Mint Julep

We booze nerds sometimes get carried away by the details of a drink’s flavor, debating the merits of finishing casks, whether vodka can or even should have terrior, and other such minutia that so quickly seem vastly important. But one thing that is often overlooked, and quite unfairly so, is aroma. A drink should stimulate at lease four of your five senses with flavor, mouthfeel, appearance, and aroma. I even enjoy the rhythm of a skillfully shaken cocktail.

Since we are only days away from that auspicious American tradition, the Kentucky Derby, we thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to highlight one of the great aromatic cocktails, the Mint Julep. The julep is a profoundly simple drink to make and yields a wonderfully delicious refreshment.

Seen above is a traditional julep glass. While not necessary to enjoy a Mint Julep, it does help inflate your feeling of American bourgeois sophistication.

While Mint Juleps have been made with a variety of spirits in the past, Kentucky bourbon has been the standard for nearly a century. Additionally, some recipes will tell you to muddle your mint in the bottom of the glass, however this destroys the drink’s aromatic qualities and yields a sub-par cocktail. Instead, let your mint leaves float on the top of your Mint Julep and as you sip, breathe in with your nose. This way, the scent of the mint intermingles with the flavor of the bourbon as you drink.

1 oz simple syrup

3 oz Kentucky bourbon

2-3 mint leaves

Fill your glass (or silver julep cup) to the top with crushed ice. Pour over this your simple syrup, then bourbon. Stir until your ingredients are well mixed and a fog begins to accumulate on the outside of your glass (or ice on your julep cup). Garnish with mint and serve.

Traditional julep cups are made of silver so that as you mix, a thin film of ice should accumulate on the outside of your cup. This keeps your drink colder longer on a hot Kentucky afternoon. But for those not born with a silver cup in your mouth, a julep glass like the one shown above is also a great way to serve this drink.

Also, I hear Mint Juleps taste better when enjoyed beneath a giant floppy hat.

Why I do declare.

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How to Stock Your Bar

Aside from booze blogs, web comics, regular comics, and as many books as we can get our hands on, we (specifically Matt) like to read certain menswear blogs. In particular we recommend An Affordable Wardrobe and Put This On, which inspired our video segments. One of the common questions addressed on menswear blogs is how to build a wardrobe and not surprisingly, the process is very similar to stocking your bar.

This is our collection a year ago. Much like a child, it has only gotten larger and more expensive since then.

Continue reading

Ward 8

Named for a political district in Boston, this drink was invented to celebrate the election of Martin Lomasney, nicknamed the Czar of Ward 8, to the state legislature. It’s easy to suspect, though, that the bartender at the Locke-Ober restaurant where the drink was invented, may not have meant the gesture as a compliment. Like many bosses of turn of the century political machines, Lomasney was a notoriously dirty politician, and an ardent teetotaler.

Sipping a Ward 8 is like a contest between sweet and tart as the lemon juice and grenadine vie for attention. True to history, this cocktail is an excellent bracer to get you through yet another election year.

3 oz bourbon or rye whiskey

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz orange juice

2 tsp grenadine

Combine all ingredients in a shaker half filled with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Toast to your candidate with a Ward 8!

Alton Brown’s Cooked Nog

For those who aren’t comfortable with raw Egg Nog, or who can’t find pasteurized shell eggs, this variation on yesterday’s recipe walks you through heating your mixture just enough to kill anything that might be lurking inside. The result is a little thicker, which may be preferable if you’re fond of store-bought nog, and very tasty. I’ll admit this is the first Egg Nog we made, and the first I’ve ever had, so my basis of comparison is limited to hearsay. But having tasted this recipe, I do finally understand why people go so nuts for Egg Nog every year.

This recipe should yield enough Egg Nog for 4 or 5 party guests. Also, we doubled the bourbon that’s listed here because, well, that’s just how we roll. Continue reading

Alton Brown’s Egg Nog

One of my favorite episodes of Alton Brown’s unique cooking show Good Eats is season 9 episode 13, in which he explores egg nog and the bourbon that he puts in it. [You can find it on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2] Now, there are a lot of egg nog recipes out there, and we’ll cover a few of them leading up to the holiday, but for my money, this is one of the best.

Granted, this recipe is a lot of work compared to most everything else we post here on IPTB, but egg nog’s a party drink and this will yield enough boozed-up nog for around 6 generous servings. That’s a whole pitcher of this holiday treat that’ll make you think twice about serving store-bought nog ever again. Continue reading

Pittsburgh Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival Recap

It’s now a couple days after the 2011 Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival and I’m still doing my best to collect and organize my thoughts from that evening, so let’s start with the obvious: it was awesome. “Kid in a candy store” doesn’t cover it.

Organized by the good folks who bring us the Pittsburgh Wine Festival in partnership with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, this was the fifth Pittsburgh Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival. Proceeds benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

In all, close to 175 spirits brands crowded the East Club Lounge at Heinz Field and any remaining floor space was flooded by hundreds of attendees. The atmosphere in that expansive yet cramped space was, in my experience, unique. It was hectic (We have to try the good stuff before they run out!), it was exciting (Angel’s Envy, Philadelphia Distilling, and our good friends from Wigle were all in attendance!), it was drunk (We tried all the good stuff before they ran out!).

It seemed to me that vendors and attendees were divided into factions, which is representative of attitudes towards drinking these days. There were the attendees who were there to get drunk and the booze brands that cater to them. You could generally identify these brands by the presence of “booth babes,” a phenomenon usually reserved for Comic Cons and trade shows.

Fred Noe, the great-grandson of Jim Beam, accompanied by partygoers.

On the other side of the coin, however, there were a tremendous number of people who were genuinely interested in tasting the liquors on offer (ending up a bit wobbly was a side effect). Luckily for us, there was a fantastic lineup of distilleries represented that offered some amazing liquors to sample.

We made a point to limit our intake to labels we really wanted to try. This included large established brands that might otherwise be outside of our price range (such as Laphroaig 18 Year Old scotch), smaller brands that might be harder to find (like Death’s Door White Whiskey, or Isle of Jura Scotch), and stuff we just hadn’t gotten around to yet (looking at you Vieux Carré, Buffalo Trace, and Doctor McGillicuddy’s Root Beer Schnapps). Plus we visited some old friends like Hendrick’s, Kraken, and Tub Gin.

Isle of Jura Scotch

We also noticed that larger distilleries tended to be more liberal pourers, as opposed to the smaller operations that cared more about – first – a proper tasting, and – second – making sure they had enough stock to last the night.

As excellent as the evening was, we were mightily disappointed by one thing. We, and many other attendees, were looking forward to the Whiskey Fest as our first opportunity to sample Wigle Whiskey’s first batch. And though Eric Meyer and company were present, they were unable to distribute the long-awaited samples. Why? Because the PLCB hadn’t approved their label. Their label. Instead Eric was distributing high-fives and rice-krispie treats that had been sneakily laced with whiskey. We are however, looking forward to Wigle’s Grand Opening on December 2nd (be sure to check back here for coverage).

A personal-sized cask so you can age your own Wigle. Seen also: an illicit Wigle label.

In all, there was very little about this year’s Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival that wasn’t excellent. There was tasty food (though more variety and more locations would have been nice), fantastic booze, and friendly people. In fact, we were pleased to find so many friends and acquaintances there who work in the industry. It almost makes me think we’re beginning to make a name for ourselves.

But more importantly, we made a handful of new friends and connections. In particular we think you should check out YourGrail.com

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