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    Episode 170 – Rare Chartreuse Tasting

    1.5 oz Apple Brandy (Calvados is traditional, but Applejack is a suitable American substitute)

    ¾ oz Yellow Chartreuse

    ¾ oz Benedictine Liqueur

    Several Dashes of Aromatic Bitters (we, of course, like to use our Embitterment Aromatic Bitters)

    Combine these ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir for about 15-20 seconds until the mixture is well chilled and properly diluted, then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with a brandied cherry.
    The Widow’s Kiss cocktail showcases three prototypically French spirits: Calvados, Yellow Chartreuse, and Benedictine (which is another herbal liqueur produced by an order of Catholic monks). This is an excellent formulation to pull out if you prefer sweet, but balanced cocktails. It’s definitely on the sweet and boozy size, but we would hazard to say that it’s not for everybody and that you really need to nail the dilution on this one. You just can’t get away with under-diluting it because it will be both too hot and too sweet on the palate if you do.
    This cocktail, along with the Diamondback cocktail, are really the only places you’re going to see Yellow Chartreuse used in a cocktail format, so if you’re an aficionado of esoteric liqueurs, we really do think you owe it to yourself to try these things with other ingredients instead of solely sipping them neat or on the rocks.
    Show Notes
    The bottles we tasted through in this episode were (in order): Yellow Chartreuse, Green Chartreuse, and the Chartreuse 9th Centenary Liqueur. Below, we offer some history and context, as well as our tasting notes from this experience.
    History of Chartreuse
    In 1084, the Order of Carthusians (also known as the Order of St. Bruno) was founded near city of Grenoble in east-central France close to the borders of present-day Switzerland and Italy. This is Catholic sect of monks who live an ascetic life that is largely silent (with the exception of prayer and weekly check-ins).
    In 1605, the order was given a recipe for an “elixir” by General François Annibal d’Estrées, and that recipe was the basis for Green Chartreuse, which was officially sold for the first time in 1764. The yellow variant was launched about 75 years later in 1838.
    During this interview, Eric indicated that there was a significant (and potentially causal) relationship between the Phyloxera Plague and the distillate bases of Green (sugar beet) and Yellow (grape) Chartreuse. Upon reviewing the history, this doesn’t seem to hold up, and Eric is very sorry that he got it wrong.
    Chartreuse Tasting Notes
    Yellow Chartreuse – (40% ABV) On the nose, saffron and angelica root are readily apparent, with hints of raisin, fennel, and honey. On the palate, it’s sweet and grapey with notes of tarragon and chamomile.
    Green Chartreuse – (55% ABV) The aroma is reminiscent of “forest floor” (or the scent of an alpine forest after a rain), with clover, mint, and lemon balm coming through. On the palate, the spices jump out, with cinnamon, clove, and mace all making an appearance to support a heavy hit of genepy.
    9th Centenary Liqueur – (47% ABV) Ethan pulled out notes of latex paint and old tweed on the nose, while Eric was more in the cedar universe. It has a generally “darker” and “funkier” aromatic profile than the Green Chartreuse. On the palate, it has a great deal of spearmint (rather than peppermint), mustard seed, and tea notes, and perhaps some lemon thyme. Finally, we should point out that this product does contain sesame seeds, which certainly contribute to the savory flavor of this expression.
    This episode was made possible with editing and sound design by Samantha Reed, production and stream management by Eric Holtzman, a great bottle of rare Chartreuse courtesy of Ethan Hall and Domestique Wine here in DC, and a little bit of tasting magic by yours truly. This has been a Modern Bar Cart Production, copyright 2020. LEGGI TUTTO

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    Episode 169 – Breaking Bloody (Part III: Umami Tsunami)

    Just because Lea & Perrins is the ubiquitous condiment that you’ll find in every major grocery store doesn’t mean it’s the only game in town when it comes to umami sauces. I jumped on a call with Kate Quartaro about the story and ingredients behind her Col. Pabst Worcestershire Sauce, which also has some really cool ties to American drinking culture.
    According to Kate, her mother sourced the recipe for Colonel Pabst Worcestershire Sauce from the kitchen of her grandfather, Gustave Pabst. It was only made occasionally, since it was a complex recipe, but it demonstrates a family tradition of cooking with beer. Gustave’s father (Captain Frederick Pabst) was the founder of the Pabst brewery, which explains the family’s connection to fermented malt products.
    As the oldest son, Gustave became president of Pabst Brewing Co. in Milwaukee upon the death of his father and maintained that position until Prohibition. He married into another brewing family from St. Louis, and the couple subsequently spent time in England, where it is assumed that they derived their recipe for Worcestershire sauce.
    Worcestershire sauce was originally made with malt vinegar (as opposed to the current recipe ingredient, distilled white vinegar), and the Pabst family decided to substitute some of that malt vinegar for the pre-vinegar ferment: beer. According to Kate, this produces a fuller-bodied, richer flavor experience when compared to Worcestershire sauces that only contain malt vinegar. (And to be clear, during the manufacturing process, the alcohol in the beer is boiled out.)
    Many people assume that, due to its connection to the Pabst brewing family, Colonel Pabst Worcestershire Sauce is made with PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) beer. That is actually not the case. It’s made with Lakefront Brewery’s Lager, which produces a beef-driven umami flavor when fermented with the other ingredients in the sauce. Some other ingredients in the mix include sustainable anchovies, crushed cinnamon sticks, whole peppercorns, mustard seed, and curry. This produces a rich sauce that is thicker thank most other Worcestershire sauces on the market.
    Colonel Pabst Worcestershire Sauce Tasting
    After hearing about the special malt- and spice-driven flavor profile of Col. Pabst Worcestershire sauce, you KNOW that Cera and I were ready to put it to the test. Here’s how it went.

