Winter Scotch Guide

We’re deep in the throes of the winter doldrums, and to help out we’re offering 10% off all scotch (in-store and online) for this weekend and this weekend only! Here are a few of our new favorites to warm you up next to the fire this chilly winter season:

 

Glenglassaugh Revival Highland Single Malt | Glenglassaugh’s first release is named Revival to commemorate their first release in over 20 years. Glenglaussagh is a Highland Single Malt aged in a healthy blend of red wine and bourbon barrels before re-racking into sherry for a finishing period. Highland single malts, to my palate, should be fruity, salty, earthy, and sweet, in that order, and Glenglassaugh hit the nail on the head. Sweet honey tones coincide with a rich blend of orchard fruits (think pear and apple) with a sea salinity on the finish that lingers for days. It’s a beautiful blend of the many facets that make single malt scotch so special.

Glenmorangie A Tale of Winter | Doctor Bill Lumsden has been at the helm of Glenmorangie for the past 27 years and let’s just say he does not disappoint. The Doctor came up with the idea for A Tale of Winter while snowed in during a bad storm many winters ago. He decided to make the perfect whiskey to fit the occasion. Glenmorangie is known for its long neck stills leading to a lighter, brighter spirit, so they finished this limited edition 13 year in Sicilian Marsala Casks to give it more weight and depth. This Single malt is bursting with nutty toffee, Glenmorangie’s signature honeyed orange tone, and gobs of Christmas spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. It’s Christmas in a bottle, which we think is what they were going for.

Kilchoman Machir Bay | Named for the famous western shoreline where their distillery and warehouses lie, Machir Bay is Islay in a glass. Islay is a famous island on the southwest side of Scotland where they make whiskey you would call “peaty” or “smoky”. The weather is terrible with torrential rain and wind. Kilchoman uses the ancient method of peating in their malt, where they burn peat to dry the barley in the malting process. Kilchoman is emblematic of Islay as it is extremely peaty and smoky, and they actually age their whiskies on the island, giving it an extra edge of sea salt to balance out this umami-powered single malt. There are notes of lemon zest and vanilla from the bourbon barrels it is aged in but the historic methods of production shine through with oily, earthy, sweet peat tones and brine that is found all over the island.

 

Remember: ALL single malts are 10% off in store and online! Grab a favorite, grab a new flyer, grab that expensive bottle you’ve always wanted while you have the chance! Warm your bones for the winter with discounted single malts all weekend.

For the Sober-Curious

by Tashi

The world of non-alcoholic beverages has grown over the past few years, and we are happy to carry plenty of options for anyone trying to cut out or cut back their alcohol intake.  We carry NA options all year long, but there is a movement called Dry January that was started in the UK to encourage people to reassess their relationship with alcohol by abstaining from drinking for a month.  Even though we are a liquor store, we love this idea and have put together a sampler kit of some of our favorite products to get you started!  Our staff can also help you find other NA beer, liquor, or wine that fits your vibe, as our selection has grown considerably over the past year.  We assure that you can still be the life of the party without the hangover!

Our Non-Alcoholic Sampler Kit includes:

  • Lagunitas Hop Water – Crisp, zingy, and hoppily refreshing. This sparkling beverage is made using everything Lagunitas knows about hops. Chock-full of Citra, Equinox, and Centennial hops, for a big splash of flavor that’s surprisingly fruity.
  • TÖST ROSÉ – TÖST ROSÉ is an all-natural, delicious, dry, sparkling non-alcoholic beverage with white tea, Ginger and Elderberry. This is the store favorite when it comes to NA alternatives to sparkling wine.
  • Athletic Brewing Run Wild IPA – Run Wild is the ultimate sessionable IPA for craft beer lovers. Brewed with a blend of five Northwest hops, it has an approachable bitterness to balance the specialty malt body.
  • Ghia Spritz – Ghia is a non-alcoholic apéritif packed with only pure, natural extracts. Potent plants. Heady herbals. Blithe botanicals. The Spritz includes yuzu, rosemary extract, and elderflower to temper down the natural bitterness, but still taste complex.
  • Hella Bitters and Soda – Hella’s Bitters & Soda is a premium sparkling beverage that gets its smart refreshing flavor from the Gentian root in the South of France. Spritz Aromatic is bittersweet with notes of clove, allspice, bitter root and orange peel.

