The Iconic Spirits Blog

Tyranny of the Tastemakers

May 29, 2013

Tags: david wondrich

If you have a serious interest in the subject of alcohol, you’ve probably encountered the writings of David Wondrich. Mr. Wondrich is a cocktail historian, a subject that many people find interesting (or at least I hope so, having written a book on the subject myself). I’ve never met the man, and I’m sure he’s a delightful individual. He writes with clarity and does scrupulous research. The point of this piece is not to criticize him, but rather to use some of his theories as a departure point for a larger discussion.

In an Esquire article entitled The Imposters, Wondrich examines the ways in which some of our favorite cocktails have been debased over time, until they reach the point where they become objectionable from a taste perspective---not to mention virtually unrecognizable. It’s hard to argue with this. If you’re a fan of classic drinks such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned or Singapore Sling, you’ve probably given up ordering them in most bars, since what you’re served usually resembles a cocktail made by an alien visitor trying to decode a recipe book. He blames lazy bartenders and “cheapskate bar owners,” and he’s largely correct. (more…)

1792 Ridgemont Reserve

May 22, 2013

Tags: 1792 ridgemont reserve

If you’re lucky enough to have attended the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, you know that the Black Tie Gala caps the festivities on the final evening. Before sitting down for dinner, guests are treated to a lavish, two-hour reception where every major distiller in the state is pouring his product. The affair resembles a Bourbon Hall of Fame, and gives participants the chance to sample many exotic and rare items. When you sit down for dinner, however, there’s only one Bourbon on the table: 1792 Ridgemont Reserve.

1792 Ridgemont Reserve is made in Bardstown by Barton Brands, which is owned by the Sazerac Company. Bardstown refers to itself as the “Bourbon capital of the world,” although the title now is more symbolic than factual. Prior to Prohibition, there were over 70 distilleries in town. Today there are two---Barton and Heaven Hill, and the Heaven Hill complex is really a corporate headquarters and educational center (the whiskey is distilled in Louisville, then transferred to Bardstown for aging). Still, the town is filled with nostalgia, with attractions such as the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey and the house where Stephen Foster supposedly wrote “My Old Kentucky Home.” 1792, of course, refers to the year when Kentucky joined the Union. (more…)

Sous Vide Spirits Infusions

May 15, 2013

Tags: sous vide spirits infusions

Over the past decade, the sous vide cooking process has morphed from an esoteric technique to something commonplace in both professional and home kitchens. This is partly due to the influence of the ubiquitous food media and the desire of consumers everywhere to jump on the bandwagon of whatever trend is new and hot. In large part, though, sous vide has become popular because it works---many ingredients really do taste better when prepared this way.

Best translated as “under vacuum,” the sous vide method is simple. The ingredient is sealed in an airtight plastic bag and cooked in a water bath under low temperatures (usually 110-130 Fahrenheit) for a long period of time (as much as several days). The result tends to be a food product with more intense flavors, and one that has been cooked consistently throughout. Troisgros in France is generally credited as the first to use it commercially, and today you’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant kitchen without a sous vide machine. (more…)

The Imperial Bartender

May 8, 2013

Tags: imperial bartender

Several months ago, the New York Post---which, as we know, is one of the last defenders of cultural norms in a deteriorating world---ran a piece on Manhattan bartenders refusing to make Mojitos for customers. The story basically said that you can’t get a Mojito in a New York bar during peak hours on a Friday or Saturday evening. In addition to being messy to make, the drinks are time-consuming: You have to carefully muddle the mint leaves to get it right, which is hard to do when there are dozens of customers at the bar, three or four deep, clamoring for alcohol. Request a Mojito, and you’re likely to hear that the bar is out of mint leaves. (more…)