Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Books At My Jobs Series: Hellraisers by Robert Sellers

Though this blogpage is still on hiatus in terms of cocktail drinking and creation, I am trying a new angle in order to shake the rust of the last few months. Now I'm not sure if you all out there know but I am no longer bartending. I'm not even working in a bar. I am currently working as a bookseller at Barnes and Noble and have started a new angle to my blogging. On my Facebook page Sisco Vanilla, I've started a new photo album entitled Books At My Job. Now, I'll go into the first two books in the album at a different time. For now I'll focus on the third book which goes hand-in-hand with my SiscoVanilla At The Movies Posts.

Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, and Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers seems to be an interesting book though a few reviews of it seem to sober down (sorry, pun intended) the fun aspect of the book.

Here is one such review:
Janet Maslin
Hellraisers wants only to be a rowdy collection of greatest hits, and it lives up to that fun-loving ambition. It reels off riotous tales about Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed without giving a moment's thought to what those tales might mean…Anyone horrified by the reckless abandon of Hellraisers should know what its ultimate effect turns out to be. This fun-loving celebration of drunkenness proves to be an even more sobering cautionary tale than some of the most serious addiction and recovery memoirs. And the fact that none could entirely stop drinking, even when it became a life-or-death medical necessity, makes it that much sadder. Funny as it is, the book's boisterous beginning gives way to grimly premature states of illness and dotage
—The New York Times
Though to be honest, I am partial to this review:
Publishers Weekly
Show business biographer Sellers (The Battle for Bond) chronicles the booze-soaked lives of four of the stage and screen’s most bombastic performers. Welsh Burton (1925–1984), Irish-born Harris (1930–2002), Irish-born and English-raised O’Toole (born 1932) and English Reed (1937–1999) gave some of the 20th century’s most memorable performances, but were equally famous for their offscreen antics. Except for Reed, their careers began on the British stage, before all four were lured to Hollywood, starring in such classics as Lawrence of Arabia (O’Toole), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Burton), Camelot (Harris) and The Three Musketeers (Reed). Consuming staggering amounts of alcohol on a daily basis, all were forces to be reckoned with on the set, often turning up too drunk to perform. Burton’s tempestuous affair with Elizabeth Taylor—which led to two marriages and two divorces—often eclipsed his talent, while O’Toole, Harris and Reed saw their careers slump in the late 1970s and ’80s, only to be revived by roles in such successful films as Troy (O’Toole), the Harry Potter franchise (Harris) and Gladiator (Reed). Though Sellers often muddles the chronology by switching too often between the four’s liquored-up antics, his glimpse into Hollywood’s culture of excess is more than enough to satisfy. (Dec.)
This book is definitely up the alley of Nitrate Stock. I'll get back to you on this when I pick myself up a copy.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SiscoVanilla Is Going On Hiatus

This is going to be my last post on this blog for the foreseeable future. It has been a trying time during the last three month since I was fired from my job. You all know where I worked so there is no need to give them any free press by naming them. Am I bitter? Well, yes. Yes I am. Whatever gave you that impression. The job search has been exhausting and quite barren.

In three months of hitting the pavement, dropping off and emailing hundreds of resumes and trying to tap into the non-existing bar "friends" and connections that I thought I had, I've had three unsuccessful interviews. That's right. THREE!!!! One I chalk up to an owner who is hard to please through a good friend of mine tried his best to get me the job. I hold no ill will to that interview though it was so close I swear I could taste it. The second one was through an employment agency who tried to find me a job in a new bar in a Latino neighborhood that obviously only hires women bartenders. The third was for a chain restaurant. How pitiful is it that I can't even find a job as a bartender in a chain restaurant.

What about those non-existing bar "friends" and connections I refer to above? Well, in working twelve years in one location (almost 20 years in the NYC bar business) and meeting a multitude of service industry individuals, I thought that I had made enough connections (and helped others make connections in the business) that when I needed a hand it would be there. All I found were unreturned voicemails, text messages and ignored/disregarded Facebook direct messages. For the record, I know those direct messages were seen and either ignored or disregarded since FB tells you when the message is seen. So thank you very much for nothing folks.

Couple that with my wife recovering from major surgery and you have the scene set for a doozy of a situation. Luckily for us, I was smart enough to save money when I was making it not spending it on trivial things. In other words, I am hard on a dollar. That has been our salvation. Thankfully I have been able to rely on Unemployment benefits to supplement my wife's income but to be honest I would rather be working...if I could find a job. But enough of my bitching. Why am I going on hiatus.

I don't want to drink. Period. If I have a booze blog, drinking is a big part of it. I could drink at home, but I don't want to. I don't want to be that guy drinking in front of the TV, wallowing in my sorrow. I need to keep my mind clear and focused. My family needs me to be that way. When I drink, it affects my state of mind. It makes me want to go out and spend money that I can't afford to spend at the moment. Sure I know places I can go to and "get hooked up". But in reality, if I can't show thanks by properly tipping those who do take care of me then I am not going to go out. I won't disrespect those who would take care of me and I am not going to embarrass myself looking for freebies like a moocher. That's not my style.

Some of you might say that I could continue with the movie posts. True, but to be honest, I haven't been watching many movies as of late. I've been real busy trying to improve my mind. I've been real busy with my HistorySisco tumblr page and the extra time has really allowed me to devote time to my BaseballSisco blogpage. Give those pages a look if you can. I'm sure that I will continue to post the occasional article and recipe that I come across online to my SiscoVanilla Facebook and my SiscoVanilla Google+ pages. My @SiscoVanilla twitter feed will also remain active

I thank everyone who HAS been there for me with your words of encouragement, support and suggestions. You'll never know how much it all means to me. Know that in me you'll always have a friend for life. Will I return to this blog? Perhaps. But to be honest, I need a fresh start in a new industry. The consolation to not working in the bar business is that I have left the negativity, the stressors, the lack of creativity and fulfilment that came along with working at my former job behind. I know I am going through a rough time now. But I will persevere.

Not to worry, I'll be back with the cocktails before you know it. Now whether it is as a server or a patron remains to be seen. Good luck to you all. Salud!

