LIFESTYLE BEYOND THE GLASS
Issue 7 APRIL/MAY 2010
ETS TICKSALE ON
JuLy 21 â€“ 25, 2010 This summer the international cocktail community will converge on a city where spirits live 24/7 Shaken from their slumber within the bottle, the spirits will take on a life of their own in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail 2010. For more information on special packages and to reserve your place at this summerâ€™s spirited events, visit www.TalesoftheCocktail.com
our generous annual partners:
Note from the Editor Design: Jesus Bars
Beers of the Highest Order
Meet the Trappists By Sayre Piotrkowski
Cloistered Winemakers 1054 years of winemaking By Paul Ross
Behind The Tasting Panel Tasting competition in the City By M. Quinn Sweeney
Firelit coffee liqueur
Gods of Alcohol
Deities of wine, women and song By Heather Stewart
26 Libation: Getting the Soil Liquored
Honoring the past By Vanick Der Bedrossian
28 Kosher Wines of Portugal
Whatâ€™s next, Bagels of Bahrain? By Paul Ross
Evergreen Elixir By Gus Vahlkamp
Eating your way through 5 de Mayo
Websites to Drink to
By Ale Gasso
40 Thank the Gods for Sake
Fresh Holy Water By Jessica Furui
LIFESTYLE BEYOND THE GLASS
Editor In Chief: Daniel Yaffe TRAVEL Editor: Paul Ross Art DIrector: Lance Jackson Web Developer: Aman Ahuja Copy Editor: Sam Devine
Director of Operations: Pablo Perez Intern: Heather Stewart Assistant: Donald Shields contributOrs: Robert DeBusschere (Cover Art), Vanick Der Bedrossian, Jeremy Brooks, http://www.whirljack.net/jeremybrooks, Jessica Furui, Ale Gasso, Liza Gershmann, Donald Gruener donaldgruener.com, Andrew Jackson, Lance Jackson lancejackson.net, La Carmina, http://www.lacarmina.com/blog, Sayre Piotrkowski, Aaron Rutten, http://www.surrealpixelstudio.com, M. Quinn Sweeney, Kan Yang, Gus Vahlkamp Thank you: Aja Jones Aguirre, Laurice Der Bedrossian, Sangita Devaskar, Sacha Ferguson, Sarah Schulweiss, Skylar Werde, Advisory Board: Jeremy Cowan, H. Ehrmann, Hondo Lewis, David Nepove, Debbie Rizzo, Genevieve Robertson, Carrie Steinberg, Gus Vahlkamp, Dominic Venegas Publisher: Open Content www.opencontent.tv Eriq Wities & Daniel Yaffe
More than 50,000 people read Drink Me Interested in advertising? firstname.lastname@example.org
Because Bacchus told us toâ€Ś. Twitter: drinkmemagazine Check out our facebook page, too!
The entire contents of Drink Me magazine are ÂŠ 2010 and may not be reproduced or transmitted in any manner without written permission. All rights reserved.
Drink Me magazine is printed on 20% recycled (10% post-consumer waste) paper using only soy based inks. Our printer meets or exceeds all Federal Resource Conservation Act (RCRA) standards and is a certified member of the Forest Stewardship Council.
Note from the Editor
efore there were monks making beer, Jesus was making wine. Before there were Japanese monks making wine, there were Greek gods drinking it. When we decided to do a religion themed issue, a lot of people gave me a look of confusion, some a look of disgust. Of course I thought about it extensively, and the choice to move forward was obvious. Stop for a moment and think about where the world of alcohol would be without religion. We would be missing more than an angels’ share some of the world’s greatest beers, wines, and spirits. And the alcohols that would exist would lack the rich history, customs, and culture that interweave them into our lives and liquid diets. Frankly, writing and talking about alcohol without mentioning its role and development through religion would be a sin. Although many world religions do not partake in drinking, others use it centrally as a communal ritual. Births are celebrated with champagne, circumcisions with wine. Weddings are festive with sake and deaths with libations of schnapps. This issue of Drink Me dives head on into several of the world’s religions and the often spiritual use and creation of, well… spirits. We uncover the sacred spirit of Chartreuse, shrouded in mystery, and the monks behind some of the world’s most amazing beers. We bring you through time from modern day kosher wines to Shinto sake traditions and even further back to the ancient gods of alcohol. L’chaim! Daniel Yaffe
Madame, Monsieur... THIS is Triple Sec.
The First, The Best, The All-Natural,
Please drink responsibly
Christon Café in Tokyo
8F Oriental Wave, 5-17-13 Shinjuku. http://www.ug-gu.co.jp/restaurant/ christon/christon.html
For the last two thousand years there has been a growing infatuation with Jesus. Of course, in the past couple of decades, there’s been a resurrection of Christ in pop culture and novelty kitch. The lord’s image is appearing everywhere from t-shirts to car air fresheners. Perhaps quite expectedly, the hip “Jesusness” has made its way into the themes and design of bars around the world. It is painfully fitting that the man who made water into wine would hang above the bartender’s tools.
Photo by La Carmina
Two notable watering holes sit half-way across the globe but share a common god.
Thin man Bar drink me
2015 East 17th Avenue Denver, CO 80206-1105 http://www.thinmantavern.com/ Photo by Andrew Jackson
• 24 Taps & Over 150 Bottles • Great Wines • Gourmet Pub Fare with Beer Pairings • Kitchen Open ‘til 1 am
3141 16th St., at the corner of Albion, San Francisco, CA between Valencia & Guerrero | www.monkskettle.com
Beers of the Highes By Sayre Piotrkowski
n sitting down to write about Trappist beers, it is easy to get lost in the romance, lore and legends. However, focusing on the more ethereal aspects of these beers can obscure the fact that even today â€“ with new and ambitious brews springing forth from all corners of the globe â€“ Trappist facilities are still responsible for many of the best experiences one can find inside a glass.
Trappist Monks and their Trappistine sisters belong to the Cistercian order of strict observance. Certified Trappist Products must adhere to three criteria: they must be produced on the grounds of a Trappist abbey; monks must oversee the production; and the majority of the profits from the sale of the product must go to social work. The iconic hexagonal â€œCertified Trappist
Photo by Kan Yang
Going back to the days when brewing served primarily as a means to make water potable, the fifteen-hundred year history of Monastic brewing is filled with wonderful fables and stories that can never be refuted or corroborated.
of its bigger, more celebrated, Trappist brethren. The Achel 8 Blonde, sometimes referred to as Achel’s Tripel, is the standout for me. With a honey and candy sweetness balanced by piercing bright carbonation, Achel 8 Blonde tastes something like the bastard product of an orgy between your favorite childhood bubble gums, a great glass of natural Italian sparkling wine, and a slice of canned pineapple. This beer should be a game-changer for fans of Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde, Chimay White or Delirium Tremens. Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmount - Chimay – The antithesis of Achel, Chimay is in many ways the face of Trappist beer around the globe. The monks and others behind the Chimay brand hustle their beers (and promote the Trappist brand) with the zeal and creativity we Americans only encounter among independent southern rap artists.
Product” logo signifies an appellation extended to only seven monastic brewing facilities in the world; only six of which make their beer available for export.
Meet The Trappists!
