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Monday, November 18, 2019

Hot Whiskey Medicine

I had some whiskey tasting planned for this weekend (see the tweet to the left), but nature interfered; I caught a rotten cold. I complained, and cigar box guitar virtuoso Shane Speal (get his music HERE, and do it NOW) made a brilliant suggestion: blog about hot toddies. Two birds with one stone: great post material, and feel better, too. Because I did!

Herewith: three hot whiskey drinks, two classics (-ish, I did the best I could at my remote site) and one of my own. Feel free to try them as cold weather attacks.

Hot Whisky: Catskills Provisions honey, (they make an excellent honey flavored whiskey, too, try it!) boiling water, two big half-slices of lemon, and a fat 2.5 ounce pour of Glenlivet 15 French Oak. Because the cork broke, so I just emptied the bottle. Hey, I'm feverish, and not responsible for my actions.

This was good, and the honey and the whisky and the lemon blended up well. This should have whole cloves spiked in the lemon, but I'm working with what I've got. I'm sick, remember. There was too much whisky in the drink, and I mentioned that, and my wife sez, 'So add more water.' No, I wittily responded. I said there was too much, I didn't say I didn't like it that way.

Next up: the Scottish classic.

Whiskyskin: sugar, boiling water, swatch of lemon peel, good dose of Speyburn 15. I'm no snob; I like Speyburn, especially for the money. I like this drink, too. I think it's because the peel is so much sharper by itself, especially when it's squeezed a bit. This is opening up my nose more, which is kinda the point. I like.

I was strongly tempted to have another. But duty called.

Duty...and bourbon.
Hot Medicine: My own magic elixir that I've been loving since my grad school days, when I flirted briefly with over-serving myself, before realizing that would never serve me well. I stick to one of these a night now, because of the strong relaxant power. Hot Medicine is two bags worth of strong tea, made with a pint of boiling water. Let the tea steep at least ten minutes; nothing about this is about making a 'proper' cup of tea, it's about making a monster infusion that can stand up to the following additions. Add two teaspoons of sugar or honey, and 4-5 ounces of bourbon. I added 4 ounces of J.T.S. Brown Bonded tonight, because...bonded.

The Hot Medicine cleared me up, at least for long enough to get to sleep. I blew my nose profusely as I started drinking it, but that's done, and I feel as if just spent half an hour in a sauna. Bed time... thanks, Shane, great idea!

Whiskey. As Davey Crockett said, "It keeps you warm in the winter, and cool in the summertime."

Monday, November 11, 2019

Forgot To Mention: You'd Better Pre-Order The Book

Let's talk about book pre-orders. It's a pretty simple discussion: you want to buy my book. I want you to buy my book. But I really want you to buy it before it's actually available (currently projected release date is February 18, 2020). 

It takes an extra effort to pre-order a book. I get that. There's no instant gratification; not even the Amazon-instant gratification of knowing you'll have it in a day or three. No, you look at that picture of the cover, and read those glowing comments by other authors, and get to look at a couple pictures that may or may not be in the book, and you think, "Yeah, what's the rush?" 

All four of these pictures are in the book. I swear this to you. 

We get that. But pre-orders are what make the book-selling world go around. Pre-orders mean bigger orders from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you pre-order from your local indie bookstore, that can be even better, especially if you get some kind of excited when you do it, because then the people at the bookstore will get excited about it and tell other people about it. (And maybe even invite me to do a signing event, I mean, why not, right?)

Pre-orders are the key to the best-seller lists (well, for books about things that get on the best-seller lists, but a guy can dream), and pre-orders are the quickest way for me, your old buddy the whiskey writer, to get paid. You want all that to happen, right?

So do I, and so does my editor. We came up with a plan. If you pre-order, we have some bonus material for you. See, I was constrained by the word-count on this one, and my math was not up to snuff. I overwrote, and there were a couple thousand words that didn't fit. There's a section on making whiskey from a craft-type beer mash that got cut, and about a dozen tasting notes, including a couple nice long comparatives. I was maybe going to try to sell that to a magazine or website, then the editor says, 'hey, wait a minute...'

