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Should I really give gin another try?

I think my only point in replying at all, Zin, was that (without the context that your most recent reply provides--your claimed indicate that you have a fairly educated palate) anyone reading your prior post would take it as "if you tasted gin once, you never need to try it again", which is both a disservice to the spirit of this board and a disservice to any casual readers thereof.

I've turned many non-gin customers onto gin within the past few years. Part of that is the selection of gins that are now available, and part of that is the re-examination of their palates. To not point that out might be "detrimental" to new users.

Zin, thanks for clarifying your previous post!

Dec 28, 2012
scQue814 in Spirits

Should I really give gin another try?

...While I can certainly appreciate Zin's comment, I think he leaves an important (and scientific) point out of the equation: you literally have different tastebuds every few years. Just because you didn't like something in 1993 does not mean you will not like it in 2000 or 2013. (I had this phenomenon happen to me with vodka. Used to just naturally hate the stuff--not from overindulgence--and could even spot it in a huge batch of pasta sauce. Now, I love the experience of most vodkas. Still think Absolut is abolutly horrible, though.)

Also, there is scientific evidence that trying things that one finds challenging actually creates new pathways in the brain. Also, the chemical reaction in the brain to an unliked flavor is decreased every single time you taste it... meaning you actually develop less of an aversion to it every time. This study was done with rats and people to study "supertasters" and their aversion to bitter things. Look it up; it is quite fascinating!

In short--and to put it a bit more colloquially--people who don't try new things (or re-visit things they don't like) really do stagnate their brain development and eventually turn into curmudgeonly old men and women. "Old fuddy-duddies" I like to call them.

Dec 27, 2012
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

Hearing great things... but waiting for it to appear in PA. =/

Jul 14, 2012
scQue814 in Spirits

Best wine you've had under $15

Sounds like the Casillero del Diablo line. Their Carmenere holds it's own quite well.

New one I just found is Montpellier Pinot noir.

Jun 11, 2012
scQue814 in Wine

The Night Marcher

Just made one myself substituting equal parts Beija cachaça and Cruzan light rum for the Martinique... Smith & Cross for the Lemon Hart... and Melinda's Naga Jolokia hot sauce. I think in this case, a different hot sauce would be better. Heading back to the kitchen, I decided to sacrifice the light fizz of the ginger-beer for a trip back into the shaker. As to be expected, Sriracha saves the day!

Actually, I'm quite impressed with this recipe: you can actually taste every single ingredient when you know what's in there!

Jun 04, 2012
scQue814 in Recipes

good low end liquor

If i get heartburn from liquor it happens within seconds of it going down. Not sure what that means. But usually, I assume the sugar content (natural bi-product of distillation) is higher than my body can tolerate. This is why I tend to stick to Basil Hayden: dry and spicy.

Look for Bonal, even ask for it. I was even able to serve it tonite with equal parts Dolin DRY... plus club and tonic. Several of my customers seem to like this combination after their dinner.

re: Pappy van Winkle... =/

Mar 10, 2012
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

Elijah Craig has been known to give me the worst heartburn of any liquor I've ever consumed. So, yes, it's personal.

But Bulleit Rye is my new go-to for under-$30 whiskey. That said, Basil Hayden is still my #1.

ALSO, if you want to save money on the Carpano in cocktails, simply substitute equal parts Dolin Rouge + Bonal Gentiane-Quina (a quinine infused "vermouth"). Works like a charm to get about the same effect.

Finally, does anyone know whatever happened to Pappy Van Winkle? Are they still making that stuff? I've been saving money to buy a bottle and now can't find it anywhere!

Mar 09, 2012
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

On our last menu change at the restaurant, we swapped out Ketel vodka to use New Amsterdam gin in our Pama-tinis (so I no longer need to balk at the name). The response has been overwhelmingly positive for the folks who've tried them. Though, I will admit a bit of tomfoolery in menu layout to include the Pama-tini at the bottom of the gin section... but directly above the vodka section. (So glad I took psych classes before I took my marketing class!)

Anyway, it was all in an effort to get folks to give gin a chance. Since the reprint--which includes quite a few new gin-based drinks, our gin sales have exceeded vodka sales during most of that time--though it did swing back toward vodka since Christmas.

Oh, and our recipe...

