Sunday, January 30, 2011

Havana Club Barrel Proof - Sunday, Jan. 30th

This is not the review you're thinking of.

I am a stickler for rules. I never break them. That whole phrase about rules are meant to be broken makes my blood pressure rise until blood starts seeping out my tear ducts. I weep tears of blood when rules are broken. You can count on it.

I have never done ANYTHING illegal. No sir. I have totally never drank underage. I have also never, ever, ever done speedballs with Chris Farley shortly before the filming of Tommy Boy. of those is a lie. (Hint: I don't drink.)

I am also a staunch supported of the United States. And, combined with the fact that I am all about the rules, I can assure you that I follow all of the laws of the United States while here abroad. I stop kids trying to drink before 21. I drink coffee instead of that dastardly tea that cost us so much way back when. I drive on the right side of the road and always at 55mph. But most importantly, I NEVER buy Cuban products. Ever. According to the United States Treasury (brings up a PDF):

"The question is often asked whether United States citizens
or permanent resident aliens of the United States may
legally purchase Cuban origin goods, including tobacco and
alcohol products, in a third country for personal use
outside the United States. The answer is no. The
Regulations prohibit persons subject to the jurisdiction of
the United States from purchasing, transporting, importing,
or otherwise dealing in or engaging in any transactions
with respect to any merchandise outside the United States
if such merchandise (1) is of Cuban origin; or (2) is or
has been located in or transported from or through Cuba; or
(3) is made or derived in whole or in part of any article
which is the growth, produce or manufacture of Cuba. "

However, there has been a large market for replica products of Cuban goods. While many are designated as "fakes", or copies of Cuban products sold as Cuban goods, there is also much trading of "Carbon Copy" products. Produced to exactly replicate the flavor profiles and nuances of Cuban cigars and rum, they are widely available in foreign countries for U.S. tourists to bring back. For all intents and purposes, they are exactly the same as their Cuban counterparts but are NOT their Cuban counterparts. Please bear that in mind.

It is with great honor that I got to try a recent addition to the "Carbon Copy" market, the Havana Clüb Barrel Proof rum. A masterfully done blend of the finest rums available by a secret group of rum aficionados located in Cologne, Germany, Havana Clüb (rhymes with "tube") Barrel Proof is the Western replacement for the highly illegal, super duper terrible Havana Club Barrel Proof. Here's a picture:

Totally and utterly NOT Cuban rum.
As you can see, it is clearly German. You can obviously see the umlaut. Completely German, not Cuban. Yup. Here are the flavor notes:

The nose is spectacularly flowery. Heavy hints of jasmine, and bergamot. An earthy quality as well reminiscent of mud or bitter coffee. Curacao peel as well. Quite complex.

The taste is rather nice. The flowery quality of the nose comes through with jasmine and a Earl Grey tea like quality. Not as sweet as I expected it would be. Some burnt sugar/creme brulee flavors as well. Slightly tannic and astringent too. I wonder what kind of wood they age it on.

Overall, a fine effort by those secretive German blenders. It is a fine example of what I've read to be the genteel, lighter Cuban style. Clocking in at 45% ABV, exactly like the Cuban counterpart, it has enough oomph to deliver that fragrant style. I think the taste might get washed out at a lower ABV though. Unfortunately, I won't be able to compare the Havana Clüb Barrel Proof to the Havana Club Barrel Proof any time in the near future. A shame but as I said, I stick to the rules.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Harlem Kruiden Liqueur - Wednesday, January 26th

Herbal liqueurs are all the rage today. Seriously. If I have to hear one more frat boy loudly chant "Jagerbombs", something will burn. I like Jager and all but people need to branch out. Jager is not the only herbal tincture in the book. There's Schwarzhog (remember?), Strega, Galliano, Unicum, Chartreuse, Benedictine...

And Harlem.

Truth be told, I hadn't heard of Harlem (yeah, alliteration!) until I got a chance to chat (again) with them on Twitter. Personally, I like herbal liqueurs. A nice cold shot of Jager is, sometimes, the best medicine for a heavy meal. A digestif is always nice. Needless to say I wanted to try some of this Harlem liqueur and the Harlem people were happy to oblige. So they sent me a bottle and told me to go nuts.

No, I didn't mix it in Red Bull.

I didn't need to. Or want to. Why? Because it's not Jager. It doesn't look like Jager, it doesn't smell like Jager, it doesn't taste like Jager. It's from Holland, not Germany. It's a creature all of its own. And it's quite delicious (if pungent). I tried it warm (to get a sense of what's in it) and cold (to see how it it fares in the serving manner of most bars). Here are the results. And some pictures.

