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Dubonnet Rouge

by Joe Shotkus April 22nd, 2014| Liquor
red swirl

I had fun the other week reviewing a vermouth, so today I am looking at one of my favorite fortified drinks, Dubonnet Rouge. Dubonnet is drunk like vermouth, an aromatized fortified wine, but contains quinine and herbs, making it quinquina. Similarly to vermouth, fermentation is cut off early by the addition of brandy, its fortifying spirit. Much like the gin and tonic, Dubonnet was reportedly given to soldiers entering Africa to fight off malaria due to its addition of quinine, a known fighter of the disease. I'm still not sure how effective of a method that is for soldiers,

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Remy Martin VSOP

by Joe Shotkus April 15th, 2014| Liquor
remyBrandy in America has so many odd associations. Cognac has typically been associated with the upper class, and I guess who can blame it. For a brandy to be considered cognac it has to abide by an incredibly stringent set of laws, be aged in wood I can imagine only exists in smaller quantity than the unicorn and must be distilled in copper alembics, whose dimensions are also strictly controlled by the French government. Cognac is then blended, aged some more, and then sold.

So here's the thing. When you look at a bottle of Remy Martin or Hennessy, realize
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Bee’s Knees Cocktail

by Joe Shotkus April 11th, 2014| Cocktails, Mixed Drinks
honey etcToday's cocktail feature is a classic inspired by honey, the Bee's Knees. This is an incredibly simple cocktail, a true sour in three parts: Gin, lemon and honey. With all sours, I always suggest you squeeze your own juice or move on. It really does make that big of a difference. Lime juice squeezed and left in the refrigerator for a few hours calms some of the citric bite down and allows some of that delicious flavor to become more apparent, making lime sours that much more enjoyable. Same with lemon. Taming citrus is what makes simple sours so
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R.L. Seale’s 10 Year Old Rum

by Joe Shotkus April 8th, 2014| Liquor
barbados betty wolverton-georgeR.L. Seale's rum is malty. It's a big, dark aged rum weighing in at 86 proof. I love dark rum, especially when you can taste the sugar that it was distilled from. It's like having an understanding of the region from which it is derived. So few alcohols give you as true a taste of the region as rum. Pisco brandy might be only second to this understanding of a region by its distillate. R.L. Seale's 10 Year Old boasts heavy caramel, coconut and vanilla bean flavors with some of the wood from the barrel, but mostly the flavors
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Boulevardier

by Joe Shotkus April 4th, 2014| Cocktails, Martinis
two drinksSimilar in many ways to a Negroni, the Boulevardier is a drink rapidly growing in popularity in cocktail bars and restaurants around the U.S. It has equal portions and is a very simple cocktail by design, but depending on the ingredients used, can be such a different cocktail. I've had this drink barrel aged on tap at an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia and it was rich, deep and dark, perfect for sipping on a winter night. I've also sipped this on ice with an orange wedge and had a wonderful summer cocktail. So I'm going to do this twice
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Carpano Antica Vermouth

by Joe Shotkus April 1st, 2014| Liquor
antica_unboxWhile Vermouth is not technically a spirit, legally or otherwise, it isn't really wine either. It has no qualities of a wine and for all intents and purposes, it has been tampered with. The process is simple: Take a red or white wine, infuse it with herbs and other botanical ingredients, sweeten it with sugar, and sack the wine. Sacking the wine is the process of adding  alcohol to wine during the fermentation process to kill the yeast, stopping the fermentation and allowing unfermented sugars to stay in the wine, making a stronger wine with a controllable sweetness. Unlike
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Papa Doble

by Joe Shotkus March 28th, 2014| Cocktails, Mixed Drinks
grapefruitHemingway has many merits, and regardless of what you think of him as a writer he changed drinking for the better. He brought the daiquiri to America, and is credited with a few classics of his own. Many of his characters drank, and the drinks he gave them were not randomly chosen, but carefully mixed for the scene. One of his drinks, Death in the Afternoon, is just absinthe and champagne. It is also one of my favorite cocktails. Today we are going to talk about a drink he made while in Cuba called either the Hemingway daiquiri or Papa
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Don Cesar Pisco Puro Review

by Joe Shotkus March 25th, 2014| Liquor
AD_DonCesarPiscoPuroLet me start by saying this. I love pisco. It's not as commonplace as it should be in America. It's sweet, though sometimes dry, but always bold and delicious. It always mixes well in cocktails, and any person who likes Pisco whom I've ever met I've enjoyed greatly. Perhaps it just makes you a happier person.

Pisco comes from either Peru or Chile. I have Chilean friends who hate that I always carry Peruvian Pisco as it's typically easier to get here than the Chilean stuff. Regardless, my understanding is this: Never tell a Peruvian that pisco is made in
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Rhyned

by Joe Shotkus March 21st, 2014| Cocktails, Mixed Drinks
cinnamon stixWhile looking for a cocktail feature for the bar I often look to see what we have a surplus of, usually an item we have several uses for whose original drinks have become under ordered as the seasons change. As winter began to fade people became less likely to order our hot cider drink which uses cinnamon and other spices. It occurred to me that we have all of this cinnamon laying around and that it compliments pineapple so well. Seriously. Grill pineapple rounds with cinnamon this summer and then talk to me.

I am not one to waste perfectly
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Luxardo Fernet Amaro

by Joe Shotkus March 18th, 2014| Liquor
fernetLast week I did a cocktail featuring a unique alcohol called Fernet Branca. Many companies have attempted to make similar products as Fernet; of those, Luxardo has made a Fernet Amaro, matched in color and scent to the original. There is something different, something missing. Fernet is its own flavor, a melange of odd medicinal botanical ingredients and the right dash of menthol to subdue its bizarre liquor heat. When people come up to me at the bar and ask me what shot they should do next, if I know them at all to be explorers of
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Mezcalifornia

by Joe Shotkus March 14th, 2014| Cocktails, Mixed Drinks
drink on barThe Classic cocktail the Rosita is one of those only now resurfacing from the golden age of cocktails, a blend of tequila, Campari and both dry and sweet vermouth with just a dash of bitters. It's more complex than everyone's favorite, the margarita, more similar to an Italian cocktail such as the Negroni, with the bittersweet notes of sweet vermouth and Campari being massaged by the pepper of golden tequila.

While I love the Rosita as it is, I was writing about the liqueur Grand Poppy from California today and realized it would make a fantastic take on the Rosita.
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Tequila Shot

by Joe Shotkus March 13th, 2014| Ask the Bartender
tequila etcI don't know if this is actually a bartender question, but I thought it might be a good place to start.  If I am ordering a shot of tequila at a bar, does it really matter what type I order?  I understand that I shouldn't get really cheap tequila, but if I'm throwing it back quickly, does ordering a top shelf tequila really matter?

Hello faithful drinker! To drive straight into the question, no, that's all up to your personal taste. Would I jump to the top shelf? Well, actually no. You won't get more or less sick from repeated
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