Category Archives: Whiskey

Good times rolling: Cigars and booze are a smoking-hot pair

Oak Cliff
Brandon Fields of DeSoto enjoys his smokes with bourbon at Cigar Art in Oak Cliff.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, Freud said, but then again he probably never paired one with Scotch. The two were practically made to go together, and increasingly they actually are: The smokes in C&C’s four-edition Dram line, for example, are each designed to pair with specified whiskey profiles.

As the spread of craft cocktails has given rise to more and better spirits, cigar enthusiasts find themselves awash in options when it comes to enhancing their puffery. It’s not as simple, though, as blindly picking something off the shelf or menu – too strong a spirit or cocktail and it might stomp all over your stogie goodness; too mild and it won’t stand up at all.

“A lot of people think they need to pair cigars with a really robust Scotch, and then they just pick any cigar,” says John Pullo, managing editor of online magazine Cigar Advisor, which has published guides on the subject. “And then the flavors of the drink completely wash out whatever they got out of the cigar.”

Delicia Silva, the so-called “Cigar Vixen” who presented on the topic at the 2015 Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans, says it’s all about flavors. “You want to match the body of the cigar with the body of the spirit,” she says. “You want it to be like a marriage. You want them to complement each other.”

Tobacco is enhanced by flavors in the wrapping paper, just as spirits are enhanced by flavors in the barrel or a cocktail itself. As the Tales seminar description put it: ”There are parallels in the production of cigars that align with the creations of spirits and cocktails… The potent flavors of smoke and spirit, in combination, can create a truly unique experience.”

Pairing cigars with booze has been around since your great-grandfather’s grandfather, but Cigar Advisor copywriter Jonathan Detore says the tradition really thrived in the Roaring Twenties, when high rollers smoked cigars wrapped in $100 bills. With time, that nonsense subsided and cigars fell out of popularity, not to rise again until the 1990s.

Their profile has been rising ever since, helped along by the spirits explosion and the continued rise of craft beers. In addition to C&C’s whiskey-ready line, major cigar maker Perdomo earlier this year debuted smokes meant to pair with craft brew.

“What we’re seeing in the industry now is a deep dive into the pairing world,” Detore says. “In the last five years, makers have even started aging cigars in used whiskey barrels to make sure they go well with that particular liquor.”

Glenfiddich
At Dallas Chop House’s “Scotch and Cigars Under The Stars” event in July, attendees sipped several Glenfiddich single-malts with their smokes.

C&C’s Dram Cask #1, according to Cigars International, is designed to go with a milder, lighter whiskey “with notes of citrus and wood.” But absent paint-by-numbers instruction, how’s a cigar smoker supposed to know what to do? While it’s really a matter of personal taste, there are some basic principles one can follow. Generally speaking, the darker the cigar, the darker the spirit or beer best suited for the occasion.

Say, for example, you were smoking a Connecticut cigar, says Cigar Advisor’s Detore from the magazine’s offices in Pennsylvania, where he and Pullo are, of course, smoking cigars. You’d likely want a lighter beer, something like a nice, crisp Harpoon Saison.

“Right now,” Pullo says, “Jonathan is smoking a Partagas 1845 Extra Oscuro, from Honduras. The wrapper is extra fermented to get that dark color. There’s a mix of Nicaraguan, Honduran and Dominican tobacco in there. If I was a beer guy, I would put that with a stout or a porter; I wouldn’t think twice about putting a Guinness with it. That’s the nice thing about a cigar – it shows you the color.”

As far as spirits, Detore says, the cigar’s spicy, woody, leather notes, would probably go best with an aged rum or maybe the spicy bite of Bulleit Bourbon.

In Dallas, Brandon Fields of DeSoto likes complementing his smokes with Knob Creek. “The spirits that have the most age pair well,” he says as he and friends share a bottle at Cigar Art, in Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District. “They have different characters, like oak, dark plum, or chocolate or coffee. It’s almost parallel to what the cigar rollers are trying to show you.”

Cigar Art managing partner Russell Hargraves says it’s similar to how you might pair wines – for instance, not expecting a Riesling or Pinot Grigio to hold up against a big, bold Maduro or Jericho Hill cigar. “With some cigars, whiskey cocktails aren’t a terrible choice,” Hargraves says. “Like a Sazerac, or an Old Fashioned.”

