Wines for Spring

By Amy

Every year around this time, we Minnesotans go wild for spring.  We’re out in shorts, polar plunging, hitting any patio that has chairs and braving Twins games at frigid temperatures.   We’re starved for warmth and sunshine and it’s gone to our heads.  And, despite the fact that ‘spring has sprung’, our weather has a mind of its own.  Ice, snow, thunderstorms and wind leave us in a constant state of flux, unable to let go of the ice scraper for fear that spring might not make it.

Fortunately, the sun is shining today and I’m going to call it.  The time has come.  Time to finally put away your winter coat and while you’re at it, put away those winter wines.  Let the fresh flavors of spring emerge and carry us through to warmer days.  

My tastes have started to shift and I’m craving the light, vibrant flavors of spring more than ever.  The flavors of a farmer’s market trip with asparagus, spring greens, ramps, watercress, morels and fresh herbs.  The freshness of spring cheeses and the scent of tulips just burst from the ground.  The zingy, refreshing wines of Sauvignon Blanc, Silvaner, Gruner Veltliner, rosé (although I enjoy the pink stuff year round) and light fresh reds.

Drink these 4 fresh wines to shift your mindset to spring, no matter what our Minnesota spring throws your way:

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Schplïnk! Gruner Veltliner | Austria

Yes, you can LOVE a boxed Gruner Veltliner called Schplïnk! How can you not love the bright yellow box, crazy graphic and 80’s block font. This chuggable white wine is organically grown by 11th generation winemakers in the Weinvertal region of Austria. Austria is Gruner Veltliner’s homeland and here, the grape shines its brightest. Green apple, citrus and herbal notes abound from this zesty wine making it the patio pounder (no patio required). // $37.99

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Pfeffingen Dry Scheurebe | Pfalz, Germany

Spring is right time to explore the lesser known (and much-loved) aromatic, white grape variety of Scheurebe! Pronounced Shoy-ray-bah. This zippy example from Weingut Pfeffingen is reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc in all the right ways. Bright notes of pink grapefruit, guava and papaya accented with tarragon and sweet chervil on the finish. Pfeffingen has been producing wine for hundreds of years and is well loved for their wines AND the unicorn on their label. Everyone should have their own unicorn wine. A perfect pairing for spring salads, grilled peaches, and freshwater fish. // $21.99

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2021 G.D. Vajra ‘Rosa Bella’ Rosé | Piedmont, Italy

New to the France 44 shelf, this rosé is a staff favorite and one of the first to sell out each year. Vajra’s lip smacking ‘Rosa Bella’ is lifted and tart with floral aromatics and notes of rhubarb, blood orange and juicy strawberry. Refreshing on its own or as a spritz (with the addition of a grapefruit sparkling soda water), this rosé will have you ready for your first garden party of the season. // $19.99

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Hammerling ‘The Wild One’ Cabernet Pfeffer | California

Recently, there’s been some buzz around the obscure grape variety, Cabernet Pfeffer. Nearly extinct and also known as Mourtaou, there are just a few acres of this long lost grape planted in the world. Thank goodness that our friends at New France Wines were on the lookout and connected with Josh Hammerling at Hammerling Wines to bring us this Califonian grown babe. ‘The Wild One’ is a refreshing, medium-bodied red wine with a bit of tannic grip, ripe cherry and spice. New to the market and just the thing for your spring grilling adventures. // $32.99

Ribera y Rueda: Spanish Wine Deep-Dives

WINE & CHEESE PROMO

 

In an effort to get more incredible Spanish wine in your life, we’re running a special wine + cheese promo from April 1-15!

Buy a featured wine from Ribera del Duero or Rueda in the liquor store, bring it to the Cheese Shop to have a cheese paired to it, and receive $3 off your cheese purchase.

Plus, you’ll get a chance to enter to win a trip to Spain for the ultimate wine tour!

What comes to mind when someone mentions Spain? Flamenco dancers, bull fights, Salvador Dali, paella and siestas are all acceptable answers. But what about Spanish wine?

