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In this barrel-aged deep dive with spirits writer Brent Joseph, some of the topics we discuss include:How Brent came to love Bourbon and used his passion to propel himself into a senior contributor role at Bourbon & Banter.The recent retail experiences that led him to pose the titular question of his four-part article series: “Is Bourbon Broken?”The economic and market forces that have led to massive demand for particular brands and bottles (and the subsequent perverse incentive to flip them for outrageous prices on the secondary market).What it means for a bottle to be “allocated”The role that social media has played in the fetishization of certain bottles and purchasing habitsHow to be a smarter Bourbon shopper and better citizen of the Bourbon communityAnd much, much more.A few disclaimers before we jump in. In this conversation, we do point out one or more very well-defined trends in the bourbon world and pick apart the forces that might be contributing to them. So if you’ve ever flipped a bottle of bourbon for more than it’s worth or dropped everything and sped to the liquor store when they posted on social media about Blanton’s being in stock, we’re not asking or expecting you to change a thing. You do you. But if, like Brent, you’re a little alarmed at some of the trends you’re seeing in the Bourbon market, hopefully by the end of this episode you’ll understand what you can do to make sure that at the very least you’re not a part of the problem.Is Bourbon Broken?To find out, you can work your way through this series of articles published on Bourbon & Banter in late March and early April of 2021.Featured Cocktail Accompaniment: SangritaThis episode’s featured cocktail doesn’t have anything to do with Bourbon. In fact, it’s not even a cocktail at all, but rather a traditional palate cleanser and Tequila accompaniment called Sangrita. Not Sangria. Sangrita. It means “little blood,” and it’s something that we delve into with Brent during the lightning round.Now, this is the sort of thing where everybody has their own recipe, at least commercially and here in the US. But according to Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the authentic recipe originates in Jalisco and includes sour oranges, pomegranate juice, hot sauce, and chile powder. Unfortunately, sour oranges are hard to source, so Morgenthaler reverse engineered a recipe that he thinks is pretty close to the genuine article. To make it, you’ll need:1 oz orange juice (freshly-squeezed)¾ oz – 1 oz lime juice (depending on the sweetness of your oranges)½ oz real pomegranate grenadine (check out the True Grenadine syrup by Pratt Standard on our eCommerce store for an excellent-quality option)3 dashes hot sauce or ¼ tsp pasilla chili powderNote that this is for a single, 2-3 oz serving, so scale this recipe as needed, combine the ingredients, chill ‘em down, and serve alongside your happy hour tequila shooter.Some recipes call for some muddled jalapenos and even habaneros, some non-traditional formulations call for tomato juice, and some of the more Instagram-driven expressions are served in hollowed out cucumbers, just to give you a few options to play around with at home. LEGGI TUTTO
This episode’s featured cocktail is the original Alexander. It first appeared in Hugo Enslin’s 1916 book, Recipes for Mixed Drinks and is often overshadowed by the Brandy Alexander, which became popular after Prohibition. To make the Alexander cocktail, you’ll need:Combine these ingredients in a cocktail shaker with NO ICE. You heard me – no ice. Dry shake for about 15 seconds until you hear and feel the texture of the contents begin to change, then add your ice, shake again, and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass.This is something like if a Ramos gin fizz and a classic egg white sour cocktail got married and made a baby, and that baby was named dessert. The egg white – in my view – is crucial because it’s going to yield that incredibly silky texture that feels like a delicious reward for having finished your supper.One last note. This recipe we just gave you is a little boozier than most Alexander recipes, which use only cream rather than a cream liqueur. But, you’re only using an ounce of that Coole Swan, which weighs in at a manageable 16% ABV. In other words, TREAT YO-SELF.Show Notes LEGGI TUTTO
This episode’s featured cocktail is the White Negroni. This recipe actually kicks off an entire section of non-red Negronis in David and Keli’s book, and it’s a favorite cocktail of our, especially on a hot summer day. To make it, you’ll need:
1 oz / 30ml Gin (David & Keli recommend Hayman’s Gently Rested Gin)
1 oz / 30ml Suze (which is a bitter-sweet gentian liqueur)
1 oz / 30ml Lillet blanc (which is a slightly sweet aromatized wine featuring citrus and quinine notes)
Combine your ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir until all ingredients are properly mixed and well chilled, then strain into a rocks glass over a single, large rock, garnish with an orange twist, and enjoy.
