National Pinot Noir Day

Pinot Noir is French for pine and black. Pine because the clusters of grapes resemble pine cones. Black due to the dark colored grapes which tend to produce a lighter colored, medium bodied wine.

If you are looking to lower your tannin intake when enjoying your wine, Pinot Noir is a good option. The grapes, Vitis Vinafera, contain lower phenolic compounds.

Pinot Noir originates, but is not limited to, the Burgundy region of France, namely in Cote-d’Or. It grows very successfully all over the world and does well in cooler climates.

Funky Purple Closson Chase

Even in Canada. Locally, visit Prince Edward County and you will most likely find a Pinot Noir grown and bottled right there.

Closson Chase headquarters is an interesting purple barn with a neat backyard area, right beside their vines. Grab a patio table and linger over your selected wine samples.

Huff Estates, which is also a hotel, did not offer something quite so comfortable for tastings. It was extremely busy, being a Saturday, so the servers were very rushed and could not afford too much time for explanations. Nor do they offer organic wines.

They do offer live music on the patio every Sunday afternoon from May to September.

View of vines from our table in the backyard of Closson Chase

The rustic style of The Grange proved to be very inviting. The taste of their wines, a riesling, a rose and a gamay pinot, were surprisingly excellent.

I tend to shy away from Ontario wines at my local shop. Perhaps, they deserve a little more attention because these Pinot’s caught my attention.

At Naggiar Vineyards, the grapes are hand-picked at night because the bugs and the heat make it very uncomfortable. Since their humble beginnings in Grass Valley, CA in 1998, they now produce 5600 cases of wine annually.

The list could go on forever with so much Pinot Noir made all over the world. The organic section of wine stores is growing quite rapidly, too.

Organic is a vague term and used in many different ways with regards to wine-making.

If a vineyard’s grapes go through 3 consecutive years of growing without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, it can be labelled as organic.

Parts Per Million Debate

A wine can be labelled organic even if it is 90% organically grown as long as the sulphite levels are low enough. It might be a good  thing a little sulphite is present for its antioxidant properties. Without it, the wine will spoil sooner than later.

Spanish Tempranillo is a low acid wine

Organically-grown grapes aren’t necessarily labelled as organic if the sulphite level exceeds 200 PPM. Sulphites are naturally present in fruit, especially grape skins, but could also be added during wine processing.

Every country is different. Some do not require labels and others do. The United States requires companies to add sulphites to their labels if the its level is higher than 10 PPM. This regulation came into being since sulphur has become a great health concern.

Generally, a wine without added sulphites, au naturel, will range from 10 – 40 PPM. If they are added during processing, the level can reach as high as 350 PPM. Sorry but you can’t avoid them completely, all wines have some degree of it.

Wine is not the only drink where you will find sulphites. The same amount, approximately 300 PPM, is in soda, and fruit juice contains more than either of these.

If you know you are sensitive to sulphites, and really can’t stand the idea of not having a glass with dinner, consider eliminating processed foods instead. French fries contain almost 2,000 PPM and dried fruit tops the chart with a whopping 3,500 PPM.

That glass of dry red with 50 PPM doesn’t seem so threatening, now, does it?

Are Sulphites Necessary?

To prevent spoiling, then yes. Low acidity wines require more sulphur than wines with higher acidity. Oddly, white wines contain more sulphur than reds.

Wines with higher sugar content, which tend to be whites, have more sulfur to prevent secondary fermentation of the remaining sugar.

Examples of low acid wines:

Gewurztraminer

Chardonnay

Viognier

Cabernet Sauvignon

Merlot

Dolcetto

Grenache

10 mg of sugar

Wines with higher acid levels:

Riesling

Chenin Blanc

Pinot Noir

Zinfandel

Cabernet Franc

Tempranillo

Barbera

Nebbiolo

Sangiovese

Is Organic a Stigma?

Some vineyard owners believe it is. They believe people may see it as poorer quality so they will opt to leave that information out of their label.

For example, according to Good Housekeeping Magazine, Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir is organic but the label lacks this information.

Chilean Cono Sur‘s organic Pinot Noir promises low tannins without sparing rich texture. Located at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Chile, Cono Sur uses stainless steel tanks to hold their wine before transferring to oak barrels. They built an additional cellar to house the 530,000 litres of top pinot noir.

In the 1950’s, French enologist Emile Peynaud suggested using stainless steel barrels when he learned dairy farms avoided transferring bacteria in their stainless tanks. He thought, why not with wine. Wood holds onto bacteria, possibly infecting new batches, and resists any attempts at sterilization. Stainless is easy to clean and sterilize.

However, just because wine is aging in stainless, does not mean it is without oak. Some wineries might use oak chips of planks suspended inside the barrels.

Domaine Jean Bousquet, an Argentinian vineyard, makes a delicious organic wine. As far as organic versions, they make a white blend with lemon and apple, a Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve bought these reds numerous times and can rely on their smooth, flavourful taste.

On The Wine Trail in Prince Edward County, Ontario

If your local wine shop does not have a separate section for organic beverages, ask for help.