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Clan MacGregor Scotch Whisky Ad From The New York Times September 14, 1965

As with my posts Wolfschmidt Vodka Ad from The New York Times September 2, 1964 and Liquor Ads From The New York Times September 2, 1964, the inspiration for this post came while doing research for one of my other blogpages. I was looking for a boxscore in the September 14, 1965 edition of the New York Times for my post Willie Mays Reaches The 500 Home Run Plateau September 13, 1965 (from my Baseball Sisco blogpage) when I noticed that that day's New York Times had a whole bunch of liquor ads. The paper was printed on a Tuesday. Man, I guess Mondays in 1965 were so stressful that you would need so many liquor ads in the paper. LOL. One of the ads that caught my eye was for a scotch whisky by the name of Clan MacGregor. I had never heard about the Clan MacGregor brand of scotch whisky. It piqued my curiosity in this period that I am not drinking. I decided to dig a little deeper to see what this whisky is all about.

According to the Clan MacGregor website:
Clan MacGregor whisky honours the MacGregors, one of Scotland’s oldest clans and the decendents of ancient Celtic royalty as proclaimed in the motto ‘Royal is my Race’. The renowned history of the Clan dates back to the 14th century and Clan MacGregor whisky proudly displays the lion’s head crest, the symbol of the clan chief. The story of Clan MacGregor is perhaps the most stirring and fascinating of all the Scottish clans.

The Clan takes its name from Gregor, third son of Alpin, King of the Scots in the last part of the eighth century. This royal lineage gave rise to the clan motto, ‘Royal is my Race’. The MacGregor Clan underwent centuries of persecution and turmoil, with their land being confiscated and the very name MacGregor being outlawed. It is those who bravely defied their enemies in order to continue the Clan’s name who embody the spirit of Clan MacGregor. They were brave and resilient, and eventually all of their rights and privileges were restored. The fact that the Clan remained intact despite two centuries of oppression earned the MacGregors a reputation for unwavering courage and unbeatable unity.

The Clan badge, a crowned lion’s head on a wreath encircled with a belt and buckle, signifies the unity and loyalty of the Clan. Today, by using the badge on both bottle and label, Clan MacGregor proudly honours the heritage of the ancient Clan with a unique and distinctive style and signature.
I love looking into the history of these liquor brands that I come across either online or in person. But what about the scotch itself. The website states the following:
Fifteen of the finest malt and grain whiskies from the heart of Scotland have been skilfully blended to create a whisky of exceptional quality. Clan Macgregor Scotch whisky has a delicate, sweet aroma and a smooth, mellow taste – which has won many awards over the years.

Explore the flavours and aromas of one of the world’s finest blended Scotch whiskies.

COLOUR: Straw gold

NOSE: Distinctive sweetness, vanilla, malted, drying, hints of smoke

TASTE: Rich, grainy sweetness, hints of dry smoke, baked apple, biscuity, smooth, malty, lingering

FINISH: Long, clean, delicate sweetness
Now I have yet to come across Clan MacGregor scotch in my travels so I decided to look around online for some reviews.

Sláinte's post from September 6, 2011 entitled Whisky review: Clan MacGregor had the following review:
Clan MacGregor, 40% ABV
Blended Scotch whisky

Nose: Light and fruity, kind of like the standard Jameson. We're off to a decent start. Oh wait. After a bit more nosing, I really start to smell just ethanol and not much else.

Palate: The crap is beginning to really shine through here. Fruity crap, a bit of woody crap, and something in the back of my throat like charred crap.

Finish: Light fruits turning into crap.

Rating (of 100): 53. It would do in a pinch, like if the only other potential drinks you had were Drano and a full spittoon. I might still go for the spittoon, though, hoping one of its contributors had consumed a different whisky prior to use.

In the end, the remainder of my dram met the same fate a bottle of Drano would expect to meet.
Ouch!!! Not a good start. Off on the information highway I went to see if I could find another review.

I came across a website called We Love Scotch. For scotch lovers, I was curious to see what they thought about the Clan MacGregor scotch. Here is their review of Clan MacGregor scotch:
Name – Clan MacGregor

Price – $ (13 Bucks)

Region – Unknown

Blend/Single Malt – Blend

Promo Language – Combines the qualities of exceptional taste and fine flavor.

First Glass – Before we get started here, let us take a moment, on our first glass, as a chance to say everything we like about this scotch, First, the name is awesome! I mean, you can't even say “Clan MacGregor” without a proper 18th century Scot-Irish accent, circa Sean Connery. Second…uh…moving on.

Second Glass - Even for the “angel's share” the angels likely said, “meh, we'll pass.” I would use this scotch to clean my kid's paint brushes but I am afraid it would ruin her paint brushes.
The House that Scotch Built 

Reaching the Roof – This is a real service we are providing. Come on. We should have stopped at one glass. This is just awful. Just awful.

Mowing the Yard – We decided we had to find out more about this scotch. We scoured the web only to find some ancient blog review (back when this was going for 4 bucks a bottle) and this Facebook page. Founded by college drunks that hold Clan MacGregor with the same reverence as Old English Malt Liquor, Four Loco, Hookah's and Vivarin. Ah, to be young again.

Digging the Ditch – I am certain that I have had better scotch off a gun. It tastes like anti-freeze and melted bottle caps.

Draining the Well – Come on. We can't be expected to finish this.
Day After Thoughts: My hangover has a hangover.

Epilogue: We are out of scotch and forced to revisit the Mac Gregor. In our best Braveheart voice: You can take away our sobriety, but you'll never take our taste buds!
Damn!!! Wow. Can this scotch be that bad? Along the way I found a review by my good buddy Will Gordon who can be reached on Twitter @WillGordonAgain and you can read his articles on the Will Gordon Kinja page. Now this review by Will dates back to April 21, 2011 when he was doing the Drinking the Bottom Shelf column in the Drinks section of Serious Eats. Here is Will's review Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Clan MacGregor Scotch Whisky:
There is one part of life in which I'm just as patriotic as the next guy in a truck commercial, though, and that's booze. My favorite beer is Coniston Bluebird Bitter, which is English, but the next 20 on the list are big overhopped American tough-guy brews. And it seems like I never shut up about Old Crow and Eagle Rare, which is why it was disconcerting to discover that I like Scotch a lot more than I'd ever admitted to myself, and quite possibly more than I like bourbon. It will take months of rigorous research in other people's liquor cabinets to know for sure, but if the $12.99 liter of Clan MacGregor I picked up last week is any indication, the Scots might win this war.

I've always been vaguely aware that Scotch can be good for you in the same way Nantucket and cosmetic dentistry can be—when someone else is doing the planning and the paying—but I worried that it was too expensive and complicated to mess with here on the Bottom Shelf. My mistake.

