I picked up The One-Bottle Cocktail by Maggie Hoffman when it came out at the beginning of March. Each cocktail recipe in the book only contains a single spirit, so you only need one bottle to make a cocktail. I loved it so much that I sent a copy to my friends Tyler Machovina and Erin Carlson, who garden and make cocktails as much as we do. (They had significant input on this post!)
This book is great for home cocktail makers. How many times do you say, “I have a bottle of gin. What else can I make besides a G&T?” or “What can I do with this tequila besides more margaritas?”
I love cocktails. I write about them a lot here. The reason I love this book is that it taught me a new way of looking at them: Focus on the non-alcoholic ingredients primarily for the flavor (fresh juices, spices, herbs, fruit, and teas) instead of liquors. I’ve learned a ton from this book about which flavors work together, how certain flavors interact with certain liquors, and how much the flavor of certain herbs and fruits can vary from plant to plant and piece to piece.
The other thing I love about this book is that it has bonus drinks at the end of each section, noting where you can substitute the same liquor from that section into other drinks in the book.
So far, our favorite cocktails are The Gincident, Barkeep’s Breakfast, and Midnight in the Garden.
It isn’t quite blueberry season here, but we had some wild blueberries in the freezer and we have fresh basil and rosemary growing in pots on our windowsills. The botanicals in the gin, fresh basil, and fresh rosemary give it a deep forest flavor, and the blueberry syrup balances out the tart lemon juice. This cocktail is fantastic. Amanda requested that we make this a new house regular.
I love Earl Grey, so this stood out to me immediately. I went a little off-recipe, though. Instead of using Rye, I used barrel-aged gin as the base spirit. I had a bottle from a Hudson Valley Distillers (http://www.hudsonvalleydistillers.com/) that I’d been itching to use, and I had a hunch that the botanicals might work well with Earl Grey. I was right. This was a great drink for a cold day.
Midnight in the Garden
I think this drink will be fantastic in the summer when the local strawberries come in. The late-winter grocery store strawberries just weren’t sweet enough to properly balance the balsamic vinegar. My fault for not having the patience to wait until summer to try this. Definitely making this again as soon as we get fresh strawberries.
Erin and Tyler liked Newton’s Law and Rose of all Roses. Here is what they had to say:
Even though it’s a little out of season we chose to make the Newton’s law because we had all the ingredients and were so excited to try something out of our new cocktail book. Also, I used the last of the apple butter that Chuck and Amanda gave us for Christmas! Overall, this a tasty drink but was a little bit thin. If I were to make it again I’d probably use maple syrup instead of brown sugar. I think it give it a thicker mouthfeel, so something to keep in mind when the fall rolls around.
This is a great drink! I used Aviation gin, my favorite for martinis, but I think this drink would be even better with Hendricks. It was pretty cold out when I made these, but I’m looking forward to remembering this drink for afternoon barbecue. (Kiko approves.)
Back to Chuck:
The next cocktails I want to try: Newton’s Law, Sassy Flower, French Canadian, and Spanish Penny. We’re looking forward to drinking our way through the rest of this book. It will really be great this spring and summer when we will have easy access to edible flowers and herbs. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you need to.
I really love burgers. They are one of my favorite foods. When I heard about the Impossible Burger a few months ago, I knew I had to try it. It is made completely from plants, yet is supposed to cook, smell, look, and taste just like a real beef burger. Could this be possible? I really wanted to know.
I’m definitely in the meat-eater camp, but I am interested in reducing land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and water usage. I’m also interested in sustainably feeding the world’s population, so I’m very pro meat alternatives. Especially ones that taste good.
It definitely looks like meat! Check this photo out:
I know that marketing photos and claims can sometimes be deceiving, so I wanted to try this for myself. It isn’t carried in stores yet, but the Bareburger chain has it on their menu across the US. There happens to be one near me, so I convinced Amanda to go this afternoon so I could try it.
I got the standard: Impossible Burger, American cheese, carmelized onions, special sauce, dill pickles, and a brioche bun.
What Impossible got right
When the Impossible Burger showed up at my table, I was surprised at how much it looked like a beef burger:
The texture is just like a nicely packed burger patty. Cooked to medium, the Impossible Burger is juicy, stays together when you bite into it, and has the same mouthfeel as a beef burger. I took the bottom bun off and it looks like the Impossible Burger sears just like beef and gets a nice Malliard reaction crust:
Here is a photo of me taking the first bite:
After the first bite, let’s take a look at the inside:
So, it really does look and feel like a real burger. Passes 2/3 of the test.
