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Choosing Your Liquor Store.

Choosing the Right Liquor Store.

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Which liquor store is right for you? We’ll get to the more practical considerations, but here is the takeaway: a good liquor store will stock not only your favorite brands, but also a wide variety of your favorite kind of liquor. Of the two, I’d dare say the latter is more important. Only sticking to your trusted brand may eventually settle you into a stale rut, or leave you flailing with indecision when it’s not available in a particular store, at the bar, or in a restaurant. Becoming comfortable with a range of brands allows you to not only select an alternative with confidence, but develop a working list of brands suitable as gifts or recommendations for friends and family.

In the picture above, nearly twenty different bottles of gin are shown. This excludes the bottom and very top shelf varieties cut off by the camera. Try to find a liquor store with at least a dozen different bottles of your favorite liquor available. Unless you really lucked out, this often means the best store will not be your closest store. Don’t panic; even in my relatively small town, I can count at least three that meet this requirement, or are close. The best selection doesn’t always equate to the largest store. Depending on the store owners and their priorities, a small mom-and-pop shop might house an extraordinary collection of select liquors. The best method is to keep an eye out for unexplored stores, with the goal of roaming their aisles in free moments.

How do you know when you’ve found a good store? When you regularly find yourself making wishlists, reading the labels on intriguing bottles, or snapping pictures of shelves, you know you’ve found a winner. A good store preoccupies you with possibilities and future plans. Like a good bookstore, you can easily lose twenty or thirty minutes of time just wandering its aisles.

Once you’ve found some ideal candidates, here are some other considerations:

Rewards Programs. Most moderately-sized liquor stores have some type of reward accrual system that offer regular discounts or coupons after a certain number of points are reached. For example, my nearest liquor store offers $5 off any non-sale item after the goal points are reached. This can help when shopping on a budget or purchasing top shelf items.

Drive-Thru Options. If you have young children or a tight schedule, the freedom to pull up to a window and order your regular bottle is a wonderful luxury. It’s also good for your wallet, as it prevents spendy impulse purchases that weren’t in your liquor budget.

Price. If selection is no issue, be sure to price-shop around for your best buy. $3-$5 price differences shouldn’t break your budget, but if your go-to store is regularly charging $10 more than its competitors for the same bottle, it may be time to move on.

Events, Stocking, & Special Orders. Some stores have regular events, such as tastings, food pairings, and even classes. However, the best events and selection in town won’t matter if they’re always out of stock, or are slow to refill the shelves. A good store also has the option of special orders, but be warned – special order waiting lists can be lengthy, or at the store’s discretion. Of the three special orders I’ve attempted to place at my closest store, only one went through after three months. 

And Finally, a Good Selection of Pints. Want to try that new brand, but not willing to commit to an entire 750 ml? Keep in eye out for stores with dense pint selections behind the counter. Most stores also offer pints of select liqueurs as well that might otherwise break the bank, such as Grand Marnier or Chambord.

Gin Tasting Notes: Gordon’s London Dry Gin

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Gordon’s London Dry Gin

Today I sampled Gordon’s, one of the original grandfathers of London dry gin (since the late 1700s) and the dry martini, so much so that it featured prominently in many vintage martini ads (I’ve added a few images). It still uses the original secret recipe, and replicas of the original pot stills used by Alexander Gordon. But this angel has fallen from grace and is now sold in a plastic bottle on the bottom shelf of any liquor store. I avoid the bottom shelf (and plastic liquor bottles) for good reason since my early college years. But the Distracted Hermit’s on a budget, so today was a fine day to rack my pride, stop giving it the side eye, and try a gin I should have tried a long time ago.

10632632_10207542724503551_6332875360701194438_nImage Source: The Martini, Barnaby Conrad III. All Rights Reserved.

This is the world’s most balanced gin. It’s the gin that gin distillers should be required to consume at least five bottles of and memorize what it means to distill a classic juniper gin, not too overpowering in any of its flavors, not too heavy on the kick, soft on the swallow, nor too sweet and smooth, like the new “modern” gins. It’s the perfectly balanced scale; the center of a spinning compass. It should say to distillers, “This is the classic standard. This is what you build upon.” Plastic bottle aside, the Regans (The Martini Companion) still list this gin as one of their first recommendations out of dozens, and they haven’t lead me astray today. Happy New Year.

946458_10207542724943562_5028877681654445070_nImage Source: The Martini, Barnaby Conrad III. All Rights Reserved.

Step Up Your Martini Game.

Step Up Your Martini Game.

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Christmas present. Thanks Sis! I had this gem on my Amazon wishlist for quite awhile and she finally obliged me. I already switched out the “modern” (bird bath sized) martini glasses for a pair of smaller vintage ones.