Each kit includes two bottles or cans of each product, so you can share with friends!  

MORE NON-ALCOHOLIC PICKS FROM OUR STAFF

KARINA Studio Null Sparkling Rosé – This is the non-alcoholic wine I’ve always hoped for. So many N/A wines fall far short of actually tasting like wine and end up being sugary, unbalanced, and tasting like Kool-Aid. Studio Null makes a traditional alcoholic wine, distills out the alcohol to less than 0.5% ABV, and manages to keep all the great flavors, aromas, and acidity that I love so much in dry sparkling rosé. Made from Silvaner and Portugieser (two super cool German grapes), this pink bubbly will have you checking the label several times to convince yourself it’s not alcoholic–it’s that well-made!

DYLAN Jinx Tea

I love Jinx tea, It’s my favorite. 

The Raspberry Lemonade is yummy. 

I always try to savor it. 

Only the best for my tummy.

They have other flavors.

BILL Lovejoy’s Thai Basil Bloody Mary Mix – I really enjoy Lovejoy’s Thai Basil Bloody Mary Mix over Ice with a wedge of lemon and lime. It’s such a great twist on the classic Bloody Mary mix and it’s super easy just to skip the vodka and enjoy it without any alcohol. Plus it’s locally owned and made.

TASHI Untitled Art Juicy IPA – My favorite NA beverage is Untitled Art’s Juicy IPA.  The flavor is super on point, you can’t even tell it doesn’t contain alcohol it’s so well done.  I regularly grab a six pack because it really just hits the spot, even my partner loves it and requests I bring it home for us.  If you like hazy IPAs, you will love this!

BENNETT France 44 Spring Water – Deserving of grand cru classification, this water is sourced from the purest natural springs in the Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin appellation. These bountiful springs are naturally filtered by a roughly half-billion-year-old glacial formation, lending notes of vibrant purity and the distinct absence of terroir. Studies have shown that consuming fresh spring water is beneficial to your health!

(I also think Untitled Art is making some excellent N/A beer, especially the Italian Pils and Juicy IPA).

JOSH Zera Sparkling Chardonnay – This is such a fun and easy-going sparkling NA wine. It is fruit forward with a touch of sweetness. It tastes like those candy peach rings I had as a kid. And to top it all off, its organic! 

JAY Athletic Free Wave Hazy IPA – Athletic Brewing has been a pioneer in the non-alcoholic beer scene and is one of our most popular NA brands. The Free Wave Hazy IPA doesn’t disappoint. It’s juicy, citrusy and delicious. 

KAYLA Untitled Art Italian Pils – My favorite NA Beer is the Untitled Art Italian Pilsner.  it’s loaded with Hallertau Mittekfruh and Strata hops, making it a bit more hoppier than your standard Pilsner, but being less than 1% ABV, you still feel like you’re drinking an actual beer. 

MELISSA Töst Sparkling Cocktail – My favorite dry drink is Töst. As an avid iced tea drinker, I was driven to try this when it came into the store and fell in love with it! With a great balance of tea and flavors that give it a dry, yet layered mouthfeel. It also looks awesome in a fancy glass! With it being tea based, I shared it with my teenage daughters and they enjoy it as well, so it can be fun for the whole family.

