Crown Royal

Crown Royal is an immensely popular, recognizable brand and the best selling Canadian whisky in the United States. This blended whisky was originally created as a tribute to King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth’s royal visit to Canada.
Crown Royal is a whisky that is blended by mixing finished whiskies and a base spirit. These whiskies are created with water that is naturally purified through limestone, natural corn, rye and barley. Next, it is perfectly blended and patiently aged in oak barrels, which contributes a smooth finish with notes of oak and vanilla.

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We received three bottles of Crown Royal for review: Crown Royal XO, Crown Royal Reserve, and their newest addition, Crown Royal Regal Apple.

The Crown Royal XO is blended with 50 whiskies and finished in cognac casks from the Limousin forest in France. This exceptional blend of Canadian whisky is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks. However, it can be used to create a great Old Fashion. The XO is heavy on the nose with notes of oak, fruits, and vanilla. The palate contains notes of citrus and dried fruit and hints of barrel oak. The finish is long with hints of vanilla and spice.

The Crown Royal Reserve is another offering of Canadian blend whisky that contains a higher percentage of aged whisky compared to the blended Crown Royal flagship. I keep referring to this as the Crown Royal “Special Reserve” but they since dropped the special from the name. The nose of the Reserve has a noticeable rye spice and floral notes. The palate is light and sweet with notes of oak and vanilla. The feel of this Reserve is very mellow and smooth and finishes strong.

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The Crown Royal Regal Apple is another attempt by Crown Royal to capitalize on the growing trend that is “flavored whisky”. Crown Royal previously introduced the Crown Royal Maple and Boozeblogger found that it made a great Maple Moscow Mule! We were not sure exactly how to enjoy the Apple flavored Crown Royal. The nose is overpowering with sweet sugary Apple notes, reminiscent of a jolly rancher. There were not a lot of your typical whisky aromas. The Apple may need to be toned a bit and serve only to compliment the whisky. The taste continued with the strong sugary Apple flavor and finished with cinnamon and spice. The best way to enjoy this whisky will most likely be in the form of shots.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Buffalo Trace Distillery has a rich heritage and distinguished history as a premier American bourbon maker.  This distilling tradition reaches back two centuries to 1787.  Situated along the banks of the Kentucky River, Buffalo Trace is named for the bison who traversed the etched traces through Kentucky and on westward.  Buffalo Trace’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is an exceptional example and benchmark among Kentucky’s variety of great bourbons.

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The booming bourbon demand has created shortages among Buffalo Trace’s bourbon reserves.  Americans are turning back to a spirit that is recognized for its quality and complexity, similar to the craft beer boom.  The growth of bourbon sales has no immediate expectations of slowing down.  Because the method of maturing a great bourbon is a process that takes years, the wait and increase in demand has created a shortage that appears to only continue.

Buffalo Trace’s flagship bourbon is a deep amber.  The aroma is a heavy molasses with a vanilla sweetness.  I best enjoyed this bourbon neat, allowing all of the great flavors best enjoyed.  The palate was spicy and sweet, with a noticeable oak and caramel finish.  The finish was exceptionally long and continued with the spicy notes.  This is a workhorse bourbon whiskey that is flexible enough to be used in a combination of great cocktails.

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Here is a great cocktail that highlights the flexibility of Buffalo Trace:

Bufala Negra

1 1/2 oz Buffalo Trace

4 basil leaves

1 brown sugar cube

1/2 oz balsamic syrup

2 oz ginger beer

Served in an old fashioned glass topped with ice and fresh basil for garnish.

I particularly enjoyed Buffalo Trace as a stand alone drink, but I’m excited to continue experimenting with this great bourbon.

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Sauza Strawberry Margarita Recipe

This margarita recipe from Sauza is one of our favorites.  Make this in a pitcher and pour into cocktail glasses with lime and strawberry garnishes!

1 1/2 cups Sauza Signature Blue Silver Tequila

1/2 cup DeKuyper Triple Sec Liqueur

1 cup Pucker Strawberry Schnapps

3 cups sour mix

Sliced strawberries and limes for garnish

Preparation: Add ingredients to an ice-filled pitcher.  Add sliced strawberries and lime, stir and enjoy!

