November 2012 19
What is an Apéritif?
Some of the lingo that’s used in the alcoholic beverage industry can be a bit confusing to a newcomer or even a person who’s familiar with things such as beer, wine, and cocktails. An apéritif is one of those words that get used quite often but funnily enough, not very many people know what it actually means. Most people with a solid knowledge of fine alcoholic drinks claim that the aperitif is simply a drink that is consumed before a meal. However, there is actually much more to it than that; therefore, here we will explain what an aperitif is and when it should be taken and we will conclude the mini-lesson with our top five choices of aperitifs.
How to Say It
First of all however, a pronunciation lesson is needed. Apéritif comes from the French language and is pronounced “a-pair-ee-TEEF”, not “AA-peratif” or “a-PER-ative”. Practice saying the word out loud a few times. You don’t need to pronounce it like you’re from Paris; just remember to stress the word on the last syllable and you’ll be fine in any tony restaurant or bar.
What it Is
An aperitif is indeed an alcoholic beverage that is served before a meal; however, it isn’t any old drink. It must be an alcoholic drink that is specifically consumed to stimulate the appetite. In other words, it’s a drink that will make you feel hungry or will prepare you for a meal. In some cases, the word apéritif may refer to a small snack that is served before a main meal; however, in most English-speaking situations, apéritif refers to the drink, and “appetizer” refers to the small snack.
The word comes from the Latin verb aperire which means “to open”. By consuming a light alcoholic beverage before a meal, you are in fact, “opening” your appetite.
Apéritifs are usually light-bodied and do not contain heavy ingredients such as cream, eggs, or excessive amounts of sugar which would kill an appetite and make a person feel “stuffed.” Still, dry, and light white wines can be used as a before-dinner drink and are a popular choice.
A Brief History
Apéritifs were introduced to the world as a specific drink in 1846, when French chemist Joseph Dubonnet, as a way to deliver the incredibly bitter malaria-fighting chemical quinine in the most pleasant manner possible, developed a wine-based drink flavored with spices and herbs to mask the bitterness. The resulting beverage was so pleasant, that Dubonnet is still a very popular drink to this day and has ardent aficionados all around the globe.
However, before 1846, aperitifs were being consumed in Italy since the 1700’s. Vermouth was developed in Turin by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786, and present day vermouth brands that are still popular are Martini, Cinzano, Dolin, and Noilly Prat. By the 1900’s, apéritifs were common everywhere; the trend had even crossed over to North America.
It must be said that apéritifs in Spain and some parts of Latin America have been around for centuries; or in the case of Spain, possibly for over a millennia. In the Iberian Peninsula, it has been a tradition for eons to have a light drink before a meal, and the drink is almost always accompanied by a snack. This drink-and-snack tradition is known by its Spanish-language name of tapas.
The types of apéritif are incredibly varied. The most popular are fortified wines such as Madeira, Sherry, or white Port wine; some liqueurs are also used as apéritifs, and many people, especially in the United States, like to have white wine or champagne before a “fancy” meal.
In France, some of the common apéritifs are pastis, which is taken before meals in the southern part of the country, Calvados brandy is a favorite in Normandy, and Crémant D’Alsace, a type of sparkling white wine, is taken in the eastern regions. Champagne and Cognac are also frequently served in homes as dinner apéritifs. Kir cocktails, the recipe for which is below, are famous in France and are becoming more well-known in North America. Young, fresh red wines like Beaujolais Nouveaux can also be used as pre-dinner drinks.
In Italy, bitters (alcoholic beverages that are herbal in nature with a bitter taste) such as Cinzano, Campari, Byrrh, Salers and Suze are often used as before-dinner drinks. Vermouth and amaro are also popular items in bars and in homes alike.
In Greece, a popular and almost iconic drink to have before eating a meal is ouzo, an anise-flavored beverage, while in the Eastern Mediterranean nations of Palestine, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, arak is the apéritif of choice.
Our Top Five Picks
If you’ve never had an apéritif before, we recommend these top five to try:
1. Dubonnet Pronounced “doo- bon-NAY”, this beverage has been a favorite for over a hundred and fifty years now with people on both sides of the Atlantic. Sweet, herbal flavored and with a rather delightful hint of bitterness, a glass of Dubonnet on the rocks is the ideal way to start a dinner party with friends.
2. Kir cocktail This refreshing pre-dinner beverage is flavorful without being overpowering and has the power to make you enjoy your food even more. It’s easy to make: Simply pour an ounce or two of blackcurrant liqueur in a champagne flute, and fill the glass with a light white wine. To make a Kir Royale, use sparkling white.
3. Pastis This apéritif is clear and anis flavored; however, it is usually taken with water added to it, which will change the color to a milky white. If ice is desired, it should be added after the water has been poured into the glass or else the consistency will change; the cold will crystallize the anethole present in the liquor.
4. Campari and Soda Campari is one of Italy’s most famous bitters, and while it may be too bitter to drink on its own and has been described as “an acquired taste”, when it is mixed with soda water or even sparkling water it develops into something quite sublime.
5. Sherry A beautiful fortified wine from the Jerez region of Andalusia in southern Spain, a Sherry is like an amplified version of a great white wine. A must-have if you’ve never tried it before.
Tweet It!: #Aperitif
Sake: Japan’s Rice Brew
Everybody loves Japanese food; sushi, sashimi and countless gastronomical delights are pleasing to the palate for people all over the world. However, when you read some magazines or internet articles, some “experts” will recommend pairing western-style wines with Japanese food. While I’ve always been of the opinion that you should drink whatever floats your boat, when it comes to Japanese food, you’re probably better off accompanying your meal with a nice crisp Japanese beer or better yet, have some Sake (pronounced SAH-kay).
Basically speaking, Sake is an alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented rice. In Japanese, sake actually refers to any kind of drink containing alcohol; when the term is used in English it actually refers to what the Japanese call nihonshu or “Japanese liquor”.
