Friday, August 14, 2015

Donelson's Homegrown Taproom & Marketplace to Open Next Week; Who Needs a Bridge When You Can Have Beer?

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 11:00 AM

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Guys. My life is about to change.

See, I live in Donelson. And while we love our house and our large backyard, we are a couple in our mid-30s and childless. You know what means? We want beer. Good beer. Local beer.

Unfortunately, we oft have to travel to East Nashville or into the city to get our fix, a 20-minute drive (at least until we get that bridge to East Nasty). Sure, Donelson has restaurants that technically have beer, but that's not easy. That's not hip. We want to hang. There just aren't any taprooms. There isn't any variety.


Back in April, Chris Chamberlain told you about the Homegrown Taproom & Marketplace soon to open at 2720 Old Lebanon Road in "Hip" Donelson. Well, it seems those east of downtown can finally rejoice! It has a soft opening set for Aug. 19.

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Patterson House Mixologist Takes People's Choice Award in Bombay Sapphire Competition

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 8:35 AM

click to enlarge People's Choice winner Michael McCollum of Patterson House
  • People's Choice winner Michael McCollum of Patterson House
This year, Nashville served as the host city for a regional competition in Bombay Sapphire's prestigious Most Imaginative Bartender competition. I've been fortunate enough to judge at the local competition in past years, but this time the six competing bartenders represented local winners from Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri and Kansas, so it was an even bigger deal.

Cocktail enthusiasts and local behind-the-stick workers from around town gathered earlier this week at The Cordelle, the events facility located behind Howard School on Lindsley Street. After a few pregame cocktails (you can't run a marathon without stretching out first!), our group of four judges sat down to watch the bartenders' presentations as they mixed up cocktails inside of a tight seven-minute time limit.

In the end, St. Louis bartender Matthew Osmoe from the acclaimed cocktail emporium Blood & Sand took home the top prize and earned a trip to Las Vegas for the national finals. If you'd told me in advance that a drink containing sauerkraut juice would be the grand prize winner, I'd probably have guessed you'd been drinking too much Bombay Sapphire. But indeed, it was the most well-balanced drink of the evening, and Osmoe's explanation of the creation of the recipe made perfect sense. As a nice touch, he served it with a few chunks of smoked trout that are prepared in-house at Fire & Sand, and the accompanying salt and smoke was a lovely complement to the cocktail. However, he totally missed out on the chance to call the drink a "Kraut and Trout" instead of his choice of "A Norwegian Abroad."

In a close second place was The Patterson House's Michael McCollum with his delicious "Speaking in Vowels," a reference to how you would sound if you drank too many of these powerful tiki drinks. Made with Orgeat, a sweet syrup made from almonds, plus lime, pineapple, Bombay Sapphire and a French cherry apertif named Maurin Quina, it really was a fine cocktail that I hope shows up on the poolside menu at Pinewood Social. Unfortunately, the gin was a little masked by the bold flavors, and McCollum came in a minute over the time limit. so the penalty bumped him down into second place.

On the plus side, McCollum won the People's Choice award from the assembled drinkers, and really, what is a better testament to a bartender's talent than that he pleased his local fans? Cheers to Osmoe, McCollum and all the competitors!

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

BLEND Cigar Bar is Coming to Downtown Nashville

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 7:50 AM

click to enlarge The interior of BLEND-Indy
  • The interior of BLEND-Indy
Man, former Scene news editor Steve Cavendish is gonna be pissed! No sooner does he leave town for D.C. than I receive an announcement from a new cigar lounge coming to town — a cigar lounge promising to at least occasionally stock some of Steve's elusive great white whale, Pappy Van Winkle. BLEND, a renowned cigar bar in Indianapolis, plans to open its second outpost sometime this fall downtown at 506 Church St., the former location of Pacifica.

As part of the description of their impending arrival, BLEND announced that they would be stocking "Top-of-line offerings includ[ing] premium cigar brands such as Davidoff, Fuente and Diamond Crown, as well as sophisticated spirits including Balvenie, Blanton’s, Pappy Van Winkle and Johnny Walker Odyssey." Wait, what? Pappy? That might get Cavendish on a Southwest flight for a visit.

But more than just for the probably ephemeral appearance of PVW, Blend promises to be a luxury hang for those seeking an upscale lounge experience. BLEND is also equipped with a special ventilation system that they promise will completely change out 100 percent of the air in the lounge six times every hour, so hopefully it won't get too foggy in there. Recently named one of five finalists for Best Cigar Lounge (worldwide) by Cigar Journal, BLEND promises "imported lighting fixtures from Turkey and custom seating made of premium fabrics, leather and exotic wood surfaces. The BLEND concept is built around a complete sensory  experience and offers customers an environment featuring a state-of-the-art ventilation system and a proprietary entertainment network, the BLEND Entertainment Network (“BEN”)."

In other words, it's probably a place where they'd never let a schlemiel like me in when the action us really hopping (see: Citizen), but it could be a really nice place for those who enjoy a snifter of fine spirits and a good cigar to enjoy drinks, smokes and upscale bar snacks. And when Cavendish hears about the Van Winkle deal, I imagine he'll look like this:

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Craft Brewed Offers More Than Just Beer — Cocktails!

