Review: Mayflower 5th Anniversary DIPA

Remember how I used to write this blog thing?
Yeah, me too.
I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, which was unexpected, but not entirely unproductive. Lots of content built up, so expect some new posts.

In the meantime, Mayflower.

Since posting this review and trekking to Plymouth, I discovered that there IS still some of this beer left. As of 5/18, Pioppi’s in Plymouth still had several bombers on the shelf (minus the one we snagged.)


This one I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile. The Lady Friend and I took a trip down to Mayflower Brewery in Plymouth earlier in the year to snag a bottle of their limited bottling: the Mayflower 5th Anniversary Ale, a double IPA clocking in at 8.2%. I wanted it. Badly. Loin-achingly. But there weren’t many bottles left, and we couldn’t get down to Ply-town for a few weekends. Calamity! Fortunately, a friend of mine at the brewery, Sarah, (Hi Sarah! Well, say hello! Oh, quit hiding… wave to the internetz peoplez! OH NOW COME ON. That gesture was just plain rude. Fine. I’ll have to post that picture where you wanted me to put Vin Diesel’s face on you.)


Exhibit A.

That escalated quickly.

mayflower-lobsterAnyway, Sarah – who really is awesome – snagged me a bottle and hid it until we got down there. They had also just changed over to their Spring Hop seasonal, which is mighty tasty, so naturally we stayed for a round of sampling. It’s never too hard to convince us to stay for a sample or ten, especially when the seasonals have just switched over. Om nom nom Spring Hop.

Since then, the anniversary brew has been unintentionally aging in my beer fridge. I didn’t mean to, but it just sort of happened. I wanted to save it and savor it rather than pound it down and move on to the next beer. But now, I’m getting back the blogging, and leading off with this tasty brew. Coincidence? Not entirely. Mayflower is hosting their annual Open House (open brewery?) this weekend, May 18th from 11a-4p. $10 a head at the door gets you free beer, good fun, sporadic brewery tours (I may have led a semi-sober tour for my friends last year), music and food. Details here. For the Lady Friend and I, this will be our third consecutive open house, and we’re even trekking down from the frozen tundra of Maine, so you know it’s a good time. It also serves as the release party for their summer seasonal, the Summer Rye Ale.

Details again:
Saturday, May 18th, 11am – 4pm
Mayflower Brewery
12 Resnik Road, Plymouth, MA

Anyway. Let’s get to the tasting.



Nose: Ooooh hoppy. But you knew that was coming. Fresh, clean, open hops. Slightly syrupy. Citrus orange and lemon, with a darker pine spruce. Almost sugary, like maple sugar candy but without the maple. So, just sugar candy then? Yeah, I guess. Whatever, I’ve been drinking. What’s your excuse? Rich malty back gluing the works together. Very promising.

review-mayflower5thDIPAbeerTaste: Smooth, easy carbonic. Orange citrus sweetness with a blue spruce sour. Not that it’s sour, but it’s not a sharp, stinging bitter snap. More like a counterpoint to the lighter aspects of the hop. Rounded overall… not as dry as an East Coast, but not as sweet as a West Coast, though I’d say that this is probably the most West Coast style I’ve tasted from Mayflower. The malt syrup oozes in the background like a lazy meandering stream in no particular hurry. While the hop boats on top shoot the rapids from sweet to tart to round bitter, the malt mud on the bottom lies undisturbed, providing a foundation for the rest of the flavors to float on. The smoothness of the carbonic is also lovely; a creamy mouthfeel closer to a nitrogenated sensation rather than big brassy bubbles of bitter stings. Butterflies, not bees.

To be fair, I let this one age a bit in my beer fridge. In theory, this could account for a mellower hop presence and even a smoother carbonation, though that is not as likely without a leak in the cap.

Here’s what the Lady Friend had to say:
review-mayflower5thDIPAdetailNose: “I smell that yummy tree fruit. I also think it smells a little malty. I wonder if that would have been different if we smelled it when it was fresh. Almost has a little apple juice – I think that’s the malt.”

Taste:It’s good. [How profound.]
“It’s very good. [How very profound.]
“It’s got some sharp bitter hop taste, still get some of that tree fruit. It’s very good. Still a little malty, but it’s well-balanced. And that’s it.”

You heard the lady. It’s good. It’s very good.
Actually, I quite agree.

Squirrel Farts is now accepting solicited product reviews! Send me a bottle and I’ll take a pretty picture and talk it up in the amusing tangential manner you’ve come to expect. Beer, spirits, mixers, whatever. Contact here for details. Note: I will mention that the review was solicited, hell, I’ll even brag about it. Free booze? Damn right. But The Man says I have to say I got it for freebies. I’m excited about free stuff, so whatever. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll like it, or that I’ll give it a good review. But chances are if you read this blog, then we’ll get along. Put it to the test: send me your booze!

Rule 37: Blue Hawaiian

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

There’s a monster lizard!!!

What started as a predicted “2-4 inches beginning in early afternoon” before the main blizzard event rapidly escalated when at 7am, there was a blanket of 4″+. Yeah. Apparently some sort of “microburst” which “didn’t show up on radar” hit Portland and dumped half a foot. BEFORE the actual blizzard. Awesome.