Abdij O.L.Vrouw van Koningshoeven – La Trappe/Koningshoeven - Located in the town of Tilburg in The Netherlands, the brewery at the Abbey Schaapskooi is sometimes considered a certified Trappist facility, and sometimes not. Today this abbey is the only Trappist Certified brewing facility operating outside of Belgium’s borders. The beers brewed here will sometimes bear the label “La Trappe,” and other times “Koningshoeven.”
Saint Benedictusabdij de Acheles Kluis - Achel – The most modest of Belgium’s Trappist Certified Brewing Facilities, Achel, which is basically a monastic brewpub, remains an undiscovered treasure among even seasoned Belgian beer enthusiasts. In terms of the quality of the product however, Achel’s catalog of three beers can go toe-to-toe with any
Of the three Chimay products available in the states, the red-labeled Premiere is my choice. Clocking in at somewhere between 7 and 8 per cent alcohol by volume, and featuring a delightfully decadent first-sip flavor that calls to mind toffee, caramel, and raisins, Chimay Premiere has come to be the prototype for the Belgian Abbey Dubbel style.
Whatever it wants to be called, this place produces the largest variety of beers of any Trappist facility. All of which seem to feature a signature lush sweetness that reminds me of a gingerbread cookie after being dipped in a caramel latte. It is the balance of baking spice and dessert sweetness that make Koningshoeven beers, which might otherwise be on the syrupy side, extraordinary. Nowhere is this more evident than in the elegantly rich, Koningshoeven Bock. Abbaye Notre Dame de Orval – Orval - It is not chic for someone in my position to say they have a favorite beer. I have two. Moonlight Brewing Company Death & Taxes is one, and the only product made widely available by the Abbey Notre Dame de Orval is the other.
Simply called “Orval,” this brew takes you from honey to apples to a signature funky finish of wholegrain mustard and lemon pepper. Like all of the best things in this world, Orval remains delicately cultured without losing track of its defiantly wild nature. The driest and most complex of all the Trappist beers, Orval can be the hardest to fall for at first, but take it from me, once she has you, you are hers and all the others seem like they are wearing too much make-up.
Abbaye Notre Dame de Saint Remy - Rochefort – There was a time before the advent of the modern Tripel when all Abbey beers were dark. Rochefort never got the Tripel memo. Rochefort 6,8, and 10 are all dark beers with no interest in hiding the obvious incorporation of caramel syrup into the brewing processes. Rochefort creates drinkable essays on how to produce a beer that is both sweet and dry at the same time.
At an unabashed 11.2 per cent alcohol, Rochefort 10 opens with the overwhelming smell of caramel. Upon the tip of the tongue, the first sip yields cocoa and dates, but the dry body and clean finish reveal a mineral and mulling spice personality one would never have expected. It is a pleasure akin to dating a woman because she is gorgeous and finding out on the third date she has seen every episode of The Wire, a reward for something selfless you must have done in the past and can no longer recall. Abdij der Trappisten van Westmalle – Westmalle – Brewers at Westmalle invented the contemporary Tripel sometime around 1934 and at that time it was the only pale Trappist beer. Today the Tripel Westmalle defines its style in a manner similar to the way Chimay Red has the Dubbel and Duvel has the Belgian Strong Pale, or Belgian Golden Ale. As the world’s most famous beer evangelist, Michael Jackson, once put it “a good example of a Belgian beer that is a style itself, and widely imitated.” These beers are so iconic that other beers of similar intent are often measured not on their own merit, but rather they are graded on how similar they are to prototype.
Drinking Trappist Temperature: By and large Americans drink our beer too cold. Think about it, if your water sucks what do you do? You make sure it is really cold and put a lemon in it. Well good beer does not suck, so keep the fruit out of your glass and drink rich Belgian beer at something closer to cellar temperature (45-55 degrees generally). The Pour: All Trappist brews are bottleconditioned, meaning they are sitting on
top of their spent yeast cells. These will not hurt you, but for appearance sake most people like to keep the yeast in the bottle and put the beer in the glass. To accomplish this pour slowly and evenly,
making sure that beer is not “glugging” back into the bottle as you pour. Stop about one quarter of an inch from the bottom of the bottle, or when you begin to see bits of solid matter in your pour. If done correctly, a large head should spring up and extend out of the top of the glass. This is a good thing. Not only is it majestic and beautiful, but lively carbonation also helps release aroma and aids in the palette-cleansing mouthfeel of many of these beers. Glassware: Belgians are nuts for proprietary glassware. If you are at a bar that has it, demand it. Failing that, a brandy snifter has always made a good substitute for me. NEVER allow this beer to go into a chilled pint glass. That would be like listening to “A Love Supreme” on laptop speakers.
Where to do this near San FRANCISco: Naturally, my first recommendation is always to come see me at The Monk’s Kettle in the Mission, but I would be remiss if I did’t give a shout out to The Trappist in downtown Oakland. Because the Trappist focuses only on Belgian beers, their fridge temperature can be maintained higher and their glassware game is always on point. If you are looking for a place that does exclusively Belgian beer, the Trappist does it as well as anywhere I have ever seen. Most of these Trappist facilities and many of their secular Belgian brethren produce a highly quaffable “session” beer strictly for local distribution. With its low percentage of alcohol this beer is brewed with the intent that it will suit the thirst-quenching needs
of the many bicyclists and hikers that happen by local cafés and inns while exploring the Belgian countryside. At the other end of the spectrum, many of the beers we now know as “Quadrupels” (think Chimay Blue Label), were born as winter seasonal releases or celebratory Christmas blends. The high alcohol content and abundant sugars and spices in these beers were intended to help Monks and consumers cope with the colder weather. It is also worth noting that Trappist monks produce delicious artisan breads, cheeses and chocolates as well as beers. Thus altering the ageold adage to a maxim I can much more comfortably stand behind: it is okay to drink alone, but never without accoutrement. drink me 9
Uniquely San Francisco
Urban Wineries 5 unique wine spots to experience in San Francisco and the East Bay Article by Melialani James
JC Cellars (Oakland)
Why fight traffic all the way to Napa when you can barrel taste gorgeous wine without leaving the City? If you enjoy walking among barrels which call out to you with that distinct scent of fermenting grapes, or if you would like to sample amazing wine while taking in panoramic views of the of the bay, you can find either of these experiences within San Francisco and the East Bay.
Oakland Located in downtown Oakland just off 4th St., JC Cellars and Dashe Cellars share a beautiful warehouse which epitomizes a modern-day urban winery. Set in an industrial landscape, JC's The Imposter Zinfandel blend is one of our favorites.
Treasure Island Housed in a facility which served as a food processing plant during WWII, no fewer than five boutique wineries are located right across the bridge at Treaure Island Wines. Perfect for a sunny day, bring a picnic basket, grab a bottle, and enjoy a different perspective on how to enjoy wine.
San Francisco Conveniently located in the center of Ghirardelli Square, the tasting room of Cellar 360 boasts gorgeous views of Alcatraz. It claims to be the only place north of the equator where you can buy Victoria Bitter (VB), arguably Autstralia's top beer. Right next door is Wattle Creek Winery, which decided to locate its tasting room in San Francisco despite the fact it owns a picturesque estate nearby its vineyards in Cloverdale. Only two blocks away, awa the Winery Collective in Fisherman's Wharf features a tasting room which is shared by more than a dozen small Californian winemakers. It is hard to imagine having a wider selection of unique wines so close to home! So, the next time you're looking for a first-class wine tasting experience, consider checking out some of these distinctively urban wineries which don't require a long drive or an expensive night's stay in a B&B. We, at Nirvino, are wine lovers just like you and we want to be your guide to discover that next great bottle! Check out our #1 rated iPhone App, "Wine Ratings Guide", available at iTunes or visit Nirvino.com.
