Winter Whiskey Tasting

Nothing says “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” like a flight of whiskey to savor and compare.  Forget bargain shopping.  Nobody really needs all that crap anyway.  Belly up to the bar with the family and toast having the good sense to avoid the crazy crowds at the mall.  Cheers!

Just up the road from South Bend, Indiana, you can experience the lovely small town vibe of Three Oaks, Michigan AND visit Journeyman Distillery.  Over 100 years ago, E. K. Warren offered corsets and buggy whips in this factory in lower Michigan.  Journeyman Distillery opened in 2010 in the beautifully renovated factory space as a family-run business that not only turns out craft spirits but tasty food as well. The lunch crowd packed in to eat pizza, burgers and more on the day after Thanksgiving but the star of the show was no doubt the homemade hooch.  A whiskey flight with their five shots was only $4.  That’s right-handcrafted spirits that went down like silk for a couple of bucks.  Got to love the Midwest!

The cocktail ingredients ranged from shrubs to reductions combined with their own small-batch spirits.  No beer, no wine-just a wide variety of homemade gin, vodka, limoncello, and whiskey.  My kind of place!  Cocktails were inventive like the Beetlejuice cocktail with red arrow vodka/simple syrup/house beet-basil reduction or the Fall Classic with whiskey/navy strength road’s end rum/simple syrup/ lime juice/McClary Bros. lemon ginger shrub/house amaretto.  WOW.  I could go there every night for weeks and sip unique drinks.  Probably good for my liver that I go home Monday to Seattle.

After trying all five whiskeys, my tongue and lips were numb but happy.  I loved the W. R. White Whiskey that had notes of banana, mango and ripened fruit as well as white pepper and spices.  The only thing stopping me from buying LOTS of bottles of different spirits was the damn TSA liquid restrictions.  A return trip on our next visit will no doubt be a priority.  Tired from shopping or dealing with crazy relatives?  Try a whiskey flight (or two) and have a happy holiday!wp_20161125_12_46_01_rich

Classic Cocktails-The Sidecar goes down smooth!

Cocktail research continues!  Next up-The Sidecar.  A classic cocktail that my mom fondly remembers from her wild days out on the town in Indy with my dad.  At Café Navarre in South Bend, Indiana, Michael shook me up a sidecar and shared his secrets to a fine drink indeed.  BTW, no, I don’t travel around the world just to drink cocktails but as I’m writing this I’m thinking that would be a cool idea.  Hmmm… can I make that happen?   A few weeks ago I was testing out appletinis in Vancouver on a vacation weekend but now I’m in South Bend to see mom and also to attend the ND/USC football game with my sis who somehow was able to score us tickets to this “game of the century”.  Well done, Beck.  With Coach Steve S. fired last week, I’m hoping the Irish roll.  But enough about football and now back to the REALLY important stuff… cocktails.


My handy dandy cocktail book tells me that the sidecar originated in Paris at Harry’s Bar and was invented as an elegant cocktail for American expats living there.  After Prohibition ended, there were cocktail drinkers who declared it almost made the long, dry years worth the wait.  Harry’s Bar has dubbed itself “the oldest cocktail bar in Europe” so I MUST add that to the travel list for next year.  Would I travel to Paris just to enjoy a classic sidecar at the bar that birthed it-oui!

Michael at Café Navarro makes a mean sidecar!
Michael at Café Navarro makes a mean sidecar!

My cocktail book back home lists the ingredients for a sidecar as:  brandy, orange liqueur and lemon juice.  Michael had, of course, another plan as I’m finding out that no cocktail is ever made the same.  He shook up 2 ounces of Hennessey cognac (fancy!), 3/4 ounce each of freshly squeezed (of course!) lime juice and Cointreau liqueur and poured into my sugar-rimmed martini glass.  Smooth and slightly sweet, it was the perfect balance of liquor to warm me up on a cold pre-game evening.  DAMN that was good!  Is it proper bar etiquette to lick the glass clean?

Michael was kind enough to share his vast knowledge with us on other cocktails as well.  His fav on the cocktail menu at Café Navarre is “Final Word” featuring a complex list of ingredients:  Rye whiskey, lemon juice, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, green Chartreaus, spanked mint and lavender bitters.  “Spanked” mint?  How do you spank a mint you might ask???  Well, Michael gave us a quick spanking demo–lighter than a muddling, just place the fresh mint in your palm and gently bruise it.  Gotcha-can’t wait to spank some mint myself.

Handcrafted cocktails at Café Navarro feature a complex array of ingredients
Handcrafted cocktails at Café Navarro feature a complex array of ingredients
Lavender bitters--who knew?
Lavender bitters–who knew?

Michael also introduced us to the complex world of bitters.  His bar houses a wide array of medicinal looking  bottles that add another layer of complexity to cocktails and are a staple ingredient for the handcrafted cocktails featured on his menu-orange bitters, lavender bitters, #2 bitters, etc.  Michael even suggested that you can add a dash of bitters mid-drinking a cocktail to create a whole different experience within just one glass.  A whole “bitter” world to explore in future blog posts-the research MUST continue!

Now, I’m off to throw on multiple layers to keep warm at a chilly 30ish degree evening ND game tonight-GO IRISH!