Thursday, November 16, 2017

Laird's Applejack: An American Original

I've had the honor of tasting many different spirits and liqueurs during my time in and out of the bar business. But until this past week, I had never had a taste of Applejack, specifically Laird's Applejack. What I enjoy more than a good spirit is a good backstory to said spirit...and this one has one. So taking a cue from my alter-ego +History Sisco let's go back in time.

According to the label on the bottle of Laird's Applejack which is produced by Laird and Company, they've been in business since 1780 and the recipe for the Applejack was created by William Laird in 1698. The recipe proved to be so popular that it drew the attention of General George Washington when the applejack was being served to the troops of the Revolutionary army. General Washington loved the spirit so much that he asked for the recipe to make the applejack. And who can really say no to General Washington, right?

General Washington was given the recipe and he proceeded to distill some applejack. But that's not the only instance where a future President of the United States was linked to applejack. Our 16th President Abraham Lincoln used to serve liquor at the Berry and Lincoln grocery store in Illinois and applejack was undoubtedly one of spirits served. Rumor even has it that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose mixology skills I profiled with the Haitian Libation, would add a splash of applejack to his martinis. And for the record, I would say without much doubt that FDR was knocking back Gin Martinis. In literary circles, applejack in the form of the Jack Rose cocktail is knocked back by character Jake Barnes in Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises. I'll profile the Jack Rose cocktail in a later post.

The spirit also owes its popularity to a 19th century pioneer and preacher who went by the name of Johnny Appleseed. Appleseed would make his way through parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and West Virginia planting apple seeds for the apples that are used to make applejack. And since I mention the apples in applejack, let's shift gears as to what applejack is.

According to the article One Family's Story: Apples to Applejack by Frank J. Prial from the New York Times dated May 4, 2005:
The best apples for making applejack are small, late-ripening Winesaps, Larrie Laird said, "because they yield more alcohol." Sixteen pounds of apples produce about 25 ounces of applejack.
The colonial American method for making applejack was to make hard cider from the apples, leaving the cider in barrels outside during the winter and as the water portion of the cider froze, it would be removed leaving the fermented and potent apple spirit. This process was knows as "Jacking."

Today Laird's Applejack is a 80 proof spirit made up of a blend of about 35 percent apple brandy and 65 percent neutral grain spirits. The spirit also be made from whole apples and must be aged four years in used bourbon barrels.

For the last 237 years, the Laird Family has been making applejack for countless generations of American drinkers. Now its my turn. For my next post, I'll highlight the Washington Applejack Mule that I made this past Tuesday.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanillaAtTheMovies
#SiscoVanillaAtTheBookstore
#SiscoVanillaisStepping

For Further Reading:

- One Family's Story: Apples to Applejack by Frank J. Prial from the New York Times dated May 4, 2005

HOW APPLEJACK BECAME THE SPIRIT OF AMERICAN PRESIDENTS by DAN Q. DAO from the Saveur Magazine website dated FEBRUARY 22, 2017

Jersey Lightning Karen Tina Harrison from New Jersey Monthly dated July 13, 2009

- Applejack by Troy Patterson from Slate.com dated December 7, 2011

- Elements: Applejack by Paul Clarke from Imbibe Magazine dated January 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Old Pal at Finn's Corner

After three and a half years of being retired from the bar business I, like Douglas MacArthur have returned. Well, its not as dramatic as that LOL. But as you can imagine my excitement, I get a second shot at redemption in the bar business. I'll be behind the stick at Finn's Corner, 660 Washington Avenue in Brooklyn on Tuesday nights. So in honor of my friend Pete who offered my the opportunity to return to bartending, here is the Old Pal Cocktail.

The Old Pal

Now the Old Pal's origins lay with legendary bartender Harry MacElhone of the legendary Harry's New York Bar in Paris, France.  It is believed that MacElhone had created the drink in honor of his friend William "Sparrow" Robinson who was a sports columnist at the New York Herald-Tribune's Paris office. Now there is some dispute as to when the drink was created. For that I'll refer you to the article Classic Drinks: The Old Pal and a New Friend by Nick Caruana from the Serious Eats website.  On to the cocktail.

Some of you might see the recipe and think that it is a riff on the classic cocktail known as the Negroni. Whether it is or not I can not say. I have also seen this cocktail made with a 2:1:1 proportion with the whiskey having the larger share but for simplicity sake, I decided to make it as originally created. Here is the recipe for the Old Pal.


The Old Pal
1 Part Rittenhouse 100 Proof Rye Whiskey
1 Part Dolin Dry Vermouth
1 Part Campari
Combine all ingredients in ice filled shaker. Stir until the shaker is frosty and cold. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.



