Agave Spirits--- Tequila or Mezcal, it’s a growth market

©Hoke Harden February 2011

Anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention the last ten years or so has noticed the explosive growth of Tequila in the U.S. market.

Here’s some more news:  that growth is going to continue.  But it isn’t just Tequila that’s going to continue, and not just in the U.S.   Mezcal has entered the mix, so it’s now about the entire agave spirits category.  And agave has gone global, so it’s a worldwide phenomenon.

Did you know….there are six different agave spirits produced in Mexico?  Tequila, Mezcal, Sotol, Raicilla, Bacanora, and Comiteca.  The only two exported in significant numbers to the U.S. are Tequila and Mezcal; the others remain largely local.  So far.


Warming Winter Drinks

by Hoke Harden

The idea of serving alcoholic drinks to warm up the winter chill is as old as winter itself.  First it was warmed up cider and wine and ale, because…well, because that’s all they had.  Later, when distillation was discovered, spirits were added to boost the brew a bit.  As other beverages came along the universe of warming winter drinks expanded constantly.  Now there is a dizzying array available to warm your day and your spirits.  Let’s look at a few of them, both ancient and modern.

The Ancient Wassail
The ancient tradition of the wassail bowl came from our Anglo-Saxon cousins.  Wassail itself derives from the Saxon waes hael, which meant to your health.


Any extra CASH laying around?

Tequila Herradura, one of the oldest and most respected 100 percent blue agave tequila brands since 1870, announces the launch of its exclusive Buy-the-Barrel program, an exceptional opportunity for tequila connoisseurs to order their very own Herradura Double Barrel Reposado. When bottled, each barrel yields approximately 240 bottles of specially crafted tequila reposado aged for an additional month, ensuring every ounce captures flavors and notes directly drawn from the selected barrels.

Connoisseurs have the option of traveling (at their own expense) to the Hacienda near Guadalajara, Mexico, to select their own Herradura Double Barrel Reposado. Once chosen, the tequila is placed in bottles adorned with personalized labels, including the purchaser’s name, number and bottling date. The barrel itself then is varnished, branded and shipped with a framed certificate of ownership. Price per barrel is approximately $10,000 and the order process takes about 45-60 days.

The all-natural aging process, rooted on 140 years of dedication to the craft and tradition, begins with 100 percent blue Weber agave rested in toasted oak barrels for 11 months, creating Herradura Reposado’s distinct color with a cinnamon and oak aroma that provokes a rich and smooth taste. To enhance this tequila, it is matured for an additional month in a new toasted barrel handmade specifically for this extra aging. This process provides the tequila’s uncommon smoothness and complex flavor notes of cooked agave, dried fruits and sweet brown spice.

“We are proud to introduce Casa Herradura’s first Buy-the-Barrel program, which embraces the tequila aficionado and includes them in our celebrated selection process,” said Mark Bacon, director of Casa Herradura Tequilas in North America. “We felt it was important for us, as a tequila institution, to share the art of making this fine spirit with our valued customers, such as Emmitt Smith. We believe this program provides a great opportunity to partake in an unrivaled experience with our supporters as they select a unique expression of our tequila.”


Calisaya Redux

Calisaya Redux: re-tasting the Tuscan traditional liqueur made in Oregon
Calisaya Liqueur
Hoke Harden

When Calisaya Liqueur was first introduced to the Oregon market, it made a tremendous impact.  An authentic Tuscan-styled liqueur with a characteristic bitter tang from natural cinchona bark (the same Peruvian bark that was used to make quinine for treating malaria and other tropical diseases and grew so widespread that it became a favored flavor in vermouths and bitter aperitivi and digestivi in Europe), made in artisanal batches in the heart of western Oregon, the taste profile was unique, and the quality level astounding.

Since the first release, Calisaya has become a staple on the backbar and in some engaging cocktails in the upscale lounges.

So it was time to renew acquaintance with this delicious liqueur.  At the recently concluded Oregon Spirits Trade Show, which showcased a range of some of Oregon’s finest craft distiller’s offerings, the Calisaya beckoned.

