Category Archives: Learn About Spirits

Bottles’ Favorite Things: A Spirited Gift Guide

In addition to his other important responsibilities here at Bottles, Liam spends a good bit of the year compiling a list of well-crafted, tasty bottles for you to give to the spirits enthusiast on your holiday gift list. Some of the labels that made this year’s cut are new to Rhode Island and others are favorites that have stood the test of time.

Herewith, the 2016 list of Bottles’ Favorite Things:
Borsci San Marzano
An after-dinner concoction that’s completely unique. In fact, we’ve never had anything quite like it. The best way we can think to describe it is to imagine if an amaro, a coffee liquor, a cream liquor, and Fernet all got together and had a baby. This is that baby. $24.99 (750ml)

stgeorge

St. George Triple Gin Sampler
One of our favorite things to give or receive, each of these bottles houses a uniquely crafted, artisanal gin. ‘Terroir’ is made with all California botanicals (bay leaves, orange, spruce tips), while ‘Botanivore’ has a much more traditional juniper and citrus flavor. The Dry Rye gin is a spicy flavor bomb perfectly suited to an ice-cold martini. The whole kit ‘n kaboodle is an ideal sampler pack for gin-lovers. $24.99 (3 bottles, 200ml each)

bruto

St. George Bruto Americano
Move over, Campari! This home-grown (Cali) bitter has all the hallmarks of Campari and Aperol, but with a unique American spin. Bitter and herbal, with a finish of pine and bay leaf, it makes a killer Negroni – the “it” drink of the moment. And the packaging can’t be beat. $29.99 (750ml)

vecchio

Caffo Vecchio Amaro del Capo
A must-have for serious amari fans, the del Capo is a beguiling marriage of fruity, herbal, bitter, sweet and savory flavors. Our new favorite post-meal treat is best served ice cold, right out of the freezer. $24.99 (750ml)

limon

Caffo Limoncello dell’Isola
We’ve finally found it. A limoncello that’s not overly saccharine. This beauty is made with family-grown Calabrian lemons, and no added flavorings, color, or other nonsense. Bright, pleasantly sweet, and, of course, full of the sunshine-y taste of lemons! $19.99 (750ml)
Glenrothes Triple Pack
One of the best values we’ve ever come across. Three extraordinary single malt whiskies in bottles that just make you want to hold on. A terrific gift for the burgeoning whiskey lover in your life. $34.99 (3 bottles, 100ml each)

hine

Hine Rare VSOP Cognac
Are all Cognacs created the same? No, and Hine is a venerable and often overlooked house that deserves your attention. Their VSOP is comprised of over 25 Cognacs, with about half coming from the Grande Champagne region and the remainder from the Petite Champagne. Treat the brandy-lover on your list to this something special. $49.99 (750 ml)

barr

Barr Hill Gin
A delicate gin for all cocktail enthusiasts. It’s distilled with hand-picked juniper berries, and bottled with the addition of 5% raw honey. It’s not sweet, but does impart the heady aromas of fresh wildflower honey. And it makes the best ‘Bees Knees’ cocktail you’ve ever had. $39.99 (750ml)

caledonia

Barr Hill Gin & Honey Gift Pack
The beekeepers at Barr Hill had the great idea of letting us all in on the magic of their spirits with this gift pack. In it they include a versatile bottle of their traditional gin, a bottle of Barr Hill’s magical “Tom Cat” barrel aged gin (perfect for sipping on the rocks), and a jar of their fabulous raw Vermont honey, which is used to create the gin. $49.99 (2 bottles, 375ml each, and an 8oz jar of raw Vermont honey)

koval

Koval Organic Spirits Triple Pack
Straight from the heart of Chicago to your home. Koval’s distinctive whiskies are kosher, organic, and sure to please! This sampler has bottles of Koval’s bourbon, millet whiskey and four grain whiskey. Of course it’s ideal for the Cubs fan on your list this year, though we know any whiskey lover will love and appreciate it, too. $39.99 (3 bottles, 200ml each)

Happy Gifting!

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Old Forester’s Enduring Appeal

By now, most of us know that Bourbon, as American as Jazz or Apple Pie (with a slice of melty Vermont Cheddar, thank you very much), has reached a new and unprecedented heyday.

Basically unsellable throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, when bottles of Pappy Van Winkle gathered dust on store shelves, we now can’t seem to find (or drink) enough of our favorites. New brands show up every day, while stalwarts continue to grow almost unchecked in popularity each year.

