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bullet to the head, in that new movie, what drink does Sylvester Stallone request at the bar but the bar doesn't carry and then Stallone brings in his own bottle ?

No apologies! Happy for the feedback, actually.

Hate to hijack this post and happy to take this offline if you like (neal@proof66.com). But at that risk, I get the impression you're thinking of a kind of dual rating system: one that sums all scores ever (or within a period of time--say 10 years) and one that starts ignoring more dated scores (similar to our current plan). A sort of "most decorated of all time list) along with "what's hot most recently list." Is that accurate?

--Neal

Jul 01, 2013
proof66 in Spirits

Assessing a bar before ordering

This is a very interesting read... lots of good advice, here.

I'll add one note. Just last night I had a friend who ordered a French Martini. This is a cocktail I'd personally put a second tier of being well-known. It calls for pineapple juice, chambord (the French part), and vodka. She got a Kir Royale (champagne and chambord, so they got that last bit right).

My friend flipped out. Turns out she orders this and fumes all the time about the result. To her, it's like a kind of test for the bar. I see a lot of that: people order a drink like they're the schoolmaster of some British prep academy and grimly await the results for judging.

In my humble opinion, if you don't know the bar and you're ordering something that they don't explicitly list, help them help you: call your drink out rather than name it.

If my friend had said, "Can you give me equal parts vodka and pineapple juice shake and served up with a splash of Chambord," why then she'd be a happy girl! Instead, she's fuming.

That won't answer for bad ingredients, poor technique, crappy ice, etc. But it at least gives your drink a fighting chance of being proportioned right.

For me, this works.. particularly when I have to send an order to the bar via a waiter/waitress from a sit-down restaurant.

--Neal (Proof66)

Jun 22, 2013
proof66 in Spirits

Best ways to use St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur

One of my favorites... I like to keep it pretty clean: 2 parts vodka to 1 part St Germain (or less if you like less sweet) with a lemon twist (very important, that lemon zest!). Shake on ice and serve. It's simple enough that I can safely order it in a bar and they can execute it!

I like the idea of Dapuma above with Hendrick's gin and cucumbers/lemons.

--Nea

Jun 22, 2013
proof66 in Spirits
1

bullet to the head, in that new movie, what drink does Sylvester Stallone request at the bar but the bar doesn't carry and then Stallone brings in his own bottle ?

Ah, alas, I hate to see so many hours of my life summed as a joke! Still, I have to stand for some of these criticisms. It is the case that multiple and recent submissions weight heavily in our current algorithm. Thus, as you say, if they stop participating then their ratings drop.

We made this decision mostly because some brands were still promoting results that were 10+ years old... we feel like consistency in quality is important and brands should continually "prove" themselves. But it can lead to misleading results if expensive or limited editions choose not to submit

We're actually trying pretty hard to be useful and get this rating business as right as possible. While not infallible, the competitive results can be a useful quick-guide in lieu of trying everything. Drop us a line if you have ideas on how to make this wok better! We tinker on these issues quite a bit and truly do appreciate the feedback.

--Neal (Proof66)

Jun 22, 2013
proof66 in Spirits

Whisky locations in the North West?

Actually, this place is a distillery. They've got their still sitting right in the restaurant. But no whiskey from these guys. They make an extraordinary gin (the owner is a gin martini guy) as well as a vodka and a rum. They're also playing with some kind of ginger-infused rum.

--Neal (Proof66)

Nov 12, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Turkey day cocktail ideas

Really like the Cape Cod idea. Sounds perfect for T-giving to me.

One thing you might try is infusing some simple syrup with an herb. People always use mint for a Mint Julep or a Mojito (not a bad idea but not very seasonal). But you can also infuse simple syrup with basil or cilantro and make really interesting drinks. If you use basil in, say, a vodka tonic, it's suddenly a new and interesting drink. The basil really works well in grapefruit juice and a little club soda with vodka.

Anyway, infusing a syrup is something you can do ahead of time to make really distinctive cocktails.