I found the Old Pal to be rather balanced, considering you have a 100 proof Rye and Campari making up two thirds of the ingredients with a hint of the bitterness of the Campari at the back of the tongue after taking a sip. If that aspect of Campari might be a bit harsh for your palate, I would recommend replacing the Campari with Aperol for a less harsher experience.

Here are my thoughts straight from behind the bar.


If you decide to have one let me know what you think. Have you tried it with another Rye Whiskey? Drop me a line and let me know at SiscoVanilla@gmail.com or give me a follow on Instagram at @SiscoVanilla

Until Then Happy Drinking,
SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanillaAtTheMovies
#SiscoVanillaAtTheBookstore
#SiscoVanillaisStepping

For Further Reading:

- The Mystery of the Old Pal Cocktail from Cold Glass.com

Sunday, January 29, 2017

What is Hennessy Paradis

Hello gals and guys. I know its been a while since I've posted anything. I've been busy adjusting to a new position at work so I've been laying off the booze (aside from the occasional tipple) to keep my mind clear. But a few weeks back, I went out to brunch with Momma-San and a few friends to the Pine Bar+Grill loctaed at 1634 Eastchester Rd, Bronx, NY 10461 (718) 319-0900. As I was persuing the cocktail menu, I came across a listing that caught my attention. Here is what I saw.

Looking through the "After Dinner" section of the cocktail menu, I saw that an 1.5oz serving of Hennessy Paradis cost a cool $230 dollars. Now you might say "Hey wait, the Remy Martin Louis XIII for the same size costs $40 dollars more." That is true, but I'm familiar with the Louis XIII. I can't say I've ever remembered hearing about the Hennessy Paradis. So with that in mind, here is what I found out about said Hennessy Paradis.

Going to the source, the Hennessy website describes the Paradis as so:

Paradis is named after the special section in the Hennessy aging cellars where the finest, rarest, and oldest eaux-de-vie are carefully guarded. Created in 1979, the blend was conceived to be superlative yet subtle, making some of Hennessy’s most precious spirits widely available for the first time.
Possessed of rich successive aromas that only a great Cognac can obtain, Paradis reveals its delicate and velvety character, hinting at the silky texture that will follow. Its subtle texture allows it to gracefully blossom with a deep and fragrant persistence.
A further description comes from the Dan Murphy's online liquor store website's listing for the Hennessy Paradis:
Perfectly harmonious in the mouth, Hennessy Paradis Extra reveals itself to be smooth, full-bodied and long-lasting on the palate. A blend of over 100 'eaux-de-vie' and aged alongside other great 'eaux-de-vie's of its generation. Paradis is the realisation of a dream by its creator, Maurice Fillioux, using spirit blended by his grandfather. The tradition continues today to select spirits that will taste every bit as powerful and elegant in 4 generations time.
The cognac comes in a 750ml bottle and retails in the $800 dollar range. That has to be some really good cognac. That is way too rich for my blood. It was even rich for me when I was bartending, let alone now. But hey, if you have that kind of cash to spend on a cognac, rock on.

Anyone want to share their experiences with the Hennessy Paradis?

Until Then Happy Drinking,
SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanillaAtTheMovies
#SiscoVanillaAtTheBookstore

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Booze Ads From the December 19, 1985 New York Times


Hey there gals and guys. Sorry for the lack of posts as of late. I've been focusing on work, including a promotion to management at a new bookstore cafe location. So I've been very busy and trying to keep the mind clear. Which means no cocktails for the time being. But it doesn't mean that I am not looking out for booze related material to post on. 

With that in mind, I was looking through the December 19, 1975 issue of the New York Times and came across the following ads. While I thought that the ads would be much more festive than they were, I am surprised that there is some variety to the ads. They aren't all whisky/whiskey ads as I have come across in other issues of the New York Times. 


One ad that I find curious is the ad for the Carpano Punt e Mes. Italian Vermouth Rossos and Amaros have undergone a renaissance among cocktail circles in the last few years. No longer do you just see Martini Vermouth Rosso on the back bar as the standard. Now many a brand can be found including the classic Vermouth brand Carpano with their Punt e Mes being front and center. Punt e Mes is a bit different from your standard Vermouth Rosso which places it in the Amaro category.

According to the Carpano Punt e Mes website:
Punt e Mes has a golden orange color with topaz tones, herby aromas and dark red, black dahlia with vermilion shades. The initial taste is one of sweetness, characterised by an intriguing accent of orange. This is followed by the characteristically bitter taste of the quina and ends on a sweet note.
Aside from being used in such classic cocktails as the Manhattan and the Negroni, two other cocktails that are listed on the Branca.it website for use of Punt e Mes are the MITO and the 70's Punt e Mes cocktails.