Or throw caution to the wind and choose any wine you desire.

But do find a way to enjoy your glass of Pinot Noir today. Cheers!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on April 18, 2017.

It’s National Rum Day!

This is one liquor that I will not find locally grown. Sugarcane just doesn’t grow around here. Here, being Canada. Maybe where you are, it grows.

Distillers of rum are generally in the Caribbean or Latin America. Any other distillery selling it, is importing it.

Imported from Guyana

It can certainly be bottled anywhere but the cane will come from the south.

Rum, itself, is made from molasses which comes from sugarcane. The quality and variety of the cane, the soil and the climate are all factors in the final outcome of rum.

The word Rum is thought to have come from either the words rumbullion or rumbustion/rumbastion which are slang for uproar or tumult. These words came about around the same time as the invention of rum. One theory.

Saccharum is Latin for sugar so it’s possible this is why it is called Rum.

Since 2011, Diageo (manufacturers) have used the slogan, To Live, Love and Loot to salute Sir Henry Morgan.

In the 17th Century, the Caribbean saw the first distillation of the juice from sugarcane.

Even prior to this, there are recordings of the production of rum all over the world.

In Brazil in 1620.

In the 14th-century, Marco Polo claimed, and recorded, that a “very good wine of sugar” was offered to him in the region that is now Iran.

Yet, long before this, it is believed that fermented drinks from sugarcane were consumed in ancient India or China. From there, it spread so that it seemed other parts of the world were the first to distill it.

Today, India is the world’s largest market for rum. Contessa, Old Monk, Amrut and Old Port are just a few of the rums produced in India.

When the Royal Navy introduced rum rations, it was meant to ward off scurvy. They kept water on board to prevent dehydration. The water would always spoil. Then they introduced beer, as mentioned in a previous blog, which led to rum. They still kept a water supply for the use of mixing it with the beer and the rum before it spoiled.

The lime that was added to the rum probably kept the scurvy away, not the alcohol.

Even Newfoundland got in on the frenzy. Fishermen exchanged their salt fish for rum when they traveled to the West Indies. As a result, fish became the main dish in Jamaica and rum became the drink of choice in Newfoundland.

Back then, Screech was a Demerara Rum, originally produced in Guyana. Today, it is a Jamaican Rum.

As the story goes, during WWII, American soldiers downed this very strong rum like it was water. It affected one soldier in particular rather intensely.

“What the cripes was that ungodly screech?” The taciturn Newf simply replied, “The screech?” ‘Tis the rum, me son.”    -Screech Rum

The Kraken, originated in Trinidad in 2010.

Visit The Screech Room to find out what all the fuss is about and get yer Screech on.

Established in Barbados in 1705, Mount Gay Rum, the oldest distillery, is still in operation 300 years later. Enjoy one of many tours. The Bottomless Rum Punch Station sounds awfully interesting.

Sir John Gay helped manage a distillery with John Sober (ahem, hilarious coincidence!) who had acquired it in 1703. Together they developed a unique tasting rum that spread the world.

The island of Barbados was originally discovered by the Portegese. The name means bearded ones and is said to describe the vegetation, like the bearded trees.

Bacardi & The Bat

Bacardi, founded by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, is the largest rum producer and is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

It’s humble beginnings, in Santiago de Cuba in 1830, saw Massó deal in the import of wine then branched out to spirits.

Facundo tried to tame the strong liquor, experimenting with various methods until he found the best one. He strained the fermented liquid through charcoal which removed impurities. A process they still incorporate today. He, then, aged it in white oak barrels. The result, a smooth, mellow rum.

After a fire in 1880, a new plant officially opened in 1936 in San Juan. This is now referred to as The Cathedral of Rum.

The Bat is a symbol of good fortune. Facundo’s wife, Amalia, noticed the fruit bats living in the rafters of the distillery in Santiago de Cuba and suggested associating them with their company.

Today, they offer 3 different tours of the distillery: Historical, Rum Tasting and the Mixology Tour which sounds like tons of fun! I’m checking flights right now!

The 7-generation family-owned company sells more than 200 million bottles per year. This empire business deals in more than just rum. They produce everything: vodka, bourbon, whisky, gin, vermouth, and tequila.

The Lineup at Kinsip House in Prince Edward County.

Friendly tastings and distillery tours are available at the very homey Kinsip House of Fine Spirits, and boy are they fine, especially the Gin but we’re on Rum today.

It arrives as molasses which is Barbados style. It isn’t the origin of product but represents a style.  It is the first boiling of the sugar cane which makes a much lighter syrup vs black strap which is the final boiling.”    -Jeremiah Soucie, President at Kinsip House.

According to thethrillist.com, these are the best rum regions of the world.

Popular rum cocktails

Mai Tai – white and dark rum, lime juice, syrup, orange curacao.

Mojitos – rum, mint, soda water.

Pina Colada – rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream or coconut water.

The Hurricane – rum, passionfruit juice, lemon juice.

Dark and Stormy – rum, ginger beer and bitters.

Daquiri – rum, simple syrup, lime juice.

