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Sep 14

Mad Men Mondays: Johnnie Walker Red

It's time for our latest installment of Mad Men Monday. Last night on everyone's favorite retro television show, Betty had the baby. Back then, the guys stayed in the waiting room the whole time. I have to admit, I'm surprised Don even stayed and didn't head to the office until he officially had a son.

However, he did wait and in the process, he met Dennis, a prison guard. If it wasn't obvious from the uniform, accent, and whiskey, I think they were trying to drive home a point that Don and Dennis were in slightly different social classes. And yes, I saw it reflected in the whiskey. Dennis brought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.

Johnnie Walker is a blended scotch whiskey that has been around since 1865, when it was Walker's Old Highland. Johnnie Walker Red Label, as we know it today, was introduced in 1909. If you're not familiar with your whiskey, Johnnie Walker comes in different levels (and prices) that are denoted by the label.

About a year ago, Kevin and I were invited to a Johnnie Walker dinner at Boi Na Braza. While I didn't enjoy the restaurant, I did enjoy the whiskey. We got to taste through the entire portfolio, including the Blue.

The label spectrum is as follows, per Wikipedia. They get more expensive as you head towards Johnnie Walker Blue.

  • Red Label — a blend of around 35 grain and malt whiskies. It is intended for making mixed drinks. 80 proof. 40% ABV. According to William Manchester this was the favorite Scotch of Winston Churchill, who mixed it with soda. (Currently retails around $22)
  • Black Label — a blend of about 40 whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. 80 proof. 40% ABV
  • Green Label — a vatted malt that is a blend of about 15 individual single malts, the signature malts being Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila – Aged 15 years. 86 proof. 43% ABV. Previously sold under the name 'Pure Malt'.
  • Gold Label — a blend of over 15 single malts, including the
    very rare Clynelish malt. It was derived from Alexander II's blending
    notes for a whiskey to commemorate Johnnie Walker's centenary. His
    original efforts were thwarted by a shortage of these malts following
    World War I. Gold Label is commonly bottled at 15 or 18 years. 80
    proof. 40% ABV.
  • Blue Label — Johnnie Walker's premium blend. Every bottle is
    serial numbered and sold in a silk-lined box, accompanied by a
    certificate of authenticity. There is no age declaration for Blue
    Label. 80 proof.
    (Currently retails around $200)

So Dennis brought the working man's Johnnie Walker. Don, never one to turn away a drink, didn't seem to mind. The Red Label is quite popular for mixing with Coca-Cola and they are even being offered together in a limited edition can. At our Boi na Braza dinner, we drink the Red Label on the rocks, with a splash of guarana soda, with our salad course.
The soda sweetened the scotch but there was still a nice light peat
flavor on the finish once the sweet faded.

Based on Johnnie Walker press materials, more than 33 million bottles of Johnnie Walker were purchased in 2004 and Johnnie Walker Black Label seems to be the most popular, with approximately 43 glasses of Johnnie Walker Black Label enjoyed by consumers each second. We occasionally have Black Label in our house, as Kevin sometimes purchases it as an "everyday scotch." 

Overall, great episode and great product placement for Johnnie Walker.

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Posted by Michelle at 12:18 pm in Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Scotch & Whiskey, Television | Permalink | Comments (4)
Aug 31

Mad Men Mondays: Old Fashioned & Mint Julep

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
crushed ice
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

Photo Credit:
Photo from AMC, by Carin Baer
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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Aug 24

Mad Men Mondays: The Stinger and The Gibson

I'm all but obsessed with the AMC show Mad Men. Last night, I heard two different cocktails mentioned on the show and I had to find out a little more about them: the Stinger and the Gibson.This has inspired me to launch a new recurring series: Mad Men Mondays. If they mention a cocktail on the Sunday night show, I'll hunt it down and give you the recipe on Monday. So, on to the cocktails …


Where did I go for the recipes? A pocket-sized 1946 book that belonged to my grandpa, called The Bartender's Friend.

The Stinger
1/3 oz white creme de menthe
1/3 oz brandy

Shake with ice and strain into 3 oz cocktail glass.

The Gibson
1/2 oz dry gin
1/2 oz Seagram's
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 dash orange bitters

Shake with ice. Strain into 3 oz cocktail glass.

Last night, the character Roger ordered a Gibson "up."  I often order a Manhattan "up" as well, although I might say straight up instead. Here's a quick cocktail terminology glossary:

  • Neat: no ice, not mixed
  • Rocks (on the rocks): Poured over ice
  • Shaken: Shaken over ice and mixed, as required in both the Stinger and Gibson, and preferred by James Bond.
  • Stirred: The ingredients are, well, stirred instead of shaken.
  • Up / Straight Up: Mixed but not poured over ice

Photo Credit:
Photo from AMC, by Carin Baer
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