Canada Recalling Bombay Sapphire Gin That Contains "Dangerous" Amount Of Alcohol

Mary Beth Quirk – Consumerist:

The agency warns consumers not to drink the stuff, but instead throw it out or return it to the store where it was purchased. There have been no illnesses reported associated with the gin yet.

The recall was initiated after the discovery that, during production, one batch wasn’t diluted correctly, ramping up its alcohol content.

This poorly-researched article is the result of re-writing a press release rather than practicing journalism. While the liquor in question should be recalled due to mislabeling, or more correctly mis-production, it’s not strictly dangerous. It’s very strong, which might lead a consumer to an unpleasant result.

Liquor pours out of a still at between 120 and 160 proof, or 60%-80% alcohol by volume. It all emerges clear, too.

Whiskeys and other brown liquors go into a barrel and up on a rack, where the aging process lends it a brownish color. Alcohol, being lighter than water, is the first component to evaporate through the wood, leaving a barrel strength of between 110 and 145 proof. The resulting liquor is either dumped, bottled and sold at that high proof (sometimes referred to as “cask strength” or “barrel proof”), or diluted with spring water to a more consumer-friendly 80-100 proof a few years later.

Vodkas, gins, and other white liquors are diluted, bottled, and sold right away. This batch, apparently, missed the dilution phase. So, not dangerous, just very strong.

#liquor #distilling #over-proof

∴ Is It Last Call for Craft Beer? (No.)

Jim Koch – The New York Times:

The growth and the excitement in the beer business is in craft, and its potential is threatened by a beer landscape that is heavily tilted toward gigantic foreign-owned conglomerates and against the independent, innovative entrants.

It matters because independent American breweries create beers for their local regions. They invest in their communities. They employ local workers. And they pay taxes — local, state and federal. American craft brewing is American manufacturing that doesn’t outsource these well-paying American jobs.

Get some craft brewers really talking, and they’ll tell you we are headed for a time when independent breweries can’t afford to compete, can’t afford the best ingredients, can’t get wholesalers to support them, and can’t get shelf space and draft lines. The result: Beer lovers won’t have the broad range of choices they have today.

We’ve enjoyed a golden age of craft brewing for a decade or more. Explosive growth in local craft breweries means there are often a dozen places for drinkers to enjoy new beers within range of an easy drive. I’ve wondered, though, when this expansion will end, whether we’ll face a contraction, and how far that’ll go.

No business grows forever. Mature businesses find a steady-state size if they’re well run. Over-expanded industries contract until the market can support them at a reduced size.

That’s what Jim Koch sees coming, but he claims the cause won’t be over-extension. It’ll be pressure from monopolist macro-brewers reducing space in the distribution chain and shelf space.

Keep in mind Jim started his business, Boston Brewing, with one beer, Sam Adams Boston Lager, but left behind the “micro” designation long ago. Boston Brewing makes dozens of beers, both all-year and seasonal, and distributes around the world. Comparing craft brewers to a company his size is an apples-to-oranges exercise.

He’s well-regarded in the craft industry, though, for giving back to the little guys. He personally intervened during a recent hops shortage by using his company’s purchasing power to buy more hops than they needed at a lower price, then re-distribute among smaller producers at that same reasonable price.

I’m not certain, then, that his issues apply to many local micro-brewers. Most don’t run a bottling line, don’t distribute beyond nearby towns (and only in kegs, at that), and don’t appear on store shelves. Crowding out in the distribution chain will limit how many small brewers can grow larger, but the more pressing danger for small breweries – the producers you find in a local industrial park, for example – is one of over-saturation of the local market for good beer. We haven’t reached that tipping point, yet.

The breweries I visit are consistently crowded every weekend, even in the dead of winter. The crowds grow as the temperature rises. New micro-brewers are opening all the time.

Now, I may be in a fortunate minority living in northern central Virginia. Our state has seen explosive growth in brewing and distilling, and there are a LOT of beer and spirits drinkers here. What I’m seeing may not be representative of the larger craft brew industry.

At some point the craft market will peak. It may shrink. I doubt it’ll disappear. I have yet to see or hear of a craft brewery disappearing for reasons other than being bought by another micro-brewer – because their beer was so popular it made sense to sell and made sense to acquire.

Give people a taste of something better and they’ll pay you for the pleasure. Witness Apple and their computing products. The same will hold true for the craft brewing industry. It may do so with a lower number of producers, though. Time will tell.

