Ho Ho Ho! A drink to seasons past and seasons future

No Christmas Eve would be complete without a glass of real egg nog, not that horrid stuff you buy by the carton.

As I said on the air today, I make this for myself using half the sugar, and skim milk. Dial in the variables to suit yourself. Also shaved dark chocolate on top is a nice touch. As is Fee Bros. Mint Bitters.

The original recipe

A couple of great suggestions from callers

The “Low Cal” and singeton version.

People as about the calories for the original recipe, somewhere between 1500 – 1600 total, call it 400 a serving. If you substitute 10%BF cream you save about 70 calories a serving. If you use skim you save over 100 per serving.

And for the beer drinkers in the crowd, the Beer I had John drinking is Duchesse de Burgogne

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No. 99 Canadian Whisky

For those of us of a certain age, The Great One will never be equaled. He has since of course branched into all sorts of enterprises besides hockey. He launched a vanity wine back in 2005 or so. It wasn’t that great. Frankly Savanna Sampson, the porn star, has much better wine for a couple of bucks less.(I should add Gretzky’s wine has steadily improved over the years.)

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CORRECTION: I previously said the wine was aged in red oak casks. I was wrong. There was some confusion over the casks, which are white oak, French, previously used to finish Gretzky’s Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauviginon.
*****

Gretzky has just launched a whisky. And I’m here to say, it’s a pretty good one. But it is also deeply interesting from a technical point of view.

Traditionally wine and whisky are aged in white oak – Quercus Alba in America, Q. robur primarily in France – casks, charred to a greater or lesser degree on the inside. American made barrels are flat sawn, exposing more grain and therefore more of the lactones in the wood to the spirit or wine so stored. French oak is split. Some Spanish coopers import Q. Alba logs and split them for use in Spain.

The costs of inventory to age whisky are staggering. Wine Barriques currently cost about $1000 each. They hold 225 litres more or less. About 12-100 MILLION bottles of scotch are sold annually. There are an estimated 20 million barrels in storage at any given time. Distillers are removing age statements as quickly as they can to cut costs.

Recently researchers have discovered a method involving temperature and UV light which they claim can age whisky in a matter of months, maybe days. Micro-distillers in Canada are speculating that the massive temperature swings on the prairies (about 80 degrees C/176 F) will age whiskies here abnormally fast.

Gretzky’s distillery stores the casks in non temperature controlled warehouses. Interestingly they too claim the massive temperature swing of the Canadian climate speeds aging.

I tasted No. 99 alongside a Gibson’s Finest yesterday. The whisky was notably darker in colour, likely due to the oaking. The bouquet did have some ethyl acetate aromas that cleared off fast, a couple of seconds in the glass. It was surprisingly smooth. with a nice finish.

It would make a nice base for your favourite Canadian cocktail. I expect it will work well in a sweet Manhattan. Maybe even in a dry Manhattan. Personally I’d drink it with a single cube, but I’m a horrid sinner who grew up in a curling rink, so pay no attention to my tastes.

I think Gretz may finally have found his niche with this whisky. Retail is about $45. Certainly low enough to make it worth a try for every whisky aficionado. I’d be curious to try a No 99 that is older, maybe 10 years or so…

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Ardbeg Kelpie: A thoroughly Modern Malt

Ardbeg Kelpie

Here’s the latest limited release from Ardbeg a thoroughly modern Scotch for the New World Order.

Firstly, no age statement. Judging by the pale colour of the whisky I assume it is between 6 and 10 years. Distilleries are increasingly edging away from the traditional statement of age on the bottles. This if you haven’t been paying attention has been going on for at least a decade. It is driven mostly by a need to keep whisky in the distribution pipeline. The stuff is now so universally popular the production is not fast enough to support ten years in a barrel.

Secondly, the choice of barrels. This is the first whisky I’ve sipped, which to my knowledge hasn’t seen time in a used Bourbon barrel, the traditional aging vessel. The reasons are the same as the last paragraph. Cooperages in the US are hard pressed to keep up with the demand from bourbon distilleries, who in their turn are still dwarfed by the massive needs of say a Glenlivet or Johnnie Walker.

Instead the barrels are from the Circassian Hill country of the Adghye Republic. There is some back story to the oaks involved here which I haven’t tracked down yet. They may be particularly tight ringed old oaks, but I don’t know. In any event they’re Q. robur, the species made famous by the French in wine barrels.

Okay so what does it taste like? The nose is full of seaweed, iodine and smoke meats? Say what? There is a definite aroma of smoked or roasted or barbecued meat there. The box claims bacon, which I think is a bit off, but over to you for comment. I found the palate to be peaty, full of the sea and surprisingly herbaceous. Definite chocolate/earth there, with some fruits. A surprisingly delicate whisky given the powerful peaty nose. 

And for the nerds in the audience, a Kelpie isn’t an Australian sheep dog but a sea monster (also a fresh water monster, but in Scotland that difference can be slight.) It usually had the front of a horse and the rear of a sturgeon. Sometimes the horse was a bull. Supposedly the creatures could take on the shape of a human to lure you to your watery end. Their give away was hair tangled with seaweed. The pre-Raphelites preferred painting nubile young women (and who can blame them?), and gave Kelpie something of a siren spin.

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Solons and Colons

“…Part of the problem is the hot wine phenomena, which lives on, particularly in the US. Malbec is a product of the high plateau sunshine, and can easily attain 15 degrees alcohol and a sugar content that would make Mrs. Claus add them to her shortbread.
In recent years, the current government decided to tax such awful stuff – well sort of. Not all of it of course. Just some we notice is over 14.5 per cent. Think of it as a random tax on Argentinian wine lovers. Hurrah for Big Brother. Next time you buy wine in Alberta hoist a bottle to Brad and the other the solons running Wally World. Your tax dollars are not going to work in Saskatchewan, but darned if our government isn’t full of the nicest guys anywhere.”
StarPhoenix, Wine column March 18, 2017

As regular readers will know I have a problem with table wine that runs over 15 per cent ABV. Dessert wine or cocktails, sure. (Both are drunk in smaller quantities than a typical 150 ml. glass of table wine.)

In any event I have been asked repeatedly what a ‘solon’ is. So here’s a quick definition.

Solon, n., Law maker, giver of wisdom. Pr. Rhymes with “colon” Like your colon, a solon is also often stuffed with shit, and given to making burbling noises signifying nothing, other than the presence of a bad smell.

ex. The Premier of Saskatchewan is a large and friendly solon, given to thoughtful rejection of sensible liquor sales regimes, and tax systems because he’s just so damn wise none of us understand.

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CTV Noon and Eggnog

As I said on the air, I can’t convince some people to make their own eggnog from scratch. If you’re going to play around with the commercial stuff the two best liquors to use are dark rum (or substitute brown liquor of choice) and Kahulua. The Kahlua will add the vanilla and sugar. The rum the booze. I use them pretty much 1:1

If you want to try to make a real eggnog, it takes all of about 3 minutes, and a one-litre plastic container.

Here are all the recipes. You can adjust the sugar and sweetness to suit yourself. As you can see I use 1/3 of the sugar, and skim milk and it still tastes fine. And the Kinsmen of P.A., doubters to a man endorse this recipe.

The Christmas Passion Eggnog, all versions

And if you didn’t get a look at the beers I brought on, here they are.
Bullrush Barley wine (Mano’s on 22nd)
Innis & Gun Bourbon cask (widely available)
Momus Dark from Italy (Coop)
Heartstopper Christmas Stout (Paddockwood)

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