    Colonel Pabst Worcestershire Sauce – On the nose, it’s very different than Lea & Perrins. The complexity seems “baked in,” whereas the complexity in L&P seems “engineered.” It’s sweeter, darker, and more welcoming, with roasty flavors and welcoming vinegar encouraging a taste. On the palate, it is both meatier and milder than L&P. The mouthfeel is remarkable and buttery, making a point about texture without saying a word. Molasses, curry, and mustard notes back the texture and advance the conversation taking place on the palate. This is not a sauce that requires a palate cleanse, even with a straight tasting.

    The Fermentation Situation
    So, now that we’ve tasted through three different umami sauces, I wanted to return to what is probably the most interesting, misunderstood, and contentious ingredient in Worcestershire sauces around the world: anchovies. And not just any anchovies – the fermented kind.
    Now, fermented fish sauces are part of many cultures around the world, but for some reason they’re not really well liked or well understood by the American palate. I mean, if Lea & Perrins were to market Worcestershire AS a fish sauce, I don’t think you’d see nearly as many people eager to snatch it off the shelves and add it to their next burger mix or sautee.
    Of course, there are a number of reasons why you might not want stinky, fermented fish in your next meal or Bloody Mary, which is exactly why I found recipe developer and food expert Brinda Ayer’s article on Worcestershire sauce substitutes so fascinating. If you want to check that out (and you should), we’ll have a link to it right on the show notes page. But for now, here’s Brinda’s take on fish sauce, fish sauce alternatives, and why fermentation is an important process when it comes to establishing maximum flavor.
    Vegan/Vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce Substitutes
    This whole segment of the podcast is derived from Brinda Ayer’s article on Worcestershire sauce substitutes on Food52. One of the remarkable aspects of this article is that approaches Worcestershire sauce substitutes from so many angles. She comes at it from an ingredient perspective (soy-based, fish-based, vinegar-based, wine-based, and wildcard), and each category of substitutes contains multiple levels of complexity to account for what different home chefs may have in their pantries. There are certain webpages on the internet that are definitive, and this is one of them.
    According to Brinda, soy (and other vegetable ferments) are incredibly low-touch and high-impact. Fermentation adds layers of flavor to a dish, and omitting a fermented ingredient can leave you with a flat flavor profile. And what’s more, some of the ingredients she champions go through multiple fermentations (e.g. sherry vinegar), rendering layers within layers of flavor. Subtlety? Nuance? This is where it’s found.
    Anchovies: The Umami of the Sea LEGGI TUTTO

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    Episode 168 – Sex is Not a Tasting Note

    Jim Murray is an English writer and whisky critic who’s been writing about barrel aged grain based distillates for the better part of three decades. He started seriously visiting distilleries in the UK in the early-to-mid ‘80s and was self-publishing his thoughts on spirits by the early ‘90s, which means he’s been a force in the whisky industry for about 30 years.

    He’s also notorious for his “Murray Method,” a prescriptive 14-step process for judging whisky. It covers everything from palate cleansing and sensory noise abatement, to nosing and evaluation.

    According to some sources (which means…according to Murray himself), he has tasted over 20,000 whiskeys in his lifetime with no intentions of slowing down or stopping anytime soon.

    Murray’s annual publication, The Whisky Bible, has been in circulation since 2003 and has reportedly sold over a million copies worldwide. This is where he reviews and revises his reviews on whisky offerings from around the world, offering tasting notes (which we’ll talk about in just a minute) and ratings.

    He’s well known for scoring whiskies on a 100-point scale, which has drawn some fire for being either somewhat or hopelessly subjective, depending on where you stand on rating systems. So, if you’re familiar with wine ratings, you know Robert Parker. If you care about whisky ratings, you know Jim Murray. Hopefully that comparison resonates with a few of you out there.

    Finally, he’s also notorious for bandying about the term “best whisky” quite a bit, which isn’t crazy popular with people who understand that flavor is subjective. Nonetheless, it’s great for search engine optimization, and other people (mostly whisky brands) still wait with bated breath for his yearly bast-in-category pronouncements.

    So, now that you know a bit about Jim, let’s talk about what he wrote and why some people are pret-ty upset about it.
    The “Outing” of Jim Murray
    In a Tweet thread on September 20 of this year, whisky expert Becky Paskin stated [quote]:

    This post will no doubt attract some hate comments, but something needs to be said. Why does the whisky industry still hold Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in such high regard when his tasting notes are so sexist and vulgar?1/ (Thread)

    In the 2020 edition there are 34 references to whisky being ‘sexy’ and many more crudely comparing drinking whisky to having sex with women. 2/

    She then went on to detail a number of examples from Murray’s Whisky Bible, including the following snippets, which I’m going to now read. This would be earmuff time for the kids.