It’s reasonable to suggest that France and Italy have Spain well beat in terms of recognizability, and you wouldn’t be alone if you couldn’t name any Spanish grapes off the top of your head, even though Spain is #1 in the world for vineyard acreage. We usually head to the Spanish section when we need a cheap, fruity red for sangria or mulled wine, or easy-on-the-budget Cava bubbles for mimosas.

But Spain is so much more intricate than that, so we’re highlighting two regions over the next two weeks to showcase how uniquely characterful Spanish wines can be. We’re moving onto one of Spain’s most underrated regions this week: Rueda.

Rueda

The small(ish) region of Rueda is often overlooked. It’s sandwiched between a few different red wine regions, most with arguably more recognizability than Rueda. But Rueda is white wine country, and the grape to be aware of here is Verdejo (ver-DAY-yo). It takes up nearly 90% of vineyard plantings in Rueda, almost all of which are farmed organically due to Rueda’s warm, dry climate.

But the Verdejos of today are vastly different than anything you’d find even three decades ago. The traditional style was to make Verdejo oxidatively in wooden casks, and was reminiscent of Sherry: baked fruit, nutty, and definitely not the fresh and crisp style we know Verdejo to be today. There are a couple wineries that hang onto this old-school oxidative tradition, but the vast majority of winemakers today use temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to make sure their Verdejo is crisp, clean, and refreshing.

Check out the wines below for three different takes on Rueda Verdejo:

Naia Rueda Verdejo

Naia is the perfect introduction to modern Verdejo: perfectly-ripe fruit notes of peach, nectarine, and lemon burst out of the glass with a rounded texture from some lees aging, and a hint of salinity and fresh herbs on the finish. // $17.99

Nisia Old Vines Rueda Verdejo

Coming from 80-year-old vines that are sustainably farmed, this Verdejo has intense notes of lemon curd, passionfruit, and tart apple for an extra-zingy sensation. Rich yet with great acidity and a long finish. // $17.99

Pago del Cielo 'Celeste' Rueda Verdejo

Made by the Familia Torres family, this high-quality Verdejo is on point with great minerality and high aromatics. A lighter-bodied version of Verdejo, but never lacking in power or flavor. // $22.99

Even though the current style of Verdejo may be newer to Rueda’s wine ethos, their winemaking history goes back just a bit farther–back to the 10th century. Small family growing operations have been the backbone of this region for centuries, and that remains true today. The bright fruit and balancing acidity make Verdejo a fantastic pairing wine with a variety of cuisines, including shellfish, salads, and Asian-inspired dishes. Or, try them with one of these tried-and-true recipes:

Try it with:

Rueda wines also are a great match for young Manchego, fresh goat cheeses, and some ash-coated cheeses too. Stop by the Cheese Shop for a perfect pairing with your Rueda of choice, and get your promo pricing on it until April 15th! Visit Ribera y Rueda’s Recipes & Pairings page for even more culinary ideas.

Ribera y Rueda: Spanish Wine Deep-Dives

WINE & CHEESE PROMO

 

In an effort to get more incredible Spanish wine in your life, we’re running a special wine + cheese promo from April 1-15!

Buy a featured wine from Ribera del Duero or Rueda in the liquor store, bring it to the Cheese Shop to have a cheese paired to it, and receive $3 off your cheese purchase.

Plus, you’ll get a chance to enter to win a trip to Spain for the ultimate wine tour!

What comes to mind when someone mentions Spain? Flamenco dancers, bull fights, Salvador Dali, paella and siestas are all acceptable answers. But what about Spanish wine?

It’s reasonable to suggest that France and Italy have Spain well beat in terms of recognizability, and you wouldn’t be alone if you couldn’t name any Spanish grapes off the top of your head, even though Spain is #1 in the world for vineyard acreage. We usually head to the Spanish section when we need a cheap, fruity red for sangria or mulled wine, or easy-on-the-budget Cava bubbles for mimosas.

