Archive for April, 2009

Building a Bar Without Breaking the Bank

April 25, 2009

Everyone loves a good home bar.  It’s a sign of class and success, the true display of one’s appreciation for the finer things in life.  Of course, if stocked with plastic bottles of hooch, it can also be a sign of depravity. I prefer to find the middle ground and stock my bar with the quality ingredients necessary for well-crafted cocktails, but without the overzealous cliches of the label-conscious crowd.

When stocking a home bar, one should consider the purpose of the spirit.  If sipping it straight, invest in a higher quality bottle.  If mixing into a cocktail, you can usually grab from the middle shelf without sacraficing taste.  Plus, it’s important to realize that certain spirits, like rye whiskey, for example, present many excellent choices around the $20 range, whereas one has to climb the ladder toward $40 for a solid reposado tequila or aged scotch.

But to get that liquor cabinet on it’s way toward a respectable bar (and trust us, building a home bar is one of the most rewarding things one can do), Imbibe Magazine, an authority on all things drinkable, suggests the following as economical choices that will spruce up anyone’s home bar:

Gin: Beefeater, Hendrick’s, Martin Miller’s, Plymouth 

Bourbon: Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare 10 Yr., Evan Williams, Woodford Reserve 

Rye: Jim Beam, Old Overholt, Rittenhouse 100 

Vodka: Belvedere, Blue Ice, Skyy, Sobieski 

White rum: Bacardi, Flor de Caña 4 Yr., Mt. Gay Eclipse 

Aged rum: Appleton Estate, Bacardi 8, Flor de Caña 12 Yr. 

Reposado tequila: Cazadores, Jose Cuervo Tradicional, Milagro

Give those a shot to start.  Add liqueurs and bitters and more exotic spirits to the mix as you go, and you’ll soon have a bar that’s the envy of everyone on your block. Or your floor, depending on the parties you throw.


Booze as Medicine

April 23, 2009

Everyone has a different remedy for curing illness, whether it’s traditional medication, herbal supplements or even prayer. 

But the thirsty ones among us often attempt to cure what ails us (common cold, depression, hangnail) with alcohol. From straight scotch to hot toddys, alcohol is nature’s natural antiseptic and can trace its medicinal use back thousands of years.  Today we even drink for preventative measures.  A glass or two of red wine a day purportedly protects against everything from high blood pressure to certain cancers.

For me, it’s whiskey.  Specifically, whiskey with tea and lemon.  Tea for the antioxidants, lemon for the vitamins and whiskey for the whiskey. Whether science or placebo, it usually does the trick. It’s killed colds, sore throats and nausea. It helps me sleep and generally just raises my spirits. And you don’t even need a prescription, just proof of age.

Of course, as I write this, I think I’m getting sick.  Which means it’s time to break out the faithful concoction. After all, one can never be too careful with one’s health.


A Match Made in Heaven: Pizza & Beer

April 22, 2009

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” –Dave Barry

Never have truer words been spoken. Few foods are as frequently paired with a single drink as pizza is with beer.  However, when you are no longer arguing with your frat brother over who paid for the last $5 pizza from Domino’s or whose turn it is to grab another case of Bud Light, it’s time to start pairing nicer pizzas with nicer beers.

The primary consideration when pairing pizza and beer is that the beer you are drinking should not overpower the flavor of the pizza and vice versa, particularly as both pizza and beer have started to include more complex ingredients and flavors.  If you enjoy a spicy pizza, consider drinking an IPA, as this will enhance that spice; or you can enjoy a cold brown ale, in which the sweetness will counter the spicy food.

When pairing beer (or wine) with food, don’t hesitate to contact your local liquor store for some suggestions or refer to some online guides such as this article from, which provides recipes for new style pizzas and notes which beers pair best with each.  Of course, you can also check out articles on the subject by experts like Kevin Gray.

But no matter what, with the range of beers and pizzas out there these days, there should be something for everyone.

Top 50 Breweries in America

April 15, 2009

The Brewers Association, which represents the majority of brewing companies in the U.S., announced its annual list of the top 50 brewers and craft brewers based on 2008 sales volume.  As expected, Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors came in 1-2.  Boston Beer Co., brewer of Sam Adams, placed 4th overall, and first among craft brewers.

The top ten brewers are as follows:

  1. Anheuser-Busch InBev — St Louis, MO
  2. MillerCoors — Chicago, IL
  3. Pabst Brewing — Woodridge, IL
  4. Boston Beer Co. — Boston, MA
  5. D. G. Yuengling and Son — Pottsville, PA
  6. Sierra Nevada Brewing — Chico, CA
  7. Craft Brewers Alliance (Widmer/Redhook) — Portland, OR
  8. New Belgium Brewing — Fort Collins, CO
  9. High Falls Brewing — Rochester, NY
  10. Spoetzl Brewery — Shiner, TX

The top 10 craft brewers:

  1. Boston Beer Co. — Boston, MA
  2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. — Chico, CA
  3. New Belgium Brewing Co. — Fort Collins, CO
  4. Spoetzel Brewing — Shiner, TX
  5. Pyramid Breweries Inc. — Seattle, WA
  6. Deschutes Brewery — Bend, OR
  7. Matt Brewing Co. — Utica, NY
  8. Boulevard Brewing Co. — Kansas City, MO
  9. Full Sail Brewing Co. — Hood River, OR
  10. Magic Hat Brewing Co. — Burlington, VT

Click here for the full list.

