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Category Archives: Spirits

scotch whisky guide

You Don’t Know Scotch: 5 Minute Guide to Scotch Whisky

This blog post was originally published on January 11, 2017 and has been updated for June 2017.

You don’t need to be wearing your best suit to enjoy scotch whisky. But before you pick up one from off the shelf, you may want to do your research on this premium liquor. Blindly entering the world of scotch whisky might leave you with a sour taste in your mouth (not quite literally – maybe more of a burn). But don’t worry – that’s why we put together this short guide for you. Keep reading to learn more about scotch and you’ll be on your way to enjoying this classic drink in no time.

The Name

Scotch whisky must always be from Scotland. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The Scots spell it “whisky” while the Irish spell it “whiskey.” This difference in spelling comes from the translations of the word from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms. When Irish immigrants came to the United States in the 1700s, they took the “e” with them. The name isn’t the only difference. Scotch and whiskey have different distillation processes and ingredients.

How to Drink It

Now that you know why it’s spelled without the “e”, you’re ready to drink it. Keep in mind that all scotch must age for at least three years before consumption. Ordering it “neat” (no ice) is a popular way to drink it. You may want to add a few drops of water, though, as this can help reveal flavors of the liquor. Some people also prefer to drink their scotch “on the rocks” (with ice). If you’re in the mood for shots, you should choose a different liquor.

The Variations

Scotch is a term that includes several subtypes, such as single malts and blends. There are five categories of scotch:

  • Single Malt: Made with water and malted barley.
  • Single Grain: Made with water, malted barley, and another type of grain.
  • Blended Malt: A combination of multiple single malt whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Blended Grain: A combination of multiple single grain whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Blended Scotch Whisky: A combination of at least one single-malt scotch with at least one single-grain scotch.

How to Choose It

Choose wisely, or you might never want to choose it again. This is something you’ll be sipping on, so picking the right kind is important. You’ll want something smooth and light with minimal burn. For starters, you could try Glenmorangie 10 (Original), Dewar’s, or Bank Note Blended. These are good stepping stones into the world of scotch whisky.

There is so much to learn about scotch whisky, but the best way to learn about it is to taste it. Thinking of getting your hands on your first (or second) bottle of scotch? Or looking for a particular bottle that you can’t find elsewhere?  Visit Wachusett Wine & Spirits. Our inventory is always expanding and we’d be happy to help you find the perfect option.

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vodka cocktails

The Secret to Making Incredible Vodka Cocktails This Summer

What’s the secret to making great vodka cocktails? A good vodka base. Here’s one more secret about making a good cocktail: you don’t have to be a master mixer (or would it be mix master?). Because vodka has a clear and clean taste, it pairs well with a lot of different flavors. From the Screwdriver or Cosmopolitan to the Vodka Martini or Dirty Martini, vodka is so versatile that there’s a cocktail out there for everybody. But because there are so many vodka options, which one is right for you?

Unique Flavors

Prickly Pear. Habanero. Makrut Lime. While your guest might be surprised that their cocktail has one of these flavors, you can easily take your drinks to a new level. Spice up your party and your Bloody Mary, or sweeten your Screwdriver with fruit-flavored vodka. Flavored vodka opens up a new world of mixing drinks. Better yet, you might just find your new favorite cocktail. Here are some of our in-store favorites:

  • Fugu: The makers of Ballast Point Beer have made liquor more interesting with their wild creations. Flavors include: Horchata, Pina, and Habanero. They even have recommended recipes for their unique vodka.
  • Western Son: Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes big flavors from Western Son. Flavors include: Prickly Pear, Blueberry, and Watermelon.
  • Hangar 1: This California-based distillery offers some incredibly unique flavors that you won’t hear anywhere else. Flavors include: Buddha’s Hand Citron, Mandarin Blossom, and Makrut Lime.

Classics

The old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” can be applied here. Sometimes, the best vodkas are the ones people know. This is what you use to make a cocktail drank by the likes of James Bond or FDR (who is rumored to have carried a “martini kit” with him – how cool is that?). These are sure to be crowd-pleasers since everyone will most likely be more familiar with them than flavored vodka. So, if you’re overwhelmed with the amount of flavors, it won’t hurt to go with one of the classics. Here are some excellent ones we carry:

  • Tito’s Handmade
  • Triple 8
  • Ketel One
  • Grey Goose
  • Ciroc
  • Absolut

Want to impress your guests? Make them a shaken, not stirred, Vesper using Absolut. Or serve up a Harvey Wallbanger with Tito’s Handmade. These are great recipes to rely on when you’re in a pinch of what to mix next.

