• Oak Wood Casks

    Wooden casks for spirit maturation

    Wood plays a significant role in ageing and maturing of spirits including wine and sherry. No wonder 60% to 80% of the total flavour in a whisk(e)y whether scotch or bourbon, aged rum or tequila is uniquely credited to the oak in which it matures. Once the fermented wash is distilled, it is the decision of the master distiller to decide whether the new make spirit has to be matured and aged and which oak flavours to develop and try to attain.

    Maturation and ageing of spirit is carried out in oak wood casks. There are different types of oak wood used to make casks. From more than 500 species of oak wood, the species ‘Quercus Alba’ (American White Oak), ‘Quercus Robur’ (European Strong Oak) and ‘Quercus Petraea’ (European Strong Rocky Oak) are most common and to some extent, Oregon Garryana, Mangolian Oak, Japanese Mizunara & ‘Quercus ilex’ also known as Holm Oak.

    The species ‘Quercus Alba’ or the American Oak have straighter trunks and tighter grains. These are richer in vanillin and hence impart vanilla notes. These have also high lactones which impart coconut notes to their first fill spirits. The cask made out of this species of oak are generally of 200 litres and is essentially used to mature and age whisk(e)y. Further, ‘Quercus Lobota’ which is the botanical name to California white oak and ‘Quercus Garryana’ the Oregon white oak is also used to some extent in maturing American whiskies.

    The species ‘Quercus Robur’ is a strong oak and widely grown in France, Poland, UK and other regions of Europe. The casks made from this species of oak is mostly used to mature brandy and fortified wines. ‘Quercus Petraea’ is another species of European oak and used in maturing cognac and wines. The spirits and wines evoke coconut notes coming out of lactones present in the oak. These species are used to make oak casks ranging anywhere between 30 to 300 litres.

    ‘Quercus Magnolia’ is another species of oak wood which is softer and comes with lots of knots which does not make it easy for the coopers to make casks in the cooperage. However, the wood is rich in lactones and vanillin.

    Akin to ‘Quercus Magnolia’ comes the Mizunara Oak which carries the botanical name ‘Quercus Crispula’ which is used in Japan to mature some of their whiskies.

    French Oak or the Limousin oak, on the other hand, is robust and normally covers species ‘Quercus Robur’ and ‘Quercus Petraea’. These oaks are not straighter but impart good lactones and aromatic congeners good for brandy. French Oak is mostly used to make casks of 300 litres known as Barrique.

    ‘Quercus ilex’ or the Holm oak is an evergreen oak tree native to the Mediterranean region and the barrels made from this species of oak are used to mature tequila and wine.

    The wooden casks made from different species of oak are made at the cooperage by the coopers. The process involved in the making of wooden casks starts from sourcing of oak, seasoning of oak, shaping of the cask by using staves, toasting & charring etc. Different sizes of casks are made depending upon the demand for such casks. The process involves harvesting of tall oak trees and then seasoning them by drying for six to eight months or more. Subsequently, the seasoned wood is cut into staves and shaped into a bulging cylinder and bound together by metal hoops in the cooperage. The head and bottom of the cask are flat and each is secured into the staves by a grove. No glue, paraffin, or nails are used in making barrels.

    Down below is the list of some of the important casks and their capacity used for the maturation of spirits covering whisky, rum, tequila, brandy and wines including fortified wines namely sherry and Port wine.

    A British Barrel has a capacity of 160 litres whereas the American Barrel has the capacity of 200 litres.

    A Firkin cask is a quarter size of the British barrel and has a capacity of 40 litres and used to store ale, whereas, a Quarter cask is a quarter size of the American Barrel and has a capacity of 50 litres and Scotch and American whiskey normally use this cask to get the intense oak finish.

    A Hogshead has a capacity of 250 litres to 300 litres and is used to mature Irish and Scotch whiskey as well as wine and beer.

    A Barrique is a type of a cask which has a capacity of 300 litres and is popularly used for maturing French wine and Cognac.

    A Puncheon has a capacity of 450 litres to 500 litres and is used to mature Rum and Sherry.

    A Butt has a capacity of 500 litres and used to store Sherry.

    A Port Pipe is a tall cask and wide and rounder with a capacity of 650 litres and essentially used to mature or store Port.

