Sorel by Jack from Brooklyn

27147_hrI recently found the website Gear Patrol and they turned me on to a number of new liqueurs via this article.  One of the more interesting was Sorel by Jack from Brooklyn.  The only current product of this Brooklyn producer the Sorel liqueur is a 30 proof blend of hibiscus and spice in a neutral base.  At 29.90 for a 750ml bottle this seems a little expensive for a liqueur.  The article hit the nail on head that this is a bottle that screams Fall Cocktail.  A combination of cassia, ginger, clove, and hibiscus makes for a very mulled wine extraction and the dark color does nothing to dispel that intention.

Solo, I think this is best taken at room temperature or higher.  Citrus notes can be found more easily at that point and the chill brings a bit too much of the clove forward giving it a musty off-putting flavor.  Vodka and gin drinks spring to mind with any number of other ideas involving fortified wines like port or sherry coming along after.  I want to see some cocktails with orange bitters, dark rum or a crisp wheat vodka.

If there was a smaller bottle I might have bought that instead and powered through it, as it stands the 750ml just seems to intimidate me into switching back to bourbon.

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

stgermainOne of the flavors that I most associate with springtime is the scent of elderflower.  Growing up in the high desert of New Mexico there was a time after a strong sudden rain when the morning glory that laced our little hilltop would open and wash the normally dry air with their scents.  It is one of the few times I can remember the desert smelling like anything other than sand.

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur has some of that same clean fresh scent and a delicate flavor like little petals and new grasses.

The full 750ml bottle of this liqueur is huge, with giant fluted sides like a vase.  I have tried to make myself buy one in this size a number of times but my shelf sends me angry texts,  “Really?  SRSLY?” and I have to put it back in favor of the 375 or a couple of the 50ml size.  All of their bottles have the same style to them which makes the little 50’s quite cute and perfect for a little rosewater or lavender oil when you’re done.  Prices in oregon run about $4.50 for the 50ml, $19.95 for the 375 and 39.95 for the 750ml.  Seeing as you need only use this one sparingly the bottle will last for quite a while.

St. Germain is a 20% ABV which puts it nicely below a lot of other mixers and keeps the alcohol flavor down.

As a nice spring cocktail I recommend something simple.

1 oz St. Germain
2 oz vodka
Pineapple chunk garnish

Using extra pineapple juice rim cocktail glass with cane sugar, pour contents into mixing glass.  Stir vigorously over ice.  Strain into rimmed glass and garnish with pineapple on a long pick.

I would use something like a Portland Potato or Ransom’s The Vodka which both have a flavor to them which won’t overshadow the elderflower.

Another good cocktail can be found Here.  Cocktailtube has a great sour, it uses an egg white which might not perfect for everyone but it’s a good drink anyway.

Cruzan Blackstrap Rum

cruzanI went looking for a dark rum because I needed one for the Cafe con Leche Flip.  There were several on the market but I quickly became aware of the many differences in how they were marketed and constructed.  For starters there aren’t any real regulations about how rums are classed.  There are rums, rum liqueurs and flavored rums.  Beyond that you’re pretty much on your own in the wilds of marketing speak.

From the little research I’ve done so far the black strap from Cruzan is fairly similar to their aged dark with the addition of extra molasses beyond the normal distillation.  When they add the molasses is up for some debate.  I’m personally betting that they add it after barrel aging as the extra sugar wouldn’t go over well in the oak.

Cruzan makes a pretty awesome rum normally but I was shocked that their Black Strap was actually pretty comparable price wise to my previous standby Meyers.  I paid $14 for this bottle and was glad for the privilege.  Many of the other “dark” rums on the shelf were in the $35-50 range which was well outside my limits for an unknown quantity.

The smells coming off of this bottle were puzzling.  Unlike the more vanilla and sugar smells of meyers there were hints of heavy oak, clove, coffee and some other less identifiable items.  A couple of solo sips almost killed this for me.  The rum is actually a bit bitter and the spice notes do not help to bring it back around.  There isn’t actually any sweetness in the rum, it is not a liqueur.  The molasses is prevalent but it occurred to me afterwards that black strap molasses is the final extract of the sugar process.  It is the gunk left over after you’ve squeezed every last white grain of sucrose out of the liquid that you can.

Fortunately I went straight from sips to cocktails and dropped this into my cafe con leche flip.  The results were an eye opener, the heavy flavors and bitterness were entirely gone and the spice, rum and oak were on full display.

Unlike a spiced rum the spice notes are not the primary flavor.  It’s not picking up a cinnamon stick and beating your drink over the head, it is a light shake of pepper and coriander on an otherwise deep black rum.

If you don’t already have a go-to tiki rum I would strongly suggest picking up a bottle of this.  At least until I start making my own ;).



Vivacity Native Gin

vivacityA little off the beaten track of interstate 5 is the town of Corvallis Oregon.  A college town home to Oregon State University and to the wonderful Vivacity Spirits.

While I have not been able to visit them personally I have met people from the company at many events in the Portland area and have sampled many of their other fine products.  As I was on something of a Gin kick at the time their Native Gin was an obvious addition to my cabinet.

The chief claim to fame here is that the contents are “Organic” and that the herbs used to flavor the gin are all plants native to the pacific northwest in some fashion.  As this is a Gin that means that it will include juniper, and if you’re not already familiar Oregon has its’ own variety of juniper that grows exclusively in this part of the world.

While Oregon Juniper and the more classic Albanian Juniper are similar in flavors the Oregon type has some esthers and aromas that do not lend themselves to alcohol very well.  You can imagine my surprise then when the product in the bottle was both flavorful and without some of the off odors that Oregon juniper can provide.

In testing I attempted the classic gin and tonic as well as a few other cocktails and a small sample straight.  The spirit is clean and crisp, has many of the notes one commonly associates with the new American style gins as opposed to the London Dry gins.  Notes of hops and citrus are well placed and despite the local substitutions you are still left with a classic gin presentation.

I don’t know if the organic stamp will really mean anything to anyone.  I personally think that in this market it’s a lot like saying gluten free.  Yes it is but so is water when you get down to it.

Currently running $29.75 for 750ml I’m not sure if the additional elements add up to the price tag.  There are other gins using Oregon juniper in differing applications and some at lower prices.

I liked the bottle I bought, but I think my next purchase from Vivacity will likely be their Turkish Coffee Liqueur as it seems to be the most unique take on the genre from anyone around.