Last night on Mad Men, there were classic martinis served at Joan's house (gin, 3 olives) and our copywriters were working on a Bacardi campaign, leading to multiple mentions of rum and coke. But two other drinks took precedence for me: the Old Fashioned that Don whipped up at the bar and the Mint Julep everyone was sipping at the party.
Once again, I'm consulting my Grandpa's books, The Bartender's Friend (1946) and Old Mr. Boston's Complete Bartenders Guide (1935).
The Old Fashioned
Since I love bourbon (and rye in particular), I'll often order an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan when I'm in a bar where I know the bartender will create an excellent one (such as McCormick & Schmick's or a Ruby's restaurant.)
1 lump sugar
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1/2 oz Ginger Ale
1 jigger Rye
Muddle together the sugar, bitters, and ginger ale.
Add to mixing glass or shaker, along with 2 lumps of ice and rye.
Pour into highball glass and garnish with orange slice and a cherry.
The Mint Julep
There are definitely more complex mint julep recipes out there, many involving your stove and a simple syrup. This version of the mint julep is the easy-to-make-behind-a-bar version
4 sprigs mint
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp water
2 oz rye or bourbon
12 oz highball glass
Muddle 4 sprigs mint with powdered sugar and water and add to glass.
Fill glass quarter-full of shaved ice and stir.
Add 2 oz rye or bourbon
Top off with crushed ice and mint garnish
It's a smaller week for events, and a couple of them are even out of town (but within an easy drive). I also want to remind you that Labor Day weekend is the last weekend for some local wineries, so make sure you get a chance to visit our excellent local vintners. (Guide to drinking local)
Remember, all the recurring events, those dependable weekly tastings,
are displayed on our calendar. We've added the regular tastings at Elk Creek Vineyard in Owenton to the recurring selections. The one-time events are after the jump.
So, have you heard of Grüner Veltliner? Don't worry – I hadn't heard of it either until a couple years ago, when I participated in a Terry Theise trade tasting. I had many Grüner Veltliners that day, and I still wasn't sold on the white grape that accounts for ~36% of all the grapes grown in Austria.
At the time, I didn't like Grüner Veltliner because it seemed to be oily – not just on the finish, but the entire mouthfeel. What I didn't know was how food friendly Grüner Veltliner can be – in fact, it carries a reputation of being a wine to enjoy with food. I've since read that you can even pair it with asparagus.
We were at MicroWines a few months ago, and David convinced me to bring home a bottle without trying it first. He promised I would love it. Since I trust David & Jenn (the staff at MicroWines), I bought it. Over the weekend, we got around to trying it.
Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg "Gobelsburger" Grüner Veltliner 2007
The Gobelsburger Grüner Veltliner is a Terry Theise selection. Terry Theise is this man who brings in only the very best of the small European vintners, imported through Michael Skurnik. If the back label lists either of those names, you know you're in good hands – and good vines. This is actually a second-label from the Schloss Gobelsburg winery and not one of their
"premier" wines. It's made partially from estate grapes and partially from
In his 2008 catalog, Theise describes the Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg winemaker, Michael Moosbrugger, as someone who is searching for the soul of the wine. Theise goes on to describe this particular wine as "an alarm clock that wakes you up with the songs of a thousand birds; wonderfully sorrely and nettle-y and spearminty; less body and more brilliance than ‘06, and still absurdly fine in its class."
I do not know if I found all of that in this wine, but I certainly enjoyed it. We tried this Grüner Veltliner on its own, without food. I don't have Theise's gift for words, but I thought the wine was well-balanced, laced with bright clear notes and the tartness of Granny Smith apples. We even detected some underlying butterscotch, giving this wine a fullness we hadn't expected. As for that oiliness I don't like? Maybe my palate has improved with age. I detected it, but only on the finish, and it was appropriate, without being overdone. We drank this on a hot summer evening, but it would have been equally as pleasant on a Sunday morning with brunch. It's that kind of wine.
Michael Skurnik comments that winemaker Moosbrugger's "special genius seems to lie in the making of very pretty fine-grained wines at the “low” end of his range—no small gift." I would agree. My experience with the Gobelsburger has made me want to re-explore Grüner Veltliner.
A friend of ours beckoned us to The Party Source on Saturday with the lure of a special whiskey tasting in the aisle. He was right.
In the middle of the aisle was Rick Wasmund of Virginia's Copper Fox Distillery. Rick was offering samples of his Single Malt Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, barrel tastes of these, as well as the spirits (pre-barrel) samples. For a man with two whiskeys sold retail, he sure had a lot to offer. I've never been a fan of single malt, but I do love a nice rye.
The thing that caught my eye was the Distiller's Art Series (or as I call it, the Age Your Own Whiskey Kit). This kit comes with a small barrel and two bottles of the spirit. It retails for around $100, but was on sale for $89.99 on Saturday. Yeah, we bought one.
We got it home and dived in. The first step is to just fill the barrel with water and make sure it doesn't have any leaks. Once that is established (or you let the barrel slats expand with hot water to remove leaks), you can get started. It's easy, of course. You just pour the two bottles of spirits (rye, in our case) into the bung hole on top of the barrel. Firmly insert the bung and you're off. Within 4-7 months, you've got whiskey you aged your self.
It sounds silly, but I'm rather looking forward to the process. The barrel has a spigot. Every month of so, we can check in and try a sample. We'll be able to see just how much the barrel affects both the color and the flavor. The barrel is made from 100% American white oak without glue, nails, or paraffin wax. You can add ingredients to your whiskey if you want (at Wasmund's they're fond of apple wood chips), but we thought we'd play it straight the first time through. The bottle is reusable and the spirits are available at Party Source for when you start to get experimental.
Our plan right now is to check in every month and see how our whiskey is doing. We'll post regular updates on the blog, which you can check in the new Whiskey Watch category. In the meantime, I recommend getting over to Party Source and picking up your own kit. We can have our own whiskey aging club.
We picked up the 2003 MacRostie Pinot Noir at Cork and Bottle back during their spring clearance sale. It was only $14.99 (regularly $27.99). Since it was on clearance, and a 2003 vintage, we knew we had better drink it soon. MacRostie is a Sonoma winery with vineyards in the Carneros region. They try to use sustainable farming practices and were just certified as Sonoma Green Business.
This was a surprising wine. We first opened it on Friday night and tried to enjoy it with a Papa Murphy's pizza. Something didn't work right thought – maybe the sauce was too tangy? – but it was a bad pairing. Almost everything goes with pizza, so that was surprise #1. (In this case I blame the pizza and not the wine.)
I was initially disheartened by the wine, but again, I think it was the pizza pairing. I thought it was dry on the back of the throat, more dirt than earthiness, and not very much fruit at all. I poured another glass well after dinner and was pleasantly surprised (surprise #2). There was more earthiness, as well as some nice cherry fruit.
We didn't finish the bottle so we sealed it up and stored it in the refrigerator. We remembered it last night so we tried it again. We were a little wary – 4 nights is a bit extreme for us – but this was the third surprise. The wine was actually better. In fact, it had taken on sort of a chocolate quality. I grabbed some dark chocolate pieces to compare and it was quite a nice pairing.
The MacRostie was an easy-to-drink Pinot Noir (pizza aside) that I'd buy again. I'd be interested in trying a more recent vintage.
Our overall score:
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