This Weekend’s Whisky: Peach Mist

I often defend those who are considered snobs because some things simply are better than others, and the so-called snobs are telling the truth about it, even though their approach may be lacking in tact. With this in mind, I’ll remind readers that yes, I know that expensive whisky is almost always better than the cheaper stuff because of the time, effort, and ingredients involved. Talisker 30-Year-Old Scotch, for example, is simply sublime–among the best I’ve had–but it costs $350. What if you don’t want to spend $350 on a bottle of whisky, or even $35? Can you get a decent bottle of whisky for, say, ten bucks? Well, I tried one last night that I enjoyed, and I didn’t know the price while I was drinking it, assuming it was in the $25 ballpark. Nope, the new Peach Mist, from the makers of Canadian Mist, is smooth, balanced, and just sweet enough, and it only costs $10 a bottle, an excellent value. 

Peach Mist is among a trio of new flavored whiskys from Canadian Mist, which also includes Cinnamon Mist and Maple Mist, and honestly, I didn’t expect to like it very much. I appreciate the taste of whiskey on its own, and many flavored spirits tend to be too sweet and artificial-tasting for me. But I poured myself a small tumbler of it and added three ice cubes and was impressed from the start.

The medium-sweet peach flavor melded nicely with the austerity of the whiskey, creating a balanced drink perfect for sipping. But the best part is that it tastes like real peaches are involved, not some chemical-tinged peach flavor created in a laboratory, and not the cloyingly sweet taste of school cafeteria-style canned peaches in heavy syrup. No, I tasted peaches fresh from the green market, light, flavorful, refreshing, and almost fibrous in texture. The real deal. You could infuse your own peach whisky I suppose, but that sounds like a sticky proposition. Much easier to let the Canadians do the work for you. Ten bucks.  

Peach Mist is perfectly nice on its own, but it seems designed to be used in cocktails, like the Peach Tea-Ser (I know, they made up the name, not me). It’s a mix of Peach Mist and sweet tea, and probably tastes like spiked peach tea. I reckon you could use Arizona Iced Tea or Snapple, and if you poured it in a pretty glass and serve it with panache, people would think you spent a lot more on your cocktail ingredients than you actually did. 

So if you only have ten bucks to spend on a bottle of whisky, and you’d like something versatile enough to drink straight or mix into cocktails, Peach Mist is a good bet. I’m thinking of mixing up a big cooler of Peach Tea-Ser and taking it to the park this weekend. But I’ll probably think up a better name for it first. 

[BlackBook New York Nightlife Guide; More by Victor Ozols; Follow Me on Twitter]

Jameson and Mount Gay Make Surprise Liquor Cameos on ‘Mad Men’

I have a theory about Mad Men. Actually, I have lots of theories, but my most recent theory is that the horrible mistake from two episodes ago–in which Joan says she has a reservation at Le Cirque, at a time (1968) when Le Cirque wouldn’t have been open yet (it debuted in 1974)–wasn’t a mistake at all. It was a gift to viewers who giddily analyze every frame, and every utterance, for historical accuracy. Something to make them feel good about themselves, a reward for their vigilance. Sure, Matthew Weiner himself said it was an oopsie, but that’s hard to believe. I used to be a fact checker, and there’s no question research went over the script. It’s unlikely they’d miss it, especially in this era of finding answers within 1.3 seconds of entering a query into Google. So, as far as I’m concerned, Mad Men is rock solid in its historical accuracy, which is why it’s so fun for me, a spirits writer, to see what liquor bottles show up on the show. This season (Season 6) has had some great cameos. Let’s review a few.

It’s been long established that Don Draper is a whiskey guy, while Roger Sterling prefers vodka. Different spirit, different glass.

We’ve seen plenty of Draper’s whisky of choice, Canadian Club, which is a light, easy-to-drink, satisfying whiskey from our friends up north who kept us sozzled during Prohibition. When I was a little kid in the ’70s, my parents had an ancient, untouched bottle of Canadian Club in the pantry, so it tugs at my nostalgic side a bit. It’s a fine whiskey, if a bit milder than many of the more aggressive bourbons and Scotches today–perfect to mix with ginger ale in a tall glass with ice.

