Three Mint Julep Recipes to Celebrate the Kentucky Derby   

Derby Day isn’t complete without the “official” drink of the Kentucky Derby, the mint julep. It has been served to the winning rider and relished by fans for more than a century.

The first time I tasted a mint julep was in the infield at the Kentucky Derby in 1993. I was hooked. The tradition. The ceremony. The sweet bourbon and fresh mint melting away my cares. I made a point of going back to Churchill Downs several years in a row to collect the commemorative glasses that the juleps are served in.

While I won’t be in Louisville for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, you can bet I’ll be sipping on a mint julep. I have my favorite recipe, but I decided to ask a couple experts to share their favorite recipes.

Mark Shilling, co-founder of Revolution Spirits, makers of Austin Reserve Gin, and Clay Inscoe, chef, mixologist, and distilling scientist at Treaty Oak Distilling both provided variations on the classic recipe. I kept their recipes in-tact, but swapped out their preferred bourbon or whiskey for an expression of Four Roses Bourbon.

Here are three great mint julep recipes for you to enjoy during the Kentucky Derby.

Classic Mint Julep Recipe
Classic Mint Julep Recipe

What Are You Drinking? Classic Mint Julep

  • 3 ounces Four Roses Bourbon Yellow
  • .5 ounce mint simple syrup
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  • Crushed ice

Mint simple syrup: prepare simple syrup by boiling 2 cup of granulated sugar in 2 cup of distilled water for 5 minutes. Stir it constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn. Set aside in a covered container to cool with a handful of fresh mint tossed in (6 to 8 sprigs). You can prepare it ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight.

Mint julep: Make each julep by filling a silver julep cup (or an old-fashioned glass if you don’t have the silver cup) with crushed ice, add the mint simple syrup and three ounces of Four Roses Bourbon. Stir like a demon until the glass frosts. Top it off with more ice and stir again before serving. Pop in a sprig of mint and serve. Drink, repeat.

A little about the whiskey: Four Roses Bourbon Yellow is a straight bourbon whiskey made by blending   10 of the distillery’s recipes. It’s smooth and easy going and a good choice for cocktails. 80 proof, $19.99.

Bold Mint Julep recipe
Bold Mint Julep recipe

Shilling’s Bold Mint Julep

Mark likes a really straight-forward julep just a hint of sweetness. He wants to taste the whiskey.

  • 3 ounces Four Roses Single Barrel (Mark’s preference is Jack Daniels)
  • .25 ounce mint simple syrup
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  • Crushed ice

Prepare the mint simple syrup the same as above. Start each julep by muddling 5 or 6 mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup or an old-fashioned glass, fill it with crushed ice, add the dash of mint simple syrup and a healthy pour of Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon (3 ounces is a reference point). Stir with potency until the glass frosts. Top it off with more ice, stir again, garnish with a sprig of mint and serve.

A little about the whiskey: Four Roses Single Barrel has more swagger weighing in at 100 proof. It’s a good sipping whiskey that doesn’t need to be muddied up with cocktail fixins. $39.99.

Red-Handed Bourbon Mint Julep. Photo courtesy of Proof and Cooper
Red-Handed Bourbon Mint Julep. Photo courtesy of Proof and Cooper

Ko Julep

Clay’s recipe is a little more involved, which is to be expected because this guy is a serious chef and a mad scientist in the distillery. His Ko Julep recipe is inspired by the islands of Thailand. (Ko means island in Thai.)

Blend well, pour over full cup of crushed or shaved ice, garnish with lime wheel and fresh mint sprig

Ko syrup:

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups white sugar

Bring mix to a light simmer and make sure all sugar is fully dissolved. Then add the following ingredients to the hot simple syrup:

  • 12 sprigs of fresh mint (roughly chopped, stem and all)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (roughly chopped)
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 50 grams fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 12 sprigs of Thai basil (roughly chopped, stem and all)

Cover pot and let aromatics steep for 1 hour, strain syrup, chill and mix with spirit

A little about the whiskey: Four Roses Small Batch is made with a blend of four of the distillery’s bourbon recipes. It’s a mellow whiskey with spicy flavors along with sweet, fruity aromas and hints of sweet oak and caramel. It’s tasty on its own and a decent stand in for the excellent Red-Handed Bourbon. 90 proof, $29.99.

