Dizzy Recap: Kahlua Cinnamon Spice Launch

Photo by Kyle Dean Reinford.

When a major spirits company launches a new product, the event is usually a flashy affair featuring an exclusive Manhattan locale and maybe even DJs, models and B-list celebrities. To introduce Kahlua Cinnamon Spice Liqueur, a blend of rum, arabica coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (a traditional Mexican spice), I was invited on a press trip to the Hudson Valley for apple picking and an autumn-inspired dinner at the scenic Bedford Post Inn. Let me tell you, this was a brilliant way to get NYC writers’ attention–pull us out of the cold gray city and bus us an hour north where fresh air, foliage and seasonal scents awaited us. LUPEC NYC president and mixology maven Lynnette Marrero whipped up the cocktails for the evening (recipes below), highlighting the liqueur’s surprising versatility by using aquavit, Cognac and tequila as base ingredients.


Photo of Lynnette Marrero by Kyle Dean Reinford.

Durango Royale
3/4 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice
1 oz. aquavit
1/2 oz. lemon juice

Top with dry french fermented sparkling apple cider (Cidre Doux Eric bordelet). In a shaker, add all ingredients except sparkling cider.  Strain into a flute and top with dry fermented cider.

Zócalo Sidra (cider)
1 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1 1/2 oz. Martell VS Cognac
2 barspoons apple butter
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Place all ingredients in a shaker. Shake and strain into a couple glass and garnish with cinnamon stick

Montanya Mermalada
1 oz. Kahlúa Cinnamon Spice
1 oz. Avión Tequila Blanco
1 oz. lemon juice
6-8 concord grapes

Muddle Grapes. Add rest of the ingredients. Shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.

Dizzy Recap: Bols Barrel Aged Genever Preview

Bols Barrel Aged Genever, launching in September. Photos by Lush Life Productions.

From guest blogger Stephanie Moreno:

“Genever needs to be courted.”  —Gaz Regan

On a recent rainy, chilly August afternoon, an invitation to a dark, cozy lounge seemed a perfect idea. I was further enticed with the promise of a sneak peek of the new Bols Barrel Aged Genever to be released in September (and expected to retail for about $50).  Held at NoHo’s The Vault at Pfaff’s bar, invited guests were given an opportunity to meet and listen to Piet Van Leijenhorst, Bols’ Master Distiller.  Frank Cisneros, their Brand Ambassador, was on hand to shake and stir cocktails, and I couldn’t wait to learn (and taste) it all.

As we waited for the presentation to begin, we were given an “aperitif” so to speak:  a Genever Collins cocktail.  I loved the bright and sunny lemon drink as it was such a stark difference from the wet and rainy day.  The Genever’s weight added a nice richness with a touch of sweetness that balanced the acidity of the drink.

Subsequently, Van Leijenhorst began his discussion of the product he clearly is proud to make.  He discussed his desire for Americans to think not think of Genever as a gin, but rather more like a whiskey.  He then explained how their Genever is made, and so shall I:

Genever technically is a type of gin, but to all intents and purposes, it is best to think of Genever as its own category.  In fact, in 2007, it was given protected spirit status like Cognac. There are a few types of Genevers out there, but let’s just talk about two:  Oude (old) and Jonge (young). These are types that do not refer to the Genever’s time aging, but rather the amount of “malt wine” that is used in its production. Oude has to use at least 15% malt wine, Jonge is less than 15%. It is easy to remember in the sense of old vs. new school methods.  In Bols’ case, they use over 50%.  But, what is this malt wine?

According to Van Leijenhorst, it is a “critical thing” and “the overwhelming taste comes from the malt wine.”  It consists of rye, wheat and corn that is triple-distilled (once in column and twice in pot stills) and then allowed to marry for six to eight weeks. The juniper and other botanical distillates (which include hops, anise, cinnamon and ginger root, among others) are then added to the malt wine.  This is then aged for at least 18 months in new and used Limousin oak barrels.

