Highland Park Distillery (Kirkwall, Scotland) has officially announced the Limited Release of VALKNUT Single Malt Scotch Whisky, the second expression in its Viking Legends Trilogy.
Preceded by the mid-2017 release of the critically-acclaimed VALKYRIE, VALKNUT has arrived to serve as the second offering “in a series of three Viking Legends releases inspired by the rich Viking heritage and mythology of Highland Park’s Orkney Islands home.” Meaning “‘knot of those killed in battle’ and represented visually by three interlinked triangles”, the Valknut is a symbol “closely associated with the Norse god Odin, who guided the spirits of the dead to Valhalla.”
“The story of the Valknut is compelling and I wanted to ensure that the design feature of this packaging was a fitting match to the whisky created by Master Whisky Maker Gordon Motion. Also, as VALKNUT is part of a series of three expressions, I made sure that there is continuity in the style of the packaging; for example, the frieze design at top is consistent in look, but the story of the symbol has been brought to the front panel.”
– Jim Lyngvild, renowned Danish designer & artist behind the packaging for VALKNUT
As a whisky, VALKNUT (46.8% ABV) is a “bolder, more intense” Single Malt Scotch from Highland Park that boasts a “drier and smokier profile and a higher ABV than VALKYRIE.” A maturation period predominantly spent in American sherry seasoned oak casks provides VALKNUT with a “a slightly higher phenolic level compared to VALKYRIE” while a “small amount of Orkney grown tartan barley . . . adds to its smokier edge and lingering sweet, spicy finish.”
VALKNUT is rolling out in the U.S. now and will be available as long as supplies last. You can expect to find this Limited Release offering available in 750ml bottles (suggested retail price of $80 each) at ReserveBar.com, Caskers.com and at select retailers located throughout the U.S. Prost!
Vital Information for VALKNUT from Highland Park Distillery
Release – Limited, September 2018 Style – Single Malt Scotch Whisky ABV – 46.8% Treatment – Aged predominantly in American sherry seasoned oak casks Natural Cask-Driven Color (no additives) – Light & golden Nose – Toasted vanilla pods, cracked black pepper, oak shavings, cloves, anise, aromatic smoke Palate – Sweet, aromatic cloves join forces with tangy hints of anise Finish – Intensely balanced and bold; leaves a lingering memory of aromatic peat smoke & sweet spices Fun Fact – On the story of the Valknut: “Viking sagas tell of the Valkyries, the fierce angels of Norse mythology who combed the battlefields for the bravest fallen warriors. Vikings who met an honorable death were marked out by the symbol of the Valknut and spirited away by the Valkyries to Valhalla to join Odin’s mighty army and prepare for Ragnarok, the battle of the end of the world.” Availability – 750ml bottles
Spoetzl Brewery (Shiner, Texas) has announced that it will officially begin the Limited Release of Spoetzl Märzen, a barrel-aged collaboration with Balcones Distilling(Waco, Texas), in October 2018.
Created as a joint effort from “two Texas icons who share a passion for supreme craftsmanship and appreciation for things done well”, Spoetzl Märzen is a massive Märzen-style Lager brewed with imported Munich malts, “hopped with prized Hallertau and Hersbrucker varietals and krausened twice to round out the lightly toasted, spicy malt flavors.” Once the brewing process was completed, the beer was then sent to mature in “barrels that formerly housed the award-winning single malt whisky” from Balcones Distilling. Well-aged and fully-matured, the “labor of love” that is Spoetzl Märzen (11% ABV and 32 IBUs) has emerged from its rest as a “coppery-orange hued, hop-forward brew [that has] notes of caramel and oak from the whisky-imbued barrels offering a smooth, lingering finish that adds depth and character.”
“For 109 years, Spoetzl Brewery has delivered best in class craft beer. We are excited to get back to our roots with the second release of our small batch brewing program. Barrel-aging is wildly popular from beer to coffee, not to mention the original way to make a Märzen-style lager. For this reason, it was great to work with our friends over at Balcones Distilling, the most awarded Texas whisky, as the tannins from whisky-soaked barrels naturally increase the clarity of the beer while also imparting a unique roundness and incredible color to the beer.”