PAMA-TINI
~ 2.25-oz New Amsterdam gin (instead of Ketel One vodka)
~ 1.00-oz Pama pomegranate liqueur
~ 2 dashes Regan's Orange bitters (opt.)
~ 0.50-oz Ocean-spray Cranberry juice cocktail (use more if using vodka)
SHAKE. STRAIN.
GARNISH w/ Orange twist.

Mar 09, 2012
scQue814 in Spirits

Qi Lapsang Souchong: What to do with it?

My first year in bartending, I came up with a cocktail that we called the Neo-Tokyo. It's been a long time since I've made this drink, but I do recall the "un-sweetening" effect to be the most pronounced with this one... (It's funny that nowadays this drink would never even occur to me!)

NEO-TOKYO -- (green/blue/red).....$6.00
~ 0.75 Dry saké
~ 0.75 Stoli Vanil
~ 0.75 Zen green tea liqueur
~ 0.5 Apple Pucker schnapps
~ Dash Sours mix
~ Splash of Pineapple Juice
SHAKE. Strain into glass in front of customer.
~ 0.5 Blue Curacao
(Trickle into glass.)
DO NOT STIR!
~ 0.25 Grenadine (Trickle into glass.)
GARNISH w/ an elaborate skewer of Lime wedge, Cherries and Lemon twist.
[Encourage customer to squeeze the lime on top of the drink.]

This ingredient list sounds like a horrific sugar-bomb. But turns out to be quite tasty--and over-the-top anime-style kitsch to boot!

Oct 21, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

Qi Lapsang Souchong: What to do with it?

Also remember that just because a bartender puts two sweet ingredients in the shaker... doesn't necessarily mean that the final cocktail will be as sweet as either of them on their own. Sometimes there's a sine-wave effect where the sweetness is intensified. Other times, two sweets cancel each other out a bit and you're left with magic.

Oct 18, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

We have a sort of rebel cocktail enthusiast here in PA who does a great service for those of us living in a control state. His site is PLCBUsersGroup.org --where he lists every liquor available in the state (whether in-store or special-order), along with who distributes it and their minimum purchasing requirement. You might want to check it out.

Of course, the information there may not apply to where you live, but it might give you a better idea on how to navigate the situation.

Most company's SLO requirement is only 6 or 12 bottles of their product: it doesn't usually have to be the SAME product.

Oct 08, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

Qi Lapsang Souchong: What to do with it?

I <3 QI! I'm from Pennsylvania, where unusual spirits like this are extremely difficult to come by. Our bar had been using Hangar-1 vodkas for several years, so we tried to get the Qi. We came to find out that these liqueurs are distributed under a different subsidiary of St.George Spirits than Hangar-1. After a long arduous process of special-ordering procedures that is ever so indicative of purchasing quality products in PA, I was finally able to get hold of 6 bottles of Qi Black.

And let me tell you: it was worth every penny and every minute I spent "wasting someone's time" at the local liquor stores!!!

Don't know what to do with it? Try a KOWLOON COCKTAIL #3 (my own recipe):

~ 1.50 barspoons Citron Honey (a marmalade-like tea base, popular in Korea)
~ 2.00-oz New Amsterdam gin
~ 1.00-oz Qi Black
~ 0.75-oz DeKuyper Triplesec
~ Splash Sours mix (high-end, or home-made)

Dry shake (no ice) in a cocktail shaker until ingredients are well-integrated.
Pour into an old-fashioned glass, filled with ice... making sure that the marmalade ends up on the top for both visual and olfactory appeal. Can be topped with a splash of club soda (optional).

The Kowloon Cocktail #3 is an excellent "breakfast cocktail" to serve with brunch... or as an afternoon refresher.

Oct 04, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

e-Dan: Sorry, I mis-read your last post. I think that if you don't like a bottle of liquor, then try to find someone to trade with. No sense choking down something you don't like. And you're just wasting it for those people who do.

May 31, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

Check with your liquor store or distro. Just because a distro requires a minimum order requirement does not necessarily mean that all of those bottles must be the same product. Here in PA (where finding more obscure products is quite challenging) I can easiliy buy just 3 bottles of Kilo-Kai rum.... provided I'm willing to buy X number of other products (usually 6-12 total) from the same distributor.

