Summery Whisky Cocktails for National Scotch Day

Braveheart cocktail with Black Grouse Whisky
Braveheart cocktail with Black Grouse Whisky

 

There seems to be a “National Day” for every drink out there. That’s OK by me. Monday July 27 is National Scotch Day, which is a perfect reason to enjoy a glass or two of lovely Scotch whisky. These days Bourbon is favored over Scotch in the U.S., but Scotch certainly deserves a place on your bar.

This stuff has a long heritage. The Scots have been making whisky since the late 15th century with malted barley. The first written mention of Scotch dates back to 1494. Today Scotch is made from a combo of malt and grain, compared to Bourbon which is made with grain including at least 51 percent corn. Depending on the mixture of malt and grain, Scotch comes in five types:

  • Single malt whisky – malt whisky from a single distillery
  • Single grain whisky – grain whisky from a single distillery (not common)
  • Blended malt whisky – a mixture of malt whiskies from different distilleries
  • Blended grain whisky – a mixture of grain whiskies from different distilleries (not common)
  • Blended whisky – a mixture of malt and grain whisky, usually from different distilleries

In addition to the types, the location where Scotch is made also has a bearing on it.

  • Lowland — considered to be mild, mellow, and delicate
  • Highland — the largest region for Scotch has well-known distilleries such as: Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Oban and Talisker
  • Islay — known for heavily peated and smoky single malts like Laphroaig
  • Speyside — situated next to the River Spey and known for creamy and fruity whiskies, it has the largest number of distilleries like Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and The Macallan.
  • Campbeltown — the smallest of the whisky producing regions, used to have several distilleries, but now only Glengyle, Glen Scotia, and Springbank remain

No matter which type or region, Scotch is delightful by itself or with ice. It’s also delicious in cocktails. Here are a few summery concoctions that you can make at home.

Braveheart
Created by Tim Heuisler, Time Restaurant, Philadelphia
A hearty, smoky take on the Bloody Mary.

  • 2 oz. The Black Grouse
  • 3 ½ oz. tomato juice (or Bloody Mary Mix)
  • ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz. Worcestershire
  • Pinch celery salt
  • Pinch fresh horseradish

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a gherkin, pickled onion and piece of bacon.

The Front Porch Punch
Created by Eryn Reece of Death & Company (NYC)
A refreshing summer drink that is slightly sweet with the herbal flavor of the tea and the smokiness of the whisky.

  •  2 oz Chai Tea Infused Famous Grouse*
  • .5 oz Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz Pineapple Juice
  • .75 oz Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz Soda Water

*To Make Chai-Tea Infused Famous Grouse: Add 4 tablespoons loose leaf chai tea to a 750 mL bottle of The Famous Grouse. Let sit for at least half an hour and strain desired amount. Using the chai tea infused Famous Grouse as the base, combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain onto fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with lemon wheels.

Grouse Front Porch Punch 3

That Scotch One
Created by Gareth Howells, Forrest Point, Brooklyn
Bitter, sweet and refreshing on a hot summer afternoon.

  • 1 ½  oz Cutty Sark Whisky
  • ½ oz Cocchi Americano
  • ¾ oz White Peppercorn, Hibiscus Honey Syrup
  • ¾ oz Lemon Juice
  • 2 Dash Peychauds Bitters
  • Boylan Creme Float
  • Muddled Strawberry
  • Mint Sprig Garnish

Combine all ingredients except the Boylan Creme in a Collins glass. Top with a Boylan Creme float and garnish with a sprig of mint.

That Scotch One

 

Disclosure: I received samples of various whiskies at no cost.

What are you drinking? 

New Congress Avenue hot spot, The Townsend, scores badass guest bartender

Adam Bryan Guest Bartender The Townsend
Adam Bryan Guest Bartender The Townsend

 

It’s fairly common for music venues like the Continental Club and Cactus Café to have an artist residency with guest bands playing shows on consecutive nights or weeks. It’s not a common thing to have a guest bartender residency, but newly opened cocktail bar The Townsend is doing just that.

The cocktail lounge and live music venue situated on Congress Avenue kicks off its bartender residency program with Adam Bryan running the show through July 23.

It’s not new to have guest bartenders, but this is the first week-long residency at a bar in Austin. For the three-week old Townsend, it’s quite a coup to land a buzzworthy bartender. Bryan is well-known in Austin for launching the cocktail program at East Side Show Room, working behind the stick at Midnight Cowboy, and serving as bar manager at Bar Congress.

“People have been asking me who was going to be the first guest bartender,” says Justin Elliott, The Townsend partner and food-and-beverage wrangler. “We wanted to take our time to get the right person, because this is a part of who we are. We knew when it’s right, it will be right to offer a residency.”

“I was the guy that showed up,” says Bryan.