Disclosure: I was provided samples of all three bottles of Four Roses Bourbon at no cost.

What are you drinking? 

6 drink trends for 2016 from the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

SACC Whiskey Tasting
Whiskey Tasting at #SACC2016

 

The fifth annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) washed into the city on a wave of liquor. This year’s event had 25 percent more attendees than 2015 as well as a jump in the number of booze brands participating. More than 8,700 mixologists, brand representatives, and cocktail enthusiasts drank in information and binged on merriment at dozens of dinners and parties strewn all over town.

Notable industry experts like Houston Eaves of The Esquire Tavern in San Antonio, Jessica Sanders of drink.well. in Austin, and Alba Huerta of Julep in Houston packed hotel ballrooms with bartenders eager to learn tricks of the trade and the hottest trends for 2016. The presenters at SACC certainly have their finger on the pulse of the most important trends in the industry.

As Jason Kosmos, co-owner of The 86 Co. put it, “We are the urban shamans. We deliver the medicine. We deliver the advice.”

What do the cocktail shamans say about the cocktail trends of 2016?

1. Beer is for cocktails

Jacob Grier making a Beer Flip at #SACC2016
Jacob Grier making a Beer Flip at #SACC2016

 

Jacob Grier, author of Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, introduced a few hearty beer cocktails in his session with an academic approach to old-school drinks. In a “don’t try this one at home” moment, he superheated a metal rod to 1,000 degrees with a blowtorch to demonstrate how the earliest versions of flips were made. Rather than being a cold cocktail made with egg whites, historically, flips were made with beer, rum, sugar, and spice, served hot. Grier replicated it with a glowing red rod plunged into a malty beer, sending steam into the air and beer frothing over. The iron quickly heats the beer and caramelizes the sugars immediately. The result? A cocktail that smells like hot iron, tastes like scorched sugar in a smoky beer, and is oddly delightful.

For a safer way to make at home, and a really satisfying warm drink to fortify you against the cold, try his cognac and dark ale cocktail:

  • 2 ounces cognac
  • 12 ounces malty English ale like Samuel Smith Winter Welcome
  • 2 tablespoons Demerara raw sugar

Mix winter spices like clove and cinnamon in the beer and cognac mixture, while heating it on the stove. Serve it piping hot in a mug.

2. Whiskey is still king

Treaty Oak Distilling Whiskey Cruise at #SACC2016
Treaty Oak Distilling Whiskey Cruise at #SACC2016

 

No fewer than five seminars were dedicated to the caramel colored king, whiskey. In addition, there were several parties where whiskey was the featured spirit or heavily dominant. The recent surge in bourbon sales isn’t the only thing driving industry interest. Demand for rye whiskey, scotch, and Japanese whiskey is also running hot, and skyrocketing prices reaching beyond five digits will continue. The diversity of options running from rustic to elegant offer the drinking public plenty to thirst for.

3. Mezcal is the next bourbon
For the past few years, bourbon has been the hottest selling spirit, leaving many popular brands in scarce supply. Now it’s mezcal’s turn to soak in the spotlight. Mezcal was featured in a seminar on its culture, and brands like Montelobos Mezcal, Wahaka Mezcal, and Ilegal Mezcal held events to help bartenders hone their palates on the agave spirit. This is one spirit we are sure to see topping many cocktail lists this year.

Get into the spirit with this twist on the Moscow Mule, the Wahaka Mule:

  • 1.5 ounces Wahaka Mezcal
  • 3 ounces ginger beer

Stir and add a squeeze of lime.