    About Penderyn Celt Whiskey, he writes: “If this was a woman, I’d want to make love to it every night. And in the morning. And afternoon, if I could find the time… and energy…”

    Regarding Canadian Club Chronicles, Water of Windsor Murray soliloquizes: “Have I had this much fun with a sexy 41-year-old Canadian before? Well, yes I have. But it was a few years back now and it wasn’t a whisky. Was the fun we had better? Probably not.”

    He has the following to say about Glenmorangie Artisan Cask: “If whisky could be sexed, this would be a woman. Every time I encounter Morangie Artisan, it pops up with a new look, a different perfume. And mood. It appears not to be able to make up its mind. But does it know how to pout, seduce and win your heart…? Oh yes.”

    And one last zinger for the road here. Here’s his take on Fannys Bay Tasmanian Bourbon Cask: “No Port. No sherry. Just the wonderful opportunity to taste naked Fannys.”

    As a little note of cultural translation on that last quote, the term “fanny” refers to a woman’s vagina in the UK, so ol’ Jim ain’t talkin’ ‘bout lickin’ butts…he’s after that WAP (as the kids say).
    Following Paskin’s tweet thread, a number of publications within and beyond the spirits industry covered the story, and quite a few brands released public statements in support of her position, which is pretty simple:

    The amount of people who read those sorts of comments and assume that it’s OK to speak about whisky in that way is damaging.
    The message it is sending to the whisky industry as a whole and to whisky consumers is that women don’t really matter and they are there to be objectified.

    Murray’s Response
    To wrap of the reporting side of things here, so we can get on to the good stuff, I’m going to read the full text of Murray’s public response to the public outrage sparked by Paskin’s observations. It’s not super short, but one thing I don’t want to be accused of is misrepresenting anything, so here goes: [Quote]

    This is not a matter of alleged sexism on the trumped up charges against me – which have clearly been concocted for very clear purposes – this is an attack on the very essence of what it is to be a critic in any sphere, be it music, art, sport, wine or whisky. In other words: an attack on free thought and free speech.
    We are entering very dangerous territory when people try to control the thoughts of others and wilfully distort the truth for their own ends. This is now a battle between free speech and humourless puritanism. I am not alone in finding this very sinister.
    I am not sexist; the Whisky Bible is not sexist, has never been sexist and I will not bow to this faux outrage. I have always fought the bully and I will do so here. Debate has been replaced by the baying of the mob, common sense and decency by straitjacketed dogma. Frankly, these people appall me because what they are doing is undermining society itself.
    How, in God’s name, can, for instance, likening a whisky to an orgasm be remotely construed as sexist? Last I heard, male, females, transgender people, everyone is capable of an orgasm. I am a professional writer and use a language that adults – for the Whisky Bible is designed for adults – can relate to. I paint pictures of a whisky. And if that, on the rare occasion, is the picture or sensation that formulates in my mind, then I say so. As I have every right to.
    Rather than write interesting, illuminating and compelling articles about whisky, other writers would rather engage in ‘cancel culture’ to [bring] down the world’s most successful author on the subject.
    Some one million people have bought the Whisky Bible since it first came out in 2003 – and in that time I have not received a single letter, email or text complaining of its content. Not one. Suddenly, though…this. Several people writing exactly the same thing on the same day. Strange that.
    I am famed for my ability to nose a whisky. And I can tell you that I can smell a huge rat with this entire manufactured and revolting affair.
    I have dedicated 30 years of my life, longer than anyone else on this planet, fighting for whisky and the whisky underdog, so people will discover great whiskies from wherever they may be in the world. This has put quite a few people’s noses out of joint. These outrageous and concocted allegations will not derail me in my life’s quest. My championing of great whisky will continue. My freedom of speech will continue. Whether these latter day Cromwellians like it or not.”

