Spirit

Fair enough.

FAIR.Bottle

Grab your fixie, sling your pug in your backpack and pedal uphill to your nearest bottle store Bondi Hipsters.

You can buy vodka made from nature’s ancient grain superfood, Quinoa.

Double bonus if you’re still claiming to be somewhere on the celiac scale too, this bad boy is gluten-free to boot.

Seriously though, the liquid is worthy of your lips and the story really does stack up.

The Fair story starts some nine years ago, before the breakfast du jour was an organic quinoa porridge with roof foraged honey and house cultured yoghurt.

Nine years ago breakfast sophistication was a Four’n’Twenty and a strawberry Oak for most Australians. The Frenchman behind Fair Spirits choose quinoa not for its achingly contemporary credentials but because it was the only grain available in sufficient volume that actually provided a reasonable return 1200-sum small landowners who farm the grain.

The liquid comes from an Armagnac still and the taste has real depth because of it. Bigger mouthfeel and flavour than you’d reasonably expect from a vodka, delicious.

Most of the distribution is in the smaller independents, but keep an eye out for this tasty vodka and it’s beautiful packaging.

Get in touch with the Australian distributor if you’re looking for a deal. Gregoire Bertaud is a cool dude.

If you’re looking to design a cocktail steeped in hipster madness, they also do a Goji liqueur.

Totes amaze.

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Spirit

Savoury deliciousness with Belvedere Bloody Mary

I had the rare pleasure last week to sit next to the most glamorous woman in drinks, Belvedere ambassador and head of spirit creation Claire Smith. She was in the lucky country launching her latest expression of Belvedere, Bloody Mary.

The spirit is crafted out of a blend of rye based macerated distillates. For those of you who don’t spend your days talking distillation, that means that a whole lot of vegetable or spices are chopped up and left in raw spirit to flavour it, the resulting liquid is then run through the still. Each individual flavour is distilled on its own and then blended together into the final product, to ensure a consistent tasting liquid in every bottle.

The Bloody Mary is flavoured with tomato, black pepper, horseradish, capsicum, chilli, vinegar and lemon. The tasting notes claim a dramatic an complex nose, and I’d agree that the result is unlike much that can be readily found bottled for consumption. It performs well enough on it’s own, bringing memories of mile-high Bloody Mary’s flooding to my mind.

In cocktails it lays down well with cucumber, elderflower, citrus, tomato juice and practically any herb. A delightful surprise can be found with some pineapple juice, a squeeze of lime, a dash of orange bitters and a good pinch of smoky paprika.

I’m playing with a bottle at home and am loving a world of savoury based creations that this spirit opens up.

Expect ten cents back from seventy bucks if you’re picking one up from Dan Murphy.

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Cocktail

Get into a Vesper

Most people in this world think it proper to take Gin when you are having a Martini. I am one of them.

There are a few misguided souls who seems to think that chilled vodka, placed within a reasonable vicinity of an unopened vermouth bottle also constitutes a Martini. They are, undoubtedly, wrong.

However, there is one drink that bridges the sides in this sometimes ugly argument. It was created by a hero of men, a seducer of women, a killer true and orphaned servant of her Royal Majesty. I’m talking of course, of James Bond.

There’s always something special about a drink inspired by a lady, and the Vesper is certainly one of them. Plenty has been written about the history of the drink, the fact it is mentioned in the first Bond novel to be published, the fact the original recipe called for Kina Lillet, a now extinct product featuring the bitter quinona bark, famously used to flavour tonic water throughout the Empire.

One thing that you don’t read everywhere is why Bond actually ordered it. Fleming was foreshadowing the doubt in Bond’s mind over the loyalty of Vesper Lynd. While those of you who have only seen the movie won’t know it, Bond was actually out there fighting СМЕРШ. A Soviet controlled spy ring, tasked with the spread of communism and the elimination of western spies. By calling a mostly English Gin drink tainted with a lick of Russian vodka a Vesper, it is the subtle plant of doubt that will unfold in the next few chapters of the book. Vesper is a double agent.

