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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Entries in whiskey (3)


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


Some Notes About Domestic Whiskey

With all the great American whiskey we’ve been bringing in lately, I’ve had a lot of questions about the specifics of the product; some that have really tested my knowledge and put me back on my heels a bit. In order to make sure that I am up to the task of handling these inquiries, I have begun to re-read a great reference on the subject of whiskey:  Chicago columnist Chuck Cowdery’s Bourbon, Straight. I read this book immediately after I got the spirits buyer position here at K&L, but I’m finding that a second time through is really paying dividends in my whiskey education, especially when it comes to the logistics of bourbon. I’ve only gotten about 20 pages into my second run through, but there are numerous facts that I want to share with you that I think will help shed some more light onto whiskey in the United States, even for those who already know quite a lot as it is. I would advise any serious whiskey fan to bookmark Cowdery’s page and, at the very least, purchase his informational book and read it slowly and carefully.

-Whiskey in the U.S. is defined as grain spirit that is distilled at less than 190 proof.     Anything distilled at higher than 190 proof is considered grain neutral spirit (GNS), which is without color, aroma, taste, or character. Vodka, for example, is GNS with water (and Cowdery does not shy away from taunting the vodka drinkers from rationalizing how something neutral can be better or worse than a contemporary).

- All U.S. distilleries use No. 2 grade corn, rye, and wheat to make their whiskey, so all this talk about “only the finest grains” is a bunch of fluff.  They all buy from the same suppliers.

- American whiskey has the entire mash, grains and all, go through the fermentation process unfiltered, unlike in Scotland and other countries where the filtered mash (called wort) consisting of only the sugary water goes into the still.   

- Good water is crucial to making good whiskey. The spring water in Kentucky and Tennessee is filtered through natural limestone, which adds calcium and removes salt, making it favorable to yeast come fermenting time. 

- What is sour mash? - Sour mash is made when slop (the already fermented and spent mash) is pumped back in with the unfermented mash giving it a sour taste. This is done to help keep the pH consistent to keep the whiskey uniform. It could be done differently now, but, as Cowdery states throughout the book, heritage and tradition reign supreme in whiskey making. 

- Yeast is very, very important. Not all yeast is the same. It is major contributor to the flavor of a whiskey, much like wine, and knowing how to cultivate and control it is an important job of a distiller. If you didn’t know that Beaujolais Nouveau tastes like banana because of commercial designer yeast, then you need to contact me about other reading materials. Yeast is crazy important. 

- In order to be called bourbon or rye, the spirit must come off the still at less than 160 proof.  All whiskey distilled between 160 and 190 goes into blended whiskey.  Flavor is inversely proportional to proof, so you want to keep it lower if you want the grain to come through.

- Bourbon and rye must be reduced with water to less than 125 proof and aged in new oak charred on the inside.  The red color of whiskey comes from this charred barrel. Whereas warm weather causes the whiskey to expand into the wood, the cool evening temperatures contracts it and the whiskey pulls out the color, tannins and flavor of the barrel.  The char from the wood helps to tame the negative congeners (the remaining flavors of the original distilled substance).

Speaking of congeners, Cowdery really makes clear what the art of distillation truly is: it lies in being able to retain the positive and good tasting congeners, while eliminating the other negative ones.  The goal of distilling, as Cowdery says, is making the beverage palatable either by making it neutral (as with vodka) or by using herbs, fruit, spices, barrel aging, etc.  Whiskey should retain the flavor of its original element, so knowing how to distill it properly and making it palatable is an art form. 

All this information comes from about four pages of the 250+ pages in this book.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.  Then you can come into the store and totally put me in check with your extreme knowledge.

David Driscoll


Building the Perfect Home Bar, Part 3

So we’ve covered gin, gin cocktails, how great gin is, and how much I like gin. Then we moved on to some simple liqueurs and digestives that you should have in your home bar at all times. If you need to play catch up, simply scroll down a few pages and find parts 1 and 2.  Otherwise, it’s now time to look at darker spirits, namely brandy and whiskey. Note, the name of this article is not, “Building The Perfect Single Malt Trophy Shelf,” so for today we are going to avoid Scotch altogether. Plus, I’m going to feature products that can be mixed to form some terrific cocktails and personally I’m not about to add anything to my Ardbeg or Bruichladdich. Let’s begin!