The first thing you’ll notice about the White Negroni is its stunning yellow color, which is as arresting to the eye as the bright red of a classic Negroni. The bitterness profile is similar, but a little different as well, with the gentian from the Suze and the quinine from the Lillet doing an interesting little dance on the palate. We find that the most fun time to break out a batch of white Negronis is when you’re visiting with friends who might be somewhat familiar with classic cocktails, but who have never tried Suze before – it’s always fun to watch them experience this flavor in action for the first time. LEGGI TUTTO
Born and raised in the Bluegrass, Erin has always held an affinity for her home state’s signature spirit. Throughout her world travels (35 countries and counting!), Erin delights in spreading the gospel of bourbon across the globe, from Spain to Korea, and especially in her now home of Washington, DC. Erin spent her formative years studying international relations and finding the best libations the Nation’s Capital has to offer. Though a high rye bourbon will always be her favorite, she can never say no to a pretty bottle. Always up for an adventure, Erin also enjoys kayaking, science fiction, exceptional cocktails, and travelling everywhere possible.
I’ll also add that Erin has served on the board of the Kentucky society of Washington since 2014 and is a prolific spirits and cocktail educator who runs a bunch of different classes for private and corporate clients. You can connect with her on Instagram at @erpdc.
Near Country Provisions
This live stream is sponsored by Near Country Provisions, your local source for sustainable meat and fresh caught seafood in the Mid-Atlantic. They deliver delicious frozen protein right to your doorstep once monthly.
Enter the code BARCART at checkout when you begin your subscription, and receive your choice of 2 free pounds of bacon or ground beef for FREE. LEGGI TUTTO
Because if I had to guess, when bartender Pete Petiot included his first few dashes of black pepper and Cayenne pepper in his Bloody Mary, he did so based solely on instinct. He didn’t know what we know about the chemical and biological structures responsible for the flavors that we love, so I think we have a genuine opportunity here to veer off from the trail breadcrumbs our mixological ancestors left for us and strike out for new and exciting places.
Spice and Hangover Symptoms
Here’s Dr. Alissa Nolden’s thoughts on what subjects we might study (in a perfect world) to better understand the specific mechanisms that govern the relationship between the Bloody Mary and the hangover symptoms that it’s often deployed to combat.
I love thinking about hypothetical research questions, and I when I was thinking about this question, I had two things that I was curious about.
One, I think would be great to see how many people actually find [a Bloody Mary] to be beneficial or helpful. So can can you create a hangover or kind of recreate a hangover for a different for all these participants and give them maybe everything but capsaicin or anything but ethanol and then test out to see if it’s the capsaicin, see if it’s ethanol, or is it just the high concentration of vegetables?
I also wondered about the heat level. Is something like a higher heat level helping you to perspirate more? Maybe we could give subjects a couple of different hangovers and test different concentrations of capsaicin to see if it’s really just the capsaicin alone that can kind of revive you.
We also asked Sarah Kolk about what she thinks about the Bloody Mary’s role as a hangover cure. Here’s what she had to say:
I think an important thing to address about a hangover is part of it’s dehydration, and electrolytes are crucial to hydration. So even though it’s maybe not the best idea to overload yourself with sodium, your body isn’t very good at distinguishing: “I should really have more calcium and magnesium and potassium right now.” Also, tomatoes do have a fair amount of potassium.
As far as the hair of the dog aspect that people consume Bloody Marys for, I think that’s always been a really effective strategy when you’re trying to dull one sense – the dull pains, maybe a headache or body ache – that you would be experiencing during a hangover. Maybe I’d even liken it to biting a rag while you’re having a bullet removed in a movie – like activating that trigeminal system could maybe distract from some of the discomfort.
Also according to Dr. Nolden, it’s possible to experience nausea from ingesting spicy foods, and that certainly isn’t something you necessarily want when you’re hungover.
If you think back to our work with Benign Masochism, you might recall Paul Rozin’s finding that people tend to enjoy levels of spice that are just below what they can comfortably tolerate. And if you assume that your spice tolerance when you’re hungover is probably a bit lower than it might be otherwise, then my guess is – without having run any experiments – that a moderate level of spice in a Bloody Mary probably yields optimum benefits without pushing you over the edge into nausea.
