The Road to Lynchburg

Lynchburg is widely acknowledge as the home of Jack Daniels. The pride of Tennessee. Founded in 1866, by Jasper Newton Daniel. The story and legacy behind the Jack Daniels brand is a classic tale, the American dream. The story of an orphan who found safety with a preacher and moonshiner. Stories that are told with pride and passed from generation to generation. In October, I was invited to visit Jack Daniels, and their cooperage in Trinity Alabama, for trip of a lifetime.
Late August I received an email from my Brown Foreman rep, Brown Foreman bought the Jack Daniels brand in 1956. She made me privy to an essay contest being held with Jack Daniels. They would be picking several winners from all over the Midwest and sending us on a trip to see the inner workings of the whiskey giants themselves, Jack Daniels. I quickly logged on to the site.
After a small sign up portion, I was ready to go. There were a series of 8 questions and after reading through them a bit of horror sunk into my gut. What was seemingly the basis of every question was the difference between Tennessee whiskey and bourbon. Another strong pattern I noticed was why as a mixologist I prefer to use one over the other in specific cocktails. Of course I know the technical difference between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, we will get in to that later if you are not so aware, but this was an essay for Jack Daniels. In my personal opinion, I love bourbon. I lean to it every time I make a whiskey cocktail. And if I was to answer the questions truthfully, perhaps this contest was just a little out of my reach.
With a couple hours of writing, and thinking, and rewriting, I had my finished product. It was honest and factual. I believe it showed my appreciation for the brand of Jack Daniels, without being to partial. I hit send. And I waited. For 2 months I waited, certain I didn’t make the cut.
Then one morning I received the email, it was time to pack my bags, Nashville was calling. The Road to BBQ Hill was an event designed to bring mixologists from all over the country to come and learn about Jack Daniels. It was made for networking. It was a hands on trip to show that Jack Daniels was greater than just Old No. 7. And it worked. I returned with a new found appreciation of the brand and legacy that it instills in the people that work there.
The journey began on Sunday after noon in Nashville. Tired and jet lagged from early flights, 40 bartenders from all over the Midwest gathered in the lobby of the 21 C Hotel. Other than a couple people who were from similar cities, we were all strangers. Luckily, I struck up a conversation with a bartender from right over the Ohio River in Covington, Brandi (check out her food explorations on Instagram at @tastecincinnati ). As we walked to the hustling sidewalks of Broadway, we talked about whiskey, things we both love about Cincinnati, and how in the heck we got involved in this crazy trip. Before we knew it we were high in the sky, enjoying the views of Broadway, eating a delicious meal, and of course drinking Jack Daniels. An amazing welcome. But the bus for Alabama was leaving early, and this was a work trip after all.
Day 2, Hello Trinity Alabama. Home to the Jack Daniels Cooperage. We were able to walk trough the plant and see every step of the barrel making process. These people take pride in their work, and it shows. A well-oiled machine. They even make the staves (slats of the barrels) in this facility. At each stage of the process there were counters, digitally keeping track of the number of barrels the employees have had pass through their station. It was only around 11:00 in the morning and one station had already logged nearly 500 barrels. During the tour, we were told that production ran at an average of 1,500 a day. Impressive!
The day wasn’t over, it was now time to get back on the bus and travel to Lynchburg. This is what we had been waiting for. As they divided us up into groups we were warned there would be some areas we would not be permitted to take pictures in. They also began telling us the story of Mr. Jasper Daniels himself. After his father died, he became an orphan. He was taken in by a preacher whom dabbled a bit in moonshine. Combined with the expertise of a then Slave Nathaniel Green and the preacher, Jasper Daniels began to distill. After finding a limestone spring in Lynchburg, Jasper Daniels decided that would be the place he would build his empire. And it still sits on the same land today.
We were invited to see the area where they make the coal, incase you are wondering, the main difference between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey is the charcoal filter. We toured mash rooms, walked around fermenter tanks. We visited the spring that Jasper Daniels founded all those years ago. Our tour guide told us about the generations of his family that worked for Jack Daniels, and pride he felt when he was brought on to be a part the company.
The last leg of the tour, we entered a barrel house. Nestled in the back was a beautiful tasting room with a charming fella in overalls. I’ll never forget his welcoming southern draw as he spoke to us about the different whiskeys made by Jack Daniels. His information was matched with humor, and the way he described the spirits was personal. He wasn’t reading information from a script. It was him, the way he smelled the whiskey, the way he tasted it, the way he wanted us to remember it.
An hour later we were back on the bus, and we rode to the top of BBQ Hill to watch the sunset on the empire that Jasper Newton Daniels built so many years ago. As I sat in the rocking chair over looking the valley, I realized that this essay contest wasn’t at all about bourbon verses Tennessee Whiskey at all. It was a friendly reminder. It is our job as mixologist to keep pushing the creativity and boundaries when using Tennessee Whiskey. It was about 40 strangers turned friends bonding over a glass of Gentleman Jack, and stories they will tell when they return home.