Some people think that Sake is rice wine; however, it is not made with a wine-making method, sake is made from a brewing process that is sort of like the process used for making beer. In beer brewing, the starches need to convert to sugar, and then the sugar converts to alcohol; when Sake is made, everything happens simultaneously. Sake usually has an alcohol content of about 15%, higher than that of both beer and wine.
Sake has been around for well over a thousand years; originally a government monopoly, temples and shrines began to brew their own Sake in the eleventh century. In the 1860’s, laws were introduced that allowed anybody who had the brewing know-how to open their own brewery, and as a result, some 30000 breweries opened, the best of which are still open and operating today.
While Sake consumption inside Japan has been steadily decreasing since the 1970’s due to competition from other alcoholic beverages such as beer, the brewed rice beverage has increased in popularity outside the country to such an extent that Sake breweries are popping up in other countries and are using traditional, pre World War II methods of brewing.
Taste and Flavor
Sake can vary greatly, from sweet to savory and can have an extraordinary number of flavor notes. The label on a bottle of Sake will indicate the content’s general flavor characteristics. Here are some of the terms to look for when you’re considering sampling Sake.
• Nihonshu-do refers to the sugar and acid content of the liquid. If the number next to this expression is a negative, it means that the Sake is sweeter or “heavier” than water; if the number is positive, it means the Sake is drier or “lighter” than water. +10 indicates a very dry Sake, while -10 indicates a very sweet one.
• San-do is an indicator of acid concentration, determined by titration, or quantitative chemical analysis. Sweeter Sakes generally have a higher amount of acid so that they do not seem “cloying”.
• Aminosan-do can indicate savoriness. A lower aminosan-do value will indicate that the Sake will be thinner; higher values indicate more viscosity and rounder flavors. A higher number will also indicate a taste of umami.
Flavor notes can include bananas, melons, apples, herbs, rice, spices, chocolates, dry grapes, sherry and caramel sauce.
Contrary to popular belief outside of Japan, Sake is not always served hot; in fact, it’s a question of personal preference; the beverage can be served chilled, warmed, or at room temperature. It all depends on the drinker, the type of Sake, and the season. Hot Sake is usually for the winter-time, and good-quality sake is never heated. Heating is good for low-quality or old sake because the heat will mask inferior aromas and flavors.
Everyday Sake is usually taken in small cylindrical cups called choko. The Sake is usually kept in a sort of flask or thermos that is made from ceramic material which is called a tokkuri. For special occasions such as weddings or ceremonies, flat saucer-like cups called sakazuki are used, and now there are special footed glasses made for use with premium-quality Sake. Box-cups called masu are also traditionally used. At some finer Japanese restaurants, as a show of generosity, a server may put a small glass inside a masu, fill it with Sake, and allow the glass to overflow to the extent that the masu also gets filled with Sake. In some cases, a masu might be placed on a sakazuki and both will be filled the same way.
Sake is almost always served straight, but some cocktails such as the Saketini and the Tamagozake can be made and are quite good.
1 martini glass, chilled
2 ½ oz gin
½ oz sake
1 martini olive
Pour the gin and sake in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice; stir for approximately 30 seconds. Strain into the martini glass and garnish with the olive.
This cocktail has been referred to as “Japanese eggnog” and is a home remedy for a cold or flu.
1 mug containing about 200 ml of hot sake
1 raw egg
1 teaspoon sugar or honey (use more or less to taste)
Whisk the raw egg and honey or sugar together, then add the mixture to the sake, whisking it. The egg will become lightly cooked; do not put the egg mixture in boiling sake as this will only serve to scramble the egg.
Sake is also consumed during religious ceremonies, especially during Shinto rituals of purification.
The next time you go out to a Japanese restaurant or even if you just want to try something a little bit different, try some Sake, and it could very well turn out to be one of your new favorite beverages.
Tweet It!: #Sake
What is a Digestif?
Technically speaking, a digestif is an alcoholic beverage that is taken after a meal to help with digestion. When a digestif is taken after a coffee course, it is called a pousse-café. Digestifs are more of a European tradition; however, in the past few years, European restaurateurs in the United States have been introducing the digestif concept to North America, where more and more people are enjoying the idea of more leisurely meals.
Digestifs have been around in Europe for a long time. Originally thought of as an aid to digestion after eating a heavy, rich meal, a digestif is a bit different than wine in that the flavors can be a bit bitter due to herbs that are used in the digestif concoctions to settle the stomach. While some digestifs can be sweet, they can also be a bit more neutral as far as sweetness is concerned; because a digestif is served after a dessert, many people don’t want to get a sugar overload but do want to enjoy a drink that won’t clash with the food that has just been ingested. For example, having a glass of Malbec wine after a eating a pudding probably won’t be so nice. However, a couple of ounces of something with a faint bitter, herbal taste and a touch of sugar will most likely be delightful. Basically, what it comes down to is personal preference. While an apéritif should not be sweet in order to whet the appetite, a digestif can be as sweet or as dry as a person likes.
Digestifs are usually very high in alcohol content, and drinks that are 35-50 % alcohol by volume are the norm. The reason why these are served at the end of the meal is two-fold: first, as mentioned above, it’s to help a diner’s digestion; second, if a highly alcoholic beverage is served before a person eats, on an empty stomach, a person can become highly inebriated. Only small amounts of a digestif are served; the hypothesis is that a small amount will aid the digestion, but too much will hinder it.
While in North America there is the habit of rushing through a meal and restaurants don’t like patrons who linger over after-dinner drinks, some finer establishments are re-introducing the idea of the coffee course and digestif for their clientele who like to make an evening of dining out. Other people are starting to serve the digestif in their homes during dinner parties in order to keep a good after-dinner conversation going. Serving a digestif adds another layer of sophistication and fun when entertaining in-house.
So where does one start when it comes to serving a digestif? Well, a very basic rule of thumb is that clear liquors work best as apéritifs, and dark liquors such as dark rum, scotch, and brandy work best as digestifs. But one must keep in mind that these are not the only things that are served as after-dinner drinks. Here is a look at some typical digestifs from European countries.