Oh, hello bottle. Fancy meeting you here. On my desk.

Come closer, you say? Of course you don't bite. You're a bottle. A fancy bottle.

Showing me your bottom! You naughty minx.

Nose: Wheeeeeew. The nose on this is pretty intense. Bitter orange, anise, clove. Makes my nose tingle something fierce. Cinnamon. It's hard to pick individual spices out. The overall combination gives it a bubblegum smell but as you sniff it different herbs poke out to tantalize you. Crafty spices. Always getting the best of me.

Taste: Wow....uh. It's really hard to describe but I'll try. That bubblegum flavor comes through along with clove. Peppery too. Very intense. Has hints of cola to it too. Very warming as well. Almost fiery. It's a really unique beverage to be truthful. There's definitely bitter orange in this though, it's really strong and puckering in the background. This is almost overbearing warm. Now I know why they say to drink it ice cold.


Nose: Ahhh, much better. The smell has calmed down to a level at which it doesn't feel like my nostrils are being assaulted by Marines jabbed with needles of adrenaline. The strongest smell is clove overlaying bitter orange. A delicious earthiness comes out as well, providing balance and contrast to the sweeter aromatics. That nose-tingling aspect has vanished as well. Lemon peel too. Anise maybe?

Taste: Mmmmm, now this is some cracking good stuff. Everything has toned wayyyy down. It still has a pleasant alcohol bite to it (it's 40%, not 30%). The clove has dimmed quite a bit; instead of dominating everything it intermingles with the orange. The cola flavoring has turned from hints to prominence on the finish. Lemon and ginger too.

Ok, here's how this works.

Step 1: Buy bottle of Harlem
Step 2: Look at bottle of Harlem sitting on your counter. Revel in its beauty. But under no circumstances are you to drink it warm. EVER. SENSORY OVERLOAD.
Step 3: Put bottle of Harlem in freezer.
Step 4: Wait 2 hours.
Step 5: Sip on ice or in shots.

It's actually a really fascinating drink. I wouldn't, couldn't, and shan't drink it warm again. It's just too overbearing warm. You actually need the cold to condense and limit the fragrance. But cold, it's pretty nice. Definitely nothing I've ever had before...but nice none-the-less. This definitely ISN'T a substitute for Jager; I find Jager to be completely different. Harlem is definitely far more citrus and cinnamon / clove while Jager has a more herbaceous, "green" taste to it. But I'd be intrigued to see how this functions in a Jagerbomb like setting. I think I'd call it "The Harlem Cannonade". Because, let's be honest here...cannonade sounds like a beverage. Lemonade and flying iron. Mmm.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Lucky Russian

A long, long time ago...I can still remember when D-Day used to make me smile.
And if I had an opportunity...that's where I would like to be...drinking on sunny Saturday morn.
But, my friends, alack and alas...time must continue to pass...
I left her hallowed life's got me by the balls
I don't know if I'll cry...when D-Day will pass me by...
I will, I'm sure, heave a sigh...
A year sans D-Day is nigh.

Sorry for getting sentimental with you there. I'm going to miss D-Day. In case you haven't followed me up until this point, D-Day is the annual "get up at 8am and drink your face off" day at University of Rochester. Short for Dandelion Day, it originated as a final hurrah on the last Saturday of the spring semester, right before the hefty wallop of spring finals and inevitable graduation. I shit you not on the details. It is customary for people of all ages to get up early just to drink. I saw people that couldn't even get up for a 11am class arise at the asscrack of dawn and take a travel mug of a rum and coke into the shower. That was just the kind of debauchery the day brought on.

My last year we decided to celebrate D-Day big. We were going to start the day off with a time-honored tradition of booze and cereal but we were having a distinctly hard time of agreeing on what to eat. My friend Ryan (of Fat B's fame) suggested we greet the day with the time honored meal known as Beerios. My other friends Chris and Mark (or, when he's drunk, Donc) suggested, perhaps, we buck the trend and substitute wine to make a hearty bowl of Wine-os. Both were extremely unappetizing to me. Seriously. Whole grain Cheerios swimming in a lake of cheap beer or boxed wine does not a solid breakfast make. Just thinking about it makes me rather queasy. So I prompted another solution. Here it is:

In a bowl, combine vodka, Kahlua, and heavy cream to make a White Russian. On top of this, pour a generous serving of Lucky Charms. Grab a spoon and cram into an awaiting, salivating maw.

I called it "The Lucky Russian".