You can get this bonus material (in PDF form, as a download you can read on your smartphone or tablet) if you pre-order. Once the book's out though (currently February 18), offer's over, and the stuff's gone. But if you do stir yourself, and your credit card, you can get Whiskey Master Class...Plus! And don't worry: if you've already pre-ordered, you will also receive the bonus material. Of course you will. And thank you!

That's beautiful, baby. Yeah.
(We don't have to ask you not to share/post the PDF once you've received it, right? Because you respect copyright, and the idea of a creator making a fair living for their work, and don't want to create any negative waves? Thought so. Thanks!)

Here's how it works. It's going through the publisher, so it's a bit hand-made, not all slick and Amazony, but it works.

First, order the book before February 18! Next, email your proof of pre-order purchase -- see the Amazon example below, which you'd want to copy out of your Amazon order and paste into the email; if you pre-ordered at a bookstore, snap a photo of the receipt and send that along with the name of the book, the store, and date showing -- and send it to us at with a subject line of "Whiskey Master Class Bonus Offer". Easy-peasy. Copy the proof of purchase, paste it in an email, send it to us, and we'll send you the PDF. Done.

Order Confirmation
Hello Amy F Lerseth,

Thank you for shopping with us. You ordered "Keto: A Woman's Guide: The..." . We’ll send a confirmation when your item ships.
Order #113-5877026-4278628
Tuesday, June 11

Your Orders
Ship to:
Amy Lerseth
Total Before Tax:
Estimated Tax:
Order Total:
$14.42(or less)

But here's the BEST part! If you pre-order and send in your proof of pre-order, we'll send you the bonus material right away! (Okay, as soon as the editorial assistant can get to it, but real soon!). So you can start enjoying Whiskey Master Class right now. That's pretty cool, right?

So help me out here. You'll get the book, plus the bonus material. You'll be assured of getting it as soon as it comes out, so you can start learning about whiskey flavor creation right away. And you'll be helping me get paid, which is a noble gesture on your part, thank you very much!

How about it? Pippin likes people who pre-order.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Genesee Schwarzbier, 2019 return!

I don't know what I love more about this can illustration. Is it the closed eyes, signaling relaxed enjoyment? The full face beard and red flannel of the mountain man? The jaunty pipe -- a PIPE, on a beer label, oh my God! -- with the little design on the bowl?

No, it's gotta be the BIG GLASS OF BEER! The dude is loving that beer. Happy to be here, folks, having a big old schwarzbier.

And so am I, now, and I'm a happy fella. I've been waiting for months for the reappearance of Genesee's Schwarzbier. Yeah, really, a canned seasonal from a lumpy old regional brewery in upstate New York, and it is a happy day that it has returned. My wife brought some home from a visit to her mother outside of Rochester, and I can only hope that it trickles down to Pennsylvania soon.

Schwarzbier has always been a favorite of mine. Dark, flavorful, mild, and utterly drinkable in large quantities. I recall the first time I brought a case of Kostritzer's classic home. I opened one, and started making dinner...and 40 minutes later Cathy came through the door, and somehow 5 bottles were empty.

But it's fairly temperate, so it's all good. Take a big lager-brewed swallow: smooth, creamy mouthfeel, a roasty and chewy flavor, a just slightly tangy finish of black malt, and hurra! We're ready for another!

I'm taking a sixer along to dinner -- Figs, a BYO Mediterranean place in Philly -- and it's going to be welcome. I still recall being at a busy German-tapped bar one night, when a woman came up and asked for "your lightest beer." Give her a Kostritzer, I called, and they did. She looked at me as if to say, 'you're blind,' and I urged her to try it. It WAS the lightest beer they had: the black beer.

Thanks for the winter gift, Genesee!

Heaven Hill Bottled In Bond: three glasses

4 year old; The Six; the new 7 year old
I've always been a fan of Heaven Hill because of the value of their whiskeys. Evan Williams, in the familiar black label, the Bonded, and Single Barrel bottlings, is the benchmark for bourbon value. I will admit: I didn't get the value prospect when I first started seriously drinking bourbon. I perversely wanted to spend more money on my whiskey. When I found Elijah Craig 12 year old for $14 (20 years ago!), I changed my mind.