While cigar smokers have long complemented their smoky puffs with solid pours, typically from bottles of Scotch and cognac, aged tequilas and rums are coming into their own, too. The goal is to bring out the flavors and character of each, by complement or contrast. Detore suggests aiming to complement your cigar first, and then, as you learn how each works with the other, to go for more complex, contrasting pairings.

Cigar Art

Silva, the “Cigar Vixen,” says you have to decide what you want from the experience. Do you want the cigar, or the spirit, to stand out? Once she decides, her approach is to start smoking the cigar, and then to introduce the spirit, typically aged rum, about a third of the way in. “Zacapa 23 goes with just about any cigar on the market,” she says. “It especially goes well with a Maduro.

“You’re creating a memory, an experience,” she says. “It’s becoming more popular, especially for people who aren’t necessarily that into cigars.”

With a low barrier to entry, it’s also a trend that doesn’t appear ready to go up in smoke anytime soon. “You can pick up a cigar for five or six bucks,” Pullo says. “It’s cheaper than a movie ticket. And, it lasts longer than the flick.”

Cocktails, pasta and pistols highlight Dallas bar’s Spaghetti + Western nights

Windmill Lounge
Thirst rides a bar stool:  Hit the Windmill for the good, the badass and the linguini.

“I’m just a simple man of God.”

“Well, it’s time we unsimplify you, Reverend.”

The mysterious man rode in from the West, and before long the townsfolk would be looking to him to save their wretched lives. But that’s what happens when you’re packing whiskey, and Chris Furtado, Texas state manager for Utah-based High West Distillery, rose to the occasion.

On Monday, Furtado pardnered up with Dallas’ Windmill Lounge to present Spaghetti + Western Night, a “pasta and pistols” event they hope to make a regular occurrence. For $10 – barely a fistful of dollars, let’s face it – you’ll score a plate of pasta and an accompanying High West spirit-based cocktail to go along with the night’s chosen Western flick.

This week’s inaugural outing featured “High Plains Drifter,” the 1973 Clint Eastwood classic with dialogue like the above and a frontierswoman disparaging Eastwood’s character with the line: “From a distance you’d almost pass for a man.” The hearty, homey pasta was bowtie, the cocktail a theme-conscious, bitter and refreshing “Sergio” made with High West’s Double Rye whiskey, Ramazotti amaro and sparkling cider. The Windmill’s Charlie Papaceno even wore an apron. “This is a real Texas pasta because it’s got beans in it,” he said in his best Lee Van Cleef scowl.

If you want to ride in and hitch your horse for the next showing, “The Outlaw Josey Wales (another Eastwood vehicle) will hit the screen at 8 p.m. Monday, May 5. You might even run into a few of your favorite bartenders.

WINDMILL LOUNGE, 5320 Maple Ave., Dallas. 214-443-7818.

Why Irish guys are smiling: Nation’s whiskey on the rise

Texas ambassador, Tullamore DEW
Tullamore DEW’s Mossie Power preaches the Irish whiskey gospel at Uptown’s Barter.

A few days before St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Maurice “Mossie” Power bounced around the private dining room at Barter in light-footed stutter steps, sort of a cross between a ballroom dancer and R2D2. “I am the ultimate cliché for this week,” the Irish-born Texas ambassador for Tullamore DEW whiskey quipped, acknowledging his accent and ginger-colored hair for a modest audience gathered for the restaurant’s special four-course Tullamore DEW-paired dinner.

The night’s purpose was to push not only Power’s product, but Irish whiskey in general, which in case you hadn’t noticed is enjoying a major resurgence: According to The Wall Street Journal, the category that brought you bar-shot standards like Jameson and Bushmills is now the fastest growing portion of the U.S. spirits market, up 400 percent since 2002.

If it seems odd to call it a resurgence, consider this: Before Scotch and American bourbons ruled the scene, Irish whiskey was king. In the 1830s, Ireland fielded more than a hundred distilleries, making what was then considered the premium of whiskeys.

But the industry was stunted by a temperance movement, then walloped by the notorious famine of 1840; when Ireland kicked out the British (its number-two market) to gain independence and then lost its number-one market (the U.S.) to Prohibition, the Irish whiskey reign was officially over.