As the education continued, we were given the Aged Barrel Genever neat in an Old Fashioned glass, sans ice. Upon nosing the spirit, I found subtle wood spices from the wood aging with the tasting profile leading to a lush and spicy sip.  Notes of juniper, vanilla, pine, mint and cinnamon were some of what I discovered.  Variations of the classic cocktails the Manhattan and the Mint Julep were served to highlight the idea that Genever can be a substitute for American whiskey. I do agree with this sentiment, but as lovely as the cocktails that Frank made for us were, my favorite “cocktail” was just slowly sipping the Genever neat, room temperature.  My hope is that whether you are a gin lover or a whiskey lover, you ease into a relationship with Genever. As Gaz Regan said, Genever “…deserves to be courted and loved for its very distinctive personality.”  Hear, hear, sir!

Bols Master Distiller Piet Van Liejenhorst.

Stephanie Moreno is a professional spirits taster and can be found on Twitter @brooklynwino.

Coming to a Fridge Near You: Sixpoint Gets Canned

Sixpoint cans are now on store shelves in NYC and Massachusetts, and they are selling fast.

By now, you know this blog is mostly about booze, but considering it’s Memorial Day weekend, let’s take a break and talk about beer. There was some big news in the craft beer world earlier this week when Redhook brewers Sixpoint Craft Ales announced its release of four beers in 16 oz. can format. After six years of being only available on draft, the opportunity to have a take-home version of The Crisp, Bengali Tiger IPA, Sweet Action and Righteous Ale excited many fans of the brand. In fact, Sixpoint announced today on Twitter that its wholesalers in NYC and Massachusetts have already sold out for this week. “Trying to ship more for next… will be tight,” reads Sixpoint’s latest tweet.

In the meantime, you can head to Whole Food’s Bowery Beer Room for a tasting of the cans today from 5 to 8 p.m. If you want to try your luck, here’s a list of stores in NYC selling the initial round of Sixpoint cans. They are going for about $10 per four-pack.

Dizzy Recap: Bootlegger 21 Vodka’s Amateur Mixology Showdown

The Bootlegger 21 Vodka Amateur Mixology Showdown winning cocktail, Veronica Criswell's Brooklyn Pearl.

On a stormy Saturday last month, three budding bartenders went shaker-to-shaker for the inaugural Bootlegger 21 Vodka Amateur Mixology Showdown. Held at a secret location in SoHo that was later revealed to be the former townhouse of Andy Warhol, the cocktail competition kicked off a Cotton Club-themed night of vintage cocktails, swing music, cigar smoking, poker playing, burlesque and all-around tomfoolery. The event, hosted by Adam Aleksander and Michael Arenella, celebrated the launch of Bootlegger 21 Vodka.

After announcing the contest here and narrowing down the finalists, the live showdown all came down to a people’s choice vote for the winner. It was an extremely close contest–I for one was impressed with the way the finalists managed to present cocktails that were both complex and well-balanced. They also served about 200 guests without missing a beat. In the end, Veronica Criswell (check out her demo video here) edged out Tom Flaschen and Garret Richard to win first prize, netting her four tickets to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala. Each finalist went home with an OXO barware kit.

Watch out for these budding mixologists–they might not be amateurs for long!

First Place: Brooklyn Pearl by Veronica Criswell
1 oz. Bootlegger 21 Vodka
1 3/4 oz. Velvet Falernum
1/2 tsp rose water
1 egg white
Method: Shake vigorously with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has been rinsed with Cointreau.

Tie for Second Place: Martinez Blanc by Tom Flaschen
2 oz. Bootlegger 21 Vodka
1/2 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1 tsp Maraschino liquer
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
Garnish: maraschino cherry
Method: Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with maraschino cherry.

Tie for Second Place: Panacea Cocktail by Garret Richard
1.5 oz Cacao-Infused Bootlegger 21 Vodka*
1 oz Tawny Port (10 yr.)
.25 oz Cherry Heering
.25 oz Benedictine
2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

*Rapid Cacao Infusion
Add 500 ml of room temperature Bootlegger 21 Vodka to a whip cream whipper
Add 75g of cacao nibs to your whip cream whipper
Charge with 2 8g chargers of N20 and swirl for 30 seconds
Settle mixture for 1 minute and 30 seconds
Vent the excess N20, and let it settle for 1 minute
Strain mixture, and bottle

The Finalists: Tom Flaschen, Veronica Criswell and Garret Richard.

