Nectar Creek Mead

I’m filing this under beer reviews rather than liquor because I don’t really feel like I’ll be doing enough mead/cider reviews for them to warrant their own category yet.

Nectar Creek appears to produce *only* carbonated session mead.  A Session (not Saison) for those not familiar with the term derives from a kind of low ABV beer intended for people who want to drink, but then need to actually get out and do something.  These are the kind of beers you can drink all day and not really get drunk because by the time you’ve had your second, the first one is almost out of your system.  (Note: You can get drunk on them, it would just take so many that you’d likely be full long before you got a comfortable buzz on).

Mead, traditionally, is pretty high ABV when compared to beer or cider, because the sugar content of honey is much higher than grains or apple juice.  Many meads are bottled at 12% ABV or higher. If ratebeer.com is any indicator of the type, they are seldom lower than 11%. All of the top 10 rated meads are 13.5% or higher.  That expectation colors a lot of my thinking going into this tasting.

Nectar Creek seems to have set their sails to filling the niche for drinkable, carbonated mead without the heavy alcohol kick.  With their strongest bottle clocking only 6.2% these meads are the little brothers of any other mead.  This threw the tasting for a bit of a curve.

The number of ingredients in mead is pretty small. If you’re tasting one of the more common styles it tops out around four.  In this case honey, water, yeast and unfortunately sulfites.  My tasting panel would normally consist of myself and TruantMuse but after one sip she acquired an instant headache that threatened to turn into a migraine and begged off of further tasting.  I was not personally aware of sulfite sensitivity prior to this evening or I might have read the label more closely.  Subsequent trips to the bottle shop and liquor store have shown sulfites in a good portion of the offerings in the beer/cider/mead category so this should not be taken as a problem unique to Nectar Creek.  It is actually quite hard to get a shelf stable product to market without adding some form of preservative.

Process established we tasted two flavors from Nectar Creek, Sting (Ginger) and Cluster (Cranberry/Strawberry).

Cluster

I want to start with the good points here.  The nose does give strawberry in abundance, you can really taste it through your teeth.  The drink is light, carbonation isn’t overwhelming and it doesn’t flatten out as quickly as some malt beverages or session beers.

The downsides however are many and manifold.  The sulfites are quite possibly the biggest hurdle, while they incapacitated my crew I was able to soldier onward and finish the tasting.  There is a definite mineral quality to the mead that I don’t usually get from my own attempts at making mead without preservatives.  The flavor was more reminiscent of a macrobrew than anything I have tasted in recent memory.  The berry flavors abandoned ship after the nose and what honey or sweetness you could expect from a mead followed soon after.  On the palette the brew was watery and lacked complexity or character.  The above mentioned metallic after-taste took any enjoyment out of the bottle pretty quickly.  I’m not going to accuse the bottle entirely, but after a single 500ml bottle, I felt like I had been gut punched and did not feel the need for another.

I want to be clear, I don’t think this was bad.  It was just not good.  There are many many offerings in this field.  Gluten free has gotten a huge ramp from cider so there is no lack of fine things to drink if that’s your limitation.  At $8 a bottle this is not something I would demand of my beer steward and getting any in quantity for a party seems a non-starter.

Sting

After allowing sufficient time to pass I ventured to the other bottle we had acquired.  TruantMuse wisely stayed out of the tasting and elected to spend the time taking photos of our bottles.

Again once opened, decanted and sampled the drink has a fine nose for Ginger.  The flavor is less pronounced that the berry flavors of Cluster but still ambient.  Once that clears however we are left with a less enjoyable product than before.  The astringent nature of ginger flavors that normally brings heat and a citrus bite is absent.  Similar in aspect to a weak store brand ginger-ale the flavor dies off quickly and doesn’t return.

Carbonation is good and maintains the lightly fizzy aspect that makes me suspect mechanical carbonation rather than bottle conditioning.

All in all, I think what happens during production makes a big difference.  Rather than finding a reasonable way to stop fermentation at 6% ABV and keeping the natural sweetness of the honey that remains, I think we have a product that is fermented to completion and then flavored and diluted to the desired level.  Similar to a liquor NDP who dilutes 95% rum and expects to retain some of the character of plantation or Agricole.