Sterling’s vodka has oscillated between Smirnoff and Stolichnaya. Similarly, my folks had bottles of both, which they only opened if guests came by. Smirnoff has been around for eons, and despite its very affordable price, it tastes great. I love pointing out to people how it won the New York Times blind taste test back in 2005, and I’ll never forgive Smirnoff for not capitalizing on it until years later. I mean, how can you not take advantage of a gift like that? Insanity. 

The Stolichnaya, or "Stoli," as the cool people call it, is a special case. It wasn’t widely available in the U.S. until 1972, when an agreement was brokered between the U.S. and Soviet Union to trade U.S. distribution rights for Stoli for Soviet distribution rights for Pepsi. But Roger Sterling is a man of influence and connections, and he’s found a way, in 1968, to keep the Stoli flowing in the office. (Initially he had it sent from a friend in Greece.) For those who were alive during this period (I was born in 1970) there was an intriguing "otherness" to Stoli. It came from our Cold War enemies, so it was forbidden fruit, much like Cuban cigars after the fall of Batista. The bottle looked like no other. Still does. 

There are other spirit brands on the show, including Lancers wine from Portugal that Joan was serving her mom and sister at dinner, but it was two other bottles that caught my eye in a recent episode. Joan is pictured at her desk, and over her left shoulder, one can see a collection of bottles that include Jameson Irish Whiskey and Mount Gay Barbados Rum.

I found this fascinating, because I just learned about the import history of Irish whiskey at a Powers whiskey event at the Dead Rabbit. The reluctance on behalf of the Irish to enter into export contracts with the U.S. until Prohibition was officially repealed gave Scotch producers a big jump on them. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Ireland began a big push into the American market for its whiskey, and it began with Jameson because it had the most name recognition. So that bottle of Jameson on Joan’s cabinet would have been one of the first bottles in the U.S., and her position as a partner in a Madison Avenue advertising agency no doubt put it on her radar.

As for the Mount Gay, I don’t know quite as much about its history as a U.S. consumer product in the late 1960s, but I do know this: Mount Gay is the oldest "official" rum, with a surviving distillery deed from Barbados dating to 1703. So it was certainly around back in the 1960s, and any firm with a connection to Great Britain (RIP Layne Pryce), and thus, Barbados, would know about it. It’s also long been the rum of sailors, so men with sailing as a hobby might have a penchant for the stuff. In any case, I love Mount Gay and was thrilled to see it on one of my favorite shows.

Now I’ve got to know when Mount Gay first started appearing on U.S. liquor store shelves. If it wasn’t the most popular rum in New York in 1968, what was? Give me your informed opinions and reckless speculation in the comments. 

[For New York’s best bars, visit the BlackBook City Guide. Related stories: Canadian Club’s Boardwalk Empire Package Celebrates Prohibition Era; A Humble Old Label Ices its Rivals; Jameson Tries to Reinvent the Beer and a Shot; 310-Year-Old Mount Gay Comes Out With a Spiffy New Rum; Sipping Powers John’s Lane Whiskey at the Dead Rabbit; A Few Observations on the Launch of Bunnahabhain 40-Year-Old Scotch; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Update Your Liquor Cabinet for Summer With Six Brilliant American Bourbons

As the sultry days of summer approach, it’s important to update your whiskey collection accordingly. Don’t laugh, there’s a seasonality to this stuff that keeps you from falling into a boring routine. Scotches take the chill out of winter. Irish whiskies are perfect for welcoming the first green buds of spring. And summer, with its hot days and wild nights, calls for the sweet, fiery flavors of bourbon. (We’ll worry about autumn when it gets here. Rye, maybe. Or Japanese.) Befitting the casual season, bourbon is by far the most laid-back of all brown liquors. It’s affordable, accessible, and versatile. Drink it neat, add some ice, or dilute it with Dr Pepper. Nobody’s going to criticize you. Made from at least 51% corn mash and aged in new, charred-oak barrels, bourbon is the quintessential American spirit, so I spent part of my winter researching some of the best bottles that you might not be familiar with at various price points. Round them up, grab a friend and a couple glasses, and enjoy the ultimate American summer.

