A TASTE OF SPAIN WITH TORRES BRANDY

Before the holidays, I met with the brand ambassadors of Torres Brandy and did a tasting of their entire set of spirits from their "El Gobernador Pisco" to their ultra-premium brandy, "Jaime I". Having previously shot for the Torres 15 at the Employee's Only Repeal Day party with Thirsty Mag, I was eager to dip my toes into the world of brandy as I had limited tasting experience within the category. The Torres team were kind enough to invite me out for a night of tasting their delectable spirits and learning about each spirit's origin, notes, and production method, in addition to some general sophisticated conversation. Let's just say, by the end of the night, I was blown away by the quality of the set as a whole and with the brand itself. Torres, one of the world's premier winemaking families, winning "The World's Most Admired Wine Brand" in 2014 and 2015, have more than 80 years of distilling expertise and great grapes, and great wine, means great spirits. I'm excited to share my take on a couple cocktails using the Torres spirits, as well as highlighting my two favorites of the group: the Pisco and the 15-year brandy.

But first...

What are Brandy and "Pisco"?

Brandy (a.k.a brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijngebrande wijn or "burned wine") is a spirit produced by distilling wine. The term "brandy" also denotes liquors obtained from the wines of other fruits. Apples, cherries, plums, pears, and peaches have all been distilled into what are called fruit brandies or eau de vie (a clear, colorless, fruit brandy). Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume (ABV) which is 70-120 proof.  Some are aged in wooden casks, some are colored with caramel coloring to imitate the effect of aging, and others are produced using a combination of both aging and coloring to get the desired color of preference. There are many types of brandy found across the winemaking regions of the world. Among the most renowned, and most familiar, are Cognac and Armagnac from France.

Pisco is, essentially, a type of  South American brandy, typically from Peru and Chile (although Torres ambassador Adriana Soley likes to point out that grapes from Peru / Chile were brought over from Spain in the 15th & 16th century as the Spanish settled and colonized this region, so it could be said that all "South American" brandy is actually Spanish...but I will leave that one up for debate). One of the key traits separating Pisco from other brandies is that Pisco can't, by law, be aged in wood and can only be distilled once, in a copper still. This is what gives Pisco its bright, floral, slightly sweet, grape flavor profile.

Torres 15

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Of all the products I tasted, I have to say that the Torres 15 was probably my favorite (for a few reasons). As somebody who is familiar with the flavor profiles of whiskey, tasting the Torres 15 was similar enough for me to understand the true quality of what was in the glass. The Torres 15 is aged in new American oak for 2 to 3 years, depending on the conditions, and is then transferred to the solera system in American barrels where the brandy is then aged up to 15 years. Because of the aging methods used, the Torres 15 is a rich, smokey, full-bodied brandy with notes of pitted-fruits, vanilla, toffee and coffee. This profile is similar to that of a bourbon or single malt, although, in all honesty, the Torres 15 provides more depth of flavor and is my preference to the former, especially at its price point.
 

Cocktail: The Spanish Crusta

This cocktail is a take on the Brandy Crusta, which was invented by an Italian bartender named Joseph Santini in New Orleans, it was one of the city’s first notable cocktails (yes, even before the classic Sazerac); originally mixed in the 1850s. The crusta has quite the cult following and should only be made with a quality brandy. Other than the Sidecar, it is one of the best brandy-based cocktails to highlight the quality of the spirit.

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Ingredients:

1 3/4 oz @torres15oficial Brandy
1/2 oz Lemon
1/2 oz Torres Orange (Torres' Orange Liqueur)
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
Garnish: Lemon twist (optional sugar rim)

Mixing Instructions: Mix | Shake | Strain | Sip

Pisco El Gobernador

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Tasting the El Gobernador was my first time ever tasting Pisco neat (yes, really). Since then, it has become one of my favorite spirits to sip on and mix in a cocktail. This spirit was filled with so much unique flavor that I couldn't feel anything other than pure excitement when thinking about all the potential drink possibilities. El Gobernador is distilled from fermented Rosé Muscatel and Muscat of Alexandria grape varieties. It is left resting in stainless steel for 60 days before being bottled, never touching a barrel. It has an exuberant floral scent with notes of roses and jasmines, in addition to citrus peels. On the palate, it is bright and grassy, with fresh grape being the primary flavor coming through. Pisco is truly in a class of its own and I am thrilled to share my first, original Pisco-based cocktail recipe I named, Despacito.