Weathermen/women should be publicly whipped when they’re this wrong.
Or take a pay cut.

I know which would be more entertaining on the 11 o’clock news.

Yes, I’ve heard it before: it’s nearly impossible to predict the weather. So… why is that a profession? Couldn’t we just throw darts at a board of weather events with about the same rate of accuracy? Or let a monkey do it? (That would be awesome.) It’s not even that they’re so constantly wrong: it’s that there’s no accountability. Why is this a magic job with no consequences for consistently poor performance?
And how do I get this job?

So, the Lady Friend and I were discharged from work at noon, and proceeded to spend the rest of the day drinking stouts, and watching The Empire Strikes Back, certainly both fine choices for a snowy afternoon. But then it was cocktail time, and something had to be done. I had already decided I wanted something with rum. And pineapple. Because screw you, snow. It’s going to be tropical in my belly.

This one comes from The Rum 1000 by Ray Foley. It’s a half decent go-to if you’re looking specifically for rum drinks, but a tad annoying, as many cocktails are named by brand. I don’t need different recipes for an Appleton Daiquiri, a Bacardi Daiquiri, a spiced Daiquiri, and several other variations. At least there wasn’t a Captain Morgan’s Daiquiri. Wait… the “spiced” one was. Ugh. I guess it was a bit of a stretch to get to 1,000 recipes. But basically a lot of them have rum and pineapple, so I picked one and went for it.

rule37bluehawaiianBlue Hawaiian
From The Rum 1000 by Ray Foley

– 1 oz white rum (Bully Boy!)
– 1 oz blue curaçao
– 1 oz coconut cream (Coco Lopez)
– 2 oz pineapple juice

The book says to “blend with a scoop of crushed ice until smooth” and serve in “a glass.” Very detailed. I went a different route. Shake everything as normal, strain into a snow-filled pineapple cup, garnish with a cherry, pineapple slice, and a whole bunch of tropical tiki junk. Drink. Repeat until the snow stops.

Broke out the tastilicious Bully Boy on this one, and juiced up some fresh pineapple. Coconut cream makes everything taste happy (Coco Lopez has a squeeze bottle… use that. It’s much easier than the can) and blue curaçao turned everything blue-green. The pineapple cup took some doing, but was worth it just for the occasion. I wish I had made it bigger.

The drink smells… well, like sugar cookie rum, pineapple, and coconut. There’s a slight astringency from the rum, but this isn’t a complex sipper. A couple dashes of Angostura bitters would really help this along, but it’s not necessary. Somehow any drink that uses blue curaçao doesn’t seem worthy of bitters.

It tastes… well, again, about how it smells. The coconut cream is forefront in the flavor, which a choking sweetness and syrupy texture. Bully Boy rummy goodness adds to the sweet, but the booze helps cut through a bit. The pineapple just kind of hangs out in the background making everything juicy and happy. I don’t get any of the blue curaçao, though a touch of that alcohol astringency might be from that triple sec dryness.

It’s not terribly complex, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a super-sweet tropical drink to make you forget about the accumulating snowdrifts. Sunshine in a cup. If you have enough of them, you can actually feel the deck of the cruise ship sway under your feet. Don’t fall overboard. There’s no water: just snow.

Rule 37: Jack-In-The-Box Cocktail

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

I just wanted something tasty.
That’s all.
Minimal effort.
You know, one of those Friday evenings when you don’t want to think/blog too hard.
Oh, you don’t have a blog?
I do, and sometimes it’s a pain royale with cheese. Until I have a drink or two. Then it’s easy.

The usual Friday night routine involves finding/choosing a unique Rule 37 drink because I haven’t bothered to do that step in the preceding week. Usually. Sometimes I do, and that makes everything easier. When I have a starting place, it helps a lot. Once the drink has been chosen, I have to think of the “hero,” or main shot of the cocktail itself because I haven’t bothered to do that step either. This means choosing the right glass, deciding on a lighting setup, choosing a background, testing the lighting setup, deciding it doesn’t work, redoing a different lighting setup, chilling the glass, making the drink, making the garnish, getting the chilled glass out of the freezer, pouring the drink and staging the garnish all before the foam/oil on the drink surface dissipates and the frost on the glass melts. Before I even get to taste it.

First world problems. I am aware of this.

In hopes of finding something simple, I started flipping through a 1965 edition of Mr. Boston and found some wacky stuff, but this one didn’t seem too outrageous. Just equal parts apple brandy and pineapple juice, with a dash of bitters. I’ll give it a try.

There doesn’t seem to be much history or story behind this one, though many examples of the drink appear throughout Teh Interwebz, though one is a completely different concoction using vodka. Ick.

rule37jackintheboxJack-in-the-Box Cocktail
From Old Mr. Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide, 1965 ed.