Where Impossible fell short
Unfortunately, though the Impossible Burger looked like and had the same texture as a beef burger, it didn’t taste like beef. That was clear from the first bite. Instead, it had a soy/nutty/bean flavor that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The main flavoring in the Impossible burger, heme, comes from fermented soy. [CORRECTION: Fermented modifies yeast strains with soy genes.] Maybe that is it. The wheat and potato ingredients are likely pretty bland in and of themselves.
It wasn’t bad, just different. I really wanted it to taste like beef, and I even expected it because of all the hype. So I was a little let down. That said, it wasn’t a complete loss. The Impossible Burger took on the flavor of its toppings whenever there were any included in the bite, so that was a pleasant surprise. Good toppings are just as important as good meat, so letting toppings take the spotlight isn’t a bad idea.
I think mixing some Worcestershire Sauce into the burger patty might go a long way to improving the flavor. It won’t get all the way there, but it will pack more of an umami punch. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be vegan anymore because of the anchovies in the Worcestershire. Perhaps there are non-anchovie versions of it that pack the same punch?
I’ve definitely had worse beef burgers than this. The Impossible Burger beats out dry, overcooked, or old/low quality beef burgers any day. But this version doesn’t beat out burgers made with good beef, cooked correctly, and topped with quality toppings. I had an excellent burger at Bridge View Tavern last night so I could keep it fresh in my mind. The Impossible Burger definitely fell short of its beefiness.
So, I give the Impossible Burger a 2/3 overall. It looks like and has the same texture as a beef burger. But it doesn’t taste like beef.
Don’t throw in the towel yet…
I don’t think the Impossible experiment is worth giving up just yet. A burger is one of the hardest tests to pass for beef alternatives because burgers rely heavily on the flavor of the beef itself, which seems to be the most difficult thing to replicate. Impossible does need to reach this high bar to fulfill their vision, but this version doesn’t quite make it. That said, given that Impossible passes the look and texture tests, there is still a giant market for this version of the product.
So, what are some uses of ground beef that don’t rely primarily on the taste of the beef to carry the dish? Where does the texture of beef shine and other ingredients carry the dish’s flavor?
Each of these dishes rely on the texture of beef and a little umani from it, but not necessarily a deep beef flavor like the hamburger does. Since the Impossible Burger readily takes on the flavor of other ingredients, I think the other spices and ingredients in these dishes will go a long way toward compensating for the Impossible Meat’s flavor shortcomings while putting its texture and nutrition on display.
When Impossible Burgers finally hit retail stores, it will open up a lot of possibilities for other dishes. This is currently the best beef substitute out there.
Impossible Foods, if you want to send me a bunch of your burger meat, I’ll do a lot of testing with different dishes and write about it! Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or @cagrimmett.
Amanda got me an Instant Pot for Christmas! I’ve used it now for about a month and I love it.
I use this so much more than I ever used my stovetop pressure cooker. The stovetop one needed babysitting and I was never completely convinced that it wouldn’t explode. The Instant Pot doesn’t need babysitting, has safety features and failsafes, and is more exact than the stovetop one.
It takes at least 15 minutes to come up to pressure and another 5 to come down with the quick release. Plan accordingly.
It cooks rice like a charm. I couldn’t justify getting a rice cooker because we don’t eat THAT much rice, but now that the Instant Pot can make great rice, I’m pumped. My first trial was successful.
While it is great at curry and great at rice, cooking one and then cleaning it out to cook the other in the same night does not save time. Plan ahead accordingly. I tend to make stovetop curries anyway.
It is great for hearty winter meals. I wonder if I’ll use it as much during the summer?
It is great for meats, soups, stews, rice, beans, lentils, etc. Probably not worth the effort for things that would normally take just 10 minutes to steam.
One book that helped me figure out what the Instant Pot is best for (and gave me great recipe ideas!) is Dinner in an Instant by Melissa Clark. Our friends Tyler and Erin made a great braised pork recipe out of this book when they had us over for dinner in December and I bought the book right away.
