30 January 2012

Noroc! Exclusiv Vodca & Sparkling Rosé

Moldova is a small country sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, though historically, linguistically and culturally much closer to Romania and western Europe than the nearby Slavic nations of the former Soviet Union. Moldovan is a Romance language (practically the same as Romanian) and uses the Latin alphabet rather than Cyrillic. The history and geography are quite complicated due to different pieces of the modern country belonging to the Russian Empire, Kingdom of Romania, or the Soviet Union from the 1800s to WWII with the formation of the Moldavian SSR. It's also landlocked in what seems to be a purely punitive manner: the southeastern border near Odessa is just 2km/1.2 miles from an estuary of the Black Sea.

Although Moldova boasts five thousand years of wine production, there have been significant interruptions. 300 years of occupation by the Ottoman Empire, WWI, WWII, then half a century of making sweet wine and vodka for Russia, and most recently, since 2006 Russia has had a ban on Moldovan wine due to tensions over Transnistria. Losing their biggest export market meant that Moldovan winemakers had to look elsewhere for sales, which is how a bottle of bubbly and a bottle of vodka from Exclusiv ended up here in Memphis.

A friend asks, "How'd you get Moldovan wine and liquor?" I reply, "Well, it has a lot to do with the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and the Cession of Bessarabia. How much time have you got?"

Exclusiv Vodca
Distilled from wheat
$9, 40% abv.
Typing notes about vodka is always interesting, because you'll have an Absolut and a Polish wodka and now "Exclusiv Vodca", all fun for the spell check. The vodka is clean and neutral with a quick finish. Very mild notes of grain. I sampled it both at room temperature and after a few hours in the freezer, and it's much smoother at low temperatures. The real deal here is that you can get a frosted-glass bottle full of decent wheat vodka for under ten dollars, a third the price of its anserine competitor.

NV Esti Exclusiv Moscato Rosé
Made from Muscat grapes
$9, 10% abv.
I was excited to try this, but I was afraid that it would be incredibly sweet, or perhaps evoke some of the memories of my run-in with Советское Шампанское. But I was pleasantly surprised. Slightly musky nose with touches of ripe plum, classic Muscat aromas but with a deeper edge. Great acidity and not too sweet, great balance. Not cloying on the finish. Fascinating dark flavors and reminiscent of the plump muscadine grapes that grow wild here in the South. It's still sweet enough that I'd recommend it as a dessert wine, though if you're looking for an introduction to Eastern European wines you'll be hard pressed to find one that's a better crowd pleaser. The bottle's non-threatening, it tastes good, and the Italians have made the word "Moscato" a safe one for the wine novice. Really a fun bottle, and worth checking out if you get the opportunity.

Note: These bottles were received as samples.

27 January 2012

Kanon Organic Vodka

I love it when a piece of history shows up on my doorstep. The Kanon Organic Vodka is made by the Gripsholm Distillery in Akers Styckebruk, Sweden. The old factory has been around since 1580, originally a combination distillery and foundry for making cannons during the reign of King Karl IX, the Protestant king who usurped the Catholic Sigismund. I don't know a lot about Karl IX, but for some reason I had to learn a lot about his son Gustav II Adolf, a fascinating figure. Ascending the throne at the age of 17, he became the leader of Protestant Europe against the Holy Roman Empire during the massive and bloody Thirty Years' War. 8 million people died during the conflict, which included armies from virtually every country in Europe plus the Ottoman Empire. Definitely a prelude for the modern industrial world wars that would follow (not just the two big ones, but others like the Seven Years' War of the mid-18th century).

Now, I have no way of knowing this for sure, but it's possible that a young Gustavus Adolphus took his first sip of liquor from the same distillery whose bottle now graces my humble Memphis abode. Skål, Gustav!

Kanon Organic Vodka
$25, 40% abv.

This vodka is distilled from locally grown organic wheat, and on top of that the distillery currently runs on wind and water power. There's a somewhat grainy flavor with a crisp finish--no citrus notes, but more earth and a touch of astringent bite on the end. Ultimately smooth but bracing. It works well in cocktails: I tried it with a Moscow Mule as well as a simple Vodka Tonic, and both got the personal seal of approval. Good all-around solid vodka with a fun story.

On top of that, it is an interesting bottle. While the design is a bit hard to make out (not enough contrast in that lower text!), I like the simple sans-serif font and the old metal seal of the cannon foundry. The sliced off cannonball cap is a nice touch, and I'll probably hang onto this bottle for fun even after its contents have gone the way of Sweden's non-neutral past.