4. Service matters
Dushan Zaric, a driving force behind the infamous Employees Only cocktail bar in New York and co-owner of The 86 Co., thinks the most important element of cocktail culture exists outside the glass. “As we grow as a profession and a craft movement, we are forced to adopt hospitality. In the culinary profession, it’s the better ingredients, the better experience. In cocktails, the quality of our drinks won’t differentiate us anymore. It will be more of the human dynamic that will set us apart. It is all about better service.”

5. Fortified factor
Jessica Sanders, co-owner of Austin’s drink.well. and soon-to-open-cocktail den Backbeat, sees the secondary players taking center stage. “Certainly, base spirits like mezcal and rye whiskey continue to be at the forefront but, above all, what you see is a very focused interest in education around modifier spirits and fortified wines — Madeira, sherry, and herbal liqueurs being particularly prevalent.”

6. Fun dominates

#SACC2016 Cocktail Tasting
#SACC2016 Cocktail Tasting

 

Travis Tober, who recently turned over the reigns as beverage director for Vox Table to become House Spirits Distillery’s national director of education and advocacy, is drawing on his inner Cyndi Lauper. “The biggest trend I saw at SACC this year was ‘fun.’ Gone are the days of speakeasies and rules at the door. The common citizen is hip to cocktails and they want them without pretentiousness. The cocktail scene is starting to relax and enjoy itself. And I for one am relieved.”

If the predictions of the spirit soothsayers of SACC hold true, we are in for a year of beer, dark liquor, and excellent experiences at the bars around Texas.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I was provided a press pass allowing me to attend sessions at no cost.

What are you drinking?

Jameson partners with Movember for men’s health

God love the Irish. God love their whiskey.

Jameson Black Barrel supports Movember
Jameson Black Barrel supports Movember

 

Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey is an official partner of Movember again this year to help raise awareness for men’s health. Movember is the movement where dudes around the world grow a mustache in the month of November to raise money for health issues like prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. Yep, it can be a pretty ugly time with millions of guys sprouting porn staches, but its an incredibly important cause to help change the face of men’s health.

Jameson will donate $100 to the Movember Foundation, up to  $100,000, for every person who joins the Jameson Black Barrel Network from now through the end of Novmember 2015.

To get guys to join, Jameson sent out fancy pants shaving kits with top quality lotions and potions from Baxter of California, and is sponsoring free clean-ups every Tuesday at barbershops in New York, LA and Chicago.

In Austin, Jameson Irish Whiskey is co-hosting a Movember Shave Off  event at Whisler’s on Thursday, Oct. 29 from 6 to 10 p.m. The shave off features the “Jameson Barbershop” upstairs in Mezcalaría Tobalá, along with a special Jameson cocktail menu. There will be special Movember drinks including a Black Barrel Old Fashioned, Jameson Buck, Jameson Caskmates on the rocks and the Black Barrel on the rocks. No cover charge.

Get involved by donating money, growing a stache and drinking along with Jameson.

Jameson Black Barrel Old Fashioned

  • 2 parts Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey
  • 3/4 part Benedictine
  • 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice and stir. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with an orange slice.

Disclosure: Jameson sent a bottle of Black Barrel and sweet-ass shaving supplies at no charge. 

What are you drinking? 

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? 

Cupcakes and whiskey for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a perfect excuse to tell mom how important she is to you. What better way of doing that than with sweet and fiery treats? This year, give her a bottle of whiskey and cupcakes made with whiskey!

Clyde Mays Whiskey Cupcakes

Clyde May’s Whiskey is working with bravenewbaker to create delicious cupcake recipes using the whiskey. The idea is to showcase the hints of green apple and cinnamon in the “Alabama Style” whiskey that come from the addition of oven-dried apples in the aging barrels. You know what? They’re pretty damn good.

Here’s the recipe.

