Adventures in Booze: Best new booze of 2013

A friend of mine asked me to do a post about the best new-to-me booze of 2013. I definitely have one, but I’m going to do my top three here.

Chartreuse: Oh Chartreuse. You green magician of awesome. How many are your flavors? I don’t even know but they are like a symphony of deliciousness. I bought this stuff completely untried and unlike my experience with Campari, I didn’t waste my money. (which, thank god cuz this green stuff’s pricy) Chartreuse is definitely my favorite and cocktails using it are definitely my go-to at home. Given how rare it is in the sort of bars I end up in, I still need to find something I can order while out.

Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye: My husband is a big whiskey fan. I scored BIG last Christmas with the Whiskey Advent Calendar from Masters of Malt. It also helped us find out what sort of whiskeys/bourbons/etc. I might consider favorable. He brought the Catoctin Creek home from an outing with work buddies and suggested I try it. I really enjoy it. I don’t think it will ever be something that I’ll just sit and sip, but I love it in a Manhattan (with actual cherries soaked in Maraschino liqueur, not those dyed monstrosities) or in a punch I still need to write up. Its got a fantastic vanillish wood taste that I find a perfect accent to a warming drink. A+ find.

Aviation Gin: I bought this from a suggestion in The Drunken Botanist as I am a person who does not actually care much for the juniper that is essential to calling a spirit gin. This is a very not junipery gin and for that it will always be my favorite. I, um, haven’t had it straight in a while so I can’t talk much about the flavors in it right now, but if you want the flavors of gin without feeling like you got smacked with a pine tree, this is the gin for you.

As a fun follow up and bonus answer, if you do like getting smacked in the face by pine trees when you drink your gin, you may want to try Barr Hill Gin which is literally flavored with just juniper and raw honey. We took a road trip up to Vermont and stumbled across their tasting room late this fall. What I find really amazing is that for me, the juniper plays hide and seek while you’re tasting it. It’s like BOOM PINE TREE and then gone. Honey, deliciousness, dry out, final swallow, BOOM PINE TREE. It’s totally weird but I oddly like it. Their vodka is also quite awesome.

Adventures in Booze: Dombey’s Last Word

Light green cocktail in a martini glass with Greta in the background

Greta hangs out with us boozehounds on the deck.

½ ounce gin (Plymouth or another London dry gin)
½ ounce Verveine du Velay
½ ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
½ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh lemon verbena

Shake all the ingredients except the lemon verbena sprig with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Rub a lemon verbena leaf around the rim of the glass and garnish with another leaf. If you can’t find Verveine du Velay, green Chartreuse is a fine substitute.

Second (and third) bottle of new-to-me booze is in this cocktail and boy do we have winners. I subbed in green Chartreuse because I could find that at the ABC store (Oh Virginia, I hate your liquor laws so much) which I guess brings it back to the more classic version of this drink. They did, however, have the maraschino liqueur. \o/ I am going to have to make maraschino cherries if I can still find cherries at Whole Foods.

Again, I used Bulldog gin because it’s what I’ve got. It’s a London dry so it fits the recipe. I skipped the lemon verbena bit because lazy and didn’t have any. I should add that to the plant list one of these days.

I was trepidatious about the Chartreuse after the Campari. In my reading, it would show up in the same sentence as Campari as an herbal liqueur. And we know how much I liked the Campari. However, this stuff was good! It’s herbal in a completely different way that reminds me more of the herbal shampoo I’ve been using for the last decade that I’ve sadly recently developed an allergy to. *whinge whinge whinge* Anyway. On it’s own, I find green Chartreuse to be sweet and have a delicious anise/licorice taste, especially on the finish. It’s not overpoweringly licorice, but just enough to be noticeable. It actually reminds me a lot of NECCCO wafers, to tell the truth.

The drink overall had this amazing floral character. It was the mix of sweet and acidic that I love with this aftertaste of a bouquet in your mouth. I went and tasted the Luxardo maraschino liqueur by itself afterwards and that’s where the taste comes from. Jason says it tastes like drinking perfume and I agree with that. A lot of times when you go to wine tastings, the pourer will talk about how the wine has floral nose but I have never found a wine that was like getting smacked in the palate with flowers like this liqueur. Not a bad thing though! It’s a bit overwhelming on it’s own, but in this cocktail? Marvelous.

Overall rating: fabulous summer cocktail. Will drink regularly.

Adventures in Booze: Campari and Negroni

Close up of a red Negroni cocktail in a martini glass

The first bottle we cracked open from the intial booze spree was Campari. Now, I had never had it before, but the citrus description made it sound interesting and I decided to give it a go even though I don’t like gin a whole lot. I figured that the rest of the ingredients would cover the gin tastes I don’t care for.

NEGRONI from The Drunken Botanist

1 ounce gin (I used Bulldog here, the only gin I’ve found so far that I like.)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Orange peel

Shake all of the ingredients except the orange peel over ice and serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange peel.

This cocktail mixes up into the lovely red drink you see above. I can’t be buggered to put in orange peels, especially when I don’t have any. It turns out that the non-gin ingredients do very much cover the taste of the gin, but it also turns out that I don’t care much for the taste of the other ingredients! Especially Campari. Campari, in my opinion, tastes like chewing on orange pith. It’s a funky, bitter taste that lingered through a 40 minute walk with my dog. Bleck!

Jason seemed to like it more than I did, but he also says that the next time he makes it, he’s going to probably use about half of the Campari. He also did a bit of research and found a Negroni recipe that includes a bit of salt. Salt does some good things for bitter flavors, so I may try that to see if it makes it more palatable. Otherwise, I suspect it’s going to be given to a friend of mine.

We also bought a bottle of Punt e Mes vermouth upon book suggestion and discovered it has the exact same bitter finish to it. Something to be aware of when buying vermouth.