Clan MacGregor tastes exceedingly Scotchy to me, so I was surprised that most reviewers call it simple and bland. It's a cheap blend and therefore more grainy than malty, but it's still got those weird fetid tobacco notes and maybe even a little maple syrup (though, full disclosure, I may be smelling that off my shirt).

I've had some excellent Scotch cocktails lately, but I've yet to make one myself. I've only tried once: MacGregor and grapefruit juice isn't as good as plain MacGregor or plain grapefruit juice, but I look forward to my next trip to the drawing board.

For now, cheap bourbon's still the preferred brown water in my parts because its charms are easier to harness; I like MacGregor but I haven't figured out what to do with it other than drink it neat or with soda, and there's a chance I just got lucky with my first bottle and all the other budget Clans are undrinkable.
Well there you go. That's a review I can back from someone whose pedigree I'm familiar with. Now will I run out to find a bottle of Clan MacGregor scotch? Probably not since I am not particularly drinking at the moment. But if I find that I come across one of those little bottles of Clan MacGregor that they serve on airplanes, then I'll cue up Highlander on the Blu-Ray player and give Clan MacGregor a go.

What do you all think of this particular blended scotch. Yea? Nay? Let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Liquor Ads From The New York Times September 2, 1964

Hmm, I forgot to post these images for Booze ads from the September 2, 1964 issue of the New York Times that I started with my prior post Wolfschmidt Vodka Ad from The New York Times September 2, 1964. Enjoy the images of the Mad Men era of yesteryear when alcohol ads could advertise in the newspapers.

Old Grand-Dad Bourbon

J&B Scotch Whisky 

White Horse Scotch Whisky
I wrote about both J&B and White Horse Scotch Whiskys in my post on the movie Crimson The Color of Blood (1973). I had a number of samples of Old Grand-Dad Bourbon a couple of months ago but I didn't really take detailed notes so I will have to wait for a future tasting to let you all know what I think of the Old Grand-Dad.

I have a couple of more ads from a later date from the New York Times that I will post on in due time. Things have been pretty hectic personally, so I apologize for my sparse posts as of late. I'll try to post regularly from now on.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Wolfschmidt Vodka Ad from The New York Times September 2, 1964

I was on the New York Times archive website known as the TimesMachine for a blogpost I did for my Baseball Sisco Kid Style blogpage. I was looking for a boxscore to include in my post Masanori Murakami becomes the first Japanese player in MLB September 1, 1964, when I noticed a number of liquor ads on a number of pages of the September 2, 1964 issue of the New York Times. I found them curious so I copied them and will post them here in the next few posts for your viewing pleasure. The first one I decided to showcase was an ad for Wolfschmidt Vodka.

Wolfschmidt Genuine Vodka
I'm trying to find something significant about the Wolfschmidt Vodka brand. I can't say that I have found anything significant about its origins. The Best Brands Incorporated website's listing for Wolfschmidt Vodka states:
Vodka made in the U.S. since 1847. The first vodka introduced to the USA around the turn of the century. Originally made in Latvia then Holland. It has won 37 medals in international competitions. Now owned by Jim Beam brands and produced in the U.S.
Well that was rather brief. I found that Wolfschmidt has a connection with the Seagrams company. For an interesting article on the history of Seagram, I suggest reading the following article: “From Shirtsleeves to Shirtless”: The Bronfman Dynasty and the Seagram Empire by Graham D. Taylor from the Business and Economic Online Journal Volume 4, 2006. Taylor states
Seagram also entered the rum business during World War II and established partnerships with Mumm (champagne), Noilly Prat (vermouth), and Wolfschmidt (vodka) in the early 1950s.
In more recent news, the article Jim Beam Brands Worldwide, Inc. History from the Finding Universe website states:
Beam's acquisitions continued into the 1990s, with the $272 million purchase of the United Kingdom-based Whyte & Mackay Distillers, bringing that company's best-selling scotch whiskeys into its product line. In 1990, Beam's volume topped 15 million cases. The following year, Beam Brands paid Seagram $372.5 million for seven of its brand trademarks, including the strong sellers Ronrico rum and Wolfschmidt vodka.
As of 2012, it looked like the Wolfschmidt Vodka brand was being rebranded as a wine-cooler? The Wine and Spirtis Daily website in their post Spirits Post Strong Sales in March from April 18, 2012 states:
WSD has learned that Beam Global is switching Wolfschmidt and Kamchatka vodkas to "Vodka Liqueurs." Using 10% sugar and 49% wine, this allows the products to sell at a lower price and may bring a new level of competition to the already competitive vodka category. The new products are reportedly launching May 1.
"Beam's value-for-money vodkas are benefiting from updated packaging, as well as a new liquid formulation that delivers the same value and taste profile consumers of these products already love. Vodka is still the base, blended with a high-proof liqueur. Beam is the market leader in liqueurs, and this vodka with premium liqueur formulation simply extends our leadership and expertise to enhance our value vodka brands, Kamchatka and Wolfschmidt. Testing indicates consumers of these brands will respond favorably to the refreshed packaging. Given the high quality of the liquid in these brands, we do not expect the selling price of these products to materially change," Clarkson Hine, svp of corporate communications, told WSD.
Have any of you out there tasted any of the new Wolfschmidt vodka liqueur blends? Now I can't say that I've seen any version of Wolfschmidt Vodka in recent years. Maybe I don't want to. I leave you with a couple of classic Wolfschmidt Vodka ads from the 1960's with the bottle of Vodka sounding like Don Draper of Mad Men fame.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Hearst Cocktail

