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Beer Buzz Hits the Road: Spoetzl Brewery

This guest post is by Roger Adamson, Beer and Spirits Specialist at Binny’s Willowbrook. Roger is both a homebrewer and mixologist and is using his background in history to research and write a book on classic cocktails.

 
I recently had the good fortune to escape the bitter Chicago cold and make a visit to the Spoetzl Brewery down in Shiner, Texas. Shiner is about an hour and a half drive from Austin but the scenery from the bus does not disappoint. The landscape was dotted with cattle ranches, oil pumpjacks, and prickly pear cacti. Before I knew it we arrived in Shiner, where the Spoetzl Brewery stands tall a short distance from the charming downtown.
 

Spoetzl Brewing

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Confessions of a Mixologist: Minneapolis Hustler

The taste of bourbon is a bit too austere for some. Fret not; there are some wonderful cocktails that can soften it up a bit. One such example is the Minneapolis Hustler. I came across this gem on one of my favorite mixology websites, Cocktail DB. This cocktail has much in common with a classic cocktail from years past known as the Oriental Cocktail. It’s an interesting mix of citrus, sweet and sour with a touch of subtle herbaceousness to boot.

 

Minneapolis Hustler

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Confessions of a Mixologist: Monte Carlo

Bourbon is back in a big way. The Manhattan, for example, has once again become many peoples’ go to way to enjoy America’s spirit. (Sure you can make a Manhattan with bourbon. Why not? -ed.) So check out this splendid reworking of the Manhattan called the Monte Carlo. The key difference is the substitution of Benedictine in place of vermouth. Benedictine is an aromatic liqueur that has been produced in France since the 18th century. If fact, B&B (Benedictine and Brandy) was one of the first packaged premixed cocktails. Benedictine is a versatile mixer and makes a great addition to any liquor cabinet. Also, if you simply mix Benedictine with bourbon, you just created a Kentucky Colonel. This distinguished elixir is perfect for sipping on your front porch as the last days of summer wind to a close.

 

Monte Carlo

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Confessions of a Mixologist: Eastern Sour

Give this unconventional bourbon cocktail a try. The key ingredient in this drink is Orgeat syrup, a sweet and nutty syrup familiar to Tiki devotees like myself, but a mystery to many. Do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle tout suite. This delicious almond syrup is the magical ingredient in dozens of tropical drinks, most famously the Mai Tai. While most tropical drinks use rum as the base spirit, the Eastern Sour substitutes Bourbon and the results are delicious. The Eastern Sour was created by Tiki drink legend, Trader Vic Bergeron. Below is my version which is refreshingly sour. If you want to sweeten it up a bit, just add simple syrup.

 

Eastern Sour

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Italy

Just returning from Italy, on a trip to experience and discover and bring that energy back to you, Barb S, Binny’s Des Plaines Wine Manager, reports from the road:

 

The variety across regions is striking. Starting in the south, the region of Puglia has almost tropical heat humidity, yielding forward wines that are juicy and jammy and just a little rustic. But as we went north to Chianti in the heart of Tuscany, the heat became arid and dry. Then, on the west coast in Bolgheri, the air cooled with a nice breeze from the sea.

 

We came back with an overwhelming impression of the charming hospitality and incredible scenery. Even if you don’t care about the wine (which we do!) the sweeping landscapes, the color and beauty of the countryside are an incredible experience. We also came back suffering prosciutto withdrawl.

 

 

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Bordeaux Day Four

A small group from Binny’s visited Bordeaux, tasting samples of the 2013 vintage and more, with stops at chateaux and negociants. Find the rest of the trip here. Binny’s Wine Guru Steve Reiter concludes with day four:

 

Not everything is about the 2013 vintage. Our first stop is with Francois Thienpoint. While we taste a couple 2013’s, our focus here is more on previous vintages, mostly 2010-12, that are now bottled and ready for sale.

 

A few stand outs include the 2011 Roques de Jean Lice which offers nice dark plum, dried herbs and clay notes with a light spicy oak on the finish. The 2012 Manoir de Gravoux is equally nice with plum, hints of black cherry, light cocoa and soft tannins. The 2011, 2010 and 2005 La Violette are wonderful, exhibiting warm flavors of black cherry, cola, clay earth and light clove. But the best by far is a barrel sample of 2012 La Gravette de Certan, the second wine of Chateau Vieux Certan. With a heady perfumed nose of blue and purple flowers and fruit, hints of clove, followed by lush blue and black fruit, all balanced and round. This is what Bordeaux offers that no one else can!

 

Bordeaux Bottles

 

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Bordeaux Day Three

A small group from Binny’s visited Bordeaux. They tasted samples of the 2013 vintage, with stops at both chateaux and negociants. Find previous reports here. Steve is back with more:

 

Chateau Pichon Baron

 

Day three starts with an appointment at Pichon Baron to taste and have lunch. We also have the distinct pleasure to taste with the winemaker, and to tour this lush and iconic chateau. Just check it out:

 
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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Bordeaux Day Two

A team from Binny’s visited Bordeaux, one of France’s most famous wine regions. They tasted samples of the 2013 vintage – now available en premier – visiting chateaux and negociants. Read yesterday’s report here. Steve is back with more:

 

Day two and we’re on the right bank in St. Emilion and Pomerol. Vineyards spread out along the countryside, but upon reaching St. Emilion, the city is right on top of the vineyards. In fact, Chateau Ausone is on a hillside above their vineyards just 500 meters behind town. Just like we saw on the Left Bank yesterday, the local population and the vineyards are completely interwoven. Towns have grown as a result of the success and history of the wine region, which again is so different from the other regions I’ve visited. St. Emilion especially is a gorgeous old commune straight out of a fairy tale. Old with buildings staggered over steep hills, narrow passageways, vineyards enclosed by stone walls. A tourist destination and certainly worth the visit.

 

Vineyards and Towns in Bordeaux

 

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Bordeaux Day One

Binny’s Wine Managers Steve Reiter and Chris Speir joined Wine Buyer Barbara Hermann on a trip to one of France’s most famous wine regions, Bordeaux. They tasted barrel samples of the 2013 vintage – now in the early stages of its en premier campaign – visited Chateaux and negociants. Steve reports from the road:

 

Binny's in Bordeaux

 

 

First Impressions

 

I expected the city of Bordeaux to be large (the 9th largest in France) but not quite the expanse that it is. We’re staying in a charming, modern sprawl radiating from the river with a modern, urban feel. However, the “Centre” or old part of Bordeaux, is just as large, and definitely has the rustic feel I expected. With stone buildings, colored shades of earthy white, grey, orange and green, it reminds me a lot of Venice. Old churches and architecture dot town squares where people pass time. We wander a few hours through the alley-like, brick-layered streets. I would hate to have to park here. No wonder there are so many bikes.

 

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Celebrate Repeal Day with a Classic Cocktail

Dec 5th, 1933 was a great day in American History. It marked the passage of the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution, repealing prohibition. Thirteen long years of alcohol prohibition were plagued by an upswing in violence and organized crime. Illicit alcohol still made its way to the streets, often of dubious and sometimes downright dangerous quality. So this repeal day, pick up a couple bottles of the “Real McCoy” and mix yourself a classic cocktail.

 

Repeal Day

 

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