Now, Irish whiskeys have found new life, with micro-distilleries sprouting throughout Ireland and attempting to lift the category beyond its mere infantry status: Midleton, Connemara and Kilbeggan are earning space on bar shelves, whether it’s because clever marketers have seized on a humbled genre’s untapped potential or because consumers truly do appreciate a generally triple-distilled product that on the whole is smoother, fruitier and less peaty than other whiskeys.

Cosmo's Bar & Lounge
Irish whiskey: Still struggling to eclipse bar-shot status, like these poured by Ryan Maddon of Cosmo’s Bar & Lounge.

“For someone who’s used to bourbon, Irish whiskey is easier to adapt to,” said Izzy Delgado, bar manager at Mockingbird Station’s Trinity Hall. “It’s lighter, sweeter and easier to drink.” The Irish pub and restaurant has one of the largest selections of Irish whiskey around, which makes any resurgence hard to notice. “Pretty much when something is available, we go ahead and get it,” Delgado said.

Except for Tullamore DEW, Brian McCullough of The Standard Pour said he hasn’t seen much interest in Irish whiskey beyond Jameson, the world’s most popular brand. The resurgence is also not evident at Tate’s, whose solid whiskey lineup does include Ireland’s heavily promoted 2 Gingers but leans more toward Scotch and gems such as Indian-produced Amrut.

“I’m not the biggest Irish whiskey fan,” said Tate’s general manager Robbie Christian. “We haven’t really jumped on that bandwagon. There’s just so much better stuff out there.”

Nevertheless, the figures from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States speak for themselves, and Plano’s Whiskey Cake has gradually added several Irish whiskeys to its stock. “That is a market that is fixing to blow up,” said Sean Conner, the restaurant’s former bar manager.

Power, of Tullamore DEW — the capital letters are the initials of one of the whiskey’s early influential managers — says the category is still growing more than 20 percent annually. “Irish whiskey is definitely a category that everyone is revisiting,” he said.

It may say a lot that Barter certainly is, with the restaurant’s spring cocktails menu set to feature exclusively Irish whiskeys. “I completely buy into Irish whiskey coming back in a big way,” said Rocco Milano, Barter’s beverage director.

Milano poured a succession of barrel-aged Tipperary cocktails to kick off the restaurant’s Tullamore DEW dinner this week, which pleased Power to no end. “This is my favorite cocktail,” Power said. “When I go out, that’s what I order.” Typically the drink is two ounces of Irish whiskey plus a healthy bit of sweet vermouth and a splash of Green Chartreuse, but Milano subbed Dolin’s deliciously herbal Genepy des Alpes for the Chartreuse, with marvelous results.

The four-course dinner was paired with Tullamore DEW’s four variants – the original, the nutty 10-year, the toffee-ish 12-year and the spicy, 110-proof Phoenix special edition. Barter chef Andrew Dilda had asked Power what he would eat if he were out on the town in Ireland, and naturally the answer was pub food; that inspired the chef’s hearty and rustic menu, which included lamb potpie and a lamb-sausage stuffed rabbit wrapped in bacon.

With pop singers like Rihanna and Lady Gaga referencing Jameson in their lyrics and shows, the Irish whiskey comeback may be a young-professional-driven movement. In Uptown, the heart of that demographic for Dallas, whiskey-centric bar Nickel & Rye is pushing 2 Gingers specials as St. Patrick’s Day draws nigh. Just the same, bar manager Mike Hamilton said, “I don’t expect to sell much more than Jameson.”

Irish whiskey at Trinity Hall
A dram of atypically peaty Connemara 12 at Mockingbird Station’s Trinity Hall.

Go Irish: Tonight’s whiskey dinner at Barter is a celebration of Tullamore DEW

Whiskey cocktail dinner
Do the DEW — with dinner, too. (Image courtesy of Barter)

Whiskey fans: There’s still time to get your name on the list and do that other Dew — Tullamore DEW, that is — at tonight’s whiskey-themed dinner at Barter, in Uptown. On the docket: Four courses, plus four Tullamore DEW interpretations, for $55.

Your host for the evening:  Maurice “Mossie” Power, the Irish whiskey’s lively and ubiquitous Texas ambassador whose charm and joie de vivre somehow make him seem to be always having a better time than you are. Come. Learn his secrets. Have a sampling of the whiskey whose name comes from the Irish town in which it was once produced, plus the initials of one of its early managers, Daniel E. Williams.