The Official 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

We know you’ve been waiting all year for this. We’ve got a gift box for everyone on your list, from the beer buff to the cocktail curious–even a non-alcoholic sampler pack! Check out our glassware gift pack add-ons, our mystery bottle stocking stuffers, France 44-exclusive wine maps and drink coasters, and France 44 class gift certificates. There’s also a tried-and-true list of delicious and exciting wines that are sure to impress any host (and keep your party invites coming for years to come). And if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for, come talk to our staff for more ideas or fill out this nifty custom gift form. Cheers, and happy shopping!

Gift Boxes

Glassware Gifts

Found the perfect bottle, but need something else to gift-ify it? Choose to add on some glassware to complete the package. Plus, we’ll put it all in a ready-to-give gift box, complete with crinkle and a ribbon! Click each add-on to see our recommended spirits to include with the glassware. 

Up your gift giving game by adding six traditional ceramic Copitas (tiny cups) to your mezcal, tequila, or agave spirit purchase. 

Recommended Spirits (sold separately):

  • BANHEZ ENSEMBLE MEZCAL I $29.99 I Comprised of 90% Espadín and 10% Barril agaves, this mezcal is delightfully mild, floral and fruity (pineapple, banana). Banhez Ensemble is perfect for first-time mezcal tasters and wonderful for cocktail innovation.

 

Make your fancy rum gift even fancier with two Rum Taster glasses to enhance all the complex aromas and flavors in a high-class bottle.

Recommended Spirits (sold separately):

  • PLANTATION XAYMACA  RUM I $24.99 I With Xaymaca Special Dry, Plantation revives the quintessential Jamaican-style, 100% pot still rums of the 19th century with an expression of intense flavors that reveal the traditional, legendary Rum Funk: aromas and flavors of black banana and flambéed pineapple. 

 

  • EL DORADO 12 YEAR RUM I $36.99 I Lush tropical fruit and spice nose with hints of honey and dark sugar. Round, mellow, full bodied palate with rich flavours of fruit and spice. The finish is delightful, elegant and dry.
 

Add two classic Glencairn glasses to your bourbon, whiskey, or scotch purchase. A must-have for any whisk(e)y lover, from novice to connoisseur!

Recommended Spirits (sold separately):

  • FRANCE 44 STELLUM SINGLE BARREL BOURBON I $54.99 I This is a 5 year MGP cask strength bourbon picked out by your favorite staffers just for you! Bright cherry and caramel milk chocolate hit you up front before coming through with oak and spice.

 

  • BOWMAN BROTHERS SMALL BATCH BOURBON I $32.99 I The Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon is distilled three times using the finest corn, rye, and malted barley, producing distinct hints of vanilla, spice, and oak.

Stocking Stuffers

Pick up a box of mulling spices, a three-bottle sampler pack of your favorite spirit, or a pre-wrapped Mystery Mini gift.

Our Mystery Mini boxes are great for stocking stuffers, a white elephant gift exchange, or for those “I feel I should get them something but I don’t know them very well” scenarios. Four 50ml bottles of booze are included, but it’s a surprise as to what you get!

We also have our very own French wine region coasters! Grab one or all six. Only here at France 44!

Wines for Host Gifts

J. LAURENS ‘LA ROSE NO. 7’ | $18.99 | This festive pink bubbly is one of our all-time favorites, no matter what time of year. Best to get two bottles though, or your host gift will be gone before you even walk out the door to the party.

WARIS LARMANDIER ‘RACINES DE TROIS’ BRUT CHAMPAGNE | $64.99 | Cuvée Racines de Trois represents the “three roots” of Waris-Larmandier: the contribution of the three siblings to the project, and their use of three grape varieties, and coming from three regions of Champagne. The Waris-Larmandier style is terroir-focused, understated, structured, and ultra-elegant. 

DOMAINE CARRETTE MACON-MILLY LAMARTINE | $19.99 | This unoaked Chardonnay is the perfect host gift, whether it gets opened at the table or not. Just enough fruit and creaminess to provide texture and a delicious flavor, this high-class white wine is a guaranteed success at any function.

