Of Burgers and Rosso

by Victoria D'Olier on August 15, 2011 | Comments Off on Of Burgers and Rosso |

The Resident Beverage Chugger is an exceptionally conscientious gift-giver.  He is not the type to return home with a pair of Manolos because I made him look good at a corporate get-together.  He is the kind of man who will bring home a phenomenal bottle of wine on date night and then suggest we toss it back with burgers, just because.  That, my friends, is living.

While we do our best to maintain a strict budget, from time to time life calls for a splurge, which for us that is a wine in the neighborhood of $40.  Typically I’d advocate spending the money on four $10 bottles (I mean, four times the wine, duh!), but sometimes life calls for something special. Something earthy. Something ruddy. Something Italian. Sometimes, life calls for Rosso.

Red Wine

How good was the pairing? So good we forgot to take a photo of the wine!

Strolling into Kua Aina I could hardly wait to construct the perfect burger to compliment Ceretto’s 2007 Monsordo Rosso Langhe.  A quarter pound burger cooked to medium topped with grilled onions and peppers, provolone and bacon was artistry all its own (thank you, Kua Aina), but sitting back in the setting sun and taking my first sip of smooth, luscious red wine with my burger made it a truly decadent moment.

Perhaps, a bacon burger with grilled veggies is not what one might immediately conjure upon opening said bottle but all the vitello tonnato, bollito misto and truffles in the world could not take away from the one beautiful moment of the stunning first sip.  At the end of the day, isn’t that what wine is supposed to be…a social lubricant to lift the soul, create a smile and a lasting memory?  If not, what is all the fuss about?

That beautiful glass full of deep garnet, blossomed with a nose of tobacco, vanilla, dusty currants and black raspberries.  It sang on the palate with a silky mouth feel, tannins filled with a gentle chew, dried cherries and black tea and added the perfect flourish to an amazing evening. Great wine, great company and a great burger. Sometimes life really is that simple.

The Best Drink on Oahu

by Justin D'Olier on August 9, 2011 | (1) Comment |

Attempting to find the best of anything is an inherently futile endeavor. Everyone has different tastes, styles, and preferences. Attempting to foster agreement on the superiority of a singular item among a group of six (let alone six billion) is more likely to result in a heated argument, three dead chickens, a fractured femur, and an unquantifiable number of new swear words than it is to result in consensus.

With that in mind, when we identify a beverage as “the best” on Drink with Aloha, we don’t mean to bestow a mythical reverence upon it – any more so than normal, anyway – or to imply that you’re wrong if you disagree – you are, but we wouldn’t want to imply that – we simply mean that, in our never humble opinion, the drink attains a level of greatness such that arguing relative quality against similarly divine beverages is purely academic and probably pointless. Simply put, when drinks are that good, why bother arguing? Instead of quibbling over differing levels of perfection – as if perfection had levels – let’s simply agree that such drinks are cause for celebration and move on to more important endeavors, like ridding the world of Miller Chill.

Negroni - ingredients

It takes balls to put aside this much booze for nine weeks

That said, now you know what I mean when I say that the whiskey barrel-aged Negroni at Town is the best drink on the island.

You will not find a better drink on Oahu. You may find one as good. You may find one that you enjoy more. But you will not find one that surpasses it in quality, flavor, or unadulterated undergarment moistening power.

The drink is the brainchild of Town’s new head bartender, Kyle Reutner. Nine weeks ago, Kyle filled an old rye whiskey barrel with equal parts Plymouth Gin, Campari, and Dolin Rouge (a sweet vermouth). What came out resembles a Negroni, provided it was mixed with angel tears, filtered through a unicorn horn, and kissed with a ray of sunlight. It is a beautiful beverage.

An ideal cocktail strives for balance, achieving a harmony between alcoholic strength, sweetness, and a sprinkling of bitterness. When the flavors combine in such a fashion, each aspect of the drink sparkles, creating a whole, far greater than the sum of its parts.

