Pisco Sour

Pisco Sours – A Rivalry For The Best National Cocktail

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Pisco sours are a source of great national pride (and rivalry!) for two South American countries – Peru and Chile.  Pisco sours are thick and foamy cocktails made by combining pisco (a distilled grape brandy) with lime juice, simple syrup, and an egg white – topped with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. There has been a long-standing, heated debate on which country pisco sours originated from.

Peru claims that the cocktail was first made in Lima around 100 years ago while Chile holds strong that they were the first to issue commercial trademarks and legal recognition of the spirit. The regulations for what constitutes “pisco” in Peru and Chile both overlap and differ making things more complicated. Peruvian pisco has much stricter regulations while there are some leniences with Chilean pisco.

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Taking a deeper look your favorite cocktails

What’s in your drink? A deeper look at your favorite cocktail

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The Drunken Botanist

Source: Amazon

What makes a good cocktail? And I’m not just talking about the ingredients like gin, bitters, or vermouth. I mean how were those individual ingredients created? Where did they come from? What’s their history? If you’ve ever wondered the same, you should check out the book, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks, by Amy Stewart.

Around the world, it seems, there is not a tree or shrub or delicate wildflower that has not been harvested, brewed, and bottled. Every advance in botanical exploration or horticultural science brought with it a corresponding uptick in the quality of our spirituous liquors. Drunken botanists? Given the role they play in creating the world’s great drinks, it’s a wonder there are any sober botanists at all.”

Stewart originally got the book idea while at a convention for garden writers. She was surprised to find that one of her friends claimed that he didn’t like gin.  She then went on a quest to convince him that gin should be every botanist’s liquor of choice due to its fascinating botanical origin. Once at the liquor store to pick up the ingredients for the gin cocktail, she realized that “every drink starts with a plant.”

Stewart breaks down the botanical origins of all our favorite libations: wine, beer, spirits, and even a few mixers.  Though the book is formatted like a textbook or encyclopedia with each plant getting its own section, it’s easy to quickly read it cover to cover, from Agave to Zanzibar cloves. She provides intriguing historical facts, brewing information, advice (and warnings!) on growing the splendid plants yourself, drink recipes and brand recommendations.

A few interesting facts from the book:

  • The agave plant used to make Tequila is not a cactus but a member of the asparagus family.
  • It isn’t the wormwood that made France’s 19th centurey bohemian set “crazy” when drinking Absinthe, but rather, it was that is was traditionally bottled at 70 – 80 % ABV – making it twice alcoholic as gin or vodka.
  • Ever wonder why créme de menthe or créme de cassis doesn’t have cream in it? The term créme actually indicates a higher sugar content and is meant to signify an especially sweet liqueur.
  • Cork comes from the Portuguese Oak Q. Suber. These trees live for more than two hundred years, and by the time they are 40 years old, they have produced enough of their spongy bark to harvest four thousand corks! This is because the bark stripping process doesn’t hurt the tree and it continues to regrow the precious bark year after year.

This is only a taste of the  delightful tidbits you’ll find in The Drunken Botanist. Check it out for yourself – you never know what you might learn!



How to Convert Someone Into A Kentucky Bourbon Enthusiast in One Taste

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I hadn’t been to Kentucky since 1971 when I drove cross-country (during those halcyon days of my youth) in a ’61 VW Van with four of my college chums. While I was there I tasted Kentucky bourbon for the very first time. Here is what I remember: I thought I was going to die.

I coughed, I gasped for air, my eyes burned red and ran with tears. It wasn’t a fun experience at all. I was quite the novice when it came to alcoholic beverages.

Fast forward to last year.  In April, I flew to Louisville for eight days to put the final touches on our Taste Vacations Kentucky Bourbon tour. I had a very busy schedule in front of me meeting our business associates, restaurants, distilleries, and chefs. On day one, I met one of our local partners at his office. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then he told me that before we get started on our day of activities, we were going to do a little bourbon tasting together… it was nine o’clock in the morning.

He wanted to introduce a novice like me to the wonders of Kentucky bourbon. So without further ado and with a twinkle in his eye, he lined up four bourbon glasses in front of us. Next he went into his (locked) liquor cabinet and brought over four different bottles of bourbon. He then poured 1 oz. shots into each glass.

It was a progressive tasting, meaning I started with the lightest style bourbon progressing my way up the bourbon complexity chain to experience more and more flavor profiles.

I can’t remember having tasted Bourbon since that 1971 experience. I clutched the glass with trepidation, held it to my nose and, inhaled the aromas of the drink. Hmmm…it smelled quite good. Good start. Next, I took a small sip, closed my eyes, and swished it around my mouth letting the liquid gold dance on my tongue for a few seconds before swallowing it. This was my first taste of a premium bourbon: Makers 46.

And my opinion about bourbon changed in about a nanosecond.

This drink was really very smooth, nothing like I remembered at all. The OMG finish had flavors of vanilla, caramel, honey and butterscotch. I sadly realized how much of a good thing I had missed over the years. But wait … it gets better!

I still had three more bourbons to taste. I was definitely up for the challenge. The next three were:

  • Woodford Reserve
  • Blanton’s Single Barrel
  • A 17 Year Old Buffalo Trace Eagle Rare “Antique” 

Each bourbon was uniquely different and I’m not even sure which one I liked the best. I’m certainly going to have to do more “research” in the future.

The following eight days were spent meeting some of the most hospitable people on the planet. “Southern Hospitality” is for real. I also saw the best of the best the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has to offer and was able to arrange visits for our tour that are generally not open to the public, making our Taste Vacation to Kentucky a very special and memorable trip.


Kentucky Bourbon (Tour) Riding a High

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I recently read an interesting Associated Press article about the Kentucky bourbon industry.

I must admit I can’t remember the last time I read an article about Kentucky Bourbon. I am sure if one lives in Louisville these articles appear all the time. But for those of us in the rest of the country, this seemed an unusual event.

It turns out the Kentucky bourbon industry is predicting a bright future for themselves:

  • Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon
  • Production has surged more than 150% in the last 15 years
  • Bourbon production is at a 44 year high
  • Bourbon storage (all bourbon has to be aged at least two years) is at a 37 year high

Apparently high-end consumers in China as well as the American public have developed a taste for Bourbon and the Kentucky industry is humming along to meet the demand. Sure seems like a good time to offer a Kentucky Bourbon Tour!