Mudder’s Milk

” [Zhe shi shen me lan dong xi!?] ~ “What is this garbage!?” – Hoburn Wash
“Mudder’s Milk –  All the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma’s best turkey dinner, plus 15% alcohol.” – Jayne Cobb
“It’s horrific!” – Hoburn Wash

A long time ago in a television show that got quickly canceled there appeared a fandom.  Firefly’s bare half season and 1 movie have sparked a joyful cult following well in excess of the actual weight of its’ actual run.  If you’re not a fan I highly recommend it as a series, it’s not a long watch binge wise and rewards re-watching extensively.

In episode 6 titled “Jaynestown” the crew enters a bar on a moon full of indentured workers.  The drink of choice is called Mudder’s Milk and is as referenced above, both nourishing and foul.  Fans have proceeded to attempt to create the drink with everything from pureed tiger bars to meticulously tested oatmeal stout home brew formulas.  During a drunken late night game of Cards against humanity at a convention I was challenged by a ships alchemist to come up with something better since I had spent the majority of the night complaining about all of the bad options around online.

The Challenge was accepted back in 2013 and quickly sparked at least 4-5 months of testing, cooking and drinking.  I think my own personal feeling on the subject was that whatever the resulting drink would be, it had to be drinkable or the entire thing was simply a waste of time.

To start with let me lay out the final recipe.

Per Serving

1/3 Rolled Oatmeal
2/3 cup Water
1/2 Apple
1 Tbsp White Sugar
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 Tsp Ground Allspice
2 Tsp Ground Nutmeg

1 1/2 oz Irish Cream
1 oz Spiced Rum

Much of the prep for this recipe can be performed in advance.  This is intentional as this is intended for camping as well as breakfast drinking.

Pre-Prep:

Step 1: Using a food processor, blender or spice mill, process rolled oats until they are of a uniform size similar to flour.
Step 2: Place 1 Tsp each of spices and oat flour, into a small container with a lid.
Step 3: Peel, core, and dice apple.
Step 4: Place apples, 1 Tsp of each spice, white sugar, and 1/3 cup of water into a small saucepan over med-low heat.  Simmer for 20-30 mins.
Step 5: Remove apples from heat, allow to cool.
Step 6: Process apples to desired consistency.  This can be done with a stick blender, chinoise, food mill, or strainer and spatula.  Anywhere from chunky to applesauce is fine.
Step 7: Place apple mix in lidded container and refrigerate.

Plating:

 

Step 1: Place oatmeal/spice mix into container with 1/3 cup water.  Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator or ice chest.
Step 2: Open oatmeal, drain off any remaining water.
Step 3: Add brown sugar and 1-2 Tbspn of apple mixture and stir well.
Step 4: Spoon Apple/oatmeal mix into a glass
Step 5: Add Irish Cream and Rum to glass, stir thoroughly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of trial and error went into the creation of this drink.  I attempted to use everything from heavy cream to apple butter during this process.  As I said above the total research and testing took the better part of 4 months to complete but the results are excellent.  I encourage you to check my previous posts on the subject if you’re curious at all about the process.

Mudder’s Milk: Part the First

Mudder’s Milk 2: The Worthier Part

Mudder’s Milk 3: I Call Her Vera

Mudder’s Milk 4: Coming to a Middle

Mudder’s Milk 5: Big Damn Heroes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distilleries of Portland

You can be forgiven for thinking that Portland Oregon is the distillery capital of the country.  Our neighbor/hat to the north Washington has significantly more even just inside the Seattle city limits but their distribution around town makes any kind of reasonable tour more difficult.  The density and number of distilleries who have landed in downtown PDX makes it one of the most interesting places to sample distilled spirits around.

The Portland Distillery Row in the SE industrial district has continued to grow since my last post about them and even more since my last attempt at a distillery crawl.  Most notably the other side of the river has gotten into the act and formed the Northwest Distiller’s District.  Nominally just the 3 distilleries off of NW 23rd between Quimby and Vaughn it has since expanded somewhat to include Indio Spirits’ new tasting room in the Pearl district.  One hopes that Glaser in the Pearl will get the hint and jump on board as well but who knows what the future will bring.