The problem occurs when the individual doesn't know what specialty products are vended by said distributor. Luckily, WE have websites like PLCBUsersgroup.org to help us round out our order!

May 24, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

Of course, sir. It's just kinda what I do. T'was my pleasure! Heck, I just finished having one myself... only this time pouring from a sample-bottle of Blackmaker that someone gave me tonite. (Blackmaker is a tad more sweet, so you could cut down on the maple--but then, what's spring without maple, eh?)

May 23, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

E-Dan, I've got a great recipe for you:

SPRING TONIC
(Old-fashioned glass)
~ 0.50 Lemon
~ 1.00 Maple syrup (I prefer dark, for its bitter qualities)
MUDDLE, no sugar. Then...
~ 1.50 New Amsterdam gin (or your rail selection)
~ 0.75 Root liqueur
~ 0.50 Kilo-Kai spiced rum (or your favorite)
~ 1.00 Egg-white (optional--if powdered, reconstitute before adding liquor!)

SHAKE w/ ice. Strain w/ Hawthorn strainer.
TOP w/ Fever Tree Tonic and a few drops of Peychaud's bitters.
(If you omit the egg-whites, serve on-the-rocks.)

May 22, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

E-Dan, I'm usually behind you on comments like this. But most artisan spiced rums have a very specific flavor profile that would be very difficult to duplicate. Kilo-Kai, for instance, has a very "sassafras" finish, which no bitters I've ever tasted could possibly duplicate. Chairmans Reserve Spiced is probably the closest to Fee's Old-fashioned bitters I can think of... but still very far off.

Sure, if you're looking to be creative, then go for it! But if you're showcasing rum, then showcase the rum...!

May 21, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

How long does a $26 bottle last you, BBQBabe...? =)

Try these:
> Chairman's Reserve (bourbon-barrel rum)... both Original and Spiced
> Kilo-Kai Spiced (from Curacao Island)... has a sassafrassy finish
> Scarlet Ibis (3- to 5-yr Trinidad rum)... complex profile, not spiced
> The Lash (Spiced dark rum, blended and bottled in Connecticut)... totally baking spices!

May 19, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

"...Seagram's is a lot easier to drink straight but just doesn't have enough flavor to hold up to lime in a Caiparinha...."

Which is exactly why--in addition to brand recognition by our diverse university communtity--my co-bartender and I decided NOT to stock Seagram's. That said, there's still very little brand recognition, even in a university town the size of ours. Yet, just like the university, we are here to help educate the public.

"Drinkability" is the sort of concept-terminology that mass-produced beer and liquor companies throw around to combat the implication (argument) that their products don't have very much flavor.

But, like I said, I would buy it in a pinch.

May 19, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

Gin testing?

Correct. A gimlet does not taste the same without Rose's: IT TASTES BETTER! For godsake, do not ruin a perfectly good cocktail by haphazardly mixing with Rose's. (Being a bartender myself, I prefer fresh lime juice and simple-syrup. Though I do know a bartender at a local beer-bar who can somehow pull off cocktails with Rose's.) Simple syrup is incredibly easy to make, and fresh limes are in every grocery store. Personally, I wouldn't chance it.

GIN GIMLET
(Martini glass, chilled)
~ 2.5-oz Gin (I prefer Beefeater-24 -or- Tanqueray Rangpur)
~ 1.0-oz Simple Syrup
~ 1.0-oz Fresh Lime juice (approx 1 lime)
~ Splash of QUALITY Sours mix (Daily's is the bottom of the barrel, IMO...
...-or- Muddle a single slice of Lemon in your shaker before adding the other ingredients)

SHAKE. Strain. Enjoy!

May 19, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

Personally, I'd rather stick to Pitu at $15 per litre and have real Brazilian rum... than go with the "bandwagon" sort of operation that is Seagrams. (In a pinch, though, it would suffice.)

As far as pricing... I'm told NC and PA have a lot in common.

May 19, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

Okay, sorry. I took your post to mean that there all your stores are stocking are "Sailor"-level rums--which, for a few years is what was happening in Pennsylvania.

May 18, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

I'll rescind my previous comment about M&R vermouth. I definitely think they are second-best. Best vermouths I've found (sipping, mixing) are definitely Dolin de Chambury. Unfortunately, their distribution seems to have a few issues. If they can seem to get that ironed out, they'd take over the market.

