In the current world of craft beer lovers, lagers (and especially classic German lagers) are often considered boring by experts & casual drinkers alike. But I really enjoy a beer that can be subtle while still having interesting textures and flavors. And there are quite a few smaller German breweries that produce amazing simple beers. I just had the “Mord und Totschlag” from Kyritzer & despite it’s fearsome name- it translates into English as “Murder & Manslaughter”- it’s a fairly classic black lager with fantastic roasty flavor & slight richness that reminds me a bit of good coffee ice cream splashed into an egg cream.
Thanks to the current spirits & cocktail craze, producers & importers have been unearthing ancient spirits that were nearly extinct. Sometimes they were extinct & have been brought back to life. And sometimes they have become terrible shadows of their original incarnations but are now being made in their more original glorious forms. I just tasted through a bunch of products from Tempus Fugit Spirits including some Fernet, Quinquinas & Crème de Menthe. Who new Crème de Menthe could be delicious? Apparently there is historic precedent for a fantastic mint liqueur & these guys have nailed it. It’s a strange new/old world…
When it comes to cocktails, sometimes I just crave a Perfect Manhattan like the one I drank last night. Not perfect as in made perfectly (although it was quite good) but Perfect in that it was made with both sweet & dry vermouths instead of the classic version with only sweet. It obviously dials down the sweetness a bit but it also adds a baseline of cool minerality that I find perks up the drink wonderfully. As the seasons change here & I start to sip more whiskey, it’s a drink I will go back to whenever I’m sipping cocktails.
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There are very few drinks that I identify with summer more than Gin & Tonic. I’ve always loved the juniper-mellow Plymouth Gin from England, and I’m a fan of the Dorothy Parker Gin made down the road from my house. But the state of tonic water in the American market is grim. So I’ve been making my own. Making a concentrated syrup fragranced with assorted botanicals plus the all-important bark from the Cinchona tree (from which we get quinine) is a satisfying exercise, & the concentrate stores quite well so a batch can last you a while. All you need is a splash of the concentrate mixed into club soda or seltzer & you have a tonic water that’s worthy of your favorite gin.
I love unusual riffs on classics, especially when the riff is actually a throw-back to the roots. For example, Camillo Donati Malvasia is a wine I love. Because it’s biodynamic, it is frizzante (mildly carbonated) & the funkiness of natural fermentation balances the sweetness often found in malvasia from this region.
So by making the wine the way it was made ages ago- before modern vinification techniques- it came out spectacular. I’m on my way out to drink some wine & I plan on starting with a bottle of this beauty.
I admit there are lots of times I prefer a drink from an older & more-established producer, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any new folks making booze who I think are doing a great job. Suerte Tequila is a great example. They’re a very new company who just started distribution to NYC (& they’re owned by Americans who are new to the trade), but they are already one of my favorites. Especially their Reposado- I’m a huge fan. I’ll take mine neat, with some sparkling mineral water to sip alongside.
Sour beer isn’t for everyone (apologies to the woman in my Farmhouse Beer class who was horrified by a gueuze) but those of us who love them find them to be super refreshing. My old haunt (as both customer & bartender) Spuyten Duyvil is doing their annual sour beer bash tonight in perfect timing for the doldrums of summer. Whether it’s in the Lambic family, a Flemish red or brown ale, or one of the new riffs proliferating in the craft beer world, I’m a sucker for them all when the mercury rises.
Since they have a beautiful tartness riding on mild maltiness, they’re amazing with good BBQ- skip the sauce & sip a Lambic instead!
I’ve been on a bit of a crusade the last few years to get people to try good aged rum. Rum is so much more than something to mix with coke or an ingredient in a fruity cocktail. The subtle sweetness & deep earthiness of the better aged rums are instant hits with people who approach them with an open mind. Especially in an age when bourbon has become both hugely popular & often quite expensive, I find I get much more for my money but sacrifice nothing in enjoyment when my glass is filled by folks much further south than Kentucky.
I’ve become a big fan of Venezuelan rum recently, in part thanks to a generous gift of Cacique Antiguo from a good friend who happens to be an ex-pat. It’s so dry it approaches cognac in flavor & body, with a mellow warmth that is best appreciated neat. Since Cacique isn’t available in the US, Pampero Aniversario is a great option for anyone looking to see what Venezuela has to offer.
Dave Herman is a Certified Specialist of Spirits and avid fan of all things fermented and distilled. He teaches classes on alcoholic beverages and the foods that pair well with them, and has consulted on beverage programs for bars, restaurants and nationally acclaimed retail stores.