Tag Archives: Booze

The Five Best Bottles of Liquor to Give as a Gift

Last Fall when we wrote about How to Stock a Home Bar we mentioned that you should save space for a couple of ‘special occasion bottles.’ You need a couple of bottles of the good stuff; a private stock, if you will. This is the stuff that you’ll break out for special occasions, and that is good enough that it will make any occasion special if you do break it out.

We suggested that these bottles might even be given to you to mark some special occasion. It works both ways though… eventually a friend of yours is going to have a birthday, a housewarming, a Christmas party, or some other milestone worth marking with a bottle. It’s times like these when the usual good stuff isn’t quite good enough. Any drinker can treat himself to a bottle of Makers’ 46 or Tanqueray 10 on payday, but the idea behind a gifted bottle is that it should not only be a liquor of superior quality, but should be something a friend might not think to try on his own.

In any decent spirits shop there’s going to be no shortage of bottles worth giving as a gift. Especially now, in the age of artisanal booze made in small batch copper pot stills there is plenty of variety for a special occasion. These five though are tried and true, and represent the very best spirit of generosity.

The Dalmore 15

The Dalmore 15 year old. Representing the third tier in the Dalmore Range (which includes whiskys up to 50 years old), the 15 is about the best there is in the world before you start spending into the triple digits. The Dalmore’s 12 point stag stands guard on the bottle, ensuring it’s not opened lightly. Aged entirely in sherry casks, this is the stuff that your Grandfather would drink. At his mistress’ funeral. (around $80.)

Barbancourt Estate Reserve

Barbancourt Estate Reserve. Unlike some other liquors, there are plenty of good rums available in the $20 range. Spend twice that and you’re into the realm of world-class rums. What makes Barbancourt’s Estate Reserve so special isn’t just the fact that it’s still being produced in post-quake Haiti from pure sugar cane or the 15 years it spends in oak, it’s the fact that not only do you not need Coke to drink it… you don’t even need ice. (around $45.)

Noah's Mill

Noah’s Mill. We had the good fortune to receive a bottle of Noah’s Mill as a gift once, and can speak directly to its quality. The Chop is first and foremost a bourbon drinker, and Noah’s Mill has supplanted Russell’s Reserve as our top pick. You know this isn’t for everyday drinking, as it’s bottled at a ridiculous 114.3 proof. You wouldn’t ever know it though, because it smooths out nicely after 15 years of aging in charred oak. This is as good as it gets. (around $45.)

Delamain pale and dry XO

Delamain pale and dry XO.Without getting into a whole big lesson on Cognac, let us just say this is the good shit. In this year’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge it placed second with a score of 95, a tie with Delamain’s much pricier “Extra” expression. Whereas an XO represents the top of some brands’ lines, at Delamain this 25 year old Cognac is actually the bottom of the line. Compare it to Courvoisier’s XO, which is the fifth step up their ladder, retails about $50 more, and is not 100% Grand Champagne derived. It is a bit expensive, but it’s also a special occasion. (around $100.)

Chartreuse

Chartreuse. Why are we including Chartreuse in this short list? Is it because we love it? Because we would like to receive a bottle as a gift? Because we wanted to include a liqueur for variety’s sake? These are all good reasons, but we include Chartreuse here because it’s the perfect gift for the vodka or gin drinker in your life. Premium vodka is more or less a scam, and any serious gin drinker has probably already reached the top of the gin pyramid on his own (It’s not nearly as high as the Cognac pyramid or the Scotch pyramid). Chartreuse is best served neat, but if that certain someone still insists of drinking vodka, feel free to pass along our Chartreuse gimlet recipe.

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The Chop’s Sweet Russian Cocktail Recipe

The holiday season is that time of year when the Amaretto rears its ugly head in homes and hearths from Highlandtown to Upper Park Heights. In cookies, candies, hot chocolate mix, or liqueurs, the stuff is bound up with Christmas just as much as eggnog and greeting cards.

Whether you’re forced to keep a bottle on hand for Aunt Marie, find yourself at a party with off-brand booze, or have the great good fortune to be entertaining a snowbunny with questionable cocktail tastes, it’s helpful to know how to use amaretto.