    A Drum has a regular capacity of 650 litres and used to store Madeira.

    A Tun is roughly having a capacity of 980 litres and generally used for fermentation of beer.

  • Boiling Points of liquids and its effect on production of spirits

    Today’s post, I have decided to bring out the effect of the boiling points of different liquids, more specifically of water and alcohol and how it impacts the production of spirits in the alcohol industry.

    We all know different liquids convert into gas and start evaporating at different boiling points. In the case of water, the boiling point is 100 degree Celsius and this means that water will start boiling at this temperature. What happens if the temperature of a liquid is at subzero – Simple – the water freezes.

    Now let us take the boiling the point of alcohol (ethanol – ethyl alcohol). Does it too start boiling at 100 deg Celsius or at higher or lower levels? The answer is alcohol has a lower boiling point and it means when heated, it reaches boiling point at 78.24 degree Celsius.

    Similarly, boiling points of some of the other liquids are  – Ethyl acetate : 77.2, Acetaldehyde : 20.8, Acetone :56.08,  Alcohol – methyl (methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits) : 64.7, Ammonia at: – 35.5, Mercury at 356.9, Milk 100.5 and so on.

    Now how does boiling point of liquid help the alcohol industry. Absolutely yes – it does so at the distillation stage of production of spirit.

    A quick peep through the stages: Production of any grain spirit namely Whisky, Vodka, Gin,  involves mainly Milling, Mashing, Fermentation and then distillation followed by maturation or ageing process.

    Milling is the process where the grain is milled to a rough flour called grist. The grist is added to a mash tun in the presence of hot water in order to get a porridge like substance which is then filtered to obtain what is called the wort, the sugary liquid. The sugary wort is then transferred to washback vessel for fermentation and yeast is added to convert the sugars into Co2 and alcohol. This liquid is the distiller’s beer or the wash with a strength ranging between 8% to 10 % of alcohol (ethanol = ethyl alcohol).

    The beer or wash, which is a mix of alcohol and water, is then distilled. Distillation is the process that sets spirits apart from beer. To obtain this spirit, the wash(beer) is transferred to the column/pot copper still and heated. Since the boiling point of water is 100 degree Celsius and of ethanol 78.40 degree Celsius, the alcohol in the wash starts to boil first and converts into vapour. Along with-it other substances in the wash having lower and higher boiling points namely esters and heavy fusel oils also evaporate. On condensation the vapour cools and converts  to a distillate known as the low wines having a strength ranging between 21% to 24% alcohol by volume.

    The low wines are collected in receiver and filled into the spirit copper pot still and heated. The spirit still has a bigger influence on the taste of the new make spirit. On heating the low wines, the volatile foreshots compounds evaporate first and are redirected for re-distillation with low wines. The middle cut is collected and the feints are again redistilled in the distillation run. The middle cut is collected is the new make spirit and has an alcohol by volume not greater than 80% in the case of whisky and can also touch 90 to 100 in the case of grain whisky and vodkas.

    An example as to how the heating and the boiling point effects the volume of the wash(beer) vis a vis alcohol. A wash (beer) of 3000 litres which has a 10% alcohol by volume (300 litres)  volume significantly drops to around 1000 litres with 25% alcohol by volume (250 litres) of low wines after first distillation. So the boiling point of a liquid plays a key role in finally collecting the higher strength of alcohol.


  • Spirits, Liqueurs, Bitters & Mixes for home bar

    Continuing with the series Home Bar Essentials, let me focus on some of the must spirits in your home bar cabinet. These spirits and liqueurs can be enjoyed standalone and also used as a base spirit to make a great number of cocktails. Spirits are the heart of most cocktails and there are lot many cocktails than there are individual spirits. Each spirit can be mixed with any number of liqueurs, mixers, flavourings and decorations.

    Some of the basic Spirits & Beverages to have in a home bar cabinet.

    Gin: Gin is one of the favourites and a must. It is a clear grain spirit which is further distilled with botanicals such as aromatic herbs and spices. There are a number of excellent gin brands available in the market. A good way is to keep a London Dry Gin which is well suited to make a cocktail. Also, a Dutch gin which has a stronger flavour is a great company in the home bar cabinet. Local gin brands are an excellent choice for making various cocktails right from Gin and tonic to Negroni.

