Your Home Bar: Keep It Neat

One night last week I had an interesting night out – I went with a couple of friends to a single-malt scotch tasting and dinner at a good, new restaurant in Carlsbad.
This seemed like an interesting proposition, considering there were seven different whiskies* to taste.  I mean, wine-tastings are pretty easy – you can have sips of several wines and not really feel much of an effect on your equilibrium.  But a half-ounce to ounce of seven hard-liquors – well, that seems like it could be a little trouble.  Fortunately, the tasting was first, which was followed by a nice, leisurely dinner in which you could pack in some calories, drink some water, and allow the effects to wear off. 

Thinking about the tasting made me think of another important part of the home bar – and that’s having liquors to drink neat.  You might recall in the last post on this topic, I mentioned how important the quality of ingredients can be for a good cocktail.
Well, when you’re thinking about drinking booze straight, it’s of the utmost importance – in fact, these spirits are the ones that are so good that you usually won’t want to mix them with anything**.  The picture below shows some of the “sippin’” liquors we have here at The Aerie.

Whisky:  I have to say that single malts were my entry into my current status as a drink “enthusiast” about a decade ago.  I guess in that way maybe they’re a gateway booze.  A good store will have a somewhat bewildering array of products that you really can’t pronounce correctly.  At ~$40 a bottle (or more), I’d get some advice and maybe taste-test beforehand to find out what you like – sweet-ish or not, peat-y or not.
Whiskey: The Beloved loves herself some brown liquor, so we tend to have a couple of high-end bourbons on the premises, as well as Single Barrel Jack Daniels (which is what’s in the decanter).
Tequila:  Yes, you don’t need a lime wedge and some salt to enjoy straight tequila.  Get an high-quality anejo tequila.    The flavors can be remarkably complex and still be a little “lighter” than a whiskey (or whisky).  I like Herradura myself and Siete Leguas.
Rum:  Arrrgh The Kraken!  The KRAKEN!  
What’s missing?  A good vodka in my freezer, that’s what.  I really have to rectify that.  And no, I really don’t advocate drinking gin neat – maybe on the rocks, but yeah, no.
Okay, maybe I’ll go enjoy myself a nice after dinner tipple.
*Drink nerd alert: “Scotch” in Scotland is not called “scotch”, it’s called whisky.  Note the difference in spelling between that and American whiskey.  Do not interchange.
** or at most with an ice cube or two, or a little splash of water.

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26 thoughts on “Your Home Bar: Keep It Neat

  1. How fun. Yes, I have been educated on the whisky vs whiskey. Thanks to you! You should check out a holiday with a tour of the Whisky Coast. Tequila and pink grapefruit juice is sublime in the summer. I do not drink vodka any more because of my sister's alcoholism and it is her drink of preference, put me off it for all time. A snippet for you: "Established in 1815 by the Johnston brothers, Laphroaig means "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay in Gaelic" and remains the home of the no.1 Islay malt scotch whisky.

  2. While not an anejo, I can also recommend Cazadores Reposado for a tequila Really liking that. And while I'm not sure how widespread they are available, a local distillery makes a great pot still style rum called Ragged Mtn. Rum :

  3. Here in Canada we spell whisky without the 'e' – which is odd, as we're known for adding extra letters (colour, honour, etc.). You never hear someone ask for a whisky though – it's always rye… rye and coke, rye and water, etc… as the good stuff here (Crown Royal, Wisers, CC) is all rye whisky. If you order or ask for anything else it's going by the name brand, (Jack, Maker's Mark, Jim Beam, etc.) – if one doesn't specify the brand, you'll get the house rye which is always Canadian and usually Canadian Mist, or Canadian Club, – Crown Royal is considered premium, and although it's made about 20 minutes from where we live (so is CC and CM), it costs about half the price in the US.

  4. I love that Kraken bottle… don't throw it away when you're done with the contents! Seaside market in Cardiff has some nice vodkas, btw. We just bought an organic one and it was good. However, I don't know if it's worth spending a lot on vodka. I feel like you could just take a cheap one and put it through a water filter and get pretty good results, but I'm no expert.

