Profile: Keith Allison

From The Alcohol Professor

Keith Allison is a freelance writer, traveler, and professional imbiber raised in Kentucky and living in New York City. His goal in life is to be Nick and Nora Charles.

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NoteStreams By Keith Allison

Martini & Myth: Part IV

Editor’s Note: August is Martini Month at Alcohol Professor! Why? Well, any day is an excuse to sip a refreshing Martini, however, in the dog days of summer, there’s nothing like a Martini to quench a thirst. Enjoy this hebdomadal sipping trip through the lens of some familiar pop cultural figures. Cheers!
Alcohol Professor

Category: Cocktails

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Martini & Myth: Part III

The eternal quest for the perfect martini....vodka or gin? Olives or twist? Shaken or stirred??
We're going to explore all these and more - and we're even including recipes so you can mix it up at home, and decide for yourself!
August is Martini Month at Alcohol Professor! Why? Well, any day is an excuse to sip a refreshing Martini, however, in the dog days of summer, there’s nothing like a Martini to quench a thirst. Enjoy this hebdomadal sipping trip through the lens of some familiar pop cultural figures. Cheers!
Alcohol Professor

Category: Cocktails

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Martini & Myth: Part II

August is Martini Month at Alcohol Professor! Why? Well, any day is an excuse to sip a refreshing Martini, however, in the dog days of summer, there’s nothing like a Martini to quench a thirst. Enjoy this hebdomadal sipping trip through the lens of some familiar pop cultural figures. Cheers!
See Part 1 – on James Bond and the Vesper cocktail here.
Alcohol Professor

Category: Cocktails

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Martini and Myth: Part I

August is Martini Month at Alcohol Professor! Why? Well, any day is an excuse to sip a refreshing Martini, however, in the dog days of summer, there’s nothing like a Martini to quench a thirst. Enjoy this hebdomadal sipping trip through the lens of some familiar pop cultural figures. Cheers!

Category: Cocktails

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Sinning In Sydney

Travel these days is not a comfortable experience. Spend any time in coach class on a flight - especially a flight down to Australia - and you'll find yourself in need of a drink...or two. Fortunately, Sydney has plenty of options to offer.
All photos by Keith Allison.

Category: Cocktails

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London's Historic Pints And Pubs

A very handy guide to the colorful histories of some of London's legendary pubs. Bring history alive with your next pint!

Category: Craft Beer

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A Brief History of the Negroni - Through James Bond

As the story goes...the Negroni was invented at the Caffè Casoni (formerly Caffè Giacosa) in Florence when Italian Count Camillo Negroni explained to the resident bartender, Fosco Scarselli, that, while the count did love himself an Americano, he wanted something similar but with a little more punch to it. Negroni suggested ditching the Americano’s soda in favor of gin.
But is that really the truth?!

Category: Cocktails

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How Dry Am I?

For Bourbon Heritage Month, growing up in a dry Kentucky county that allows distilling but not drinking, and its rebirth with Kentucky Artisan Distillery and resurrection of Old Taylor

Category: Cocktails

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Dispatch From Whisky Live Dublin

Several years ago, I lucked into attending Whisky Live Sydney when a vacation happened to correspond with the event. Focusing as it did on local spirits, it was a fantastic opportunity to taste a wide range of whiskies that I would otherwise never even know existed, let alone have a chance to sample. It seems my destiny is forever entwined with Whisky Live, because just last month, while vacationing in Ireland, I lucked into an invitation courtesy of Dublin’s own Teeling to attend Whisky Live Dublin, which, like the event in Sydney, focuses most of its energy on local whiskey, much of which isn’t and probably never will be available in the United States. Needless to say, I graciously accepted.

Category: Cocktails

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Tis The Season For Whisk(e)y 2015 Gift Guide

Is it that time of year already? So it is, and given that the holiday season doubtless involves Knecht Ruprecht showing up to swat people upside the head with his bag of ash, you’re going to need to arm them with the one thing that makes the intrusions of Santa’s many abusive sidekicks tolerable: whiskey.
We’ve searched far and wide, but mostly at the bar, and present to you our own suggestions for bottles that will delight whichever friend or loved one to whom you give them.
Be sure to remind them that the spirit of the season also behooves them to open it up and share.

Category: Cocktails

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School for Scoundrels

Cocktails and cardsharps in Atlas Obscurea’s one night only China Town casino.

Category: History

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Lady Day on Swing Street: Part II

Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and the jazz scene in New York City: clubs of a bygone era.

Category: Music

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Lady Day on Swing Street: Part I

Tracing the history of Billie Holiday and NYC nightlife through the Harlem Renaissance to Café Society.

Category: Music

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The Chairman, The Poet and the Dancer Part II

In part one of this tale, we’re introduced to Jilly’s Saloon, Frank Sinatra’s favorite bar, and the story of his friendship with owner Jilly Rizzo. Next we learn about the mobster plot to kill regular patron/TV talk show host Johnny Carson, and Jilly’s transition from casual midtown saloon to vodka emporium/Russian restaurant owned by famous exiles.