In France, after a meal, a variety of liqueurs may be served, and along with the liqueurs, an eau-de-vie may be offered. Eau-de-vie (or eaux-de-vie if there is more than one) is a clear, colorless fruit brandy that is made by the process of fermentation and double-distillation. The flavor of the fruit is very light, and the alcohol content can be up to 60%. Pronounced “oh-da-VEE” (the plural form is pronounced the same way), this brandy can be home-made, but many good brands are available. The French also will drink Armagnac, Calvados and Cognac, which are all well-known, highest quality brandies. French people will also say that the longer these brandies have aged, the tastier and subtler they will be.
People in the UK and in Europe will also have Sherry, Madeira and Port wines as a digestif; in fact, this is where the idea of “a Port and a cigar” after dinner comes from. However, some “purists” will consider these three fortified wines to be more “dessert wines” than technical digestifs.
In Italy, a common digestif is Amaro, which is Italian for “bitter.” The alcohol content can range from 16% to 35%, and the bittersweet liquid is usually served neat, or without ice, after a meal. Grappa is also an iconic digestif: the crystal-clear digestif is produced from the remains of grapes after they are pressed for making wine. Limoncello, a spirit that is flavored with lemon peels, is also a wonderful digestif.
But what are the best digestifs?
If cognac, brandy and whisky aren’t how you would like to end a meal, don’t worry; when it comes to digestifs, personal preference rules the day. Your digestif can be as sweet or as dry as you like. Here are a few suggestions to end your dinner party on a high note.
Sweet: Try Amaretto, an Italian almond liqueur, or Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur with herbal notes. Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlúa are also popular liqueurs that are nice after eating.
Bitter and herbal but still sweet: Benedictine or Chartreuse. These two digestifs are sweet and herbal flavored, with Chartreuse being more pungent and spicy.
Sweet but not syrupy: Sweeter versions of Sherry, Port wine or Madeira.
Strong and flavorful: Eaux de vie, añejo (aged) tequila, dark rum, spiced rum.
Cocktails: The Old Fashioned. Put a teaspoon of granulated sugar in a glass, and add a teaspoon of water, and a few drops of Angostura Bitters. Muddle everything together, then add two ounces of bourbon whiskey and some ice. Add an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.
A leisurely meal at the end of the day is a beautiful thing. Take a bit of time, have some friends over, and enjoy great after-dinner conversation while trying something new. You’ll find that adding a digestif takes everything to the next level.
Tweet It!: #Digestif
Pernod and Pastis: How to Drink Them Properly
Pernod and Pastis are both anise-flavored alcoholic beverages from France that took the place of absinthe when it was banned in 1915. Although the licorice-flavored drinks are similar in taste to absinthe, Pernod and Pastis do not contain the herb wormwood that was absinthe’s “active ingredient”.
The drink is especially popular in southern France, where it is taken as both a long drink and as an aperitif. Both beverages are also commonly found among the European ex-pat community in North Africa.
People who try Pastis or Pernod for the first time make the mistake of drinking it neat; this is not the right way to enjoy the liqueur for all of its more subtle flavors cannot be released when taken straight. Here is a little bit more information about the drink and how it should be prepared in order to enjoy all of its amazingly refreshing qualities.
Pastis and Pernod are very similar to other anise-flavored liqueurs that are consumed in the Mediterranean. It is very much like arak, raki, and Sambuca. Unlike its predecessor absinthe, Pastis and Pernod are always bottled with sugar and contain 45-50% alcohol by volume. The French liqueurs are also made with star anise, which comes from Asia; they are not made with the European green anise herb.
Serving Pastis and Pernod
As mentioned earlier, people who don’t have much experience serving and drinking Pastis can sometimes make the mistake of either drinking the liqueur neat or serving it over ice. Neat Pastis is far too strong to be enjoyed on its own, and when it is poured directly over ice, the anethole contained in the liquid will crystallize, making the drink chalky and kind of bumpy.
Pastis must be diluted with water. The standard measures for a proper drink of pastis are one part pastis to five parts of water. The pastis is poured into the glass first, followed by the water. Oftentimes, in restaurant situations, pastis will be served neat in a tall glass, but a jug of water will be given to the customer in order to add the amount of water he or she likes.
Pastis is meant to be a refreshing drink on hot days or served as an apéritif to whet the appetite before a big meal. While purists claim that ice cubes should never be added, they can be, but must be added after the water has been poured in so that the anethole doesn’t crystallize. Many people say that pastis tastes best if only cool spring water is used to dilute it.
One thing that happens once water is added; the beverage will change color from a transparent yellow or amber color to milky white. This is because when the water is added, some of the ingredients in Pastis become insoluble.
Pastis and Pernod are the most popular beverages in France; more than 130 million liters of Pastis are sold each year in the country, which is roughly equal to two liters per resident.
Drinks containing Pernod or Pastis
Pastis and Pernod are also used to make a variety of cocktails. While the above method of serving and drinking the liqueurs is the most popular, these are also drinks that have quite a few fans in France and around the world.
1 tall glass
1 ounce Pastis or Pernod
1 ounce orgeat syrup (sweet syrup made of almonds, rose water or orange blossom water, and sugar)
Chilled mineral water
Pour the Pastis and orgeat syrup in the glass. If serving to another person, serve the water separately. Fill the glass with water; if desired, top up the glass with ice cubes.
The Perroquet (The Parrot)
1 tall glass
1 ounce Pastis or Pernod
1 ounce mint syrup
Chilled mineral water
Pour the Pastis and mint syrup in the glass, fill to the top with chilled mineral water, and add ice cubes if so desired. The correct pronunciation for this drink is “pair-oh-KAY”, not “PurroKWET.”
1 tall glass
1 ounce Pastis or Pernod
1 ounce grenadine
Chilled mineral water
Called “the tomato” because of its vivid red color, the Tomate is made by pouring the Pastis and grenadine in a tall glass and filling it with chilled mineral water. Ice cubes may be added if so wished.
