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"Shaken, not stirred," is how James Bond orders his vodka martinis in the movies. The fact is, martinis, like many "spirit forward" cocktails, are designed to be stirred. Shaking gin (or vodka) and vermouth leads to a cloudy, aerated drink with little chunks of ice in it, not the smooth, silky nectar Bacchus intended."Unlike moustaches and bow ties, the shake vs. stir divide is not an arbitrary byproduct of bartender groupthink," insists Adam Stemmler, the award-winning San Diego-based bartender behind Blind Tiger Cocktail Co. "There is sound reasoning behind when each is appropriate."Both methods cool your drink and dilute the alcohol just slightly for an easier drinking experience. But shaking aerates and "emulsifies" a cocktail -- important for most drinks containing fresh citrus, dairy or eggs, which need a proper blending to really work. For the aforementioned "spirit forward" drinks (cocktails that contain a mixture of different alcohols with no "mixers" involved), shaking is not necessary, and can negatively impact the look and sometimes even the taste of the cocktail. With that in mind, here are five drinks that you can ruin by shaking and ought to stir, and two we enjoy finger stirring.Sazerac: (whisky or Cognac, simple syrup, bitters, absinthe rinse) "Shaking a Sazerac or an Old Fashioned aerates the tannin component of aged brown spirits like whisky or Cognac, and leaves a thin, frothy and dilapidated cocktail that sacrifices the silky mouthfeel that stirring maintains," says Stemmler. In essence, all the bitter, earthy stuff the booze extracted from the wood barrels originally to round out the spirit is now sitting at the top of your glass like sludge.
Once upon a time, downtown Las Vegas was one of the most glamorous places in America to get a cocktail. Then all the action moved to the Strip, and downtown started deteriorating into one of the sketchiest places in America to get a cocktail.Exploring downtown is still a bit of a gamble -- I wouldn’t advise you to stumble around there after one drink too many. But it’s changing, and changing quickly. This transformation is thanks largely to Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, an urban revitalization program that the Zappos founder has funneled £275 million into. £30 million of that has been designated for small business support, and a few of the new businesses that have emerged are the type that serve cocktails. Bars like Commonwealth and The Lady Silvia are suddenly making downtown an interesting evening alternative for guys on their own Hangover weekend.I recently hit the Las Vegas Strip to ask bartenders for the essential bottles to build a basic bar around. This past weekend, I went to downtown Vegas to ask the same, with a seasonal twist. Here’s what I asked:I want to build a basic bar for summer entertaining. I’m looking for liquors that offer versatility and value-for-money, and are particularly well suited to summertime drinking. Which three bottles should I buy first?Here’s what they each answered:Juyoung KangMixologist, Commonwealth/ParkJuyoung’s three summer liquors: gin, whisky, AperolGin: "I recommend Plymouth, St. George Botanivore or Bluecoat. These gins are not of your grandma’s dry-punch-you-in-the-face variety. They are neutral enough to mix well with any summertime-style mixes, like punch, lemonade, berries, or mint and herbs. And since gin has more botanicals and flavor in a neutral-style spirit, it enhances your tastebuds, satisfying all the taste factors of salty, sweet, spicy, sour and balanced. These three gins are great for making classics like Aviations, Bees Knees, Negronis, Gimlets and Sours. For a twist just add berries, mint or basil to a Gimlet or Sour, then top off with Champagne for a nice summer cocktail."Whisky: "Whisky is a hard category. There’s so many different distinctions and variations. My favorites to mix in cocktails are Westward Malt, Templeton Rye, St. George Breaking & Entering and Glenfiddich Solera 15-Year-Old. They all fare well in mixing both classics -- like Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, Manhattans, Ward 8s, and newer style cocktails, like the Diplomat’s Son that they serve in the Laundry Room [another downtown Las Vegas bar]. Nothing screams summer like a nice Mint Julep. For a twist, try summery herbs like basil, lavender or cilantro, and mix in a sour like lemon, lime or simple syrup. This will give a balanced and refreshing taste."Aperol: "Aperol is used around the world for lighter, easy-to-drink cocktails. Aperol is like the kid sister of Campari. It’s not as bitter, and it’s a bit sweeter. It mixes well with tart fruits like grapefruit and lemons. I personally love Aperol in my Negronis. Or I mix it with lemon-lime soda and grapefruit. It’s refreshing and satisfies my bittersweet tastebud."Jouyoung's Picks:Another Vegas mixologist explains why women love Hendrick's...
