Posts Tagged Fentimans

Top 10 Spirits And Cocktails Of 2012

19 December 2012

As I assembled this list, paging through a year’s worth of blog posts, I found myself rather startled at the breadth and diversity of the drinks I consumed in the past year. But even more, I felt profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to sample everything from Nicaraguan rum in Nicaragua to Cognac in Cognac.

I sipped a lot of amazing things in 2012, but there were a number of true standouts. As is the fashion at this time of year, here is my list of the Top 10 Spirits and Cocktails I drank in 2012. The links lead to the original blog posts about the drinks:

10. SPICE TRADE — I consumed this cocktail of genever, vermouth, star anise, galangal syrup and persimmon water at Madame Geneva, an atmospheric bar just off the Bowery in Manhattan. With that intimidating list of ingredients, this is one cocktail I won’t be making at home! The floating star anise garnish provided an aromatic introduction, and I loved its orange, anise and juniper flavors. It would have been easy to make this cocktail too sweet, but it tasted well-balanced and finished dry.

9. SPACE FILLER — The mixologist at Root in New Orleans came up with this cocktail, composed of rye whiskey, loganberry liqueur and lemon juice. It tasted surprisingly complex, with notes of berries, citrus and wood; sweet and sour elements positively danced on my palate.

8. FENTIMAN’S ROSE LEMONADE & GIN — I never came up with a name for this mixture of Fentiman’s delightful rose lemonade soda and gin, but it deserves a moniker as refreshing as its flavor. This combo smells amazing, with aromas of rose and juniper co-mingling beautifully. Aromatic, tart, not too sweet, complex — this was the whole package.

7. XORIGUER GIN — Speaking of gin, a bottle of this Menorcan beauty cost me only 12 euro, a smashing deal considering the flavor it packs. Sipped neat at room temperature, the gin didn’t feel silky smooth, but it tasted wonderfully complex, with notes of juniper, anise, rose, white pepper and even incense. What a shame this gin isn’t yet available in the U.S.! Hopefully that will change in 2013.

6. MIRTO — I found this digestif on another sensationally scenic Mediterranean island, Sardinia. Made from local myrtle berries, the mirto I brought home tasted of ripe cherries, something herbal, like eucalyptus perhaps, and cinnamon on the finish. It was positively delightful, both at room temperature and chilled (how it’s usually served). And it made some thoroughly delicious cocktails.

5.  — I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this cocktail on the menu at the Four Seasons Chicago. It contained Crème Yvette, a violet-based liqueur that hadn’t been produced in the last 50 years. But there it was, coelacanth-like, in the A², a concoction of Journeyman W.R. Whiskey, Crème Yvette, yuzu juice (a small grapefruit-like fruit) and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. The cocktail had an aroma of purple grapes, a strong, fruity flavor with some tangy citrus notes, and a dry, floral finish. A well-balanced and elegant drink.

4. FLOR DE CANA 18-YEAR CENTENARIO GOLD — This gorgeous Nicaraguan rum sucked me in with aromas of vanilla cake and brown sugar and sealed the deal with flavors of vanilla, oak and orange peel. Very rich, with a finish that went on and on.

3. BIJOU — Even if it served merely middling cocktails, the Ranstead Room in Philadelphia would still be worth a visit for its speakeasy-like location and sexy decor straight out of a Mad Men episode. But add in spectacular cocktails crafted with meticulous care, and you have a bar that alone makes a journey to Philly worthwhile. My bartender stirred up a Bijou, a wonderfully smooth mix of Beefeater Gin, Green Chartreuse, Dolin Blanc Vermouth and lemon zest. The aromatics of the gin, the herbaceous bitterness of the Chartreuse, the touch of smooth sweetness from the vermouth — it came together like a flavor symphony.

2. HINE TRIOMPHE — So beautiful was this blend of Grande Champagne Cognacs averaging around 50 years old, with extraordinarily velvety caramel and tobacco flavors, that it brought tears to my eyes. Cellar Master Eric Forget, seeing my reaction, quietly remarked, “It’s not a Cognac. It’s just a pleasure.” Indeed.