All of this (except Glaser) is covered in the Portland Distillery Passport which is now produced and managed by Proof PDX, which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with PROOF the Washington Distillers Guild convention. (The Oregon Distiller’s guild convention is called TOAST).  The passport is still $20 which is a fantastic deal for all of the stuff that it now includes.  One caveat that I haven’t had to test yet is they want to limit you to 6 visits per day.  The passport covers 11 distilleries and from what I can see doesn’t actually expire.  There is a web version of the passport for the same price, but it only lasts for a year. I couldn’t figure out what it was going to do before it tried to charge me and I was more comfortable with an app than a website log in so I passed and went with a physical copy that you can get at any location.

On the west side

On the East Side:

National Tequila Day

Happy made-up-holiday recognition day!  July 24th is National Tequila day.  At least according to someone with a vested interest in keeping mentions of tequila in the news.

In the spirit of exploiting cheap excuses to write puff pieces about a given subject to fill airtime I give you a short listing of my best posts about Tequila from the last several years.

Understanding the Tequila NOM  – How to know where your tequila came from and who made it.
Sparkle Donkey Tequila  – The best tequila bottled in Seattle with a name you’ll never forget.

 

 

 

Tequila Sunset Cocktail  – Something I came up with to try out grenadine
Rhulmans Paloma  – A great cocktail idea I stole from Imbibe magazine
Make your own Margarita Mix  – Ditch the bottle mixes, make your own with very simple ingredients.

Chipotle Margaritas  –  Your final reminder that even fast casual places want to sell you cocktails in this day and age.

 

Accounting, Inventory and Pour Cost

A while back one of my heroes (Jeffrey Morganthaler) posted a spreadsheet that helped bartenders and program managers calculate pour cost for drinks.

The sheet was great but the ensuing comment thread showed me exactly how much of a gap there is in the business world between functional knowledge and practical knowledge.

Specifically the first thing you need to know about your bar is how you account for inventory.  In some cases it won’t matter as much.  In some control States such as Oregon the price you pay for your liquor isn’t likely to change as often or as much as it would through a distributor.

Inventory can be accounted for in one of three ways,  First in last out, first in first out, and weighted average.

For FILO the bottle you bought first is the one you use last,  think of it like a shelf where that first bottle is always at the back and new product is placed in front.  This isn’t a method you’ll want to use if you don’t ever run out of things.  Because when prices change the current stuff is always what determines the cost rather than the potentially more expensive bottle from last year at the back.

For FIFO think of the shelf like the beer freezer at the convenience store.  It is stocked from the rear so the customer is always buying the oldest product first.  This has the benefit of always keeping your costs current but relies on always having a rotating stock in play.

Since some bottles move quickly where others might languish until a shot or two are poured the best method to figure out your costs is called weighted average.

In this system you need to do a bit more tracking and you need to pick one.

The reason for this is that pour cost is better used not as an after the fact accounting but as a method for determining how your pricing works for individual drinks.

Pour cost incorporates all of the costs involved in putting a drink on the table from overhead to labor.  The percentage you get from the above calculation only tells you if the percentage of  the cost that accounts for alcohol is in keeping with the pricing of your drinks.

How Do I Ship Alcohol?

Every Christmas season shoppers the country over are buying presents for relatives in the form of bottles of wine, beer and spirits.  They’re thinking of stuffy in-laws who like their single malt and brothers who just want a taste of the local craft distillate. When they get the whole thing wrapped they get a severe shock at the post office when they try to ship it.

USPS

The USPS publication 52 on Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail lists liquor with a ABV of 0.5% or higher as prohibited.  That means the US mail is a no-go for anything even remotely drinkable.

Big Shippers

The two other major delivery services UPS and FedEx have the following to say.

UPS does not accept shipments of beer or alcohol for delivery to consumers.

And

Only licensed entities holding a state and federal license or retailers holding a state license may ship alcohol with FedEx. Consumers may not ship alcohol.

Several of these companies will ship to a licensed receiver if you are also licensed.  It took some digging to find, but the license they are talking about is a state permit to produce or sell alcohol.  In most cases this would be the same one you would have as a brewery, distillery, bar or winery.  It is possible that the shipping portion is an add-on to the basic license but this kind of thing varies from state to state so it’s impossible to say what the local regulations are for sure without a lot more digging.

