2014 Readers Choice Awards

Over the last two months, readers have been nominating and voting for their favorite distilled spirits in 10 categories and the results are in for the winning brands. It is an interesting mix and it is obvious that these brands (some of which are relatively unknown) have a strong following and loyal fans. This may be an indication that they're something to try if you haven't already.

Here are the winners in each of the 10 categories. Search for cocktails with these fine spirits.

Seasonal Spotlight: Whiskies of the World, Part 3 - Rye

Bourbon and Scotch may be the most popular, but the drink of choice for many whiskey connoisseurs is increasingly a glass of classic rye whiskey.

Up until recently, this historic American spirit was fading into obscurity. Liquor stores and bars usually stocked just a few old, dusty bottles. But there has been a miraculous rebirth of the rye category, and drinkers now prize its big, spicy and brash flavors. Distillers are now struggling to keep up with demand.

Seasonal Spotlight: Whiskies of the World, Part 1 - Scotch

The end of March/early April is unofficially "Whiskies of the World" season with many festivals around the globe celebrating all kinds of whiskey, whether you're into Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Irish, Canadian, or Sour Mash...There's something for everyone...Stay tuned this week for a discussion on the plethora of whiskies out there and the brands that made the 'cut' for being the 'best' by readers' choice this past year (official results will be available first week of April)...Also, I will list some new and innovative cocktails that can be mixed up using these fine and undiscovered spirits...

Spirit Spotlight: Absinthe

National Absinthe Day is March 5. Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit that was originally 136 proof and made with grande wormwood. It is typically made by distilling neutral grain spirits with herbs, predominately anise, florence fennel and grande wormwood. Other herbs such as angelica root, coriander, dittany leaves, hyssop, juniper, nutmeg, melissa, star anise, sweet flag, and veronica are also used.

Seasonal Spotlight: National Kahlua Day

National Kahlua Day is February 27.  Kahlua is a rich, creamy liqueur from Mexico that is made with rum, Mexican coffee, sugar and vanilla. Kahlúa is a blend of sugarcane and 100% Arabica coffee where the sugarcane and coffee beans are grown in the shade and handpicked.  Kahlua traces its roots back to Veracruz, Mexico.  First produced in 1936 by Veracruz, Mexico native Pedro Domeca.

Industry Spotlight: Trending in 2014

I realize that many of you may not be interested in going this far with creating cocktails, but I think it is interesting to see the cocktail movement for this year. Much of mixology now is presentation and flair. Image is everything, right. If anything, these concoctions can certainly be the talk of your party should you decide to incorporate them into your theme. They would look great on display.

Taste of Italy: Classic Italian Cocktails

My good friend, John, who is a great chef, is doing a 'Taste of Italy' event in Philly and asked me to provide him with 3 signature Italian cocktails to go with his apps, but I'm all about doing more...If anyone is interested, I am offering them here as a special bonus for the weekend:

Negroni: 1 oz Gin, 1 oz Sweet Vermouth, and 1 oz Campari stirred over ice in a mixing glass and strained into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish = lemon or orange twist (bitter)

Jane's Addiction, Dobel Tequila, 1800, and Ray Liotta

Stay tuned for the exclusive interview I will be conducting with Perry Farrell, frontman, from legendary Jane's Addiction band about his new tequila, Dobel, and Ray Liotta, actor (star of Goodfellas, Field of Dreams, Wild Hogs, The Place Beyond the Pines, etc...) about his promotion and marketing efforts for 1800 Tequila...It should appear in the February issue of Chilled Magazine...Isn't that new 1800 commercial pretty cool? Not much said, but very powerful.