Peat in July : anCnoc’s Limited Edition Peaty Collection

anCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky has just released its new Limited Edition Peaty Collection in the US. The collection pays homage to their peaty origins–like most distilleries, Knockdhu Distillery opened its doors back in October 1894 and used peat as its primary source of fuel. These days, the Knockdhu Distillery produces anCnoc’s current whiskies in an unpeated style. These three Limited Edition bottles  are meant to express a bolder, smokier aspect of their classic Highland single malts.

The first two expressions to be released are Rutter and Flaughter—named after traditional peat-cutting tools. They’ve been laid down in bourbon barrels and in the case of Flaughter, I felt as though I were nosing a bourbon.

Here’s what we know: 

 anCnoc Rutter is named for the spade used in sizing and separating peat blocks.

  • Peated to a PPM of 11

  • Described as ” initially very smoky, and then quickly unveils the unmistakable anCnoc character, giving way to delicate spices, juicy pineapple and gentle vanilla”.

Laura’s  impression:

 The nose has lemon, black peppers, forest floor, vanilla, and just a peek of medicinal scent coming through. On the palate, it tastes sweet like candied violets with a viscous mouthfeel. This turns into a bite of black pepper, menthol, spearmint and a whisper of peat. The finish is round and creamy. It’s quite mellow and delicate in flavor.


anCnoc Flaughter (pronounced FLAH-ter) is named for the spade used to remove the top layer of peat.

  • Peated to a PPM of 14.8

  • Described as having a heftier, ashier flavor that gives way to warm vanilla notes with a hint of sticky toffee that provides a balanced sweetness.

Laura’s  impression:

The nose is sweet, like caramel, biscuit, and lemon custard with a bit of granite or tarmac thrown in. On the palate it’s lighter bodied than Rutter. I taste saline, granite, oyster shells–it’s more mineral driven. The tarmac and phenols start kicking in mid-way and it finishes with coating allspice and nutmeg.

Overall, both of these whiskies express peat in a shy delicate manner. These are definite sippers to be savored slowly or else you may miss out on the delicate nuances.

Where can you find them?

anCnoc Rutter and anCnoc Flaughter were released in June, at a suggested retail price of $85. For more information, visit

Hood River Day Trip: Full Sail Brewing Company

In decent weather, Hood River, Oregon is about an hour drive East of Portland. It’s a beautiful drive even at this drizzly time of year. Along the way we enjoyed striking views of Multnomah Falls and the expansive silver waters of the Columbia River Gorge covered with low-lying fog.


Hood River is called the “Windsurfing Capital of the World” as we came to find out on our tour of Full Sail Brewing Company. Founded in 1987 in what used to be an abandoned canning factory, Full Sail began bottling by hand a year later. In 1989, they took home a gold for their Full Sail Amber at the Great American Beer Festival. Their operations have greatly expanded since and soon they will  be taking over the entire building when they move their waterfront offices in.


Full Sail offers tours at 1, 2, 3, and 4pm daily. Winter months are a great time to visit because we were the only 2 on the tour and the brew pub was lively, but uncrowded. During the tour we learned about how the beers were brewed and saw the new and improved automated bottling line. In addition to their year-round Full Sail brews and Session beers, they brew a rotating series and a number of special releases. Here’s the breakdown:

Rotating Series:

  • Pub Series are limited bottlings of beers previously only available in the Full Sail Pub
  • Limited Lager Series(LTD) is available in 6-packs and on draft with a different rotation of beers available year round
  • Brewer’s Share Series is a series of small-batch beers made by individual Full Sail brewers, with partial proceeds going to the charity of their choice.

Special Releases:

  • Brewmaster Reserve beer are creative,  innovation inspired beers meant to showcase Full Sail’s passion for brewing
  • Brewer’s Experimental beers are even more exclusive beers created by one of the employee-owner’s allowing them to show-off their creativity and brewing skills. Part of the proceeds go to a charity of their choice.