 

 

 

 

I leave you here with Dr. Ian Malcolm who has said it better than I could…

Calimocho: Best Bad Idea ever

jota1Happy New Year!  If you’re reading this then you likely made it through another New Years celebration with nothing worse than a serious hangover.  Congrats.  Now the party is over, the drinks have been drunk and someone left you with two or three open bottles of wine that you can’t possibly drink before it sours in the fridge.

Worry not friends.  The Alchemist comes to your rescue with the following solution.

WineCoke anyone?

In Spain the Calimocho is the kind of drink that young Spaniards will order to start off an evening.  A large glass will arrive with several straws making for a punch bowl like concoction.

Your Basic Calimocho is equal parts Wine (generally red) and Cola with a squeeze of lemon juice.  If you want to be pinky-high fancy you can use full sugar Mexican Coke rather than the american corn syrup variety.

As this is a cocktail blog and wine is generally not in my wheelhouse I will endeavor to spice things up a bit with some variation.

In a large wine glass combine in order:

Ice Cubes
0.5 oz Orange Curacao
0.5 oz Cherry Bomb Whiskey
2 oz Red Wine
4 oz Coca-cola

Garnish with orange peel and Amarena cherry.

Derailer Cocktail

derailerCredit for this drink goes directly to Podnah’s Pit where it was created and where I and the Hop Boxer found it.

First of the basic recipe.

1.5 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 oz Creme de Cassis
0.5 oz Lime Juice
4 oz Ginger Beer

As presented you want to put your lime, jameson and cassis in your shaker, strain into your highball or collins glass and then top with ginger beer.

Not terribly complicated, it follows the standard 2/1/1 format for most “classic” cocktails.

This drink comes into the category of Buck Cocktails or Mules which are really just spirit + citrus + ginger beer.

I’ve gone over some Options for what to use as your ginger beer selection.

There are any number of fine bottled options, find one that has the amount of bite you enjoy and stick with it.  I’m fine with Cock n’ Bull but if Bundaberg is around in the store I’ll snag a 4 pack of that as it’s a nice midpoint between Cock n’ Bull and Reeds.

If you want to use Ginger Syrup I have found that a dilution of about 4 to 1 is pretty standard so 1 oz syrup to 4 oz club soda.  You can play with that if you want but it comes out pretty strong otherwise and you don’t really want the sugar in the syrup to overshadow the cassis.

Some notes about the drink itself:

I don’t personally think that the brand of whiskey involved makes much of a difference here but I think type plays a role.  Jameson is an Irish Whiskey which is going to be very different in flavor profile than say a Bourbon or a Tennessee Whiskey like Jack Daniels.  Scotch is wasted in this drink so don’t bother with anything there.  I think part of the draw on Jameson is that it lacks many of the smokey characteristics of some other whiskey and is smooth enough to work well in the drink.   Additionally it’s one of the few Irish whiskey’s you’re likely to find in a smaller bar.

For those not familiar with Creme de Cassis it is a liqueur flavored with black currants.  This is a fruit not many people have any experience with as they haven’t been actively cultivated in the US for several decades.  Their commercial cultivation was banned in the 1900’s and that ban has only slowly been lifted by a few US states, Oregon among them.  So the liqueur is a bit more common in Europe and is generally imported.  Locally Clear Creek makes a very lovely Cassis Liqueur which runs about $22.50 for a 375ml.  I’ve seen them in a number of liquor stores around the area so they aren’t hard to find they’re just not always in the same spot as the Creme de Cassis which you can generally find in fifths for $9-13.  The major differences in the two are usually sweetness and tartness.  The price on clear creek’s Cassis is higher but it is worth it for having a non-artificial taste and a very natural tartness.

One last deviation from the norm, I concocted a version I call the light-railer which swaps the Jameson and Cassis for Eastside Distilling Marionberry Whiskey.  It loses a bit of the tartness but the flavor profile of Eastside’s whiskey stands up a bit better in the cocktail and you get a much clearer whiskey flavor without a lot of extra oak barrel getting into the drink.

Boot Strap Buck

 

Boot Strap Buck

The dark interior of Kask does not lend itself to photography as can be seen in the poor quality of the photo I took that night.  I blame the light and not the 8 or 9 drinks I put away.  The first drink I had that night was a rum concoction called the Boot Strap Buck.

It is perhaps a measure of how good a drink is when you can’t substitute any of the ingredients.  If each thing is selected because it fits exactly into the slot it needs to in order to make the drink taste exactly the way it should.

