Posts Tagged ‘vodka’

Rule 37: Black Russian

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.

Yes, this is a pretty simple one, and no, I’ve never had it before. The Black Russian consists of only two ingredients, vodka and coffee liqueur, neither of which I’m particularly fond of. I’m not a coffee drinker, and vodka lacks… personality. But, this was an easy cocktail to concoct, so I decided to make a batch and take it along on a woodland walk. Turns out it travels quite well as a trail sipper, so here we go.

rule37blackrussianBlack Russian
From Dale DeGroff’s The Essential Cocktail

– 1 oz vodka (Bully Boy)
– 1 oz coffee liqueur (Kahlua)

Um. That’s it.

Dale says to build over ice in an Old Fashioned glass, so we don’t even have to shake. Or stir. Though you can add a stirrer to give it a quick spin here and there. No garnish on this one.

You can play with the amounts any way you please as long as it’s equal parts. A 2oz drink over ice might make a nice little nightcap nipper, but is kind of an underwhelming handheld drink. Unless you’ve got straight liquor in your Old Fashioned glass, you could do better than a few ounces. Go ahead and make this one a double.

If we’re using vodka, might as well use GOOD vodka. I like Bully Boy’s (of course) because it’s really neutral without a syrupy/glycerin mouthfeel, or too much heat. It’s just nice. Reviewers have described it as “wet granite” which is odd and awesome at the same time. The coffee liqueur de rigueur here is Kahlua. Pretty standard.

rule37blackrussian_alt2Not surprisingly, the bouquet here isn’t terribly complex. Booze and coffee. If I think really hard about it I can go with “The top notes of an astringent sting become overwhelmed with roasted bitter char and soft creamy sweetness. Hints of chocolaty mocha pair well with the lifted spirit warmth.”

…aaaaand it tastes like coffee and booze. With a slightly syrupy mouthfeel. Admittedly, the flavors are much more chocolate than coffee, starting with a milky sweetness before the roast char bitters bite back. A slight alcohol heat eases in as a peppery sensation and continues through the finish. The initial sweet chocolate mingles with char becoming a lingering velvety dark mocha.

After several gulps and some typing (on an empty stomach) the computer screen suddenly gave a good wobbly lurch to the left before righting itself again, so heads up: this drink is decently boozy, even if it doesn’t taste it. A liquor and liqueur ingredient list still counts as all-booze.

The Lady Friend sez: “I just smell coffee mocha Kahlua smell. Mmmmm… it tastes mainly like Kahlua, and then after it’s been in your mouth a second or two you get that alcoholic burn from the vodka. Yeah, that’s kind of tasty and dangerous.”

I think we’re actually on the same page with this one.


Nature tip: Maine mountain streams are not as cool and refreshing as they appear.
Bring booze instead.

The Bully Boy Speakeasy

So, last Friday night I went to Bully Boy’s speakeasy party.

It was pretty sweet.

Let me explain.

A couple months ago, the Bully Boys started dropping hints on Facebook and Twitter that they were going to throw an exclusive bash to celebrate their one year anniversary of the distillery. Old-timey garbed dudes started showing up at local bars, and posters appeared around town, each with a QR code to scan, which took you to a website. From there you registered, and got a secret entry password to the secret location (which wasn’t revealed until a week before the party), in the style of old speakeasies. I still have no idea what my password actually was, since the audio file kinda slurred the last word. Black gull? Black gulp? Black colt? Not a clue. Something like that. So I planned to equally slur the last word to gain entry.

Finally, the location was revealed: the Waterworks Museum out in Chestnut Hill. It’s located on the reservoir, and was the original municipal water pump station for the City of Boston until the 1970s, when the source was switched over to the gigantoid Quabbin Reservoir out in Central MA. The Lady Friend and I arranged a logistical puzzle (she was coming from Seaport in the city, whereas I was coming from work, then into the city on the T) and met up on the green line, carefully avoiding the horror of the B train through Boston University. Seriously, it stops every 30 feet out there. Ridiculous. After snagging a C train to the Reservoir stop (they were running shuttle buses after Reservoir, so we totally lucked out on that one) we had a brief stroll around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir itself, and over to the museum. Entrance was gained via the side door, and in we went. They actually never even asked for the password.

I bet it’s haunted.

Just inside the door, we ran into co-Bully Boy Will Willis, and chatted for a bit before continuing farther in to the museum. Holy snotrockets. This place was HUGE. Three story-high machinery lit with accent lights towered above, while the DJ pumped out remixes of classic Prohibition-era ditties (before switching over to some sweet Ace of Base). Several bars were set up throughout the machine room, and we sidled up to one to get a few drinks. I led off with a Mojito (pre-mixed, but Mojitos are a pain to make) and the Lady Friend went with the Rough Rider, the whiskey cocktail. After our traditional Bully Boy cheer “BULLY!” We took in the small details while sipping our drinks: the cigarette candle holders (real cigs… I checked), Bully Boy branded coasters, match books and empty liquor bottles as flower vases, all arranged on wooden casks. The Bully Boy logo projected brightly onto the machine room floor, and the guests, some decked-out in Prohibition-era attire, meandered in to clutch highball glasses and stare at the mechanisms looming above.

And jamming out to some sweet tunes. I did indeed see The Sign. And it opened up my eyes.

Our next round of drinks worked out quite nicely as the Rule 37 for the week:

The Commodore

– 2 oz Bully Boy White Rum (our pour was at least double that, but I’m the last to complain about a heavy-handed bartender)
– Top with Night Shift Brewing Trifecta (Belgian-style pale ale)
– Garnish with lemon wedge

Um. Pour a whole bunch of rum into a pint glass and top with the Night Shift. Plop a lemon wedge in there and drink it.

Whoa. It was certainly boozy. Trifecta is a 7% abv beer to begin with, so there’s a decent amount of punch in this pint. Yes, it’s more of a beertail than proper cocktail, but this totally still counts. Nosed with a strange mixture of sugary blackstrap rum and a Belgian-y sweet & sour aroma. The Bully Boy certainly overpowers the brew, but it’s still in there with a faint cry of “I’m not dead yet!” The taste? My notes read “oh that’s strange.” A Belgian fruity and sour note, offset by the sugar of the rum. There’s certainly a boozy astringency as well, and an almost grapey sour quality to the Belgian. I’d have to try the beer straight to get a better idea of it, but the two did get along quite well.

As we slurped our Commodores, the OTHER Bully Boy, Dave, came over and chatted with us for a bit. As we were talking, Michael O’Mara, co-founder and brewer of Night Shift, walked up, fresh from delivering kegs at the American Craft Beer Festival, and we were introduced. His altered suggestion for the drink was a shot of Bully Boy rum, topped with the Trifecta and lemon wedge, but served in the skinny highball glass over ice. It probably would have been a more manageable alcohol content, and a better blend of flavors, but I was satisfied with my big ol’ pint o’ booze.

The Lady Friend and I stayed a bit longer, exploring the museum, tasting more cocktails and having some snacks. We headed out as the party got REALLY crowded, and made our way back to the T, complete with Indiana Jones-style lawn sprinkler evasion maneuvers. While waiting for the God-forsaken T train way out in the wasteland of Cleveland Circle, we observed a pointy kitty (large rat) shuffling and snuffling along the rails. The Lady Friend, unperturbed by our new acquaintance from the Order Rodentia, and perhaps feeling a bit cocktail-laden, insisted on sitting on a junction box clearly marked “Wet Paint.” Luckily for her, it had dried by that point leaving khakis unblemished for the trip home. Bully!

GrandTen Distilling

Holy crap.

There’s ANOTHER craft distillery IN Boston.


I had no idea.

I stumbled on an article on that described a new distillery in South Boston called GrandTen. An email was immediately sent, and in a short amount of time I received a reply from co-owner Matthew Nuernberger, who graciously invited me in for a visit.

Here we go.

Yes, there’s a distillery in there.

GrandTen Distilling is located on Dorchester (Dot) Ave. in between the Andrew and Broadway T stops. It’s easily walkable from each. However, the entrance itself a bit tricky to find. There’s the tan “Addison Wellesly” building at 383, but it’s all small offices inside. Next door, at 371, there’s a series of green buildings, but that’s too far. GrandTen is actually located BETWEEN those two buildings, down a driveway and hidden in the shadows of the overhanging building. Did you miss it? Yeah, me too. Several times. It does give it a slight speakeasy feel, where you only gain entrance by knowing where the door is before you go. Once entering (look for the banner hanging overhead) I knew it was the right place when a copper pot still winked at me from across the room. I was just glad to get out of the rather warm and odoriferous waft of industrialized Dot Ave.

That’s more like it.

