Indy Spirits Expo NYC

18 05 2011

Monday night at Soiree on the Bowery, the Indy Spirits Expo took over with dozens of the most unique, new and independent spirits brands. Old favorites like Templeton Rye and Hudson Whiskey showed up to serve generous pours of their fantastic whiskeys. It is incredible how far these brands have come; not even two years ago the only way to get Templeton outside Iowa and Illinois was to order it by the case from Binny’s. I got my last order from them in December 2009 just before their supply dried up completely.

Steve pimping the Templeton

From Bourbon to Rye to 4 grain to White Dog, Tuthilltown has built up a great range all from their operation in upstate NY

Now that they’ve ramped up production and are backed by Southern Wine & Spirits in NY, Templeton has exploded and can be found everywhere from Astor to the Korean liquor store four blocks from my door. And this is a large part of what Indy Spirits is about: discovering and promoting smaller brands so that everyone can enjoy them.

Both Brooklyn and Breuckelen gin were in attendance, not two tables apart, and I’m happy to report they didn’t duke it out. Well, happy and disappointed. A two gins enter, one gin leaves, Thunderdome-style death match would’ve been entertaining. I mean, at least pelt each other with juniper berries or something! (A little background) In any event, they both make great, and distinctly different gins, so I say the more the merrier.

I like vodka. So shoot me.

One of the great surprises of the night for me was Dry Fly Distilling‘s Washington Wheat Whiskey and Gin. An American whiskey that drinks more like an Irish or a Genever, it is truly unique and something I plan to play around with. The gin too distinguishes itself in an increasingly crowded market by using their excellent wheat vodka as base, which they thankfully did not distill to death. Neutral vodka’s have their place (nothing I’d rather have with herring and caviar), but it definitely makes it more interesting for cocktails when the base grains can come through.

Tennyson also made a very strong showing with their Absinthe, eminently drinkable with just a little water. You could add sugar, sure, but this one doesn’t need anything to smooth it out.

Next purchase: Absinthe Fountain

Lastly there’s Fidencio, which brought out their Pechuga and Classico Mezcal’s, excellent complements to their original. The Classico adds smokiness, coming off as the name would imply, like a more traditional style and their Pechuga, well, is made with chicken breast. Yes, and it’s delicious.

Cinnamon and Orange are to Mezcal as Salt and Lime are to Tequila

On a slightly sour note, the bouncers and floor managers from Soiree tried to confiscate much of the vendors’ product as a “donation” to the club at the end of the night. Most stood their ground, but it left a bad taste in my mouth and doesn’t reflect well on Soiree as an event space. This is nothing against the organizers at Indy Spirits, the guys at Soiree are just douches. Look at their website, just look at it!


Who Gives a Fuck About an Oxford [Punch]?

4 05 2011

I’ve drank those Arrack punches too

They’re cruel

So if there’s any other way

To mix a bowl

It’s fine with me, with me

After having hosted way too many parties at my apartment stuck behind the bar, manning the waffle iron, and shepherding sheets of bacon to the stove, I had enough. Having to cut one of them, and not trusting anyone to understand the ‘quirks’ of my appliances, I decided to make a punch and let people serve it themselves.

Enter Punch, David Wondrich’s authoritative tome on the history of ‘The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl.’ Having cut my teeth on the blindingly strong Chatham Artillery, I set myself up for failure with the Oxford Punch. Wondrich confessed it to be ‘one of the most complicated recipes in this book.’ Who could resist a challenge like that? Also, it has jello in it. JELLO!


Like a great many punches, this one starts with an oleosaccharumhuh? Sugar and oil,  sugar and oil. Punch came long before the cocktail, but you’d recognize this best as a bartender squeezing a lemon peel over your cocktail and rimming the glass with it. This is to get the oils out of the citrus skin and into your glass so they can flavor and aromatize the drink. For punch, you’re going to extract the oil in advance and just mix it straight in.

The lemons and minneolas are so reflective because of the oil in their skin.

The oleosaccharum starts with peeling the citrus and putting it into a large glass bowl. This is easier if you strip the lemons in one piece, but it certainly won’t hurt your punch to have it in smaller segments. The recipe calls for 5 lemons and 2 Seville oranges, but the latter are hard to come by and are sadly out of season. As a substitute I used minneolas and orange bitters.

