Spirit Review: KROBĀR Gin

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Introducing a new series, Distillerista Spirit Reviews! All spirits featured in this series are products I’ve personally purchased unless stated otherwise.

Product: KROBĀR Gin a.k.a. “Botanical Brandy,” as you see in the photo above, a descriptive name used to circumvent pesky California distilling license regulations.

Category: American Gin, but I find it leans a touch toward London Dry in terms of style

Distillery: KROBĀR Distillery of Paso Robles, CA

ABV: 87 Proof or 43.5%

Tasting Notes: Lots of warm spice – anise, cardamom, coriander – and well balanced juniper.

Ideal Cocktail Pairings: Any cocktail where you’d use a textbook London Dry. This gin has no shortage of big dried spice and botanical flavor. If full bodied, spicy London Drys are your thing, you’ll love it in a Martini.

Similar Products: Not much comes to mind, but it reminds me slightly of Portland, OR’s Aria Gin.

Final Thoughts: I find the anise and other spice notes a bit overwhelming. It’s worth noting however that I’m typically a fan of more citrus forward gins rather than big, dusty London Drys. If you love London Dry styles though, this gin would definitely be worth a try. Speaking of my tendency to reach for citrus forward gins, I recently infused the last bits of this KROBĀR gin with Meyer Lemon peels and end result was phenomenal. (Combine the peel of 3 Meyer lemons with roughly 25 oz gin and let sit for 5 days at room temp, giving a good shake daily.)

Whether or love gin or hate it, if you find yourself in Paso Robles you must stop by the KROBĀR distillery. Owners Stephen and Joe are lovely hosts and super knowledgeable wine business vets. They also have a Rye whiskey and a barrel aged version of this gin (which I LOVED) to try!

3 min read: A local news article highlighting the burgeoning craft distilling scene in Paso Robles + be sure to check out previous reviews of Leopold Bros. Aperitivo and Liberty Call White Rum.

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Spirit Review: Liberty Call White Rum

Distillerista-Product-Review-LC-WRUM

Introducing a new series, Distillerista Spirit Reviews! All spirits featured in this series are products I’ve personally purchased to try unless stated otherwise.

Product: White Rum (A gift from distiller Bill Rogers!)

Distillery: Liberty Call Distilling Co. of Spring Valley, CA

Category: White/Silver/Unoaked Rums

ABV: 45% or 90 proof

Price: $25  (Find a bottle here.)

Tasting notes: Tons of stone fruit, especially apricot plus a healthy dose of tropical fruit on the nose and the finish – banana, pineapple, melon.

Ideal cocktail pairings: The tropical fruit notes beg for classics like a daiquiri or mojito and speaking of classics, I happen to love it in a Cuba Libre (classy name for a rum + coke). I also recommend it in my beet juice daiquiri.

Similar products: Other local rums Malahat and Old Harbor provide stiff competition but I have to say Liberty Call is my favorite of the three when it comes to white rum specifically.

Final thoughts: I don’t count myself as an avid rum drinker or connoisseur by any means but this rum makes me have second thoughts when I would otherwise reach for gin or vodka. I love the fruity sweetness and the tropical fruit notes it has thanks to Bill‘s Dunder pit fermentation system. If you’re not familiar, using a Dunder pit is a tactic (historically used by rum distillers in the Caribbean) where some of the mash is kept back from the batch each time and allowed to sit, ferment further and get super funky. The strawberry and banana flavors that come from this rarely used technique are out of this world!

3 min read: Great Rum Without Rotting Goat Heads, The Daily Beast (Interesting article on how one distiller was determined to match the fruitiness of dunder rum without using a dunder pit)

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{ You might also like: Beet Juice Daiquiri &  Distiller Interview: Bill Rogers of Liberty Call }

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Spirit Review: Leopold Brothers Aperitivo

Distillerista-Product-Review-LB-Aperitivo

Introducing a new series, Distillerista Spirit Reviews! All spirits featured in this series are products I’ve personally purchased to try unless stated otherwise.

Product: Aperitivo Liqueur

Distillery: Leopold Brothers of Denver, CO

Category: Italian style Bitter Liqueurs

ABV: 24% or 48 proof

Price: $30

Tasting notes: Plenty of the traditional bitter goodness you expect but softer and more pleasant than Italian favorites Campari or Aperol. Complex and balanced thanks to bright citrus flavor and pleasing floral qualities. Full of flavor and absolutely gorgeous color.

Ideal cocktail pairings: An American Negroni with Leopold Brothers Navy Strength Gin is an obvious choice. I’m also loving it in Boulevardiers at night and Spritzes by day. Try it splashed into my famous gin punch for something unexpected.