 

 

Margartia Showdown in the State Capital

photo credit Devin Rachelle

 

Margarita Showdown in the State Capital
Late this summer, Steiner’s Speakeasy was asked to compete in Margarita competition hosted by Remy USA, spirit broker for Cointreau. The competition was set at The Vue in the Brewery district of Columbus and the goal was to bring a creative cocktail to wow judges and guests alike. The only stipulation was, the cocktail must contain, you guessed it, Cointreau.
So first of all, let’s talk Cointreau. For those not familiar with this liquor it is French in origin and is used as a replacement for triple sec, a low grade orange schnapps. It is sweet and citrusy with a low boozy finish. You will find it in most back bars and is typically used in cocktails such as a perfect margarita or cosmopolitan.
The offer to compete in the state capital was too much for me to pass up. What a great opportunity, to go to the big city from little Chillicothe and go head to head with some of the best bartenders in the state. Ten booze slingers in a battle royal, only the best margarita would prevail!
Something like this takes a lot of time and preparation. Everyone has had a margarita, so how do you reinvent the wheel? Times like these is when it pays off to be my friend. I commandeered my friend Rob’s pool and together we hosted brunch, inviting 10 of Steiner’s Speakeasy’s regulars to swing by and try four different cocktails, by vote I would submit one of them for the competition. Each margarita was unique and special. The initial trial included a cucumber margarita, pit fruit margarita, strawberry lemon grass and ginger margarita, and a pineapple and tajin margarita. At the end of the day the margarita I chose to use was neither. I took what I loved about a couple them and combined them.
The final product was the inspiration of my traveling days while working for the cruise line industry. A blend of Polynesian and Central American influence. I took the pineapple shrub and added lemongrass and ginger to it, keeping the Tajin pepper rim. It is the perfect blend of sour, sweet, and bitter. A margarita worthy of any classic tiki menu. I kept to the traditional tiki style glassware, but chose to go more modern with glass instead of ceramic to give it a modern flare.
Competition day came quickly and I enlisted by fellow bartender Kelsey Smith to come along as my helper. We set up our table, mingled around with the other bartenders and prepared ourselves for the 250 people that would be walking in the doors to see what we were all made of. Now let me tell you, that is very intimidating. As the guests came in we were asked over and over, “Where is Steiner’s?” The shock on everyone’s face when we proudly proclaimed “Chillicothe”. We were the only bar present not from a larger city market.
As the night went on, more and more people came back for seconds and even thirds, proclaiming we were the best margarita in the room. Our confidence was high. One gentleman even gave us the praise that he would drive an hour for one of our margaritas. People were asking for suggestions for other things to do in Chillicothe. We were quickly putting together our sales pitch on all the great things happening in Downtown Chillicothe. From hiking and Hopewell Culture National Park to the great restaurants like R Kitchen and Fire and Stone. We talked up local shops like Ivy’s and Totem and brought up Airbnb’s where they could spend the weekend.
As the event was winding down, they called for everyone’s attention for awards. A fellow bartender beside Kelsey and I reached over to shake our hands and said “Congratulations”. We weren’t anywhere near as confident as he was. Then low and behold, they made the announcement, People’s Choice for best margarita was none other than, Steiner’s Speakeasy. I was proud of myself, proud of Kelsey, and super excited to be able to represent our town in front of such a large audience that was pretty blind to the amazing things going on in Chillicothe.
We won a competition where we only knew five people in the room. It was overwhelming and validating that after 5 years of hard work, we were making a name for ourselves and our community. We were reaching a larger audience and they were embracing us. In November, we will be competition in a Holiday Cocktail Contest. So stay posted to Steiner’s Speakeasy’s social media if you would like to come watch us give the big city another run for their money.