    Vodka: This is a flavourless and a neutral spirit and is a perfect choice for the cocktails as it adds depth. As it goes in the business that is felt but not smelt. It also comes in several flavours as well. A good way is to keep a neutral vodka and along with it may be a lemon or pepper or an espresso flavoured vodka.

    Rum: This spirt is distilled from sugarcane. The dark rum is heavier in flavour than the white rum and both can be part of the home bar cabinet. Though a white rum is a more preferred spirit in cocktails a dark rum can be a good act on punches or a winter drink to warm up and keep the chill-out. You could also look into having a spiced rum.

    Tequila: Tequila is Mexico’s national spirt and made from blue agave. Well, it is always good to have a 100% agave tequila in a home bar. There are different classifications from Blanco, reposado, anejo to extra anejo depending upon the age of the tequila. A mixto tequila which uses no less than 51% agave can be a great substitute to a regular 100% blue agave tequila for making cocktails.

    Whisky: It is an ideal choice to have a blended scotch whisk(e)y along with single malt peated and an unpeated whisky. Though whisky is one of those least used spirits in the cocktails, its great idea to have a Bourbon or a Tennessee whisky which could also be used to make some fabulous spirt forward cocktails such as the Old fashioned, Manhattan, Whisky sour and so on.

    Brandy: Brandy which is also known as burnt wine is distilled from fermented grape juice. Though Cognac and Armagnac are famous brandies of the world coming from the French regions, any good fruity and aromatic brandy in your bar closet is fine.

    Any liqueur preferably an orange liqueur or a triple sec is a good a choice. To add to the home bar is any bitters preferably Angostura bitters or Peychaud’s Bitters.

    Likewise, tonic water, orange, pineapple, strawberry juices along with soda, coke, lemonade, coconut milk, lime cordial etc can be a good choice for the home bar fridge.

  • Tools and Equipment

    Coming back to home bar essentials, I have experienced numerous times that though you may have a multiple of tools in your home bar cabinet, however, when it is time to mix a drink it suddenly appears that you are missing on some important tools in your cabinet. In such a situation you start innovating your tool from other options available in your kitchen or home bar. Well, that is not a bad idea but a few basic tool essentials in your bar will certainly help you in preparing your drink and entertaining your guests more efficiently.

    Let me touch a few must-have tools:

    Shaker: Cocktails are basically two types shaken or stirred. So, if you are looking forward to a shaken drink then a shaker is a great tool to be part of your bar. A shaker helps in mixing drinks such as syrup, liquor, liqueurs, egg yolk, milk, lime juice, fruit juice etc in combination with ice. Three types of shakers commonly used include Boston Shaker, Cobbler Shaker and French Shaker. The Boston Shaker and the Cobbler Shaker are very common. A Boston Shaker is two-piece equipment comes with a mixing glass and a steel jar. In the large size of Boston Shaker, a mixing glass which can hold around 450 ml is smaller in size in comparison to the steel jar which can hold around 800 ml. These can separately be used to stir a drink or used to muddle the ingredients. This type of shaker calls for a strainer to filter the drink from ice or any other residues in a shaker. Likewise, you can buy the medium or smaller sizes as well. A three-piece shaker, on the other hand, comes with a steel jar tapered at both ends, a lid with a built-in strainer and a cap. The choice is yours any of the two types will be a handy tool in your cabinet.

    Mixing glass: A mixing glass is basically used to stir the drink and control the dilution before pouring it in a cocktail glass. This also allows for retaining the texture. You could prefer the durable Pint glass or the delicate Yarai mixing glass.

    Bar Spoon: Though any spoon at home is good for stirring the drink, however, a standard long twisted handled cocktail bar spoon has some good features. Apart from being used for stirring the drink it also comes handy to pour the drink for layering. Further, the other end of the bar spoon has a steel flat metal used for crushing the sugar cube or chipping the ice and also could be used to muddle the ingredients.