Cocktail: Despacito

When tasting the Pisco, I was given two classes of cocktails to taste with the spirit itself to have an understanding of how it plays with other ingredients. I found that I thoroughly enjoyed it in a sour so I went that route. I named it Despacito because, outside of the pop-culture relevance, this cocktail is one that should be sipped slowly to savor every delicious flavor...although I can't promise doing so will be easy.

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 oz Pisco
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/4 oz Lime
1/4 oz Lemon
1/4 oz Aperol
1 Egg White
Garnish: Rosemary and Lemon Express

Mixing Instructions: Mix all ingredients in shaker, dry shake (shake without ice to blend), add ice, wet shake, double strain into glass and garnish / sip.

Special thanks to Adriana Soley & Craig Schiedlo for the hospitality and education. 
Stay tuned for my next blog which features a Q&A with Adriana Soley herself.

THE EXPERIENCE: NYE COCKTAILS WITH IGEE OKAFOR & THE DAPPER METHOD @ PORCHLIGHT, NYC

It has been a (good) crazy couple of weeks for me in terms of projects and collaborations. As I mentioned in my previous post, I collaborated with Igee Okafor & Erik Parpar (The Dapper Method) to bring to life three cocktails which could be re-created in any household for New Years Eve (and any other time for that matter). I mostly talked about the cocktails but I felt it was important to also highlight the collaboration itself because it was one of my favorites so far.

Shooting with these guys was an absolute pleasure. It was my first time collaborating with individuals who are primarily lifestyle/fashion-focused so I learned a lot about their scene and what life looks like for them as influencers / figures within the space. Not only did we have some fantastic conversation about the landscapes within which we work, share thoughts, opinions, and ideas, but also we drank some tasty cocktails while we were doing it. The key takeaway from our conversations was that yes, this life can be fun, exciting, a bit glamorous, and filled with personal-passions which makes "work" easier...but the time and effort it takes to maintain / update content (while also paying those NYC bills) is not as light as it looks. These are incredibly hard-working individuals who push themselves to be their best while also staying authentic to who they are which is so important. It is easy to get caught up and lose yourself in the process, but these gentlemen are as real and authentic as they come which made this collaboration such a pleasurable experience overall.

FAVORITE MOMENTS OF THE COLLABORATION

Honestly, there were so many. For me, it was great being behind the bar at Porchlight getting to mix up some drinks. The guys behind the bar were extremely welcoming and accommodating which made everything smooth and exciting. They easily could have been like "who the hell is this random dude behind the bar making drinks...?" but they were genuinely hospitable which only further strengthens my affinity for Porchlight as a business, bar, restaurant - they are all around outstanding. 

Outside of mixing drinks, I would say the funniest moment was when Igee decided that he needed to have / wear the bartender's apron and begin mixing drinks himself. Very ambitious from the fashionisto, but definitely not surprising. The General Manager, Mike Shain, was kind enough to "suit" Igee up with the stylish apron and the staff gave him a quick "How to Make a Margarita" tutorial. Myself and Erik watched (and photographed / recorded) as Igee did his best impression at tending bar. For a first timer, he looked to be a natural...other than shaking the tin with just the strainer covering the top. (Good thing there was only ice left - although a Margarita shower doesn't sound all bad). At this point we had enjoyed a couple early afternoon cocktails and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves while bonding with the Porchlight staff. Life was blissful. Afterwards, we finished up the shoot, grabbed some of their amazing Chicken & Waffles, reflected on our experiences, and parted ways after an indulgent afternoon. It really doesn't get much better than that.

GETTING TO KNOW IGEE OKAFOR: Q&A

Q: Currently, what is your favorite cocktail (generally speaking). And, in addition, what was your favorite cocktail from the three NYE cocktails I conjured up for the shoot?

A: My favorite cocktail is actually a signature from Beauty & Essex. It's called the Emerald Gimlet. It's a mixture of premium vodka, basil, lemon nectar, and fresh lime. I tend to be on the more sour/sweet side of things when it comes to my cocktails and they do it perfectly everytime. I also really enjoyed your take on the French 75. I believe my first time trying one was with you. It was fabulous! The champagne flute intrigued me as I tend to gravitate towards classic presentation and its taste hit the nail on the head. I mean, talk about a mixture of everything I enjoy when I have a drink - Sweet with a sour undertone, and champagne! Splendid. 

Q: What was your favorite moment of the collaboration? And why?

A: My favorite moment of the entire photoshoot with Bon Vivantito and Erik Parapar had to be the opportunity I was kindly given by the gentleman at Porchlight to make my own cocktail. It was my first time ever using any equipment and actually making an alcoholic drink so I was honored. Haha! 

Q: What do you love about cocktail culture?

A: What do I love about cocktail culture? Perhaps the enthusiasm it gives people in terms of its design, taste palate and function. There is a refined creativity and thoughtfulness that goes into creating a quality cocktail and that aspect makes it interesting for me. 

Q: Now for a fun one! (haha) If you were to open your own bar, what would it be named and why?

A: If I were to open a bar, I would call it Dikeoma's. It's my father's first name and he was the first man in my life whom I associate with fine taste and appreciation for drinks. It would be an homage to him. I want everything I put my stamp on to celebrate the love I have for my family and African culture.

Learn more about my partners here: Igee Okafor & Erik(The Dapper Method) 
Special thanks to Porchlight for the hospitality -- until next time!

NEW YEARS EVE: THE THREE COCKTAILS YOU SHOULD BE SIPPING ON

The holidays, although festive and fun, are actually one of the most stressful times of the year. Where do we go? Which side of the family do we see? What can I get (insert name) for (insert relevant cultural holiday)? What food do I make? What should I drink? So many questions, but the only answer I have for you is what you SHOULD be drinking to celebrate the end of the holiday madness as we look to ring in the New Year in style. 

I collaborated with Igee Okafor & Erik Parapar at the southern-inspired cocktail bar / restaurant, Porchlight, to create some festive, NYE-related content featuring three easy-to-make / source cocktails that will, without a doubt, impress your guests in both style and taste. I've included one classic, one riff, and one original recipe - tag me on instagram if you decide to whip up some of these bad-boys. I'll be sure to share :) Cheers!


Photo by Erik Parapar (@thedappermethod)

Photo by Erik Parapar (@thedappermethod)

French 75 (Holiday Riff)

The French 75 is one of the more historic cocktails in American history dating back to the late 1800s, early 1900s (depending on who you ask). The ambiance that this exquisitely chic cocktail provides is one that replicates your finest Oscar after-party or, in this case, NYE black tie event. This cocktail, refreshingly light and a great palate cleanser, is fitting for a classy lady or gentlemen. One who, while maintaining their class, is low-key getting a strong buzz on...just the way they like it. 

Ingredients:

1 oz Gin
1/2 oz Lemon
1/2 oz Simple Syrup (If you're feeling ambitious & festive, make / use Rosemary syrup)
Topped with 2-3 oz of Champagne
Garnish: Rosemary & Lemon Peel

Mixing Instructions: mix gin, lemon & syrup in a shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously (a little body roll with the shake ain't ever kill nobody). Strain into champagne flute and top with champagne. Garnish and voila!

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Gold Rush

This cocktail is the true poster-child for beauty in simplicity. Birthed at the legendary, NYC cocktail bar Milk & Honey, this 3-ingredient masterpiece is an excellent mid-evening sipper. This is one of those cocktails that is not only bad, boozy and beautiful, it is also delicious. If you are a "rough around the edges", bourbon kind of guy / gal who enjoys a simple, sophisticated cocktail, the Gold Rush is a no-brainer. (It's probably my favorite cocktail, that's saying something!)

Ingredients:

2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Lemon
3/4 oz Honey Syrup
Garnish: Lemon Peel

Mixing Instructions: mix all ingredients in shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into rocks glass. Garnish & serve.

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Party Starter

A B-Von original, this cocktail's name speaks for itself. It is a light, refreshing, flavorful fizz that gets the party started. No matter who you are, if you've had a hard, long, 2017 and can't wait to start with a clean slate, stick with the Party Starter. The average drinking rate is 3 drinks/hr so stay woke...it should be a festive night to say the least.

1 1/2 oz Tequila
3/4 oz Lemon
1/2 oz Honey Syrup
4 Dashes Scrappy's Lavender Bitters
2-3 oz Fevertree Tonic Water
Garnish: Grapefruit Peel
*Peychaud's Bitters is an acceptable substitution if unable to source.