#craft #beer #Jim #Koch #Boston #Brewing #conglomerates #supply #chain

Getting Closer to Pappy

We dined with friends at a lovely Italian restaurant in The Plains, Virginia this past weekend. All agreed the food, beverages and company were first-rate. If you’re in the area, Girasole is a terrific place for fine dining.

What caught my eye as we were seated, though was this card:

A card displaying tasting prices for Pappy Van Winkle bourbon

Yes, that’s $75 for a shot of bourbon. Very rare, well-reviewed, and highly coveted bourbon.

As an Alcohol and Beverage Control licensee, Girasole apparently entered and won last fall’s statewide lottery for the 96 bottles available in Virginia. Since 18% of sales are to licensees, 18% of the winners were drawn from licensee entries. Over fifty-thousand lottery entries were received.

Mind you, this was a lottery for the right to buy a bottle of this bourbon, not win a bottle of it.

This card was the closest I’ve come to actually tasting Pappy Van Winkle. 1.5-ounces is not enough for a decent taste, and $75 for not-enough is wasted money.

#pappyvanwinkle #bourbon #virginia #abc #lottery

Corpse Reviver #2, #2

A frosty white cocktail with cherry at the bottom of the glass, a container of dark cherries behind

A redux on Friday’s classic cocktail of the day, the Corpse Reviver #2. This time I took the absinthe out of the shaken ingredients and used it as a rinse for the glass.

The Corpse Reviver is one of a handful of cocktails regarded as “hair of the dog,” dosed the day after an evening of over-consumption. In other words, a hangover killer. I can imagine this drink used that way, when the palate’s a wreck, head a throbbing sore, and outlook somewhat south of kill-me-now.

Two observations: first, the scent of absinthe above the wash line was pleasing, but the small volume of residual liquor contributed nothing to the drink’s flavor. That left lime juice, Cointreau, Cocchi Americano, and gin to forge a cocktail. And that drink just didn’t do anything for me. The Cocchi was wasted, the lime overpowering this proportion, the gin flavorless under the lime, and the Cointreau an overpriced component in this arrangement.

Second, Including absinthe in the shaken ingredients does this cocktail justice, but it’s still an acquired taste. Lime predominates, anise acts as a weaker counterpoint, but there’s no center to the drink.

I’m up in the air about this cocktail. I don’t think I blew the preparation. Maybe I just don’t care for the drink.

Some day I’ll find a bar that gives a damn about well-made cocktails, a barman who knows this drink, and enjoy one well-made.

I’ve given it two tries, a fair hearing, and I’m moving on.

#cocktails #corpse #reviver ##2 ##2 #redux

∴ Friday Entertainment

A frosty white cocktail with cherry at the bottom of the glass, a container of dark cherries behind

The short-fingered vulgarian has decamped for the flat wasteland of the Sad Clown State. A week of chaos and growing insanity subsides, and my thoughts turn to sleeping in, long walks, Wort Hog Brewing’s new SayZon saison and A-10 Weisenbock brews, visits with friends, and a day away with my favorite person and all-around best friend on Sunday. The end of the week is upon us and, as always, there’s a craft cocktail reward waiting at Andrew’s Bar.

Tonight’s entertainment is a New Orleans classic, the Corpse Reviver #2. This one’s tough to pin down; lime juice balances a splash of absinthe, Cointreau provides sweet balancing the lime’s sour and packing 80-proof alcohol, all based on gin whose juniper doesn’t punch through all those other flavors. The cherry garnish is icing on the cake.

I’ll have to try this one again – knowing a cocktail requires understanding the balance of flavors, and one example doesn’t suffice. I’ll look around for variations on the recipe first, because a cocktail written in the book of great American classics should knock me out and while I enjoyed this coupe of joy, my socks are still on my feet. Not underwhelmed. Just whelmed.

To wit:

  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 1 part Cocchi Americano
  • 1 dash Mt. Defiance Absinthe Superieure
  • Cherry garnish

 Combine all liquids in a shaker, fill the tin 2/3-full with ice, shake until cold and mildly diluted. Strain through a Hawthorne strainer, gate closed, and garnish. Cheers!