Clyde May’s Cinnamon & Honey Cupcakes

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • .5 teaspoon salt
  • .5 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • .75 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl and set aside. Blend together with a mixer the butter and sugar on medium high speed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add vanilla. Alternately add flour and milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stop mixing as soon as the flour has disappeared. Scoop the batter into the liners 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let ’em cool a bit. While still warm, poke holes in the top of cupcakes with a fork. Hold cupcake upside down and dip the dome into whiskey glaze (recipe below). Frost when completely cool.

Whiskey Glaze

  • .25 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp Clyde May’s Whiskey
  • 1 shot of Clyde May’s Whiskey to enjoy while baking

Whisk together all ingredients (except that shot that you’re drinkin’). Set aside until needed.

Whiskey Frosting

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp Clyde May’s Whiskey
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • Another shot of whiskey

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add 4 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the vanilla and Clyde May’s Whiskey, combine. Add honey and whip at medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add 1 additional cup of powdered sugar, if needed to achieve preferred consistency. Using a large icing tip, pipe the frosting onto cupcakes.

These make a great dessert for mom. If you really love her, you’ll make a cocktail to go with her cupcakes. Try this.

Orchard Smash

  • 2 ounces Clyde May’s Whiskey
  • 2 dashes apple bitters
  • .75 ounce ginger syrup
  • .75 ounce lemon juice

Combine ingredients. Shake, strain and pour over ice. Garnish with mint leaves and candied ginger.

Disclosure: Clyde May’s provided me with whiskey samples and recipes. Brave New Baker provided me with cupcake samples.

What are you drinking? 

3 whiskey cocktails guaranteed to keep you warm this winter

Late winter weather in Texas calls for whiskey to warm you up. But instead of heading to a bar for a beverage, What Are You Drinking brings you three winter warmer whiskey cocktail recipes to make at home.

A Texas take on Irish Coffee

Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey

Amanda and Nick Swift both love Scotch whisky. Amanda was born to love it.

“My family is Irish Catholic,” she said. “If you’re not drunk by noon, you’re not doin’ it right.”

Rather than feed that passion at the local pub, Amanda and Nick traveled extensively to whiskey meccas like Kentucky, Ireland and Scotland to research production methods and learn the business. They used that knowledge to start the Swift Distillery, which makes Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey, in Dripping Springs in 2012 and had cranked out their first batch by August 2013.

“We tried a couple hundred recipes before settling on the one we use,” said Nick. “We kept refining it to find just the right two-row barley that when malted is sweet but not too sweet. We want a slight musty flavor with the right amount of subtlety.”

The Swifts also worked hard to match the mineral content in the water they use to the profile of water used to make whisky in Speyside, in the Scottish Lowlands. Amanda put her science education to work to analyze the water and add back minerals after filtering it.

“We are very particular about our water,” said Nick. “We like the water from just outside Elgin, Scotland and just outside Bushmills, Ireland, which are similar in ion content. We want to replicate that.”

They took the same care in selecting copper stills that were handmade in Portugal, and the aging barrels from a Kentucky bourbon distillery and the Sandeman Sherry bodega in Spain. The Swifts do every step of production by hand. They hand mill 1,200 pounds of grain a week and ferment it on site. It is then distilled one bucket at a time. Each bucket is poured through a copper funnel lined with cheese cloth right into a barrel for aging.

After distillation, the first batch of Swift Single Malt lazed about for year in bourbon barrels and another three months in Sherry casks before it was bottled. The second batch — the batch that is on shelves now — also aged for a year in bourbon barrels, but matured for six months in the Sherry casks. Swift plans to make about 39 bourbon barrels or the equivalent of 15,000 bottles a year.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Amanda. “We hand bottle every one right down to putting the hand numbered label on each one. My dad stuffs every cork into the bottles.” The finished whiskey is golden amber in color and regularly compared to The MaCallan in flavor. It’s fantastic neat or with a cube of ice, but Amanda’s dad loves it in Irish Coffee. Pick up a bottle of Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey at Wine & Spirits on South Lamar Boulevard or Austin Wine Merchant for $50; or order it by the glass at Péché, Black Heart or Lamberts.

