Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

Soju’s Sojourn: Will Korea’s National Spirit Find Staying Power in the US?

News and Dish, Saki and Soju, Tastes of What's to Come 1 Comment »

Korean nationals certainly take pride in soju, their widely consumed national spirit that is ubiquitous in Korean-American communities throughout the country and is enjoyed in a variety of ways—chilled or mixed with a number of beverages, including bek-seju (a strong ginger-spiced wine), yogurt or even beer.

Soju is the second most consumed spirit in the world (according to a recent report by Forbes magazine), but when you bring it up around westerners not hip to Asian drinks, few have even heard of it. This is bound to change, since large producers like Jinro and Charm have been hard at work introducing the spirit to American audiences. Read the rest of this entry »

Tastings: Rubi Rey Reserve Rum

Rum, Tastes of What's to Come No Comments »

rubi-rey-rumThe Product: Rubi Rey Reserve Rum

The Premise: A single barrel finished white rum that’s aged on the coast of northern Puerto Rico and then later filtered for “clarity.”

The Tasters and Their Qualifications: Emily (works at a nursing home, so drinks a lot), Megan (can’t stop drinking), Marcus (“I don’t drink swill, even if it’s free”), Lenny (“I don’t like being sober, I don’t like my life”), Phil (almost finished the “Century Club” once), Tom (“Booze has no memory, and neither do I”)
Total years of legal drinking: 30

The Packaging: An arresting red bottle invokes summertime recollection, but also that creepy kid from “The Shining” running around the hotel yelling “Red Rum!” over and over. Drink at your own risk!

Tasters rated the following on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “I wouldn’t take it if it was free” and 10 being “I’m heading to the liquor store right now to get my own!” Read the rest of this entry »

Tastings: 1800 Select Silver Tequila

Tastes of What's to Come, Tequila/Mezcal No Comments »

1800-tequilaThe Product: 1800 Select Silver Tequila

The Premise:
A double-distilled 100 Proof, one hundred percent Agave tequilla, blended with a bit of aged tequila to give a “velvety, smooth taste.”

The Tasters and Their Qualifications:
Emily (works at a nursing home, so drinks a lot), Megan (can’t stop drinking), Marcus (“I don’t drink swill, even if it’s free”), Lenny (“I don’t like being sober, I don’t like my life”), Phil (almost finished the “Century Club” once), Tom (“Booze has no memory, and neither do I”)
Total years of legal drinking: 30

The Packaging: A sleek and, some could say, sexily silver take on a liquor that doesn’t immediately conjure images of sipping at rooftop club (more swigging while hitchhiking through Mexico) Read the rest of this entry »

Tastings: Three Olives Triple Shot Espresso Vodka

Tastes of What's to Come, Vodka No Comments »

three-olives-triple-shot-espressoThe Product: Three Olives Triple Shot Espresso Vodka

The Premise: Apparently, people really like caffeinated cocktails

The Tasters and their Qualifications: Brent, Erica, Brian and Jan: 88 years of legal drinking

The Packaging: While we’re not fans of Three Olives’ typography, soft brown illustrations of three cups of espresso set against the dark coffee color of the vodka inside make this one an attractive package.

Tasters rated the following on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “I wouldn’t take it if it was free” and 10 being “I’m heading to the liquor store right now to get my own!”

The Nose: 7.25, “smells like espresso but cleaner (no crema)”

The Taste: 8.75, “espresso with a kick” Read the rest of this entry »

Tastings: Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva

Rum, Tastes of What's to Come No Comments »

The Product: Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva

The Premise: Originating in Cuba 130 years ago, now aged 15 years in the Dominican Republic, Gran Reserva calls itself the “cognac of rum.”

The Tasters and their Qualifications: Jason, Tara (has drank on four out of seven continents), Brian and Jan (self-proclaimed “shots champion”). Total years of legal drinking: 79

The Packaging: Classic look befitting the high-falutin’ aspirations of this venerable product

Tasters rated the following on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “I wouldn’t take it if it was free” and 10 being “I’m heading to the liquor store right now to get my own!”

