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spirits

Tequila's Madre

Those who know me know that mezcal is one of my favorite spirits. What is it? It's known as the mother of tequila—that is, mezcal is what was produced in Mexico before tequila became a region or an entity. In fact, tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. (To be tequila, it has to be produced in one of the designated regions.)

Anyway, the point of this post is to say that mezcal had earned a bad reputation as rotgut stuff that will make you hallucinate, which is nothing but hooey. The fact is that ever since one company started marketing mezcal with a little worm in the bottom of the bottle, the quality and expectations for the brand have gone way downhill. While tequila ascended, mezcal descended—mostly because of marketing.

Tequila Shots


The bar at Colibri

Most people think of tequila as a shot or an ingredient that gives a margarita its kick, but it’s actually unique in the spirits world. While it's distilled just as vodka or whisky, the fact that it comes from a plant (instead of grain) that has to ripen gives it qualities that are wine-like. That’s what make it one of the most complex and diverse spirits on the planet.

Whisky Without Mystery



When this product first came out last year (or a littler earlier), I was a bit skeptical. It's blended whisky—but under this new brand, it cuts through the opacity of a lot of Scotch whisky labels. The brand is called John, Mark & Robbo, representing a few guys who describes themselves as "three mates (two of us brothers), who passionately believe that decent quality whisky should be enjoyed and not worshipped."

Reminder for Monday



Kissui Vodka: the required ingredient

The field of bartenders is set and includes some of the city's best, and the favorites that you voted for:

•  Cantina's Duggan McD
•  H.  from Elixir
•  Jackie P. from Le Colonial
•  Amanda from Rye
•  Tim Stookey from Presidio Social Club

Mojitos at Farm

The Carneros Inn, with all of its understated luxury, is certainly one of the premiere places to stay in Napa. Not being a connoisseur of such things, however, I can more confidently attest to the cocktails served at its restaurant, Farm. Pictured here is their modification of Cuba's famous drink. It's called a cucumber mojito.


The cucumber mojito at Farm.

The key to it is not only the cucumber, but the fact that the mixologists dialed back on simple syrup, this reduction of sweetness clarifies the flavors and makes it all the more refreshing.

Caviar and …


Vodka vs. Champagne

What to have with caviar is not a question that comes up often, but every now and again my wife gets a craving for something decadent, and this time it was caviar.  Our choice: Tsar Nicoulai Caviar.

Where's the Beefeater?



My meetings continued with a rare opportunity to meet with Desmond Payne, the master distiller for Beefeater gin. He lives in London and while his appearance may give the impression of a mild-mannered fellow, his personality is the opposite. He has a wonderfully dry wit, loves the Negroni (as do I) and gets excited for good parties. We talked at length over lunch at Town Hall, where I had the excellent fish and chips in honor of Payne's hometown.

Here Comes the Suntory



Whiskies of the World took place on two floors. On the ground level was the main tasting hall which involved dozens of tables set up around the perimeter, each manned by a different whisky brand pouring its stuff. It was a great showing, but I just can't deal with the crowds. After fighting through people piled up at each table just to get a pour, actually tasting, concentrating on it and taking a note is not easy to do. Which is why I spent most of my time up on the second floor, where in small meeting rooms, guided tastings and seminars devoted to various brands were running almost full time. 

Kilty Until Proven Innocent

    

The annual Whiskies of the World tasting was last weekend, my first one to attend. This is a pretty big deal, as evidenced by the line of people waiting to get in, which stretched from the Palace Hotel meeting hall where the whiskies were being poured through the lavish main hall of the into the glittering lobby and down another hall. Almost as impressive as the several hundred people who paid over $100 a ticket to taste whiskies was the number of people willing to pay over $100 a ticket to taste whiskies in a kilt.
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