– Tom Fiorenzi, Director of Brewing at Spoetzl Brewery
Spoetzl Märzen will officially release on October 1 and will be available as long as supplies last. You can expect to find this Limited-Edition beer available in 750ml bottles (suggested retail price of $14.99 each) at select specialty beer retailers located throughout the state of Texas. Prost!
Vital Information for Spoetzl Märzen from Spoetzl Brewery and Balcones Distilling
Release – Limited, October 2018 Style – Märzen ABV – 11% IBUs – 32 Featured Malts – Munich Featured Hops – Hallertau & Hersbrucker Treatment – Aged in Balcones Distilling “1” Texas Single Malt Whisky barrels Availability – 750ml bottles Distribution – Texas only
For this special installment of Tasting Notes, we take advantage of the exciting opportunity to sample and work with Forbidden Fruit, a nearly forgotten liqueur that has been recently resurrected byLee Spirits Company (Colorado Springs, Colorado).
First created in the late 1800s, Forbidden Fruit, a citrus-based liqueur, at one time grew to such popularity that it was frequently mentioned as an ingredient in The Savoy Cocktail Book and The Café Royal Cocktail Book – two highly-respected tomes from the 1930’s that now chronicle the history of classic cocktails. Never heard of it? Well, the reason for that stems from the moment it was “acquired from the original producers by the Jacquin Company.” This move set the stage for Forbidden Fruit to oddly meet its demise in 1970’s when the Jacquin Company decided to “[repurpose] the bottle design for their new Chambord Raspberry Liqueur.” Production of Forbidden Fruit completely ceased, leaving “classic cocktail enthusiasts . . . no choice but to try to substitute Forbidden Fruit with another ingredient or to recreate it themselves” . . . until Lee Spirits Company showed up.
Staying true to their “mission to authentically recreate classic cocktail ingredients”, the folks at Lee Spirits “scoured auction houses, purchased unopened bottles of original Forbidden Fruit Liqueur“, and reverse engineered Forbidden Fruit’s flavor and experience “as accurately as absolutely possible.” After building a recipe containing “white grapefruit, honey, and a blend of spices”, Lee Spirits Company can now confidently declare that “it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference” between their version and the original in a side-by-side comparison. Due to Lee Spirits Company’s dedication and commitment to the revival of this historic liqueur, a wealth of classic cocktails can now resurface, and Forbidden Fruit can once again inspire new creations developed at bars around the country.
Forbidden Fruit is available now in 750ml bottles and can be found at fine retailers located in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Now that the storied history of Forbidden Fruit has been covered, let’s get into these Tasting Notes so that we can finally experience what we have been missing for all these years.
Tasting Notes for Forbidden Fruit from Lee Spirits Company
Appearance:Forbidden Fruit is packaged in a tall, slender bottle that is adorned with a white label bearing a clean, mostly black and gray design that gets a just a pop of color from the illustrated grapefruit and spices. The liqueur is extremely pale yellow in color and slightly cloudy, making its presentation somewhat reminiscent of freshly squeezed lemon juice. When jostled, the liquid coats every part of the glass it encounters with an oil slick that impressively draws some lengthy and long-lasting legs.
Aroma: Citrus forward, the aromatics lead with a grapefruit character spiked with bit of sweet orange juice. A lovely honey presence then builds and carries with it earthy and floral cardamom notes. Coriander closes the profile with a complex, citrus quality that brings the grapefruit back up front.
Taste: The spices strike first here with floral cardamom, citrusy coriander and just a touch of cinnamon. The citrus and honey then surface simultaneously to supply notes of candied grapefruit and orange. Underneath it all, there is a soft undertone of creamy vanilla that further tempers the grapefruit with another layer of sweetness.