Dusting off those Winter Blues

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I have been pretty silent lately. I’ll be honest, there has been a major lack of inspiration for me. It’s winter in Ohio, and I have let it get to me. Thankfully, a couple weekends ago I had a beautiful weekend and I am rejuvenated.

So, what sparked it? I think we all suffer from the winter blues. Balancing my work life, personal life, and this… Whoa! It’s been crazy. Yesterday I threw on my Converse and drove down to Athens Ohio. No plan. No makeup. Something about roaming the streets of my college Alma Matter made me feel alive again.

Little Fish

I stopped at Little Fish first. I know when people think of beer in Athens, they think Jackie O’s. And they should. But, don’t count out Little Fish. They make a killer coffee stout and some pretty tasty sours. What put the wind in my sail was House IPA #4. It was like a citrus explosion in my mouth! It was very crisp and was partnered with a reasonable ABV weighing in at 6.6%. The color was gorgeous, sunshine in a glass, a little hazy. They were rocking a cool bluegrass playlist on Spotify, paired with good conversation.

Devil’s Kettle

Next up another newish spot in Athens called Devil’s Kettle. The owner is a previous winner of the Ohio Brew Week Homebrewers competition. Good beer, friendly folks, but we just couldn’t stay.

It was Sunday Funday at Jackie O’s Brewery. They had several bands playing and an art show going on. I had a chocolate stout (Sweet Chocolate Love to be exact) with blueberries called Kinda Blue. How was it you ask…. AMAZING! I’m a sucker for anything blueberry and you throw chocolate in the mix, heaven. It was rich and decadent with just a touch of blueberry. Normally I would say this style of beer is a one and done. Not Kinda Blue! I had two of these bad boys listening to the smooth groove of a local band called Bright at Night. Hold that… Maybe I had three. Don’t judge me, I wasn’t driving.

The weather was beautiful, the beer was delicious, and the music was funky. Therefore, it was the perfect day and way to find my mojo. Cheers!

 

Beer is the Reason God Made Oklahoma

Oooooooklahoma! Where the beer goes sweeping cross the plain. Okay, you got me. That is not how the song goes, but maybe it should be. I know that when you think about great beer cities to visit, nowhere in Oklahoma makes the list. All I’m saying is don’t count them out. On a recent trip out west I ventured around to find the best brew in Oklahoma. I was not disappointed.

Do ya feel me Tulsa?

First of all… There are a ton of nice people out here. Tell them you tulsapicwrite a beer blog, they are so interested in “why here”? My answer, Prairie Artisan Ales. We can occasionally get some brew from them in Ohio, but we hardly get the really cool stuff. I mean these people make beer for beer people! This brother duo has been producing top of the line beer since 2012. I was lucky enough to be in Oklahoma during the release of Rugby, a 5.4% ABV American pale ale. Oh, it’s good. It may be the perfect pale ale. My personal qualifications of a pale ale is that it is not overtly hoppy and that it has a light and refreshing taste with little aftertaste. Rugby is all of those things. Perfect for a 101 degree day (yeah, it was that hot). On a trip to the liquor store (because in Oklahoma they only sell 3.2% beer at stores and gas stations. You have to get the good stuff at the booze house) I found Prairie Artisan Bomb! Appropriately named, this was a 9% stout made with coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and chili peppers. So that may sound like over kill, but I promise it isn’t. All the flavors stand out and yet blend very well together. There isn’t a lot of heat, just enough to make it interesting and highlights the creaminess of the chocolate and vanilla.

Another great find in Tulsa is James E. Mc Nellie’s Public House. This is a great spot for a bite to eat. They boast 350 beers and counting, and a large selection of them are local. The ambiance is that of your typical Irish themed pub, but there is something special about this place so don’t overlook it if you are in Tulsa or Oklahoma City. The service was great, my turkey burger… delish, and I enjoyed a pint of Marshal Atlas! P.s. Their beer prices were amazing. Taxi!!!

