Drinks

Here's your soda, jerk

Pop Cultured: Make Great Soda at Home

Given new life by the advent of SodaStream, the do-it-yourself home soda stand is becoming increasingly popular. With the ability to tailor CO2-infused drinks to individual tastes (and control sugar content), pop-aficionados and mixologists alike can don Dr. Pepper’s lab coat to keep themselves awash in bubbly. These are the best soda makers for doing just that.

60, 61, 75, 90, 120, Floor

Tasting Notes: A Profile of the Dogfish Head Minute IPAs

Though Dogfish Head currently produces 33 beers, 65 percent of their sales come from their five "continuously hopped" IPAs -- the 60, Sixty-One, 75, 90 and 120 Minute. We tasted them all, in numerical order, and learned much more about Dogfish Head, and craft beer in general, than we expected.

A Dram of Tam

Tasting Notes: Cutty Sark Whiskies

Founded in 1923, Cutty Sark originally made a name for itself by offering an accessibly priced blended cocktail Scotch. By the 1960s, Cutty Sark produced the best-selling Scotch whisky in the United States; then it disappeared. In 2010, The Edrington Group bought Cutty with hopes of reviving the dying brand. The brand's new line now consists of six whiskies, three of which are available in the United States.

Limited Release, 13-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey

Tasting Notes: Lock, Stock & Barrel Rye

Drinking alone gets a bad rap, but there’s having a drink alone and then there’s really drinking alone, getting after it, sitting on a creaky chair the garage with a case of Keystone and no real plans to speak of except to power through it. Be careful with that. But in the first scenario a man reaches beneath his desk around 6:00 p.m., puts The Best of Dean Martin on the phonograph, starts nodding to the music, and pours himself a measure of something good and strong. During a recent six o’clock hour we opened up a bottle of Lock Stock & Barrel ($118) straight rye whiskey -- and it’s just about as smooth and rich as Dino’s voice.

In Vino We Trust

Uncorked, Part One: A Guide to Wine Varietals

For a long time we’ve been put off by wine -- its rules and regulations, its esoteric language, its arcane, Old-World naming regimes. Then the floodgates opened and there was two-dollar wine, highbrow boxed wine, wines that could be chilled and others that could be warmed. And guess what? It was all still pretty confusing. But the truth is that no other drink pairs so exceptionally with food as wine does, and then, the drink has romance and mystery, too; it carries a certain tradition and importance that’s undeniable, indeed, biblical; it has fun pastimes like stomping grapes, sabering bottles and having important conversations about literature. So we’ve done what we should have done all along: created a guide to everything there is to know about wine, an extensive flight of wine knowledge. It begins with a layman’s guide to understanding the varietals.

Jim Beam-san

Opinion: Jim Beam, Suntory Style

In 1923, a pharmaceutical representative named Shinjiro Torii built a distillery in Yamazaki with the dream of creating a Japanese whisky for the Japanese people. His original distillery evolved into Suntory, a holding company that recently made a $13.62 billion cash play for Beam, Inc., makers of Jim Beam brand spirits, Old Crow, and Maker’s Mark, among others. If it goes through, Suntory will become the third largest whiskey company by volume in the world. What does this mean for the whiskey (and whisky) world?

A look inside New York's first ever Bourbon

Tasting Notes: Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey

On a brisk Manhattan morning, we met with Ralph Erenzo of Hudson Whiskey for a taste test. He introduced us to Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey ($45), the first bourbon whiskey ever made in New York, and the first legal pot-distilled whiskey made in New York since prohibition. Made from 100 percent New York corn and aged in American Oak barrels, it proves that not all good bourbon needs to come from the South.

Champagne you can drink with dinner

Toasted: Grower Champagnes to Drink Now

Among the wisest Champagne drinkers is the sommelier, and we consulted with one of the country’s best: Paul Grieco, owner of Hearth restaurant and Terroir, a wine bar with five locations in New York City. He helped us choose five bottles of grower's Champagne to drink right now -- and not just as a toast before dinner.

The One Percent

Tasting Notes: L’Artisan Cognac

Evan Yurman, Chief Design Director of his father's jewelry empire, and Nicolas Palazzi, owner of PM Spirits, recently combined their passions to form L'Artisan. The idea behind the brand is to source pure Cognacs from French farmers, many of whom have had it in their cellars since their fathers or grandfathers distilled it decades ago. They just released their first offering, L'Artisan No. 50, and we were lucky enough to have a taste.

