The Toast is The Heavy Table’s new monthly roundup of all things imbibing. The Toast loves reader submissions. Got a cocktail recipe we should test out? Snap a good pic at a Beer Dabbler event? Know of a killer happy hour? Are you a bartender with a good anecdote? Email Toast Editor John Garland at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you’re toasting around town. Each month our favorite submission will receive a Heavy Table pint glass and may be featured in the next Toast! Interested in sponsoring The Toast? Email our ad department at email@example.com.
Cheers to… debuts! The first installment of The Toast has lots of whiskey, a couple recipes, bottle recommendations, and news on brews. Each month, we’ll be doing our best to capture the best sips around town. But we can’t do it alone. Email or tweet us suggestions anytime. Na zdrowie!
Now Open: Parlour
A few weeks ago when we reviewed the new North Loop hot spot Borough, we didn’t make mention of Parlour, its downstairs cocktail lounge companion. Well, we’ve rectified that oversight and we’re sure glad we did. It’s an industrial-chic hideaway decked out with plush seating around knee-high tables. Its dim lighting and meticulous cocktails make for an inviting respite — especially right now, as you peek up through the windows at salt-stained pant legs trudging down snowy Washington Avenue.
The drinks are courtesy of Jesse Held, formerly of Town Talk Diner and Marvel Bar, among others. Your first cocktail there should be the Bullet and a Target ($9), a silky, indulgent Collins glass full of Bulleit Rye, Averna, maple syrup, lemon juice, emulsified egg white, and chocolate bitters with a shaving of chocolate on top. It arrives in cascading shade of mocha brown and has a thick egg white head to complete the illusion. It’s no doubt chocolatey, but there’s enough acidity to keep it balanced.
Also quite successful: the Wise Beyond His Years ($8), one of the better Islay scotch cocktails we’ve had in some time. Both a single malt and blended scotch come on the rocks mixed with lemon juice, Licor 43, and oolong-infused honey. The smokiness of the scotches is present but beautifully subdued into the aftertaste, where it lingers against Licor 43’s vanilla notes. You know the scotch is there, but it tastes thoroughly modern, like looking at a picture of the moorlands taken through an Instagram filter.
The weather has sent us on a search for some liquid insulation, and that meant whiskey was on our minds (and tongues) in January. Recently, we talked local distilling with Simeon Rossi and Mark Schiller of Loon Liquors, who look to have Loonshine, their organic, unaged whiskey, on shelves by May. They’ve since wrapped up their Indiegogo campaign, pulling in over $11,000 in pre-orders (they tell us it was the second most successful distillery launch in the site’s history).
Then we hopped over to Marvel Bar, and talked to Pip Hanson (above) about his new whiskey menu. Cataloging all of those details must have been a Herculean task. The bar’s flight service is just as elegant as their cocktails we’ve come to know and love. Speaking of which, we asked Hanson if he might share a whiskey cocktail with us, and he was happy to oblige:
“This is the first hyperdiluted cocktail we put on the menu at Marvel and it’s been enormously popular,” he says. “It is similar to a very diluted Manhattan; the water brings out new flavors and aromas that would be hard to detect at a higher proof. This recipe makes a very large drink, so if you don’t have a big enough glass, split it for two or set aside half of the drink and make a second round!” For reference, 30 ml is just a touch over a fluid ounce.
30 ml Booker’s Bourbon
30 ml Landy VS Cognac
10 ml Carpano Antica Formula
10 ml Farigoule thyme liqueur
10 ml lemon zest syrup (simple syrup steeped with lemon zest)
180 ml chilled distilled water
In a large (approximately 20-oz.) glass on large pieces of very pure ice, add all ingredients and stir well.
One other intriguing spot you whiskey lovers should check out: Merlins Rest. They’ve got over 200 whiskeys behind the bar and are trying to make it more affordable to taste your way through them. Any pour that’s usually over $8 is now also available by the “dram” — half the pour for half the cost. “It’s a fantastic way of expanding the palate of our guests without the necessity of them taking out a second mortgage,” says proprietor Lee Tomlin. Not having to choose between Macallan 25 and paying rent? Sold!
