As with most classic cocktail names, no one is really sure when the term “boilermaker” was first used or exactly what was originally served. In the workplace today, the name is associated with the trade union that represents blacksmiths, shipbuilders and a variety of welders and iron workers. The Oxford English Dictionary puts the origin of the word as a term specifically for steam engine builders first used sometime in the 1830s. So it’s appropriate that, throughout its history, the pairing of a strong shot of hard alcohol with a cold beer has always been associated with the working class.
That is, until recently, when it’s suddenly become the darling of any number of upscale (some might use the term “hipster”) drinking venues in the world’s trendiest cities, the patrons of which are unlikely to have work-calloused hands or come in at the end of the day covered in soot.
While the traditional dive bar boilermaker was cheap whiskey or bourbon paired with a PBR or Bud, this new incarnation is more likely to be Sazerac or Four Roses paired with a craft beer. It’s also more likely to run for much closer to $10 than any dive bar Boilermaker ever has.
The first evidence of the term “boilermaker” being used for the whiskey-beer pairing comes from British pub menus in the early 1900s.
How did we get from there to here? The beginning of the story is the most unclear part. The first attempts at distilling grain into what would eventually become whiskey began roughly 800 years ago, in the waning days of the medieval period in Europe. At the time, what they distilled was potent, but tasted absolutely nasty. So this is the likely origin of chasing whiskey with a beer to cleanse the palate.
Though it’s widely thought of as an American drink, the first evidence of the term “boilermaker” being used for the whiskey-beer pairing comes from British pub menus in the early 1900s. There was a long history throughout Europe of chasing a hard alcohol with a beer, but the practice was extremely uncommon in the United States until immigrants in the 1800s brought it over with them.
It’s unclear where the name “boilermaker” actually first appeared in the United States, but we do know that by the 1940s it was commonly seen on the menus at bars all around the country.
The “slam then drink” approach is widely regarded as the original method, though there’s no real evidence to prove this.
The traditional method of drinking is also a subject that is not historically verified and is still very much up for debate. There are three approaches to drinking a boilermaker: slam the shot first then drink the beer, chase sips of the shot with sips of the beer, or drop the shot glass entirely into the beer so that the two liquids mix. The lattermost of these methods was known to be practiced in British pubs in the 1600s, though under a variety of different names such as the “Pop-In.”
Modern bartenders will often call this a “depth charge” so that there is no confusion over what is being ordered. The “slam then drink” approach is widely regarded as the original method, though there’s no real evidence to prove this.
Boilermaker makes the upscale bar a more accessible place for those who don’t have the time to plumb the depths of the craft cocktail.
The only thing that is certain is that whiskey aficionados are cringing at the prospect of any of these options being perpetrated on anything better than a Jameson!
That’s the central point of the Boilermaker, however, and why it’s made a comeback in the most unlikely of places. It makes the upscale bar a more accessible place for those who don’t have the time or inclination to plumb the depths of the craft cocktail or Scotch scenes. It also represents a growing sense of embracing working-class roots in such venues, even if the price point is now at a level that the average working-class patron can’t afford.
A recent Tenth Circuit Court case decision changes the rules on tips depending on if you take the tip credit or not. Our friends at The Colorado Restaurant Association are on top of the story but due to the complexity of this issue, we suggest you read the full story here before acting!
Summer movie hits are rolling in and so are thirsty patrons looking something fresh and new at the bar. Have some fun with this Summer’s movie themes and create cocktails inspired by feisty heroines, brooding heroes, aliens, and emojis.
While working in a restaurant sometimes requires you to interact with annoying customers, sometimes kicking people out is completely justified. Consider these seven reasons customers have been 86’d from restaurants as shared on a Reddit thread and through a Quora discussion.
If you’re anything like me, and choose wine based on the label design instead of what’s actually written on the label, then you’ve been in that awkward situation where you ask a wine-related question that only the uneducated would dare voice and, in response, receive a patronizing stare followed by an answer that doesn’t even make sense.
No one should have to go through such a traumatizing experience. So, to save some pain, here are a few of your embarrassing, and most commonly asked, wine questions answered by expert James Harbertson, Washington State University professor of enology (that’s the study of wine).
To have any kind of negative experience as a result of this, you’d most likely have to drink about 2 liters of wine (a little more than 13 servings worth) and that’s an awful lot.