No Reason to be Bitter

Tasting Notes: Angostura Rum

The House of Angostura makes the best-known bitters in the world. In fact, with all the press given to Angostura’s bitters, it’s easy to overlook their line of rums, which they've been making for over 100 years. We had a chance to try the three rums in Angostura's premium line -- rums for sipping.

Rewind: The Thanksgiving Issue

If your significant other invited the relatives for Thanksgiving, you’re probably praying that there won’t be a repeat of what your cousins still call the Great Turkey Fiasco of 2003. But why not go on the offensive? This is your day, dammit, and just because Aunt Hellen and Cousin Doug have decided to hold a...

An American Road Trip for a Great American Beer

Off To See The Alchemist: A Quest for the Elusive Heady Topper

On November 9th, we asked K.B. Gould and Henry Phillips to make a fall pilgrimage to the Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont. The closing of the brewery's retail operation loomed just days away. Joined by driver Dave Watson, the two accepted their assignment: visit the home of Heady Topper, one of the highest-rated beers in the world, to pay homage to its brewmasters, enjoy a taste and a tour and scrounge a rare case. This is the chronicle of their trip.

The everyman's Champagne

Tasting Notes: Donkey and Goat 2012 Lily’s Cuvée Chardonnay

In that casual game of preference, Would You Rather, we’re often faced with important decisions, like raising a child at 15 or never having kids, or losing a pinky toe or never eating steak again. During one of these games, when asked about giving up beer for eternity, we came to a realization: while undesirable, the parting of ways wouldn't be the end of the world -- and we could do it without becoming a hard-hitting liquor drinker. How? With a lifetime supply of sparkling wine, and specifically, a style of sparkling wine called pétillant naturel. One glass of the 2012 Lily's Cuvée Chardonnay ($28) from California’s Donkey & Goat winery and you’ll know what we’re talking about.

In [hot] vino veritas

Mulled Wine, Three Ways

Mulled wine is the perfect drink for the holiday season: just pleasant and alcoholic enough to warm everyone up, but not like handing out rounds of high-octane Manhattans that could turn Thanksgiving dinner into an episode worthy of Jenny Jones. We tapped the expertise of Jane Elkins, former and current barkeep at some of New York City's best cocktail haunts, for three variations of mulled wine, each rooted in tradition and brushed up with ingenuity from behind her bar.

When In Russia...

Za Zdarovye! The 10 Best Russian Imperial Stouts

You ever have one of those ideas that seems really good at the time? Like, let's drop these broken speakers down a flight of stairs, or let's jump into the mosh pit at a Machinehead concert, or let's see if we can lure that deer into the car? Just last weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to taste-test a whole load of Russian Imperial Stouts. If you're not familiar with the style, it's characterized by high ABVs and huge chocolate, coffee and malt flavors. Although they're monstrously strong and typically expensive, Russian Imperial Stouts push the flavor intensity spectrum, offering a look at the sultry, heady, muscly side of beer. For those willing to experiment, they offer a variety of smells, flavors and textures found in few other styles of beer. But take note: if you're going to try them, don't make it a marathon. Give them the credit that they deserve. Still, from the pain of my hangover emerged this list of our favorite Russian Imperial Stouts.

Gifts He'll Actually Remember in the Morning

12 Guys of Christmas: The Mixologist

What to call a man who obsesses over alcohol? A connoisseur? A fanatic? A drunk? We call him The Mixologist, and you know him well. He’s the man whose cupboards are stocked with more bitters than spices, whose basement is reeking of homebrew, whose glass is always half-full -- at least. And yours too, for the Mixologist prides himself in the cocktails he makes and the beer he serves. He’s an enabler of fun, an anti-Scrooge, a Holiday MVP. He’s every character in Billy Joel’s Piano Man -- in fact, he does a mean Billy Joel if the night goes late enough. So cheers to The Mixologist. Here are a few gifts he'll cheers to.

For relaxing times...