The Vesper.


60mls Gordons Gin, 20mls Stolichnaya V0dka, 10 mls Lillet Blanc. Combine all ingredients over ice and shake until it is very cold. Strain up and inhale… Looks and tastes mighty tasty. Garnished always with a thick peel of lemon.

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Ketel One

Dear Ketel One Drinker.

This post is not for you.

You probably already know that this vodka is distilled under a windmill in The Netherlands, and a few of you probably even know that due to its extremely large size it is called “The Whale”. You probably have luxiriated over the hint on aniseed in the finish of the spirit, asking the barkeep to match that with a breath of Lillet to bring it alive.

For the rest of us, Ketel One has been the (dutch) vodka that takes out white pages in GQ, Arena and Vanity Fair and seems to piss a lot of people off. Not to worry, I love a brand who alienates as much as it attracts.

This stuff is good. Well made, in a nice bottle, It’s got a bit of flavour and is nice in a vodka tonic. It’s even better in Pierre Faljoun’s cocktail.

Grab a bottle if vodka’s your thing. Expect a few Australian bucks back if you start out with 60.

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Cocktail, MixMarch, New Zealand

MixMarch #27: The Tao of Pu

Jim Meehan, owner of PDT in New York, doesn’t like vodka. That makes him at the very least a very strange choice for a judge at a vodka contest.

Or, at least, he didn’t. Jim, recently named American Bartender of the Year, has just put a Carlson vodka Old Fashioned on the list at PDT (recently named Bar of the Year, as well)

Making cocktails in front of a tired but extremely interested crowd of the best young talent from behind bars around the world, Jim said the hatred that bartenders had for vodka as an agent of erosion of the skills, craft and taste of cocktails is quickly becoming a thing of the past. People like having great drinks, they’ll drink Gin, Tequila, Genever and not blindly ask for a replacement with the neutral spirits.

This drink was introduced as the one that had to be made to get Jim down to NZ, but for a Honeylover, it’s something quite special.

The Tao of Pu

30mls Coconut water, 15mls 42Below Manuka Honey vodka, 15mls Galliano Liqueur, 3 dashes Fee Brothers Lemon Bitters.

Shake, strain and serve up.

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Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Mea Culpa

Tucked beside Snatch on Ponsonby Rd, Mea Culpa is the sort of bar I wish I had downstairs from my house. Tucked away just a few doors down from the very beery but popular Chapel and Crib metropubs on Ponsonby Rd, Mea Culpa is a world class gem of a cocktail bar.

Five coffe coloured pages hold the cocktail and wine list, chock full of boozey goodness. Any venue that lists the Corpse Reviver #2 gets a high score in my book, and the addition of La Floridita #4, a selection of tribute drinks from around the world and across the centuries, plus a number of tasty well crafted originals put this place over the top. This is a place where drinks are truly crafted, served in a handpicked glass and presented with nothing but love.

A good bar experience rests on the crew your hanging out with and all signs were pointing to yes on Saturday night. A Professor of Vodka, the father of Power Dub, a seasoned water and wine exporter, my gorgeous girlfriend, a bloke in a super cool F<3NK t-shirt and a currently unemployed ex-TGIF bartender.

Outside seating is at a premium, but the carpet on the pavement makes it feel like it should be. I ordered the Consilieri, an absolutely delightful mix of Makers Mark, Almandine (that’s Amaretto to you and me) a spritz of Angostura (sorry UK) shaken well with the white of an egg to achieve velvety heaven. Happily the drink was originally made (and the one i drank) by none other than my tablemate and companion, Jacob Briars, during his previous incarnation as the bartender at Motel in Wellington. I also snuck a sip of the Miyagi Mule my girlfriend had ordered, a refreshing mix of vodka, cucumber and a pleasing hint of wasabi.

