The Gin Martini and a Dirty Little Secret

Dirty Martini
– An Idea

Dirty Martini with this?
Dirty Martini with this?

The nation’s top drink, the gin martini, is perhaps the most expensive drink we can least afford not to buy. In tough times like these, the last thing we want to do is give up our favorite brand of liquor. Yet, according to the latest government research, millions of consumer household liquor cabinets are running dangerously low on alcohol. The sad truth is, many of us simply don’t want to degrade ourselves and downgrade to discount brands of booze. We may think the fallout of the mortgage and loan crisis has reached rock-bottom, but what happens when Americans can no longer afford to buy their favorite brand of gin, vodka, scotch, tequila or bourbon? We could be facing a crisis that makes the Great Depression look like a Chucky Cheese birthday party. While the one trillion dollar stimulus package proposed by our current president has several millions allocated towards a lavish golf course, apparently there is not enough money leftover to provide a good bottle of gin. If you’ve been waiting for the government to supplement your latest stimulus check with a case of 1.75 liter bottles of Bombay Sapphire, I have a sneaking suspicion that’s not what this young, new president meant when he talked about, “Hope.” In this case, hope comes in the form of a drinkable, cheaper substitute brand of liquor. Once again, it is Taaka to the rescue.

As my recent review on Taaka Vodka proved,  premium brands of liquor may not be worth the extra cost. Do you like a dirty martini? Then this article is really for you. How does Taaka Gin stack up against your favorite brands like Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Quintessential?

Dirty Martini – That’s the Secret

I won’t lie to you.  Taaka is not quite as smooth and clean tasting as these other three brands, but it is still a very drinkable gin with a very nice, juniper-flavor and it won’t leave you having to ask for a federal bailout to continue your martini habit. Recently, when I did a side-by-side comparison I noticed that while Taaka did not quite taste as clean, it did have more of a distinguished juniper flavor than the Quintessential. A clean taste may be good, but what if you like a dirty martini (with olive juice)? If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering why someone would pay 4 or 5 times more for a clean-tasting gin than ask their bartender to make it dirty? A while back, my wife and I were waiting for a dinner table at the bar at Bucca Di Beppo. I ordered a Beefeater Gin Martini, and was surprised that the  bartender asked if I wanted it dirty. I thought, why drown the flavor of an expensive gin with olive juice?  This is akin to mixing the expensive Grey Goose vodka with the very bitter taste of cranberry juice.  Can you imagine anyone thinking they can make a clean-tasting vodka taste any worse than an unclean, cheaper vodka after mixing it with the most bitter fruit juice on the planet? Now, consider what makes a clean, clear liquor:. Filtering. What happens when you shake the heck out of your vodka or gin in a stainless steel shaker of ice? You are filtering the living daylights out of it. Drop in a lemon slice, olive or splash of vermouth and you’ve pretty much nullified the difference between clean, expensive gin vs. a less-clean, cheaper one. And if you like your gin martini dirty, you could just as well filter your gin through a moldy sock because olive juice has a little bit of that sour flavor, anyway. In fact, the salty, tart olive juice will make it indistinguishable from a rock-bottom cheap bottle of gin. I’m not quite being fair to Taaka, however. I don’t believe it tastes like a rock-bottom gin at all. In fact, it’s distinguished juniper-flavor makes me think of it as a poor-man’s Bombay Sapphire and that my friends, is the Dirty Little Secret about the Gin Martini. I give Taaka Gin a thumbs up.