Francisco) Wattle Creek Winery (San
brought to you by
of Pannonhalma Abbey Article and photos by Paul Ross
Robin Hood’s Friar Tuck had his mead, Belgian Trappists their ale, and the good monks of Hungary’s Pannonhalma Abbey have got their...board meetings!? The abbey has been making wine for nearly a thousand years, yet today, cloistered monks, with their rigorously-scheduled rounds of prayer and study, have “labors” which include sitting in committee with representatives of the country’s third largest bank.
his makes them: 1) modern winemakers, and 2) Execumonks, if your will. But ‘twas not always thus —
From humble beginnings the early abbey expanded it services to the neighboring community by offering earthly salvation in the form of fortress walls, built to stave off the Ottoman invasions of the 1700 and 1800s. The barrier didn’t work and Turkish rule dominated the next century and a half. But, as far as the winery went, that wasn’t the worst of it. That dubious distinction came with the Communists from the USSR in the mid-twentieth century. Hungarian winemaking traditions were ignored by the occupiers, who insisted on replacing quality with quotas. This situation lead to a product which – when regarded at all in the West – was referred to as “Soviet bloc schlock.”
Those days gone, there are now frequent
jazz concerts in the fine restaurant on the abbey grounds, tours of the church, and there is the winery which is one of the most modern in country. Vineyard plantings - ranging from traditional autochthonous grapes to international varietals - are garnering a worldwide following. Profits from various abbey enterprises (which, in addition to winemaking, include the manufacture of gourmet vinegars, Benedictine liqueurs, lavender products, CDs of Gregorian chants and even an independently produced DVD documentary about monastic life) underwrite education, maintenance of the old buildings and improvements in the winery. It’s pretty much like any other business – except for the players’ philosophy, ethnics, history and pipeline to God. For me, the question was: would the wines taste as heavenly as the thoughts
that surrounded their creation? And I wondered if modernization had diluted the abbey’s hefty heritage. Pannonhalma Abbey’s 1054-year-old winemaking history (originating with the Romans) leapt forward into modernity during the second millennium with expansion of the vineyards and the construction of a state-of-the-art facility. The winery utilizes a unique vertical technology. Located on a steep hillside, the four story complex consists of three parts: the upper “press house,” where the harvested grapes are received and processed; the middle “wine house,” which is dedicated to white varietals and the bottom “well,” which connects the other two parts and is where aging, storage and wine-tastings take place.
he abbey is especially proud of this gravity-fed processing, which moves the liquid through the entire procedure without the harsh and potentially bruising effects caused by mechanical pumps. The unusual concept was designed with the help of the late and legendary winemaker Tibor Gal. It’s a well-funded operation which is the envy of many smaller Hungarian wineries who still use older techniques, various sizes of wooden barrels, and much more labor, to produce fewer bottles. The abbey’s brand (Apatsagi) offers a dozen different varietals and blends, a large selection for one of the smallest of Hungary’s 22 wine-growing regions.
Hungary’s worldwide wine rep is often associated with Slovakian wine, Tokaj. The good ones are much more deserving of attention than their often dismissive reputation of being simple and sweet would suggest. But Pannonhalma Abbey doesn’t make Tokaj. The Benedictine brothers, with their educated nose for
marketing, avoid the most obvious choices in their production and opt for a broad palette of wines, starting with traditional Hungarian grapes (such as Rheinreisling and Welschreisling) and encompassing popular international varietals (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, etc.). The abbey has won awards at the highly regarded Decanter World Wine Awards and at the Pinot Noir Cup. A partial result is that Apatsagi wines are exported to a dozen countries.
Here in the States, wines from the abbey are just beginning to trickle into the national market. Right now, the emerging best sellers are Tramini (a high alcohol, low acid, flowery and fragrant GewĂźrtzraminer), Tricollis White (a Reisling-Welschreisling-GewĂźrtz blend) and their Reislings. And at $12 to $20, the price is right. And Iâ€™m sure the monks will bless you for your purchase.
Brick Oven Baked Bread
sandwiches salad s
2029 Mission Street
(between 16th St & 17th St)
San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 431-3811
BEHIND tHE tasting Panel M. Quinn Sweeney
The San Francisco World Spirits Competition is a major, international contest of distilled alcohols, organized by Tasting Panel Magazine, where industry experts nose the bouquet of their booze while awarding fancy medals. So I didn’t expect such an entertaining and engaging weekend.
certainly didn’t predict that every college boy’s dream job would be so arduous and taxing. Over the course of two days, I observed every judge tasting two hundred full-strength spirits from over one thousand entries. No mixers, no drinking, just hundreds of ounces of hard alcohol being sipped, swished, studied and spat out. This contest is one of dozens of medal-awarding spirits tournaments around the world, but now in it’s tenth year, it is highly regarded among the top tier events.
The first day of the competition was a little dry, if only figuratively. In unmarked conference rooms at Hotel Nikko near Union Square in San
Franscisco, the best booze tasters from around the country convened at nine o’clock on Saturday morning and donned white, lab coat-style smocks. When I rolled out of bed and into the Monterey Room around one thirty, I was met by the sound of glasses softly clinking and hushed whispers. Brows were furrowed in serious contemplation, as panelists hunched over their assigned tables in groups of three and four.
T Photos by Liza Gershmann
he judging panel was comprised of thirty seasoned professionals from the bartending and hospitality fields, professional wine and spirits writers, and experts from the alcohol industry. Everyone on the panel is handpicked by Anthony Dias Blue, Executive Director of Tasting Panel, Managing Director Carol Seibert, and Tony Abou-Ganim, the famed bartender recently named Director of Judging. Each of the three is entitled to suggest candidates for approval by the other two.
Identical arrays of lettered tasting glasses, like short champagne flutes topped with a glass disc, were spread out in front of each judge, poured by staff members in a secure back room, and delivered on large, unmarked wooden trays. The judges were tasting blind, as they sampled flights of spirits. There were perhaps nine varieties of gin, seven American whiskeys, or five herbal liqueurs. Judges began in silence, first gauging appearance for color, clarity and purity, then tasting for quality and authenticity, to detect appealing flavor components and off flavors, looking for balance and consistency throughout the tasting experience, including the length and quality of finish, or aftertaste. They scratched notes and gave each glass
When I asked Abou-Ganim what they look for in judges, he barbed at David Wondrich, the cocktail writer for Esquire who was sitting nearby, “It’s mostly writers pretending to be mixologists,” to which Wondrich responded, “And mixologists pretending to be writers.” (Abou-Ganim had a signing scheduled the next day for his new cocktail book.)