Hot Buttered Rum – get the full recipe.

Long Island Iced Tea – rum, gin, tequila, vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, syrup and a splash of cola.

Zombie – white, gold & dark rum, Juice: papaya, pineapple, lime, sugar.

Egg nog – just add rum and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

The two main ingredients for a Dark and Stormy. Just add bitters.

What Can You Do With Rum?

Aside from the obvious….

Pour it over ice cream

Put it in a rum punch

Make a rum cake

Soak some gummy bears in it…ahem, you know who you are!

Among the recipes on the side bar, I have included some different sugars to experiment with when making Simple Syrup.

Demerara, not only a sugar, is a region in Guyana where this light brown sugar originates. Due to its growing popularity, it is now grown in Mexico, Hawaii and India to name a few. 

Compared to regular brown sugar which is really only white sugar dyed with molasses. Demerara’s large grain sugar would be a healthier choice and a tastier choice with it’s caramel flavour. White sugar is refined to remove all of the minerals, such as chromium, cobalt, magnesium, manganese and zinc. These all help the body digest sugar.

Demerara, and turbinado sugar, still contain these minerals. Try it in your coffee (aka caramel flavoured coffee), cookies and muffins. 

My Favourite-Malibu on Ice

Nicknames for Rum

kill-devil

demon water

pirate’s drink

navy neaters

Barbados water

Grog

Tot

Brad, at Malone’s Bar & Grill, makes a mean Mai Tai!

Nelson’s Blood – Admiral Nelson died in the Battle of Trafalgar, had his body preserved in a rum cask and transported to his final resting place. For a time after this, some referred to rum as Nelson’s Blood.

Splice The Main Brace – when you received your second rum ration of the day.

Rumbullion

Rumbastion

Wherever you are in the world, find yourself some rum, or whatever you’d like to call it, and salute your ancestors who developed this spirit.

Stay tuned later this year for Rum Punch Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on August 16, 2017

It’s International Beer Day!

Earlier in the year, we saw National Beer Day pass us by. If you missed your chance to grab a celebratory beer that day after work, today is another opportunity.

In April, I discovered the origins, so I will bypass this and go right into something else.

How Beer Has Changed Over The Years

Ale has evolved since Medieval times due to technique. Malt, oats, yeast and water are the only ingredients used back then.

The liquid containing sugars and protein, the wort, extracted from the grain, was not boiled prior to fermenting.

For it to be considered beer, it had to be boiled with hops.

There are many factors that separate beer from ale from pilsners, etc. But they all have one common ingredient. Sugar. Fermented sugar. These sugars come from the starches in the base malt.

From this common base ingredient, you can make the beer any flavour you wish.

Brew it at a low temperature and you will end up with a lager.

Brewing at a high temperature will produce an ale.

Add hops and you get a pilsner. The quick story on that? It was an accident. After some major spoilage of a batch of lager was thrown away, a professional was hired.

Josef Groll, specifically brought in from Bavaria to “fix” it so the lager wouldn’t spoil, added Saaz hops. Yes, generally, beer has hops in it but Saaz hops has a stronger bite.

Cleaning Up The Beer

One of the biggest changes in beer is the introduction of Ciders. Some have a beer taste and some are made from apple juice that is fermented.

Somersby, the new cider gaining much popularity, is a great gluten-free option. It claims to have no artificial flavours, colour or sweeteners.

It does not have a beer taste which, in my opinion, is a good thing. If you know you are gluten intolerant, it might be a good choice if you are switching away from beer.

It is made by the Danish brewers Carlsberg Group and has spread its Somersby wings across 46 countries.

A phone call may have to be made to Somersby to question the presence of sulphites in their drink.

According to the Nutrition Diva at quickanddirtytips.com, sulphites are preservatives and antioxidants. Remember, those antioxidants are what prevents fruit from turning brown.

Notice the last ingredient…

Is Somersby adding the sulphites for this purpose or is it in there naturally?

This from Mahorall Farm Cider where they brew cider without sulphites:

“Using sulphites are one way to kill the natural yeast that is naturally present in apple juice. An added yeast that has been cultured is then added to create a more standardised product and reduces the risk of spoilage and waste for the producer.”

If you are trying to make your own cider, be careful not to purchase a base cider that has chemical preservatives (sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate). These will kill the yeast and it will not ferment.

The process of pasteurization affects the flavour of cider as well. Usually this is through heat, but “cold pasteurization” is another option.

However, this process involves gamma rays. Sounds like an unhealthy way to go. I would likely choose a homemade version.

On that note, there are gluten free beers if you just can’t live without the taste of a cold brew on a hot day. Some breweries will use gluten free grain to produce their final product. Others, such as the Brunehaut, de-glutenize during the brewing process.

As far as sulphites in beer go, it looks like they can be present naturally during the fermentation process but as a practice, breweries do not deliberately add them.

Up And Coming Gluten Free Beer

Estrella Damm Daura – Spain. This beer has won the Superior Taste Award of the International Taste & Quality Institute of Brussels 3 years in a row. Visits to the brewery are allowed. This is the only beer of these 5 that are available at the LCBO in Ontario.