Serves 8


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Bruichladdich Distillery

The Bruichladdich Distillery, pronounced brook-lad-dee, is situated on the isle of Islay in Scotland. Bruichladdich is renowned for its single malt scotch and signature Classic Laddie.  We had the opportunity to taste this wonderful Scottish Barley. The Little Laddie is an exceptional unpeated scottish barley and the signature bottle is beautiful.

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The aroma of the Bruichladdich Scottish Barley is bright and citrusy.  Including notes of lemons, wild flowers, and vanilla.  My first taste of Little Laddie is dry and sweet.  Here there are flavors of oak, barley, grapefruit, and sweetness.  The finish was medium and includes more sweetness, vanilla, and warmth.  This is an exceptional Scottish Barley that is meticulously crafted.  The flagship whisky by Bruichladdich is one of our favorites at Boozeblogger.

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We also had the privilege of tasting an artisanal gin created by Bruichladdich, The Botanist Gin.  This is a top-tier gin with huge notes of citrus and flowers that is reminiscent of a fresh meadow.  This floral gin incorporates 22 botanicals that are indigenous to Islay.  The flavor of The Botanist is predominately floral and citrusy.  With so many ingredients being incorporated, it becomes apparent how well Bruichladdich has crafted this gin.  The finish is complex and rich with flavors of mint and citrus.  The Botanist gin is beautiful, the typography and names of all the botanicals etched into the bottle, is unlike any other bottle.


The Bruichladdich Distillery has created a phenomenal whisky and gin.  We look forward to several more tasting of these and other expressions offered by Bruichladdich.

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Cinco de Mayo with Sauza Blue Tequila

Cinco de Mayo is the perfect time to break out that ninja blender, a bottle of tequila and make some Mexican restaurant margaritas.  Sounds like a past post of ours.  Boozeblogger knows just a little about having a great time on Cinco de Mayo.  We’ll share with you how to best enjoy the 5th of May with some of our favorite food and drink recipes.

A great way to start your festivities is with homemade chips and guac.  You’ll need something to snack on before you get into those margaritas.  It’s super easy to make these chips and guac that taste as good as Chipotle.


Homemade Tortilla Chips

1 package of corn tortillas

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

3 tablespoons of lime juice

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Cut each tortilla into 8 chip sized wedges  I stack several tortillas and cut several at once.

Arrange the cut tortillas in a single layer on a cookie sheet

Apply oil to the tortillas

Bake for 7 minutes, turn pan, bake 7 more

Remove chips and place in large bowl, toss with salt and lime juice


Homemade Guacamole

3 ripe avacados

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup minced cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, mash avacados with fork.  Stir in onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt.


Sauza makes a perfect tequila for margaritas.  Their tequila makes the freshest tasting margaritas because it is made with a process called “Fresh Pressed Agave”.  This is accomplished by steeping the agave before the juice is extracted and cooked, giving it a very natural and fresh flavor.

We used the Blue Silver 100% blue agave which is clean, has a great agave taste, and bite to it.

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Here is what you need for the perfect mint margarita with Sauza:

1 bunch of fresh mint

3 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)

6 parts Sauza Blue Silver Tequila

2 cups club soda


salt for rim

mint for garnish

In a small pitcher, muddle together the mint leaves, sugar and lime juice until they start to melt together.  Add your Sauza Blue Silver Tequila.  Fill 4 glasses with ice and pour cocktail mixture 3/4 of the way to the top of each glass.  If you want, rim your glasses with salt by rubbing the rims with a lime wedge and dipping in a plate of salt.  Fill each glass with club soda and garnish with an extra sprig of mint.

Hudson Whiskey

Tuthilltown Spirits Farm Distillery is bringing back the tradition of whiskey distilling in The Big Apple.  Tuthilltown’s high quality handcrafted rye whiskey is the first since prohibition to be distilled in the Hudson Valley.  Also, Tuthilltown has the oldest continuously operated grist mill in New York and in 1982 became part of the National Register of Historic Places.  All of this history has come together at Tuthilltown to create an amazing small batch whiskey that harks back to pre-prohibition booze.

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We were fortunate enough to get our hands on two of Tuthilltown’s great whiskeys.  The Hudson Manhattan Rye and the Single Malt.  These bottles of Hudson Whiskey go through a distillation process that includes custom copper pot stills, while each bottle passes through at least seven sets of hands before it leaves.  Hudson Whiskey has become a top tier whiskey distillery and their attention to detail throughout the distillation process is evident.

The Manhattan Rye is bottled at 92 proof and comes in a 375ml bottle.  This is one of the best American made rye whiskies.  It’s best enjoyed not mixed in a manhattan but sipped neat.  The aroma of the Manhattan Rye is sweet and bright, reminiscent of flowers and cherries.  The Manhattan Rye has a wonderful rye flavor, as well as, a bright flowery and fruity taste.  The finish has a little spice and char flavor but is exceptionally smooth.  This is one of our favorite rye whiskies here at Boozeblogger.

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Another great expression offered by Tuthilltown is the Hudson Single Malt.  The aroma of this whiskey is reminiscent of fresh cut wood and leather.  Also, scents of sweetness and citrus.  The taste has a strong flavor of barrel char, somewhat harsh, and spicy.  Also present are notes of vanilla and oak.  It finishes strong and quite dry, definitely has a long lingering and tingly finish.  This is an excellent offering from Hudson.

We’ve found the Manhattan Rye to be more to our liking.  Both offerings are excellent examples of american whiskey that is not bourbon.  We look forward to further tasting and review of Hudson!

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Teeling Whiskey Company

Teeling Whiskey Company hails from Dublin, the hub of Irish whiskey production.  Here the Teeling Whiskey tradition began in 1782 with Walter Teeling and once again in Dublin, this once prosperous distillery has become relevant again. And right where it started in Dublin back in 1782.

Brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling are carrying on the family craft with their new distillery.  Teeling Whiskey is confident they will bring Irish whiskey in Dublin back to its celebrated roots.

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Teeling’s exceptional small batch blend contains a high malt ratio and is finished in rum casks for added spice.  The rum cask finish creates an amazing aroma and a delicious rum finish.  The small batch blend has been non-chilled filtered at a noticeably high 46% ABV.  This is a unique and special addition to small batch Irish whiskeys.

The aroma is fruity and reminiscent of oranges, apple pie, and spice.  This spicy aroma follows into the palate and includes notes of toffee and cinnamon.  The finish was smooth and the rum cask finish becomes apparent here.  This Irish whiskey is complex.  Teeling definitely has a winner with this one.

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This whiskey is best enjoyed on its own but really develops after a few drops of water have been added.  An Irish whiskey that is beautifully smooth and full bodied, Teeling has a special whiskey with this small batch.

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Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka

Zubrowka is an herb-flavored vodka that is distilled from rye and interestingly tastes great with apple juice, as it is traditionally had.  The name comes from the Polish word for the bison that enjoy grazing the Bialowieza Forest.  This fusion creates a uniquely sweet flavor that is unlike any other vodka.

There is some controversy over the FDA prohibition of the coumarin contained in this vodka (product of the bison grass).  Zubrowka contains trace amounts of this mildly toxic compound and was banned at one time here in the US.  Zuborwka has reintroduced it’s vodka in the US with a reformulated version, and I’m glad they did.

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This aromatic and sweet vodka is definitely smooth and exceptional.  It’s really hard to nail down the unique flavor of this vodka.  It contains notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and almond.  These flavors work so well with apple juice or cider, and maybe even mixed with more booze, like a hard cider.  This creates a drink that is reminiscent of apple pie.

Here is a great recipe for enjoying Zubrowka.

ZU & Cider

2 parts ZU

4 parts hard cider

Mixed in a tall glass with ice and garnished with apple slices

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Turtle Anarchy Brewing

I was recently in Nashville, TN and decided to find a local brewery that I could visit.  Turtle Anarchy was instantly recommended to me, and being completely unaware of it’s existence, it was the perfect choice.  I had no expectations going in, which is always the best.  Sometimes making uninformed decisions about what booze to consume is a great idea, but usually not.  (Case in point, the one time my friend decided to buy and drink a pack of Steel Reserve.  Is that even beer?)