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Taaka Vodka

Taaka Vodka

How does Taaka Vodka stack up against up a good Russian Vodka and other premium vodka brands like Grey Goose, Kettle One (ketel one) or Svedka Vodka? Let us take the Taaka Taste Test and see.  First off, let me make it clear that this review is for typical vodka drinkers. That is, the majority of vodka-drinking Americans who think it is either a cool-aid, orange-juice mixer or for martinis. Obviously, there are real connoisseurs out there who appreciate the subtleties and distinctive flavors of the very best Russian vodka which even goes beyond a dry vodka martini. The first premium brand of Vodka I ever tried was Ketel One (Kettle One) and I will admit I wasn’t experienced enough to appreciate the higher price tag. Thus, this testing is aimed at the typical vodka martini and mixed vodka drinkers. For those of you who enjoy Cranberry-Grey Goose, screwdrivers and other sweet and sour, mixed vodka drinks, the results of this review may be even more revealing than to your average martini drinker who uses few other ingredients to distort it’s pure flavor. The question is, have you been brainwashed into paying 4 to 5 times more for say, Stolichnaya, Belvedere, Grey Goose or other premium vodka brands, or is it really worth the perception of improved taste that advertisers continue to push on you? Understand, that a true vodka snob would not necessarily waste an expensive bottle of vodka on many of these drinks some of us are mixing with this expensive alcohol. So, is this something any of us really need to do? My impression from the opinions and comments of my own friends and acquaintances is that they believe it is necessary to avoid cheap vodka to enjoy their favorite cocktails. Is this really the case, and by whose taste buds shall we decide? Okay, I once tested dog-food, I think I can handle drinking a few vodka martinis. I should also mention that I’ve been making and drinking Taaka vodka Martinis for two years. In case you haven’t deduced this by now, Taaka is a very cheap brand of vodka. Can cheap be good? Let’s find out:

Vodka Brands Sampled

For this experiment, I choose two popular, more expensive brands, one popular medium-priced selection and compared all three of them to my standby favorite, Taaka.  Here is what I chose:

  1. Grey Goose: Popular, expensive, highly-advertised import Vodka from France.
  2. Absolut: Popular, mid-priced, highly-advertised import Vodka from Sweden.
  3. Taaka vodka: Dirt cheap vodka used in my martinis the last couple of years.

When I say, ‘high-priced’ or ‘mid-priced’, I should note that it is in comparison to the reviewed subject vodka brand, Taaka vodka. For instance a .750 Liter bottle of Grey Goose costs around $30.00. A 1.75 Liter bottle of Taaka can be had for just $7.99! Yes, that’s right. Over twice the volume of vodka for less than 1/3rd the price. That’s enough extra martinis to make you wish they sold Taaka olives to go with them. Stoli and Absolut are around $20 for a .75 Liter Bottle.

Vodka Testing Criteria

Cranberry and Grey Goose sounds so much hipper, trendier and tastier than Taaka  vodka and Grey Goose, but let’s remember what cranberry tastes like. It’s flavor is strong, sour and bitter enough to disguise the taste of a  glass of Clorox. For that reason, cranberry and vodka is probably not the best way to evaluate brands of vodka, and I think the vast majority of vodka snobs who suck back shots at a time, singing and dancing Russian folks songs with precision and clarity, would agree with me. On the other hand, the majority of us aren’t drinking our vodka that way and probably can’t remember any Russian folk songs either – at least not until we’ve had a few too many drinks. For that reason, the best test of vodka quality means how it tastes in its very most popular, subtle, slightly-altered state: The vodka martini; shaken vigorously in a stainless steel shaker of ice cubes and served in one of those snob-like, stemmed glasses with olives. To be even more credible with my testing procedures, I poured each of the vodka brands into their own glass and observed their aromas before sipping and tasting them in their non-chilled, pure form. I then mixed each of them separately in their own stainless steel shaker of five ice cubes and poured into individual martini glasses, side by side. Before inserting olives, I sampled each of them twice. For the final test, I dropped a couple of olives into each of the martini glasses, took them to the table, sat down, relaxed and enjoyed each of them by alternating sips at a time. Occasionally, I had my wife try each of them in between sips of her scotch Rob-Roy. So, now you know the science and procedures, let’s get to the results.

Vodka Brands Taste Test Results

I thought all three of the vodkas shared similar aromas. Nothing from their individual aromas indicated to me which of them would have the best taste. Upon taking straight sips of them one at a time, the Absolute stood out as having the most distinct flavor; a crisp, almost plastic-like taste. The Grey Goose was least flavorful, but light and rather sweet. The Taaka vodka had a bit more edge or bite but not enough to tip off the price tag. I was encouraged by the first warm sip. After shaking them with ice and tasting each of them without olives, it became even more difficult to become convinced of any conclusions about price vs. quality. I was pretty sure the Taaka was a tad more bitter than the rest of them, but not enough to keep me from wanting to drink the rest of the martini. I dropped olives into each of them, and proceeded to the final stage. I sat at the dinner table and took my time with each of them, going back and forth,  trying to convince myself that the slightly sweeter, pure and cleaner taste of the Grey Goose was enough to justify the eight-fold increase in cost. Taaka vodka seems to sit on the middle of my tongue’s taste buds for a moment longer, where-as the Grey Goose seemed to touch the tip of my tongue with a bit of sweetness and nearly disappeared in flavor as I swallowed it. Grey Goose was the lightest. The Absolut fell somewhere in between, yet continued to have that plastic-like taste which wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but distinct from the rest. Using my wife as a blind-taste subject, I had her compare sips of the most expensive Grey Goose, to the very cheapest Taaka.  I asked her which one she thought was the Grey Goose. She chose Taaka! As I got to the bottom of the martini glasses, and made my way towards the salt and tanginess of the olives, it became even more difficult to be convinced I should pay more for any of the other three vodka brands. For dirty martini drinkers, I imagined that the four brands would be even more difficult to distinguish from each other. Having drank the better part of three martinis, my imagination buzzed in bewilderment over the millions of dollars that must have been poured into bitter  glasses of cranberry juice over the last few years years due to those persuasive Grey Goose ads and TV commercials. The power of suggestion is every bit as powerful as three martinis…but far more expensive.  My recommendation is this: Next time you think you need to buy an expensive vodka to go with that screw driver, cranberry or martini, Taaka yourself out of it.  The ratings results don’t justify the price. I realize that no review on Vodka taste testing can be complete without testing a real Russian Vodka. I will save that for a future review update. Meanwhile, here is the way I rank the three vodka martinis made with Grey Goose, Absolut and Taaka.

Taaka Vodka Comparisons

  1. Grey Goose: 88
  2. Absolut: 82
  3. Taaka: 81

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Lismore Single Malt Scotch

Lismore Scotch Whisky
Lismore Scotch Whisky

Who Can Afford Single Malt Scotch?

Have you acquired a taste for single malt scotch, but don’t feel like plunking down $40 or $50 bucks a bottle every time you visit the liquor store for the best scotch? (The very best brands of single malt scotch can cost 5 or 6 times more than that!)  Take heart, you CAN afford to drink single malt scotch. If you’re like me, you save your single malt scotch purchases for special occasions once or twice a year. I have always looked forward to buying good scotch whisky for the Holidays or sometimes will ask for my favorite brand of single malt for a birthday present. For most of us, drinking a good single malt scotch everyday would leave little room for groceries; that is, until you’ve discovered Lismore.

Speyside Single Malt Scotch

Lismore single malt is a Speyside scotch that can be had for around $15 – $17 a bottle. It is a rather light tasting single malt scotch with very subtle flavors of vanilla, honey, buttery almond, toffee and some cherry. Due to its rather light, subtle flavors, Lismore single malt scotch is not likely to be the favorite of scotch connoisseurs with deep pockets, wanting something more distinguished like the deep, smoky flavors of Lagavilin or Laphroaig. On the other hand, it’s light, smooth, rather ordinary scotch flavor is what makes this such an attractive scotch for your everyday or beginning scotch drinkers. As a single malt scotch, it is also tasty enough, that a true scotch whisky snob won’t object to it either.

Your Everyday Drinking Scotch Whisky

Lismore is not a difficult liquor for even experienced scotch drinkers to enjoy. It is smooth enough that it doesn’t have that initial bite of alcohol you might notice from a cheaper malt whisky.  Lismore single malt scotch makes a great every day drinking whisky, and it won’t set you back an arm-and-a-leg to enjoy regularly.

Lismore Single Malt Scotch

  • Rating (1 – 100): 77
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Top 10 Mixed Drinks

Top 10 Mixed Drinks Rated


Top 10 Mixed Drinks: #1 is a Gin Martini
The Classic Gin Martini

Number 1: The Gin Martini

What are the Top 10 Mixed Drinks? What is the recipe for heaven on earth?
It definitely includes the top 10 mixed drinks. In a stainless steel shaker, pour two shots of Bombay Sapphire or any other good quality brand of gin. Add just a splash of vermouth, a handful of ice cubes and shake vigorously.