Mouthfeel: Slightly syrupy and sticky in texture, Forbidden Fruit coats the palate with a healthy helping of sweetness. That said, there is a touch of citrus-sourced bitterness that adds some dimension to the liqueur’s sweet character. All those fermentable sugars produce an 32% ABV that offers some building – but not overwhelming – heat in the throat. Honey and vanilla linger in the aftertaste.
Final Thoughts: On description alone, we were expecting Forbidden Fruit to be more of a bittering liqueur . . . but our ignorant expectation for something one dimensional was way off. Instead, we were met with a dynamically complex spirit that is citrusy and floral, sweet and gently bitter, earthy and spicy. Above all, it is just ridiculously unique.
Obviously, Forbidden Fruit is not necessarily meant to be a stand-alone spirit consumed neat like we did for the Tasting Notes above. Its place is in a delicious cocktail, so we decided to continue our tasting journey by shaking up a Tantalus, a classic cocktail that also vanished when Forbidden Fruit met its fate in the 70’s.
3/4 oz. Brandy or Gin (we went with Lee Spirits Dry Gin)
3/4 oz. Forbidden Fruit
3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
1/4 oz. Honey
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin filled with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The recipe makes it so the herbs in the Dry Gin and the spices in the Forbidden Fruit are smoothed out and dialed back. This leaves incredibly bright citrus notes (tart lemon & grapefruit) and a floral honey presence with the opportunity to shine. Any sweetness from the honey and Forbidden Fruit is balanced beautifully by the lemon juice and gin, resulting in an incredibly refreshing cocktail that drinks dry and disappears about as quickly as it is poured.
After experiencing just how delicious Forbidden Fruit and the Tantalus cocktail are, it is difficult to understand why this liqueur so easily faded away into obscurity. With the bright but balanced flavors in Forbidden Fruit having the amazing ability to complement and enhance so many different kinds of spirits and mixers, its decades-long absence just does not make any sense.
The time is now and long overdue for Forbidden Fruit. Whether you own a bar that specializes or dabbles in the cocktails of yore or are just a home bartender that enjoys wowing guests with classic-style cocktails, you need to have some Forbidden Fruit on hand. Not only will this help you step up your cocktail game, but you will also play a pivotal role in assisting Forbidden Fruit reclaim its significant place in cocktail culture. Prost!
For this special mid-week installment of Tasting Notes, we take a moment to indulge ourselves with an afternoon dram of FULL VOLUME from Highland Park Distillery (Kirkwall, Scotland).
Just as a musician works with his/her “amps and equalizers [to maintain] critical balance at high volume by fine-tuning musical frequencies”, Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion, uses his skills to ensure “that every individual wave of flavor finds its perfect place in the beautifully harmonized final spirit.” FULL VOLUME illustrates this point by striking a balance between two styles: Bourbon and Scotch Whisky. Originally distilled in 1999, FULL VOLUME is a Single Malt Scotch Whisky that has been matured in “100% ex-bourbon casks rather than Highland Park’s traditional sherry-seasoned ones.” This lengthy rest ultimately produced a 47.2% ABV Whisky that offers harmonized “flavors of creamy vanilla and sweet citrus fruits from the bourbon casks, balanced by Highland Park’s characteristic aromatic smokiness.”
FULL VOLUME is available now in specially-packaged 750ml bottles for the suggested retail price of $100. You can expect to find this Limited Release Whisky on shelves at select specialist retailers located throughout the U.S.
Now that we are all a bit more familiar with the inspiration behind FULL VOLUME, it appears it is finally time to find a good chair, grab a glass and crank it to eleven with some Tasting Notes!
Tasting Notes for FULL VOLUME from Highland Park Distillery
Appearance: Poured neat from a tasting vial, FULL VOLUME presents itself as a brilliantly clear whisky that is light straw yellow in color. When held to direct light, the color holds for the most part but a touch of vibrant gold builds at its center. The whisky is slick on the glass, coating the sides with a wide tract of slow-falling legs that eventually meet to create a complete oil slick that never loses its hold of the glass.
