Category Archives: tools

Shaker 33

shaker 33

Shaker 33 had a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015, and has now released their product in 2016. Shaker 33 aims to improve the decades-old design of the cocktail shaker with modern materials and technology, addressing a few “problems” they see with the classic 3-piece cobbler shaker.

Starting with the most obvious, Shaker 33 is not made from metal like the shakers you’re used to. It’s made from clear, black or frosted plastic, and I got the frosted one. I expected the shaker to feel like a plastic water bottle, but the sides are much thicker and more rigid. The plastic is BPA free and shatterproof, though I wasn’t brave enough to drop mine to test it out.

Both the lid and the strainer of the 33 are twist-off designs, definitely easier than breaking the vacuum seal on a traditional shaker. Since you screw it on, the lid stays closed when you shake, or even if you drop the shaker. The volume of the shaker is much larger than I expected at 24 oz. Because of the thick plastic sides, this shaker never gets cold in your hand, either. The strainer cap (closeup in the photo above) is particularly useful in that it’s diameter is very large and is has two options for straining size.

Shaker 33 will run you $30, about twice as much as a comparable cobbler-style shaker. Though they show Shaker 33 in bars on their website videos, it’s unlikely these will replace tried-and-true Boston shakers at your favorite watering hole. It is a nice new option to have for home bartenders. It’s simple to learn to use, simple to clean and an interesting updated design of the classic cocktail shaker.

Buy Shaker 33 from Amazon here.

Peugeot Whisky Tasting Set

peugeot whisky set There is a wide variety of glassware in the world of spirits, beer and wine. Many of these have unique features and claims, and in the past, I’ve spent some time using a few of these glasses, from the Neat Glass to tulip-shaped stemmed glasses that whiskey is sometimes served in.

Recently, I had an opportunity to try another uniquely-featured tasting glass: the Peugeot Whisky Tasting Set, which is not only a glass, but a 3-piece set with the glassware, a coaster, and a metal plate that fits between the two to cool the liquid in the glass.

Much like the Whiskey Wedge, using the Peugeot set takes a little pre-planning because of the metal plate, which, depending on how cold you want your whiskey, you can refrigerate or freeze, or just leave it someplace cool (more on that in a moment).

peugeot whisky set

At $40, this set is a gift-level item, and its usefulness depends on the way whiskey is sipped by the user. If you (or your recipient) like your whiskey chilled, with little to no water added, this is a beautiful and elegant glass. I tend to drink my scotch this way, and find the Peugeot set is pleasant to use, from the etched glass to the leather stitched coaster. I froze the plate and I like the way it cooled the whiskey through the glass, and not in it. Pitting this set against its biggest rival, whiskey stones, this allows you to sip without fear of an eventual boop in the nose from a stone, but the Peugeot is 2-4 times the cost of a set of stones. I did feel like this set chilled my whiskey more than a set of stones do, probably because metal gets colder than soapstone in the freezer.

The Peugeot Whisky Tasting Set is not particularly easy to find, though specialty glassware and kitchenware stores tend to be the best places to find it, and it is available at Amazon, too.

Kuhn Rikon Paring Knives

kuhn rikon paring knives

I’m made mention in the past my love for Kuhn Rikon paring knives in my home bar. We have several of these in the kitchen and use them all day for everything, from butter, to everyday chopping, to cocktail citrus prep. For about $10 per knife, we use these until we wear them out and feel like they’re a great value for their quality and functionality. See photo #3 below for a true representation of my Colori addiction.

These knives are not only extremely sharp, they are also coated with a nonstick coating (which makes them extra-useful for cutting butter and softer cheeses), and they each come with a plastic sleeve for storage.

kuhn rikon paring knives

Kuhn Rikon has now released a brand-new version of their popular Colori series of knives, the Colori+ and I reached out to the company to try some. The differences between Colori and Colori+ are shown above, with the original knives on the left and the newer model on the right. The new Coloris have:

  • a slightly different blade shape
  • an improved handle with an upgraded shape, textured material and a stamped “+” logo
  • a thinner, less rigid blade sleeve (see the photo below to compare)
  • darker knife colors, at least for now, which seem to be less pastel overall

kuhn rikon paring knives

The Colori line is widely available at many retailers nationally, including Amazon. Because the Colori+ knives are relatively new, I’ve only seen them sold on Kuhn Rikon’s website so far. At the same retail price of the previous iteration ($10 a knife), I prefer the improved + line, primarily because of the improved handle, which feels much better in my hand.