But Spain is so much more intricate than that, so we’re highlighting two regions over the next two weeks to showcase how uniquely characterful Spanish wines can be. This week we’re starting with Ribera del Duero, which produces the most prized bottles of Tempranillo in the world.

Ribera del Duero

If you’ve ever wandered around our Spanish wine section, you’ll know that a vast majority of it is red. And if you were to pick up any random bottle of Spanish red wine, the chances are good that it’ll contain at least some amount of Tempranillo—Spain’s premier red grape. It’s called by a variety of names depending on which region you’re in, but in Ribera del Duero it’s known locally as Tinto Fino. 

Tempranillo, like any other wine based on the climate, soils, winemaking traditions, etc, comes in a variety of styles. It can be fresh and juicy, silky and spiced, or dark and brooding. Ribera del Duero is known for its hot climate, low rainfall and high elevation vineyards, all of which add up to dark, full-bodied, intensely flavored wines.

Check out the wines below for three different takes on Ribera Tempranillo:

Protos Tinto Fino

This 100% Tempranillo is the perfect introduction to the full-bodied red wines from Ribera del Duero. It was aged in used French and American oak, giving it just a hint of vanilla and spice that highlights the dark fruit notes. // $17.99

Viña Sastre Crianza

The Crianza designation means that this wine sees at least a year of aging in oak barrels and undergoes a strict quality control process, making this an exceptional, age-worthy wine. Rich, ripe blackberry, black cherry, and toasted barrel mark this standard-bearer. // $35.99

Pingus 'Psi'

Psi is made by Dominio de Pingus, one of the heralded estates that helped put Ribera del Duero on the map for premium quality wines. Pingus makes this wine in conjunction with small local-area farmers, working with them to instill knowledge and the importance of thoughtful farming and high-quality fruit. // $35.99

Ribera del Duero is a small region, and it follows that most of the wine production here is also on a pretty small (and ridiculously high-quality) level: 75% of the grapes are harvested by hand, and many come from old vineyards that simply don’t allow for machine work. Ribera del Duero is also known for its stately castillos, dominating the landscape and adding to the majesty of the region. They’re also pretty serious about their tapas and lamb dishes, so check out the recipes below for your next Spain-inspired dinner:

Try it with:

Ribera wines also are a great match for aged Manchego, creamy blue cheeses, and clothbound cheddars—and don’t forget to include some Jamon Serrano and chorizo on your board too when you visit the Cheese Shop for your promo-priced cheese pairing. Visit Ribera y Rueda’s Recipes & Pairings page for even more ideas!

Check back next week for a dive into one of Spain’s best-kept secrets: the wines of Rueda.

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Recipe

Whether you’re creating a restaurant-worthy Valentine’s Day dining experience at home, throwing a Ystävänpäivä get-together with your pals or just practicing a little extra self care, you’ll need a few ingredients to make February 14th a success:

•  SPARKLING WINE. We drink bubbles year-round here, but Valentine’s Day seems like a good time to dive into something a little “extra.” We’re helping you out by giving you 10% off all bubbles this weekend, both in-store and online. Check out a few of our favorites below:

•  CHEESE. We’ve done the hard work of sifting through millions of potential wine and cheese pairings to come up with the best of the best. Check out our collaborations with the France 44 Cheese Shop in The Pairing for suggestions and nerdy cool product info.

•  CHOCOLATE. Whitman’s Samplers will always have their place in the age-old traditions of Valentine’s Day. But if you don’t want to play chocolate Russian roulette, let the Cheese Shop take away some of the guess work and suggest one of their amazing bean-to-bar chocolate bars. 

•  THE ONE-STOP SHOP. If you’re running out of time to create your personal one-of-a-kind Valentine’s Day experience, we’ll take care of all the details–from flowers to caviar. Click below to check out the Cheese Shop’s incredible Valentine’s Day pre-order menu, do all your shopping in one fell swoop, pick up your bundle on Monday, and indulge. Even Cupid would be impressed.

