CORN Vodka?? Hmm…

Last weekend, my man surprised me with a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka, one of those huge bottles with a handle. The vodka came highly recommended by his “spirit” guide at the liquor superstore. I stared at the massive bottle with open skepticism, and said out loud, “This better be good!”

At 40% alcohol and 80 proof, it had respectable stats. Then I twirled the bottle to see:

“Distilled from…CORN”??

Nothing against corn; I’m a huge bourbon fan, and prefer to drink it straight. But vodka, though…what the hell IS this, moonshine??

My eyes instantly narrowed with hostility and suspicion! I’ve tried other vodkas, made from distilled potatoes (Monopolowa) and grapes (Trader Joes, I love ya but come on now!). And I’ve always ended up running back to the waiting, open, comforting arms of grain vodkas.

But…I had to keep an open mind. Corn vodka??
Hmm…

Right above “Crafted in Texas”, the bottle stated on its label that it was “six times distilled”. My first thought was, it’s like traveling around the world, trying out cuisine beyond your comfort level, and finding the answer to the age-old question of “Is anything pretty much edible, if it’s deep fried enough?”

So it was time to set up the testing environment. With The Smith’s “How Soon is Now” playing on my virtual assistant app, I pulled out a slim, sexy shot glass, and started pouring.

The Smell

First I sniffed it. If I got even the smallest whiff of turpentine, or any strong odor at all, it’s going down the drain. But, nope, it smelled clean. Slightly sweet because of the corn, and not at all like rubbing alcohol.

The Taste

Took a large sip, held it in my mouth, and let it slowly trickle down my throat as I breathed in and out. Fairly smooth, with minimal burn (I mean, this is hard liquor after all, not water).

So, yup, turns out this corn vodka is smooth enough to use for 2-3 ingredient cocktails, and smooth enough to drink straight. Okay, I don’t know if all corn-based vodkas are distilled this much to get this smooth, but this one was truly made for easy drinking.

I tip my hat to y’all, Texas!

The Smoking Cocktail

cocktail_compare2

One warm summer evening, I was suddenly surrounded by a flurry of pink. It was everywhere – feather boas, hats, tutus, bags, cocktails. There was a charitable event going on and ladies were swarming the town.

bra-pong

I ducked out from all that activity into an alley where I found a cozy bar with large industrial machine parts as theme decor.

thebar

As I looked through the drink menu, this stood out almost immediately:

SMOKEE MUSKOGEE • ROCKS • 12
jack daniels honey whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, cedar plank smoke

Cedar plank smoke?? You saw that right, the bartender said with a smile. I ordered it right away, dying with curiosity as I waited for the show. The bartender came out of the backroom with his ensemble, including a blowtorch and a wood plank.

It was SO butch!

cocktail_burningplank

 

Other customers turned to watch, as he held up the piece of wood and torched it to a fiery glow. It was so close that I could smell the burning cedar.

 

cocktail_torch

 

While the flames were still dying down, he placed the burned wood plank down in front of me, then inverted a rocks glass over the char.

 

smokeandfire

 

I stared fascinated at the roiling smoke captured in the glass, but also wondered nervously if the glass would suddenly explode and shatter from the air pressure and heat.

 

cocktail_capturedsmoke

 

I was suddenly distracted by the bartender shaking up a cocktail – one of my most favorite sounds in the world (am I right, Nick Charles?). He poured about an ounce of the cocktail into a small glass and set it aside, but kept the rest in the shaker.

 

cocktail_compare2

 

In a few seconds, he turned the rocks glass upright. With the smoke still inside the glass, he poured in the cocktail, infusing it as the smoke slowly drifted up and around the rim.

I was given the small glass with the ounce of cocktail, to first try the cocktail without the smoke. It was delicious and fresh.

And then I tasted the smoked cocktail.

 

cocktail_compare

 

Mind blown! It was AMAZING! The smoke infusion gave the cocktail depth and dimension that no other ingredient on a bartender’s shelves ever could. Now I’m wondering what other cocktails can be smoked and taken up several notches.

This definitely made it on my shortlist of greatest cocktail experiences and cocktails that are simply beyond!

Cheers!

Small Craft Spirits: Yaletown Distilling Company

yt6

 

Not that long ago, Yaletown in Vancouver BC was pretty seedy. After telling him I planned to spend a day wandering over there, one of my street-savvy cousins rattled off areas to avoid, due to drug activity, prostitution, etc.

“Just stay away from Main.”
“And stay out of East Hastings.”
“Careful, that place is drug central and a sketchy area.”