Throughout Bourbon’s rocky history, through the boom times and the bust, through prohibition and the current craze for anything brown, there is one brand that has somehow weathered the storm intact: Old Forester.

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The first Bourbon to be exclusively sold in bottles (as opposed to being dispensed from a barrel) to ensure authenticity and quality, Old Forester is also the oldest continuously produced brand in America. During prohibition, it was one of 10 brands allowed to produce whiskey for ‘medicinal’ purposes – probably due to its claims of superior quality from their sealed bottles, which were usually sold out of pharmacies. There aren’t many brands with that claim to fame, and it’s a testament to Old Forester’s flavor and broad appeal.  

The best part is Old Forester remains an affordable option on our shelves. Each of its five offerings over-deliver for the price of admission, and all of them can be enjoyed equally neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite cocktails. If you’ve never tried one of their Bourbons, come by Bottles and pick one up. We’d love to chat and get you safely home with an affordable, approachable, delicious bottle of pure Americana.

Old Forester 86 Proof
The workhorse. Simple & dependable, Old Forester 86 is at home on a Tuesday night over a handful of ice. A little fruity, with a short and clean finish, it won’t get in the way of all the heady aroma in a classic Mint Julep.

Old Forester Signature 100 Proof
The stalwart. The difference, as the name would suggest, is in the proof – but what a difference. The extra oomph adds a layer of complexity and nuance to the whiskey, bringing out bright spicy rye notes and hints of brown butter and leather. That heat balances perfectly in a Manhattan, especially with floral Peychaud’s bitters and fruity Alessio vermouths.

Old Forester 1870 Original Batch
The throwback. A tribute to George Brown’s original recipe, sourced from three different distilleries and blended to his specifications. Today’s 90 proof release is comprised of whiskey from three distinct warehouses at three separate proofs. The result is a soft Bourbon, full of subtle clove, cinnamon and citrus flavors. This is the Bourbon for a night with good company and the lingering sunset of one of the season’s last grill sessions.  

Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond
The powerhouse. Minimally filtered, and bottled at 100 proof, it’s a robust, intense, spicy kick to the palate. A splash of water, a big honkin’ orange peel, a giant ice cube, and you’re in heaven. Pairs best with Saturday nights and subsequent lazy Sunday mornings.   

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style
The Bedeviler. Old Forester was one of only 10 brands allowed to distill and sell whiskey during prohibition for ‘medicinal purposes’. In a tribute to the style of the time, Old Forester 1920 is bottled at 115 proof (!), just as it would have come out of the barrel a hundred years ago. Bright and hot, with spicy rye flavors, this Bourbon wants a splash of water to temper the heat. Enjoy in small, lingering sips…

Old Forester Cocktails

By now everyone knows how to make a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Mint Julep, right? Here are a few fun, different, and interesting recipes to try with Old Forester:

The Old Forester Prospector:
2 oz. Old Forester 86 Proof
¾ Oz. Honey Syrup (mix 2 parts honey to 1 part hot water. Let it cool & use in cocktails, tea, water, coffee, glazes, sauces, etc…)
¾ Oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

Shake everything over ice & strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a big lemon peel.

Modified Toronto
2 Oz. Old Forester 100 Proof
¼ Oz. Fernet Branca
¼ Oz. Simple Syrup (or the honey syrup you just made!)
2 Dash Angostura Bitters
(optional) – pinch of sea salt

Stir all ingredients over ice & strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange slice.

Bourbon & Ginger
Make it as spicy or sweet as you want with your choice of Ginger Ale. For the daring, try this:
1 Oz. Old Forester 86 Proof
4 Oz. Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer
2 Dash Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters

Drop bitters, then Bourbon, & finally Ginger Beer over crushed ice in a big glass. Drink deeply, my friends.

-Liam

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How To Make Simple Cocktails That Taste Anything But

No muss no fuss.

That’s our mantra in these torrid times, which is why we’re crushing hard on locally-owned and operated Bootblack Brand’s line of all natural cocktail/soda syrups. They’re made by Paul Kubiski out of Hope & Main, the culinary incubator in Warren. His roster currently consists of two killer flavors, both of which are deeply layered with sweet, savory and citrus ingredients that meld into one complex cocktail or mocktail when mixed with a beverage of your choice.
bootblack

Paul launched Bootblack Brand with the super popular Ginger, Cardamom & Lime syrup, which is great when mixed with bourbon or rum. With vodka it’s a heady Moscow Mule. When splashed into tequila it makes a spicy riff on the basic margarita. We also love it plainly mixed with iced-tea, and with selzer, it makes an outrageous ginger ale.