P.S. One other odd bit of Swedish military history that I love but rarely get to mention. In the 19th century, the island of Visingsö was planted with oak trees in hopes of having shipbuilding supplies for necessary invasions of Germany or England or whoever needed to be fought... in 200 years. In the 1980s, the forestry service contacted the Swedish Navy and said, "Your trees are ready." Now it's a national forest.

Note: This spirit was received as a sample.

25 January 2012

Anniversary Weekend Cooking Adventures

I didn't really have any plans to celebrate the 7th anniversary of the blog, and after a busy week had thought that I'd just grill some burgers and take it easy. But I awoke early on Saturday with cravings for good food, Northern Italian style, and the knowledge that a pair of Super Tuscans could make it all incredible. I hit a couple of ethnic markets around town for ingredients and was able to perform Act I by lunchtime.

When most people in the US crave "Italian" food, the menu sticks to the Southern Italian and Sicilian recipes as they've become adapted into the distinct Italian-American cuisine of the 20th century: spaghetti, pizza, lasagna... Noodles and cheese and red sauce. When I visited Italy for three weeks, I spent the entire time north of Rome (except for two somewhat unpleasant days in Rome itself). One of my favorite things to make and consume is crespelle, savory crêpes that are sort of like Italian enchiladas: stuffed with meat and vegetables, topped with a sauce, and baked. Here I used Marcella Hazan's classic recipe with a spinach, garlic, and prosciutto filling with besciamella sauce and grated Romano cheese rounding out the inside and outside of the crespelle. Absolutely wonderful, and I limited myself to three as the primo piatto with a little New Zealand white wine I'll write about later.

For secondo piatto, I didn't follow any specific recipe but rather went with a gut feel about what I was craving: a rabbit chopped into its constituent cuts, slowly stewed with sweet discus-shaped cipollini onions, homemade chicken stock, red wine, and San Marzano tomatoes. A few hours did the lagomorph good, and I was able to spoon the rich stew on the plate beside a healthy dollop of freshly mixed polenta.

Sadly, this photo didn't come out quite the way I wanted, but I was ravenous at this point and had just finished a few hours of cooking and plating and everything else for just two people. Julia had never had rabbit before but dove into it enthusiastically, and while I've prepared this meat many different ways in the past, I've got to say that this not only satisfied my cravings for rustic European food but was also my best rabbit dish to date. The onions were great but I knew that I could coax some more flavor out of them. Thankfully I had more cipollini waiting in a little net bag for Sunday lunch...

Time out for wine, which is really the focus of this blog, right? I had a pair of wines from Il Borro, a Tuscan winery operated by the Ferragamo family, famous for their fashionable shoes over the past hundred years.

Both wines are of the following label and built from the same combination of grapes:

Il Borro Toscana IGT
50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot

The 2008 celebrates the 10th anniversary of this blend, and retails for around $36 dollars at 14% abv. The 2004 vintage was included for aging comparison and clocks in at 14.5% abv. I really like the inclusion of Syrah along with the standard Bordeaux grapes, whether we're talking about California or elsewhere. Both wines have a dominant profile of bright red cherry, with notes of cedar, leather, and a somewhat creamy finish. Hints of spice showed up later. While both wines had great full-fruit elements, the 2004 was smoother, better balanced, and had lighter tannins.

And, I must admit, both wines were amazing with the stewed rabbit. But how would they hold up the next day for Act II?

As I was celebrating getting out of a small cooking rut with some culinary successes, I chose to continue that momentum with some leftovers and a few additional ingredients. This Southern boy was craving cornbread and collard greens. But I didn't want a slab of ham and some broccoli-rice casserole to round things out. I slow-cooked a big bunch of mustard greens with garlic and leftover prosciutto, seared and roasted a lamb shoulder chop, and pan-fried some of the leftover polenta in slices, topped with a bit more of the shredded Romano.

But what about my precious little cipollini? Oh, I just tossed them with a combination of balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil and roasted them for about an hour until they became the sweetest little gems that any root vegetable could ever hope to become. Sunday lunch was a solitary affair, and once again the wines worked quite well with the food I'd made. I was able to quietly toast the anniversary with a pair of great wines in front of me, and no worries about the massive consumption of onions and garlic for any potential social encounters in the following eighteen hours.