Category: Biography

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The Chairman, The Poet and the Dancer Part I

Russian Samovar opened in 1986, a partnership between three Russian expatriates: literature professor Roman Kaplan, famed poet Joseph Brodsky, and legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. All three men considered themselves “fundamentally pro-Russian, yet vehemently anti-Soviet Union.” They wanted a place where like-minded artists could gather, talk, listen to music, and eat. The vodkas came in the 1980s but the wooden bar has been there since the 1960s, when the place was called Jilly’s Saloon. Jilly’s was famous for a number of reasons, but two stand out above all others. One, someone decided to murder Johnny Carson there; and two, when Frank Sinatra was in New York, it’s where he would set up court, dining there several nights a week flanked by friends and associates.

Category: Biography

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Single in Seattle: A Visit to Westland Whiskey Distillery

I remember a time, not so very long ago, when the announcement of a new American whiskey was cause for celebration, usually in the form of drinking said whiskey. Nowadays though, with so much (not undeserved) to-do about fake distilleries and fake craft and crap craft and whatever else is making us mad, the announcement of a new American whiskey is more likely to spark a determined fact-finding mission with the goal of uncovering if, and if so how much, the whiskey’s marketing is trying to deceive consumers. Which is why my first sip of Westland, a west coast single malt made near Seattle, Washington, was such a delight.

Category: Cocktails

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The Bar That Birthed America

Despite our disastrous flirtation with Prohibition, much of the character of the United States, in the early days of its life as first a colony of Great Britain and later as a newly minted independent nation, was hammered out by men raising tankards of booze in taverns and public houses.
Fraunces Tavern, being one of the most significant, is still standing, a modest yet instantly noticeable tan brick Federal style building surrounded by the towering steel and glass that defines modern lower Manhattan.

Category: History

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Glenfiddich The Original 1963

In 1963 — as today — most scotch drinkers drank blended scotch.
But in 1963, they did it because that was just about the only choice. There was some small-scale bottling of single malt, but it was not a commercial endeavor. By and large, blended scotch was the only game in town.
That is, until a couple guys in “the valley of the deer” decided that single malt shouldn’t just be an ingredient. It should itself be a commercial product — and a premium one at that. The Original is a recreation of that historic single malt released by Glenfiddich’s Sandy Grant Gordon and Charles Grant Gordon in 1963.

Category: Cocktails

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Guide #4: The Land of Misfit Toys

Part of the fun of giving booze as a gift is surprising even the experienced drinker, hitting them with something new, something that surprises them but doesn’t disappoint. So consider mixing it up a bit. If you know a scotch drinker, give them a Cognac or a rum. A bourbon drinker might appreciate a mezcal. Swap gin and vodka.
Or you can give them something really out of left field. The following selections play the game a little differently, or they are often overlooked despite making fantastic gifts. We've got ideas for liqueur, absinthe, amaro and shochu!

Category: Cocktails

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Guide #3: Whiskey and Whisky

If I had to gamble, I’d bet on there being more whiskey changing hands this year than any other spirit, perhaps all other spirits combined. It is a vast, evolving, and occasionally overwhelming category that offers a seemingly endless sea of gifting potential. From tiny American craft distillers to long-lived Scottish single malts, there is a whiskey out there for everyone. You just have to find it (which can be a pretty fun search).

Category: Cocktails

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Guide #2: Rum, Cognac, Armagnac, & Calvados

It’s possible that Cognac is the ultimate gift liquor, that perfect blend of high quality and high regard. Both Cognac and Armagnac are types of brandy made in specific regions of France, and, like Champagne, can only be labeled as such if hailing from there.

Their cousin Calvados is a brandy made from apples, sometimes with pears added, rather than grapes.

And while not as established as a gift as Cognac, the amazing depth and complexity of Rum is due for a close examination comparable to what has happened lately with whiskey.

Category: Cocktails

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Guide #1: Gin, Vodka, Tequila & Mezcal

We can, I think, forego the suggestion of a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue, or Hennessy, or Remy. They are fine and welcome gifts, but you don’t need to be told again about them.
There is so much to include, and so little room if you want to actually be a useful guide. So let us reach into our bag and offer up some deep cuts along with some greatest hits. Something that will delight a casual drinker or surprise an old veteran. Something for all drinkers, from the extravagant to the bargain, but always well worth it!

Category: Cocktails

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With the Grain

In the United States, hamstrung by rules about barrels, distillers have started experimenting with the mashbill — substituting new and unique grains like millet or quinoa or oats in place of the traditional quartet of corn, barley, rye, and wheat.
And while it may not be new, its position as a product distillers and blenders are pushing in the market is something that has only recently started to gain traction. Whatever the case, it seems that Scottish whisky made from grains besides malted barley is going to emerge in the US as a player in the coming months and years.

Category: Cocktails

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Cocktail History: American Hotel Bars

Take a leisurely stroll through time and learn about the creative evolution of the American Hotel Bar. From its early representations in the late 18th century, all the way through to the modern day you'll meet the influencers that guided and shaped the cocktail to its current form. Cheers!

