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.

Filtering by Tag: Cocktails

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

One Simple Way to Keep Your Vermouth Fresh

Vermouth is an aromatized  and fortified wine which can be drunk neat, on the rocks with a twist or in a cocktail. Aromatize refers to the fact that herbs and botanicals are added to the wine to enhance its flavor, aroma and color; fortified refers to the fact that neutral spirit, usually from grape brandy is added to increase the alcohol content which makes the vermouth more stable and last longer. However, since vermouth is based on wine, an open bottle has a shorter lifespan than say an open bottle of whiskey.

In the last few years I have grown to appreciate quite a few cocktails that call for vermouth and so I have bought a bottle from time to time. However, since I usually drink spirits neat, I've run into the problem that my open bottle of vermouth goes off before I've used it up. Because I hate to be wasteful, I've mostly given up on buying vermouth.


In the lead up to 2016 Negroni Week I wanted to buy some vermouth to make my negronis and I didn't want it to bad after the week was over and I was done making cocktails for a while. That's when it hit me. I came up with the idea to buy four 250ml swing-top bottles from The Container Store, decant the vermouth into the smaller bottles and put them into the refrigerator. I used the first 250mls during the week making cocktails and the remaining bottles sat in the back of my refrigerator. Now, four months into this experiment I am happy to say that when I opened another small bottle, the vermouth was still fresh. Both the cold refrigerator and having little to no headspace in the smaller bottled worked together to extend the life of the vermouth that otherwise would have gone bad in that amount of time. 

I figured that every time I pour vermouth from a regular bottle some amount of oxygen gets mixed into the liquid that remains. Each time you do that, the more the vermouth sloshes around and the more oxygen gets into it. Now, if I drank vermouth or made cocktails more often this would be a problem. However, this simple and inexpensive trick of decanting full size vermouth bottles (which are less expensive per ounce) into smaller bottles has made it possible for me keep vermouth on hand at all times, waiting for me when a cocktail mood strikes. If you are like me and it has killed you to pour out bad vermouth because you were too slow to finish the bottle, give this little trick a shot.

Los Angeles' Craft Distilleries

According to the 2010 census, the City of Los Angeles is the country's second most populated city, with almost 3.8 million residents. Yet LA only has one operating craft distillery and a second in the works. Interestingly, both are situate in the same neighborhood. Situated between downtown and the west bank of the LA River, the Arts District is an up-and-coming industrial area known for a growing number of bars, restaurants, shops, and of course, art. Yet what LA's craft distillers lack in numbers is made up in their passion and commitment to making great spirits using organic or local produce.

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Nocino Cocktails

In my last post I described how I began the process of making my own nocino. But for those who are less interested in making their own, or are curious to try nocino before making a batch, there are a number of great commercial versions for sale. I particularly like the Black Walnut Liqueur made by Davorin Kuchan of Old World Spirits in Belmont, CA and the Nocino made by Ryan Hembree of Skip Rock Distillers in Snohomish, WA.

Once you have a bottle of nocino at home, using it in cocktail is a great way to enjoy its complex flavors. Nocico pairs very nicely with brown spirits like whiskey, Scotch or brandy, and it can be used as a creative substitute for sweet vermouths like Carpano Antica. Below are a couple of nocino cocktail idea that are quite tasty and fun to try.

Black Walnut Old Fashioned
(from Liberty Bar, Seattle)
Black Walnut bitters
Angostura bitters
Served on a large ice cube.

Midnight Manhattan
2 oz Bourbon
1 oz Nocino
Dash of orange bitters
Stirred with ice
Served up with brandied cherry garnish.

(Absinthe, San Francisco)
1 oz Nocino
1 oz Bourbon
Splash of almond syrup
Stirred with ice Served in chilled Martini glass with freshly grated cinnamon floater.

The Boutonniere 
(The Alembic, San Francisco
Dash of orange bitters 
Served up

The Italian Sidecar
1.5 oz Brandy
3/4 oz Nocino
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Lemon juice
Served up with a lemon wheel garnish.

Negroni Umbria
(from Angele, Napa
1oz Nocino
1oz Gin
1 oz Campari 
Stirred with ice 
Served up or on rocks with orange twist.