  5. We have some nice tequila brought back from a trip south of the border
    sitting in our liquor cabinet. If Hubby ever offers that to you, it is
    safe to say yes.Never accept an offer of Feijoa flavored vodka,
    though. I have yet to meet an American who likes feijoas. Kiwis are
    crazy about them. We now have a feijoa tree in our front yard….I once got very, very drunk off of gimlets. So now my rule on gin is that it can only be consumed in tall gin and tonics.

  6. B – I would love to do a distillery tour of Scotland someday. Actually, we've been really talking about doing the Kentucky Bourbon driving tour, which we think would be fun.

  7. H — I really like Cazadores too! I think it's very smooth and has a really good flavor. The Berkshire Mtn website suggests that they're only distributed in NE so far, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for them. Thanks!

  8. LG — I never knew that about Canadian Whisky — according to the source of all knowledge (Wikipedia) — US Rye whiskies require 51%+ rye to be in the mash, while Canadian Whiskies can have any percentage (even 0%) — though apparently the originals had a lot of rye in them.

  9. Hapa — Of all the liquors, I think the price-to-quality correlation breaks down with vodka — though I am a little skeptical of taking a marginal vodka and just re-filtering it. Maybe we'll have to do the experiment!

  10. Mel — I have to say that I have never ever heard of a feijoa — so now I'm going to HAVE to try one — are they only used to infuse booze? (how's that for alliteration?)

  11. I like Seagram's VO and Jameson's whiskey…neat. That's probably pretty basic. But, they make me happy!I can't abide the taste of gin. Maybe I should try it again, though. It's been years. …but really, I don't wanna. Tequila….makes my clothes fall off. I mean, it's really best if I stick to whisky or whiskey. And vodka. That's some good stuff. I love Tangueray Sterling Vodka. Hmm…..Laphroig……..nasty nasty stuff. I would rather eat a charcoal briquet. All of the above are my humble opinions. Not to be mistaken to mean anything much. :)

  12. Fun post! Learned about the whiskey / whisky distinction in Scotland. I also learned that a Scottish pint is about three times the size of an English pint. The English are sissies!!

  13. This makes me miss Carlsbad even more (lived off Tamarack/Garfield). Was the food good at this place? Were the Bunnahabhain 18 & 25 instant classics? I'm a fan of Macallan 18 yr old and Oban…possibly girly choices (not a fan of the smoky taste), with Laphroaig, Talisker, and Jack single barrel being the man-folk's preferences. When I was really broke in college we used to drink The Famous Grouse (blended, but a nice flavor), which was pretty tasty for $29!

  14. Is scotch tasting a regular thing there or just that one time? If it is regular I think I need to plan a trip next time I come to SD.

  15. The Balvenie does it for me. As does the very peaty Talisker. We visited the distillery on the Isle of Skye a couple of years ago. Closed for maintenance, unfortunately.It's "whiskey" in Ireland.

  16. Jazz — the chef and sommelier used to run "The Brasserie" restaurant in Mira Mesa, which was king of the hill for a while — the food was really excellent and they employ a very nice 10% over cost for wine, so you can get a great bottle and not feel like you're getting gouged.

  17. (Fish) — I don't know if it will be a recurring event or not — it's more of a wine place than liquor, but it seemed like they had a good turnout for a Wednesday night for it. I'll keep an eye on it — if it and you being in town overlap, we should go for it!

  18. Steven, I really agree with you in that the good ones do not need anything but maybe the occasional ice cube. Because I was taught to enjoy a gin early on in a Martini I don't tend to care for "mixed" drinks. I now realise that that is because I've always had good spirits to drink. My family has roots in Kentucky and we were friends with the Baker family who produce some really fine Bourbon. Several years ago you could count good Bourbons on two hands but happily people are beginning to value a good drink and the market is rising to the occasion. I'm happy that I'm here to enjoy it and I am happy to know now about your blog.Paolo Presta

  19. HWE — thanks for the comment! The Baker's most assuredly make some very good bourbon. When we first started making cocktails at home, we started with martinis and manhattans — and now there are many that we go for over the course of the year. I like the idea that there are different drinks for different occasions and seasons.

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