The Mazout is made in the same way as the other drinks above, but instead of water, cola is used to fill the glass. Again, ice may be added after the cola has been poured in.
The Cornichon (The Pickle)
The Cornichon is made by mixing Pastis with banana syrup and filling the glass with mineral water. There are no pickles or cucumbers involved in this cocktail at all. Why it is called a Pickle is something of a mystery!
The Rou Rou
Made exactly the same way as the above drinks, but with strawberry syrup. Again, ice may be added if so desired.
Pastis and Pernod, while they may not be popular in North America just yet, they most certainly will become more and more well known as Americans and Canadians search for a little something different to drink before or during their meals. Whether you try Pastis and Pernod with either plain water or the different syrups mentioned in our drinks list, you’re sure to find a tasty, subtle drink with a delightfully different flavor you’ll want to try over and over again.
Tweet It!: #PernodPastis
Baijiu: China’s “White Wine”
My first trip to China was an eye-opening one. One of my friends there asked me if I wanted to try some white wine, and because I absolutely love all types of wine, I enthusiastically said yes, anticipating a taste of a nice crisp fruity white wine.
What I got was totally unexpected and shocking even. My friend poured me a tiny glass of a crystal clear liquid that came out of a bottle that looked more like a vodka bottle than a wine bottle. “Bottoms up” she said, and down the hatch the “wine” went.
I coughed. I spluttered. I wheezed. Not because it was bad; au contraire – it would have been rather pleasant if I had been told that what I was consuming was actually a hard, distilled liquor that wasn’t wine at all. I later learned that the “buzz” I was feeling after only one sip was due to the beverage’s 60% alcohol by volume content. Sheesh! I’d never had such strong “wine” in my life!
What I had been given that day back in 2003 was what the Chinese call Baijiu and translate to “white wine”. Baijiu is actually a distilled liquor produced with sorghum; it can also be made with glutinous rice, wheat, barley, millet or even Job’s Tears. It is clear, and from its appearance it can be confused with other clear liquors such as vodka, gin, or unaged rum. However, the ABV is usually higher and is 40%-60%, meaning it can pack quite a punch.
Baijiu has been produced in China for at least 5000 years and still plays a very important role in modern culture. Important occasions are celebrated with alcohol; when a new home is purchased, when a marriage takes place, when a new business starts, or even if a child gets accepted into a prestigious school, friends will be invited over to partake in a baijiu drinking session. We could almost say that baijiu in China is used in the same way that champagne is used Western countries to celebrate big occasions.
How to Drink Baijiu
Baijiu is incredibly strong in the alcohol department and it is also very strong when it comes to aroma and flavor. Drinking it in the right way will make a difference; it will be much more enjoyable.
Baijiu is usually served at room temperature or warm in order to enjoy the fragrances. The liquor is then poured into very small porcelain cups or small glasses. Baijiu can be sold in sets that contain a ceramic bottle of the beverage and matching drinking cups; sometimes a small heater is also included in the set. Baijiu is usually consumed while eating food, but it can be taken on its own as well.
Baijiu is not a liquor that is easy to mix into cocktails due to its strong character; many bartenders in the business have attempted to invent several recipes with mixers that could highlight or complement the flavors of the Chinese “white wine”, but have failed. Baijiu is best when it’s just taken straight.
Baijiu ranges in price from a few cents for liquid in a baggie-type container to several thousand dollars for types that have been aged for many years. Well-known brands include Maotai jiu, Gaoliang jiu, and Erguotou.
Baijiu is generally categorized according to its fragrance. Here are the main types.
Sauce Fragrance: This type has a very bold smell which to an untrained western palate is like barnyard, solvent, and ammonia. Described by some as a cross between stinky tofu and Italian grappa, to connoisseurs it is considered very delicious and the best accompaniment to foods that are pickled and preserved. Maotai is one of the most popular “sauce fragrance” baijius in China.
Thick Fragrance: Also called Heavy Fragrance, these are sweet tasting, unctuous and rather mellow with an aroma that is gentle yet lingering. Wuliangye from Yibin is a thick fragrance baijiu.
Light Fragrance: This type of baijiu has a clean mouthfeel, and is more delicate, light, and dry in nature while still being mellow. Ethyl acetate and ethyl lactate provide the characteristic flavors of this version, and if one is interested in trying a light fragrance baijiu, the one to try is Fen jiu from Shanxi.
Rice Fragrance: These baijius, and the name implies, are made from rice. Clean and only slightly aromatic, a good brand to try is San Hua jiu from Guilin.
Honey Fragrance: Subtle in taste and sweet, this type of “white wine” has a honey-like aroma.
Layered Fragrance: This category contains baijiu that has a combination of Sauce, Heavy, and Light fragrances, and liquors classified as “layered “ can vary wildly in their mouthfeel, dryness, and fragrance. Xifeng jiu is a good example of a Layered Fragrance type of baijiu.
Types of Baijiu
After classification into one of the above fragrance categories, there are basically two types of Baijiu: unflavored and flavored. Here we will only deal with some of the subcategories of the unflavored types.
Fen jiu is the oldest type of baijiu that is still on the market. It is made from sorghum and has an ABV of up to 65%.
Erguotou is one of the least expensive versions on the market and is popular in China’s northeast. It is frequently associated with Beijing and is a favorite with blue-collar workers.
Maotai In production for over 200 years, Maotai won a gold medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Maotai was also served to U.S. President Richard Nixon during his visit to China.
Luzhou Laojiao The most popular “white wine” in the country, with a production history extending over 400 years. Experts say its unique flavor is due to the type of clay that is present in the soil.