And the winner, Veronica! Check out that trophy.

Garret Richard in action.

Tom Flaschen gets jigger-y with it.


The star hooch of the night, Bootlegger 21 Vodka.

Announcing: Bootlegger 21 NY Vodka’s Amateur Cocktail Showdown!

Bootlegger 21 Vodka, made right here in New York, is hosting a cocktail competition for budding drink-slingers. Three finalists will compete in a live showdown at the Bootlegger 21 launch party, an exclusive Cotton Club-themed bash in SoHo on April 16. Finalists will serve a crowd of thirsty industry veterans [including yours truly] and the winner will be selected by popular vote. Use of Bootlegger 21 as the primary ingredient, flavor, creativity, appearance and practicality will all be factors.

The contest is calling for original cocktail recipes that express the spirit of the Bootlegger and the Jazz Age.  Bootlegger 21 is distilled six times from 100% corn and made in the Hudson Valley.  The vodka has been awarded Gold medals from both the New York International Spirits Competition and from Beverage Testing Institute.

* Recipe must use Bootlegger 21 Vodka as the primary ingredient
* Please use no more than 5 ingredients (not including garnish)
* Include your story of how you came to appreciate mixology
* Submit a photo

The winner will celebrate their victory with 4 tickets to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala on May 13, win the title of Bootlegger Amateur Mixologist 2011, and have the opportunity to mix cocktails at an upcoming Bootlegger 21 event.

Entrants must be 21 years of age and older. Cocktail recipes must be submitted by 5 p.m., Friday April 8 to BootleggerMixology@Gmail.com.

Good luck!

Dizzy Recap: ZU Vodka Cocktail Lab

Guest blogger Amanda Schuster gets crafty at the ZU cocktail lab.

By guest blogger Amanda Schuster:

ZU is a Polish brand of vodka flavored with bison grass, known as Zubrowka, that has been a national drink for centuries. It was previously banned in the US due to a blood-thinning component found in bison grass called coumarin. However, it has now been re-worked for American consumption using a blend of botanicals from the bison grass area, with a very close approximation of flavor of the real deal. A real strand of bison grass, with an allowable amount of coumarin, comes in every bottle.

The spirit has an herbaceous, citrus and marshmallow nose that has more vanilla and honeysuckle on the palate. Think gin, minus juniper. For this reason, it lends itself beautifully to a variety of cocktails from deep, dark bitter to light fruit.

Recently, ZU held a Cocktail Lab at Astor Center to celebrate its launch to the New York market. Guests were greeted with a ZU toddy before brand ambassador Daniel Undhammar gave us a short presentation on Poland and Polish culture. Then he got into the booze mixing, demonstrating two cocktails, one was an Aviator spinoff and the other was fresh grapefruit juice-based, before it was time for the rest of us to play. There was quite the bounty to choose from: tables piled crazy high with a variety of fresh fruits, botanicals and spices and others stocked with a dream bar of liqueurs, vermouths and bitters.

With so much to choose from, it was a bit daunting at first, especially with the level of professionals surrounding me, but I decided to go with a light vs. dark tactic to test the versatility of the spirits. I made what I am calling “The Gypsy ZU Twinkle.” It’s kind of a Negroni riff with ZU, Amaro, Punt e Mes, Campari and Bittermen’s Burlesque bitters (hence the “gypsy”) with an orange twist. The Amaro brought out the nutty flavors of ZU, while the Campari and bitters added some spicy zing. This Frankensteined concoction was alive, alive!

Since there was fresh lavender on the offer I decided to take advantage of it, and using my internal slot machine of flavor matching, went for fresh blackberries (the two muddled together), shaken with ZU and a small amount of Disaronno to balance the tartness, poured over ice and topped with Fever Tree bitter lemon soda. The lavender highlighted the vanilla in the ZU, while berries and lemon soda sang with the herbs. Daniel tasted both. Loved Gypsy but wanted to walk off with this one, let’s call it the “ZU Spring Tease” in honor of the short-lived warm weather snap.