Now at times you'll see the terms Vermouth Rosso and Amaro bounced around when characterizing a product like Punt e Mes. How to tell the difference between the two? I found an article by Warren Bobrow entitled Amaro & Vermouth: The Bitter and the Sweet from the Williams and Sonoma Taste website from September 9, 2011. Here is what he had to say:
Italian Vermouth in many ways is similar to Amaro, but a bit less bitter on the tongue.  Some uniquely flavorful ones from Italy are Punt e Mes and the esoteric, salubrious Carpano Antica.  The Carpano is a rum raisin-filled mouthful of sweet vanilla cake, laced with Asian spices and caramelized dark stone fruits. Punt e Mes is lighter and nuttier, with caramelized pecans and hand-ground grits in the finish.

I’m sure the alcohol is low — all these products (Amaro included) are low in alcohol, making them perfect in a cocktail. Amaro can be enjoyed as a digestif, it acts to settle the stomach after a large meal because of the herbal ingredients.

But what does Amaro taste like? The flavors vary from sweet to bittersweet to herbal, featuring orange blossoms, caramel and nuts. Some taste like artichoke, others like mint, and still others like a sweetened root tea. They may be enjoyed in a cup of hot tea as an elixir, or dropped into a small cup of espresso to “correct” the sweet, thick coffee.
As you can see, Amaros run the gamut on the taste profile list. Regardless of which brand you come across, give them a try. Take a page from the Skittles handbook: taste the rainbow, feel the rainbow. Sorry, that was bad. On that note, I'm out. Peace and Happy Holidays.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanillaAtTheMovies
#SiscoVanillaAtTheBookstore




Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This Week in Home Cocktailing August 28, 2016 Part II

Moving along with the staycation marathon of cocktails, I wanted to highlight a trio of classic cocktails that I made. And here we go.

The tragic events in Nice, France during this past Bastille Day caused me to postpone my post on the French 75. But with the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Paris from the Nazis occurring on August 25, it was time to bring back the French 75.



The mention of the French 75 reminds me of the scene in Casablanca where Yvonne (Madeleine Lebeau) arrives with a Nazi officer and orders a row of French 75's. She indirectly starts a fight between the German officer and a French policeman/officer, who while sitting at the bar takes exception to Yvonne and her companion.

This scene is followed by what I find to be one of the most emotional and powerful scenes in a movie. A group of Nazi German officers singing Die Wacht Am Rhein stirs the patrons of Rick's Cafe American, led by Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid), to stand and sing La Marseillaise. The scene gives me goosebumps every time. Fast forward to August 25, 1944 and the liberation of Paris. Can you imagine how La Marseillasie was echoing off the buildings in Paris on that day? Vive la France indeed. Back to the cocktail at hand.

While at first the Prosecco dominates the cocktail. The gin and lemon juice subtly come up to the surface. The cocktail is very light and enjoyable. I can see why someone told me they prefer to have these during brunch as opposed to standard Mimosas and Bellinis. This got me wondering what the cocktail would be like with a French Cognac substituting the Gin as is often done. That I will do in a future post. Here I go again letting the world what I think about the French 75 on my SiscoVanilla YouTube channel:


The next cocktail I made was in honor of National Whisky Sour Day, which incidentally was a Whisky Sour. Imagine that. LOL. For this cocktail, I decided to use Crown Royal Canadian Whisky. Here is the recipe:


This version of the Whisky Sour is interesting. Some people are very iffy when it comes to using egg whites in a cocktail. If you don't want to use the egg white, then don't. What you will have is a cocktail that has less head and isn't as silky as one with egg white. I can have it either way. But what you don't want is to have a Whisky Sour that has just whisky and sour mix off the speed gun that some bars insist is a Whisky Sour. 

You should never settle on such a cocktail that is simple to make. It takes a little effort to extract the egg whites but once you do, you'll have a cocktail that is smooth and has a nice head (as the picture indicates). The citrus and sugar melds very nicely with the whisky. It melded so nicely that I had two more sans egg whites. Definitely play around with different whiskies. A nice spicy rye might add a different layer of flavor to your Whisky Sour. Hmmm, that's actuallly not a bad idea. 

Here are my thoughts on the Whisky Sour from my SiscoVanilla YouTube channel:


Next on the classic cocktail highlight reel is the timeless classic: The Tom Collins. 

