EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

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Review: Rum Curious

Fred Minnick, Rum Curious: The Indispensable Tasting Guide to the World's Spirit, (Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2017), 240 pages, $25.00. ISBN: 9780760351734

Fred Minnick is the author of seven books, three of which are about whiskey and the history of bourbon. His book Whiskey Women earned a Gold Medal at the ForeWord Reviews Book Awards and a Silver at the Indie Publisher Awards. Minnick serves as a judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the World Whiskies Awards. Minnick is also an Iraq War veteran where he served as a U.S. Army public affairs photojournalist.

Rum Curious: The Indispensable Tasting Guide to the World's Spirit is Minnick’s fifth book and the first he has written on the world’s most well know cane spirit. The book is meant as a consumer introduction to the history or rum, how it is made, the laws that govern rum, production information about several unaged, aged, and flavored rums, as well as recipes for well know rum cocktails. Overall the book provides good information and it is interesting to see ABV levels coming off the still and going into the barrel for a wide array of brands.

Minnick also joins the chorus of rum enthusiasts and experts advocating for a shift in the language that describes rum. For a long time, rum has been described simply by color, white, gold, and dark. However, a new movement is advancing the idea that rum categories, similarly to Scotch, should be labeled by production methods, pot still, pot-column still, and column still rum which ques the drinker into the flavor intensity of the spirit versus the color which can be manipulated with the addition of caramel coloring and have no relationship to age or intensity of flavor. This is an important conversation for US craft distillers to join. The US rum market is dominated by Bacardi and Captain Morgan, if small producers hope to shift the tide in their favor, it will be necessary to adopt common terminology.

First appeared in Distiller (Summer 2018): 215

Review: Calvados - The Spirit of Normandy

Charles Neal, Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy, (San Francisco: Board and Bench Publishing, 2011), 700 pages, $60.00. ISBN: 9780615446400

Charles Neal is the owner of Charles Neal Selections, an importer and distributor based in San Francisco, CA and the author of Armagnac:The Definitive Guide to France's Premier Brandy. Neal's most recent book is Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy. During the course of his research, Neal traveled extensively throughout France and conducted over 200 interviews with calvados producers in Normandy. This experience as well as his work writing Armagnac and import business makes Neal one the country's top proponents and experts on French spirits.

At over 700 pages Calvados is not just a thorough catalog of calvados producers, but an attempt to understand calvados by contextualizing it in the place that it comes from. Neal begins the book with a social and ecological history of Normandy, a survey of how calvados is made, how to read calvados labels and age statements. From there, Neal divides his producer profiles into three major sections: agricultural producers, who are farm distillers who manage their own orchards, ferments his own cider and distills it; Industrial Producers, who are incorporated businesses that by in large purchase the majority of their fruit from other growers and distill and blend the majority of their own distillate; and, Negociants, who purchase 100% of their distillate from other producers, but age, blend and bottle the calvados in house.

For a variety of market reasons, American drinkers are beginning to show more interest in drinking brandy whether neat or in a cocktail. Neal's Calvados can be an instructive guide for both consumers and for US distillers who are interested in learning how some of the world's best apple brandy is made. Neal outlines a variety of techniques that craft distillers can emulate though there are some disadvantages that will not be overcome quickly. Because of a lack of demand, US apple grower have largely torn out the old varieties of cider apples that once filled American orchards. Like with non-GMO and heirloom varieties or grain, craft distillers can partner with local growers to replant the cider varieties needed to make complex, flavorful and interesting apple brandy that can withstand the test of time.

First appeared in Distiller (Winter 2017/18): 175

Review: The Soul of Brasil

Anastasia Miller and Jared Brown, The Soul of Brasil, (United Kingdom: Jared Brown, 2008), 188 pages, $17.95. ISBN: 9780976093770

Since 1992, Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown have been writing, speaking and teaching about the history of cocktails and spirits. Together they have written more than a dozen books on Champagne, vermouth, cocktails, and spirits as well as articles for Imbibe, Wine Spectator, and the Financial Times. In 2009, Brown became the head distiller at Sipsmith in London and he has helped to develop spirits in Sweden, Norway, Vietnam and the US.

In 2008, Miller and Brown wrote The Soul of Brasil, which is a short history of distillation, of Brazil, and the important cultural role cachaça plays in that country. While the book seems to have been sponsored by the cachaça distillery Sagatiba, it is very well written, and serves as a good introduction to the world's ninth largest spirits category. The book is broken down into two parts; part one traces the history of beverage alcohol since 7000 BC, European conquest of the New World, the creation of cachaça, its decline in popularity and its resurgence. In part two, Miller and Brown describe what makes cachaça unique, how it is made, its categories and flavors, as well as popular food and drink combinations.

Despite the fact that Brazil only exports about 1% of the 1.5 billion liters of cachaça sold each year, the story of cachaça is interesting for other small distillers. Though approximately one-third of the cachaça market is controlled by one brand, more than 30,000 cachaça distillers exist in Brazil. These local micro-distillers are able to remain relevant by fully embracing the local music, dance, food, and drinks of their region. By becoming enmeshed in the community, their community has a reason to buy their spirit over the national brands.

First appeared in Distiller (Winter 2017/18): 175