zondag 1 oktober 2023

Lazy Red Cheeks (for the ladies of FERM Jong Beverlo)

Last Friday, the delightful ladies of FERM Jong Beverlo curated an exclusive "Sweet Sins" night exclusively for women. While I won't delve into all the intriguing details of the event, I had the distinct honour of crafting a special welcome cocktail for the enthusiastic participants.
When we think of indulgent and delectable cocktails, the P*rnstar Martini often springs to mind. However, given its ubiquitous presence on every bar's menu these days, I decided to take a different path.

Several years ago, two talented Belgian bartenders, Manuel Wouters and Ben Belmans, concocted a scrumptious and sweet libation for none other than Tom Barman, the charismatic lead singer of the band dEUS. This delightful creation earned the name 'Lazy Red Cheeks', and I couldn't think of a more fitting drink for this special occasion.

The 'Lazy Red Cheeks' is a cocktail that takes shape right before your eyes, crafted directly in a tumbler and enlivened with the refreshing chill of crushed ice, reminiscent of the beloved Mojito. However, in my humble opinion, it transcends the typical Mojito experience by delivering a true cocktail extravaganza brimming with luscious fruity notes. What's more, it's slightly lighter on the alcohol content compared to many other cocktails, making it the ideal choice for our distinguished group of ladies.

Lazy Red Cheeks

45ml Absolut vodka
40ml Lime juice
10ml Simple syrup
10ml Monin Violet syrup
6 fresh raspberries
Cane sugar (no lumps, just loose sugar made from sugarcane) 

Combine the raspberries with the violet syrup and a barspoon of sugar in your tumbler. Gently muddle the mixture until the raspberries release their essence, creating a delightful, fruity elixir.

Next, add the vodka and simple syrup, then give it a gentle stir. Crown the glass with a generous layer of crushed ice. Exercise caution during this step, as crushed ice tends to dissolve swiftly. A quick, delicate stir will suffice.

To add the finishing touch, garnish your creation with a zestful 1/6 slice of lime, enhancing both the visual appeal and the tantalizing flavours of your drink.

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Consulting unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

woensdag 20 september 2023

Chocolate Cocktails by Neuhaus

If you've found your way to this blog, chances are you're a fan of tasty cocktails. And if you happen to be from Belgium, it's highly unlikely you've missed the buzz surrounding the illustrious 'Van Ongevalle' family hailing from Knokke. This remarkable family isn't just passionate about mixing drinks; they're true 'startenders,' garnering acclaim and accolades from prestigious cocktail competitions like Diageo World Class and Bacardi Legacy. Over the past decade, they've left their mark with either permanent or temporary 'The Pharmacy' cocktail bars in Knokke, Antwerp, and even ventured as far as Mexico.

In the present day, patriarch Jan presides over his own culinary haven, 'Ugly Duckling', nestled in the centre of Knokke, where also a speakeasy called 'The Pharmacy 2.0' is expertly curated by his daughter Noa. Meanwhile, son Ran has carved his niche with 'BAR RAN’, a cocktail bar in the heart of Bruges, accompanied by the Mexican-inspired taco eatery, 'Màs', in close proximity. Daughter Hannah, on the other hand, lends her expertise through 'Tipsy Cake,' her bespoke cocktail consultancy.

Now, brace yourself for an extraordinary collaboration between this fantastic foursome and Neuhaus, the venerable Belgian praline pioneer. Together, they've conjured up a tantalizing assortment of chocolates infused with the essence of their favourite cocktails. Prepare to bid adieu to those pedestrian liqueur-filled pralines that have crossed your path before; what awaits you is nothing short of a revelation. Inside this box, you'll discover meticulously crafted pralines that effortlessly marry the art of mixology with the decadence of high-quality chocolate. There's no room for doubt here – this is the epitome of premium confectionery. 