Looking around the room, people were having fun: cracking eggs, slicing fruit, trying out new bitters, shaking things up. Soon the impressive Polish feast brought in from Greenpoint was set up with pickled salads, stuffed cabbage, pierogis, kielbasa and other goodies, and we ate with our concoctions and tasted each other’s drinks. Na zdrowie!

Daniel Undhammar of ZU vodka at work.

The bounty of cocktail ingredients at the ZU lab.

Dizzy Recap: Absolut Wild Tea Launch

The crowded scene at Absolut's Wild Tea launch at Hiro Ballroom earlier this week.

By guest blogger Mary Van Hagen:

Earlier this week, Absolut introduced their newest flavor, Absolut Wild Tea, with a guest list-only party in Chelsea’s Hiro Ballroom at The Maritime Hotel.

Absolut Wild Tea–Absolut flavored with elderflower and black tea. Hmm, where have we heard this one before? It’s been speculated that about a year and a half ago, it was originally released as the Absolut Boston limited-edition series, however, in addition to the tea and elderflower flavors, there are hints of red apple and citrus, making this an easily mixable spirit.

Despite the frigid cold this winter, not even 10-degree weather accompanied by blustering winds could prevent massive crowds from lining up for this eclectic event. It was also evident that everyone who gathered to access the event were all on the guest list, translating into an agonizing 40-minute wait to get in.

Once inside, the crowd warmed up with DJ Becka Diamond, a New York “It” girl, who spun current hits with 90’s favorites while a fire-swallowing dancer performed nearby. Aerial dancers hung from the ceiling, swaying and gyrating over the crowd. There were also Asian inspired appetizers, including sushi rolls, chicken satay, spicy tuna on cucumber slices, and miso eggplant that were carried by wait staff for the party goers.

The featured drinks for the evening were: Absolut Wild Tea Gimlet (AWT with fresh lime juice and simple syrup), Absolut Ginger Tea (AWT with ginger beer and a squeeze of lime) and Absolut Secret Citrus (AWT with lemon-lime soda with a squeeze of lime). Of the three, the Ginger Tea was the most impressive, but I did happen to notice a few drinkers preferring the vodka straight up.

It seemed no matter where you turned there was a face to be seen, including David Yontef, a millionaire from Season Four of Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker.  Minus the crowds of people and frustrating door situation, this party seemed to have a little bit of everything, from wild entertainment, to delicious cocktails, to dance-able music and an extremely diverse crowd.

Absolut, you have come a long way into building your brand. Hats off to yet another successful flavor launch!

Sip & Tell: Graham Wasilition of Tenneyson Absinthe

Graham Wasilition, right, with David Nathan Maister in front of one of the stills at Distillerie les Fils d' Emile Pernot in Pontarlier, France, where Tenneyson absinthe is distilled and bottled.

“All experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move.” —Alfred Lord Tennyson

I first met Graham Wasilition during the SXSW conference in Austin last March thanks to an introduction by the Lush Life Productions crew. During an Austin spirits event, Graham let myself and another blogger, Emily Cavalier, try a sample of his then-unreleased new absinthe, Tenneyson Absinthe Royale. I was immediately fond of the product, especially since it was the first absinthe I’ve tried that included a hint of juniper. I also appreciated the mildness of the anise flavor compared to many other absinthes. Emily and I were also impressed that Graham, at 27 years old, was creating his own brand.

Earlier this week, Tenneyson appeared on store shelves at Imperial Wines (First Avenue at 88th Street) on NYC’s Upper East Side. I caught up with Graham online to learn more about the launch.

Q: When did you decide to get in the business of creating absinthe?  