Here is a great quote from the intro:
In this book, I focus on the machine’s strengths, writing not about what you can make in it, but what you should make because the electric pressure cooker does it better–faster or more flavorfully, or with less mess and/or stress. The key to successful pressure cooking is choosing recipes in which softness and succulence is the goal, and which traditionally take hours to get there. It can’t cook a whole chicken very well, and it doesn’t do crisp or crunchy. So don’t ask it to and you won’t be disappointed.
What I want to try making next in the Instant Pot:
Black bean and ham soup
Chicken and dumplings
Elaichi gosht (lamb with cardamom)
I’ll post some of my own Instant Pot recipes soon, so stay tuned!
We decided to meet at noon. Unfortunately, due to NYC’s ubiquitious weekend subway maintenance, Dani was running late. We all agreed to skip breakfast to make room for the mass quantity of dumplings we were about to consume, so we were pretty hungry. Amanda and I decided to get a quick snack from a street stall while we were waiting. We couldn’t really tell what anything was and we don’t speak or read Chinese (nothing at this stall was in English), so we just pointed at something and handed over some money. It ended up being fried tofu balls of some sort. Good little snack.
First Stop: Tian Jin Dumpling House
Dani made it about 30 minutes later and we made our way to the first destination: The Tian Jin Dumpling House. It took us a few minutes to find because it is in the basement food hall of The Golden Shopping Mall on Main St.
We got two plates of dumplings to share: Pumpkin TangYuan w/ Sesame (the daily special) and Beef dumplings with turnip. I loved the ground black sesame seeds in the pumpkin TangYuan. They were slightly gritty with a sweet but savory flavor that worked well with the pumpkin wrapper.
After eating a few plates at Tian Jin, we decided to walk around the block to White Bear and order their well-known specialty: #6, wontons with hot sauce. People must order this all the time because the old lady behind the counter rolled her eyes when we ordered it.
These were probably the best dumplings we had all day. As Serious Eats reports, they are “dressed in not-actually-spicy chili oil, ground up roasted chili, and nubs of funky, salty preserved mustard root.” We would have ordered at least two more plates of these, but we wanted to same room for later.
Fang Gourmet Tea
With a belly full of dumplings and in desperate need of caffeine, we jumped ahead on the itinerary and went to Fang Gourmet Tea to have a world-class tea tasting.
The tea seller who led our tasting was a complete expert and taught us a ton throughout the process. She incredibly kind and patiently answered our newbie questions. We were invited to taste and smell the tea at every part of the 5-stage brewing process. She pointed out aromas and tastes that we would have missed on our own and pointed out what sets this tea apart from the others on the list.
We tasted the Premium Roasted Oolong and the Original Ti Kuan Yin Honey Aroma 50% Roasted. Both were incredible. We left with a new appreciation for the world of tea and had a newfound desire to buy a porcelain gaiwan and learn how to brew tea at home.
Right before we left, another party came into the small shop. I thought I recognized one of the guys, and it turns out I was right. It was Max Falkowitz, the Serious Eats contributor and author of the very guide we were following that day! I introduced myself and told him what we were up to. He gave us even more great tips on where to go. Super nice guy!
We walked around for a bit to stretch our legs and get some sun, then we headed over to Fu Run to get the Muslim Lamb Chop: A rack of lamb ribs covered in cumin and ground chiles. They were fiery and delicious. We got a plate of pork fried rice as a side.
Dessert: Iris Tea & Bakery
Dani had plans back in Manhattan late in the afternoon, and Amanda and I did, too. So instead of getting BBQ or Dosas for dinner, we decided to get an early dessert before heading back across the river. We scoped out a few places, but ultimately landed at Iris Tea & Bakery. We picked four desserts to share:
Taro Cube – This was super dense and didn’t have an overwhelming taro flavor. It wasn’t sweet. Overall decent, but probably not something we’d pick again.
Hokkaido Pineapple Bread – We expected this to have a lot of pineapple flavor, but it was actually pretty bland. Not recommended.
Mexican Cheese Chocolate Bread – Very good. Would have again. We didn’t expect it be hollow, but the Mexican chocolate and cheese was awesome.
Matcha Cranberry Cream Cheese Bread – This was, surprisingly, the best out of the bunch. It was probably the cream cheese.
After enjoying these, we made a bee-line for the subway and went back into Manhattan.
We’ll be back for more, Flushing. We need to have more #6 at White Bear, drink some more tea, and make our way to Mapo for BBQ and Ganesh Temple Canteen for dosas.