FOSSIL POINT PINOT NOIR | $17.99 | Showcasing notes of ripe plum, black cherry, clove, and pomegranate, this Pinot offers a quality well above its price point. Fossil Point Pinot has concentrated flavors that will pair well with slow-cooked pork belly, roasted duck or miso-glazed Salmon.

O’SHAUGHNESSY NAPA VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON | $84.99 |  This polished and rich Cabernet checks all of the boxes. It is plush, complex, and perfect for your holiday roast. O’Shaughnessy is a fabulous wine to drink now and over the next decade.

ST. AGRESTIS AMARO | $39.99 |  Although it is not a wine, the St. Agrestis Amaro is the perfect after dinner drink to cap off your holiday party! It is one of our staff favorites and is great for new Amaro drinkers and enthusiasts alike. Organic herbs, roots and citrus are macerated into a neutral spirit to produce this Brooklyn-made Amaro.

Inspiration for your Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving 2021 is shaping up to be one for the record books. There’s nary a turkey to be found this side of the Mississippi. Sweet potatoes are flying out grocery store doors faster than they can be stocked. And if you haven’t reserved your France 44 Cheese Shop Pumpkin Pie by now, you might be relegated to eating pumpkin puree by the spoonful right out of the can instead.

But one thing that won’t be hard is choosing which libations to pair with your holiday feast. Whether you’re planning for two or 20, the France 44 staff will help you choose the perfect Thanksgiving beverage lineup. From appetizer aperitifs to pumpkin pie potables and everything in between, we’re sharing what we’re bringing to our own tables in hopes of bringing some inspiration to yours. (If you want the fast and dirty shopping list, just scroll to the bottom.) Happy Thanksgiving!

____________________________________________________________________

 

Flora Prosecco | $15.99 | “My favorite way to start Thanksgiving is with mimosas! Flora Prosecco has become my favorite go-to. Try it with pomegranate or cranberry juice for a festive twist. It also tastes great without juice. That gives it the dual function of mimosas and bubbles to have with dessert!” – Melissa

Leffe Blonde | $8.99/6pk | “The flagship of Leffe, it’s smooth and fruity with a spicy aftertaste! At 6.6% it’s an excellent beer for any dish and relaxing moments with family and friends.” – Kayla

Gail ‘Doris’ Red Blend | $24.99 | “Loving this wine right now and probably will forever. This vintage has a high percentage of Zinfandel accompanied by about 15% of a variety of other grapes. Classic field blend. The Zin isn’t uber jamtastic, and that may be why I’d drink this with any holiday fare. Ripe raspberry, strawberry preserve, and a skosh of pepper round out the palate. Simply stunning.” – Dustin

Paul Nicolle Vieilles Vignes Chablis | $29.99 | “Good Chablis is what I’m bringing to Thanksgiving this year. There are few better pairing wines than a crisp, minerally Chablis, and the small Paul Nicolle domaine is at the top of the game. It is full-bodied enough to stand up to the bigger flavors on your Thanksgiving table, but that laser-sharp acidity also cuts through the salty and savory flavors in your stuffing, turkey, gravy, potatoes… (excuse me, I accidentally drooled on the keyboard).”  – Karina

Arnot-Roberts Trousseau | $34.99 |My current favorite ‘close my eyes wine’ – a wine so good you have to close your eyes and give it your full attention. The whisper-quiet honeyed red fruit flavors provide a refreshing counterpoint to the commotion of the holidays. Drink this one on its own (preferably on your own) when you need a break from the loud flavors (and personalities) of the Thanksgiving dinner table.” – Ryan

Peter Lauer Riesling ‘No. 25’ Trocken | $29.99 | “It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who reads our blog that I’ll be drinking German Riesling at my Thanksgiving celebration this year. My pick is focused, zingy and bone dry. The winemaker, Florian Lauer, has made is his life’s work to preserve the historic vineyard names of the Kupp area within the Mosel region of Germany. You’ll find it to be the perfect aperitif wine for your cheese board and shrimp cocktail.” – Amy