'Tis the season for amaretto.

This is a cocktail we’ve been calling for occasionally for a few years now. It’s good as an after-dinner drink, nightcap, that sort of thing. It’s as simple as it gets, tastes sweet and smooth, and being all liquor, it’ll knock you down if you’re not careful.

The Sweet Russian

  • 2 parts vodka
  • 1 part coffee liqueur
  • a splash of amaretto

Stir in a shaker and serve up or over ice.

Yep. A Black Russian with a splash of amaretto. You’ve got to love a cocktail that you can call for in any bar in America, and make at home with no effort at all. You can even get one at the Chinese restaurant on Christmas night.

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Best Bets: Compass Box Scotch Whiskies

Words like “craft” and “artisan” are thrown around much too freely these days. Everything we buy now has to have some grand, romantic story attached to it. From furniture to farmers’ markets, from apparel to accessories, stories sell. If you don’t know the name of the guy who made it and you can’t drop by his charming little Gepetto-style workshop on a whim, well, it’s just not worth having, is it? Of course, nowhere is this more true than at your local liquor store.

Let’s face it, wax seals and hand-written barrel numbers are the exact same thing as putting your vodka into a glass skull. It’s selling the bottle, not the spirit. (Although to be fair, there’s a lot of really good whiskies in some of those bottles, whereas all premium vodka is a joke.) In an era when every ultra-premium vodka has a celebrity pitchman, and every distiller in Kentucky is offering single barrel this and small batch that and putting the cute little hand-written batch numbers on the bottle, It can sometimes be hard to tell what’s inside, and whether it warrants its price tag. These days, everyone’s an artisan.

Spice Tree. The best way to warm up this winter.

John Glaser is an artisan. Take that statement for what it’s worth. Compass Box Whisky has a story. We’re not going to bother telling you the story. You can look it up on their site. It’s a lot of technical stuff about wood and blending and aging, which really is interesting if you’re into that sort of thing. What we are going to bother to do is to tell you that this stuff is really, really good.

Of the two lines that Compass Box produces, Signature and Limited Release, we’ve so far had a chance to try three different examples of their whisky. Each one was markedly different, but all were equally excellent. Bottles in the less expensive Signature line are generally available in the $35-$40 range, and compare favorably with bottles costing twice as much. To our palate, a Peat Monster is every bit as good as a Laphroaig, and We’d reach for an Oak Cross over a Glen-Whateveryoulike any day of the week. Seriously.

With Winter now firmly digging in, we’re in all-brown-liquor-all-the-time mode here at the Chophouse. We’re declaring Compass Box to be our house Scotch going forward, and by the time the Winter’s out we expect we’ll have three or four different bottles on hand. We suggest that when you head to the liquor store this weekend you go ahead and buy two or more bottles. They make a great holiday gift, but make sure to keep one for yourself.

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The Chop’s Cantonese Cookie Cocktail Recipe

First things first: since this is Baltimore, you can feel free to pronounce it ‘Duhmain d’Cant’n’. We really don’t think anyone’s going to call you on it, Hon. If they do look at you funny either for ordering it or for mispronouncing it… then fuck ’em. You’re in the wrong bar anyway.

Now then, you don’t need us to tell you how good Domaine de Canton is. Their website takes pains to tell you just how ‘Ultimate’ and ‘Extraordinaire’ and even ‘Fait a’la Main’ their product is. Fortunately for the rest of us, Boozeblogger translates that into ‘English, Motherfucker!’ and tells us it’s pretty good stuff.

We agree with their assessment, and recommend Domaine whether you’re at home or on the town. Any fan of B & B or Grand Marnier should feel right at home with this stuff. It is, however, a bit on the spicy side, and we doubt you’ll want to polish off the bottle by drinking it straight or on the rocks. There are a lot of great recipes on the Domaine site as well, although none of them are quite as simple, and probably not as tasty as ours.