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t this a bit superfluous? Do you really need a dedicated cocktail case? First, I want you to envision yourself: Cocktail Aficionado, esteemed by friends and family alike. Will they invite you to their parties? Will they expect you to dazzle them with a recipe or three? Of course they will. Now, I want you to imagine yourself pulling an open cardboard box out of the trunk of your car and huffing up the walkway to your host’s house, bottles and glasses clinking, as you hope there’s no cat or dog underfoot to send you diving face-first into a mess of glass and wasted vermouth. Seems a bit more appealing now, doesn’t it? I bet.

Or, if that scenario doesn’t suit, just imagine the next family Thanksgiving, with those one or two intolerable relatives talking nonstop, and nothing on the table but sparkling cider. You’re welcome.

Gin Tasting Notes: Broker’s London Dry Gin

12392036_10207467121253517_606520314754226261_nBroker’s London Dry Gin

We’re long overdue for a Gin Tasting Note, Vacation Week Edition, which allowed me to languidly stroll the city’s new liquor megastore & line up the latest contestants. Today we have Broker’s London Dry Gin, a London import sporting an adorable English bowler hat on its cap & boasting to be the “best gin in the world,” based on a 2010 NY taste test. I hold the results of this test in strong skepticism, being as they placed Scotland’s Hendrick’s Gin in 6th place, only one spot above New Amsterdam – the cloying, biteless king of the 3rd shelf in liquor stores. Anyone with half a tongue knows that Hendrick’s tastes like fairy magic in your mouth. Anyway. While not a #1, they were definitely on to something, as Broker’s manages to combine the personality of the “new” gin style (smooth sweetness) with the old London dry gin’s kick to the throat that keeps you on your toes. It’s lightly reminiscent of Bombay’s Sapphire, without Sapphire’s schizophrenia. Overall, a sipping gin – good enough to drink neat, with a strong enough personality to give you something to ponder. In a 4:1 clean martini, it produces a surprisingly savory afternote that imitates an olive. In a dirty martini, you may want to add some extra dirt, because this gin absorbs brine while pushing its high notes higher. I ended up adding 3x the brine for it to taste properly dirty.

Gordon Biersch Brewery, Broomfield, CO

Gordon Biersch Brewery

We had a seriously trying, “defining moment” type of day, and we ordered at Gordon Biersch like we’d never eat again. We watched a movie at the best theatre and I bought new boots. Don’t let anyone tell you such activities are not cathartic. They’re lying.

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First things first. Keep in mind, this is a full brew pub with I’m sure some interesting brews on the menu. But it wasn’t that kind of day. I needed it straight, with no nonsense. I ordered a clean gin martini, no garnish. I’ve developed a distrust of restaurant olives, as they tend to be the worst kind, with a low quality, over-the-top brine and garish pimentos. It came in a bird bath-sized glass, but in this era, that cannot be helped. I was a bit suspicious of the “frostiness” of the martini when it arrived, but I discovered to my delight that this was a perfect, finely shaved iced that disappeared within the first two minutes of drinking, leaving the ideal, ice-cold martini. Very well done. I had two.

 

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The meal itself was exquisite: shrimp and salmon carbonara with fried pancetta and topped with a fried egg. The perfect meal for an extremely stressful day.

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I usually turn down dessert since I expect to come home with leftovers, but what the hell. Rich fudge, but not so rich as to make you feel like you’re being taught a lesson.

Overall, the finest experience I’ve had in a long time, including the service. I can’t believe how many times I’ve walked into the movie theatre at Flatirons and only casually glanced at this restaurant. So if you find yourself in the Denver Metro Area, or one of the other rare locations of Gordon Biersch, I thoroughly recommend you drop in.

First Bloody Mary.

12006107_10206889634176701_8572738305941977460_nMy First Bloody Mary Recipe

I’ve probably lost the last of any virtuous qualities, because when I opened my eyes this morning, my first thought was, “I should fry some bacon so I can try out some Bloody Mary recipes.” So here’s my first homemade Bloody Mary, garnished with bacon, heirloom tomato, shrimp and a motherfuckin’ fried oyster. Breakfast is served.

Coquilles St. Jacques & a Ramos Fizz

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Coquilles St. Jacques & a Ramos Fizz

Coquilles St Jacques (scallops gratined in cream and white wine). I had some egg whites left over, so I whipped up a Ramos Fizz, made famous in New Orleans and defined as follows in the 1946 Stork Club Bar Book: 2oz gin, juice of half a lemon, 1 oz cream, 1 egg white, and 2 dashes of orange flower water (substituted orange bitters) and topped with a little seltzer. Feeling very New Orleans lately.