Glühwein, Gløgg, Wassail… Cold Weather’s Best Beverage

Despite having been born and raised in Minnesota, I’m a baby when the cold weather hits. It’s not an unusual sight to see me in a turtleneck with a sweater on top (I’ve even been known to layer my jackets…), and I’m a big fan of long johns and wool socks this time of year. No matter how many layers I pile on, though, there’s nothing quite as warming as a steamy mug of mulled wine – and if you’ve ever wandered the Christmas Markets of Europe or elsewhere, you know this to be true.

Mulled wine has been around pretty much as long as wine has, which is to say, almost forever. It started out as a way to avoid waste – Romans and Greeks were recorded as early at the 2nd century for adding spices to bad batches of wine in order to make them more palatable, and in the cooler months, heating it up as a way to keep warm. As the Romans spread and conquered, they brought with them “Conditum Paradoxum,” a mixture of wine, honey, pepper, bay leaf, saffron, and dates.

By the Middle Ages, it had become a wildly popular beverage for two reasons: one, most of the water wasn’t potable, so people were drinking beer and wine in its place. Two, spiced wine was believed to promote health and avoid illness (a big concern in the wake of the Black Plague, rela). Even royalty was known to enjoy a hot cup of wine or two, with King Henry III of England, Count John IV of Germany, and King Gustav I of Sweden all citing it as one of their favorites. When Christmas Markets popped up in the late 1800’s, mulled wine morphed from the more bitter recipes of the past into the warm, spicy ones we know and love now and quickly became a staple. Today, booths at the markets continue to offer their own distinct recipes.

While the most recognized recipes are a blend of red wine, brandy, cinnamon, citrus, and sugar, recipes are pretty variable depending on where you are, with the types of spices, bases, and fortifying spirits changing depending on culture. In Alsace, white wine (usually Riesling or Pinot Blanc) is swapped for red wine, and star aniseed is a key spice. In Scandinavia, vodka, gin, or akvavit are often used in place of brandy, and cardamom joins the spice blend. In Poland, hot beer is used instead of wine. All to say, it’s a pretty forgiving beverage, so as you make your own mulled wine (or beer, or cider!), you can play with the recipe as much or as little as you want to make it your own.

As far as the spices go, we did the work for you and put together a mulled wine kit (wine sold separately) to help get you through the impending doom that is winter in Minnesota. Each kit contains three sachets of our house spice blend, plus a tried-and-true recipe card to make a traditional batch of glühwein. What you use to fortify is entirely up to you, but might we suggest a liter bottle of Gulp Hablo Garnacha to get the base going?

France 44’s Mulled Wine

1. Place mulled wine sachet into a medium sized pot with 1 liter of red wine and ½ cup of brown sugar.

2. Using a sharp knife or peeler, peel half of one orange and half of one lemon, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Place in pot.

3. Juice 1 orange and add to pot.

4. Overmedium heat, warm the mixture, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is just steaming, then reduce to a low simmer. Continue heating for 30 minutes, allowing spices to infuse.

5. Stir in 1 cup of spirit of choice, or 2 cups of tawny port.

6. Strain, garnish with orange wheel and/or cinnamon stick, and serve in heat-proof mugs or teacups. 

Yields 6-8 servings.  

*For a more or less sweet mulled wine, simply adjust the amount of sugar added accordingly. Sub agave or honey for an alternative sweetener. 

 

Hold My Milk, Bro: A Dairy-Free Cocktail Guide

by Tashi Johns

No matter your reason for cutting back or ditching dairy, here are some fun cocktail ideas to keep you warm and fuzzy all winter long.  I’ve included remakes of traditional cocktails with my personal recommendations for dairy free alternatives, plus some new festive cocktails to try!  Trust me, you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out, dairy free alternatives have come a long way and the possibilities are endless.

 
Let’s start with some classics…
 

Baileys Almande Almondmilk Liqueur

Irish Coffee

2 oz Bailey’s Almande Liqueur

1 oz Two Stacks Irish Whiskey

6 oz fresh coffee

Grab an oversized mug and combine all ingredients.