    Sort of reminds me of the end of Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night where the villain Malvolio runs off into the night saying, “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you.”
    Why Jim Murray is Wrong
    So, now that we’re all caught up on the scandal, the “outing” of Jim Murray, and his defiant public response, I hope you’ll allow me to explain why Jim and his behavior are so damaging to our world – and my reasoning is probably different from what a lot of folks out there have said so far.
    As I mentioned earlier, some people have taken a bit of a passive stance, saying essentially, hey, this guy has his own platform. He’s self publishing, and he has a right to print what he wants. He also has a huge following around the world who clearly like his writing, so there’s not much we can do much to damage him and his platform, etc. etc.
    Others have taken the more traditional anti-sexism approach saying that sexism of any sort is never okay, which is sort of the gender inclusion correlative of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assertion that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
    A Case for Robustness
    And both of those types of responses are fair, measured, and reasoned in their own way. But my first argument against Jim Murray and his language begins with one primary concern: robustness.
    I want the spirits and cocktail world to be robust, and robustness requires diversity. Diversity of experience, diversity of flavor, diversity of thought and value. You simply cannot have robustness without diversity, and you cannot, by definition, have diversity without women.
    When you act and write as if you’re a dirty old man, people who don’t like dirty old men tend to leave the room – and the biggest demographic in that camp is going to be women. Jim – you’re creeping out the women, and I don’t know if you’ve been following along here, but we need them. They make our whole industry better and more robust. So could ya stop it? That’s about as utilitarian as I can make this. If you won’t consider stopping because it’s the right thing to do, please at least consider doing it on behalf of the industry you claim to champion. You say you’ve always fought the bully, but right now you’re being the bully, which makes you a bit of a hypocrite.
    Whisky Doesn’t Taste Like Sex
    Another thing that nobody has really pointed out about Murray’s sexed up whisky reviews is that…they’re not useful at all, and they don’t make a lot of sense. How does some vague story about an imaginary tryst with a 41 year old Canadian woman help me decide if I want to spend money on a bottle?
    Short answer: it doesn’t. So you’re not even doing your job right, Jim. If you claim to publish these reviews to help people, at the very least I can say with certainty that the sexualized language isn’t getting it done.
    But if you take a half step back here and consider the evidence, I don’t think it’s tough to understand why he’s doubled down instead of apologizing and doing the right thing:
    Somewhere along the way – some time during his 30 years and 20,000 tastings and 1 million copies sold – it became less about the whisky and more about Jim Murray. Who knows when it happened, but I think the decision to call his 2003 book a “bible” might just signal the beginnings of a God complex.
    We Live in Service of a Craft
    As somebody who judges spirits and works very closely with distillers to help make their products and operations as good as possible, my philosophy is simple: what I do is IN SERVICE of the people who make the spirits and the people who enjoy them. And I’ll tell ya, it’s really hard to be of service when everything is all about you.
    When I look at Jim Murray (from the language of his reviews to his handling of the scandal), I’m terrified because it’s possible that I could be looking at an angry, distorted version of myself in 30 years, mumbling about tasting fannies and railing against the mob. And that is deeply unsettling. As it should be. 
    So for myself and for all the other people who have voices in the spirits and cocktail world, I hope Jim Murray serves as the example of what not to do and how not to handle yourself when you have a platform that influences people. 
    When you have the privilege to make a living by commenting on a craft (such as the making of a beautiful whisky), you need to remember that the craft existed long before you, and it will remain long after you die. And that means that you are in service of the craft, not the other way around. 
    So to those of you listening out there who value robustness in our industry, who see that there is no room for sexism in a world where we are called to serve, please keep doing great work and propelling the industry forward. With any luck, Jim Murray will look at the piles and piles of Whisky Bibles that have been taken off the shelves and decide to join us someday.
    A Case for Redemption
    I’ll wrap up this episode with a personal story that this whole situation has really reminded me of. If you’ve made it this far, I trust that you’ll stick with me to the end here because this story not only parallels the Jim Murray situation but also has a few things to say about the “where do we go from here” question.
    This story is about one of the toughest teaching situations I’ve ever experienced, and it’s remained with me as one of the defining moments of my time teaching poetry at The University of Maryland.
    While I was there, I taught a poetry workshop that was filled with some pretty talented students. And if you’re not familiar with what a poetry workshop looks like, it’s very intimate. Everyone submits work for all the other students to evaluate, and then we come in every class, circle the desks, and literally workshop each piece of art. We’d critique them, not unlike a spirits judge reviews a glass of whisky. As you can imagine, it’s a delicate process, and it’s easy to get upset and take things personally when you’ve poured your heart and soul into the work, so being a good citizen of the workshop was always something I very strongly enforced. Because without that respect and good intention, it’s easy for the class to descend into nitpicking and petty criticism.
    As it happened, for the final workshop of the semester, I had a male student submit a poem called “Monday Morning Rape,” which was basically the whiny diatribe of a hung-over college student walking to class and describing how awful the world looks. Very “Holden Caulfield” from Catcher in the Rye, and it was about as compelling as it sounds from that description. The one image from that poem that still sticks in my mind is the [quote] “piss-and-shit colored leaves” that the speaker of the poem treads over on his trek across campus. That’s the kind of writing we were dealing with here.
    Leading up to that workshop, I got several emails from female students saying that they needed to leave the class instead of workshopping the poem because they had either experienced sexual abuse in their personal life or just couldn’t be civil to the student who submitted it, and so I said, “of course, do what you’ve got to do. I understand.”
    But that didn’t solve the problem. I still had to face up to this situation in front of a class full of young, intelligent people who had worked incredibly hard all semester. So here’s what I did.
    To celebrate the last workshop, I had everyone do the same five-minute free write that I used to begin the semester. The prompt was simply, “what is a poem?” Except this time I encouraged them to come up with fun metaphors for what a poem is and how it works since suddenly they were experts after an intensive few months of workshopping.
    And after the five minutes was up, we all went around, one by one, and shared our thoughts. A poem is an onion because it has layers. A poem is a puzzle with no correct answer. A poem is an out-of-body experience without leaving your body. You get the idea.
    After we were done going around the room, I knew this particular group of students wasn’t going to let me get away without giving them an answer, so I had one prepared. A poem is a gift. And this is the metaphor I used to explain the invisible contract that exists between poet and reader, even though the poet and the reader in most cases never meet one another, just like the person who makes a spirit and the person who picks it up off a shelf and pours it into a glass.
    I’ll spare you the details of our experience workshopping the awful, “Monday Morning Rape” poem, except to say that it was rough. No one had anything positive to say about it, and both the class and the student who wrote it were visibly upset. In the end, I was able to explain that it failed as a poem because it failed as a gift. Not to say that sad, or angry, or generally negative poems can’t be gifts (if that was the case, the majority of poetic canon would be out the window), but this poem was too self-absorbed to effectively honor the contract between poet and reader, which at the end of the day, creates a brief moment of recognition and kinship between the force that crafted the work and the person who consumes it as art.
    Making Space for Redemption
    Even though this audio essay contains a lot of criticism for Jim Murray and his sexualization of whisky reviews, it’s not a call for cancellation because that doesn’t solve anything.
    In a perfect world, Jim Murray would take the 2021 edition of The Whisky Bible and revise his work with new eyes and a fresh palate, just like that male student of mine took that poem, gutted it during his revision process, and turned in something so stunningly different that I was compelled to give him an A on the assignment, partially for the work on the page and partially for the work he needed to do in his own head to make it possible. 
    What’s sad is that I doubt that student ever came to pick up his revised portfolio with my written comments on it from the English Department office at the end of finals week. Most students don’t, and the portfolios are sent to the shredder. If he did pick it up, he would have read about how impressed I was by the transformation and conscientiousness he displayed. But I think he may have just been too wounded by the initial negative reception from me and from the class to bear risking any further embarrassment or criticism.
    If there’s anything I regret from that whole situation, it’s that I didn’t make more of an effort to connect with the student after the fact and reinforce the good work. And this is my way of saying that, while I’m glad so many people have come together to correct Jim Murray’s sexist whisky reviews, I hope we haven’t created an atmosphere that prevents him from changing for the better because if we really take seriously the idea of an inclusive industry, it needs to be an industry where Jim Murray is able to come back to the table and give things another shot.
    I’m Modern Bar Cart CEO Eric Kozlik. Thanks for permitting me this editorial. I hope I managed to color in some of the nuance that gets lost in Tweet threads and the industry news cycle, and I hope, most importantly, that you have the chance to taste a great whiskey sometime soon. Just remember: sex is not a tasting note. LEGGI TUTTO