All in all a delightful and epicurean weekend. Part of me wishes that I'd been able to entertain more people with the dishes, but on the other hand, it was fun to cook for two and then one. Simple peasant food can often be the source of such deep and wonderful pleasure, and on a cold January afternoon, that can sometimes be best enjoyed in smaller settings.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

23 January 2012

7th Anniversary

For seven years, I've been scribbling messages thrice weekly, tossing digital bottles into the ocean, and am still constantly surprised by how much response I receive. Readers make writing worthwhile, and I thank each and every one of you that drops by, either regularly or through a web search about a certain wine. I've had the opportunity to try some amazing wines, spectacular food, and have met some of the most interesting and friendly people in the world.

How to celebrate? The Seven Year Itch suggests that it's time to wander and maybe start writing for a different, younger blog. The seventh-inning stretch would indicate that it's time to take a short break and make sure I can keep going for another two years. The existential dread of seventh grade encourages me that if I make it through this awkward phase with sanity intact then everything will be great later on.

None of that really applies to blogging, does it? There's no end in sight, no definite map of how things should or can develop over time. Frankly, lasting past a week is a big accomplishment for most any website in terms of making new content and providing regular updates. In that respect bloggers are more like survivors of the Ebola virus: "We don't know how long you'll live because typically people in your position are gone by now. Please don't cough on me."

It's been a fun year blogwise. Some highlights include: So what next? I've got a few ideas and tweaks and twists that I might apply to the blog, or not depending on how they work. I'll probably redesign the whole layout again in a few months when I get tired of this particular look. Might try to do some more challenging cooking, tackling those areas like pastry or sausage making in which I have limited experience. But for now, I raise my glass to you, dear reader, and shout "Excelsior! Onward and upward!"

20 January 2012

Benito vs. the Cocktail: The Suffering Bastard

On the hour-long drive home from work (rain, Memphis traffic, and construction) I dreamily thought through the ingredients in the old home bar and mentally flipped through a few recipes I'd read recently. One popped to mind, and thus upon arrival at the house my butler I began to combine the ingredients for a restorative beverage. The Suffering Bastard is an old cocktail with a lot of variations. It was invented as a hangover cure in late 1940s Cairo. Think a Casablanca-style bar catering to westerners in post-war North Africa.

There are many versions of this involving some crazy substitute ingredients, but I settled on this one from Robert Hess because it had a kind of Sidecar vibe that I was liking. And about halfway through the cocktail, I introduced the ginger ale to try that style.

The Suffering Bastard

1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Lime Juice
¾ oz. Bourbon
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Ginger Ale to taste

Combine ingredients in glass and stir. Garnish options include all or some of the following: maraschino cherry, orange wedge, sprig of mint, and cucumber peel. Go crazy if you're making it for something else, but a young bachelor making a cocktail for himself after work might want to stick to those ingredients that can be poured from bottles or pulled from jars (though he will squeeze fresh lime juice, because he is not an uncivilized wretch).

The list of ingredients seems insane, but this works amazingly well. It somehow ends up tasting more like fresh squeezed orange juice than a Screwdriver, and you can't detect the presence of either Bourbon or gin. The citrus and bitters combine with the aromatic liquors to produce a strangely balanced new flavor. WIth ginger ale, it moves from a tart and powerful cocktail to a refreshing icy sipper that would be great in the summer. I'd say mix up a pitcher of this and serve it at a party before you tell folks what's in it. They should be pleasantly surprised.

18 January 2012

Fisheye Wines

Today I try a pair of wines from Underdog Wine and Spirits, and looking through the brand portfolio I think I've tried most of their wines over the past few years. Many of these are simple, affordable table wines that are still attached to real winemakers, and many are also available in the convenient Octavin 3L format.

Fisheye is based out of New South Wales, though the grapes come from Southeastern Australia. The holidays are over, but there are still parties to be had in the early part of the year and a need to stock up on inexpensive wines to satisfy a crowd. Like the Super Bowl, or, well, Australia Day on the 26th.

2011 Fisheye Pinot Grigio
Southeastern Australia
$7, 12% abv.
Ripe and fruity with a lot of peach and tart acidity. Great with grilled shellfish and fresh salads, which is a bit at contrast with wintry weather up here in the Northern Hemisphere, but there's no reason to pretend like it's warmer.

