March 16 • Uncategorized
A vodka was recently launched in Texas, BLK EYE (no, don’t ask me how you pronounce it), that’s made from black-eyed peas. It’s not exactly an obvious choice for a spirit, but it’s far from being the most unusual. I was also recently told about a gin made from cheese, and in the UK Black Cow Vodka made from milk is a stunningly smooth vodka that’s been winning all kinds of awards around the world. So why not give peas a chance?
To understand how these creations are possible, you need to know the basics of the distilling process, which is quite simple at its heart. You take something that has got either sugar or starch in it, which applies to thousands of natural items such as potatoes, wheat, grapes… and black-eyed peas.
If the item has starch but no sugar, like potatoes, then you boil them to make a mash. In this case you’ve made a potato mash rather than mashed potatoes, and you’ve turned some of those starches into sugars. If you’re using something that already has sugar in it, like fruit juice, you can skip the boiling.
The next step is fermenting. You take either the mash or the stuff with sugar in it, and throw in some yeast. It starts to ferment, and yeast attacks sugars and creates ethanol, otherwise known as ethyl alcohol. After a few days you stick everything in a still and heat it. This is distilling. It drives off the alcohol, which you collect and drink, after watering it down a little. If you’ve ever had a sip of undiluted alcohol, you’ll know why. It’ll be your eyes that are watering.
The process is even simpler if you start with something like wine, which has already been through the fermentation process. Then you go straight to the distilling. Vodka has been made from pinot noir, and even from beer, but there could be a reason the shelves of your local liquor store are not overflowing with vodka made from beer.
It’s much more common to make vodka from grapes rather than wine, and Ciroc is the most famous vodka that’s made from grapes.
Most vodka is made from rye, wheat or potatoes, as they work best to create a smooth taste. They’re also cheap and widely available. But that doesn’t stop distillers experimenting with other source materials. Some smack of gimmicks, others produce interesting results. In Japan there’s vodka made from Japanese rice. Heck, they make sake with it, why not vodka?
There’s vodka made from sugarcane, from quinoa, from peaches (as opposed to peach-flavored vodka), and several from apples. Snow Leopard Vodka is made from spelt (which is a type of wheat) and it’s superb… as well as supporting a good cause, the protection of snow leopards.
Other less-conventional ways of making vodka include from soybeans, figs, whey, honey, sugar beets, cream corn, and sorghum. Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka is made from a combination of cream corn and peaches, while both Tito’s and Deep Eddy Vodka use corn. One vodka’s even been made from the most evil-tasting substance known to man: horseradish.
Which brings me back to black-eyed peas, and a vodka made not out of novelty but out of necessity. A farmer was growing black-eyed peas in Muleshoe, Texas, and one year he saw that the crop wasn’t exactly going to be great. Wondering what he could do with black-eyed peas that were below-par, he had the bright idea of trying to make vodka from them.
The vodka’s distilled 22 times, each distillation removing the heads and the tails (the poorer-quality parts of the distillate), to concentrate the best part. They’re clearly doing something right, as straight from the get-go the vodka’s been winning gold and silver medals in competitions from New York to San Diego, and even worldwide. Not bad for the humble black-eyed pea.
July 25 • Music
Jim Morrison and The Doors remain one of the most enduring enigmas of American Rock N’ Roll. The band that met in film school and called the streets of Venice their home, opened “the doors” to a psychedelic Rock N’ Roll discography that has planted and blossomed millions of fans around the world. And yet, there is still so much that has been overlooked, especially for what the city of Los Angeles meant for Jim Morrison.
July 15 • shots
It’s always a race against the heat in the West. Hell, there’s a score of difference races around here. There’s a race to the riches and a race to the hills where the riches lay. There’s a race to food and shelter and the means in which a man might make to get them. There’s a race to the women and to the brothels and saloons where you can find them at. I don’t look for my women in those places but I often find myself in them for other races. Mine is a race to whiskey. It’s only a matter of time before I find myself in one today.
March 01 • Distillers
France’s contributions to the world involve gourmet food, beverages, wine, the revolution, and the Eiffel Tower, to name some. Beverages like Cognac, Armagnac, and Champagne are famous the world over.
August 12 • Coffee Producers
The Stumptown coffee buyers are called the Green Team members. These people sit down around a
campfire or in the home of a producer and talk about the year’s crop. They have met with these
producers many times because they have slowly been working on building long-lasting relationships.