 

 

 

 

  

The Minneapolis Dude

2 oz Du Nord Coffee Liqueur

½ oz Vikre Lake Superior Vodka

Vanilla oat milk (I recommend Oatly)

Fill a low ball glass with ice, add coffee liqueur and vodka, top with vanilla oat milk.

 

 

 

 

 

Eggnog Martini

1 oz Wheatley Vodka

1 oz Dapper Barons Amaretto

1 oz Vegan Eggnog (I recommend Silk)

In a cocktail shaker, add the eggnog, vodka, and amaretto. Add 1 cup ice, shake, and strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with fresh nutmeg and dark chocolate shavings.

 
 

 

 

Other Festive Cocktails…
 

Old Overholt 114 Proof

Orange Chai Whiskey

1 oz Old Overholt 114

1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice

8 oz vanilla almond milk (I recommend Califia Farms)

1 Chai Tea bag

Heat almond milk in a small saucepan, but do not boil. Remove from heat and steep chai tea bag for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, pour whiskey and orange juice into an oversized mug. When tea is steeped, remove the tea bag. Pour almond chai over whiskey and orange juice.  Stir well and top with a tiny dash of cinnamon. Garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick.

 

 

Christian Bros Sacred Bond BrandyBrandy Milk Punch

2 oz Sacred Bond Brandy

1.5 oz plain soy milk (I recommend Silk)

1 oz Prohibition Simple Syrup

½ vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, and shake until outside of the shaker is frosty (about 30 seconds). Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.

 

 

 

 

…Plus a Bonus (vegan!) Hack

Amaretto Sour

2 oz Disaronno*

1 oz lemon juice

¼ oz Prohibition Simple Syrup

2 tbsp aquafaba (the juice from a can of chickpeas!)

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake vigorously for at least a minute or two so that aquafaba produces foam. Strain into a glass and serve immediately with a garnish of lemon twist and a cherry (we recommend Muddle Me Bourbon Cherries).

*You can use any amaretto you like for these recipes.  I have listed Dapper Barons and Disaronno in these recipes for those who are avoiding animal products entirely.  They are both vegan friendly!

October Cocktail Feature: Spooooooky Cocktails!

Week One 

For October we will be focusing on spoooooky cocktails for all your Halloween shenanigans.  Some might push you to try something a little more complicated, but don’t be scared!  They will be worth the work.  And some will be perfect to share with friends at your next séance or ghoul gathering.  Let those skeletons out of your closet, it’s time to party!

Violet Delights 

Fill a highball glass with ice, add grenadine, lemon juice, gin, top with soda water and a cocktail cherry.


 

Week Two 

We’re going to revisit that bottle of mezcal this week for a spooky smoky cocktail.  This one is a little extra work but will be worth it!  For an extra witchy vibe, repeat a mantra or set some good intentions while you muddle your ingredients.  Or hex someone, we won’t tell.

Kitchen Witch Smash 

In a mixing glass, add blackberries, rosemary, lemon juice and agave nectar. Muddle the ingredients together, squishing everything to release the juices.  Add ice, along with the mezcal and orange bitters.  Stir for 20 seconds and strain over ice into a mason jar. Top with club soda and garnish with fresh rosemary and blackberries.

 


 

Week Three

By now you probably have some apple cider sitting in the fridge ready for a new spin.  Here’s a fun fall take on the classic sidecar.  If you’re feeling adventurous, try this warm during your next chilly evening by the fire.   Or if you’re feeling lazy, simply warm up the apple cider, add cognac, and top with whipped cream for an easy treat.

Phantom Vehicle

Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker, top with ice, and shake until the shaker starts to frost and feels very cold to the touch (20 to 30 seconds).  Strain into a coupe glass and top with zest and brandied cherries.

 


 

Week Four

Trick or treat!  What’s this new creature at your door?  It’s cachaca, a Brazilian liquor made from distilled sugarcane juice.  This cousin of rum is a little funky and earthy and makes for a great cocktail.  But don’t worry, after a few of these you’ll be the fun kind of zombie not the brain eating kind.