2010 Fisheye Shiraz
Southeastern Australia
$7, 13.5% abv
Black cherry and plum, fruit forward with milder tannins than expected. Simple and uncomplicated and a good accompaniment for burgers or some flank steak.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

16 January 2012

Dulcius ex asperis

After doing a lot of cooking at home, at parties, and on icy mountaintops for the past 20 years, I don't have any fear of failure in the kitchen. It doesn't mean that I don't screw up--my New Year's Eve fondue was a dud and I burned a frozen waffle the other day. But I tend to celebrate said disasters rather than get anxious or annoyed. Frankly at this point I enjoy learning something from a cooking failure, and then there are the occasions when the end result is sweeter out of difficulties.

I was planning on doing simple tacos for Saturday, with roasted chicken thighs and braised pork shoulder. With the latter I'll usually throw a few cans of tomatoes and chiles in the enameled Dutch oven along with the pork and let it slow cook until everything is nice and tender, just enough to be pulled easily with a fork. I got distracted with a few other projects and that shoulder ended up simmering for almost ten hours. Because I'd started on Friday, there was plenty of time to make something new for Saturday, but I decided to let it all cool and see what I had to work with in the morning.

Saturday I woke up and discovered that the pork was almost mushy. Flavorful, just barely still in muscular strings but soft and buried under a half inch layer of pork fat and gelatin. I poked around and thought that, it weren't for the tomatoes and chiles and assorted spices, I'd accidentally made rillettes de porc. For the tacos, I took a few spoonfuls and mixed in a bit of chipotles in adobo sauce. I had to be gentle, and just barely warmed it, but the rillettes worked wonderfully in a warm flour tortilla at lunch.

For dinner, I took the opportunity to try another application with my favorite sandwich, the medianoche from Cuba. Ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, roast pork, all pressed in a loaf of bread split longways and brushed with butter before grilling. Most of the elements of this sandwich are pretty basic and don't change a lot, but the type and preparation of the pork does make a big difference. Sliced pork loin doesn't work that great. Smoked or roasted shoulder that's been pulled is the standard, but can often come out in chunks as you're eating.

But a rillettes-style preparation? Perfect. The flavor is great, but you also get something like a porky version of the tuna melt. Some of the fat renders back out into the bread and helps with crisping, while it slices neatly and makes for easy eating. If I were having to make a lot of these on a regular basis I'd be making Caribbean-spiced rillettes all the time.

I've packed away most of my rillettes de porc mexicaine in the freezer, knowing that in a month or so I'll want to mix some with chopped dates and almonds to serve on toast points.

13 January 2012

Dewar's 12

Dewar's White Label was my father's go-to Scotch during my formative years. I can remember him saying that he didn't develop an interest in Scotch until after he turned thirty, and I found that to be true for myself as well. Despite all of my Scottish enthusiasm during my teens and twenties (Burns' Night Dinners, haggis, bagpipe music, sword dancing, etc.), Scotch smelled revolting until I'd reached my Return of Saturn.

In the past few years I've grown to love and appreciate a good Scotch. On the rare occasions when I order it in a restaurant, I tend to go with the funky, peaty bottles from the islands. And I've had some beautifully aged Scotches as well. Thus I was excited when Julia regifted me with a bottle of Dewars 12. Whoever gives aged Scotch to a twenty-something woman is crazy, but despite all of that I came out as the clear winner.

A quick diversion... The last bearded president was Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893), which has allowed me to rebuke my mother's notion of "scruffy" with my own definitions of "presidential", "Victorian", or perhaps my favorite, Fredric's suggestion that I don't need to shave in order to preserve a certain Rabelaisian character. So I enjoy that little connection to our last president with full facial hair, and have also begged for a bachelor presidential candidate like James Buchanan. Fred Thompson was the closest in recent history, but I bring all of this up because Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie gave Benjamin Harrison a bunch of Dewar's Scotch back in 1891 and it became popular in the US because of said gift. Carnegie built a ton of libraries, I love libraries and enjoy reading, and the connections keep intertwining like the complex offspring of a hydra and an ouroboros.

Dewar's 12 Year Old Special Reserve
$18/375mL, 43% abv.

Rich and tangy on the initial taste with deep oak notes. Vanilla, caramel, and smoke show up with little touches of tobacco, leather, and orange peel. Entry level Scotch tends to be thin and quick; this has some weight and heft to it, and clings to the glass. Now, I've had deeper 18 and 20 year olds, but I'm quite pleased with the performance of this filly that's made a dozen laps around the sun before settling for a quiet rest in my small brandy snifter. Time to pour another half inch in the glass and enjoy the sting of cold weather against the warmth of slowly sipped whisky as did my ancestors...