 

Keurig Kold Cocktails

keurig kold for cocktails

Keurig has gone from unknown coffee-maker company to household name in just a few short years. Their K-Cup system has become the industry standard for one-cup coffee and you can see it reflected in the many varieties of K-Cups your grocery store’s shelves.

Now, Keurig’s trying something familiar, yet new: the Keurig Kold, a drinkmaking system that (you guessed it) makes cold drinks. Every drink you make with the Kold is chilled by the machine (no ice required) and some of the pods also add carbonation (with fizz beads of some kind, no CO2 container required).

Keurig sent me a Kold and several of their cocktail pods. I got to try:

  • Rita’s and Tina’s Skinny Margarita  (non-carbonated)
  • Rita’s and Tina’s Skinny Strawberry Margarita (non-carbonated)
  • Union St. Lounge Mojito (carbonated)
  • Seraphine Seltzer, Persian Lime (carbonated)
  • Coke Zero (carbonated)

The Kold pods, which are about $5 for a 4-pack (a similar cost to Keurig’s coffee pods) are the equivalent of drink mixes for cocktails: they have the appropriate flavorings, you just need to add your own liquor to make them a full-blown “cocktail.” I found Rita’s and Tina’s Margaritas were appropriately tart and tasty, with the slightly chalky flavor of bar-bought frozen margaritas. Because they come out chilled, you can pour them straight into a salt-rimmed Margarita glass and you’re good to go.

Union St.’s Mojitos are especially nice when mint is out of season (mine’s yet to grow out this year), and it’s a quick way to get a Mojito, carbonation and all. I also tried the Coke Zero and found the taste to be shockingly good for a quick rum and Coke. I think it’s the best Coke Zero I’ve ever tasted (I drink Coke Zero regularly).

I can tell you so far my favorite pods, though, are the Seraphine Seltzer. Fizzy water is something my home bar is always running out of, and the lime seltzer is perfect with gin and a half-lime (for a Gin Rickey).

Keurig envisions the Kold being useful hardware at home cocktail parties: imagine a bowl full of pods and you can “make your own cocktail” by adding a shot of tequila, rum or gin to the mix. I found it to be a good virgin drink-maker, too. While the Kold is certainly a cool device to use at a party, especially (for me) as a seltzer-machine, you won’t hear Simple Cocktails recommend you completely replace yourself as home bartender with the Kold. Someone’s got to add the booze, right?

The Keurig Kold is an interesting piece of bleeding-edge technology that can help make a few cocktails quickly, and I’m curious to see the new and creative ways users and brands get behind the product.*

*Editor’s update: Keurig announced June 7, 2016 that it is shuttering the Keurig Kold line and laying off the 130 employees associated with it. Pods will be available for a discounted rate on the Kold website until they are gone and Keurig is giving Kold drinkmaker refunds at this site

Alcohoot: A Smartphone Breathalyzer

Since we always have our smartphones with us these days, it makes sense that we would start to have access to helpful apps and devices that play off of that. I’ve noticed at least 5 consumer-oriented smartphone breathalyzers hit the market in the last 2 years or so, and Alcohoot is one of them. If you find yourself in situations where you’re unsure if you’re intoxicated or not, $99 is certainly money well spent.

The Alcohoot device is physically comparable to a chubby, rubbery Zippo and connects to your phone through the headphone jack (it has a sliding switch that simultaneously turns the device one and extracts the headphone plug). AlcoHoot comes with a tiny USB charging cable and a pack of 8 mouthpieces (see the photo below). It connects to a free app on iOS or Android, which gives you all the reporting and tracking on your blood alcohol levels.

I carried my Alcohoot with me during Tales of the Cocktail to test it out. I found the device just a little too large to be carried comfortably in my front pocket, so I kept it in my man-purse on the trip. I never had to charge it, and Alcohoot says it’ll last through 500 breath tests. The main problem I had with Alcohoot is the mouthpieces. They don’t snap in to the device, they just sort of rest on the blowhole (seriously, I couldn’t find a better word for that). I carried 2 mouthpieces with me, but I found it to be too much trouble to put it on, so I just blew into the hole on the device itself. That means, of course, that either I’ll never share my AlcoHoot with others, or I’ll have to keep really good track of the mouthpieces when I do. I noticed a small plastic mouthpiece case that Alcohoot sells on their site, but the device come with 8 mouthpieces stuck into a cardboard sheet.