What’s the difference between a wine that costs $50 and a wine that costs $500?
The short answer? Not a lot – so long as you’re just drinking it.
The price comes from a number of different factors including the maker, the type of grape, how long it’s aged, etc. But if you’re just looking for a solid bottle of wine, an inexpensive bottle could taste just as good if not better than a thousand-dollar bottle.
If anything, there’s a bigger psychological component at play: A study that conducted blind taste test in which people were given samples of wine found that they did not get any more enjoyment from a more expensive wine compared to a less expensive version. In another study, researchers found that untrained wine tasters actually liked the more expensive wines less than the cheaper ones.
If you’re collecting, on the other hand, of course, the price tag will make a difference.
“In the end, it’s just wine,” according to Harbertson.
What are tannins and what are they doing in my wine?
You know that dry feeling you get in your mouth after a sip of red wine? You can thank tannins, naturally occurring chemicals that are found in wine and other beverages like black tea.
According to Harbertson, tannins give wine its weight (what makes it more milky than watery), so they’re integral to all red wines.
They bind to proteins like the ones in saliva, which is what makes your mouth dry out. It’s not as simple an experience as tasting something that’s bitter, he says. The interaction of red wine in your mouth ends up feeling more like a texture than just a taste, something known as a “mouthfeel.”
Is it bad if I like $3 wine?
I can’t deny it: I love spending only $3 on a bottle of Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw wine. And Harbertson confirmed that that’s perfectly fine. In fact, he thinks it’s “wonderful.”
“If you like it and it only costs three bucks and somebody else has to pay $30 for it, man you’re getting a good deal,” he says.
It’s the same as liking generic potato chips: Some people can’t stand the off-brand chips, but if you do, that saves you a couple of bucks. Although some studies have shown that knowing that an increased cost correlated with a more pleasant drinking experience, not to mention there might be some corners cut when making bulk wine, if it appeals to your taste buds stick with them.
How am I supposed to be able to tell if a wine is floral or fruity, and do these adjectives matter?
Wines tend to include a lot of different aromatic notes, which can be really pleasant if you know what you’re doing. I, on the other hand, do not.
Harbertson suggests doing the following exercise to sharpen your senses before the next time you try a glass of wine:
Grab a couple bags of multi-flavored jellybeans, and sort them into different cups by flavor. Put them away for a couple days (or hours, if you’re in a time crunch) so you forget the process.
Later, take out the beans and try to guess which one is which flavor.
Then, try a couple different flavored beans at once. Now try to guess what you got.
That’s kind of what wine tasting is like: it’s all about picking out the different flavors and aromas, like that of a strawberry, even if you’re not actually eating a strawberry.
Why is there so much emphasis on smelling wine?
Half the fun of drinking wine is the smell. In one glass of wine, there can be any number of fruity, floral, or earthy smells. And that can change depending on how long the wine is left out in the open. A glass of wine can contain thousands of chemical compounds which are ready to react at any time.
“There’s a whole host of crazy chemical reactions that changes the aroma of wine that sits in the glass,” Harbertson explains.
All those chemical compounds in your wine likely have to do with yeast, a microscopic fungus responsible for digesting sugar and spitting out alcohol. Yeast is added to wine during the fermentation process. Once it’s done eating up all the sugar in the bottle, it dies.
Interestingly, as the University of Hawaii’s botany department points out, the skin on grapes already contains a fair amount of yeast that could help with fermentation. But since the winemaker doesn’t have a lot of influence over what that yeast does, specific strains of yeast are sometimes added to ensure a level of control.
What’s a sulfite and what is it doing in my wine?
No, it’s not that complicated.
Sulfites are a compound prevalent in most wines. Together, the sulfur and oxygen in sulfites act as a powerful preservative to keep the wine from oxidizing too quickly, which can change the flavors of the wine for the worse. “It’s really hard to drink a wine without sulfites,” Harbertson said.
“It’s really hard to drink a wine without sulfites,” says Harbertson.
In fact, yeast actually makes some of these sulfites. Harbertson said that different colonies of yeast in wines will sometimes fight each other by creating sulfites that some strains are more sensitive to. Some people are sensitive to sulfites – which are also found in other foods as a preservative – in which case the best thing to do is avoid them.