Green’s – Belgium. They brew 9 different gluten free beers ranging from pale to dark. A great option for it’s healthy, ancient grains such as sorghum, millet and brown rice which contain 3 times higher the amount of zinc found in barley.

Omission – A brewery in Oregon specifically crafts all of their beer to be below 20ppm of gluten. (parts per million)

Brunehaut Bio Blonde – Belgium. It’s also an organic and vegan product.

New Planet – Colorado. 3 out of their 5 products are 100% gluten free: Pale, Blonde and Raspberry. Seclusion and Tread Lightly go through the process of de-glutenization and they cannot guarantee it’s complete removal.

Another way beer is morphing is at the Mill St Pub with a newer addition of Barley Wine.

This version is aged in whisky barrels so keep in mind it will have tannins.

With all the eccentric mixes and new brews, don’t forget the classics….

With Clamato Juice

With Ginger Ale

And the best way to have a beer?

With a Margarita!

How about vodka and fruit juice? Well, ok, that’s not a classic version but it sure looks good! See LCBO for recipes.

New opinions on the benefits of beer can be found everywhere. Some even say moderate consumption can be healthy. Go figure!

Cheers to another beer day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on August 5, 2017.

 

 

 

Black Tot Day

 

On July 31, 1970, the Royal Navy served the last daily ration of rum, known as a tot.

A very sad day indeed for sailors.

Le Pirate in Gatineau, Quebec

In the 17th Century, English sailors were issued a daily ration of one gallon of beer. This amounted to a large quantity to store and took up plenty of space on board the ships.

The Navy decided a half pint of rum would be the equivalent and switched from beer to rum.

Eventually, drunkenness became a huge problem.

In 1740, Admiral Edward Vernon ordered a new rule to water down the rum’s ration 4:1 and issued half of the ration early in the day and other half in the evening.

This did not curb the drunkenness. Discipline issues continued into the 19th Century. Officials cut the ration in half so that sailors received a watered down quarter pint.

El Dorado Rum Made in Guyana

In 1850, the Admiralty Grog Committee – yes, they had official meetings regarding their rum! – they recommended eliminating the ration altogether.

The sailors behaviour still remained a concern.

Instead of eliminating the daily ration, The Committee, yet again, cut the diluted ration in half and eliminated the evening ration. They received an eighth of the original ration.

Rations for Officers did end in 1881 and Warrant Officers in 1918, probably to set an example.

In 1921, the Australian Navy discontinued rations.

In 1969, Christopher Mayhew, an MP for Woolwich East, wrote to the Admiralty Board inquiring about the rations.

The Board responded: “The Admiralty Board concludes that the rum issue is no longer compatible with the high standards of efficiency required now that the individual’s tasks in ships are concerned with complex, and often delicate, machinery and systems on the correct functioning of which people’s lives may depend”.                                                                                          – From Wikipedia

On the evening of January 28, 1970, deliberations were started by James Wellbeloved, an MP for Erith and Crayford. He took the stance of continuing the rations.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, the debate, known now as the Great Rum Debate, concluded with a decision: Rations are no longer appropriate.

Here we are again at July 31, 1970. The day the last ration was served at the usual 6 bells at 11 am, to the sailors on board. Some of the men wore black armbands who buried their ration At Sea.

The HMS Collingwood performed a mock funeral service with a black coffin, drummers and pipers.

The Fish Market in Ottawa Byward Market

The Royal Canadian Navy followed suit and stopped rum rations on March 31, 1972.

As late as 1990, the New Zealand Navy discontinued their daily ration.

In England, visit Portsmouth for more local history of the Royal Navy Dockyard where you will find plenty of things to do.

Salute your sailors today and raise a tot of rum!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 31, 2017

National Scotch Day July 27

6 Cool Things I Learned About Whisky

It’s True Origins

The Scots claim the fame on this one but I discovered the origins could have been in Ireland back in the 5th Century when Monks began distilling spirits.

The earliest known record of distilling malt dates back to 1494. From the royal finances accounting records, there is an entry of the purchase of ingredients to make whisky:

“Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae.”

Aqua Vitae is Latin for Water of Life.

For a whisky refresher, see World Whisky Day post.

It’s Beer Origins

The differences between scotch and beer is in the method of production. The ingredient is the same: Malted Barley.

Hops are added to beer and distilled once.

Scotch has been distilled twice and aged in oak barrels. Some of the barrels come from Bourbon distillers in the Kentucky region.

It’s Destinations

There are over 100 distilleries in Scotland alone where Scotch is produced.

1 billion bottles of scotch is exported annually from Scotland.

Who receives all this?

France takes in the most at 200 million bottles per year.

The United States are second at 120 million bottles per year.

With so many scotch and whisky distilleries all over the world, I will limit the list to 5, choosing them based on originality and charm.

Touristy type? Try the Scotch Whisky Experience, complete with the barrel ride.

This is NOT the 64 year old version

In 1886, William Grant began construction, with the help of his 7 sons and 2 daughters, of the stone building to house the first true single malt whisky.