Similar products: St. George Spirits has recently released their version of this addictively bitter spirit, Bruto Americano. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet but let’s be honest, when has St.George ever f’ed anything up? Definitely worth checking out.

Final thoughts: A stellar American version of a beloved Italian product. I’m definitely keeping this one in heavy rotation, as evidenced by the half empty bottle above.

3 min read: A Guide to Italian Bitter Aperitivo Liqueurs, Punch.

{ You might also like: Peach Craft Spirits & Guide to American Vodkas }

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A Beginner’s Guide to Mezcal: Part 2

A Beginner’s Guide to Mezcal, Part 2: IS IT REALLY THAT GOOD, OR IS IT JUST THE COOL NEW THING?

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Short answer: it’s really that good.

The vast majority of tequila production has, over the decades, become a thoroughly industrial process, with the big dominating producers cutting every corner available in service of making a low-quality spirit that can net their corporation the most amount of money.

To be clear, there are brilliant tequilas being made today by dedicated and passionate individuals all over Mexico, but those aren’t the ones people have heard of. The ones people have heard of are the ones in the supermarket, on which you had that terrible experience in college that still makes you hesitate to drink tequila to this day. As we like to say: there’s no such thing as a bad tequila experience, only an experience with bad tequila.

Enter mezcal, which thus far is relatively untouched by the hungry capitalistic maw. Mezcal yields are measured in hundreds of bottles, not millions of cases. They’re distilling out of clay pots and tree trunks south of the border. In tequila there are only two or three brands that still crush all their agaves with the traditional volcanic stone, while in mezcal that’s the norm. A small minority of quality minded tequila producers still slow-cook their agaves to render the sugars, while literally every single mezcal producer still does.

That’s why mezcal is so exciting. We cocktail enthusiasts want more flavor, not less, and mezcal has a complexity and a dynamic nature that no other spirit can touch. There’s no cheats, no shortcuts, no bottom line nonsense. It’s generations of tradition, hand harvested, packed on burros and walked down mountains to ferment and distill, and completely isolated from marketing budgets and board meetings. It’s been made the same way for hundreds of years and it tastes like the land from which it comes. Artisanal mezcal still has its soul completely intact, and you can taste every single wisp of it in the glass. That’s why you don’t meet mezcal fans so much as mezcal zealots. It’s because we fall in love with it.

FYI: The worm in the bottle was actually never a worm at all, but the larva of a moth that likes to live in agave plants. It is not tradition, but rather added early on as a gimmick. Few distillers continue to do so.

{This post originally appeared on cocktail subscription service Thirty3Club’s blog.}

A few of our favorite Distillerista approved spots to enjoy Mezcal:

Tijuana… La Mezcalera, Misión 19

Mexico City… La Clandestina, La Lavandería, El Bósforo, Hotel Condesa DF, Mercado Roma

Valle de Guadalupe… Deckman’s El Mogor, Finca Altozano

San Diego… Bracero

You might also like: Distillerista Guide to the Valle de Guadalupe & Summer Drink Diary

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A Beginner’s Guide to Mezcal: Part 1

Some friends and I just returned from an amazing long weekend in Mexico City and I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the Mezcal culture there. Although I’ve been a fan of the smoky, earthy, agave-based spirit for a while now, experiencing the charm of D.F.’s endless Mezcalerías these past few days solidified my obsession.

Seeing as Mezcal is the darling du jour of the craft cocktail world, I thought I’d share some 101 knowledge on the obscure cult spirit. In partnership with Thirty3Club.

Distillerista-Mezcal-KK{The traditional way to enjoy mezcal: neat, slightly chilled, with an orange slice & chili salt}

What mezcal is NOT:

– Low class tequila
– Made from cacti
– Related to psychedelic mescaline
– Any bottle with a worm in it
– A liquor that will kill you or blind you

So, what is mezcal?

Mezcal is a spirit made in Mexico, from any of the more than 30 different types of agave. The vast majority of mezcals are made from a quick-growing, high-yield version called Espadin (Es-pa-DEEN). Mezcal can be made in one of 8 different states of Mexico, but the heart is undoubtedly the southern, mountainous state of Oaxaca (Wa-ha-ka).

Tequila, on the other hand, is a mezcal, just a specific type (like how all bees are insects but not all insects are bees). Tequila must be produced in one of 5 designated states, with the vast majority coming from the western state of Jalisco, home of the town Tequila. Additionally, tequila must be made from a specific type of agave, blue weber.