Author and beverage consultant, Robert Plotkin told me, “Being a successful spirits judge requires an in-depth familiarity with each type of spirit and knowing what qualities or attributes a high quality product should possess. Judges are asked to critically evaluate any and every type of spirit. I often cringe when I hear a judge say that he or she isn’t familiar with a particular type of spirit and doesn’t recuse him or herself from participating in that flight.”
vation without pretension or much opinion, and several told me they had reached the point where they could judge most spirits based on the nose, knowing from smell, exactly how it would fair in the tasting. More than once, a barrel-aged American whiskey was described as “got a lot of lumber on that” and a 12-year-old Scotch elicited discussion of flavor components like honey, smoke, iodine, wet stone, and doughy-ness. A flight of “other liqueurs” with which one panel ended the first day, was confirmed by a staffer to be from “mysterious bottles without any English writing,” and prompted comments such as: “This would not have been a good way to start the day,” “Is it supposed to have floaties?” “Tastes like when you walk into Macy’s and the perfume sprayer catches you with your mouth open,” and “It smells like my grandpa eating ice cream.” a rating, ranging from no medal to gold, like the Olympics, but with pluses and minuses like a letter grade. At the end of each flight, judges shared their scores and notes, then either averaged their ratings, or debated the merits of every expression to achieve consensus on which medal, if any, to award to each.
A drink me
s a panel, they revisited the strongest gold medalists to consider them for the lauded double gold, and determined the best of the best to send to the sweepstakes round. Once concluded, staff swooped in to clear and replace glasses, record the results, and ferry the spit buckets into the hallway where they were emptied into an even larger bucket lined with a very flimsy plastic bag.
Judges offered mostly sensory obser-
It was later determined that the floaties were strands of ginseng and the judge’s grandfather smelled like paan, an herbal betel nut mixture chewed in India, which prompted some debate about whether the panel’s general dislike should be overruled by the preference of a billion people in South Asia. Panel members remained sequestered in these groups until lunch on Sunday, when the staff removed the dividers between the rooms and set up a banquet of booze. This year, 81 spirits were sent to sweepstakes, and every judge was tasked with tasting them all. The mood was wildly different from the first day and a half. Rather than carefully considering the nuances of each, then somberly voicing their findings, all they had to do was vote by a show of hands for their favorites in each category. The commentary transitioned sharply from
scientific and historical to bawdy and boisterous. The sweepstakes began with a little scoffing at the flavored vodkas, but overall, the mood was much lighter and livelier, with everyone trying to one-up each other, comparing the characteristics of lesser spirits to the personal hygiene and sexual predilections of their colleagues around the room. In-A-Gadda-DaVida was played on glasses with a pencil, and after a string of contentious rounds and recounts, a unanimous favorite prompted calls for a run-off vote.
found that letting a few slide down my throat instead of spitting helped numb the pain (and the rest of my senses). Two days later, the sides of my tongue still feel raw, as though I ate a one-pound bag of Sour Patch Kids.
ondrich and Plotkin invited me to sit with them when their tablemate left for an early flight, fortuitously right after forty or so beautiful brown spirits had been poured. Fortified by a heaping pile of Thai fried rice, I bellied up to the table and started tipping back glasses. Confident I had mastered the physics of spitting in middle school, I learned that there is a secondary skill set required for judging, which allows one to void a mouthful of booze into a partially filled bucket at short range without incident. Let’s just say I had the unpleasant experience of wiping 80-proof saliva from my eyebrows in front of two esteemed colleagues. From an outsider’s perspective, the process seems to drag on forever, but once you sit at the table, it’s nearly impossible to keep pace with the tasting or the banter, and I felt guiltily like the feudal lord at a feast when the staff swooped in, one to clear my empty glasses, another to replace them and three more with cloth-wrapped bottles filling them in turn.
When I asked what they were planning to drink once the competition ended, most seemed to want water or light beer, particularly lagers, while Wondrich poured “the grand blend” of his five favorite sweepstakes scotches into a glass and carried it back toward his room. Now that’s dedication to one’s craft. Check www.drinkmemag.com to read about the results.
After ten tastes, my tongue and throat were already starting to burn, but I
Judges varied in how they compensate for palate fatigue. Some took breaks, others drank sparkling water or chewed on bread, and one said a trick he learned from wine tasting was to snack on fatty food, counteracting the tongue-stripping effect of the alcohol and acidity.
New Booze: Firelit
Coffee Liqueur Forget everything you know about coffee liqueur. We were among the first to taste Firelit coffee liqueur – a new spirit that is already creating a buzz. A team of people – including Dave Smith from St. George Spirits (where the liqueur is made) are taking the best of the best Blue Bottle Coffee and making a coffee liqueur that is tasty enough to drink first thing in the morning. The beans are all single origin – in this first batch they are from Yemen and then hand roasted and cold brewed – a technique that helps to capture the coffee’s essence without losing the flavor – think about your cup of cold coffee… it never can taste the same. It is mixed with an un-oaked Chardonnay Brandy and sweetened with cane syrup. The coffee liqueur keeps that wonderful nuance of the roasted beans that you look for in a good cup of coffee. This batch is made with Blue Bottle coffee, but moving ahead you may want to keep your eyes out for small batches using coffee from other local roasters. You can find out a bit more at http://firelitspirits.com
DONALD GRUENER COMMERCIAL PHOTOGR APHER Wine Industry Specialist Product Photography • Fine Art Prints
541 337 2239
Gods of alcohol By Heather Stewart
Holy stories of God do not often conjure up memories of drunken orgies, adultery and murder. One can imagine a nun walking by a bar full of this debauchery, crossing herself repeatedly, and throwing in a couple of “Let us be forgiven!”s for good measure. The truth is, however, that alcohol has been around almost as long as mankind, and has inspired some of the most ancient of gods.
ake for instance Bacchus, also known as Dionysus, who was the Greek God of Wine. He was the only one of the official gods of Olympus born of Zeus, and a mortal, Semele. Zeus, an infamous womanizer and hotheaded asshole, was not the best example of a father for Bacchus. Zeus, who was married to a jealous prude named Hera, the goddess of Hearth and Home, often went philandering with mortals such as Semele (it’s not easy being married for all time). Knowing her husband perhaps too well, Hera was onto Zeus’ affairs, and
to punish him she killed the pregnant mortal Semele. Zeus managed to save the fetal Bacchus and in his infinite wisdom sewed the fetus into his thigh to be born full-term. Don’t try this at home. After Bacchus’ birth, Zeus handed his son off to the God of Thieves, Hermes, to be raised. Given his tumultuous upbringing, it figures that Bacchus would end up being a rebel. Instead of fulfilling his standard godly duties, Bacchus preferred to lie around being fed grapes by his band of drunken, orgy-frenzied,
Artwork by Aaron Rutten
female followers known as “Bacchantes.” Meow. Whereas all the other gods had temples, Bacchus was too hung-over to construct buildings so he told his mortal followers to have parties in the forest to honor him. This led many Greek mortals to head to the woods for drunken orgies, which came to be known as Bacchanalia. Those who were pious to the cult of Bacchus received unguarded freedom as well as plenty of sex, wine, and gluttony. If only the trend had continued into modern Judeo-Christian religions, then Sunday morning would be the new Friday night.