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2015 at 10:24 AM

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Melrose's Craft Brewed has quickly earned a reputation as one of the best spots in town for lovers of interesting beer to gather to share pints, purchase brewing supplies and buy packaged beers and growlers to go. But there's also a quite respectable liquor store in the left half of the building that offers a full line of spirits, high-gravity beers and mixers. They even have the occasional special single-barrel bourbon release program featuring whiskeys that are truly unique since they have been chosen especially for the store by the staff.

While it's pretty easy to sample beers at most tap rooms (most of them will gladly offer a small taste before you purchase a pint), spirits tastings tend to be geared toward the hardcore whiskey drinker, since not everybody would want to sip on a snifter of gin or vodka. In a clever move, the liquor-store side of Craft Brew is starting up a cocktails series, where they will be sampling a cohesive cocktail or two including demos on how to mix them. They'll also be offering discounts for patrons who choose to purchase all the components of the recipe at one time on the day of the tasting.

To start the series, they'll be offering a primer on two classic cocktails for fall, the gin-based Negroni and its bourbon-y buddy the Boulevardier. Blessedly simple to make with 1:1:1 proportions of gin or whiskey mixed with amaro and sweet vermouth, you can drop by beginning at around 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, or Friday, Aug. 21. Craft Brewed intends to keep up the first-and-third-Friday tastings with new recipes going forward.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Woodford Reserve Releases New Distillery Series of Whiskeys

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 7:33 AM

click to enlarge The label may not be sexy, but what's inside sure is!
  • The label may not be sexy, but what's inside sure is!
Part of the joy of being a bourbon fan comes from tracking down and getting to experience rare special releases that are difficult to find. Unfortunately, some of them never make it to Nashville or fly off the local liquor store shelves so quickly that unless you're buddies with the store owner, you'll probably never see them, much less taste them. Favorites like Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Elmer T. Lee and the mythic Pappy Van Winkle are talked about much more than they are actually drunk, but that doesn't stop them from being sources of excitement when they are released.

At Woodford Reserve, distiller Chris Morris has released innovative whiskeys on a yearly basis as part of their Master's Collection, with unusual grain blends, mash bills and exotic finishes. But these are the types that come and go quickly and are difficult to source. Partially as a response to this difficulty and also in an effort to encourage bourbon tourism, Woodford has come up with a new idea to push the spirit of innovation at the distillery forward with new releases they are calling the Distillery Series.

When the distillery opened in 1996, they included a Visitors Center, becoming only the second Kentucky bourbon maker to invite guests into their production facilities. Since then, many other distilleries have opened their doors and reaped the benefits of sharing their histories and traditions as art of facility tours. It's only a a drive of a little over three hours to Woodford's distillery in Versailles, Ky., and the tour and tastings make it well worth the effort.

But now visitors will have the opportunity to be the only aficionados to be able to purchase these new products. Unlike the Master's series where recipes do not repeat, so when they're gone, they're gone, the new Distillery Series will include up to six new releases per year which may repeat if reception is positive. Available in 375 ml bottles in the $50 range, they're not cheap, but they do promise that they'll be special.

This week I was fortunate enough to be one of the first people outside of the distillery to sample their first two releases in the Distillery Series: Double Double Oaked and Sweet Mash Redux.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rum, Punch and Swizzle Add Sizzle to Your Summer

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 8:50 AM

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You know we've officially made it as a spirits city when a new rum chooses Nashville as its first market outside of Miami when launching a new product. Afrohead Rum is that product, and I can tell you from (multiple) personal experiences that it is a really special spirit. Available in two different expressions, Afrohead is a premium rum from Trinidad that is specially selected and blended from barrels by Toby Tyler, a man known as the "rum savant."

The 80 proof Afrohead is made up of spirits that have been aged for at least seven years in oak, and is smooth and toasty, either as part of a cocktail or served straight up. The more luxurious 86 proof version employs 15-year-old and older rums to create a creamy, toffee-influenced spirit that is meant to be drunk neat like a fine whiskey or brandy. In fact, Tyler named it XO in reference to fine cognacs and brandies that also benefit from extra aging.

On Tuesday, July 28, Tyler is coming to Nashville to launch Afrohead's Unscripted Bartender Series at an event at Amari at 2121 Belcourt Ave.. Beginning at 8 p.m., Amari bartender Wil Shultz will create four different cocktails featuring Afrohead. Tyler will be on hand to answer questions about his products and take patrons on a journey through the Caribbean with his stories of rum and fun.