He named it Glenfiddich, Gaelic for Valley of the Deer. One year later, they completed construction.

And on Christmas Day in 1887, the first batch was ready. This company is the owner of the longest aged scotch, at 64 years, which was bottled in 2001.

The distillery is a five mintute drive north of Dufftown. You could easily walk the distance. Airbnb has a wealth of places to stay, including a treehouse!

Then, visit a castle or two. Balvenie and Auchindoun are 2 close options.

Glenmorangie goes for $450 per shot in The Highlander Pub in Ottawa

Glenmorangie lies on the shores of Dornoch Firth . Grab a tour of the 174 year old distillery and experience Old World charm in the Scottish Highlands.

No need to include a link for accommodations, they ARE the accommodations!

All you need are directions for the 7 minute drive from Dornoch Firth to the distillery.

Talisker is one of the oldest Single Malt Scotch Whisky distilleries in production by the ocean, on the shores of Loch Harport in the rugged region of Isle of Skye.

Stay at an airbnb by the water in Carbost to get the full experience. It’s a 5 minute walk to the Talisker “island” distillery.

It’s Varieties

Blended – the most commonly made Scotch. It is a mix of grain and malt barley which could be anywhere between 15 and 50 types of whisky blended in.

Single Malt – made from 100% malted barley at a single distillery.

Blended Single Malt – this will be a mixture of single malts. If the age statement looks like this: 10/12/18 – it means they are a blend of aged grains.

Single Grain – these are fillers in the blends which keep the price down. If you’re spending hundreds of dollars on a scotch, it won’t contain this.

Single Cask – made in one single batch in several casks within the same distillery.

There’s that rule again. It can only be called scotch if it has been aged in a cask minimum 3 years then bottled in Scotland.

It’s Taboo!

Well, it used to be. In 1725 scotch was declared illegal. The English Malt Tax shut down production. Bootlegging became the preferred choice and back then, the quality wasn’t even that good.

The high demand meant transporting the spirit which took some time. While wood barrels journeyed downstream, the liquid aged. Lucky for the recipients. They switched to oak for its durability.

What an improvement!

It’s Outrageously Priced!

The most expensive bottle sold: Macallan, at a Hong Kong auction for $628,205.

Another bottle of Macallan, a 64 year old Lalique, sold at an auction in Sothebey’s, New York for $460,000.

Lalique is the name of the designer of the unique glass bottle.

Ask for a shot of Glenmorangie and you’ll be $450 CDN out of pocket.

What are they putting in this stuff?

It’s Flavour

On my road of discovery of the amazing taste of bourbon last month, I began to appreciate scotch a little more.

Try your scotch with a couple drops of room temperature water. It really does open up something within the spirit.

Skip the ice cube, it will only mask the flavour.

Consider organic. Benromach is located in Forres in the Speyside region along the coast of the North Sea, a 3 hour drive from Carbost if you’re doing a distillery tour.

Find a quaint place in town or in any of the outlying areas. Mosset Tavern sits on the banks in Moray. From what I’ve seen, many brands of scotch come from this region. Might be worth looking into!

To quickly get around Scotland, try Ryanair instead of the train, it can be much cheaper. Remember to book exactly 3 months to the day ahead of time. Some flights are as low as 20 euros. Aberdeen is the closest airport if you’re seeing any of the above sights.

Love My Family!

This post is dedicated to my Scottish family in California, The Ratcliffe-Slater Clan, my lovers of Scotch.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 27, 2017

 

 

National Tequila Day

When National Margarita Day passed through back in February, most of my focus was on the actual cocktail.

This time, I can delve a little deeper and expand on the origins of tequila.

If you travel northwest from Guadalajara for 65 km, you will reach the outskirts of the city of Tequila, originally founded by Franciscan monks in 1530.

Here, the native blue agave plant is grown. It is also grown throughout the state of Jalisco, including the highlands known as Los Altos, where apparently the final product is sweeter and fruitier than what the lowlands produce.

The red volcanic soil surrounding this area provides a wealth of nutrients for the agave.

300 million of these plants are harvested from here alone each year. Agave plants are not cactus, they are a succulent with long fronds resembling aloe vera. Once a plant is harvested, it has given up it’s life for our pure (possibly drunken) entertainment in the end.

The heart of the plant, el pina, is cut out which looks like a pineapple and weighs in anywhere from 60 pounds to a few hundred pounds.

The heart is the part that is steamed, crushed and fermented into liquor. This video shows you a traditional method of steaming agave.

To capture the full, more modern process, this 7 minute video covers all of the stages of production.

First made in the 16th Century near today’s city of Tequila, because Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy.

Don Pedro Sanchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira, began mass producing blue agave into tequila at the first factory near what is now Jalisco. Eight short years later, government found a way to tax his product. Back then it was called Tequila Extract.

The first license was issued to the Cuervo family.

Tequila’s first export to the United States occurred by Don Cenobio Sauza, founder of Sauza Tequila. He shortened the name of the distilled beverage to just Tequila.