Budget-Friendly

Some people say vodka doesn’t give them as much of a hangover as other liquor. Regardless of how much that applies to you, sometimes a get-together calls for a few bottles of vodka. Unless you just got a promotion or you don’t mind seeing triple digits taken out of your bank account, you’ll want an affordable vodka to buy in bulk. But be careful: just because vodka might not give you as bad of a hangover, the impurities in cheap vodka can still be harmful. Here are some affordable (and good quality!) vodkas for your next big house party:

  • Smirnoff
  • Svedka
  • New Amsterdam

Some of the best cocktails are the ones that don’t require a lot of work. Moscow Mule or Sex on the Beach are tasty and easy go-tos when you want to keep it simple.

The best news of all? We carry all the vodka we mentioned above. So if you’re looking for some unique or classic vodka for your college graduation party or Memorial Day get-together, look no further. Or, if vodka isn’t your thing, we have plenty of other spirits, beer, and wine. Stop by today!

types of rum

Not Just For Pirates: 3 Types of Rum You Have to Try This Summer

Warm weather is on the horizon, which means it’s time to break out the rum. You don’t even have to feel the sand between your toes or wear an eye patch to enjoy it (we would prefer the first one if we had to choose!) If your experience with different types of rum has been the tropical-flavored ones, you’re in for a treat. New England is home to some excellent distilleries who give major rum players a run for their money. And while you may be leaning more towards gin this summer, let’s take a look at the rums you have to try before fall is here.

Bully Boy Hub Punch

Who doesn’t like punch in the summer? Transport yourself back in time with the Bully Buy Hub Punch. Bully Boy credits politician C.H. Graves with creating the original Hub Punch in the early 1900s. The distillery honors this by recreating the original product labeling. Based out of Boston, Bully Boy combines orange, raspberry, lemon, and other botanicals to revive this relic. While the typical rum boasts a Caribbean influence, this rum has more of a Victorian style to it. You shouldn’t have a problem noticing it on the shelf.

Cocktails to try

Deacon Giles Liquid Damnation

Give “spirits” a new meaning (we couldn’t resist!) with Deacon Giles. There was no shortage of rum distilleries in colonial New England. Nowadays more people are perfecting the art of craft beer. If you want to try a New England-style rum, we highly recommend Deacon Giles Liquid Damnation. Based out of Salem, MA, Deacon Giles draws heavy influence from the historically bewitched city, both in name and design. But don’t let this spook you. Their rum starts and ends with molasses, containing hints of pepper, banana, caramel, and vanilla. Although this drink wasn’t concocted in a fiery cauldron, you might just end up spellbound by it.

Learn more about the man behind the bottle.

Privateer True American

All hands on deck for this rum! Privateer takes great pride in their products, and for good reason. Named after a pirate ship during the American Revolution, their True American amber rum is easy to drink. You’ll be able to taste the molasses and brown sugar right off the bat. Take another sip and you’ll start to notice oak-y and even subtle fruity flavors. Don’t be afraid to mix this in a fruity cocktail for your next barbecue.

Cocktails to try

Think you’re ready to try one of these New England rums? We have all three in our inventory, plus an entire aisle dedicated to finely-crafted rum. Gear up for summer with these excellent choices. Or, if you’re looking for something else, we’ll be happy to help you find it!

gin brands

Not Your Grandma’s Gin & Tonic: The Best Gin Brands

Did you know that World Gin Day is June 10th? With a holiday set on the brink of summer, it’s no secret that this spirit is fitting on sunny days. And, now that there are more gins on the market than ever before, we wanted to show our appreciation for this drink. These gin brands aren’t for your grandma’s gin and tonics. Don’t believe that all gin doesn’t taste like Christmas trees? We dare you to stop by and try out some of our favorites…

Deepwells

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path of classic gins, Deepwells should be at the top of your list. Boasting 28 botanicals, this gin has a potato base in the style of vodka. You’ll be able to notice the difference because you won’t get hit with that pine-y taste every sip. It’s great for warmer days due to all the different infused fruits and vegetables.

Barr Hill

“Honey, I’m home,” has a whole new meaning. Made with only two botanicals, Barr Hill proves you don’t need a ton of flavors to be delicious. Juniper is used during distillation, while the honey is added afterwards. Both take center stage and make for a well-crafted combination. We recommend all fans of honey give this sweet and floral gin a try.