Cachaça Zombie 

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Rinse an oversized whiskey tumbler with absinthe, add crushed ice, and pour in your strained cocktail.  Garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.

 


 

EXTRA SPOOKY Week Five 

It’s Halloween weekend, time to get rowdy!  You probably still have some apple cider; we all make the same mistakes every fall, nobody is perfect.  So here’s a great recipe to share with your ghoul and goblin friends at your haunted gatherings.  Use up that cider and that dusty bottle of pinot grigio you never got to in the summer, and bring the shenanigans to the party!

Séance Sangria 

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl, stir, and chill for one hour before serving.

Liquid Necromancy: Old Duff & The Resurrection of Genever

by Sam Weisberg

Gather round, all ye of hardy constitution and eccentric drinking habits! ‘Twas the week before Halloween when Sam wrote a blog post about Genever; that elusive spirit of cocktail-lore, long figured to be lost to history. It’s a tale of an ingredient coming back from the dead, the resurrection of the crown jewel of the Cocktail Renaissance.

Editor’s Note: We’re gonna be nerdy and go through some history here. If you want to just know what the stuff tastes like, skip to the bottom of the article, or come visit us at the store this weekend—we’ll be pouring Old Duff Genever on the tasting bar.

Prologue: Minnesota, 1867

It’s 1867 and you’ve had a long, hard day farming sugar beets in Winona. You head over to your local watering hole, and, perhaps being a somewhat well-to-do farmer, you treat yourself and ask the bartender for a “gin cocktail.”

What you receive in your chilled cocktail glass is not a Martini. It’s not a gin-and-tonic, and, smelling it, it’s not even particularly piney or juniper-forward. You take a sip of the light-amber hued concoction… what you taste is not unlike an Old-Fashioned; there’s definitely sugar, definitely some sort of cocktail bitters, but that base spirit… it ain’t gin.

And that’s because it wasn’t gin. Or, at least, not what we’d consider gin today. The spirit—which you can see advertised here in the Winona Weekly Republican was called “Holland gin”—or, as they called it in Holland, genever.

brown windmill on green grass field under blue sky during daytime

The Long Road to Gin

Genever is old. Really old. Descended from medicinal juniper tonics that were being produced as early as 1269 CE, genever has been taxed as a recreational spirit in Holland since 1497! It is the parent spirit of both whiskey and gin, a fact that quickly becomes apparent after your first sip. Malty and rich, yet lightly flavored , genever is like the love-child of single malt scotch and English gin.

The earliest Irish whiskey recipes, dating from 1611, were for unaged, well-crafted grain distillate with a teensy amount of botanicals added for flavor, including juniper. That’s essentially a description of genever. The real stuff, what the Dutch would have called moutwijn, or, maltwine, is a distillate of grains (traditionally malted barley and rye—more on that in minute) with a small amount of juniper and hops (!) added for flavor.

That traditional style maltwine genever swept the (European-influenced) globe, at times becoming even more fashionable and expensive than Cognac. By the mid-1860s, genever was one of the world’s best-selling spirits—popular enough that it was even being shipped out to the fledgling Northwest Territory of the U.S., which would soon become Minnesota (see the 1855 ad above in the Winona Weekly Express).

clear drinking glass with brown liquid and green leaves

While Americans stuck to imported Dutch Genever (imports to New York in 1850 dwarfed English gin at a ratio of 450:1), the British attempted to make their own version of it. Unfortunately, British distillers couldn’t compete with the technique of the Dutch masters. To cover the harsher base spirit that many distillers produced, merchants would often sweeten the spirit with sugar and add additional juniper flavor. The resulting spirit is a poor facsimile of genever, but it became quite popular with the British public, who dropped the “-ever” and called it “gen,” which quickly transformed into “gin.”

That sweetened style of gin was known as “Old Tom” gin—and you can still purchase it today from a select few producers. For a time, true Dutch genever and Old Tom gin were interchangeable in the bartender’s arsenal, with the former taking the name “Hollands” in many recipe books. Up until Prohibition in the U.S., if you asked for gin in a bar, you’d probably be getting either genever or Old Tom.