Category: Cocktails

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Hopped Up on Whiskey

When the craft distilling boom swept the country a beginning a few years ago, small boutique whiskey makers had to find a way to compete with the established macro-distillers, and unlike the craft brewing trend, they couldn’t position themselves as the better, more carefully made alternative since the big distillers have hundreds of years of experience and heritage and make an exceptionally high number of incredible whiskies. So what did they do?

Category: Cocktails

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Discovering Aperitifs and Digestifs

“Drink this. It’s distilled artichoke flavored with an old Italian guy punching you in the face with a fistful of pine bark.”
And I think, well, that sounds just fine.However, there comes a time when a man wants to venture forth from what he knows, maybe go backpacking across Europe, or at least tasting through the world of Italian and Alpine liqueurs — aperitifs, digestifs, and amari. Your tour begins here!

Category: Cocktails

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Prowling Prague for Czech Whisky

When you tell someone in Prague you are on the lookout for Czech whiskey, you get a lot of curious looks. On occasion, someone will tell you where can go for a decent selection of Scotch, but they will insist that Czech whisky does not exist. This is no conspiracy or act of malice. But there is, and while it has a low profile and many bartenders will be self-deprecating if they do have it, don’t let any of that fool you. Czech whisky is real, and it’s worth trying.

Category: Travel

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Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History

Bardstown, Kentucky’s Spalding Hall has been many things since its construction in 1826. Originally St. Joseph College and Seminary, it later became a hospital treating both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War, an orphanage, and a prep school. It is, however, its current incarnation that most interests me: the home of the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History.

Category: History

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The Still on the Hill: Charbay Whiskey in Napa

People go to Napa and Sonoma for wine. So naturally, I went to Napa for whiskey. Up a narrow, winding road to the top of the forest-and-vineyard covered ridge that separates California’s two wine valleys you will find the Charbay Winery & Distillery. Some things are popular for a reason.

Category: Cocktails

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Drink a Seelbach Cocktail on Derby Day!

As a former resident of the Bluegrass State, I am required by law to have a wealth of crazy stories about the Kentucky Derby. My in-state Derby memories come from when I was a kid and my family would, ironically, make the trek away from Louisville to Lexington for the annual party thrown by my parents’ friends, one of whom once got into a fist fight with a bus and came out on top. But that’s another story.
Recipe included!

Category: Cocktails

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Italian Futurism: Art + Drink

When I first heard about a bartender at an art museum who was himself an exhibit, someone who crafted molecular cocktails in which the drinker’s psychological mood was a key ingredient, I admit I sort of rolled my eyes at just how out of control and comical these complicated, novel variations on mixing a drink had become. Little did I know that there was already a substantial foundation for such mixological tomfoolery, reaching as far back as the early 20th century.

Category: Arts

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Blind Truth About Whisky Aging

Blind tasting whiskies - with and without age statements - at a Tales of the Cocktails Seminar
Spend any time in the whisky world, and you achieve certain signs of being a properly matured whisky aficionado. Among these is the understanding that neither price point nor age statement guarantee quality. During Diageo’s “The Blind Truth About Whisky Aging” panel at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the question of age versus maturity was put to the (blind taste) test.
It is exactly the sort of thing I wanted from a Tales seminar. Engaging speakers, a lot of history, and a lively topic with a lot of grist for the discussion mill — oh, and some really great whisky. It’s a complicated topic and a debate that will be going on for some times, but to me it’s a debate that should be waged in good spirits, and preferably while accompanied by good spirits. Cheers

Category: Cocktails

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Bourbon's Bones: Louisville's Bourbon History

Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail is a carefully cultivated and well worthwhile trip through the rolling green distilling landscape of the state’s bourbon industry. Even industrial behemoths likeJim Beam and Wild Turkey seem picturesque amid the lush hills outside of Bardstown or overlooking a bridge spanning the gulf of the Kentucky River. Conspicuous by its absence, however, is the state’s largest city, the one-time bourbon making epicenter of America, home still to two of the biggest producers of bourbon in the world: Louisville, the city in which I grew up (or the closest city you can get to from Centerfield, Kentucky).
It is only recently that the mighty city on the banks of the Ohio has started to reclaim its spot in bourbon history.
Our own, unofficial, unmapped bourbon trail.

Category: Cocktails

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Pairing Bourbon and Cheese

Pairing wine with cheese (and everything else under the sun) is a pastime that seems as old as the wine industry itself. While doing the same with bourbon isn’t entirely uncommon, it’s certainly substantially less common than with wine. Max McCalman, author of Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager, picking on behalf of the French Cheese Board — a new cheese-centric event space (!) and pop-up market dedicated to promoting European cheese — sat down with Stephen Schuler of Proof Positive Beverages, a New York based marketer for Four Roses, to match the distillery’s three expressions of bourbon with three cheeses.
For McCalman, bourbon and cheese make excellent partners. “It is very common to pair cheese with Cognac,” McCalman explained, “and Cognac and bourbon are very closely related.” Bourbon, then, makes an equally natural partner for cheese — especially when one takes into account just how many different flavors there are in the cheese world.
Includes pairing recommendations to try for yourself!

Category: Cocktails

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