As much as Bacchus could be beneficent, he was equally hostile. His band of ravenous partiers could suddenly become violent. Those impious to Bacchus were often punished harshly, drowned in alcohol, strangled by grape vines, or blatantly dismembered. Mirroring the dual nature of alcohol, Bacchus came to represent the importance of being free and bring-
ing joy, but also the danger of being belligerent and destructive.
he ancient Greeks only had only one god of wine, but the Ancient Egyptians bestowed the responsibility for alcohol onto multiple Gods.. Geshtinana, the “Goddess of the Vine,” was a bit of a soap opera story and once turned her brother-in-law into a gazelle. Ah, family. Then there was Ninkasi, the Goddess of Beer, who originated in Babylon before immigrating to Egypt. Her job was to satisfy desire and calm the heart. Damn straight. One of the oldest pieces of written literature in human existence is the Babylonian hymn to Ninkasi, which was written around 1800 B.C. and was sung to bless the brewing beer. It contains a recipe for such Babylonian beer, involving dough, sweet aromatics, dates, honey, and hulled grains. Finally, The Norse gods, living in a cold
and miserably war-torn environment, really appreciated the value of alcohol. The progenitor of all Norse gods was murdered in cold blood by his children while he was sleeping. And the various parts of his dismembered body became the earth, sea, and sky. As you can imagine, this sort of life could get stressful, and so the Norse gods drank a lot to take the edge off. Odin, the Norse king of gods, was said to subsist off of nothing but wine: “For ‘tis with wine alone that Odin, in arms renowned, is nourished forever.” So the next time you’re out drinking with your buddies, remember that some deity, somewhere, somehow, is watching over and helping create your revelry. So for that god’s, or that goddess’s, sake, don’t be shy of the raving Bacchantes by the end of the bar.
inside is the new outside
Enjoy Ploom Pods™ in six tobacco and herbal blends.
Ploom Inc. San Francisco, CA. Warning: Tobacco use may pose health risks.
rocket café noir orchard gold kick-ass mint blue tea ploom.com
Getting the Soil Liquored
By By Vanick Vanick Der Der Bedrossian Bedrossian
Several weeks ago I was invited to join my father and uncle on a trip to visit my great-uncleâ€™s grave. I was feeling a tad anxious and excited about taking part in this ceremony. Yes, I had finally gained admittance to the Big Boyâ€™s Club. You know, like when you broke into your parents liquor cabinet for the first time.
Anyway, I am digressing.
e arrived at Amo’s grave and stood there in the light drizzle, letting ourselves wander in the moment and in our thoughts. In these instances the mind goes blank and one is left empty, pure essence. After a few words of remembrance we got down to business. One uncle lit up some frankincense and the other pulled out a deep-blue bottle of Lebanese arak, a spirit made of grapes and anis seed – my great-uncle’s favorite –which turns milky white when mixed with ice and water. He loved drinking a tall glass of the stuff in the mornings. When guests commented on his odd drinking habits he would shrug and say it was just milk. So, bowing to tradition, we drank. We commemorated Amo’s spirit, taking sips of the pungent substance and recalling fond memories of his unique life. Every time we filled our cups with arak we would naturally pour a healthy swirl of the delicious liquid into the ground over his grave. We included him in our gathering. Pouring libation came totally naturally to me. I had never taken part in such a thing, yet I felt intuitively compelled to point the bottle south – an act of sacrilege in about any other circumstance – and send him my prayers. It just felt like the right thing to do…
Greek-style libation is often performed with olive oil. Greek mythology credits Athena (Zeus’ daughter) with the act of planting the first olive tree as a gift to mankind. In return, Greeks often perform libation using olive oil as a way to commemorate her contribution and give thanks. If you are trying Greek libation at home, watch your step! In West African traditions, libation is performed to “awaken” ancestors and directly communicate with them to give thanks and ask for guidance. In Nigeria and Ghana, schnapps is the preferred alcohol for libation ceremonies. The various schnapps distillers have been competing for increased sales, paying top dollar for exclusivity ads during festivals where libation takes place. A Nigerian company called Seaman’s Schnapps brands itself as “The Number One Prayer Drink,” claiming that its product “delivers blessings” with more clarity to ancestors than any other brand. Notice how similar the Latin root “libare” is to the word “liberate.” Libation allows us to transcend our ordinary life and connect with our ancestors and spirits that are beyond ordinary reach. Similarly, drinking in bars “liberates” individuals from their inhibitions and makes it easier for singles to connect (everyone looks hotter, you are more daring and flirtatious, etc.). Pouring libation destabilizes individuals from ordinary life and allows for the release of pent-up emotions surrounding the past. Symbolically and physically, alcoholic drinks contain elements of both life and death. Life in the form of organic matter from fruits, hops or starches, and death in the form of pure alcohol. While alcohol is a mixture of both worlds, libation is the vehicle that allows the realm of the living and the world of the dead to connect. 2
Photo by Donald Gruener
Libation comes from the Latin word “libare,” meaning “to pour as an offering.” Alcohol is poured into the ground as a gesture of communion and respect to ancestors, god(s), and spirits. This tradition has been around from the ancient Greek times to modern day America, throughout most religions and just about all parts of the world. It is performed at Shinto home altars in Japan, at graves of passed relatives all over Eastern Europe, in Cuba’s colorful cafés, and at many
African-American wedding ceremonies.
Kosher Wines of Portugal Article and Photos by Paul Ross
At the end of the fifteenth century, with the Inquisition raging across the Iberian Peninsula, ALL of Portugal’s Jews were forcibly converted to Christianity. Some of the understandably resistant managed to flee the country if they were lucky, or were killed if they weren’t. Five hundred years later, the small mountain community of Belmonte made international news when ten per cent of its population came out of hiding as Jews.
hey began to learn the ancient Israelite practices that had been denied to them so long ago and also took up one of Portugal’s most treasured traditions — winemaking. Today the estimated 8,000 Hebrews that spread across Portugal can partake of Belmonte’s kosher wine – the first to be produced in the country in half a millennium.
Contrary to popular belief, kosher does not mean that during its manufacture
the wine is blessed by a rabbi. Rather, it translates from the Hebrew merely as “fit and proper.” The ritual stringency of its preparation process ensures that the wine is kosher, no matter who recites the blessing over the poured contents of a bottle. Among the observant, kosher wine is used for rituals, such as Friday Sabbath ceremonies, special occasions (weddings, births, circumcision) and religious holidays with the notable exception of
Passover (which began March 29th this year). Wines for this particular holiday must be specially certified “kosher for Passover.” The difference in manufacture, quality and designation was quickly dismissed with a phone call to Gary Landsman, Communications Director for Royal Wine, importer of such internationally-recognized brands as Baron Herzog and Kedem. He said, “Ninety-nine per cent of kosher wine is also ‘kosher for Passover.’” So when the holiday of Exodus rolls around, along with the ten plagues and even worse movies, there are plenty of choices for what to fill the ritual four cups required of each participant at the Passover meal known as the Seder. As long as a bottle of wine carries the “kosher for Passover” label, it’s good to “let my people” go.