Tweet It!: #BaijiuWine
Something you don’t see too much of nowadays in restaurants due to strict safety and fire codes are alcoholic beverages that are set alight to dazzle customers and wow the clientele. However, in some parts of the world, when one goes to the finer dining establishments where waiters are expected to have a certain amount of flair, professionalism and showmanship, flaming drinks that are prepared by your server at your table can still be had and are a tremendous joy to watch. The drinks are also incredibly tasty and none of the flavor gets sacrificed in the name of putting on a good show.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a region where flaming drinks are allowed and where serving staff are professionally qualified to be making spectacular drinks that are set on fire, then here is a list of drinks along with their ingredients so that you’ll know what to order. We do NOT recommend that you make these drinks at home: it’s far too risky and the art of flaming cocktails is best left to the professionals so that nobody gets burned or starts an accidental fire!
A side note which must be mentioned is that flaming cocktails should be filled to the top of the glass: exposed glass can break easily when exposed to sudden, intense heat. The flames can escape from the drink and set other flammables alight as well. Also make sure you don’t let the flames burn too long; the hot glass can hurt your lip when you go to take a sip.
The Bailey’s Comet
1 cocktail glass
1 ½ oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 ½ oz Butterscotch Schnapps
¾ oz Goldschlager
1 tbsp 151-proof Rum
1 dash Cinnamon
Put the Bailey’s, Schnapps and Goldschlager in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice; shake and strain into the glass. Pour the 151-proof rum on top, light on fire, and sprinkle the cinnamon on top. The spice will flame and sparkle, so be careful. Don’t let the drink burn for too long or else it will get lumpy and curdled; blow out the flame before drinking.
The Flaming Sambuca
1 shot glass
3 coffee beans
Fill a shot glass with Sambuca, and place three coffee beans on top. Light the Sambuca, and let the flame burn for a minimum of 10 seconds. Extinguish the flame before drinking.
The Blue Blazer
This drink has a bit of a history behind it; invented by San Francisco bartender Jerry Thomas in the late 1800’s, it was a cocktail that he would only prepare if the outside temperature was below 500 F or if the person ordering it had a cold or the flu. The drink itself is only a basic whiskey punch, but it’s the mixing of the drink that is simply spectacular; this is a drink that only professionals should attempt to make.
2 silver cups
2 ½ ounces of rye whiskey, bourbon or brandy
2 ½ ounces boiling water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 lemon peel
Heat the water, sugar and lemon peel until boiling, discard the lemon peel. In a separate pot, heat up the whiskey. Pour the water into one of the silver cups, and pour the whiskey into the other cup. Light the whiskey on fire and pour the whiskey and water between the two cups without extinguishing the flame. Jerry Thomas would hold the cups one meter apart, and this created a long blue flame. Absolutely not to be tried at home by amateurs!
The Flaming Dr. Pepper
This drink is a favorite among university students and any other people who want to try a flashy drink that tastes great.
1 pint glass, half full of beer
1 shot glass
¾ oz Amaretto
¼ oz 151-proof rum
Pour the Amaretto into a shot glass, and top with 151-proof rum. Drop the entire shot glass into the beer; the beer will extinguish the flame and the entire concoction should be downed at once. The burnt amaretto will mix with the beer, produced a drink that tastes like the iconic Dr Pepper soft drink.
The Flaming Dragon
1 short glass
1 ½ oz. Chartreuse liqueur
1 oz 151-proof rum
Mix the two ingredients together in a short glass, and set on fire. Let the flames burn about 20 seconds, then extinguish. Drink with care to avoid burning your lip on the hot glass.
The Flaming B52
1 shot glass
1/3 oz Kahlua
1/3 oz Bailey’s
1/3 oz Grand Marnier
Before pouring any of the ingredients, make sure that the Grand Marnier is at least at room temperature; it will be difficult to ignite chilled. Pour the Kahlua in the glass first, then layer the Bailey’s over top by pouring it over the back of a spoon. Do the same thing with the Grand Marnier, then set alight. Extinguish before drinking.
The Flaming Leapin’ Lizard
1 short glass
1 oz Chartreuse
1 oz Ouzo
Splash 151-proof rum
Put the Chartreuse and Ouzo in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice, shake and strain into a short glass. Top with a splash of the 151-proof rum, but do not mix it into the drink. Set the drink alight, and let burn for a few seconds. Extinguish before drinking.
Always keep in mind that when you’re drinking a flaming drink, there are some safety precautions that must be taken so that everyone can have a good time yet remain safe. If you’re a bartender, never serve a flaming drink to a person that is intoxicated. Never add more alcohol onto a drink that has already been set on fire; this will only result in a flame climbing up the liquid that is being poured and setting the entire bottle’s contents alight. Finally, always make sure that when you order a flaming drink that it is done in a fairly thick-walled glass; don’t accept a flaming drink in a thin glass because it may very well crack open. Remember, that it’s all about having fun and staying out of harm’s way as well.
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What is Madeira Wine?
Madeira wine isn’t something that we really hear too much about nowadays, and when it is mentioned, we think that it sounds rather quaint; we can almost imagine a scene straight out of Edgar Allan Poe. While Madeira wine may not be on everyone’s Top Ten Wines list, it is a wine that has been around for centuries and is definitely worth trying. Here’s a look at another one of Portugal’s fine alcoholic beverages.
Madeira is produced on the Portuguese islands of Madeira, which are located about 400 km north of the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa. Madeira wine is a classic fortified wine, meaning that it has a distilled spirit added to it to boost its alcohol content. Madeira can range from dry wine taken as an aperitif to sweet wine that works well as a digestif to be taken along with a dessert. Cooking versions of the wine are very inexpensive and can be flavored with salt and pepper.
A little bit of history
The islands of Madeira have a long wine-making history; the islands were used as a port of call from the late 1400s, and in order for the wine produced in the area to survive long trips at sea, grape spirit was added to act as a kind of preserving agent. During the voyage at sea, the wine with the added spirit would be subject to violent movement and to extremes of temperature; the winemakers of Madeira learned that this changed the flavor and characteristics of the wine. They found that unsold stores of their wines which had gone around the world actually tasted better after exposure to heat and oxidization. Therefore, present-day Madeira, in order to get the optimum flavor and characteristics, is heated to 600 C (1400 F) for a prolonged period of time and exposed to oxidization. Because of this, Madeira wine is very robust and will remain good to drink even if it has been opened for a long while.