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel | $23.99 | “Thanksgiving is one of the most gluttonous meals of the year, and I have no idea why people pair this wonderful feast with delicate, lightweight wines. Try a Sonoma County Zinfandel at the dinner table this year, especially if you’re smoking the turkey. Silky, rich berry fruit–low tannins–spicy kick–absolutely delicious. It’s a perfect match. ‘Merica!” – Bill

Shacksbury Cider Variety Pack I $21.99 I “I am in love this this variety pack from one of my current favorite cider producers. The pack has 4 cans of each of the following: Shacksbury Dry Cider, The Vermonter (a delicious gin-like dry cider), and the Shacksbury Rosé (aged with red wine grapes). There really is just something about fall weather and fall food that screams for a delicious ice-cold cider. The variety pack is the perfect way to make sure there is a style everyone will like at your Thanksgiving.” – Josh

St. Agrestis Amaro | $39.99 | “I really enjoy this on its own! The bitter/herbal start really meshes well with the cinnamon and sarsaparilla on the finish. Makes me think of the holidays – and at 30% ABV, it’ll keep ya warm too!” – Stephen

Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon | $32.99 | “I’m currently in love with the small batch Bowman Brothers bourbon. Its bright notes of cinnamon and gingerbread pair perfectly with my favorite vermouth to make a lovely Manhattan. It’s definitely something I look forward to making for my family during the holidays.” – Aaron 

Ezra Brooks Cream Liqueur | $14.99 | “After the Thanksgiving rush, I feel quite beat. We sell gobs of cream liqueur this time of year and I’m going to treat myself to some Ezra Brooks Cream Liqueur in some coffee after my morning run… that I’m not going to take. It’s every bit as good as the best cream liqueur at half the price. I may even make myself an evening bourbon cream milkshake for dessert because I’m worth it!” – Tom

Schneider Weisse Aventinus Weizen Doppelbock I $5.99/500ml I “When it comes to pairing beers with Thanksgiving dinner, I prefer something with yeast-driven flavors, some alcohol warmth and fine carbonation. While most beers that fit this mold come from Belgium, some good options can also be found from Germany. Schneider Aventinus is one of my favorite food- (and cheese!) pairing beers. Sophisticated yet perfectly balanced with notes of plum, fig, clove, banana bread, cola and caramelized malt. The finish is warming with a prickly tingle of carbonation. Try it with L’Amuse Brabander goat gouda for a heavenly pairing.” – Bennett

Hamm’s Beer | $17.99/30pk | “What’s the best pairing with Turkey? Ham(m’s). The magical elixir from the land of the sky blue waters, Hamm’s. It tastes like beer and I like it.” – Rob

 

 

 

____________________________________________________________________

 

TL;DR VERSION

 

PRE-DINNER/ALL-DAY DRINKS

Flora Prosecco | $15.99

Hamm’s Beer | $17.99/30pk

 

DURING DINNER DRINKS

Peter Lauer Riesling ‘No. 25’ Trocken | $29.99

Paul Nicolle Chablis | $29.99

Gail ‘Doris’ Red Blend | $24.99

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel | $23.99

Arnot-Roberts Trousseau | $34.99

Leffe Blonde | $8.99/6pk

 

AFTER DINNER DRINKS

St. Agrestis Amaro | $39.99

Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon | $32.99

Ezra Brooks Cream Liqueur | $14.99

 

 

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!

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!

