Menu

What's New

4 Item(s)

View10
Drink Like An Italian

Drink Like An Italian

All the old amari on the bar
They collect dust, don't you know
And all those grappas no one drinks
It’s kinda sad that people think they’re gross.

Ay oh whey oh, ay oh waaay ohhhhhh
Drink like an Italian...

Maley Aperitivo Sidro Pommerbe, Valle d’Aosta

Bottle of Maley Apertivo Sidro Pommerbe

It’s not a vermouth, it’s not a cider, it’s Pommerbe! The next time you find yourself heading to a dinner party, bring a chilled bottle of this along with you for aperitif hour. Impress your friends with your knowledge of esoteric spirits. Produced by the only cider maker in Northern Italy’s Valle d’Aosta (ever since that pesky Mussolini considered cider to be too French and outlawed it), Pommerbe is a fortified apple cider infused with herbs and spices. Coming in at 18% ABV it’s light and easy to drink, just serve over ice with a twist of citrus or have fun with it in cocktails. Either way, prepare some space in your fridge for a bottle.

Nardini Tagliatella, Bassano

Now infused with more pasta! J/k. This is an aperitif that you could describe as a cocktail in a bottle, ready to drink with some ice and an orange peel, just top it with a splash of soda water, tonic, or a dry sparkling wine. This fruity aperitivo drinks like a cross between rosso vermouth and a sweeter amaro and weighs in at a respectable 35%. It’s a one-liter bottle, for those inclined to share with friends, but no one will judge you for keeping it all to yourself.

Amara Amaro, Sicily

Approachable and citrusy, and a killer cocktail ingredient. Made from Sicilian blood oranges sourced from Mt Etna, it’s both rich and bright, while retaining a nice bitter finish. Fans of Amaro Montenegro might enjoy sipping this, as would those who enjoy a nip of Grand Marnier. Lots of citrus peel and zest. And while it’s quite nice to sip after dinner, I would also recommend this as your new go-to orange liqueur for Margaritas (made with mezcal of course).

Bresca Dorada Mirto, Sardinia

Bottle of Maley Apertivo Sidro Pommerbe

It’s not surprising if you haven’t tried Mirto before. A staple of the mediterranean island of Sardinia, this liqueur is made from the berries (and sometimes leaves) of the myrtle tree. There are very few commercially produced Mirtos in existence, so to find one in the states is a treat. Typically this traditional spirit is made in Saridian households from family recipes, or in restaurants as a house specialty. The producers of Bresca Dorada got their start as honey producers, so it was natural for them to add the local honey as a sweetener to their Mirto, giving it another layer of depth. Enjoy after dinner as you would an amaro or Limoncello.

Bonnollo Grappa Amarone Barrique, Moderna

A lot of people think of grappa as passe, harsh, and possibly a distant relative to paint thinner. Just like with bad tequila, a bad grappa experience can be haunting. Let’s get you acquainted with an underappreciated category that’s been tainted by a few bad apples. First, start with a fresh pomace. The remnants of winemaking, this can include the skins, pulp, stems and seeds leftover from pressing the grapes. Using them immediately for distillation, rather than letting them sit and oxidize, makes a tremendous difference in quality. Add one extra step, barrel aging in large Amarone wine casks, and you get an elegant, after dinner sipper that will blow away all your misconceptions about the much-maligned spirit.

By Nat Harry, Spirits Buyer

Read More
Whiskey Business

Whiskey Business

Usually, if I had to pick one spirits category to throw shade at, it would be Bourbon. It just so happens that bourbon is also one of the --- if not the most --- popular spirits in the US right now, no thanks to cult bottlings that I won’t name here. (Maybe that’s why it’s so fun to pick on; it’s no longer an underdog.) It’s the cool kid at school right now, overvalued yet underrated, as collectors drive up prices, yet rarely stop to consider what’s in the bottle, where it came from and the people who made it. If I’d walked up to bourbon in the lunchroom a few weeks ago, I’d have said, “whiskey, ya basic.”

But then I went to Louisville to get a look behind the curtain, and found myself warming back up to the spirit like a Kentucky hug. It’s the drink of bootleggers and grandparents. Nothing fancy about it really. The base is simple: corn, rye, barley, sometimes wheat. The charred American oak, imparting its rich color and flavor. Legally, the minute that juice hits the inside of the barrel it can be called bourbon. That means a good producer must have integrity. Whiskey takes time and patience, heat and cold. Standing in a rickhouse, hundreds of barrels aging above your head, the whole things starts to feel more complex. And then of course you have the people who make it.

The charming thing about the folks who are involved in the whiskey business in Kentucky is that they’re proud of what they do, even a simple task like hand labeling a bottle. They also have stories, like any good Southerner. Some of it’s American history, the good and the bad. A haunted building, stones held together with mud and horsehair, supposedly haunted by a long dead colonel. The people who ferried barrels down the Ohio river, connecting with the Mississippi, onward to New Orleans to deliver rye whiskey that would later create the Sazerac cocktail. They left their families for two years, lives always in danger from pirates and marauders.