Good news: Calisaya is still the brilliant and compelling aperitif/digestif as when it first was created.  The style may have lightened just a bit on the bitters, but only slightly---Americans aren’t (yet) as generally fond of bitter drinks as the Europeans---and the rich, aromatic orange essence has intensified in balance.

The owner/creator, Andrea Loreto, reported that Calisaya had changed its base of operations from Cottage Grove to Eugene, but that nothing else had changed.  It’s still made by hand in small batches with the intense personal involvement of the man who created the liqueur to honor his ancestry and heritage---and so he’d have plenty of his family’s Tuscan warmth in his own house. The carefully selected oranges are still used (primarily for the pungent oil in their thick skins), as is the Peruvian Cinchona Bark for its distinctive bitterness.  And there is still an abbondanza of spicy delights, including cinnamon, cardamom-grapefruit, vanilla-oak and other more elusive teases of floral-fruit that add to the complex palate.

Calisaya remains a true Tuscan tradition that is a unique product of Oregon, and the quality remains unparalleled. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should do so.  It is currently available in the OLCC liquor stores as well as select bars and lounges throughout Oregon.


Managing Editor:  Oregon Spirits Digest (Winter 2011)


A Modern Day Honey Liquer with Medieval roots

You’ve seen whiskey and honey liqueur.  You’ve seen brandy and honey liqueur.  Now check out the original honey liqueur that dates back to the Middle Ages in Europe.
In Medieval Germany there was a select band of rugged and doughty hunters who sought bears in the dark forests and mountains.  These bear hunters…literally, Bärenjägers…had a guild secret that helped them lure the bears, a special sweet mead called “mechkinnes”made from sweet, fragrant honey and woodland herbs.

The Bärenjägers also learned that, in addition to luring the bears they hunted, it was pretty tasty for humans and warmed the spirit on cold, dank nights in the deep forests.

Eventually, a version of this fabled drink named after the bearhunters became a standard tipple for the locals and then widely known to traders and visitors to the area.

Now this fabled liqueur, still popular in Europe, is finding its way to America as well and can be found in many States.

The curious oddity of this famous medieval drink?  Nowadays it is made from New World honey: to be specific, a particularly fragrant honey from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Bärenjäger is found in select bars as well. Many upper end cocktail establishments are happy to concoct a luscious cocktail based on Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur.  Drop in and try one.

Hopefully, there won’t be any bears around.

Managing Editor:  Oregon Spirits Digest (coming Winter '11)


Authentic Caribbean Rum - Welcome to the Islands Mon!

Brugal Anejo Rum
Brugal Anejo Rum
Photo Credit: 
Hoke Harden

Everything old is new again.  Things move in and out of fashion.  Cycles and trends change. Nostalgia brings things back, and new generations embrace old concepts.  Tiki is back, and so is rum.  But some things remain constant even in the middle of change.

(Re)discover a constant with Brugal Añejo Rum.  It’s an old, familiar friend to rum aficionados and just now being enjoyed by the new generation.  It’s neither expensive nor terribly cheap (at $26.10/750ml in Oregon).  It’s not particularly flashy or nouveau with its very traditional packaging and the kitschy (but charming) touch of the old-fashioned wire mesh around the bottle.

But Brugal is something of a success story for dedicated creators of fine spirits: a family product that has been made---and is still being made---by the same family in the Dominican Republic since 1888, and continues to enjoy the claim of “#1 Rum in the Caribbean”.  When you’re #1 in the place that makes the most and drinks the most rum, that’s saying something!

The history and process of authentic Caribbean Rum. Credit: Authentic Caribbean Rum--YouTube
Brugal Añejo is a traditional golden rum, a blend of aged rums from 4—5 year old American white oak casks.  The amber or golden style of rum has been much abused in recent years by the big concerns that simply use extra food coloring to connote age but offer up not much more than young white rum with color but very little flavor.  Brugal, though, harkens back to the original golden rum: the clean, soft flavors of rum enhanced with the flavors of burnt sugar, caramel, butter and toasty vanilla from the barrel aging.