Aroma: The nose begins with rich and inviting tones of vanilla and coconut. That sweetness is then brightened up with notes of lemon and orange zest. Tropical fruits bloom from the citrus to add notes of mango and papaya. The expected presence of peat finally surfaces to close out the profile with some light smoke that works alongside just a touch of toffee.
Taste: The grains and peat smoke quickly grab your attention here, but immediately mellow out to reveal citrus tones that come across as carefully grilled lemon and orange. Sweeter, candied lemon tones then force through and bring with them juicy exotic fruits such as mango, pineapple and papaya. Vanilla smooths it all out, creating a combined quality that mimics a lemon ice box pie that has just a bit of cinnamon in the crust. The experience finishes with a pleasant combination of coconut and banana.
Mouthfeel: Smooth and slightly creamy on the palate, FULL VOLUME has a beautifully long finish that allows you to fully savor notes of coconut and smoke. That 47.2% ABV is nothing to scoff at, but it is incredibly well behaved and allows each sip to be effortless and thoroughly enjoyable. Not at all harsh or aggressive.
Final Thoughts: If you are a bourbon drinker that has been looking for a way into the Scotch Whisky game, FULL VOLUME just might be your gateway. Although distinct and attention-getting, the peat and smoke in this offering are far more reserved than you will find in most Scotch Whiskies. The bourbon casks supply approachability with those familiar, gorgeous notes of vanilla and coconut, and the overall fruitiness – both the citrus and tropical fruits – of this expression keeps things light, bright and dynamic. Just like the music that inspired it, this unique spirit comes across as a smooth, free-flowing thought piece as it evokes memory while stimulating contemplation and imagination. All in all, FULL VOLUME is bourbon reminiscent while still retaining its character and heritage as a Scotch Whisky, and that makes for one hell of a memorable sip. Be sure to check it out the next time you are on the hunt for something special to add to the home bar. Prost!
Lee Spirits Company (Colorado Springs, Colorado) has officially announced that it will launch distribution in Texas this July with four products: Dry Gin, Forbidden Fruit Liqueur, Creme de Rose and Creme de Violette.
Founded in 2013 by cousins Nick and Ian Lee, Lee Spirits Company was formed with a mission “to develop and manufacture the finest Gin in Colorado and the United States along with accompanying liqueurs that would fit into classic cocktail recipes exactly as originally written” and to one day distribute those “products in retail outlets across the nation and globe.” That vision has steadily coming to fruition over the last five years as several Lee Spirits offerings have won awards and the distillery has gradually expanded distribution to include Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and now Texas.
“Our team worked tirelessly to complete the deal with our Texas partners,” said Ian Lee, co-founder of Lee Spirits Company. “Texas marks the next step in our growth as a company. In addition, we are excited to launch our products in additional states in the upper Midwest and Eastern Seaboard by the end of 2018. Witnessing our brand’s planned-growth from small a southern Colorado distiller to a company pointed toward national and global distribution is a testament to hard work and dedication.”
Lee Spirits will enter the Texas market with the following four offerings (all descriptions sourced from the distillery’s website):
Dry Gin – Our flagship product. Created with original prohibition-era cocktails in mind. We make it just like it would have been made in 1920. It features a floral nose with an earthy finish. Goes perfect in a martini and any recipe from Jerry Thomas’ 1862 Bartender’s Guide. ABV – 45% (90 PROOF)
Forbidden Fruit Liqueur – Containing white grapefruit, honey, and a blend of spices, Lee Spirits’ Forbidden Fruit Liqueur is perfect to create authentic classic cocktails or to add a unique flavor to your modern creations. ABV – 32% (64 PROOF)
Creme de Rose – Creme de Rose is created in an American manner of traditional creme liqueurs. Freshly picked red and pink petals combine to recreate this traditional liqueur that brings a floral sweetness to any cocktail or pour it over ice and sip it on its own. ABV – 30% (60 PROOF)
Creme de Violette – American made product kept honest to its American roots. Our traditional recipe blends botanicals that recreate a Crème de Violette that allows you to reminisce about the past and leads you into the future. ABV – 30% (60 PROOF)
These Lee Spirits products will be available in the state of Texas beginning in July 2018. You can expect to find these fine offerings available in retail stores located in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and several other cities throughout Texas. Prost!