It's been around for almost a century, but much of the world is only now discovering Japanese whisky. For whisky fans who have spent time pondering single malt and blended Scotch whiskies, Irish whiskies and bourbons, stumbling on their first Japanese whisky may be a bit of a surprise. While sake and soju get most of the attention when it comes to East Asian spirits, whisky is no slouch, and is taken extremely seriously in Japan."The funny joke I tell people is that Americans thought it was made out of rice five years ago," says Gardner Dunn, national brand ambassador for Suntory Whisky. "In reality, Japanese whisky is a Scotch-style whisky, made using malted barley, water and yeast. The profile is subtle, refined and complex."Japanese whiskies in general tend to have a lighter, sweeter profile than their Scottish counterparts, the closest being the floral Highland or milder Speyside whiskies. But in some ways they more closely resemble Irish whiskies to the Western palate: approachable, smooth and eminently drinkable."Japanese whiskies tend to appeal to the Japanese palate," says Raphael Lester, head bartender at the new Mira Sushi & Izakaya Bar in New York. "I would describe them as silky, refined and elegant vs., say, a bourbon, which tends to have more of a bite."Suntory master distiller Mike Miyamoto is even more blunt: "The Japanese are not good with high alcohol. But something like our Hibiki blended whisky is so well-blended and so smooth, the Japanese love drinking it."This spring, the Suntory company celebrated its 90th birthday (though it wasn't called Suntory initially). In the early part of the 20th century, shopkeeper and sweet wine producer Torii Shinjiro became enamoured of single malt Scotch whiskies as a means of expanding his business. After Masataka Taketsuru visited Scotland for another company and learned the process inside and out, he was recruited by Shinjiro to help build the Yamazaki Distillery, which began producing a malt whisky in 1923. The company now makes a number of whiskies, but only a handful of labels and expressions are available outside Japan: Yamazaki 12- and 18-year, Hibiki 12-year (a blended whisky) and most recently Hakashu 12-year, a lightly peated whisky.They're not the only game in town anymore here in the West. Nikka Whisky, another longtime Japanese distillery (founded by the aforementioned Taketsuru when his contract with Shinjiro ended), recently introduced two of its labels, via Anchor Distilling Company. Taketsuru Pure Malt 12-year is a blend of malt whiskies from two distilleries, one high in the mountains of Sendai. It is fruity and sweet, with a brilliant silkiness to it. Yoichi Single Malt 15-year is produced at the Yoichi distillery on Hokkaido. It's reminiscent of Highland-style whiskies, with peat, spice, coffee and smoke notes, yet it retains the brightness and smoothness characteristic of Japanese whiskies as a category. Neither are cheap, but they give whisky geeks something to brag about, and they're particularly delicious (I tried them first at WhiskyFest New York last November and, again, as samples at home)."More and more, knowledge of whisky is power," says Dunn, "and the whisky nerds stand out. In my estimation, Japanese whisky leads the focus of coolness for whisky connoisseurs who love telling people, 'You have to try this.'"But what makes a Japanese whisky truly distinct from any other fermented, distilled and aged grain spirit around the world? Production rules roughly follow those of Scotch whisky, with single malts produced from malted barley at a single distillery (different batches can be blended). Blended whisky may include scores of malted and unmalted whiskies of various ages, from various distilleries. "Pure Malts" are blends of single malt whisky from more than one distillery.