So one of my favorite bottles was the Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Years Old in the white label. I liked the way that bottle poured down the long neck, I liked the smack in the face of its unapologetic big corn/big oak character, and I sure did like that $14 (or less) price tag. That and Wild Turkey 101 were the bourbons that led me to realize that I preferred bourbons on the low side of 12 years old.

I felt betrayed when Heaven Hill pulled the Bonded Six from the market last year. That's a little harsh; it makes sense. Why put such great whiskey in a bottle for $14 ($21 for a handle!), when whiskeys that aren't even as good are selling for four times that? It simply no longer made sense for Heaven Hill, even with their long and loyal practice of supporting markets that had supported them (in this case, the bottom shelf bandits, I guess). I get it.

But now we get Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 7 year old, and it's $40 a bottle. Where's that rise in price come from? An extra year of age, and I guess the Bottled-in-Bond hyphens aren't free, and that is a very snazzy new bottle and label. But you know me Al: how's it taste?

I just went through the process of sorting all my bourbons and ryes, so I knew I had not only the Bonded Six and the new bottling, but a 'pint' bottle of Old Heaven Hill Bonded, a 4 year old that I believe is still out there. Let's taste them.

Old Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond — No age statement, but I'm guessing this probably isn't much over 4 years old. Sweet corn on the nose, some hot oaky alcohol, and some pleasantly delicate nuts and fruit pastilles there as well. Simple but well-built on the tongue: everything the nose promises, with a bit of creamy sweetness as well, and maybe a hint of green corn. Decent finish. Better than I remember, to be honest.

Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Years Old —  Given the age of this bottle (I found it buried in the back of my liquor cabinet), it was likely laid down by Parker and Craig Beam. In Parker's honor, I'll note that I smell corn, and oak! I also smell lots of spicy candy, coffee cake streusel, and sweet stollen dough. Big entry: hot corn pudding, Red Hots, peppermint oil, and a beginning of the oak that will build through the finish. The heat is a rock-em sock-em kind of thing, a punch, but a gloved punch that's not going to knock your palate out. Instead, it brings you back for more, like the soothing pummeling of a massage. I want to finish the sample, but I'll have to come back to it.

Heaven Hill 7 Year Old Bottled In Bond — Trying hard to clear my head of expectations... The nose has more candy -- orange nougat, butter mints -- but also lots of cornmeal and dusty seed corn, along with whiskey-wet barrel oak. Quite different from the Bonded Six on the palate: smoother, more cornmeal and dried corn, the Red Hots are lighter and not as sweet. That's it: it's a lighter, almost brittle sweetness over a richer corn and oak underlayment, almost like a crème brûlée kind of structure (not flavor; structure). The end of the palate and into the finish is more austere, and shorter.

When I go back to the Bonded Six after this, it seems a lot sweeter, until that finish, which piles on the oak. That's where I think the Bonded Six has the advantage; the finish on the 7 Year Old is shorter, and less...magnificent. The 7 has a more interesting nose, it has more balanced flavor that we'll call 'separate but equal,' but that Bonded Six finish is something I'm going to miss.

Is the Heaven Hill 7 Year Old Bonded worth $40? At 100° and 7 years old, baby, most definitely! Especially when I look around at what else is going for $40 these days. Hell, get a bottle of this and a bottle of New Riff Bonded for about the same price, and you'll have $80 well-spent; catch the right store pricing, and you'll have enough left over for lemons, superfine sugar, and chips for a whiskey sour party you won't soon forget. This steps lightly and brightly along the edge of young bonded power and mature whiskey sophistication, a young boxer who just got his first silk suit.

Are the days of punch-in-the-face bourbon gone? There are always 4 year olds that will slap you: Beam White, Jack Black. There are  8 to 12 year olds that will body-slam you: Russell's Reserve, Knob Creek. But when I go looking for the solid haymaker to the chops that was the Bonded Six...I'm not sure it's going to be out there. Maybe I need to get out Jimmy's Remedy: Turkey 101. I'll let you know about that.