Friday, February 8, 2013

Mixing with Malört!

So, as I've begun to mess around with cocktails, I've found that my affinity for German beer and my general approach to brewing have influenced how I approach cocktails. I mention German beer because I've found I'm most interested in pre-prohibition cocktails, and like German beer, these cocktails tend to rely more on classic ingredients rather than exotic ones. And, like the manner in which I've approached brewing, I want to get a handle on how these classic ingredients work before I start messing around with exotic ingredients and recipes.

All that being said, I've found that there are a few basic formulas that most classic cocktails fall into, and you can mix and match base liquors, sweet ingredients, sour ingredients, etc., to come up with new recipes. Now I have a thing for Malört, but as a bitter "digestif apertif" it's not exactly something that falls into an often-used cocktail category. However, a friend recently gave me some Cynar and I found it to actually be more abrasive than Malört (possibly because I hate artichokes and Cynar is made from artichokes). Then I learned that Campari is similar to Cynar. So this opened up a whole world of cocktails where I could potentially use Malört.

Anyway, that preamble is way longer than necessary to get to the two Malört cocktails I came up with tonight. The first I'm calling the Spindle (after the Berwyn, IL sculpture that's pictured to the left) and it's based on the Little Italy cocktail, which is itself appears to be a variation on the Manhattan. I was actually shocked by how good it is; it has a slightly bitter finish that distinguishes itself from the sweet finish of the Manhattan. Here it is:

2 oz. bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. Malört
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a martini glass.

The next recipe I tried was inspired by the margarita, oddly enough. My preferred margarita recipe is 2.5 oz. tequila, 1.5 oz. orange liqueur, and 1 oz. lime juice. While Malört isn't exactly the same as lime juice, I thought the bitterness would work well with the orange flavor, so I came up with this, which I'm calling the Face-Eater (hat tip to Florida, which came to mind since when you think oranges you think Florida, and when you think Florida you think crazy guy eating somebody else's face):

2 oz. rye (I used Rittenhouse)
1 oz. Malört
1 oz. orange liqueur (I used O3)

Serve on the rocks.

It's a bit syrupy, and I find that O3 (which I decided to give a shot because it was on sale) is sweeter than most orange liqueurs so I'd dial it down to 3/4 oz., but overall I like the flavor combination. The orange with the Malört gives a pithy quality that I like.

So there you go. Two cocktails to make with Malört.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Martinez

It's been over three years since I posted here so let's get something out of the way:  I wasn't very good at keeping up with tasting notes for the wines we'd try. Maybe it's because I'm just not as serious about wine as I am about beer, but I was usually just too lazy to take notes. Anyway, as I've been getting into cocktails more, I figured I would re-brand this blog as Chibebräu Booze--not just wine, but also cocktails. I've been messing around with cocktails more lately, and I don't want to forget the recipes I try. So sometimes there may be detailed posts with tasting notes, other times it'll just be a quick recipe. Like our homebrew blog, this is mainly for our own reference, but hopefully it'll help somebody else discover something tasty too.

Anyway, onto the Martinez. I've had a few people tell me about this, and I finally picked up both Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Hayman's Old Tom gin so I decided to give it a go. I came across a cool webpage on historical recipes here, and figured the logical place to start was with the traditional recipe (two parts sweet vermouth to one part gin). However, Leah prefers drier cocktails so I went with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth for hers. I enjoyed both of them, despite the fact I'm usually not a fan of sweet drinks myself. Anyway, here's the recipe:

2 oz. sweet vermouth (or, for Leah, 1 oz. sweet vermouth and 1 oz. dry)
1 oz. Old Tom gin
1/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
two dashes orange bitters

Next time may try all dry vermouth or perhaps going with equal parts vermouth and gin.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kanga Reserve Merlot

I have a dirty little secret: I buy cheap wine for my grandma. And when I say cheap wine, I'm talking even cheap by my standards. Like under $5 cheap. Now, in my defense, I have a very good reason for this. First of all, my grandma lost her sense of smell several years ago, so she's not very discriminating when it comes to wine these days. Second of all, when we have family parties, she's usually the only one, so we end up cracking a whole bottle of wine to pour maybe two glasses tops, and then we forget about it and end up throwing it out. So my decision to buy cheap wine for my grandma isn't a case of disrespecting my elders; it's a matter of being practical.