Turtle Anarchy was located in an industrial area and in a somewhat of a odd location for a brewery.  Apparently, in Williamson County, if the brewery is not also a restaurant it is required to be located in a industrially zoned area.  This is common in the Nashville area.  Which is unfortunate for Turtle Anarchy, because they have great beer and should be in a more prominent local.

When we entered, we were greeted by the most awkward employee.  The inside had several picnic tables constructed of iron pipe with wood tops and the floor was a stained concrete.  It had a very industrial vibe.  I ordered a sampling of the ten brews they had on draft. I enjoyed tasting the entire line up but the stouts are what caught my attention.  In particular, the 11th hour on NITRO was supremely smooth.  This is their flagship stout infused with vanilla beans.  It has a chocolatey and roasted hops aroma with a sweet vanilla finish.  It’s a solid stout.

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Overall, it was a great decision to visit Turtle Anarchy.  Next time I’m in Nashville, I would love to stop by for a refill of my growler!

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How to Use Honey in Cocktails

From serious eats cocktail contributor:

Michael Dietsch


Tips on using honey to add flavor to your drinks. [Photo: Jennifer Hess]

If you’re looking for a cocktail sweetener, it’s time to look beyond sugar.

For bartenders and home drink-makers who strive to introduce a locavore element to their cocktails, honey is a goldmine. Honey from your local food shed is made by bees that feast on the nectar of local plants, carrying subtle flavors and scents from the plant back to the hive, where the honey is made. If you live in an area known for its blueberries, say, or its oranges, you can find honeys that carry the essence of blueberry or orange blossom. Find them at a farmers’ market or health food store and mix them thoughtfully into a drink, and you can add a subtle locavore kick to your cocktails.

But even clover honeys or those you find at big-box groceries—y’know, the honeys you buy in bear-shaped bottles—impart enticing floral notes you can’t find in sugar. You can make great drinks with mass-market honey, thanks to honey’s ability to pair well with spirits, citrus, and other cocktail ingredients.

At the recent San Antonio Cocktail Conference, Charlotte Voisey led a discussion of how to use honey to make layered, lightly floral cocktails. Voisey started in restaurant management at the age of 18 and opened her own bar—London’s Apartment 195—six years later. She’s now a brand ambassador at William Grant and Sons. The seminar got me buzzing with ideas, and today, I’ll talk about how to mix with various types of honey and create balanced cocktails, and how to make honey syrup.

[Photo: Jacqueline Raposo]

Need to brush up on what honey is and how it’s produced? Jump over here for a peek into the secret lives of honeybees.

There’s one more thing I should mention: since honey is an animal product, many vegans don’t eat it. Further, some people are allergic to honey. If you use it in a cocktail, be sure you let your guests know, no matter whether you’re a bartender or a home-mixmaster.

Which Type of Honey Should You Use?

[Photo: Jacqueline Raposo]

Honey ranges from lightly floral varieties such as clover honey all the way up to earthy, dark, and rich options such as buckwheat honey. Which type you choose depends on the direction you want for your cocktail and the other ingredients you’re using.

    • Clover honey is light in both color and flavor, sweet, and mildly flora. It’s a workhorse behind the bar, and it’s hard to go too wrong using it. Reach for clover honey in any cocktail that calls for honey, unless the recipe specifies a certain type.


    • Alfalfa honey comes from the alfalfa plant, which grows mostly in Western states. It’s mild, with a subtle grassiness; it’s a common table honey, and in cocktails you can generally use it interchangeably with clover honey, although you should account for the fact that it’s both lighter tasting and sweeter than clover honey. Unless a recipe specifies a certain honey, alfalfa will work fine.


    • Orange blossom is also a mildly-flavored honey. The name is a bit of a misnomer, since it can be made from grapefruit or other citrus blossoms as well as orange. The flavor is mildly sweet and has light hints of fresh citrus. Orange blossom is a good choice for citrusy drinks, or paired with lighter spirits, such as gin or vodka, where its floral notes will really shine.


    • Blueberry honey is made by bees feasting on the nectar of blueberry bushes, mostly in New England and Michigan. It has noticeable berry flavors, and it works well in cocktails made with fruit and berry flavors; it’s also nice in drinks where you might want a delicate berry flavor without using actual berries—for example, in a delicate gin cocktail, such as a French 75, with the honey syrup subbing in for simple.