Most Madeira or Madère wines, in accordance with EU regulations, are only made in the Madeira Islands. However, some small producers in the United States and Crimea produce fortified wines that they label as Madeira or Madera.
The golden age of Madeira wine was the 18th century, and the largest consumer of the wine was the United States. Madeira wine was used to toast the country’s Declaration of Independence, and was said to be a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Due to plant diseases in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Madeira production slowed almost to a halt and the only Madeira wines being produced were those of poor quality and were used more for cooking than for drinking. However, in the past 50 years, the noble grape varieties Sercial, Verdelho and Bual and Malvasia were replanted and good Madeira wines are again being produced. Benelux countries are the main consumers now, but markets for Japan and the U.S. are becoming stronger.
Grape growing on the islands is a costly endeavor; it is labor intensive due to steep slopes and the need to keep the vines elevated to prevent different types of plant diseases. Picking cannot be mechanized due to the extensive terracing that is needed to grow wine grapes; everything needs to be done by hand.
Malvasia and Bual grapes make the sweetest wines, with Verdelho and Sercial grapes making the driest. Other varieties used are the robust Tinta Negra Mole and Complexa. The grapes are then picked, crushed, pressed, and finally fermented in stainless steel vats or casks made of oak. Bual and Malvasia grapes are almost always fermented with their skins in order to balance out the sweetness of the wine. The grapes used for dry wines have their skins removed before fermentation. According to the amount of sweetness desired, neutral grape distilled spirit will be added to halt the fermentation process; the earlier the spirit goes in, the sweeter the wine will be. Producers of cheap Madeira destined to be sold as cooking wine will let the wine ferment until it is totally dry and will only add spirit later to prevent alcohol loss due to evaporation.
The aging process: Estufagem
The aging process which is totally unique in the winemaking world is called estufagem, and it entails heating the wine up to 1400 F. There are three different methods; cuba de calor or heated tanks in which the wine is held for 90 days for the cheapest Madeira wine; armazem de calor which is like a heated room in which the tanks are held for six months up to a year, and the most expensive of the Madeira wines are heated and aged in a canteiro, or rooms where casks are left to age in rooms warmed by the sun with no artificial source of heat. The aging in a canteiro can last between 20 to 100 years.
But what do Madeira wines taste like?
All Madeira wines are characterized by a very mellow flavor, and have the same color as a tawny port. The four major styles or types of Madeira are named after the grape variety used.
Malvasia is the sweetest of the Madeira wines. Also known as Malmsey, fermentation is stopped early in the process and the wine is dark, rich in texture with a taste similar to coffee and caramel. Malvasia has high acidity levels, so while the wine is sweet, it is not cloyingly so. It is usually taken as a dessert wine.
Bual is not quite as sweet as Malvasia, but it is also dark in color, has a medium rich texture, and presents raisin flavors.
Verdelho is less sweet and is drier than Bual, has high acidity, and has smoky notes that connoisseurs enjoy.
Sercial is fermented until it is nearly dry, and is the driest of the Madeira wines. High-toned colors are combined with almond flavors and high acidity. Sercial is usually taken as an aperitif as it is very dry.
Reserve Madeira wines have been aged for five years, Special Reserve ten years, Extra Reserve 15 years, Colheita or Harvest are wines from a single vintage but aged for less time than a true Vintage, and Vintage or Frasqueira wines have been aged for at least twenty years.
There are other specialist types of Madeira wines available on the market, but for now, any one of the varieties we have described above will be an absolute delight to try.
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The Top 5 Liqueurs to Drink Neat
Liqueurs are sweet alcoholic beverages that can be taken in lieu of dessert. High quality liqueurs can be taken neat, meaning that they don’t need to be mixed with anything, don’t need ice, and can be served at room temperature and will taste absolutely magnificent. Some liqueurs are just far too sweet and far too syrupy to be taken on their own and absolutely must be consumed along with other ingredients in a cocktail. However, good, superior quality liqueurs simply must be sipped straight out of a fancy liqueur glass. Here is our Top Five list of liqueurs to drink neat.
5. Kahlúa This fine Mexican liqueur which is produced from Arabica coffee beans grown in Veracruz and other parts of the Latin American country can be considered King of the after-dinner drinks; not only does it form an integral part of about 50% of all bar cocktails, it is also absolutely magnificent in a cup of coffee and it is perfectly sublime on its own after dinner. There are plenty of coffee liqueurs on the market, but all pale in comparison to Kahlúa. If you’re hankering for a sweet coffee treat after a heavy meal but don’t want an espresso or something that is sickly-sweet, then a 2 ounce glass of Kahlúa, slowly sipped, will be the perfect tipple.
4. Advocaat and Rompope Tying for fourth place on our list of the top liqueurs are the two eggnog type drinks that are famous the world over; Advocaat comes from Holland and Rompope comes from Latin America. Both drinks are very similar in that they are both based on eggs, sugar, and milk, and both beverages are like a liquid version of incredibly good custard. While in most cases eggnog is something that people will only have in the winter time in the Christmas season, Advocaat and Rompope are delicious year-round.
Advocaat is usually produced in Holland and Belgium, and is made of eggs, sugar, and brandy. Creamy smooth and custard like, it has an alcohol content between 14% to 20%. Thick Advocaat, which is only sold on the domestic market, can be eaten with a spoon and is sometimes sold as a topping for waffles. The more liquid version that is for export can be used for cocktails such as a snowball, but connoisseurs and fans alike prefer Advocaat just by itself. It can absolutely be described as a rich dessert in liquid form. Advocaat is available in most countries.
The most famous version of Rompope comes from Puebla, Mexico. Also made of eggs, cream, and sugar, it almost always contains the strong vanilla Mexico is famous for and it also contains rum instead of brandy. Although commercial versions from Puebla are of excellent quality and can turn any event into a special occasion, in Mexico many people still prefer to make home-made rompope in the winter. Availability may be an issue; outside of Mexico, commercial rompope is hard to find. However, in the southern United States, certain liquor shops may sell it to the delight of locals.
