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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Best Spirits You've Never Heard Of

Start Your V-Day by Getting Whacked in the Face With a Dozen Roses

Cocchi Rosa Americano

Cocchi Rosa Americano is a pleasantly bitter concoction of wine infused with rose petals and other aromatics.

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Drink This Now

Get Some Holiday Spirit(s)

Suntory Yamazaki

Talented mixologist and co-owner of Pint & Jigger in Hawaii, Dave Newman shares excellent tips for buying spirits.

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Drink This Now

Apple Absinthe and More Complex Pours for Fall

Uncouth Vermouth Dry-Hopped Vermouth

The blushing skin and crisp, sweet aroma of a fresh apple is as much a symbol of autumn as a knitted scarf. Apples get a lot of play when the weather cools, baked into buttery pies or juiced and mulled with cinnamon sticks for warm cider. But the fruit also has a long history in distillation. And for those of us who prefer to drink our apple-a-day, fall is a great time to explore these complex pours. Read more >

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Spirit School

Detroit's Spirit Revival

Detroit's Spirit Revival

Less than a mile across in some places, the Detroit River was a haven for bootleggers during Prohibition, as boats would ferry liquid cargo from "wet" Canada to "dry" America. Today, the shipments could be heading in the other direction, thanks to David Landrum and Peter Bailey, the entrepreneurs behind Two James, the first distillery in Detroit since the 1920s.

The longtime friends, who named their company after their dads (both called James), are making small-batch spirits in a former doughnut factory and taxi-repair shop in the Corktown neighborhood. (A tasting room, located in the distillery, serves cocktails and sells bottles.) Distilled with lots of juniper and other botanicals, the duo's London dry gin is inspired by Bailey's father, who grew up above a pub in England. "Wild juniper grows like crazy here, but no one cultivates it. Now we've found some people who are willing to plant it for us," says Landrum. Their rye whiskey, currently in barrels, is made with 100 percent Michigan-grown rye and was inspired by Landrum's dad, who was born in Kentucky.

Despite Detroit's recent bankruptcy, the young distillers are optimistic about the city's future. "I've watched Detroit go through horrible times, but the bankruptcy might actually be a good thing—it's trimming the fat," says Landrum. "And there's a resurgence of people moving back to the city. It's exciting." twojames.com

Related:
Detroit: Soul Food for a Hungry City
Small-Batch Superstars
Ultimate Beer Guide
American Beer, Bourbon and More

Drink This Now

5 Things You Need to Know About Bourbon

I drink a lot of bourbon. I don’t say it as a boast. Every dirtbag with $25 to his name can do the same, and many do. But over the years, I’ve gained brainpower corresponding to my liver damage, and become something of a bourbon geek. Or at least I’ve communed with enough bourbon geeks to pick up a few facts about the greatest of all American spirits. Some are random, some are esoteric, but some you just can’t be without. Here, five things you need to know.

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Drink This Now

How to Taste 50 Gins

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American Gin

© Antonis Achilleos

Tasting 30 or 40 wines in the course of an afternoon is no big deal for me anymore, but when faced with tasting 50 gins (for “An American Gin Renaissance” in the November issue), I had to take my time. I found that at most, I could taste about six different gins in one sitting—the alcohol was too strong, the juniper too palate-walloping. Read more >

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Drink This Now

The Best-Ever Gin and Tonic

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Prime Meats

Prime Meats © Simon Watson

Like many people, I used to think that a gin and tonic was one of the world’s most simple and refreshing drinks, consisting of two ingredients: gin…and tonic. OK, maybe a third ingredient, too: a lime wedge. Although there’s certainly a beauty in such simplicity, I have recently learned that I was being way too closed-minded about one of my favorite drinks. In fact, by making this beverage infinitely more complicated, it can attain supreme excellence. Read more >

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Tasting Room

Age-Your-Own Whiskey: Week 1

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Woodinville Whiskey Co.'s Age-Your-Own Whiskey Kit