I wandered around Yaletown on a warm, sunny Friday afternoon, and saw no disreputable activity anywhere. Turns out, this once sketchy area is now a charmingly gentrified little berg with loads of hip, trendy perks – restaurants and bars (with patios!), cafes, shops, galleries, plus upscale apartments and condos.

 

yt12 

Not surprisingly, a handcrafted distillery is part of that mix. Seeing their premium spirits creation machines from the sidewalk through huge glass windows, I just had to wander in and pay my respects to Yaletown Distilling Company.

 

yt10

 

Camera-shy Craig, the distillery manager, hooked me up with a couple of shots in their tasting room. The refreshing mandarin-infused vodka had good flavor definition. And the honey-infused vodka was luscious, smooth, and not at all syrupy. It was so good, I ordered another shot.

 

yt9

yt6a

 

Tariq, the distiller, was checking on equipment before a company field trip was scheduled this evening for a tour of one of the world’s top 10 distillery bars, according to The Spirits Business magazine. Number one rule before the tour begins: Don’t touch anything!

 

yt13

yt4

 

The beauty of small craft spirits distilleries is they can focus on quality, not quantity.
For now.
With rapid growth driven my millenials’ preference for craft liquor made by small local distilleries, the new challenge is maintaining authenticity while mass producing to meet increasing demand.

 

yt2

yt5

 

Unfortunately, Yaletown Distillery only sells their wares within the Canadian borders. But it’s just one more reason to keep coming to this amazing city – to discover and experience cool neighborhoods, with its delights, surprises, and liquid bliss. Cheers, guys!

 

yt3

Cocktail Backstory: The Communist and Tom Collins

commcocktail_5

 

A perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy.” – Noël Coward

 

commcocktail_2

 

“Barkeep!” says I.
“Aye, miss, what shall I make for ye?” says he.
“I would like a cocktail…with an interesting backstory.”

The gauntlet was thrown, and he met the challenge with two words,”Communist Cocktail.”

 

commcocktail_1

 

He didn’t know the details, but said the cocktail’s name had to do with the era during which it was created. As I sat waiting for my cocktail, he handed me a book entitled, “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails”.

 

I looked up The Communist:

“This enjoyable number with the unforgettable name derived from a crude and otherwise quite forgettable cocktail pamphlet from 1933 titled Cocktail Parade. As photographers say, though, it just takes one picture.”

 

commcocktail_4

 

Huh. Not much of a backstory. When my drink arrived, turns out it wasn’t much of a cocktail, either. My reaction after a couple of sips was a shrug and a “Meh.”

It became apparent that the only thing this cocktail had going for it was its cool name. And clearly, it did belong in a “Forgotten Cocktails” book. Not only should it be forgotten, they should also put a “Do Not Rescucitate” warning next to the recipe.

 

commcocktail_6

 

Here’s a cocktail that actually has somewhat of an interesting backstory:

Tom Collins

Back in 1874, someone decided to play a joke a bunch of New Yorkers. He’d go to one person, asked them if they knew someone named Tom Collins. “Nope, never heard of him.” they’d say. Then they’d be told Tom’s been bad-mouthing them all over town, ruining their reputation. Of course, the enraged person would go on a revenge-seeking manhunt for Tom Collins, ready to lynch the slandering bastard.

This would be done over and over again to different people, until what began as one upset person became a vengeful, angry horde. This lame joke went so viral it became “The Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874.”

One bartender decided to capitalize on this trend by creating a cocktail called Tom Collins. Anyone popping into his bar looking for Tom Collins would end up ordering the cocktail. Hilarious, right?

Here’s a youtube video, in case you wanted to try making this at home. The recipe itself is after the post.

Click on image to watch video

tomcollinsvidpic

 

Corpe Reviver #2

This cocktail doesn’t have an elaborate backstory, but I like the name. In my last blog post (Cocktails – Craft versus Cool), I ordered a Corpse Reviver #2. When made properly, it’s actually one of my favorite cocktails. Interestingly, it was one of several other concoctions of the same name that was originally created in the 1930s as a hangover cure…

Hangover cure = Corpse reviver.

Get it?  :^  )

 

corpsereviver

 


 

Tom Collins Cocktail
Recipe courtesy of New York Times

2 ounces Old Tom gin (like Ransom)
1 ounce simple syrup
¾ ounce lemon juice
Soda water
Lemon wedge, for garnish
Cocktail cherry, for garnish

Shake gin, syrup and juice with ice until chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball. Top with soda water. Garnish with lemon wheel or wedge and a cherry.