One last thought. Here are some certified kosher liquors that we've run into:
Square One Vodka
Prairie Organic Vodka
Zachalwi Arak (a fig-based liqueur from Israel)

Probably more... most of the organic spirits seem to declare themselves kosher.

Nov 12, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Good Inexpensive Silver Tequila

I'm with you there: I vastly prefer the reposados. Like them better than the anejos, actually.

But that being said, I should've metnioned above: for margaritas for a crowd--that is, if you're going to dump the tequila with Mr Ts syrup mix and toss it in a blender--just buy the biggest plastic bottle you can find off the lowest shelf in the grocery store.

I'm the snootiest guy I know when it comes to liquor. But even I don't bother to spend much money for blended, crowd drinks. So I'm with you on the Lunazul. In fact, that might be too much money in my opinion.

But if you're going to mix up some classic margaritas on the rocks, I think the 100% agave of some kind or another is worth the investment.

Nov 03, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Distilleries in Wisconsin doing interesting things...

I've actually met the guy who started Great Lakes Distillery (Guy Rehorst). He has a very nice, modern style gin. But even more exciting, he's kicking out some absinthes that he's really proud of.

The one I really like, though, is their infused Honey & Citrus vodka. They use locally produced honey from some outfit called Wisconsin Natural Acres (didn't know WI made honey) for their vodka. But the thing I like about it is that it's not sweet at all. The infusion is more in the aroma than in the flavor. It's a brilliant little addition to a classic vodka martini or a cosmo.

Even better, they only make about 1,000 bottles of the pumpkin stuff each year but a lot more of the Honey Citrus Vodka.

--Neal (Proof66)

Nov 03, 2009
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Good Inexpensive Silver Tequila

Everything's a matter of personal taste, no?

But if you respect the pros, the highest combined rating for a tequila around $25 is Milagro silver. It pulled down a gold medal from San Francisco in 2009 (a double gold in 2008) and 90pts from the Beverage Testing Institute.

The top 10, according to the pros we follow, are:

El Tesoro Platinum ($40)
Trago Silver ($40)
Gran Centenario Plata ($43)
Fina Estampa ($30)
Espolon Silver ($35)
Don Eduardo Silver ($40)
AsomBroso Silver ($50)--this one's worth the extra money just for the provocative shape of the bottle.
Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Platino ($60)
Milagro Silver ($25)
Corazon Blanco ($45)

I personally either go with Milagro or, since it's a little more readily available, the perfectly acceptable 1800 silver.

--Neal (Proof66)

Nov 03, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Kentucky Bourbon Country

I second the Buffalo Trace visit. It's beautiful as scenery and they do great work with their spirits. They won "Distillery of the Year" in the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Oct 27, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Beefeater 24? Anyone try it?

Yarm is right on: interesting botanicals--including teas--in this thing.

We haven't gotten to try this yet but it scored poorly at (relative to other gins anyway) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2009 getting a bronze medal. (By comparison, Blue Coat Gin from Philadelphia won as "best gin" and the regular Beefeater gin received a gold medal.)

--Neal (Proof66)

Oct 27, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

What do I toss from the liquor cabinet?

Like the licensed professional part!! Where do I take that test for certification?

Liquor of any significant proof should be fine for quite a while, though I hear murmering about cream liqueurs.

I've heard that experts claim that interaction with air, once opened, will sap the flavors and subtleties of spirits. "Fatigued and spent" is something we often see in these older, opened bottles. They will tell you that once the bottle is opened and about a third gone, you've got to finish it off.

I personally have never been able to taste the difference. But then again, I drink the stuff pretty quickly that I like and don't buy a second bottle of things that have been laying around for a long time so I've never actually put this theory to trial.

--Neal (Proof66)

Oct 27, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Demise of Gourmet Magazine

Good point. (Believe it or not, I found the WSJ pretty darn good at this stuff, too but I wasn't brave enough to be the first person to say that.) I had a feeling that there might have been some sentinmentality going on there...

