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2000 Labégorce, Margaux $39.99

A great value in Bordeaux! This bottle is mature enough to drink now, but has time in hand if you want to keep it in the cellar for the future. We love it for its laid back elegance and classic balance. A must try for your next nice steak dinner.

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Entries in mixology (3)

Friday
Sep142012

Champagne Friday: French 75

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Friday, September 12, 2012

French 75

With summer drawing to a close, the citrus zip and aged cognac depth of the French 75 cocktail has a lot of appeal. This drink, which legend says was named after a French canon that shot 75 millimeter shells, is a powerful one, and should be treated with respect.

Louis Roederer "Brut Premier" Champagne My wife Cinnamon is the real family mixoligist, and she prepared everything in the short demonstration video above. Unfortunately, I could not convince her to get in front of the camera and make the drink! We discovered this cocktail together at Coco 500 in San Francisco, where they make it with Louis Roederer "Brut Premier" Champagne. This cocktail is a great one to riff off of, and we have made many tasty variations on the theme at home. For a long time I was a partisan to making it with gin, while Cinnamon preferred Cognac.

Franck Bonville "Prestige" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne One thing that has remained constant is the Champagne- we always use the tail end of a bottle that has been sitting in the fridge door with a stopper in it. I find that Blanc de Blancs tend to balance the Cognac’s aged savor, and the Pinot Noir styles add depth to the gin variation. For the video piece, we used the Franck Bonville "Prestige" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne which worked perfectly with the new Ferrand 1840 Formula 90 proof Cognac. This Ferrand is a great ingredient, and works far better than much more expensive (and far more subtle) Cognacs. The 1840 Formula is made in the three star style from the 19th century, and is a full 5% higher in alcohol than standard Cognac. It is also oilier and weightier with lots of flavor- it won’t get lost in a mixed drink.

 I hope you’ll try this out the next time you would like a stiff cocktail. It is a great one!

 

Ferrand 1840 Formula 90 proof CognacFrench 75

2 parts Ferrand 1840 Formula 90 proof Cognac

1 Part Fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 Part simple syrup

2 parts Champagne (Blanc de Blancs if you have one open)

Lots of fresh ice

Lemon rind for garnish

We use an ounce per part for ours- and that makes a pretty big aperitif.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the cognac, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake thoroughly and pour into a rocks glass filled with more fresh ice. Top with Champagne, and stir if you like (I do!) finally garnishing with lemon rind.

 

A toast to you!

-Gary

 Check out more educational wine & spirits videos from the experts at K&L on YouTube!

Wednesday
Aug012012

Personal Sommelier Online (Aug 2012): K&L Home Bar Essentails

By: Chiara ShannonHead Sommelier - K&L Personal Sommelier Service

As promised in my article "Stirring Things Up"in this month's edition of the K&L Wine News, here's the K&L short list of home bar essentials with notes and tips from our Spirits Buyer David Driscoll. It features the basic booze, mixers, elixers, and accents you need for a fun and functional home bar, with links so you can learn more about each product without spending a fortune. I've also included David's recommended essentail classic cocktail recipes to inspire you.

Be sure to forget to check out the K&L Spirits Journal for more cocktail tips, news, and updates on all things Spirits!

So what are you waiting for? The time has come to release your inner mixologist...

K&L Home Bar Essentials  

Single Malt Scotch:

BenRiach 12 year old Single Malt Whisky ($44.99) - Standard Highland, standard scotch - vanilla, sweet barley, smooth

Glendronach 12 year old Distillery Bottling Single Malt Whisky ($47.99) - Standard sherry-aged, richer textures, brown sugar and cakebread.

Bruichladdich 10 year old "The Laddie" Islay Single Malt Whisky ($52.99) - Islay whisky, with only a hint of peat on the finish. A great beginner or accessible Island malt

Blended Scotch:

Bank Note Blended Scotch Whisky ($29.99) - Inexpensive and made with 40% actual single malt, compared to things like Johnnie Walker that are much lower percentages and use more grain. Delcious for highballs or Scotch cocktails.

Bourbon:

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon ($19.99) - Mellow, round, delicious.

Old Weller Antique Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($19.99) - Spicer, higher proof, wheated-formula instead of rye (most use around 60% corn and about 30% rye with some barley).

Rye:

Templeton Rye ($36.99) - A small-batch marriage of rye casks with clove and baking spice flavors.

Bulleit Rye Whiskey ($21.99) - Made from the same rye as Templeton, but a much larger batch of casks that results in more mild flavors.