If you like the affordability of the most popular bourbons but are curious to try something different, pick up a bottle of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. At just $25, it’s easy on the wallet, leaving you with enough cash for ice, lemonade, and red plastic cups. But don’t think mixing is a requirement. It’s smooth enough for sipping straight, with vanilla flavors and notes of dried fruit. The label’s cool too, and you can impress your drinking buddies by explaining that Buffalo Trace was the name for the ancient paths carved by migrating buffalo that led early American explorers westward.

Creeping upscale, Basil Hayden’s ($37) is a festive whiskey that elevates even the quotidian bourbon-and-cola to great mixological heights. With flavors of banana, vanilla, and pepper, it delivers a quick, satisfying hit with each sip, followed by a relatively ephemeral finish. Refreshing on ice, impressive in cocktails.

Don’t write off Tuthilltown Hudson Four Grain bourbon whiskey just because it’s from New York State. The addition of rye to the standard mix of corn, wheat, and barley gives it a spicy edge that would make any Kentucky distiller proud, while the rest of the cereals add a backdrop of smooth complexity. At $41 for a 375 ml bottle, it leans upscale (there’s the New York part), but it’s so flavorful that a little goes a long way.

Booker’s Bourbon ($50) is bottled at cask strength, from 121 to 127 proof, which makes it a punch in the face when you swig it neat, yet it’s still far smoother than many overproof whiskeys I’ve tasted. That said, it’s at its best when poured over ice and allowed to rest for ten minutes. That’s an eternity, of course, but one that rewards you with a bouquet of woody aromas and opens up a magical forest of flavors, from orange and honey to butterscotch and grass.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked ($55) is unique in that it seeks to accelerate the whiskey aging process by transferring it from one oak barrel to another. The second barrel is toasted twice as long as the first, releasing the vanilla flavors from the wood and allowing notes of banana, pear, and port wine to develop. At this quality level it’s best enjoyed neat, or with one happy ice cube.

My favorite of the bunch also happens to be the most expensive, but not by much. Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey of Topmost Class ($60), from the Buffalo Trace distillery, is a classy pour. At 100 proof, it’s one of those a rare cask strength whiskey that you can drink neat without putting your fist through the wall. Sure, you’ll find some fire in your tumbler, but it gives way to flavors of cinnamon, birch, and the faintest wisp of cream, followed by a finish as long as its name. It’s at once rustic, classic, and upscale, and I’d love to see somebody order it as their bottle service spirit of choice at a fancy nightclub. Clear all those mixers off the table, just leave the water and ice. It’s nice to have something this upscale in the bourbon category. It’s loose and mellow like any of its contemporaries, just a bit more refined.

[Into experimenting with bourbon? Drop by a bourbon-centric bar or restaurant, like Manhattan’s Whiskey Ward or Brooklyn’s Fette Sau. Not suprisingly, some of the best bourbon bars in the country are in Louisville, Kentucky, so peruse BlackBook’s Louisville City Guide for a rail that’s right for you. It was compiled by Louisville.com’s Zach Everson, a bourbon enthusiast and longtime friend of BlackBook.]

310-Year-Old Mount Gay Comes Out With a Spiffy New Rum

I love talking about rum, because rum has a great story behind it, and its story might best be embodied by Mount Gay, the Barbados distiller known as the "rum that invented rum." They’ve got a pretty good claim to that, as the oldest surviving official deed for the company dates to 1703, which happens to be 310 years ago. I visited Barbados in 2011 and had the pleasure of meeting Mount Gay’s master blender, Allen Smith, who showed me around the distillery and taught me quite a bit about rum. Yesterday, he returned the favor by visiting me in New York, dropping by the office to introduce the latest marque in the Mount Gay rum portfolio: Mount Gay Black Barrel.