How mezcal is cooked

Tequila producers (the good ones, anyway) steam their agaves in brick ovens for 24-48 hours, while mezcal producers dig a pit, and smoke their agaves over underground coals for up to 10 days. This is why most mezcals will have a smoky, sometimes rubbery, or meaty character, in intensities ranging from “oh, that’s interesting” to “OHMYGOD.”

How mezcal is distilled

Almost all spirits in the world are distilled to a high proof, and then watered down before bottling, which makes it smoother and milder. The higher the spirit is distilled, the more flavor is removed.

Mezcal has one of the lowest distillation proofs of any spirit in the world, traditionally between 45% and 52%, and is bottled however it comes out without adding water. Because of this, mezcal is an incredibly — startlingly — full-bodied and character-driven spirit. In other words, literally no effort at all has been made on the part of the distiller to make the product “mild.” They want as much flavor as can fit in the bottle.

What are other sprits distilled to?

– Bourbon ~70%
– Rum ~90%
– Vodka ~97%
– Tequila ~55%

What Does This All Mean For Taste?

Mezcal is an artisanal and dynamic product, that depending on how and from what it is made, can be earthy, smoky, fruity, creamy, or any combination thereof. It is monstrously flavorful, which is simultaneously a barrier to entry for the uninitiated, and the favorite trait of aficionados. Put simply: if it’s your first time drinking mezcal, it will be unusual and a little challenging. But like most acquired tastes, it’s worth it.

Stay tuned for part two next week! Until then, I leave you with this little gem of Oaxacan wisdom…

“Por todo mal, mezcal, y por todo bien también” — “For everything wrong, mezcal, and for everything right, mezcal as well.”

{ This post originally appeared on cocktail subscription service Thirty3Club’s blog // top image via }

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Artisan Spirit Feature + Distillery Name Unveil

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Artisan Spirit Magazine‘s fall issue has arrived and it includes a timely and relevant article, How To Get Into Distilling Without Having to Own the Joint, featuring yours truly! Click here to flip through the digital issue and head to page 101 for the full story.

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Spoiler alert! We’ve officially given our upcoming operation a name: YOU & YOURS DISTILLING CO. I’ll be unveiling the logo and other creative, plus the inspiration behind the moniker soon so stay tuned!

Thanks a million, zillion times to the wonderful Jeanne Runkle for including me in this piece! Check out more of her work here and here.

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Five Favorites: Barrel Rested Gin

 

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I love dark liquor – especially rye and wheated bourbons and whiskies – but as you could probably guess from recent posts (here, here, and here), gin is my usual adult beverage of choice. The rise of craft distillers giving their gin some time in the barrel is the best of both worlds for me. I get those botanical juniper and spice notes that I’ve grown to love, plus a little bit of that sweet, smoky complexity I look for in an aged whiskey or tequila añejo.

Aged gin may seem like a weird concept but whether you’re a bourbon or a gin guy (or gal), this aged gin trend is something you can get behind. The majority of these barrel rested gins tend to be aged for a short amount of time, 3-6 months at the most, so the dark caramel, vanilla-y characteristics are subtle, yet do some really interesting things to those botanical flavors. If you haven’t already, give this craft distilling trend a try in your next G&T, martini or manhattan. These complex, oaky twists on the old London Dry are just the ticket for the upcoming cooler temps. Here are five of my favorites plus a few honorable mentions…

1. Barrel Gin | Spirit Works Distillery | Sebastapol, CA

The husband and wife team behind Spirit Works make delicious vodka, gins and whiskies in the heart of California winemaking country. Also in their lineup is a rare authentic sloe gin. Both their sloe and barrel aged gins are great in any cocktail in which you would use a traditional gin.

2. Barrel Aged Gin | Corsair Distillery | Nashville, TN & Bowling Green, KY

Corsair distillers are, like, the unofficial kings of experimental spirits. Their barrel gin is no joke with deep smoky notes and all the warm fuzzy feelings. Corsair experimental batches are elusive though so keep an eye out! They go fast.

3. Old Tom Gin | Ransom Spirits | Sheridan, OR

Ransom Spirits’ Old Tom gin has to be one of my favorite expressions of this aged gin trend. Old Tom-style gin, the original pre-prohibition gin for mixing cocktails, starts with a malted barley mash. This gives the gin a super sweet, grainy nose that I just love and insane complexity. A handful of months in  the barrel finishes this gorgeous spirit off perfectly. Try on the rocks with an orange peel.

4. Barrel Gin | Few Spirits | Evanston, IL

Few Spirits are pumping out some wonderful craft liquor and this barrel gin tops the list for me. This gin has so much complex spice and gourmet vanilla-type sweetness it could easily be mistaken for a genever. Try in your next classic martini.