Its been a while since I have made a classic cocktail that I found in a magazine and/or cocktail book. I came across the Hearst Cocktail in the September 2014 issue of Esquire Magazine in the MaHB column by David Wondrich where he profiles different utensils that he recommends when it comes to making cocktails. He describes the recipe as such:
The Hearst Cocktail
2 Parts Gin
1 Part Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters 
Over ice, stir and strain into a cocktail glass 
Now that sounds simple enough except that on the Esquire website where Wondrich has a column, there is a slight difference in the version that is listed above. Here is how the Hearst Cocktail is listed online:
Hearst Cocktail
2 ounces London dry gin
1/2 ounce Italian vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Glass Type: cocktail glass
Stir the London gin (or Plymouth gin, if you can find it) and the other ingredients well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Wondrich further goes into the following details:
Gin. Vermouth. Okay. But soft! Two parts to one? And could that be red vermouth? Sweet vermouth? Anathema! Moloch! Did not the Lord command us to, in the words of Leviticus, "put difference between holy and unholy, unclean and clean?"
Fortunately, there's a simple incantation that'll put you back on the way of the righteous. Throughout the construction process, repeat sotto voce: "It's not a martini. It's not a martini." By the second sip, you won't have to. After all the pish-tosh about dryness and martinis and eyedroppers -- nay, atomizers! -- of vermouth has been pished and toshed, you're left with a perfectly suave cocktail that has nothing of the milquetoast about it. If you want to leave the Angostura out, do -- but then it's a Hoffman House you'll be enjoying.
Diffords Guide for Discerning Drinker's listing for the Hearst Martini has the following dimensions:
Hearst Martini
2oz London Dry Gin (Tanqueray)
1oz Martini Rosso
1 dash Angistura Bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
What to do with these differences. It seems that I am at a stalemate with all three cocktail recipes listed. It would seem that based on Wondrich's statements, that the first listed recipe is more in line with the Hoffman House cocktail recipe. If you notice it contains two dashes of orange bitters instead of a one and one ratio of Angostura and orange bitters. Another point of confusion this time for the Hoffman House is that Except that it has French Vermouth instead of the Italian Vermouth that I have seemed to find in recipes for a Hoffman House. I guess that is a mission for another post.

For simplicity sake, I'm going to have to make the recipes listed on the Esquire and Difford's websites. I know, its a tough job...For my two cocktails I used Beefeater London Dry Gin, Cinzano Rosso Vermouth, Angostura Bitters and Bitter Truth Orange Bitters.

The first cocktail I made (Esquire) had 2oz Gin to .5oz Sweet/Italian Vermouth. It has a beautiful red-brown color and I can see where some people online have said that this cocktail reminds them of The Martinez. Now I can see that in terms of look but I found the Martinez with the Old Tom Gin to be a bit of a sweeter cocktail. The Hearst with the 2-.5 ratio wasn't very sweet at least to me. I do agree with David Wondrich in his assessment that this cocktail is a perfectly suave cocktail. It is strong without being overpowering in both the strength and the sweetness.

2oz Gin/
.5oz Sweet Vermouth
The second cocktail I made (Difford's) had 2oz Gin to 1oz Sweet/Italian Vermouth. It has the same nice red-brown color though I find that this one is a bit sweeter and not a crisp as the version that had half the amount of sweet vermouth. To be honest, I don't find it offensive in the least. I think that if I had a choice, I would go with the crisper version that had .5oz of Sweet Vermouth rather than the full ounce. But if I was served this one, I'd be fine with it.
2oz Gin/
1oz Sweet Vermouth
One last point I want to touch upon. Wondrich gives the following explanation for the origin of the cocktail:
The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book credits this simple gloom-lifter to certain of old William Randolph's minions "who were in the habit of dropping in at odd times when assigned to a story in the neighborhood." Probably not more than three times a day, we'll bet.
Since Wondrich mentions the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, I decided to look at my copy (The 1935 Reprint) to see what is said about the Hearst Cocktail. In terms of the recipe, it calls for equal parts of a half jigger of the Italian vermouth and Plymouth Gin with the one dash each of Angostura and Orange Bitters.

In terms of the origin, the cocktail is named not after William Randolph Hearst directly but after his employees of whom probably worked at one of Hearst's newspapers such as the New York Journal later known as the New York American and/or the New York Evening Journal. These and other competing newspapers were located in the Herald Square area, near where the flagship Macy's Department Store is today. For more information, with a number of historical pictures of the Herald Square area, I refer you to the article A whirlwind tour of Herald Square: More than just Macy's, the intersection of publishing, theater and debauchery from the Bowery Boys website dated December 14, 2012.

In a bit of NYC newspaper history, The New York American and the New York Evening Journal would merge into one paper in 1937 as the New York Journal-American. The New York Journal-American was an afternoon and evening paper. Part of the New York American's morning news section would be become part of the New York Daily Mirror which was also owned by William Randolph Hearst. This was described in the article Hearst to Merge New York Papers from the Miami Times dated June 23, 1937 (which is found online at Google news)

The New York Daily Mirror would fold on October 16, 1963, after the 114-day 1962–63 New York City newspaper strike. The New York Journal-American would merge with with its evening rival, the New York World-Telegram and Sun, and the morning New York Herald-Tribune in 1966. The consolidated paper would be known as the World Journal Tribune and started publishing its daily paper of September 12, 1966, but would close shop eight months later.

There you have it. A little cocktail, NYC and newspaper history all rolled up into one nice little package with in a chilled cocktail glass. In terms of the cocktail, I wonder what it would taste like using an American Dry Gin such as a Dorothy Parker Gin or a Bluecoat Gin. That, as with the Hoffman House cocktail, is a post for another day.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What is Liqueur Mombin

I recently updated my SiscoVanilla at the Movies tumblr page in honor of the recently deceased Lauren Bacall with images from the Howard Hawks directed To Have and Have Not (1944) which starred Humphrey Bogart and a debuting 19-year old Lauren Bacall. Now I'll go into the movie in a later post, but one particular poster (which I have highlighted with the red box) in the scene where Bacall is first on screen stands out to me.

She is seated having drinks with Johnson (Walter Sande) when I notice a poster right above them that advertises something called Liqueur Mombin. My curiosity was piqued. What was Liqueur Mombin. Before I go into what the liqueur is, I want to touch upon what a mombin is.

The Mombin is a fruit from a plant that grows in tropical areas. It originally was found in the Americas and the Caribbean and was successfully transplanted to Africa. Now from what I could gather, there are two distinct types of mombin fruits: The Yellow Mombin aka the Hog Fruit (Spondias mombin L./Spondias lutea L.) and the Purple Mombin aka Spanish Plum (Spondias purpurea L.).

Now be honest, I don't know which one is used to make a liqueur out of, but from what I've read, it seems as if the Purple/Red varietal is the one that is the most popular of the two. Why do I say that? The Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products (NewCROP) quotes the following source: Yellow Mombin Spondias mombin L. Spondias lutea L. which quotes Morton, J. 1987. Yellow Mombin. p. 245–248. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. Here is what was printed about the popularity of the Yellow Mombin:
The Sumac Family (Anacardiaceae)
The yellow mombin is less desirable than the purple mombin and is appreciated mostly by children and way-farers as a means of alleviating thirst. Ripe fruits are eaten out-of-hand, or stewed with sugar. The extracted juice is used to prepare ice cream, cool beverages and jelly. Some people make those of fair quality into jam and various other preserves.

