martin, .5oz Kahlua.
The "Godfather" Martini: 1.5oz Tommy Guns Vodka, .5oz Sambuca, Splash of Sweet Vermouth.
The "Untouchable" Hotshot: 1oz Tommy Guns Vodka, .25oz Lemoncello. Serve this shot with a wedge of lemon generously sprinkled with sugar; suck the lemon before doing the shot.
More Tommy Guns Martini Recipes (pdf)
Finishing Thoughts: All in all, we found Tommy Guns vodka to be much like its namesake - cool to the touch when you first pick it up, but smoky hot when it goes to work. This is one that's definitely worth getting your hands on, even if you don't spring for the machine gun-shaped novelty bottle. But like we told you before, that bottle is damned cool too.
Learn more at TommyGunsVodka.com.
October 17, 2005
80 Proof, Neutral Grain Black Vodka
Typical Price Around $20 - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Initial Thoughts: We have to admit, it was a bit disconcerting at first to drink black vodka. It kind of felt like opposite day, where up was down, Goths were cheerful and vodka was black instead of clear.
But we got over that quickly, and we were very impressed with Blavod Black Vodka. It has a pleasant nose, and while it's definitely got a bit of a bite, the aftertaste is spicy instead of the medicinal flavor you get with some vodkas. It was tasty on the rocks, but we enjoyed it most in mixed drinks, if for no other reason than the fact that they looked cool.
Cocktail Recipes: We tried a few recipes we found on the Blavod site, and we've included our two big favorites below:
Screwed-Up Screwdriver: Fill chimney glass with ice, pour in 3oz chilled tangerine juice, layer 3oz Blavod on top. Garnish with a licorice straw (optional).
Black Widow: Fill highball glass with ice, pour in 3oz chilled cranberry juice, layer 3oz Blavod on top.
Black Bull: Mix Red Bull or other energy drink with Blavod, serve on the rocks in a highball glass.
The Black Widow was our favorite, both because of the red-and-black look and the tartness and spice in the mouth. On thing to note is that while the layering looks extremely cool, having the vodka floating on top can make the taste overwhelming for less-experienced drinkers. We recommend serving these drinks with a straw or swizzle stick, so people can get the visual impact and then mix them up themselves.
You can also find a bunch of other recipes, including Ghosts in the Graveyard, the Black Cat and the Dim-Lit Gimlet. Most were more ingredient-intensive than we typically like, but many of them have cool holiday-related themes for your Halloween cocktail party. To find more black vodka recipes, go to the Blavod site and click on "In The Glass."
Finishing Thoughts: Overall, we were impressed with Blavod, both for the flavor and the look. It doesn't just rely on the ooh-aah factor of being a black vodka, and delivers on the tastebuds as well. We recommend it when you're mixing up a batch of Halloween drinks or just looking for something a bit different to impress your guests.
October 14, 2005
Update: Liquor Snob recently posted a retraction to this Screech Rum review. Yes, we know it's been four years. We didn't want to be too hasty.
Regrettably, a couple weeks ago, we covered Newfoundland Screech Rum.
Tonight...we reviewed it. A few minutes ago...two of us finished the entire bottle.
Screech Rum may be from Newfoundland, but it tastes like Toronto with a Detroit chaser. And somehow...against all advice...we finished the bottle. Because once the cap comes off, you realize it should never go back on. It gets dumped in one of two places: your mouth or the sink.
Things Screech Rum doesn't mix with: Orange Juice, Cranberry, High Life, Tomato Soup (no joke - we hoped it would kill the taste).
Things Screech Rum mixes with: Nausea, Exuberance, Anger, Melancholy, Regret and Nausea.
Even the Quaffer couldn't help. We used it for the shots so we wouldn't have to pause for the chaser, but the stuff is deadly and it burns like napalm going down.
Kill Us. For the love of all that is holy...kill us.
October 13, 2005
Typical Price: $14.99 at the Bombed Store
We've been out of college for a while, and we'd almost forgotten how much fun beer pong (AKA Beirut) can be. Or, as they say up here in the Northeast, "Beer pong is wicked fun, dude," except "beer" would sound more like "bee-ah." But we're getting off the point, which is that we tested out the Bombed game this past weekend.
You should note that as we stated in earlier Bombed coverage, it specifically states on the box that the game is "Not intended for use with alcoholic beverages." That's why we have decided to swap all further references to the word "beer" in this review with the name of a certain world-reknowned pan flautist so we don't look like horrible drunks. We hope you'll understand.
We gathered up a couple interns (thanks, Sean and Kathleen) and had them set up the game according to the specifications in the rule sheet. We didn't have access to an actual Ping Pong table at the time, but we were able to set up on two card tables the specified distance apart. The Bombed game comes with two racks, 20 cups and 3 official balls, as well as a list of official and suggested rules.
The first thing we noticed was that the racks made it much easier to pour the Zamfir into the cups without spilling, and it offered a very quick set up. We were skeptical about the rack at first, especially when it was time to re-rack, but they didn't get in the way at all. Plus, as we expected, they were a life saver when the ball hit near the rim, because it kept the cup from tipping over and the Zamfir spillage to a minimum.
The biggest problem we had was that we're more used to sipping instead of chugging, but that was the only way to keep the game moving at a steady pace. Intern Sean, the consistent victor over the course of the evening, kept having to wipe the Zamfir out of his beard as it dribbled out of the corners of his mouth. C'est la vie.