The distillery is located in a historic Boston building, which was once the home of the South Boston Iron Company, an iron foundry established in the early 1800s by metallurgist Cyrus Alger. Back then, the building sat on South Bay, which has since been filled in, and was one of the premiere foundries of the day. The first gun ever rifled in America was produced at the foundry, and they continued to provide munitions and arms to the US Government through the War of 1812. When steel became the metal of choice, the foundry switched to producing wire, and the spectacle of sparks and molten metal became a must-see tourist attraction for Boston.

Inside it smelled like the bran/molasses treats my mom bakes for her horse critters. It reeked of molasses. Which meant that there was rum being born. I met Matt, and he showed me around their setup while co-owner Spencer McMinn busied himself by trying to infuse hickory smoke flavor into a jug of vodka. More on that later. GTD runs a 50 gallon pot still, currently electric. It’s an “eau-de-vie” still with a larger dome with more copper surface area (copper is essential in distilling; it neutralizes some of the byproducts) and allowing more flavors through the distillation process. Their column is quite a bit shorter than others I’ve seen, though again, this means less separation and more flavors in the final spirit. They’ve had it for 16 months, but it’s only been operational since November of 2011. As with Bully Boy and Ryan & Wood, GTD had to wait for months and months while their distillery plans were approved, equipment was acquired and installed, though mostly it was all zoning and licensing nonsense. Since GTD falls under stricter Boston zoning (whereas Bully Boy had some leeway with their industrialized Newmarket location) they waited two months just for their first rejection, and another three months for the appeal. It takes a long time to convince the government that you’re a legitimate business making a real product, especially when booze is involved.

The starting point for all the GTD products is neutral grain spirit that they purchase, meaning that they do not mash and ferment their own grains, but begin with a odorless and tasteless spirit. From there, it’s distilled with botanicals for their gin, or infused with peppers and smoke for their vodka. The rum is open fermented from molasses and uses a process called “stripping,” which means the spirit is essentially distilled twice to give it the characteristics and flavors they’re looking for. The neutral grain spirit, or “eau-de-vie” (“water-of-life”) method saves time and resources for a small distillery by giving them a base spirit to begin crafting their products from, rather than mashing and fermenting wheat, corn, barley or other grains. Currently, their neutral grain spirit is sourced from New York. It sounds like the sort of thing that might draw some criticism, like using malt extract in place of milling your own barley in the brewing world, but I have no problem with it. The end products are fantastic, so why not save a step?

GTD has several end products from their eau-de-vie method, but only one, Wire Works Gin, is currently available, in the mid-$30 range. It’s been on select shelves since April, and is making its way into various local cocktail bars. They’re working on Fire Puncher Vodka, a chipotle- and hickory smoke-infused spirit, and molasses-based Medford Rum, though this will only be sold as an aged product. They’re also playing with a few liqueurs, and there’s an applejack aging in the barrel room. Yum.

So. Time for a tasting. First up was their flagship product, Wire Works American Gin, named for the foundry’s industrial past and sporting a beautiful copper-inked label. The GTD boys wanted to make an American-style gin, not a Plymouth or London Dry, which are more of an alcohol-juniper assault. Typically the alcohol heat and overwhelming juniper flavors punch you in the mouth, but GTD wanted something else. The American-style gin is smoother, rounder, and more complex than their British brethren. Great Lakes Distilling Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Gin springs to mind as a good example of the American style, sweeter and smoother, with some more unique flavors. Ryan & Wood also makes a smooth, citrus-forward gin that I was impressed with.

The GTD boys poured a splash of their offering into a red plastic party cup, and also served up some samples of Beefeater London Dry and Tanqueray for comparison. Sure enough, the Brits were hot on the nose with a big slice of pine, and tasted the same. Wire Works nosed sweet and smooth. The pine/juniper essence is there, but very balanced and tempered. It was a much lighter aroma than the sickly perfumed London styles. The taste? My notes read “WOW. TASTY!” There’s pine, but with a sweetness, different from an Old Tom or genever. There’s almost some mint or spruce in there, and leaves a very pleasant tingle on the tongue, rather than the usual hot alcohol burn. It has an excellent mouthfeel, smooth but without being too coating. This is due to a somewhat unique (for gin) ingredient: cranberries. Spencer, a PhD-level chemist by the way, explained that the cranberries were used for their acidity, which creates a smoother mouthfeel. None of the cranberry flavors make it through the distillation, but that semi-gloss mouthfeel is great. As I’ve said before, gin is not my favorite spirit. I’m getting there, but it’s a slow process. I think Wire Works is my new favorite, even better than the Rehorst. It’s that good. Amazing.

Next, I tasted a test batch of their Fire Puncher Vodka, whose namesake, South Boston firefighter Tommy Maguire, attacked flames with such vigor that it was said he punched the fire with his bare fists. Fire Puncher is a flavored, infused vodka, so don’t expect a neutral spirit here. GTD has no interest in making flavorless spirits. Their goal with this one is to make it taste like a campfire, infusing hickory smoke, and two kinds of Chipotle peppers. On the nose, it smells like Mexican food: spicy, but with a smooth sweetness underneath. The taste starts with a smooth green pepper flavor, which moves to a bitter campfire smokiness in the middle. The pepper’s spice kicks in, and lingers throughout the finish. It’s a spirit that stays with you, but that’s not a bad thing. Though this test batch was a bit spicier than they wanted, I thought it was EXCELLENT. There’s so much flavor going on that you don’t notice the 90 proof alcohol, yet it’s not TOO hot and spicy, but rather an almost savory medium hot pepper. This one is going to make a FANTASTIC mixer, though would likely be a great sipper over rocks.

As a special offering, there was a taste of almond cordial that was still in the test phases. At 80 proof, it’s made from an almond distillate aged for 4 weeks on toasted oak spirals. This is no sugary amaretto or orgeat syrup: it’s the real deal. Pure almond flavors without all the sugar syrup. It noses with a nutty pasta quality and some slight alcoholic heat. The taste is, well, almondy. Mmmmm. Slightly syrupy, but there’s no indication of the 80 proof booze. It would also be excellent over ice, or as a sweetener in cocktails. Perfect, as Spencer described their products as being “very cocktail driven.” These guys know what they’re doing.

Finally, there was a taste of their Medford Rum coming straight off of the still. It was all at once sugary, molasses, and wonderful. Very much akin to Bully Boy’s White Rum, though GTD will be selling only an aged version. A lot of New England distilleries are going the way of blackstrap molasses rums, such as Turkey Shore’s Ipswich Rum, another craft distiller on my list to visit. There’s a rich history of these rums in the area, as rum was the spirit of Colonial America, until the Brits imposed taxes and the drink of choice shifted to whiskey. Medford Rum is named for the original Medford Rum, which dates back to the early days of Massachusetts. GTD’s version, right off the still, was incredibly flavorful, and should be phenomenal once it’s aged.

GTD is purposefully naming each of their spirits and delving a bit more into a back story for each one, rather than pushing their distillery as an overall brand offering a gin, a vodka, a rum, etc. It’s an interesting approach, and they believe the spirits should stand on their own, appealing to a wider audience. You don’t necessarily go looking for GTD gin, but when you see Wire Works on the shelf with the big London gins, it’ll be quite a bit more distinctive and unique.

Public tours and tastings will begin sometime later this summer, once their retail and tasting area is constructed. Matt described it as basically being a second business within the distillery, so they’ll need some time to get it up and running. And built. They’re doing the construction by themselves (there was freshly-laid tile when I visited), but it should be a great attraction once completed.

In case you were wondering about the name, as I was, yes there’s a story there too. Matt and Spencer’s grandfather (they’re cousins… did I not mention that?) was a hardworking guy who enjoyed his cocktails, especially gin. Family gatherings were rousing affairs where the booze flowed freely. Since he had nine grandchildren, they decided to name their distillery GrandTen, as they think he would look upon the business as his “tenth” grandchild, and love the gin it produced. I think it’s a great namesake, and with the quality spirits they’re making, GrandTen should make the old man proud. Keep an eye out for these guys and buy their booze.

Rule 37: Windex

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.

Yes, this is a drink.

Also, it’s vodka-based.

I’m sorry.

This is a bit of a novelty tipple I found in one of my numerous cocktail recipe books. The book is the Playboy Bartender’s Guide, which I picked up on Amazon several years ago for a couple bucks, thinking it was a somewhat pocket-sized little recipe book. Turns out it’s a 480+ page hardbound monster. Totally worth the price. It has a lot of “cocktails” that seem to have come along in the 1970s, and aren’t really terribly tasty, but are fun for the novelty factor. One I’ve been meaning to make for quite some time is simply called “Windex,” and the original plan was to make a whole batch served in the appropriate window fluid bottle, complete with sprayer. That hasn’t happened quite yet, but I did make one to test out with some groovy glowstick lighting techniques.


– 1 1/2oz vodka (I used Bully Boy, naturally)
– 1 oz triple sec
– 1 oz blue curaçao

Shake it: it should get nice and blue. Strain and serve into a chilled cocktail glass. I used a champagne flute because I was feeling fancy. It would probably do quite nicely with an orange twist, but would somewhat distract from the glass cleaner effect.

