Tag Archives: spirits

Two red wines and a unique spirit to spark your holidays

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Parties, feasts, holidays and more celebrations. It’s always good to have something special to enjoy before, with or after your meal – especially this time of year. Below are a few ideas we highly recommend.

Elegant dry Nero d'Avola Morgante Sicilia DOC
Elegant dry Nero d’Avola Morgante Sicilia DOC

A beautiful wine from Sicily is sure to please the dry-red-wine-loving souls with a place in your heart or your holiday plans.  I was recently able to sample Morgante and Mandrarossa, two delightful wines from Sicily with Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) designations. These two fine dry red DOC wines make perfect complements to meals, at home or eating out in a restaurant. The Mandrarossa is fresher (more acidic) and the Morgante smoother and deeper. Read more about these two Sicilia DOC wines here.

Nero d'Avola dry red Mandrarossa Sicilia DOC
Nero d’Avola dry red Mandrarossa Sicilia DOC

Whatever wine you choose from Sicily, make sure it has the DOC label so you know it’s made with the careful growing conditions and the attention to detail that are required to earn that designation. Read more at http://winesofsicily.com/.

Look for the DOC label on all your wines from Sicily
Look for the DOC label on all your wines from Sicily

 

 

 

And how about something truly unique? We’re hearing more and more about this spirit distilled from Peru’s national spirit, Pisco. Portón is an even finer distillation of that spirit into a colorless brandy that mixes beautifully with rich drinks like eggnog and/or gives a shot of sweet complexity to other creamy spirits such as SomruS or Irish cream liqueurs.

Pisco Porton makes a fabulous holiday libation
Pisco Porton makes a fabulous holiday libation

Pisco can boast what only a handful of other spirits enjoy: a Denomination of Origin. That means all pisco must be made in vineyards along the south western coast of Peru and must be distilled from any of eight specific aromatic and non-aromatic grape varietals under the strictest of guidelines. Just for fun this holiday, try making this elegant creamy recipe: CASPIROLETA with Pisco Portón.

 

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How to do a rum tasting – plus top 7 rums

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WMT Interior 1Did you know how varied and complex rum can be? I had just begun to learn this from a small rum tasting session at The WeatherMark Tavern, 1503 S. Michigan. Check out their flyer listing 40 types of rums and describing the amazing flavors you’ll find in various rums.

Then recently I continued my education with some folks from RumForAll. They conducted an educational session at Carmichael’s Chicago Steak House , 1052 W. Monroe, for local bartenders, restaurateurs and press. It’s weird to walk in and see nearly 30 glasses set up for each person!

I didn’t realize that rums are awarded points just like wines. Who knew how complex and fascinating the flavors can be in a rum?

How to do a rum tasting

I learned that tasting rum is similar to tasting wine but slightly different. First, we were instructed to swirl the rum around and stick our noses into the glass to capture the aromas. The RumforAll people had us guess what we detected – a few folks guessed right some of the time. You’ll be surprised when you read some of my notes below at the range of aromas and flavors in these different distillations.

Next, they said, take a tiny sip and rinse it around in your mouth. This prepares your tongue and palate for the full experience. Then you take another sip and let it flow slowly around your mouth. Notice the flavors when it first hits your tongue and then when it gets further back in your mouth and then after you swallow. Like fine wines, some rums can have a long finish that keeps on giving.

Our next step was to guess the brand and the country of origin. A few of the more experienced bartenders in attendance were miraculously accurate on naming the brands. Then the facilitators revealed the correct information for each brand on the screen.

We were moving along at a fairly quick pace so my notes are brief, and the aromas and flavors get a little jumbled together. But I hope the below is a good start for you to begin appreciating the joys of rum as a mixer, a straight drink, or an after-dinner treat. There are a few tips on serving, too, here and there in the notes.

Enjoy!

Standout rums from my tasting:

1. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusive – root beer, brown sugar, honey – dessert in a glass

2. Ron Abuelo 7 year old – light aroma, very complex taste, spices, butter, estate-grown, molasses-based, Panama

3. Appleton Estate Reserve – 95 pts, brown butter, acid finish, black tea, 8 yr blend of both pot and column stills, good for cocktails, swap for cognac in a Sidecar

4. Bacardi 8 – 94 pts, prune, 8 yrs in American oak

5. Don Q Gran Anejo – 93 pts, butterscotch, aged 3-12, bananas foster nose

6. Cruzan Estate Dark – Christmas spices, dark cocoa, woodiness, bourbon oak, highly distilled, Virgin Islands – just coming back to the U.S.

7. Shellback Silver Rum – sweet, vanilla; they also make Spiced Rum

Other interesting rums we tried:

Zacapa Rum 23 Solera – woody, fresh barrels, aged 6-23 in barrels that held bourbon and sherry, Guatemala

10 Cane Rum – mixed production, molasses on back tongue, Trinidad & Tobago

Banks 7 Golden Age – musty, nuts, forest, blend of 23 rums from 7 places

Depaz Blue Cane Rhum Agricole – fruit, spice, vegetal, dates, nutmeg, grassy, salt on back of tongue, serve with one cube and lime or coconut water)

Brugel Especial – extra dry, for mixing or alone with a twist, Dominican Republic

 

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