What to expect? 
  • Photo: Neuhaus
    Vodka Rosie
    : Inspired by the one and only ‘Sex & The City’ cocktail, the Cosmopolitan. Red berries, vodka and violet-infused pure chocolate ganache.
  • Gin Provence: Inspired by the Gin Fizz, this is a blend of fondant chocolate with the spicy and herbal notes of gin and mezcal. Think of crisp summer mornings in the lavender fields of the Provence. 
  • Rum Clarita: Dedicated to the Clarita cocktail, winner of the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition 2017, created by Ran Van Ongevalle. Pure chocolate, rum, sherry and a hint of absinthe. 
  • Sake Sunrise: Inspired by the flavours of Japan. Fresh yuzu, smoky sake, Japanese prune wine and sweet milk-chocolate blend for fresh Azian exploration.
  • Whisky Midnight: Inspired by the legendary Old Fashioned, this Whisky Midnight feels at home in a smoky jazz club. Strong oak flavours combined with the bitter and rich texture of fondant chocolate and the freshness of lime. 
Pairing these chocolates is harder than expected. You need a drink that opens your tastebuds toward the style of the praline. For example: The Whisky Midnight praline will be fantastic, paired with a dram of fresh and fruity whisky. 

The ‘Chocolate Cocktails’ pralines are available at your local Neuhaus shop, in boxes of 25 chocolate pralines, 5 of each flavour. 

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Consulting unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

zondag 17 september 2023

The Bonded Boulevardier

There are numerous reasons why I find it imperative to craft and savour a few more cocktails with a solid base of the exquisite Jack Daniel's Bonded. Allow me to elucidate:
Firstly, I have made a personal commitment to my friend Vincent at Jack Daniel's Belgium, promising to further explore the potential of this exceptional bottle.

Adding to the excitement, September marks the month when we celebrate Mr Jack's birthday, although the exact date has been lost to history. This gives us a perfect reason to raise our glasses in his honour.

From September 18th to 24th, the world celebrates Negroniweek, a delightful initiative where ordering a Negroni at your preferred bar contributes to a noble cause. Given my staunch support for this event over the years, I've decided to opt for a couple of exceptional Negroni-style concoctions this year. Repetition of the same old recipes seems rather uninspiring, don't you think?

Today, I've selected the signature cocktail thoughtfully provided by Jack Daniel's for this very bottle. It's a strategic move to share these recipes with the bottles themselves, as it encourages buyers to explore the world of cocktails. The Bonded Boulevardier, a Negroni-style drink, deviates slightly from the classic “even parts” recipe, leaning a tad heavier on the spirit. This bold twist promises an experience akin to ordering a drink at a top-tier cocktail bar—a choice that will undoubtedly elevate your cocktail game. Cheers to new horizons in mixology!

The Bonded Boulevardier

45ml Jack Daniel’s Bonded
30ml Sweet red vermouth (always use a good quality vermouth!)
30ml Red Italian bitter such as Campari or Select. 

Don’t forget we’re working with a 100-proof spirit, which can use a slight bit of watering down to release all the hidden flavours. 
  • Pretty method: First add all three ingredients to a mixing glass with lots of ice cubes. Stir until perfectly mixed and cooled. Strain into a tumbler with a nice large rock of clear ice. Garnish with a nice cut of orange zest and a maraschino cherry. 
  • Fast method: Add ingredients and ice cubes to a tumbler. Stir until nicely mixed and cooled. Garnish with a wedge of fresh orange. The fresh aroma of the orange will complete the drink. Never muddle the orange in your Boulevardier. Just don’t. 
Want to watch me stir one of these? Watch the reel on Instagram. 

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Consulting unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

donderdag 14 september 2023

Exploring the World of Jack Daniel's Bonded Whiskey

From the time I hit my mid-twenties, my passion for collecting all things Jack Daniel's has grown steadily. Over the past three decades, I've amassed a collection of bottles, glassware, and branded bar paraphernalia. My affinity for retro and vintage items has always been my guiding light in this pursuit.

So, imagine my excitement when I received the news that Vincent, the Belgian brand ambassador for Jack Daniel's, was dropping by my office to discuss the new addition to the Jack Daniel's family - Jack Daniel's Bonded Whiskey. After a neat sip of this remarkable whiskey, I set out to create a new edition of my previously published popcorn Old Fashioned. What sets this version apart from my previous attempts? Well, for starters, the whiskey itself boasts a robust 100 proof, and that alone makes a world of difference. Additionally, the choice of barrels for this release is something special. They've hand-selected barrels with a deeper colour, richer flavour, and an aroma that's more oak-forward.

Now, you might be wondering what exactly bonded whiskey, or Bottled-in-Bond, means. It's a set of stringent rules designed to guarantee the quality of the whiskey, including:
  • It must originate from a single distillery.
  • Distilled in a single season.
  • Bottled at precisely 100 proof (50% ABV).
  • A minimum aging period of four years in a federal warehouse.