What I can tell you is that the costs of a license vary all over from a $0 permit in Missouri to  South Carolina’s $650 fee.  Since each state would require a separate license and it appears you would need a license in both the state you are shipping from and the state you are shipping to, the costs add up quite quickly and the application lead times make last minute shopping impossible for such a simple purchase.  The need for 50+ license with appropriate rolling fees also means most breweries, wineries and distillers are not going to hold the requisite approvals to ship your purchase out of state.

Others

On the Grey Market side of shipping there are websites like Uship.com where one can proffer shipments to be taken by private services from here to there.  Since the jobs are bid on by the various haulers there isn’t a fixed price but the estimate tool on their site does allow you to select alcohol as your product.  I punched in two zip codes on either side of town, a trip of about 40 minutes in the right traffic and was presented with a bid of just over $200 for a 5 lb bottle of liquor.

Hand Delivery

If you have the desire, you can take the bottle to your loved one yourself.  According to the TSA you can take ,any quantity of alcohol (in checked bags) at less than 24% ABV as it isn’t regulated.  You may also take up to 5 Liters (a little over 6 normal bottles) of alcohol in you checked luggage so long as none of it exceeds 70% ABV.  Anything above 140 proof is right out.  For some more long winded and detailed info about taking alcohol into and out of the country see this post.

Carry-on still has the dumb limits on bringing liquids on board unless you managed to buy an overpriced bottle at the duty free shop.

One serious exception to the shipping rules are for wineries.  Several states, many of them big wine producers have joined a common cause pact.  Under this pact people may visit a winery, buy a bottle and have it shipped to their home.  The purchase is treated as if it occurred in their home state and the winery takes care of all the necessary paperwork.  This is a nice benefit if you’re taking a trip through Napa or seeing the sights of the Oregon Wine country, but not so great for beer drinkers or whiskey lovers.

Yeast Cultures

For years beer brewers have been shipping homebrew suds by calling the product live yeast cultures as a gentle fiction for shipping purposes.  If you absolutely must ship your product for the love of god don’t use the USPS.  It is actually a crime to do so where for UPS and Fedex it’s simply against company policy.  When using an alternate shipper ensure your bottles are packed in boxes without a lot of dead space.  Ensure adequate packing material to prevent impact damage.  Bubble wrap is preferred but inflatable pillows are also excellent if you can get them.  Lastly, don’t ship more than one bottle at a time.  If you have appropriate packaging you can risk it but the bottles are more likely to break each other than they are to fall to something outside.

Drinks on a Plane

AirbagI’m not a frequent traveler.  I seem to have found my location in the universe and seldom wander far from home.  On the rare occasion that I do travel, flight is not my preferred method.  I have nothing against it, it simply has gotten too hairy since the TSA started their security theater project.

In particular I dislike not having access to my own beverages.  Having to toss a perfectly good bottle of water and purchase another at the exorbitant airport prices is galling.  Even worse if you want to drink on the plane or in the airport you can have the added experience of highway robbery without ever leaving the plane.

In flight beverages can be even worse.  A single airplane bottle of crown royal that goes for $1.50 on the ground can run $7-$10 in the air.  Admittedly you can get a free coke and ice to go with it but that’s still a pretty hefty markup.

With a little careful planning you can drink on the plane and avoid paying out the nose for it.

It turns out that there is a little loophole in the TSA regulations.  You can bring any liquid through the security check so long as it is A) Less than 3.4 oz and B) fits into a quart size zip-top bag.  This means if you are willing to make due to hotel shampoo you can use that quart size bag to bring almost a dozen 50ml bottles of various alcohols onto the plane with you.

I have confirmed all of this through personal experience.

Even a couple of bottles of personal stash can make the difference between a good flight and a poor one.

Some things to keep in mind:
Don’t let the attendants see you open them, it’s just easier to avoid the hassle of having them tell you to put it away.
Plan your cocktails.  Getting free mixers from the drink cart is great.  Having a handful of single malts and a bottle of jagermeister to help them along is not.
Don’t overdo it.  Being drunk and disorderly on a plane is a great way to end up in federal prison.

Lastly, I came across this after my trip but I fully plan to snag a couple for road trips and future flights.

Jack Rudy Carry-on Cocktail Kit

Bourbon Heritage: The Whiskey Rebellion

rebellionIt may seem a little unusual now but until the passage of the federal income tax via the 16th amendment in 1913 the federal government received almost three quarters of their revenue from alcohol taxes.