In Amazonas, the fruit is used mainly to produce wine sold as " Vinho de Taperiba". In Guatemala, the fruit is made into a cider-like drink.

Mexicans pickle the green fruits in vinegar and eat them like olives with salt and chili, as they do with the unripe purple mombin.

Young leaves are cooked as greens.
In terms of the Purple Mombin Spondias purpurea L., NewCROP quotes the same source Morton, J. 1987. Purple Mombin. p. 242–245. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.
Courtesy of Daley's Fruit
The ripe fruits are commonly eaten out-of-hand. While not of high quality, they are popular with people who have enjoyed them from childhood, and they serve a useful purpose in the absence of "snackbars". In the home, they are stewed whole, with sugar, and consumed as dessert. They can be preserved for future use merely by boiling and drying, which keeps them in good condition for several months. The strained juice of cooked fruits yields an excellent jelly and is also used for making wine and vinegar. It is a pleasant addition to other fruit beverages.

In Mexico, unripe fruits are made into a tart, green sauce, or are pickled in vinegar and eaten with salt and chili peppers.

The new shoots and leaves are acid and eaten raw or cooked as greens in northern Central America.
If you are curious about the source material, you can click on the following link for Fruits of Warm Climates by Julia F. Morton on the The Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products (NewCROP) website.

Now that we know what a Mombin is, let's focus on the Liqueur Mombin. Look at the images below.

This particular kind of Liqueur Mombin, which is produced by Distellerie ReimonenQ is a blend of Rhum, sugar and mombin extract. It is not a very strong liqueur at 25% Alc.Vol or 50 Proof. It seems to have a nice subtle yellow/orange color. The label with the Corsair is kind of cool.

Another brand of Liqueur Mombin is the Madras brand from Guadeloupe and they describe their Liqueur Mombin as being:
Made from the very exotic fruit Mombin, this liqueur can be savoured as a digestive or can be used for cocktails. 
They list the alcohol content at 18% Alc/Vol or 36 Proof.

The real question is what does this taste like. That my friends will have to be for a later post. Maybe I should make a trip to one of the West Indian neighborhoods that are near me in the Bronx to see if I can maybe find a bottle. I'll get back to you on this one folks.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ian Fleming (May 28, 1908 – August 12, 1964)

With today being the 50th anniversary of the passing of British author and journalist Ian Fleming, I wanted to highlight a passage from his original James Bond book Casino Royale. It is in this initial offering of his now immortal spy series that we are introduced to Ian Fleming's signature cocktail: The Vesper. In honor of Ian Fleming, here is how the Vesper is both introduced and named in Casino Royale starting on page 44:
Bond had a feeling that this might be the CIA man. He knew he was right as they strolled off together towards the bar, after Bond had thrown a plaque of ten Mille to the croupier and had given a Mille to the huissier who drew back his chair.

'My name is Felix Leiter,' said the American. 'Glad to meet you.'
'My name is Bond - James Bond.'
'Oh yes,' said his companion, 'and now let's see. What shall we have to celebrate?'

Bond insisted on ordering Leiter's Haig-and-Haig 'on the rocks' and then looked carefully at the barman.

'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Oui, Monsieur.'
'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.

Bond laughed. 'When I'm...er...concentrating,' he explained, 'I never have more than one before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'

He watched carefully as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker. He reached for it and took a long sip.

'Excellent,' he said to the barman, 'but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.'
Bond finally finds a suitable name for his cocktail upon meeting Vesper Lynd on page 52:
'Vesper,' she said. 'Vesper Lynd'

Bond gave her a look of inquiry.

'It's rather a bore always having to explain, but I was born in the evening, on a very stormy evening according to my parents. Apparently they wanted to remember it.' She smiled. 'Some people like it, others don't. I'm just used to it'
'I think it's a fine name,' said Bond. An idea struck him. 'Can I borrow it?' He explained his special Martini he had invented and his search for a perfect name for it. 'The Vesper,' he said. 'It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?'
'So long as I can try one first,' she promised. 'It sounds a drink to be proud of.'
'Will have one together when all this is finished,' said Bond.
So did Bond and Vesper finally enjoy her namesake cocktail? I'd recommend that you read the book to find out.

Many thanks to Ian Fleming to introducing this very potent cocktail. Watch how master mixologist Alessandro Palazzi of the famed Duke's Hotel in London not only makes the Vesper Martini but gives us the behind the scenes history on the inspiration that Ian Fleming tapped into when creating the Vesper. Duke's is known to be the place where Ian Fleming came up with the idea for the Vesper.

So take a moment to give thanks to Mr. Ian Fleming for not only creating such a unique cocktail but also for creating such a timeless character in James Bond. 

Thank you Mr. Fleming. May you continue to Rest in Peace.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mahogany (1975)

Today's installment of SiscoVanilla at the Movies takes us from the hard scrabble streets of Chicago to the glamorous fashion world of 1970's Rome in the movie Mahogany (1975). Tracy (Diana Ross) is an aspiring fashion designer from the inner-city of Chicago that puts herself through fashion school in the hopes of becoming one of the world’s top designers. Her life takes an unexpected turn as a fashion model in Rome that will cause her to make a choice between the man she loves (Billy Dee Williams) or her newfound success. Also starring Jean-Pierre Aumont and Anthony Perkins.

The movie has a couple of liquor references. As you can see from the picture below there's the placement of bottles of J&B Scotch Whisky and Grand Marnier Orange Liqueur.

There are also numerous instances of champagne being poured and drunk in various party scenes throughout the movie. You can see a number of these pictures on my Tumblr entry for SiscoVanilla Presents Mahogany (1975) Part I. One liquor reference that is not so obvious can be found in the scene where Tracy visits the Gavina Agency.

On the wall is an advertising for a product called Cynar. What is Cynar? Well, keep reading.

Cynar (pronounced “chee-NAHR”) is an Italian bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants. As the sign says "L'Aperitivo CYNAR A Base di Carciofo", the main base of the Amaro is artichoke (carciofo/carciofi). Yes, that same vegetable that looks like a little tree. Cynar is dark brown in color and has a bittersweet flavor. It has relative low alcohol level of 33 proof/16.5% ABV. Here is how Cynar is described from the Cynar webpage on the Campari Group website:
The artichoke liqueur known for its versatility and taste, Cynar is an artichoke based bitter. Its distinctive flavour is enriched from an infusion of 13 herbs and plants, making it a completely natural drink, rich in scents and a unique taste . It perfectly conserves all the health properties of the ingredients used in its preparation. Only moderately alcoholic (16.5%) Cynar is a modern and versatile drink that is always welcome.