Elliott continues, “Adam and I have spent a lot of time working together at East Side Show Room and Midnight Cowboy and have an in-the-trenches mentality. He called and said he was coming through town. The timing worked out. It works really well for Adam to be our first, because we are bringing in someone we trust and with whom we share values.”

Bryan was attracted to the residency because he and Elliott value simplicity in drinks. The Townsend’s approach to doing things differently with a classic cocktail lounge in the heart of downtown also caught his attention.

“For six or seven years the culinary landscape in this town has put on its big pants,” says Bryan. “To see the people involved in making that happen now establishing their own programs in their own spaces is really great. To be able to come back to Austin after being gone for a handful of months and see someone I respect doing just that is a great fit for me.”

Steven Weisburd, principal partner at The Townsend, dreamed up the residency program as a way to bring in talent from the hospitality industry and shake up the creative cocktail menu for customers. It’s a part of The Townsend’s royalty program in which bartenders earn a 1 percent royalty fee each time a drink they created is ordered.

“Our residency program won’t be limited Austin-based bartenders,” says Weisburd. “We want to be innovative with ideas at the Townsend so that we are not just another in a sea of bars. The way we approach our royalty program, the way we do art and music, all are a part of how we are respectful of talent and craftsmanship in several areas. It is a way to celebrate talent in an innovative way.”

Bryan has created a special three-drink menu that will be available from 7-11 pm during his residency. The menu incudes the Rosella Reyes, made with Ancho Reyes; the Velpar, made with Treaty Oak Rum and St. George Absinthe; and the Pedro y Lola made with Tequila Ocho Reposado and Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Each drink is priced at $12.

“The Velpar is an old drink from the early days of the East Side Show Room,” says Bryan. “I wanted to use a local spirit, and Treaty Oak had just been released. I appreciated those guys’ gumption and wanted to showcase that taste. There is a good story behind the name too. Treaty Oak Rum is named for the Treaty Oak tree in downtown Austin, which someone had an attempted to destroy with Velpar poison to kill the tree. At the time the drink was made, absinthe was misunderstood, so that fits in there too.”

Velpar Cocktail
Velpar Cocktail

 

Bryan’s cocktails will only be available for a short time, but Elliott thinks they may make a cameo appearance after the residency. He is toying with fun ideas to bring back various recipes from guest bartenders in an end of the year roundup or something like a throwback Thursday.

The Townsend is currently in discussions with several notable bartenders from around the country to take over the bar for future residencies.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What Are You Drinking? 

What to drink in Austin right now: Two local spirits put a new spin on gin

Austin Reserve Gin Single Barrel Series
Austin Reserve Gin Single Barrel Series

 

Gin starts life as a wallflower. In the beginning, it is nothing more than colorless, odorless, flavorless liquor, sort of like vodka. Then it is distilled again with a mix of juniper berries and other herbs that transform it into an aromatic, sophisticated spirit.

As gorgeous and complex as gin is, it takes on an even more interesting tone when it spends some quality time with oak. Like barrel-aged whiskey, it takes on a comely amber hue and gains a depth of flavor with vanilla, caramel and spices layered in with the botanicals. Local booze maker Treaty Oak Distilling introduced its Waterloo Antique Gin, aged in new American white oak barrels, in autumn 2013. Now two more Austin distilleries are introducing oak-aged gins in time for summer.

Revolution Spirits introduces Austin Reserve Gin Single Barrel Series
Revolution Spirits, a boutique distillery nestled in the rolling hills just outside Dripping Springs, sold its first bottle of gin on February 22, 2014. That happens to be George Washington’s birthday, who was also a distiller and revolutionary. A fitting coincidence.

Revolution makes its flagship Austin Reserve Gin with a blend of six botanicals that includes juniper, rosemary, lavender, lemon grass, pink pepper corn and Texas grapefruit peel. The 100-proof gin is hand-bottled and every label is hand-numbered.

The folks at Revolution Spirits are constantly experimenting with different distilled spirits, like fruit brandies and the just-released coffee liqueur. That spirit of experimentation led them to try barrel-aged gin.

Co-founder of Mark Shilling describes the first batch of the Austin Reserve Gin Single Barrel Series. “We aged our Austin Reserve Gin in a French oak barrel that was previously used once to oxidize Tempranillo port wine. We aged our Austin Reserve Gin in it for six months and tested it along the way to select the right amount of aging required to get the flavor we want.”

Revolution Spirits will be releasing its Single Barrel Series twice a year with gin aged in different types of barrels. “We might use American, Hungarian, French oak variations that have previously been used for bourbon or mezcal,” says Shilling. “Our second batch is currently aging in a barrel that was previously used to age Jester King Brewery RU55 sour red ale.”