What does decanting do?
It all has to do with smell and solids. Especially in older wines, chemical reactions in the wine can end up creating solid particles – everything from dead yeast cells to proteins and other organic compounds. Leaving the wine in a decanter for a while can help ensure those fall to the bottom.
Decanting can also help tone down a strongly aromatic wine.
Why do we cork our wine?
Cork, which is made from bark, is a renewable resource, and its ability to form to the shape of a wine bottle is incredibly helpful at storing wine.
But there’s a drawback: occasionally bad cork can get into the wine, something called “cork taint.” It’s not going to harm you necessarily, but it will make the wine taste a little funky, like moldy cardboard. Some people are fine drinking that wine, but others – like Harbertson – can’t stand it.
Do screw-tops mean my wine is cheap?
Even though the lack of cork has the stigma of cheap wine, countries like New Zealand have been transitioning to the twist-off style in recent years after getting fed up with bad cork. Not only do you avoid cork taint, but it’s also ideal for when a corkscrew isn’t handy. Harbertson said the screw-top is just as effective as cork at keeping air out.
Do genetics play a role in what wine you like? Is an affinity for a certain kind of wine hidden in our microscopic genes?
Definitely. Genes influence whether we prefer sweet, bitter, savory, etc. And that can play a big role in our wine selection.
TAS2R38, the bitter-taste receptor gene, is thought to be responsible for making some people incredibly sensitive to bitter tastes while others can’t get enough. Other taste genes, like the ones for savory tastes, can also play a role in determining whether or not you prefer a certain type of wine.
Why do I sometimes get a headache even if I’ve only had one glass of wine?
Most often, it’s more about how you’re drinking rather than what you’re drinking.
When your body breaks down alcohol, it creates inflammation. That inflammation can contribute to your headache. That, more than chemicals in the wine, are the reasons for the pain.
Eating food and drinking more water while consuming wine could help counteract that nasty headache in the morning, Harbertson suggests.
Are there any wines I should avoid?
Harbertson said he wouldn’t go so far as to say there were wines he’d avoid.
It all depends on your taste and specifications. On the whole, there aren’t any particular wines that will “poison” you or mess with your body beyond what any kind of alcohol does.
Personally, he said, he does save cheap wine for things like sangria in which the wine will be mixed with other tasty fruits and sodas.
The atmosphere and wine selections at this year’s closing dinner for the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers reflected the commercial path that many of the 12 Master Sommeliers in attendance chose to follow after achieving the diploma. No longer as familiar with the restaurant floor and patrons as they are with the wine wholesalers, producers and marketing teams that employ them, the Sommeliers who paired the evening’s courses turned away from the semi-oxidized, organically fermented selections of years past in favor of more commercial choices.
It’s clear that this new generation of Master Sommeliers is charting its own path, chasing the ‘corporate dollar’ rather than the choicest wines. The question is why.
According to Chris Blanchard, the former Sommelier at Napa Valley restaurant REDD, after achieving the Master Sommelier diploma, it is difficult to resist the siren call of the larger paycheck and regular schedule offered by the corporate wine world as opposed to the demanding hours, uncertain pay and insufficient personal time that goes along with working in the food and beverage service.
However, for some Master Sommeliers, the plan all along was to leave the stress of a restaurant career behind by going corporate.
While a Sommelier who has no other commitments beyond the restaurant doors may tolerate the long hours, low pay and poor work-life balance, those with families tend to grow tired of constantly chasing the most profitable positions at all costs.
Jay James, going from Director of Wine at Bellagio Las Vegas’ wine program to Brand Ambassador of Chappellet Winery, can relate to this sentiment. As he explains, “One must typically go to where the best jobs are for maximum income potential, and that can be inconvenient or the location undesirable.”
For Doug Frost, a managing partner of the Beverage Alcohol Resource program and one of only four people in the world to currently hold both the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine diplomas, the move away from restaurant life had more to do with what he was doing than what he was not.
In fact, Frost says that if the job had only been about working the restaurant floor, he’d still be there.
But that was not the case. In addition to the work he did as the restaurant’s Sommelier, he also, “spent a lot of time worrying about the POS program […] and fussing about the price of Pepsi.”