© Tomi Omololu-Lange
Woodinville Whiskey Co.'s Age-Your-Own Whiskey Kit

Whenever I tell people that I’m from Kentucky, the response is always, “Whiskey or horses?”—not altogether an unfair question. (It’s horses, by the way.) Generally, American whiskey doesn’t stray too far from the Kentucky-Tennessee border. That’s why, when I opened a package from Woodinville Whiskey Company, I was doubly mystified. Not only had they sent a Washington State whiskey, but a Washington State age-your-own whiskey kit, complete with two bottles of unaged whiskey, an adorable miniature barrel and a funnel. Curious, I decided to give it a go and I’ll be reporting on any changes over the next few weeks.

Whiskey can be made from various grains—corn, wheat, rye and barley. Blenders come up with their own personal recipes and whip up a grain cocktail, called the mash bill, that’s distilled, resulting in a clear, high-proof spirit. This is then aged in charred wood barrels for a varying amount of time—typically eight years or more. The mini-barrel in Woodinville’s kit, however, is said to speed-age whiskey—10 times faster than the great big barrels used in distilleries.

So after soaking the little barrel in water (per the instructions), last week I funneled the bottles of white whiskey into it. Over time, it should deepen in color and pick up lovely hints of vanilla, smoke and nuts. Allegedly, in just a few weeks, I should see significant changes in both the color and the flavor of the whiskey. I’ve set aside some of the original white whiskey as a control, so I can see just how quickly the barrel influences our little batch.

The clear, unaged whiskey in the kit is a mash of corn, wheat and malted barley—the traditional bourbon whiskey mash bill used in Kentucky. For now, all I have is this raw white whiskey (a.k.a. moonshine, white dog, white lightning, albino, whatever), which, in recent years, has become quite popular on its own. And I don’t mean the old bathtub version. Three to try:

Woodinville Whiskey Company Unaged Whiskey (the one we’re aging): Sweet butterscotch on the nose and powerful at 110 proof.

Death's Door White Whiskey: Wisconsin’s Death’s Door debuted one of the first white whiskeys on the market in 2008. Since then, their version has become extremely popular with mixologists. It has a grape-lollipop note that makes it perfectly fun for cocktails.

Bully Boy White Whiskey: Spearminty and twiggy, with notes of basil, this is a great palate-cleanser.

I should add that in the process of feeding our baby barrel the unaltered whiskey, I had a little accident that resulted in shattered glass, spilled whiskey and a crack down the center of Food & Wine’s tasting table. Looks like I’ve got the devil’s luck just in time for Halloween. Then again, I’m not convinced that the devil’s luck is such a bad thing to have when you’re in the business of aging whiskey.

Winemakers

All Good Things

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You know the rest of that line, right? Well, it's with some small amount of sadness that I am saying that about this blog: It must come to an end. I've had a terrific time writing it, but we've decided that in the end it's a bit strange, for a magazine that's all about bringing together food and wine, to have separate blogs on those topics.

So, from here on out, any wine blogging that I (and Megan Krigbaum, Kristin Donnelly, and various other stalwart folks) do will instead appear in F&W's primary blog, Mouthing Off. No less wine coverage, just a different venue. See you there.

Ray Isle

Wines Under $20

Holiday Wines: Fox Business & CBS Early Show

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'Tis the season to do TV appearances on wines for the holidays, apparently! I was at the CBS Early Show last weekend offering wine & spirits gift-giving strategies, and on Fox Business News last Friday with some great wine values for holiday entertaining.

Also, if you need a last minute stocking-stuffer for the wine geek in your life, you could definitely do worse than the Twistick ($9.99), which may well be the world's smallest corkscrew. You can put it on your keychain for wine emergencies (they do happen!), and while it's not the easiest corkscrew in the world to use, it's a lot better than biting off the top of the bottle with your teeth.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.