After the end of the revolutionary war the federal government had racked up something in the order of $54 million in war debt.  By 1789 the debt had become a problem and by 1791 the government had found a solution in the form of excise taxes on distilled spirits.

This was the first time the government had imposed a tax on domestically produced goods.  This was especially hard on farming communities in the “western” part of the country.  Whiskey was used to convert excess grain into a cash crop which given the lack of a national currency was a common medium of exchange.

The rebellion started in 1791 with the tarring and feathering of a tax collector.  Followed by the murder of a process server, delivering papers to the tax collector’s murderers.  Tax offices were burned and the federal response was the brutal suppression of the dissenters.

The entire affair can and does occupy several books of history but the end result is that the rebellion failed and many of the people involved left Pennsylvania moving westward and south into what would eventually become Kentucky, Tennessee and the rest of the bourbon belt.

All your favorite brands in one way or another owe their existence to those Pennsylvania Rye makers who fought hard to keep their moonshine.

What is the difference between Whiskey, Rye, Scotch and Bourbon?

6156035_origI had an opportunity to work in a distillery retail store, which is much like a standard liquor store only with a limited selection.  People of all types came along with questions like “do you sell scotch?”  At first I was befuddled, that people could be so ignorant of what they were drinking.  After a couple of weeks I stopped wondering and started pulling out the details so I could really answer people’s questions.  One of the most prominent was “What is Bourbon?”

This is actually a much deeper question than it first appears because it comes right on the heels of the more important question, “What is whisk(e)y?”

The term whiskey simply means any grain spirit distilled to less than 160 proof, barreled at no more than 125 proof and aged in an oak barrel.

Bourbon, Rye and Single Malt whiskeys are all sub-types of whiskey that specify a specific grain type that predominates.  So you could make whiskey with 20% each of corn, rye, barley, quinoa and wheat but you could never call the resulting franken-whiskey anything other than just whiskey.  If you have at least 51% of rye you can call it a rye whiskey but anything less and you’re stuck with the general label.  Please keep in mind that much of what I’m going to discuss here is based on American regulations or American trade deals with other countries.  Some things could be different outside the US and I’m also not a lawyer or an expert on TTB regulations.

Aging and the White Dog

The aging stipulation is actually a funny bit.  The rules say you have to age it, but not how long.  Another loophole is that predominantly corn whiskey can be sold unaged.  This is where moonshine comes from.  Moonshine or White Dog is a kind of unaged whiskey where the product spends as little time as possible in a barrel.  In some cases this is simply the time it takes to pump the liquor into and out of the barrel.  Some distilleries like House Spirits let their White Dog rest for as long as 3 days.  Because there is no regulation on the term white dog anyone can use it to mean any number of things.  So if a label says white dog but not whiskey then chances are it doesn’t contain the right amount of corn or that they age it in something other than oak, if at all.  Moonshine is also an unregulated term so it could just as easily refer to a sugar based spirit as shown in Pink Panty Dropper Watermelon Moonshine.

If the whiskey has been aged for at least 2 years and contains no other flavoring or coloring additives it may also be labeled as Straight Whiskey.  This can be applied to any type from Straight Rye to Straight Bourbon.  If a whiskey is over two years it gets the option to be called straight, it’s not a requirement but if you see straight on the label you can infer something about the age.

Beyond that the rules regarding age are rather complicated.  That is a link to the TTB regulations on Age, whiskey occupies a full 6 pages of this 16 page document.  The big take away is that if the spirit is less than 4 years old then an age statement is required.

Bourbon

Bourbon is actually a sub-type of corn whiskey, where corn whiskey requires at least 80% corn in the initial mash bourbon is less stringent and requires only 51% or greater.

All bourbons are aged in new charred american oak barrels, this statement requires some parsing.  New means unused previously, only fresh barrels are used for each batch.  This means that some of the flavors and mellowing involved in the contact between alcohol and wood never gets to carry over from batch to batch.  Additionally it means that there are quite a few used bourbon barrels on the market as the distillery can’t reuse old barrels for bourbon.  These get snapped up by beer brewers, rum makers and scotch distillers for use in their own less stringent aging processes.