Top 10 Mixed Drinks Are Shaken Not Stirred

You’ll know it’s ready to pour when the stainless steel gets so cold in your hand you can no longer hold it without getting frost bite. Pour the frothy-chilled mixture through the strainer into a classic martini glass; drop in a couple of olives and watch as their round, shadowy figures form stencils of steam inside the glassy cylinder. In seconds, the frothy, shaken mixture of gin transforms back into its fully transparent state and is practically begging to be sipped by a snobby, elitist. Now, that’s how to make a gin martini. It’s pretty obvious we’re talking about the # 1 drink in the world: The Classic Gin Martini. When enjoyed slowly over an intimate conversation, a properly made martini leaves no room at the top of life. All mixed-alcoholic drinks give you a buzz. The martini does one better than that by providing the sensation of an all-over body rub-down. For most of us, the massage kicks in about the time we reach the bottom of the glass and bite into that first olive. The massage may happen a little earlier or later, depending on your weight and metabolism – just trust and believe that it really will happen if you give it a chance. I’ve never introduced a martini to someone who didn’t absolutely hate the drink their first time, then love it after their second try. The magic of the martini is enhanced by this mystery: How could something you once thought tasted so unbelievably bad become your very favorite drink? The Gin Martini has mystical powers and effects that go beyond tastes and alcohol. It is number one because once you’ve learned to love it; no other drink can take its place. The Gin Martini is number one.

Number 2: The Vodka Martini

Except for the taste and the massage, the Vodka Martini is identical to the number one drink in the world. It is made the same way; chilled and shaken, but with vodka instead of gin. As wonderful as it is, a vodka martini will always be a pretender. It is a great drink and packs a nice little punch, but it will leave you with the feeling that you still need to have your shoulders rubbed. So, why, you might ask, would someone drink a pretender over the real thing? The answer is that vodka is a kinder, gentler white liquor. It is a little bit more forgiving than gin if you decide to go over your limit. When you’re in the mood for the number one drink in the world, but want to minimize your risks of a headache and massive heartburn, but still have a good time, you play it safe and go for the Vodka Martini,  #2.

Number 3: The Rob Roy

Rob Roy
Imagine a couple of shots of Johnny Walker Black; a splash of sweet & dry vermouth; a dash of bitters; vigorously shaken with ice, and then poured through a strainer into a martini-style glass, with a cherry or lemon peel garnish. This is the Scotch drinker’s Martini. The Rob Roy is the # 3 of the Top 10 Mixed drinks in the world. Drink a couple of these and you will know why Scotch drinkers rank right up there with gin drinkers for snob appeal.

Number 4: The Margarita

Who sings Tequila? Who cares? I’d rather drink it. When you’re having a Margarita, you’re sipping on memories of a vacation in your favorite summer destination, most likely south of the U.S border. Your lips feel spicy and your soul is hot with the taste of salsa. Every sip offers a hint of paradise, freedom and the fantasy that it will last forever. The quality of the Tequila is crucial. No good Margarita was ever made with Cuervo Gold. Cuervo is the worst tasting, yet best marketed Tequila in the world. Even the cheapest unknown, brand of Tequila is infinitely better than Cuervo Gold. There are many good, inexpensive brands. A good margarita is 2 parts of good tequila, 1/2 part real lime juice, 1/2 part Contreaux; served in Margarita glass full of ice with a little salt on the rim. When made properly, they go down smoother than any other drink and are nearly impossible to stop drinking. It is for this reason that the Margarita is the # 4 drink in the world of our Top 10 Mixed Drinks list. There are more Margaritas drank that are forgotten than any other drink in the top 10 mixed drinks list.

Number 5: The Manhattan

Do you like bourbon over scotch? Okay, then grab a bottle of Jim Beam instead of the Johnny Walker and follow the instructions for the # 3 drink in the world. The result is a Manhattan. It is a drink where bourbon drinkers, too, can feel like Martini snobs. The Manhattan is # 5.

Number 6: The Mojito

It is any coincidence that four of the five Top drinks thus far are served-up, chilled and shaken like Martinis? Make that five out of six with the Mojito. Get out the stainless steel shaker and ice cubes one more time and this time reach for the Myers Rum. Add a teaspoon of sugar and a few mint leaves into the icy, stainless-steel and shake like crazy. Pour into martini glass and add a mint leave or two for garnish. It is the martini fantasy of every pirate and the numer 6 drink in the world: I rank this one a solid 6th.