    Strainer: A handy tool in the home bar to strain the ice cubes, fruits etc before pouring the drink into a glass. The strainer is of two types the Hawthorne strainer which comes with a handle and two or more prongs. Whereas, the julep strainer comes with a bowl and a handle which is tightly fixed in a mixing glass or a shaker at a definite angle to allow the clear drink to pass through the holes and avoid the ice. It is a good idea to have a Haw Thorne strainer

    Jigger: Any drink without knowing the measure will either be more strong or dilute. Though experts know the exact pour directly from the bottle, however, a good practice to start with is to use a jigger. So, having a jigger in your toolbox is very vital. A jigger is a shot with two-sided cocktail measuring cups. The sides may measure 30 ml and 45 ml or 30 ml and 60 ml and in other ratios.

    Muddler: Another essential bar tool is a muddler which is used to smash and mix drink ingredients. The muddler is used to make some of the famous cocktails such as mojito, caipirinha. A nice wooden muddler is recommended.

    Icebox: Ice probably is the most important ingredient for the preparation of cocktails. It is good to have an icebox at the bar table so that you need not go to and fro to fetch ice cubes from the refrigerator.

    Juicer Blender: An electrical appliance such as a juicer-blender serves good to make fruit-based drinks. A quick blending of different ingredients helps in making wonderful cocktails. Thus, a juicer-blender is a must-have in the home bar.

    Apart, from these, there are many other tool and equipment that could be added over time.

  • Essential Glassware for home bar

    Once the home bar cabinet is in place, the next big challenge is to gather tools, equipment, beverages and most importantly stemware or the glassware.


    Well, today in my post I will talk on the main glasses that you could buy for your home bar. You may use any number of different glasses for cocktails or serving a drink and there is absolutely nothing wrong. There aren’t any rules, other than a specific one that the longer the drink the taller the glass.


    My take on it is one need not stock dozens of different types of glasses at one go. It is a good idea to decide to buy at the start a few essential types and styles of glasses. A glass is vital to the outcome of a good cocktail or a spirt and it should be visually appealing. For example, stem glasses allow the drinker to hold it without warming the drink, while one with straight sides is best for showing off colours and layers of colour.


    Some of the essential glassware and personally my favourites to add to the bar cabinet are listed below:


    Martini: A Martini glass is by far the most popular cocktail glass which is also commonly seen in movies and snaps. It has a stem and an inverted bowl which gives it a V shape and is popularly used for straight-up drinks. Some of the regular cocktails which get served in a Martini glass are – Martini, Gimlet, Grasshopper, Cosmopolitan and so on.


    Flute: Any festive occasion or a celebration calls for a bottle of sparkling wine or a bottle of champagne and there is nothing better than a flute glass to serve it. For taste, champagne and sparkling wines are best served in slim flutes which aid to keep it cool and retain the bubbles and prolong the fizz. Alternatively, at a Champagne Saucer could also be added.


    High Ball: This is tall cylindrical, straight-sided, tall tumbler used for long cocktails like fruit punches and some shooters. Alternatively, you could have the Tom Collins glass which is almost similar to High ball glass but just a little taller. These glasses are good for gin and tonic, vodka and soda, whiskey and ginger ale. Generally, these house around 12oz that is roughly 850 ml.


    Low Ball: This glass is kind of a shorter tumbler and wide lowball that holds around 200 ml of fluid. These glasses are also sometimes called the old fashioned or rocks glass. This is used to serve drinks such as Scotch and Bourbon. Cocktails like Old Fashioned, God Father, are some of the popular drinks served in low ball glasses along with spirit-forward drinks.


    Margarita: The sound of Margarita triggers Tequila the spirit from the land of Mexico. Margarita glass gets its name from the popular tequila-based drink Margarita. It is a variant of a cocktail glass or champagne coupe with a wide rim & popularly works well with frozen margaritas and seafood cocktails. It is a wonderful glass to have in the home bar.


    Of course, other glasses like the Pilsner and Pint glass for beer, Hurricane glass for long tropical drinks, Wines glasses for the White and the Red Wines, Sherry glass, Snifter for Brandy or Cognac, could also be added to a bar cabinet to have a wider choice.