In Tough Times, Restaurants Appeal to Drinkers

April 13, 2009

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a phenomenon occuring across the country, in which restaurants–including the high-end variety–are morphing into bars that also happen to serve food.  From the WSJ:

Around the country, proprietors are turning their restaurants — or significant parts of them — into glorified bars. They’re ripping out dining-room tables to make more bar space, applying for late-night and cabaret licenses and adding the word ‘bar’ to their names. Top chefs are serving up bar snacks like grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs.

The reason for this change is that, while consumer spending at restaurants is falling at an alarming rate, drink orders, particularly for cheaper drinks like beer, aren’t taking much of a hit. For restaurants, it’s now proving more cost-effective to serve lower-priced dishes and drinks at the bar,  as each offers better margins than high-end food.

This is pretty good news for the drinking population, especially those that enjoy the ambiance of a nice restaurant bar.  Later hours, more taps, better cocktail lists and cheap(er) food.  What’s not to like?  Any change that caters to the drinking set is a win in my book. 

Full story here.

It’s Closing Time for The NYT’s Proof Blog

April 9, 2009

Established just four months ago, The New York Time’s Proof Blog was a welcome treat to literate drinkers everywhere.  Focused on “Alcohol and American Life,” the Proof Blog contributers explored the power of alcohol and the role it plays in our lives, offering wisdom and experiences formed through deep, symbiotic relationships with booze.

That said, we’re sorry to learn that after four months and 40 posts, the Proof Blog has announced last call.  In its last post–for now, at least–four Proof contributers weigh in with “brief dispatches from their drinking lives.”

Take a gander, and raise your glass.

NYT Proof Blog | Last Call: Dispatches

Men Behind the Label

April 7, 2009

When you are going heavy on the sauce, chances are someone is judging you.  Whether its a condescending look from the bus driver, a “cut-off” sign from the bartender or a knowing look from the other end of the couch.

A good way to distract your potential critics is to regale them with stories of the “men behind the label.”  Ask them if they know that Captain Morgan was actually a pirate or drop a pop quiz on them and ask if they know which American whiskey founder accidentally killed himself by kicking a safe.   Who knows?  It might buy you some time to sneak in that last sip.

Read more here.

Captain Morgan

Persuasive Tequila Ad

April 7, 2009

Thanks to The Liquid Muse

Tales of the Cocktail

April 6, 2009

Tales of the Cocktail




Held annually in New Orleans, Tales of the Cocktail is a festival celebrating cocktails, cuisine and culture.  The event brings together the best and brightest of the cocktail community, including award-winning mixologists, authors, bartenders, chefs and more, for a five-day celebration of the history and artistry of making drinks.

If you’re in the area, or, like us, don’t mind trekking cross country for a well made cocktail, then check it out for an opportunity to learn, drink and make some friends.  And then drink with your new friends.

 July 8th – 12th, 2009

It’s Drinking Season

April 3, 2009

With spring upon us and summer around the corner, drinkers everywhere are salivating at the thought of cracking open their favorite seasonal brew, uncorking their most cherished white wine or mixing up a refreshing cocktail. (Not that we haven’t been drinking all winter, but the changing of the seasons pairs well with some lighter fare.)

Below are a few recommendations that will make wasting away these glorious afternoons and evenings a little more memorable. Enjoy, and you’re welcome.


Bocks — Originating in Germany and generally regarded as the first “seasonal” beer, bocks were traditionally released in the spring. The rules may have changed some over the years, but have a bock this spring–perhaps from Anchor Brewing or Yuengling–and tip your hat to the Germans.

Sam Adams Summer Ale — A good wheat beer can be quite refreshing, especially on a hot day. This beer is brewed with malted wheat, lemon zest and grains of paradise — a rare pepper from Africa. But more importantly, since the sale of Anheuser-Busch to InBev in 2008, Sam Adams is now the largest domestic beer producer in the United States, so every beer you drink is helping our economy.


German Rieslings — There are a number of good Rieslings, and this white wine has seen an increase in popularity in recent years, especially as whites have started to rival the popularity of reds. Rieslings have built a reputation of being one of the most varied of white wines, encompassing a range from dry to sweet and pairing well with a variety of foods. For specific inspiration, check out The New York Times Eric Asimov’s list of his 10 favorite Rieslings.


Mojito — Traditionally made with five ingredients — white rum, simple syrup (or sugar), lime, carbonated water, and mint,  this tasty cocktail offers a refreshing beverage in preparation for summer.

Vodka & Soda, with a splash of cranberry juice — A crowd pleaser for the ladies, this is a light, tasty drink that any bartender can make (if not, you might want to reconsider where you take your dates). A nice addition is a slice of lime to add a bit of a citrus to accompany the tartness of the cranberry juice.