Kanpai! The Five Best 12 Year Old Japanese Whiskies

Last week hummus and yoga were “in”, and while they’re not out yet, there’s a new top dog in Popularville: Japanese Whisky. Notice the spelling -- that’s whisky with a -y, like Scotch whisky, not whiskey with an -ey, the spelling used for U.S. and Irish varietals. Yes, the Japanese whisky industry was modeled after the Scottish single malt industry's practice of distilling and blending under one roof, but it's since taken on a life of its own. As a result of several recent victories over Scottish whiskies at blind tasting competitions, Japan’s best-kept secret escaped, and the world is eager to test the hype. We tasted five of the best 12-year-old Japanese whisky offerings, and we can assure you that the hype is warranted.

Big beer for Bigfoot

Great Divide Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Stout

Great beers -- really great ones -- have of late fallen into two categories. Big IPAs make their impression with complex hop mixes, while big stouts levy another piece of the puzzle, malt, for a savory warmth of chocolate, toffee, vanilla, smokiness and even bourbon notes. Great Divide Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Stout ($10) comes from a family of "big" beers, but the simple inclusion of rolled oats and some raisins (among a few other tweaks) in its brewing process makes this beast a different breed. This Yeti went to Yale.

Oldies but Goodies

Tasting Notes: Comparing Bowmore’s 12 Years Old and 15 Years Old Darkest

There’s something to be said for a little maturation. Age yields refinement, which more than compensates for lost youth. Poetic, eh? We think so. Anyways, one only has to look at Bowmore’s 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky and their 15 Years Old Single Malt Darkest to see the effects of age in action. We tasted both side by side.

Better Than Average Joe

Tested: Brazen Coffee Brewer

For those who believe that little things make good coffee, the Brazen Brewer ($199) offers a mid-range drip machine with technology and temperature accuracy most often found on higher-end models. We put it through its paces as our office brewer for a week.

A new expression from Johnnie Walker

Tasting Notes: Johnnie Walker Platinum Label

Johnnie Walker presents a good lesson in the way the world really works: the rich drink Blue, the working man drinks Red, and in between there are rungs on the ladder of purchasing power. If you can make it to Double Black, you might just be able to claw your way into a bottle of Johnnie Walker Platinum Label ($110), now available in the United States.

Gimme some sugar(cane)

Slow As Molasses: 5 Rums We’re Drinking Now

In the final throes of summer each year, before we dust off the leather boots, get out the lambswool sweaters and prepare to toss the first curse at Old Man Winter, we spend a little extra time with Old Man Rum. Pretty good company, this guy: a spirit distilled from sugarcane juice or molasses, with few other rules to govern its production and aging. That makes for a drink that varies greatly in style and provenance. The five rums we're enjoying now reflect that variety of tastes.

Cold Off the Presses

Cool Beans: 5 Great Cold Brew Coffee Makers

Iced coffee has been a longstanding warm-weather alternative to the hot stuff since forever, but there have always been drawbacks. As you’d expect, brewing hot coffee and then putting it on ice leads to a watery, acidic brew with as much flavor as Chuck D’s solo career. The answer is cold brew. Using cold or...

A Capitol Brew

Tasting Notes: DC Brau

DC has its downsides. It's not a state. Traffic is depression inducing. The city is built on a swamp and has the clime to match. The poor folks who reside there have to deal with the assholes who run our country. But add to the list of good things (it really is a long list, despite our recent pessimism) DC Brau, the home-town brewery for our nation's capitol, which besides this one, has surprisingly little beer to offer. We recently got a chance to try all three of their flagship brews.

Strange Brew

Tasting Notes: The Glenlivet Alpha

A bottle of The Glenlivet Alpha is, well, a strange prospect. We got our hands on a bottle of this limited release Scotch -- a spirit with no details as to age, cask conditioning or tasting notes, mind you. Our gimmickry alarms bells were ringing, but fortunately, it came through in the taste department, big time. Read on for our full tasting notes.

Same country, new port

Tasting Notes: Pike Creek Whiskey

Pike Creek Whiskey was available stateside in the 90s. Slow sales soon put the importation experiment to an end, despite a budding cult following. Now, Pernod Ricard is reintroducing the spirit back to select American markets. Unlike typical Canadian whiskies, Pike Creek is finished in Port barrels, and left at the mercy of the elements in unheated warehouses. But is it really a different? Read our full review to find out.

Full body, full wallet(?)