Brandy:

Campo de Encanto Pisco de Peru ($32.99) - 'Acholado' style Picso distilled only once, with nothing added, including preservatives, sugar, or water - just pure, clean spirit. Bottled at proof for use in cocktials.

Park VSOP Cognac ($34.99) - Elegant, round and easy to drink with rich, nutty flavors.

Laird's Straight Bonded "Apple Jack" Brandy ($23.99) - This 100% aged apple brandy is a necessity for anyone creating an authentic bar.

Osocalis Alambic Brandy ($42.99) - A blend of Colombard, Pinot Noir, and other Coastal Callifornia grape varieties, this local Brandy has the finesse and balance of the Old World brandies with more intense fruit.

Gin:

Citadelle Gin from France ($19.99) - An inexpensive, basic bottle if you only want one option

Berry Bros & Rudd No. 3 London Dry Gin ($34.99) - The best London dry style gin available.

Ransom Old Tom Oregon Gin ($39.99) - If you want to make sweet vermouth cocktails, the barrel aging smoothes out the spice.

Vodka:

Belvedere Polish Rye Vodka ($19.99) - Delicate and clean with subtle aromas and flavors. For classic and contempory drinks.

Potocki Polish Rye Vodka ($34.99) – A stunning vodka, elegant and pure. 

Tequila:

Tapatia Silver (in stock 8/2) - Balanced and smooth, with subtle spice. Great for mixing.

ArteNOM Seleccion 1414 Reposado Tequila ($44.99) - Nutty, bready, with cinnamon bursts and spicy cloves on the palate.

ArteNOM Seleccion 1146 Anejo Tequila ($49.99) - Incredibly lean for an añejo! Black pepper and fruit on the finish with flavors of toasty vanilla, warm baking spices, and roasted nuts.

Embajador Blanco Mezcal de Oaxaca ($19.99) - Smoky, vibrant, tangy, spicy and clean mezcal. Great value.

Rums:

Ron Abuelo 7 Year Old Panama Rum ($24.99) - A fantastic sipper at a great price.

 Chairman's Reserve Silver Rum ($24.99) - For white rum drinks with lime, a great value.

Batiste Rhum Agricole ($36.99) -  Bright, clean, and distinctive, it mixes exceptionally well with many ingredients

Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum Plummer & Wedderburn Pure Pot Still ($29.99) - Navy-strength rum has all of the oily aromatics of a top-class single malt. Makes a mean Mai-Tai.

Absinthe:

La Sorcière Absinthe Supèrieure Verte ($59.99; for those who want to just splash a few drops into cocktails, the 375ml ($35.99) is also available) - The anise really shines with clean and focused flavors. You could even drink it straight!

Liqueurs:

Byrrh Grand Quinquina Aperitif ($19.99) - Based on quinquina bark, which creates a wonderful earthy aroma and a slight balancing bitterness.

Campari ($26.99) - Sometimes Campari and soda is all you need to get the party started!

Cocchi Aperitivo Americano ($18.99) Try it chilled with an orange twist and a splash of soda to enhance its exciting herbal aromas.

Aperol Aperitivo Liqueur ($34.99) - Moderate in alcohol with a nice balance of bitter and sweet, this is great for using up leftover Champagne. Prepare like a traditional aperitivo with Champagne instead of soda on the rocks with an orange twist.  

Dolin Blanc Vermouth de Chambery ($13.99) - Ideal as an aperitif or in cocktails as needed.  

Dolin Dry Vermouth ($13.99) - Ideal as an aperitif or in cocktails as needed.  

Dolin Rouge Vermouth de Chambery ($13.99) - Ideal as an aperitif or in cocktails as needed.  

Lillet Blanc ($14.99) - The modern version of Kina Lillet, the essential ingredient in James Bond's famous Vesper Martini. Serve chilled or on the rocks with or without lime twist, or use as needed in a number of classic and revival cocktails.

Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao ($19.99) - A must for the Sidecar, Corpse Revivers, and a number of classic revival cocktails calling for orange liqueur. 

Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violette ($30.99) - With less sugar than Crème de Violette, this integrates seamlessly into cocktails without losing its essence.

Bitters:

Angostura Bitters 10oz ($11.99) – Gentian-based bitter. Absolutely essential.

Peychaud Bitters 10oz ($6.99) –Lighter and more floral than Angustura, a must for the Sazerac.

Sweeteners 

Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup ($9.99) - Essential for those spirit-driven revival cocktails like Sazeracs, Old-Fashioneds and Juleps to achieve the right balance and a smooth mouthfeel. 

Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup ($10.99) - Adds viscosity and texture, for Pisco Punch.

 Orgeat Syrup ($15.99) - Made from almonds and apricots according to a pre-prohibition recipe for revival coctkails. If the recipe calls for it, there is no substitute.

Misc:

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries ($15.99) - These cherries will enhance your cocktail significantly; you cannot compromise here. Try them in a Manhattan and you will know what we're talking about.

Driscoll’s Essential Cocktails

Negroni - equal parts gin, Campari, vermouth - stir

Manhattan - 2 oz whiskey, 1 oz. sweet vermouth, 2 dashes Angostura bitters - stir

Sidecar - 1 1/2 oz brandy, 3/4 oz orange, 3/4 oz lemon juice - shake

Aviation - 2 oz gin, 1 oz luxardo, 1/2 oz lemon juice, 1/4 oz Crème de Violette - shake

Pisco Punch - 2 oz. Pisco, 3/4 oz lemon juice, 3/4 oz pineapple gum - shake

Mai Tai - 1 1/2 oz Jamaican rum, 1/2 orange liqueur, 1/2 orgeat, 3/4 oz fresh lime juice - shake

Sazerac - 2 oz rye whiskey, 2 dashes Peychauds bitters, 1/2 oz gum syrup, dash of absinthe

Single Village Fix (margarita variation) - 1 1/2 oz mezcal, 1 oz pineapple gum syrup, 3/4 oz lime juice - shake

 

Happy Shaking!

 -Chiara

Explore the World of Wine & Spirits! Design your own customized monthly club through the K&L Personal Sommelier Service today!

Tuesday
Aug112009

Absinthe: No Longer Trendy, Still Very Essential (Home Bar, Part 4)

I can always remember my first few months here at K&L well because it was around the time that the US lifted its ban on absinthe, and the nation went crazy on what they thought was going to be the revival of a once-great elixir. There were reports of people camping out overnight at the Hangar One Distillery in Alameda in order to secure their place in line for the first batch of St. George, and I recall practically the entire staff here buying a bottle of the limited allocation when we received it (even the non-spirits drinkers). Absinthe was the hot ticket in the Bay Area. Fancy stainless steel pourers were being showcased along with slotted spoons in an attempt to market the romanticism behind the enjoyment of the spirit, made famous in numerous classic novels and movies. People were having absinthe parties lavishly prepared with designer sugar cubes and sterling silver four-spouted drippers in an attempt to recreate the legendary sessions of Van Gogh and other European artists said to have gone mad from intoxication. Absinthe was on top of every enthusiast’s shopping list and then all of a sudden: absinthe sales died.

What happened is still not 100% clear. There seem to be more than a few reasons behind the declining interest, one of which being the underwhelming experience that newcomers like myself had upon introduction. Having tasted guests on my own personal stash shortly after the boom, I found a general sense of disappointment among those who sampled it. It basically just tasted like hot alcohol and anise, and when watered down it tasted like watered-down alcohol and anise. The mythical legend of wormwood as a possible hallucinogen was quickly put to rest as untrue, which discouraged many thrill-seekers looking to indulge in a seemingly-legalized narcotic. Plus, it was outrageously expensive and no one wanted to drink very much of it in one sitting. For the people who were previously inexperienced, the much-hyped absinthe turned out to be a bit of a letdown. For those who had been previously disposed, the selection of quality absinthe upon re-launch was even more disappointing.

Not having known a thing about absinthe upon its rebirth, I visited an absinthe education-based website called the Wormwood Society and learned a few things from the experts. What stood out immediately was the lack of enthusiasm towards many of the products that were primarily available. It seems that more than a few of the first-born bottles were quickly (and shabbily, according to these guys) formulated and speedily released in order to capitalize on the movement. The distilleries that got involved with their “me-too” absinthe variations got it all wrong because, in their haste, they didn’t adhere to the original recipe and failed to capture the true nature of the beast. Some producers made terrible bottles with fancy labels to disguise the inferiority of their absinthe. Basically, because it was the hip thing to do, many people who shouldn’t have been making absinthe decided to and, in my opinion, they didn’t do a very good job of it.