Mount Gay Black Barrel is a tasty yet versatile rum, smooth enough for straight sipping and flavorful enough to mix into cocktails that still taste like rum cocktails. I tried it neat, and noticed a spicy, woody aroma and flavors of pepper, vanilla, and caramel. It doesn’t need ice, just a glass. However, at a suggested retail price of $30, it’s great for mixing, and I tried it with just about the simplest cocktail there is: rum and ginger ale. The flavors mingled harmoniously in my mouth, the ginger dancing with the spicy edge of the sugar cane-based spirit. Even in a cocktail, the rum kept its character, gracefully carrying on a lineage that dates back countless generations.

So why is it fun to talk about rum? Because you can impress people by telling them, over tumblers of rum, that rum is the original spirit of the Caribbean. It came about because sugar producers had a whole bunch of molasses, which is a byproduct of sugar production, that they didn’t know what to do with. They had so much sticky molasses that they’d dump barrels of it into the ocean, until some genius realized that you could distill it into alcohol. The white "kill devil" rum was shipped to the New World in barrels, and after long journeys, the recipients realized that the time it spent in wooden barrels made it smooth and less harsh tasting, as well as giving it a nice amber color. (You can also tell people that, unlike most spirits, rum is gluten-free.)

And the rest is history. Okay, there’s plenty of dark history involving the slave trade and the inhumane things people did to each other back then, but through it all, rum just kept getting better and better, with Mount Gay being joined by other producers, from Appleton in Jamaica to Bacardi in Cuba (and, later, Puerto Rico).

But as for the Mount Gay Black Barrel, it gets the name because it’s mellowed in charred bourbon oak barrels, which look black on the inside. But whatever the name, it’s a fine pour, punching well above its price point in quality. Mount Gay Black Barrel will be widely available in April, where you’ll be able to enjoy it in such bars as Manhattan’s Rum House. Can’t wait until then? Hang out with me. Allen left me a bottle. It won’t last long.

[Related: Rum, Sunsets, and Bliss in BarbadosFoster the People Downs Rum Cocktails at LexBar; Parceling Through our Favorite Rums; BlackBook Guide to Barbados]

Karlsson’s Vodka Batch 2009, or, What It’s Like to Drink 17 Pounds of Fancy Potatoes

For years, the wine world has placed a lot of importance on the concept of terroir–the place and conditions under which grapes are grown. The idea is that identical grape varietals will produce uniquely different flavors depending on whether they’re grown in, say, the volcanic soil of the Greek islands or the gravel and clay fields of Bordeaux. It’s a fun concept to think about, because you can imagine you’re drinking in the essence of a place, mountains, waterfalls, and all. The way I see it, if terroir really is a thing and not a bunch of bullfeathers, it’s a marketing coup: the physical embodiment of all the intangible attributes that have long been used to sell booze. And there’s no reason wine drinkers should have all the fun. Now beer and spirits people have terroir on the brain, making much of the ideal conditions in which the ingredients used to make their various liquids are grown. But among all boozes, vodka is perhaps the least likely candidate for differentiation based on terroir. After all, its very definition calls for it to be "odorless, colorless, and tasteless," so what difference does it make where its cereals come from? Perhaps quite a bit, if the smooth Karlsson’s Vodka Batch 2009 is any indication.

The unique thing about Karlsson’s Batch 2009 is that it’s made from very fancy virgin potatos which are grown in the southwest of Sweden, and I’d almost swear I can taste the fresh North Sea air in my martini.

Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, the standard bearer of the Karlsson’s line, is known and respected in bartender circles. It’s made with a blend of several varietals of virgin new potatoes, and stands out from its competitors by actually having some flavor, a rarity among vodkas where disappearing is almost the goal. Karlsson’s Batch 2009 is made from just one specific type of potato, the Solist potato, which are planted in March and harvested around Midsummer, when the Swedish days are at their longest. And they’re grown in an area called Cape Bjäre, which might be about as pristine as New Jersey’s Meadowlands for all I know, but sounds like a very pretty, clean, and fertile place. 

In America we’re used to potatoes being rather cheap (the reason french fries accompany every fast food meal) but Solist potatoes are very pricey, retailing at around $100 per pound. Amazingly, Karlsson’s says they use more than 17 pounds of them for each bottle. I’m not exactly sure how the math works–the bottles go for $80 per–but suffice to say they’re some precious spuds.