It wasn’t until the invention of the column still in the early-1800s that anything resembling the “dry gin” we know now began to come onto the scene. The spirit produced by a column still was lighter and crisper than the malty, fuller-bodied stuff that came off the old-school pot stills used to make genever. Column-stills also produced spirits with fewer impurities, allowing producers to bottle it with less and less sugar to cover up “off” flavors.

Real Dutch genever began a slow decline in popularity due to the dual tragedies of American Prohibition and World War I, but after the devastation of World War II, Dutch producers had to decisively pivot away from it to survive. The techniques of genever production were labor-intensive and the raw materials were expensive. Sensing a changing marketplace and a need for fast cash, Dutch producers went all-in on liqueurs and vodka for their export markets. Some distillers continued producing a bit of genever for local tastes, but the marketplace had changed—today, only a dozen or so distilleries remain in Schiedam, the historic home of genever production—down from the industry’s peak of about 250 distilleries in its heyday.

clear cocktail glass with pink liquid inside

Enter the Duff

The revitalization of pre-Prohibition cocktail recipes and techniques that has swept the U.S. over the past twenty to thirty years has been called the “Cocktail Renaissance.” History buffs, academics, professional bartenders, and at-home tipplers have all contributed to a wealth of information that has allowed bars to slowly but surely shift drinking culture in the U.S. back towards spirit-forward cocktails with high-quality ingredients. In other words: Negronis are in, Sour Mix is out.

Key to this transition has been the resurrection of (formerly) archaic ingredients like absinthe, rye whiskey, vermouth, and, now, genever, which were called for frequently in pre-Prohibition cocktail recipes, but, until recently, were mostly unavailable in the United States. Enter Philip Duff, a cocktail soothsayer who was on a single-minded mission to bring back genever. And not just any genever, but a true, 100% Maltwine.

courtesy of the Old Duff Genever Distillery

See, genever production hadn’t exactly stopped cold in Holland following the post-WW2 market crash; a few Dutch producers like Bols had continued to keep it in their product lines. But the product they were making, sometimes called jonge genever or “young” genever,  was a column-still product that didn’t really resemble the old-school stuff. It was lighter in flavor, more juniper forward, and, critically, the base spirit was not the traditional moutwijn blend of malt and rye, but a neutral grain spirit—more like a vodka.

Philip Duff set out to rectify this. Approaching a historic distillery in Schiedam with a historic genever recipe in hand, he contracted them to produce Old Duff Genever: a true Dutch genever with the historic seal of Schiedam (they’ve got a seal for everything over there) on the bottle, certifying it as the real-deal thing.

What the Heck Does it Taste Like

Old Duff comes in two varieties:

The green bottle Old Duff Genever ($36.99) is a modern-style genever. 53% pot-still Maltwine, 46% column-still wheat distillate. The column-still spirit lends a lighter touch to this bottling, which, combined with a broader botanical base that includes juniper, citrus, coriander, star anise, and licorice, creates a sip that tastes like a fuller-bodied, maltier style of London Dry gin.

This is the stuff to pull out for a party. Make long drinks like a John Collins (John for jenever!) with it, or sub it out for gin in a cold-weather G&T. Bottled at 40% ABV, it’s meant as an approachable first sip into the world of genever.

Old Duff’s black-label, 100% Maltwine ($49.99) on the other hand, is the real-deal genever experience. This is what genever would have tasted like in the 1800s. Made from 2/3rds rye and 1/3rd malted barley, and flavored with only juniper and English bramling hops, this authentic moutwijn is the missing ingredient in dozens upon dozens of classic American cocktails. It’s the missing link between scotch and gin, the middle-ground when you don’t know if you want whiskey on the rocks or a Martini.

Mix yourself up a Martinez, the predecessor of the Martini, with Old Duff instead of gin and sit back in bliss. Or try an Improved Gin Cocktail—essentially a genever old-fashioned—and learn what contentment is. The stuff is magic, and its ability to bring lost cocktails back from the dead is truly a Halloween miracle.