Cynar was launched on the market in 1952, and its history is closely tied to its successful television advertisements interpreted in the 1960s by Ernesto Calindri. In 1995 Cynar became part of Gruppo Campari that has grown the brand into a “digestif apertif” and one of the main players in the “after dinner” category.

Cynar is distributed internationally, its main markets are Brazil, Italy and Switzerland
In the article All Choked Up: Embrace the bittersweet allure of Cynar by Hannah C. Feldman from the May/June 2009 issue of Imbibe Magazine, Seattle-based cocktail blogger Robert Hess recommends using Cynar in drinks that call for Campari to create a softer, smoother version of classics like the Negroni. He also suggests using it as you would bitters. “Take a Martini, add a dash [of Cynar] to it, and you’ve got a totally different drink.”

In the same article, Stephen Shellenberger who at the time was bar manager at the Boston restaurant Dante (and is the blogger in charge of the Boston Apothecary blogpage), calls Cynar “the greatest cocktail-centric amaro ever produced.” and suggests pairing it with sweet, fruity flavors like strawberries, “so you get kissed and slapped at the same time.” 

For some suggestions on cocktails that contain Cynar, check out this article by Lesley Jacob Solomonson entitled 4 Great Cynar Cocktails: L.A. Bartenders Love the Artichoke Liqueur from the LA Weekly blogpages dated December 20, 2013.

I have yet to have a taste of this interestingly sounding amaro. Hopefully I'll soon have a chance either behind a bar or up at the bar as a patron. Work seems to be hard to find in this soon to end summer season in NYC. Hopefully that will change after Memorial Day.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bluecoat American Dry Gin

I've had a bottle of Bluecoat American Dry Gin sitting in my liquor cabinet for about two months now courtesy of my friend Pete. Sitting home on a Friday night, I decided to crack it open and give it a try. Before I go into what I thought of it, I wanted to give you a little background info on this product.

Bluecoat is made here in the United States in the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia, PA. Here is how they describe their product Bluecoat American Dry Gin:
In terms of how it is made:
And what goes into their gin:
The citrus immediately jumps out at me. The gin has a pleasant lemony and citrusy feel that I find very different from other gins that I have tasted. I tried this gin neat with no refrigeration and it was very smooth going down without any kind of after taste or bitter kick. It was very delicious.

In terms of utilizing it in a cocktail, I decided to try something tried and true for me. I posted about this cocktail back on June 1, 2012 under the title of Who Is This Rickey Guy The Gin Rickey Is Named After. Ladies and Gentlemen I present you the The Gin Rickey. Here is the recipe that I used both then and now:
The Gin Rickey
1.5 oz. Gin
.5 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
Soda water
Lime wedge

Pour gin and lime juice into a glass over ice cubes. Fill with soda water and stir. Add the wedge of lime and serve.
I love how the lime juice blends with the Bluecoat gin. The soda water gives it another level with the effervescence that it brings to the cocktail. This is a very laid back and refreshing cocktail on the humid night that I find facing me at the moment.

I really have to say that I am impressed with Bluecoat. It will definitely be a go-to gin for in the same vein as Dorothy Parker American Gin and Hendricks Gin. The website has a number of cocktails that they recommend making with Bluecoat. Since I find that I am missing one ingredient or another, I am going to wait to make a few of these for later posts.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cilantro Lime Margarita

I came across the recipe for this cocktail on Google+. Melissa Nof of The Dailynoff website is a mixologist from the Pacific Northwest and reading her description for the Cilantro Lime Margarita intrigued me. The thing about Cilantro is that there are many people who do not like that little green leafy herb. I personally don't have an issue with this. I could never make it for Momma-San since she hates herself some cilantro. Oh well, I guess I'll have to test this one on myself.

Here is how to make the cocktail as per Melissa's instructions:
Cilantro Lime Margarita
1.5oz Favorite Silver Tequila (I used Casa Noble)
.5oz Grand Marnier (or tripel sec)
1oz Sweet and Sour
Juice from two halves of a freshly cut lime
2 lime slices
1 tbsp of freshly minced cilantro
salt (for rimming glass)

Mince your cilantro first just to get that out of the way first.  Next, place two lime slices and tequila into shaker with the cilantro.  Muddle thoroughly until limes looked sufficiently smushed.  Then squeeze the juice from the lime halves on in. Add the oz of sweet and sour. Now it’s time to shake.  

Try to shake hard enough so the ice breaks down a little bit creating the ‘crushed ice’ effect in your margarita.  Once you’ve achieved this, pour the whole thing in a salt rimmed margarita glass.  Float the Grand Marnier on the top and garnish with a lime wedge.
I chose to omit the salt since I tend to stay away from the excess salt. Aside from that, I made this cocktail as directed and I have to admit that this is a very interesting combination of ingredients here.

The cocktail is very herbal, especially to the nose due to the cilantro. It does work well together with the Espolón silver, Grand Marnier and the fresh lime/fresh sweet and sour. It is a very light cocktail albiet a bit tarter than I would like. I agree with Melissa, this is a nice summery kind of drink.

I made a second one with a slight difference. Here is my recipe:
Cilantro Lime Margarita
1.5oz Espolón Silver Tequila 
.5oz Grand Marnier 
1oz Freshly made Sweet and Sour Mix
Juice from half a freshly cut lime
2 lime slices
1 tbsp of freshly minced cilantro
Splash of freshly squeezed orange juice
Mince the cilantro. Place two lime slices and tequila into shaker with the cilantro. Muddle. Squeeze the limes into the shaker, add the sweet and sour and the Grand Marnier. Add ice. Shake thoroughly and pour into a glass. Add more ice if needed. 
The splash of orange juice tempers the tartness of the lime juice and sweet and sour. My sweet and sour tends to be on the tarter side so if you don't want to add the orange juice AND you don't want it tart then you should probably use the juice of half a lime rather than a whole lime as in the original recipe. I really do like this cocktail. Now if we can get those people who don't like cilantro to give this cocktail a shot...

