Sunday, June 29, 2014

Meet Troy & Sons, Three New Expressions of Moonshine and Aged American Whiskey

We welcome you to the bar.

Recently, we attended the New York launch of Troy & Sons small batch moonshine at the neo-speakeasy Flatiron Room. Laura Baddish, PR spirits queen, hosted the event in the dining aerie that overlooks the main room and bar, where patrons flock to get their boozes on amid the din of other postwork-I-need-to-de-stress martini swillers. After some yummy small bites of mini pizza and meatballs, with middle eastern flavors, and sips of Manhattans, Laura presented Troy to us. Now, that image that pops into your head when you think of “Troy” the moonshiner — just throw it out the window. This Troy was blonde, beautiful, and much much younger than that grizzled man that just disappeared from your mind.

A former Texan, Troy Ball moved with her family to Asheville, North Carolina, to distill moonshine, namely the smooth stuff that the old-timer mountain men dub the “sweet spot,” the best-tasting, smoothest part from the distillation process. She distills three expressions at her Asheville Distilling Co., and all offer unique aromas, undertones, and mixing possibilities.

Blonde, Oak Reserve, and Platinum, three expressions of American whiskey.

You can smell the hushed sweet scent of heirloom white corn in the Platinum Whiskey. This smooth white ’shine, distilled from corn rescued from the brink of extinction, makes a mean Margarita-style cocktail [see Sons-Shine Margarita recipe below]. You can also make one with Troy & Sons’ Oak Reserve Whiskey. Deep whiffs of this expression will remind you of toffee and a small taste will bring you deep into the aging barrel with flavors of oak and caramel. Her Blonde Whiskey, although slightly darker than the Oak Reserve, reveals the meaning behind its name in its gentle caramel taste and velvety mouthfeel. This blonde is a softer “kinder spirit,” made from heirloom turkey red wheat and white corn. Even its aroma demurs, whispering to your palate that any drink made with The Blonde will guarantee a smooth ride.

Troy dubs herself the "First woman to found a distillery in modern times.” The spirits’ name comes from the closeness she shares with her three sons. [Check out her story.] As they got older, Troy felt the time was right to start a new venture. Enter “keeper moonshine,” the sweet-spot distillate that the moonshiners all kept for themselves. Now, Troy knew what her calling was: sharing this ’shine with the rest of the world.

We’re excited to visit her at her distillery some day. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to taste some batches of her 4-year and 8-year reserve whiskey. Normally, it’s aged for two years in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, but you never know what time will bring. If the taste of all three of Troy & Sons expressions is any indication, we’re predicting winners.

Sons-Shine Margarita
(courtesy of Troy Ball and Asheville Distilling Co.)

2 ounces Troy & Sons Platinum Whiskey
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
6 drops agave nectar or 1 ounce simple syrup
1 orange slice

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cocktail Buzz Spicy Ginger Syrup Is Your Best Friend This Summer

Homemade ginger syrup is easy to make and will brighten up your cocktail hour. Try this Ginger Pear Highball, made with Berentzen’s light and fresh-tasting pear liqueur.

Crisp ginger ale and its spicier cousin ginger beer are tried and true mixers at your home bar, and for good reason. They combine so well with so much. We love ginger beer in our Zul Mule or in a simple fizzy Presbyterian. These are the perfect drinks for sunny, breezy days. But if we’ve run out of ginger beer, or have some fresh ginger lying around, we love to make ginger syrup to mix with soda. Our homemade spicy ginger syrup is versatile for both cocktails and nonalcoholic “mocktails.” The best part is it’s simple to make.

Cocktail Buzz Spicy Ginger Syrup

6 ounces fresh, unpeeled ginger, washed and diced (or sliced with a mandoline or pulsed in a food processor)
3 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of sugar
pinch of salt

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool completely. Strain mixture into a jar and store in refrigerator for about a week.

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Now you can start mixing. Combine the syrup with soda water, to taste, for your own homemade version of ginger beer. It’s really good with some fresh lime juice as well. Or add a little grenadine and the kids have a zestier version of a Shirley Temple we call the Shirley Temple Black.

Ginger Soda

1/2–1 ounce Cocktail Buzz Spicy Ginger Syrup (depending on how sweet you like your drink)
soda, chilled

Fill rocks glass or highball glass with ice. Add ginger syrup, then soda. Stir. You can always add a lemon twist, or perhaps a spring of mint, if it pleases.

Shirley Temple Black
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1/4–1/2 ounce Cocktail Buzz Spicy Ginger Syrup (depending on how sweet you like your soda)
1/4–1/2 ounce grenadine
club soda, chilled

Fill rocks glass or highball glass with ice. Add ginger syrup, grenadine, then soda. Stir. You can always add a lemon twist, if it pleases.

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Now it’s time to make a cocktail. How about a Dark and Stormy: dark rum mixed with ginger beer and perhaps a little fresh lime juice in a tall glass of ice.