5. Dry Rye Reposado Gin | St. George Spirits | Alameda, CA

St. George is the OG American craft distillery so you can pretty much bet your life on the fact that anything they release is going to be amazing. Their Dry Rye Reposado gin is no exception. A staggering twelve months in barrel makes this ideal for an Old Fashioned.

Also wonderful… Single Barrel Gin from Krobar Craft Distilling in Paso Robles, CA and Distillery 209’s Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Reserve Gins.

Have you tried an aged gin? What did you think?! Let me know in the comments below.

Also: A Beginner’s Guide to Western Gin

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Infused Book Review + Lavender Provençal Lemonade

Infused-Book-Review-Lavender-Lemonade-1{ Infused: 100+ Recipes for Infused Liqueurs and Cocktails | Susan Ella MacNeal, Leigh Beisch }

You know your parents have you pegged when your Mom and Dad – unbeknownst to each other I might add – gift you a spirit infuser contraption and Infused, a coffee table book full of different at-home infusion ideas, respectfully, for Christmas. As was the case this past holiday season, and I have to say, both gifts have come in very handy. I tend to come up with random ideas on a whim and not surprisingly, they don’t always work out well. (Candy Cane Vodka, Lime-cello *cough*, *cough*) Thankfully I can now just consult Infused and quickly reference the book’s tips on how long to infuse different ingredients in different spirits. It’d make a great gift for any budding mixologist (21 and over, of course) or even a bride and groom putting together their first home bar. In addition to pages and pages of infusion ideas, Infused also includes several chapters of customizable cocktail recipes in which to use your newly made flavored spirits. Get the book here, then whip up one of my favorite recipes, Lavender Provençal Lemonade, made with some Lavender-infused London Dry Gin. The perfect end-of-summer treat.

Lavender-Gin-Distillerista{ Sempli Spirit Incanter | Anthropologie Tumblers }

Lavender Infused Gin or Vodka (page 21)

Ingredients:

  • 1 750 mL Bottle Gin or Vodka
  • 3 Tbsp Dried lavender buds
  • 1/4-1 C Simple syrup, optional (I most often choose not to add sugar to my infusions, as it tends to mask the flavor(s) I’m trying to procure)

Directions: In a clean glass bottle or a spirit infuser such as the Sempli Spirit Incanter shown here, combine spirits and lavender. Seal tightly and let infuse, away from heat or direct sunlight, for 2-3 weeks, tasting every few days or so for preferred intensity. *I only left mine for 3-4 days and the lavender flavor was delicate but definitely there, so be sure to taste regularly!* Once the right flavor is achieved, strain out lavender and add simple syrup if desired. (Keep in mind the longer you let the lavender infuse, the more simple syrup you might want to add to balance the flavor) Using a funnel, store liquid in original or other glass bottle. Keep away from heat and direct sunlight and enjoy for up to 1 month!

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Lavender Provençal Lemonade (page 77)

Makes 1 drink

Ingredients:

  • 2 Oz Lavender-infused Gin or Vodka
  • 1/2 C Fresh lemonade
  • Ice
  • Dried lavender buds and/or lemon wheel to garnish

Directions:

  1. Pour Gin or Vodka into a chilled collins glass
  2. Add ice and top with lemonade
  3. Give it a few stirs and garnish with lavender and/or lemon
  4. Cheers & enjoy!

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Thanks to Megan of Shortography for the photos!

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Five Favorites: Western Gin

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With the rise of craft distilling in America inevitably comes a wave of rebellion against the traditional way of things. Case in point: Leave it to us Americans to take the juniper-bomb London Dry Gins of yesteryear and turn them on their head. Distilleries like 209, Brooklyn Gin and Greenhook are pumping out gorgeous new styles of Gin using juniper berries as a connective tissue if-you-will to enhance other botanicals, as opposed to juniper acting as the dominant flavor component. As is also the case with the rise of craft spirits, the “big guys” love to come around and make their presence in these new niche markets well known. As a devoted Gin drinker, here are five of my favorite status-quo abolishing gins, including a few from the giants and a few regional craft offerings. P.S. “Western-style” can be used to describe any Gin where juniper is not the overwhelmingly dominant flavor. P.P.S. You could say that Western Gins aren’t technically Gins at all, as by law a Gin must have juniper as the “main characteristic flavor,” according to the Federal Government’s Beverage Alcohol Manual. Oooooh, sneaky!