1. HENNESSY PARADIS IMPERIAL — This remarkable Cognac also reduced me to tears. Only this time, it was in front of the Cognac Summit’s videographer, camera rolling! Embarrassing, yes, but anyone who has tasted this ambrosial liquid can understand my emotional response. It was a sublime moment, tasting something so profoundly exquisite in so lovely a setting as Hennessy’s Château de Bagnolet. I learned later that the Paradis Impérial blend contains Cognacs dating from the 19th century. I drank liquid history! It’s humbling to think about all the work — and all the waiting — that went into producing that glass of Cognac.

Next up: My Top 10 Wines of 2012

Orange Jigger and Rose Lemonade

10 March 2012

What bloggers want you to believe happens.

I’ve long been a fan of Fentimans Tonic, but it was only a few days ago I had the opportunity to try some of their other “Botanically Brewed Beverages.” While shopping at Whole Foods, I happened upon four-packs of Mandarin & Seville Orange Jigger and Rose Lemonade — on sale. How could I pass them up?

The intriguingly opaque orange soda and slightly pink rose lemonade each taste quite fine on their own. If you have a non-drinker coming to your home, I’m sure they would be delighted to have one of these instead of some high-fructose corn syrup bomb like Coke (or a chemical stew like Diet Coke). Be sure to serve it in a glass, so that the aromas can be enjoyed.

But I would be remiss in my duties as Odd Bacchus if I didn’t give you at least a few ideas for alcoholic beverages as well. Since I hadn’t worked with these sodas before, I wasn’t sure what booze would pair best with each. Vodka obviously works OK, but what about something with a little more flavor? An experiment seemed to be in order.

I gathered bottles of gin, rhum agricole (rum with a bit higher proof than normal), tequila and Cognac. In order to keep things fair, I used the same proportions for each alcohol: 1 part alcohol and 3 parts soda. Let’s begin.


A Concrete Christmas Cocktail

7 December 2011

It’s not necessary to clog a glass of brandy with egg nog to enjoy a festive cocktail. Many seasonal recipes lean toward the hot and heavy (buttered rum, anyone?), but something zesty and light can make a much better drink for pairing with rich party food. Oddly enough, the beautiful Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary provides some help.

Perhaps best known in America as the location of the Grandhotel Pupp, where Queen Latifah stayed in the film Last Holiday, Karlovy Vary is the home of Becherovka, a 76-proof spirit brewed with, of course, a secret blend of herbs and spices. According to the Becherovka website, only two people in the world know the formula. Presumably they travel on different airplanes.

This rather bitter liquor might be placed in the same category as vile Jägermeister, but I find Becherovka much more complex and palatable. Although many consume Becherovka neat or on the rocks, I enjoy it most in a “Beton,” which translates as “concrete” in Czech. The name actually comes from the ingredients, Becherovka and tonic.

Like a gin and tonic, a Becherovka and tonic features aromatic herbal and floral notes as well as a touch of bracing bitterness. But the Beton goes further, with strong flavors of clove, pine and even some cinnamon. A gin and tonic is unquestionably a summer cocktail, but a Beton is Christmas in a glass. The recipe is simple:


1 Part Becherovka

1-1.5 Parts Tonic

Gently mix the above in a highball glass with a large cube of ice or two. If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with a lime slice or a sprig of rosemary. If the ratio above proves too boozy for you, you can adjust it to your taste, of course.

I usually purchase my tonic at Whole Foods, which sells a corn syrup-free version in inexpensive six packs. But for this post, I stopped at In Fine Spirits to pick up some “craft” tonics. After all, a cocktail this simple calls for quality ingredients.

Both Fever Tree and Fentimans are wildly expensive at about $2.50 per bottle, but you can eke two cocktails out of the Fever Tree and three out of  the Fentimans. In our taste test, both tonics did well, with relatively small bubbles and aromatic herbal/floral notes. Alone, the Fever Tree tasted more austere, with a slightly more medicinal aftertaste and a flavor that made me think of little white flowers. The Fentimans tasted a bit sweeter, and instead of white flowers there was a hint of Lemon Pledge.

Mixed with the Becherovka, the Fever Tree version hit me with a lusty blast of clove,  juniper and cinnamon. It was a Christmas party in my mouth. The Fentimans Beton still felt very Christmasy, but it tasted somehow rounder and deeper — more like an intimate gift exchange by the fireplace.

Either tonic makes a beautiful Beton, but if you prefer Canada Dry or Schweppes, go for it. You’ll have a uniquely delicious cocktail in any case.

Find It: If your favorite liquor store doesn’t carry Becherovka, Binny’s offers it for $23 per bottle.