Cocktail Buzz Dark and Stormy

2 ounces dark rum (traditionalists use Gosling’s Black Seal)
1 ounce Cocktail Buzz Spicy Ginger Syrup (recipe above)
1/2 ounce lime juice (optional)
4 ounces soda water (to taste)

Shake first three ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with club soda. Stir.

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If you desire something less alcoholic, use you’re favorite liqueur, like the light apple or pear versions that Berentzen sent us recently. Their flavors are crisp, not at all cloying. Add a little of our ginger syrup and soda water and you’re ready for some backyard barbecue festivities. Their low alcohol content makes them the perfect choice for when you want more than one cocktail; we’ll be reaching for these liqueurs again and again this summer.

Apple or Pear Ginger Highball

1 1/2 ounces Berentzen Pear or Apple Liqueur
1 ounce Cocktail Buzz Spicy Ginger Syrup (recipe above)
4 ounces soda

Stir first two ingredients in ice for 15 seconds ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda water.

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We’ve also been adding ginger syrup, in lieu of plain simple syrup, to a lot of classic cocktails. One of our favorite iterations is the Ginger Whiskey Sour. Just add a warm summer night. We think it’s a winner.

Cocktail Buzz Ginger Whiskey Sour

2 ounces bourbon or rye
3/4 ounces Cocktail Buzz Spicy Ginger Syrup (recipe above)
3/4 ounces lemon juice

Shake with ice for 15 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

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Pairing Suggestions
Halloumi with Fig Jam
Braunschweiger Spread
Smoked Eel
Sweet Potato Crisps
The Chick’s Peas
Smoked cheeses, such as gouda

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Friday, June 6, 2014

Negroni Week Beckons You Until June 8

Enter Bar Now (or make one of these at home)

 This Whitish Negroni — on the rocks — sparkles with white vermouth and, of course, Campari and gin.

The following Negroni variations originated from other fellow travelers’ books and bars. Each is distinct but embraces the arresting flavors of the original and is perfect for these final days of Negroni Week, the seven-day celebration of the famous cocktail and all its variations. Remember, participating bars across America and other parts of the globe promise to raise money for their favorite charities for every Negroni-style cocktail ordered. If you cannot make it to a bar by Sunday, then by all means have a Negroni-style cocktail at home.

White Negroni
(from Dutch Kills, Queens, NY)

Suze, pronounced like siz, but with a French rounded vowel sound (think Inspector Clouseau), is an aperitif flavored with the bitter roots of the gentian plant. If you try it on its own, it is sweet, as well. It is not for everyone, but is definitely worth a try if you see some behind the bar. Ask your bartender to pour you a sip. In the White Negroni, white vermouth, red vermouth’s milder cousin, rounds out the flavors of gin mixed with Suze in this boozy concoction. Its layered flavors end with a nice bitter finish.

1 1/2 ounces gin (we used Beefeater)
3/4 ounce Suze (a bittersweet gentian aperitif)
3/4 ounce Dolin white vermouth (aka bianco, blanc, blanco)
lemon twist, as garnish

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Recipe reprinted from Imbibe Magazine.

Whitish Negroni
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Since we’re big fans of Campari, we decided to do a riff on the White Negroni. But there’s nothing white about this cocktail. It’s actually a gorgeous pink–orange. Its smooth, slightly sweet, and layered flavors (think Aperol) pair perfectly with bacon-wrapped unsulfured dried apricots and a little sage leaf.

1 ounce Beefeater gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Dolin white vermouth (aka bianco, blanc, blanco)
lemon twist, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add garnish.

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These next two cocktails are from two books from which we have made drinks over the years and are perfect for the warming months ahead:

Mistaken Negroni
(from The New Old Bar by Steve McDonough and Dan Smith)

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce orange juice
sparkling wine or Prosecco
orange peel, as garnish

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Serve garnished with a flamed orange peel. [Express orange peel through a match flame by holding the match over the drink and, with your other hand, in one quick, sharp squeeze, pinch the peel (outside of peel facing the match) so the oils spurt through the flame, causing a gentle flare-up.]

Grapefruit Negroni
(from Sips & Apps by Kathy Casey)

1/4 large red grapefruit
1 1/2 ounces gin (we used Death’s Door)
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Campari
small grapefruit wedge, as garnish
ice, if on the rocks

Squeeze the grapefruit into a cocktail shaker and discard the squeezed fruit. Fill the shaker with ice. Measure in the gin, vermouth, and Campari. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass or an old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with small grapefruit wedge.

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So, when all is said and done, you don’t like gin. This is okay. One person’s taste buds differ from the next. here’s something that may stir your whiskey-loving loins:

Red Hook
(created by Enzo Errico, Milk & Honey, New York City)

2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Punt e Mes vermouth
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Recipe reprinted from Imbibe Magazine.

To find out how to make a Punt e Mes Negroni, click here.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz