Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Liquid Warmth

Kevin Wildermuth, aka Keeper Of The Bar, at The Greenhouse Tavern doesn’t just pour and shake. He’s making barrel aged cocktails and his boss Jonathon Sawyer says this is only restaurant in Ohio, serving them. I was in for dinner recently and tasted his two latest creations, Vin Chaud and a spirited mulled cider. Both were served warm. They're decidely different but pack equally big, intense and complex flavor. Sipping each was a conversation stopper. The pro in me wanted to tease out the ingredients dancing on my tongue and grabbing my attention. But the citizen drinker was just knocked out by how good they tasted.

Next day I emailed with a few questions. Clearly geeky when it comes to alcoholic beverages, Wildermuth responded with detailed descriptions of how he makes them. It was so interesting I decided to share here with only minimal editing.

Vin Chaud is spiced and heated wine that goes by different names in different cultures. In Scandinavia it is known as glögg, in Germany and Alsace (France) its called glühwein. We’re doing a Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur fortified Vin Chaud, but approaching the execution a bit backwards. Rather than mulling the wine, we are infusing the liqueur with the mulling spices, marrying the wine and Bärenjäger in a five to two ratio. Then it goes into a two-year-old uncharred American White Oak barrel, previously used to age a batch of red wine vinegar and last year’s Glögg. The fortified wine on it’s own is quite hot, alcohol wise, but this mellows the Vin Chaud, and allows all the flavors to integrate.

For the batch of mulled cider we have going, I used local apple cider with Bulleit Bourbon that I infused with cinnamon and Ohio maple syrup. The Bulleit has a high rye content, giving it a spicier flavor than some of its counterparts. The cider is mulled using traditional methods and spices first, fortified with the bourbon, and then put in a barrel that originally held Lagavulin (a single malt scotch whiskey) and after that beer. The cider is picking up a touch of smoke from its time ageing.

Winter’s still officially a week away but there’s no doubt that the season of freezin’ is already here. I can’t think of a better way to take the edge off than to wrap your mitts around one of these. Or two.

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