I enjoyed my time in Oklahoma. The people, the scenery, and the beer were all top notch. I was leery to go on this little adventure, I wondered what kind of scene I would find out there. Well, you can find some fantastic brew all over this wonderful country. Tulsa is no exception.

So where should I go next? If you have a favorite beer destination and would like me to visit, drop me an email! tara@hopsandhighheels.com

Beer Brunch in the Queen City

My girlfriends and I are busy people. I know, I know, we all are right. With kids, jobs, and husbands (which should count as kids) it’s hard for us to find time to get together. When we do, beer is in our future. Where we live in Chillicothe there are several cities with a great brewery scene within a short drive. Sunshine, my ladies, and a good brew is a great way to spend a Sunday.

Okay, maybe I’m partial, but I love Cincinnati! Baseball, great shopping, museums, and beer… Oh the beer! If you can’t find a brewery you like here, you may just not like beer. Local microbrews are in virtually in every bar and restaurant. The love for local is spreading, you can even buy craft brew at a Cincinnati Reds game (there is a beer god)!

Cincinnati1Begin With Brunch

Start at Brew River Gastro Pub for the best brunch. This is a New Orleans style restaurant located in Historic East End Cincy. Their patio is the Bomb, and if you like shrimp and grits…DAMN! They have 23 taps, mostly local, and the service is great; ask for Joe he is really cool and knowledgeable about beer. They are a restaurant dedicated to locally sourced ingredients. There is nothing on the menu I wouldn’t eat. My personal favorite, poutine and eggs, a curry beef short rib gravy over fresh cut fries with two eggs and cheese curd. Boom… delicious!

Cross Over to Covington

Right across the river in Covington Kentucky, is this great little store called party source. You like booze? This is your Mecca! They have everything you need for great party, or slumber party in hotel room because you are a little to buzzed to drive. Cheeses, party hats, penis straws, and bourbon. You sure know how to get down Kentucky! There beer selection is top notch. I like that they sell a variety of single bottles as well as packages. The beer selection is divided by country, so it is easy to find your favorite styles. When you get to the United States section, they have it separated by state. The best part of Party source….drum roll please…..The brewery inside! Yes I said a brewery. So just in case you get thirsty while shopping for booze, go grab a beer. Ei8ht Ball Brewing makes some super drinkable beer. Want my suggestions (of course you do, why else would you be reading this), Nitro Cankle is an awesome English Pale Ale on nitro. It has a nice rich head, relatable to many beers on nitro. On my last visit to Ei8ht Ball, they were pouring up a pretty killer hefe called Hammock. A little birdie in the know down there said it’s full name is Banana Hammock, which is totally fitting for the slight banana flavor and aroma in the beer. Both beers are full in flavor and while Nitro Cankle packs a punch coming in a 9.5% ABV, Hammock is a mere 5.7%.

Cincinnati2Aside from the brews Ei8ht Ball makes, they also host a wide variety of guest taps. Danny Gold is there beer purchaser and to say he does a great job is an understatement. They host a wide variety of local taps as well as exotic finds, 42 taps in all (I always see 3Flyods here). On my latest trip to party source and Ei8ht Ball I tasted a fantastic porter from Moody Tongue. It was a churro porter. My tongue wasn’t moody, it was singing. It was rich, smooth, a little touch of cinnamon.

 

 

End Your Day at Mad Tree

A Sunday in Cincy with the ladies is not complete without a stop a Mad Tree. If you live anywhere south of Columbus Mad Tree is everywhere, so why stop there? You are barely scratching the surface of their greatness if you only rely on what you can get in cans at your local beer market. Don’t get me wrong, Lift is a great Kolsch, light and refreshing, it is the perfect “gateway beer”. But with Boysen the Hood a boysenberry wit and Dreamsicle which is lift brewed with vanilla beans and  orange peel, you have to go to the brewery. On our last little adventure there, I had a brown ale made with basil and shitake mushrooms. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Explore Cincinnati Area Breweries yourself:

So next time you are sitting around with your group of ladies on Sunday… searching for something fun to do. Jump in the car, turn on Spring Break 1995 on Pandora and drive down to Cincinnati. And when you do, take lots of pictures, I’ll post them to my blog website. Email them to tara@hopsandhighheels.com