Swift Irish Coffee

  • Equal parts Swift Single Malt and Bailey’s Irish cream
  • 5 ounces strong coffee

Top with homemade whipped cream.

Prohibition Scotch

Cutty Sark Boulevardier
The dreaded Dark Age for alcohol started January 17, 1920 and spread its gloom until December 5, 1933, spanning the time when Cutty Sark, the blended Scotch whisky was introduced to the world in 1923. The UK-based whisky maker has just released a Prohibition Edition commemorating the end of prohibition 90 years ago.

Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is made in small batches in Scotland, aged in American oak casks and sold in black bottles that harken back to the bottle style of the 1920s. It is a lighter style whisky with vanilla, toffee and citrus flavors. What could be better than mixing a Prohibition era cocktail with it? The Boulevardier, a cousin of the gin-based Negroni, came to prominence in print in 1927. The Bouldevardier swaps the gin in Negroni for a good pour of whiskey (typically bourbon) which is mixed with equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth. For a smokier, nuttier version, swap the bourbon for Scotch and replace the vermouth with Madeira. It’s delightful. Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is available at Specs for $30 a bottle.

Bastard Boulevardier

  • 1.5 ounces Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce Madeira

Combine the ingredients in a glass filled with ice and strain into a rocks glass with ice.

Garnish with a twist of lemon.

The Capone cocktail  

Capone with Templeton Rye
While we certainly don’t celebrate the murderous crime of infamous gangster Al Capone we can get behind his love for whiskey. January 17 marked what would have been his 116 birthday, which is a fun excuse to make a cocktail with another Prohibition era whiskey, Templeton Rye.

Templeton Rye is distilled in Indiana and bottled in Templeton, Iowa, giving it the Mid-West roots any Chicago mobster could admire. Reportedly this whiskey was Capone’s rye of choice. In fact, it is said that he had bottles smuggled into Alcatraz and that he’s buried with a bottle. We can’t vouch for that, but we can tell you his namesake cocktail is badass. Templeton Rye is available at Twin Liquors for $40.

The Capone

  • 3 ounces Templeton Rye Whiskey
  • 1 ounce Grand Marnier
  • Splash of Champagne
  • Dash of bitters

Combine Templeton Rye, bitters and Grand Marnier in a shaker. Shake well, strain in martini glass. Float champagne and garnish with lemon twist.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I received samples of each of the three whiskeys to taste for this story.

What are you drinking?

Celebrate Al Capone’s 116th birthday with the Capone cocktail   

Capone with Templeton RyeWhile I certainly don’t celebrate the murderous crime of infamous gangster, Al Capone, I can get behind his love for whiskey.

Templeton Rye is distilled in Indiana and bottled in Templeton, Iowa, giving it the Mid-West roots any Chicagoland mobster could admire.  Reportedly this rye was Capone’s rye of choice.  In fact, it is said that he had bottles smuggled into Alcatraz and that he’s buried with a bottle. I can’t vouch for that, but I can tell you his namesake cocktail is bad-ass.

The Capone

  • 3 oz. Templeton Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Grand Marnier
  • Splash of Champagne
  • Dash of bitters

Combine Templeton Rye, bitters and Grand Marnier in a shaker. Shake well, strain in martini glass. Float champagne and garnish with lemon twist.

Enjoy!

 What are you drinking?

Nasty feud at Texas distillery ends with buy-out

Chip Tate on Roof of DistilleryThe nasty feud between Chip Tate, founder and head distiller of Waco-based Balcones Distillery, and its investors is now over. The distillery’s board of managers has bought Tate’s 27 percent ownership of the company and ended his role on the board this week.

As first reported by the Waco Tribune, tensions boiled over in August when board members got a temporary restraining order to enforce a 90-day suspension of Tate, issued August 8. The restraining order barred him from entering the distillery or doing business on its behalf. In an apparent struggle between a strong-willed visionary distiller and business-minded investors, the board alleged that Tate had made incendiary comments and impeded the progress of the business by not participating in board meetings.

