Category: cocktails

Distillery cats save the day (and the grain)

Passed Out

Snoozing cat at the Woodford Reserve bourbon distillery in Kentucky photographed by Flickr user Megan [creative victuals]. Photo used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I just discovered Punch, which you may recall provided the material for yesterday’s post. A unique story featured on their banner caught my eye, in which Brad Thomas Parsons considers the history of distillery cats. As he explains,

the distillery cat holds a special place among the feline workforce. A well-rounded distillery cat possesses the heart (and claws) of a cold-blooded hunter with a mix of bodega cat street smarts and the rafters-climbing sense of adventure of his country cousin, the barn cat, with the affable people-person skills of the bookstore cat.

The tradition of the distillery cat has likely been around since man has been making booze. Where you find barley, wheat and rye, you’ll find mice, rats and birds eager to dip in. While distillery cats are in service around the world, Scotland and Ireland continue to have some of the more storied cats (with cheeky names like Whiskey, Peat and Barley) on the payroll.

Head here for the full article, plus photos of several cats on the job.

NPR’s Ari Shapiro: A man in search of a pub


Photo of Ari Shapiro by Flickr user COD Newsroom, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro is giving up the White House beat to head to London.

Why, you ask, does that merit a mention on a blog about eating (and drinking) in the modern world? No reason, honestly, but he’s so dang smart and talented, not to mention out and adorable, that I couldn’t help but find an angle. Thanks to Punch, I’ve got one.

Ari, it seems, is a fan of local beer, craft cocktails, and the neighborly exchanges that take place between customers and their favorite bartenders. As Leslie Pariseau describes,

During the lead up to the 2012 Presidential election, Shapiro found himself on the campaign trail following Mitt Romney from swing state to swing state. “You feel like you see the inside of airplanes and busses and hotel lobbies more than you see any actual place that you’re in,” he says. “One of the photographers for AP had an Instagram feed of hotel carpets, and it was just one swirling pattern after another, which is kind of a metaphor for the way we felt.”

At nearly every stop, Shapiro’s oasis was the hotel bar. At the end of a long day in decidedly unglamorous cities like Cincinnati or Reno, he would find his way into a middling hotel chain bar (think Comfort Inn and Courtyard by Marriott) with nondescript carpet and bad lighting. Surprisingly, almost every time—whether in the belly of the South or the middle of Iowa—he could find a local beer. It gave him a sense of grounding that “was a really refreshing antidote to the sense that every place has become the same.”

Instead of disparaging Anywhere, U.S.A. Shapiro found “that there still exists a local food and drink culture that people are really proud of everywhere—not just in the rarefied niches.”

The article concludes,

“I’m told London is a city that enjoys its drink,” he says optimistically. But Shapiro is baffled at how the English manage to drink as much as he’s told without going bankrupt. He balks at the price tag of a regular cocktail converted into British pounds, and is instead focused on finding his own corner pub. “It seems to me that, in Britain, no matter your age or class or wealth, you have a neighborhood pub—like a communal living room.” A place to revisit, and most definitely a notch up from the anonymous hotel bar.

Head here for the full piece, which also reveals that Shapiro is renowned for his homemade Poire Williams. (I didn’t know what that is either, but it’s an amazing and lovely thing, so check out the article.)

Lovin’ the lovage

Notrano's Lovage Martini 2.0. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Notrano’s Lovage Martini 2.0. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

I was lucky enough to enjoy dinner the other night at Nostrano, one of Madison’s top restaurants. Their local, seasonal approach to dining extends not just to the food but to the cocktails as well. After reading André Darlington’s recent feature on summery drinks around town, I was eager to give the Lovage Martini 2.0 a try, which he suggested “uses the celery-like plant to pleasant effect.” Here’s the description from Nostano’s menu:

Nolet’s Gin | Lovage Vermouth | Dimmi | Picholine Olives

If you’ve never had lovage before (I hadn’t), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of The Guardian has a great description of the taste: “The flavour is like parsley and celery combined with a hint of aniseed and curry. And if you think that sounds intriguing, you’d be right.”

Follow the ingredient links above for details on the other components of this expertly balanced cocktail.

For more on leafy lovage, check out Fearnley-Whittingstall’s article and recipes, along with a 1979 (!) piece from Betty Laws for Mother Earth News and this post from the on “Acquiring a taste for lovage.”

Winter drinks, Wisconsin style


Photo by jcrakow via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

With sub-zero wind chills expected to return to Madison by week’s end, I thought I’d share a post that I recently came across (thanks to Heavy Table) from Greg at the More Than Curds blog. He highlights three classic Wisconsin drinks to warm a winter-weary body: cherry bounce, Tom and Jerry, and Glühwein (or, if you prefer the Nordic version, gløgg, which warmed me up two years ago at the charming Fish Creek Winter Festival in Door County, Wisconsin). Head to More Than Curds for details on all three beverages.

If beer is more your thing, check out Robin Shepard’s review of New Glarus Winter Warmer Scotch Ale. In addition to finding it around town in bottled 4-packs, look for it on tap: J just had a pint at Roast Public House last weekend. (It’s very light compared to the Scotch Ale to which you’re likely accustomed, so focus more on the Winter Warmer part of the name.) As Shepard writes,

The smooth caramel tones and mild spicy-alcoholic warmth give legitimacy to its winter warmer title. It’s not the boldest example of the style, but there’s enough seductive sweetness and strength to appeal to those who enjoy the smooth caramel flavors in a malt-focused beer.

Get the full scoop here.

Dark ‘n Stormy, Gosling’s be damned

2-18-12: Distilled

Photo by Lost Albatross (Emily Mills) via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The folks who make Gosling’s dark rum are reportedly so insistent that only their Bermuda black rum can make a true Dark ‘n Stormy (the official spelling has just the one apostrophe) that they’ve trademarked the name. Well, when you realize that they sell a rum-and-ginger-beer premixed drink-in-a-can that they call Dark ‘n Stormy, I think the reason behind the legal posturing becomes apparent. If you want to read about the purported trademark fuss and hear an umpteenth-generation Gosling defend his family’s trademark, check out articles in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

If instead you want to taste a great cocktail, whether it is technically a Dark ‘n Stormy or not, let me recommend the following. Pour a generous shot of Cane and Abe rum (from Madison’s own Old Sugar Distillery) over ice in a highball, squeeze in a wedge of lime, and top with a great ginger beer. I’ve been using Fentiman’s. Despite the fact that their website looks to have been built last century, they do know what they’re doing when it comes to ginger beer; theirs is a wonderfully flavorful drink, made with real botanical ingredients including actual ginger. (A gentle inversion of the bottle before opening helps ensure that all the tasty bits are afloat before you pour.) I’ve seen it locally at both Woodman’s and the Willy Street Co-op.

For reviews of a wide variety of ginger beers and a couple of ginger ales, check out these posts (and these too) from the Thinking of Drinking blog.

For a fun review of Cane and Abe, head here. Finally, for the local take on the Old Sugar Distillery and their tasting room, check out this review and an earlier piece from Isthmus, along with this feature from 77 Square.