Next time you are in NYC, set some time aside to hit Flushing. It is very close to LaGuardia Airport, so leave two hours early for your flight and stop in Flushing for a meal. Then get a cab to LGA from Flushing, which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
Chuck’s Note: This is a guest post by my best friend Sean Nelson and his girlfriend Ashley Bowersox. They are both really into ginger beer and mentioned they were doing a tasting and writing a review. They graciously let me publish it here. Fun fact: CookLikeChuck.com was born on Sean’s couch in Boston two years ago. He and Amanda convinced me to buy the domain and start this blog.
I love ginger beer, and I don’t mean any of that wimpy ginger ale stuff. I’m talking about punch you in the back of the throat, clean out your sinuses, not safe for children ginger beer. An elegant drink for a more civilized time.
Ginger beer started its long journey to beverage superstardom in the 18th century. France and America were involved in their respective revolutions, the city of New Orleans was founded, and thanks to Britain’s persistent attempts at world domination (save for America), their spice trade with the Eastern world and sugar from the Caribbean helped kickstart our beloved drink. (Side note: This is probably why you find so many varieties of Jamaican and Bermudian-style ginger beers.) Traditionally brewed by fermenting ginger spice, yeast, sugar, and the “Ginger Beer Plant” (a SCOBY, for my kombucha drinking readers), modern ginger beers are manufactured either as ginger soft drinks or ginger lies. I’m looking at you, ginger ale. You’re just dirty Sprite.
I’ve had a favorite brand for a while now, but I’ll admit it was mostly determined by what I could easily get my hands on in Cincinnati, Ohio. Now that I’m living in Chicago through the end of the year, I thought I’d use this opportunity to introduce my mouth to new flavors and brands. After a week of searching, my girlfriend Ashley and I lined up 10 varieties of ginger beer, constructed a mock photo studio, and drank until our heads suffered through the high and subsequent fall of sugar rush.
We thought a lot about how best to do this review and made a few decisions up-front. Because taste is subjective, it would be misleading to rely on a numerical scale for judging. So we instead focused on metrics like overall taste, ginger flavor and bite, sweetness, carbonation, and taste story (a probably made up term that refers to how the flavor moves and settles in the mouth and throat). Since ginger has such a strong spice element, choosing an effective palate cleanser was also important. As it turns out, the most popular choice is actually ginger, which in our case would be a bit like putting out a fire with gasoline. Additional searching suggested using a lemon sorbet, a popular palate cleanser used in French meals, because its citrus flavor and cold serving temperature help prepare you for another course. This didn’t take much convincing.
Ginger beer is also a common ingredient in cocktails like the Moscow Mule or the Dark & Stormy, but since mixology isn’t really my thing, I’ve enlisted the help of this blog’s namesake, Chuck. Look for his comments in the “Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note”. Now, onto the reviews!
Maine Root Ginger Brew
Maine Root is up first only because it happened to be closest in the fridge, but boy did we start on a high note. If you like a spiciness and bite that lingers in your mouth for upwards of ten minutes after finishing the bottle, this is for you. Maine Root starts sweet before quickly hitting you with a lasting and delicious ginger burn that settles in the back of your tongue, molars, and throat. It’s never as strong as the first sip, presumably because your mouth has already started its coping mechanisms, but the heat slowly builds the more you drink. In this 12 ounce bottle you’ll find 40 grams of sugar, but it doesn’t taste overtly sweet or too much like soda. Just enough to take the edge off, but still not for the faint of heart.
Maine Root is caffeine free, fair-trade certified, and made with carbonated water, organic cane sugar, ginger, and spices.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: Given the spiciness of this brew, I’d use it in a Dark and Stormy. The lime juice will cut it a little bit and the complexity of the dark rum will complement the ginger flavor.
Belvoir Organic Ginger Beer
After enjoying a few spoonfuls of our lemon sorbet, we moved onto the Belvoir. I’ve never heard of this brand before, but their site features a nice array of beverages. This ginger beer really surprised us by how refreshing it was. There’s a great ginger kick, but the lingering flavor is softer and not as challenging as the Maine Root. Also unexpected was the citrus twist, which contributes to the refreshing taste. Imagine a lemon San Pelligrino flavored with ginger. That lemon is the first thing the front of your tongue recognizes before the ginger pushes through to the back. Minimally carbonated and not very sweet, this would make a great summer drink.