• Only grapes can be grown in the vineyards (no interstitial crops are permitted) • Fields must be left fallow (unplanted) every seventh year • Observant male Jews are the only ones allowed to work on the production of the wine • Neither grain-based yeasts nor animal by-products are included (egg white or gelatin is sometimes employed for clarification in winemaking, whereas kosher wines use only bentonite clay. This also makes them vegan.) ness and appreciation of kosher wines, even among secular connoisseurs. A quick search turned up more than 16,000 kosher wineries and vendors. One of those Rogov highly recommends is a 2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon from the To Kalon vineyards of Napa Valley. With all the global interest in kosher wines, I was not surprised to learn that Portugal, with its long winemaking history, should have some horses in the race. And one of these is Loja Covilha da Adega, a winery founded in 2003 by then resident Rabbi Elisha Salas. It is now a co-operative which has released two reds (one of which is a reserve called “Sepharad”) under the brand name “Terras de Belmonte.” Ricardo Botelheiro, the young winemaker at Loja Covilha da Adega, is himself not Jewish and was unfamiliar
he religious laws governing what is kosher (kashrut) wine do not end with the making and labeling. For those in the Orthodox community, when wine is served, is must be poured by an observant Jew and only a wine labeled “mevushal” is still considered pure if doled-out by someone who isn’t. “Mevushal” (literally “boiled,” in a 22-second flash pasteurization process which occurs pre-fermentation) doesn’t affect the taste. Many experts, including The Wine Advocate’s Mark Squires, assert that koshering has no noticeable effect on the final product – even when it is put through this additional quick heat process. Daniel Rogov, author of, Rogov’s Guide to Kosher Wines 2010: The World’s 500 Best Kosher Wines, told me that high quality wine can - and is - made while following the rules (of kashrut). They are now available worldwide from California, Israel, Europe, South America, New Zealand and Portugal. Both he and Landsman acknowledge a worldwide growth in the aware-
Traditional Jewish law mandates that, for a wine to be kosher:
with kosher wines when he initially accepted the job. He grew up in the winemaking business, helping his father in the family vineyards and he considers the making of kosher wines “interesting, intriguing and a challenge.” He says that part of the reason is that “only rabbis who are recognized by the Orthodox Union in the U.S.A (the mostly universally accepted sanctioning body) can touch the pumps or any of the winemaking equipment and materials. I can tell them what to do but I can’t do it personally. They have to.”
ecause there are no qualified rabbis in Portugal who can oversee the winemaking process on a regular basis, some have to be brought in from France. During the crushing and processing, when the wine must be left to mature, a rabbi seals all input hose entrances and outgoing spouts on the vats with layers of plastic wrap and writes on them, in black ink and Hebrew letters, “kosher for Passover.” The precaution is taken
so that if anyone tampers with this low-tech form of security, the evidence would be obvious; since there is no way the curvilinear lettering could ever be convincingly realigned. Because local demand is limited and the brand fairly new and not advertised, the winery does not produce every year and, even then, the output is only 60,000 liters. Proof of quality however, would be in the tasting.
Under Sr. Botelheiro’s watchful gaze, I raised a glass of the reserve wine. The color was good: deep, rich red fading and changing slightly at the meniscus. The aroma was complex and varied with subtle notes throughout. It certainly looked and smelled good, but I remained visibly hesitant. In the past I had bad experiences with some of the standard American kosher wines, which had only one overwhelming quality: cloying. The reason for this situation is that, in
the diaspora, Jewish winemakers had often been limited to making the best ceremonial wine that they could — from raisins. Then, when Eastern European refugees migrated to the US, they’d initially worked with Concord grapes. The fruit was cheap, plentiful and hardy but the resulting wine was, like its raisin antecedent, foxy. To conceal this defect, vintners added sugar (After years of limitations and deprivation caused by prejudice and restrictions, the immigrants had become inured to a similar-tasting product). History provided the excuse and custom the style but the end result tended to be grimacingly sweet.
o there I was, in the belly of the blessed: a kosher Portuguese winery. I couldn’t complete my assignment unless I actually sampled the stuff. And my host was anxiously waiting. I had to taste... even if it meant risking diabetic shock. I said a small, silent prayer of hope and sipped. “Hey,” I exclaimed, “This is real wine!” Ricardo Botelheiro looked more surprised than hurt. “Of course.” He understood, and, to my relief, smiled knowingly. “In Portugal, we only make real wine.” Just as you don’t have to be one of the chosen people to enjoy a good kosher hot dog or a bagel breakfast, the kosher wines of these small communities in portugal are open for business and are offering a l’chaim, a toast of welcome back.
An historical footnote: As we were going to press, a news item appeared about archeologists discovering a 1400 year-old-wine press in Israel. Both its size and the surrounding finds have lead to speculation that kosher wines were being exported even back then.
Elixir By Gus Vahlkamp
Photo by Donald Gruener
When I was younger I believed that the best way to familiarize myself with the features and benefits of any given alcoholic beverage was to keep detailed notes of every drop that passed my lips.
omewhere among the detritus of my career are interred the illegible fruits of my labor: notebooks, cocktail napkins and other fusty ephemera, bearing the names and vitals of this wine or that beer, this spirit or that cocktail recipe, and the obligatory terse criticism which I’m sure I thought was clever at the time.
I’m not a census-taker anymore, at least not boozewise. Where I used to be the guy in the forest counting every tree, now I sit by the river and wait for what it brings me. Mystery, as it turns out, is way more fun than fact.
Of all commercially available spirits, no more profound mystery exists than Chartreuse. My own introduction to it, about 15 years ago, was innocently
lowbrow: a friend and I drained a couple shots of it before a freakishly cold April baseball game. I don’t remember the outcome of the game, but I will never forget the herbaceous, almost astringent sweetness of the Chartreuse, or the restorative warmth that spread outward from my belly to my fingers and toes. I shivered through my share of frigid evenings at Candlestick Park, but not that night. Mystery, indeed. In 1605, the Marechal d’Estrees delivered to the Carthusian Fathers in Paris a manuscript of unknown provenance, which listed the ingredients for an “Elixir of Long Life.” At the time, the Carthusian Order was renowned for its ironwork. The Monastery of the Grande Chartreuse, in the Franco-Alpine wilderness above Grenoble, operated eleven blast furnaces at the peak of its productivity. However, stiff competition for the necessary metallurgical resources eventually forced the monks to consider other means of subsistence, and in 1737, Brother Jerome Maubec, the apothecary of the Grande Chartreuse, developed from the original manuscript the practical formula for distilling the elixir, a recipe which is still in use today. Only one copy of the formula is known to have been made, in 1793. The monks were dispersed by the French Revolution, distillation was halted, and the recipe made its way into the hands of
a lay person, a pharmacist in Grenoble who never reproduced the elixir. The manuscript was returned to the monks after his death in the early 19th century. And the elixir has been produced continuously by the monks of the Grande Chartreuse ever since – except for a brief period after the Carthusians were expelled from France (again) in 1903 and set up a distillery in Tarragona, Spain. In 1935 the production facility was moved to the town of Voiron and since 1970 a company called Chartreuse Diffusion has handled the packaging, marketing and selling of the products.
Photo by Jeremy Brooks
erein lies the mystery: only three Carthusian monks at any given time know what is in Chartreuse and how it is distilled. Other monks at the monastery may assist in gathering and preparing some of the raw ingredients, but since their monastic vows prevent them from talking to each other or to anyone else, the formula remains a secret. The original manuscript apparently calls for 130 different herbs and spices, which are macerated in alcohol to extract their essential characters and then distilled in small copper-pot stills. Distilled honey and “golden syrup” are added to the finished product before it is racked into massive wooden casks. Some of the barrels are well into their second century, evidenced by thick greenish-black gunk slowly crystallizing on their outer staves.