The process of testing is a pretty easy experience. You need to wait 15 minutes after drinking alcohol before the results are accurate. You begin the test on your smartphone screen, blow into the Alcohoot for 4 seconds until the unit vibrates, then get your number reported on screen. The app keeps track of your BAC tests on a chart in the app until you delete them.

“Legally drunk” is over 0.08% BAC, so reporting higher numbers in red or with some sort of indication that you’re over the limit would have been helpful (remember, we’re talking about inebriation here). It has a orange line on the chart to indicate 0.08%, but it could still be more obvious when you blow above it.

In the end, there’s a lot of wisdom in having a device like Alcohoot around, because it gives you some data about your blood-alcohol level that you probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Buy an AlcoHoot from Amazon.com.

What is Vermouth? (Part 3)

vermouth bottle illustration part 3

Now that we’ve defined vermouth as a fortified, aromitized wine and talked about the different types of vermouth available, in this final installment of “What is Vermouth?”, I’ll give you some vermouth cocktail recipes to try and talk about how to care for your bottles.

As you look at cocktail recipes, pay attention in the cocktail recipe as to which type of vermouth you need – I’ll always specify sweet or dry here, occasionally maybe red or white, but remember that distinction is as important as whiskey or vodka in a drink.

Try these cocktails with your vermouth:

Sweet vermouth:

50-50 Martini

Dry vermouth:

Finally, proper storage of your vermouth is very important. Always store open vermouth bottles in the refrigerator, ideally not more than 1-2 months. Unfortunately, many bars don’t heed to this rule, and their vermouth-based drinks have a bad taste as a result. Because vermouth is made with wine, it has a limited shelf age once it’s opened and will become bitter and sour when spoiled.

I hope this has been a helpful series and that it’s taught you a little more about recognizing, buying, and using vermouth well in your cocktails. Let me know in the comments some of your favorite vermouth-based cocktails, and enjoy!

What is Vermouth? Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 or read the whole series in one post here.

For more reading on vermouth, including regional distinctions, please visit our friends at Vermouth 101.

What is Vermouth? (Part 2)

vermouth bottle illustration part 2

In Part 1 of our series “What is Vermouth?”, published earlier this week, we defined vermouth as a fortified, aromitized wine. Today, we’ll give you some information about the different types of vermouth that are available.

As I said previously, there is a big taste difference between cheap and quality vermouth – it’s a good idea to spend as much as you can afford. That being said, though, I regularly buy Noilly Prat or Martini & Rossi vermouth, both tried-and-true and just under $10 a bottle.

More important than the brand, though, is the type of vermouth you buy: sweet or dry. Usually, sweet vermouth is red and dry is white, but occasionally you’ll get a curveball, like Vya Whisper Dry, a slightly sweet (but still dry) white vermouth, or Dolin Blanc, a sweet white vermouth (used in the White Martinez recipe, shown below).

white martinez with hendricks

Unfortunately, the color of the vermouth is not necessarily going to make it easy to differentiate which style you’re buying. As I’ve noted, a white vermouth can be sweet or dry, a red can be syrupy sweet or quite bitter.  Often, the type of vermouth may be printed in Italian or French.

So here is a brief guide to vermouth names, though a better option would be to ask a helpful local liquor store employee for help (which is what I do). Other than the typical dry-white and sweet-red, you might also see: rosso (Italian for red), vermouth amaro (a bitter vermouth, like Punt e Mes), bianco (sweet white), blanc (sweet white), extra dry, rouge (a paler red), rosé (a pink vermouth, think White Zinfandel), or ambre (a copper/orange colored vermouth).

Now that we’ve (hopefully) got the proper vermouth for our home bar, the final step is using it and taking care of it…

What is Vermouth? Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 or read the whole series in one post here.

What is Vermouth? (Part 1)

vermouth bottle illustration part 1

I’ve told you that vermouth is one of the first 5 bottles you should buy for your home bar because it’s used in classic cocktails like the Martini and the Manhattan. Most people, however, have no idea what vermouth is, or that some vermouth tastes much better than others. So today, I’ll define vermouth for you and in my next post I’ll tell you what to do with it.