– 1 oz apple brandy (Laird’s)
– 1 oz pineapple juice
– Dash of bitters (Angostura)

Old Mr. Boston sez “Shake well with cracked ice and strain into 3oz cocktail glass.”
Simple enough. Shake it VERY well to get a nice foamy pineapple juice, and serve it in a chilled glass. I made a double, which fit quite nicely into a modern 5oz cocktail glass.

Yup. Pretty easy. I don’t have any FRESH pineapple juice on hand at the moment, so the canned will sadly have to suffice for tonight. One review stressed using the fresh juice, and normally I agree, but I don’t have a method of juicing fresh pineapple. Yet. Citrus fruits, yes; large tropical hard fruits, not so much. The drink turned a lovely orange-pink color, but it looks lonely without a garnish.

rule37jackintheboxbottlesIn we go. Well. It smells of apples and the so-called pined apples. They kind of battle back and forth between tart and sweet, with the crisp apple seeming almost sour up against the syrupy tropical nectar. There’s an astringency in there as well (the Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy is 100 proof) which is likely providing some of the sourness, and deep underneath lurks the cinnamon spice of the Angostura. I suspect that the drink needed a heftier dose of bitters, but we’ll see when I sample it.

There’s also a waft of mildew from the Old Mr. Boston. Old indeed.

Sour start. It’s the apple tart combined with the alcohol that begins the drink with a frowny note. The pineapple washes in to cheer everything up, all sugar and sunshine, then a kick of booze stings the tongue pushing the pineapple aside. The Angostura comes in on the heels of the alcohol fire with a dry spice linger in both the flavor and mouthfeel. It finishes a tad sour and dry overall. Sometimes that apple brandy lends a sweetness, and sometimes a tart sour depending on the other ingredients.It plays the part well, lending that alcohol pucker when you need it, or an apple crisp sweetness when up against bitter foes, like Chartreuse.

rule37jackintheboxaltIt’s by no means bad, but just not as fruity and sweet as I would have expected. Quite well balanced, actually, as pineapple just can be TOO sweet if you let it. The Angostura really did come through in the flavor, and the play of apple and pineapple wound up being more interesting than anticipated. You could make a milder, sweeter version of this using the regular 80-proof Applejack, but I think the added boozage helps tame the tropical sweetness to a good balance. I’m dying to try this with FRESH juice and reevaluate. Perhaps soon.

Rule 37: Hanky Panky

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

I didn’t know what I was getting into with this cocktail. I just wanted something simple, but this one comes with a lot of history. I’ll try to make it brief.

The Hanky Panky Cocktail is an old one, coming from the famed American Bar at the Savoy Hotel and head bartendress, Ada Coleman, wonderfully described in this LUPEC post. As for the cocktail, here’s the story, in her words:

“The late Charles Hawtrey… was one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew. Some years ago, when he was overworking, he used to come into the bar and say, ‘Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it.’ It was for him that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail. The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, ‘By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!’ And Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since.”

rule37hankypankybottlesSince it was an official Savoy cocktail, it got put into Harry Craddock’s (who was the head bartender at the Savoy after Ada) also-famous Savoy Cocktail Book. And since it’s in the Savoy Cocktail Book, it’s covered over on the Savoy Stomp blog, which attempts to go through the entire book, drink by drink. There’s also some further info over at Cold Glass, where the use of particular vermouths is discussed. Like the Historic Core Cocktail, I think this one would really benefit from a big, flavorful vermouth like Carpano Antica or Punt y Mes. I have Martini & Rossi. Work with what you have.

rule37hankypankyHanky Panky
Originally from Ada Coleman’s American Bar
Recipe from Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book

– 1 1/2 oz gin (GTD Wire Works)
– 1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Rosso)
– 2 dashes Fernet Branca

Stir (no juices involved) and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel. Don’t skimp on the garnish with this one… it’ll make a difference.

Sooooo… it’s basically a Sweet Martini with some Fernet in it. Ok then. Not my usual type of thing, but let’s give it a try. I’m using GrandTen’s Wire Works American Gin in this one to ease off the juniper a touch. Savoy Stomp suggests using “a gin with some spine” but I’m not the biggest fan of the London Dry juniper bombs. Plus, Wire Works is awesome.

Nose: Yup. Smells like orange. Must be all those orangy oils I spritzed over the top. Will have to reevaluate after sipping some off. There is a botanical gin quality below the orange… astringent, juniper, and a sweetness. There’s the barest hint of menthol/mint from the Fernet Branca, but it’s buried deep down.

Taste: Rounded pine and juniper. Herbs. Mint. Medicine. Eucalyptus. A boozy quality, but not burning… more warm than hot. Bittersweet and mouth-puckering, yet rounded out by the vermouth. Dry, herbal finish with woody spruce notes.


That’s an interesting tipple. I was worried that I either put too much or not enough Fernet in this one. It’s powerful stuff, and the recipe specifies two drops. I put the barest splash – a splish really – into the mixing glass and it comes through very well without overwhelming the drink. The Wire Works does get a bit weak in the mixture, which is what Savoy Stomp was referring to… you need a bigger gin. I’m still pleased with the Wire Works, as I think it creates a softer drink, but others might want that slap of pine from a London Dry style. Quite sippable.