Oct 11, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Demise of Gourmet Magazine

We had someone write into our site horribly depressed about a "Gourmet Magazine" folding after enjoying subscriptions for something like 15yrs.

The reason I bring it up is that she was a big fan of the "cocktail of the month" section and religiously tried them. Sounds like they had really freaky cocktails--the kind that used crushed peppercorn.

I realize that with the greatest information resource in the history of mankind at my fingertips, I could probably Google this magazine and find out everything I need about it. But I wanted to get a gauge on how popular this magazine was among spirits enthusiasts. Is there anyone else out there deeply disturbed by the death of Gourmet? Are you missing monthly cocktail recipes?

Oct 09, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Best American spirit - rye - bourbon??

Excellent suggestions, in my opinion. I have nothing really to add. My particular favorite on that list is the Thomas Handy Sazerac. In fact, any of the antique collection out of Buffalo Trace would be nice and all very American. (Although, I rather like (ri)1... not a bad effort in my opinion).

If you don't want to shell out the bucks, don't be afraid of Wild Turkey 101 Rye and Russel's Reserve 6yr Rye. Both have done quite well in recent competitions.

--Neal (Proof66)

Oct 09, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Grey goose and Kirkland Signature brand vodka the same?!

Smirnoff actually scores very well with the pros! A very decent vodka in my opinion. It's not exciting (in a sense that it's different)... but it's quite good, especially for mixes.

You won't find me complaining about Smirnoff.

Skyy, on the other hand...

Oct 09, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Grey goose and Kirkland Signature brand vodka the same?!

Hard to disagree with the success of the marketing when that Crystal Skull head vodka can sell like crazy.

Oct 09, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Orange Liqueurs

It's impossible to say and stupidly expense but there are finer grades of Grand Marnier using older cognacs as a blend. The Cuvee du Cent Cinquantenaire Grand Marnier comes in at about $220 but--and I've shelled out the money to try it--an astonishing experience when you drink it. It's a blend with 40yr old cognac along with the traditional orange liqueur (regular Cordon Rouge Grand Marnier uses much younger cognac--no age statement I think).

I wouldn't dare put it in any sort of drink... it's to be drunk neat. But it's a fabulous liqueur. It won a string of four double-gold medals in a row at San Francisco's World Competition.

But stupidly expensive unless you're really into this stuff.

--Neal (Proof66)

Oct 09, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Macallan Kirkland 15 yr. Scotch

The Macallan 15 is listed at about $80 and aged in "fine oak" and is decently regarded (double gold from San Francisco in 2008 and 91pts from BTI in 2005). But I think cannedmilkandfruitypebbles (what a screen name to be using when talking about spirits, no?) is correct: it sounds like you've got an independent bottling where they rested it in a sherry to give it a different characteristics.

This is pretty common (and actually a respected tradition) with scotch: independent businesses will pick up batches and do some different blending and aging on their own to produce different flavor profiles. Sort of like someone buying up a lot of Jack Daniels Single Barrel and messing around with it.

Sounds like a good price... I'd try it out!

--Neal (Proof66)

Oct 09, 2009
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Grey goose and Kirkland Signature brand vodka the same?!

Nay!

There's actually a famous mythbuster's episode where they brought in Anthony Dias Blue (author and founder of the San Francisco World Spirit's Competition). They filtered a bottom shelf vodka ten times and pulled a sample after each selection. Then threw in a top-shelf and everyone tried to tell them apart. The mythbusters were all over the map. But Blue nailed every one 1-10.

I'm not saying that vodka differences aren't subtle and that once you throw in a great lot of fruit juice, sugar, and coloring that the differences can't be lost. But there is a substantial amount of difference in a vodka's taste depending upon the base you use and also the water you use.

Vodka are not about the filtration. It depends a great deal on the source of the water. Some mineral content in the water is actually important and desirable. The pros often talk about vodkas being too clean or boring or overly filtered. This is why a lot of upper end vodkas are particular about their water sources.