With American-made whiskey I find the most enjoyable and widely appreciated beverage is the Manhattan. Mixing bourbon with a little sweet vermouth, some ice, and a dash of bitters is a quick and easy way to unwind after work. While bourbon, or even Tennessee Whiskey for that matter, has enjoyed its time in the limelight as the base of choice for the Manhattan, I’m hard-pressed to make my version with anything besides a rich and spicy rye whiskey. However, the great thing about making your own drinks is that you’re the boss and you can make them however the heck you want. Whatever your preference here is my recipe for a Manhattan and the two whiskies I most commonly use at home:

Mannhattan Cocktail

2 ¼ oz of bourbon/rye

¾ oz of sweet vermouth (preferably Dolin or Vya)

2 dashes of Regan’s or Angosturra bitters

1/8 tsp. of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur (instead of a cherry)

Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof ($19.99) I have yet to find a great bar that doesn’t use this as the base for their whiskey cocktails. It is everything I need flavor-wise with a 24 hour mini-mart price tag. It is spicy, rich, delicious and it mixes terrifically. It wins every award that spirits can receive and it is the standard for the home bar. I don’t even consider a “back-up” rye when mixing a drink.

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon ($21.99) This is the smoothest and most mellow bourbon around and its price-to-quality ratio is ridiculous. This is a serious whiskey that needs you to pay attention. It is so gentle that you could down a quick shot without blinking an eye, but in doing so you would no doubt overlook the grace and elegance it offers. Smooth stuff made by a master craftsman named Jim Rutledge.


Once again I would like to reiterate that I’m not going to mention our best “sipping” Cognacs, Armagnacs or brandies. It would be a monumental waste of money to use the 1979 Darroze that you were planning on buying me for my 30th birthday to make a refreshing drink that would only dilute its greatness. Better to find a quality spirit at a more affordable price. I have two fabulous choices for you and the best part about them is, due to their outstanding quality, you can still sip them after dinner with dessert. To start off, here is a terrific recipe that I borrowed from the Savoy Cocktail Book if you need a great idea.

Nick’s Own Cocktail

1 ½ oz of brandy

1 ½ oz. of sweet vermouth (again Dolin or Vya)

dash of bitters

dash of Absinthe (Kubler)

Shake with ice and strain

Osocalis Alambic Brandy ($44.99) I’m going to start with the best quality at the best price, and I like to shop locally, so let me introduce you to a beautiful brandy made outside Santa Cruz. The Osocalis is made on a small antique still imported from Alsace by the guys behind Santa Cruz Mountain Winery. I’ve always been a big fan of their wines, and now I’m gushing about their booze. It is slightly fruity underneath the rich barrel flavors and that’s what helps it mix. No matter how you prepare the Osocalis—in a cocktail, over ice, or straight— it should taste delicious.

Deret 5 Year VS Cognac ($34.99) If you’ve wandered into our Redwood City store recently, you may have wondered why the Cognac shelf has so many empty spots. Is it because we are sold out of all our products? No. Is it because Cognac sales are down? No. It is because of Deret’s Cognacs that we have so many holes. Once we introduced our customer base to these delightful brandies, we couldn’t convince them to try anything else. No matter what else I bring in to the store, everyone still wants the trustworthy Deret. We’ve created a monster here, but until I find something better at that price, what can you do? The five year is an established favorite with its round rich palate that hints towards apple and stone fruit. Everyone loves it, including me.

Calvados/Apple Brandy

I was really out of the loop regarding the potential for great Calvados cocktails until recently. A few bars in the city offer such amazing cocktails using an applejack base that I have been returning over and over again to enjoy them. The apple flavors really contribute to the flavors of these drinks in a way that Cognac or brandy couldn’t, so if you’ve got a bottle of Calvados that you have been ignoring lately, I’ve got a classic recipe here for you.

Jack Rose Cocktail

2 oz of Calvados

¾ oz lemon juice

¾ oz simple syrup

¾ oz grenadine (I will hopefully be getting Small Hands Foods very soon!!)

Clear Creek Eau de Vie Pomme 8-year-old (375ml $24.99) If you ask my opinion (or if you scroll down and read about my trip to Clear Creek), great Eau de Vie begins and ends with Steve McCarthy’s distillates. This apple brandy is the best American produced version that exists and probably will ever exist. It smells like fresh apples and tastes like rich, oak-aged brandy. Beautiful!

Germain Robin Apple Brandy ($61.99) Now you ask, why would you even consider this after you just gushed all over the place about Clear Creek? Because this is amazing apple brandy and it is a more accessible product by a terrific distillery. Germain Robin brandies are the benchmark for American brandy. I declined to include them above because they are too good for mixing. Their apple brandy (which really is only $12 more if you were to buy 750 ml of Clear Creek) leans more to the smooth vanilla side of the barrel-aged flavor, which will appeal to more drinkers, I believe. It is unmistakably amazing and deserves to be mentioned alongside Mr. McCarthy’s bottle.

David Driscoll