3. Vana Tallinn At number three on our list is a liqueur that has only recently come to our attention; this powerful liqueur is simply terrific after a heavy meal but it’s also so nice that it will work well as a genteel drink to accompany an afternoon tea-snack. Hailing from the Estonian capital of Tallinn, this liqueur can also be potentially dangerous; the sweetness and flavors disguise its incredibly high alcohol content, which can range from 35% to 50% alcohol by volume. A famous cocktail made with the liqueur is called “The hammer and sickle” – mixed with Russian sparkling wine, the Vana Tallinn is the hammer that hits you on the head and the champagne is the sickle that will cut off your legs. Up until 2007, Vana Tallinn and its cream version were only available in Europe. It is now available in the United States, where it has won awards in tasting competitions. Vana Tallinn is a beautiful liqueur, but one must remember to drink it in moderation due to the high alcohol content.
2. Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge Many argue that when it comes to orange liqueurs, the French liqueur Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge is simply the best on the market and has been the best since it was first manufactured in 1880. Made from a mixture of Cognac brandy, sugar, and distilled essence of bitter orange, Grand Marnier is 40% alcohol by volume and can be taken as a cordial or digestif. What makes Grand Marnier such a favorite with old-timers and the new generation alike is its featherweight texture and intense orange flavor that does not seem at any time synthetic. While Grand Marnier is like Kahlúa in that it is used as a basic ingredient in hundreds of cocktails, it is also used in cooking. However, the true delight of Grand Marnier can only be experienced when sipped neat with leisure.
And the number 1 spot goes to…Bailey’s Irish Cream. While some connoisseurs of fine liqueur may disagree, there is a reason why Bailey’s Irish Cream is usually everybody’s favorite liqueur and in some cases favorite alcoholic beverage; it’s just phenomenally good! Based on Irish whiskey and cream, this sweet and rich beverage is satisfying and flavorful without being over-the-top sugary. The Irish whiskey flavour is there, but is not overpowering, and the texture of the drink is velvety without being too thick or too much like melted ice cream. Some aficionados like to have two or three ice cubes added in their glass, but the best way to enjoy this drink is the simple way; straight up, no ice, and nothing fancy added. Bailey’s has been popular for decades now, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.
At your next dinner party, if you don’t have the time to make a dessert, or you want to serve something other than a dessert wine to go along with an end-of-the-night sweet, try any one of the above five liqueurs and you and your guests will be stunned by how good they are.
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All You Need to Know About Rum
What’s better than a great Piña Colada, sipped on a warm beach in some lovely tropical area? If your answer is two great Piña Coladas, then this article is definitely one you want to read. The main type of alcohol used for this cocktail is the world-famous rum, a distilled liquor that’s produced mainly in the Caribbean made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses or sugarcane juice. Known as one of the world’s best mixers, rum can be added to hot and cold cocktails and is also delightful on its own, either taken neat or served over ice cubes. Every good bar in the world, whether a commercial bar or home bar, will have at least two varieties of rum to make a wide range of drinks. Here is all you need to know about rum.
Rum is basically distilled fermented sugar cane juice or molasses which has been aged in oak barrels. Spanish terminology is usually used: ron viejo is “old rum” and ron añejo is “aged rum. Most of the world’s rum-producing nations are found in Latin America and the Caribbean, and include the Dominican Republic, Belize, Nicaragua, Martinique, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, Guyana, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Other countries that produce rum on a lesser scale include Spain, Canada, Australia, and Mexico.
Light rums, which are clear in color, are usually used for mixed drinks, while darker and golden rums are taken neat or iced; however, in recent years this has been changing as more bartenders are finding good mixer combinations.
Rum features heavily as a cultural element in the Caribbean as well as in Canada’s Maritimes and Newfoundland. Rum is also associated with the Royal Navy were it was mixed with beer or water and called “grog”, and is also forever associated with piracy that occurred over the centuries in the Caribbean Sea. The name for rum depends on the country of its origin: for example, in Spanish-speaking areas of production, the label will say ron; in French speaking countries the label will say rhum. Nick-names for rum include “Nelson’s blood”, “kill-devil”, “demon water”, and “Barbados Water.”
Rum has been around in some form or another for thousands of years, with evidence of distilling being found in ancient Indian and Chinese archaeological sites. Marco Polo described something similar to a rum which was given to him while he was travelling in what is now known as Iran. However, modern rum and rum producing techniques were discovered in the New World in the 17th century; slaves on plantations discovered that molasses could be distilled. The popularity of the drink expanded to so an extent that in the United States before the Revolutionary War, every person in the colonies was drinking about 14 liters of the beverage per year.
Rum is a little bit difficult to classify as each rum-producing country has its own rules and regulations. However, rums can be classified according to the language spoken in the country where it is produced. However, due to the popularity of Puerto Rican rum in the United States, most of the rums produced in the U.S. will be done in the “Spanish-speaking” style rather than the “English-speaking” style.
Spanish-speaking regions and islands will make añejo rums that are smooth. Cuba, Guatemala, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic make this type of rum; the U.S. Virgin Islands also make “Spanish-speaking” rum. The Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, make a rum from honey; it carries a geographical designation.
English-speaking regions make darker rums with a fuller, more pronounced taste. The rums keep their underlying molasses taste. Grenada, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Guyana, St. Kitts, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica all make these darker, richer rums.
French-speaking regions of the Caribbean produce rums that are “agricultural” and are made from sugar cane juice only and have a pronounced sugarcane flavor. Rhum is generally more expensive than molasses-based rum. Martinique, Haiti, and Guadeloupe produce this style of rum.
Cachaça is a Brazilian spirit which is similar to rum and is in fact classified as a rum in the United States. Panama produces a beverage called seco, which is triple-distilled rum that is more like vodka in character.