A: After I graduated from Virginia Tech in Materials Science Engineering, I went to Austin to work for an international semi-conductor manufacturer and had eye-opening experiences in global travel, as well as food and drink. This was right around the time when absinthe resurged globally. My commitment to absinthe came when I got in touch with consultant/expert David Nathan-Maister (the author of The Absinthe Encyclopedia and a world-renowned absinthe and ancient spirit historian). There were so many products rushing to the market with false promises, information, and inferior quality. We saw an opportunity to bring together the best available resources and create a product that people could respond to and be excited about. Little did I know how long it would take us, along with Master Distiller Dominique Rousselet, to create a truly unique and high-quality brand that we could consistently deliver. 

Q: How did you find the distillery in France? How did you create the recipe?
After developing a plan with David Nathan-Maister, he became a partner in the Emile Pernot Distillery in Pontarlier, France. This was such an incredible break because this distillery is one of two historic and active distilleries able to produce absinthe in the famed “Absinthe Town” of Pontarlier, France, former home of the most infamous brand in absinthe history, Pernod Fils. It also gave us unprecedented access to some of the highest quality herbs and aromatics available anywhere, and the most authentic to true absinthe history. We wanted to utilize French skills and century-old copper alembics to create a Swiss style juice because it is lesser known than the traditional French style and a little less polarizing. It also is traditionally lower in alcohol and therefore more widely approachable. We went through many, many iterations of the recipe and ended up using a take on a traditional Swiss recipe with a hint of juniper berry and orange peel which gives Tenneyson a New Western twist. We are very happy with the subtle and authentic profile which we finally settled on.

Q: Why the name Tenneyson?
After the creation of the formula, we wanted to try and convey the idea of the brand through the name. The twist of using some slight gin technique by including a little juniper berry and orange peel led us to try and come up with a UK-inspired name that played to the history of our absinthe. The UK poet Alfred Lord Tennyson was a famed absinthe drinker and I came across the spelling TENNEYSON in a British baby name book. I thought the name related closely to the history of absinthe and played on the UK inspiration. I have since found some information that Tenneyson is also a derivative of Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine, which also seems quite fitting. We get comments about what a great name we have and I completely agree and am excited that we were lucky enough that no one was already using it.

Q: Is NYC the first city to sell Tenneyson? What is the price point? Which other cities will see it this year?
NYC is the first city in the world where Tenneyson is available. There is a lot of  competition there, but that allows for the quality brands and good values to come out on top. We are working on the availability as we speak and want to be able to provide Tenneyson to as wide of a group as possible. However, we do not want to over-extend ourselves. We want to move into markets that will appreciate Tenneyson and be able to sustain consistent business. We make Tenneyson in small batches and need to manage the introduction with this in mind. It is currently retailing in NYC for around $50 and we will soon be offering it in the hot and up-and-coming markets in Texas. I’m sure we will see it in many more of the major markets across the country this year and even online very soon.

Q: What is your favorite way to drink Tenneyson?
: This is kind of a loaded question because the easy answer would be off the coast on a boat with friends and family. When we are talking specific cocktails, I like to drink Tenneyson a few ways. The traditional absinthe drip (sans sugar) works great and is perfectly balanced because the Pontarlier Wormwood is historically a little sweeter than wormwood sourced elsewhere, so I think it is sweet enough. I also think a simple prep is to drink Tenneyson with tonic water. Tonic water is basically the 21st century sugar water and the slight gin notes of Tenneyson Absinthe make an interesting profile. The beautiful louche is also a conversation starter and you can garnish it with an orange to bring a different color. We also do a cocktail with Orangina that tastes kind of like a twist between a mimosa and a screwdriver that is perfect for brunch. You can check our website for a few other cocktails. Many people think that absinthe needs to be prepared only one specific way, but there is no reason that it cannot be enjoyed as flexibly as any other great spirit.

Q: As far as you know, are you one of the youngest founders of a spirit brand?
A: I’m not sure that I am one of the youngest founders of a spirit brand. I have been working on this since my early 20’s, but it is my experience that a lot of innovation and energy comes from the younger generation. I’d also say that my naivete as a young entrepreneur with a head packed with illusions of grandeur actually helped me to keep moving forward when people were negative or professed that things would never work out. As an example, I was told that the name Tenneyson would not be available to trademark, but I followed up and did my research and proved that notion wrong. My age doesn’t normally come into play, but it is kind of fun being able to do “business” until last call and still be able to get up and at ’em early the next day with a clear head and strong conviction.

