Mad River Distillers Corn Whisky

After only a year of production Mad River Distillers’ spirits are starting to spread beyond its home of Warren, Vermont and is now available in Massachusetts and beyond. Unfortunately the PLCB isn’t stocking the state stores in PA yet, but we were lucky enough to sample their vanilla-y rum (get your hands on it if you can) and their smooth corn whisky.

Mad River Corn Whiskey

Mad River uses locally grown organic corn to produce their unique whisky mash. With most un-aged corn whiskeys (ahem SHINE) you often detect an underlying grassy, agricultural taste, but with Mad River’s “Vermont moonshine” you only taste the light sweetness of the corn, and the heat of the whiskey.

We liked the corn whiskey in a sour (bright and sweet), a hot toddy, a Ward 8, and just 100% pineapple juice, but nothing beats drinking it straight or with a little soda water and lemon juice. It’s a great spirit for more desserty (not sugary) drinks, but perhaps not a Manhattan, which you should be making with a woody bourbon or spicy rye.

If you find a bottle of Mad River spirits in your local liquor store we absolutely recommend taking it home. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of Mad River’s spirits as they continue to expand their product line. We’re really looking forward to their apple brandy, a Vermont take on Calvados.

Full disclosure: we were gifted the review bottle from Mad River Distillers.


Oddka Vodka – Electricity Flavor

In these times of flavored vodkas, it takes little to shock us anymore. Swedish Fish? Sure, Hemingway’s in Pittsburgh was doing a pitcher of shots of that flavor long before Pinnacle picked it up. Wedding Cake? I guess there’s a market for that. S’mores? Whatever, you get the point. People love to buy, but don’t necessarily love to drink, flavored vodka. The main appeal, and probably driving force, is likely the question that comes to mind of all adventurous tasters (ever since Orbitz debuted in the late 90’s): “What does it taste like?”

Most of the time Matt and I can ignore this nagging question, but when we saw Oddka’s Electricity flavored vodka, we had to know. And what does it taste like? It tastes like… blue. It tastes like blue raspberry cough syrup and vodka. Which is why it really, really bothers me that in a sea of cocktail suggestions for their other flavors (like Wasabi, Fresh Cut Grass, Salty Caramel Popcorn, and Apple Pie) that they only offer this: shoot it.


That’s it. Just shoot it. I refuse to accept this. We found that drinking it on the rocks with club soda actually made it much more drinkable, kind of like a melted blue raspberry slushie. But then we found the combination it was made for. The combination that those people who were kids in the late 90’s buying bottles of Orbitz at the 7-11 after school didn’t know they were missing. Trader Joe’s Vintage Cola and Electric Oddka (1:3 vodka ratio over ice). It tastes like a blue raspberry slushie and a coke slushie mixed together. It tastes just like nostalgia.

Same goes for an Electric Screwdriver (just what you expect, orange juice and Electric Oddka), it tastes like some kind of juice with a flashy name dreamed up by marketers and hated by parents. We’d recommend it to you, for sure, but it’s more of a special occasion vodka. Experiment on your own!

We’ll admit, the product design really did catch our eye too, being nerds and fans of turn of the century scientists. Might have been why we gave it a chance in the first place.

Double Booze Review: Oak Aged Beer

In honor of American Craft Beer Week, we went in search of some truly unique American beers and found these two: the 18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA from Great Divide Brewing Co. and Funky Jewbelation by Schmaltz Brewing Company.

Two oak aged beers from Great Divide Brewing Co. and Schmaltz Brewing

Aging beer in wood barrels isn’t a new practice.  Before cheap production of glass bottles became possible as a result of the Industrial Revolution, nearly all beer was stored in wood barrels right up until it was served. If it took a few months for a brewer to sell a barrel of beer to a bar owner, then another month to transport the barrel from an eastern brewery to, say, a bar in a distant frontier town, and then another month or two for the bar’s patrons to drain the barrel, a beer could easily end up taking on an aged flavor simply as a matter of circumstance, if not by design.

Despite historical precedent and the widespread use of barrel aging in wine and liquor, finding a barrel aged beer in a modern grocery store or beer distributor can be tough. Though I can’t say I’m surprised. My initial reaction from both of these beers is that they’re more challenging than your average porter, or even IPA. These aren’t beers that you can sip absentmindedly while doing or discussing other things. These beers demand attention.

18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA

The Great Divide Brewing Company is based out of Denver, Colorado and has, apparently, been around for about 18 years now. Great Divide produces 21 different brews, though they don’t seem to have one that you could call their flagship label (like how Rogue has Dead Guy Ale, or Magic Hat has #9).