Is there major hype and hoopla and overmarketing going on in vodka? Yeah, sure.

But I disagree greatly that there's no such thing as a premium vodka and willingly spend more than $20 for a good one. I promise you, I can pick out my favorites out of a lineup.

--Neal (Proof66)

Sep 29, 2009
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Grey goose and Kirkland Signature brand vodka the same?!

Alas! Well, it scores nicely and I like it. Popcorn! really?

--Neal

Sep 29, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Whitley Neill London Dry Gin - thoughts?

Yikes... I'm so sorry. If I could send you a bottle as a gift, I would.

I love bourbon so much... I can't even think of life without it. And now the ryes are coming! And they're good too!

Sep 29, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

lime basil mojito?

Yes... and it's good!!

In fact, if you're making your own syrup, you can infuse it with just about any herb. Equal parts water and syrup, heat until dissolved, then throw in some mint leaves over night and, hey presto!, you have mint syrup.

Substitute that mint for basil. Or even cilantro. You get different flavor profiles in the syrup. A basil mojito (if that can still be called a mojito--I imagine some Cubans want to punch me in the nose right now for even suggesting that this is ok) dries up the drink a bit and it's nice. I like it. Very easy to do.

You can try that in a bunch of different drinks. In fact, a lot of vodka is getting infused with herbs now for different kinds of vodka martinis. Think bison grass vodka only with your own (organic) herbs.

--Neal (Proof66)

Sep 29, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Your Favorite/The Best Mixed Shot Recipe?

Ugh... well, shots as a bonding ritual are kind of cool. But my personal opinion is that I've seldom found a reason to take a shot, even less often been happy with the result, and I don't know why anyone would do that to good liquor.

However, there are some beautiful and tasty things that can be done with shots.

There 's a great book out there called "Sharp Shooters" by David Biggs that has so many cool drinks in it that it almost changed my mind. From his book:

"Unlike a cocktail party, a shooer party is loud and caucous and, sooner or later, a bit rude. You won't find many members of the elegant cocktail crowd willing to ask the barman for a Love Bite, a Bloody Good Shot, a Horny Bull, or a Splash of Passion, but the names like these fall easily from the lips of the shooter set."

Sounds like a good cast party, no?

The shots I like are pretty as well as tasty and that means they're layered. Many spirits have different specific gravities, which is a chemist's way of saying that they float on top of each other. For example, the Mexican Flag has tequila, creme de menth, and grenadine in it and makes the colors of a the Mexican flag. It also tastes vile.

But Biggs' provides good recipes... for example,

Angel's Kis: first layer creme de cacao on the bottom, then sloe gin, then brandy, then fresh cream on top. Or try Bailey's Chocolate Cherry: layer grenadine, then kahlua, then Irish cream. My favorite: the Gender Bender: layer blu curacao, then Jack Daniel, then dark rum, then Irish Cream.

Lots of creams in these drinks because they have a substantially different specific gravity.

(The book also has a great number of drinking games in it.)

Hope that helps. Have fun at the parties!

--Neal (Proof66)

Sep 29, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Grey goose and Kirkland Signature brand vodka the same?!

I concur w/ "Chef in the Closet" in that the vodkas are very similar. Wheat vodkas, in my opinion, tend to have a softer, smoother flavor profile that appeals to a lot of people.

Sobieski, on the other hand, is a rye vodka, which if you taste side-by-side w/ against a wheat base you'll see a far different nose and taste. (I love rye vodkas w/ orange juice or orange liqueur.) There's a nice rye vodka coming out of the Grand Traverse Distillery in Michigan (True North Vodka).

Meanwhile, potato vodkas have a different flavor profile yet again. There are even vodkas made from sugar cane (Bardenay out of Idaho, example), maple tree sap (Vermont Gold), and corn (Buffalo Trace Distillery makes a great vodka called Rain).