Q: What hurdles have you had to overcome to import your absinthe?
Well, there are too many to list here. I think that anyone starting a business of any kind will come across roadblock after roadblock, but you have to deal with each one as they come. We have dealt with things from raising money, writing contracts, distillation consistency, sourcing ingredients, securing distribution, shipping logistics, government compliance, currency exchange rates, to things like self-doubt and convincing people that we aren’t crazy. Trying to stay on budget and schedule seem to be the overwhelming pressures while being true to the craft of distillation and the history of absinthe. When in doubt the latter is our priority!

Q: Future plans?
A: To get a good nights sleep! But seriously, I love the industry and the category so I’m in no rush to go anywhere. I would love to grow the brand of Tenneyson and expose consumers (specifically in the U.S.) to the actual history of absinthe and enlighten as many as possible, whether they are drinking my brand or a comparable competitor. It’s fun being in the business and I’m looking forward to future opportunities with respect to Tenneyson and/or anything else that comes along. I’m not very good at being bored and I love having fun and pushing the limits!

Tenneyson Absinthe Royale (retails around $50) hit store shelves in NYC this week.

File Under: New Bottles to Rock

Isn’t it time to add some luster to your liquor cabinet? Whether you’re looking for bottles to spark up your next party, to bring to the holiday dinner table (always a solid move) or to sip on while Aunt Margaret drones on about her latest knitting project, here’s a few new and noteworthy spirits bound to impress:

Banks “5 Island” Rum: This white rum shatters convention with its vegetal, grassy nose, robust ginger spice and dry finish. Composed of rum from five islands–Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Java–each rum is aged between three and 12 years, filtered, and then blended with a touch of arrack. Launched in August, this rum has already earned a 96-point rating from this year’s Ultimate Cocktail Challenge, a 95 from The Tasting Panel and Best White Rum at the 2010 RumFest U.K. Retails for $28 for 750 ml.

The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask: Responding to the appeal of 2008’s limited edition 17 Year Old Rum Cask, The Balvenie’s latest release is a beautifully balanced whisky. Aged for 14 years in oak casks, the whisky is finished in Caribbean rum barrels for a few months, providing notes of honey and toffee.  Retails for $50-60 for 750 ml.


Excellia Tequila: And for another twist, how about tequila aged in Cognac casks? Made from 100 percent Blue Agave, Excellia Tequilas are separately aged in Grand Cru Sauternes Casks and Cognac barrels then carefully blended. The grape notes soften the finish, making this tequila an ideal choice for drinking neat. Retails for $55 for the Blanco 750 ml, $60 for the Reposado 750 ml and $70 for the Anejo 750 ml.

Sneak Peek: Beefeater Winter

Beefeater Winter Edition arrives stateside on Dec. 6, retailing for $18.99.

Get ready to kick your winter cocktail game up a notch with Beefeater London Dry’s Winter Edition, coming to the U.S. in late November-early December, with an official launch in NYC on Dec. 6. Following the success of Beefeater’s Summer Edition, Master Distiller Desmond Payne created this holiday-inspired gin featuring notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and pine shoots. Although I haven’t tried it yet, if it’s anything like Beefeater Summer, I know I’m in for a treat.

From the press release, Desmond says, “I wanted to create a gin that would enhance the traditional Beefeater recipe and make it even more suitable for hot punches and cocktails that are popular during the winter months. Beefeater Winter captures the familiar aromas of the season using a balanced combination of botanicals that are synonymous with that particular time of year.”

To get you in the holiday mood, here’s a recipe for Winter Punch:

50ml Beefeater Winter Gin
100ml Madeira
10ml lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp brown sugar
1 pinch cinnamon (ground)
1 pinch nutmeg (ground)
1 clove
lemon twist
orange twist

In a saucepan, gently heat all ingredients—do not let the mixture boil. Decant into teacups or toddy cups and serve.