We were shopping for a party this weekend when we stumbled across some information for a new product that tickled our fancy for the holidays - Vermont Ice Apple Creme Liqueur from Boyden Valley Winery. We've enjoyed this Vermont-based winery's other products (big fan of their Glogg when we're too lazy to make our own), so we're excited to try out this new offering.
Until recently the Vermont Ice line was mostly ice wines and ciders, but it's being expanded with this new apple liqueur, and you can expect to see a maple liqueur coming out soon as well. The award-winning Vermont Ice Apple liqueur is a combination of ice cider, apple brandy and cream, which has potential to be out of this world on a cold winter night. It weighs in at 30 proof (15% ABV), and retails for about $30 for a 750ML bottle.
Learn more about Vermont Ice Apple Creme and pick up a bottle from the Boyden Valley website, and we hope to review it soon.
It's one thing to be able to make a delicious cocktail - say achieving the perfect balance of sweet, sour and strong and creating flavors that dance on the tongue - but believe it or not flavor isn't the only thing that can make a good cocktail great. Texture is an unsung hero of for many home bar tenders, and playing with texture can be a fun way to achieve the next level for your drinks. What do we mean by texture? It can be anything from the "mouth feel" to other tactile experiences associated with a drink - learn more below.
What do we mean by "texture"? Basically it's anything that affects the physical feel of your interaction with the drink. Camper at Alcademics put together a nice list of textural descriptors to help you wrap your head around it, and also included some excellent tips for manipulating texture in your drinks:
Some Texture Descriptors for Cocktails and Spirits
Thick, syrupy, not dilute enough
Thin, weak, non-integrated, over-shaken
Soft, pillowy, foamy, frothy
Slushy, viscous, chewy
As pointed out in the above post there are all kinds of ways to fiddle with the texture of a cocktail, including:
Modifying Sweeteners & Other Ingredients: Adding or removing sugar, or changing what you use to sweeten a cocktail (e.g., honey, agave nectar, etc.) can also change the mouth feel.
Modifying Ice & Temperature: Shaking a drink will break up the ice and cause it to form a layer on top of the finished cocktail; stirring does not do this. Chilling a drink more will change the liquid's viscosity - be careful because too cold or too warm can both negatively change the experience of a drink.
Adding Specific Texture Modifiers: An old trick for foaming up a cocktail is to add egg whites before you shake. You can also play with thickeners, pectins and other specific modifiers to change the feel of a drink, or substitute sparkling wine or seltzer for a still ingredient.
Modifying Glassware: Rimming a glass with salt or sugar is a sure fire way to change the drinking experience.
PAMA's position is that their product is excellent for toying with certain aspects of texture for multiple reasons, one big one being the tannins from the pomegranate, which "have a drying effect on the tongue and cause the mouth to water in response creating the illusion of texture on the palate." Learn other ways PAMA can change a drink's texture at Pama Pros.
An excellent time to be thinking about texture is when you're pairing your cocktails with food. If you're about to tear into a 2,000 calorie meal of turkey, stuffing, gravy, and pie, are you going to want a thick, heavy, syrupy cocktail, or do you want something frothy and light? We know how we'd answer - and we've put together a list of Thanksgiving-friendly cocktails using PAMA that will pair well with your turkey day and give you a few chances to play with texture.
Tis the season to wish you were James Bond, what with Skyfall out right now, and the bar10der just might make you the man with a golden shaker this year. This 10-in-one bartending tool includes a muddler, a stirrer, knives (channel and regular), zester, reamer, jigger, bottle opener, cork screw and strainer. It's also (we assume) Q-approved for dangerous missions, so whip out your license to mix and whip us up a Vesper.
For some people, the idea of "white whiskey" just brings up connotations of unaged white lightning made in a car radiator. In reality it's just whiskey that is often unaged or only lightly aged, so doesn't have that deep brown color we often associate with bourbons, etc. We hadn't heard of the new white whiskey from Jim Beam, "Jacob's Ghost," until recently but we stumbled across this review of the stuff on Drink Spirits:
Jim Beam Jacob's Ghost (80 proof / 40%, $21.99) is pale gold in color. It might be more aptly named "off-white whiskey" but the color is so faint, when you get it in a glass (especially with ice), it looks white. The nose of Jacob's Ghost makes it clear that it has spent time in a barrel, with light oak tones combined with sweet corn, vanilla, light cereal grains, and a slight briny note. The nose has a slight spicy quality to it which may be from the young rye and barley in the mash, as well as its time in oak.
When you read the full review one thing they note is that a 1-year-aged white whiskey has a higher price point than Jim Beam's white label, which is aged for at least four years. Beam has been dabbling with trying to get non-whiskey drinkers interested in whiskey for a couple years now with their flavored offerings - our guess is they're now courting the vodka market, but we've been wrong before.
