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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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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.

Restaurants

Chartreuse, Housemade Vermouth and the Red Sox

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Last weekend goes down as one of the best in recent memory for me thanks to two great meals in Boston and a little baseball team called the Red Sox.

Friday night found some friends and me at Coppa, where I made it just in time for the late-night menu-an abbreviated version of the dinner menu, but no less impressive. Highlights included chef Jamie Bissonette's stunning crudo with radishes and carrots and borage flowers and the Pattypan di Popeye pizza topped with summer squash and spinach. A friend ordered the Strongman cocktail, which came in an enormous stein with a very muscular glass arm as the handle. The drink, a mixture of green chartreuse, yellow chartreuse and Coors Light (!) was remarkably refreshing and surprisingly strong.

The next day we were lucky to score some seats to the Red Sox game versus the Detroit Tigers. Now, as a girl who grew up in Michigan, I get a lot of flack for rooting for anyone other than the Tigers, but I can't help it. I love David Ortiz. I confess. I also love walk-off homeruns. And guess what: Bottom of the 9th, Sox down 3-2, David Ortiz gets up to the plate and WHAM! Three-run double, and the Sox win the game!

To celebrate this ridiculous victory, we sat down for dinner at Eastern Standard where the oysters were delicious and the 2009 Domaine Colotte rosé (find this wine) from Marsannay went expertly with the tomato, goat cheese and almond salad. Mixologist Jackson Cannon started us off with a to-be-named mini-cocktail (created by fellow bartender Bob McCoy) that was the perfect aperitif. Cannon's been making amber vermouth in-house, and it made this cocktail particularly herbaceous and balanced and refreshing. This is the best possible drink for a hot summer night after your favorite team comes through in the end:

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add 1 ½ oz. gin, ¾ oz. amber vermouth, ½ oz. fresh lemon juice, ¼ oz. simple syrup and 1 dash orange bitters. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze a fresh lemon twist over the glass and discard. Serve.

News

Scotch Preview: The $4,000 Highland Park '68

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scotch

© Jen Murphy
Highland Park whisky tasting.

 

If there’s one thing that will lure me out into a New York City blizzard, it’s the chance to taste a super-rare whiskey. So the other evening, a handful of die-hard Scotch enthusiasts and I braved the snow so we could be among the first to taste Highland Park 1968 at a whiskey-tasting dinner at the Scottish gastropub Highlands. The Scottish distiller’s single malt—produced in extraordinarily small batches (only 1,550 bottles) and sold for an extraordinary price ($4,000 a bottle) will be released in May.

After we tried pours of the 18-, 25-, 30- and 40-year-old Highland Park whiskeys, the splash of '68 revealed it to be remarkably complex and smooth, with hints of ginger and clove and a fierce kick. But even with the extravagant packaging (an oak box inlaid with the Highland Park silver amulet) it still seems like an insane splurge in these recession-minded times.

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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.

Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.