Let’s see what SHE thinks:

rule37hankypankyalt“I still get orange peel in the smell, but I smell the juniper fragrance. Hmm. I’m initially shocked at how sweet and smooth it is. I get sort of a grapey sweetness balanced very well with that juniper floral… hmmm. It’s not bad, it could probably use just a touch less sweet vermouth, but that’s a very easy way to take gin. You want to appreciate a good gin, and I think I got a little too much of the vermouth. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, but I think it dominated. I forgot about Fernet Branca! …I don’t get much of that. Maybe I would pick up more of the Fernet if the vermouth wasn’t as much.”

Review: Stella Artois Chalice

“It’s a chalice, not a glass.”

stella_chalicesSo, I belong to a word-of-mouth marketing group called BzzAgent. Every once in awhile they send me some free stuff, and I tell people about it. Pretty simple. Occasionally, they have BOOZE stuff, which is pretty much why I signed up in the first place. This is one of those times. They sent me a logo’d 33cl (~11.2oz) drinking chalice to drink their beer with. I already had the 40cl (~13.5oz) bigger sister, likely from some bar giveaway, but unique glassware is always fun. Until I have to move again.

Stella Artois is the current campaign, and they sent me a glass chalice. They like it when you call it a chalice. Stella is a Belgian lager, and a big brand of Anheuser-Busch InBev which is pretty much the largest producer of beer in the world. I would show you some choice quotes from the legal agreement they sent out, but that link has mysteriously disappeared. Basically I’m not supposed to mention any other brands and just stick to the Stella basics, which is difficult because I like to compare things. For example, there may be another beer company who made it a point to create their own custom drinking glass to enhance the flavor of their product. Just saying. It happens.

Not that this is anything new. A great number of breweries, especially in Europe, have brand-specific glassware to serve their beers in. The theory is that the shape, size, thickness, and other features of the glass are tailored to each individual beer and everything tastes better. Certainly glassware makes a difference. You wouldn’t want a martini served in a plastic red cup, or a fine scotch sipped through a twisty straw (well, maybe you would, but you know what I’m saying). So that’s where Stella is coming from. They’re also big about the ritual of the drink. There’s a certain well-known Irish stout that also has a bit of ritual for a proper pour, but the Stella dance is a NINE STEP NUMBER:



Now, I’ve never known a bartender to go through that many steps to pour a beer, despite what the commercials say. Even on a train. But then I don’t order Stella that much. The tastiest one I ever had was from a keg, but most likely you’ll find it in a bottle. A green glass bottle. Green glass doesn’t block as much light as brown glass, and the beer gets skunky, like a number of other imported European brews. In sciency talk, the beer is light-struck in a process called photodegregation. When the light-sensitive isohumulones in the hops are exposed to light, they break down creating, among other things, sulfurous atoms creating the undesirable aromas and flavors. Why they haven’t made the switch to UV-blocking brown glass despite this known flaw is beyond me, but I suspect it has to do with brand recognition. Some argue that the sulfurous qualities are intentionally created traits in certain brews. I don’t really buy that. I’ve had both good and bad examples from the same brewery, so either way, inconsistencies exist in the product. Maybe it’s from being light-struck, maybe not, but a beer brewed in Europe has plenty of opportunity to sit in less-than-ideal conditions, even on the supermarket shelf. So let’s do the ritual and see if the chalice can enhance my Skunky Artois.


I had my bottle chilled and ready to go. The glass was washed purified, and I popped unveiled the bottle. The alchemy part was fun, but I skipped the plum bob for the crown, also known as building a head. Having misplaced my antique Belgian dagger, I went with a samurai sword for the beheading. It seemed to work just fine. The head crown was judged to be exquisite, I cleansed my glass chalice, and bestowed the frosty beverage upon myself.

Man, this terminology gets tricky.

stella_closeupSo, how did it work out?
Well, the brew nosed sweet with cereal grains, and a mild skunky aroma. Not the worst one I’ve smelled, but that sulfur musk is still in there. It does smell corn sweet, which makes sense as corn is an adjunct used in the brew. It’s even bragged about as part of their ad campaigns.

The taste?
Well, it’s a little too sweet. Very rounded, very pleasing, very refreshing. I can’t say that I notice the difference the chalice makes to the taste, as opposed to swigging straight from the bottle. The chalice does impart a nice handfeel… there’s some weight to the chunky stem that counterbalances the liquid. The stem also allows you to handle the chalice without touching the reservoir itself, which would raise the temperature of the beer from the heat of your hand. Lagers should generally be served as cold as possible. Stella recommends serving at 36°-38°F, just a shade above freezing. Bad things happen to warm lagers.

Did it make a difference? Maybe, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Having a little ritual to a beverage can be nice sometimes, but other times you just pour the beer already. Either way, now I’ve got a brewery-specific piece of glassware should I pick up some more Stella. Actually, I’ve got one more bottle in the fridge, so I guess it’s time to start the ritual over again.