Still, for all of the benefits that the corporate wine world has to offer over restaurant work, some think of going corporate as selling out. According to Blanchard, Master Sommeliers that enter the commercial sphere are playing straight into the dubious hands of the corporation.
“They hire an MS because it adds some kind of legitimacy to wines they produce […] these are the same kinds of wines that many of the new Masters would never have even considered for their wine programs when they were working the floor.”
Whether the new class of Master Sommeliers will bring a touch of art to the commercial wine world or become absorbed by it remains to be seen, but what is evident is that the ‘corporate dollar’ is not the only reason for shifting career paths. However, the way the wine trend is progressing, with an increasing demand for accessible wines, more may take the commercial path than would ever have considered doing so before.
A recent wine survey commissioned by online wine service Taste4, a wine subscription service that delivers four bottles a month to its customers, revealed the 10 wine terms that customers are least likely to understand when deciding what wines to buy.
The survey, which questioned 2,000 wine drinkers, revealed that 32% of participants didn’t realise that the word “tart” is used to describe a more acidic wine. In fact, as many as 11% thought it meant a “cheap, brash wine unsuitable for respectable company.”
On top of that, just 23% understood the term “terroir“, which refers to the degree to which a region’s geographic qualities affects the taste of wine. Similarly, only 20% knew of drinkers knew that a wine “with legs” referred to its increased alcohol content.
Tom Laithwaite of taste4 believes that the lack of knowledge in wine terminology is due to its antiquity.
“The way we drink wine has become more casual, informal and leisurely, but the language wrapped around it hasn’t moved with the times.”
So, without further ado, here are the 10 least understood wine terms, and the percentage of customers likely to use them:
Bouquet – 21%
Nose – 11%
Tart – 10%
Quaffable – 10%
Legs – 5%
Terroir – 3%
Unctuous – 3%
Herbaceous – 2%
Hollow – 2%
Vegetal – 2%
Other interesting survey conclusions were that 25% of drinkers found shopping for new wines an intimidating experience and that almost half (45%) tend to stick to the same grapes, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay when choosing wines at supermarkets. Tom Laithwaite has thoughts on this as well:
“People want to learn more about wine and discover new tastes without being confused or awkward when buying it or talking about it with their friends.”
As a result of the survey findings, taste4 has banned all of these terms from being used on its website.
From California doubling down on Tuesday night wines to Oregon’s embrace of a new muse to the Savoie finally climbing out of the Jura’s hip-cocked shadow, Jon Bonné lays out the wine stories that will make a difference in 2016…
Why did this year in wine feel so off-kilter? I was wondering that the other day as I took quiet satisfaction in browsing photos of U.S. marshals crushing Rudy Kurniawan’s fake bottles into shards of glass, an epilogue to the era of overkill that brought us the wine world’s biggest fraud. I had that same disorientation, and not in a bad way, when I heard that a major Champagne house, Taittinger, was founding its own sparkling wine property on English soil.
For sure, their move was an affirmation of the surging quality in English sparkling wine, something that’s been happening for years. But it was also upending an 800-year tradition. For centuries the British had crossed the water to opportunistically slake their thirst; now France is reversing the trend. In part, at least, because young growers and small firms in Champagne have captured most of the attention at home. The old guard is now scrambling to find somewhere else to play.
And speaking of those 800 years of pilfering France’s bounty: Bordeaux this year seemed at ends about how to deal with much of the modern world no longer caring about it. The region, which loves prestige and scores like no other, still doesn’t quite seem to have comprehended that Robert Parker, after nearly four decades, wasn’t going to rate its new vintage, having handed off that duty to Neal Martin. (Martin is a terrific critic, and the changing of guard should have been welcome. But Bordeaux doesn’t do change well.)
There was the rosé craze, again. Many of us had spent years pleading its case, only to find in 2015 that those dreams came just a bit too true. From White Girl Rosé (please, no) to brosé (really, no), its popularity didn’t just peak-it crested and began spiraling out of control.
Inevitably, a pink-wine backlash ensued, which wasn’t really fair, because rosé never asked to become a worn-out meme.