Highland Park Distillery (Kirkwall, Scotland) has officially announced the extremely limited release of THE LIGHT, a 17 Year Old Scotch Whisky aged on American oak.
Created as the striking antithesis to Highland Park’s recently released THE DARK, THE LIGHT is the second offering in a two-part series that “shares the story of the noble Viking warriors who are [Highland Park’s] ancestors, of [their] contrasting island seasons and of the intense balance of [their] whisky.” Representing the “spring and summer in Orkney”, THE LIGHT is a 17 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky that gets its light golden color from being aged in 100% refill American oak barrels. Clocking in at a smooth 52.99% ABV, THE LIGHT offers a sensory experience filled with notes of caramelized pears, nutmeg, vanilla, peat, cedar, oak and light smoke.
With only 28,000 bottles – 700ml or 750 ml bottles, depending on country – produced, THE LIGHT is available now as a highly limited release. You can expect to find this Special Release at select specialist retailers located in the U.S. and across the world. Prost!
Vital Information for THE LIGHT from Highland Park Distillery
Release – Special/Limited, May 2018 Style – Single Malt Scotch Whisky ABV – 52.99% (106 Proof) Treatment – Matured in 100% refill American Oak barrels Flavors – Caramelized pear | Nutmeg | Vanilla | Peat | Cedar wood | Oak | Light smoke Fun Fact – A description of the inspiration behind this whisky series: “Light and dark are concepts that exist in opposition, yet together create a perfect balance. One cannot exist without the other; as one appears, the other disappears; together they create something greater than themselves – in nature, a perfect, continuous cycle.” Availability – 700ml or 750ml bottles (size depends on country) Distribution – Worldwide
For this special edition of Tasting Notes, we find ourselves pregaming the weekend by getting into a little Blazing HEEET Hot Cinnamon Vodka from MerryGo Spirits.
Released as the first high-quality, luxury spirit from MerryGo Spirits, Blazing HEEET is here to spice up your summer with an experience that combines the sweet heat of cinnamon with the crisp taste of vodka. More than just another gimmicky flavored-vodka, Blazing HEEET is an “ultra-premium American-made Vodka” that is 6x distilled, carbon filtered and made with 100% all-natural ingredients. Clocking in at 68 Proof (34% ABV), Blazing HEEET is an “intense, hot cinnamon” libation that you can shoot straight, enjoy on the rocks, or mix into your favorite cocktail. Blazing HEEET Hot Cinnamon Vodka is available now at fine liquor stores for the suggested retail price of $24.99 per 750ml bottle.
Now that we are all a little more familiar with the information behind Blazing HEEET, let’s go ahead and jump headlong into the fire and burn through some Tasting Notes!
Tasting Notes for Blazing HEEET Hot Cinnamon Vodka from MerryGo Spirits
Appearance:Blazing HEEET is packaged in a uniquely shaped, squat and heavy glass bottle. The label is an eye-grabbing reddish orange in color with retro-style fonts, and the design cleverly incorporates actual strike points for matches. The liquid itself is perfectly clear, but it does take on a bit of a haze when chilled. There are absolutely no off colors from the added ingredients, and it looks exactly as one would expect when presented with a glass of vodka.
Aroma: That said, those expectations see a little realignment just as soon as you unscrew the cap on this bottle. At that moment you are hit with a big waft of pure cinnamon. It has that signature, attention-getting heat that the spice is known for, but there is also a candied note pushing forward. It is almost as if you infused a beautiful vodka with some of those cinnamon candies we all sought after at one time or another as kids. It is clean, nostalgic, and it certainly has our attention.