Negroni - loading barrel

Whatever you do, don't spill

The whiskey barrel-aged Negroni does this in spectacular fashion. Over the course of nine weeks, the ingredients have completely fused. There are no singular flavors. You can’t pick out the bitter bite of Campari, it is inextricably melded to the sweet, oxidized vermouth. You can’t pick out the distinctly sweet, herbal juniper notes of Plymouth Gin, they’re perfectly blended with the smoky layers of rye whiskey. Even the orange essence, which Kyle adds by squeezing the oil from an orange peel over the drink and running the peel around the rim of the glass, fuses into the drink as if it had been sitting with the other ingredients in the barrel the last nine weeks. Each flavor has softened and blended, creating a cocktail unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.

Some drinks have layers. This drink is a layer all to itself. It’s less a drink and more a flavor experience.

As of last Saturday, only twenty bottles of whiskey barrel-aged Negroni were left. Once the supply runs out, the drink is gone. Forever.

So, make the trip to Town, sit down at the bar and order the best drink on the island before it’s too late. You deserve the best.

If I tell you Bombay Sapphire tastes like cassia bark will you think I’m a ninny?

by Justin D'Olier on July 27, 2011 | Comments Off on If I tell you Bombay Sapphire tastes like cassia bark will you think I’m a ninny? |

In general, beverages descriptions come across as snobby buffoonery.

I detect a hint of kumquat on the nose. Says the guy who couldn’t pick out a kumquat from the grocery store.

I’m picking up a hint of grapefruit, ginger, and some freshly mowed grass on the mid-palate. When’s the last time you mowed the lawn? You live in an apartment building.

I get a hint of sweetness, like the first drop of morning dew brushed with honeysuckle and a hummingbird’s love song. Someone should elbow you in the crotch.

Don’t get me wrong. There is definitely an art and science to tasting. Beverages have distinct, perceptible characteristics and flavors, many of which leap from the glass. What bothers me is the general assumption that beverage tasting should be a pompous and esoteric exercise. How do we expect people to learn about how a wine (or beer or spirit) smells and tastes if we shroud the process in mystery and pretentious non-words? We need to demystify the tasting process to have any hope of convincing people to trust their palates and break free from the their habitual purchases of Heineken (If craft breweries used green bottles do you think more people would buy them? But, I digress…). I had just such an experience this Monday courtesy of Bombay Sapphire Brand Ambassador, Andrew Mirabito.

Andrew came to Hawaii to judge the Bombay Sapphire / GQ Most Inspired Bartender competition and I had the pleasure of tasting a few of his versions of classic gin cocktails, listening to him speak about the origins of gin and the production methods of Bombay Sapphire, and sitting through the Bombay Sapphire tasting of all time. Let me tell you, a lecture is significantly more pleasant when the subject is alcohol, doubly so when it involves drinking copious amounts of gin. Contrary to popular belief, writing about booze isn’t always a grind.

I learned that Bombay Sapphire is made up of ten botanicals, separated into four unique categories.

– High Notes: Bright & Fresh flavors (juniper berries, lemon peel, coriander)
– Mid Notes: Light & Warm spices (liquorice, almonds, cassia bark)
– Low Notes: Earthy & Aromatic flavors (orris, angelica root)
– Echoes: Floral, Pepper & Spice finish (cubeb berries, grains of paradise)

Bombay Sapphire Tasting

I don't always attend lectures, but when I do, I prefer them to serve 14 shots of gin.

In order to help us pick out each flavor, Andrew supplied botanical kits, which contained small samples of each of the ten ingredients. We got to compare each botanical to a small sample of distilled spirit infused with the aromatic, allowing us to isolate the flavor and get a sense of what it imparted to the spirit. Some of them have a large bold impact – the juniper and lemon peel jump out of the glass and the cubeb berries adds an undeniable spicy kick to the finish – and others simply provide a well rounded flavor profile – if you can detect a solid almond flavor from a shot of Bombay Sapphire I think you could get a job as a drug dog – but when you compare the finished product to the individual flavors, you understand each flavor’s unique place in the drink.