The 18th Anniversary brew is aged in American and French oak, which gives it an earthy undertone beneath the hoppy high notes. The result is complex, almost to the point of being overwhelming. This is an interesting beer, and I’m glad I tried it, but I’m not sure I’d order a full pint of it.

Funky Jewbelation

This funky brew is a blend of six different Schmaltz ales aged in whiskey barrels (73%) and bourbon barrels (27%). The result is a nearly 10% ABV dark beer that has an almost wine-like sweetness and a great head.  Individual notes and flavors  are tough to sort out and identify probably due to the six different beers mixed together. The result is muddled, but overall pretty drinkable for a dedicated dark beer lover. Truly, it is a novelty beer that you’ll probably drink once and enjoy. Schmaltz has some way better seasonal offerings that I would go for instead.

Though neither of these brews are great, it’s good to see that American craft brewers are taking risks. Even within the craft beer niche, it’d be easy to settle into a pattern of bold but repetitive IPAs and chocolate stouts. So as this year’s American Craft Beer Week wraps up, go out and find a beer you’ve never tried before. Try something odd or different sounding. Someone was bold enough to craft this fine beer, you can at least be bold enough to sip it.

El Jimador New Mix Margarita Review

I have noticed a trend in my writing, both here on IPTB and elsewhere. The overwhelming bulk of reviews that I write are conspicuously positive. This has to do mainly with what I choose to review. If I like a product, I want to share it with others. I also suspect that the opinions we express here concerning booze have begun to teeter on the edge of snobbishness.

In an effort to rectify one of these two biases we bought a four-pack of El Jimador New Mix Margarita-in-a-can. I figure there are two ways this can turn out. Either I like the stuff and absolve myself of snobbery, or it’s as bad as I expect it to be and I can even out my reviewer’s karma.

Who can guess which way this is going?

El Jimador - in its natural habitat.

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I Prefer the Term Traveler: Walt Disney World

We, Matt and Shanna, spent five days over-eating, waiting in lines, occasionally relaxing, and drinking (when the cocktails seemed palatable) in Florida’s Walt Disney World this February.  We came for the animatronics, food, and warm weather, and left with a Kermit hat and a well “researched” theory on how to drink in Disney.

This theory consists primarily of what not to drink. As it turns out, we skipped a lot of opportunities to imbibe because, to our dismay, 80% of all booze on offer at the parks are cheap light beer (mostly the unholy triumvirate of Bud, Miller, and Coors), sugar & juice concoctions topped with a drop of booze, or variously flavored frozen abominations fraudulently sullying the name margarita. But fear not dear reader, for though our noses were held high in the air, they did lead us to a handful of truly magical beverages. Continue reading

Vieux Carré Absinthe Review

Vieux Carré Absinthe is very likely the best contribution Pennsylvania has ever made to New Orleans. Produced by Philadelphia Distilling, I have to say that this – beautifully designed and skillfully marketed – bottle has won our boozey hearts. While we haven’t had the opportunity to sample a huge variety of absinthes this is the only one (so far – we do live in a pretty restricted state, booze-buying wise) that I really liked, aside from our friend and absintheur Colin‘s own private batch. We’ve heard that Vieux Carré might be considered a beginners-level introduction to absinthe, but you’re going to love mixing with it anyway.

The care package we received from Philadelphia Distilling.

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Restaurant Review: Salt of the Earth

We don’t often do restaurant reviews here at IPTB. In fact, the only booze-serving establishments we’ve ever reviewed were bars. (Pittsburgh Bars 2011 edition) But after enjoying an early dinner at Salt of the Earth in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, we knew we had to write about them. And sure, we sat at the bar and chatted with the super-friendly and knowledgeable bartenders during our meal, and sure, the cocktail, beer, and wine lists comprise about half of the menu which covers an entire wall, but the emphasis is still on the food, which makes Salt of the Earth (or NACL for short, clever) one of the best places in Pittsburgh to get dinner and a drink.

Photo compliments of Salt of the Earth's blog

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Booze Review: Shine XXX White Whiskey

Like any other industry, booze is subject to the whim of popular fads; and while the turnover isn’t so rapid or radical as it is in – say – the fashion industry, certain trends do tend to come and go. One trend that is currently on the rise is the popularity of un-aged white whiskey. (Local distillery Wigle Whiskey is currently producing their first batch.) There are a number of different brands out there, and the first one we picked up is Shine XXX from Philadelphia Distilling (they also produce Bluecoat Gin).

Shine XXX Old Fashioned

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