    • Buckwheat honey is a dark brown and strongly flavored variety that tastes much like very dark molasses. Funky and earthy, it has flavors of dark chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. Use it in rich cocktails where the complex, dark flavors won’t overpower the other ingredients. Pair buckwheat honey with rum, bourbon, rye—even a peaty Scotch would be a good choice.


  • Other honey options. There are many, many more types of honey; hit your local markets and see what’s available to you. Honeys that come from herbal sources, such as sage honey and thyme honey, offer savory notes that could play well with tequila or gin, two spirits with flavors that reward savory experimentation. Chestnut honey’s flavors of wood and smoke are nice in a hot toddy made with a great blended Scotch or Irish whiskey. Guajillo honey, if you can find it, is almost jammy, with flavors of stone fruit; try using it in a margarita variation.

How to Make Honey Syrup


[Photo: Vicky Wasik]

Working with honey in cocktails is pretty simple, but the one thing you need to do first is to make your honey into a syrup. Honey on its own is a little too thick to mix well with other ingredients, unless one of those ingredients is hot. Honey in hot tea is fine, but honey in an ice-filled cocktail shaker won’t mix in nicely.

Making honey syrup is easy, almost as easy as making simple syrup. No, wait, it’s exactly as easy as making simple syrup. All you do is take equal parts honey and water and heat them in a saucepan until the honey melts into the water. Bottle, cap, and store in the fridge for two weeks. If you don’t need a lot, get a teeny pan and make a syrup of 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup water. If you need more, double or even quadruple the formula. The syrup shouldn’t separate in the fridge, but it doesn’t hurt to shake before using.

A one-to-one ratio of honey to water will make a mild-tasting honey syrup. For something richer, you can bump up the ratio of honey to water, making a 2:1 syrup or even a 3:1.

Another option is to make an herb- or spice-infused honey syrup, as the chef Jonathan Benno mentions in this piece on using honey in the kitchen. This is an opportunity to add more flavors that will blend well with your other ingredients. In the Bee’s Knees, for example; a little ginger works, as would lemongrass or thyme.

Just add the herb or spice (go light; a little goes a long way) into the pan with the honey and the water, and then strain them out when the syrup is cool.

Seeking Balance in Honey Cocktails


[Photo: Jennifer Hess]

Before you begin making cocktails, taste the honey on its own. Make sure you understand its flavors and aromas. Taking notes is good, but don’t get caught up in tasting-note jargon; just jot down your general impression of the honey.

Ask yourself: how will this honey balance with the other flavors in the cocktail? Are the spirits and other ingredients you’re using light and herbal? Bold and aggressive? Somewhere in between? Intense buckwheat and chestnut honeys wouldn’t work well in, say, the Bee’s Knees, which is made with gin and lemon juice. But clover honey will work well, and orange-blossom honey will be even better.

Keep in mind that honey, especially the kind you get from local apiaries and farmers’ markets, is a natural product. It changes from season to season. The flavors and aromas you get from a jar in April won’t necessarily be the same in August. Taste each new jar you buy, and adjust your recipes if necessary.

If you’re adapting a recipe that uses sugar or simple syrup, it’s safest to start with less honey syrup than the recipe calls for. Honey syrup has more flavor than regular simple syrup, and you don’t want to overwhelm your drink. I suggest halving the sweetener, testing the drink, and then adding more honey syrup to taste.

Not sure where to start? Consider experimenting with apple brandy cocktails, swapping in honey syrup for other sweeteners, or using it to enhance the other sweetener. Apples and honey are a terrific flavor combination; I’m sure your parents sometimes offered you a honey-dipped apple slice when you were a child.

My Favorite Honey Cocktail

Because I love bourbon cocktails, the Gold Rush is my favorite honey-laced drink. Little more than a bourbon variation on the Bee’s Knees, it melds honey, lemon, and bourbon, which come together harmoniously in the cocktail. I find it to be a nice variation on a traditional whiskey sour, with the honey providing a complexity that sugar lacks. The honey also brings out the spiciness in the bourbon. The name helps, too, calling to mind a pre-Prohibition cocktail, even though the drink is only a little over a decade old.

Originally Posted on serious eats:

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