Resolving the Language Problem
But what is “Moderate”? What’s moderate to me might not be moderate to you, which raises questions about the inherent “unknowability” of flavor experience.
The worry here, of course, is that no matter how hard we try to study the experience of spice, we’re always going to be talking at cross-purposes. My spicy will never be your spicy, and your spicy – let’s be honest – will probably never approach our friend John Shope’s definition of spicy. And when you look at things that way, it’s very easy to gaze too long and too intently into the postmodern abyss of infinite regress.
But I think the Bloody Mary is actually perfect foil to this intellectual trap. No two recipes are the same, and yet we rarely feel “anxious” just ordering one from a bar in the same way we might feel anxious about ordering an Old Fashioned or a Martini. Unlike our favorite boozy, stirred drinks, the seemingly infinite variations of the Bloody Mary seem to all aggregate into some sort of universally-shared mean or ideal of “goodness” that exists regardless of capsaicin or horseradish, regardless of A1 or Worcestershire, regardless of all the other choices we could possibly make in the formulation.
I might be wrong, but I think that “goodness” arises not from a particular ingredient or even from a proportional balance between ingredients, but from an emergent energy or propulsion generated from the combination of these disparate forces when they coalesce in the glass.
What do I mean by this?
Spice as the “Motor” of the Bloody Mary
Well, remember back when we talked about benign masochism and uncovered the almost paradoxical finding that the experience of pain increases our sensitivity to and liking of various tastes and flavors? Whenever I run into a paradox like this, I think of it like a motor, where two opposite polarities of an electromagnet keep turning over upon one another, turning the drive shaft and propelling the vehicle forward. These little motors are some of my favorite things to think about, especially when they happen in the taste and flavor world.
If you’re hung over, and you sip a spicy Bloody Mary, each sip enacts something that might be compared to one revolution of a drive shaft. Moderate spice creates moderate pain, which both distracts you from the symptoms of your hangover and provides greater appreciation of the other flavors in the drink, which prompts you to take another sip, where the process is repeated until before you know it, you’ve finished your drink.
As you look at your empty glass and appreciate the kind green of your celery stick garnish, your server or your host stops by and asks if you’d like another, mentioning that your chicken and waffles will be ready in just a few minutes. You say yes, and as the words leave your mouth you realize you’re not the same person that you were when you took the first sip of your Bloody Mary.
This is the definition of a phase shift. Before the Bloody Mary, you were one person, and now you are a decidedly different one with a decidedly different set of homeostatic feelings. Did the sodium and potassium and vodka and other nutrients and lubricants in the drink do their work? Of course. These can be compared to the transmission and fuel system and frame of a vehicle that allow it to transport you from point A to point B. But I would argue that the driving force in a Bloody Mary – the motor that turns due to the opposing forces of pain and pleasure – can only be attributed to spice.
In the presence of moderate amounts of pepper, hot sauce, or horseradish, pleasure emerges from pain, motion from stillness. And although there are many ways to describe our experience of spice, and many different preferences for what provides that spice or how intensely we perceive it, one thing is for sure: if you ain’t got no motor, you ain’t got no car. And if you ain’t got no spice, I’d argue you ain’t got no Bloody Mary. LEGGI TUTTO
Intense heat from peppers is very painful, and usually we reject painful things. But yet we like negative stimulation in the case of horror films, or rollercoasters…so we embrace these things that are a little aversive in contexts in which we can control them.
Benign Masochism Research
Dan was also kind enough to provide me with some research papers on this subject, and although we don’t have time to do a full literature review, I thought I’d pull out some of the main themes for you.
Glad to be sad and other examples of benign masochism (Published in Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 8, No. 4, July 2013, pp. 439-447)
In a 2013 summary paper, Paul Rozin and colleagues were able to pull out some general trends associated with benign masochism across a wide variety of human activities. For example, watching very scary or sad movies, the taste of strong alcohol, bitterness, or capsaicin, disgusting jokes, thrill rides, and even the “hurts so good” physical pain of an intense massage.
A couple findings that I found really interesting from this research were that A.) people tend to enjoy their physiological reactions to negative experiences, and B.) people most enjoy levels of discomfort that are juuuust on the tolerable side of uncomfortable. This second fact, to me, could have huge implications on how we can think about the role of spice in a Bloody Mary.