Squirrel Farts is now accepting solicited product reviews! Send me a bottle and I’ll take a pretty picture and talk it up in the amusing tangential manner you’ve come to expect. Beer, spirits, mixers, whatever. Contact here for details. Note: I will mention that the review was solicited, hell, I’ll even brag about it. Free booze? Damn right. But The Man says I have to say I got it for freebies. I’m excited about free stuff, so whatever. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll like it, or that I’ll give it a good review. But chances are if you read this blog, then we’ll get along. Put it to the test: send me your booze!

Rule 37: The Diamondback

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

Sometimes Teh Interwebz works out the way it’s supposed to.

A couple weeks ago I did a post on the Historic Core Cocktail, which was pretty wild. I happened across another blog in the research, Tempered Spirits, and its author commented back with a suggestion:


Sounds awesome. Boozy, but awesome.

Always open to suggestions, I decided to give it a try. I suspect it’s going to be another big boy drink, with those two bonded liquors, and the 110 proof Chartreuse. Kindred Cocktails came to the rescue again here with a little more information. Apparently, there are two versions of this cocktail, one with yellow Chartreuse, and one with the more powerful green (I like to call it Chartreuse2 ). The history is spelled out pretty well on this other site, but the gist is that yellow Chartreuse was originally used until Murray Stenson of Seattle’s Zig Zag Cafe (a well-known craft cocktail mecca) put some green in the mix to liven things up. It’s also listed on this OTHER cocktail site from way back in 2005 when Hollaback Girl was a thing. The green-utilized recipe become adopted as the modern version, so that’s what I’m going with.

Also, yes, we have no bananas yellow Chartreuse.

Suggested by Tempered Spirits

– 1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse Rye whiskey
– 3/4 oz Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy
– 3/4 oz Green Chartrueuse

All booze.
Stir this one until icy cold. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass of your choosing. A cherry is suitable for the garnish, though optional. Having a personal cache of homemade cocktail cherries, I opted to include it.

Nose: A decently complex nose snorter. Sweet herbal notes like licorice/anise, laundry detergent, fancy guest soaps and potpourri waft above. Below there’s a warning warmth of alcoholic strength, cooking the nostrils, and hints of brown sugar with apple sweetness. The herbal Chartreuse dominates the aromas here, and you can smell the booze below.

This is either going to be fantastic or vile.

Taste: Alcohol sour, though the cold helps to numb. Bitter herbs and cinnamon spice warmth spreading from the outer edges of the tongue inwards. Fresh green herbs, alcohol heat tingling the tongue and gums. Cinnamon spice again, or is it a tangy botanical of sorts? A lovely hint of apple sweet cruising placidly in the lower currents. The top end is heat, hot coals, a slow burning fire. Rye snap and alcohol sting, and the herbs turn to a floral sensation as the heat passes. Sweet, sugary sensation, I suspect from the liqueur, but with a powerhouse of flavor. This one is complex. This one is boozy. This one is EXCELLENT.

Let’s see what SHE thinks:
“Smells like a sweet apple/caramel. I smell caramel apple mixed with like a whiskey smell. I don’t get Chartreuse. I don’t get anything herbally… from the smell I get mainly the whiskey, but with a little apple.”

I think her nose is on the fritz. Let’s move on.

“Alcohol burn. Hmmm.

I’m waiting for something.

I get an herbalness to the finish. Oooh. Now I really do. But that took awhile.”

Huh. I think her mouth is broken too.

So, apparently we have wildly differing views on what this drink smells and tastes like. She smelled caramel apples and didn’t notice the Chartreuse at all. Where I found lovely complex layers in an alcohol-fueled oven, she tasted nothing but booze and some slight herbs in the finish.

I dunno what to make of that.
But I say it’s a fantastic cocktail.

Rule 37: Fernet Branca Cocktail

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

Ok. We’re hitting the Fernet Branca tonight. Here we go.

rule37fernetbrancacocktail_bottleI was looking for something-or-other in Dale DeGroff’s Craft of the Cocktail and stumbled upon the “F” pages. The Lady Friend got her Rule 37 cocktail, the Fancy Tequila Cocktail (like a Margarita, but with orange juice), and I got mine: the Fernet Branca Cocktail. I’m a bit late to the whole Fernet Branca craze, but certainly have been an enthusiastic convert. Here’s the deal.

Fernet Branca is an Italian spirit, an amaro, very bitter and herbal, and touted as a digestif. Fernet is the TYPE of amaro (like bourbon is a type of whiskey) and Branca is the specific brand, taken from its inventor’s name, Bernardino Branca. It’s from back in 1845, and claims to have medicinal properties, again, as a digestif or stomach remedy. Listen to Bill’s story.