Well. Yeah. It’s basically just vodka with triple sec. And more triple sec. Blue curaçao is simply orange curaçao with some blue coloring, and I often admonish the Lady Friend for making cocktails with it. It’s a tad gimmicky to give any credibility to a drink. A bit too party girl for me. The vodka certainly doesn’t help, as that’s another indicator of someone who wants a boozy drink, but doesn’t like the taste of booze. This is all strictly a matter of opinion, and if you’re a vodka-swilling party girl, preferably statuesque, blonde, and open-minded, by all means get in touch and we’ll discuss the matter, intimately.

Anyway, the drink is certainly Windex-blue. Like, bang on. It’s got that medicinal orangy aroma of triple sec, with a sickly sweetness. Um. That’s about it.

It tastes… well… about like the ingredients would seem. It’s sugary, fake orange flavored, with a kick of booze in there. I specifically went with the Bully Boy vodka for this one over Flag Hill’s General John Stark vodka because I wanted the neutrality of a clean spirit As mentioned in my review, the Flag Hill has a definite apple aroma and taste to it. I think it might actually play nicely with the orange sweetness in this drink and add a little more character to it.

Clearly, this drink is all about the color novelty, and when served in a Windex bottle, should nicely do the trick. I’m reminded of comedian/magician The Amazing Johnathan, who would routinely drink from a similar bottle during his stage act. A great ruse. And that’s what this drink is about: the gimmick. It’s the novelty factor that you want from this drink, instead of a quality crafted beverage.

Plus, it really just kinda looks cool.

Mil-wacky in March, Part 3: Great Lakes Distillery

Yet another travel series that I never seem to finish. This one tells the tales of our Milwaukee adventures in late March of 2012. We went there to do some serious drinking. Oh, and also Trevtastic got married. Yeah, some girl actually married that boy. But still, it was a good excuse to show the Lady Friend the various drinking landmarks of Milwaukee, so that’s what we did. Wistful wanderings in Wisco. Part 1 is here.
Yah dere hey.

Here we go.

This is one of the reasons I wanted the Lady Friend to come to Milwaukee.

Well, this and Trev’s wedding.

But this is also awesome.

Great Lakes Distillery. Yes, they make booze in there.

I think I visit here every time I come to Milwaukee. It used to be that you’d enter around the back, right into the warehouse portion of the building, where the actual distillery is set up, but these days they’ve got a brand spankin’ new retail shop and tasting room up front. It’s pretty snazzy. Still, on larger tours, the “old” tasting room down on the production floor is used. We entered the new tasting room, and thankfully the paint-and-drywall smell had faded since my last visit, though there was a mural still in progress. The Lady Friend and I sidled up to the bar and ordered a cocktail. GLD highly encourages having a cocktail along on the tour. It helps you pay attention. Since the Kinnickinnic Whiskey was back in stock (they were completely drained last time) I led off with a simple Whiskey Sour. I have no idea what the Lady Friend went with, though I suspect it had grapefruit juice. There are a number of cocktails available across most of their spirit lineup for about $5-$7 if I recall, though they might make you one off-menu if you’re super nice and they know how to make it. Michael led off as our tour guide this time, and the Lady Friend and I, along with one older couple, grabbed our drinks and headed down the stairs to the production floor.

I hate saying “this is where the magic happens” but a lot of good stuff is born here.

First, the history. GLD was officially started back in 2004 by a video-tech guy named, well, Guy. Guy Rehorst. He realized that there were NO distilleries in the state of Wisconsin, so he started his own. Due to licensing, permits, and just building the place, it took until October of 2006 to get their first bottle out the door (it was vodka). Since GLD began, eight more distilleries have sprung up in Wisconsin, with eleven more on the way. The craft distillery market is starting the same sort of building boom that craft beer had about 10-15 years ago, and currently they’re growing at the rate of about one new distillery in the US every month. By 2015, it’s projected that there will be 500 distilleries in the country, which means like craft beer, there’s going to be a lot more choices on the shelves. Which is awesome.

Distilling itself is fairly simple. You take, well, ANYTHING that ferments, and boil it. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, so the alcohol turns to vapor. Then you cool and condense it back down into a liquid, and you’ve got booze. Probably some pretty rough and firey stuff, but still booze. As Michael said “A child could do it. It’s also a felony.” Depending on what you make, there are at least a few rules in place. Vodka must be distilled at a minimum of 95% abv (right out of the still… it gets diluted down to usually about 40% abv/ 80 proof). Whiskey must be made from 100% cereal grain (wheat, rye, barley, corn… you get the picture). Brandy must be made from 100% fermented fruit (usually grapes, but also apple, pear, peach, cherry… lots of choices). Gin must have juniper berries in it somewhere. Rum must be made from 100% sugar cane (cane sugar or molasses).

Once you’ve got your spirit, sometimes you need to age it. For that you need a bonded warehouse, as described in my Ryan & Wood Distillery post. The government technically owns this part of your distillery, and you have to pay them excise tax when you take liquor out of there. It costs GLD about $3 per bottle to take their own liquor out of the warehouse to sell. This factors in to “you get what you pay for” when it comes to cheap booze. If a bottle of cheap vodka costs $6, you know $3 is automatically going towards the government for excise tax. Another $1 goes to distribution costs, another $1 to the retailer, and prob about $1.50 for the cost of the bottle. What’s left for the cost of actual ingredients? (Actually, in this scenario, it adds up to -50 cents.) The point is, a lot of smaller, craft distilleries have higher prices due to better ingredients, among other overhead costs, and the government always gets their cut.

Now that we know how to make booze (and pay the government to make it nice and legal) it was time to go taste the stuff. Since there were only four of us in the tour, we went back upstairs to one of the tables in the tasting room. Michael went through each spirit, and we got a pour in a nice little Glencairn tasting glass, a very classy touch. We tasted the year-round spirits, though there are several smaller batches produced, including a unique Pumpkin Spirit, made from Lakefront Brewery’s Pumpkin Lager, and a line of brandies (Grappa, Kirschwasser, Pear/ Eau-de-vie, and Apple).

Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Vodka Red Wheat Vodka
Nose: Sweetish. Medium heat in the nose. Very neutral.
Taste: Medium heat in the taste. Good mouthfeel with decent smoothness. Neutral and pleasing.

Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Citrus & Honey Vodka Flavored Vodka
I hesitate to call this “flavored vodka” due to the mess of cotton candy, blue raspberry, whipped cream, and other silly flavored vodkas out there. This one is made with actual lemons (the distillery staff gets to zest endless piles of lemons by hand) and Wisconsin-sourced honey. GLD actually distills the flavors together, rather than simply adding them to the spirit. No sugar is added after distillation.
Nose: Lemon Pledge and honey sweet. Very aromatic.
Taste: A tad hot, but perfectly nice. Sickly lemon, like cleaning fluid. Not overly sweet.

Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Gin “Milwaukee Gin”
GLD thinks that their gin doesn’t fit into either the London Dry or Dutch Genever categories, and calls it simply “Milwaukee Gin.” They use a very mild juniper berry, and add cinnamon, anise seed, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, Saigon cassis, cardamon into their botanical mix. Then the twist: sweet basil, and Wisconsin ginseng. I think it’s an excellent gin. You can read more about my thoughts here.
Nose: Mild pine, sweet spruce. Sugary pine smell, with a mildly hot nose.
Taste: Sweet pine, with spiciness. Very nice. Has a little zing to it, but in an interesting way.

Kinnickinnic Whiskey Blended Whiskey
The Ojibwe word “Kinnickinnic” means “mixed” or “blended” usually referring to tobacco, but in this case is a blended whiskey made from a straight bourbon, and a 4-year-old malt whiskey produced at the distillery. They were out of this on my last visit, but Guy was incredibly gracious and got his last bottle out of his car to give us a taste. Since then, they bottled another batch, so I got another taste this time around.
Nose: Hot alcohol on the nose (it’s 86 proof and unfiltered). Mild sweet bourbon lingers below the heat.
Taste: Hot, with a slight spice. Rye? Smooth vanilla from the aging. Very Scotch-like, but lighter like an Irish whiskey.

Roaring Dan’s Rum Maple Rum
All rums need a pirate mascot, and GLD’s is no exception. “Roaring” Dan Seavey was a pirate on the Great Lakes with all kinds of adventurous shenanigans. The color varies batch-to-batch, as it’s a single barrel product (they don’t mix the barrels together). Wisconsin-sourced maple syrup used, and bottled at 90 proof. This was the first bottle I bought from GLD.
Nose: Sweet, sugar maple. Hot in the nose. Sugar cookies.
Taste: Warm burn, then sweet maple washes over. Finishes hot and alcoholic, which keeps it from getting overly-sweet. Yum.