I opened the potato-shaped bottle and poured two shots over ice in a small tumbler, giving it a swirl and a minute to settle. Then I picked it up and nosed it, getting the faintest whiff of celery, but not much else. It’s definitely a true vodka that way – it smells like a snowstorm. A sip revealed much more. It’s dry at first, followed by a vegetal note, before settling to reveal a pleasant sweetness. As with other potato vodkas I’ve tasted, it’s a bit smoother than most rye and wheat vodkas. It’s also very soft in the mouth without having an oily feeling. It’s an excellent sipping vodka with a story to tell. I like it.

But is a single-year, single-varietal potato vodka that much different than other vodkas? If you’re the type to pay attention to what you’re drinking it is.  And while it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference if you just mix it with Coke, the Batch 2009 would add a nice savory element to certain cocktails – or at the very least get cozy with a couple of plump olives. So, terroir is a factor in vodka? Tastes like it to me.

Karlsson’s Vodka is available at such fashionable spots as PDT in New York. 

Drinking On the Edge With Eric Andre

It’s Friday night in New York’s East Village, and everybody’s partying. The Studio under Webster Hall, one of the city’s most enduring nightclubs, is filled to capacity. Actor and comedian Eric Andre has taken his twisted talk show, The Eric Andre Show, on the road, and the crowd can’t wait to be a part of it. The moment he hits the stage, the room explodes with noise and energy, but Andre’s the wildest one in it, jumping out from behind a curtain and immediately tossing drinks, destroying his cardboard desk, knocking over a globe, diving into the audience, and bringing people on stage to dance with him. Just as suddenly, he settles down with exaggerated gravitas to interview guests ranging from the real Sally Jessy Raphael to a fake Russell Brand. Andre shows films of man-on-the-street bits—one involving him arriving at a Mensa meeting dressed in a suit of armor—and hams it up with bits like Doc Chicken, which involves a rubber fowl wearing a stethoscope flying across the stage suspended from a string while disco music plays. His show has only been on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim for one season, but his fan base is devoted, following every movement of the wild-haired, 29-year-old, Haitian-Jewish-American entertainer.

And now it’s Saturday night in Chelsea, and Andre and I are at *The Tippler, an industrial-chic cocktail bar beneath Chelsea Market that raises mixology to an art form. As we take our seats, Andre tells me that he’s as surprised as anyone about the success of his live show. “I was expecting three people in the audience,” he says. “And two of them would be bartenders.” Here comes a bartender now. Alan Denniberg—who also plays in a band called Jen Urban & the Box—is mixing us a selection of cocktails that represent the cutting edge of ingredients, flavors, and presentation, and we’re loving it. Andre’s not as animated as he is on stage, where he risks serious injury with every flop and dive (“The adrenaline protects me,” he says), but he’s just as sharp and funny, riffing off the various drinks that Denniberg delivers, a mix of Tippler house cocktails and his own recipes. We spend two hours hanging out before Andre heads to the airport to fly back to Los Angeles, where, in addition to his own show, he appears in the ABC sitcom Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. But first, cocktails.

Derek Smalls

Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka, Averna Sambuca Agrumi, Honey Syrup, Cucumber Juice, Grapefruit Juice, Lemon Juice, Mint, Bittercube Jamaican #1 Bitters.

“This is nice. I want to drink it outside. It makes me want to put on a bathrobe and go sit in a meadow with my taint touching the grass. It feels healthy, like the spirit of Jack LaLanne on a juice fast.”

Spazerac

Redemption Rye Whiskey, Absinthe, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters.

“Oh that’s good. I wish I had this when I was younger, along with some Charleston Chew and some hash, so I could watch Ninja Turtles ironically. This is Muppet blood. It’s what you get when you jam Gonzo into a meat grinder.”

Shotgun Wedding

Compass Box Great King St. Blended Scotch, Smith & Cross Navy Strength Rum, Cynar, Allspice Dram, Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub Bitters.