Taste: Each sip of HEEET leads with a rush of sweet heat from the cinnamon. It is not overly aggressive, but it definitely takes the alpha role in the flavor department. The heat from the cinnamon then seamlessly threads itself into the booziness of the vodka. The experience closes with a pure and clean vodka flavor that possesses just a touch of earthiness.
Mouthfeel: Slick in texture, HEEET coats the palate well, hangs around for a moment, and then evaporates slowly to leave behind a lingering heat. That heat comes from both the cinnamon and 34% ABV, but it is tempered beautifully with that subtle sweetness. Subtle is the word here because both the sweetness and the heat are dialed in just right to avoid any issues with cloying. The aftertaste is straight vodka.
Final Thoughts: Although cinnamon-flavored spirits are all the rage right now, Blazing HEEET proved to this tasting panel that it is something special. Sure, the aggressively aromatic cinnamon had a few us more than a little wary, but that all changed with a sip. This thing is crafted for balance and it is artful in its execution. It leads with the expected pop of cinnamon, but it is just the right amount to get your attention without burning you down. That is impressive enough on its own, but the finish is what truly amazes us. The fact that this spirit can start with an assertive flavor like cinnamon and close out with an aftertaste that is nothing but clean premium vodka is remarkable. It would be so easy for Blazing HEEET to be one note, but the folks who crafted it clearly wanted you to know it is a vodka at heart. This gives Blazing HEEET character, and that is not something we often find in flavored spirits.
All in all, Blazing HEEET just comes together to be a damn tasty flavored-vodka experience that can be easily enjoyed on its own with ice, thrown back as a shot with friends (we might have done a few . . . for science), or used to spice up an old cocktail recipe. It’s delicious. It’s different. It’s fun. And it does not have be much more than that. Be sure to check it out the next time you are looking for something to spice up the liquor cabinet. Prost!
Side Note: Speaking of cocktails, we dabbled with BlazingHEEET in a variety of mixed drinks this week and this one turned out to be the office favorite.
1.5 oz. Blazing HEEET Hot Cinnamon Vodka
3 oz. Pear Juice
Combine the Blazing HEEET and pear juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a collins or highball glass filled with fresh ice. Top with champagne and enjoy.
This cocktail basically plays on the idea of champagne poached pears. The sweetness of the pear juice tempers the heat of Blazing HEEET but draws out its comforting cinnamon characteristics. The champagne adds dryness and effervescence to round out the experience. This all results in a ridiculously refreshing cocktail that you can pair with a cool summer evening on the porch or you could use it to break up the mimosa monotony at brunch.
Father’s Day is just around the corner and Highland Park Distillery (Kirkwall, Scotland) has released a Scotch Whisky Gift Guide that makes it easier than ever to hook dad up with the perfect bottle.
Dad. A guy that we all tend to think of as a person who is wise, experienced, and knows exactly what he likes and wants. Coincidentally, people also characterize Scotch drinkers with those same attributes . . . so why not combine the two this Father’s Day?
It just so happens that Highland Park currently has a stunning array of Scotch Whiskies currently available on shelves and they have provided us all with a handy gift guide that breaks them all down. Whether dad is new to whisky or has enjoyed Scotch for years, there is truly “an expression for every type of whisky-loving dad.” Just check out the descriptions of the whiskies below, match a one to your father’s tastes, and give him a thoughtful gift on June 17 that he can enjoy and savor for months. Prost!
For the dad dedicated to tradition:
MAGNUS – Highland Park stays true to their founder’s bold and uncompromising approach to whisky making – very little has changed the last 220 years. Magnus celebrates the unbroken traditions with a single malt whisky, matured in sherry seasoned American oak casks, that delivers notes of sweet vanilla, overlaid with distinctive aromatic smokiness. Magnus is a recent Gold Medal Winner in the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
18-YEAR-OLD – Named Best Spirit in the World in the Spirit Journal on two separate occasions, the intense balance of flavors going in Highland Park’s18 Year Old owes everything to the distillery’s five traditional keystones of production. Slow burning, aromatic peat, Sherry seasoned European oak casks, cool maturation in Orkney’s temperate island climate and a long and unhurried harmonization process.