And, as if we needed one more confirmation that the wine world’s axis was tilting, Georges Duboeuf, the Beaujolais firm, parted ways with Deutsch Family-the U.S. importer that, together with Duboeuf, created the American thirst for Beaujolais Nouveau-in favor of an importer who plans to focus on Duboeuf’s higher-end cru Beaujolais and other wines. Yeah, Beaujolais is a serious wine now; and yes, we’ve talked about it plenty. But here is the final kicker: Even the king of Nouveau got the memo.
All of these are symbolic milestones on their own. But together, they add up to larger shift that’s been building over the past half-decade: 2015 was the year when wine-good wine-stopped being so damned elitist. It’s no longer a game to be played by dudes in ties or a principality governed by arcane and archaic rules. The old tropes, most of which had been worn out for a while, are now set to be fully retired-as are all those complaints about would-be wine snobs. (Who, pray tell, might these “snobs” be? Anyone who spots the flaws in a load of populist claptrap?)
Even if we’re still sorting out the new rituals and language-please, let us never again say we are “crushing” a bottle of “juice”-wine can now be loved in ways that are both serious and casual. So perhaps 2015 was the last hurrah for the old guard, of a generation consumed by ambition-one that viewed both winemaking and wine buying as a score-driven charge to some arbitrary finish line.
Now to the fun part: What happens next?
Here are five wine stories that will make a difference in 2016.
Muscadet Grows Up
For years, a small band of wine people have been suggesting that Muscadet, the eminently mineral wine of the western Loire, had more to offer than sheer drinkability and friendliness to seafood. We’ve put forward bottles like Luneau-Papin’s Excelsior and Domaine de la Pépière’s Clisson as evidence that these wines can evolve and age just like many white Burgundies, despite the fact that it’s made from the humble melon grape-which isn’t so lowly after all.
But what’s happening today in Muscadet is essentially the white-wine equivalent of what has happened in Beaujolais. A raft of serious-minded producers are discussing not only the terroir of the nine crus communaux (much like a village designation in Burgundy), but specific vineyards and parcels, too-their nuances perceptible thanks to the region’s generally transparent winemaking. (The naturalists are at work, too, making unsulfured and skin-fermented Muscadet.) Since even Chablis has become a bit expensive for daily life, Muscadet is our new white-wine salvation.
Drink these: The wines from : The wines from Vincent Caillé have all the right cred for this new era: organic farming in several of the crus, and minimal work in the cellar. (There’s even an amphora.) Look for his Domaine le Fay d’Homme Monnières-Saint Fiacre ($25), from a cru known for its mix of acidic gneiss and sandy loam; at five years old, the 2010 is flinty and still very young, with a hint of oiliness from four years on its lees. Similarly, the Les Bêtes Curieuses project from Jérémie Huchet and Jérémie Mourat seeks old parcels to show the terroir. Their 2014 La Perdrix de L’Année ($16) finds the right balance of richness and a coppery minerality from a sand-and-granite parcel in Clisson.
Oregon Embraces Its Loire Fetish
As Oregon’s pinot noir industry celebrated its 50th birthday this year, it finally hit a sort of tipping point with the arrival of big players like Burgundy’s Louis Jadot and, perhaps less auspiciously, California’s Caymus (with its big Elouan project). The state’s small-is-good mentality has, thus, come up against the boom that places like Sonoma faced 20 years ago. That left some of the state’s true believers wondering what would come next. Riesling? Yes, in a small way. Chardonnay? Perhaps, but expanding the chardonnay universe is a bit of a fool’s errand.
Instead, some folks on the fringe have advanced a different theory: What if Oregon’s legacy lies not in the echo of Burgundy, but in channeling the Loire? Portland-based wineries like Bow & Arrow, Leah Jørgensen Cellars and Division Winemaking Company have all been pursuing that notion for several years now. But with the indie status of Oregon pinot beginning to tarnish, 2016 may be the year where their notion catches on. In their telling, it’s cabernet franc, gamay noir and chenin blanc that could be the Northwest’s great hope. True, some of them also work with pinot, although their inspiration is still more Loire-where the grape also grows. (Other alt-Oregon proponents will likely rise in this, too, including Brianne Day, who has caught attention for her malvasia and côt-tannat blend; and Teutonic Wine Co., inspired by a region of Europe you can probably guess.)