The lecture was an eye opening experience and one that deserves to be shared with other alcohol enthusiasts. I don’t think I’d be able to pick out any of the ingredients blind tasting – Is that a hint of cassia bark on the nose? – but I have a much better sense of the flavor of Bombay Sapphire and the unique character each of the ten ingredients provides.

So, the next time you’re pouring yourself a Sapphire Martini, find the jar of coriander hidden in the back of your spice rack from the last time you made Indian food and see if you can detect a hint of the subtle spice lingering somewhere in the aromatics of the gin. If you have some dried lemon peel, marvel how the bitter sweet aromatic hangs over the top of the alcohol. Each of the ten ingredients is hanging out in the complex, spicy nose of Bombay Sapphire, waiting for you to find it. Just please, whatever you do, don’t act like a pompous ass when you tell someone you taste the cubeb berries on the finish.

Brewgene: Nerding Out While Drinking Out

by Joshua Hampton on July 19, 2011 | (1) Comment |

For those of you (like me) who enjoy objectifying an inherently subjective experience, Brewgene is for you. Brewgene is a website and iPhone app that allows users to rate any of the 40,000 beers in their comprehensive database and then aggregates these ratings on a five star scale using a “complex algorithm” (geek speak for finding the mean). Using the data from your ratings, Brewgene tries to provide reliable recommendations for new and exciting brews; think Netflix recommendations for beer.


Brewgene: For the forgetful, technologically savvy drunk on the go

Brewgene also provides a “People Who Liked This Beer Also Liked” list. I haven’t found it all that useful thanks to the leagues of die hard macrobrew fans who gladly violate the sanctity of the brew gods by giving Coors Light a 4.5 star rating (*le sigh*).

One feature of Brewgene I do like is “My Beer Cellar”, an organized list of all the beers you’ve rated. Given the nature of beer tastings it’s even more useful than you’d think; the more you enjoy a beer, the more you typically drink, hence the less you are likely to remember what the deuce it was called in the morning. Brewgene lets electrons take responsibility for what your brain cells can’t handle. (I said what about Miller High Life???).

Another interesting and revealing feature is the “Top 100 Beers” section. The preferences of users can be seen here and, despite an interesting pick at the top spot (Guinness Draught? Really, guys?), the Top 100 Beers provide a snapshot of a fairly sophisticated and diverse beer-loving community. If you wish, you can also weigh in (as I have) on certain beers you find noteworthy or notorious.

One caveat: I’ve noticed that the “complex algorithm” for generating recommendations takes a long-ass time (that’s a technical beer term, equivalent to the duration it takes to choke down a case of Miller High Life) to give you what you want. After rating 15 beers, the recommendation feature still needed more information before it could provide me with a suggestion. I finally quit after about 30 ratings, and it wasn’t until I signed in the next day that Brewgene had proffered a few recommendations. Though the speed left something to be desired, the recommendations did not. They consisted of six pages of beers I’ve never tried or heard of with descriptive tasting notes from other hopheads.

Overall, I think Brewgene is a fun and mostly worthwhile app that has legs if enough people use it and build up the data pool. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to keep track of and discover new beers that suit their tastes or to officially record your thoughts about the wonder that is Miller Chill.


Farewell, Mr. Power. We’ll Miss You.

by Justin D'Olier on July 12, 2011 | (2) Comments |

Everyone remembers their first time.

The excitement. The nervousness. The awkwardness. The fear of fully placing your trust in someone else. The fumbling. The indescribable feelings. The brief moment of wondering whether it’s actually happening and whether you’re doing it right. The incredible rush of sensation and flavor. The search for the right words and wondering whether it’s appropriate to say anything. And, when it’s all over, the powerful sense of calm, contentment, and desire to do it all over again and again and again.