Brugal Añejo is one of the best of the “multiple duty” rums.  It performs beautifully as a stand-alone sipper, but excels as a mixer, accommodating itself to a wide range of mixed drinks and cocktails, from rum punches to mojitos to mai tais.  With that versatility it is an ideal choice for a “go to” rum in anyone’s bar. If you are already a tiki fan, or in the process of becoming one, Brugal Añejo is an old standard that could become a new standard for you.


Dick's Mix - for the Agave Margarita Connoisseur

Richard Dooley is a Tucson Renaissance man – a registered nurse, an artist, a Friday bartender at La Paloma Country Club and an entrepreneur with his creation “Dick’s Premiumargarita Mix.”

As an advocate for handmade cocktails with natural components, Dooley drew inspiration for his margarita mix based on the premise that Southwestern margaritas ought to be comprised of fresh ingredients. 

“I’ve always liked margaritas. So, I began mixing a bunch of things generally based on the knowledge that the combination of several ingredients often makes a better product than just pouring one product, it gives a better balance – so I made a concoction with fresh lime juice and lemonade, some other mixes, the essence of limes, lemons and oranges,” Dooley explains.

“The other thing that is a clincher is using agave nectar, because tequila is made from the agave plant and agave nectar is a sweetener that has a lower glycemic index. That, with some raw sugar imported from Mexico.”

It took Dooley three to four years to develop his formula and Dick’s Mix finally hit the shelves last September. The process culminated with Dooley whittling down several blends to four recipes last summer and inviting margarita-loving friends to a taste testing session in order to suss out a consensus.
“I realize it’s just margarita mix, it’s not rocket science. But it’s not easy to get the proportion of sweet and sour right,” Dooley explicates. “I wouldn’t say that I was working hard every day on it; I was going to nursing school. Once I became an RN, I was putting a little more time into it.”

While the mix is only available locally at three Tucson locations – Maynard’s Market, 400 N. Toole Ave., Rincon Market, 2513 E. 6th St. and The Rumrunner, 3131 E. 1st St. – it is something to seek out if you are interested in a quality mix to complement your 100% agave tequila. As Dooley says, this isn’t for the volume drinker; it is for people with a discerning palate who want an authentic margarita experience and especially for impressing out of town visitors.

Impress them you will, as Dick’s Mix adroitly walks the tightrope of tart and sweet that is oh so delicious, brimming with fresh ingredients that viscerally convey the spring sunshine.

On Trends in Mixology: “Old-style cocktails like the Side Car and the martini. What what makes a martini good is to shake it hard with a lot of ice and splinter that ice. Then when you pour it, you have a nice layer of ice crystals floating on top. That first sip is the most important. That ice needs to lift and melt, that’s the essence of the martini – as it passes over your tongue and down your throat, then the flavors rise up and you taste it through your olfactory senses.”

Favorite Ingredients: “Citrus juices are great in drinks. Keep it simple, make it fresh, it is always better to build a drink by hand.”

Signature Drink: The Dick’s Premiumargarita (single, on the rocks)

In a 16oz pint glass, 2/3 full of ice, add in this order:
1.  4oz of sparkling water (Perrier, Pellegrino, club soda)
2.  1.5oz of 100% agave tequila
3.  1.5oz of Dick's PremiumargaritaTM Mix
4.  1oz of premium orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Prunier, Gran Gala)
5.  Squeeze of a lime

Follow Dick Dooley at DicksMix.net and on Facebook. 

photo credit and article written: Jamie Manser // thezmag.com


New "Tequila Train" Gives Behind the Scenes Look of Mexico's Famous Drink

Take a trip on a train that'll bring you near the foot of the Tequila Volcano in Mexico, where you'll find the Blue Agave plantations that are the source of Mexico's world renowned alcoholic beverage.

The new Tequila Train is the second of its kind and will begin operating in April in the southwestern state of Jalisco, giving tourists a first-hand look at the world famous tequila plantations.