So, it’ll help you out in times of, shall we say, gastric distress. But seriously, it really does seem to help indigestion and such. Packed with 27 herbs at bottled 78 proof it’s bound to do SOMETHING. The flavor takes some getting used to, and most people it seems never get used to it. I personally started to enjoy it after about my third sip, but it’s wild: dark, bitter, dry, herbal (I know I know, I keep saying that, but there’s not a lot of other adjectives that cover it) and minty. Yup. It finishes kind of menthol/minty. There is a mint version (Branca Mente) as well in case the regular version isn’t minty enough. Apparently Fernet Branca is insanely popular in San Francisco, as a shot with ginger ale back, and in Argentina where they mix it with Coca Cola. It’s even become somewhat of a handshake or nod among bartenders. I like mine IN ginger ale, as a highball, on Sunday nights following a weekend of liver torture. Good for what ails ya. But here’s a cocktail version.

rule37fernetbrancacocktailFernet Branca Cocktail
From Dale DeGroff’s Craft of the Cocktail

– 2 oz gin (Tanqueray)
– 1/2 oz Fernet Branca
– 3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Rosso)

That’s it. No juice here, so pour it into a mixing glass, add ice, and stir.
Serve in a chilled cocktail glass (or on the rocks if you prefer) and garnish with a flamed lemon peel.

Well, based on the ingredients, it seems like it’s going to be interesting. Somewhat like a Negroni, using gin, amaro, and sweet vermouth, but the proportions are way off (Negroni is equal parts). That Fernet Branca is going to be wildly different from Campari, and there’s a lot more gin to deal with. I’m frightened. Hold me.

First impression of the aroma is of the Fernet Branca mint/menthol, with a sickly sweet floral gin essence mingling in. Fernet Branca is powerful stuff, and I think it’s going to take four times more gin to counteract it. It’s that herbal medicine with some gin.

In we go.

Bitter. Right off. Some bark and cinnamon, then various dry herbs. Dry spice, not savory. Lavender? That would be the gin coming in now with floral and citrus notes. It’s alcohol warm all the way through, and finishes minty/piney, like candy canes on a Christmas tree. It’s boozy and a flavor punch. Bitter overall, so don’t chug these down like a tiki drink. This is more like an aperitif. Or digestif. I’m not sure which. Probably both. The Fernet Branca is a renowned digestif, but vermouth is typically an aperitif. Gin is gin. Screw it: drink it whenever you want. But carefully.

Another note: serve this one in a CHILLED glass and drink it as cold as possible. I’m not sure why, but I’m getting the impression that this one would taste absolutely vile at room temperature. There’s a lot of herbs, spices, flowers, and citrus here, but it’s very very dry overall, and none of those attributes get better in a lukewarm drink. Served hot might be a different story, but tepid is going to be a train wreck.

rule37fernetbrancacocktail_altHere’s the Lady Friend:
*Brow furrows. Bitter face.* “I get gin, an alcoholy burn, then the Fernet.”
No no no. Don’t tell me what’s in it, tell me what it TASTES like. Close your eyes, take a good sip, swirl it around in your mouth, swallow, and chew it for a second and tell me what you’re TASTING.
Piney in the beginning. Christmas tree, alcohol, just alcohol, maybe a little grapeyness, kind of like grapey spicy though. Spicy, not like chili spice, but like cinnamony, but not like really, but more in that direction. Spicy. And I’m still tasting Christmas tree.”
Ok. Much better. Now we’ve got some adjectives. Wasn’t too far off from my impressions, but sometimes it’s a struggle to get her to use her WORDS.

So, there it is. Dry, spicy, bitter, but not bad overall. An avant ou apres repas sipper. Just don’t let it get warm.

Absinthe: The history stuff.

Strap in, we’re doing this.

So, I got some absinthe samples from to review, which I’m very excited about. The thing is, I feel like a lot of people still don’t really know much about absinthe: what it is, where it’s from, if it’s legal, and if it’ll make you hallucinate green fairies. Well, before I get to the actual reviews, I’ll explain what the deal is with absinthe so we’re all on the same page. Then I’ll drink some free samples and see if it’s any good. Ok? Great.

Let’s start at the beginning. Absinthe is an alcoholic spirit. It’s distilled from a variety of herbs and botanicals, and generally tastes of anise, or black licorice. It can be clear, yellow, green, or even red in color (I bought a bottle of Great Lakes Distillery’s Amerique 1912 Rouge, which is a light red color, on a visit earlier this year). It became wildly popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, especially in Europe, especially in Paris, and especially among artsy types like Van Gogh, Wilde, and Hemingway. The trouble came with one of the main ingredients, grand wormwood, which contains a chemical called thujone. Thujone allegedly produces hallucinations, (some say it’s why Van Gogh cut off his ear) and is responsible for absinthe’s nickname, “la fée verte” or “The Green Fairy.”

It, um, doesn’t really glow like that either.

So, this stuff was popular right around the time the Temperance movement was a major force. The US wound up banning absinthe because of it’s alleged psychoactive ingredient, the thujone-containing wormwood.

The real deal is:
a) No absinthe ever really had enough thujone in it to do much of anything.

b) Absinthe is a high-proof spirit (generally 90 proof/45% abv or higher) which in large does could probably cause you to see some wacky things like pink elephants or green fairies.

c) You’d die of alcohol poisoning long before the thujone in absinthe made you go crazy.

d) The European wine industry was in ruins.

Wait, what? WTF does wine have do do with this? Well, it’s a big deal.