The next part of the statement is charred, this means that the barrel will be imparting both color and flavor to the spirit as the charcoal filters the spirit over time.  Uncharred barrels will generally do this to some degree but never to the same extent that even a lightly charred barrel will.  Charring is not an on or off process.  Barrels can be charred or toasted to any number of degrees which allows the distiller to control how quickly and to what extent flavors will be imparted over the aging process.

Lastly we come to American Oak, this is important because there are actually many species of white oak from American to French and even an Oregon specific variety.  Each has a slightly different character due to climate, soil and species that can impart drastically different flavors to the finished product.  For a prime example I suggest tasting the Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon alongside its 4 year counterpart and compare the differences.  Requiring a specific species limits the range of flavors that the wood can vary from and also gives a healthy kick to the American Cooperage industry.

Bourbon has some other finicky bits about barrel strength, bottle strength and such but most of these don’t impact the differences between other whiskey.

Tennessee Whiskey

As bourbon is a sub-type of corn whiskey, so too is Tennessee Whiskey a sub-type of bourbon.  Only recently defined by Tennessee state law they have defined Tennessee Whiskey as a bourbon that undergoes the Lincoln County Process.

This means that first off the producers in Tennessee have to adhere to all of the normal restrictions for bourbon with regard to content, age, and process.  The Lincoln County Process refers to a process where the raw unaged bourbon is filtered through sugar maple charcoal prior to being cut and barreled.  This is not an exact process as different distilleries will either soak or trickle the whiskey through the charcoal and will do so at differing proofs and temperatures.

Funny Story, none of the distilleries that use the Lincoln county process are actually IN Lincoln county.  Jack Daniels, George Dickel and several others are located in next door Moore County and have been for most of their existence.  A little digging shows that Moore county was created out of parts of Lincoln county sometime in the 1850’s which means it’s not a new change.

Additionally, the only distillery actually in Lincoln county is Prichard’s.  Through an amazing example of targeted lobbying Prichard’s managed to get an exception to the Tennessee law added which exempts them from the requirement to use charcoal filtering on the basis that they have never used it before.  The law was originally sponsored by Jack Daniels and so I don’t really see much wrong with other distillers getting their digs in against a law which promotes exactly the process JD has been using for over a hundred years.  What makes it funny is that Prichard’s has only been around since 1997 and was able to have enough sway to get something like this done.

Rye Whiskey

Legally a Rye Whiskey is one in which the grain content has at least 51% rye.  As explained above bourbon is primarily corn with the remainder being composed of things like rye and wheat.  It is therefore possible to have a rye and a bourbon in which the difference in the content is a 2% change from rye to corn.

I can’t actually name any whiskey that meets this definition as most companies do not publish their grain bill but under the rules it is possible.

Rye tends to have a spicier flavor as compared to the mellow notes of wheat.  Rye also has a fairly distinctive aroma.  Rye is aged in oak like most other whiskey but unlike bourbon does not have the same level of restrictions on how it is produced and under what circumstances.

This leads to a lot more variance in how rye is composed and a lot less consistency across various brands.  Many major brands offer a Rye from Bulleit‘s rather traditional offering to the Ri-One craziness from beam-suntory.

Scotchy Scotch Scotch

First off all scotch is made in Scotland.  If it’s made outside of Scotland the definition gets a bit more murky but some alternative names include American Single Malt, Single Malt, Malt Whisky, and of course he catch all Whisky (no e).  The second big requirement for all of the types in this category is that they use predominantly barley or malted barley in their grain bill.  Third Scotch is aged for three years in oak casks.

When they say made in Scotland they get really picky, it must be processed, converted, fermented, distilled, aged, bottled and labeled IN Scotland.

Their naming guidelines are equally odd.  You cannot use the name of a distillery on the bottle unless the product actually came from there.  This is in contrast to the US where we are presently having our own growing pains with non-distilling producers.

Single Malt Whisky is actually three terms and not one.  The Single portion means how many distilleries were involved in the process.  Single means it all happens in one shop, Blended means more than one distillery’s product was combined into the results.  Malt means that the contents are 100% malted barley, if instead it said grain it would mean that other cereal grains were used in the grain bill.

More interesting still is that the laws in Scotland actually prohibit the production of non-scotch whisky.  So you will likely never see a Scottish bourbon, or a good Scottish rye.  It would take forever to list out the more salient details of the various kinds of scotch and I’m nothing like an expert on any of them but suffice to say they are many, manifold and delicious.