May 18, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

I'll revise my previous post. Some new things have come to light in the past year or so...

VODKA: Luksusowa (straight, mixing), Bak's Bison Grass (infused... straight, mixing), 360-brand (great for home infusing)... Hangar-1 Raspberry and Chipotle are still my favourite top-shelf vodkas, which I will often treat as liqueurs when mixing.

GIN: Gordon's (for mixing), Gilbey's (straight, mixing), Tanqueray Rangpur (for tropical cocktails), New Amersterdam (for Negronis), Hendrick's (straight, mixing)

TEQUILA & MEZCAL: El Jimador reposado (mixing), Herradura reposado. Otherwise, I've found no other tequilas to be palatable enough to purchase below $45. My current to-shelf faves are Corzo Silver (straight, mixing), Milagro SBR reposado, Don Julio reposado, El Gran Jubileo Extra-anejo.

RUM & CACHACA: Cruzan Light, Cruzan Black Strap, Cruzan Guava. Chairman's Reserve spiced (straight, mixing). Kraken black spiced (mixing), Kilo-Kai spiced (straight, mixing). Oronocco blended (straight, mixing). Pitu is still my favorite cachaca, hands-down.

WHISKEY: Again, I've found very few whiskey's under $30 worth leaving the house for. That said, Bulleit bourbon and Eagle Rare single-barrel bourbons (though both seem to give me a gluten reaction--I'm Celiac) are excellent buys. Because of the gluten-reaction, though, I usually drink Basil Hayden (which is priced outside the scope of this thread).

LIQUEURS: Berentzen Apfelkorn, Domaine de Canton, Regency Amaretto, SoHo lychee, Luxardo Maraschino.

May 18, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

good low end liquor

Just because a store only carries Coor's Light or cheaper does not mean there aren't better, inexpensive (though slightly higher-priced) beers out there. And rum was probably the least represented category in PA liquor stores until within the past year. Kraken is low-tomid-range. Zaya 12-yr is top-shelf, as is Zacapa 23-yr.

May 18, 2011
scQue814 in Spirits

Sommelier snobbery - why do 4 star restaurants refuse to list white zinfandel?

Sounds like he's drunk on something cheap and loaded with congeners.

Feb 12, 2011
scQue814 in Wine

Best wine you've had under $15

Vinosia's ESSENZA DI MALVASIA [literally Essence (nectar) of Malvasia]... In this case Malvasia bianca, an Italian varietal that is being used by vintners in California and the American Southwest to bring a floral quality to the glass of their blends. But the one I had was--so far as my research showed--all or mostly Malvasia... which is incredibly difficult to find in the middle of Pennsylvania. Pairing note: SUSHI, SUSHI, SUSHI. Pricetag: $13.49, including shipping.

Jan 30, 2010
scQue814 in Wine

Sommelier snobbery - why do 4 star restaurants refuse to list white zinfandel?

The example of saké comes to mind here. There are two distinct philosophies when it comes to the beverage:

1.) Follow the toji's recommendations and drink their saké at the temperature suggested on the bottle or website;
2.) Experiment with temperatures and drink it the way you like.

Both are completely valid arguments and have merit. But there are times when experimentation is less advisable. One of those times is in the restaurant setting.

You can probably imagine how many folks think they hate saké because they've only tasted the cheapest, roughest stuff--which their friends purchased in some dive sushi bar. (The folks who insist you serve it "extra-hot" are a dead giveaway.)

Saké can be served at any temperature, sure. But there are sakés whose nuances really shine at particular temperatures. And every saké is different, even by matters of degrees!

This first became apparent to me when a friend invited me over and asked me to bring some saké to share. One of us had to cancel and the bottle sat in the trunk of my car for a couple days. It was mid-October and the trunk of my car was probably about 60-degrees-F.

Three days later we finally met up after work and opened the bottle. It was Murai Family Sugidama and--AT THAT TEMPERATURE--it was nothing short of sublime! I then realised that I'd been drinking my chilled sakés far too cold. And I started paying much closer attention to the temperature at which I was serving them in our restaurant... sometimes going so far as to blend a serving from a chilled bottle and a room-temp bottle to achieve the optimal temperature.

Why is all this relevant?