My suggestion is to try different vodkas from these different bases. Filtration and distilation are important (of course) but to my mind these different kinds of vodkas are as different as Irish whiskey is from scotch or bourbon and can make big differences in your cocktail of choice.

--Neal (Proof66)

Sep 21, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Flavored Stoli

This is really far out but it makes a great deal of sense to me as I've seen wildly variable scores from Stoli tastings in various competitions.

According to Anthony Dias Blue in his book "The Complete Book of Spirits," he has this to say about Stoli:

"... Stoli has been made for more than 95 years using the waters of nearby Lake Baikal, one of the great natural wonders of the world. The water that comes from Lake Baikal is absolutely pure and has left scientists baffled for decades: There's no known reason for the lake's purity. Locals don't question why; they just know the water makes Stolichnaya superior... Today stolichnaya is produced at TEN DIFFERENT DISTILLERIES IN RUSSIA [my emphasis], so the quality of the product may vary slightly within the label itself."

Given that, I think that the water is very likely sourced from all over Russia. Buying Stoli, in my view, becomes sort of like buying a lottery ticket. If you're lucky, you get one with Lake Baikal water and it's the best stuff ever. If you're unlucky, you get water out of an old bomb crater from WWII outside of Moscow and it tastes poorly.

In any event, I wonder if blaming the infusion is not precisely the problem here.

--Neal (Proof66)

Sep 19, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Whitley Neill London Dry Gin - thoughts?

Ugh... we have a few states that operate like that. Though I think things are starting to loosen up.

Some of our states allow shipment... are you able to purchase over the internet? That's how some people I know in Pennsylvania get craft-distilled stuff.

There are a couple of neat little distilleries opening up in Canada. For example, Prince Edward Potato Vodka (http://www.princeedwarddistillery.com) looks interesting and might be available up in your northern area. Also, Polar Ice Vodka from Corby Distilleries is Canadian and doing some new and interesting thing with vodka.

--Neal (Proof66)

Sep 19, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

martini anyone?

Ugh... ordering in a bar is always sort of an adventure. I can't believe some of the things I've seen go on back there if I hand't watched it withy my own two (disappointingly sober) eyes.

I agree with many of the others--be explicit in what you order. Order by ingredient and ratio. Not like a jerk or a snob... just politely. "Hendrick's gin martini wth a doubl-splash of vermouth please." If you say things like "splash" or "double splash" or "a great lot of" instead of specific rations you'll be better off. The alternative is, "Listen you teenage cretin... tell that tatooed ape of a bartender back there a proper martini is STIRRED and has a ratio of 3.5 parts of in to 0.75 parts of vermouth... NO MORE NO LESS!" The bartenders are eyeballing it anyway so let them measure in "splashes" or some other informal term. That'll keep you on good terms with the bartender and staff. And that's a MUST.

Sep 19, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Where to go from here?

Hah! Yes, that stuff is so incredibly good it's hard to not use it. It's the bacon of cocktails... everything is better with it.

I hope that they're able to keep producing it wth the same taste and quality. I'm terribly concerned about it now that it's so popular.

Sep 19, 2009
proof66 in Spirits

Where to go from here?

You seem to live in the PacNW (references to Dry Fly and Crater Lake).

Given that, I suggest you try Rogue Spruce gin as your next gin. It has a slightly different flavor profile but we've found has enormous respect among the various judging competitions. It's local, good, and they also make great beer. (Avoid their rum.)

You also seem to like to experiment with liqueurs in general. There's a local distillery in Oregon called "Loft Organic Liqueurs." They have ginger, lavender, and other exotic flavors that are very, very interesting. If you're into organic liqueurs, there's also Organic Nation traditional gin and vodka also out of Oregon.

In general though, I agree that you need a scotch and perhaps an Irish whiskey in your bar. Just a nice blend like Johnnie Walker Black is perfectly appropriate and maybe Jameson's 12yr.

--Neal (Proof66)

Sep 17, 2009
proof66 in Spirits