Thanks to Melissa Nof for this recipe. Please give her page a look and give her a follow on Twitter @TheDailynoff. Tell her SiscoVanilla sent you.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Iron Man (2008)

A number of you have asked me why I didn't choose Iron Man (2008) as the movie to use for my last SiscoVanilla at the Movies installment commemorating the San Diego Comic Con which ended last weekend. Well to be honest, doing so would be easy. How so?

The movie opens up with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) sitting in a speeding humvee traveling through Afghanistan. He is holding a glass of scotch before we even get to see his face. Though to be honest, who else would be such a player. And this is in the first minutes of the movie. LOL. Focusing on this movie first would be a bit of a gimmie. Or so I thought.

As a starting point, I decided to focus on three gritty comic book based movies: Constantine (2005) here on this blog and Watchmen (2009) and V for Vendetta (2005) on my Tumblr page SiscoVanilla at the Movies. Feel free to check out what I thought of the last two movies on Tumblr. Now I'm ready to look at Iron Man.

We all know by now that Tony Stark is a playboy millionaire who is the face of Stark International. By the end of the movie Tony goes through a change of heart (literally and figuratively). At first we see him as an arms manufacturer which is why he's in Afghanistan to start the movie. The movie does a flashback to right before the opening scene where we see why he is in Afghanistan.

Stark is in Afghanistan testing a series of Stark International missiles that he's trying to get the military to purchase. After what he believes is a successful showing, he opens up another metal case. This one carries all of Stark's essentials...for having a celebratory cocktail. It is an impressive case to say the least. The glasses are cold, enough ice is found even in this hot environment and I notice that Stark has a couple of interesting spirits to choose from.

I recognize a bottle of both Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Johnnie Walker Black Label and a bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila. Jose Cuervo Tequila????

Ok, let me stop here for a moment to let my booze snob out. There is so much suspension of disbelief that I can have before even I question why the hell a drinker of Tony Stark's caliber has a bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila sandwiched in between Johnnie Walker Blue and Johnnie Walker Black. I can see him having a bottle of Clase Azul, Don Julio, Herradura, Espolon and I can go on and on without even mentioning the truly high end tequilas. There is no way at this point in time Tony Stark drinks that rotgut (maybe he'll drink that if they ever do the Demon in a Bottle storyline). But I digress. Getting off my soapbox.

There is a bottle that I don't recognize and I decided that I wanted to look some more into.

I notice that the label says Old Malt Cask and has a 17-year designation with the vintage year being 1987. I can make out that it says LaPhroig Distillery. Upon further inspection online, I find out that this particular bottle is the LaPhroaig 1987 Old Malt Cask single malt scotch whisky. This spirit was distilled in 1987 and bottled in 2005 by Douglas Laing & Co. LTD. I wasn't able to find anything specific about this whisky on both the LaPhroiag and Douglas Laing websites. So I decided to find other views on this whisky.

The World Beverage 400 has some information on where the LaPhroaig 1987 Old Malt Cask is from and how it is bottled. In terms of where it comes from:
The award winning family of Laphroaig Whiskies ranges from the rich pungent, earthy aroma of the blue peat smoke to the sweet nuttiness of the barley and the delicate, heathery perfume of Islay's streams. Like the islanders it may seem a little aloof at first, but make the effort, broach acquaintance and we can guarantee you'll have a warm and genuine friend for life.
In terms of its bottling:
This now rare single malt is distilled in 1987 and bottled in 2005 by Douglas Laing. 

The Glasgow-based Douglas Laing & Co is an independent bottler and blender. The Old Malt Cask is an intriguing range that emerged in 1998 with a caveat that the single cask bottling would only offer limited numbers to the connoisseur or anyone else with good taste for that matter. Getting your hands on a bottle from their coveted Old Malt Cask range, for example, can prove a pleasant adventure. The OLD MALT CASK offerings are not chill filtered, leaving in each bottle all the oils, fats and enzymes that combine to give the quality of the nose, palate, mouth-feel and finish.
They list the bottle to have a price point of $109.00

The website for Whisky Magazine has a tasting review for the LaPhroaig 1987 Old Malt Cask from Whisky Magazine Issue 44. Here is some basic information about this bottling. It is a 17-year old blend that was distilled in 1987 and has an ABV of 50% which is a potent 100 proof here in the United States. Two reviewers state the following about this bottling:
Michael Jackson rates it an 85
Nose: Very dry smoky phenols.
Palate: Lightly oily. Firm. Then exploding with dry, peppery flavours.
Finish: Warming, digestif.
Comment: Confident. Slightly austere.

Marcin Miller rates it a 70
Nose: Attractive and harmonious. Lavender. More bed linen when reduced. Creamy.
Palate: Peanuts (with skin on), soft mocha and chocolate. Pistachio nuts.
Finish: Pistachio ice cream. Good length.
Comment: Good complexity, weight and mouthfeel but lacking balance.
The Royal Whisky Mile website also has a listing and a review for the LaPhroiag 1987 Old Malt Cask. Here is how they describe it:
Nose: Burnt rubber, pencil erasers, mint choc chip ice cream or toothpaste, some sweet elastoplast character. With time some buttery brown sugar.

Palate: Syrupy to start, then medicinal and with a suplhury woody-dry and ropey finish

Overall: Interesting but you must like your whiskies dry!
Tasted blind by RMW staff, 2005
One last review comes from the Whisky Fun website that did a review on the LaPhroaig 1987 Old Malt Cask on December 26, 2004. Here is how they describe it:
Laphroaig 17 yo 1987/2004 (50%, DL OMC, cask # DL 1217, 256 bottles, 6 month rum finish). Two stars.

Colour: white wine.

Nose: wow, how fresh, how floral at first nosing. Alas, some grassy notes of white rum and even tequila are soon to emerge. Freshly mown lawn? Crushed leaves? Green tea? Even vodka… I feel it’s been that ‘muted’, that it doesn’t really smell scotch whisky anymore… It’s nice, but it’s a little weird. I’m wondering what’s the story behind this particular cask and why they’ve finished it like that.

Mouth: again, we have quite a strange mixture here. Some peat and smoke, sure, but also some tequila, over infused tea, cod-liver oil… Bitter orange, marzipan, bitter almonds, walnut skin… Well, I understand variety is good, and something different from time to time is great, but this one is off the limits for me. The finish is rather long, on liquorice, turpentine and orange zest. 70 points.
Anyone out there ever give this scotch whisky a taste? If so, what did you think. Let me know. Enquiring minds want to know.