Gin Lane 1751

This one is sure to catch your eye. Not only is the pink color fitting for the warmer days, the taste is too. Blended with spiced bitters, this fruity gin will keep you refreshed as you sip on this under the sun. It’s easy to drink, whether you serve it in cocktails or on the rocks. While Victoria Pink is the most popular, Old Tom Gin is a less sweet alternative worth checking out.

Death’s Door

While the name might be intimidating, this gin gives classics a run for their money. Taste those earthy notes? That’s the coriander seed coming through. As for the bitter aroma, that’s the addition of fennel seeds. Unique yet simple, this gin is enjoyable either by itself or in a cocktail. The choice is yours – and you can’t go wrong either way.

Eden Mill

One of the more progressive gins on the market, Eden Mill has a range of drinks worth your attention. From a hoppy gin to an oak gin soaked in old bourbon casks, you might find a new favorite infusion. Another noteworthy one is the pink Love Gin, which contains vanilla and floral notes. Eden Mill produces innovative concoctions that are sure to make waves (of gin) and separate themselves from their competition.

More and more gin brands arise every year, but we’re confident that these five stand out among the rest. We have a whole aisle dedicated to gin and our inventory is always expanding. Come stop by, say hi, and grab yourself a bottle of gin to break out for the sunny days!

st-patricks-day-cocktail-recipes

St. Patrick’s Day Cocktail Recipes (That Aren’t Green!)

Swap out your typical green cocktail or beer this St. Patrick’s day for Irish whiskey. Not a fan of whiskey on the rocks? Try out these festive (and not green) cocktails for your St. Patty’s day celebration:

The Irish Mule

Put a St. Patrick’s Day twist on this Russian classic by swapping out vodka for traditional Irish whiskey. You won’t even miss your typical green cocktail thanks to the trendy mug it’s served in.

Total Time Required: 5 minutes

Makes 1 Serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Irish whiskey (try Glendalough)
  • 3 oz. ginger beer
  • Half of a lime
  • Ice
  • Sprigs of mint for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Add a handful of ice into the glass of your choice. We recommend using a classing copper mug, but a glass tumbler makes an excellent substitution. Pour whiskey over the ice, followed by squeezing the lime directly into the glass. Add the ginger beer and stir. If desired, top with sprigs of mint before serving.

Irish Redhead Cocktail

Are you looking for the perfect cocktail that you can whip up in under 60 seconds? An Irish Redhead Cocktail may be your answer. You most likely have all of the ingredients in your pantry to make this sweet but refreshing drink.

Total Time Required: 1 minute

Makes 1 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz. grenadine
  • 6 oz. lemon-lime soda
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • Slices of lemons, lime, and maraschino cherries for garnish.

Directions:

In a shaker, mix together the whiskey, grenadine, lemon and lime juice. Pour over ice in a glass tumbler. Add the lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite, then garnish with assorted fruit.

Blackberry Irish Whiskey Sour

Throwing a party and really want to impress your guests? Try this Blackberry Irish Whiskey Sour, a deliciously fruity twist on a classic favorite. Truly want to get into the holiday spirit? Swap out your traditional Jameson with Pogues and listen to the iconic rock band while you’re sipping on your drink.

Total Time Required: 5 minutes

Makes 1 Serving

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 75 oz. blackberry brandy
  • 5 oz. lemon juice
  • Lemon Slice
  • Blackberries
  • Granulated sugar
  • Ice

Directions:

Begin by coating the rim of your glass with sugar. First add a few tablespoons of sugar into a shallow bowl or plate. Then coat the rim of the glass with lemon juice. Gently roll the rim of the glass in sugar until the lip is evenly coated, and set aside. In a cocktail shaker, fill it halfway with crushed ice. Add whiskey, brandy, and lemon juice. Shake well. Pour into prepared glass, and garnish with a lemon slice and blackberries.

The Chilly Irishman

Staying in this year? Treat yourself to this sweet treat made with Kahlua, Irish whiskey, and vanilla ice cream. It’s the perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and a great recipe to have in queue for the summer.

Total Time Required: 5 minutes

Makes 2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. cold espresso coffee
  • 2 oz. Kahlua
  • 5 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 2 cups ice
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • Cacao nibs or shaved chocolate (optional)

Directions:

Place rock glasses into the freezer so they have time to chill while you’re preparing the cocktail. Add all ingredients except for the chocolate into the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses and top with shaved chocolate or cacao nibs, if desired.

small-batch-spirits-recipes

Bourbon & Whiskey Cocktail Recipes

Stay warm this winter by enjoying a glass (or two) of bourbon or whiskey. If you’re looking for a bourbon with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, our staff recommends Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey. In the mood for something sweet with a smooth finish? Try Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which has notes of vanilla, butterscotch, and caramel. If you’re more of a whiskey drinker, try out A Midwinter Nights Dram, which is a perfect winter spirit for helping you through the coldest nights. Bourbon can be enjoyed straight up, or in one of the delicious cocktails below.

