Highballs, Poitin & Aging Cocktails In Clay

Make sure you’re up-to-date with a few interesting booze & cocktail articles from the inter-web that have come across our radar this past week.

By: Tiff Christie|September 30,2019

How Spirits Brands Are Trying To Help Protect Endangered Species

Due to climate change, pollution and other human causes, many animal species across the world are on the brink of collapse. And while it’s not uncommon for a liquor brand to sponsor an odd fundraiser, there are some brands that go above that to help in animal conservation. These are four booze brands working hard to protect threatened and endangered species.


An African elephant is killed every 20 minutes in the wild, mostly by poachers. At those rates, they could disappear from the planet by 2030. Luckily, a number of organizations seek to change that. A liqueur from South Africa made from cream, sugar and the fruit of the marula tree (a favorite snack of African elephants), Amarula has long been an advocate for elephant conservation.

It launched the Amarula Trust in 2002, which raises money for different conservation efforts into collaring elephants for research. It went global in 2017. The company donates $1 from each bottle sold during the months of October, November and December every year to the wildlife foundation. Amarula has raised nearly $250,000 over the last two years. Though it’s taking a break in 2019 to focus on a new bottle release, it still uses the trust to work on conservation efforts.

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How To Navigate The Scottish Gin Trail

Gin might be considered an archetypal English drink, but three of the best-known gin brands in the world—Gordon’s, Hendrick’s and Tanqueray—are all made in Scotland. In fact, 70 percent of the UK’s gin is produced in Scotland. None of those three gin giants offer tours, but many of the new kids on the block, such as Caorunn, Crossbill, Pickering’s and The Botanist, all provide excellent ones, including visitor centers, shops, and even gin schools and courses.


The Scottish Gin Trail is one of the coolest ways to explore the country. The tourism board, Visit Scotland, provides a Scottish Gin Map, and the first book dedicated to Scottish gin, The Gin Clan by Fiona Laing, hit bookshelves this year. This was quickly followed by another—Sean Murphy’s Gin Galore: A Journey to the Source of Scotland’s Gin—showing that Scottish gin is still on the rise. According to the Scottish Gin Society, there are about 70 Scottish distilleries making gin. In The Gin Clan, Fiona Laing writes that 23 went into production in 2018 with another 12 due by the end of 2019.

If you’d rather plan your own Scottish Gin Trail route, a good place to begin is on the island of Islay, long known as a bastion of Scottish whisky where brands like Ardbeg, Bowmore, Lagavulin and Laphroaig are all based. In 2011, the innovative Bruichladdich whisky distillery produced the island’s first gin, The Botanist. It was greeted with skepticism, but today Bruichladdich sells more gin than whisky by volume. You can take a Botanist gin tour four times a week in the summer and once a week in the winter.

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Meet The Japanese Contraption Making The Best Whiskey Drinks

he Whiskey Highball is a thin and insipid drink. It is made by taking perfectly delicious whiskey and diluting it with sparkling water. The name “highball” sounds celebratory and festive and vaguely suggestive, but don’t be fooled: it’s another name for “whiskey and soda.” In an era in which serious drinkers embrace potent, spirit-forward cocktails, Highballs have all the appeal of light beer.


I’ve never been a Highball fan for the reasons outlined above. So, on a trip to Japan earlier this year as a guest of Beam Suntory, I was puzzled by its ubiquity. It was more common than even the cute, wide-eyed kittens on teenagers’ backpacks—I spotted Highballs on commuter trains as salarymen cracked open tallboys of the stuff. In Tokyo, happy-hour crowds lined up at bars to get Highballs dispensed from futuristic-looking machines.

And the Highball has invaded the United States—it’s everywhere these days, and it a good contender for the it drink of the year.

It occurred to me that the problem was not with the Highball, but with me. And my problem, it tuned out, was simple and easily diagnosed: I had grouped Highballs with classic cocktails and rated it accordingly.

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Showing Off Poitín, Ireland’s Homegrown Spirit, At A New Bar. One That’s All Poitín, All The Time.

Is poitín the moonshine of Ireland? In some ways, yes. But that wouldn’t be doing the spirit justice. Poitín (pronounced po-cheen) is traditionally distilled in a pot still, from where it gets its name, the Irish word pota (pot)—or depending on who you talk to, póit, meaning hangover. But don’t worry—as with any spirit, the good stuff shouldn’t leave you with a hangover. Distilled from grain, potatoes, cereals, whey, sugar beets or molasses, poitín can evoke white whiskey or vodka with its own complex, robust flavor profile. But it’s a spirit you don’t find much outside of Ireland.


Thankfully, poitín maker and bar manager Dave Mulligan is changing all that. And where else but from the great city of Dublin? “My father gifted me a bottle of illegal poitín from his hometown, Sligo, in the west of Ireland,” he says. “After a late night of drinking and talking about the history, I became a man obsessed. How has nobody done anything with our national spirit?”

Some have tried. Houston’s Irish-inspired restaurant and bar Poitín features more than 20 cocktails on its menu, yet only two include the Irish spirit. This is partly an access issue, as up until now only a few brands are imported to the States. The Sun Tavern had the biggest poitín collection in the world with just under 20 bottles at last count, but it’s predominantly a whiskey and beer bar.

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So We’re Putting Cocktails In Clay Now

This past summer, Houston restaurant Squable began offering a cocktail called And I Mean Ice. Consisting of gin, Campari and vermouth, the ruby-red cocktail was not your average Negroni. Its unusual presentation—served over a hunk of ice-cold flint rock—offered a tangible nod to the imperceptible way the cocktail had been prepared: aged in unglazed terra cotta pots for two weeks prior to serving.


There is, of course, a lengthy history of aging wines in clay earthenware, dating as far back as 8,000 years ago; the practice has recently been readopted by scores of natural winemakers across the globe, who find that the clay allows for greater control over temperature and oxygen exchange. But its crossover to the cocktail world is a more recent phenomenon, dating back only a few years—to 2013, to be precise.

It was then that Douglas Derrick took over as wine director at Nostrana, a modern Italian restaurant in Portland, Oregon. “That job really opened me up to the world of amphora-aged wine, mainly Georgia and what was happening in Italy with [Elisabetta] Foradori making incredible wines that were influenced with texture and flavor and oxygen, but not vanillin from oak,” he explains. “The joke started at that point: I want to age cocktails in an amphora. No one else has done that and that would be amazing.”

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