Losing your cocktail virginity is a watershed moment for every drinker and I’ll always remember Dave Power for taking mine.

Dave Power

This man took my virginity.

Eight months ago I attended a special cocktail themed wine-down Wednesday at Town, the first event officially recorded by Drink with Aloha, where Dave paired a series of dazzlingly diverse, pants-wettingly delicious drinks with Town’s fabulous food, culminating in a Guinness cocktail matched with a wild mushroom risotto that shook the foundation of my pedestrian palate and made me rethink the concept of cocktails. His combination of cocktail wizardry, ingenuity, balance, restraint and, most importantly, fervent passion for making, sharing, and discussing his creations literally and figuratively  knocked my socks off (an impressive feat considering I wore slippers that night). From that moment on, I have been a devoted denizen of the Church of Power.

I quickly learned that I was not alone.

Everyone I talked to that made or imbibed cocktails lauded the ability of Dave Power. The only person who doesn’t consider Dave Power one of the best bartenders in Hawaii is Dave Power (yet another reason to love him). He makes drinks without ego or agenda. If he borrows a recipe he credits it on the menu. He goes out of his way to ascribe the quality of his drinks to anyone or any thing other than himself. He just wants to share his joy and wealth of knowledge about all things cocktail with anyone fortunate enough to cozy up to his bar. Above all, his zeal, passion, and borderline childlike enthusiasm for the craft of cocktail defined the Dave Power experience.

He’d explain that, among bourbons, Maker’s Mark uses that most wheat making it the most sweet and Bulleit uses the most rye making it the most spicy, leaving every other bourbon to fall somewhere in between.

He’d detail how he tracked down each of the 17,265 ingredients for Don the Beachcomber’s long lost secret Zombie recipe.

Dave didn’t serve drinks, he served stories in six ounce installments; glasses of gluggable history; a quaffable crash course on cocktails.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, July 16th, after three unbelieveable years behind the bar at Town, Dave Power is taking his talents to the Garden Isle. That’s right, as of Monday, the Top 5 must-see Kauai landmarks (in no particular order) will be as follows:

1. Na Pali coastline
2. Waimea Canyon
3. Kalalau Trail
4. Poipu
5. Dave Power

(For the record, Dave narrowly knocks the Koloa Rum Distillery out of the Top 5 by virtue of the fact that he can make cocktails with Koloa Rum. Postcards Cafe, Tropical Taco, the cinnamon knuckles at Kalaheo Coffee Company (mmm….knuck), and the wine and cheese selection at the Princeville Foodland – the best underground gourmet grocery store selection in the civilized world – round out the Top 10.  No, Hamura’s Saimin did not merit consideration for the list. It’s noodles in a bowl, people. Calm down.)

Kauai’s gain is Oahu’s loss and Dave’s knowledge, ability, and flair for imagination, will be sorely missed.

Luckily, for Oahu residents, the cocktail service at Town won’t skip a beat. Kyle Reutner, Town’s regular Thursday bartender, will assume the role of head bartender and if anyone can match Dave’s compendium of cocktail knowledge, it’s Kyle. Kyle shares Dave’s passion for simple, classic cocktails and I can assure you, with complete and utter confidence, that the drinks and Town will continue to moisten your drawers. (Yes, you will still need to bring an extra pair of underwear if you order cocktails at Town.)

But, we’ll miss Dave Power.

We’ll miss his goofy grin and trying to figure out what it meant…he’s like the Mona Lisa of cocktails.

We’ll miss the magical glint in his eye that lit up like a Filipino Christmas tree every time someone asked him to make them a drink.

Most of all, we’ll miss his smiling face behind the bar, ready to greet us and accomodate every request with grace and class.

We will miss you, Dave Power. We will miss you a lot.

We know you’re moving on to great things, but you will be sorely missed. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we need to research group rates on flights to Kauai.