With that being said, we had the immediate family over for my dad's birthday last weekend, and I wasn't sure if my grandma would be there or not so I scoured my local grocery store for a cheap red on sale. I ended up settling on a bottle of Kanga Reserve Merlot. I want to say it was on sale for $4.99, though it may have been $5.99. Well, it turns out my grandma didn't come over, so the wine wasn't opened.

Fast forward to today. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Leah decided to pop open a bottle of wine with dinner (I say reasons unbeknownst to me because we had pork chops; usually we only bust out reds with pasta). I take a sip and instantly remarked, "This is good! Which wine is it?" Well, at this point you know damn well that it's the Kanga Reserve Merlot, but I didn't. As you can imagine, I was surprised to say the least. So let's get to the review...

The wine poured a thin, slightly rusty red color. The aroma is sweet and fruity; red grapes and cherry with just a hint of butteriness. No real acidity or tannins or oak.

The taste is slightly sweet up front but kind of dry so that it's not sugary. As it sits in your mouth, you get some of that buttery flavor again (in a good, full way) along with a hint of oak.
The finish is stone fruit and more butter, with a hint of pepper; there's a slight dryness that's either oak, alcohol, or a bit of the two, but whatever it is it's nice.

I'd love to do a blind tasting of this with some wine experts to see what their response would be. Even in my ignorance some cheap wines taste cheap, but this one really tasted good. Unfortunately, the lack of info on the winery on Google, combined with a rather perplexing webpage (to which I linked above), leads me to wonder what the deal is with this winery. Is it some sort of dumping ground for excess wine where you might get a good bottle one day and a bad one the next? I guess the only way to find out is to buy another bottle. And I will definitely do that, because on the patented Chibebräu Wine scale (skip it, only if it's on sale, or buy it again), this one's definitely a buy it again.

On a side note, I think I'm starting to realize I like Merlot. I know that many frown upon it these days (see my discussion in this old post), but I'm not one to care what others think. So vive le Merlot!

P.S. In case you're wondering what the deal is with the picture above, well, I couldn't find any pictures of the wine online and when I tried to rotate the picture I took of the wine myself, it gave me an error when I tried to save and then the picture disappeared and I was too laazy to take and import another one. So, since it's an Australian wine, you'll have to settle for a picture form one of the all-time classic Simpsons episodes, Bart vs. Australia.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mirassou Pinot Noir (2008)

So today Leah sends me a message before I leave work:

vodka/cream/tomato/shrimp sauce for linguini tonight
want to pick up a wine for it?

What the hell goes with vodka/cream/tomato/shrimp sauce? I thought whites go with cream and seafood, but reds go with tomato sauces and pasta, and orange juice goes with vodka. So should I get some red/white/OJ blend? That didn't sound like a good idea, so I asked my friend Puja (who teaches me about wine in exchange for me teaching her about beer) and she recommended a light Pinot Noir (specifically Mirassou Pinot Noir). I then decided to ask my Facebook friends (by which I mean my real-life friends who also happen to be on Facebook) for recommendations. I received some great suggestions (Pinot Noir Rose, Grüner, Chianti Classico, Amarone, anything Spanish) but given that my corner liquor store didn't have the first two suggestions and the other ones didn't come in until after I left the store, I ended up going with Puja's suggestion (and she's yet to steer me wrong, so I figured it was a safe bet).

So how did it turn out? Well, first of all, Leah's dinner was awesome. And the wine? Well, it poured a rather opaque cranberry color that looked thin (and I guess that's what I was going for). The aroma was likewise delicate... it was almost like smelling Koolade. No tannins, no oak, no acidity. Just the light, floral scent of berries.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that the flavor was--like the appearance and smell--light. But actually, it was just light up front. Once it hit the back of the palate, you got a rush of berries and stone fruit, along with a nice, dry tannic finish. There was some oakiness in the finish as well, but nothing thick like I get from a Merlot. Once again, Puja hit the nail on the head (and kept it one penny below the $10 mark... before the stupid Cook County taxes, that is).

So, on the patented Chibebräu Wine scale (skip it, only if it's on sale, or buy it again), I would rate this one a buy it again, though I would really pounce on it if it were on sale.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Smoking Loon Sauvignon Blanc

Yeah, it's been a while since I posted a wine review. Ironically, we've probably been drinking more wine lately, since Leah's had over six months to get her drinking legs back under her. However, as the kids have become more of a handful, I find myself less motivated to review the wines after finishing off the bottle.

