And We’re Back!

Good news, All Things Beverage is back! After much thought and consideration, the page is going to see some changes. For the time being, and possibly from now on, there will be more of a focus on non-alcoholic beverages. There will still be occasional posts about beer, wine and spirits, but to a lesser extent. My goal is to highlight drinks that do not contain alcohol, or don’t necessarily need alcohol to be enjoyed.

So welcome back readers, and thank you for being patient through the hiatus!

Best regards,

Bill

On Aromas and Cocktails

Imbibe Magazine has featured an interesting article by Naren Young highlighting the sometimes overlooked art of capturing the perfect aroma in cocktails. It is well worth reading, check the article out here.

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WhistlePig 100 Proof Rye Whiskey

5WhistlePig Rye is aged for at least 10 years through a double-barrel process, is 100% Rye and 100 Proof. It is hand bottled at the WhistlePig Farm in Vermont. The whiskey possesses golden straw and amber hues. Taking in the aroma, it is notable that it is very hearty, with notes of allspice and oak, blended with a nice smokiness. Caramel presents itself on the palate in the beginning and it is also noticeably spicy. Coating the mouth with a velvety texture, the whiskey is medium to heavy, albeit a little lighter than I expected for being 100 proof. The mouthfeel is really refined; very clean yet hearty, a fine combination. WhistlePig’s 100/100 recipe (dubbed this due to it being 100 proof and 100% rye) has a wonderfully long finish with a spicy character, smoky overtones and generously peppery. This blends with notes of caramel, butterscotch, and oak to make a complex and well-rounded libation. For the best appreciation, enjoy it neat.

Score: 8.6 – Superb

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Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso 2011

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This Bibi Graetz wine hails from Tuscany, is 100% Sangiovese, and fermented and matured solely in stainless steel. It boasts deep ruby red and violet colors. Lightly fragrant, notes of blackberry are accompanied by floral overtones and faint hints of freshly cut tomatoes. Up front, this wine is fruit driven and a bit jammy. Blackberry, blueberry, strawberry and hints of plum present themselves initially. The wine is medium bodied and displays light tannins coming completely from the grapes as it sees no oak.

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The finish is where it really shines. The big fruit notes of blackberry and blueberry give way to more pronounced plum notes and then it starts to get peppery. Spicy and smoky notes of tobacco and black pepper pair well with dense plum that linger on with a long finish.

Selling for around $10 retail, this wine is quite a bargain. Pair it with most red sauce dishes as an everyday style dinner wine.

Score: 7.4 – Great

 

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Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon

*Many thanks to the Sazerac Company and the Buffalo Trace Distillery for the sample

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Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon is 100 proof and produced in Frankfort, KY by the Buffalo Trace Distillery. This whiskey has rich amber and orange hues, and bears resemblance to liquid silk in a glass. The nose presents itself with a bouquet of toasty oak, caramel, warm vanilla and very slight hints of cherry that progress into citrus and spice. The initial impression upon tasting is that of big, sweet corn notes transitioning quickly into buttery vanilla. The texture of this bourbon is just as it appears, medium to full-bodied, silky and velvety. Allowing the palate to develop, notes of toffee, butterscotch and a perfect amount of oak make themselves known. In the background hints of spiciness become more and more present, and carry the whiskey through a very, very long and pleasant finish.

This bourbon is exceptionally well crafted, complex and well-balanced. It manages to be delicate, while at the same time robust and forceful. Highly recommended.

Score: 9.1 – Amazing

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Tikveš “Special Selection” Vranec 2010

???????????????????????????????Hailing from the Tikveš region in the Republic of Macedonia this wine is made from 100% Vranec, an indigenous grape varietal of Macedonia. It possesses ultra deep violet and garnet hues. Notes of dark berries and plum develop into licorice and hints of leather on the nose. Strawberry becomes very present upon initially tasting, along with plum. This Vranec is full-bodied and boasts firm but round tannins. The finish is thorough and long lasting with plum and black currant, rounding out with a bit of spice and pepper. A quality wine, at an affordable price, it is absolutely worth picking up if it’s available in the area.

Score: 8.4 – Superb

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Crown Royal Cask No. 16

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I know I criticized Crown Royal for their maple-flavored whiskey, but this is a product they got completely right.  This Canadian Whiskey is a blend of over 50 different whiskies of varying ages, and finished in Cognac oak casks that originate from the Limousin forest in France. The number 16 apparently marks the origin of these casks. It is 40% ABV.

Light orange, yellow, amber hues are present, and there appears to be a fair amount of body. There are notes of orange, lemon, dried apricots, and a generous amount of oak coming alive on the nose. The initial tastes are orange, super smooth oak, a hint of raisin and apricots. All of these notes coupled with the ultra velvety and smooth body of this whiskey make it extremely enjoyable as it coats the mouth. The use of cognac barrels for this whiskey allows the finish to be so silky. Subtle notes of toasted oak are accompanied on a long finish with dried fruit, vanilla, a bit of cinnamon.