Tales from Orlando: A Delightful Tower of Alcoholic Shame

by Justin D'Olier on July 1, 2011 | Comments Off on Tales from Orlando: A Delightful Tower of Alcoholic Shame |

After my family’s initial culinary adventure at T-Rex we decided to round out our tour of Orlando’s finest animal themed culinary experiences at Rainforest Cafe, the original immersive animatronic dining establishment. For the uninitiated, Rainforest Cafe is a jungle themed restaurant or, perhaps more appropriately, a restaurant themed jungle. The interior of the eatery is a floor to ceiling replica of a rainforest, complete with dense foliage and animatronic animals. If you ever wanted to eat fried cheese sticks in the shadow of a robot gorilla, Rainforest Cafe is the place for you.

Rainforest Cafe was created by the same fine folks who envisioned T-Rex, so it came as no surprise when that the drink menu featured a similar selection of Frankenstienesque cocktails, only marginally more believable than the robot sloth hanging perilously above my head.

After a quick perusal of the potent potables, my selection was clear: Panama Punch. A self-described “cool” drink – which, I’m reasonably sure referred to the ice – that combined Bacardi 151, Myers’s Original Rum, Peach Schnapps, 99 Bananas liqueur, Creme de Cassis, orange juice and pineapple juice. It combined more liquors than they have behind the bar at your average Chili’s and conflicted worse than an Andre 3000 outfit. In short, it was perfect.

I confidently stated my selection to the waiter. One Panama Punch. Did I want to pay the extra $4.00 to drink it out of a 24 ounce collectible Rainforest Cafe mug, thereby rounding out my set of garish, staggeringly tacky tourist drink glasses?

You bet I did.

(If you come over to my house for a drink, you better believe I’m serving you a Manhattan out of one of my new 24 ounce collectible mugs. You even get to choose Dinosaurs or Rainforest theme. Lucky you.)

I sat back and waited for the Panama Punch experience.

Rainforest Cafe Panama Punch

This color pink is not found in nature.

The drink arrived in a beautiful, towering Rainforest Cafe mug glowing a somewhat lovely, if completely unnatural, shade of pink with a single slice of orange floating on top. It smelled like the generic Waikiki hotel tourist breakfast buffet fruit punch, probably attributable to the strong presence of pineapple juice, but lacked any cloying or punget aromas. I held my nose, closed my eyes, and took a drink.

The drink was, actually… somewhat… surprisingly… a little… vaguely… tasty. I don’t know if it was the strength of the 151, the rounded sweetness of the Myers, or the mostly tart juices, but the drink actually had balance, if only a slight semblance. It wasn’t good, but it was completely, well, appropriate. It tasted exactly like you’d expect a garish overpriced tutty-fruity punch to taste. A perfect compliment to fried food, garish rainforest themed bacchanalia, and a robotic jaguar looming over your shoulder. I might even say that I enjoyed the experience, if I didn’t think doing so would cause Dave Power to permanently ban me from sitting at the bar at Town.

So, if you find yourself dining in the land of animatronic kinkajoos and feel the need to kick off your shoes and order an embarassing tower of alcoholic shame, you could do a lot worse than Rainforest Cafe’s Panama Punch.

Just don’t tell anyone I said that.

Tales from Orlando: Heaven on Earth (otherwise known as drinking at Disney World)

by Justin D'Olier on June 30, 2011 | Comments Off on Tales from Orlando: Heaven on Earth (otherwise known as drinking at Disney World) |

I’m a Disney guy. I truly believe Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth. Give me the cheesy, immersive, rodent-centric, family-oriented pleasures of a Disney theme park over the adrenaline fueled thrills of a Six Flags or Busch Gardens. You can have your 100 mph, pee your pants, vomit inducing thrills. I’ll be zip-a-dee-doo-dahing down Splash Mountain and singing “Drink Up Me Hearties, Yo Ho” at the top of my lungs on my sixth go round on Pirates of the Caribbean. Yo ho, yo ho, a Disney life for me.