Amerique 1912 Absinthe
GLD is one of the few domestic distilleries I can think of that makes an absinthe. I won’t get into the troubled history of the spirit here, but it was banned in the US in 1912 for various reasons, and has started to make a comeback with legalizations and the cocktail craze. It’s an interesting liquor, with a crazy story, and GLD makes two versions: Verte (green) and Rouge (red). I brought back a bottle of the Rouge after this trip.
Absinthe Verte (diluted with water, no added sugar)
All-natural color from chlorophyll.
Nose: Licorice. Black Twizzlers. The Lady Friend recalls Good n’ Plenty. A lingering sweetness.
Taste: Very pleasant. Anise taste, but drinkable after the louche. Very light alcohol kick.
Absinthe Rouge (diluted with water, no added sugar)
All-natural color from hibiscus.
Nose: Sambuca-like anise aroma. Hot alcohol, but with much more sweetness.
Taste: Licorice, but much sweeter. Almost a touch spicy. Very nice, if you like licorice (I don’t). Very drinkable even if you don’t particularly like anise flavor. It impressed me enough to buy a bottle.

Guy had suggested that we try their new Apple Brandy, though it wasn’t on the tasting. We went over to the bar and Michael totally hooked us up with a sample.
Apple Brandy
Made from 100% Wisconsin-sourced Heirloom apples. Spends 3 years in aged bourbon barrels so that GLD can “put bold flavors in cups.” Well said.
Nose: HOT alcohol nose with a tart apple aroma.
Taste: HOT. Sweet apple, obviously, but complex. There are layers of both sweet and tart that flow underneath. But this is one of the more alcoholic tasting of the spirits. Still, quite tasty. The Lady Friend even bought a bottle of it.

Then he made us a Jack Rose! And yes, GLD does make their own grenadine. I asked. The drink nosed a bit hot, more so than a Laird’s applejack version, but had an amazing flavor. Very apple-y, with a tart cider start, sweet sugary mid and tasty clean apple finish. Wonderful.

Retail area where you can buy bottles and bottles of awesomeness.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting at the bar, sipping cocktails, and chatting with owner Guy Rehorst, whom I had met on my last visit. He’s a really nice guy, and will tell you basically anything you could want to know about the distillery, or just the industry in general. I’ve been a big fan of the spirits he’s made for the past several years, and make it a point to stop by every time I’m in town. It’s great to see a craft distillery making some great products. I like a lot of variety with my drinking, and largely gloss over the big brands, as I do with beer. Instead of Bud/ Miller/ Coors, the liquor industry has Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, and Diageo. Heavy hitters. The good news? GLD is in the works to enter the Massachusetts market, and hopes to be in Boston-area shelves by the end of the year. Keep an eye out for some more tasty choices. Highly recommended.

Review: Flag Hill General John Stark Vodka

About a month ago I got an email from Flag Hill Winery & Distillery. I’ve been on their mailing list for quite awhile, having done their Harvest Fest before, and visited again last year with the Lady Friend, Sissy, and the Mother of the Lady Friend. They tasted the wine, I tasted the spirits.

Anyway, this email was a bit of a distress call. Literally. It was titled “S.O.S.: Save Our Spirit.” Due to low sales, their General John Stark Vodka is due to be removed from the NH State Liquor Store shelves. Which would be a shame. It’s a pity when small craft stuff gets squeezed out of the market, and it happens especially often with vodka. The vodka game is flooded because it’s one of the easier spirits to make, and is currently the most popular spirit in the US. Most distilleries make a vodka, since you don’t have to be as concerned with flavors; distill a spirit and filter everything out of it. But it’s very difficult to make any craft product from quality ingredients when the big brands can undercut your pricing.

Personally, I love having smaller, unusual brands on my home bar. It starts a discussion when someone asks “What is THAT? Where did you get it? I’ve never heard of it.” I didn’t have any Flag Hill products at the time of the S.O.S. email, so I sent a reply to their marketing director to see if I could do a review of their vodka, and help spread the word to get their sales quotas met, keeping a local product on the shelves. They agreed, and sent over a bottle for freebies. Yay for free booze!

Bam! Booze!

It showed up in space-age packaging from the future. I didn’t know shipping materials like this existed, and it was like the bottle had a suit of inflated armor. Plus, the FedEx box had a great warning sticker. Once I tore past the spacesuit, I got a good look at the bottle. Nice square shape, but with faceted corners, an overall nice look. The official name is Flag Hill’s General John Stark vodka. It’s made from apples sourced at the appropriately named Apple Hill Farm in Concord, NH. A unexpected result is is a gluten-free product, made from just distilled apples: no grain whatsoever. Strangely, the bottle lacks a pull-tab to remove the topper. A minor detail, but oddly overlooked in the overall design. No matter… I just hacked it off with a wine opener. Still, pretty much every other bottle of liquor I’ve opened has included a pull-tab of some sort (except for screw tops). Perhaps it’s because Flag Hill is primarily a winery. Under the plastic-y topper is a metal screw top, another unusual move. I’m not sure why I was expecting a cork, but… I was… so the metal cap threw me off again.

How do I get that goodness inside of me?

Before we get into the tasting, you should know about the namesake: General John Stark. He was born in Londonderry, NH, and fought during the Revolutionary War. Thankfully, he was on our side, because this dude was like Chuck Norris, Rambo and King Leonidas all rolled into one. He was captured by Abenaki Indians in 1752, and while held prisoner, decided to grab a club and attack one of them. Apparently this earned him some street cred (forest cred?), and the Abenaki adopted him into the tribe. He took part in the French-Indian war, and then followed that with some action in the Revolutionary War. He started that fight in 1775 at Bunker (Breed’s) Hill in Boston (Charlestown), ordering his troops to hold their fire until the British were nearly on top of them. He famously saw action at the Battle of Bennington in 1777 in Vermont (actually NY), leading a decisive victory for the Colonial forces (30 dead, 40 wounded while the Brits had 207 dead and 700 of their troops captured) and screaming that they would win the battle “…or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!” This victory became a turning point in the war, and Stark was commended as “The Hero of Bennington.” In 1809, Stark was unable to attend a celebration of the anniversary of the battle, instead sending a letter in which he wrote the phrase that would be adopted as the New Hampshire state motto: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” This pretty much makes NH better than any other state. Just sayin.

Onto the tasting. It should be noted that I sampled this neat, at room temperature. Most people assume that keeping vodka as cold as possible (stashed in the freezer for example) is the best bet, and this may be true of big brand bottles. However, the recent push in craft spirits follows the mindset of treating it as any other artisan liquor, and keeping it at room temp. Cold hinders both aromas and flavors, which can be advantageous for a mass-produced product, hiding the less-desirable cogeners, the culprits of unpleasant smells and tastes. However, you’d never sample a nice whiskey at freezing temps, so let’s give the vodka a chance as well. (The same can be said of beers… a macrobrew adjust lager will taste better when it’s as cold as possible, masking the overall cheapness of the ingredients. A craft IPA, on the other hand, should be taken out of the fridge to warm up for a bit before tasting. It makes a world of difference.)

Nose: Sweet. Apple sweet. Now, I know this is made from apples, but vodka is supposed to be pretty neutral… no real flavors or aromas. The last time I did a Flag Hill spirit tasting, I was left with the same impression of a fruited aroma. Not that it’s bad, in fact, I prefer it. But it would most likely interfere with recipes calling for a neutral ingredient. However, it could also add a little something to it, like a flavored vodka would. I wondered if I was imagining it, so I poured a sample of Bully Boy’s vodka, and nosed them side-by-side. The Bully Boy is much more astringent, and doesn’t smell of much except alcohol. There is a definite apple presence in the Flag Hill offering.

Maybe it’s all in the nose… time for a taste.

Taste: Good mouthfeel… smooth and coating, but not syrupy. There is indeed a hint of sweetness, but the alcoholic burn takes care of that pretty quickly. Not a terribly hot burn, which is always preferable. Once the booze evaporates, I’m again left with a distinct, ghosted apple flavor, juicy and sweet. Not a tart apple, but very nice.

Let’s try it in a cocktail. Perhaps a Kamikaze.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t amateur night at the local dive doing body shots with tipsy sorority girls in their late teens. At least, not that the Lady Friend knows about. This is the Kamikaze as a legit cocktail… craft spirit, fresh lime juice and even name brand curaçao. We keep it classy here. Sometimes.
When the Lady Friend is around.
Which is a lot.

The Kamikaze

– 2 oz vodka
– 1/2 oz Cointreau
– 1/2 oz fresh lime juice

Nose: Naturally, there’s little else but a lime aroma to this one. Probably since I garnished it with both a lengthy lime twist, and a big ol’ lime wedge. But there is another sweetness underneath… apples and oranges. Makes perfect sense, with the orange Cointreau and the apple notes of the Stark.