FULL VOLUME – This whisky was created using 100% ex-bourbon casks rather than Highland Park’s traditional sherry-seasoned ones. Distilled in 1999, FULL VOLUME was filtered at just over 4oC and delivers flavors of creamy vanilla and sweet citrus fruits from the bourbon casks, balanced by Highland Park’s characteristic aromatic smokiness.
THE DARK – A 17-year-old since malt whisky that has been matured exclusively in first fill sherry-seasoned European oak casks. The result is a perfectly balanced whisky packed with flavors of dried fruit and spices overlaid with hints of smoky peat. With a limited release of just 4,500 bottles in the USA, THE DARK will be succeeded by THE LIGHT in summer 2018.
THE DARK is a recent Double Gold Medal Winner in the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, named Best Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch – 13 to 19 Years.
Flavors: dried fruits | cinnamon | toasted almonds | cedar wood | fruit cake | light smoke
$300 RRP / 750ml
**Editor’s Note** Before the letters begin filling our inbox, we are completely aware that women are just as likely to enjoy Scotch as men. So, if mom happens to enjoy a nightcap of fine whisky, please feel free to use the gift guide above for Mother’s Day as well.
Written and compiled to act as “the ultimate listening party guide”, Booze and Vinyl was born from André and Tenaya Darlington’s memories of time spent “[flipping] records on their father’s Thorens turntable, surrounded by jovial guests and the warm glow of the amp.” The siblings – now food and drinks journalists – have recreated those feelings and experiences in this book by using eye-catching colors, striking photography, and gorgeous graphic design to showcase 70 iconic albums from the 1930’s through 2000’s alongside delicious cocktail recipes that properly convey the mood of the music.
The chapters of Booze and Vinyl are broken down into four genres/moods: “Rock”, “Dance”, “Chill” and “Seduce”. Each album then goes on to serve as its own mini-chapter with informative areas such as “Liner Notes”, trivia-laden background info on each artist/album (did you know Led Zeppelin’s IV “was recorded in a Victorian mansion where the band took breaks to roam the grounds with cups of tea in hand”?), and the “When to Spin” and “Before You Drop the Needle” sections that help you plan the perfect get-together.
Each album is then matched with two cocktail recipes, cleverly dubbed Side A and Side B. These cocktail pairings range from the more-than-obvious – such as Gin and Juice with Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle or a Brass Monkey with the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill – to the imaginative yet wildly appropriate – think a lavender-colored Fallen Angel with Prince’s Purple Rain or a Long Happiness to pair with Björk’s “Violently Happy” from Debut. Whether it was a band member’s favorite drink, references or originated in the band’s hometown, or just speaks to the overall soul of the band/album/song, it is quite clear that each cocktail pairing was laboriously thought out to ensure that it would enhance the drinker’s experience while enjoying the featured album.
Once you get beyond the beautifully arranged album and cocktail pairings that make up the bulk of the book, you begin to notice some subtly placed how-to and instructional sections meant to help you hone your skills as a host and at-home bartender. The authors throw in a handful of food recipes to enhance a few of the featured albums and corresponding cocktails – like Punk Rock Tea Party Sandwiches that you can put together while listening to Blondie’s Parallel Lines. Readers can also find a separate index that helps them easily track down two and three ingredient drinks, tips on “How to Host a Boozy Listening Party”, advice on “How to Host a Whiskey Tasting”, and a short final chapter that helps novice bartenders better understand things like working with eggs in cocktails, making simple syrup, and creating large batches of cocktails for a crowd. To put it simply, if a reader is left confused or has a question about a recipe in Booze and Vinyl, the book is set up so that he or she can find the needed answers somewhere in those pages. Every consideration has been made and there is no googling required.