Hot Buttered Bourbon

The weather outside may be frightful, but sipping hot buttered bourbon after a long day in the snow is delightful.

Total Time Required: 20 minutes

Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbs softened butter
  • ½ tsp honey
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • ¾ cup bourbon
  • 4 cinnamon sticks (optional)

Directions: First, heat the orange juice over medium heat and whisk in the sugar until it dissolves. Keep warm on low heat. While that is warming, mix the butter, cloves, ginger, honey, and cinnamon together. Once the orange juice comes to a low simmer, whisk the butter into the orange juice until it’s completely melted. Whisk in the bourbon and serve immediately. You can decorate each cup with a cinnamon stick. This not only adds a decorative touch, but also allows you to mix together the drink if the juice and bourbon begin to separate.

Slushy Milk Punch

If you’re looking for a spin on your traditional Baileys dessert cocktail, try out this unique milk punch.

Total Time Required: 4 hours

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 2 ½ cups half-and-half
  • 1 ½ cups bourbon or whiskey
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tsp vanilla
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Directions: Whisk all of the ingredients together except for the nutmeg in a pitcher, and then put into the freezer. It will take about 3 or 4 hours to freeze, but can be left in the freezer for up to a week. When ready to serve, you may need to let the mixture sit onto the countertop for a few minutes so you can break up the ice with a spoon. Serve in a glass and top with freshly grated nutmeg.

Blackberry Whiskey Lemonade

This delicious lemonade cocktail is perfect for entertaining guests and can easily be stretched to serve more people with sparkling wine or a splash of tonic water.

Total Time Required: 30 minutes

Makes 4 to 5 servings

Ingredients:

Blackberry Simple Syrup

  • 12 oz. fresh blackberries
  • ½ cup sugar

Blackberry Whiskey Lemonade

  • 5 oz. whiskey
  • 5 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 6 oz. blackberry simple syrup
  • Ice cubes

Directions:

Blackberry simple syrup: Star together the blackberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the blackberries have softened to form a thick syrup, strain the syrup through a mesh sieve. Let the syrup cool for about 20 minutes before you begin preparing the cocktail.

Blackberry Whiskey Lemonade: Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, rosemary, and simple syrup into a large shaker with some ice cubes. Shake to combine. Serve over ice.

Holiday Shopping at Wachusett Wine & Spirits

We know that the holiday season can be pretty stressful, between holiday parties every other day and trying to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Lucky for you, your holiday shopping has become a whole lot easier. Wachusett Wine and Spirits is your one-stop shop for almost everyone on your gift list. Check out these great gift ideas everyone would love to find under their tree.

Gift Sets: We have both beer and liquor gift sets featuring some of our finest products. For beer, we have gift sets from Ommegang, St. Bernadus, and Mad Elf. Liquor gift sets include Jack Daniels, Baileys, Kaluha, Grey Goose, Glenmornagie and Courvoisier VSOP.

Large Format Bottles: From Anchor Brewing, St. Bernadus, Allagash, Arrogant Bastard, Guinness and more. These make great gifts for the beer lover on your list.

Holiday Beers: Spencer Holiday Ale, Port Brewing, Ridgeway Elf Beers (Lump of Coal, Bad Elf, etc) and more winter beers!

Custom Made Holiday Baskets: Stop by the store or contact us to order a custom basket featuring beer, wine or liquor. We can make suggestions based on a price range or you can tell us exactly what you are looking for!

Scratch Tickets and Season Lottery Tickets: These make the perfect stocking stuffer and also are a great way to keep your guests entertained before a holiday feast. Leave a ticket at each place setting and see who is feeling lucky that day.

Barware: We have a wide selection of glasses, wine openers and accessories. These are great items to include in a gift basket too!

Premium and Hand Crafted Spirits: The perfect drink (and gift) for the holiday season! Come pick up a bottle of Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey, Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon, A Midwinter Nights Dram or see one of our associates for a recommendation! We also have other whiskeys, small batch gins, vodkas and liquors.

Gift Certificates: Can’t quite put a finger on what they’d love? Our gift certificates are available in any amount.

In a rush to dash off to the next holiday party? No problem! We have gift bags available, so there’s no need to worry about stopping to wrap your present. From our family to yours, we hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season. Cheers!