“This is deceiving because there’s a slice of grapefruit in it. It looks sweet but it tastes like a curmudgeonly writer. It’s like putting a little pink top hat on Charles Bukowski’s head.”

Viola Royale

El Dorado 3-Year-Old White Rum, Plymouth Gin, Crème de Violette, Luxardo Maraschino, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Champagne.

“Wow, this is floral. It’s like a bouquet of roses bukkake-ing on my face. This is what the cougar at the wedding drinks.”

The Buck Stops Here

Santa Teresa 1796 Solera-Aged Rum, Fernet-Branca, Orgeat, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Ginger Beer.

“This one is like a delicious cake with nutrients. I feel like it’s improving my health. It’s something your doctor would prescribe for you, if your doctor is Dr. Awesome.”

*Do you enjoy drinking in New York bars? Then check out BlackBook’s New York Guide for all the best spots. Raise your nightlife game by downloading the City Guides app for iPhone and Android if you like. And to really be a pure player, sign up for BlackBook Happenings, a fun, informative, non-spammy email newsletter with the latest and greatest goings-on, delivered to your inbox every Monday. 

Prohibition Was Repealed 79 Years Ago Yesterday

Raise a glass, you goddamn drunk. It’s thanks to prodigious Boardwalk Empire-style violence in the bootlegging world that teetotalers like Rockefeller reversed their support for the law that said you couldn’t. In the thirteen years prior to 1933, the distillation, serving, and imbibing of booze were tragically illegal in these United States. So apologies in advance, but if you’re not sipping lovely brown Kentucky bourbon at this very moment, you may be arrested for treason.

Okay, it doesn’t have to be bourbon. It just has to be something brewed in this country to count (meaning Budweiser is out; catch the next slow boat to Belgium, pal). Acceptable drinks would be: something microbrewed on Cape Cod, trendy designer small-batch gin, California sparkling wine, or actually-still-illegal moonshine that makes you lose your sense of smell for a few days, no big deal. Canadian Club is permitted for its historic smuggleability.

If possible, drinks should be consumed in public, at a bar or in full view of a police officer. Don’t be fazed when he tries to write you a ticket. Just patiently explain that Prohibition has been off the books nearly a century at this point, so there’s no need for legal penalties. You’ve got the freedom to drink whatever and stumble wherever and throw up on whomever you like—make sure he knows it.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter

Choice New Spirits to Toast the End of Election Season and the Start of Holiday Party Season

Whether the results of the presidential election leave you with joy to celebrate or sorrows to drown, you ought to do so with something new, interesting, and delicious. It’s been a banner year for innovative spirits, with exciting new releases (liquor companies call them “expressions”) of everything from American whiskey to Scotch beer to Mexican tequila. Brown liquors are getting woodier, sweet liqueurs are dressing up to party, and you won’t believe what brewers are doing with barley and hops these days. So don’t wait until you’re invited to your first jingle ball to break out the good stuff. Pick up a couple of choice bottles, pour a generous round, and raise your glasses to the blissful realization that you won’t be beaten over the head with a barrage of Super PAC attack ads for another three years at least. Happy holidays indeed.

Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey ($250) Light and grassy, balanced with lime and honey notes, and competitive with all but the finest Scotches. Dare to be different.

Balvenie DoubleWood 17-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($130) A smart, grown up whisky with black cherry and vanilla flavors. Tastes rich.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon ($50) Spicy, woody, and all-American. Drink it in a cabin.

Qui Platinum Extra Añejo Tequila ($57) When we finished editing the last issue of BlackBook, the editors gathered around my desk for shots of this enticing new tequila. It was universally agreed that Qui is smooth and warm with a sweet edge and a kind agave soul.

Kahlúa Midnight ($24) A stronger expression of the Dude’s favorite coffee liqueur. Chill it, shoot it, and conquer the night.

LeSUTRA ($30) This fun, fruity sparkling liqueur from super-producer Timbaland is all about the party. Forget about swirling a snifter of it in the drawing room with your tweed jacket and loyal hunting dog at your side. You need a big beat, some flashing lights, a tall glass filled with ice, and eye candy in every direction. I like the grape version.