Home bartenders are getting serious about their craft. It's not uncommon to find a bottle of jalapeño-infused tequila, homemade lavender simple syrup or DIY limoncello sitting on the shelf at a cocktail geek's house. But bitters, for some reason, often seem more daunting. They're not. That dash of Angostura or Bitter Truth Aromatic the pro bartender finishes off your Old Fashioned, Manhattan or Pisco Sour with can be easily reproduced at home (well, no one can quite perfect Angostura's secret recipe, but you can certainly come up with your own). Even better, you can customise and invent your own bitters with a little faith and experimentation. New York-based Hella Bitters co-founder Tobin Ludwig hosted a how-to class, which was sponsored by the recently re-released Johnnie Walker Double Black Scotch whisky in Manhattan. It gave us the chance to chat with Ludwig about the ins and outs of making bitters.
What Are Bitters?Tobin Ludwig (TL): Bitters are about as ancient as the unaged "usquebaugh" ("water of life") that whisky originated from. In the Middle East and Europe of the 15th and 16th centuries, bitters were medicinal extracts of plant materials used in herbalism. The earliest bitters were used, by themselves, to treat everything from upset stomachs to excessive flatulence! Today, bitters are a flavour and aromatic extract used to enhance food and cocktails, and a little goes a long way.
How Do You Use Bitters?TL: These days, bitters are used to enhance cocktails. But we want people to put our bitters in everything. Because it's fun! In cocktails, it's often the finishing ingredient, with three or four dashes added during the mixing for flavor, or on top of the drink at the end for aromatics. It gives you a new expression of the spirit, soda or cocktail you're enjoying.
How Do You Make Bitters?TL: "The basic process is easy. Put a bunch of seeds, roots, spices, citrus peels, whatever you have, in edible alcohol. Seal it, and stick it in a dark space for a few weeks to macerate (extract and blend the flavours). Taste it daily and see how it's evolving. One thing common to almost all bitters is a bitter ingredient: wormwood in the old days, gentian root today. Gentian root is considered the most bitter (edible) substance on Earth, and has the best evidence for bitters' historic medicinal claims.
What Kind Of Alcohol Should You Use For The Base?TL: You can use any spirit you want (you can even use water if you have to). Bitters can take months to create. We kind of cheat. One way is using a very high-alcohol neutral-grain spirit as the base. You know it as Everclear. The higher the proof on the base spirit, the more efficient the extraction, and it can happen in two weeks to a month. It pulls the aromatics out of the spices, roots and fruit.
But We're Using Mostly Johnnie Walker Double Black.TL: Bitters are a fantastic pairing with Scotch. Rather than muddle the flavors, they actually pull out all the beautiful notes that already exist, and enhance them. What's better than bitters in Scotch? Bitters made with Scotch, that you add to Scotch! You still have a small amount of the high-proof grain spirit in there as well to kickstart the maceration and bring the alcohol level above 40%. We're cheating.
How Long Does A Batch Take To Macerate?TL: No idea. I can not answer that until it's done. But we're very experienced in making bitters, and I have a pretty well-tuned palate. I'll check every day, and make an executive decision. It's done when I've decided it's peaked and all the flavours have married. Probably a few weeks.
How Long Does It Last?Because it's an extraction, it will mellow with age, but it will last a long time. A new bottle is brighter than a bottle that's a year old. The bitters evolve. In fact, a great idea is to hide one bottle and forget about it. Rediscover it in a year and see how it's mellowed.
What Are Some Dos And Donts For DIYers?TL: We focus on the "dos." Do experiment. Experimentation is king. If it tastes good, great. But know that everything you make is not going to be delicious. Embrace your failures and make it fun. The process of discovery while making bitters is gratifying, and it tastes good. Never let go of the joy. We only have one "don't": Don't not share!
It can be tough for guys to know how to go the extra mile on Valentine’s Day. When you’ve been together for a few years, it’s hard to know how to trump last year’s efforts. Here’s how to create the perfect night in and create that WOW factor, without burning a huge hole in your wallet.Starter: Smoked Haddock Soup from Chef Patron Mark Paynton from Michelin Starred, AlimentumIngredients1 x fillet of un-dyed smoked haddock, 500ml semi-skimmed milk, 200ml fish stock, 1/2 an onion (finely diced), 1 clove garlic (crushed), 150g potato (peeled and cut into 2cm dice), Grain mustard, Cress, 4 small eggs.MethodPlace the haddock in the cold milk - bring to the boil and take off the heat. Soften the onion and garlic over a medium heat in a little vegetable oil for about 5 minutes, then add the potato and cook for a further minute. Add the fish stock and bring to a rolling boil and simmer for 4 minutes.Take the fish out of the milk and pour the milk into the boiling soup, boiling for 1 more minute, then blend until smooth and season with a little salt, black pepper and lemon juice to taste.Fry the 4 eggs in a little butter until the white is cooked but the yolk is still runny. Place the cooked eggs in 4 serving bowls, then flake the haddock around the egg and sprinkle with the cress and grain mustard. Bring the soup back to the boil and pour around the egg yolk, then serve.