Wine for Your Valentine
Whether your Valentine’s Day plans involve a romantic fireside nightcap with your sweetheart or (like your humble editor) a solo marathon viewing of House Of Cards on Netflix, either situation would be made better with the right bottle of wine. So, we asked a few of our favorite wine pros around town for a recommendation:
Lindsey Coleman, Surdyk’s:
“I love the idea of saving dessert until you get home. A 375-ml bottle of Don PX Sherry — sized for two — is so indulgent with its rich gold color and consistency. Enjoy a palate full of raisins, fig and caramel. It matches wonderfully with a Hispaniola bar from Rogue Chocolate, my favorite chocolate from the Cheese Shop (and finally back in stock!)”
Russell Fay, Cork Dork Wine Co.:
“2009 Bodegas Sierra Norte, Pasión de Bobal. Big ripe Spanish red, 100% Bobal, 6 months oak. Big, deep cherry and vanilla flavors. 91 points Robert Parker, 89 points Stephen Tanzer. Never had a Bobal I didn’t like.”
Arzu Gokcen, The Wine Thief:
“My recommendation would be a Cru Beaujolais. It’s very different than the Beaujolais Nouveau you find around Thanksgiving… Each [Cru] village has its own style. The one we currently have is a Régnié [2010 Domaine Des Braves], which is a sort of a lighter, little more feminine style… It’s a very romantic version of the grape and goes great with a variety of foods, especially charcuterie.”
And for those of you who are taking Friday the 15th off from work, how about a wine / spirit cocktail?
Sara Craft, Paustis & Sons (wholesaler):
“I would utilize sparkling wine in a non-traditional way. Pisco is one of my favorite spirits. It blends very uniquely where you think ‘Is this tequila?’ Not sure. ‘Is it vodka?’ No, essentially, it’s white brandy. I like to make a twist on a traditional Peruvian cocktail called the Portonero. I use sparkling wine to give a lift to the cocktail, instead of ginger ale which is the custom.”
In a shaker with ice: Start with pisco and orange liqueur at about 3:1 or 4:1 (Craft recommends Gran Torres), add a squeeze of lime juice and a few strips of candied ginger. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass and top with sparkling wine (inexpensive cava will do the trick).
The News From Winterfest
The MN Craft Brewer’s Guild held their annual Winterfest event at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul last Friday. Herein, a quick snippet of what we learned from the 38 brewing companies in attendance:
After years of hearing about their business plan and salivating and their tap room blueprints, it was great to finally taste some 612Brew. The Northeast brewery is finally sent to open its tap room in a couple weeks and will host a special release party at Pourhouse downtown on Thursday. There you’ll be able to taste the entire lineup, including our favorite from Winterfest, the Rated R — a wonderful full-flavored Rye-PA. Expect a lengthy update on their tap room plans to be posted in our directory next week.
The two-week-old Northgate Brewing put on a strong showing. The Wall’s End is a mild, toasty 4.8% English Brown that’s only available right now at Grumpy’s Northeast and Sen Yai Sen Lek. But count us more excited for a wide release of Maggie’s Leap, their charming sweet stout that should be proliferating some time next month.
As we’ve said before: Long live the Summit Unchained Series. We were bowled over by a preview of Batch #12, which they’re calling “Organic Ale.” It’s a light-bodied crisp ale with a mesmerizing floral perfume about it.
Winterfest confirmed what we’ve been suspecting for a few months: At this very moment, the hub of the most exciting brewing activity in the state is not the Twin Cities, it’s Duluth. Aside from the ever-reliable Fitgers, around the lakeshore has assembled a cadre of unique brewers (seven of which were at Friday’s event). We’re still smitten with the Belgian-style brews from Borealis Fermentery (especially the curaçao-scented La Lune) and Dubrue‘s chocolate- and ginger-scented Zinger. We’re already blocking off our calendars for this year’s All Pints North.
Get to Indeed Brewing on Valentine’s Day to check out Hot Box, a collaboration with Northbound Smokehouse, which smoked the peppers and malt used to assemble this spicy and challenging porter.
Among the dozens (understandably, we lost exact count) of brews we sampled at the event, our favorite of the evening was an toss up between Lift Bridge’s Kimono Girl — a firkin of Farm Girl with lemongrass and longan fruit — and Flat Earth’s YYZ, their already excellent Cygnus X1 porter brewed with Kona coffee and coconut.