The series will continue for six more weeks with guest bartenders whipping up four new cocktails, including one that much must include a secret ingredient presented to the bartender the evening of the event. Gimmicky, but fun. Check out the schedule for the rest of the series:

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Tickets Now on Sale for the Nashville Whiskey Festival

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 10:56 AM

For the fourth year of the annual Nashville Whiskey Festival, organizer (and Midtown Wine and Spirits proprietor) Paul Patel has chosen to focus on turning the festival into a one-day event, although there is still a possibility that more programming may be scheduled on an earlier day. The date of the event will be Saturday, Sept. 12, and the venue will again be the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Just because the festival won't be spread out across several days doesn't mean that Patel hasn't crammed in a whole bunch of tastings, seminars, live music a cigar bar and great food. In fact, they expect more than 60 distilleries pouring 200-plus whiskeys from around the world at the Grand Tasting that begins at 6:30 p.m In addition to the expected Kentucky bourbons and Tennessee whiskeys, representative will also be on hand to pour and discuss whiskeys (and whiskies) from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Japan. For a constantly updating list of the participating distilleries, check out the event website.

There will also be several educational seminars featuring some of the most respected distillers and brand ambassadors in the world. Only one seminar is confirmed at this point, but more are definitely in the works. Check out the agenda and keep an eye on the event website for future updates:

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Weizen-Mix Wants to Be Your New Summer Jam

Posted By on Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 8:55 AM

Last year, I pointed you to a new summer brew, Steigl Radler. I predicted that this low-alcohol grapefruit marzen-style beer would become quite popular, and I was right on with that guess. Steigl started popping up on taps and in bottles all over town, and even though it was often the most expensive beer on draft and also happened to have the lowest alcohol content, drinkers clamored for it.

This summer, there's a new grapefruit-laced beer coming to town, Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Weizen-Mix. This blend makes more sense than you might think at first blush. Wheat beers like hefeweizens and witbiers already demonstrate more fruity characters than other hop-forward malts, and Blue Moon is traditionally served with an orange slice as a garnish. (Although I personally vote no on fruit floating in my pint glass.)

These sort of fruit/beer shandies are especially popular during the warmer months, with their lower alcohol levels and refreshing citrus flavors making them appropriate for summer activities. Schöfferhofer Grapefruit has taken the citrus to another level with its new offering to the Nashville market. A 50/50 blend of unfiltered hefeweizen and real juice presents a nice balance of sweet and tart. And with an ABV of 2.5%, you'll be able to enjoy several of them poolside without fear of losing your faculties. The grapefruit flavor is even more powerful than in the Steigl radler, so you probably need to be a fan to enjoy it.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Vote for Nashville Bartender Carley Gaskin in the Four Roses Charity Cocktail Competition

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 1:31 PM

Bartender Carley Gaskin with the Charlie Murphy
  • Bartender Carley Gaskin with the "Charlie Murphy"
Earlier this month, Carley Gaskin—who tends the bar at both No. 308 in East Nashville and Sinema in Melrose—was named the Nashville finalist in the Four Roses Charity Cocktail Challenge, which raised funds for Stupid Cancer. Gaskin and her cocktail creation, the Charlie Murphy, are now vying for the grand prize, which is a day with Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge. Vote for them via Four Roses’ Facebook page.

This is a story I could not resist because I love Charlie Murphy (actor/comedian and Eddie Murphy's brother). Naturally, I was curious about the name. Was there a story about a couch? Was Rick James involved at all? Gaskin responds:

I named it the Charlie Murphy because it starts sweet but ends a little bitter. That's what I like to think he's feeling living under his younger brother's fame, haha. "Unity!" Haha.

You can try the Charlie Murphy at either No. 308 or Sinema or try to re-create it at home; Gaskin has agreed to share her recipe.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Julep News Just in Time for Derby Day

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 7:57 AM

I'll start this off with an admission. As much as I enjoy watching the ponies run on the first Saturday of May, I've never been a huge fan of mint juleps. I know they are one of the original cocktails and have a long history of association with the Kentucky Derby, but as a fan of good bourbon, I never saw much sense in (literally) muddling it up with sprigs of mint. But every year I dutifully pick some mint out of my garden and wash the cat pee off of it, muddle some leaves and simple syrup and top it with fine Kentucky brown likker to offer my homage to the Commonwealth.

Now another admission, I'm not much for RTD (Ready to Drink) concoctions. Maybe it's a negative attitude born of bad experiences with nasty malt-liquor based premade cocktails in my youth, but I'd usually prefer to mix it myself or have a professional handle the work. I'm sharing all this honestly to let you know that I was predisposed not to like a recent sample offered for me to try, the Old Forester Mint Julep.

However, there were some elements in its favor. I do like Old Forester and consider it one of the best values in the bourbon category. Second, Old Forester is the main ingredient in the Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby, so I knew that they know their way around a mint muddler. And finally, it would sure be nice to just pour a good julep rather than scrounging up the ingredients.

So I tried it, and I have to say that I and everyone else I've offered it to are duly impressed. At 60 proof, there's still no doubt that this is a bourbon-based product, overcoming my malt liquor fears of days gone by. Sold in a commemorative 1-liter bottle with a equine-decorated neck wrap, Old Forester Mint Julep should retail in the mid-$20s range at your local spirits emporium. Poured over crushed ice, (ALWAYS crushed ice!) this is a 10-second Julep.

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