Taste: Lime. Triple sec dryness. The vodka makes its precense known at the finish, with a meek alcoholic burn, but it’s well-blended with the lime and orange flavors. The Stark doesn’t seem to put up much of a fuss, but also doesn’t get buried behind the tart lime. Which I suppose is a roundabout way of saying it mixes very well. Yum.

Well, overall I enjoyed it, but after I reconciled a few things. I do have to nitpick with the fact that I got apple sensations in both the nose and the flavor. I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but for me, vodka is all about neutrality. There should be no aroma, and no flavor. Vodka becomes dependent on mouthfeel and hotness of the spirit. So as a strictly defined vodka, Stark falls outside the guidelines. However, I really don’t like vodka for precisely those reasons. There’s nothing to smell, nothing to taste, and you have to judge it by how horribly it burns your mouth. Not only was the Stark pleasant to smell, it also finishes with a lovely apple essence that I really enjoyed. I won’t say it tasted like an apple spirit, but rather it was a spirit with a hint of apple. Two different things. According to me. But the Flag Hill was tasty, even if it wasn’t a strict neutral vodka.

Go get some.
Keep a local craft product on the shelves.

Where to buy:
– NH State Liquor Stores
Use their product locator to see which stores have it in inventory

– MA Liquor Stores
This one is trickier, since NH is state-controlled, and MA is not, so it’ll vary store-to-store.
To find where the product is carried, you can contact the wholesaler here:
Sun Wholesale
Michael Hechler
Office: 617-232-7776

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!

Ryan & Wood Distilleries vs. The Plague

I am sick.

It’s not been a pleasant week.

You should understand: I HATE getting a cold. I’m sure no one enjoys it, but I DESPISE it. I take it personally, as an attack on my body from a foreign enemy. So I’ve been fighting it. Vicodin-assisted slumber ensures a full night of rest to purge the invader from my shores. Massive vitamin intakes guarantee that I’m running at maximum capacity of necessary nutrients. The irrigation attack relies on constant ingestion of water throughout the day, flooding the system and washing away the evil.

So far, the bastard has still managed to survive. So we’re upping the defcon. It’s time.

Scorched Earth.

The Scorched Earth policy is a last-ditch effort. The nuclear option. Salting the soil so that nothing may grow. Total devastation.


Normally, when sick I try to avoid alcohol, as even I can admit it never seems to help the healing process. However, with enough quantity for a sudden and all-encompassing attack, it can be quite effective. Last year I was in a vigorous training program leading up to my tae kwon do black belt test, chiefly consisting of more push-ups, crunches, and jumping-jacks than I thought possible. The test was a 3.5 hour marathon of cardio, techniques, cardio, forms, cardio, sparring and cardio. Brutal. Although high from the rush immediately following the test, when I returned home and settled, my body came crashing down. Hard. The cold that had been lurking in the wings, waiting for a moment to strike hit me while I was down, and I spent the next week feeling downright miserable. The following Saturday was our belt ceremony, and those of us who had passed joined up in Boston that evening for some un-taekwondo-like activities, principally at a bar where a fellow classmate worked. Multiple shots, beers, and mixed drinks followed, and it was truly a celebration. When I got home, I promptly passed out on my couch until about 5am, then groggily stumbled to bed for another 9 hours. When I awoke, the cold I had been rallying against had vanished. I had so poisoned every ounce of my body that the virus had fled. Scorch the Earth so that nothing may grow. I love the smell of Jack Daniels in the morning. Smells like victory.

Looking down the barrel of a plague virus growing within my cellular structure, I made a command decision: it was time for Ryan & Wood.

At least this building has a racing stripe that looks pretty sharp.

Ryan & Wood Distilleries is a craft spirit producer in Gloucester, MA, (that’s Glaw-stah, not Gl-ow-cess-ter) all the way up Rt 128 where it turns all Mad Max and suddenly rotaries appear. The distillery is tucked in an industrial park, and the entrance is on the right just around a sharp curve, so it’s easy to miss. The Lady Friend and I went in for a Saturday afternoon tour, which was led by Kathy, the owner’s wife, though Bob did pop in a couple of times during the tour. Both are super nice people, but if you get Bob a-talking, he’ll go on forever (which is ok by me) unless Kathy keeps him in line.

Kathy led a very historically informative tour, with lots of information about Prohibition, and how current regulations came about. For example, after Prohibition, the tax rate of spirits was determined by the amount it would take to pay the salaries of two federal revenue agents. This enabled the government the funds to hire the staff needed to regulate the industry. During Prohibition, there were far too few agents (about 1,500 for the entire country) to keep illegal spirits from being produced and distributed. Every distillery now has a government-bonded warehouse section designated for inventory. Once you remove a bottle from that bonded area, you owe excise tax on it. Currently, the excise tax sits around $2.90 per bottle; you basically have to pay the government their cut before you can sell your product. Taxes are due twice a month for the feds, and once a month for Taxachusetts.

The highly secure government-bonded warehouse.

In the 1990s, the government lifted the two-agent tax structure, and put all of the reporting into the hands of the distilleries. They note their grain purchasing, production schedules, inventory, keep their own bonded warehouse sections, and report directly to the government instead of having agents check in. Another quirk of the system is that a new distillery may not apply for a federal license until the distillery is built. You have to purchase the stills, fermenters, whirlpools, etc and buy/lease a space all without the help of bank loans or investors, who won’t step in until you’re licensed. The government considers distilling equipment as a possible means to manufacture incendiaries (as in flammable liquids and/or bombs), and in the days of Homeland Security, they do a thorough background check. We’re talking three generations of your family for any felony crimes, and your bank records for any possible organized crime or terrorist connections. It took Ryan & Wood 11 months to get their equipment purchased, built, shipped and installed, starting in 2006. They were unable to even turn on the still until two years later when the licensing process was complete.

When they finally got the still up and running, their first product was a rye whiskey, due to the two years needed for barrel aging. After its release, the rye was very well received, and during the aging a quirk of their barrel house was discovered: the casks that got some direct heat aged a lot quicker than those in the back of the room. Their current straight rye whiskey clocks in at 86 proof with a grain bill is approx 80% rye, 10% malted barley and 10% wheat.
Nose: Paint. Glue. Finally it hit me: PEAR. A pear aroma with alcohol behind it.
Taste: Pear again. Not sure where that flavor comes from, but that was the domineering trait I noticed. There’s an alcohol burn midway through, then a nice, rye snap.

Next up was Folly Cove Rum, named for a popular local scuba diving and lobstering area filled with shipwrecks. Many much liquors came through Folly Cove during Prohibition, and Ryan & Wood’s product is a more traditional molasses-based rum. Its aged in both new charred oak and used Jack Daniels casks, then blended for color and flavor. It spends 15-18 months in the barrels, and is diluted down with Monadnock-sourced mineral water.
Nose: Creamy vanilla. Lots of cream. A little woodiness, with caramel.
Taste: Can taste the bourbon right up front, with a tasty, creamy mouthfeel.

The Knockabout Gin is quite interesting. First of all, it’s named for a particular type of fishing schooner designed at the turn of the 20th century. The boats are distinctive for the lack of a wooden prow protruding from the bow. A topsail was added at the top of the mast eliminating the big bowspirit. Hence, the boats were able to bunch together in Gloucester Harbor and “knock-about” with the waves. The gin is somewhat citrusy, and uses a proprietary method to attain both lemon and orange flavors. Other ingredients include nutmeg, licorice, cinnamon, and Asian cinnamon, which I didn’t know existed. The goal was to produce a lighter, more mixable spirit that would appeal to a wider audience. Since I’m not a big gin fan, I can appreciate that, and found it quite nice. The citrus especially helps lighten the botanicals.
Nose: Quite citrusy, with a bit of pine, but a sweetish aroma.
Taste: Citrus sweet, then juniper pine in the middle with an alcohol burn. Sweet and even. Very nice.

Finally, there’s the Beauport Vodka. As with most of their products, it too takes its name from local sources. In this case, “Beauport,” meaning “beautiful port” was the original name for Gloucester Harbor, somewhere around the early 1600s. The vodka gets up to about 95% alcohol (190 proof) during the distilling process, though is diluted back down to a drinkable (and legal) 40%/80 proof. It takes the alcohol in the vodka about four weeks of sitting around to recombine with the water. By comparison, the gin takes six weeks, due to the botanical oils present. The vodka’s mash bill is composed of barley, wheat, and rye.
Nose: Well, it’s vodka, so there wasn’t too much to smell, though this one had a slightly wet, almost grassy aroma, not a hot alcohol sting.
Taste: Nice. It’s got a slightly slippery mouthfeel. Smooth, easy-going, no complaints. Very nice.

Time for the tour!

Actually, we did the tasting after the tour, but it was easier to combine the descriptions with the tasting notes. At Ryan & Wood, the tasting area/ retail store is on the ground floor, and the production area is downstairs. A lovely copper pot still and column sit shimmering in the florescent glow, along with various tanks and other paraphernalia. Notably, two horizontal fermentation tanks used to ferment the molasses mash for their rum resemble fishing boats, and are named Adventure and the Thomas E. Lannon (I don’t remember who that was named for). These tanks were dairy coolers in a previous life, but now make tasty tasty rum mash.