After the tour, we relaxed in the brew pub, sipping on beer and taking in views of the Gorge. There were two flights available in addition to full size beers on tap. The Classic Flight($7 for 7 tasters) is a good place to start if you’ve never had Full Sail beers or aren’t in the mood to try their limited brews. We went with the Reserve flight($6 for 6 tasters) plus a taster of their Bourbon Barrel Aged IPA($2). Right now, the flight is: Vendell’s Veizen Weizen Bock(Brewer’s Share Series), Nut Brown Ale, ESB on Nitro, Wassail Ale, 26 Brewmaster Reserve, and Pub Exclusive Cask Ale.


In the next post, I’ll tell you about Double Mountain Brewery and TapRoom, founded by two ex-Full Sail employees.



Irish to the Core

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and with perfect timing, Castle Brands sent us several samples of Irish Whiskey to share with you. They’re also running a contest with the grand prize being a trip to Ireland–follow the link at the end of this post.

We had the chance to try both the 14 and 16 Year Knappogue Castle Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskies. These whiskies are named after the 15th century castle in County Clare, Ireland bought by Mark Edwin Andrews who restored the castle in the 1960s. The castle is now owned by his son, Mark Andrews III who continues to blend Irish whiskies under the castle’s name.

The Knappogue 14 Year was triple distilled in copper pot stills and aged for 14+ years in Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks. It is non-chill filtered, bottled at 46% ABV – 92 proof.

The color was light amber with a subtle nose of apples, ripe pear, baking spices such as cinnamon, and black pepper. The palate was surprisingly approachable considering the proof. The velvety mouthfeel had salinity starting with notes of leather and smoke, lemon peel and pear. The finish was full of vanilla and apple notes with nice tannins from the Sherry casks.

The Knappogue 16 Year was again triple distilled in copper pot stills. After 14 years in Bourbon casks, the whiskey for Twin Wood was selected by the Master Distiller for twenty one months of further aging in Oloroso Sherry casks. It is only lightly chill filtered and bottled at 40% ABV – 80 proof.

The color was a darker golden amber. Right away, we both thought this would be a great whiskey to enjoy with a cigar. The nose opened up from campfire to stewed apples and raisin notes with orange peel. The initial sweetness was characterized by cooked stonefruit, black licorice and tobacco. It finished with a buttery sweetness that left us salivating.

Irish to the Core Contest


Happy National Whiskey Sour Day!

Today is  National Whiskey Sour Day.  Sure, it’s not a *real* national holiday, but a good whiskey sour is something to believe in. Perhaps it would catch on if local bars offered a free Whiskey Sour to its first 50 patrons.

Poking around the “official website”, owned by some marketing dude in Canada, reveals that there are as many whiskey sour recipes as there are people. It makes sense of course, considering how easily modified a 3 ingredient recipe is. There seems to be some consensus on the following:

A Whiskey Sour must contain:

1.  Whiskey. Any kind.

2. Sugar. Any kind, usually simple syrup or granulated.

3. Citrus. Usually lemon or lime, but the sky’s the limit.

Here’s mine:

2 oz whiskey

1 oz  lemon

1 oz simple syrup

1 egg white(medium egg)

Glass: Up in a sour glass or over ice in a double rocks glass

Garnish: Angostura bitters

Add all ingredients to a shaker. Shake with 1 small ice cube(or a piece of a cracked 1″x1″ cube, if that’s what you have) for 10 seconds. Break open shaker, fill with ice, and shake hard for about 8-10 seconds. Strain. Drip Angostura onto the surface and go wild with your own design.


While many folks use bourbon or rye, Irish whiskey is a fine choice as well.  Thanks to Kilbeggan for providing a sample!



Kilbeggan is Ireland’s oldest operating licensed distillery. While not in producton all 256 years, the community of Kilbeggan in County Westmeath restored it as a museum after its closure in 1957. John Teeling, then-owner of Cooley Distillery, bought the license to produce Kilbeggan on its 250th anniversary. Now fully operational, Kilbeggan uses copper pot stills to turn out their golden whiskey, one of which lays claim to being the oldest working pot still producing whiskey today.