In the 1860s, a bug called Phylloxera was brought to France and decided it really liked to eat grapevines, and it devastated the industry. Seriously. Like 40% of all the vineyards in France were wiped out. It’s called the Great French Wine Blight. So wine and brandy (made from grapes) was pretty hard to come by and absinthe became the popular drink of choice. By the turn of the century, the vineyards were recovering (the solution was to graft bug-resistant roots from North America onto the French vines) but absinthe was dominating the market. So, the winemakers started spreading rumors about the toxic and hallucinogenic effects of absinthe and even said it would make you go crazy and kill your family. Better drink good ol’ wine instead. See how sneaky that was? Yeah, well, it worked. Many countries bought into the hype (or were paid off) and banned absinthe, including the US in 1912.

And it stayed banned.
For 95 years.

But it’s back now. Basically what started to happen was a renewed interest in classic cocktails and liquors. Absinthe was all over the old-timey drink recipes, but you couldn’t get it anywhere. Several anise-flavored alternatives were available: pastis like Pernod, Ricard, Herbsaint, and even an absinthe substitute, Absente liqueur. So demand for this banned liquor was growing, and some sciency boffins did the research and concluded that the whole thujone thing was banana oil. Horsefeathers. Malarkey. Countries began lifting their bans and many found, like Great Britain, that it had never actually been banned in the first place. In 2007 the US decided to finally accept that there was no reason to continue their ban, and legalized absinthe once again, though only thujone-free. And you can’t depict anything trippy on the label. Seriously.

So, you can buy (thujone-free) absinthe in the liquor stores again and drink it without worry.
It’ll get you drunk, but you won’t hallucinate, and you won’t kill your family.

…aaaaand just for fun, here’s Kylie as a green absinthe fairy.

Rule 37: Historic Core Cocktail

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

Cocktail time!

The Lady Friend received a bottle of green Chartreuse from her parents for Christmas, so we needed to put that to use. Right away. Chartreuse is interesting stuff: it’s an herbal liqueur from France, was originally made by monks, and comes in a couple different versions. There’s a yellower, mellower version, a super expensive fancy version called V.E.P. (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé or “really old”), and the standard green version. Fun fact: Chartreuse is the only liquor/liqueur to have a color named after it. What color is Chartreuse? It’s Chartreuse. Outside of France, you’re most likely to come across Chartreuse in a Prohibition-era cocktail that has been somewhat revieved, the Last Word.

no9_lastwordBut I’ve already had a Last Word before. Several. Two occasions in particular are noteworthy: one at Drink when the Lady Friend and I went on our first date (yup, took her drinkin’), and another on Repeal Day in 2011 when Ted, bar manager at No. 9 Park, sent over a round for us after hearing that we were out celebrating the drinker’s holiday. The Last Word is tasty, but what else can you make with Chartreuse?

The Lady Friend intended to find out just that. She wound up on a site called Kindred Cocktails, which looks like a fantastically awesome resource for future cocktail quests. I don’t recall what Chartreuse-inclusive recipe she wound up making, but she also found one that looked like a winner for me. It’s called the Historic Core Cocktail, and seems to have been invented by a bartender in L.A. named John Coltharp in 2008. Apparently, it was part of a cocktail competition where bartenders had to create cocktails that represented the different parts of the city. Coltharp wound up with the “Historic Core” and started mixing some fun stuff, namely rye whiskey, applejack and Chartreuse. Sounds right up my alley. It also made it into a cocktail book called Left Coast Libations, and the recipe on Kindred Cocktails was attributed to that. Much like this other author, I was kind of excited that I actually had the correct ingredients on hand, except the Carpano Antica vermouth. I generally use Martini & Rossi Rosso because a) it’s easy to find and b) I don’t go through vermouth quickly enough to justify buying the nice stuff. Vermouth tends to last for about a month after opening if you keep it in the fridge. Rossi isn’t as lively as Carpano Antica or Punt e Mes, but it’s more affordable for a consumable until I can find smaller bottles of the nice stuff.

Historic Core Cocktail
By John Coltharp.
From Kindred Cocktails and Left Coast Libations

– 1.5 oz rye whiskey (Rittenhouse)
– .5 oz apple brandy (Laird’s)
– .5 oz Chartreuse (green)
– .5 oz sweet vermouth (Rosso)
– Generous dash bitters (Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters)

No juice in this one, so STIR it, and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel after squeezing the oils across the top of the drink.

Did you see that? TWO ingredients that are bottled-in-bond, and therefore, 100 proof: the Rittenhouse and the Laird’s. Chartreuse is no slouch either, with a 110 proof sucker punch.The recipe calls for Angostura, but with the rest of the team bringing their A-game, I figured I’d let the Fee Bros Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters come out to play. Go big or go home. Except I am home. Does that mean I don’t have to go big? Wait, what?

Never mind.

Nose: Predominantly apple. With booze. Strange, because there’s only a half ounce of the Laird’s in there. Powerful stuff. I can see the lemon oils swirling across the surface, like 10W 40 on asphalt after a rain shower. There is a bit of lemony essence, but mostly apple. And booze. Did I mention the booze? Yeah, it’s there. Not searing hot in the nostrils like a snort of acetone, but a warm warning. I might be getting a tinge of darkness, from the whiskey and bitters, but it’s hard to detect. A very very slight vegetative musk lurks in there too. Those herbs are up to no good.