In this case we start with Blackstrap rum.  I haven’t yet had a chance to really sit down a work out all the differences in the various kinds of rum, but in general most rum is made from molasses.  Blackstrap molasses is what you get after you boil sugar cane juice three times.

The Cruzan is a wonderful dark rum full of flavor and character.

Demerara sugar or turbinado sugar are whole sugar crystals that come from evaporating sugar cane juice before you boil the sugar out of the molasses.  The result is something a bit like brown sugar but with more flavor and vanilla characters.  It’s fun stuff to play with as it really gets you the best of the sugar cane flavor.

Ginger Beer is a new personal favorite, a good ginger beer has a sharp flavor and can be tasted in cocktails where gingerale falls flat.

The nutmeg is the wildcard here, it’s partly for scent, and partly for adjusting the flavor.

The whole thing is an experience that hits you on a number of different levels.  Ginger, spice, rum, lime and citrus all coming at you like a spider monkey.  Go get one, you’ll thank me later.

Bootstrapbuck tag

Ginger Rum Daisy

Ginger Rum DaisyThe thing that caught my eye at the Rogue Distillery and Public House was a drink called a daisy.  A daisy is a class of drink with no specific spirit base.  You can make one with brandy, whiskey, rum or anything really.  The basic ideal is soda water added to spirit, citrus and sweetener.   It’s a precursor to the Cosmo, the sidecar and the margarita.

The Ginger Rum Daisy is a wonderfully refreshing drink.  I chose mine with dark rum as I wanted a clear taste on this before I started playing with hazelnut.  The ginger syrup and the lemon juice are a great concoction and rum is a sweet smooth way to bring all of this together.

Because this is served over ice with soda it’s not a strong drink.  You’re not going to taste a lot of alcohol in something this large.  For the price this was a pretty good drink.  It does make me want to make my own ginger syrup since I like this drink a lot more than the Palomas I’ve been drinking lately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Rum Daisy tag

 

 

 

Drink Review: Love for Sale

love for saleThe bar at Gustav’s is not a place for terribly creative drinks but their standing menu has some very tasty items on it.  One of those that struck a chord with our party was the Love for Sale.

Firmly on the citrus end of the drink spectrum this one throws around a lot of fruit juices and not a lot of liquor.  The Absolute Mandarin is a firm base which unsurprisingly pairs well with orange juice.  I’m a big fan of passion fruit juice and the liqueur they use here gives a wonderfully round flavor.  You need the sugar rim as there is a bit of bitterness in the drink, but all together the wonderful beverage brings up tiki memories and punch ideas.

I think a dash of Oregeat syrup and a tall Tiki glass and you’d think you were at Trader Vic’s instead of a German restaurant.

We ordered at least three around the table and I think everyone had to taste it at least twice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

love for sale tag

 

 

 

 

Chipotle Margaritas

chipotleI was stunned the other day when upon entering a chain restaurant for a burrito I was presented with the option for a cocktail with my meal.  Chipotle now carries two different options for margaritas, a Patron Margarita for $6.95 and a Sauza Margarita for $4.50.   HopBoxer and I each picked one and gave them a try.

The difference in price are actually pretty indicative of the quality.

The patron is really much smoother, both are pretty good.  The cost isn’t big enough difference to want to downgrade to the Sauza.

This is an on the rocks margarita without salt, so flavors are a bit different.  They’re a little frothy which makes me think they’re using a mix rather than lime juice and triple sec.

I’m curious how many of their locations have the liquor license to do this.  Nothing on the Chipotle website seems to even indicate that they offer these drinks so it’s hard to search for anything concrete.

I’m also a little leery of the concept mesh here.  Chipotle is a fast, fresh food kind of place.  They’re nicely appointed but they don’t really make me want to stick around so getting a 12-16oz cocktail that I can’t drive away with locks me into either avoiding it or walking home.

 

Drink Review: Cherry Lime Flip

If you’ve read any of the history on my blog you can pretty easily find my own version of the Cherry-Lime.cherry flip

It doesn’t take much to make something like this, there are a dozen different ways you can put cherry, soda and lime together.  Breaking down the differences would be a work of years.

This little number came from a family dinner at Red Robin.

They call it the Cherry Lime Flip.  You can see the general ingredients below.  The cherry flavor is coming from the Skyy vodka and the cherries themselves.  Given the color I think there might be some cherry syrup involved but that could be coming from the grenadine.