Fall Cocktails

Fabulous Fall Cocktails! (Pumpkin, Apple, & More!)

Leaves are changing colors, the weather is starting to cool down, and your favorite pumpkin beers now line the shelves. Fall is finally here. In this blog, we’ve listed four fun, fall themed cocktails that you’ll be craving all season long.

Caramel Apple Martini

This tasty drink is a fun twist on one of your favorite childhood fall treats. This will definitely be a crowd pleaser at your next dinner party.

Total Time Required: 5 minutes
Makes 1 Serving
Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. apple cider
  • 2 oz. caramel vodka
  • 1 oz. butterscotch schnapps
  • Ice
  • Apple slices and caramel/cinnamon sugar for garnish

Directions:

Rim martini glasses with either caramel or cinnamon sugar. To get the cinnamon sugar to stick to the class, first dip it in apple cider then the cinnamon sugar. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the apple cider, caramel vodka, and butterscotch schnapps. Shake well then pour into a rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a slices of apple.
* Recipe courtesy of Inspiredbycharm.com

Hard Cider Sangria

Switch up your usual sangria recipe by replacing the wine with hard cider for a perfect fall libation.

Total Time Required: 15 minutes
Makes 4 Servings
Ingredients:

  • 1 cup thinly sliced apples
  • 1 navel orange, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • ¼ cup apple brandy
  • 22 oz. bottle of hard apple cider
  • Ice

Directions:

Combine apples, orange slices, apple juice, lemon juice, and brandy in a pitcher or punch bowl. Just before serving, add the hard apple cider. Serve over ice.
* Recipe courtesy of Foodandwine.com

Cranberry and Cinnamon Whiskey Sour

Total Time Required: 30 minutes
Makes 4 Servings
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ¾ cup bourbon or whiskey
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • Ice

Directions:

To create the cranberry simple syrup, combine the cranberries, water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and become a smooth consistency. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Place a fine mesh strainer in a large bowl and strain the simple syrup, leaving the behind chunks and skin. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes.

Once the simple syrup is cooled and you’re ready to make your cocktails, combine ¾ cup simple syrup, whiskey/bourbon, lemon juice, orange juice, lime juice, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Divide into 4 glasses and serve immediately.
* Recipe courtesy of Bakerbynature.com

Pumpkin Spice White Russian

Move over pumpkin spice latte, there’s a new drink to cozy up with this fall. The creamy and dreamy Pumpkin Spice White Russian is a decadent treat that’ll keep you warm even when your sweater doesn’t.

Total Time Required: 5 minutes
Makes 1 Serving
Ingredients:

  • ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 oz. heavy cream
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. coffee liqueur
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Chocolate syrup (optional)

Directions:

Shake together the heavy cream and pumpkin pie spice to combine. Fill glasses with ice and pour in vodka, coffee liqueur, and heavy cream. For an extra indulgence, top with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.
* Recipe courtesy of Nutmennanny.com

For the love of beer

Happy Fat Tuesday

20150118_162210Last month my wife and I traveled to the Big Easy for a long weekend.  While there we feasted on some beignets at the famed Cafe du Monde, strolled through the French Quarter and rode the St. Charles streetcar through the city. Fat Tuesday is the biggest day of the year for city of New Orleans. If Bourbon Street was rockin’ and rollin’ on a Thursday night in January we can only imagine the revelry today.

In addition to the wild 24/7 party scene, New Orleans is known for their delicious creole cuisine and their specialty cocktails.  The city boasts about having some of the best bars and bartenders in the country.  In fact, the first bar in America, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is located in the heart of the French Quarter.  Throughout our stay we found a couple of great watering holes. Most of the bars offer drinks to go so you can walk the streets of NOLA and take in all of the sights.

20150117_174545One of our favorite stops was the Carousel Bar located in the Hotel Montelone.  The bar makes one full rotation every fifteen minutes.  We enjoyed a  Sazerac, a classic New Orleans drink.  A Sazerac is made with rye whiskey, simple syrup, absinthe (or an absinthe substitute), Angostura bitters (some recipes call for Peychaud bitters too) and a lemon peel to garnish. There are of course other famous New Orleans beverages including the Hurricane and the Hand Grenade which is served at the Tropical Isle.  We downed one Hand Grenade our first night there (When in Rome…right???). However, I would strongly recommend sticking with the New Orleans classics such as the Sazerac, Mint Julep and Brandy Milk Punch.

Thirsty yet? How about mixing up a cocktail and raising a glass to the tradition of Mardi Gras? Cheers.