11 January 2012

Cornish Game Hen Lunch

I've always enjoyed cooking and eating Cornish Game Hens, but I got dissuaded in 2009 during a dinner party. It was my last time making them, and instead of ridiculous little baseballs, I had pretty hefty chickens. I noticed that local grocery stores weren't carrying them as much, and the ones that were tended to be enormous. And while I don't mind using stranger smaller chickens, I figured that the days of individual servings were over.

As is often the case when you get irritated about a certain food, you stop looking at it and then it becomes invisible. But in my continuing joy of cooking things that are new to Julia, I decided to give the game hen another try. And surprisingly, the local Super Target had a bunch of them in the freezer for around $3 a pop. And more importantly, they were small. Not frail like quail, but the stocky little bantams I'd come to love years ago.

I was going to do simple salt and pepper for the ladies, followed with something spicier for myself, but I rolled the dice and ground up a little mole sauce using dried guajillos, cocoa powder, walnuts, garlic, olive oil, and a few other bits of magic. I thoroughly coated all three birds and roasted them in a hot oven. For sides, a little red cabbage and apples, some multicolored baby potatoes, and suddenly we've got a simple winter meal that's packed full of flavor. The game hens and potatoes were a big hit, with mixed reviews on the cabbage. Now I'm wishing I'd added a lot more vinegar to that particular dish, but I'm happy with the way everything turned out.

While possibly not the ideal pairing, the margaritas from Monday's post turned out to be a very fun and tasty accompaniment to lunch on a rainy Saturday afternoon in January.

09 January 2012

2012 Margarita

The Margarita is one of America's least-respected cocktails. The origin is so simple: good tequila, fresh lime juice, orange liqueur, and a bit of sweetness if desired. Served shaken or over ice, but fresh and with little bits of fresh lime pulp popping between your teeth. Instead, we get green slushes mixd up with white rum or vodka and as long as it's tart and sweet and served in a salted glass, everyone is happy.

I'm not a tequila expert, but I do tend to be a purist when it comes to the margarita. And while I love the classic lime, I've always felt it was in the spirit of the cocktail to use other freshly squeezed citrus, like my Blood Orange Margarita.

For this I used a basic 4:2:2:1 ratio, which is four parts tequila, two parts lime juice, two parts orange liqueur, and one part simple syrup. The tequila is listed below, but I was really impressed with a new orange liqueur I found. O3 is made by DeKuyper and is clear and slightly sweet like Cointreau. It's made from Brazilian pera oranges and has a great fresh orange peel aroma to it. Not really sour or bitter but focused on the sweet and fruity aspects of the orange.

Lunazul Reposado
$30/1.75L bottle, 40% abv.

A decent and affordable tequila with a good bit of oak and earth on the nose. It's got that classic tequila tang to it but with more depth than I was expecting. As a cocktail ingredient it made for a great margarita, just enough agave aroma and flavor to make it authentic without being overwhelming in any direction.

06 January 2012

New Year's Eve Roundup

New Year's made for a fun weekend this year. I waited until almost the last minute to pick up some bubbly for the occasion, and decided to go visit wine retailer, fellow blogger, and friend Michael Hughes at Joe's Wines & Liquors. I let him pick out everything for me. Now, for the reader this might be confusing. Yes, there are thousands of wine reviews here on this site, and I'd like to think I can work my way around a wine shop or a wine list without too much difficulty. But Michael knows what I like, he knows his stock, and can point me in the direction of something I might have otherwise ignored. For instance, on December 30th I served this with dinner:

2007 Giovanni Galliano Brut Rosé
Piedmont, Italy
100% Pinot Noir
$32, 13.5% abv.
A truly wonderful experience. So pale a rosé that it looks white from certain angles. Crisp raspberry aromas and flavors with a touch of toast and lemony acidity. Medium bubbles and a long, lingering finish. Fun but dignified and definitely something different. If you think Italy is all about Prosecco and Moscato, this will change your mind. Highly recommended.

For the party on the 31st with Julia and her friends, I was looking for more casual but still well-constructed wines. Here's what Michael suggested:

NV Poema Cava Extra Dry
Penedès, Spain
35% Macabeo, 35% Xarel-lo, 30% Parellada
$13, 11.5% abv.

