Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

Better With Age: Make Homemade Herbal Cordials for the Holidays

Liqueur, Vodka No Comments »
Illustration: Abi Knopp

Illustration: Abi Knopp

Some people write family newsletters for the holidays, some people make playlists. I make herbal cordial. It’s a sweet liqueur that can be made in the space of two days, as simply as brewing a pot of tea.

You can pick your flavors by visiting the bulk herbs section at a natural food store. In a pinch, snip a few tea bags open—voila, a balanced blend of flavors. This year I’m using Lapsang Souchong, tea smoked over bundles of pine needles. It tastes like a campfire, and warms you right up. Read the rest of this entry »

The Gay Spirit: Halsted Vodka Channels and Gives Back to the GLBT Community

Vodka 1 Comment »

Vodka just got a little gayer. Halsted Vodka, which launched last month, gives fifteen percent of its profits to local GLBT charities in Chicago. Now after three years of development, it’s spreading from the gay bars to the rest of Chicago and beyond. Jennifer Schulze, one of Halsted Vodka’s five founders, explains how they got started and where the brand is headed.

What came first, the idea for vodka or the idea to give back to the LGBT community?
We were looking for a way to give back to the LGBT community. We did a lot of research and a lot of focus groups to come up with the product that has the most impact, and that led us to vodka. The gay community drinks more vodka than anybody else. It’s a huge part of the social fabric in a very positive, celebratory way. It is the spirit of choice in the community, so that’s how we ended up vodka. Read the rest of this entry »

Unconventional Drinking: “Working” the floor at The New York Bar and Wine Show

Brandy/Cognac, News and Dish, Tequila/Mezcal, Tips and Trends, Vodka, Whiskey No Comments »

Photo: Renata Baluk

By Ernest Barteldes

The New York Bar and Wine Show, an annual two-day convention that takes place at Midtown Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, showcases what’s new in the beverage industry, from special registers wirelessly attached to bottles (to better control the drinks sold) to novelties like a Russian roulette-style game wherein a plastic revolver has a chamber that releases a shot of liquor to the lucky ‘winner’—if the ‘loaded’ chamber ends up in his or her hand (think bachelor parties and dorm rooms, if you’re wondering who would do this).

But the greatest attraction is, of course, the booze, and this year’s event had plenty, ranging from new liquor brands, international beers and wines to the latest ideas in mixology presented by different bartenders from all over the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Skip the Caipiroska: Brazilian cachaca brand defends its national spirit

Cachaca, News and Dish, Vodka No Comments »

By Ernest Barteldes

While living in Brazil, I remember ordering caipirinhas (the famous national cocktail made with muddled lime, sugar and cachaça) at restaurants and bars, and I was hit with the inevitable question: “de cachaça ou de vodka” (“Do you want it made with cachaça or vodka?”).

At the time, I didn’t think much of it. Although I did prefer the spiciness of the Brazilian national spirit, I also often recalled the hangovers I’d get from drinking the (mostly) mass-produced stuff they had there at the time, and most of the time ended up having the drink made from vodka.

The problem is that muddling lime and sugar and adding anything other than cachaça is not a caipirinha, but an imitation (some bars list the alternatives as caipiroska—with vodka—or caipirissima when made with rum). But since the general public was not complaining, they got away with it—until now. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark your calendars: National Lemonade Day is August 20

Drinking Events (yes, redundant, we know), Vodka No Comments »

We know, we hadn’t heard of it either. But when we did, we thought, brilliant! Then we thought, vodka.

Thanks to the folks at Luxbar for bringing this to our attention. You’ll find us there come August 20. (But if others are doing similar promotions, let us know and we’ll add them to the list.)

In celebration of National Lemonade Day, Luxbar is going grown-up by offering their signature Lemonhead Martini for only $5 (normally $11.50).  The cocktail features Veev Açai Liqueur, Three Olives Vodka, Chambord, and of course, freshly squeezed Lemon Juice. Thursday, August 20

18 E Bellevue Place, 312.642.3400

Chicagoans can soak up the sun and take advantage of Citizen Bar’s huge outdoor patio while enjoying Citizen’s signature Blue Raspberry Lemonade in honor of National Lemonade Day on August 20th.  For the entire month Citizen will offer this special cocktail for $7 a glass or $22 for a pitcher.

Citizen Bar
364 W. Erie St.

