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.