Our friends at Libation Project will be mixing up genever cocktails on the bar this weekend at France 44. Swing by to have a little taste of history, and then pick up a bottle or two for yourself so you can take your own crack at a little liquid necromancy this Halloween season. Proost!

September Spirit of the Month: Aquavit

Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit that is traditionally flavored with ingredients such as caraway, cardamon, fennel, or dill.  You can easily substitute aquavit into your favorite whiskey, gin, or vodka drinks for a tasty new variation.  Through September we will feature some of our favorite aquavits and show you how versatile it can be!  Let’s leave the lutefisk to the Nordics and broaden our savory cocktail arsenal with that dusty bottle of aquavit instead.

Week 1:

Aquavit Mule, aka Dala Horse

In a copper mule mug filled with ice, combine:

Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint.


Week 2:  Local pairing 

Aquavit can also be enjoyed chilled or over ice. This week we recommend trying Skaalvenn Aquavit with Northern Lights Blue Cheese from the Cheese Shop.  Each batch of Northern Lights Blue is hand crafted in small batches with fresh ingredients and milk from local Brown Swiss cows who are allowed to graze on pasture all year long, which helps create a rich creamy texture and delicious flavor.  The cheese is aged for a minimum of four months, longer than most blue cheese, which adds to its creamy texture and peppery taste.  This cheese will pair nicely with Skaalvenn’s Aquavit, which is distilled from wheat and flavored with caraway, fennel, orange peel, and aged in oak barrels.


Week 3: Nordic Summer Cocktail 

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill ¾ with ice, shake until chilled, strain, and serve with an orange twist.

 

 


 

 

Week 4: 

AkvaCran & Tonic 

Fill a tall glass with ice; add aquavit, cranberry juice, and lime juice; top with tonic water and garnish with a lime and sprig of mint. 

August Spirit of the Month: Mezcal

Each week for the month of August we’ll bring you a different cocktail recipe or food pairing featuring Mezcal (tequila’s smokier cousin). Mezcal comes from 9 different regions in Mexico, the most common being Oaxaca. Similar to tequila, it is distilled from the heart of the Agave plant. Unlike Tequila, any type of Agave can be used. It is also most commonly pit roasted prior to fermentation, giving the final product its distinct, smoky flavor. If you haven’t tried mezcal before, this might be just the nudge you need to get a bottle to experiment with!

Week 1:

Smoke on the Water
In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine:

Shake until well chilled and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.


Week 2:

Smoky Negroni 

In a mixing glass with ice, combine:

Stir until well chilled and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.


Week 3: Mezcal Food Pairing! 

This week we are going to pair mezcal with a fun snack from the Cheese Shop! We recommend trying Xicaru Silver Mezcal with Jamon Serrano and goat cheese (Order online HERE). Jamon Serrano is a dry cured Spanish ham sliced thin and one of the most iconic Spanish food products. While mezcal is from Mexico, the smokiness will highlight this meat well, and the goat cheese adds a nice creamy finish. Xicaru is available in 375 ML bottles so it’s a less intimidating purchase if you want to try mezcal for the first time. This is the perfect pairing to take along to a happy hour or picnic gathering to introduce your friends to the amazing world of mezcal (and the fun things you can find at our Cheese Shop)!


 

Week 4: The Final Week! 

This week we’re going to make the easiest cocktail pairing ever.  Last weekend at the cabin?  Quick pairing to wind down after a busy week?  We’ve got you covered.  This week’s mezcal is going into Summer Lakes Bootleg mix, which will create a very tasty twist on a mojito.  We recommend trying Derrumbes San Louis Potosi, which uses above ground roasting methods for a less smoky mezcal.  You’ll get hints of bell pepper, minerals, and a little funkiness that’s going to pair great with pimento dip and some crackers from the cheese shop.  Quickest shopping trip ever, and you’ve got an easy but delicious cocktail and snack covered for wherever life takes you.