From Morning Quaff to DIY Classic

9781607745358The Old-Fashioned is the quintessential classic cocktail. In the title of his new book devoted to its history, New York Times drinks writer Robert Simonson calls it the “world’s first classic cocktail.”

But classic shouldn’t be confused with unchanging. As Simonson makes clear in his well-researched and thoroughly enjoyable “The Old-Fashioned,” the drink was pretty much designed to be customized.

And not only by savvy barkeeps with access to coriander syrup and specific Aquavits, although their contributions to the Old-Fashioned canon are included in a lengthy compendium of recipes, old and new (yes, Wisconsin’s famed brandy Old-Fashioned merits a page.) The Old-Fashioned is a chance for cocktailians who’ve fallen into the habit of ceding spirit decisions to the experts to have a say about what’s in their glasses. Continue reading

Cocktail Class at Edmund’s Oast

If a houseguest asks for a brown liquor cocktail, odds are he or she will be satisfied with a whiskey sour, Manhattan or Old Fashioned – assuming it’s well-made.

For hosts and hostesses looking to brush up on their mixing skills, Edmund’s Oast next week is offering a “Cocktail Tasting and Educational Class,” at which participants will learn how to make the three classic whiskey drinks.

The Apr. 22 class costs $35, and starts at 6 p.m. Reservations are available through Edmund’s Oast’s website.

High Wire Scores Two Medals in Craft Distilling Competition

hat-trick-bottle-shot-croppedOf the more than 300 entries in the first-ever craft spirits judging administered by the newly-formed American Craft Distillers Association, only 35 percent took home prizes. The winners group included Charleston’s High Wire Distilling Co., which claimed bronzes for its Hat Trick Botanical Gin and Quarter Acre Sorghum Whiskey.

The judging panel rated spirits on their stylistic integrity and balance, rather than their relative merit, which resulted in a rum category with no gold medal recipients. According to interim executive director Penn Jensen, in laymen’s terms, golds were reserved for spirits that judges would proudly display on their back bars. Silvers went to spirits the judges would want to buy, and bronzes meant “this is good stuff.”

“It’s not the Special Olympics,” Jensen says of the national competition, which concluded last week with an awards ceremony in Denver. “Not every spirit gets a gold. Making the medal round is a big deal.” Continue reading

Hans Offringa Signs Books (And Boeks!) at Striped Pig Tonight

I don’t speak a lick of Dutch, but if I was going to tackle Hans Offringa’s oeuvre, I’d be highly tempted to read “Bourbon & Blues” in the bilingual author’s native language. Who could resist “Drank and Klank”?

No matter which book you bring to Offringa’s signing at Striped Pig Distillery tonight, I’m wagering he’ll sign it for you. Offringa, the male half of The Whisky Couple, has also written about golf, submarines and buildings.

Offringa’s appearance is scheduled for 5 p.m. The distillery is located at 2225-A Old School Dr. For more information, call 276-3201.

Charleston Distilling Company Projects February Opening

barrelbath

That barrel is a bathroom!

Although two Charleston distilleries beat Charleston Distilling Company to the starting gate, the King Street distillery’s owner and master distiller maintain their spirits will be worth the wait.

“We are making a much higher-end product,” owner Stephen Heilman says.

According to master distiller Brent Stephens, “other places are just trucking in alcohol,” referring to the common-but-contentious craft spirits practice of purchasing neutral grain spirits to cut with water or redistill (The American Distilling Institute neatly summarized both sides of the ongoing debate in a newsletter headline: “Bulk Neutral Spirits, Cheating, Or A Blank Canvas to Work With?”) By contrast, Stephens says, Charleston Distilling Company will handle every aspect of production, from milling the rice and corn for its vodka to barrel-aging its gin.

Earlier this week, the Post & Courier’s Abigail Darlington reported the distillery was on the brink of completing construction at 501 King Street. The distillery is aiming to finish its build-out by year’s end, but Heilman and Stephens don’t anticipate scheduling a grand opening before February. Continue reading

Dissecting the Difference Between Corn Vodka and Unaged Whiskey

spvodkaCharleston’s Striped Pig Distillery, which this week released its first batch of spirits, recently dropped off a sample bottle of its Striped Vodka. If you’re wondering how the liquor tastes, imagine a rowdy Saturday night followed by a Sunday family dinner which ends with you face down in a bowl of creamed corn.

The vodka comes by its alcoholic sting and corny sweetness naturally: It’s distilled from Bowman, S.C. corn. The mash bill led an editor here to wonder about the difference between vodka and white whiskey, which is equally clear in color and also made from corn. Since I couldn’t adequately explain, I put the question to distilling expert Matthew Rowley, author of Moonshine!

“The difference between vodka and white whiskey boils down to three things: ingredients, oak, and proof,” Rowley says. Continue reading