Should you be lucky enough to visit the distillery in Voiron, you will see video of monks unloading large, green and yellow burlap sacks of ingredients from the back of a truck. The color code is the only outward indication of what may or may not be in the distillate, and no one has yet been able to explain scientifically how the monks are able to maintain the vibrant color of their products without adding artificial agents. The Elixir is not available in America, because it is 71 per cent alcohol (142 proof ), and at that degree of alcoholic strength, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires a label listing all ingredients, which the monks of course will not do. It is bottled in small (10-centiliter) glass flasks, which themselves are encased in sealed wooden cylinders that protect the liquid from light. It’s probably an unintended consequence, but the relatively small size and secure packaging of the elixir might also facilitate its transatlantic smuggling. I would never do such a thing, but if I did, I would stow the contraband in my checked baggage. The Herbal Elixir is the mother spirit. Through further dilution and sweetening, the monks obtain from it both of the liqueurs (green and yellow) that have been on the market in the US for decades. Each of the liqueurs is produced in one of two grades: a simpler and more widely available regular bottling, and the higher-quality, barriqueaged V.E.P. (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolonge). The V.E.P. is produced in tiny quantities and has been
The Herbal Elixir of the Grande Chartreuse is the original product, and it is still created in exactly the same manner as it was 250 years ago, with the addition of a minor labeling caveat: it lists sesame seed as an ingredient. Even the
monks of La Grande Chartreuse are not immune from lawsuits filed by allergy sufferers. We can logically assume, then, that peanuts and shellfish are not among the secret ingredients. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess.
known to disappear from the American market from time to time. The V.E.P. is to the regular bottling what 20 year-old, single malt Scotch is to Johnny Walker: not necessarily stronger, but more refined, complex and rhapsodic. It’s also considerably more expensive.
n addition to the elixir and both of the liqueurs, the monks bottle a number of other products, none of which are exported to the U.S., unfortunately. Three of them are commemorative liqueurs similar in style to the originals: Liqueur du 9ème Centenaire (created in 1984 upon the 900th anniversary of the founding of the order), Chartreuse 1605 (a stronger and more medicinal green spirit that replicates the initial liqueur), and another yellow one, slightly bitter, commissioned by Les Ouvriers des Sommeliers, the fraternal organization of French wine professionals. Four different fruit liqueurs are made from seasonal local berries: Mure Sauvage (wild blackberry), Cassis (black currant), Myrtille (huckleberry), and Framboise (raspberry). And, finally, the distillery also produces two versions of an Alpine liqueur made from what the mountain people call “genepi,” a generic term for various species of high-altitude aromatic plants. The genepi products have more in common with lighter styles of Italian amaro (they are more bitter than sweet, more woodsy than herbal), and have become quite popular among skiers, who take it in shots as a tonic against the cold. Ultimately, the greatest testament to the mystery in the Elixir of Long Life can be found in the tasting room at the distillery in Voiron. Along one wall is a glass display case about eight feet wide and three shelves deep, where the monks and their business partners have collected as many of the counterfeit versions of Chartreuse as they have been able to find, dozens of different bottles from five inhabited continents, some of them over a hundred years old. What other beverage has spawned so many pretenders, and by extension so much flattery? Even if we knew what was in it and how it was made, because of its colorful history Chartreuse would still rank as the most authentic and alchemical of Old World potables. But we don’t. To taste Chartreuse is to consider the unknown. It is the flavor of faith.
Eat your booze
Tequila Stuffed Mushrooms We know you’re out looking for ways to celebrate the stunning victory of the Mexican military over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Well, here we are! Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, we’re bringing you the best way to include tequila into some edibles… ¡Felicidades! Makes 8 servings
2 (8 oz.) 2/3 cup 1 1/2 oz 1 tbsp. 1 tsp. 1 2-3 1/2 cup
Using a wet paper towel, wipe all mushrooms to remove any soil. Pop out mushroom stems. Place mushroom caps in a sealable plastic bag and add salad dressing, making sure all the mushrooms are coated with dressing. Marinate the mushrooms for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms from dressing and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the tequila, lemon juice, garlic salt, onion and avocados. Coarsely mash, combining all ingredients. Spoon avocado mixture into a sealable plastic bag and seal tightly. Push mixture away from one of the bottom corners of the bag. Using scissors cut a small hole in this corner of the plastic bag. Squeeze a generous amount of the avocado mixture through the hole in the bag into eachmushroom cap and sprinkle with feta cheese. Serve.
boxes fresh white mushrooms prepared balsamic dressing CORRIDO Cristalino TEQUILA (Blanco) fresh lemon juice ground garlic salt green onion, finely chopped ripe Fresh Hass Avocados, halved, seeded and scooped out crumbled feta cheese
Websites to Drink to
onnosr.Com is like a hybrid of facebook, twitter, myspace and blogspot for whisky lovers. You can make friends, keep a virtual “cabinet” full of whatever whisky you own (or want to pretend you own), check to see what the whisky world is up to, review whiskies and read other’s reviews, etc. The website is visually stimulating - every whisky you add to your “wishlist” or “cabinet” shows up with a nifty little picture and attached user reviews of the product. All in all, this is a fun and educational social networking opportunity for whisky lovers. And if you feel lonely heading in, go ahead and add DrinkMeMagazine as your first friend. http://www.connosr.com
Get your certificate in just 2 weeks! Free Intro Classes Free Refresher Classes Free Job Placement Assistance Financing Available
.....walks into a bar Jesus walks into a bar and says, “I’ll just have a glass of water.” This is a QR code. You can scan it with your smart phone and link directly to us. Want to find out more? Check out www.tigtags.com/ getqr
For more information 415.362.1116 www.sfbartending.com
N O T H I N G WA R M S M E U P LIKE EFFEN BY THE FIRE.
Drink responsibly. EFFEN Vodka, 100% neutral spirits distilled wheat grain, 40% alc./vol. (80 proof). © 2010 EFFEN Import Company. Deerﬁeld, IL.
Almost an Artist by Ale Gasso
I can sit here all night watching that thick-fisted rag circle endlessly under elbowed crutches holding heavy eyes crusted nails pushing blur-infused warmth toward young faces spitting stories too close
of parties bands other nights like these through glossed lips waving sweat-stained streamers just above billowing smoke where glass hits glass in celebration of that cross-armed statue behind the bar.
Through the profits of nadared vodka we provide direct humanitarian help to orphanages and freedom rights institutions in oppressive political regions of the world. Thank you for your support!
Thank the Gods forSake Fresh Holy Water By Jessica Furui - Sake Sommelier, Ozumo SF
hese minerals provide the necessary nutrients for excellent propagation of koji (Aspergillus oryzae), the mold responsible for converting starch to sugar. These minerals also promote a strong and robust shubo, the yeast starter. These two steps are vital to the rest of the fermentation process. Ultimately, the delicate balance of minerals in water can either make or break your sake.