However, as is usually the case, the best things come to those who wait. In this instance, it applies to both the producer and the consumer. The distillers who took their time and really attempted to faithfully reproduce the absinthe of pre-Prohibition America have given the faithful public some truly remarkable bottles. The shining example of this is the newly arrived Marteau Absinthe de la Belle Epoque ($79.99). It isn’t cheap, but neither is a fine Ardbeg single malt, and in both cases you’re getting the absolute highest, hand-crafted quality spirits. It is appropriately made by Gwydion Stone, the founder of the Wormwood Society and the leading expert of absinthe on this continent. Look at it this way though, most of the bad absinthe was $80 or more upon release and it wasn’t nearly as good. The Marteau is colored only with natural herbs and contains no artificial flavorings or other additives. It is distilled from 100% grape spirits, just as the very best historic brands were, and made with Artemisia Absinthium wormwood, anise seed, and fennel, the three principal ingredients of all superior, traditional absinthes. For once, the high price tag for an absinthe bottle matches the quality of the spirit within it.

If you are interested in absinthe for sipping and reliving the “Green Fairy” experience (cue Gary Oldman and Wynonna Ryder in Coppola’s version of Dracula), then the Marteau is being hailed by many experts as the only true version on the domestic market. However, what has been recently killed as a trendy sipper has been a huge boost to the world of classic cocktails. Many recipes from the early 1900s call for absinthe as an ingredient and, until 2007, it wasn’t possible to create a faithful reproduction. I’ve come to find that absinthe is a principle ingredient in many of my new favorite drinks. For the purpose of mixology, the second batch of the St. George Spirits Absinthe Verte ($79.99) is very well equipped to handle the job. While considered too intense in flavor by some drinkers, its powerful anise notes and sharp herbal qualities are just what I need to spice up my current favorite cocktail, the Corpse Reviver No. 2.

Corpse Reviver No. 2

1/4 gin
1/4 Lillet
1/4 orange liqueur
1/4 lemon juice

A dash of absinthe

Shake over ice and strain.

Again, don’t fret over the price tag. If you buy it once, you likely won’t have to replenish it for a long time. All you need are a few drops at a time and it really makes a difference. Is it $80 worth of a difference, you ask? The answer is a strong affirmative. The addition of absinthe to a cocktail seems to breathe an incredible amount of life into drinks that would normally seem rather mild. If you need proof, go to Heaven’s Dog on Mission Street in San Francisco and order their trademark Pan American Clipper cocktail. A tasty combo of calvados, grenadine, lime juice and absinthe, if it doesn’t knock your socks off, then you don’t like to drink.

Taking time for contemplation, rather than rushing something to the shelves, has also allowed some producers to decide if they want to travel the traditional route into the absinthe market. Some super-craft distillers have come up with interesting and delicious takes on what absinthe should be. None has been more impressive to me than the Germain Robin Absinthe Superieure (375 ml $35.99). While the base spirit for absinthe is traditionally brandy distilled from grape-based wine, Crispin Cain returned to the Ukiah-based alembic still, where he learned to make the renowned Germain Robin brandy line-up (arguably the best brandy produced in the US, if not the world), and used it to distill an apple-honey mead instead. He threw in the traditional wormwood, but also included rose geranium and a few other aromatic devices and distilled it to an untraditionally low 90 proof— far less than the 120 proof most absinthe sees. The result is a softer, more mildly-drinking spirit that still packs a ton of flavor. While most absinthe is greenish, the Germain Robin is almost watery clear. Not being a traditionalist, I’m not bothered by that, but the spirit does cloud up like a true absinthe should when water is added. Best of all, it comes in a half bottle, so if you’re looking for the most economical choice for your home bar, this is it. So far I haven’t found very many places carrying it, so I’m happy to be leading the charge.

There are international choices as well for absinthe that are available on the domestic market, though they do not score too terribly with traditionalists. The Obsello Absinthe ($44.99) from Spain, while not the best of the best, does more than an adequate job of spicing up a cocktail and clocks in at a relatively affordable price for a full 750ml bottle. To conclude the fourth entry in the home bar series, I must stress the importance of an absinthe bottle to your domestic drinking habits. I have presented you with four viable options that would make a great addition to your home collection. I’ll end with a few more recipes to entice you further.

Piccadilly Cocktail

2/3 gin
1/3 vermouth blanc (Dolin is the best)
Dash of grenadine (again I hope to have Small Hand Foods soon)
Dash of absinthe

Shake over ice and strain.

Phoebe Snow Cocktail

1/2 Osocalis brandy
1/2 Dubonnet Rouge
Dash of absinthe

Shake over ice and strain.

Nick’s Own Cocktail

1/2 Osocalis Brandy
1/2 sweet vermouth (again, Dolin)
Dash of absinthe
Dash of Angosturra bitters

Shake over ice and strain.

David Driscoll