My only issue with Disney parks stems from one glaring omission: alcohol.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating the sale of Jager shots outside Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. I’m perfectly fine singing “drink up me hearties” without actually doing so on Pirates of the Caribbean. I don’t want to get hammered at Mickey’s house. I just want a frosty beverage to take the edge of a hot, tiring day at the Park. A brief oasis from the heat and crowds.

You can imagine my surprise upon walking up to the Tusker House Restaurant – an outdoor African market themed eatery at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park – to see a list of about 15 different beers, nearly half of them actually imported from Africa, prominently displayed on the drink menu.

Mickey + Animals + Good Food + theme appropriate imported beer = Heaven on Earth.

Glory, glory hallelujah.

Tusker Beer

Beer. At a Disney Park. Nuff said.

I ordered a round of Tusker – a Kenyan Lager- for my family, kicked back and enjoyed the sublime pleasure of the Happiest Place on Earth getting a little bit happier. I vaguely remember how the beer tasted – light, smooth and crisp with a hint of caramel – but, truth be told, I was too caught up in the moment to give the flavor any thought. A Miller Chill would have tasted like a Chimay Blue at that moment.

Jiminy Cricket was right, dreams really do come true.

A humorous afterthought: While drinking the beers, my older brother, who traveled to Kenya a few years ago, told us that Tusker was one of the two best selling beers in Kenya along with Guinness and that the slogans for each beer indicated the comical disparate ideologies of their respective target markets.

Tusker goes by the slogan “Bia Yangu, Nchi Yangu”, which translates to “My Beer, My Country”.

Guinesss is marketed using the slogan “Guiness is Power”.

Can you guess which one was founded by Africans for Africans and which one was originally imported by the British colonialists?

Tales from Orlando: A Drink That Sets the Cocktail Movement Back to the Stone Age

by Justin D'Olier on June 29, 2011 | (6) Comments |

During a recent family vacation to Orlando, I had the pleasure of eating at T-Rex, a dinosaur themed dining experience. The restaurant is designed to simulate a prehistoric habitat. Animatronic dinosaurs and various other creatures from the Mesozoic period fill the restaurant’s monstrous interior. The theme of each room room varies, ranging from dense jungle to an ice age cavern. Every 15 minutes a meteor strike occurs, cascading the restaurant into darkness as a sea of flashing lights explode from the ceiling and the dinosaurs explode into a frenzy. Basically a dinosaur acid trip without the acid.

As you can imagine, T-Rex is not renowned for their craft cocktails. Their drink menu is a hot mess of over-sized, ill-advised concoctions, bathed in a brew of canned juice, syrups and liqueurs. Count me in.

I’m an admittedly bipolar alcohol connoisseur. A dichotomous drunk. I’m nearly as intrigued by beverages that push the boundaries of bad taste as I am by those that transcend, excite, and amaze. T-Rex is a Mecca for cocktails gone wrong. I was excited to revel in the failure.

After a brief perusal of the menu, I narrowed my selection two comically awful concoctions: Caveman Punch and Category “5”.

T-Rex Cocktails

I don't normally drink 24 ounce combinations with enough fructose to steralize a Stegosaurus...

Caveman Punch is a sickeningly sweet slurry of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, banana liqueur, DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps – ask for it by name! – and tropical fruit juices. Because, you know what a sugary flavored rum needs? Two saccharine packed liqueurs topped off with a medley of random juice from a can! Balance be damned. According to the menu, “This drink really packs a punch”, which I can only assume is directly to the portion of your brain that controls rational thought.

Category “5” is the completely random mixture of Skyy Infusions Citrus Vodka, Midori Melon Liquer, Malibu Coconut Rum, 99 Bananas Liquer, sweet & sour, and pineapple juice, which the menu assures “will blow you away”. To their credit, I was blown away that someone would ever think to combine those ingredients. (On a side note, I have no idea why the five in Category “5” is in quotations. The drink includes four different “liquors” – I use this term lightly – and six total ingredients. I can only assume it’s the average amount of time – in seconds – it takes to induce vomiting. But I digress.)