Earlier in my drinking days, I used to quaff whiskey sours up, taking the thing down in a manner of minutes before it got lukewarm. Now, I prefer mine over a large rock to extend my enjoyment of this fluffy delight.

The following is a little twist I whipped up, which is entirely too easy to dirnk, I mean, drink. I named it after the restaurant inside the distillery:

The Pantry Sour

2 oz Kilbeggan® Irish Whiskey

1/2 oz lemon juice(freshly squeezed and strained)

1/2 orange juice(freshly squeezed and strained)

3/4 honey syrup*

1 egg white(medium egg)

Glass: Double Rocks or vintage fancy pants glass with a large rock

Garnish: Cherry skewered orange half moon & Angostura bitters

*Honey Syrup: 3 parts honey:1 part water. Locally harvested honey is even better.


However you like it, this Sunday is your excuse to drink Whiskey Sours till the cows come home. Cheers!


Edwin is headed to Peru to “Become Shaman”!


Congrats to Edwin Cruz of The Spare Room who’s headed to Peru to “Become Shaman”! His drink, “The Edwin-Win Situation” placed him as 1 of 10 top finalists in the US to go on to compete in an “Iron Chef” style finale.

Have fun in Peru and we’re looking forward to hearing about your adventures!




Hey Good Looking @ TOTC 2013

Earlier this year, William Grant held the May Mix Off at the JW Marriot, in downtown LA. The five week long competition pitted LA bartenders against each other for a chance at an all-expense paid trip to Tales of the Cocktail. At the finals, judge Charlotte Voisey eyed my cocktail and smiled, “If you win, I’m inviting you as a panelist on my seminar at tales”. 

My winning cocktail was called No Pain – No Gain. I designed it as a playful variation on a Painkiller. Instead of using a coconut cream, I made a cream from guava puree, heavy cream and a delicious California wild flower honey. The ROOT added some baking spice notes which held up really nicely to the heat from the Sailor Jerry. The remaining ingredients gave the cocktail the tropical flavors it needed to be bright and refreshing.

No Pain – No Gain 

2 oz. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
.25 oz. ROOT
1oz. Fresh Honey Pacifica Creamy Wild Flower  Honey & Guava Cream
1oz. Orange
1oz. Pineapple
1/4 oz. Lime Juice
2 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with crushed ice, dump & fill with more crushed ice in a tiki glass
Garnish Lavishly

Fast forward to New Orleans and Tales of the Cocktail 2013, where I had the privilege of participating in Hey Good Looking, a seminar about garnishing at the Royal Sonesta. A packed house settled in as Charlotte Voisey and Francesco Lafranconni introduced themselves, Jacopo Falleni, and myself.

A deck of playing cards from the famous London bar, Nightjar, awaited everyone at their seats.  A picture of various cocktails adorned every card. It was a great souvenir to take home!

I had been called on the panel to talk about competition & tiki garnishes. I decided to bring the two together and make an over-the-top tiki competition garnish!

At the seminar, Francesco, Charlotte and Jacopo shared their great garnishing ideas.

With the help of live demonstrations, they showed various garnishes that had practical applications behind the bar. Using a variety of  straws, pics, swizzles, and fruits they made some really cool garnishes that impressed the audience.

I was invited on stage and gave a live cocktail and garnish demo. While my cocktail No Pain – No Gain was passed out for everyone to enjoy, I spoke a little on the fun that can be had with tiki & competition garnishes. While you have limitless possibilities when it comes to garnishing, it’s important to set some boundaries.

Some good starting off points to create a memorable and creative garnish are:

  • considering the theme of the competition
  • your setting
  • the spirit or liqueurs used in the drink
  • something abstract like a mental scene you want to recreate

The big reveal came as I assembled the finished garnish. I drew inspiration for this garnish from the idea of sailors landing on foreign ports while traveling. Their experiences must have put them face to face with exotic ingredients, new people and breath taking scenery. I wanted recreate that in miniaturized form.

I started off by building a mini satellite looking garnish, complete with orange and meyer lemon peel fins. A kiwi fan was held together by a paper umbrella and in the center off it all a cucumber ship holding a flag was being looked on by a lonely blue mermaid. The bamboo straw was held in place by a neatly trimmed orange peel.