I have to question the addition of grenadine here, nothing says wtf? in a drink quicker than the wrong fruit.  Then I remembered that a franchise like this is more than likely using a super fake grenadine that is more corn syrup and dye than pomegranate juice.

It’s a very drinkable little number.  I’m not getting the lime that I wanted to out of this and the cherry is very fake being a vodka flavoring but I’d have it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cherry flip recipe

The Glazed Jelly Donut: Drink Review

I ordered this drink at the Jolly Roger in John’s Landing.  On the menu it was called a Glazed Jelly Donut and while the name is apt it’s not really a description of the taste.

The drink was constructed in the glass with ice and looks to comprise:

1.5 oz 360 Glazed Donut Vodka
1 oz Svedka Raspberry Vodka
Fill glass with club soda, add splash of cream

Flavor wise the drink was great for about the first two sips.  Once I had a chance to stir it up a bit the entire thing when flat and watery.

I can see why this isn’t shaken, the club soda would fizz out and you’d have a mess to clean up.  But in the glass this isn’t anything fancy.

It could be that the bartender wasn’t familiar with the drink, or it could just be a badly constructed drink.  I think there is potential here but it needs some effort.

If I were going to make this at home I would do the following.

1.5 oz 360 Glazed Donut Vodka
1 oz Clear Creek Raspberry Liqueur
Splash of cream
3-5 Raspberries

In bar glass, muddle raspberries.  Add alcohol ingredients, shake with ice.  Strain into chilled glass, float cream on top.

Enjoy folks.

Rant: Lame-a-rita

limearita

American beers got a bad rap for a long time.  They still generally get spit on in the beer drinking world outside of a few of the up and coming smaller brands.  Being a big named beer brand does let you experiment in the market a bit since your standby product is holding down the fort.  It is in this spirit that I think someone at Anheuser-Busch elected to put their stamp on this new product the Lime-A-Rita canned malt beverage.

As I’ve said before, making your own margaritas is so easy you could probably still whip up a pitcher with massive head trauma.  But with two very high proof liquors in them they’re not generally the kind of thing you can put in a can or bottle and sell as single serving options.  The degeneration of the margarita market is such that people are willing to swill anything that is vaguely limey and has the right amount of booze in it.  Observe the Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville Automated Drink Makers.  They’re kitschy fun and if you’re already three sheets to the wind it might help to have a robot to mix your drinks for you but they’re generally for those making frozen drinks and not looking for classic cocktails.

Let us examine the product a bit here.  An 8 ounce can was on special for about a dollar and contains 8% ABV making this in the same category as MD 20/20 for cost-to-drunk ratio.

From the label I see that this is a Bud Light product.  Debatable if that means it’s like a beer or if that’s simply the header they wanted to put it under.  Budweiser isn’t about to start putting the frilly chick drinks and malt beverages under their primary label, but the Bud Light brand is already kinda fru-fru from being a diet beer so a malt drink isn’t going to tarnish their image.

As a sub-header this is apparently a Bud Light Lime product.  Which further confuses me, is this a beer or a malt drink?  Am I expecting a beer with some kind of odd lime twist or something designed to compete with the Mike’s Hard and Smirnoff Malt drinks on the shelf?  The side of the can says “Flavored Ale” but what that means in context is anyone’s guess.

The tasting did not answer any of the above questions.  The can says enjoy over ice and I have to agree.  I took a couple of swigs from a chilled can and was not at all impressed.  The taste was chemical up front with a beer bitterness rather than an orange bitterness from triple sec.  The lime taste was artificial but not the good kind like you get from lime salt or those hint of lime corn chips.  This was a very strong blast of lime-ness unlike actual lime juice.  None of the citrus bite, or the facial heat you get from a good sour.

I think it’s funny that in this day and age where we know everything about our food down to the gluten content of the packaging that alcohol still doesn’t have to disclose ingredients.

Sure, trade secrets and all that, but this thing is a powerful argument in the other direction.  All I know about this thing is that it has alcohol in it and may have some form of natural flavoring and caramel color.  Beyond that it could be made from fermented candy bars for all I know.

Once I put the drink over ice it took some of the sting out of that early bitterness but I cannot say that the flavor was improved in the least.  Lacking a clear set of peers to compare this to I cannot really say if it’s a bad attempt at a flavored light beer or a disastrous attempt to compete with Zima for least missed malt beverage.