Stantz-ing in Line: Dan Aykroyd visits the South Loop

Drinking Events (yes, redundant, we know), Vodka No Comments »

crystalhead1Of all the celebrities who endorse a premium line of liquor, Dan Aykroyd isn’t usually the first that comes to mind. Yet that doesn’t keep a few hundred of his fans from zigzagging through the wine section at the South Loop Binny’s. The SNL alum is promoting his new premium vodka Crystal Head, which comes in a skull-shaped bottle.

“There he is!” someone at the end of the line shouts as the crowd bursts into applause. Aykroyd smiles and waves at nobody in particular as he is escorted through the crowd.

While one fan dresses like Aykroyd’s iconic Elwood character from “The Blues Brothers,” other fans best remember him from his “Ghostbusters” days. Bridget Barnett is so enamored by Aykroyd that she kisses his hand when she gets to the front of the line. He returns the favor while he autographs a photo from the film. Read the rest of this entry »

Tastings: Three Olives Triple Shot Espresso Vodka

Tastes of What's to Come, Vodka No Comments »

three-olives-triple-shot-espressoThe Product: Three Olives Triple Shot Espresso Vodka

The Premise: Apparently, people really like caffeinated cocktails

The Tasters and their Qualifications: Brent, Erica, Brian and Jan: 88 years of legal drinking

The Packaging: While we’re not fans of Three Olives’ typography, soft brown illustrations of three cups of espresso set against the dark coffee color of the vodka inside make this one an attractive package.

Tasters rated the following on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “I wouldn’t take it if it was free” and 10 being “I’m heading to the liquor store right now to get my own!”

The Nose: 7.25, “smells like espresso but cleaner (no crema)”

The Taste: 8.75, “espresso with a kick” Read the rest of this entry »

Tastings: Three Olives Root Beer Vodka

Tastes of What's to Come, Vodka No Comments »

The Product: Three Olives Root Beer

The Premise: Vodka and root beer—the kids (?) are sure to love it! A perfect choice for the Fourth of July: vodka imported from England meets a sweet beverage invented in Philadelphia. The pursuit of happiness, yes!

The Tasters and their Qualifications:
Reilly, Tom, Jerad, Jan, Brian—total of 52 years of legal drinking.

The Packaging: In a realm where product design reigns supreme (vodka is, after all, by definition flavorless, colorless and odorless, Three Olives might have the very worst logo of all. And the use of typography gives us a premature hangover. That being said, we kind of like the way the root beer mugs on the back of the bottle show through the vodka and the bottle front—the kids are sure to love it!

Tasters rated the following on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “I wouldn’t take it if it was free” and 10 being “I’m heading to the liquor store right now to get my own!”

The Nose: 8.6, smells like root-beer-barrel candy

The Taste: 5, somewhat bitter, a bit of root beer

The Recipe (wherein we mix up a drink from the company’s Web site):

Brotherly Love: 2 oz. Three Olives Root Beer Vodka, 4 oz. lemon-lime soda. Mix in a glass filled with ice and garnish with a lime wedge. (We substituted a lemon wedge.)

5.2 The Sprite flavor overwhelms the root beer.

The Overall Verdict: The consensus of our expert panel (remember, 52 years of cumulative cocktailing!) seems to be, “nothing special.” Not harmless, but little more than a novelty. True to its medium, its popularity increases as the quantity consumed is increased. (One panelist wrote, “it’s magical!”)

Green Booze

Spirits Just Sound Happy, Don't They?, Vodka No Comments »

Be green this year while you’re being blue. The Whiskey Blue trio of bar lounges is taking the 2007 Environmental Pledge to make Chicago the greenest city this Earth Month by asking their patrons to partake in a courageous eco-conscious feat: the consumption of a refreshing alcoholic libation. Whiskey Blue, Whiskey Sky and Mexx Kitchen at the Whiskey will plant a tree—er, actually environmental advocacy group Live It Green will—with every purchase of their “TreeTini” cocktail, a martini made with vodka, Cointreau and a twist of basil. “It’s a very cool, easy way to kind of do something in an eco-friendly way to help the environment, and the effect is really remarkable,” says Whiskey Blue bar manager Grant Gedemer. The swanky W Hotel bars Whiskey Blue and Whiskey Sky and the newly revamped Latin food-inspired Mexx Kitchen at the Sutton Place Hotel will be offering this “green” cocktail throughout April. Gedemer, a longtime recycler, is very excited. “It’s very difficult for a bar manager to find ways to help the environment,” he says. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to combine what I do for a living with one of my passions.”