In praise of vermouth
December 9th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

When it comes to the contest for “least respected, most versatile alcohol in the world,” there’s no question that vermouth has a fair shot at the prize. Without it, there would be no Manhattans, no martinis, and (as if things could get any worse) no Negronis - the latter somehow having become the cool-kid cocktail of the season, in addition to being just plain great.
 
Cocktails aside, good vermouth can also be delicious poured straight over an ice cube or two. But what is the stuff, actually? The first clue comes from the name, vermouth, a French bastardization of the Old High German wermuota, or wormwood, an aromatic ingredient once used to flavor it (and absinthe, too).
 
There are two main styles, sweet (originally Italian) and dry (originally French). Both are made with wine that has been infused with herbs, roots, spices and other botanical ingredients; the specific recipes are usually secret. These days most brands make both styles. Because vermouth is wine-based, it should be kept in the refrigerator after it is opened, and will last for two to three months before losing its character (use what’s left for cooking).
 
Noilly Prat and Martini & Rossi tend to dominate store shelves, along with Cinzano. All are fine for everyday use. Recently, though, there’s been an explosion of new brands, as well as higher-end offerings from the big names, some of which are extraordinarily good. Here are five that would make great gifts this season.
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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Spirits • Wine


October 18th, 2013
12:00 PM ET
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A bourbon heist at a high-end Kentucky distillery has left tongues wagging in elite whiskey circles and some small-town cops wondering whodunit.

The Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort noticed this week that it was missing some of its 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, one of the rarest and most sought after bourbons in the world.

"It's highly coveted," said Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton, the man leading the investigation. "It's the best of the best."

Melton said the distillery called him on Tuesday to report that 65 cases, or 195 bottles, of the high-end hard stuff were unaccounted for.

Nine cases of Pappy Van Winkle rye were also missing.

"We believe whoever did this took them out the back from the secured area over a period of two months" Melton said. "Obviously, the way this happened, it's indicative of an inside job."

Read - Cops: High-end bourbon heist likely an inside job

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Pour one out for the end of Bourbon Heritage Month
September 30th, 2013
10:30 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

The fact that September is Bourbon Heritage Month got me thinking about an elderly fellow I once knew, a friend of my father’s father and a veteran of World War I. He was 85 at the time, and blind as a bat - used to watch TV from the couch through a pair of binoculars perched on a stick, sipping what he referred to as “bourbon and branch.” That simply means bourbon and water (technically water from a small stream; it’s an old Southern term), as opposed to bourbon and soda, but it has an antique resonance to it that’s awfully appealing, I think.

Anyway, he’s gone now - has been for years - but there’s still plenty of good bourbon out there, and since it’s officially “a distinctive product of the United States” (by a 1964 Congressional resolution, no less), why not pour a glass? There’s still a day left in the month, after all.
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September 24th, 2013
01:15 PM ET
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Toronto BarChef co-owner Frankie Solarik shows CNN Deluxe the art of making beautiful cocktails.
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Filed under: Molecular Gastronomy • Sip • Spirits


Flipping out over boozy buttermilk
September 5th, 2013
02:30 PM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Today's contributor, Lindsey Kate Reynolds, is a native Texan beginning her M.A. in Southern Studies. She blogs about cocktails at TheGoodetimeGals.com and Tweets @LindseyKateR.

Nog, flip, fizz, grog, shrub, smash.

Besides being vaguely onomatopoeic terms, these are all old-school drinks that used to be quite common in bars more than one hundred years ago. Fallen out of fashion due to the vodka craze of the Cold War cocktail days, today’s spirits renaissance is bringing them back to life with a vengeance.

Though you might not always want to use a dozen eggs and shake drinks for a combined thirty minutes when entertaining, sometimes a special occasion calls for a more luxurious cocktail. Enter the flip.
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August 19th, 2013
10:15 AM ET
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Today, August 19, the world's top bartenders will compete at the International Bartender's Association's World Cocktail Championship in Prague, shaking, stirring, pouring and flaring in their attempts to make 2013's best cocktail.

To mark the occasion, we've found 12 weird and wonderful cocktails worth seeking out.
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Filed under: Sip • Spirits • Travel


August 2nd, 2013
04:30 PM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

Why is every celebrity now also a part-time tequila distiller? Is it because there’s no more room on this earth for another celeb-owned restaurant? Is it because they need something to do when they’re not on tour or filming a breakout cable series? Or, because alcohol goes so well with the celebrity lifestyle?

Whatever the reason, the nice surprise is that a lot of the booze, beer and wine produced by famous people is actually pretty good. Once upon a time, celebs just put their name on a bottle. Now they’re more involved; or at least very good at choosing talented distillers and breweries.

They’re also sometimes donating profits to charity  - cheers to that! And, cheers to whatever celebrity spirits are in the works, including the just-announced, years-before-we’ll-see-it Mumford & Sons whiskey.
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Anti-gay laws spark Russian vodka boycott
July 31st, 2013
02:00 PM ET
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Bars around the world have stopped serving Russian vodka to protest the country's recently-enacted anti-gay laws.

The movement comes in the wake of several laws implemented by Russian president Vladimir Putin in recent months that ban same sex couples from adopting Russian-born children, allow police to arrest foreigners they suspect as being "pro gay," and outlaw "homosexual propaganda" as pornography.

In response, internationally syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage started a "Dump Russian Vodka" campaign, asking bartenders and booze enthusiasts to put the Russian stuff back on the shelf.

"Show the world that Russian persecution of gays is unacceptable," a campaign flier states. "Boycott Russian vodka until persecution of gays and their allies ends."

Bars from the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia have responded.

Read Bars worldwide boycott Russian vodka over anti-gay laws

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5@5 - Low-alcohol bottles for your summer bar
July 30th, 2013
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Editor's Note: Christophe Hille and Chris Ronis are the chief operating officer and managing partner, respectively, of Northern Spy Food Co. in New York City. Follow them on Twitter @nothernspyfood.

Borrowing from that old saw, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade," we say, "When the community board denies you a full liquor license, make aperitif cocktails."

We discovered a whole world of crafty and delightful drinks that are stronger and weirder than wine, perfect for creating cocktails or enjoying alone. Most are variations on a theme: a base of wine, fortified with grape spirits or brandy to reach 15-20% alcohol by volume and flavored with an array of complex and highly-guarded herbs, spices, fruits and aging regimes.

Some, such as sherries, are their own category of wine, with long-established rules governing grape varieties, region of production and classification. To find these beverages, wander to where your local liquor store keeps the bottles that seem to belong in your grandma's booze cupboard. Below are a few of our favorites and cocktail recipes to go with them.
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