In the 1840s Yamamura Tazaemon owned two breweries separated by a few miles in Kobe. He brewed the same rice, the same brewing techniques and what
he thought was the same water and the sake consistently tasted different. What he didnâ€™t know was that there was a huge expanse of ground water nearly 50 meters below the surface of the Uozaki brewery that had been gently filtered by calcium deposits. Once he brought the water of Uozaki to the Nishinomiya brewery he knew he had found the source of superiority: the water. With visits to several breweries over my 10 years of sake madness, each time the owner has made a point to show me their water source. Visiting Kamoizumi in Saijo, Hiroshima, Kazuhiro san and I
Photo by Daniel Yaffe
Water keeps such a holy place in sake making. And for centuries, brewers didnâ€™t exactly know what it was about the water that made good sake. They just knew that good water made good sake. Only after scientific advancements did they realize that water high in potassium, potash, calcium and magnesium was holier than water without the proper presence of these elements.
climbed into his circa 1990, red, convertible Mazda Miata for a short ride up the mountain. With the wind in may hair and the smell of the leaves in the air, we came to a sweet little shrine next to a small, humble spring near the side of the road, the source of their water supply. They pumped the water all the way down to the brewery. Even townspeople would come and fill up buckets from the well to take home.
oss covered ceilings and water droplets glistening from specks of light are the mysterious surroundings of a spring essential to Sawanoi brewery in rural Tokyo. Located several meters from the entrance, this little cave is cold, damp and musty. A great place for pristine water! The brewery is located literally right smack dab next to Tamagawa River, but they don’t use that water because the mineral content is too inconsistent. Yoshida-san from Tedorigawa brewery in Ishikawa prefecture told me that they believe the water from their well takes about 100 years to get there. He says that it takes that long for the snow from nearby Hakusan Mountain to melt off and seep into the ground water. From the pre-fermentation steps like washing, soaking and steaming, plus all the water used in fermentation, the final product is about 70 per cent water. Here’s a few mind-boggling numbers for you to chew on: if we estimate a very small brewery using about 800 kg of rice in one tank, we then must estimate it takes about 30 times the rice (in weight) of water that is needed for that batch.
The discovery of what they termed Miyamizu, shrine water, catapulted the brewers of the Nada region into sake heaven. They quickly learned the water there could support a vigorous fermentation, creating clean, solid sakes, perfect for the palate of Tokyo. To this day, about one third of all sake produced in the world comes from the Nada region, southwest of Tokyo, six hours by the famous bullet train. They are mainly large-scale productions from what the industry calls O-te, Big Hand. These breweries operate all year round, producing millions of liters a year; a far cry from smaller, regional producers focused mostly on quality and simplicity rather than quantity. Like Catholics and wine, Shinto monks once brewed sake. Shintoism, a combination of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism meaning “the way of the gods,” is the indigenous religion of the Japanese archipelago. Appearing first around the sixth century, the Shinto religion was essential in many parts of modern day Japan, including different types of fermentation. It seems as though these monks had quite a good time making and drinking sake, because in 1420 the military stepped in an made these activities illegal for them. Just like moonshine here in the states, Big Brother has to get a piece of the pie, so the Japanese governing body started to tax sake. At this point private individuals, mostly wealthy landowners, started
With all the great, mineral-perfect water in the sake world, you can bet your bottle there’s bad water too. The presence of iron will discolor the sake and negatively affect the flavor and taste. An-
other bad boy of water is manganese. It reacts with ultraviolet rays to cloud any lovely, clear sake. Don’t confuse this with nigori, or cloudy sake. Nigori is cloudy due to the residual sake lees left in the final product, not because it is damaged goods. Even left out for just a few hours, or under intense lighting, sake brewed with manganese-laced water has no chance.
VISIT US AT THE BUBBLE BAR
making the “water of the gods.” With the privatization of sake production, the government could tax away to their hearts delight. Sake’s place in the world of Shinto is as apparent today as in was centuries ago. Used along with salt and water, sake is important in purification rites. On the third day of the New Year, sake is traditionally taken to purify the body and spirit. O-miki, holy sake brewed by monks, is consumed at the shrine to bless you with the gods.
Sweet & Savory Festival
WEEKEND 2010 MAY 8TH & 9TH JACK LONDON SQUARE • OAKLAND, CA
ther uses of holy sake find their place in traditional Shinto weddings.Using a beautiful set of three shallow, wide, red-lacquered bowls, sake is poured into all three as they sit atop each other, the smallest of the three at the top. The bride and groom drink three times from each bowl. Three being an auspicious number in Japan, three times three, even more holy. Another ceremony central to Shinto, kagami biraki, is used when opening a new business, at the start of sporting events, and often at weddings. Translating to “opening the mirror,” the top of a sake cask is hit with a wooden mallet, to reveal the sake below. It is then shared with those present to celebrate and bring prosperity. My personal favorite custom, Tsukimisake, is sake enjoyed under the beauty of a full moon, usually in fall under the harvest moon. Families make special food and lay out to enjoy the beauty of the moonshine. It is said that if a maiden drinks sake in which the moon has been reflected, she will become pregnant. Good, often, great water is at the very core of sake production. Luckily Japan has some of the best water in the world, and what better way to use it than to make sake? Being an island nation located on top of a volcanic ring, its mountains have been pushed high into the sky. Due to its location on the globe, it gets to see quite a bit of precipitation. As this water slowly percolates through the hundreds of meters of rock and mineral deposits, it slowly becomes the destiny of many a sake brewer. The next time you go to Japan, make a point of visiting a brewery and you’ll see what I mean. Pride, honor and dedication fueled by great water and insanely great sake.
AWAKENING “I FEEL BAD FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T DRINK BECAUSE WHEN THEY WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND GET OUT OF BED, THATS THE BEST THEY ARE GONNA FEEL.” -FRANK SINATRA When you were bitten by a rabid dog in olden times, folk wisdom suggested dressing your wound with fur from the inflicting curr. Since Shakespear’s time, the most commonly prescribed remedy to treat a wound left behind after a long night of drinking has been “the hair of the dog.” It’s even been said that the “cocktail” (def: spirit, bitters, sugar) may have originated as a morning cure-all. Bartenders have since created infinite variations of spiritual awakenings as a means of shaking off the dregs of a previous night’s pursuits. We are all familiar with adding a plug of whiskey to our morning coffee or having a Bloody Mary with breakfast.
NEXT TIME YOU FIND YOURSELF SO BITTEN, TRY ONE OF THESE CLASSIC RESURRECTION TONICS:
CORPSE REVIVER NO. 2
3/4oz Gin 3/4oz Cointreau 3/4oz Lillet Blanc 3/4oz Fresh Lemon Juice 3-4 Drops Absinthe Shake Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and fresh lemon juice with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 3-4 drops absinthe
These enlightening and educational tidbits have been brought to you by:
RAMOS GIN FIZZ
2oz Gin 1/2oz ea. Fresh Lemon and Lime Juices 1oz Heavy Cream 1 Egg White 2 bar sp. Superfine Sugar 2-3 Drops Orange Flower Water Shake all ingredients; first without ice, then with ice for extra froth. Strain into tall glass and top with seltzer. Made right when straw stands up.
NORCALUSBG.ORG united states bartenders guild
THE BARTENDER’S TIP TO YOU
Recipes Absolut Lemon Berri 3 parts Absolut Berri Açai 3 parts lemon juice 2 parts honey syrup Technique: Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass Garnish: -cherry
People’s Choice: El Luchador
by M. Quinn Sweeney
1 oz Combier Liqueur D’Orange 2 oz 100% agave tequila 1/2 oz Madeira 1/2 oz agave nectar 1 oz pineapple juice 1 oz fresh lime juice 1 oz club soda 1 dash Angostura Bitters Technique: 1. Shake all but last ingredient with ice 2. Strain into a tall glass full of ice 3. Top with soda water Garnish: - Lime twist
Our own cocktail contest continues in each issue! The ingredient to use in this month’s contest is VeeV Açai Spirit., and we want to hear your original recipes!
Send in your original recipe to recipes@ drinkmemag.com and check back on the website to vote for your favorites! The winning cocktail will be featured in the next issue.
Spicy. Unexpected. Full of potential. Just like your plans tonight.
Basil Hayden’s® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 40% Alc./Vol. ©2010 Kentucky Springs Distilling Co., Clermont, KY.