Friday, September 7, 2012

Puttin' the "D" in "Dilettante"

Few things say, "Summer in Chicago" like the lights at Wrigley Field as viewed from the roof.
To all our friends and readers who have been asking what's happened to the blog, let me first offer regrets for not posting for so long.  Let me then softly redirect us, Gentle Reader, to the definition of dilettante and warmly suggest that the sporadic nature of this blog is embedded right in the name.  I suppose we all need to get used to the fact (myself included) that there will be dry spells from time to time, as odious as that is for a cocktail blog!

To answer the question that the Dilettante's absence has surfaced, no, we have not gone on the wagon.  Indeed, what we have done has been to make use of the blog during these oh-too-short summer months, clicking the "summer" tag early and often for rooftime and spontaneous celebrations with friends.

I'm glad to report that this summer, the initial mission of this blog has been successfully accomplished.  Looking back over the season, it's clear: our tastes have indeed been expanded.  Bourbon is decidedly the new vodka for both the Dilettante and The Partner.  And for The Partner, so is gin.  So perhaps the best way to bring back the blog is to review some of our summer faves with updates to the original entries for the season's top bevs, discuss some of our new favorite liquors, and suggest some labels.

Bookmark this page.  As the entries for the listed tipples are updated they'll become active links back to their original and updated pages.

Welcome back!

Beverage Updates  Links below will take you to the top of each page.  Scroll down to find the updates.

Pimm's Cup #1
Corpse Reviver #2
Bourbon Squash
Moscow Mule
Mint Julep
Cuba Libre
Champagne Cocktail

Favorite Liquors  Click here for top of page.  Click individual liquors below for direct links.

Willett Bourbon
Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Bourbon
Eagle Rare Bourbon
Hendrick's Gin
Bombay Sapphire Dry Gin
Small's American Dry Gin
St. George Botanivore Gin

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Favorite Liquors & Labels

Nothing is pleasant that is not spiced with variety.  

So says Sir Francis Bacon.  

As many a faithful reader, friend or family member will know, Sir Francis's sentiment has been the motivation of this blog and cocktail project.  After years of being locked in our choice troika of beer, wine, or vodka, The Dilettante and The Partner have busted our parochial palates.  For the past 18 months now we've been exploring the mixological arts via our guides, Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century and The PDT Cocktail Book.  

This summer has been a dry spell for the blog, but not for our liquid explorations.  In fact, this season has seen the realization of our mission in the most diverse terms thus far.  Looking back over the summer and examining our recreational sipping habits, we have clearly built up a repertoire of cocktails that we now confidently order or mix beyond the big three above.

Here are some of our favorite "new" liquors and the labels we've enjoyed thus far.  Bookmark this page for updates as time goes on.  You'll also be able to find links back here from the entry, "Puttin' the 'D' in 'Dilettante'".  Those links will bring you to the top of this page.  Scroll down to see the updates.

Here's to building palates as well as bar shelves!

What a great bottle.
There's no better place to start than at the top of the list.  Willett has become our absolute favorite bourbon.  The Partner would have it in any bourbon bev.  I, however, reserve it for either sipping straight or cocktails with few ingredients so it can be appreciated for the jewel it is.

To date we have not found a smoother, more balanced bourbon.  Vanilla and caramel play of nice wood notes that are almost piney.  Wonderful and warm.

Willett has also become a great gift for the two main bourbon connoisseurs in my life -- my sister and my father.  Knowing our love of it, it's also been gifted to us by our friends, M. & B.  Recently, we've turned our friends S. & D. onto it -- self-avowed non-bourbon drinkers. 

If you're intrigued, purchase this genie bottle when you see it.  It's seasonal and batch-distilled.  When it's gone for the season, it's gone and not easy to find.  You'll know a quality bar when they have this on the top shelf.

Woodford Reserve Distillers Select
If Willett is our measuring stick, then Woodford Reserve is about half a shelf down from Willett.  We liked it better than the Rare Eagle, which honestly, I thought was clearly not Willett, but still good.  That is until we had the Woodford which has much more body and character.  Another limited-batch spirit, it's a bourbon I feel good using to create a high end cocktail without using an over-qualified spirit like Willett.  That said, it's nearly as expensive as Willett.  But still, somehow you don't feel as bad combining it with other mixers and accents.  Woodford elevates them rather than the other ingredients bringing the bourbon down.

Woodford is characterized by a nice tanginess.  It is strong.  Imagine a peppered toffee.  Smokey.  Spicy.  It makes a nice Manhattan and holds up very well to the citrus in a Bourbon Squash.

Eagle Rare Bourbon
One Saturday afternoon, while on a Binny's run, I decided to grab a couple other liquors that I'd either heard of or were on the Binny's recommended list.  ERB was the latter.  Initially, I found it to be a suitable mixing bourbon when I didn't want to use Willett.  It had a complexity and warmth I found lacking in more commercial bourbons.  But right off the bat, The Partner detected the difference:  "Is this Willett?"  You can practically see the pinched face and scrunched nose as if a baby in a bad diaper just walked by.  And I have to admit, that in a side-by-side comparison, it does not hold up even to the Woodford Reserve, never mind Willett.  In that company the Eagle Rare is thin and watery, relatively flavorless.  When I have a choice, I'll be going with the Woodford.  But in a pinch, the Eagle Rare will do.

St. George Botanivore Gin
The name alone is enough to get this English teacher to purchase it.  What a great word, botanivore!  "Botanical eater"! The marketing person who came up with that one sure earned their keep on that day!  Going beyond just marketing, it's an apt name for this gin.  As many a reader will recall, the Dilettante doesn't enjoy naked gin.  However, this is one was purchased due to its prevalent use in the PDT bible.  Even from this anti-ginite, SGBG is to be appreciated.  Cocktails that allow gin to shine will benefit greatly from this spirit.  It is herby, green, floral, with whispers of juniper, citrus, maybe even some coriander.  From here on it will be the gin of choice on the Dilettante's bar.  Nineteen different botanicals means it will play nicely with all kinds of mixers and accents.