The Iconic Spirits Blog

Big House Bourbon

June 26, 2013

Tags: big house bourbon, big house tupelo honey

At the mention of Bourbon, our thoughts turn to Kentucky. Bourbon whiskey was declared to be a “distinctive product of the United States” in a joint Congressional resolution issued on May 4, 1964, and the lawmakers went on to identify it as “unlike any other type of alcoholic beverage, whether foreign or domestic.” It is widely regarded as the native American spirit, and is intimately connected to the history of the Bluegrass State.

Bourbon is made in many other places, of course: New York and Colorado, Indiana and Illinois, Virginia and Missouri. A Bourbon produced in Livermore, California---in the middle of wine country---would catch the attention of most people. We’d have many questions about it: who makes it, why did they decide to make Bourbon in California, who inspired them, how does it differ from the Kentucky version. (more…)

Martini & Rossi Turns 150

June 19, 2013

Tags: martini & rossi

In the middle of the 19th century, the Italian province of Turin was the epicenter of the cocktail culture. It was San Francisco and Manhattan, Los Angeles and London rolled into one. Local bars and cafes were gathering spots for everyone who wanted to foment a revolution or simply banter with their friends and neighbors. Those bars and cafes were also the headquarters for the cutting-edge mixologists of their time, men who were vying with each other to create the latest beverage sensation.

It was in Turin in 1860 that Gaspare Campari concocted his famous blend of 60 herbs, spices, barks and fruit peels into a mixture of alcohol and distilled water. Campari’s invention became world-famous due to aggressive and sexy marketing, but it fit into a strong tradition of drinking bitters that is still popular in modern Italy. It also succeeded because it represented a backlash against the sweetness of many other libations---most notably vermouth. (more…)

Vodka and Food

June 12, 2013

Tags: elit by stolichnaya

We live in the age of the sommelier, and food and wine pairing is commonly accepted as an art---there’s hardly an upscale restaurant in the U.S. that doesn’t offer a tasting menu with optional wine matchups for each course. Globally speaking, though, far more vodka than wine is consumed with food if you doubt this, think about Russia). Unlike bourbon or tequila, where assertive flavors in the spirit present challenges and limitations in food pairing, the very neutrality of vodka expands the range of possibilities significantly. Much depends on the quality of the other components in the cocktail, and the flavors of those ingredients can complement virtually any dish.

An interesting example of the art of pairing vodka with food occurred recently at New York Prime in South Florida, sponsored by Stolichnaya. Although the restaurant is a steak house, the menu was composed primarily of seafood, which allowed the mixologists to dwell on the lighter and more lyrical end of the scale. Best of all, the cocktails were composed of Stolichnaya’s Elit ($60), the ultra-premium vodka at the pinnacle of their production.

Stoli Elit is made in Tambov, Russia using grain produced on their own farms, which gives the company control of the raw materials from planting to bottling. Every premium spirit today seems to have a production method that makes it unique, and Elit’s is freeze filtration: The distillate is chilled down to zero, which allows the impurities to coagulate and settle to the bottom of the tank. According to Stoli, this is a technique that was used in Russia as far back as the 18th century, when vodka barrels were moved outside during the winter to achieve the same effect. Far-fetched? Perhaps, but the end result is uncommonly smooth. (more…)

Angel's Envy Rye

June 5, 2013

Tags: angel's envy rye, lincoln henderson

Readers of this blog know of my admiration for Lincoln Henderson. His resume is formidable: master distiller for Brown-Forman for nearly four decades; member of the inaugural class of the Bourbon Hall of Fame; the man who developed Ancient Age, Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniels Single Barrel and Woodford Reserve. His work ethic is even more impressive. At a stage of life when most people have earned their rocking chair on the porch or their condo in Florida (God forbid), Henderson went back to work. (more…)