A newsletter for the industry pro (or aspiring pro).

What We’re Into Right Now

A monthly installment covering what, where and how the editors of PUNCH are drinking. This month, a house wine from the Douro, a Martini variation, classic highballs and more.

white port and tonic

Each month, we pull together a selection of drinking-related items that have, for one reason or another, grabbed the attention of PUNCH’s editors, who spend pretty much all day, every day surrounded by booze. Here’s what we’re into right now.

Highballs | Robert Simonson, Contributing Editor
Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of highballs at home. Simple Whiskey and Sodas—Scotch, bourbon, rye, Japanese whiskey, what have you. The lowly highball is one category of drink that has not been fully rescued by the cocktail movement, though you are beginning to see highball sections on some better menus. And underdog drinks always attract my interest. Moreover, the Japanese style of highball—where the drink is a sort of religion—has slowly but surely come to fascinate me over the past couple years. I experiment with different whiskeys, different ratios, different ice, different glassware and different styles of pour, trying to perfect my drinks as the bartenders of Tokyo do. They are hard work to get right. But they go down easy, indeed. 

Folias de Baco | Talia Baiocchi, Editor in Chief
Portugal’s Douro region—best known for port—isn’t exactly the first place one turns when on the hunt for a pair of summer house wines. But if there was ever an argument for what else, beyond power and concentration, the region can yield, it’s Tiago Sampaio’s Folias de Baco, whose Uivo Branco (white) and Uivo Renegado (red) will be starring in my fridge for the foreseeable future. Both wines are organically farmed field blends—of native grapes like viosinho and rabigato for the white and a mix of more than 25 red and white varieties for the red—sourced from vines over 80 years of age. They’re juicy, more-ish wines, but not without intrigue. The kicker: They retail around $15.

Escubac | Megan Krigbaum, Contributing Editor
I’ll admit it: The label got me. The modern, graphic, hot-sun-in-the-South-of-France vibe and its strange whispery name—Escubac—did their job. Resuscitated a couple years back by a company in the UK, Sweetdram, the recipe for this saffron-tinged liqueur is apparently one that existed in France for centuries but got lost along the way. These days, Sweetdram is making the liqueur in the Loire Valley at the Combier distillery. This deceptively dry aperitif has all sorts of warm spice to it—clove, green cardamom, anise—which makes for a great low-ABV highball, but I’ve found that it really opens up with citrus and a little sugar. It’s prime for a base in a sour, even a Daiquiri, or as a sub for Cognac in a French 75.

The Alaska | Chloe Frechette, Assistant Editor
“So far as can be ascertained this delectable potion is NOT the staple diet of the Esquimaux,” writes Harry Craddock of the Alaska cocktail in his 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. A gin Martini with yellow Chartreuse in place of vermouth, the origins of the Alaska are unclear, but its place in any Martini-drinker’s repertoire is obvious. At 80 proof, Chartreuse packs twice as much kick as vermouth, making it, in some ways, the antithesis of the session Martini, but with it’s strong botanical profile and sweet honey and herbal notes, it’s also the perfect foil.

White Port and Tonic | Lizzie Munro, Senior Editor
I tried my first White Port and Tonic a few years ago while on a trip to Portugal (I drank more of them than I can count). Sometime after that, the drink was everywhere, billed as this amazingly refreshing, easy-to-make beverage that you’ve never even heard of! So I get it. It’s a little played out. But when summer starts to roll around, it’s still my go-to. It’s simple to throw together and refreshing AF, and I can drink those babies all afternoon. 

2013 Château Moulin de Tricot Haut-Medoc | Jon Bonne, Senior Contributing Editor
Bordeaux is a place that thrives on conventional wisdom. And conventional wisdom doesn’t pay much attention to the little guys in Bordeaux, including Moulin de Tricot, run by Bruno Rey and his family in Arsac, part of the lesser known western part of the Margaux appellation. Margaux is a big deal, with more classified growth châteaux than anywhere else in Bordeaux. MdT flies under the radar and represents what the French sometimes call l’aspet de l’être humain—a human side of a place that can feel like it’s all about money. Rey produces some very good Margaux, but also this more humble Haut-Médoc. Also in conventional wisdom: 2013 pretty much sucked as a vintage. And yet Rey’s 2013 is a thing to behold: racy and dusky in its flavors. That it’s everything mainstream Bordeaux would rather not talk about? Only makes it taste that much sweeter.

iSi Soda Siphon | Bianca Prum, Managing Editor
You know those objects you never knew you needed until the moment you acquire them—then, suddenly, you realize you cannot live without them? At PUNCH HQ this month, that object is the iSi Soda Siphon. In the process of testing some new drink recipes, our office acquired one of these shiny suckers, and it’s managed to shake up our drink-making routine in no time. (As a bonus, it looks pretty sick on a a home bar, too.) Like magic, one little carbon dioxide bulb is all it takes to carbonate water—or, even better, cocktails. Carbonated Cosmo, anyone?

Gowanus Shandy at Pig Beach, Brooklyn | Allison Hamlin, Social Media Editor
Pig Beach’s “seasonal burger joint” on the banks of the Gowanus is a Brooklyn BBQ paradise. Ex-Del Posto chef Matt Abdoo’s award-winning pit offers sticky half-racks of pork ribs and charred hatch vinegar-doused wings in a laid-back outdoor setting (complete with cornhole and a mostly manageable mix of dogs and children). For me though, it’s Sarah Morrissey’s frozen drinks that steal the show. In particular, the Gowanus Shandy—one part frozen lemonade slush, one part beer, capped with the ultimate South Brooklyn bar insider accessory, a tiny upended bottle of Underberg.

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