Belvoir Organic Ginger Beer packs 26 grams of sugar into an 8.4 ounce bottle with carbonated Belvoir spring water, organic sugar, organic lemon juice, organic fresh ginger infusion (2%), ginger extracts, citric acid, and capsicum extract.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: Given the citrus in this ginger beer, I think it would make a great Mayan Mule, a variation on the Moscow Mule that uses tequila instead of vodka.
Q Ginger Beer
Ashley straight up coughed after her first drink of Q. It rushes straight through your sinuses and disappears just as quickly, and if there is an aftertaste, it would be that of flat lemon lime soda. Similar to the difference between whole milk and skim, this ginger beer is really shallow and tastes as if something was removed and replaced with water (flavor). As written on the bottle, the creators wanted a big ginger punch with none of the syrupy sweetness, so I’ll award kudos for achieving this goal, but honestly neither of us enjoyed this one. Unfortunately it’s purchased as a four pack, so now we just have to find something to do with the remaining two bottles.
As listed, the ingredients include carbonated water, organic agave, ginger extract, extracts of lime, coriander, cardamom, and chile peppers, and citric acid. If you’re surprised by those unexpected extracts, so we’re we. It’s a shame you can’t taste the chile peppers or other spices at all. 22 grams of sugar in this 9 ounce bottle.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: Substitute this for ginger ale in your next rum highball for a spicier kick that won’t overpower the rest of the drink. This is also a good way to use up the rest of the four pack if you don’t particularly like it.
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Bundaberg needs to spell check their label, because they seemed to have misspelled ale. I don’t know how this could pass as ginger beer. It’s very sweet (40 grams of sugar), has no bite, and doesn’t smell or taste anything like ginger. This Australian brewery proclaims Bundaberg a cloudy bottle of old fashioned ginger beer, but I’m not convinced. The bottle and label design certainly pushes the old fashioned look and because of this, I was expecting a heavy and strong ginger beer, aged in a barrel found in the hold an old whaler surrounded by chests of old spices and Old Spice. False.
This 12.7 ounce bottle of crushed expectations is filled with carbonated water, cane sugar, ginger root, natural flavors, citric acid, yeast, preservatives, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, antioxidant ascorbic acid, and lies.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: Since this is so sweet and not very strong, try it in a Ginger Fizz. Cut the added sugar down to 1/2 or 1/4, depending on your taste preferences. The sweetness might also mix well with a spicy rye whiskey. Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond is my go-to.
Filbert’s Ginger Beer
I was really rooting for this one. Filbert’s is a local Chicago brewery probably best known for their Root Beer, so when I came across this very generic looking bottle with ginger beer typeset in Papryus, I expected one of two things: 1. This is an old local favorite with no graphic design sense but makes a killer ginger beer, or 2. Papryus was just a foreboding of what’s found inside. Turns out it’s sometimes okay to judge a drink by its label.
The taste is overwhelming syrupy and they must have gotten carried away with the caramel coloring because there’s nothing else in the ingredients to justify the nice amber color. Seriously, unless they hid the ginger under “Natural and Artificial Flavors,” there’s not even any ginger in this ginger beer. I just hope the 29 other flavors of soda listed on Filbert’s website fare better, or at the very least they remember to put sassafras in their root beer.
Inside this 12 ounce bottle of Filbert’s you’ll find carbonated water, not ginger, pure cane sugar, not ginger, natural and artificial flavors which probably don’t include ginger, citric acid, not ginger, caramel color, not ginger, and finally sodium benzoate. Oh, and not ginger.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: This is best mixed with Koval vodka and called a Chicago Donkey, for which the folks at the Signature Lounge will charge you $18 each.
Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer
I should disclose that Cock ‘n Bull is what first got me really interested in ginger beer. I could easily get my hands on it where I lived in Cincinnati and it has a nice bite that took my hand and pulled me into this gingery world. But after trying the Maine Root, Belvoir, and others, I’ve got to move on. Cock ‘n Bull seems to exist entirely as a mixer for cocktails, going so far as asserting “We Invented the Moscow Mule™” on the label and defining themselves as “the extra ginger soft drink.” And that’s exactly what this is: a very sweet soda (35 grams) that’s more spicy ginger ale than ginger beer. Additionally, and I’m ashamed for not noticing this until now, but ginger is also not listed among the ingredients in this. What a let down.