He recently released his second flavor: Cranberry, Jalapeno & Lime, which is a true treat with tequila and/or mezcal. It also sings beautifully with whiskey, vodka and gin. At its most simple, we love splashing it into a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade.

Both make quick work of a Monday night cocktail at home, and really shine when used in a welcome/signature cocktail for gatherings of a handful or more of friends.

For a truly simple, one-minute cocktail/mocktail, Paul suggests mixing 3 parts spirit or seltzer to 1 part syrup, and adjusting amounts to suit your taste.

And for the days when you have a touch more ambition, Paul recommends the following two recipes (both of which are included on their respective bottles).

3 Compadres
2oz bourbon
.75oz Ginger Cardamom Lime syrup
.5oz Ferent-Branca
3 dashes orange bitters
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange twist

Add bourbon, syrup & Fernet to a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a double old fashioned glass over a large cube. Float with the bitters and the twist.

Smokey Summer
1.5oz Tequila Reposado
.5oz Mezcal
1oz Cranberry Jalapeno Lime syrup
.5oz Lime Juice
Splash of seltzer
Salted lime wheel

Add tequila, mezcal, syrup and lime juice to a shaker filled with ice and shake well. Strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with ice. Add seltzer, stir gently, then add lime wheel.

Cheers to another local Rhody success story!

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Rhum With A “Rh?”

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J.M Rhum Agricole Gold. On sale through September 5th, 2016.

Type-o or marketing gimmick? Neither. Rhum with a “Rh” is a thing.

Rhum Agricole is as style of rum made with cane sugar that’s been cut, ground and pressed into juice, unlike rums without the “Rh,” which are distilled from molasses. Many consider Rhum Agricole – the term is french for cane juice rum – the purest expression of the spirit.

We love the J.M Gold because of its smooth elegance and multi-layered flavors of cinnamon, warm gingerbread, grass and hazelnut. J.M, the smallest rhumerie on the island of Martinique, makes its golden elixir from from plants cultivated on the steep slope of Mt. Pelée, the island’s active volcano. Hot stuff.

Given its beautiful, complex flavor it’s really best enjoyed on the rocks, while watching the sunset over the Atlantic.

When that’s not possible, consider using it in place of light rum in a riff on the classic Hemingway Daiquiri. The J.M and the maraschino liqueur dance beautifully together.

What’s even better? It’s on sale at Bottles thru September 5th.

Rhum J.M Agricole Daiquiri

Ingredients
2 oz Rhum J.M Agricole Gold
¾ oz freshly-squeezed lime juice
½ oz grapefruit juice
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp maraschino liqueur

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake and strain into a goblet of coupé filled with crushed ice (you can make crushed ice with a blender or food processor if you don’t own a fancy frozen drink/shaved ice gizmo).

Santé!

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Pasote – The Rainwater Tequila

pasote_group

Pasote tequila, on sale at Bottles through September 5, 2016.

The agave plant usually gets the lionshare of attention when tequila lovers talk about flavor and aroma. But the type and quality of the water used during the distillation process also plays a big part in the how the beloved Mexican spirit smells and tastes.

Which is why Pasote Tequila, introduced to the market earlier this year, is so distinctive. It’s made with 40% rainwater that is collected on site at the El Pandillo distillery in the Jalisco Highlands. The additional 60% is natural spring water.

The rainwater character is most noticeable in the easy-drinking blanco, which has a wet mineral and wet grass aroma similar to the fresh smell of the air just before a summer rain. It’s a touch sweet, with a citrus and briney flavor.

The reposado, aged in American oak, is herbal, with notes of ripe coconut. The anejo, with its longer barrel aging, opens with aromas of sweet vanilla and coconut, and finishes with flavors of roasted oranges and spicy cinnamon.

Always suckers for strong label art, we can’t end without talking about Pasote’s custom-made bottles. The screenprinted artwork features a different warrior on each of the three bottles in homage to the ferocious Aztec fighters who celebrated their victories and sacrifices by drinking the sacred agave. The bottles are hand crafted by a family of glass artisans, and each has slight asymmetries and distinctive wave patterns visible in the glass.