As to American Single Malts there have been a number of them arising over the years and several of them have outperformed ancient named Scottish brands in tasting competitions.

Irish Whiskey

Previously one of the most popular types of whiskey, Irish Whiskey has taken a pretty hard fall over the years.  Generally similar to scotch, there are considerably fewer restrictions on how it is produced.  For one thing most Irish whiskey is distilled three times compared to two for scotch.  It is also aged for three years.  Beyond that, it simply has to have the character of the component grains to qualify.

For such a famous spirit it is very strange that there are only a bare dozen distilling operations in the entire country.  The most famous of which are the distilleries producing Jameson and Bushmills.

What is Malting?

You might only hear the term Malt when talking about scotch but the process itself is used in a number of areas.  Essentially what happens is that grains are exposed to water and then allowed to sprout, this begins the process of converting the stored starch in the grain into sugar.  The grains are then very rapidly dried and the process stopped creating a product with a lot of accessible sugar and a high content of the enzyme which breaks down starches already active and ready to go.  Any grain can be malted but it is not necessary to put this fact on the label, so if you see malted *grain* on your whiskey it was the distiller’s choice to put that there.

In general this provides for a more rapid fermentation than using unmalted product.  Additionally, barley contains a much higher concentration of the enzyme than other grains which makes malted barley an excellent product for kickstarting the fermentation process in other grains which might take much longer to begin fermenting on their own.

It is also how you begin the process of fermenting things like potatoes which do not normally contain enzymes of their own and would otherwise not ferment.

More recently synthetic enzymes have come on the market allowing distillers to produce similar results without the addition of barley to their products.

What is Sour Mash?

Sour Mash is another optional label component.  The process is a bit like keeping a bit of sourdough starter to begin your next batch.  Some of the fermented mash from a previous batch is added to new washes to allow some of the original yeast strains to carry over.  This has a big impact on flavor and most of the best whiskey is sour mashed whether they say so on the label or not.

A list of terms that don’t actually mean anything

Handcrafted
Small Batch
Barrel Aged
Cask Strength
Moonshine
Single Barrel

Tonic Water Comparison

toniclineupMy favorite liquor by far has to be Gin.  There can be no greater expression of gin’s history and utility than the simple gin and tonic.  To that end I am always on the hunt for the next great tonic water.

History

Tonic water itself has a long history and it all starts with the main ingredient Quinine.

Quinine is used for two major purposes, the first is flavoring tonic water and the second is fighting malaria.  The entire reason to make tonic water in the first place was to serve it to people worked in malaria ridden portions of the world.

Quinine was originally derived from the bark of a south american tree called the Cinchona.  A hardy little tree that grows at very high altitudes in the Andes mountains.  The Cinchona contains several alkaloid chemicals and was shown to the Spanish by South American natives sometime between 1560 and 1782.

Because the chemical was so effective a treatment and malaria so common in parts of the world being actively explored at the time, use of the bark as a medicine became common among sailors in the Spanish and English navies.  When combined with the sailor’s ration of lime juice to ward off scurvy and their gin ration you have the beginnings of the gin and tonic as it spread across the British empire.

Modern tonic water bears very little resemblance to that originally crafted in its heyday.  The difference between a recreational use and a medical use is significant.  The US FDA limits tonic water to no more than 83mg per liter while a therapeutic dose is closer to 500-1000 mgs.

As a result modern tonics are less bitter and often sweetened resulting in problems for those seeking to create classic cocktails from older bar guides.

The Contenders

I have assembled five of the top contenders to the crown of #1 tonic water.  Discounting my own house made tonic syrup they are as follows:

Schweppes: Dating back to the 1780s Schweppes claims the title of oldest soft drink in the world.  The company has undergone some changes over the years as it has been bought and sold.  Schweppes brand is currently owned by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group based in Plano, Tx.  They also produce Canada Dry so I saw no reason to include that brand here as they are functionally pretty similar.

Fentimens: Using a recipe that dates back to 1905 the current Fentimens company was relaunched by the Great Grandson of the founder in 1988.  They claim to ferment and brew their sodas for 7 days.