And Freddy, our tour guide at Buffalo Trace, whose father also worked at the distillery his whole life. Freddy’s dad rolled out a very special milestone barrel of Pappy Van Winkle (I had to say it eventually) the day he retired, shared a bottle with his son and taught him the importance of living in the moment. His dad passed away shortly after. Freddy wanted to pass that message along: to not save things, but to enjoy them in the moment. These are the little stories that made me warm back up to bourbon; the history and the people, every bit --- if not more --- important than the liquid in the glass.

By Nat Harry, Sprits Buyer

Read More
Why Is Mezcal So Darn Expensive?

Why Is Mezcal So Darn Expensive?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a customer’s complete shock upon picking up a bottle of tobala (a wild agave used to make mezcal) and checking out the price. Compared to tequila, mezcal can be significantly more expensive, and without much background on the process, it can be hard to understand why. Mezcal is a complicated spirit, much too complicated to explain in just one post or article--it’s a spirit that involves hundreds of years of Mexican culture, family tradition, and countless socioeconomic factors. It is misunderstood and often taken for granted. I won’t get into all of that here, but I will tell you why that $150 price tag is worth every last simoleon. First, mezcal production is the most labor intensive spirits process you will ever encounter; from start to finish, this is about as “farm to bottle” as you get. Witnessing first hand the work that it takes to grow, harvest, trim, and transport the agave is mind-boggling. All this effort just for the plant and we haven’t even gotten to the cooking, fermentation, and distillation! Many different species of agave can be used for mezcal production, unlike tequila, which uses only one (blue weber). The average blue weber plant takes (depending on the land and other factors) 7-10 years to reach maturity--in the world of mezcal, the closest relative is espadin, which reaches maturity in a similar time frame. From there, the wait gets much longer. You have dozens of agave varietals to choose from, with an average age of 15-20 years at harvest. And then you have plants like the wild tepeztate that can take up to 30 to 35 years to reach their peak! Imagine purchasing a bottle of 30 year old whiskey for under $200. Makes you think, huh? There are no machines involved in traditional harvesting, just good old fashioned elbow grease used to power a machete and an axe. Each tenacious plant is removed from the ground by hand. Donkeys and horses are often used to carry the heavy piñas from hard to reach spots, as many areas are not accessible by truck. The leaves of the plant are trimmed off, a very specialized job also done by hand that can have a big impact on the flavor. The agave is then roasted in an underground pit for several days, before being crushed either by a stone wheel called a tahona (often pulled by burro or horse) or with a machete. The cooked agave is transferred to large wooden vats for fermentation that lasts for several days, or even up to a week. Finally, the last step is distillation. The stills are rustic and heated by wood fire. Don’t expect any fancy gauges or even a thermometer; the mezcalero (distiller) does everything using intuition and the knowledge passed down from previous generations. WIth many spirits, distilling can be the most important part of the craft, but with mezcal, each step is equally important. And a heck of a lot of hard work.
Read More
What To Drink Now: Japanese Rice Whisky

What To Drink Now: Japanese Rice Whisky

Two years ago, the most popular toy on the shelf was a bottle of Yamazaki 12 year. It moved fast, and there was plenty to be had. And if you were a fan of Japanese whiskey before the articles and reviews and ratings that made it highly sought after -- dare I say trendy! -- I wish I had some good news for you. Japanese single malts are an endangered species, and not just in whiskey thirsty markets like the Bay Area; stock is dry everywhere. For those of you late to the party, you’ve heard countless times, after asking for age statement bottles, “that’s no longer available.” Even the non age statement whiskeys are slowly disappearing. But some good has come from this; you just need to be up for a bit of adventure.

The good news: there’s a ton of interesting Japanese whiskey for you to try that wouldn’t be on the shelves if not for the popularity of those single malts such as Nikka, Yamazaki and Hibiki. I’m talking about whiskey made from rice. While technically considered a whiskey by US standards, you could certainly make the case for describing it as a barrel aged shochu. Whatever you choose to call it, these rice whiskeys are unique and quite tasty. Flavor profiles can vary vastly depending on what sort of barrel it was aged in, so you won’t get bored any time soon.  

Here are a few we recommend you try:

Kikori -- They’re making a great entry level rice whiskey that will appeal to many palates. It’s aged for about three years, primarily in New American with some time in Oloroso and Limousin barrels. It’s very light, a bit fruity, and extremely food friendly. I would recommend sipping this neat with sushi, or making a highball that’s perfect as an aperitif or alongside your meal.

Fukano -- This malted rice distillate is aged in new charred oak, so it gets dark and toasty. As far as flavor profile, this lands more along the lines of a traditional whiskey, nutty and rich, but also quite elegant. Due to Japanese labeling laws currently having no category for this spirit, these are only available outside of Japan.

Ohishi -- Founded in 1872, they are primarily known for sake and shochu production, sourcing all of their rice from the region and even growing a percentage of it themselves. My favorite fun fact about their estate grown rice: they use koi fish as a natural “weed killer,” as they love to snack on the weeds that pop up in the rice paddies. They produce both brandy- and sherry- barrel aged whiskeys, unfiltered.

Read More

4 Item(s)

View10