All three styles are distinctive enough for enjoying alone on ice, and are also ideal for cocktails.

Enjoy!

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Uncle Val’s Gins

VALS1
They’re really good gins with a really great story.

You see, it all started in 1895 when Samuele Sebastiani emigrated to the US from Tuscany. He settled in Sonoma, and within 10 years he opened the successful Sebastiani Winery which is still in operation today. This skill for producing high-quality, tasty beverages was inherited by his great-grandson August Sebastiani, who, decades later, created Uncle Val’s gin.

The line of gins – it’s among Bottles’ best-sellers – is named after August’s favorite uncle, Valerio Cecchetti, a retired physician from Lucca, Italy.  Uncle Val was not only a highly-respected doctor, but an accomplished cook with a passion for gardening. August modeled the gins after the fruits, vegetables and herbs that Uncle Val loved to grow in his garden and use in his cooking: juniper, lemon, sage, lavender and cucumber.

Each of the gins is produced in small batches, distilled five times, and filtered over stone to produce as smooth, clean and true a flavor as possible.

Uncle Val’s distinctive dark green, antique-hued bottles were inspired by bitters bottles produced in Italy in the 18th and 19th centuries. The labels, which are hand-numbered, feature some of Uncle Val’s more notable – and eccentric – sayings: “Eggs have no business dancing with stones.” “If the beard were all, the goat might preach.” “You cannot flay a stone.” Thankfully, the labels also include a translation of these colorful phrases.

The Gins:

VALS2
The Botanical opens with crisp aromas of sage and juniper. A first taste of lemon leads to a warm, spicy, lavender finish, with piney and cooling cucumber notes. We love sipping this gin with nothing more than a cube of ice and a pine needle or juniper berry picked from the in the backyard.

VALS3
The Restorative is based on savory, American-style gin. After distillation it’s infused with juniper, coriander, cucumbers and rose petals. When used in a martini, an olive will subdue the floral notes and accentuate the savory coriander and juniper. To enhance the floral notes, add a citrus twist.

VALS4
The Peppered is a big, spicy gin. It’s flavored with juniper, red bell pepper, black pepper and pimento, and is both terrific for sipping and for mixing for those who like big, bold drinks. It opens with a sharp salty-pepper flavor that evolves into a sour/sweet juniper and charred red pepper finish.

Each of the gins are distinctive as their back story. Come by and pick up a bottle today – they’re on sale – $5.00 off – thru August 2016!

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The Caprese Cocktail

Listen, we were skeptical at first, too. Really skeptical.

caprese_web (1)

But then we remembered how much we love James Beard’s Drunken Cherry Tomatoes*, and just how much basil is in the garden already this season.

And that we can’t really resist cheese. Really fresh, really good mozzarella cheese.

And then we tried it. And loved it. And drank pitchers full of it on Father’s Day with la familia.

Don’t think we have to say much more.

Oh, except that our Square One Basil Vodka – ideal for this drink – is on sale through July 4th. And that you may want to double or triple up on the garnish. We did.

Cent’ anni!

The Caprese Cocktail

2oz Square One Basil Vodka
1/2oz tomato juice
1/2oz lime juice
1/2oz lemon juice
3/4oz agave nectar or simple syrup
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Garnish: fresh, sweet cherry tomato, small mozzarella ball, salt & basil leaf

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve with a “Caprese Pick” or two: dredge the tomato and mozzarella ball in coarse salt. Skewer with basil leaf, and serve.

*aka an Adult Crudite: spear a fresh sweet cherry tomato, dip it in good vodka, run it through coarse salt and pop it in your mouth. Also serve it, as Mr. Beard reportedly did, with gin, and perhaps small bowls of other seasonings, such as cumin or hot pepper, ground or flaked.

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Bottled-in-Bond: What it Means and Why it’s Important

What does “Bottled-in-Bond” mean and why should we care? Whiskey Professor and two-time Whiskey Man of the Year Bernie Lubbers visited Bottles recently to let us know just why. And we believe him. If you’re getting your dad a Bottled-in-Bond bottle of whiskey for Father’s Day, why not learn what makes it so special!

The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 laid out a set of regulations and standards for distilled spirits; more specifically it made the government the authenticator of a spirit’s quality. At the time, some whiskies were adulterated out of greed — things like iodine and tobacco were used for coloring or as flavoring agents. Folks wanted to trust that they were drinking the real deal, so the government stepped in.