You really can't wrong with Gin, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup and Carbonated Water. And you would think that you really can't screw this cocktail up. But like I mention with the Whisky Sour, some bars will make you a "Tom Collins" by using Gin, Lemon Juice or Sour Mix and Sprite or 7-up. That's not a Tom Collins. That's just a Gin, Lemon/Sour Mix and Sprite/7-up. 

The Tom Collins is arguably one of the most refreshing cocktails ever invented and you should never have a half ass, bootleg version of the Tom Collins. Period. Have it made with fresh ingredients or go somewhere else that will make it fresh rather than off the gun. Here is my video thoughts of the Tom Collins:



I'll get off of my soapbox now. Part III will be a single cocktail post. For that one, I will make the Love Boat inspired cocktail named the Isaac Cocktail. Look out for it.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanillaAtTheMovies
#SiscoVanillaAtTheBookstore



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

This Week in Home Cocktailing August 28, 2016 Part I

Its been one long staycation that I took to end the month of August and during that time I made myself a few cocktails. Maybe a bit more than a few since I have to break this post into three parts. So without any further ado, here we go.

While I got to a slow start with the home cocktailing following the misadventures ending the week of August 7th, I picked up steam by making myself a tried and true favorite: The Dirty Martini. Now as you can see, I don't specify whether its a gin or vodka Martini. I believe that to do so would be redundant since a classic Martini is a Gin Martini. We can thank Ian Fleming and his iconic character James Bond who changed that with his ordering of a Vodka Martini, shaken no less in 1962's Dr. No. Even though in the past I have made what I call The Sisco Strength Dirty Hybrid Martini with a combination of Grey Goose Vodka and Bombay Sapphire Gin, this time I wanted to go straight up old school. Here is what I made:



Now I have to confess, at the last minute I decided to make it even filthier than the recipe card stated it would be. I added a whole ounce of the Bleu Cheese Olive brine which gave it that nice greenish color you see above. It was cold, briny and delicious. Here is my impressions of the cocktail from the video I recorded to my SiscoVanilla YouTube Channel:


Next came a riff on the classic cocktail known as the White Lady. Where the original recipe calls for it to be served with fresh lemon juice and straight up in a cocktail glass, I decided to make a frozen drink out of it. Why? It was hot and I was on vacation. What other reason did I need, right? Ok then. Here is what I made:

The drink was very light and definitely needed on the hot and humid day that we were having. Aside from the piece of ice that got lodged in my broken tooth causing a cold sensation along my nerves, it is something that I would definitely make again. On an aside, why did I use canned lemonade instead of fresh lemon juice. Very simply put, I didn't have any lemons and I kind of wanted that frozen, slushy lemonade feel to the cocktail. It worked. Here were my impressions of the Frozen White Lady recorded for the world on my YouTube channel:



So for the second part of my post, I highlight three classic cocktails. Keep your eyes peeled. The post soon to come. 

Until Then Happy Drinking,
SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanillaAtTheMovies
#SiscoVanillaAtTheBookstore

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ambassador Scotch Ad From the New York Times August 28, 1972

I was flipping through the August 28, 1972 issue of the New York Times and came across the following ad for Ambassador Scotch. I love how the ads from the 1970's portray their men as rugged and hirsute men aka the "Macho Man" look. Check out the stash on this gentleman right here.

Now to be honest, I haven't be able to find too much on the Ambassador Scotch brand. What I did find that it was a blended Scotch and was marketed as being the "Scotch at its Lightest" and "The World's Lightest Scotch". It was distilled in Glasgow, Scotland by the Taylor & Ferguson company. As per the listings for Ambassador Scotch on the Master of Malt website, it would seem that they sold an 8-year old blend, a 12-year old blend and a 25-year old blend.

This would have put them in direct competition with such brands as J&B, Dewars and Cutty Sark here in the United States. The peak period of popularity for Ambassador Scotch seems to have been during the 1960's and 1970's.

Here are a few more ads from the same era showing their manly Scotch drinking fellows in a variety of locations, engaging in a number of activities such as yachting, roughing it at a cabin in the woods, hobnobbing at a upscale black tie affair and even enjoying some Ambassador during the Christmas Holidays:


Recently Ambassador Scotch came up with an interesting new ad campaign with the tagline "Scotch from another era." It looks as if the dashing men and lovely ladies from the above ads have aged but perhaps, like their favorite scotch, their points of view haven't. Check them out.


Any thoughts or recollections on Ambassador Scotch? Hit me up and let me know. Leave a comment or email me here.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanilla
#SiscoVanillaAtTheMovies
#SiscoVanillaAtTheBookstore