Every bartender knows what to serve up if James Bond walks into their bar -- an ice-cold martini, shaken, not stirred. It’s as much a part of his identity as his 007 designation and license to kill. But Mr. Bond is also nothing if not a globetrotter, and we got to wondering how the mixologists he’s encountered on his travels might update his signature drink.
First stop: IstanbulSkyfall begins in the exotic and beautiful city of Istanbul. We talked to Banu Tandogan, owner of the hip bar Ulus 29, about how to give the martini a Turkish twist. He suggested spicing it up with Raki, a traditional anise-flavoured liquor “known to give bravery and audacity after consumption.”Make it:1. Fill a cold martini glass with crushed ice.2. Using a martini spray, spritz Raki three times over the ice, then stir to infuse.3. Pour out the ice.4. Fill a shaker halfway with ice cubes and add 1.5 oz vodka (about a shot and a half) and 1 oz dry vermouth5. Stir -- don’t shake! -- and pour into the Raki-infused glass, adding two green olives to complete the drink.
Next stop: MiamiIn Casino Royale, Bond foils an attack at the Miami airport. We talked to Robert Ferrara, head bartender at The Dutch, who designed The Skyfall, a new martini named after 007’s latest adventure, for AskMen. Ferrara also chose to go the stirred, not shaken, route, saying, “Classically, a martini is supposed to be stirred so you don't bruise the spirits. You want to be able to control the dilution and you want a silky texture, which you lose when you shake.”Make it:1. Add 1.5 oz of Stolichnaya Elit vodka, 1 oz Dolin Blanc vermouth, ½ oz Mandarine Napoleon (a Belgian orange liqueur) and three drops of lemon bitters into a mixing glass.2. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds.3. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.Back home: LondonLondon, is, of course, Bond’s headquarters. We asked JJ Goodman, of the London Cocktail Club, what he’d serve 007. Citing Daniel Craig’s punchy, rough edges, Goodman said that he’d go with “a navy-proof dirty martini, aka, a bulletproof martini.” (“Navy proof” was the higher-alcohol-content booze demanded by the British Navy.)Make it:1. Add 0.7 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth and 1.7 oz navy-proof gin, like Plymouth, (“To represent Bond’s SAS naval training,” Goodman says) into a large glass.2. Throw the booze back and forth (double-O) seven times, rather than shaking or stirring it. Goodman describes it as “passing the gin at a distance between two glasses, one with ice and one without, for dramatic effect.” 3. Serve in a frozen martini glass and garnish with washed olives. “Don’t add any brine,” Goodman says. “I think the girls would agree Daniel Craig’s lips are salty enough.”