Vermouth is a fortified, aromitized wine. 

Vermouth is wine (red or white) that’s fortified through the addition of hard liquor (usually brandy). Other familiar fortified wines include Port, Sherry, and Madeira. Because they’re fortified, all of these wines are both higher in alcohol content and more “shelf stable” than regular wine – lasting several weeks before they need to be replaced. Vermouth is unique from these other fortified wines, though, because it’s also aromatized with herbs, spices, tree bark, seeds, and sometimes more.

Because of the complexity of vermouth, every element in the bottle affects the taste of the final product. The type of wine, the quality of the brandy fortifying it, and all of the aromatics contribute to the flavor, and the taste can vary greatly as a result. A vermouth can taste sweet, bitter, dry, herbal, cheap, syrupy – it can take on just about any flavor profile that you can imagine.

contratto vermouth

Here on the blog, I’ve covered some really high-quality vermouth, like Contratto (pictured) and Vya, and I’ve also used Trader Joe’s $4 vermouth from time to time, too. As I said in my Contratto post: “the extra money spent on a quality bottle of vermouth makes such a massive difference in the quality of my home cocktails, it’s impossible to ignore the value of it.”

Put simply, a better vermouth tastes better, and if you’ve ever shuddered at the taste of a $5 bottle of vermouth, then try something like Carpano Antica Formula, which will run you more like $30. When you taste them straight or maybe on the rocks like pictured above, the quality difference is very clear.

What is Vermouth? Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 or read the whole series in one post here.

Simple Cocktails Store NOW OPEN!

simple cocktails store shirts

It’s time for a huge surpriseI’m happy to announce that after months of planning, today we launch the SIMPLE COCKTAILS STORE, which you can find right now at store.simple-cocktails.com, or click in the menu option above.

The store has 11 great t-shirts and I’m sure everyone will find a design they like. All from the hands and minds of the Simple Cocktails team, make sure you check out the original art on the Dirty Martini or Old Fashioned shirts, or my new favorite slogan: Rye or Die.

Make sure you check out the grey series of shirts in the store. I call them “bartender reference shirts” because they have a base liquor on your chest and 3 popular recipes for that liquor printed upside down on the cuff to you can reference them easily.

All shirts are available from S to XX in men’s or women’s cuts. Happy buying!

 

Bar Tool: The Soda Siphon

isi soda siphon

The soda siphon is a tool that I recall seeing in old movies and TV shows: usually being sprayed into someone’s face, but I admit I had no idea what that device was. You rarely see soda siphons anymore, maybe because of the availability of canned/bottled soda water, maybe because it’s a tool people don’t understand as well.

I know I didn’t.

I got my hands on what’s probably the most common siphon that I see these days: an iSi (pronounced EEE-see) 1L Soda Siphon, which will run you about $50 at Amazon. My usual source of soda water in my home bar is Hansen’s 8oz Club Soda cans, which cost $3 for a six pack.

Since I’d never used a soda siphon, I watched some YouTube videos on how I could use my new iSi. In the case of this particular model, it’s only designed for water, meaning you shouldn’t be making whipped cream or trying to carbonate cocktails with it. The process goes like this: fill the siphon with water, put the lid on, then screw in a soda charger and shake (chargers run about $1-1.50 apiece). You can either use the soda right away or stick it in the fridge for future use. I found the water in the iSi stays bubbly for about 3 days. When I noticed it losing it’s fizz, I simply re-charged the water, as long as the siphon was still more than half full.

isi soda siphon

Time for the big question: should everyone have a $50 soda siphon in their home bar? No. A siphon is most useful if you use higher volumes of soda water, probably a liter or more a week. Compared to my Hansen’s cans, iSi soda water is a little bit cheaper: Hansen’s runs you about 6¢ per ounce, and iSi will runs you about 4½¢ per ounce….if you use it all. And that’s the big kicker: if you charge one liter of soda water for $1-1.50 per charge, but don’t use the soda water, then you might be wasting money on re-fizzing your water over and over.

So if you find yourself using soda water a lot in the cocktails you love, or if you make Mojitos, mocktails and Shirley Temples regularly, then the iSi is a good buy. If you have parties regularly with fizz-water drinks, you should get one. Particularly if you keep the charging cartridges on hand, you’ll really never have to go the the store for soda water again (which I’m grateful for).