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    Episode 167 – Macchu Pisco with Melanie Asher

    This spirit is produced in the desert valleys of Peru, south of the equator. The climate provides a lot of sunlight, and the grapes used for the spirit generate a great deal of sugar, which is not great for wine but is ideal for brandy distillation. This terroir is catalyzed by a geographical denomination of origin that necessitates native yeast fermentation, prohibits barrel aging, and restricts grape usage to a group of eight approved varietals, which produces spirits rich in mineral and fruit flavors and high in purity.
    About Macchu Pisco
    Each bottle of Macchu Pisco has 10 or more pounds of grapes per bottle. According to Melanie, the farmers are paid above market rate for their grapes, and no chemical sprays are ever used to treat the fruit. The portfolio includes several different bottles and price points, including the premium Macchu Pisco, the super premium La Diablada line, and the luxury Ñusta bottling, which is packaged in a handmade bottle and made in extremely small quantities.
    Macchu Pisco Tasting
    We tasted through six different expressions during this interview and have provided our tasting notes for you below.
    Macchu Pisco – Green, pear aromas on the nose, which largely carry through and ripen on the palate, with a medium-long finish that tastes of orchard fruit peel.
    La Diablada (Acholado) – A blend of 8 different grapes, named after the dance of good and evil danced during Carnival. Incredibly soft and floral on the nose, with abundant rose perfume and a hint of honeydew melon. On the palate, round and soft, with grapey notes emerging. The finish is even longer than the base expression, with less astringency.
    La Diablada Italia – Made using only the Italia (or Muscat of Alexandria) grape, this expression is an exercise in focus. The nose bursts with muscatel sweetness and citrus peel, with the palate presenting an exquisitely round, sweet flavor highlighted by honeysuckle and lees. The finish is, again, medium-long and incredibly mellow.
    La Diablada Amelia’s Centenarian (Acholado) – Dedicated to Melanie’s Abuelita, this is another blend of 8 varietals. On the nose, abundant lychee and prickly pear with a bit of characteristic tartaric acid brightness. On the palate, it tastes almost like a watermelon Jolly Rancher; incredibly juicy but wonderfully complex. The finish is, like the others, long and pleasant.
    Founding Farmers Pisco – Blended by bartender John Arroyo, with a heavy influence by the Italia grape. On the nose, it’s distinctly desserty, compared to the fruit and floral profiles of the other expressions: bready, with cacao and flan notes. On the palate, it’s rich and robust, with the grape emerging to elevate what would otherwise be a very dark flavor profile. The finish, like the nose, is rich and yeasty.
    Ñusta – Macchu PIsco’s luxury expression. The nose is bursting with orange blossom and Turkish delight with hints of caramel. On the palate, it balances the grape and the confectionary flavors masterfully. The finish is extremely long and complex, inviting you to sip, consider, sip, consider. LEGGI TUTTO

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    Episode 166 – Give me Liberty and Give me a Drink with Jarrett Dieterle

