Great America Faux Moonshine

IMG_20140613_153856The current craze in general spirits is whiskey. Very few people will dispute that vodka has gone the way of the 90’s and whiskey has become the
current potable of choice among the intelligentsia. This has led to a number of things, among them whiskey bars, whiskey podcasts, a slew of
small batch artisanal whiskey distillers and lastly a sideline in whiskey that almost no one could have predicted.

At the same time that whiskey was making the rounds of the finer bars and restaurants, popular culture latched onto the trailer park as the
spawning ground for the next spate of reality televisio
n. Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo and a number of other shows all attempt to capitalize on
the american appetite for low rent southern style culture.

Somehow the two areas have come together and prompted the return to popularity of moonshine alongside its more refined barrel aged brother bourbon
and cousin Scotch.

For those living under an IKEA ROKROK for the last few decades moonshine is functionally a type of whiskey in that it is an alcohol derived
primarily from grain and made largely in the united states. The more technical definition is a spirit made from ~80% corn and traditionally
bottled at the same proof it leaves the still which can be anywhere from 80-150. Methods exist to produce a product of even higher proof but
they often involve the addition of adulterants not fit for human consumption.

Moonshine gets its grandeur from the history of independent folk living the free life and dodging the man to make their outlaw whiskey.

To sum up, moonshine is generally:
1. Corn based
2. High Proof
3. Made Independent of the legal system

The third we can forgive as everyone wants to make a profit and it is far easier to get national distribution when you don’t have to haul your
product in the back of a race car to avoid the cops.

The number of legal moonshines on the market has spiked in recent years and more and more are seen every day. The most prominent of these is
Midnight Moon but other brands such as Firefly or Ole Smokey are making their bid for shelf space. Many if not all of them are sold in a faux
backwoods style so that the bottles appear to be mason jars with wide mouth openings.

IMG_20140613_153904On a recent trip to the grocery store, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the distressed wood display case of what appeared at first glance to be a rack of Midnight Moon. You can see from the photos my confusion. The labels share the same hipster artisanal black and white style labeling and the again faux mason jar container, but on closer inspection you will note the name Great America.

This my dear reader is a moonshine malt beverage as envisioned by the marketing department. It has no corn, isn’t high-proof and is coming in under the 15% wire so that they can make it into grocery stores which is about as far from bootleg as you’re likely to get.

Bottled at a beastly 28 proof and sold in flavors such as “Apple” Pie, Carolina Clear, and peach for the un-princely sum of $5.99 per 23 fl oz. Compare this to any other malt beverage which runs 7.99 for a 6 pack of 12 oz bottles.

I selected the “apple” pie flavor as I presumed it would be the least inedible. I was mistaken. This brew like most malt beverages has a slight metallic flavor followed immediately by a kind of sour sweetness. If there were any actual apple involved in this process it must have died of embarrassment.

Further drinking is not rewarded. It’s just as bad on the third sip as it is on the first. If it were even slightly more palatable the prospect
of 22 further ounces of this product might be worthwhile but from the rim of my wide mouth jar all I see is a river of pain.

I detest this product, both for what it seems to embody as well as for the poor execution. In an attempt to salvage my purchase I attempted to make cocktails with it. I was partially successful, actual apple juice seems to mitigate the flavor problems somewhat but I cannot recommend
this either as a base or as a mixer as it provides nothing in either capacity that couldn’t be better served by another product.

Lastly, there is a sort of mock cinnamon that floats in suspension in the apple pie flavor and while I had my jar stored on its side the cinnamon
appeared to settle into a slimy brown line on the bottom (side) of the jar. At first I took this for mold but after dumping the jar realized
that it was simply sediment. If this was real cinnamon I could expect a similar result as ground cinnamon is amazingly hydrophobic but I’m
almost positive that it was something else which just leaves me feeling slightly creeped out at having consumed it in the first place.

Knowing most of the readers of my blog are unlikely to purchase malt beverages in any form means that my recommendation against this product
isn’t entirely necessary but I put this out there for the general populace to avoid Great America’s Faux moonshines where-ever possible.

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.

Botticelli: Drink Review – Turning Prayers into Sins


The Third of my drink reviews from my trip to Oven and Shaker is the Botticelli.

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Aperol Italian Bitters
0.25 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
2 oz Cava

Now if you’re like me at least two of the ingredients on that list are a bit unknown.  Aperol is similar to Campari at about half the strength, a bitter orange liqueur with a reddish coloration.

Cava is a sparkling wine produced in Spain.  Since it’s not from the Champagne region you can’t call it Champagne so it gets a more regional appellation but the taste and concept are pretty similar.

Like the French 75 this takes some citrus and a good quality spirit and adds bubbly to the mix.  Only here we have a much more complex blend of flavors and colors.  I like the pink hue that comes out of the Aperol and the drink itself is very well balanced on the tongue.  It isn’t really complex and doesn’t challenge any expectations.  Very light on the alcohol taste, the citrus sees to that but the overall made grapefruit juice taste good which for me is a miracle in itself.  As billed on the drink menu this is a Fresh and light drink, good for early on when you’re not sure you want something that is going to sour you on dinner or lunch.

Lacking two of the major ingredients i’m not likely to make one of these at home without some major modifications and that would take some experimenting that I don’t really want to do.

I would buy another the next time I go to Oven and Shaker but their list of awesome drinks has at least another 10 that I haven’t tried yet and this one isn’t fantastic enough to bring me back on its own.

5/5 Shakers on this one, brilliantly executed.