The Cantonese Cookie

4 oz. Domaine de Canton

juice of half an orange

2-3 dashes blood orange bitters

Note that that says ‘juice of an orange’, and not orange juice. Bottled orange juice will not work for this drink. The bitters are important as well. It’s going to be much too sweet without them, and even with them sort of tastes like a fancy exotic cookie you’d get after your meal in an Asian restaurant. Mixed properly, this drink balances sweet and spicy perfectly. It’s ideal for fans of GM or the Sidecar, and like a Sidecar, it’s a good call year round.

Fucking magnifique, pardon our French.

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Speaking of fancy Asian restaurants, the Baltimore Sun’s Mobbies party is at RA Sushi on Tuesday, and if you can keep us on top of the Music/Nightlife category, we might just show up and buy you a Cantonese Cookie.

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Booze of the Future! The Chop’s Slurm Drink Recipe

Good news, everyone! We’re not going out tonight. There is not a club, party, or event that could possibly bring us one billionth of an iota of the joy we’re about to experience tonight when we tune into the RE-Premiere of Futurama on Comedy Central. It’s going to be the greatest hour of television since the last hour of television.

In celebration of the arrival of the distant future, and of the fact that we’re not driving anywhere, we’ve decided to turn our home bar into a miniature Slurm Factory with this recipe that we pulled out of the Slurm Queen’s cloaca.

The Chop’s Slurm Recipe

2 oz. light rum
1 oz. sour apple schnapps
2 oz. pineapple juice
3 oz. 7 up.

Build it in a Collins glass over ice and you can give yourself a bunch of cavities and a nasty hangover at the same time. Please don’t write in and tell us this drink is gross. We know it’s gross. That’s the point. It’s the future. Stuff is gross now. Anyway, it’s probably not as gross as the product actually branded as slurm, which may or may not still be available somewhere in the universe.

Next summer it’s all about bros slurming bros. Bite my shiny metal ass, Chump.

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The one-hour season premiere of Futurama airs on Comedy Central tonight at 10 pm.

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Best Place to Buy Liquor on Sundays: Hopkins Deli

If there’s one thing we can’t stand, its getting all geared up to go somewhere, do something, or get something, only to get there and find the doors locked and lights out because its Sunday. In a town like this with so many small businesses, it can be twice as bad, because whoever isn’t closed Sunday is probably closed Monday. Nowhere is this more a problem than with arcane, useless, Christian-inspired laws about buying liquor on Sundays.

Fortunately for us, Hopkins Deli stands at the ready 7 days a week to insure our liquor cabinet never goes empty.

Hopkis Deli: an oasis in the desert of Sunday liquor options.

Long a favorite of the Hopkins Blue Jays, the Deli caters not only to college kids, but to lazy drunks of all ages, all over North Baltimore. Open every day all day from 8 am until 11 pm, this place is more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s a carryout with a full menu of pizzas and subs, pasta, wings, etc, a full service liquor store with a decent beer and wine selection, part convenience store and part grocery suprette, plus a nice spot to play keno and enjoy free wifi.

But aside from being able to nab a fifth of Granddad and a sixer of Heavy Seas at 10 pm on a Sunday, the real brilliance of Hopkins Deli is in their delivery. You can call or even order online, and it’s an open secret that they’ll deliver anything in the store along with your order.

So, if like the Chop you find yourself tired, lazy, hungover and hungry on Sunday evening with an empty fridge and nothing but Kahlua and Seagram’s gin to sustain you, Hopkins Deli can be a lifesaver when you don’t feel like taking a shower, getting dressed, and making 3 or 4 different stops. Since we moved into the Stately North Baltimore Pleasure Dome, its quickly become our go-to spot in the clutch.

Lets say you need a six pack of Lagunitas, some cheese fries and wings, a can of Maxwell House, a loaf of bread, a can of cat food, a mega millions ticket and a copy of the Sunday Sun… no problem. It’s all at your door in half an hour.

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Hopkins Deli is at 110 West 39th Street, on the ground floor of Hopkins House Apartments. 410-366-6603 or www.hopkins-deli.com For the record: times are never so desperate that we’re down to Kahlua and gin. That’s not how we roll.

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