Drink these: I’ve been admiring Leah Jørgensen’s wines for a few years, especially her Applegate Valley Blanc de Cabernet Franc ($26), which highlights that grape’s peppercorn character, but in the form of a vibrant mostly-white wine. Bow & Arrow’s Air Guitar ($27), a mix of cabernets franc and sauvignon, makes a strong case for both varieties on Oregon soil.
Pétillant naturel is sparkling wine in which the fizz comes from finishing the primary fermentation in a bottle, where gas is trapped. After having its moment for the past couple of years, there’s a growing drumbeat that it is set to fade.
Not so, my trend-spiking amigos. If anything, pét-nat is expanding. Every time I turn around there’s another winemaker trying their hand from California and Oregon to Long Island and the Finger Lakes to nearly every corner of France. (The Loire area of Montlouis even now has its own appellation for so-called pétillant originel, made without added sugar.) In many cases, pét-nat is their opportunity to make something a bit more freeform in nature, closer to craft beer than wine. And good for them: These are pleasing and uncomplicated wines, and yet they have a seriousness-even with the crown caps-that goes completely the opposite direction from the cheap cava and prosecco that once stood for bubbles you could drink when not drinking Champagne. A handful of traditional prosecco makers are even expanding their work with col fondo, a cousin of pét-nat that retains its lees in the bottle.
Drink these: La Grange Tiphaine’s work in the central Loire shows the best aspects of chenin blanc, including their Nouveau Nez Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Originel ($27), as does the Les Capriades Pet’Sec ($26), both of which show the fresh and mineral side of the grape more than its apple-like aspects. In California, look for new versions from Onward, Los Pilares, Scar of the Sea, Cruse Wine Co. and more. From New York, Bellwether (Finger Lakes), Southold Farm + Cellar and Channing Daughters (Long Island) are names to watch, as are Casa Belfi, Costadilá and Casa Coste Piane on the col fondo front.
A Spotlight for The Region That’s Not the Jura
The Savoie is often lumped together with the Jura, even though they share neither proximity nor geology. (It’s a two-hour drive, or about the distance from Meursault to Côte Rotie.)
The Savoie finally seems ready for its well-deserved shot at Jura-like exposure. Some credit can go to Dominique Belluard, whose sparkling and still wines have found a willing audience among serious wine buyers-including a lot of Burg-philes-and to naturalist producers like Jean-Yves Péron. A bit also goes to the oddball parade of grapes, including jacquère and mondeuse, which are propelling that newfound interest. And whatever is left to the fact that the alpine Savoie and nearby Bugey-annotating the western edge of Switzerland as they do-seem like two rare places still untrammeled by a wine world that’s kicking over every stone.
There are plenty of regions trying to rewrite their elevator pitch, whether it’s the New Australia (super exciting, still rather expensive) or Canada or elsewhere. But California’s reformation is still paying dividends, including a bit of progress on one of my major worries about it: that the interesting new wines are too expensive.
Price remains a big concern for California, but the universe of compelling, small-production wines in the $20 to $30 range keeps growing, thanks in part to things like pét-nat, but also the realization that the only way many drinkers will come back to California is if there are wines that share not only their values (usually, a repudiation of Big Wine) but their budget. There’s plenty of work left to do, but we’ll take progress where we can.
Drink these: The La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge ($26) from the Sierra Foothills jumbles up red (mourvedre, grenache), and white (marsanne, fiano, arneis) grapes for a chuggable specimen that’s neither quite red or white, while wine like the Brea Chardonnay ($14) from the Central Coast offers a more virtuous choice for an everyday table wine. And look for bottles from Birichino, Rootdown, Tendu, Jolie-Laide, Leo Steen, P’tit Paysan, Broc Cellars, Ryme Cellars and many more.
Other Stories to Watch
The New Australia, as mentioned above, will finally catch the attention it’s been seeking. Greece, after years of being patted on the head, will rise from its economic muddle to become a serious contender to Spain and Italy-especially with its underappreciated red wines. And finally, as the coverage of sommeliers continues to mature, we’ll see more serious coverage of wine lists, which generate a lot of restaurants’ revenue, and remain a disproportionately small part of the conversation.
From California doubling down on Tuesday night wines to Oregon’s embrace of a new muse to the Savoie finally climbing out of the Jura’s hip-cocked shadow, Jon Bonné lays out the wine stories that will make a difference in 2016.