Tech: Liquor Search Engine

SEARCH1Living as I do in Oregon all of the hard liquor that is sold in the state passes through the halls of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).  Oddly even the stuff that is sold on site at the various distilleries is first sold to the OLCC and then the distillery buys it back from them to sell in their own store.  Which is why you won’t usually find a price break at the distillery tasting room as opposed to the liquor store on your block.

This has a number of advantages and not a few drawbacks.  It means that liquor stores don’t often do special orders.  I’ve tried at more than a couple.  When I asked for a special order at Progress Liquor they actually told me “We only do it if it’s something we already carry.”  I was so agog that I couldn’t even point out that this wasn’t even remotely “special”.

A secondary factor is that buying liquor over the internet becomes a chore because while I don’t have to pay sales tax the shipping for anything I might want is usually 16+ dollars owing to the nature of shipping heavy breakable goods any kind of distance.

One of the nicer things about the OLCC hold on the bottle is  Since every bottle sold is tracked by a rabidly efficient government agency they elected to simply put the results of that tracking into a live publicly accessible database.  So if you’re looking for say Sparkle Donkey Tequila it can scour the entire state and tell you that there are exactly two places in oregon where you can buy it and that it runs about $27 a bottle.  It will even go so far as to tell you how many bottles you can expect to find at that location and will map it for you.

You can even reverse the process and look for a specific store, having located it you can run a blank search and get a listing of their entire inventory.  This may or may not help depending on what you’re searching for but it’s a good way to narrow things down or browse their shelves from the internet.

The site also allows you to set a “default location” so that you’re not constantly having to zoom down from stores in Bend or out from the west hills.

There is some limited utility here.  The search only covers Liquor.  Meaning that beer, wine, mixers, barware, tools, rimming sugar, and even some low alcohol products like Lillet Blanc or irish cream might not make the cut for OLCC tracking.  Calling ahead to see if they carry lime juice and margarita salt may sound silly but I’ve been to places where they were out of simple syrup and grenadine so it’s worth it not to have to make another trip just to stock up on essentials.

Additionally Liquor store employees can be amazingly dense when it comes to some products.  Keep in mind they have something like 2500 bottles on the shelf, they may not keep abreast of what is going on in the industry.  I asked at about 4 different places when or where they would get Volstead back in stock and none of them knew it had even been missed or if they carried it at all.

Hunting wiley bottles of odd liquor can be rewarding but with this website you can cut out a lot of calling and running around.  It’s not a substitute for finding out that the Thriftway down the street carries Lillet Blanc but it’s helped me on more than one occasion.

Update: After hunting around I have found search engines in other states that still have some form of state control.

New Hampshire
North Carolina (Mecklenburg)  – Seems to be broken down by city (PITA)
West Virginia

French 75 : Drink Review


This is the French 75 as served at Oven and Shaker where I had a lovely mother’s day brunch.

I first learned about this drink from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, where it sits as a somewhat odd duck.  I think the major reason it’s there is that most bar guides call for it to be made with cognac instead of gin.

Oven and shaker goes for the Gin version, putting 1oz of the local Aviation Gin, 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice, 1/2 oz simple syrup and 3oz champagne.

Vintage spirits calls for about double the gin and lemon and a garnish of a lemon spiral and a cherry.  The addition here of a california strawberry that you could eat like a handfruit was a nice touch.

A smooth drink that gives credence to gun that gives it the name.  My mother was the one who ordered this and she thought it was a touch heavy on the lemon, I felt that with a bite of strawberry it came out just right.  Seeing the recipe in vintage spirits with double the lemon makes me think they’re using a poorer quality gin at Dr. Cocktails house.  Aviation works wonders here and I think this will be making an appearance at my own house around new years, when I have a bottle of champagne to use up.

Review: Burnside Bourbon


One of the most surprising products to come out of any of the local distilleries has been Burnside Bourbon.  There are a number of whiskeys both aged and unaged.  Everything from pendleton to hogshead to white dog has made an appearance.  Many of them are new and still finding their feet, several are well on their way even if you can’t find a bottle to save your soul.

Burnside Bourbon comes from Eastside Distilling, in my opinion the one with the best location in town.  They are right next door to the pacific pie company which means good booze and good pie within stumbling distance of each other.

Aside from a bevy of fine rums Eastside has also produced some of the best holiday liqueurs and the Bourbon which I present to you tonight.  There are actually two Bourbons here, the normal Burnside and the Burnside Double Barrel.

Burnside on its own is a fantastic product, and I say that as someone who is not a huge fan of whiskey in general.  As noted in my drink review of the manhattan this stuff is smooth and complex enough to obviate the need for a lot of complicated mixers.  A quality product needs no footmen to bring it around but an excellent product can sing with the choir and not outshine the rest of the group.   This, I think, is Burnside’s real strength.  Having mixed it into a few other cocktails it seems to shine on every occasion bringing smoky notes and complex flavor to the event and never trying to bury the rest of the drink.  What makes this particularly amazing is that Burnside is a slightly higher proof than some others on the market so even with the extra alcohol the product isn’t a kick in the teeth.

I picked up a bottle of Burnside at the pathetic liquor store up the street from my house which means it should be kicking around almost anywhere else in portland.  About $30 should see you into a bottle.  Not cheap but not on the high end either.

Now about that Double Barrel.  If you have the money to drop for it I strongly advise it.  It’s a small batch spirit which means you won’t find it in any of the other stores in town.  You have to visit the tasting room to get some but it is worth the trip and the money.  At much closer to $55 a bottle the extra 60 days in the Oregon white oak puts a spit and polish on this spirit like you won’t believe.  I’m getting another bottle as soon as I can but it’s going into the back of the cabinet away from prying eyes and grubby mitts.