Samuel Adams Utopias 10th Anniversary ($160) At nearly 30% ABV, this year’s Utopias is as extreme as extreme beer gets, but this is no novelty project. Drink it like a port and savor the interplay of maple, toffee, and plum flavors.

Innis & Gunn Winter Beer 2012 ($11 for a 4-pack) Scottish porter brewed with molasses and aged in oak barrels. Sounds like it would be sticky and cloying, but it’s smooth, complex, and everything you hope it will be. Just the beer for nights when whisky’s a bit more than you’re looking for.

Krug Grande Cuvée ($165) Okay, this isn’t exactly a new release, but if you’re going to celebrate, you need some bubbly, and I like this one. Grande Cuvée is a crisp, complex, full-bodied champagne with flavors ranging from toast to pears. And I’ll have you New Year’s Eve revelers know, it’s just as delicious on the other 364 days of the year.

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Launches Halfway Day, A Day Dedicated To Drinking Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

“Why can’t there be a holiday that commemorates the fact that St. Patrick’s Day is just six months away,” said nobody ever. Nonetheless, Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey decided that it would be neat to invent a holiday called Halfway Day that celebrates precisely that, and they’re launching it this Monday, September 17, 2012. Gentleman, grab your tumblers.

I joke about it, and fortunately, they do too. In fact, Kilbeggan commissioned a moderately funny Funny or Die video that depicts a bewildered man driven nearly to madness in an attempt to find out what exactly Halfway Day is. (It seems like there should be enough contextual clues to fill him in, but he’s a bit thick, in a male TV sitcom character way.) In any case, the people at Kilbeggan have as much right to make up a holiday as anybody else, since most holidays were created out of whole cloth at some point in history anyway. I mean, Arbor Day, really? And let’s not even get into the real St. Patrick’s Day.
 
And at least Halfway Day is a fun holiday, where you do fun things like going to bars and drinking whiskey. It’s not a day dedicated to doing your laundry or helping the poor or something. And the whiskey works. I sampled some last night, launching my Halfway Day celebration four days early. Established in Ireland in 1757, Kilbeggan is supposedly the world’s oldest distillery, but even if it’s not, they do turn out a nice beverage. According to my tasting notes, it has a fresh aroma of wood and spice, and a smooth, light vanilla flavor. It’s easy to drink neat, and, at about $24 a bottle, is a good choice for whiskey cocktails like a Black and Red, which is basically a Manhattan (whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters) made with Irish whiskey instead of rye or bourbon. I’ll paste two more Kilbeggan cocktail recipes below. 
 
Since Kilbeggan is owned by Beam Inc., which is a very large spirits company, there’s a major push behind Kilbeggan in general and Halfway Day in particular. Look out for Halfway Day parties in Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia on Monday. You can find out where exactly by visiting Kilbeggan’s Facebook page. And if you’re not near one of those bars, your local lounge or publick house probably has it. (I’ve sipped Kilbeggan at Lilium at the W New York – Union Square, an upscale rock ‘n’ roll bar where your drink might be poured by the lovely Michelle Romano. My drinking partner, Jon Glaser, made some funny comments about Kilbeggan.) So go forth and celebrate the fact that St. Paddy’s day–and remember, it’s Paddy’s, not Patty’s—is just six months away. See you at the rail. 
 
Kilbeggan Irish Breakfast Shot
– 1/2 part Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey
– 1/2 part DeKuyper Buttershots Liqueur
– 1 part Orange Juice
– 1 slice of Bacon
To Serve: Enjoy the Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey and DeKuyper Buttershots Liqueur followed immediately by the orange juice. Finish with a slice of bacon.
 
Kilbeggan Dubliner
– 3 parts Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey
– 2 parts Sweet Vermouth
– 1 1/2 parts Cherry Syrup
– 1 1/2 parts Cranberry Juice
– Dash Simple Syrup (optional)
To Serve: Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake for 60 seconds. Strain neat into a martini glass. Garnish with a black cherry.