Monday, June 13th, 2011
Conducting a blind tasting takes an assortment of skills and a variety of characters. First, the skills:
- Analytical – what do you present to the taster in order to showcase your specialty or unique opportunity?
- Organization – how do you present the items to the taster so all items have an equal opportunity to be tasted and evaluated?
- Evaluation – how can the taster record and reflect on what they are tasting in order to articulate why they prefer one taste over another?
- Presentation – How do you keep it engaging and interesting to the taster?
Now, to the characters
- The Innovator – This person likes to “play it by ear” and prepare the tasting on the go. They typically have a passion for creating something and showing everyone how good it can be.
- The Measurer – This person will measure every ¼ ounce using some measuring tool. They are precision oriented and need each quantity to come out the same.
- The Planner – This person will plan the tasting down to last sip and may have a problem if the order needs to be adjusted or changed
Over the next few posts, we will evaluate these issues. Conducting a taste test is fun and engaging, but it takes a lot of work.
Monday, February 7th, 2011
The origin of vodka is heavily debated between Poles and Russians as no one can for sure say when the knowledge of distilling spirits spread from France and northern Italy to Poland and Russia. Nevertheless, both countries make great vodkas. And during a trip to Poland, I found myself enjoying a few sips of vodka at Qube, Poland’s first specialty Vodka bar.
Vodka was originally considered to be a medicinal drink, supposedly curing ailments and promoting longevity and youthfulness. My take on that would be that if you drank enough you didn’t feel anything and therefore appeared to die healthy. But back to vodka. Polish vodka is typically distiller from rye, while Russia and Sweden distill from wheat and Finland from barley. The East and Scandinavian countries tend to have more flavor in their vodkas than those distilled “neutral” or flavorless.
Since we specialize in Flavors, I had the Wisniowka Cherry Cordial in an ice glass. One sip at a time was delicious. Not fruity, not sweet and very balanced. But I have to admit I prefer cocktails. And vodka’s strength in the cocktail market is king. It is a completely versatile drink, with enough price points to make it affordable to all and a luxury to some. All of the mixers we manufacture and many of the syrups find themselves paired in alocholic drinks, typically made with vodka. So drink up but drink responsibly and be safe.
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
I recently attended a beer tasting at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, TX. As an aside, Cowboy Stadium is amazing. It is high tech, has great food and very clearly, is a new standard in American Stadiums. We had the opportunity to take a tour and it was incredible to see the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders practicing their routines directly from the field sidelines. I found the entire experience infectious and would enjoy watching a game live.
But back to the Beer Tasting… I am not much of a beer drinker, but our tasting guides had an acromym to describe the evaluation of each beer and I found the simplicity of their sensory evaluation to be something that I could pass on: AATMF. These five letters stand for Appearance, Aroma, Taste, Mouthfeel and Finish.
Appearance – Appearance can reflect the color, the consistency, smoothness of texture and generally all the visual elements that are common in determining the appeal of the product.
Aroma – Over 70% of taste perception is attributed to aroma, or smell. If it smells good, chances are, it tastes good!
Taste – Taste and aroma account for most of the perception of a product. Our taste buds allow us to taste bitter, salty, sweet, and sour flavors. There is a huge body of research done on taste and smell and we will go into that later.
Mouthfeel – With beverages, some people can feel the product in their mouth and they can describe food and beverage a variety of ways: creamy, thick, thin, coating, and a number of other ways. This attribute is how you perceive the texture of the product in the mouth. One simple example is sugar and HFCS. While we don’t manufacture anything using High Fructose Corn Syrup anymore, we had a hard time getting out of it because it has a thicker viscosity than sugar, and therefore, our customers felt it was a creamier, richer taste. In order to achieve that same feeling with sugar, we had to add more sugar to increase the viscosity and create a similar mouthfeel.
Finsh – The finish is essential. Once the product has left your mouth, the sensation it evokes afterwards can either linger of end quickly. If it ends quickly, the perception tends to be that it is not very strong. If it lingers at the back of the mouth and in the air passages (due to the aroma), the sensation is one of satisfaction and fullness.
So, now you know the 5 different evaluative areas, try something. Enjoy a glass a wine, your favorite flavored cocktail or a cup of coffee and evaluate how the beverage looks, smells, tastes, feels, and lingers in your mouth. Feel free to share your results here!
Thursday, August 26th, 2010
We recently had a request for a Blue Hawaiian Mix and discussions started flying around the office as to what made good Blue Hawaiian. One of our customer service reps, Mike Jones, is an Islander and was considered our “authority” when tasting the finished beverage.
In looking it up on the ever informative Wikipedia, “The Blue Hawaii was invented in 1957 by Harry Yee, legendary head bartender of the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, Hawaii when a sales representative of Dutch distiller Bols asked him to design a drink that featured their blue color of Curaçao liqueur.”
