Grain and the Grape

There’s an idea I’ve been working on for a while now.  The name of the drink is above; it comes from something my Dad once said – he refers to a long-held belief that the two should ne’er be mixed.  If you spend your night drinking fine wine, moving on to whisky at the end of the night is likely to lead to something of a monster hangover the next day. His preference is to move on to a Bas Armagnac (he’s always preferred them to Cognac), preferably a nice VSOP.  Older they get, the smoother they get; younger they are, the more flavoursome they tend to be.  Likely as not you’ll hear me expand on this train of thought at some point in the future.

I’m not entirely convinced that grain spirits and fruit spirits don’t combine – even if there is some chemically-based reason that mixing fermented grape juice and fermented grains will be more likely to cause a hangover (the idea has some merit, in a romantic sense, I’ll admit).  In terms of flavour, the two could match very nicely.

Which leads me to my latest little project.

I’ve wanted to develop a drink with this name for some time – mostly because it sounds catchy, but perhaps more importantly because I think if you’re smart about the grains and grapes you choose, there’s a great little concept to be played on.  My initial thoughts were based around Whisky and Cognac – which lead me to thinking that maybe something like a true curacao (i.e Grand Marnier) would be a good direction to go in.  I’ve tried twists on the Old Fashioned using a sweet liqueur like Grand Marnier before (and Tuaca, which was a favourite of mine) in place of sugar and I’ve had quite a bit of success.  Other thoughts lead to tangents, such as using Ciroc (a Vodka made from grapes, predominantly Ugni Blanc) to fulfil the grape element of the drink.  I even considered that since Vermouth is based on wine, a grain based Martini of the Vodka or Gin persuasion already meets the demands of the drink title .

Simply put, it would be very easy to fudge a drink that would fit the name.  Which really misses the point.  What I want to do here is create a drink that uses whisky and wine.  Given the vast array of both which are available, this isn’t too hard an idea to develop; I’m really aiming to create something special though.  I don’t want the drink to be an afterthought to the name, I want it to exemplify the best qualities of its ingredients.

That I will use Scottish whisky is already without question.  That I will use French wine is also a given.  Why?  Simply put, because when my Dad made the statement he was talking about Single Malts following wine versus French brandies following wine.  Specifically Armagnacs.  As such, my leanings are presently towards using a lighter Scotch such as Glenmorangie with a southern wine – Jurancon Doux being my line of thought.   If you’re up on your vinography, (I’m coining that word) you’ll be aware that Armagnac centres around the hilariously named town of Condom in the Pyrenees.  It is a mere valley over from the town of Jurancon, which is home to a superb wine of the same name, coming in two primary varieties – Sec (Dry) and Doux (Sweet).  The Sec is great table wine, I’m actually very fond of it and will grab a bottle at any opportunity since it doesn’t often make it to the UK.  The Doux, on the other hand, is a wine which knocks my socks off.  In all seriousness, you can keep your Sauternes.  Oh, they’re great examples of botrytis Semillon, and their creation is an art form in itself, but I’ve got an emotional attachment to Jurancon Doux.  Historically, Henri IV of France was baptised with the stuff;  his parents clearly had the right idea.

Anyway.  Sweet aperitif/pudding wine, paired with a floral and delicate whisky.  Stirred, most likely, with some Whisky Barrel (or even Xoxolatl Mole) Bitters.  Either that or something Speyside, a Mortlach, or a Springbank, depending on where I decide to go with this.

Short version is that I plan on developing a drink whose starting point is a Scotch Old Fashioned using sweet wine instead of sugar.  I know what I’m like though, so I probably won’t settle for that as a final concept.  I’ll want to add one more ingredient that really separates this from being ‘and Old Fash with substitutes’.

Now, where did I leave that bottle of Chartreuse?


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