Fever Tree: Based in London, UK their first product released 2005 was their premium Indian Tonic water.  They have since followed up with a number of variants including a naturally light, elder flower and Mediterranean variety.

Q Tonic: Founded in 2004 and based in New York.  Q drinks strives to make a high quality tonic water. They have also released a number of other lines including ginger beer, grapefruit and lemon.

Bradley’s Kina Tonic: Based in Seattle, WA and created in June of 2013 Bradley’s was the result of successful kickstarter campaign.  At present the Kina Tonic is the only product they have.  Unlike the others Bradley’s is a syrup which requires the addition of carbonated water.

The Rules

To make for a fair comparison we need to get each of these into an equal solution.  With one syrup on the bill that means figuring out a fair dilution.  Bradley’s website calls for 0.75 oz of syrup to 3 oz club soda.

So as a baseline we should use 3.75 oz of each product in out setup.

I don’t want to extend much above 5 oz total but a 1.5 oz shot of gin should be sufficient to make things work.

London Dry is the traditional element to use in this case and so I’m going to try two gins, Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray.  Both should give the more significant juniper flavors that this needs.

So our finished recipe should be:

3.75 oz Tonic water
1.5 oz Gin
Small twist of lime

With five competitors and two gins this is going to be a struggle to complete, but I throw myself on that grenade for you dear reader.

The Results

Flavor

In the end I wound up doing this in a couple of batches.  I brought the bottles with me and had various people taste them both with and without gin.

5. Schweppes: About what you’d expect, pretty mild.  Slightly sweet with low to minimum bitterness.  Rated lowest of all of the options.

4. Q Tonic: Lacking the corn syrup of schweppes Q tonic rated slightly higher with all testers.  The flavor was cleaner but also significantly more bitter.

3. Fentimens: There is a distinct lemony flavor to this tonic likely from the use of lemon extract or citrus oil in addition to the citric acid.  It was the only one of the bottles that disclosed the exact flavoring ingredients so it’s likely that others had similar items just in lower amounts.

2. Fever Tree: A close tie with the Fentimens for favorite bottled the fever tree was by far the smoothest of the five for flavor with gin.

1. Bradley’s: The far out winner for flavor was the bradley’s tonic.  I don’t think it was entirely fair as the Bradley’s was built as a flavorful tincture rather than a simple tonic but most people sampled were far more impressed with the flavor of this than any other tonics.

Price and Availability 

It should be said that all of these can be bought over the internet for similar prices as what you’d find in stores.

1. Schweppes – $1.25 for 1L, available pretty much everywhere.
2. Q Tonic – $2.29 for 9oz, Found it in three grocery stores and a number of liquor stores in various sizes
3. Fever Tree – $2.75 for 16.9oz, also in a four pack of 200ml for about $14, found in a couple of specialty stores
4. Fentimens – $3 for 9.3oz, found it in only one store and it wasn’t the kind of place I would normally expect
5. Bradley’s $10 for 8oz – this is the equivalent of about 11 doses at 3/4oz

Final Thoughts

The schweppes, Bradley’s and Fever Tree all have screw caps that close well keeping the carbonation in long enough to use up a whole bottle.  The Q tonic does come in cans and larger bottles with screw caps but the volume is daunting unless you’re throwing a G&T party.  Most of these recommend using the product within three days of opening so gauge your need versus the quantity because it goes flat quickly.

Again Bradley’s comes out the clear winner here because it keeps longer in the fridge and can be used in any quantity you want, the need for club soda to mix is a drawback but having a soda stream on hand makes that an easy adjustment.  It is sold in fewer places but obviously can be bought less often and stored for longer periods.

Portland Distillery Crawl: Mk II

Distillery RowPortland’s Distillery scene is expanding and exploding.  A recent article about local distilling pegged the number of distilleries at just over 27 between Forest Grove and Troutdale.  This is a staggering number and even more so when you consider that I can think of at least 1 they missed.  In the state of Oregon at large there are 35+ that fall under craft distilling and likely several more that aren’t on the radar beyond a street sign.

In my original Post I outlined some basic stops for a good distillery crawl.  Since then at least 2 new locations have opened on distillery row and some new west side locations have become worth the trip out to the suburbs.