What you will find in this 12 ounce bottle is carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, caramel color, natural flavors (are you there, ginger root?), and less than 1/10 of 1% of sodium benzoate. That last bit is best read in Bernie Sanders’ voice.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: This is easy to find and somewhat sweet, grab your copper mugs and make a Moscow Mule for tradition’s sake. If you have a discerning guest, skip this brand and choose Maine Root or Fever Tree for your Moscow Mules instead.
Fentiman’s Ginger Beer
Like Q, our first taste surprised us with a sinus-clearing kick and finished with little more. There’s an obvious botanical/flora thing going on here which is a nice angle to take with ginger, but unfortunately Fentiman’s is shallow and watery in aftertaste and offers no lingering bite or satisfying ginger flavor. Honestly, the only interesting thing happening here is the pear juice they use which is a cool touch. Their website speaks to their natural botanical drinks—traditional with a complex taste and full of fiery flavor and The Guardian even reviewed this as being “very superior, with a real kick.” I wish I found any of that true. This is the only ginger beer we reviewed that claimed using real fermented ginger root extracts, so bonus points for living up to tradition.
Ingredients include carbonated water, fermented ginger root extracts (ginger root, water, yeast), cane sugar, glucose syrup, flavors (ginger, speedwell, juniper, yarrow extracts), pear juice concentrate, cream of tartar, and citric acid. 29 grams of sugar in this 9.3 ounce bottle.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: With its botanicals, I think this would make an interesting variation on the Fog Horn. Use a dry gin to let the botanicals from Fentiman’s shine.
Barritts Ginger Beer
When I read “Bermuda’s Favorite Ginger Beer” on the label, I can’t help but assume that Barritts must also be Bermuda’s only ginger beer. The taste is round and sugary like a carbonated simple syrup and offers a zing of ginger, but the aftertaste is pure sugar (49 grams of the stuff in 12 ounces). There’s no two ways about it: this is straight up ginger ale, just less carbonated.
One thing worth mentioning is an ingredient used called Neutral Cloud because it’s just so weird. According to a tariff classification filed in 2000, Neutral Cloud is a thick white liquid composed of a few solutions and citric acid that is used to make clear citrus drinks appear more cloudy. Presumably without this Barritts would be fully transparent, but thanks to Neutral Cloud (which has been added to my list of Cool Band Names) we can enjoy an opaque drink consumers apparently expect from their ginger beers. Adding ingredients for the sake of aesthetics, like caramel color, doesn’t sit right with us, so whatever points Barritts had left after this review were lost in the clouds.
The complete ingredients include Carbonated Water, Sugar, Natural and Artificial Ginger Flavouring, Citric Acid, Neutral Cloud, Sodium Benzoate, Natural Extract of Quillaia Bark, and Caramel Color.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: I can’t in good conscience recommend buying this for a mixer given Sean’s negative review, but if I had some in the fridge and didn’t want to waste it I’d probably put it in a Pimm’s Cup since it isn’t much stronger than ginger ale.
Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew Ginger Beer
Bermuda didn’t fare well with its ginger beer, but maybe Reed’s and its traditional Jamaican style will impress us. This is a pretty common brand to find in grocery and beverage stores and might be the first brand many think of when it comes to ginger beer. I’ve enjoyed their ginger ale in the past, and their ginger beer variety isn’t too bad. It’s got a caramel taste with a strong, almost candied ginger flavor but without much kick. They make a big deal on the label that there’s 26 grams of fresh ginger in the bottle—no other brand specified exactly how much ginger was used, so this was pretty informative.
There was something familiar with how this one tasted that was hard to place, but after noticing that they added pineapple juice to the mix, it was obvious: Reed’s tastes just like a pińa colada with added ginger and carbonation. While interesting, it’s not really what we were looking for. But if piña colada ginger soda is your thing, definitely check this one out.
This 12 ounce bottle is full of Sparkling Filtered Water (Sweetened by a blend of Cane Sugar, Pineapple Juice from concentrate, and honey), Fresh Ginger Root, Lemon and Lime juices from concentrate, and Spices.
We were fortunate to begin on a high note with Maine Root’s and Belvoir’s offerings, so it’s only fitting to end on a high note. Fever Tree, while a bit shallow overall, starts off with a great gingery bite that lingers in the back of your throat for a while. This one is also marketed more as a cocktail mixer, so it’s going to be pretty sweet—20 grams of sugar in a tiny 6.8 ounce bottle.