The Nose: 9. Smooth, with hints of caramel

The Taste: 8.5 Rich smooth taste, with notes of vanilla. Good finish.

The Recipe (wherein we mix up a drink from the company’s Web site, when relevant):

The Cuban Special
1 1/2 oz. Matusalem Gran Riserva
Juice from half a lime
1 1/2 oz. Cointreau (we used Triple Sec)
1 1/4 oz. Pineapple juice
Ice cubes
Shake all ingredients over ice in a shaker; strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime twist

This was a very popular and refreshing summer drink. Some tasted a bit too much lime, some too much pineapple, but over all, the verdict was refreshing.

The Overall Verdict: 8.5 A great rum, on the rocks or in a Cuban Special

Tastings: Three Olives Root Beer Vodka

Tastes of What's to Come, Vodka No Comments »

The Product: Three Olives Root Beer

The Premise: Vodka and root beer—the kids (?) are sure to love it! A perfect choice for the Fourth of July: vodka imported from England meets a sweet beverage invented in Philadelphia. The pursuit of happiness, yes!

The Tasters and their Qualifications:
Reilly, Tom, Jerad, Jan, Brian—total of 52 years of legal drinking.

The Packaging: In a realm where product design reigns supreme (vodka is, after all, by definition flavorless, colorless and odorless, Three Olives might have the very worst logo of all. And the use of typography gives us a premature hangover. That being said, we kind of like the way the root beer mugs on the back of the bottle show through the vodka and the bottle front—the kids are sure to love it!

Tasters rated the following on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “I wouldn’t take it if it was free” and 10 being “I’m heading to the liquor store right now to get my own!”

The Nose: 8.6, smells like root-beer-barrel candy

The Taste: 5, somewhat bitter, a bit of root beer

The Recipe (wherein we mix up a drink from the company’s Web site):

Brotherly Love: 2 oz. Three Olives Root Beer Vodka, 4 oz. lemon-lime soda. Mix in a glass filled with ice and garnish with a lime wedge. (We substituted a lemon wedge.)

5.2 The Sprite flavor overwhelms the root beer.

The Overall Verdict: The consensus of our expert panel (remember, 52 years of cumulative cocktailing!) seems to be, “nothing special.” Not harmless, but little more than a novelty. True to its medium, its popularity increases as the quantity consumed is increased. (One panelist wrote, “it’s magical!”)

Tastings: Frozen Mango Mojito Cocktail Bucket

Tastes of What's to Come No Comments »

You know those friends of yours who started breeding and decamped for the suburbs to raise their offspring because, well, they wanted to be sure their children had as dull an upbringing as they did? They’re not just minivanning to soccer games and PTA bake sales as you sometimes imagine—they’re drinking, probably more than you. I’m not sure why this came as a revelation to me in a especially suburban-centered spring—I’ve read Cheever, after all—but it did, right around my third frozen concoction poured out of a dedicated margarita maker at one of those ranch home compounds in what they refer to as a “subdivision.”

This market for suburban boozing started falling into place for me when I noticed the Desert Pepper Mango Mojito frozen cocktail bucket at the Linens ‘n Things on Roosevelt Road. The mojito has become a ubiquitous offering at bars everywhere, but fresh mint leaves are not even that easy to come by in the city, so, hell, just buy the bucket, add a fifth of rum, and freeze. Voila, delicious summer patio cocktail, right?

Wrong. I’m not sure what I expected, but the bucket contains a large bag of sugar, and two small clear plastic packets of flavor; one mint and one mango, I assume. They look like something from the lab. It was very simple to prepare, but the finished product lives up to only one of its promises: it’s frozen and it’s slushy. Otherwise, it has a bitter flavor, with a strong predominance of rum and an unpleasant finish. None of the minty sweetness that makes a real mojito. In fact, I reckon they could call these mango daiquiris and no one would notice the difference.

But they are strong. So I can imagine folks sitting around the Weber grill, dissecting the virtues of the latest SUVs, gossiping about the neighbors who are not at the party, and getting through it all with a few of these. Bitterness comes in many forms, after all. (Brian Hey)