Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Pleasant Summertime Drink: Boilermaker

Dog days of summer . . . I love the heat, the balmy weather, any excuse to go to the beach, hang by the pool, tan, read cheesy John D. MacDonald detective novels and tune the radio to some classic '70's radio station playing Tony Orlando, Abba and who knows what else.  No brain surgery is getting done on days like these by me, and that's just the way I like it.

In this setting, my mind wandered and I ended up thinking about an email I got from a law school buddy, Arch.  He had this to say:

This summer I've really gotten into a drink called a Boilermaker, which is essentially a pint of beer mixed with a shot of whiskey.
Somewhat surprisingly, a lot of the discussion I've come across about this drink places Scotch fairly far down the list of preferred whiskeys to use. Bourbons typically top the list, followed by Canadian and then Irish Whiskeys (a "Jimmy and Guinny" is Jamieson mixed with Guinness).
This may be heresy to you but some Scotches mix really with beer: Guinness and Glenlivet 15 is a personal favorite.
This is a topic you might want to explore and write about on your blog, though you're in the best position to judge whether it'll upset the purists.


A topic I might want to explore?  Ahh yeah!  Anything involving Guinness will get my attention.  

Jimmy & Guinny
So, I poured a nice pint of Guinness, very chilled, and deposited into it two shots of Jameson Irish Whiskey.  

I took a pull and noticed the Jameson slightly lightened the taste of the Guinness and added a pleasant lemon/ginger note to the drink.  Nice!

Guinny & Glenlivet 15
 Try the Guinness with some Glenlivet 15 and you get a deeper flavor.  Plum and oak comes through and compliments the stout.

. . . 

It's all about experimentation.  Some whiskies work well while others don't or leave you baffled.  I thought Guinness and Amrut Fusion Single Malt would work, but it made the beer tart and off putting.  

Arch mentioned in another email that he tried Guinness with Highland Park 18 and the result was disastrous.  So, fellow malt explorers, you must experiment!  On paper or in the mind's eye, other whiskies might appear to work with Guinness, but you can never tell until you test your thesis.  I am thinking that Jim Beam Black is gonna work, the dark licorice and plum notes of the whisky I imagine will compliment the heavy malty nature of the Guinness, but who knows until it is tasted.

. . . 

And remember your boilermaker is not restricted to just Guinness.  Use your favorite beer.  Lagers and bourbons can work well too!  So, be a malt adventurer and let me know what works for you!


Jason Debly

P.S. The boilermaker is a beer cocktail that you must be careful with.  Very powerful and just drinking one can have the same effect as walking into the path of a Suburban.  Accordingly, moderation is a must!  I want you around to read more posts.

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved except for first close up photograph of glass of Guinness.  All copyright is the property of Joseph Depalma.  Use of the photograph is used here with his permission.  No reproduction is permitted without his permission. Any and all use of this post is prohibited without permission. Note: All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment. Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

King Cole Bar - St. Regis Hotel, New York City

While I was in NYC, HD and I decided to hit the town one night.  He suggested we have a cocktail before dinner.

So, we caught a yellow Crown Vic cab in the late afternoon that deposited us unceremoniously at the footsteps of the St. Regis hotel.  We wound our way past the doorman, down a marbled hallway, encountering a headless clothing boutique mannequin, clad in Brioni (for people who have more money than brains) posing imperiously from behind a display window, and an Alain Ducasse restaurant, before arriving at our destination: the King Cole Bar.

The King Cole Bar is a throw back to another time in many ways.  It's old school.  Bartenders in bow tie with black vest oversee a bar made of polished, dark, very fine wood (mahogany no doubt), in a dimly lit room with a lot of history.  The kind of lighting in this bar is very flattering to gentleman and ladies who may not fair so well in brighter environments.

A number of famous patrons have saddled up to this bar.  This establishment has served: Salvador Dali, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and John Lennon.

While the famous patrons would be a part of the appeal of this establishment, when I first went in, I was not aware of it.  For me the appeal of the bar was the dark wood, the serenity, no flat screen TVs hanging from ceilings, while pop music blares from speakers.  No.  Here, it was hushed conversation and masterful drinks being made by an excellent bartender.  It should be noted that the Bloody Mary cocktail was created by a bartender working the King Cole Bar.

So, let's get down to business.  What did we drink?  HD said he was having a vodka Martini, and I thought damn, what a great idea and an answer to a terrible existential problem I have had for quite sometime.  However, I opted for a classic Martini made with gin.

I gotta make a confession.  A weighty problem has plagued me for years.  You see, twenty years ago, I had the best damn Martini in Toronto.  I was with a boss of mine, Gerry H., a guy that I actually admired because he was a decent, honest, leader of men (qualities that are a rarity in the workplace these days).  He drank Martinis and ordered us some.  I was apprehensive, fresh out of college, whose palate was accustomed to stale beer and popcorn.

The drink in Toronto was wonderfully dry due to the great combination of sweet and dry vermouth, gin with its herbal notes that made me think of pine needles.  It was hauntingly great because it is a simple drink, yet there is a lot going on that is very hard to articulate.

A few years later, I left Toronto for Fredericton, and while the latter city is nice for a lot of reasons, it does have one terrible failing: it is impossible to get a decent, properly made Martini in any drinking establishment.