If you’re in Auckland, this has to be one of the stops you make while you’re in town.

3/175 Ponsonby Road
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Spirit

Strong

Part Three in a Four Part Series called The Glorious Recipe.

The most important part of any cocktail is the delightful elixir that gives a libation spirit. 

Crude distillation has been practiced for around 4000 years, with the first cab off the rank being in Iraq, where the technology was later used by the incumbent dictator, Saddam Hussein, to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.225px-jabir_ibn_hayyan The ancient Greeks really pulled things together, as they discovered man love, mass debate and tipsiness really did go hand in hand. An Arab by the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan was the man who really set the path toward the high grade ethanols we use to fuddle our brains today. Earning the mantle polymath, his techniques allow for the production of quality chemicals without ‘heads or tails’ so prominent in cheap liquor to this day.

Pretty much every culture that has managed to pull together a political system has also managed to master the technology of refining spirit. Because the refining part is secondary to fermentation, the breaking down of organic material and sugar in the presence of yeast to create alcohol, each country, region and tribe came up with recipes based on local taste and more often, local ingredients.

I’ll cover off the most common types of spirit in this article, to give you the sparest understanding of this wonderful, variety filled world.

Vodka.

The world’s most popular spirit. Originally from Poland, vodka is prolific in Eastern and Northern Europe and production has spread to countries as far away as New Zealand (42BELOW, 20000), The United States (Skyy) and Scotland (Smirnoff).

Primarly made from grain, vodka is also made with potato, grapes and milk whey. The spirit has become popular as Absolut has flooded the market with made up flavours supplied by the big assed building just off the Jersey turnpike. Other producers flavour their vodkas with perfumery techniques or the addition of Bison Grass.

Rum.  

The spirit of rum can only be made in a country that grows sugarcane. There are two basic types. The first is made from molasses, an extract produced in the refining or sugar for export. The second is Agricole or Cachaca, which is made from the juice of the sugarcane, unrefined. This approach can produce smoother rums, but aging evens the playing field.

Whisk(e)y.

Perhaps the spirit that has spread the furtherest around the world, probably on the backs of Irish migrants and Scottish sea captains. The name itself means water of life. Whisk(e)y is made from fermented grain mash; malted barley, barley, rye, wheat and maize are the most common types.

The Irish and the Americans use the (e) to spell the word, the Scots, Japanese & Canucks drop it.

Scotch Whisky is generally made from malted barley that has been treated with peat, giving it the taste it is famous for. Anything labelled Scotch must be distilled in Scotland. The age on the bottle must reflect the youngest whisky in the blend.

Irish Whiskey must be distilled in Ireland and aged in wooden casks for a period not less than three years. Generally made from unpeated malt barley.

American Whiskey must look, smell and taste like Whiskey. Bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn, Rye must be made from at least 51% rye, Corn whiskey must be at least 80% corn, Straight whiskeys are made with less than 51% of any single grain. Tennessee whiskey is made the same way as Bourbon, but is filtered through the charcoal of the Sugar Maple.

Gin.

Mother’s Ruin is unmistakably English, the addition of quinine to tonic to ward off malaria made it the drink of an Empire.

Two basic types, Distilled Gin, which is made by re-distilling neutral grain spirit and cane sugar that have been flavored with the berries of the juniper bush. The other type, Compound Gin, is essentially a gin flavored vodka. 

Gin is my favorite spirit and will get it’s own article later, so I won’t trifle the history too much. The London style of Gin is the most popular around the world, which is identified by the addition of botanicals to the distillate. These botanicals have great names like orris root, cassia bark and angelica. Newer style gins also make use of rose, cucumber and other local botanicals.

Tequila.

Made from the agave cactus. much more to come on this later.

Baijiu.  

The spirit of China. a distillate of rice or sorghum mash. pineappley and petrol like.


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