Soju vs. Shochu: What’s the Difference?

by Tom 

Soju is an often overlooked category in America. World wide, it hosts the world’s number one selling spirit brand (Jinro Soju) and makes up 97% of the clear spirit consumption in South Korea. It is a relatively low alcohol clear spirit made from different grains (rice, wheat or barley) and starches (potatoes or sweet potatoes) meant to be consumed chilled in a communal atmosphere usually accompanied by food, often spicy Korean barbeque. It can also be substituted into any martini, bloody mary, negroni, highball, or collins in lieu of another clear spirit for a lower alcohol option, as it usually sits between 12% and 30% alcohol instead of 40% plus here in the States. Consider it a lower alcohol, more viscous, slightly sweeter alternative to other clear spirits. There are very lax rules to soju from the alcohol percentages, additives, and flavorings.

Our soju:

  • The Classic: Jinro Soju. It is literally the best selling spirit brand in the world. Sip it chilled with family and friends. $12.99/750ML
  • The New Yorker: West 32 Soju. West 32 is an ode to New York’s Korea Town, and a good example of how far Soju can reach and how it can be made anywhere. $19.99/750ML

Soju’s cousin, Shochu, is quite the opposite. Their names are very similar, as the “so” and “sho” translate to burned, and the “ju” and “chu” translate to alcohol in Korean and Japanese respectively. These are distilled spirits, where sake is a fermented product, separating it entirely. Shochu is much stricter with its rules and regulations. It has a history dating back 500 years and has different appellations just like champagne and cognac. It is made with similar ferments, usually sweet potato, barley or rice. The big difference is purity, as no Shochu can have any additives and in the case of top shochu they can only be distilled once to show the purity of the distillate, designated as Honkaku. Shochu sits higher in alcohol than soju, usually between 25-35%.

Our shochu:

  • Mugi Hokka Honkaku Shochu. Made from Shooner barley and left to ferment for 17 whole days before a single distillation run in an atmospheric pot still in the Tensei Distillery in the Osaki Township in Kagoshima. If that’s not enough, they let it rest for five years in enamel tanks. Mugi Hokka shows notes of dark roasted coffee and dark chocolate. A perfect pairing for red meat, coffee and chocolate. $34.99/750ML

  • Colorful Honkaku Sweet Potato Shochu. Made from two different sweet potatoes fermented with two different Koji yeast strains by two different distillers! A very rare occurrence. Colorful is how they describe the nose and palate as it is flush with papaya, nectarines, great florality, and a soft vegetal smoke in the background. $52.99/750ML

Now for the hard part, where does soju and shochu go on the shelf? There is no right or wrong answer. We have created a shelf in between vodka and gin that houses spirits that fit a small category and definitely do not belong with liqueurs. Here you will find soju, shochu, aquavit, grappa, amongst other distillates. Go explore next time you’re in the shop!

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.

New Changes to Online Shopping

By Melissa, Operations and Systems Queen (and Cider Specialist!)

Author Arnold Bennett was quoted as saying, “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accomplished by discomforts.” In the last 16 + months of trials with new sales systems and ordering platforms at France 44, we have all experienced exactly what he was saying 100 years ago.

Let me start by saying THANK YOU to all of you loyal customers who have stayed with us through all the changes that have occurred. Staffing, business hours, technology, and operations have all changed a lot. Some things have gone very well (curbside pickup, virtual classes) while others didn’t go well (new apps). Your feedback has been heard about all of it and we have been working hard to adjust and make things better across the board.

The biggest complaints came about ordering online. The new platform we have been using is great for somethings we do, but not for the online store. For the last several months, we have been redeveloping the online store for a better user experience. For those of you who use the online store, you will see a very different layout. We hope that you find it easier to find the products you are looking for.

As for a new app, we have not been able to find one that meets all our needs. We will continue to look but in the meantime, you can always ask someone at customer service to look up your past purchases and points.  If a time comes where the perfect app can be ours, we will let you know!

Once again, thank you for your patience as we navigated all the changes we experienced together. Know that the one thing we will never change is our commitment to providing the best customer service we have the ability to give. We continue to welcome feedback as we work to improve our systems and online shopping experiences. Cheers, and thank you!