I have always disliked year-in-review top 10 lists simply because it's such an arbitrary number. So here, in no particular order, are just some of my favorite drinking-world moments of 2007.
(1.) Best News Story Comment: When I reported that an illegal cache of Jack Daniel's whiskey products, including some old and rare ones, had been seized in Tennessee and probably would be destroyed by the authorities, a reader e-mailed me this rhetorical question:
"When the authorities in Tennessee recover stolen art do they burn it?"
(2.) Best Host's Revenge: When I ask guests "What would you like to drink?" two responses I detest are "Anything" or "Whatever." A Singapore company run by people who dislike the same thing came up with soft drinks called "Anything" and "Whatever."
They could be any one of a dozen different tastes, but there is no indication on the labels, so indecisive guests get what they deserve.
(3.) Best Drinking and Driving: Put down the protest signs. Some fellow writers and I did the drinking and the charter-bus driver did all the driving — through Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia as we traversed the major portion of the American Whiskey Trail, visiting distilleries and historic spots. If you missed my report, it's at tastefortravel.blogspot.com/2007/04/on-american-whiskey-trail.html.
(4.) Best Ad Campaign: The bust-a-gut-laughing set of TV commercials for the Irish whiskey known as The Knot. (See the whole batch of them online at youtube.com/watch?vXHpdhYsb5Yc.) They feature a bantam-rooster sort of guy in a pub who takes no nonsense about whiskey.
(5.) Best Appelation Visit: After participating in a wine competition judging in Napa, Calif., I drove to nearby Lodi to experience a region in transition from wine grape producing to winemaking. The region is dotted with third- and fourth-generation family operations working hard at making the Lodi brand known outside the Pacific Coast, just as Napa did in its early days. You can read about it at tastefortravel.blogspot.com/2007/08/grape-escape.html.
(6.) Best New Cocktails Tried: In the course of my business I try a lot of different drinks, some very complex, some simple. I like simple better. In two establishments — T-Bar at Charlie's Restaurant in Lake Placid, N.Y., and the Reluctant Panther Inn in Manchester, Vt. — I coincidentally ran into signature drinks created for each place by Las Vegas-based mixology guru Tony Abou-Ganim then used by the on-premises bartenders to spin off their own versions.
At T-Bar, I enjoyed both the Gondolettes' Blackberry Caiprosca, a simple drink with a complexity of flavors from muddled fresh lime and berries with citrus vodka. Bartender Laura Keaney's recipe switched it to a raspberry recipe with equal success.
At the Reluctant Panther, the signature drink takes on the name of the establishment. It's a mixture of Belvedere vodka, freshly-made lemon sour, chambord, champagne and blackberries marinated in Grand Marnier. Bar manager John Cohen created a spinoff using Stoli Blueberry vodka, freshly-made lemon sour, Blue Curacao, Sprite and fresh berries marinated in Grand Marnier.
(7.) Best New-to-Me Beer: Tona, hands down. This Nicaraguan beer is a lager made with German yeast and malt, North American hops and Nicaraguan deep-well water. When I served it at a beer blind-judging session, among the comments were: "I'd drink this beer all night … It's very rich and creamy. … Plenty of taste but doesn't overdo the carbonation so it goes down easy. … This is easy to evaluate: It's an excellent beer!"
(8.) Best New Old Distillery: No contest here. While some distillers were pumping millions of dollars into new or expanded facilities, the historic-minded folks at Mount Vernon, Va., rebuilt George Washington's original distillery, based on his diary accounts of the operation that burned down nearly 200 years ago.
Washington's rye whiskey has been recreated there, and the new structure is being used as a tourist attraction several miles from the mansion. I was privileged to be part of the invited group attending the official opening of the facility, and sampled some of the young rye.
(William M. Dowd covers the beverage world at BillDowd.com.)
c.2008 Hearst Newspapers