Unfortunately, we never got to try out my shockingly good and alcoholic idea. Instead of starting the day off with cereal we started the day off representing the Chemical Engineers in a case race. We won (because the team that finished 5 minutes before us had two extra people, the cheats) so I guess it evens out. But the idea of the Lucky Russian languished in obscurity in my nicotine and ethanol sodden mind until break. It was time to break out this barnstormer of a boozy repast. Let's get cracking, shall we?

To start, we need our raw ingredients:

Really, any vodka works in this situation. A White Russian is a pretty forgiving drink as far as liquor quality. We used Boru because we had it on hand (and in sufficient amount). Also, it's not too strong on flavor that would mask things. Everything had to be cold though, so the vodka and the Kahlua went into the freezer with the light cream in the fridge. A White Russian is served over ice but, since you can't really put ice into a bowl of cereal without some really awkward questions, we opted just to chill the shit out of everything. Next, our base spirit and liqueur were added to the bowl:

It was actually pretty damn awesome to see them separate out by density like this. The vodka kinda formed an ethanol-y window to the murky depths of coffee liqueur. It was vaguely Lovecraft-ian in a hooch sort of way. Now, the milk:

Mmm, light cream. We used the light cream at first (because it was cheaper than heavy) but ended up having to do both a mix of light cream and milk since we were pretty heavy handed in pouring. We give it a stir to incorporate everything:

And then we pour on the love. And by love, I mean sugary sweet Lucky Charms. When we bought them, we were slightly worried because the only box they had were "Whole Grain Swirled", which were whole grain cereal bits with the balloons a swirly, Spin-Art color. We were distinctly troubled by the healthy kick for a cereal so righteously terrible for you as Lucky Charms but they were still tooth rottingly sweet so all was safe. Ok, here we go, first spoonful:

And the verdict is:

It was actually pretty damn good. Being the boozehound that I am, I made it pretty strong though. It kinda tasted like licking a hospital floor. Pretty medicinal. I had to tinker with the volume throughout the night until I got to the right ratio. For my tastes, we were looking at a 1.1 to 1 mixture of vodka to Kahlua (we measured in rough pour counts). A 1 to 1 mixture was a touch weak when filled to the brim with dairy but the 1.1 (a 1 count plus a spoonful) made a huge difference in making the Kahlua flavor pop out more and giving it the oomph it needs. Luckily enough, I hit my ratio pretty early and was content with refilling the Bowl of Indulgence a few times. Nicole, however, had a bit of trouble making hers. When she first made it and she finally poured the light cream was still brown. Really brown. It was like that dirty snow you end up shoveling onto the pristine white snow while you dig your house out. Here's us tasting it:

As evidenced by the pictures, it was godawful strong. Caitlin referenced it as "what was left after Chernobyl". We couldn't figure out HOW she did it but she managed to make it taste not like cereal, milk, or even booze but just plain burning. It was like trying to eat a brush fire. I guess she forgot that Kahlua had an ABV and added a whole lot of it or something. Either way, it was nigh inedible until we made the necessary corrections:

Some dairy...

Seriously...pour on the dairy...

It was interesting, actually. For those of us that "accidentally" made our White Russians "college strength", it seemed that the thing to cut it with wasn't the light cream but plain semi-skim milk. One would think the richness of the cream would combat the ethanol burn but the semi-skim did a far better job on an equal volume comparison. One day I'll investigate it. And, being the fine guests we were, we had to share the love of the Lucky Russian:

Many of you may think it cruel and unusual but this cat drinks more than I do. One time, while playing video games and drinking bourbon at my cameraman's house (he owns Blackbeard, the cat) I turned to my glass to find the cat drinking my bourbon. While normally I would threaten death and dismemberment on ANYONE pilfering my bourbon...the cat was too awesome to kill. It simply had a few licks and went to sleep on the couch. Kinda like I do. It really liked the Lucky Russian too. It kept coming back around the island in the kitchen, circling like a shark and faintly mewling. Finally, we decided to experiment with other cereals. For science, of course:

This was actually equally as good as the Lucky Charms. These were Banana Nut Cheerios and it was surprising how much I liked the combo. I can't imagine eating them with a base of beer or wine though. That makes me gag a teeny bit.

So there you have it. A breakfast for those Mondays when a cup of coffee and an two hours commute to your cubicle just won't cut it. The best part is after you eat a few bowls of this you don't have to drive and you can make one of the other suckers in your carpool chauffeur your ass to work. The best part about the Lucky Russian is the fact that, as the cereal marinates in the boozy goodness that is a White Russian, the marshmallows start to dissolve. As the alcohol breaks down those little sugary bastards, the milk floods with their magical colors, making your bowl an explosion of awesome like a mixture of Spin Art and fireworks. Truly a magical meal.

Now if only a bowl of this stuff could make me teleport like that bastard leprechaun.