1. Hendrick’s | Hendrick’s Gin | Scotland

Okay okay, although technically one of the “big guys,” no article on Western-style Gins would be complete without mentioning Hendrick’s. Hendrick’s has challenged the notion that Gin should have a strong, juniper-forward flavor profile from day one. This spirit has earned a cult following thanks to refreshing cucumber and rose petal notes up front and a myriad of other delectable floral notes on the finish. Hendrick’s Gin is a great intro into the worlds of both Gin in general and Western Gins.

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2. Tanqueray No. 10 | Tanqueray Gin | England originally, now made in Scotland

This is a perfect example of a big-budget, traditionally London Dry brand offering a modern take on the traditional to keep up with changing times. Supposedly made in their No. 10 experimental still with fresh citrus, Tanqueray No. 10 definitely delivers a lighter, more approachable flavor profile than that of the original. This, along with Hendrick’s, is one of my favorite spirits to keep on hand.

3. Aviation | Aviation Gin | Portland, OR

Aviation was one of the original American craft distilleries to offer a Western-style Gin. Using notoriously hard-to-get-it-right botanicals such as lavender, Aviation paints a picture of their native Pacific Northwest in every bottle. Their proprietary mix of botanical makes a great Martini or G & T.

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4. American Dry Gin | Greenhook Ginsmiths | Brooklyn, New York

Greenhook’s American Dry Gin is something of a hybrid between a London Dry and Western-style Gin. Lush and aromatic botanicals like elderflower and chamomile get you on the nose and up front, followed by spicy cracked black peppercorn and a generous dose of both cinnamon and juniper notes to round everything out. A unique, attention-grabbing Gin to try. I also recommend picking up their Beach Plum Gin Liqueur – great for champagne cocktails or drizzling over gelato.

5. Brooklyn Gin | Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn Gin is another delicious and ultra-refreshing citrus-forward Gin. By using 100% fresh citrus peels – cut by hand before every distillation – and freshly cracked juniper berries, the makers of this addictively juicy spirit help to solidify Brooklyn as a major hub for American craft distilling. Good enough to drink on it’s own, or with a splash of tonic.

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Give one of these non-traditional Gins a try in your next cocktail. And be sure to share snaps of your drinks with the hashtag #Distillerista. Cheers!

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The Best Tequila for Every Budget

Welcome to a new Distillerista series, Booze For Every Budget. Besides the fact that today is very conveniently National Tequila Day (!!!), I chose to feature Tequila first because it’s one of those spirits – at least in my opinion – that you just don’t want to get on the cheap… Seriously, I wouldn’t wish a shot of shit tequila on my worst enemy but that’s just me. Luckily good quality doesn’t necessarily translate to pricey when it comes to Tequila. To prove it, I’ve rounded up some great options for todos los budgets. Enjoy!

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Under $20: Cien Años On my first trip to Baja I asked a local to recommend me a good bottle of tequila at a reasonable price. He answered with Cien Años and I’ve been a fan of this value Tequila ever since. For a cool twenty bucks or less, it has a surprisingly smooth finish and is a great option for parties or big batches of margaritas

Under $30: Espolón About three years ago, Espolón started winning mad awards and consequently flew off shelves, not to be seen again for quite a while. Thankfully it’s back on the market and just as delicious as ever. The Blanco and Reposado are both conveniently between $25 and $30 if you prefer one style to the other.

Under $40: Herradura The Herradura brand is old favorite of mine. Consistently full-bodied and rich, it’s the perfect foil to tart grapefruit juice in a Paloma. Like Espolón, both the Silver and Reposado are under the forty dollar mark.

Under $50: Casamigos Blanco Casamigos is a relatively recent find for me. I usually don’t go for celebrity-endorsed brands, but Casamigos’ flavor profile stands on it’s own, with or without George Clooney’s laser-printed signature on the label. I prefer the Reposado if given the choice but the Blanco clocks in at just under fifty bucks and has great character for a silver tequila.

Splurge: Tequila Ocho Reposado ($60) Tequila Ocho seems to be the current darling of the “craft” Tequila brands. Bottled in a shape one would most associate with Vodkas, Tequila Ocho’s packaging oozes class. It comes as no surprise the liquid in side does too. This would make for an ideal birthday, hostess or wedding gift.

Ball Out: Fortaleza Anejo ($80) Fortaleza was recently named Men’s Journal’s Best Premium Tequila in the World, and for good reason. Sadly I find it hard to spot this elusive Tequila around town so if and when you do see a bottle, be sure to snap it up. And for the love of God, do not make Margaritas with it. This liquid gold is best enjoyed neat in a Brandy snifter.

Any great Tequilas I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

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