 

 

East Side:

There are two outliers on the Distillery row.  Wild Roots distilling is on NE 6th and Couch, this is easily 15 blocks from the next stop on the row.  Stone Barn Brandy works is on SE 19th and Sandy, 24 blocks from their next most southerly neighbor.  While Wild roots is new they have only two products listed, Stone Barn however has over a dozen at various times and is well worth the trip.  If you have to cut one or the other out for time I would suggest starting at stone barn and then parking near House Spirits and walking the rest of the row.

Some new eateries have sprung up in the last few years as well.  Next door to Bunk Bar is the Boke Bowl a relatively new asian food place that has some wonderful noodles, steam buns and drinks.

On 12th and Hawthorne is one of the best food truck pods in Portland.  Despite recent shakeups and the  threat of their lot being turned into mixed use apartments they have endured and signed a new lease, visit now for crepes, mexican food, whiffy pies and BBQ.  Plus across the street is Lardo.

Around the corner from Stone Barn is 50 Licks Ice cream where you can get a taste of Portland’s hand dipped ice cream culture AND cocktails in the same building.

West Side:

Less of a crawl and more of a road trip, but there are a number of places worth hitting up on the west side.  In the downtown area there are still the steadfast likes of Clear Creak and Bull Run Distilling, each close enough to hit in quick succession.

Far out in the depths of Tigard is Indio Spirits, with 11+ products on their menu and one of the older distilleries in the area they are well worth finding.  Their flights are small but have larger samples so bring friends and share to get a better idea of the full line.

Even further out in yet another unassuming business part you will find Bootleg Botanicals, Big Bottom Distilling, Tualatin Valley Distilling and Vertigo Brewing.  Located just off Cornelius Pass Road near Cornell, many are not open for tastings every day.  Their out of the way nature means zero foot traffic, so some like Big Bottom are only open on Saturday or by appointment.  Be sure to plan accordingly, check schedules and likely call ahead.  Knowing how distillers hours run they could forget to open entirely if they aren’t sure anyone is coming.

Planning the Perfect Crawl

Driving: First and foremost I cannot stress enough the need for a designated driver.  Not all of these places are close enough together to walk and given the versatility of Oregon weather you do not want to rely on your feet to get you everywhere.

Packages: Second, check out PDX Distillery Row.  At $20 it is by far the best value in the city for tasting what the various distilleries have to offer.  The passport is good all year which removes some of the immediacy in trying to hit all 7 locations in one day.

Dates are important, some of these places are not open 7 days a week.  Some aren’t even open 2 days a week so planning for any given day is important.  I recommend Saturday as a prime day, most places are open the longest on the weekends.

Time, some of these places have only 1 or 2 offerings.  Some have over a dozen.  The amount of time you and your group can take sampling at any one is going to vary greatly depending on the length of time you spend sipping and how long you spend listening to the patter about the drink itself.  In general tasting rooms are going to be open from around 11am to 6pm.  It is possible to hit up to 7 locations in one day if you get started early and have an experienced guide, otherwise plan to hit the places that most interest you first on the chance that you will run out of time to do them later.

Food.  Eat before, and make sure you eat something relatively filling.  There are any number of great places to catch lunch before you head out.  The Green Dragon on SE 9th has Rogue Brewing’s great selection of sandwhiches, Oven and Shaker does a great Brunch, hunt around it’s a great chance to find some out of the way Portland Food.

FOOD!  Take a snack break after your first 3-4 stops.  You’ve likely just downed the equivalent of 8-9 oz of random shots.  Time to take a quick breather and reload before you hit the next couple.  Grab some pie, or debris fries.  Take a half hour to work some of that stuff and get the better part of the botanicals away from your digestive tract.

Storage is important, if you’re taking more than 1-2 people with you be aware that you will buy things.  There is too much good stuff for anyone to pass up entirely and after three or four drinks your ability to say no to a good deal somewhat evaporates.  Carting an armfull of bottles around with you from shop to shop is a hassle.  Be sure your transport has space for everything and is handy for when you buy.

Costs:  While distilleries are not required to charge for their samples, most do.  The only one I’ve encountered that was entirely free was Clear creek.  Most others offer a single $5 tasting platter of 4-5 tastes.  Some will do $1 single tastes, others like Eastside have deluxe and premium flights that offer higher end offerings.  If you’re not doing the distillery row passport expect to spend at least $5 per person per location.  You can get this cost waived if you make a purchase in some places but not all.