#Friday #Entertainment #cocktails #corpse #reviver ##2 #classic

∴ Classic Cocktails: Remember the Maine

A bottle of Rittenhouse rye whiskey

I’ve been experimenting with classic cocktail recipes, some pre-prohibition. I came across this one on Tuxedo №2, an exquisitely laid-out web site with great photography and interesting drinks.

There you’ll find a well curated list of one-hundred cocktail recipes, beautifully presented and photographed, with historical anecdotes and ingredient lists. If you’re on the trail of something new and tasty, head there.

“Remember the Maine” is a variation on the Manhattan, one of my two favorite cocktails. This style generally incorporates a whiskey base, a fortified wine for balance, and usually bitters for depth and flavor. The Maine goes beyond, substituting a liqueur for balanced bittering and added fruit sweetness, and a little kick from an unexpected addition.

Beginning with a base of 2 ounces rye whiskey aims this cocktail toward the dryer end of the spectrum. For any drink so based, my go-to spirit is Rittenhouse 100. Widely available for $26-$30, its rich flavor and extra proof kick make any whiskey-based drink a step better. Bulliet rye whiskey is a good second if you can’t find Rittenhouse. With these two rye in your arsenal there’s little reason to go pricier unless you plan to sip it neat.

Two bottles of sweet vermouth, Vya and Dolin

A traditional Manhattan includes sweet vermouth, and today’s experiment does as well. For this duty I turn to ¾ ounces of one of my two favorites, Dolin Rouge. Sweet with a light spiciness, Dolin mixes well in any cocktail.

A good rule of thumb for vermouths is to use one you can enjoy over ice, perhaps with a splash of fizzy water. If a vermouth’s not good on its own, it’s not good enough for your cocktails.

The traditional garnish for a Manhattan is a cherry – but avoid those glowing red Maraschino globes and look for Bada Bing dark red cherries.

A bottle of Cherry Heering liqueur

Along those lines, Remember the Maine incorporates a dark cherry liqueur called Cherry Heering. Rich, but not overly sweet, Heering can be enjoyed as a digestive after a sturdy meal. Today 2 tsp of it will work somewhere between the dry rye whiskey and the sweet vermouth, and impart a cherry fruit flavor. Its mild bitterness ties together the rest of the ingredients.

We’re balancing flavors here, but unlike some cocktails where the purpose is balance-to-subtract (think of the Daiquiri), Remember the Maine is balance-to-build. We’re layering flavors to create a new flavor.

A bottle of absinthe

Our last ingredient comes from out in left field. Absinthe requires an acquired taste in its usual serving format, but here it’s used in such small quantity, ½ tsp, that its only remnant among the other flavors is its pungent anise. While a typical chilled water, sugar cube and liqueur arrangement is powerfully flavorful, here it complements rather than dominates.

We’re fortunate here in the western reaches of northern Virginia to have a distiller making small batch absinthe. My choice is Mt. Defiance Distillery’s Absinthe Superieure, its spelling a throwback to the liqueur’s French roots.



There’s no fruit juice, dairy or egg white in this cocktail, so we’ll skip the shaker and combine in a more refined manner. For this I break out the mixing glass and a bar spoon. After combining the ingredients in the glass and filling ⅔ to ¾ with ice, I slide the spoon down the inside of the glass and stir by keeping it there.

Don’t shovel the ice – rotate the spoon around the inside of the glass for twenty to thirty seconds. We want chill with a wee dilution and no more.

Using a julep strainer I pour the results into a chilled coupe, glassware from a more refined time, and garnish with one of those dark cherries.

Sublime. The Heering adds to the vermouth’s sweetness, equalling the absinthe’s pungency. Even at ½ tsp that flavor is right up front. Rittenhouse’s rich flavor and strong alcohol kick fit in across the palate, as you’d expect of a top shelf base spirit.

Take a roll over to Tuxedo №2 for the back story on this drink’s name, and more terrific cocktails.

#cocktails #remember #the #maine #Rittenhouse #rye #vermouth #cherry #heering #absinthe

∴ Cirrus Vodka

Cirrus vodka 750ml

One bottle in a handful of potato vodkas that have slowly made their way into my collection is the Virginia-made Cirrus from Parched Group LLC, Richmond, Virginia. 80-proof, $27.99/750ml (Virginia ABC). It’s been all the rage among my friends this past year, so much so that one of them was kind enough to gift me this bottle. Thanks, Neal.