Long Island Iced Tea is a Top 10 Mixed Drinks FavoriteNumber 7: The Long Island Ice Tea

Would if you were about 3/4ths done swigging down a tall glass of Pepsi one day when you suddenly decided to go a little crazy and just start pouring a bunch of different types of booze into your near-empty glass? Apparently some drunken New Yorkers came up with this idea and named it the Long Island Ice Tea. It is the # 7 drink in the world because it is strong, refreshing and has the same can’t-stop-once-you-start habit as the #4 drink. It seems that not all New Yorkers are snobs and have to drink their booze out of a martini glass. Don’t think because it has the name Tea in it that you’ll be able to remember how many you drank. Here we go: 1 Part of the following: Vodka, Rum, Tequila, Gin, Triple-Sec; 1-1/2 part Sweet & Sour or Lemonade, and a splash or more of Coke/Pepsi. Leave it to New Yorkers to call this Tea.  At number 7, the Long Island Iced Tea makes it among the Top-10.

The Old Fashioned Cocktail is a Top 10 Mixed Drinks Favorite

Number 8: The Old Fashioned

In a short cocktail glass, add one and a half shots of bourbon; a dash of bitters; a teaspoon or two of simple syrup. Stir, add a few ice cubes, and fill it to the rim with Club Soda. Add Cherry and/or Orange slice for garnish. You may not know it, but if you’re in sales, this is what your boss drinks and it’s Number 8 out of my Mixed Drinks favorites.

Number 9: Rum and Coke

A very popular drink, and a better way to say, “What I really need is some strong alcohol, but I’ll order it with coke to make it sound sweet and respectable. 9 out of 10 Bourbon and Coke drinkers usually drink beer, and have not yet experienced their first martini.
Simple recipe: one or two shots of Rum, and fill the rest of the glass with Ice Cubes and Coke. If you’re a Pepsi drinker, use Pepsi. If you like RC Cola, use that…if you like Seven-Up, sorry – that’s a Shirley Temple. Whoops. Wrong Blog! Rum & Coke is ranked nine.

Drink Number 10: Daiquiri

No top-10 mixed drinks list can be without the daiquiri. Okay, so you tried a Marg, but that nasty Tequila (Cuervo) tasted so bad. Unless you’ve had someone lecture you about good tequila, you’re probably drinking something else with a little lime, zest and fun in it. The Number 10 Top drink is the Daiquiri: One ounce of fresh lime juice; 2 ounces of white rum, and one or two teaspoons of sugar. Prepare as you would the martini with plenty of ice cubes, shaken vigorously in a stainless steel shaker and strain into either a gimlet-type or martini glass, depending on how snobby you feel. The Daiquiri is the # 10 rated drink in the world and that completes our Top-10 list.  Feel free to offer your own variations, recipes, advice, opinions, criticisms, etc. Cheers!

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Pineapple Orange Juice Peach Schnapps

Peach Schnapps
Peach Schnapps

Pineapple Orange Juice
Pineapple Orange Juice

What is a Pineapple Orange Juice Peach Schnapps? Or is it called, Orange Juice Pineapple Peach Schnapps?

Drink Recipes change with the season. While this one doesn’t belong on the list of Top-10 Mixed drinks, it does have it’s own special place for the autumn season.  Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy a good tropical drink. This delicious drink recipe can be enjoyed in the fall and makes an especially good Halloween, holiday treat. If Orange Juice and Peach Schnapps together are called a Fuzzy Naval, then Orange Pineapple Juice Peach Schnapps is aptly named, the prickly-fuzzy naval. Pineapple Orange Juice Peach Schnapps will bring the cold bite of fall into your favorite beach memories of last summer. The pineapple orange juice adds a little bit of tropical flare to the popular, fuzzy naval.

One of the things this drink reminds me of is the combination of peaches and cream. If you’ve never had peaches with your ice cream, then you don’t know what you’re missing. The flavor of this combination is simply amazing. If you’ve tried the ice-cream treat known as the Dreamsicle than you’ve got the concept: Ice Cream and sherbet. The two were simply meant to go together.  The flavor seems to explode, though, when you add the alcohol of a sweet liqueur, like Schnapps.

To make the Orange Pineapple Juice Peach Schnapps, you only need two items:

  1. Peach Schnapps
  2. Pineapple Orange Juice (available at your grocery store in regular orange juice containers.

Orange Pineapple Juice Peach Schnapps RecipeNaval Orange
The traditional way would be to use half and half of each of the ingredients above and add them to a cocktail glass with a cherry.


The preferred way: 3 parts Schnapps to 1 part Pineapple Orange juice, or Orange Pineapple Juice. Shake with 4 ice cubes, then strain into a martini glass. Add an orange peel for garnish.That, my friends, is a Pineapple Orange Juice Peach Schnapps….err.. or a Orange Pineapple Juice Peach Schnapps.

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