I have ordered quite a few Martinis in Fredericton at the better watering holes and they have all been terrible.  Each new drink I would order over the years was followed by crashing disappointment that was on par with what a kid at Disney World must experience upon seeing Snow White taking a smoke break behind a trailer.

In my hometown, the bartenders are typically college students who spent way too much time listening to Phish and flipping through tattoo catalogues, when they should have been learning how to put together classic bar drinks.

So, the great weighty question upon my mind was whether or not my first affection for the Martini had more to do with mood, atmosphere, great company and conversation, rather than the drink itself.  I kept thinking it was the drink, hoping I was not mistaken.

Back to the St. Regis.  (This stream of consciousness writing of mine can get out of hand, my apologies.)  Ok, where was I?  The St. Regis, right!

So, I ask the barman for a classic gin Martini with olives.  He makes it in a matter of seconds, shaken, strained and poured in front of me.  I was wondering if anything whipped up that fast can be any good?  I mean if he spent ten minutes on it like a barman at the Four Seasons did for a Manhattan I had in Vancouver, there is an understanding of the source of a drink's greatness.

The barman at the St. Regis did not disappoint.  His Martini was sublime, immaculate and classic.  It was dry, but balanced.

A poorly made Martini tastes like raw alcohol with Splenda.  You are only dealing with three/four ingredients and so if the proportion, the method, lack of strainer, improper use of ice, etc take place, the result is a disaster.

My only regret about the King Cole Bar is that my visit was too brief.

Two drinks with tip ran about $50.  Yeah, it's steep, but once in a while treat yourself, have one of the greatest drinks in one of the world's greatest cities!


Jason Debly

P.S.  Thanks Cousin for the great visit the King Cole Bar.

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission, except for photographs appearing in this post.  The photographs are the intellectual property of the photographers used here with their permission.  Photographs cannot be reproduced without the permission of the photographers: (1) Photograph of St. Regis entrance by Jet Luxury Resorts; (2) Photograph of King Cole bar by Unionpearl; (3) Overview of King Cole Bar by Watson Chris & La; (4) Close-up photograph of Martini glass by lightwerkz; (5) Photograph of a vodka martini by Robert Miller.  Great photography by all and I invite you to explore their talent at their respective Flickr accounts.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: 21 year old Hibiki Suntory Whisky

Finally, after repeated invitations from my first cousin (HD), I managed to visit him and his family in the New York City area.

My family likes food.  Probably the understatement of the century!

I mean food is a real part of our culture.  Food and hospitality.  It is ingrained in our DNA. We can't help it.

You land at my house, I am offering you a drink, sweets and a sincere demand you stay for dinner.  It's a Middle Eastern thing. Well, more than a Middle Eastern cultural phenomenon.  My extended family is drawn from many different cultures stretching from Canada, through the Middle East, Srilanka and all the way to Japan.  So, when I landed at HD's casa, dinnertime appetizers looked like this:

At the top centre is a tray of sushi, in front of it is a bowl of pistachios and in the bottom left is a plate of kibbeh nayyeh.  Can't see it that well, ok, here's more food porn:

Is that the culinary version of the United Nations or what?

In any event, HD's plan was for all of us to enjoy a splendid meal and then finish the evening with a special treat: Hibiki 21 years Suntory Whisky

Trouble was this incredibly enjoyable meal went on for hours and I lack self-control, as I have never met a food I didn't like.  Plus, there was lamb to follow.  Oh, I didn't tell you about the lamb?  Here it is:

By the time I and the rest of the clan worked through some lamb, accompanied by Stag's Leap, we were stuffed.  Couldn't do the Hibiki.  She had to wait for another evening.

. . .

We finally tackled the Hibiki on another day, and this is what I came up with for a tasting note:

Nose (undiluted)
Concentrated notes of citrus, orange, coriander and malt.  Very floral, immaculate, the epitome of sophistication.  You just know the master blender spent just as much time trying to achieve these great scents as he did with the flavor profile.

Palate (undiluted)
Powerful beams of orange, tangerine, oak and sandalwood pour upon the palate.  Almonds, herbal like and stupefyingly beautiful oak notes abound too.

Body (undiluted)
Gorgeously rounded body that gracefully moves across the palate like Maria Sharapova on the courts of Wimbledon.

Finish (undiluted)
 Cappuccino, pistachio ice cream, old leather, all hosted by a delicate malt/oak embrace that is truly an affair to remember.

General Impressions
Simply fantastic whisky!  World class and fitting to be found only in the finest bars.  A whisky that can hold its own in the company of the best single malts of Scotland.

While this Japanese whisky is technically a blend, do not for a second think that such a fact of production is indicative of lesser quality.

I am convinced that in a blind tasting this whisky would easily be regarded as a single malt from Speyside which exhibits classic honey, sandalwood and oak profile.

. . .

Any Peat or Smoke?
I cannot criticize this whisky because I truly enjoy the honey/oak/nut flavor profile.  However, if you are seeking a lot of smoke and peat, then Hibiki 21 is not the answer.  Smoke is present but balanced and restrained.  The whisky has very little, if any, detectable peat.

Accordingly HD, being an enthusiastic peat and smoke fan, was more anxious for me to try his bottle of Springbank 15, but I will save that review for another post.


Jason Debly

P.S.  Thanks cousin for the great visit to NYC, the fine dining and whisky tastings!

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission (which may be granted if you ask nicely!)