On the occasion of the final Friday of 2016 I retired to our bar to prepare my warm-weather end-of-week cocktail, the Vesper. It’s also my drink of choice for auditioning new gins and vodkas, and since I’d planned to give Cirrus a go I made an exception for the season.

Before beginning preparation, though, I poured a one-ounce shot for an unadulterated taste. This bottle had been resting in our basement beer fridge for a few months, so it was well-chilled.

While vodkas are regarded as “neutral” spirits, those that begin life as potatoes bear a noticeably earthy flavor. They are not neutral. For reference, try a sip or two of Boyd & Blair, from Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, LLC. 80-proof, $35.39 (Virginia ABC), my go-to potato vodka. Close your eyes and you might imagine the scent of freshly tilled soil, or the taste of a moonshine let to rest for a few months in glass, in a root cellar. With that quality in mind, I expect a potato vodka to stand up in a Vesper, and not be overwhelmed by the gin.

For neutral flavor try most any grain vodka, or the corn-based, 6-time distilled Tito’s from Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Austin, Texas. 80-proof, $21.99/750ml (Virginia ABC). Tito’s Handmade distills almost every bit of flavor out of the spirit leaving a very mild, ever-so-slightly sweet product. You’d never guess it emerged from the second run of the still differing in no way from a 100% corn whiskey.

The all-time winner for neutral vodkas, though, has to be Divine Clarity from Murlarkey Distilled Spirits LLC, Bristow, Virginia. 80-proof, $28.59/750ml (Virginia ABC). Murlarkey’s claim to fame on this spirit is their 16-place column still which, after filling, heating and observing the initial output runs pretty much on autopilot. In goes a fermented potato mash, out comes a spirit so devoid of unique flavor it could be used in anything requiring an alcohol boost. A recent distillery tour left me with this question: why use a more expensive potato-based process when you’re going to boil the living hell out of the product16 times? That much distilling leaves absolutely no flavor. None. Nothing can survive that.

Back to Cirrus’ audition. In a nut, Cirrus comes up a little short on flavor. As a potato vodka I’d rate it three stars out of five. It’s not a bad vodka – a vodka you might delight in if you’re not looking to challenge your taste buds much. Tito’s lovers may find Cirrus a nice change of pace. Anyone looking for an earthy, flavorful potato vodka will keep looking. I’d place Cirrus’ flavor somewhere between a top-shelf grain vodka and a top-notch potato vodka.

I’ll give Cirrus another rating, though, among all vodkas as a group. In that crowd it rates a solid four stars out of five, because we’re talking mildly flavorful vs. largely flavorless from most of the rest, including the usual top-shelf names.

Stirring an ounce of Cirrus with three ounces of Watershed Gin from Catoctin Creek Distilling Company LLC, Purcellville, Virginia, 80-proof, $34.29/750ml (Virginia ABC) and one-third ounce Cocchi Americano, an Italian aperitif wine, I strained the result into a chilled coupe and garnished with a wide, thin, twisted slice of lemon peel, which I first used to rim the glass. Here’s where Cirrus stands above many other vodkas. Its mildly earthy flavor adds complexity to the drink, without drowning Cocchi’s slightly bitter contribution. This cocktail variation provided an enjoyable repast for the end of the week, the month, and what has become a year to forget. A couple more Vespers and perhaps I could.

In summary, Cirrus proved a drinkable, if not remarkable vodka adding mild complexity to white liquor drinks. Vodka Martini fans should give it a try as an entrée to fuller flavored potato vodkas.

#cocktail #cirrus #vodka #mixology #watershed #gin #vesper #cocchi

∴ Silent Night

2 parts Rittenhouse rye whiskey

¼ part ancho chili liqueur

½ part dark cherry syrup or Cherry Heering, to taste

2 dashes chocolate mole bitters


stir, serve up in a chilled, absinthe-rinsed coupe.

Mahogany in color, cinnamon on the nose (alchemy, I guess), sweet & anise on the palate, mild ancho burn all the way down. Let’s call it “Silent Night.”

You’re welcome.

∴ A Four-way Gin-off

Four gins lined up on the bar

Our tasting includes:

Organic Watershed Gin, Catoctin Creek Distillery, Purcellville, Virginia. 92-proof, $34.29/750ml (Virginia ABC). A clean, well-defined juniper-forward gin with a floral scent. Though additional herbal flavors are present in this spirit, they’re subdued and enhance the product’s allure without overpowering my palate. Its above-average proof conveys Watershed’s flavor all the better.