5 lemon and 2 minneola peels

The peels aren’t going to do much on their own and letting them soak in the punch to extract would take far too long (ever make limoncello?), so we muddle them with sugar. Ordinarily an oleosaccharum uses 2 ounces sugar for every peel, but we’ll be sweetening this later with capillaire so we’re only using 4 ounces here. Thoroughly mix and muddle the sugar with the peels and after as little as five minutes, you’ll start seeing the oil come out. An hour is enough to fully extract, so I make this first and then set it aside while putting together all the other components.

Oil = flavor

After waiting the appropriate time, juice your lemons and add them to bowl. You’ll need 10 ounces so you might need to grab a few more than the five you peeled. 4 ounces of Seville orange juice goes in as well, but since we’re lacking in that I added an extra 2 ounces of lemon juice, 2 ounces of minneola juice and a few dashes of orange bitters. Remove the peels, bottle the liquid, and refrigerate.

The next oddball component to this recipe is capillaire, which is really just rich simple syrup with orange flower water added. Boil 2 cups sugar in 1 cup water until it completely dissolves and add an 1/8oz orange flower water. Let the mixture cool, then bottle and refrigerate. If you’re impatient like me, a quick way to cool it down is put the pot you boil it in inside a larger pot of ice water.

The last component is the gelatin. Just read the box (omit the fruit juice), two 1/4 ounce packets will do.

All Together Now

Most of the hard work is done, now comes the fun part.  The base for this punch is an imperial pint (20oz) each of VSOP Cognac, aged rum and orange shrub, and half a pint (10oz) of dry white wine. The cognac I used was Adet, the rum Angostura 1919 and the orange shrub a 2:1 mix of Clement Creole Shrub and water. If I go to the trouble of making this again, I would upgrade the cognac and rum.

Since this punch isn’t going to be served over ice cubes that’d rapidly chill it, I recommend sticking all your bottles of alcohol in the freezer the night before so it starts out reasonably cold. Just mind the corks when opening them; they have a tendency to crack in the freezer.

Start by stirring together the cognac, rum, white wine and oleosaccharum in a punch container with two quarts water. (ed. thanks to John in the comments for pointing out the missing water) Next start adding the orange shrub and the capillaire: 24 ounces of the 2:1 creole shrub:water mix and 16 ounce of the capillaire should do. Start with half that and add from there. You can’t unsweeten a punch, so do just a bit at a time and taste as you go. When you’ve got it where you want it, add the 2 packets of gelatin you’ve prepared and stick the whole thing in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.

If you add ice, use a single large block so you don't break apart the gelatin

It’s a little tough to make out in the picture, but there is a layer of gelatin on top that’ll end up in your cup when you ladle it out.

Jello, Really?

Originally they would’ve used calves-foot jelly (this is from 1827!), but we’re just going to cheat a little bit on that point of history. It’s easy to associate jello and alcohol, especially poorly made jello shots, with all manner of douchbaggery. I did too, until I tried this punch. You may get a bit of snobbery from people who don’t like the idea of gelatin in their glass, but just tell them it’s historically accurate ;)

The jello does two things: adds texture and makes the punch seem less alcoholic. The texture, well, some people aren’t wild about it. If it’s a problem for them, give them a straw and tell them to suck it up. As for less alcoholic, the jello adds something to chew in the drink and, although it really is just perception, makes you feel like it isn’t 15% alcohol. When I made it I did warn people of this, but nevertheless the punch was finished remarkably fast. Quoting a nameless friend’s remarks from the following day (at 3PM!)

This is the sickest ive ever been in my entire life. 100% not joking. Never drinking again. Haha” – anonymous

Be careful with this; it can be far too easy to overindulge.

Cheat Sheet


  • 20 ounces VSOP Cognac
  • 20 ounces aged rum
  • 10 ounces dry white wine
  • 24 ounces orange shrub (16 ounces creole shrub, 8 ounces water)
  • 64 ounces water


  • 5 lemon peels
  • 2 Seville orange peels
  • 4 ounce sugar


  • 10 ounces lemon juice
  • 4 ounces Seville orange juice


  • 16 ounces sugar
  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/8 ounce orange flower water

One last thing, and I can’t impress this enough, taste the punch every step of the way. These proportions are guidelines and will depend on the sweetness, freshness, strength and bitterness of your ingredients. Please don’t just throw all this in a bowl; you’ll be unhappy with the results. It may also cause blindness.