Sadly, this whiskey was discontinued in late 2012, so more than likely I will probably not be able to taste this one again.

Score: 8.5 – Superb

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Lavergne Bordeaux 2010

Lavergne Bordeaux 2010This 2010 Bordeaux is 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc. In the glass there are deep violet hues, but not overtly dark. There are dense fruit notes of blackberry and cherry on the nose which can also be found during the initial taste in addition to earthy overtones. This medium bodied wine is soft and possesses light tannins. As it finishes, cherry and blackberry are still present along with notes of black currant, spice and pepper. Lavergne retails for under $10 and is a solid, everyday drinking Bordeaux.

Score: 7.5 – Great

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The Moka Pot

Moka Pot (5)A couple months ago I decided to pick up a moka pot. The Bialleti 6-cup Moka Express was the model I purchased. The moka pot is colloquially known as a “Stovetop Espresso Maker.” This device does not actually make espresso; rather it makes a small quantity of very concentrated coffee. If you go online and look for brewing instructions for the moka pot, you will see that everyone has their own method. Ever since I purchased mine I have tinkered with different methods until I found the process that produces what I deem to be the best tasting coffee.

But first a little background on the Moka Pot. The device was patented by Luigi De Ponti for Alfonso Bialleti in 1933. There are three basic parts: the bottom chamber which holds the water, the filter basket which holds the ground coffee, and the upper chamber which will hold the brewed coffee when the process is complete. Illy has produced an animated video with cutaway views that illustrate how the Moka Pot makes coffee. You can watch the video here.Moka Pot (1)

After reading numerous tutorials, and testing out different processes, through trial and error I have come up with my method which consistently produces great quality coffee. The first step is to grind the beans, preferably freshly roasted. Having newly ground, fresh coffee will help maximize the quality of your brew. Use a grind size that is in between medium and fine (somewhere in between a drip coffee and espresso grind). This helps the coffee avoid becoming over or under extracted.Moka Pot (11)

The next step is to fill the bottom chamber with water. There should be a pressure relief valve or a fill line, fill it up to the line or to the bottom of the valve. I use cool to room temperature water right out of the faucet (the water quality where I live is quite good, use filtered water if you have poor water quality). I have read that some people use preheated water because they say it helps prevent the coffee from being roasted or burnt by the moka pot. Contrasting the two methods, I noticed no burnt taste when I didn’t preheat the water. If you pour hot water into the chamber you might need an oven mitt or towel to screw the device together, which I find a bit cumbersome. With cool water you can use your bare hands.

After bottom chamber is filled with water, place the filter basket in the chamber and spoon your ground coffee into the basket. Fill it, but do not tamp or pack the coffee down. If the coffee is packed too densely it will clog. Just fill the basket and level it off.

Screw the upper chamber on, ensure that it is screwed on tightly and the threads are lined up properly. Place the moka pot on the burner, and set the flame such that it does not extend past the edge of the device. On my stove that is about medium heat. This level of heat will help provide the right level of extraction and prevent the handle from being damaged.

Moka Pot (15)It should take about 5 minutes for the coffee to brew. Around the 5 minute mark coffee will begin to flow out of the center spout. When the coffee fills about half of the upper chamber, turn the heat to low (if you have the lid open, close it at this point as coffee can spray out from the spout) and then remove from heat when the brewing is complete. You will know it is finished by listening to it; there will be a bubbling or gurgling sound.

One last step before serving: give the coffee a light, quick stir. If you pour without stirring, you will notice a difference in each cup. The most noticeable different will be between the first and second cup. A light stir will allow your pot to have more uniformity with each serving. Since my pot is not all that large and most spoons do not fit that well, I use a chopstick or wooden skewer for stirring.

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And that’s it, you’re all ready to enjoy some quality coffee!

Allow me to provide some notes on maintenance and cleaning. The moka pot is easy to clean and maintain. Allow the pot to cool down, empty the filter basket and rinse each component with water. Do not put the pot in the dishwasher, and do not used dish detergent or soap when cleaning. Just rinse with water. Oils from the coffee will adhere to your pot and help brew better tasting coffee. That being said, it is a good idea to wipe it down every couple of months. The oils can eventually become rancid, especially if you do not use the pot on regular basis. To wipe it down you can either use a wet towel or even just your fingers.

If you have a new moka pot, just keep in mind that it takes a few pots of coffee in order to break the device in, especially with the aluminum models. The metallic taste that is present will eventually fade away.

All in all, this is probably my favorite way to brew coffee at home. It is easy to do, produces great tasting, strong coffee; and is easy to clean and maintain. Coupling that with the low cost, I would recommend to anyone that loves coffee to purchase a moka pot.

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If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It

NPR has recently featured a story on the Vaportini, a device that will allow you to inhale your spirits. You can find the story here. Is it me or is this just silly? I don’t really see the appeal of taking something that is already as simple and enjoyable as drinking, and complicating it with a device like this. I’ll take my whiskey in liquid form in a glass please.

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