Ryan & Wood fall under the farmer-distiller license, as they only distill one batch at a time in their copper alembic still, as opposed to large commercial distilleries with continuous/Coffey/column stills. They mill their own grain, and distill “on the grain,” which means the wheat/barley/rye is not separated from the liquid in the wort, which some feel gives much more of the grain character and flavor to the spirit. Afterwards, the spent wort is sold as cattle feed, as is tradition among most brewers and distillers. The Lady Friend got to climb up and pitch yeast into one of the large, 1200 litre vertical fermentation tanks, which she was very excited about, squealing “I made liquor!

Now make me some whiskey, woman!

We continued over into second room filled with the barrel racks, where the rum and whiskies age. Towards the back of the room we took note of the “very secure warehouse” and got to see the bottling and labeling process. The bottles are filled from a somewhat jet-powered nozzle, then weighed to ensure the exact amount of spirit goes into each one. Too little or too much and the government gets cranky. The bottles are then corked, and fitted with a heat-shrink topper, which seals the cap, and counts as a tax stamp, since the bottle will now show signs of tampering. The labels are rolled onto the glass, and placed in a case (the vodka bottles have screened/painted labels). Repeat 12 times per case for hundreds and thousands of cases, and you’ve got a distillery. Well, after you distribute it as well, and Ryan & Wood is self-distributed. Those distribution contracts can set nightmarish quotas on small breweries and distilleries. The Lady Friend was again excited to give bottling, weighing, topping, and labeling a try, and did so with only minor financial damage to the inventory.

The nozzle goes IN the bottle.

To end our tour, we headed back upstairs to sample the spirit lineup, which was very enjoyable, as most free booze is. Kathy and Bob could not have been nicer to us, (short of giving us a carload of free liquor) and the tour was incredibly informative. They’ll tell you just about anything you could possibly want to know about the process, since they were one of the earliest craft distilleries in the state, and had to go through all kinds of licensing and building nonsense. I have seen their products on the South Shore, in North Quincy’s Atlas Liquors, but if you can’t find it in your local packie, ask them to order some. The rye was a little odd for me, the rum quite nice, the vodka was… vodka, but a good one as vodkas go, and the gin was very lovely. Even though I’m not a gin fan, I’d say it was the highlight of the spirits. Contact Bob or Kathy on their website (it’s quite nicely designed), go for a tour and get some booze.

It killed off my cold*, and I can’t think of a better recommendation than that.

*WARNING! These statements have not been approved by the FDA, CDC, or CSI and may not be based in fact. SquirrelFarts is most likely making all this stuff up. But it cured his cold. Ryan & Wood make no claims that consumption of their products will prevent or cure any known disease. But it might. Go try some.

Rule 37: The Moscow Mule ft Bully Boy Vodka

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.

Well, it took awhile, but this week we have a vodka drink. And for good reason. I scored a bottle of Bully Boy’s wheat vodka for review, and decided to put it to the test in a drink you’ve most likely heard of: The Moscow Mule.

But first, a brief dose of history. Vodka is a clear, neutral grain spirit. That means it’s not supposed to have any flavor whatsoever, and you can make it out of whatever you want: potatoes, barley, wheat, apples, corn… anything that will ferment. Boil off the alcohol from the fermented mash, filter it as much as possible (purity is the name of the game with vodka) and there’s your spirit. Poland claims they started doing this in the 8th century, and mentions of it pop up during the Middle Ages. The word itself comes from the Slavicvoda,” or “little water.” Today, vodka is the dominant spirit in America, surpassing whiskey in the 1970s. If you want some real-world proof of this, go to a liquor store (or packie) and compare the number of vodka bottles on the shelves compared to everything else. It’s a landslide. Pretty amusing for something that has no taste.

It wasn’t always that way. In Colonial America, rum was the drink of choice until some sort of dustup with our British overlords closed down the trade routes from the Caribbean. From thereafter it was whiskey time again in America. It’s not as if vodka was completely unknown… Eastern European and Russian immigrants certainly brought their vodka knowledge to America, but it didn’t really catch on until after WWII. Some Russian dude named Rudolph Kunett had bought the rights to produce Smirnoff vodka in North America back in 1933, but no one was buying until they corked the bottles and changed the marketing approach to calling it “white whiskey” with the memorable tagline “Smirnoff leaves you breathless.” Oh, and Smirnoff was featured prominently in some films about a guy named Jimmy Bond. That helped.

“My liver and I are engaged in a Cold War of Mutually Assured Destruction.”

Of course, in the 1950s the big red bear was on everyone’s mind, and Americans loved the allure of drinking the enemy’s drink, even though it was produced in America. The Cold War was in full swing, though I think the whole thing could have been solved quite easily by reanimating Theodore Roosevelt to recapture San Juan Hill in Cuba, and challenge Khruschev to some old timey bare-kuckle boxing. Certainly would have taken care of that silly missile crisis… just airdrop TR with a safari hat and he’ll take care of it. Bully!

“Throw a shoe and see what happens to that pretty face of yours, scoundrel!”

This is where the Moscow Mule comes in. I refuse to use the term “Cold War classic,” but it does stem from those post-WWII times. Somewhere around the mid-1940s (stories vary) a couple of guys at the Cock ‘n’ Bull pub in Hollywood decided to take some of their homemade ginger beer, throw in some vodka, and half a lime. Bam. That’s the Moscow Mule. The genius of it comes from the marketing ploys used. You see, they served the drink in copper mugs, and eventually made them into official Moscow Mule mugs. America loves a gimmick, and it took off. This was arguably THE cocktail that made vodka popular to the masses. So let’s give it a whirl.

The Moscow Mule

– 2 oz Bully Boy vodka
– 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
– 4-6 oz of ginger beer, to taste

This is a built cocktail, which means you do not shake or stir, but add the ingredients directly to the glass. Slosh the vodka, then lime juice, followed by the ginger beer into a rocks-filled highball glass, or – if you’re so lucky to own one – a proper copper Moscow Mule mug. Give it a quick stir, garnish with lime wedge, and sip the Cold War era goodness. Suck it, Khrushchev.

Coooooool and refreshing. A nice hot ginger snap plays with the lime tart, as in a Dark & Stormy while the vodka adds that mule kick. As with most cocktails, there are many variations on the Moscow Mule recipe. Some use only vodka and ginger with only a lime wedge to taste, and others go with equal parts lime and vodka topped with a splash of ginger. One thing is for sure: you must use ginger BEER, not some wimpy little ginger ALE. The ginger beer has a much stronger, assertive flavor, whereas substituting ginger ale will throw the tastes out of proportion. Some add a splash of simple syrup, but I find it’s not necessary. Others squeeze half a lime and drop the shell in the glass. I prefer mine clean, using only the juice without the pulp. A vodka cocktail always seems to be more about the quality of the ingredients used in the drink, rather than the spirit itself, since it doesn’t add any flavor. This demands FRESH lime juice, and a decent ginger beer. It’ll make a big difference.


As for the vodka, you can try the classic Smirnoff, or upgrade to some Bully Boy. Theirs is a winter red wheat vodka, sourced from Aurora Mills Farm in Maine. A fun little side effect is that it winds up with an “organic” designation. In 2011 it won a gold medal (92 points, exceptional) rating from the Beverage Tasting Institute.

When I think “vodka” I think “cold” and had planned to shoot the Bully Boy in the snow, with a nice wintery background. However, this year, THERE’S NO SNOW. It’s the winter that never was, and aside from messing up my shot, I’m perfectly ok with that. Here’s what I thought of the Bully Boy:

Nose: The astringent medicinal sensations of alcohol. Sterile, clean-smelling, but not hot in the nostrils. Vodka always makes me think I should be cleaning something with it instead of drinking it. It also makes me recall my drink of choice during freshman year of college: Smirnoff and Snapple lemonade. Lots.

Taste: Well, it’s neutral grain spirit, so there’s not SUPPOSED to be any particular taste. With Bully Boy it’s distilled through both column stills then filtered further to remove as many flavor-containing congeners as possible. The Beverage Tasting Institute amusingly claims they get tastes of “wet granite” and “powdered sugar,” but are nice enough to call the spirit “classy.” With vodka, we’re looking for mouthfeel… smooth and oily versus dry and harsh. The Bully Boy is certainly in the smooth category, though I wouldn’t go as far as describing it as oily. Very pleasant, and nicely manages to sidestep the harsh, hot alcohol burn of lesser brands. Very drinkable, and even better as a mixable. I don’t like vodka in general, but I don’t hate this. Especially since it’s locally-produced in Boston. As I said in my Flag Hill Winery post, there’s a certain gratification when serving a local craft product instead of a Big Brand. Well worth the premium.