When you purchase a “Bottled-in-Bond or “Bonded” bottle, you can rest assured that what’s in the bottle is just good old USA-made whiskey and time.

In order to be labeled “Bottled in Bond” or “Bonded” the whiskey must:

  • be the product of a single distillation season
  • be from one distiller at one distillery
  • be aged in a federally-bonded warehouse for at least 4 years
  • be bottled at 100 proof
  • identify the distillery in which it was made or the location where it was bottled

We have several Bottled-in-Bond bottles at Bottles – come by and let us help select the right one for you!

Here’s to Bottled-in-Bond!

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What to Pair with Oklahoma!

If you haven’t yet moseyed on over to see Trinity Repertory Company’s  widely-praised production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!”, do it now. Mosey now.

And while you’re there, sip on “The Farmer and the Cowman,” a cocktail we created with Curt Columbus, Trinity’s Richard L. Bready Artistic Director, to pair with this quintessentially American show.

trinity_farmer

“The Farmer and the Cowman”
Fill a tall glass with ice, add 1.5 oz Bulleit Bourbon and 5-8 dashes Fee Brother’s Rhubarb Bitters. Top with soda water and garnish with a wagon wheel of lemon.

And If bourbon’s not your thing, try one of “Curt’s Picks.” They’re the bottles that Curt – a true wine lover with an experienced (and wonderful) palate – chose to pair with the show.

trinity_oklahoma_wine-sm

 

Said Curt:

Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc is dry and crisp, without being overly sharp. Some sauvignons can be too grassy, and this one has really nice round fruit to it.  We had it last night with Asian food, and it was terrific, although it is a really great Spring sipping wine!”

The Charles & Charles is a stylish American rosé, crisp and fruity, with notes of ripe apple.  LIke all of the rosés I enjoy, it is not sweet, but is great with seafood, chicken and spring pastas.  Of course, it’s also fun to sit and sip on your porch!”

Enjoy the show – and if you enjoy the wine – visit Bottles, as 20% of each bottle purchased in store will be donated back to Trinity Rep through the duration of the production.

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Shanghai-Inspired Liqueurs

Made by the couple who own Cranston’s popular Cha Bai ramen house, the Cheongsam Tea Liqueurs had us at hello.

oolong2The two versions – currently produced in China but available only in Rhode Island – are hand-crafted with natural extractions of exotic whole leaf teas. They’re captivating and nuanced. And they’re really delicious.

Named after the traditional “Cheongsam” dress that was created in Shanghai in the 1920s, the liqueurs are meant to evoke the mystery and elegance of that time and place.

The Jade Oolong, made from jade green Ti-Kuan Yin oolong tea, has delicate notes of honey and orchid, and tastes like a grown up, elegant version of the hot tea Chinese restaurants in America have been serving for decades.

The Smokey Mist’s proprietary blend of black teas produces a complex though delicate slightly-sweet liqueur that is redolent of smoked pine needles, plums and apricots.

Both are excellent additions to a well-stocked home bar given their affinity with most spirits: they play well with vodka, rum and tequila, as well as with sparkling wine or soda water. We also recommend serving them just as they are, at home, after a dinner from your favorite Asian take-out.

For our cocktails, our drinks guru Lily Rogers chose to pair the Cheongsam liqueurs with gin in a simple yet versatile recipe. The combination of the herbaceous Sons of Liberty True Born gin with the slightly sweet tea liqueur and tart & minty lemon lends these Shanghai-inspired cocktails the feel of a sultry summer evening.

The two drinks below are identical, save for the liqueurs. The simple base allows these magical liqueurs to take center stage.

oolong1Shanghai, RI

10 lemon balm leaves
1.5oz True Born Gin
1oz Cheongsam Jade Oolong liqueur
1oz simple syrup
.75oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Lemon balm leaf for garnish

Tear the 10 lemon balm leaves and add them to a shaker. Add liquid ingredients, fill with ice and shake. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Smack the remaining whole lemon balm leaf between palms to release oils and float on top of drink.

Shanghai Summer

10 lemon balm leaves
1.5oz True Born Gin
1oz Cheongsam Smokey Mist liqueur
1oz simple syrup
.75oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Lemon balm leaf for garnish

Tear the 10 lemon balm leaves and add them to a shaker. Add liquid ingredients, fill with ice and shake. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Smack the remaining whole lemon balm leaf between palms to release oils and float on top of drink.

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