"Drink as you like" is a great philosophy when trying things at home with friends. But when you dine at an establishmen, you expect--beyond the customer service--that the food and beverage will "sparkle". And so, in our restaurant, we will only serve our sakés at the temperatures recommended by the toji (saké-masters) themselves. (Certainly, they must know a thing or two about their own masterpieces, right?)

Still, one former server called me everything short of a Saké-Nazi.

But my experience with the clientele has shown me that, on average, if I can get them to try a more polished saké (and serve it at the appropriate temperature), I can win them over to a whole new world of food and beverage pairing. Perhaps the sakés they end up preferring are not in the price-range they would ideally like, but at least they've expanded their horizons. (Offering flights has done wonders to demonstrate this, btw.)

So, drink what you like when you're at home. But when you go out to a restaurant, don't be afraid to let the staff make suggestions. They just might know a thing or two about the things they're serving... and (surprisingly) want you to leave happy and come back again!

Jan 30, 2010
scQue814 in Wine

Sommelier snobbery - why do 4 star restaurants refuse to list white zinfandel?

It is an interesting theory, but I can't say that I agree.

Simi Roseto is, decidedly, a Rose/Blush. But it's complexity and light tartness seems to confuse White-Zin-seekers--despite its IMO prominent notes of strawberry and lemon blossom. On the other hand, I've had great success suggesting German rieslings and moscatos.

I even try to explain (with my limited knowledge--I am not a sommelier) where the grape is grown and that most, say, Rieslings from said region will have certain characteristics (notes of pear, apple, certain type of acidity). The customer may or may not understand what I'm telling them. But if they absorb it subconsciously, it will benefit them later on. And usually, within a few months, I can suggest another wine for them to try and--provided I can offer it by the glass--they are usually open-minded enough by then to give it a go.

And if that experience is good, perhaps they'll start buying bottles when the selection they were hoping for is not on the glass list.

It's a slow process, but eventually you can show your clientele that there are hidden gems on your wine list... if only they'll trust you enough to take your suggestions. =)

Jan 30, 2010
scQue814 in Wine

Sommelier snobbery - why do 4 star restaurants refuse to list white zinfandel?

High in sugar, low on complexity. So, what you're saying is that White Zin-lovers are hooked on what is generally considered to be "crappy" wine. If a wine can't speak to many different types of clientele... and if a wine can't be matched AMAZINGLY with the restaurant's menu selection... then WHAT'S THE POINT IN CARRYING IT?

There are plenty of Mosel-region Rieslings that will fit both bills, not to mention Moscato, Tokaj--what most would consider to be "dessert wine", but can also work with certain types of food. (Thai, for instance.)

This is why I believe in keeping a rather non-traditional winelist and keeping many of the "less volatile" selections (less prone to oxidation) rotated into the glass-list. (Yes, there will be times when there is no Chardonnay on the list, either!) Granted, I'm speaking from the viewpoint of a 20-bottle list and maybe 7 glass options. But once your clientele has a chance to taste some of the other varietals--some sweet, some not...without having to invest in an entire bottle--they will start to trust you with other menu items as well. And you can then also rotate some other interesting selections onto your lists.

Of course, my primary area of expertise being Asian dining might skew the argument a bit... what with folks admittedly taking a more "vacational" approach when they enter our establishment (which we capitalise on, mind you)... But I really think my case is sound.

As for gracious service. That works really well most of the time. But every once in a while there's someone who just needs to be jabbed. [Why does everyone assume that because you serve liquor you will automatically carry a Jose Cuervo--especially when there are so many other tequilas that are equally good (or better) and cheaper? Personally, I'm a big fan of better and cheaper.] The same goes with managing staff: some respond well to instruction, while others seem to require being reprimanded in front of customers or co-workers in order to get the message of what is expected of them. But let's stay on-topic!

Decent wines under $18? Simi Roseto, Martin & Weyrich Allegro Moscato, Kreusch Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Riesling, Saint M mid-dry Riesling, Rosemont Traminer-Riesling, Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer, Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc, Vinosia Essenza di Malvasia (bianca), Folonari Soave (similar to Pinot grigio), Sunrise Chardonnay, Sunrise Cabernet, Casillero del Diablo Carmenere, Cycles Gladiator Merlot...

Jan 30, 2010
scQue814 in Wine