Mixing Instructions: Include all ingredients into shaker (excluding tonic water & 2 Dashes of lavender bitters). Shake, and strain into highball glass. Top with tonic water & 2 dashes of lavender bitters. Garnish with grapefruit peel and serve. 
 

Learn more about my partners here: Igee Okafor & Erik(The Dapper Method) 
Special thanks to Porchlight for the setting! Stay tuned for the next blog speaking about the experience!

MONTELOBOS: THE SPIRIT, THE COCKTAIL, THE EXPERIENCE


As many of you are aware from my Instagram posts, I LOVE mezcal. The team from Montelobos sent me a bottle of their Mezcal Joven to taste and play around with as I continue to explore and learn about new mezcals. I capitalized on the NYC's first snowy weather of the season to take some photos in a setting that I felt would best portray the brand with my man Marcel Howard (@lifefeatcell). I will speak about the spirit on its own, what it is like in a cocktail, and the overall experience with shooting for, and tasting, the brand's product.

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Montelobos | The Spirit

Montelobos, which means mountain of wolves (per the wolf on their beautiful bottle), Joven is an unaged mezcal produced from the espadin agave varietal. Montelobos Joven is light and crisp on the palate with slight notes of citrus, herbs, and saline with burnt agave and grass on the nose. This varietal is the most common mezcal exported to the US. Espadins are great entry-level mezcals for anybody looking to get their feet wet with this sweet / herbaceous (and inherently) smoky spirit. Not only is this varietal great to sip on (preferably in a open-mouthed vessel like a copita…or a wine glass will do), it is also lovely in a cocktail (more to come on that ). Espadins are, relatively speaking, consistent in their flavor profiles which is why most bars will mix with them as opposed to a more complex varietal which should be sipped on its own like a tobala or tepeztate - whose bottles typically get up there in price. Although most espadins are similar in flavor, terroir, time, production methods, and other influential factors will always make each brand’s product unique in its own way.

The Sled Dog (Original Cocktail)

The Sled Dog (Original Cocktail)

Montelobos | The Cocktail

Mezcal in a cocktail is one of my favorite things to sip on, hands-down. Not only is it a fantastic base spirit, it is also one of my favorite modifiers. I find that, in a cocktail, Mezcal adds that extra layer of flavor that gives the imbiber something to really ponder over. When chilled, mezcal adds smoke, and an umami-sweetness which is always identifiable in a cocktail, no matter what the proportion. If you don’t like it, no worries! Just slide it my way.

Now, for my cocktail, I decided to go with something a bit Spirit-forward but still hitting on those wintery flavors to keep ya warm on those chillier days ️. Im calling this one the Sled Dog . Note: Vandermint mint chocolate liqueur is a rarity so feel free to sub it out for creme de cacao.

Sled Dog (pictured above):

1 oz Montelobos Mezcal
1/2 oz Bourbon
1/4 oz California Fernet (Check out their product here)
1/4 oz Vandermint Mint Chocolate Liqueur
1/4 oz Demerara
2 Dashes Aromatic Bitters
Mix | Stir |Strain | Sip

Model: Marcel Howard

Montelobos | The Experience

It's really easy to fall into a cycle of the familiar and the easy / convenient. Deciding to create this short content series was a refreshing change of pace for me because it allowed me to experience the drink culture I am passionate about in a different way & generate some different content that was on-brand because of it.

From end to end, I thoroughly learned about Montelobos as a brand and product which is what tasting mezcal is all about. It's more than just a spirit. It's deep rooted in culture, ancestry, and authenticity and every time I drink it I do my best to honor the hard-work and passion that was put into it. The shoot definitely embodied that and it was a pretty fun, hot-mess of a time haha. My inner wolf was thrilled, my human hands were numb, but being in the cold, snowy weather made everything a bit more exciting and I didn't feel like I was just moving through the motions. I promised myself that if things that are supposed to be fun ever feel like a chore then I shouldn't be doing them. Having experiences like the one I had to create this content excite me and motivate me to keep trying new things and innovate whenever possible. 

All in all, I'm excited to continue my mezcal-tasting journey and I have some more mezcal content on the horizon for ya. Salud!

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