This guy needs to drink that mini bottle atop of him.

To finish it off, a small bar of dark chocolate alongside a miniature bottle of Sailor Jerry rested atop a lime. It was all served in one of my favorite mugs from Tiki Farm, a grumpy looking native, knife in hand, surrounded by the skulls of his victims.

Thanks for all of your help, Laura!

To close the seminar, I decided to make a fun on-the-fly garnish. A radish creature with a green mop top & tongue outstretched took residence on the rim of this glass. I had a great time participating in the seminar &  sharing my ideas & creativity. It was one of my personal highlights of this year’s Tales of the Cocktail.

Juniperlooza 2013 Recap

Juniperlooza was billed as “a festival celebrating juniper featuring live music, food trucks, a wall of punch, and bartenders that you all know and love”. It was a festival with so much gin that you could pass out drunk in the red telephone box wearing a tutu in 49 minutes and so many badass bartenders that you felt inclined to drink everything they made and do just that.

There were so many drinks to be had that I think I actually left the event with only a solid 3 under my bonnet, 2 of them from the dapper gents at the Savoy pop-up. The trimmed hedge walls and soft couches provided a real comfort from the throngs of folks flanking the crowded side-by-side bars in the main room.

The Savoy had a short but excellently executed list of classic cocktails including the Hoffman House, The Hanky Panky, and an apropos, if premature, Corpse Reviver. Beads of saline rolling down their faces, they still cracked smiles and maintained the politest of demeanors throughout the evening as their American counterparts abandoned their stations and partied it out on the dance floor.

There were plenty of punches to be had including a mouth-staining blue curacao version. Here are a few pictures of the goings-on:


The Swag Tent was sacked in 10 minutes flat.

The food truck. This lonesome food truck was gladly attacked by hungry imbibers.

Cutting ice on the artificial turf. Why not?

“Dang, I wish I’d made a punch.” Nice stir, btw.

This kid was out on the floor for a hot minute.

Next year, I feel it might be a bit more exciting just to have 1 big delicious punch bowl in the center of the room and then everyone could just get their drink on and start dancing. That and bottled Negronis. That would be lovely.




Get High & Drink Pisco! The Edwin-Win Situation

I’m not usually the type that shamelessly self promotes(read:here it comes). However, when it involves winning trips to exotic locales, I’ll make the exception! This year Macchu Pisco in association with the Peruvian government, is hosting a competition to celebrate their 10 year anniversary! The “Become Shaman” competition will put 10 bartenders from the U. S. head to head in an iron chef style competition in Lima, Peru to win a journey into the Peruvian jungle for a “spiritual journey” with a shaman(Editor’s Note: Sounds like “get high and drink Pisco” competition to me).

This competition is highlighting the La Diablada Pisco, which is a beautiful blend of Quebranta, Moscatel, Torontel & Italia grapes, copper pot distilled, rested for two years and vintage dated. It delivers beautiful notes of tropical melons, stone fruit and light undertones of baking spices & a vegetal herbiness.

With the selection of the finalists closely approaching I thought it appropriate to share my recipe & its inspiration. I named my cocktail “The Edwin-Win Situation”, highlighting my intention to be a finalist & win!

My infatuation for tiki made me take the cocktail in a refined tropical direction. I sourced authentic Peruvian ingredients that would match & enhance the flavor profile of the La Diablada. Of course, the garnish was also very important. There’s nothing like the visual appeal of a beautiful cocktail.

The Edwin-Win Situation

2 oz. La Diablada Pisco

.75 oz. Banana Passionfruit Tumbo Puree

1 oz. Emoliente Syrup

4 drops Manzano Chile Tincture

.75 oz. Lemon Juice

.25 oz. Orange Juice

Chuncho Bitters – Float on top

Garnish: Mint Spring, Lemon Fan, Cherry, Cinnamon Stick & Star Anise.