Intern Kathleen was a little squeamish about fishing the ball out of the Zamfir and drinking it, especially after it had rolled under the table a few times. That's why the rinse cup was a life saver. Of course, after a few cups of Zamfir, the squeamishness seemed to evaporate anyway.
We also thought it was great to have the rules so readily accessible. There are a lot of regional and house rules in Zamfir pong, so every time we had a question we referred to the sheet. It was really nice to have them around so you could wave them under your opponent's nose if you were right...or slink back to your end of the table if you weren't.
We had a lot of fun with the game, and we wholeheartedly recommend it. For $15 bucks you can't go wrong, plus it makes a great gift for your favorite Zamfir pong player. You can pick up the game (along with a couple Bombed T-shirts...we're partial to the "Nice Rack" shirt) at GetBombed.com.
October 12, 2005
On The House: The Bizarre Killing of Michael Malloy
Typical Price: $7.99 at Amazon
We've been sitting on our review of On The House for the last couple days, because we weren't quite sure what to say about it. That's not to say we didn't like it - we just needed a little while to catch our breath and process it.
On the one hand, the book's setup is true crime meets pure horror - a group of ruthless blackguards (always wanted to use that term) who want to kill an unsuspecting man who calls them friend, and make a buck off it. To do so, they feed him gallons of poisonous liquor and plates of food full of tin scraps. They run him over with a taxi cab. They douse him in water and leave him passed out in sub-zero temperatures. In a lot of ways, this is the stuff of which nightmares are made.
On the other hand, parts are pure comedy, because these guys are the bumblingest 'murder trust' we've ever heard of. The closest analogy we could come up with was 'Inspector Clouseau convinces the Three Stooges to help him murder The Tick.' No one can do anything right, and even when they come up with plans that should work, the title character's legendary constitution lets him shrug off all the damage like he's nigh invulnerable.
On the technical side, author Simon Read obviously did his research - he details the story down to its minutiae, and if it becomes convoluted on the page, you get the feeling that's only because he was slave to real events. This isn't fiction, where you can make your story as simple or broad as you want, and Read reports the facts. That being said, however, we found his writing to be most engaging when he moved away from the brutal truths.
The sections that really popped as we read it were the spots where Read stepped into the heads of his characters, reconstructing what they might have been thinking. For example, there is a sequence in the second chapter, where Mike Malloy wakes up with a hangover, that made us cringe with gut-twisting empathy, from his throbbing eyeballs to his lips "like two Polish sausages slapped together." We liked these forays away from cold facts, and relished them when we found them sprinkled through the book.
All in all, as the title suggests, this is not a book for everyone. If you're not interested in reading about people sinking to ridiculous criminality to make a few pennies off someone else's misery, stay away. Even the background details can be shocking and disturbing, like the blinding of a speakeasy owner with a handkerchief covered in "muck collected from a gonorrheic discharge." But all in all it is a shocking portrayal of the depths of the Depression, and the even deeper lows to which people can sink.
We found it well worth the read if you can stomach it, and while you might want to steady yourself with a drink or two beforehand, be warned: this is a book that will probably put you off the booze for a couple days.
On The House: The Bizarre Killing of Michael Malloyby Simon Read at Amazon.
Previously On Liquor Snob:
On The House Arrives for Review
Booze Books: On The House
Name: Orange V Vodka
Alcohol Content:76 Proof
Typical Price: Under $30 (750 ml bottle)
Most of the time when we try a flavored vodka, the taste falls into two categories. On one end of the spectrum, the vodka taste is overpowering while the flavoring is hidden away, waving to your tastebuds from a distance. On the other extreme, the vodka can be overpowered by the chemical flavoring of a convenience store popsicle. Not so with Orange V, an organic American vodka we recently discovered.
With Orange V, the citrus flavor is right out there in front, coating your tongue with an intense flavor of oranges. But we're not talking about the Tang of chemical orange flavors, either...this is the real stuff. We're talking Valencias, Mandarins and Tangerines; real Florida oranges and essential oils, making your palate stand up and take notice. To be honest, our reviewers either loved or hated the stuff - if you like your orange vodka to taste a whole lot like oranges, go get a bottle. If you like your orange vodka to taste more like vodka or the flavoring to be subtle, you may want to look elsewhere.
We're not saying the vodka is anything less than quality - it's a well-crafted, quadruple distilled spirit that happens to kick you in the tongue with citrus flavor. We enjoyed it chilled, and one reviewer swore up and down that the citrus taste was so pure they could taste the pith of the oranges after a sip. We also mixed it with fresh-squeezed orange juice to make the best Screwdriver we've had in years. It also tasted good, and developed a more delicate tinge, when we mixed it with mandarin orange-flavored seltzer water, on the rocks.
One thing we think is important to remember is that while it's important to test liquors under optimum conditions, there are a lot of vodkas that taste good when mixed with orange juice fresh out of the juicer. But it's also important to stress-test your booze too, to make sure it holds up under adverse conditions.
In a move that would probably make Orange V's creators cringe, we also mixed Orange V with Orangina, which hid some of the vodka's sweetness and made for a slightly more tart experience. We also mixed up a batch of Dumpster Juice, and we're happy to say Orange V held its own against some very sweet liqueurs.
All in all, Orange V was offered the most intense orange flavor we've had this side of a liqueur, without the added sugar. We recommend it both as a mixer in orange-based drinks, and on the rocks. We've also heard it makes Cosmopolitans sing, though we haven't had a chance to try them yet.
Rating: Four out of Five
Previously on Liquor Snob: Orange V Vodka Arrives for Review