Guests will kick off the evening at 6:30 p.m. with one of Barter’s newest cocktails, playfully named for Power and featuring Tullamore DEW in tandem with the fabulous Ancho Reyes, a Mexican-produced ancho-chile-spiced liqueur. Both are now part of the William Grant & Sons spirits family.

Seating is at 7 p.m. As of late last night, the dinner was about three-fourths full. For reservations, call 214-969-6898.

BARTER, 3232 McKinney Ave., Dallas.

 

Hudson Whiskey: It’s what’s for dinner.

The Hudson Whiskey collection. (Photo courtesy of Hudson Whiskey)
The Hudson Whiskey collection. (Photo courtesy of Hudson Whiskey)

In the category of Why Doesn’t This Happen More Often, cocktail-paired dinners is one of the top things on my list. I’ve attended several over the last two years, which for the same time period is fewer times than I’ve been to the dentist, or dropped everything to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on cable, and that’s just wrong.

Well, here comes Whiskey Cake to right the ship. On Monday, Oct. 28, the Plano restaurant and cocktail joint will host Carve and Craft, a five-course dinner highlighted by cocktails featuring the very excellent Hudson Whiskey collection. If you know nothing about Hudson, that’s not a problem: Gable Erenzo, the company’s owner, distiller and brand ambassador, will be on hand to fill in the blanks.

If you know nothing about Whiskey Cake, that’s an issue. The place emerged onto the scene about two years ago and was one of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s original craft cocktail bars. Its beverage program, still under the able leadership of Sean Conner, mirrors Whiskey Cake’s self-proclaimed “farm-to-kitchen” philosophy, with drinks incorporating items from the restaurant’s adjoining garden.

Plano's Whiskey Cake. (Photo courtesy of Whiskey Cake)
Plano’s Whiskey Cake, getting down with whiskey on Oct. 28. (Photo courtesy of Whiskey Cake)

From the looks of it, this dinner will not suck. (A menu preview is below.) The best part is, it’s only 35 bucks.

Capacity is limited to 60 and remaining availability is very limited. Call the restaurant to make a reservation, but if you don’t catch this one, there’s more good news: This won’t be your last chance. “We do dinners like this pretty much quarterly,” says Whiskey Cake’s marketing director Katie Allen.

The best way to keep tabs on the action, she says, is to follow the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Here’s an abbreviated version of the menu for the Oct. 28 dinner, which gets underway at 7 pm:

Course One: Hudson New York Corn

Charred octopus with green olive, chorizo, marble potato, and salsa verde

Course Two: Hudson Baby Bourbon

Cold smoked BBQ tuna ribs with marinated watermelon and jalapeno mint vinaigrette

Course Three: Hudson Four Grain Bourbon

Dry-aged sirloin, iceberg lettuce, vintage Irish cheddar, onion marmalade, 1000 island, 3 inch brioche bun

Course Four: Hudson Single Malt

Local sheep’s milk ricotta agnolotti with duck pancetta, black trumpet mushrooms, and horseradish on marrow bones

Course Five: Hudson Manhattan Rye

Cardamom doughnuts with roasted banana, sea salt pastry cream, and maple rye

WHISKEY CAKE, 3601 Dallas Parkway, Plano.  972-993-2253.

Come meet this guy: Hudson Whiskey's Gable Erenzo. (Photo courtesy of Hudson Whiskey)
Come meet this guy: Hudson Whiskey’s Gable Erenzo. (Photo courtesy of Hudson Whiskey)

Doing it the Old Fashioned way: Dallas bartenders face off at whiskey competition

By Charlie Tips Ferrin, Smyth
This apple-walnut Old Fashioned earned 2nd-place honors.

“We’re kind of scrunched for space, but I’m doing the best I can,” Ryan Sumner said as he kicked off the Clyde May’s Whiskey Old-Fashioned competition at The People’s Last Stand with a version featuring apple bitters, demerara syrup and the French bitter Suze.

Consider this post Old-Fashionably late: It’s been a couple of weeks since 16 bartenders vied for the top prize of $500, each with up to six minutes to make and present their drink for the judges. Clyde May’s was the vehicle here, an apple-ish, bordering-on-caustic whiskey with some colorful moonshine roots, and each contestant spun a different version of the cocktail stalwart while adhering to its traditional mix of whiskey, sweetener, bitters and water.

Clyde Mays Old Fashioned competition
Chase Streitz of Sissy’s Southern Kitchen, serving up his twist on the classic cocktail.