Gustatory pleasure and pain. The offset of acute physical pain enhances responsiveness to taste. (Published in Appetite 72, 2014, 150-155)
Another paper by Bastian and colleagues summarizes three different studies conducted to explore the relationship between physical pain and flavor perception. They discovered three significant findings:
FIrst, physical pain is linked to greater enjoyment of a flavor. So in essence, participants were split into “pain” and “no pain” conditions and then asked to eat a chocolate flavored biscuit. Those in the pain condition rated their liking of the biscuit as significantly higher.
Next, the researchers found that physical pain increases perceived intensity of tastes. So, same kind of “pain” and “no pain” conditions, and the participants in the pain group rated sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes as more intense than the people in the no pain condition.
Finally, they demonstrated that pain made people more sensitive to the presence of a flavor by demonstrating that participants in a pain condition were much more likely to correctly identify a flavor extract at lower concentrations than those in a non-pain condition.
In short, pain makes us enjoy flavors more, experience them more intensely, and identify them with great sensitivity. So I think the logical takeaway here is that if you want people to enjoy eating at your restaurant or drinking at your cocktail bar just that little bit more, you need to hire a spanking sommelier who can go around and inflict just the right amount of pain on your guests. It would be kind of a 21st century update to the professional foot ticklers employed by the court of Catherine the Great.
I’m not kidding about that one. Look it up.
Spicing Up the Bloody Mary Cocktail
If there’s anything that this research demonstrates, it’s that we don’t want THAT much spice in our Bloody Marys. It sends us back to a word that some more experienced home bartenders take for granted: balance. But this isn’t just about modulating sweet and sour, like in a daiquiri. We’ve got pretty much every possible flavor bouncing around in the Bloody Mary, and somehow, we’re supposed to bring them all into harmony. This task is further complicated by the fact that in most recipes, you’re going to have multiple sources of spice, acid, and umami.
So in the perfect Bloody Mary, we want spice, but not too much. And the kicker is that the definition of what constitutes “too much” is going to vary from person to person, creating not only a flavor problem, but also a language problem. Thinking back to our benign masochism research, is there a world in which everyone could have the perfect level of spice for their palate? Is there a way to bring each individual riiiight to the edge of discomfort, but not cross the line?
But I do think there are ways to present Bloody Marys on a cocktail menu in a way that comes close. The key, it would seem, is to give people options.’
Finding the Right “Spice Neighborhood” for You
Think about other situations where there’s an objective flavor fact that you need to communicate to people. My go-to example here is the doneness of a burger or a piece of meat, which can be communicated using a number (i.e. internal temperature) or a trade term (like “medium rare”). When I, as a patron, say “medium rare,” you, as a chef, know exactly how to prepare that food to give me exactly what I want.
A simpler example could simply be the little chili pepper scores next to different dishes on a Thai menu, for example. No chilis means mild, and the more chilis you add on, the spicier it gets. This may be a slightly blunter instrument than temperature-correlated doneness, but it still helps get people into the right neighborhood where they want to be.
Manipulating Options and Garnishes
So if you were to ask me how I’d try to give people their perfect Bloody Mary if I ran a cocktail bar, here’s what I’d do. LEGGI TUTTO
2 oz Campari
2 oz of a dry, white Italian wine (like a pinot grigio or a Verdicchio)
And some soda water to top it all off
The nice thing about the Bicicleta is that it’s a built drink. You take your Campari and wine, pour them into a highball glass, add ice, top with sparkling water and garnish with half an orange wheel. Simple, delicious, and to the point.
According to PUNCH, this spritz variation was named after the old Italian men on bikes who might have a hard time riding in a straight line as they return home from a few drinks at the bar in the afternoon. And, although we might still be in winter’s grasp here on the East Coast of the US, there’s no rule out there that says you can’t fantasize about summer spritzes all year round.
American Cider was written with the intention of providing cultural and historical context for what’s happening in today’s cider industry. Dan’s background in the wine world, paired with Craig’s experience as a food journalist, yields a text that considers our nation’s cidermaking traditions and apples region-by-region. The book also contains hand-illustrated maps by wine expert and artist James Sligh that add texture and a sense of place to the book.
Some of the books and online resources mentioned by Dan and Craig include: LEGGI TUTTO