The first batch is a limited run of about 27 cases. It has a lovely light copper, almost salmon, color. Despite the barrel aging, it still smells like gin: prominent juniper and soft floral scents with the added touch of vanilla. Bold botanicals and piney gin flavors of citrus, allspice and pepper layer in with aged flavors of caramel and vanilla. It’s tasty on its own and great in cocktails.

Austin Reserve Gin Single Barrel Series is hitting the shelves of bars and stores in Austin, Houston and Dallas and is available for $45. Try it in a classic Negroni.

Austin Reserve Gin Single Barrel Series Negroni

  • 1 ounce Austin Reserve Gin Single Barrel Series
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

Stir gin, Campar and vermouth in an ice-filled tumbler; garnish with orange slice.

Genius Liquids rolls out Oaked Genius Gin

Oaked Genius Gin
Oaked Genius Gin

 

Mike Groener and his partner Charles Cheung started Genius Gin in the summer of 2013 to fully pursue a torrid love affair with gin. The unassuming distillery, housed in a nondescript industrial area, quietly cranks out some of Austin’s most distinctive gin.

Genius creates its gin by making a neutral spirit by fermenting sugar with yeast. It is then cold-steeped in botanicals and distilled with additional botanicals. Genius comes in a standard 90-proof version and a 114-proof version.

“The creation of our Oaked Gin was a happy accident,” says Mark Toohey, sales manager at Genius. “We ran a batch of gin that wasn’t up to snuff, so we decided to experiment with it. We wanted to try something new and decided an aged gin was the way to go. We considered buying a barrel and then chose to go with chips to see what happened. The result was too good not to bring to market.”

Genius makes its Oaked Gin by steeping the standard gin for six weeks with medium-roast oak chips. Using oak chips exposes the gin to more surface area to let the oak have a speedier impact. Groener likes the way the oak interacts with the botanicals in the gin. After taste-testing the gin, the team settled on a six-week process that gives the gin a nice caramel flavor and rich golden color.

The oak isn’t overpowering and the botanical aromas shine through; juniper and coriander are most prominent. The flavors are all gin up front, sliding right into lovely caramel flavors with a lingering, smooth vanilla finish reminiscent of the Cognac style Groener was aiming for.

“Sipping it straight is the way I like to drink it,” says Toohey. It’s also delightful in cocktails.

Genius initially made a small batch of 12 cases of Oaked Genius Gin; additional batches are being aged right now. The first release is expected to be available in stores around Austin later in July and will sell for $28. Try it in an Old Fashioned.

Oaked Genius Gin Old Fashioned

  • 2 ounces Oaked Genius Gin
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 orange wheels
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 splash club soda

In an Old Fashioned or rocks glass, muddle the bitters, sugar, orange wheel, cherry and a splash of soda. Get rid of the orange rind, add the gin and fill with ice. Make it pretty with a fresh orange wheel and cherry.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?

What to drink during Running of the Bulls: Avignonesi Desiderio

Avignonesi Desiderio Cortona DOC Merlot 2011
Avignonesi Desiderio Cortona DOC Merlot 2011

Reading Hemingway always makes me want to drink. Every time Jake Barnes takes a long tug off of a wine skin during the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona while watching the Running of the Bulls in The Sun Also Rises, I want to join him in some purposeless debauchery.

This year, the annual Running of the Bulls happens July 6th through 14th at the San Fermín festival, sparking a week-long celebration in Spain and with people like me around the world who want to party vicariously. You don’t have to be a Hemingway fan to have a deep affinity for tradition that honors a mix of beast-inspired panic and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. There is nothing better than a bottle of Spanish wine to celebrate the impudent gamblers who thumb their noses at certain death at the tip of the horn of a massive mound of sweaty bull flesh.

Well, unless you can find a fantastic bottle of wine adorned with a big white bull.  In that case, a fitting wine to drink during the Running of the Bulls is actually an Italian.

A wine that fits the bill is Avignonesi Desiderio, a brooding blend of 85 percent Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the La Selva estate of Cortona DOC in Tuscany. The label of one of Avignonesi’s most prized wines depicts the beautiful Chianina bull, named Desiderio, of Tuscany. His reputation brought wealth to the small farm of La Capezzine, which became one of Avignonesi’s main vineyards.

This wine smells like courage. It’s bold with fat black and blue berries lashed with leathery straps. It tastes like victory. Brazen black cherries, plum and dusty mint and eucalyptus leaves wave a deep garnet flag in front of that bull. It’s strong and fleet enough to stay one step ahead and carefree enough to dodge any arrogant horn or hoof. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, this wine is the blood of Desiderio, giving all who drink it, his powerful character.

Grab a bottle at your favorite wine shop for about $60 and celebrate this summer’s Running of the Bulls with the wild abandon of Hemingway’s lost generation.

Disclosure: I was provided a sample of Avignonesi Desiderio for review at no charge.

What are you drinking?