Cinnamon, vanilla, peach and, of course, apple were popular flavors. One of my favorite versions came from Greg Matthews of Oak Cliff’s Ten Bells Tavern, who froze Mudsmith Coffee’s steeped coffee into cubes and punctuated his whiskey concoction with a vanilla sugar made with Mexican vanilla beans, hazelnut bitters and a vanilla/hazelnut garnish.

Clyde Mays Old Fashioned competition
The vanilla-accented version from Ten Bells’ Greg Matthews featured coffee ice cubes.

La Duni’s Daniel Guillen shone, too, gussying up his Old Fashioned with sherry, Campari and a roasted red pepper and pecan jam. And Smyth’s Charlie Tips Ferrin, like his compatriot Sumner, served his summery green apple/walnut drink in little mason jars – “in the spirit of the moonshine that it came from,” he said.

Clyde Mays Old Fashioned competition
Ryan Fussell of Ruth’s Chris Steak House prepares his drink’s fig garnish.

Brad Bowden of The People’s Last Stand infused his whiskey with smoked peaches, while Ryan Fussell of Ruth’s Chris Steak House strived to use ingredients that would have been available in the 1800s, when the classic cocktail was born. He topped it with a warm fig garnish. (“Figs are badass,” pronounced photographer Mary Szefcyk, clearly impressed with the choice.)

Brad Bowden of The People's Last Stand infused Clyde Mays with smoked peaches for his entry.
Brad Bowden of The People’s Last Stand infused whiskey with smoked peaches for his entry.

In the end it was Smyth’s Omar YeeFoon who walked away with top honors, flavoring his version with Plantation 5-year-old rum, Angostura and tiki bitters, cane syrup and a light dash of orange oils.  With Ferrin placing second and Sumner taking third, it was a Smyth sweep, which if nothing else proved the speakeasy boys could come through in scrunch time.

Clyde Mays Old Fashioned competition
Smyth’s Omar YeeFoon with the double-stir on his way to the evening’s top honors.

And if you’d like to see Smyth’s Ryan Sumner explain the method behind his Old Fashioned twist, here’s a link to my YouTube video:

Old Fashioned variation, from Smyth’s Ryan Sumner

A whisky investment: Glenfiddich’s 50 Year Old Single Malt is on the table

Event at San Antonio's Bar 1919
Not for the thrifty: Only 50 of these bottles are available worldwide.

When you’ve got an extra $1,500 bumping out of your pants pocket, it’s always nice to consider buying a new suit, or paying off the loan sharks, or maybe taking that long-threatened trip to Buenos Aires. Now, life has suddenly become more complicated: Glenfiddich is offering tastes of its 50 Year Old Single Malt Whisky (and more) for $1,500 a pop.

Only 50 bottles of the precious, half-century-old elixir are available worldwide, so don’t be thinking you’re just going to run down to your local Goody Goody and grab one off the shelves. (Besides, just one of these limited-edition bottles runs between $25,000 and $27,000.)

Instead, consider this exclusive tasting. And then mark your calendars for Wednesday, Sept. 4, and head down to San Antonio’s hidden-away, whiskey-rich Bar 1919.  The 7 p.m. event will also feature a five-course meal from Stefan Bowers, executive chef at nearby Feast (where, by the way, I recently had the pleasure of having the best breakfast sandwich ever), and a sampling of other collectible single malts like the Glenfiddich 30 Year Old and 1974 Vintage.

“This whisky is the jewel in Glenfiddich’s crown and amongst the most valuable whiskies ever released,” says Glenfiddich ambassador David Allardice, who will host the event.

The taste is described as initially sweet with a zesty orange marmalade and vanilla toffee, followed by a series of layers: aromatic herbs, floral and soft fruits, oak tannin and hints of smoke. Being a man of modest means, I will have to take their word for it, but those of you equipped to take this plunge will (purportedly) experience an exceptionally long finish with a touch of dry oak and a trace of peat. Zesty, oaky, smoky, fruity, peaty: There’s $1,500 worth of adjectives going on here, my fancy friends.

Bar 1919 is located in a lower level of the Blue Star Arts Complex at 1420 South Alamo, Suite 001, San Antonio. Attendance is limited, and reservations can be made at (210) 227-1420.

The event invite: If you go, I demand a full report.
The event invite: If you go, I demand a full report.