    “The tradition of getting absolutely hammered is as old as civilization itself. Commercial breweries date back to ancient Mesopotamia, proving that alcohol is essential to human achievement. But where there’s good beer, there are always crappy beer laws. The Code of Hammurabi limited how much beer citizens could receive each day, and to this day, our right to crack open a cold one is subject to various restrictions. Until recently, Nebraska required brewers to physically hand off their beer to a distributor for a certain amount of time–known as an “at rest” law–and then essentially buy it back in order to sell it at their own taprooms. The law was mercifully reformed, but Nebraska still remains one of several states that completely prohibits breweries from directly sending their own beer to outside retail locations, even if they’re right down the street.”
    So, now that you’ve got yourself a cheeky classic cocktail riff and a small sample of the silly laws that inspired it, let’s turn our attention back to the interview.
    Jarrett Dieterle is a resident senior fellow studying alcohol policy at the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. His book, Give me Liberty and Give me a Drink, was published on September 15, 2020. It details the ironic, comical, and often extraneous booze-related laws enforced in the United States. Dieterle humorously assigns an inspired cocktail to each regulation, bringing an air of comedy to his writing as well as a clever way to expose the idiocies of these policies. His goal, as he states, is to give people bite-sized access to a wealth of information on the topic of alcohol policy which they may have previously taken for granted. He emphasizes that these idiosyncrasies are not bound to one state; they expand over the entirety of our country, rooted in Colonial times. 
    The one thing Dieterle hopes a reader will take away from Give me Liberty and Give me a Drink is that they begin to question their surroundings. Give me Liberty and Give me a Drink takes something which functions in the background of awareness and systematizes it, transforming it into a cohesive existence which prompts the question of why? Why do these laws exist? Why do we need them?
    The age-old dichotomy between freedom and security is often brought up in the argument of alcohol regulation. The negative externalities are obvious. Jarrett is not trying to deny that drunk driving, alcohol abuse, and illicit alcohol are issues that need government supervision. However, it becomes nonsensical when we focus on Prohibition-era laws which have prevailed past the 21st century. For example, the Massachusetts “Blue Laws,” which prevent the purchase of alcohol on Sundays and require businesses to pay compensation if they wish to continue sales. There is no discernable pattern in their data that the Blue Laws have impacted drunk driving, and yet the regulations stay in place.
    Some other rather infamous laws include: LEGGI TUTTO

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    Episode 165 – Breaking Bloody (Part 2: Brian Bartels)

    If there was an early 20th century analogue to Comedy Central or Saturday Night Live, it would be Vaudeville. This variety show genre mostly consisted of a series of unrelated comedy, burlesque, dancing, magic, and theater acts and drew huge audiences from the early 1900s all the way through the early 1930s.
    Among the actors who achieved fame in this genre was George Jessel, who set the standards for the types of over-the-top lifestyles that many current day Hollywood celebrities lead. In one of his three memoirs, Jessel recounts a story about staying up all night drinking at a bar in Florida in 1927, then rummaging around to see what was left to drink the next morning. As the story goes, he combined vodka, spices, and tomato juice and then promptly spilled the beverage on the dress of socialite Mary Brown Warburton, who allegedly reacted by saying, “now you can call me Bloody Mary, George!”
    There is widespread speculation as to why this claim to the origin of the Bloody Mary only emerged several decades after it was supposed to have occurred, which casts definite doubt upon Jessels story. But let’s face it: Jessel was an entertainer, and his story definitely has that going for it.
    Bloody Mary Variations
    In the middle of the 20th century, the Bloody Mary spawned a number of riffs or variations. Most of these either modified the alcohol source, the acid and spice profile, or both. The following represent probably the most popular Bloody Mary variations, most of which remain somewhat popular to this day.

    The Red Snapper – Until after World War II, vodka was often scarce in the United States. As such, many chose to use gin in its place. The Red Snapper cocktail is a gin-based Bloody Mary where nothing really changes besides the base spirit. This drink may have been a somewhat unsuccessful re-brand of Petiot’s Bloody Mary, since the owner of the St. Regis Hotel at the time had a wife named Mary and wasn’t fond of the cocktail’s name.

    The Caesar – The Caesar is a Bloody Mary variation that deploys clam juice, either as an ingredient in a house-prepared mix, or via a packaged tomato juice product like Clamato. The briny, umami character of the clam juice helps to thin the tomato-based mixer and add depth of flavor to the drink.

    The Michelada – The Michelada is a Mexican-style Bloody Mary variation where beer is substituted for vodka. Generally, the citrus component of this beverage is lime (instead of the traditional lemon), and Mexican-inspired spices are often used in the drink or on the rim of the glass.

    The Red Eye – The Red Eye can either be viewed as a pared down, beer-based Bloody Mary, or a lazy Michelada with no citrus. It contains beer, tomato juice, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce (or a substitute). The idea of the Red Eye is to be able to assemble it without as much care or finesse as the Bloody Mary, and its generally accepted function is to act as a hangover remedy.