The tour will begin around midday at a train station dating back to the late 19th century that Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña, maker of the world famous Jose Cuervo brand, is renovating outside Guadalajara, Jalisco's capital.
The train will return in the afternoon so the tourists can admire the view as the sun sets over the greenish-blue, agave-dominated landscape.

A project conceived of by Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña, the train will begin running on April 1 under a different concept than the Tequila Express - a tourist train operated by


Spiced Rum - hip AND delicious

From classic cocktails to tiki riffs, this historic spirit is back on the modern mixologist’s menu.

Photo Credit: Jon Van Gorder
Photo Credit: Jon Van Gorder

Just a few years ago, to be offered a choice of spiced rums for your cocktail was unthinkable.
But now, floated by a rum renaissance and the explosion of tiki culture, a number of new spiced rums have been introduced—and fresh cocktails are being created to showcase the expanded range.

“Spiced rum is not a fad,” declares rum expert, importer and advocate Ed Hamilton. “The tradition of adding fruit and spice to rum is almost as old as Caribbean rum itself.”

However, the island tradition was typically for spiced rums made at home, or sold at local rum shops. Only a handful were brought to the U.S., most notably Captain Morgan, which was introduced to the U.S. in 1983 and is credited with creating the spiced rum category. Indeed, “Captain & Coke” remains one of the most popular mixed drink calls at bars across the country.

In 2008 and 2009, driven in large part by the escalating tiki craze, a flurry of new spiced rum brands hit the shelves, jumping from just a handful of brands available in the U.S. to 60 to 75 brands in 2009, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. The category has narrowed in recent months, leaving 45 to 55 brands of spiced rum at the end of 2010, but those remaining brands have taken a larger bite of the marketplace. Spiced rum now accounts for 33% of the total rum market (about 9.2 million cases), DISCUS says, compared to 29% of the total rum market one year earlier (about 7.2 million cases).

Rum experts like Martin Cate, owner of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, a tiki bar noted for its staggering collection of 200-plus rums, point to a surge in rum overall. “Rum has had such a decade of new brands and older brands coming to our shores for the first time,” Cate explains. “It’s a great time for rum. And the spiced rums have been going along to stake their claim,” many with deliberate intent to plunder some of the Captain’s market share.

Many of these new-breed rums deserve closer attention, particularly dry-style rums like Sailor Jerry and Cruzan 9, a welcome change since spiced rum often gets a bad rap for its supersweet profile. Sweet styles have been popular


Lick Responsibly - Bourbon & Peach Popsicles

Faster than you can say “cupcake fatigue,” gourmet popsicles have become the latest fully saturated food trend. Now you don’t even have to leave your house to have them. here’s a DIY home brew popsicle recipe with an adult twist.

Don’t be fooled by the Lolita-esque styling of these pops. The crushed peaches in these popsicles were soaked in a bourbon bath to cool you down and chill you out. Mix it with a little simple syrup and some plain yogurt and you’ll have cocktail popsicles in just a few freezing hours.

Bourbon Peaches and Cream Popsicles

Makes 18-22 popsicles

· 1 cup ripe peaches, crushed
· ¼ cup Buck brand bourbon
· ½ cup simple syrup, cooled (recipe follows)
· 2 cups plain yogurt


1. Peel and slice peaches. Use a potato masher to crush the peaches. Combine crushed peaches and bourbon in a bowl, mix to combine. Add the simple syrup in slowly and taste to preference. Add yogurt to bourbon peach mixture and combine.
2. Score top edge of Dixie cup with scissors for easy peeling. Pour mixture into Dixie cups. Freeze for two hours or until mixture starts to solidify enough to hold a popsicle stick upright. Continue to freeze until mixture is completely frozen into a popsicle, about 5-6 hours. Peel off Dixie cups. Serve.

Simple Syrup
· ¼ cup water
· ¼ sugar


1. Place water and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves.

A few notes:
· Use the simple syrup sparingly. Taste the mixture as you mix to make sure it’s to your liking. Use more for a sweeter tasting popsicle and less for a popsicle that will have a stronger bourbon flavor.

· If you do not have ripe peaches on hand, use canned peaches in light syrup (make sure to drain before use). If you use canned peaches, bypass the simple syrup.