The soap opera drama continued until early November when Judge Jim Meyer of Waco’s 170th State District Court ruled in favor of Tate, saying that he must be present at Balcones board meetings for them to take actions.

“Being in a lawsuit is always frustrating, however it was satisfying to be vindicated by the court. Despite having things settled in my favor in court, it was clear that one of had to go and one had to get paid. A piece of paper won’t fix a broken relationship,” Tate tells What Are You Drinking/CultureMap in a phone interview. “If I had stayed at Balcones I would have [had] to bring in another partner. Simply put, that wasn’t going to happen. Unfortunately that means walking away from Balcones.”

In June 2013, after an incredibly successful six-year run as an independent whisky distiller, Tate entered into an agreement with a group of investors led by Greg Allen . Balcones Distillery will continue operations with Keith Bellinger as president and Jared Himstedt as distillery manager. Himstedt has been with the distillery since August 2008. Despite his longevity, it may be a tough transition.

Chip Tate Welding Still

Tate not only developed the distillery’s first recipes and refined its products; he also oversaw every aspect of its operations with feverish passion. On any given day, he darted about the distillery constantly checking the quality straight from the still and tasting dozens of barrel samples in his lab to ensure his whisky was just right. He also obsessed about every aspect of how it was made, right down to hand-welding his own copper stills and even drying his own Live Oak staves to have custom barrels made with Texas wood.

That kind of passion is irreplaceable.

While the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, Tate says it did include a limited non-compete clause, which bars him from working at another distillery until March 2016.

“Parting with Balcones is bittersweet. I don’t think Balcones reached its full potential, but I’m definitely in place where I can move forward. Starting now I’ll be building a new distillery with a great new crew and the future is bright,” he says.

“I’m in negotiations on a building and getting going. While I have a limited non-compete with certain things I can’t do until March 2016, there are other things that I want to do. That and it’s going to take some time. I still have to build a distillery. We are going to build it ourselves, including the stills. I’m getting back to good stuff. I’m getting back to making things and making things.”

Chip Tate Balcones DistillerThis story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking? 

How to Dog a Dram of The Balvenie Whisky

The Balvenie 17 yr tasteIn a recent visit to Austin as a part of The Balvenie’s second annual Rare Craft Collection exhibition tour, Jonathan Wingo, The Balvenie brand ambassador, invited me to “dog a dram from the bung of a sherry butt.” Ahem, excuse me?

It turns out that I wasn’t the butt of some Scottish joke. A “dog” refers to a handmade copper pipe that can hold 100 milliliters (a little more than 3 ounces) of liquid. Legend has it that deceitful distillery workers in the early 1900s would filch shots of whisky by dipping the cylindrical dogs into the small opening of whisky barrels. They would then drop it down their drawers with chains attached to their belts to sneak it out unnoticed.

It begs for a “or are you just happy to see me” joke.

Dog a Dram
Dogging a dram from the bung of a sherry butt

 

The Balvenie made replicas of these dogs to show off just how delicious its whisky is when aged in sherry casks and tasted straight from the barrel. If you didn’t get to dip your dog in the bung, never fear, you can replicate the experience with a bottle of The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 to experience how delicious whisky can be when aged in barrels previously used to age sherry.

DoubleWood may sound like yet another double entendre, but it refers to the whisky-aging process. The Balvenie’s malt master, David Stewart, who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary with the company, matures whisky in two different types of cask consecutively. The Balvenie starts by aging its whisky—made with barley grown and malted by the distillery—in American oak barrels, which give it soft vanilla flavors. It is then moved to European oak sherry casks, which give it additional vanilla flavors layered with honeyed sweetness and spicy flavors.