I leave you with Tony Stark, victory whisky in hand approaching the humvee that would take him on his path to becoming Iron Man. To Peace!!!

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SiscoVanilla is Peachy Keen...or is he Part II

This is the second part of Peach flavored cocktail posts found on the internet. My previous post SiscoVanilla is Peachy Keen...or is he Part I focused on the Peach Bourbon Cooler. Today's post focuses on a cocktail entitled Georgia meet Bermuda: Peach Sweet Tea & Rum which I found on the Three Beans of a String website.

Unlike the last cocktail that called for muddled peaches, this one just seems to calls for it to just insert the peach slices into the cocktail.

Here is the recipe she used:
¾ cup (6oz) sweet tea
½ TBSP lime simple syrup
1½ shots black rum
3-4 slices of fresh peaches

In a glass filled with crushed ices, layer the ingredients above in order of sweet tea, simple syrup, rum. Add sliced peaches, stirring optional, and sip away
She mentions in the article that while in Bermuda she had Gosling's Black Rum. For my cocktail I used what I had handy: Cruzan Black Strap Rum. I didn't use lime simple syrup (or any simple syrup for that matter), since I felt that using the Cruzan Black strap with the sweet tea, adding another sweetener would just be redundant. If you like it sweet, then more power to you.

This is how I made mine:
6oz sweet tea
1.5oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum
3 peach slices
2 lime wedges

In a glass full of ice, pour in the sweet tea, layer with peach slices, squeeze lime wedges and float the black strap rum over the top (as you would with in a Dark and Stormy)
I have to say that I really couldn't tell where the peaches sat in this cocktail. I didn't seem as if they made any difference. Are they there for flavoring or just for visual effect. I can see the tea having a different profile if the peaches were boiled with the tea water and/or infused in the hot water as the tea bags steeped. But the peaches just seemed like unnecessary overkill.

I made a second one with the same proportions (this time without the peaches) and found that I didn't couldn't tell the difference in the cocktail with or without peaches. That's not to say that the cocktail isn't something that can't be enjoyed. I found that once it kind of settled and melded together, there was a nice spiciness it.

I would think that a Gosling's or even a Spiced Rum such as the Bacardi Oakheart would stand out better and play nicer in the cocktail than the Cruzan Black Strap Rum I used. The sweet tea, which I made with the recommended black tea bags is very tasty. I'll definitely make some more of the tea in the future. Here is the recipe she listed for her Sweet Tea:
Sweet Tea
5 liters of water
10 black tea bags
4 cups sugar

Bring water to a boil. Add tea bags and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Remove tea bags. Cool and serve.
Thanks to Alison for the recipe for the sweet tea and I have to say that for now, I've given up trying to use peaches in a cocktail. They just don't seem to work for me. Since I have so much free time on my hands these days, any recommendations? Feel free, drop me a line siscovanilla@gmail.com. Let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Constantine (2005)

Courtesy of RaymondYueng.com
With the San Diego Comic Con in full swing, I've decided to focus on superhero movies that have characters partaking of the spirits. Today's installment of SiscoVanilla at the Movies focuses on the religious thriller Constantine (2005). Constantine is a movie based on the Hellblazer comic book printed by DC Comics and then the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics. The protagonist John Constantine was created by legendary comic writer Alan Moore and artist Stephen R. Bissette. In the movie Constantine (Keanu Reeves) has the power to see demons. He hunts them down in order to make amends for killing someone earlier in his life. Constantine hopes to atone for that singular act and avoid going to hell in the process. And he's accelerating the process by chain smoking his life away. But at least he has good taste in the spirit he drinks.

In the scene where Constantine is visited by Detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) who requests his help in solving the apparent suicide of her sister Isabel (also played Rachel Weisz), he drinks Ardbeg 10.

What's Ardbeg 10 you may ask? Shame on you!!!

Ardbeg is only one of the finest Islay single malt scotch whisky producers ever made. According to the Ardbeg website:
The small, remote Scottish island of Islay (pronounced 'eye-lah') is an antique land. A wild and untamed place, where Celtic monks found refuge from raiding Norsemen and early distillers smuggled their illicit ‘aquavitae’ at Ardbeg’s rugged rocky cove.

Abundant soft water, fertile soil and acres of precious peat makes this Island a place of pilgrimage for the single malt whisky faithful. And none more so than our very own Ardbeg, unquestionably the greatest distillery on earth. See you there soon.
Well, maybe I'll go when I have a job again ;) I digress. But what about that Whisky you might ask. Again I refer you to the website's listing for the Ardbeg 10:
Ardbeg Ten Years Old is revered around the world as the peatiest, smokiest, most complex single malt of them all. Yet it does not flaunt the peat; rather it gives way to the natural sweetness of the malt to produce a whisky of perfect balance.

Typically most whiskies are chill-filtered and reduced to a strength of 40% ABV. Ardbeg Ten Years Old, however, is non chill-filtered and has a strength of 46% ABV, thus retaining maximum flavour, at the same time giving more body and added depth. It’s whisky with none of the goodness taken out.
In terms of aroma, taste and finish:
AROMA: A burst of intense smoky fruit escapes into the atmosphere – peat infused with zesty lemon and lime, wrapped in waxy dark chocolate.

Bold menthol and black pepper slice through the sweet smoke followed by tarry ropes and graphite. As you dip your nose in further, savour the aroma of smoked fish and crispy bacon alongside green bell peppers, baked pineapple and pear juice.

Add water and breathe in the vortex of aromas rising from the glass. An oceanic minerality brings a breath of cool, briny seaspray on chalky cliffs. Waxed lemon and lime follows with coal tar soap, beeswax and herby pine woodlands. Toasted vanilla and sizzling cinnamon simmer in the background with warm hazelnut and almond toffee.

TASTE: An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavour explosions on the tongue: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. This is followed by a wave of brine infused with smooth buttermilk, ripe bananas and currants. Smoke gradually wells up on the palate bringing a mouthful of warm creamy cappuccino and toasted marshmallows. As the taste lengthens and deepens, dry espresso, liquorice root and tarry smoke develop coating the palate with chewy peat oils.

FINISH: The finish goes on and on – long and smoky with tarry espresso, aniseed, toasted almonds and traces of soft barley and fresh pear.
I have to admit that I have never had the pleasure of having a wee dram of Ardbeg. So shame on me for not doing so. That is something that I hope to accomplish sooner than later. I'll get back to gals and guys when I do.

Until Then Happy Drinking,