Want This, Get This: 2009 Chateau Petrus or 2011 Leonetti Merlot

You know the pinnacle of wine-making remains in France. Well, so do all those newly minted Chinese millionaires, and they’ve driven the price of Old World red wines sky high. This is especially true for top-end Bordeaux, which carry the highest cache among French wines. Those of us without a state-sponsored fortune, trust fund, or impending Wall Street bonus, however, have to look elsewhere for quality wine. Here are two splurge-caliber choices, made in the same style, of the same grape -- merlot -- though one comes without the inflation of appellation.

Canadian flag, Caribbean taste

Tasting Notes: Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey

Angel's Envy's latest creation, a rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum barrels, supposes to pair a contrasting set of spirit flavors. We take a few sips and find out for ourselves.

[Cacao] farm to table

A Traveler’s Bounty: Cuban Cacao

Back safely in the U.S., I removed the cacao ball from my running shoe. I unwound the plastic wrap from the dark brown orb and sniffed it. My best friend, Mycah, and his wife, Ashley, had picked it up at a cacao farm in Baracoa, a small town on the eastern tip of Cuba. This was the good shit. I pictured myself shaving it over ice cream to impress a date or using it to flavor chili. Oh, this chocolate here? I got it from a guy in Cuba. Chef François Payard showed me how I could actually use it.

Con-cidre it tasty

Tasting Notes: Stella Artois Cidre

To begin: someone made a mistake in this assignment. I don't like ciders. They're sweet enough to send me into shock. They have a flatness that makes my tongue feel ashamed. They attract large numbers of bees. With those prejudices in mind, I gave Stella Artois's new Cidre a taste.

Only good things in store

Mix It Up: Great Store-Bought Mixers

A decent drink can be hard to find, especially when you’re at home. For the do-it-yourselfers who would rather the "do" simply be mixing the strong stuff with the not-so-strong stuff, we’ve compiled a list of the top five mixers you can find in your friendly neighborhood high-end liquor store. All you have to do is add booze, ice and maybe a wry wink as you drop in the cocktail straw.

Beer o'clock comes early this summer

Suds Up: Perfect Summer Craft Beers

A true hot-weather brew is not necessarily easy to find. We won't knock macrobrews -- their simple refreshment is enhanced all the same by hot weather, scantily clad women and baseball games. Those (the beers, not the women) are easily snatched from the corner store shelf, though. This list tackles the summer micro brew, a trickier topic, if only because there are so damn many. Pop the cap off the right one of these beauties and any summer activity can be filled with crisp, carbonated, slightly buzzed pleasure.

Bee open minded

Tasting Notes: Dewar’s Highlander Honey

Putting honey into alcoholic things has a bad rap. It's effeminate, it's weak, it's a cop-out. The parallels to shitty, girly strawberry-kiwi-whipped-cream-lip-gloss vodka are overwhelming. But everyone's doing it. Now Dewar's (a Scotch!) has joined in. We're here to tell you: their take isn't wrong. It's just... different.

As American as the Mayflower, and twice as fun

Rum: Your Official Summer Drink

Most honest Americans of drinking age know bourbon as the national spirit. But there’s another drink for us to enjoy in the warm weather that, like bourbon, has a uniquely American story: rum. We’ve overlooked it for some time; meanwhile, there’s plenty of new, excellent, American and Caribbean rum coming to market, and rum-specific bars are opening in cities across the country. Rum, for now, is a little less serious than Scotch or bourbon, but what it brings to the table is no laughing matter -- unless you’ve got your pinky dangling.

A voyage to Midleton Distillery in Cork County, Ireland

Distilling Tradition: A Visit to the Home of Jameson Irish Whiskey

There's a published sociologist somewhere who said integration is the key to acceptance. Maybe we're just paraphrasing Costner's journal in Dances with Wolves. Regardless of who penned it, whisk(e)y makes a convincing case for the theory. Various cultures, united by their admiration of the caramel liquid's charms, have each honed their own rituals for conjuring the spirit -- and we, the imbibing people, have reaped the benefits of these diverse forms of worship. Irish whiskey is one tradition that many beyond the Emerald Isle scarcely know, despite the island's profound role in molding the drink into the revered male favorite it has become. But this wasn't always the case. At the height of its glory, the product of Ireland's distilleries was once the favored drink of the British empire, and its most notable ambassador, Jameson, was the world's favorite whiskey. What happened next reads like a lost Dumas manuscript, complete with revolution, religion and economic turmoil all ending in the drink's unjust imprisonment. The good news for drinkers is that after patiently biding its time for well over a century, the era of Irish whiskey's redemption is finally arriving, and it's easy to spot if you know where to look.