I asked the waiter for a recommendation and he said proudly that Caveman Punch is their best seller. Done and done. Anything universally liked by the sad slice of humanity that orders 24 ounce drinks from a T-Rex has to be singularly awful. I ordered a Caveman Punch and never looked back.

I was not disappointed.

The drink arrived in the collectible 24 oz. T-Rex mug – a classy addition to any set of glassware – glowing a dark muted pink, like someone murdered a glass of grapefruit juice. The first sip was pure magic. A cloyingly sweet pelvic thrust of random juices (Is that kiwi? Do I taste papaya?) that completely overwhelm the alcohol. I’m pretty sure the Captain Morgan was in there, somewhere, trying to claw its way to the surface, but the street gang of mismatched juice beat it up and left it to die in the cold pink murky depths. It tasted disturbingly like the random mix of canned juice they serve after church. Strange, sweet, vaguely alcoholic church juice.

I can’t definitively say that it’s the worst cocktail ever made, but if there’s a worse drink out there I would be impressed.

Bravo, T-Rex. Bravo.

A Fruit Infused Beer Even I Can Endorse Drinking

by Justin D'Olier on June 23, 2011 | Comments Off on A Fruit Infused Beer Even I Can Endorse Drinking |

I’m not really a fruit beer guy. I’ll lap at the occasional lambic and quaff a quarterly fruit infused hefeweisen, but, in general, the closest fruit comes to my beer is a lime wedge in the neck of my Corona at a Mexican restaurant (which I remove before drinking). I love fruit and my affection for beer is well chronicled, but I can’t shake the notion that fruit and beer are a tragically mismatched pairing, like asparagus and wine or porn and waffles.

That said, once in a blue moon, a brewmaster will delve into the unholy alchemy of fruit and malt and create a subtle, restrained, nuanced and undeniably delicious fruit infused beer that makes me rethink my austere brewed-fruit-averse stance.

Samuel Smith’s Oragnic Strawberry Handcrafted Fruit Ale is once of those beers.

Samuel Smith's Organic Strawberry Ale

A tasty, refreshing, alcoholic baby.

The nose smells like fresh strawberry preserves with light toastiness, vanilla and caramel. The body is a beautiful harmony of ripe strawberries, malt, and caramel. It tastes like a red ale and a Strawberry Julius had a baby. A tasty, refreshing, alcoholic baby. The finish lingers delightfully on the palate. I can neither confirm nor deny rumors that this is what the Beatles had in mind when they wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever”, but it is brewed in England.

When you take the beer out of the fridge, the strawberry flavor dominates. As the chill wears off, the toasty malt flavors emerge, reducing the fruit to a supporting role. Depending on your preference, you can enjoy the beer with the level of fruit that best suits you. I recommend chilling initially and savoring it slowly, enjoying the beer’s journey from sweet to toasty.

I’m not ready to change my stance on fruit infused beer, but this undeniably delicious beer hybrid certainly warmed the heart of this cold fruit-beer Scrooge. God bless the folks at Samuel Smith Brewing. God bless them all, everyone.

Samuel Smith’s Oragnic Strawberry Handcrafted Fruit Ale is available at Whole Foods for $7.99 per 1 liter bottle.

The First Rule of Drinking Whiskey

by Justin D'Olier on May 26, 2011 | Comments Off on The First Rule of Drinking Whiskey |

According to Master of Whiskey Tom Turner, the first rule of drinking whiskey is “drink it however you like”. There is no second rule, but, if there was, it should definitely be “DRINK IT HOWEVER YOU LIKE”.