Bully Boy is Boston’s first craft distiller since Prohibition, producing a wheat vodka, wheat whiskey, and molasses-based white rum. You can find them in these stores and restaurants in MA.
Bottles retail for about $30.

For our Bully Boy white whiskey review click here: Bully Boy White Whiskey
For our Bully Boy rum review click here: Bully Boy Rum
For our Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey review click here: Bully Boy ASW
For our visit to the Bully Boy distillery click here: Bully Boy Distillery

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!

The Monday Hangover: Dec 10-11

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Another week down.

Friday night we skipped over our usual Rule 37 cocktail night to attend a party in Natick. It was the Irish Lad’s company holiday party, which I had bartended last year, and took on the role once more this year. I put together a limited menu of well-known cocktails and set up shop. The Lady Friend was on hand to chit chat with various peoples, eat three ice cream sundaes, and fetch me a beer and a hot dog. The Irish Lad procured a keg of Jack’s Abbey Hoponius Union India Pale LAGER, and the keg kicked long before the party did. It was tasty. The Engineer and his wife were both there, as was Wifey, of course. Her friend requested a mixture of cranberry juice, orange juice, and club soda, which Wifey overheard and asked for the same, but with vodka. Another amusing moment was when Wifey asked for a refill on her Cape Codder, to which I replied “Do you really want that? Or do you want The Mystery Drink?” Of course, she couldn’t resist, and went for the mystery drink, which was a variation on a Rum Stone Sour, and very sweet, much to Wifey’s delight.

If there’s any question as to what the most popular liquor is, using this party as a baseline, it’s vodka by an overwhelming majority. Vodka really caught on in America in the 1950s, and by the mid-1970s, became the best-selling liquor in the country. Below is the breakdown of drink popularity from the party. This is a rough recollection; I really should have kept track of real numbers.

50% vodka tonic
20% vodka cranberry
10% gin & tonic
5% vodka “martini”
5% rum & coke
10% everything else

Another fun one: some guy came up to me and ordered a Martini but “with splash of orange juice.” Instant suspicion… gin or vodka? “Vodka… but light on the vodka and with more orange juice.” Um, ok, so that’s a Screwdriver, and nothing close to a Martini. Whatev. I did the whole fancy bit with the shaker and he seemed impressed.

I went through two and a half of the big handles (1.75l) of vodka in about 3 hours. That’s over a gallon of vodka. Yikes.

Apparently when you’re this guy, the rules of parking don’t apply.

Saturday’s event was another Bully Boy tasting, this time at Curtis Liquors in Weymouth. Yes, Bully Boy is now available at Curtis! I had made a Twitter comment many weeks ago to the effect of “Oh Curtis Liquors, you complete me… if only you sold Bully Boy.” I was then contacted by both Bully Boy and Curtis saying it was in the works, and now, here we are! The Lady Friend and I had some liquid shopping to do, so we stopped by. There was only one Bully Boy this time, Will, and we chatted a bit in between shoppers sampling the samples. Lots of fun stuff coming down the line from these guys, so keep an eye out. I’ll let you know what’s up with the BBoys.

In the meantime, the Lady Friend and I wandered the aisles seeing what there was to see. We picked up a couple bombers to drink that night, and I scored a sixer of 21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die IPA. I marveled at the sight of Bully Boy on the shelves, though the $30 price tag is right at the limit of the price point. My general shopping rule for the South Shore is Curtis Liquors for craft beer, and Atlas Liquors in Quincy for spirits. That seems to be the best compromise of price, as the liquor at Curtis is a bit more, but with more beer selection, wheras Atlas has some of the best liquor prices, but more expensive brews. However, Curtis is bigger, and closer to SFHQ, so I stop by there quite a bit. I’ve gone through a decent chunk of their craft beer inventory, and have now been struck with beer ennui, cursed to wander the aisles with nothing seeming particularly exciting. I’ve reached a point where the interest lies in six packs costing $10+ and I usually just don’t want to spend that much. I did score a Wachusett Larry dIPA, which is something to snag whenever you see it, as it’s one of the few offerings from Wachusett I enjoy. It’s very very tasty, and not at all like their Green Monsta IPA.

We finished up at Curtis, and headed over to the Union Brewhouse for some more progress on our 99 beer list. Though not particularly crowded, one raucous group of of late twenty-somethings managed to drown out all other conversation with their howls and entirely unnecessary table pounding. Fortunately, they left soon after our arrival leaving behind a pile of Bud Light, Coors Light and Michelob Ultra bottles, the owl pellets of the Local Yokel. Once again, what you drink is your choice, but when you’re in a place with 17 taps and 100+ bottled beers, please have something other than the horrid light macrobrews that you can get ANYWHERE else.

As for the Lady Friend and I, it was a Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale for she, and a Brouwerij Huyghe Delirium Tremens for me. I’ve had the Delirium Tremens several times before, and it’s very, well, Belgiany. Makes sense, being a Belgian ale and all. Light body, full of carbonation, and cloudy, yeasty, banana-clove. Not my go-to. It was an effort to take this one down… I just wasn’t in the mood. The Lagunitas of the Lady Friend looked much more appetizing, as a hoppy and tasty dIPA. This one has a bit of a story behind it. Basically, around this time of year, Lagunitas would be releasing their Brown Shugga seasonal, but they decided not to this time around. It just takes way too much of the brewery’s resources to produce, and would take the equivalent of three regular production cases per one case of Brown Shugga. Keeping their strangely aggressive sense of humor, the brewery said “There is no joy in our hearts and the best we can hope for is a quick and merciful end. F*@& us. This totally blows. Whatever. We freaking munch moldy donkey butt and we just want it all to be over.” Source. So, they made Lagunitas Sucks instead, and it’s pretty tasty. I haven’t had the Shugga yet, so I couldn’t tell you what we’re missing.

After her Lagunitas, the Lady Friend went on to sip a Southampton Publick House Double White Ale, while I continued to take down the DT. Lots of Belgian floating around. We decided to head back to SFHQ for an evening in and pick up a pizza on the way. After the Lady Friend called in our order to Bertucci’s, we finished our beers and got sorted for the dropping temperatures outside. This is where the Grand Scarf Kerfuffle began. She couldn’t find her scarf, which was a gift from her grandfather. Well, allegedly it was a gift TO her grandfather from someone visiting Scotland, and he regifted it to the Lady Friend. So she liked the scarf, and it wasn’t draped on the back of her chair at the bar, nor had it slid to the floor. A search of the Phantom didn’t reveal it either, and she lamented that it must have fallen off at Curtis. Which is nowhere near Bertucci’s. Sigh. So, detour to Curtis, and it’s nowhere to be found. Well, guess it’s gone. Over to Bertucci’s, pizza acquired, back to SFHQ. Turn on the light. Um, is THAT the scarf, lying there on the floor? Yup. Happy Lady Friend, slightly peeved SquirrelFarts. Time for pizza and beer before I choke someone with a 100% Scottish wool scarf.

It was a bomber of Alpine’s Pure Hoppiness IPA, one of the last California survivors, while the Lady Friend had her first go at a Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard ale. Very malty, and the high abv started taking effect as the evening wore on. We watched North by Northwest, because she had somehow never seen it, and I finished off with a can of Brew Free or Die. They’ve got a new can design (since last year) and it’s pretty awesome… it’s got Mount Rushmore (which coincidentally features pretty heavily in the latter portions of North by Northwest) and Lincoln is breaking out of the rock to kick some ass. Or so it appears to me.

Told you it was awesome.

Sunday. A trip up to Moo Hampsha. Ugh. The Lady Friend was heading to her parents’ house to help decorate the Christmas tree, and they requested my help for a very special project: distract Maggie the Kitten so she wouldn’t mess up the tree while they were hanging ornaments. Welllllll… ok. If I must.

I wasn’t entirely successful.

On the way, we stopped by a Stop n Shop in Stratham on the way to get me sorted with a Mix & Match six pack. I really wish all liquor stores had this feature. Many times I don’t want a whole sixer of one particular beer, and just want one or two to test it out. I managed to make a pretty quick selection of some new and some old favorites:

- Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale (an ale with a bitter start a Belgiany banana-ness to the finish. Ew.)

Sam Adams Holiday Porter (too malty, not enough roast. A weak offering intended as a crowd pleaser like most Sam)

Shipyard Blue Fin Stout (Drank this one after dinner. Nice dark roast, not too sweet, not too bitter.)