    Lightning Round
    We asked Brian Bartels a few Bloody Mary-related Lightning Round Questions. Here are his answers!
    Favorite Way to Garnish a Bloody Mary LEGGI TUTTO

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    Episode 164 – Kleos Mastiha with Effie Panagopoulos

    One last thing: we drop the word organoleptic in this episode, and I wanted to back up and make sure you know what we mean when we say that. Fittingly, this word has Greek origins: a fusion of the words Organon – meaning “organ” – and leptikos – meaning “disposed to take.” Put those two root words together and we get a word that refers to our sensory organs’ ability to perceive (in the case of Mastiha) flavor and aroma qualities. This word also refers to the potency of certain substances. So when Effie and I are talking about precisely the best way to extract flavor from mastic resin or the downstream effects of consuming the product, that’s where you’re going to hear that word “organoleptic” come into play.
    With that, please sit back and enjoy this fascinating conversation with everyone’s favorite Greek Spirits Muse, Effie Panagopoulos.
    Effie Panagopoulos initially perforated the spirits industry amidst her four-year stint at Boston College. Cocktailing at a dive bar “Mary Anne’s,” which Effie affectionately nicknamed “Scary Anne’s,” and a beer/cordial bar, she found her start. Graduating from bartender to supplier, Effie landed a gig with Bacardi in 2004 and moved to San Francisco. At the time, SF was forefront in cocktail culture. The city was full of cocktail snobbery and esoteric booze; the perfect city to get your feet wet. 
    In the summer of 2008, Effie was recruited by Rémy Cointreau to become a national brand ambassador for METAXA, the largest greek spirit brand in the world. METAXA brought her back to her roots in Greece, reigniting her love affair with the old country. Mykonos reintroduced Effie to the unique taste of Mastiha, a liquor derived from tree resin which can only be found in 24 villages across Greece. She recognized the flavor profile immediately from Ypovrichio, a greek dessert Effie ate as a child. Inspiration hit and she decided to bring Mastiha to the United States as the brand we know and love today, the “bartender’s olive oil,” KLEOS. 
    As a PDO, a protected designation of origin ingredient, Mastiha is required by law to be sourced and bottled in Greece. Through intense trial and error with issues from consistency to viscosity, Effie worked with Greek distilleries to perfect the KLEOS recipe. As the first greek female to create a liquor brand, Effie found it apropos to team up with the first greek female distiller to produce her spirit. KLEOS undergoes double distillation through two forms of Mastiha. The first round, raw resin, allows for the extraction of flavor and aroma compounds while the second round, essential oil, rectifies the spirit to ensure there is no variance. This laborious process is worth it, however, as KLEOS has been rated the highest Mastiha globally with 5+ stars from the English spirits industry writer and publisher Simon Difford, and 94 points in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge. 
    Effie recognized that America does not have enough of an aperitif and digestif drinking culture for KLEOS to survive on its own. The challenge, which she dominated with an incredible vigor, was to create a Mastiha good enough to drink on the rocks, but also simple enough to be used as a workhorse for the bar. KLEOS is perfectly that; everything a bartender, spirit fanatic, and cocktail enthusiast could want and more.
    Drinks to Make:
    Signature cocktail for KLEOS is the KLEO-PATRA JONES. The recipe is right on the bottle. Effie also riffed off this drink to make the BIG IN JAPAN – KLEOS, Shiso, and Lemon.
    How to get your hands on KLEOS Mastiha:
    United States – Greek Wines Delivered – Ships to Alaska, California, DC, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Virginia, and Wyoming.
    International – The Whiskey Exchange, Master of Malt,
    Favorite Cocktail
    I’m going to go with a KLEOS Mezcal 50/50 with a pink grapefruit wedge. I’m not a loyalist when it comes to Mezcal, but I do love Del Maguey Chichicapa and my friends over at El Silencio.
    If You Were a Cocktail Ingredient, What Would You Be?
    Angostura bitters because it’s essential.
    Cocktail with Anyone, Past or Present
    Socrates in the Ancient Agora in Athens. It would be my KLEOS Mezcal 50/50, and I would want to hear him pontificate on philosophy. LEGGI TUTTO

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    Episode 163 – Cocktail Ingredients You've Never Heard Of

    One trend in the 1800s that sort of paved the way for soda fountains is the popularity of sparkling water as a health tonic. Even before the soda shop became a mainstay of American culture, the wealthy elite were huge fans of drinking flavored fizzy waters to alleviate their headaches, or other little maladies. But, as technology continued to evolve, soda fountains became much easier to install and maintain in public venues.
    This represents another thread in the intertwined history of booze and medicine. These soda fountains resided in pharmacies partially because druggists already had the tools and knowledge to create concentrates and carbonate them. But if you give a pharmacist a soda rig, it turns out, he’s really likely to start throwing things like booze, cocaine, or opium in your soda. And around the turn of the 20th century, all these things were still considered medicinal in their own ways.
    Another movement that was taking off around this time, of course, was the temperance movement, which is a bit too complex to get into here, but the general thrust of it is that alcohol was considered bad for families, so if, as a politician or public figure, you claimed to be pro-family, well, to the temperance movement and the anti-saloon league, that meant you kinda had to be anti-booze. This is why soda shops were able to continue thriving during Prohibition because even though pharmacies were putting some really questionable stuff into some of their concoctions, it wasn’t alcohol, so it was pretty okay.
    As the decades marched on past the roaring twenties, into the Great Depression, then World War II, and beyond, the ingredients used in fountain drinks got less dangerous and a little more desserty. But one tangy category of drink that remained somewhat popular was the phosphate or “acid phosphate.”
    In a similar way that you’ll see fancy bartenders today making acid adjusted orange juice or crystal clear daiquiris using a blend of citric and malic acid, phosphate soda drinks were carbonated long drinks, often flavored with fruit syrups, with the addition of a little tincture that contained food-safe phosphoric acid supplemented with calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
    According to cocktail writer Wayne Curtis:

    Acid phosphate does two bewitching things to a drink: The acid gives it sourness without making it taste like anything in particular. And the salts enhance existing flavors, much as they do with food. The various elements of the drink (sweet, sour, bitter, sharp) are each discernible, but none is overwhelming. Adding a teaspoon or so of acid phosphate makes a cocktail seem slightly off center, and makes your tongue tingle.

    Today, many savvy bartenders use acid phosphate in a similar manner to what Curtis describes – as that little pinch of acid and salt that brightens a flavor profile and accents the other notes in the drink. The first time I had one was probably around 2013 or 2014 at a brunch spot in DC called “Founding Farmers,” and I gotta say, it was a refreshing way to extend that old brunch time tradition, the hangover cure.
    Aromatic Spirit of Ammonia
    Speaking of hangovers, don’t forget about aromatic spirit of ammonia, our other chemical cocktail ingredient of note. According to an article on, it’s a 10% solution of ammonium hydroxide, mixed with water, alcohol and the essential oils of lemon, nutmeg and lavender.
    Back in the 1800s, aromatic spirit of ammonia was used as OG smelling salts to prevent fainting or revive someone who has already fainted. In fact, they’re still available today at many pharmacies right alongside the heavily ammoniated smelling salts found in first aid kits. This compound was also said to have anxiety reducing properties, which may be explained away by the placebo effect. But one thing is for darn sure: ammonia is a base, which means it neutralizes acidity, so if there’s one thing I could actually see this substance being useful for, it would be dyspepsia.
    Although aromatic spirit of ammonia isn’t nearly as popular behind the bar as acid phosphate, it does have its signature drink: the ammonia coke. By adding just 2 or 3 milliliters to a standard glass of coke, you’ll notice a marked drop in acidity from the cola, as well as some pleasant “top notes” from the lemon oil, lavender, and spices.
    This is one additive I’d like to see used more behind the bar because I really dig the way it acts as both a flavored tincture and a pH modifier. Rarely are you going to come across ingredients that pull double duty so effortlessly, which is, I think, a really solid reason for folks to start experimenting.
    The Sourtoe Cocktail Club
    Rounding out this little romp through often-overlooked and esoteric cocktail ingredients, we’ve got a real stinker: the preserved medial and distal phalanges of the human hallux, which is another way of describing a pickled human toe.
    As you might expect, pickled toes aren’t super popular in the craft cocktail world. It’s not like you can just order one as the garnish for your next Gibson or Dirty Martini. But one particular pickled human toe was the inspiration for a Canadian group called the Sourtoe Cocktail club.
    For more about this obscure ingredient, I need to quote directly from an article from CBC Canada, which reads:

    The Sourtoe Cocktail is practically a rite of passage for visitors to Dawson City, Yukon. It’s a simple drink (a shot of whiskey, usually Yukon Jack) with an unusual accompaniment: a mummified human toe. 
    How did the Sourtoe cocktail come to be? It all started during prohibition, with a nasty case of frostbite. 
    In the 1920s, the rum-running Linken brothers — Louie and Otto — got caught in a blizzard. Louie put his foot through a patch of ice and soaked his foot. When the brothers got back to their cabin, Louie’s right foot was frozen solid.  
    To prevent gangrene, Otto used his axe to chop off Louie’s toe. He placed the toe in a jar of alcohol to commemorate the event. 
    In 1973, legend has it that Captain Dick Stevenson found the jar (and the toe) in a remote cabin.
    He came up with the idea of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club — an exclusive club, with one membership requirement.
    In order to gain admittance to the club, potential members must drink the legendary sourtoe cocktail. There’s just one rule: “You can drink it fast. You can drink it slow. But your lips must touch that gnarly toe.

    Now, if you didn’t think this story could get any weirder – of course, you’re wrong. Because in 2013, a…wait for it…New Orleanian named Joshua Clark came in and SWALLOWED the mummified toe of Louie Linken.
    This put him on the shit list of toe master Terry Lee, and although they have been able to continue the tradition with a “backup toe” since that fateful day, the damage was done. Clark immediately paid the $500 fine for swallowing the toe, but was subsequently banned from the Downtown Hotel where the tradition continues to take place.
    There’s a really fun 20 minute documentary about this whole situation on YouTube – which we’ll embed on the show notes page – where Joshua returns to Dawson City, Yukon in an effort to make amends with the toe master. It’s actually a really great little watch, especially if you have a drink in-hand, so I won’t spoil it for you in case you’d like to see for yourself how this story concludes. LEGGI TUTTO