Their website offers detailed tasting notes (especially useful for mixologists) about the three varieties of ginger for this beverage: fresh green ginger from the Ivory Coast that exhibits a lemongrass freshness, Nigerian ginger that adds intensity and depth, and finally a rich and earthy ginger from the Cochin area of India. Lots of respect to Fever Tree for going the distance (or at least making the effort to tell people about it).
Ingredients are simply Carbonated Spring Water, Cane Sugar, Ginger Root, Natural Flavor, and Ascorbic Acid.
Chuck Mix-a-Lot Note: This is a solid strong ginger mixer and will work in any Mule variation or a Dark and Stormy. If any drink calls for ginger beer, you can’t go wrong with Fever Tree.
In the end, we were most impressed with two of the ten ginger beers we reviewed: Maine Root, for fans of an unapologetic smack of ginger, and Belvoir, for those looking for a refreshing citrus drink with a big gingery kick. You’ll still find us drinking Fever Tree and Cock ’n Bull, but don’t expect to see a bottle of the remaining six brands in our hands. Thanks for joining!
Amanda and I drove up to Tuthilltown Distillery this past weekend. I’d been there once before a few years ago with my friend Jason Kelly for their gin launch party, but they’ve really stepped up their game since then.
Tuthilltown is best known for their fantastic line of whiskey: bourbon, rye, and unaged corn. Any liquor store worth its salt carries at least one of their five varieties:
When I say their line of whiskey is fantastic, I mean it. I’ve tried the whole line at least once and have had four out of the five on multiple occasions. I even keep a bottle of their unaged corn whiskey on my shelf to show people what whiskey is like before it goes into charred oak barrels.
Their whiskey has won many awards and accolades, but Tuthilltown isn’t resting on its haunches. Their distillers have been busy trying out some new things: Cassis, Cacao, Triple Sec, and bitters.
The Cassis is made from locally harvested blackcurrants and is less syrupy than the more common Creme de Cassis liqueurs you might have tried. It is aged in their whiskey barrels and has an incredible depth of flavor: tart, earthy, toasty, jammy, and packed full of berry flavors.
The chocolate notes in the Cacao Liqueur rival high-end dark chocolate. It is slightly syrupy but easy to pour and it is good enough to drink straight. This was my favorite sample of the day. I was blown away by its flavor. Every other chocolate liqueur I’ve tried seems to be grain alcohol with chocolate favoring added in at the end (i.e. chocolate-flavored rubbing alcohol), but not this. Tuthilltown distills their Cacao Liqueur directly from Peruvian and Dominican cacao beans. It is incredible.
We didn’t get to try the Triple Sec, but we were told that it has a wonderful citrus flavor, having been distilled from bitter orange, lime, and valencia orange zest. It is also a lot stronger than most triple secs I’ve seen. This clocks in at 80 proof, whereas the stuff you usually toss in your margarita is 40-50 proof.
I tried a few dashes of Bitter Frost, the first release in their soon-to-be-growing line of bitters. It is nowhere near as strong as your typical Angostura, but it does have a nice warming flavor. It can be added to many different cocktails without fear of overpowering lighter spirits. I tasted hints of sarsaparilla, maple, cardamom, and vanilla. Maybe a hint of clove, too.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their Half Moon Orchard Gin. It is distilled from local apples and wheat with 8 other botanicals, including elderberry and almonds. It is still a dry-style gin, but the hints of apple, bergamot, and caradmom make it unlike any other gin you’ve tried. After tasting it Amanda said, “Let’s get a bottle of this. It makes me want to become a gin drinker!”
We were fortunate enough to get to meet one of Tuthilltown’s cofounders, Ralph Erenzo. He came into the tasting room while we were there. He was incredibly nice and hospitable–taking the time to pour us tastes and chat with us about what he’s made–even while his family was visiting. When I asked him what his favorite thing to do with the Cacao Liqueur is, he paused, smiled, and said, “Pour it over ice cream with espresso.”
Amanda and I tried just that a few days later and Mr. Erenzo is right; it is delicious.
If you get a chance to visit Tuthilltown, you can’t pass it up. The tastings are enlightening, the tour is informative, and the grounds are gorgeous. They converted a gristmill built in 1788 into a restaurant. The old sluice is a perfect place for a panoselfie: