Look. We love a solid, affordable whisk(e)y roundup. We've certainly written our share on ManMade: see here, here, here, and here. But there are times in life where "good enough" isn't... those times where you're really to spend a little more to experience something seriously amazing.
You’re at the liquor store standing in front of 5-tier shelf that stretches the entire wall and your just here to pick up a bottle of spirits. There are a lot of different brands and an array of price points for each bottle. What goes through your mind?
I think for those of us who enjoy an adult beverage, buying alcohol, spirits specifically, can fall into two categories:
- I’m looking for an affordable bottle of spirits that doesn’t taste terrible, and,
- I know what brand and style I want. I’ve had it before and I’ll enjoy it again
And possibly a third, oft youth oriented thought: I’ll take the cheapest swill there is please.
But do you ever choose a bottle because you know where it comes from? Who made it? The story of how this spirit came to be?
I’d argue the answer to these questions are just as important as cost or a familiar label. There’s something special about knowing what goes into a craft. Even more than that, there’s a tangible connection when you not only know the story of a product, but experience the story first-hand....
Years ago, I'd meet mine a friend at a bar in New York's Upper East Side that was between our two apartments––just close enough for each of us that we could walk home safely while being substantially into our cups. When we would stay late, the bartender would get friendlier and friendlier with free drinks and generous pours. It was jovial and warm and a fine place to spend some time with good company. When we were ready to pay our tab, the bartender––who was well past friendly at that point––poured us a trio of shots to send us on our way. Inevitably, as with bars throughout the U.S. (unless you are from the very South and West), he was pouring from a bottle of Jameson's. By and large, that is how whisky works in America. If you mean to order Scotch or Bourbon or Rye, you name those specifically. But if you just order "whisky" there's a good chance it'll be Irish.
I love a full-on furniture project, replete with solid joinery, elegant design, and high-quality materials. But, as any maker knows, those can take weeks or even months to sketch, mill up stock, test, fix mistakes, and rub on a finish.
So, do you know what I love even more? A simple woodworking project you can complete in a single day, or better yet, an afternoon. Something to get you some shop time, create some sawdust and shavings, and be put to practical use by dinnertime.
As far as holiday gifts go, it's hard to beat something to sip. And this year, you can do a little better than swinging by the grocery store and grabbing a bottle of wine.
This wood-infused project only take a tiny bit more work than buying something from the liquor store, but boosts all kinds of flavor benefits and handmade points, turning the spirits into a proper gift.
Make some in bulk for everyone you know, and your holiday shopping is done.
I have gone on record, in this publication and elsewhere, about why the hot toddy is the perfect cocktail to be sipping in December. It's warm. It's spiced. And at least according to folk wisdom, it's good for your health, and can help to heal a nasty wintertime sore throat. But, to be honest, until last Tuesday evening, I didn't actually like a hot toddy.
They were fine, but not delicious, and not really an improvement over a simple glass of neat whiskey. (You could make a hot toddy with rum, brandy, or tequila, but why would you?)
Hot toddys (toddies?) always disappointed: never quite hot enough to truly enjoy, and somewhat ... harsh. There was something I never liked about adding acidic lemon juice to a healthy glug of bourbon, then heating the whole thing up. It seemed to bring out all the rough, grain-y flavors, and hide the tastier warm and spicy barrel-aged notes that make whiskey, well, whiskey.
Four years ago, I shared an introduction to making smoked cocktails on ManMade, exploring the techniques and ingredients that would allow you to create woodsy, rich drinks at home. I offered several ways to create and capture smoke, but admitted that I preferred a specialized, $100 tool designed for doing just that. Ever since then, at least once or twice a month, I've received an email asking me how to pull this off without buying any specialty gear.
To which I say: challenge accepted! I totally get not wanting to spend a large sum of money to make something you're not sure you're even going to like. I wouldn't either. So, let's break down the process and see what we can do to make some seriously tasty smoked cocktails using things you already have.
There are occassions to spend a little more on an investment bottle. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking for something to enjoy that cost less than an Andrew Jackson. None of these second-to-the-bottom shelf bottles are going to blow your mind and or cause you to use the word "revelation," but you know that already.
Though, seriously, if you're having fun and the evening is more about the conversation than what's in the glass, twelve servings of anything palatable for less than twenty bucks is money well spent.
Here's the kind peer-reviewed scientific study and journal article that we can all get behind: how to make your whiskey taste better. This year, scholars Björn C. G. Karlsson & Ran Friedman took a look at the molecular makeup of whiksey, and specifically, how dilution with water affects the presence of flavorful compounds that make the sipping experience even more enjoyable.
A few weekends ago, my wife and I went out for a special dinner to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. (Hi sweetheart!) We opted to enjoy a few beers with our meal, but the table next to us had ordered cocktails. They each showed up with the glass half full of color - slanted, and with the liquid on the top. Initially, I thought it was simply a triangular shaped glass, where the bottom angle was simply solid, but as I looked closer, I realized, in fact, it was a frozen wedge of solid ice, attached to the glass so it maintained the effect.
I asked the server how it was done, and she told me the bartender had a bunch of little rubber molds that fit the glass, and the whole thing goes into the freezer. She said they were cool, but only fit the certain glass they came with; so only a certain number of cocktail recipes are served in them, and they run out each night.
A few days later, I looked it up to see if I could pick up one or two. I found the product - it's a glass with a custom silicone insert that freezes the ice at a perfect 45° angle, cutting right down the center. They cost about $20 each, and are kinda cool.
But - they're also unnecessary. Because you can achieve the same effect without spending a dime, using any rocks glass you already have. Here's how to do it.
A good flask isn't an essential piece of gear, but it's pretty close. I toss a flask in my pack to share around the campfire, or to toast the top of a mountain. Trim, compact, and classic, the hip flask is also a great way to bring a little of your own along to make sure those drinks are always on point.
He's back, ladies and gentlemen. Last year he treated us to a comforting glass of Lagavulin Single-Malt Scotch next to a roaring yule log for 45 minutes. This year it's an hour of scotch-sipping outside a distillery in Scotland all leading up to an epic(ally subdued) New Year's Eve countdown...
My grandfather was a toothpick guy. Like, he had a seven-or-eight-a-day habit. When he died and we helped my grandmother do a clean sweep of the house, my aunt found more than one hundred individual ones tucked away into couch cushions and drawers and pockets. Last year, when my grandmother passed away and we prepped the house for selling, we found at least a couple dozen more stashed away.
Look, we love a solid cocktail bar. It's an awesome experience to meet up with some co-workers for happy hour, or connect with a friend or date over something shaken or stirred and served in a quality glass. But there's something to be said for sipping at home. Most importantly, it's much less expensive. Bar and restaurants try to keep their food and liquor costs to 20-25%, which means that $12 martini is actually made up of only $3.00 of ingredients. But we also can't argue with the value of staying home, whipping something up for your partner or friends on the fly in the warm, quite confines of your own living room. (Pajama pants optional).
And while we have no problem dropping some serious change on a truly elegant whiskey or craft spirit, the truth is: most mixed drinks don't actually require the highest end of spirits. So, if you're looking to experiment with crafting your own drinks, but don't want to invest mega bucks in a full fleet of top-shelf spirits, it's time to learn how to stock your home bar or bar cart on a budget.
And it came to pass that the season for sandals and gin subsided, leaving in its place jackets and layers, autumnal aromas, and whiskey season.
So, this is a collection not for the kind of guy who finds a label he likes and sticks with it. Cause, those sort of fellows already know what they're enjoying this season. Instead, these are the best-bang-for-your-buck bottles, those that have a great relationship between their price and their flavor.
And by that, we don't mean these are value whiskeys that are simply tolerable or "good for the price." Instead, they're solid, investment whiskeys; some of our favorites that will make you
We have absolutely zero reservations about hanging onto the summer season as long as possible. With temps outside the ManMade HQ topping 99° today, it seems Mother Nature is on our side, regardless of what all the back-to-school sales say.
And as far as ways to enjoy the season and keep cool, we have but three words for you: Frozen. Whiskey. Lemonade.
A few years ago, the bacon craze hit the cocktail scene, and we saw everything from bacon fat washes to candied bacon garnishes on sticks to all sorts of meat-y infusions and even full-on strips of protein floating in glasses.
We're okay with that trend dying down a bit, though we can't deny the fact that the smoky sweetness of bacon really does happen to complement the flavors of certain spirits, particularly whisky, quite well. So, instead of taking the bacon flavor to the whisky, let's take the whisky... to... the bacon.