Ring the bell, it's time for Last Call, where JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice and recipes. Got a burning question for your bartender? Leave it in the comments and it might be answered in a future column.
A simultaneous perk and hazard of the bar industry is learning about new products. Since I both make drinks and write about them, promoters come at me from multiple angles. Liquor representatives come to the bar, hoping to convince me that their newest product is the greatest thing to happen since distillation. It's a perk because I find out about awesome new spirits before anyone else. It's a hazard because sometimes those spirits are ill-conceived. The orange-flavored Scotch is an especially tragic memory.
Then, I'll get e-mails from public relations people. They tout products aimed more to the home market. One that recently came through the Chow Bella office was for Kahlúa Gingerbread, a new holiday-themed coffee liqueur. I have a strange feeling that the nice PR lady expected us to paraphrase her handy-dandy press release, possibly dub it a perfect holiday gift, and call it a day. Little did she know, Chow Bella has a professional bartender on the writing team.
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Out of the bottle, Kahlúa Gingerbread looks just like its plain counterpart, dark brown and syrupy. Smelling it is an entirely different matter. While regular Kahlúa smells of sweetened coffee, it's hard to pin down the aroma of Kahlúa Gingerbread. The closest I can get is lightly burned gingerbread cookies with too much molasses and spice added. The "lightly burned" part probably comes into play from the roasted notes of the coffee.
Tasting it neat is pure overload. Cloves and a slightly metallic flavor dominate. Simply put, not fun. This needs to be cut with something. The back of the label and the PR flack agreed that I should make a Kahlúa Cookie Martini. It's dive-bar easy: Mix vodka and Kahlúa Gingerbread, shake with ice, serve straight up. The bottle says equal parts, PR lady says 1½ parts vodka to ½ part Kahlúa Gingerbread (Side note: Bar recipe writers, stop writing things in half-parts. A part shows a ratio, not a set unit of volume. That should have been 3 parts vodka to 1 part liqueur. Thank you.). Neither one does it for me. The 1:1 doesn't cut the acrid note enough, while 3:1 mutes the spices so much that it tasted like watered down, overroasted Starbucks espresso.
I tried to figure out what the hell to do with this stuff to make it taste better. Then, it hit me. What's the natural partner for a cookie? Milk! I threw a shot of the Kahlúa Gingerbread into a glass of milk, and took a swig. I'll be damned, it tasted like I was drinking liquid Biscoff Spread, that ultra-addictive gingerbread cookie butter. It also made a pretty nice enhancement to egg nog. So, I'll recommend Kahlúa Ginger with reservations: Mix it fairly tall with dairy products, and it could be your holiday hit.