Taste: BY THE CROWN OF ZEUS. Whoaowmunummeowzlebub. That’s a-spicy meat-a-ball. Lots of heat in the flavor: some alcoholic burn, some herbs and spices. This isn’t the Colonel’s secret recipe however. Very complex, with a lot going on. I’d take another mouthful to try to walk through the electrical storm of sensations, but I think half of my tongue is numb. My gums are tingling too. They won’t stop. Making another approach. Roger, Squirrelfarts has the ball.


Herbal Chartreuse.
More of it.
Whiskey, dark, syrup.
Astringent alcohol.
Spices. Cinnamon, bark, leaves.
Anise; Licorice.
Astringency eases off.
Dark spices left. Slight syrup. Apple sweetness.
Fresh cut grass? Seriously. Where did that come from?
Brown sugar.

I think I like it. I’m not sure. I do know that after about a third of this drink, I’m starting to feel the booze kick in. Warm happy warm booze. Make no mistake: this is a potent drink. 2oz of 100 proof liquor, 1/2oz of 110 proof Chartreuse. Oh, and a little vermouth. Yowza.

Oh I totally have to inflict this on the Lady Friend. This should be good. Standby.

“*furrows brow* I get mainly the Rittenhouse. I was searching for the Chartreuse. I get a little herbal essence towards the end, but it mainly tastes like a Manhattan to me. A little bit of sweetness, I guess from the applejack, but I don’t get a lot of the Chartreuse in that. I would assume it would be like a Pernod-rinsed glass. I was figuring that Chartreuse would be like Pernod, like a little would go a long way, and it would overpower a cocktail. Now I’m excited to use it. It adds just a little dimension.

I suggested that she take a good mouthful instead of the dainty little sips she usually employs.

Hmmmm. I guess I could see almost a 50/50 split with the rye and the Chartreuse. It’s a lot of flavor. It’s three big boys fighting. I don’t get the apple so much. The other two are a lot bigger. I do get a little bit of apple sweetness though. It’s not LOST, but the other two are much more prominent.
It’s good though.”
“For the amount of alcohol that’s in there, it’s actually quite palatable.

I think she’s associating the alcohol heat solely with the Rittenhouse, which I found to be a secondary player in this cocktail, despite the ratios. Sure, there’s a whiskey presence, but the addition of strong straight apple brandy, and an herbal Chartreuse kick, creates a complexity that sideswipes my precious rye. It is tasty, though a pricey cocktail. Not that these are particularly rare ingredients, but they are decent bottles that may not be found on every bar. If you do have them, give this drink a try. Very complex and wild. Whoa.

Rule 37: Tennessee

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

This one is called the Tennessee.
I really don’t have anything witty to say about that.
I just liked the recipe.
But I have been humming this ever since:

But I am still thirsty

It’s just occurring to me now, long after the fact, that I at least could have used a Tennessee whiskey for this one. That means Jack Daniels or George Dickel, and I don’t think either of them make a rye. The term “Tennessee whiskey” actually refers to a bourbon anyway. I’m sure there could very well be rye whiskies from Tennessee out there, but I am not aware of any. So, I went with the Jim Beam Rye on this one. Why? Well, I haven’t used it in awhile, and I have another full bottle sitting in my backup stash. It makes a decent whiskey sour, but it generally doesn’t get deployed for spirit-forward cocktails because it’s… not as exciting as others. It does have a bit of rye spice to it, but overall I find it somewhat sweet, more like a bourbon. My nice rye collection has been taking multiple hits the past few weeks as I’ve been in a Manhattan craze, and I’m trying to wean myself off, as it’s going to be a long, cold winter and I will go into liquor hibernation. Not hibernating AWAY FROM liquor, but hibernating DUE TO liquor. And for that I need to gather my stores of booze before the snow falls. So it was the less-desirable Jim Beam for tonight.

From The Complete Bartender

– 2 1/2 oz rye whiskey (Jim Beam)
– 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
– 1/2 oz lemon juice

Mix it, shake it, serve it. Chilled rocks glass with plenty of ice. No garnish specified, but I went with a big swath of lemon peel. Seemed fitting.

Nose: Whiskey. Yup.
There’s a bit of lemon in there, but I’m not sure if it’s from the juice, or the peel I added as garnish. It smells plenty sweet though, but again, as a rye, the Jim Beam is on the sweeter side. It’s like a slightly bitter bourbon.

Taste: Whiskey. Yup.
The ice dilution from shaking does take the harshness out of the alcohol, and I can distinctly taste the lemon, which also helps to round things out. The maraschino contributes a tiny hint of floral bittersweet, and a dry mouthfeel, like I get from triple sec. But mostly it’s lemony whiskey. Which isn’t a bad thing. Just not that interesting.

Meh. They can’t all be amazing. But still, I wouldn’t turn one down.

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