· To shave some time, use vanilla yogurt instead of plain yogurt to skip the simple syrup portion. Keep in mind this version will be much sweeter as vanilla flavored yogurt is sweetened. If you are using this in combination with canned peaches, rinse the peaches and add 2-3 tablespoons bourbon in addition to the ¼ cup in the recipe. The added tablespoons will offset any sweetness that may overpower the bourbon.

Our thanks to:  http://www.bakersroyale.com


MEDOYEFF Vodka - an American/Russian Vodka - "Na zdorovje"


The practice of drinking vodka with mixers and ice is wholly western in origin.  There is no cocktail culture in Eastern Europe. They drink their Vodka straight and therefore look for natural flavor and mouth feel from the raw vodka.  It's with this in mind that Bull Run Distillery has created Medoyeff Vodka, the first Russian-American vodka.

Using what he learned from his visits to Russian and Ukrainian vodka distilleries years ago, their head distiller uses a combination of charcoal and limestone to slowly filtering every drop of Medoyeff. This process removes any impurities, while retaining the natural character of the spirit. In fact, the limestone actually imparts a subtle minerally character to the finish that adds to the overall taste and complexity of Medoyeff. The resulting spirit is so unmistakably Russian you're libel to shout "Na zdorovje" after just a sip.   

Tasting Notes
  • Sight: clear and viscous
  • Nose: clean, anise, herbal
  • Initial Palate: slight sweet and spicy
  • Mouth Feel: bright and bracing, full, weighty and lingering
  • Finishing Palate: mineral notes, needle, clean
How Best to Enjoy
  • Straight...as a perfect companion to food
  • With a citrus twist...we like grapefruit
  • In your favorite cocktail...try a classic
  • Always from the freezer...no matter how you drink it
Current Availability
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Washington State
  • Washington DC
                               MEDOYEFF VODKA

MEDOYEFF MULE (A wonderful version of the Moscow Mule)
Medoyeff_bottle.jpgThe Moscow Mule is responsible for kicking off the vodka craze in the United States during the 1950s, when Gin was the preferred white liquor. Mix vodka and lime juice in a pint mixing glass, ice, shake and strain over fresh ice in a tall glass or traditional copper mug and top with ginger beer.
  • 2 oz MEDOYEFF Vodka
  • 1 oz fresh limejuice
  • 3 oz ginger Beer (we like Cock n' Bull)
  • Garnish with a slice of lime

RUSSIAN WOLFHOUND (A Fabulous version of the Greyhound)
This grapefruit and vodka cocktail is an ideal choice for a summertime brunch. Serve in a tall glass with ice.
  • 2 oz MEDOYEFF Vodka
  • 4 oz fresh ruby grapefruit Juice
  • 2 dashes grapefruit or rhubarb bitters (Fee Brothers)
  • Garnish with a grapefruit twist

This one is bitter cold, but like the Siberian winter it's named for, it's also beautiful and long lasting as this is a slow-sipping cocktail. Build and stir with ice and strain into a martini glass.
  • 1 oz MEDOYEFF Vodka
  • 3/4 oz Campari
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Lemon twist for garnish

This one is bloody good, especially as a companion to a hardy breakfast. Mix all ingredients together in a tall glass with ice.
  • 2 oz MEDOYEFF Vodka
  • 4 oz extra spicy tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 oz plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp freshly grated onion
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 shakes of celery salt
  • Garnish with pickled green beans

Named for the number of ingredients, Cynar alone has thirteen, this cocktail is beautifully balanced and addictive.  
  • 3 oz MEDOYEFF Vodka
  • 1 oz Cynar Artichoke Bitters
  • 1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • Server over ice or shake with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit. 

The vodka verson on the gin based Negroni.  
  • 1 oz MEDOYEFF Vodka
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Stir wtih ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of orange.

Only the best Martini on the planet...at least that's what we think.  
  • 2.5 oz MEDOYEFF Vodka
  • .5 oz Dry Vermouth
  • 3 Olives for garnish (Go ahead and make it dirty if that's how you roll.)