We're not going to fight it this year - the Holiday season is coming and that means it's time to get fat. If it's anything like our previous years it'll start with us having a few extra cocktails and a few (hundred) extra candy bars at Halloween, and end with us casually wondering how many thousands of calories we've consumed while getting over our hangover on January 1.
In anticipation and celebration, we've decided to make a batch of Tom and Jerrys now, to leave our self respect at the door. Head on over to Chow.com for the recipe we'll be using - basically you make an egg noggy base that has booze in it, then add booze to it. Let's do this.
Ever since we did our Pama review a few weeks ago, we've been thinking about this pomegranate liqueur and how it fits into our cocktail-mixing toolkit, both at home and behind the bar. The first thing that struck us about PAMA was that it was much more versatile than we originally gave it credit - we were able to use it tasty cocktails from a modified Kir Royale to a tasty Manhattan (pictured above) and we wanted to spend some more time investigating just how versatile it can be.
We'll come out and say it - we're really excited that our home town of Waterbury, Vermont was recently called out by the Boston Globe as the best beer town in New England. Vermont is a great state for beer, and we're happy to see the local breweries being recognized on a grander scale. Equally exciting is the inclusion of our beloved nearby Three Penny Taproom (pictured above) in Montpelier on a list of 6 craft beer bars to visit in Vermont from Serious Eats. Check out what they have to say:
Inside the Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, you could spend an entire weekend sampling from the 24 taps, and another few days supping from rare bottles (Tilquin Oude Gueze and multiple brews from Cantillon among them). The best-kept secret, though, is the food from chef Matthew Bilodeau; all of it is thoughtfully executed to pair with the beer.
What is PAMA?
PAMA is a liqueur made with pomegranate juice, vodka, and a bit of tequila. It weighs in at 34 proof (17% ABV) and while you might expect it to be on the sweet side, it is actually quite tart, and adds a striking ruby red color to cocktails. It stays far away from the syrupy sweetness we've seen in other fruit liqueurs, and can actually be used in cocktails to reduce the overall sweetness of the drink.
The Look: As mentioned, PAMA is ruby red and really makes its presence known when added to a cocktail.
The Nose: Dark berry fruits are the first thing you'll smell, tart and fruity without being syrupy. There is an assertive (but not overwhelming) whiff of the vodka and tequila that form its base.
The Taste: More berries, with a surprising tartness that lingers on the tongue. It has a mouth feel similar to wine, and while it has a thickness to it, it's not syrupy. If you know what pomegranates taste like, you know pretty well what PAMA tastes like, and we mean that in a good way.
The Verdict: PAMA is available at our local liquor store for $19.99, and we feel this is a very fair price for a good product. In comparison to some of the other "pomegranate" liqueurs we've tried, PAMA is the clear winner, and we enjoyed playing with using it to modify our cocktails.
Our fellow bartenders started off a bit skeptical at first, but once they tasted it every single one of them had an idea for a cocktail, from just mixing it with soda for a good low-alcohol "session cocktail" to mixing it with beer (see our recipe ideas below, as well as some notes on using PAMA as a cocktail modifier).
If you're interested in distilling your own spirits but haven't wanted to hassle with putting together your own still, your wishes may have just come true. Introducing EasyStill, a compact distillery contraption meant to take the "guesswork" and "old car radiators" out of home distilling. You'll have to do the research on the legality of using it in your area, of course, and in the words of our friend Rick at CocktailGoGo, "I have no idea what their guarantees are when it comes to blindness or a Jake Walk, but who cares!"
At last it is easy to make alcohol distillation a hobby. The actual distilling is as easy as making coffee! EasyStill is a tabletop distillation unit. 4 liters of mash or wine are added and the unit plugged in.
A quick three hours after you flip the switch, you'll have 1.4 liters of 92 proof spirits. No word on how crushing the hangovers are. Learn more at EasyStill.com [via CocktailGoGo]
Ever wished you had some kind of robotic bartender to perform your every cocktail whim? While it may not have the charm and conversational skills you're looking for, The Inebriator will mix you a cocktail and (apparently) play some tunes for you too? Check out the video above for this Arduino-powered bartender in action. The first thing we noticed was that it lacks an ability to shake a cocktail...maybe they just need to put a paint mixer at the end of the conveyor belt?
If you're wondering how it works:
...bottles lined up upside-down and optics providing set measures. The user places their glass on a pedestal and selects their drink of choice on the display at the front of the unit. The pedestal then moves along collecting the right spirits as it goes thanks to motors pushing the glass upwards at the appropriate moments. Finally it adds the mixers, connected as and when needed by nitrogen-pressurized tubes to deliver the final touches to the cocktails from a cooler located out of sight.