NV Poema Cava Brut Rosé
Penedès, Spain
100% Trepat
$13, 11.5% abv.

I love a fun and fizzy Cava, and these two did not disappoint. The Extra Dry was actually quite dry, but of the two I preferred the Brut Rosé. Both were crisp, refreshing, and fairly uncomplicated, but I liked the depth and broader fruit flavors in the pink.

The third bottle is an Australian McWilliams Riesling that ended up as a gift for the hostess to enjoy later, and I hope she likes it.

And then there was fondue... I used some leftover white wine and a splash of brandy with the cheese. And what cheeses? The bulk came from Jarlsberg and St. Paulin with some contributing notes from scraps of Parrano and an aged Gouda. This was not quite as good as it might sound, since it's been quite a while since I've made fondue and I was using an improvised bain marie. The flavor combination was great, but I couldn't quite get it smooth enough and it turned solid rather quickly once removed from the pot. Still, there was a ton of great food contributed by all the guests and we all had a wonderful time.

04 January 2012

Michter's American Whiskey Co.

Michter's story goes back to an enterprising Swiss Mennonite farmer in Pennsylvania. Way back, as in 1753. (European readers are not allowed to laugh at this.) The whiskey warmed George Washington's troops at Valley Forge and survived for more than 150 years before Prohibition but things to an end. It came back later, but was ultimately resurrected as a craft spirit in the 1990s.

What I'm sampling now is made in Bardstown, Kentucky according to the original recipes and methods. Normally I'd decry such a move ("This 'Napa' Cab was actually made in an industrial factory outside of Las Vegas!"), but if anything, I trust the Commonwealth of Kentucky in general and Bardstown in specific to do whiskey right. I'm also impressed that the individual spirits have different alcohol levels. I'm not suggesting that a percentage point here or there is going to change your mind, but it's more a reflection of "this is how the whiskey is" rather than watering it down or punching it up to reach an even 80 proof.

Michter's US*1 Unblended Small Batch American Whiskey
Batch No. 11-179
Aged in Bourbon-soaked American white oak barrels
41.7% abv.
Touch of vanilla, light and mild oak, dry and neat. No sweetness, not as brisk as Scotch, but a good solid whiskey. Oddly reminiscent of a heavily oaked Chardonnay, but here it's a more appropriate application of the flavor.

Michter's US*1 Small Batch Bourbon
Batch No. 11-159
Aged in charred new American white oak barrels
45.7% abv.
Deeper, smokier, heavier oak profile, and more classic Bourbon flavors. Still pretty sharp, but I bet the longer aged versions of this are incredible. I was expecting it to be a little sweeter but it's still drier than some of your entry-level Bourbons. I'm anxious to try this one in a Manhattan.

Michter's US*1 Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey
Batch No. H137-76
Aged in charred new American white oak barrels
42.4% abv.
Spicy and peppery, with a nice bite. Unmistakable rye flavor and I just adore it. If you know someone who has never tasted a rye whiskey before, this would be a great invitation. For the Sazerac lover in your life, this would be a thoughtful gift.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

02 January 2012

Boru Vodka

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a good time and has recovered from the holiday. I'll do a roundup of the sparkling wines from the weekend for Wednesday's post, but today I'll post a brief vodka review.

Julia enjoys a vodka tonic, and as I was grabbing a few odds and ends from the liquor store I needed to get some vodka. In my neverending quest to try new things from new areas, I almost laughed when I saw an Irish vodka named after the legendary king Brian Bóruma mac Cennétig.

Ireland makes more than just beer and whiskey, though this product is much smoother and more refined than the Emerald Isle's version of moonshine called Poitín (sometimes anglicized as Poteen or Potcheen). Here I'm trying the standard vodka, but they also produce varieties flavored with lemon, orange, and "crazzberry" (cranberry + raspberry).

Boru Vodka
$22/1.75L, 40% abv.
Distilled from grain, though if there was ever a candidate for a potato vodka... It's got a basic clear spirit aroma with a good bit of a kick to it on the initial taste and the finish. For that reason, I'd recommend this as more of a mixing vodka for cocktails. In the vodka tonic it worked out well, and I found out that it also made for a decent screwdriver. While it doesn't really stand out great on its own, there's a huge marketing potential out there with the many thousands of Irish pubs in the US. Why not replace all those Russian bottles with the clear cool spirit of Éire? It's last call and there's a round of Boru shots during that tearful singing of "Danny Boy"...