On 12 December 2012, the brand chaps at Tanqueray decided to celebrate the unusual date (and Frank Sinatra's birthday) in an unusual manner -- by cracking open a 40-something bottle of Tanqueray. The event took place at the unassuming Mulberry Street Bar in New York's Little Italy, and gave a lucky few the chance to sip martinis and gimlets made with the sort of stash that generally gets tossed when your grandfather moves into the nursing home."The 1960s were a great time for drinking, before the privations of the '70's and '80s," Tanqueray global brand ambassador Angus Winchester told the small, thirsty crowd. While Sinatra loved his Gordon's Gin and various blended Scotch whiskies, he was also known to opt for Tanqueray on occasion. In fact, Old Blue Eyes had thrown back a few drinks at the very bar where we were getting sloshed.Winchester brought out a number of precision instruments from the '60s, including a "martini scale," used for crafting the perfect drink (in this case, the American Standard Dry Martini with a 4:1 ratio of gin to vermouth). He then hoisted the old-timey Tanq and started pouring. "Making a martini is not just a ritual, but a way of life."The gin -- which dates to somewhere between 1966 and 1970, based on the labelling -- was provided by a collector. It had mellowed and softened with age. Winchester and his team also uncovered a '60s-era bottle of Noilly Prat dry vermouth to go with, but it hadn't withstood the test of time, being now hollow, oily and slightly vinegared. "We would love to think everything gets better in the bottle," says Winchester. "But that's not the case. In the gin, the coriander and some of the other botanicals have mellowed. But the juniper is still bright, front and center."Quaffing antique booze stashes has become a "thing" of late. In 2010, divers from Sweden and Finland found intact Champagne bottles in a 230-year-old shipwreck below the surface of the Baltic Sea. Naturally, they popped a bottle (valued at around £55,000) and found it to be "a very sweet Champagne" with notes of tobacco and oak. South Pole explorer Ernest Shackleton left behind, it turned out, three crates of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt whisky, under the floorboards of his team's Antarctic base camp hut. Excavated over 100 years later, Scotch whisky master blender Richard "The Nose" Paterson went about sampling it (both through chemical analyses and good old-fashioned sniffing), "after making damned sure the seals were intact." The result: a new blend Paterson says is identical. For £100 or so, you can taste a recreation of the Mackinlay's Rare Old. Paterson suggests you close your eyes, take a sip and imagine brutally cold winds and penguins."The allure of an intact antique liquor sample lies in the fact it can provide a clear snapshot into an earlier time," says Ted Breaux, whose research into vintage, pre-ban absinthes from the early 20th century helped create the modern brand Lucid, and make the whole absinthe category legal again. "Certain spirits, like absinthe and Chartreuse, continue to age in the bottle. What we're tasting today is a little different than what it was a century ago." Besides Lucid, Breaux has created several absinthes through his company, Jade Liqueurs, including the elegant Nouvelle Orleans. More recently, he has set about duplicating some of the dozen originals in his collection, and has produced three reverse-engineered recreations, including a reproduction of the 1890s original Edouard Pernod, a 1901 Absinthe Superieure and a C.F. Berger original Swiss absinthe recipe.Bars are also getting in on the vintage spirits act, and not only with whisky and cognac. Pouring Ribbons, a new bar in New York's East Village, boasts an entire page of vintage Chartreuse bottles (both yellow and green) dating back to the 1950s. A single ounce of the strong, funky liqueur can set you back as much as £80. Salvatore Calabrese, a noted London bartender and co-owner of the bar at the Playboy Club London, has made a specialty of crafting cocktails from old booze. He made the news at the beginning of 2012, when a patron accidentally broke a 224-year-old bottle of cognac worth about £50,000.
Around this time of year you'll read a staggering amount of articles about detox, diet, fitness and austerity. Obviously we fully support a healthy approach to life at AskMen and January's a fine time to kickstart your Better Man revolution. However, don't forget to indulge in some enjoyment. Like, for example, a mini break. They're a fine, cost effective to escape January's prodigious drudgery. And impress the person in your life who doubtless deserves impressing. AskMen were recently part of the voting team that helped dish out the LateRooms.com 2012 Best Kept Secret Awards. An awards Our award? The Best Dining gong, which after much deliberation and selfless research we dished out to Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, Wales. The five star 2010 Ryder Cup venue beat off some ferocious competition in London's high end May Fair and the De Vere Hotel at Slaley Hall in Hexham, complete with its Whiskey Snug. What tipped Celtic Manor over the line? Well, it's arguably the sheer wealth of food available. The South Wales destination, situated in the stunning Usk Valley, offers six different restaurants with everything from award-winning (you're welcome) fine dining to rustic, hearty country fare. It's a meticulously prepped, gluttonous paradise. To check out the entire list of winners in categories as diverse as Best Spa, Best Eco Credentials and the ever-vital Comfiest Bed award (you'll need to visit Liverpool for this one), check out the results site right here.