The Wine Pixie and I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Turner on Monday at a whiskey seminar at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, organized by the USBG, and his strong convictions about enjoying whiskey in a style and manner that pleases you struck a chord with me. Drink with Aloha is dedicated to helping people cut through the confusing corporate chaos of mass marketing and discover drinks that excite, amaze and, occasionally, even get them laid. Mr. Turner lives, eats, sleeps, sweats, talks and, most importantly, drinks this message every day. After an hour with him, you’re ready to buy a plot of land in Scotland, put on a kilt, learn to play the bag pipes, eat a lukewarm bowl of stewed sheep intestines and start distilling scotch. (Well, all but the intestines part. Ever Mr. Turner can’t make haggis sound appealing).

During the seminar, Mr. Turner gave an overview of proper whiskey tasting technique and walked us through a flight of four scotches, ranging from smooth and sweet to pungent and smokey, paired with a variety of pants-wettingly delicious food from Wolfgang’s. More importantly, he introduced us to whiskey culture, which seems to center around drinking, socializing, not being an asshole, and preventing your friends from making the mistake of drinking vodka.

Here are my most important takeaways from the evening:

– Adding water to whiskey is completely acceptable behavior for every type of scotch. In the words of Mr. Turner, “If you don’t like a whiskey, keep adding water until it tastes good”.

– The Scottish refer to adding water to scotch as “releasing the serpent”. Even still, if you meet a Scottish guy who asks if you want to release the serpent, you should probably make sure he’s serving you scotch.

– When you taste whiskey – or any spirits for that matter – swirl the glass in front of you and breath in through your nose and mouth at the same time, which allows you to smell the different flavors in the drink and prevents the alcohol fumes from making you feel like you lit a match in your sinuses.

– Peat moss does not look like moss, it looks like a log. The moss hardens underground and is extracted in giants bricks that look more like firewood than a leafy fern. Total mind bomb.

– My new favorite beverage pairing is a “pint and a halfer”, a pint of beer and a shot of whiskey. You alternate sips of beer and whiskey: the beer coats your mouth, cutting and softening the whiskey much in the same way adding water would. Any pairing that substitutes beer for water gets an official Drink with Aloha seal of approval.

I tried the technique as soon as I got home with a Heineken and The Singleton of Glendullan and it was a revelation, but Mr. Turner made the following pairing suggestions that will probably reduce a grown man to tears

  • Guiness (or an IPA) and Bushmills
  • Porter and Talisker (or Lagavulin)

Tasting notes:

Scotch #1: The Singleton of Glendullan
Pairing: Wolfgang’s Salad

Singleton is smooth and sweet with strong tobacco flavor often mistaken for smoke. It paired surprisingly well with a house salad covered in Canadian bacon chunks, highlighting the sweetness of the tomatoes and accentuating the salty rich bacon.

Scotch #2: Cardhu Single Malt
Pairing: Wolfgang’s Sirloin Sliders

Cardhu is the primary scotch of Johnny Walker and the reason is abundantly clear upon first sip. It is initially hot  with intense floral and honey notes, but the burn quickly vanishes making way for the delicious spicy flavors. I needed a change of drawers after pairing it with the unfathomably tender Wolfgang’s sirloin slider.

Scotch #3: Oban 14 Year
Scotch #4: Talisker 10 Year
Pairing: Porterhouse appetiser

Oban (pronounced “Oben”, like “Oben the bottle already!”) is renowned for it’s balance. It has a smooth caramel flavor, a hint of spice, a touch of sweetness, and a rich peaty finish that wraps the flavor in a brown paper package tied up with string. It was excellent on its own and strong enough to compliment the juicy porterhouse.

Talisker is strong, peaty, and pungent with a smoky nose that smells uncannily like band-aids (in the best way possible, I assure you). The smell originates from the strong iodine content of peat moss used to flavor this bold beautiful scotch. Adding water highlights the smoky flavor in an interesting way. The scotch meshed beautifully with the roasted exterior of the porterhouse, dancing a forbidden smoky tango on my taste buds.

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