All of that is well and good, but you do not really know much about a book of this sort until you put it to the test. Since everyone in this office tends to be in the mood for “Rock”, we thumbed over to that chapter, broke out our copy of Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses, mixed up some Rattle Skulls and held an impromptu listening party to do just that (recipe below is quoted directly from Booze and Vinyl):
A popular colonial drink that packs a wallop, this cocktail comes straight at you from revolutionary times to help woo that sweet child. Why chase your beer with a shot when you can just have them together? That’s the early-American logic of this drink that is hard to refute. Try it over ice or without — the taste is similar to a Cuba Libre (rum and Coke).
1 1/2 ounces rum or brandy (We went with some Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum)
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
Add ingredients to a chilled beer mug and stir.
The often shunned combination of beer and liquor nicely parallels the reckless reputation that Guns N’ Roses earned in the late ’80s, but the Rattle Skull comes together to produce a cohesive, nuanced experience that has stood the test of time . . . just like Appetite for Destruction. The added lime juice brings out Night Swim Porter’s citrusy hops while the Brown Honey Rum accentuates the beer’s more malty and roasty notes. Just as the recipe mentioned, the Rattle Skull comes across as a more balanced and dynamic Cuba Libre. This cocktail makes for the perfect drink to enjoy as you scream the lyrics to “My Michelle” (Track 7) or groove along to “You’re Crazy” (Track 10).
With that incredibly fun experience under our belts, we can now confidently declare that Booze and Vinyl is a cocktail guide that goes well beyond any previous experiences you may have had with cocktail recipe books. It takes the sometimes intimidating art of bartending and makes it incredibly accessible by relating it to something we all love: music. If a recipe proves challenging, the music – because you know it will be playing in the background – is always there to either draw out that calming, centering breath or pump you up with the confidence needed to totally crush one hell of a cocktail party. This unique attribute makes Booze and Vinyl much more than just another coffee table book. It can be read cover to cover or used as a quick reference guide for bartenders of varying experience levels. Beyond that, this book arms its reader with a wealth of cocktail/listening party ideas that can be employed during a casual Friday night in with friends or in planning full-blown theme parties. Just pick a genre or artist, stock the bar and fridge, fire up the turntable, and you are set. Above all, this book mirrors the joy that music provides by putting a smile on your face, conjuring up memories of the past, and offering you the fuel to make some new ones. It doesn’t get much better than that. Prost!
Humboldt Distillery (Humboldt County, California) has announced that it will be getting in on this year’s 4/20 festivities by mixing up a new cocktail with Humboldt’s Finest, a cannabis-infused vodka.
Fresh off a 2017 Double-Gold Medal win at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Humboldt’s Finest is a specialty Vodka infused with locally grown Cannabis Sativa, a strain of hemp “whose domestic cultivation was only recently authorized with the passage of the 2014 United States Farm Bill.” Typically “grown for food, fiber and other industrial purposes”, the food-grade hemp infuses this THC-free vodka with “a unique botanical aromatic character.” Humboldt’s Finest weighs in at 40% ABV/80 Proof.
“Humboldt’s Finest is infused with a legal food-grade hemp, without any detectable THC, so it’s legal in all 50 states,” says Abe Stevens, founder of Humboldt Distillery. “It does, however, retain a botanical aromatic quality reminiscent of fresh cannabis that gives it a pleasant herbal character, which makes some very tasty cocktails. One of my personal cocktail favorites is the Hemp Highball.”
Speaking of the Hemp Highball, here’s the recipe for Humboldt’s official cocktail of 4/20:
1.5 oz. Humboldt’s Finest
1.0 oz. jasmine simple syrup
.5 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 slices of cucumber
To prepare jasmine syrup, brew a strong jasmine green tea and dissolve 1 part sugar in 1 part hot tea, allow to cool. Add Humboldt’s Finest®, a slice of cucumber, lemon juice and syrup to shaker. Shake and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with soda water, and garnish with slice of cucumber.
If you are interested in making the cocktail above or just want to experience this cannabis-infused vodka on its own, you can find Humboldt’s Finest available in 750ml bottles (suggested retail price of $29.99) at fine liquor stores located “in a growing number of markets across the country including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin.” Prost!