Jack Daniel's Belgium
The key distinction between the iconic Old No. 7 and this bonded whiskey is that the latter has earned its place in the permanent range as a super-premium product. The mash bill remains consistent with the same blend of 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye.

Notably, this Jack Daniel's expression isn't just bonded; it's still quintessential Tennessee Whiskey. It undergoes a unique process of dripping for six days in 10-foot vats, passing through charcoal made by burning maple wood saturated with 140 proof Jack Daniel's whiskey, before being placed in new charred oak barrels for a minimum of four years.

Now, let's delve into the tasting experience:
  • Nose: A captivating burst of sweet caramel, vanilla, and hints of banana. Subtle notes of cookie dough intertwine beautifully, with the barrel's distinct influence making its presence known.
  • Palate: Caramel continues to shine, now accompanied by the delightful flavours of marshmallow and cookie dough. Banana comes into play, crowned with a medley of popcorn and waffle notes.
  • Finish: A dash of spice emerges, followed by a harmonious encore of caramel.

You might be wondering if there's a notable difference from the 'Bottled-in-Bond' release of a few years ago. I embarked on a quest to unearth differences and tasting notes, but they proved elusive. My search led me to an informative tasting video by Task Force Bourbon, which I already shared on our Facebook page. In a nutshell, it appears to be pretty much the same excellent product, with Vincent hinting at grooves carved into the charred wood, similar to what they did with the JD Sinatra barrels, to influence the final result.

In conclusion, my journey as a Jack Daniel's enthusiast and collector has led me to this exceptional bonded whiskey, which seamlessly blends tradition and innovation. With each sip, I'm reminded of the rich history and dedication that goes into every bottle of Jack Daniel's, making it a timeless classic for connoisseurs and collectors alike.

As promised, I’ll share my updated Popcorn Old Fashioned recipe, but I’m looking forward to experiment and share more recipes with this new Bonded spirit. Since the complete month of September is considered Mr. Jack’s birthday (because nobody really knows the exact date), we have many reasons to raise a glass of Jack. Spoiler: my second drink will be the Jack Daniel’s Bonded Boulevardier… I’ll try to do a reel with that one. 

Popcorn Old Fashioned – Bonded edition

50ml Jack Daniel’s Bonded
10ml Monin Popcorn syrup
2 dashes of Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters

Add everything to a tumbler with ice. Stir for 15 seconds. Garnish with a cocktail cherry. Close your eyes, have a sip and get transported to a typical American Fun Fair. 

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Consulting unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

woensdag 30 augustus 2023

Mexican Ghost with Lunazul Tequila

While re-watching Better Call Saul on Netflix, I started craving for Tequila. Since the Zafiro Añejo in the series is a fictional brand, I had to search for something else. In my stash of new bottles to test for this blog, I found a nice Lunazul Tequila Blanco. 

I really wanted to mix up something tasty with this unaged spirit, but keep it as lucent as possible. I didn't have any more clear ice, that would have been even better!

Mexican Ghost

50ml Lunazul Blanco Tequila
20ml Burning Devil Tequila Liqueur
7ml Simple Syrup
1 dash of grapefruit bitters

Add all ingredients to a tumbler with ice cubes and give it a good stir.
Garnish is overrated. Just enjoy, preferably while watching Better Call Saul. 

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Consulting unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

zondag 27 augustus 2023

The Dubliner. About barrels filled with whiskey, then beer, then again with whiskey.

Over the past two decades, distilleries have embarked on a captivating journey of experimentation with various barrel aging and finishing techniques. It's now widely understood that the intricate flavours of a spirit develop through the profound interaction with the barrels it matures in. A captivating evolution has seen spirits aging in multiple types of casks or the harmonious marriage of differently aged spirits. These possibilities seem limitless, and at the helm are the master distillers, the modern alchemists of our era.

In recent years, amidst the realm of extensive spirit and wine cask aging, a new trend has risen – the beer phenomenon. The practice involves loaning whisky-soaked barrels to craft beer breweries. After a period of housing beer, these barrels are returned to the distilleries and once again filled with whisky, creating a captivating exchange of flavours. The outcomes vary: sometimes the added flavour necessitates a careful search, while other times it's a marked enhancement. This dynamic holds true for both beer with a whisky twist and whisky with delightful beer undertones.

A noteworthy player in this innovative landscape is The Dublin Liberties Distillery, the birthplace of exceptional whiskies such as The Liberties, The Dubliner, and The Dead Rabbit. Their ingenious approach involves crafting a diverse range of beer-matured whiskies. These distinctive whisky releases acquire their final flourish from casks that previously cradled everything from a light blond ale to a rich dark stout.

My fortunate encounter led to a bottle of The Dubliner Irish Whiskey, meticulously finished in barrels previously housing O’Hara’s brewery’s Irish Stout. The first sip was a delightful revelation: vivid notes of green fruits intertwined with hints of cake and marshmallow, dusted with a touch of nutmeg. On the palate, an intricate dance of chocolate, confectionery delights, and vanilla unfolded. Eager to celebrate these flavours, I chose a path of simplicity. A swift mix within a mixing glass, and a classic Old Fashioned emerged, elegantly presented in a Liiton tumbler. Simplicity to the max.

In essence, the last two decades have witnessed an enchanting evolution where spirits and beer intersect within the sanctum of barrels, fostering a symphony of flavours. From the master distillers' artistry to the interplay between casks and brews, it's a tale of innovation that continues to unfold, captivating the palates of those who seek unique and exquisite tastes.

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Consulting unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

dinsdag 15 augustus 2023

Grob Vays Hunt (Dirty White Dog, Israeli edition)

Indulging in my hobby for a span of over 8 enriching years, I find myself in a realm of contentment. Throughout this journey, I've embarked on a delightful array of experiences that once seemed beyond the realm of possibility. Venturing across borders, I've wandered through the picturesque landscapes of France, Spain, and Italy, all in the name of my passion.
My hobby has unveiled an assortment of captivating moments, including immersing myself in workshops that unravelled the art of whisky blending. A captivating memory involves being immersed in the world of wine menus, cocktail menus, and even try out restaurant menus, an honour that never ceases to amaze me. Reflecting on this journey, it's hard to pinpoint any notable sources of frustration, though a flicker of curiosity remains.

I've been granted the privilege of sampling an eclectic array of spirits from various corners of the world. Yet, often, these encounters have centred around commercial offerings or carefully curated cask samples. What truly stirs my intrigue is the unadulterated essence of these spirits – the 'new make' spirit, freshly born from the distillation process. This delicate elixir, the true soul of distillation, remains safeguarded by many distilleries, a treasure rarely shared even in the context of workshops or distillery visits.

Gone are the days of clandestine moonshine; however, a refreshing exception can be found in distilleries like Milk & Honey, nestled in the heart of Tel Aviv, Israel. Here, a spirit of innovation and openness thrives. A spark of interest from enthusiasts, and they readily bottle their New Make spirit.

In the ever-evolving landscape of media, Belgian television screens are currently graced by the presence of series spotlighting Jewish families. This trend presented an opportune moment to craft a libation that pays homage to the distinctive Israeli spirit. Enter the scene, with the "Grob Vays Hunt” (Dirty White Dog), a tantalizing concoction that offers a Moonshine-inspired twist on the classic Dirty Martini.

Grob Vays Hunt 

60ml M&H New Make
20ml Dry Vermouth
5ml Simple Syrup
A dash of olive brine (Feeling adventurous? Explore with different pickle brines)

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass generously filled with ice.
Stir the mixture gracefully for 15 seconds, allowing the flavours to harmonize. Strain the elixir into a chilled Martini glass, a vessel of elegance. Garnish this masterpiece with a solitary green olive, a symbol of both tradition and innovation.

As I savour each sip of the Grob Vays Hunt, I'm reminded of the remarkable journey that has unfolded through my beloved hobby. A journey that has taken me across borders, into distilleries, and now, into the realm of mixology, where creativity intertwines with tradition. So, as I raise my glass, I celebrate not only the spirits that have quenched my thirst but the endless possibilities that lie ahead in my cherished journey. 

With this drink, I also salute my friend Glenn, who is leaving his position at Cinoco Spirits to explore new opportunities. Without the endless support of this dedicated spirits professional, my blog would not have attracted the audience it marks today. Thank you, Glenn, hope to see you again soon. 

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Consulting unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.