Sauza’s grandson, Don Francisco Javier, made the effort to create a quality tequila and stipulated that “there cannot be tequila where there are no agaves!” His work involved creating the law of “real tequila can only come from the state of Jalisco.”

In the same way that Champagne is only Champagne if it is made in the Champagne region, Mexico this same rule for tequila. By 2003, Mexico had ruled that the tequila must be bottled in Mexico to be sure of its authenticity. Each bottle contains a serial number giving you the location of the distillery in which it was made.

There are over 900 brands of tequila in Mexico alone.

Tequila vs Mezcal

They really are the same because they come from agave plants. However, if you refer to a tequila as mezcal, you may be offending someone. Tequila comes from the blue agave plant, or agave tequilana, and mezcal comes from any other agave plant.

According to Mexican law, the production for tequila can only take place in Jalisco, a northern state of Mexico and in 4 other states: Tamaulipas, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Guanajuato.

If you are distilling blue agave and you are outside of any of these places, you cannot call it tequila, you will only be able to call it mezcal, by law.

Most mezcals are made from espadin agave but can be blended with other agave plants to develop differing flavours. There are over 30 varieties of agave plants. Many factors affect taste including whether the agave is grown in the highlands or the lowlands where the final product has a more herbaceous taste.

As far as taste goes, mezcal has a smokier, sweeter, and sometimes richer flavour than tequila which is sharper and stronger.

To make things a little more complicated, tequila’s legal requirement stipulates it must be at least 51% blue agave. Some boast it is 100% but it is not mandatory to be called tequila. As long as it is minimum 51% blue agave and grown and produced in Jalisco, it can legally be labelled as tequila.

Jimadores are the people who manually extract the agave plant from the ground.

The remaining 41% might be sugarcane but it will have to be displayed on the label. Blended tequila such as this is referred to as mixto tequila.

Regulations also state that mezcal producers cannot produce tequila and vice versa.

LCBO carries a huge selection and keep in mind the allergies to the oak barrel if you enjoy red wine as well. You will be sensitive to the gold types: resposado, anejo. Try to stay with the white or silver

The Myth of The Worm

Maquey is the term for agave plants. Gusano de maguey are larvae that feed on agave but not the blue agave. That larvae, or caterpillar, would turn into a mariposa butterfly. If you bought yourself a bottle claiming to be tequila and find a worm in it, return it. It’s not tequila. And what distillery would allow a bug in your final product?

In Terms of Ageing

Abacado/White – 0 to 2 months – Bolder, harsh taste. These may be stored in stainless steel casks but does not age.

Joven/Mixto – 0 to 2 months – The same taste as Blanco; also does not age.

Reposado – 2 months to 1 year – Smoother and more complex. Aged in wooden oak barrels.

Anejo – 1 to 3 years – The same as Reposado. Aged in oak.

Extra Anejo – 3+ years. Also aged in oak.

Distillers purchase their barrels from whisky producers, the ones that will never be used again for certain types of scotch and bourbon, and tends to add a sweeter taste to the liquor than if they used other types of oak barrel such as French Oak or a brand new barrel.

Things To Do In Jalisco

National Festival of Tequila is held every year from November 3 to December 12. Enjoy parades, mariachi bands, cockfights, if you’re so inclined, mexican rodeos and fireworks.

You can follow the Tequila Trail or choose a distillery in or near where you are staying, take a few taste tests to explore the difference of flavours.

Don’t forget to book at least one distillery tour or take the Tequila Express.

Casa Sauza is located in Tequila.

La Rojena, founded in 1812, is still producing Jose Cuervo. It is the oldest distillery still in operation. You’ll notice that Casa Sauza is approximately a block from here as well. Visit both!

Tequila Herradura is a popular choice with its old charm hacienda.

Not too long ago, I visited the Dominican and purchased a bottle of tequila called Bear Hug from the duty free shop. I tried their sample and never looked back. Now, I have tried Patron and other basic tequilas and of course Jose Cuervo but, hands down, Bear Hug is the tastiest, easiest one you can drink alone. No lemon, no lime, no salt. Drop in an ice cube and sip.

Remember the name, Bear Hug. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I would have to go back to get more. It is not available in Canada. Yet. But I’m working on it.

The best thing to do is fly to Guadalajara and take the 2 hour bus ride or book a tour from Guadalajara. Choose carefully. They are not always what they claim to be. Check the reviews.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 24, 2017

 

 

National Daiquiri Day

The Daiquiri is more than just a refreshing slushy summertime cocktail.

All I Need Is A Daiquiri In My Hand!

It is a beach in Santiago, Cuba…..

There is also an iron mine there….

Translated from Spanish to English, it simply means Beverage.

How do you pronounce Daiquiri? Dack-er-ree? I always did. I’ve been corrected. Properly, it is Dye-ker-ree.

Jennings Cox, an American engineer, labelled the mix of rum, lime juice and sugar The Dacquiri around the year 1900 but the mixture itself has been used long before.

It is a Taino Indian word believed to reference this drink made up of rum, lime juice and sugar. The Taino people made up the indigenous communities of the Caribbean.

