Casker

I was searching for a place online that I could buy some rarer bottles when I stumbled upon a fantastic site.  Caskers.com is a plethora of bottles both mundane and unique.  The only drawback to the site I’ve found so far is that it requires you to create a login or use facebook to access the site at all.  Once you’re beyond that hurdle the site is very responsive on both desktop and mobile.

Breaking it down the site has 5 sections.  Firstly is the spirits themselves, a massive list that can be filtered by your location, the spirit type, point of origin and more importantly by in or out of stock.  The least expensive item in their catalog appears to be a $28 bottle of honey flavored vodka and the most expensive a $1000 bottle of 30 year old Balvenie.  I could swear that I’ve seen more expensive and unique bottles that have likely sold out and been removed.

Next up is the clubs.  Much like the current fashion for mail order boxes of unique stuff from places like lootcrate, glambag or Citrus Lane these clubs offer a curated selection of spirits.  Choosing from whiskey, vodka, or spirits you can have up to 4 shipments a quarter sent to your home for about $100-160 per package.  There is also an office option where starting at $250 you can have as many spirits as you want delivered as often as you need.

There is also a line of accessories with everything from drinking horn novelty cups to engraved glassware.

Something I have only seen offered by Jack Daniels is the private cask.  Starting at $1500 you can choose an entire cask of a spirit of your choice and have it custom bottled with your own label, be it for a wedding, graduation, retirement, hunting cabin or private club.  The Jack Daniels option was close to $1000 and generally required a licensed agent to facilitate the transaction, I can only assume caskers is taking on the more boring portions of this in exchange for a higher price tag.

Lastly is their concierge service.  If you’ve ever had a white whale that you couldn’t locate on your own and despaired of having the time and funds to travel to the places that might have what you need then this is the site for you.  Caskers offers a service to track down rare, ultra-premium and small batch products.  There’s no listed prices as this is the kind of service where if you have to ask you probably can’t afford it but I’d be tempted to see if they could find something limited but mundane like the Mt. Vernon rye or Anchor Christmas Spirit.

This site has shown me some very interesting stuff, from a vodka made entirely out of of honey to an absinthe named for Emperor Norton.  I haven’t had the chance to place an order but I’ve played around with their shopping cart and with a shipping cost of only $9.99 for a single bottle and $24.99 for a six bottle case they are more reasonable than several other sites I’ve visited.

Pricing is obviously going to be tricky but on a few items I could compare online they were the same as other web vendors.  For the items that appeared locally on oregonliquorsearch.com the pricing was pretty close with a difference of a few dollars here or there but neither caskers nor the local shops appeared to have the advantage.

The real benefit here is selection.  The internet has not been the boon to liquor sales that you might expect due to the problems of distribution and the costs involved in shipping.  If caskers can offer Lost Spirits, Balcones, or even just a wider selection of small batch major label products then they’re already ahead of anything else I’ve run across.

Gojee Drinks

gojeeI stumbled across this on another bloggers site. Gojee is a food and drink site that helps bloggers.

The basic idea is that they aggregate recipes from various contributing bloggers and display them in an easily searchable format.

Some initial impressions.  I couldn’t get the sign up using facebook or google to work and had to create a new login.  Not a great first impression as I hate creating new logins for things when existing ones will do.

The drinks side of the site is very pretty.  The whole screen is devoted to the photos of the drink with minimal controls around the top and sides to let you delve into things more fully.  Since many bloggers do their own photography you can see some very lovely shots of drinks just scrolling through.

The controls are responsive but somewhat poorly laid out.  If you open the ingredients list you lose the ability to scroll to the right via mouse.  Keyboard scrolling still works using arrow keys but that isn’t really stated, so I had to spend a minute figuring it out.

Once you find a drink you like you can click on the ingredients and get a very scrubbed list of what is in the drink.  It appears that unless you list something by name it will substitute the generic option.  So suggesting Buffalo Trace as your favored bourbon for a cocktail might not carry over but listing Hendrick’s Gin would carry over.  This could result in some AND/NOT OR search problems where looking for one filters out the other entirely.

The lack of some ingredients may have more to do with the source of the recipes than anything else.  Each of these is contributed by individual bloggers and not from some kind of central drink database.  So there could be a plethora of martinis and daquiris but some rarer drinks may fall by the wayside.

Once you have a look at what the drink has in general, you can add missing ingredients to a shopping list, or click on the full recipe at which point you are directed to the original blog post.  This is a nice touch and a neat way to drive traffic to bloggers with good ideas and good photos.

The site also allows you to make a list of things you already have, and things you would like to avoid so that it can actively filter things.  They even let you dislike alcohol which lets you see kid friendly cocktails and sodas.

There is a favorite items list on the site and it has a full range of social media sharing buttons which makes it easy to compile your own cocktail menu.

I applied to be one of their contributors but their submission process didn’t leave me with a lot of information.  I will update if I hear back from them later.

I see a lot of duplication on the site, Just poking around in gin cocktails I found “The Income Tax Cocktail” and “Income Tax”.  A classic from “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails”, having it show up twice under slightly different names means that a lot of the recipes here could simply be variants on each other.  I’m not sure how many super glossy photos of a basic martini we need but I know there aren’t that many ways to make it differently.

Final thought, Come for the photos, leave for the blogs themselves.

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 Oregonliquorsearch.com.  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.

Utah DABC
Ohio
Idaho
Maryland
New Hampshire
North Carolina (Mecklenburg)  – Seems to be broken down by city (PITA)
Pennsylvania
West Virginia