This is a lovely whisky to enjoy on a cool autumn night. Give it a sniff with your mouth wide open to properly appreciate the invigorating scents of baking spices, honey, vanilla and apple. Consider adding a drop or two of water and sip it neat. The water relaxes the chemical bonds of the ethyl alcohol to set the aromas free and gives it a silkier feel. Enjoy the caramel, toasted almond, cinnamon and toffee flavors while you contemplate how much more interesting The Sun Also Rises would be if you were in it.

This fantastic experience will set you back about $150. You are worth it.

17YO_DWpack

 

This story was originally published on Austin Man Magazine.

What Are You Drinking? 

Where to Drink Right Now: 9 Austin Bars Celebrating Bourbon Heritage Month

Bourbon selection at Drink.well.Sometimes our government gets it right. On August 2, 2007 the U.S. Senate declared September as National Bourbon Heritage Month in a unanimous decision. This came years after Congress pronounced bourbon as “America’s Native Spirit” in 1964. It makes sipping bourbon feel downright patriotic.

The Scots and Irish argue over who invented whiskey (or whisky as the Scots, Canadians and Japanese spell it), but bourbon is a completely American spirit. If the whiskey bottle says bourbon, it must be made in the U.S. By regulation, bourbon is made from fermented grains including at least 51 percent corn, it must be aged in new oak barrels and cannot contain any additives, colors or flavors.

There may be a lot of rules for how it’s made, but there aren’t many rules on how to enjoy it.  Jessica Sanders, co-owner of the American cocktail bar, Drink.well., recently returned from her second visit to a week-long whiskey camp in Kentucky full of insight on bourbon.

She shared a few tips for selecting a good bourbon, “Look for whiskies that have been aged for six to eight years. That’s the sweet spot. Love takes time. The younger the whiskey, the rougher the flavor and the more aggressive it will taste. Try whiskey from the old iconic distilleries like Weller 12, Makers Mark, and Old Granddad to get an appreciation for the quality that comes with the heritage of distilling year after year after year.”

Austin bars are pulling out all the stops to celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month. Here are some of the best bourbon drink specials you’ll find around town.

The Blackheart
The Gentleman Caller

Old Grand Dad 114, Antica Sweet Vermouth, Brothers Black Walnut Bitters  

“Big bourbon, high proof meets black walnut in this a unique twist on a classic Manhattan,” said Jeremy Murray, general manager of the Blackheart. “We serve this in an old fashioned glass with a single large cube.”

The back bar of The Blackheart is studded with more than 100 types of whiskey. Amber sunshine brightens the smile of customers with a stellar selection of bourbons including Pappy Van Winkle 20 and 23 year old and a solid selection of Texas whiskey including Garrison BrothersRed River Texas Bourbon Treaty Oak Red Handed Bourbon and Balcones Whisky.

Bourbon selection at The Blackheart

Drink.well
Reverend’s Reprieve

Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon, cinnamon syrup, fresh lemon, PAMA pomegranate liqueur, baked apple Bitters, Fever Tree Sparkling Lemon Soda, apple slice

“This is an ‘Indian summer’-inspired Highball cocktail,” said Jessica Sanders. “Elijah Craig 12 Year is a small batch Bourbon with a nose and flavor profile that begs for fall — baked apples, toffee, nuttiness—but the anise and mint finish are just bright enough to let the feel of summer linger. The cocktail is long, refreshing and fizzy, but with the warmth and spice of a cooler-weather drink.”

Drink.well. is taking Bourbon Heritage month seriously with a different whiskey offered for half price every day. It’s an impressive list with whiskeys like Four Roses Single Barrel, Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Old, Eagle Rare 17 year old and Stag Jr. from Buffalo Trace.

If you want to sample several bourbons paired with food, Drink.well. will be hosting a five course dinner prepared by chef Travis Bennet on Monday, September 15 featuring cocktails and a rare bourbon from the Heaven Hill distillery.