There were different variations using different rums but the Carta Blanca, a Cuban aged and filtered rum, transformed the flavour of the cocktail and became the preferential choice.

Ernest Hemingway, living in Cuba beginning in 1940, enjoyed his Daiquiris with 4 ounces of rum. The Cubans labelled them as Papa Doble. His record in one sitting: 16 Papa Dobles.

The variations of a daiquiri are endless: Banana, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry. Choose any frozen fruit, toss in the rum, ice and lemon juice and call it a daiquiri but remember to follow the format of the classic.

When the blender is “broken”, this is what you get.

When ordering a daiquiri out on the town, choose your establishment well. Not every bar has a blender. Even the ones that do, you may hear it’s “broken”.

Take it from a former waitress and bartender, some servers would rather not put the extra work in to make those slushie drinks so you’ll get the “Our Blender’s Broken” story. So opt for places that specialize in fancier drinks or they contain slushie type drinks on their menu.

Regardless, you can still get a daiquiri by asking for it shaken. Same ingredients, different blending method.

If you plan to be in Santiago, perhaps you prefer to stay at an AirBnb, if you’re not the all-inclusive resort type, where you can get the true flavour of the region.

In addition to things to do in Santiago de Cuba, I thought I would provide a list of things NOT to do in Cuba.

Don’t wear expensive bling – you’ll be a target to pickpockets.

Don’t take pictures of the police, military or airport personnel -it’s illegal.

Don’t blow your nose in public – it’s  very rude – go somewhere private.

Don’t spit in public – for the same reason.

Do I need to mention the water?

Don’t bother bringing your American Express card – it may not be accepted.

Don’t use unlicensed taxis – they’re illegal, so find the licensed ones.

Did you know Canadians can bring back 20 Cuban cigars without documentation?

Don’t get hustled – whether it’s for directions, restaurant ideas or story-telling, you may get asked for payment.

Don’t order a papaya daiquiri – papaya means a ladies ‘private part’ and is considered quite vulgar. Order a fruta bomba.

Don’t forget to tip your hotel staff – money is always good but practical gifts are great too. Bring extra toiletries: toothbrushes and paste, shampoo and conditioner, mouthwash even pantyhose.

Don’t watch the clock – everyone is on Island Time.

Any tips or warning from your experiences you would like to add, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Enjoy your day with your favorite flavour in a Daiquiri. Cheers!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 19, 2017

National Grand Marnier Day

 

Jean-Baptiste Lapostolle began his distillery in 1827 in Neauphle-le-chateau in France where he produced a liqueur using a variety of fruit.

Along came Louis Alexandre Marnier, from a family of wine-makers in the Sancerre region of France. Louis married Monsieur Lapostolle’s granddaughter in 1876. I like to think he stole her heart but maybe he persuaded her with the delicious liqueur her grandfather made.

The Lapostolle and Marnier went into business together and put the name Curacao Marnier to their new orange flavoured liqueur.

Marnier insisted on importing the finest oranges from the Caribbean.

Interestingly, there is an island in the Caribbean, off the northern coast of Venezuela, named Curacao. It makes up the ABC Islands: Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. Very much under the radar, give it a try.

Curacao actually means a liqueur flavored with the peel from bitter oranges.

Meanwhile, back in 1880, Marnier’s friend, hotel owner, Cesar Ritz, yes THE Ritz, tried the liqueur and declared it should be called Grand due to its grand taste and to disregard the trend of everything being ‘petit’ all over France. Petit Café, Petit Chateau, etc.

Thus, we now know it as Grand Marnier.

Compliments of the home of Christine Hamel

Great in so many drinks: B-52’s, Margaritas or The Batiste which is made with 1 oz gold rum, 1 1/2 oz GM in a chilled glass.

Or try it simply with ginger ale.

To enjoy it in a dessert, try a Grand Marnier Souffle! See the recipe for a Chocolate GM Sauce, too.

To celebrate the famous liqueur, find yourself a cozy French restaurant anywhere in the world, perhaps a ‘Petit Cafe’ to enjoy a Grand Marnier.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 14, 2017

 

 

 

It’s Time For a Pina Colada!

It’s been so long since I found the actual person who invented a specific cocktail! I thought I found the one person who invented it.

Then I read elsewhere that there are a few possibilities. Figures.

Spanish bartender, Ramon Portas Mingot who worked at the Barrachina in Puerto Rico in 1963, tossed pineapple juice, milk and rum together in a blender which soon became known as the Pina Colada.

The Barrachina, the ‘king of Paella”, is located in the beautiful and vibrant Old San Juan.

Personally, I had to look up the location of Puerto Rico. I thought it was near Mexico. High School Geography was a long time ago. For those who don’t know, it is a small island off the eastern tip of Dominican Republic.

That’s one.

Within the Caribe Hilton Hotel in Puerto Rico is The Beachcombers Bar where Ramon “Monchito” Marrero tended bar in 1954. Management asked him to create a signature drink for the bar which offered the flavours of the island.

