Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Spirits Course and my Favorite Booze Selections

Santa was very generous to me this year. :)  (my own pic)
With New Years Eve quickly approaching, I thought I would voice my opinion and subsequent endorsement for some of my favorite booze. Santa was very generous to me this year, bestowing upon me 8 plus bottles of various spirits. My friends and family know me so well. ๐Ÿ˜Š And with a good 20+ years of hotel, bar, and restaurant experience I've learned a thing or two about fine spirits.

When I worked at the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, I took a professional spirits course with my good friend and boss, John Waldbillig. John was the Director of Purchasing and I was the purchaser, his right hand man so-to-speak. The course was held at the Four Seasons Hotel, our competitor, but they were gracious hosts and so professional in their service (as they should be to try and compete with the Ritz-Carlton!) LOL

Sterling Spirits held the day long course on the ins and outs of various types of liquor. We compared clarity, color, taste, smell, etc.  We first tasted the light spirits during the morning: vodka, gin, silver tequila, light rum. You didn't want to start off too heavy.

Next to each seat were these silver wine buckets we would "spit" in. After you took a swig of the alcohol, you swirl it around your mouth, carefully breathing in some air to get a fuller flavor, and then spit. You just cannot do these types of courses and swallow the booze. It just isn't possible or recommended. It is also professionally frowned upon to swallow. You need to conduct yourself as a hotel/restaurant professional and neatly spit the booze into the silver spittoon. But even with all the spitting, you still end up imbibing some of the alcohol sublingually so by time lunch rolled around, we were each feeling pretty good!

After a really nice, swanky lunch complete with many gin Tom Collins' being served, we tasted the brown liquors next: dark rum, gold tequila, whisky, scotch, and bourbon. By this time, I was definitely feeling the alcohol. The room had become quite warm. I couldn't tell a caramel taste from a vanilla one. Luckily I was in the company of those said professionals who were inadvertently getting sloshed along with me. Good company I may add!

After the event, Sterling Spirits hosted a happy hour in a beautiful wood paneled room in the hotel for us and served up bourbon Manhattans. (It may or may have not been wood paneled. Maybe the lights were just down and the room was dark. I dunno.) The rest of the evening was a bit blurry and since the course was completed, professionalism went out the window.

Bulldog London Dry Gin
I remember ending up at the Rittenhouse Hotel Boathouse Row Bar for a drink with good buddy John W. also known as JW or Big Daddy depending on who knew him, what time a day it was, or how many we had imbibed. We had a couple drinks at Locust Rendezvous Bar and then a couple more at the Pen and Pencil Writer's Club until closing, maybe 3 AM I think? WHAT A NIGHT. Fun stuff when your are young in the city and can bounce back the next day. It was one of my best memories with John W. as well (may he rest in peace).

I learned a lot about what the 'experts' felt were the best tasting liquors. I also learned that after a couple more years in the business, I made my own decisions on what I thought were the best tasting liquors. Taste a lot and make your own decisions. BUT ... if I may give my two cents, here are my favorites in no particular order:


Laphroaig 10 yr Single Malt Scotch: nice smokey peaty flavor. My favorite Single Malt Scotch. Very distinctive flavor though. Very rich, and did I say smokey and peaty! I mean it!

Bulldog London Dry Gin: Smooth, mellow, not overwhelming but with a fresh juniper flavor. Makes an excellent traditional martini.

Hendricks Distilled Scottish Gin: A sweet floral cucumber flavor; garnish with a cuc slice too. Just a Hendricks with a cuc slice on the rocks please!

Stateside Urbancraft Vodka
Lazzaroni Amaretto Liqueur: A sweeter amaretto flavor than what's normally out there. So nice for an after dinner drink.

Stateside Urbancraft Vodka: Philadelphia distilled vodka, I love it. Very smooth. I enjoy it on the rocks. Plus its from Philly so what's not to love?

Jameson Caskmates Whiskey: This Irish Whiskey is aged in barrels that once held craft beer. I find the flavor much smoother than your normal Jameson's.

Bulleit Bourbon: A flavorful "frontier" Kentucky whiskey, reasonable priced, and lots of  good ole history! I love making Manhattans with this bourbon. I taste notes of caramel, vanilla, and pepper when I sip this.

Organic Ocean Vodka: Hawaiian vodka distilled from organic cane sugar in a unique fun bottle. Very clean, very smooth and gluten free!

Ciroc Vodka: I have always loved Ciroc since it came out. Ultra-premium vodka made from French grapes. Distilled 5 times and incredibly crisp. Has a slight sweetness. I don't use olives with this one due to the sweetnes. Perhaps a lemon twist or lemon/lime wedge.

Toschi Nocello Walnut Liqueur: An old favorite. Love the walnut and hazelnut flavors. One of my favorite after-dinner drinks.

Bastille French Whisky
Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Porto: My all time favorite porto from Portugal of course! Full bodied, rich, ruby red, tasting of plums and blackberries. Oh My God so rich! YUM. Meant for sipping... but I've been known to go through a bottle in a weekend. :)

Bastille 1789 Blended French Whisky: Oh YES! The French can make excellent whisky! Subtle, floral, with a nice finish. Not overpowering. Just a beautifully smooth whisky, reasonably priced and aged in French Limousin oak barrels which originally held wine helping to give the whisky it's distinctive flavor.

Now I did not include detailed descriptions of each. Check out the internet on how to get them and further info on flavors, etc. I included pictures of a couple of my favorites based on my discretion only.

BLOGGERS NOTE: This blog is dedicated to my good friend, colleague, and best boss, John Waldbillig. RIP my friend. No one could work hard, then play hard, drink hard, and listen to Frank Sinatra like JW.

ADDITIONAL BLOGGERS NOTE: These three pics of Bulldog, Stateside, and Bastille were borrowed from the internet. I do not own them nor claim them as my own.


  1. Great tale. Love it. I have tasted the Bulleit. It still doesn't come close to Makers. But I presume Makers wasn't around back in the days of your youth. Where was the Ritz Carlton. I know where the 4 Seasons was (across the parkway from the Catholic Cathedral, Sts. Peter & Paul) but I don't recall where the Ritz was.