Excuses aside, tonight we busted out an old standby--Smoking Loon--to accompany our chicken and veggie kabobs. I'll admit I'm a sucker for Smoking Loon just for the corks (which read "“whooh whooh cough whooh”) and their wines are solid, if not spectacular, at a low price. This time we had the Cabernet Sauvignon.

It poured a pale honey color with a thin body. The aroma is what I would consider the standard white wine bouquet, sugary sweetness with hints of grape and green apple, and an acidic tang.

The taste is acidic up front, with a smooth honey-sweet fruitiness in the middle. There's also a hint of vanilla in it, with just enough alcohol and dryness in the finish to keep it from being too sweet. As I've experienced in the past, it's nothing amazing but solid for a cheap table wine. On the patented Chibebräu Wine scale (skip it, only if it's on sale, or buy it again), I would rate this one a buy it again, with the caveat that at its price point it also qualifies as "buy it if nothing else is on sale."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon (2006)

After a bit of a break, we're back with a new review! It's not that we haven't been drinking any wine lately; to the contrary, now that Leah's no longer pregnant, we've been drinking more wine. However, the flip-side to Leah not being pregnant is we have another child to keep an eye on, and I'll blame him for the lack of reviews lately.

Excuses aside, this evening I grabbed a bottle of Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with our gorgonzola ravioli (courtesy of Trader Joe's) and meat sauce (courtesy of Leah's mom). I scored it for $8.99 (regularly $9.99) from our local liquor store. The shelf talker at the store mentioned oak and cedar and that was all I needed to hear.

The wine poured a pretty dark, almost blood-like color (I blame this description on recently starting to watch True Blood). The nose smelled rather oaky with hints of dark stone fruit; overall I would describe it as a "meaty" aroma, if that makes any sense.

The flavor was rather full, which I like. Up front you get a thick flavor of currants and cherries but this is quickly balanced by mouth-drying tannins and woody flavors (I can pick up the cedar since it was mentioned, but I'm not sure if I would've picked it out on my own). The finish is rather dry and peppery. It has an earthy quality that's a nice change of pace from the fruitier wines we've seemed to keep coming across lately.

I definitely like this wine as a nice red to go with heartier meals. It's full without being overbearing, and relatively complex without being crazy by any means. At $9 a bottle, it's definitely worth picking up. On the patented Chibebräu Wine scale (skip it, only if it's on sale, or buy it again), I would rate this one an only if it's on sale, though it's right on the cusp of buy it again.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Meridian Merlot (2005)

So all I really know about Merlot is that some character in the movie Sideways (which I've never seen, incidentally) really hated it and loved Pinot noir (a varietal which, incidentally, is a favorite of my wine-loving co-workers). Wanting to learn more, I did a little googling and found this article which does a nice job of contrasting the two styles. Much to my surprise, I learned that Merlot is actually the bigger, heartier wine. I guess, coming from the world of beer where bigger is generally considered better, I was expecting the opposite. You learn something new every day, I suppose...

Anyway, on to the wine. Today we busted out a bottle of Meridian Merlot, which--if I recall correctly--was on sale for $4.99 (regularly $10.99). These are the kinds of deals I shoot for! It poured a murky, bloody deep burgundy color. It definitely had some legs (as I learned during a wine tasting a few years ago) and seemed rather thick and inky.

The aroma was one of muted sweetness, if that makes sense. I guess stone fruit dominated, but I wasn't picking up much spiciness otherwise. Not bad, though not terribly complex.

The taste was as thick as it appeared. I can't really explain it, but it felt heavy in my mouth. There was a nice sweetness up front--grape and cherry notes with a slight earthiness that was balanced by just enough mouth-drying tannins. It finished dry, which kept this from being sweet. No acidic notes I've noticed from other reds and most whites... in that sense I guess it's kind of simple. There was a slight oakiness to the finish.

Overall, I liked it. While the flavor wasn't terribly multi-dimensional, what was there was bold. It was strong enough to stand up to whatever you eat with it without becoming distracting. I guess in that sense it was kind of like the Ramones... Loud but still straightforward. Personally, I really enjoyed it, Sideways be damned. On the patented Chibebräu Wine scale (skip it, only if it's on sale, or buy it again), I would rate this one a buy it again.