Apparently, it took him 3 months to find the perfect cocktail made up of rum, cream of coconut and pineapple juice.

That’s two.

Still at the Caribe Hilton in the same year, Ricardo Garcia claims to have invented the drink. According to him, there was a coconut cutters strike going on at that time. He had been making rum and cream of coconut, served with the actual coconut. Due to the strike, he started using hollowed out pineapple.

The juice from the insides of the pineapple added flavour to the drink. It became so popular, he added a little pineapple juice to the actual drink.

And so, we have the Pina Colada which, according to some, translates into “strained pineapple”. Google didn’t fully agree. But we all know what google does with words.

Homemade Pina Colada with coconut rum and coconut water.

The common thread? The Pina Colada is the national drink of Puerto Rico.

Not every city will serve this cocktail in the traditional pineapple but it can be done at home quite easily. In this video, she makes it look so easy. It is IF you have a pineapple corer.

These series of photos are done from home using a corer. Instead of using cream of coconut, I used coconut water. Very light and refreshing! And oh so delicious, some of the pineapple juice pooled inside at the bottom. Added flavour!

With all the bad news coverage, it is no surprise that United Airlines has the lowest last minute fares to Puerto Rico. Round trip is approximately $800. Personally, I would still fly United. I always have and never had any problems. Of course, depending on what time of year you go, the price will change. For example, in September you’re looking at about $600 and later in November, they’re up to about $900.

Old San Juan, founded 1509, is an old fort town which went through its share of attacks from the British, Dutch and even the States. There are plenty of historical forts to visit.

A slushy Pina Colada at Burrito Borracho in downtown Ottawa.

When you do get to San Juan, make sure you indulge in a Pina Colada. If you are elsewhere in the world today for National Pina Colada Day, I hope you will enjoy one anyway.

Cheers!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 10, 2017

 

National Anisette Day – July 2

Did you know, the anise plant is within the same family as parsley?

Much like absinthe, the licorice-flavoured Anisette is sweeter due to the higher sugar content but has a lower alcohol level.

If you recall, the licorice flavour comes from the distillation of the seeds of the anise plant, specifically from the oil within the seed. This plant used to grow wild in the Mediterrenean and is one of the oldest spice plants. It dates as far back as 1500 BC Egypt.

It was believed to ward off the Evil Eye, to increase milk flow in nursing mothers; and to cure epilepsy. Ancient people used it as a remedy to snake bites and scorpion stings. It was also considered an aphrodisiac.

In Native American cultures, it is still used as a laxative.

According to WebMD, “Anise is used for upset stomach, intestinal gas, runny nose, and as an expectorant to increase productive cough, as a diuretic to increase urine flow, and as an appetite stimulant. Women use anise to increase milk flow when nursing, start menstruation, treat menstrual discomfort or pain, ease childbirth, and increase sex drive.

Other uses include treatment of seizures, nicotine dependence, trouble sleeping (insomnia), asthma, and constipation.”

Anise Tea

Steep anise for 20 minutes then add cinnamon and honey for extra flavour. But where can you get anise? If you live in Canada, Bulk Barn carries whole anise seed. Ladies, the next time, try one and see if it eases that annoying pain. In the States, Trader Vic’s or Whole Foods are recommended but not guaranteed.

Produced in but not restricted to, the Bordeaux region of France, Anisette is made by grinding numerous types of seeds, anise, of course, and in some cases, fennel and coriander, into a neutral spirit. It is combined with a syrup then distilled together.

Anise Flavoured Liqueur

In Rome, anise was added to sweet cake and given out at the end of banquets to help with digestion. No doubt, the Italian tradition of putting a drop of anisette in your after dinner coffee originated from this idea.

Or, if you want to mix it, drop a shot of anisette into a glass of water, don’t pour it. It will turn milky color on contact.

If you thought Sambuca was the only licorice flavoured liqueur, try these on.

Pastis is made from star anise which originates from Asia. Pastis came along due tot he ban of anise in France.

Like Absinthe, Anisette comes from green anise in Europe.

However, Anisette is considered the oldest anise flavoured liquor.

“The Romans are said to have eaten spiced cake with anise to avoid indigestion after a large meal. Pythagoras said it would absolutely guarantee an absence of seizures. In England, in 1305, anise was so popular that King James I taxed it as a commodity, because he needed money to repair the London Bridge.”

Women, take female entrepreneur, Marie Brizard as an example of a powerful woman. She began her company of creating liqueur in a time when women HAD no power. They weren’t even allowed to sign company documents. To get around this law, Marie married a family friend who sign the documents while she created anisette.

Founded in Bordeaux, France in 1755, her family still owns the company, and have managed to keep the ingredients top secret. They now produce over 60 products. Not only liquor but essential oils as well.

Anise spritzed cocktail

Marie would be proud to know her company has won over 50 medals in the last 6 years for liqueur competitions.

Anisette can be a little harder to find in your local bars but there’s a trend of spritzing drinks with flavoured liqueurs. This one has anise flavour spritzed over a gin, cointreau and lemon mix at Ace Mercado in Ottawa.

Submitted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 2, 2017