Poring over coffee's simplest method

Kit: The Perfect Pour Over Coffee Set

Occam’s razor: A philosophical principle suggesting that simpler explanations tend to be better than complex ones. It has broad application, from medicine to ethics to proofs of the existence of God. Now if we apply the razor to our morning coffee, as the thinking men of Gear Patrol are wont to do, we can scrap our fancy drip machines and super-automatic espresso makers and still get a world-class cup of coffee without doing much more than pouring hot water over coffee grounds. We’ve assembled a pour over kit with all the basics to get you started -- at a very affordable price.

Hail to the King, Baby

Malted Madness, Round Six: Sipping a Champion

It felt good to finish a successful 64-beer tournament. Partly because our bladders were feeling the pressure after lots of beer samples, but mostly because we got to crown a winner. 64 beers -- Vienna-style lagers, IPAs, imperial stouts, wheat ales, barleywines, pale ales -- under one bar's roof is chaos (delicious, delicious chaos). But picking one as the absolute best is as singularly satisfying as the tick-hiss of popped bottle cap. The final two competitors prove we did something right. Founders Breakfast Stout and Victory Prima Pils make drinkers happy, and they make brewers happy. They're delicious, complex, drinkable and extremely accessible to beer fans; they're also the epitome of two foundational styles, perfect examples of what excellent American craft brewing can create.

Good tequila? Aqui

Tasting Notes: Qui Tequila

Last Cinco de Mayo you ended up in the gutter with an extra-large sombrero shading your bloodshot eyes. Ready to grow up a bit for this year's celebration? May we recommend Qui tequila ($57), sipped straight while you fight the waves of heartburn your taco feast brings on.

A sip from the bitter end

Malted Madness, Round Five: Flight of Four

Four style categories, four beers remaining. This is the big time folks: four rounds have drained 60 beers from the tourney. That makes Victory, Two Brothers, Founders and Sierra Nevada -- seeded 2, 14, 1, and 7, consecutively -- in the 96th percentile. That's a 1290 on the SAT. Not quite Ivy Leaguers -- but then again, neither are our tasters. With so few brews remaining in our Malted Madness tournament, it's time for some specific dissection. What remains, largely, is a contest between styles. So how does one judge between a stout and a barleywine, a pilsner and a Bière de Garde? Very carefully, we realized -- but also with plenty of subjectivity, banter, and flip-flopping. Largely, the debate was winnowed to a somewhat philosophical question: what kind of beer were we even looking for? Was it the most complex, style-boundary-pushing flavor bomb, or a beer that everyone could enjoy anytime, anywhere? For full disclosure, we've decided to include our full discussion/debate sessions for both matchups this round (which we recorded for prosperity's sake). Read on for our decisions.

The tastiest kind of reminiscing

Malted Madness: The Best Beer I’ve Ever Had

Malted Madness is a celebration of beer. Largely, we've glorified suds through our favorite medium: bloodthirsty head-to-head competition. Now, though, we pay homage to the most foundational of beer's values... enjoyment. We asked our staff to remember the most memorable water, malt and hops they'd ever had and recorded their misty-eyed reminiscences. What we found -- unsurprisingly -- was that the true measure of beer is often when and where it's enjoyed, and who with.

Meet the Best Lager, Light Ale, Dark Ale and Wild Card

Malted Madness, Round Four: Crowning the Category Champs

"You're all winners in my book". Overused by little league coaches everywhere, it's a turn of phrase that doesn't even trick children. You think little Tommy really believes he's a winner? He might've been picking his nose absentmindedly when the winning run dribbled right by him, but he's not stupid. So we won't apply it to this tournament, dammit. Call us over-competitive, but just because a beer made our list of 64 great beers doesn't mean it's a champ. It's been a rocky road (see the whole bracket here), and some excellent brews have gone down swinging: Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Rogue Dead Guy, Oskar Blues Ten FIDY, Lost Abbey Deliverance, even eminent Pliny the Elder, perfect by BeerAdvocate and RateBeer standards. But they're out, without a second chance between them. The closest things to winners -- beyond the actual champion, that is -- will be the final four beers, a.k.a. the top dogs of the Lager, Light Ale, Dark Ale and Et Al. styles.