Taste-testing tonics

tonics2Gin is my spirit of choice. I am therefore thrown into the proximity of many tonics. My go-to tonics are Fever-tree‘s Mediterranean or Elderflower tonics but I’m always looking for new flavors. Recently I did a taste test with some new tonics available at my local Emporium of Alcoholic Wonders (a.k.a. Berkeley’s Ledger Liquors).

Indi Strawberry tonic paired with Wollersheim’s Garden Gate Gin. The sodalike, quinine-light tonic offers strong fresh strawberry flavors (thankfully not a hint of artificial flavor), so I thought the fruit and herbs of the gin would play well with the strawberry. It was a summery combination but some heavy botanical in the combination didn’t quite suit.

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2017 James Beard Award finalists

It’s a week of announcements! Hard on the heels of Tales of the Cocktail’s agenda reveal comes the list of 2017 James Beard Award finalists, which includes these notable local cocktail bars and bartenders:

Outstanding Bar Program

  • Bar Agricole
    (Bar Agricole helped drive ethical cocktail sourcing. You can’t get a Campari drink at the bar, but you can get an amaro made from known ingredients that could be tracked from harvest to bottle.)

Book Award: Beverage Category

  • Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate
    (I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t take the award. It’s a beautiful tome, a friendly look at a niche category, and the photography of over-the-top decorated tiki drinks grabs the attention more than your average cocktail book. My copy is, of course, signed by Martin and Rebecca.)

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional

  • Lance Winters, St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA
    (St. George is a font of local excellence and sass. Their Terroir is my ne plus ultra of gin.)

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The worm in the mezcal, the ant in the gin

In a throwback to college benders and unwise drinking choices, I was recently reminded that some mezcals still include a worm in the bottle. The spirit renaissance has lifted mezcal into such rarified company that it’s a blast to read this 1999 Straight Dope column about “tequila worms” and remember the disdain in which it used to be held.

Apart from some unwise choices in college, the majority of my experience with be-wormed bottles is from Poltergeist.

Horror movies to an impressionable child are damn near documentaries, so rest assured I steered clear of mezcal worms, cemeteries in the rain, cabins in the woods, and closed-for-the-winter hotels most of my life.

Which is why it’s terribly exciting that a new generation of coming-of age drinkers might be traumatized by gin ants!
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Peak rum bar

Approaching the rum bar tipping point

Put me down as a fan of bars with tunnel vision. Highly specialized bars offer superior education, a deep-dive for enthusiasts past the Mixology 101 mark, and an outlet for pricey or cult spirits.

But specialization invites certain economic realities. “A little speakeasy with 16 seats is great, but I’m sorry to say that you’ll never make a living,” Dale DeGroff told G-LO via DrinkWire.

Thus I marvel at the saturation of spirit-specific bars in San Francisco — specifically rum bars. Continue reading

A Sacred Undertaking

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Sacred Gin (and more) handsomely arrayed at Whitechapel for Sacred’s tasting and event. A wonderful night of rare flavors.

Above all, your humble narrator loves gin.

Sacred Gin hit my radar in London a few years ago, where the excellent history Gin Glorious Gin: How Mother’s Ruin Became the Spirit of London upended my itinerary and sent me instead in search of Sacred Gin at Gerry’s and cocktails at Artesian, Nightjar, and Callooh Callay.

Nestled in my checked luggage, a bottle of Sacred’s London Dry survived the return voyage to California where it now holds a place of honor among my bottles. American markets don’t offer the London Dry so cocktails made from it are few and far between in my home.

Therefore, Sacred’s event at renowned gin palace Whitechapel required a pilgrimage.

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The Cardamom G&T using Sacred’s Cardamom Gin

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