Light rums are usually clear in color and are not aged for long in order to keep them light, slightly sweet and somewhat neutral in flavor.
Gold rums are aged for varying amounts of time in charred oak barrels in order to give them a medium body, a darker, amber color, and a stronger “caramel” type of flavor.
Dark rums are aged longer in deeply charred barrels and can be brown, red, or black. They taste strongly of molasses or caramel and have a fuller body. Spice tones can also be detected in dark rum.
Spiced rums are usually dark rums that have been infused with spices. Cheaper varieties are usually light rum that has been spice infused and artificially colored.
So, the next time you feel like experiencing rum, try something a little different rather than the usual rum and coke or Piña Colada. Try a rhum on the rocks, a neat gold rum, or even try spiced dark rum in this beautiful, age-old drink for cold winter days: Hot Buttered Rum.
Hot Buttered Rum
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 oz spiced rum
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 inch piece of lemon rind
1 squeeze of lemon
In a pan, boil water and spices along with the lemon rind for two or three minutes. In a mug, mash the brown sugar into the butter until it forms a paste. Pour the hot spiced water into the mug, and add the rum. Give everything a stir, and add a small squeeze of lemon. Heaven in a mug, and the best way to add a bit of brightness on days that are bitterly cold.
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Looking For Something Different And Sophisticated?
Try Port Wine
Trying new wines is always fun; there are fabulous red wines like Shiraz, Tempranillo, Malbec and Merlot that are always lovely to drink, and there are some great white wines like Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Vinho Verde that are the perfect accompaniment for creamy and spicy dishes. Rosé wines are an absolute delight any time of the year.
But what do you do when you get a little bit bored of drinking wine? Beer might not be your thing, and cocktails may be a little too “fluffy” for your liking, and maybe you think that after-dinner liqueurs aren’t right for you. So what should you try to expand your knowledge of alcoholic beverages?
Well, the solution may be to look to the past and see what your grandparents would have after a nice fancy meal with friends. Drinks that we may think of as bit stodgy and old-fashioned are making a big comeback and many people are enjoying these drinks again. Fortified wines are becoming popular on fine restaurant and bar menus; Sherry, Madeira and that old staple, Port wine, are all basking in the limelight. If you’ve never tried a fortified wine before, then Port wine will probably be a great wine to start with. Here is everything you need to know about one of Portugal’s most famous products.
Port wine or Porto, which is produced exclusively in the Douro Valley of Portugal, is a fortified wine. Fortified wine is a wine to which brandy or another distilled beverage has been added. Usually it is a sweet red wine that is served after a meal as a dessert or along with a dessert. Although most of the varieties on the market are sweet, it can also be dry or semi-dry. Furthermore, there are white ports available on the market that are also very good and make for a nice change.
Port-style wines are also produced in other countries; however, only bottles from Portugal are labeled with the words “Dão”, “Oporto”, “Porto”, and “Vinho do Porto”. Port-style wines from elsewhere will only be labeled as “Port” wine.
Port wine is made from grapes that are only grown and processed in the demarcated Douro river region. In order to stop fermentation at the appropriate time to keep the sweetness level high, a spirit called aguardente is added; it must be noted here that that aguardente is not brandy; it is a neutral grape spirit. The spirit bears no resemblance to commercial brandy at all. The wine is then put into barrels and aged in cellars, which are called caves. The wine, after aging, was then brought to the mouth of the Douro River, the city of Porto. From here, the wine was exported, and the wine was named after the seaport city.
The Douro river region is the oldest regulated and demarcated wine region in the world; the microclimate on the hillsides makes the area perfect for the cultivation of grape, almonds, and olives. Some of the most picturesque areas along the Douro River also happen to be the most productive: São João da Pesqueira and Pinhão feature farms that cling to incredibly steep slopes that seem to drop off into the river. A favorite spot for many tourists who visit the area is the small city of Régua which is very beautiful.
There are more than one hundred varieties of grapes that are allowed to be used in the production of port wine; however, most producers stick to the five most common ones, which are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (also known in Spain as Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional. The most desirable of the five grapes is the Touriga Nacional, but it is very hard to cultivate and produces small yields. White ports are made with Donzelinho Branco, Esgana-Cão, Folgasão, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho. The most expensive Port wines come from the Quinta do Noval area.
Common Types of Port Wine
Ruby Port is the least expensive port wine on the market. The wine is usually stored in stainless steel tanks before bottling in order for it to keep its characteristic deep red color. It doesn’t improve with age.
Tawny Port is Port wine that has been aged in wooden barrels in order to oxidize and evaporate somewhat. The flavor mellows, and the color changes to a golden brown. Tawny Port is characterized by a nutty, sweet taste; in sweet or medium-dry versions Tawny Port is usually consumed as a dessert wine. If the age of the wine is not indicated on the label, the wine has been aged for two years in the wooden barrels.
Crusted Port For those who can’t afford a Vintage Port (which are the most expensive), a Crusted Port is of higher quality than a Tawny Port and is will give an aficionado a good idea of what a vintage will taste like. A blend of various vintages, the wine is bottled unfiltered and sealed with a cork that is driven. It must be decanted before drinking. Crusted Port improves with age, and the date on the label refers to the date the wine was bottled, not the date of the harvest. This version of Port wine must be aged in the bottle for three years before it is allowed to be sold. It can be consumed immediately after purchase if one so desires because most sellers will let the bottles age in their shop cellars for an additional amount of time before selling.
Vintage Port This style of Port is made entirely with grapes of a single declared vintage year; Vintage ports only account for 2 percent of all Port wine production in Portugal. Vintage however, is not declared every year in the Douro Region and every port house declares their own vintages. Some port houses will declare every year except for disastrous years as vintage, while the more conventional houses will generally only declare 3 vintages every ten years. Vintage Port wines must be aged for at least 2 and a half years in wooden barrels; the wine must further be aged for a minimum of ten years in the bottle. The most expensive Vintage Port wines need to be aged for at least 40 years.
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