Due Forni
The Drunken Gaucho

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, house made Limoncello, Aperol, Amaro Montenegro, egg whites

This bourbon cocktail with an Italian twist is the perfect way to whet your appetite for a traditional Neapolitan pizza. A perfect balance of booze, bitter and citrus bite with a frothy bit of fun will transport you from the Kentucky hills to the Tyrrhenian coast.

Half Step
Kentucky Colonel

Bonded bourbon, angostura bitters, Benedictine  

Barman, Florian Minier, mixes a variation of an Old Fashioned using 100 proof bourbon and served with a huge, hand-cut old fashioned ice cube. The bonded whiskey gives the drink little more heat to cut through the sweetness of the Benedictine in the cocktail. That huge hunk of ice melts slowly letting the drink mellow as you go.

Half Step has a well selected line up of whiskeys including Michter’s 20 Year Single Barrel Bourbon and Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 year.

Kentucky Colonel at Half Step

Péché
High West Double Rye Old Fashioned

High West rye, lemon peel, JT bitters 

An Old Fashioned is a whiskey lover’s go-to cocktail. This recipe packs a bit of spice to keep you smiling.

Péché may be known for its absinthe, but it has an impressive selection of whiskey including Angel’s Envy Cask Strength, Jefferson Presidential 21 Year Bourbon and Willett 12 Year.

Searsucker
New Fashioned 

Angel Envy bourbon, orange curacao, orange rind, a mixture of Angostura and Peychudes bitters

“We make a ‘New Fashioned’ with our very own Searsucker blend of Angel’s Envy Bourbon that we call the Suckers Blend,” said bar manager Robin Ozaki. “Angel’s Envy blended a specific batch based on three different styles that they let me experiment with. When I dialed in the recipe that I felt best as a base for a cocktail, they bottled 120 specially branded ‘Searsucker’ Angel Envy Bottles, and sent them to Texas!”

The Tigress Pub
Beggar’s Banquet

Treaty Oak Red Handed Bourbon, maple syrup, lemon juice, Old Speckled Hen ale

“The Tigress loves bourbon,” said owner Pamela Pritchard. “We have just change the menu for September to feature some Bourbon cocktails. The three Bourbon cocktails on the menu are The Scofflaw, The Black Demure and Beggar’s banquet which is our on Tap cocktail. In addition I have some bourbons I don’t normally have on hand like Prichards Double Barreled bourbon, Angels Envy, Elijah Craig 12 year, Willet Pot Still Reserve and Wild Turkey 81.”

You might not get lost in this cozy bar, but it’s highly possible to get lost in thought sipping on one of Pritchard’s elegantly crafted drinks. Stay for a second.

W Austin
The Brother’s Quarrel

St Germain and Canton Ginger, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Laphroaig scotch

The folks at the W Austin share story about the creation of this cocktail. Legend has it that the maker of Chambord liquor challenged his two sons make a liqueur better than his, and better than each other’s. The result of the completion was one made St. Germaine and the other Canton. This drink is an homage to their quarrel with Bourbon and Scotch vying for affection in one glass.

Dustin Courtright, libationist at the W, recommends drinking the layered cocktail with a straw to let ingredients’ flavors evolve as you sip. “The scotch will come down into drink and fuse into it, then you’re left with a bourbon-Scotch marriage.”

While you are there, try the single barrel Eagle Rare that chosen and bottled specifically for the W Austin.

The Brother's Quarrel at the W Austin

Whisler’s
Lion’s Tail  

Bourbon, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, lime juice, demerara syrup, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, lime wheel  

“This is not your typical citrus-driven cocktail,” said general manager Cesar Aguilar. “By adding dram and angostura bitters, it makes a bright bourbon cocktail, where the bourbon’s sweetness is highlighted and accented with notes of all spice and clove, and it pairs well with the oaky character of the bourbon.”

Kick back with one of three featured bourbon cocktails at this easy going east side hot spot. The nights are cooling off just enough to enjoy whiskey on the patio.

A version of this story was originally published on CultureMap

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