Red Hook Winterhook (Nice. It has the ale flavor consistent with Red Hook brews, with some mild winter spice)

Shipyard Fuggles IPA (Got two of these. It’s simple, but good)

I started with the Winter Hook, and moved to the Geary’s after. The Winter Hook wasn’t bad, but the Geary’s didn’t appeal to me. A real bitter-stale start, then that yeasty banana-clove grossness usually associated with wheat beers. The Shipyard IPA went well with a dinner of spicy marinated chicken and roasted potatoes, and the Blue Fin Stout was lovely for after the meal. The Lady Friend drove us back to Assachusetts, and I had the Sam Holiday Porter to finish the night off. Not bad, but nothing amazing. It supports my theory that Sam Adams makes beers for a very wide audience, and doesn’t want to offend. Still, it was a nice end to the weekend, and helped me ease into a happy slumber, another weekend gone too soon.


Bully Boy!

Last week, Lady Friend clued me in to something she noticed while flipping through the Improper Bostonian.
It seems that a craft distillery had opened in Boston.


In Boston.

Let’s just get everybody on the same page here. A distillery. Not a brewery. Breweries make beer. We have a bunch of those in/around Boston… Sam Adams and Harpoon being the most well-known. Not talking about that. Distilleries make distilled spirits. Liquor. Rum. Vodka. Gin. Whiskey. Tequila. Brandy. All of them start the same way, from a distilled spirit. You have a grain or a fruit, and you add yeast. The yeast feeds on the sugars, and makes alcohol. Put the whole thing in a big still, boil off the alcohol, condense it back into liquid. That is a distilled spirit, as basic as I can explain it.

And for the first time since Prohibition, they’re doing it in Boston.

BEHOLD. Bully Boy. Boston’s first craft distillery.

Ok. Yeah. That picture is kind of anti-climactic. But the future is in there.

Rewind. Immediately after finding out this place existed, I fired off an email to the distillery asking/begging/pleading/hoping for a look inside their doors. I got a very friendly response back saying

“Thanks for the interest. We’d love to have you in.
We usually do production in the morning, although we can meet any time.
Let us know a time that works. Cheers.”


Taking a personal day from work (hey, I had a dentist appointment too), I made my way to a section of South Boston known as the Newmarket District, a sort of no-man’s-land of industrial zoning, warehouses, food-processing plants and a prison.

I poked my head in the door, wondering if I was in the right place. And then I saw it.

It doesn’t look like much, unless you know what you’re looking at. Some counters, a desk with laptop, bottles of liquid, some giant plastic containers, and A STILL. A combination copper pot still with dual reflux columns. I hesitantly walked in, and met Dave Willis, the co-founder along with his brother, Will. They grew up on a farm in Sherborn, MA, near Natick/Framingham, and have been passionate about distilling for some time. The whole process of starting a distillery really became a possibility in 2003 when Massachusetts passed legislation allowing farms to use their products for distilling. Dave and Will looked for inspiration from their grandfather’s vault of Prohibition-era liquors, and took the name of his favorite horse, Bully Boy, as the title of the distillery, keeping a strong connection to the family farm.

They finally decided “now or never” and began to battle the bureaucratic forces of federal, state, and city licensing boards. Now, Massachusetts is not known for its easygoing and understanding liquor laws, and I can’t even imagine what they went through to get everything approved. Even with their backgrounds in law and real estate, it was not an easy process. Dave says one of the major sticking points was the building permit from the City of Boston, and they had to explain many times what the distilling process was, and that their building wouldn’t suddenly explode in a fireball of moonshine. Somehow, everything got done, they leased the building, ordered some German distilling equipment, and began making Bacchanalian nectar.

Dave gave me a tour of the space, and an overview on their process. Most spirits at Bully Boy start from wheat. Originally, they wanted to source it locally, but no Massachusetts farm was up to the task, so their red winter wheat comes from Aurora Mills & Farm in Maine, and is all-organic.

The rum uses blackstrap molasses from New Orleans, stored in giant plastic bins. Apparently it’s a colossal mess to work with, and the still has to be hosed down after every rum run.

This is the mash fermenting. The yeast is feeding on the sugars from either the wheat or the molasses (I don’t remember which liquor this was) and creating alcohol and carbon dioxide, hence the bubbles. At this point, it’s around 12% abv, and is essentially beer. The cogeners from the last batch can be added in here to bump up the abv to around 18% before distilling, and add some extra flavor.

So. The silver drum on the left separates the liquid from the solids. From there it goes to the wonky looking copper piece in the middle, which is a pot still. Steam heats up the bottom, and begins to boil off the alcohol into vapor. It collects in the top of the pot still and goes into the first column still. This vaporizes the liquid again, and it travels up the column in stages (each one of those little portholes is another level). For a vodka, they send the distillate up through the SECOND column as well. Eventually, everything winds up in the silver column on the far right, which is the condenser. The vapor is cooled back down to a liquid, and comes out of the spout as alcohol in the neighborhood of 80abv, or 150 proof.

Ok. Now you’ve got liquor. What do you do with it? Well, if it’s vodka, you filter out all the impurities to make it as neutral as possible, dilute it down to 80 proof and bottle it. Done. If it’s a white rum, you dilute to 80 proof and bottle. A white (clear) whiskey is a little trickier. To be called whiskey, you have to age it, otherwise it’s just unaged wheat spirit. Bully Boy ages theirs for eight hours. They tried 24 hours, but got too much smokey char flavor that they didn’t want.

That takes care of the clear liquors. The aged liquors have to be, well, aged. The amber colors of whiskey and rum come from time spent in wood (oak) casks, as the liquors absorb the colors and flavors of the wood. This is where you get vanilla in rum, and the smokey char in whiskey. Bully Boy expects to age their rum for about 8-9 months, and the whiskey for about a year and a half. Or whenever it’s ready. Basically, throw it in the barrel until it tastes good.

So while the aged liquors were busy aging, Dave let me taste the clear varieties. We started with the vodka.

Nose: Alcohol. No other smells. Clean.
Taste/Mouthfeel: With vodka, there really shouldn’t be anything to taste, so you have to go with smoothness and mouthfeel. This one was pleasing, without an oily or syrupy mouthfeel. Some vodkas will coat your mouth and feel almost slippery. Not this one.
Very clean, very good.

Wheat Whiskey (White)
Nose: Banana. Alcohol burn.
Taste: Sweet, fruity. Banana. Apparently the banana essence comes from the use of wheat, which is why you get that aroma/flavor in a wheat/wit/hefeweizen beer. Young whiskey, so there is a mouth-numbing alcohol finish. Much mellower with a splash of water, allows the flavors to come through past the burn. Yum.

White Rum
Nose: Sweet. Alcoholic nose sting. Vanilla buried under alcohol.
Taste: Vanilla up front, sugar finish. Sweet, but not fruit; brown sugar sweet.
As Dave describes: “Like an aged, dark rum that isn’t aged.” Perfect.

Check our official reviews of the Bully Boy lineup:
For our Bully Boy white whiskey review click here: Bully Boy White Whiskey
For our Bully Boy rum review click here: Bully Boy Rum
For our Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey review click here: Bully Boy ASW
For our Bully Boy vodka review click here: Bully Boy Vodka

The white rum was my favorite of the three. Despite all three spirits being (nearly) unaged, the rum had the most flavor (ok, I guess the vodka doesn’t count, so it’s just compared to the whiskey). I am a whiskey fan, and did enjoy the white, but wasn’t as excited about the banana notes and flavors. I’ve enjoyed Maker’s Mark, which is predominantly corn, being a bourbon, but uses mostly wheat to fill the rest of the bill, giving it a clean, refreshing taste to cut some of the corn sweetness. This all-wheat variety was indeed sweet, but a bit too fruity for my taste. That said, I cannot wait to taste the aged version. It’ll still be a “younger” whiskey, aging for only a year and a half, but I’m really looking forward to a lot more of the vanilla char to play with the banana sweet.

The rum really blew me away. I wasn’t expecting so much flavor and sweetness. Coming from blackstrap molasses, you can really taste the brown sugar, without a syrupy mouthfeel. Dave had several varieties of rum as comparisons, and even had an agricole variety that smelled like tomato paste. He said it tasted awful, and I’m inclined to believe him. The aged rum should be a real star after snoozing in red wine casks for 8 months, and I’m really looking forward to it. I plan to buy a bottle of the white as soon as I get to a liquor store that carries their brand (there’s one in Southie near the distillery, but it didn’t occur to me to stop by until I was halfway home).

This really was a visit to my happy place. Dave could not have been more helpful and welcoming, and I even called him a liquor geek at one point, which he freely agreed to. The passion is evident at this distillery, and they’ve made a very important step, becoming the first to make it this far in Boston. Hopefully it will make the process a bit easier for more distillers to follow, as with the craft brewery revolution of the 1980s. Bully Boy is the first craft distiller in Boston in over 75 years, and went up against one of the most notoriously juvenile alcohol legislative states in New England. And succeeded. They have a great attitude, a beautiful space, and great products. Now go buy their stuff and support this local business trying to get you drunk.

Website: Bully Boy Distillers
(Very nicely done site, also good photography by Heath Robbins. Check out his writeup on the shoot here.)
Blog: Read it here.

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