  • Mauritius Passion


    Saint Aubin White Rum – 35 ml
    Saint Aubin Dark Rum (Coffee) – 25 ml
    Coconut liqueur – 15 ml
    Mango juice – 25 ml
    Milk – 25 ml
    Nutmeg – grated
    Star Anise soaked in two dashes of bitters
    Preparation Method

    Combine all, except dark rum, in a shaker and give a good shake with ice. Pour it in a cocktail glass. Top it up with dark rum. Grate the nutmeg over the top & garnish with bitters soaked  anise.
    Thanks to my buddy Sandy who gifted some fabulous miniatures of Mauritius Rum & this lockdown time is the perfect hour to mix these fabulous expressions.



  • Trendy Gin

    From the days when British colonies introduced tonic water with the combination of quinine & carbonated water as a way to ward of  malaria & added a wee of gin, thereby giving rise to the popular Gin & Tonic, the gin has travelled a long way.
    McDowell”s Blue Riband Dry Gin has been in India since 1950s &  must say still a very popular brand.  In the past, most of the gin cocktails would invariably have Blue Riband as it’s base. Well with passing years, the pubs started seeing wave of new gin labels such as Hapusa, Greater Than, Stranger & Sons, Jaisalmer crafted by entrepreneurs. The trend of gin culture made a big shout & the counters started pelting some amazing cocktails right from G&T to Martini to Negroni to Gimlet to Tom Collins & many more.

    Here is one simple gin cocktail made with the popular Blue Riband Gin
    Gin – 45 ml
    Lemon juice – 15 ml
    Triple Sec – 15 ml
    Soda – to top
    Orange wheel, Pepper & Cloves to add a wee tangy spice of life.

    Preparation Method

    Combine all, except soda, and give a wee shake with some ice. Strain it in a cocktail glass with ice cubes & release some pepper & cloves as well the orange wheel & top it up with Soda.

    I also take this opportunity to make a mention that I have been following my friend Morten Krag – @thecocktail.blog for a couple of year & have been mesmerised by his amazing cocktails. He has since released his Cocktail Recipe book – “Sophistication Declassified” & I am looking forward to get one of it soon. Congratulations Morten!


  • Feni-Mango Mania

    With fresh mango fruit, jalapeno Chili pepper as well mulberry fruits from the garden, it is a wonderful time to go native with Goa’s famous traditional  spirit – Feni


    Cashew Feni – 60 ml @cazulopremiumfeni
    Fresh Mango juice – 30 ml
    Lemon juice – 15 ml
    Sugar Cubes – 2
    Sprite lemonade
    Jalapeno Chili Pepper slices – a few
    Lemon slices – a few
    Mulberry, Mango slice, Lemon wheel – to garnish

    Preparation method

    In a mixing glass add the sugar cube & lemon juice. Muddle the sugar cubes. Add in the cashew feni, mango juice & shake the ingredients with few ice cubes. In a cocktail glass add few ice cubes, lemon slices & jalapeno slices. Pour in the shaken drink in the glass. Top it up with sprite lemonade. Gently stir. Garnish with mulberry & lemon wheel.


  • Whisky-Mango Iced Tea

    With lockdown the fruits are not easily accessible. But with the Mango season around & the garden mango tree giving bumper yield, well it’s time to bring in mango in the frame & enjoy some amazing cocktails this season. Here is one such Mango delight with my favourite Paul John Single Malt turning out Whisky-Mango Iced Tea.

    Whisky – 50 ml @pauljohnwhisky
    Lemon Tea – 15 ml @monin_europe
    Fresh Mango juice – 25 ml
    Lemon juice – 10 ml
    Bitters – a dash
    Ripe mango slice – to garnish

    Preparation Method

    Combine Whisky, Lemon Tea, Mango &  Lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake it till well chilled. Using a Hawthorne strainer pour it in a glass with a couple of ice. Release a dash of Cocktail bitters & garnish with mango slice.


  • Melon Vodka Martini

    Vodka Martini with fruity flavours coming from Melon & Peach liqueurs & the acidity from lime juice that so elegantly balances the sweetness imparted from liqueurs.

    Let’s go the Bond way – Shaken & not Stirred!


    Vodka – 50 ml
    Melon liqueur – 25 ml
    Peach liqueur – 10 ml
    Lime juice – 10 ml
    Mint – to garnish

    Preparation Method

    Shake all with ice & strain it in a Martini glass. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.


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