The tart velvet mouthfeel of the Tumbo works extremely well with the malt and herbs of the emoliente syrup. For those not familiar with emoliente, it’s a classic Peruvian tea made from various dried herbs and grains including, barley, flax seeds, clove, horsetail & boldo. The final layer of flavor comes from the chile tincture which lends to a memorable finish with a tiny hint of spice that works well to prepare your palate for a second sip.


If you’re in LA, drop by The Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and I’ll be happy to make one for you. Wish me luck! I hope to report from Peru soon.


An Ode to the Bowl at Tales of the Cocktail 2013

At this year’s 2nd annual Ode to the Bowl, over a dozen teams from all corners of the states and as far off as London brought their bowling skills. It was a night filled with a little friendly competition and plenty of punch bowls.

We had just flown in to New Orleans on an early morning flight from LAX, unloaded at our hotel and caught our breath, and we were out the door again. This time we were headed to Rock n’ Bowl, which was our host for the evening’s activities. At the Spare Room we’re famous for our bowling and our seasonal punches so it’s only natural that we would organize an event featuring both in The Crescent City.


On arriving, we found dozens of bottles of spirits, citrus, and fruit ready to be turned into six delicious punches. As we got  to work, we sipped on beer, nibbled on duck confit “nachos” and took an occasional swig of Jameson Black while working through the afternoon humidity.

The evening began as hundreds of our fellow bartenders swarmed the venue and kicked off Tales of the Cocktail 2013 in style. The punches flowed, the shots followed, and the beer kept everyone cool. The room was filled with the sounds of Russian mafia band Debauche, which got many dancing to the sounds of their punk rock hooligan Russian street songs.

As the night wore on and bowling became more heated, two teams emerged as the finalists. Miami and Chicago duked it out to be named this year’s Ode to the Bowl winner. In the end, Team Chicago lead by Charles Joly of Aviary took home the win.

After much planning, preparation, and hard work the 2nd annual Ode to the Bowl was a major success. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of owners, Med Abrous & Marc Rose, bar manager Naomi Schimek and partner-in-crime Tony, and of course Laura Lindsay. Thanks to the Rock n’ Bowl staff as well. Not only did we showcase our bar’s claim to fame, but we brought together our global community for a kickoff party done right. Many thanks to  the generosity of our sponsor Pernod Ricard; thanks for the booze, guys!

I’m looking forward to next year’s celebrations, new punches, and perhaps even a new bowling champ.

Photo credit: Tales of the Cocktail Official Facebook Event Page


Viva Sangrita! Numero Tres Finals @TOTC 2013

To be honest, I enter most competitions for the prizes. Wait, you mean you don’t just love spending time testing recipes that include at least 1.5 oz of a liqueur as the base spirit? Um…no. Viva Sangrita! is a bit different. Just competing in the local round I felt like I won something already–I got to serve shots and sangrita to my fellow bartenders and the general populace, drink beer, and have fun. Plus, a free bottle of Tequila Ocho Extra Añejo ain’t too shabby.

Winning the local competition and travelling to New Orleans is where it got hairy. I quickly found out that I was on my own for sourcing ingredients and a kitchen for prep. After much stressing, I prepped everything in LA, cryovaced and froze the sangrita for transport. Special thanks to Med Abrous & Sean McCusker for the NOLA support. And I absolutely would have been screwed without the help of Mr. Edwin Cruz.


Thankfully, the competition was Wednesday at Tales, so I could enjoy the rest of the week. We arrived at d.b.a. and started “setting up”(read:drinking Ocho to soothe our nerves). It was a great party–lots of delicious Tequila Ocho, food, and sangrita was flowing. Guests were given a string of Mardi Gras beads and asked to vote for their favorite sangrita. We also chose numbers(mine was 7 out of 8) and we presented before a panel of slightly inebriated judges. It was clear that everyone was having a good time.

In the end, Ms. Shannon Ponche of Mayahuel in NYC took home the grand prize of a trip to Mexico.


The Bon Vivants surprised all of us with a bottle of barrel proof Ocho and some badass Kikuichi Japanese knives. There go those Bon Vivants, making everyone feel good again.

Viva Sangrita!