This is a versatile, tasty product that enhances any cocktail. Try it alongside The Botanist or Bombay Sapphire gins to see how it shines.

Watershed has become my go-to for gin Martinis and Vespers, the latter of which being my benchmark for tasting new gins and vodkas. Watershed also serves as a baseline for the other three gins here.

MurLarkey ImaGINation Gin, MurLarkey Distilled Spirits LLC, Bristow, Virginia. 80-proof, $29.99/750ml (distillery MSRP). A juniper-forward gin at first blush, but its flavor fades when hand-warmed. That’s a little trick I use when I can’t decide between two alcohol products, in this case Watershed and ImaGINation. Though they express very similar flavors on my palate at room temperature, hand-warming, which should bring out more nuance in the product, in fact diminishes this gin’s flavor. A faint, funky aroma lurks in the background, evident after a mouthful and another sniff or two have enveloped my taste/smell receptors in evaporating alcohol. Overall I’d call this the mildest of the four, and one of the mildest juniper-forward gins I’ve tried.

That’s not a knock. Some palates don’t enjoy a bold-flavored gin – if not yours, this is worth a try in your next gin Martini. Also mixes well into a Vesper, but is easily overwhelmed by potato vodkas. If mildness is on your mind, try this and Tito’s Vodka with a lemon garnish in your next Vesper. I think you’ll be pleased.

Also noted by the distiller, this gin is gluten-free. I have no idea whether gluten is a component of other gins, as it comes from rye, wheat and barley. Those are more typically precursor grains for whiskey, vodka and beer. If you’re gluten intolerant, but can enjoy liquor drinks without compromising your GI health, you sacrifice nothing by employing this gin.

Battle Standard 142 Standard Strength Gin, KO Distilling, Manassas, Virginia. 90-proof, $29.99/750ml (distillery MSRP). Intensely herbal, in fact, all of the other herbs appear at similar concentration to the juniper. Accordingly I can’t call this a juniper-forward gin; it’s an herb-forward gin with nothing held back. The above-average proof doesn’t add burn so much as amplify the intensity of the herbal flavor. I had trouble divining whether there’s mint or menthol at the bottom of the flavor profile. I’m still undecided – the confusion of herbs on my palate makes it impossible for me to know and, really, to care. There’s just too much here.

Battle Standard made for a surprisingly awful, cloyingly sweet Vesper in the right proportion with a good potato vodka and Cocchi Americano. Undrinkable. I didn’t go back for a second try with a grain vodka. My take is the herbs picked up Cocchi’s inherent mild sweetness and amplified it, making the drink the exact opposite of what it should be: dry and slightly bitter.

A gin Martini served up with olives

A gin Martini stirred with a proper dry vermouth, though, made for a sturdy, even bracing cocktail. This drink will WAKE. YOU. UP. A little bold for my palate, but interesting none-the-less.

Success with the Martini redeemed my utter failure with this gin in a Vesper. If you’re fond of over-hopped beers, big, bold wines, or hot-hot food this gin may be right up your alley.

Battle Standard 142 Navy Strength Gin, KO Distilling, Manassas, Virginia. 114-proof, $34.99 (distillery MSRP). “Navy strength” is to gin what “imperial” is to beer: a code word for higher alcohol. Similar to their 90-proof expression, but with a higher alcohol content that more readily carries the intense herbal flavor to my palate, this is an intense spirit. Cut this gin with spring water (as they do the 90-proof expression at the distillery) and the flavors come out the same. Navy strength gins are often used in cocktail recipes where competing flavors from fruit or savory ingredients might overwhelm a lower-proof expression.

UnderTheLabel lists the ingredients for this gin, and presumably KO’s Standard Strength expression, as juniper, angelica root, orange peel, coriander seed, orris root, cinnamon, and cardamom. Though I sampled this and Standard Strength repeatedly I was unable to divine which of these ingredients left a menthol aftertaste. My foodee wife tells me it was the cardamom.

The take-away: of these four, Watershed remains my gold standard. Of the newcomers I’d say MurLarkey more closely matches my palate, while KO’s products simply overwhelm it. If you’re making something quite pungent that calls for gin, Battle Standard might make for an interesting experiment. And as mentioned, if gin’s not your usual thing you might find enjoyment with MurLarkey in your glass.