We knew two things about a Blue Hawaiian… 1) It uses Blue Curacao (a delicate orange flavor) and 2) It is similar to a pina colada. When we verified this, we found there are two different types of Blue Hawaiians… The first is a simple mix that is similar to a margarita and uses rum or vodka. The other type incorporates coconut syrup, milk or cream and is only made with Rum. The color is blue.
I know that there are others who are more informed than I am about creating a hand crafted mixed drink, so I sent a querry to Linked-in’s US Bartender’s Directory, asking if anyone knew of a good recipe for a Blue Hawaiian. This is why I love networking on Linked-In…I immediately received a couple of replies.
Here’s one recipe that you might enjoy, courtesy of member Chris Milligan:
1 1/2 oz light rum
3 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 oz coconut syrup
1/2 oz blue curaçao
1/2 oz lemon juice
Method: Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine. Don’t turn it into a slushy. Garnish with pineapple flag, fruit stick and/or mint sprig.
Another member, Mark Drummond, provided some insight into the rum itself. He offered a couple of suggestions to use, such as a spice rum, dark maple rum or an oak cask rum. However, he cautions, it will change the flavor.
I hope that you all enjoy trying a Blue Hawaiian, and hopefully our customer will like the mix we prepared. Nothing beats a field trip to Hawaii to soak in the sun and sip on an authentic Blue Hawaiian, though. Maybe in the winter!
Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Last week the smell of dark chocolate permeated the offices as we were making chocolate sauce to fill a large international order. The aroma of chocolate is sublime, but after smelling warm, melted chocolate for a couple of days, I desperately wanted to eat chocolate cake. I had the image of a soft, fluffy, chocolate cake oozing with decadent icing in my mind. I started hunting through the recipe books looking for chocolate cake (with chocolate icing) and unfortunately I could not find a basic chocolate cake that looked interesting. Some were too bland, others used mediocre ingredients and others yet had unappetizing icing. Then finally, I found a recipe book from Grand Central Bakery, a popular Seattle bakery. I looked at the picture and decided that was my cake. I went through the process of getting the ingredients ready….. I took out the double boiler, melted the chocolate, sifted the flour and cocoa, creamed the butter and sugar. I put it in the oven and waited impatiently for it to bake. Once I took it out, I started on the ganache. I drizzled the ganache over the top of the cake, waited the 20 minutes for it to set and then cut myself a large slice. The cake melted in my mouth and my craving was satiated.
One of the reasons I found the recipe interesting was the comment by the author that she is usually not picky about high quality chocolate but that this recipe deserved the best chocolate you could get. I believe that every recipe deserves the best ingredients. If you put the very best into everything you make, then you are always making the very best. We apply that principal everyday, to all our products.
Sunday, May 30th, 2010
We spend a lot of time talking about specialty beverages, but very little about the other ingredients. Here, our R&D has written a summary of some of the popular liquors used in the preparation of cocktails. The list of liquors is by no means complete and hopefully he will be adding to it every month.
Vodka- The Code of Federal Regulations (title 27, volume 1) defines Vodka as “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.” In processing, vodka is distilled and filtered to remove impurities that exist during the fermentation process. Because of this, vodka is great for use in drinks where strong liquor flavor is not desired.
Gin – A spirit flavored by Juniper berries as well as other spices and herbs. Gin’s strong flavor pairs well with citrus and works well in sour drinks such as the Gimlet (Lime juice and Gin). A new non-alcoholic soda by the Dry Soda Company, named Juniper, taste remarkably like Gin.
Tequila – A spirit made from the fermented juice of the Blue Agave. Tequila is produced only in the Tequila region of Mexico. There are a few different varieties of tequila and they differ in the length of aging and the condition of storage. For example Reposado tequila is aged between 9 months and two years in oak barrels. Tequila is used in the classic cocktail, the Margarita because it has a strong distinctive flavor that pairs well with the citrus and tartness of margarita mixes.
Whiskey/Whisky- A spirit made from fermented grains. Different types of whiskey are made using different grains and these whiskeys are aged in wood barrels (traditionally oak). Whiskeys have widely ranging flavors depending on the grain and the aging process. A young American Whiskey will taste very different from an aged Irish Whisky. Whiskeys can be bottled as either single-malt or blended. Blending can help overcome difficulties or issues with a particular batch and allow large distilleries to closely control the flavor profile. Single-malt whiskeys are popular because the distinctive characteristics of each batch make them unique. Some of the most expensive whiskeys are aged single-malt scotch whiskey. Whiskey is one part of the classic Whiskey sour cocktail.
Rum (my personal favorite) – A spirit made from fermented cane sugar and cane sugar by products such as molasses. There are two major varieties of rum, light rum, which is clear, and dark rum, which is similar to whiskey in color. Light rums are typically used for mixed drinks such as mint mojitos, while dark rums are traditionally consumed alone.
What’s your favorite liquor?
Monday, January 18th, 2010
Monday, November 23rd, 2009
Monday, November 23rd, 2009
Friday, November 6th, 2009
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