Rum for Days

Today, Sunday August 16, is National Rum Day.

Seriously, only one day? Rum should at least have a whole month! You see, we kinda love rum. Regardless of whether it's white, brown or yellow, rum is one of those spirits that just doesn't get the love it deserves.

After all, it was RUM that helped us get through Prohibition. Just because the laws shut down (legal) production of booze here in the states, that did not mean other countries had to stop. And folks ("rum runners") would bring this sugarcane spirit up from the tropics where we discovered the joys of a good rum buzz. 

Through the months, we've been lucky to have some seriously amazing rums participate in 3st of the Month. And through that time, we've whipped up a ton of rum-based cocktails. So, it seems only fitting to share some (30!) of those with you on this most sacred of days. Drink up!


gin: 101

A few months back we sent out a survey to our members asking them (among other things) what booze they hoped to see at a future 3st of the Month. The overwhelming winner was gin. This honestly surprised us a bit. We had already been planning on doing a gin-themed 3st, but knew it has a bit of a bad rap. You can thank your grandfather for that. People seem to think all gin tastes like pine trees (not that that's a bad thing). They're wrong.

Gin is for cocktails - not on its own. You can drink tequila and mescal as shots, and vodka is served chilled with food (zakuski) in its native land. Bourbon, rye and whiskey drinkers might add some ice or a splash of water. Gin is meant to be mixed, however, as the botanicals (herbs, spices etc.) come to life in cocktails and add complexity to the drink. This is why so many classic cocktails call for gin
— Simon Ford, Gin Historian

The truth is gin is about as diverse of a spirit as you can find. Whereas vodka, tequila, whiskey and bourbon all pretty much owe their differences to the types of grains (or agave), methods of fermentation and distillation, time of again and barrels used (if any), gin has all of those and more. Because, unlike these other spirits, gin is a result secret formulations of botanicals added at different points of the process to result in a highly flavorful spirit. To be called "gin" it must have some juniper, but the other botanicals can include a wide array of herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruits, spices and even tea. Each brand uses a different formula and many use different base spirits to begin with. Some are even aged in barrels. It's pretty complex shit. So, to help prep you for Juniper June, we've put together a bit of a gin primer to get you 'ed-gin-icated' on the types of gin.

Genever

Pronounced (in this country anyway) "gin-KNEE-ver," Genever is basically the 'grandfather' of gin. Though the true history is fuzzy to say the best (we are talking about booze here after all), it's thought that it was the Dutch that started making gin by adding juniper to cover the taste of the alcohol. Genever was originally used medicinally, thought to 'cure' ailments ranging from kidney ailments to gallstones to gout. Today, Genever is made from a base spirit distilled from malted wine, giving it a soft mouth feel and slightly sweeter flavor than many other gins.

London Dry

Many think of London as the birthplace of gin due to their longstanding history with it. It's said that in the year 1730, the average Londoner drank 18 gallons of gin a year! Today, London Dry Gin is used to describe a style of gin, not the location in which it is made. Like the name would suggest London Dry gin is dry, meaning not sweet. It's the classic gin that people think of when they say they 'don't like gin,' most often due to the dry nature and highly-flavored botanical profile, of which juniper is the predominant ingredient. Sometimes just referred to as London Gin, it's distilled from grain and then distilled again with the actual plant material that adds the flavor. To be called London Gin, it not have sugar or other additives other than water and the plant materials that flavor it.

Plymouth

Rich in flavor and texture like Genever, yet dry like London Gin, Plymouth Gin is a unique, protected style of gin originating from the city of Plymouth, South West England. Since 1793 it has been distilled from a unique blend of 7 botanicals, soft Dartmoor water and pure grain alcohol at the historic Black Friars Distillery - the oldest working distillery in England.

Old Tom

Though not as popular as it's gin siblings, Old Tom Gin is essentially a sweeter version of London Gin. Still made from grain distillates and highly flavored. Old Tom Gin became popular in 18th Century England before falling out of favor. Thanks to the craft cocktail movement, many new Old Tom recipes are being released commercially.

New American or International-Style

In some cases, the only thing New American Gin has in common with the other varieties is juniper. But that's where the similarities can end, as all rules are discarded and a range of new and exciting botanicals are added through various methods, imparting a huge variety of flavor from brand to brand. Just by substituting a New American Gin for London Gin, a classic cocktail and be new again. 

putting the "bitters" in bitter lovers

As you likely know by know, our February 3st of the Month is called "Bitter Lovers" and is taking us back into the world of craft cocktails as we celebrate special ingredients like bitters, amaris and aperitifs. For the sake of simplicity, this first of two "bitter blog" posts is all about bitters.

Most people know what bitters are. They've seen a bottle of Peychaud's sitting behind the bar for years. But what many don't know is the role bitters have played in cocktails. We often refer to bitters as the "salt and pepper" of cocktails, providing depth in flavor that you can't get with booze alone. But to say that is really selling them short. 

In fact, the very first documented use of the word "cocktail" was in 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository. It was simply defined as "a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters." That's right. A cocktail was not a cocktail without bitters. 

Now, some of you may have recognized that simple definition as the basic recipe for an old fashioned, but it was more than that. It was the starting point for a movement that grew beyond just the old fashioned and into an entire culture. In 1862, a bartender by the name of Jerry Thomas first published a book known as “The Bar-Tender’s Guide,” “How to Mix Drinks” or “The Bon-Vivant’s Companion.” While the book may be known by three names, it did one thing: established the principles for formulating drinks of all kinds - including methods, measurements and ingredients. Needless to say, bitters were a key element even then.

The history of bitters actually dates back even further, with the first mentions occurring in ancient Egypt. Essentially, bitters are an infusion of aromatic herbs and botanicals into an alcohol base. Originally used more for medicinal treatments, bitters have experienced a resurgence of late, appearing in many new and creative formulations. 

For the sake of our Bitter Lovers event, you can expect to see a variety of bitters appearing in several cocktails. But don't just think you're going to be drinking old fashioned's all night. Bitters are a common ingredient in many types of cocktails - even tiki drinks. 

As an example, here's a list below of the cocktail recipes on our site that include bitters. Take a peek for yourself and you'll see how essential they are to a great drink.

 

Tickets are on sale now for Bitter Lovers. All proceeds will benefit Blood:Water, seeking an end to the water and HIV/AIDS crises in Africa.