Wisdom and Church & State are offering gift Mixology Classes.  The classes will be tailored to individual interests and they can make a reservation and use it at their convenience anytime in 2014.

Full details: are under the mixology classes tab.

Just e-mail us at DCWISDOM@GMAIL.COM
Let us know the names of the recipients/where the certificate should be mailed/preferred location for class. We will send you a paypal link & send the gift on its way.

The World’s Most Expensive Gin: The $700 Sipper


2010 was the year in which I first heard about Nolet’s Reserve gin. I heard about this legendary Dutch gin, wrapped in a golden label, protecting a bottle of the rarest of botanicals and the most carefully crafted distillations the gin world had ever known. This gin possessed a sort of far off, mystical quality to its existence. Also, I heard of its price tag. 700 dollars?! I must admit that I was both intrigued and skeptical.

Generally, when one sees an extremely expensive liqueur, one can assume that the pricing is largely due to the aging of the spirit. Aging a spirit requires many resources, including space and time; both of which contribute to cost. Many distilleries are taxed for shelved products, year after year as their products age, further driving up cost. Traditionally, these factors contribute to the pricing of many spirits on the market, including whiskey, rum, fine liqueurs, and many others. However, these factors do not normally affect the pricing of gin. Gin: the lovely neutral distilled spirit, flavored with juniper berries, is not, traditionally, a spirit intended to be consumed beyond thirty years, or so, after its distillation. So, how can the Nolet’s Reserve claim a $699.99 price tag on a 750ml bottle of a spirit that is unaged? Curious to identify the rationale behind all of this mysticism, I performed some rudimentary research into Nolet’s.

The Nolet Family of Schiedam Holland has been continually distilling since 1691; over 300 years of distilling history, which nearly covers the entire spectrum of time since gin was born as a variation of Dutch geniever. With this nugget of historical knowledge, I figured, well, if anyone was going to produce the world’s most expensive spirit in this category, the Nolet Family has the birth right to do so. Another interesting tidbit of knowledge is that the Nolet family is responsible for creating a very popular premium vodka: Ketel One. Ketel, released in the early 1980s, is one of the world’s top selling high-end vodkas. Ok, so the company has a history that dates back as far as gin goes and a solid record of product success. I guess I am starting to see the picture, at least a little.

My next thought was that, if I could ever get my hands on a bottle of the Reserve, I would first want to match its quality against a, comparatively, lower end version of Nolet’s gin: the Nolet’s Silver, which is valued at approximately $50 per 750ml bottle, making it among the most expensive gins on the shelf at my bar, Wisdom. It is also one of my favorite gins on the market. Nolet’s Silver is a product of the Nolet family’s 11th generation and is a floral forward gin made with peach, raspberry, and Turkish Rose, yet it retains a noticeable and vibrant juniper backbone. It is excellent. The Nolet Reserve is the brainchild of Carolus Nolet Sr. and is regarded as the flagship product of the Nolet’s business.

Alright fine, so the family may have legitimate history behind this flagship product and their overall brand, but still, $700 a bottle? Almost $30 an ounce at cost? If you were lucky enough to find a bar that carried it to sample it, the normal markup (20-25% of cost) would dictate $120-$150 per ounce. Damn. I could drink premium all night for myself plus a couple of friends for that price. So, how does someone like me justify this purchase? Yes, I own three bars, but I live like a Buddhist as a result, so…in reality, my bars own me. I’m the stereotypical entrepreneur working way too many hours a week, never taking time off, and regularly day-dreaming of taking a real vacation some day. I’d get to the Nolet’s Reserve in due time. Well, as it turns out, the time was due before I knew it was, the universe stepped in and answered my need–my staff surprised me with a bottle of the Nolet’s Reserve last October for Wisdom’s four year anniversary! This was truly the most amazing gift I have ever received–and quite humbling, as a boss, to get this quality of respect and recognition from among the staff, especially in the perennially nomadic industry in which we work and play. I was very grateful to my team and, of course, excited for the opportunity to explore one of the prime subjects of my gin intrigue for these last few years.

I stared at the golden box for over a year–scared to break the seal. My instructions for my roommate have been made clear: should the place catch fire, grab the dog and the Nolet’s Reserve, leave everything else. Finally, the milestone I had been waiting for had arrived: the five year anniversary of the opening of Wisdom: my first business. My family from Colorado had come into town too, setting the stage for a christening. After an excellent meal, myself and the other taste explorers set out to my closed bar for the unleashing.

I carefully cracked open the seal. A thought passed that made me laugh–what if it was just water inside? Perhaps this was just a hoax from the staff that I thought respected me so much? Ha! Alas, it was open and the bouquet hit me. The 52.3%-104.6 proof spirit immediately reminded me of the floral forward cousin of which I was familiar: the Nolet’s Silver. We poured and added a cube of ice and tasted. Eventually, some bottled water was added. I have never tasted an unaged spirit at such a high proof. It was astoundingly soft yet thick, blanketing the tongue, yet not overwhelming it. The nerd in me admits that my first thought, at this point, was that this was clearly the type of gin that the elves from the Lord of the Rings would have sipped. It had a golden hue with saffron and verbena notes and delicate subtle complexity– definitely a sipping gin. One thing is for sure: this gin cannot be mixed with any vermouth or really anything for that matter. It is wise to reduce the strength with a touch of good, clean water just to open up the true flavor. Ah, so impressive. I believe this may be the finest spirit I have ever tasted. Exceptional.

Ok, so, was this unicorn water 14x better than the Nolet’s Silver, as the price would suggest? Well, no, not exactly. I make the assumption that the cost is related to several unique factors though. One is likely to be the small size of the heart of the batch, taken during distillation, resulting in a dramatically smaller yield of product, which would inevitably contribute to a much higher price–but that one is just an educated guess. Another is that Nolet’s Master Distiller handpicks the botanicals and personally crafts the spirit, which certainly adds to the price. A third is that the Nolet’s Reserve includes saffron as a prime botanical (the most expensive spice on the planet–more expensive than gold).

Ok, so this is an absolutely incredible gin. Traditionally, I personally prefer mixing gins where the botanicals can pop and shine when shaken with other worthy elements; I simply love the subtle surprises that emerge in the mixing of the elements too much to deny that therein lies my focus and passion when it comes to gin. However, the Nolet’s Reserve gin, on its own, is legendarily delectable. In my humble opinion, it is deserving of the mysticism that surrounds its existence, and it is worthy of a price tag that accurately reflects its rarity. Sip on.

New in the World of Gin


Last the night, the Gintender attended the Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve (barrel finished gin) launch party. The event was hosted by Nick Van Tiel  who is the ambassador for Beefeater and Plymouth (and an all around great guy.) The event was held at Farmers Fishers Bakers in Georgetown-which was a great venue for it. The most notable point is that Beefeater chose to launch their new Reserve first in Washington DC before distributing in other parts of the country–finally, DC’s bar scene is coming of age!

James Burrough founded Beefeater Gin in 1863. This new ultra-premium gin was named in honor of the founder and crafted by Master Distiller Desmond Payne. Desmond Payne has over 45 years of distillation experience and is one of the most respected names in the world of gin. Desmond mixed old and new traditions for the Reserve: “I wanted to create something truly unique that celebrated the distilling heritage of Beefeater. I expect Burrough’s Reserve to appeal to free thinking individuals who enjoy challenging convention and exploring new sensory experiences with gin.”
It is based off the original Beefeater recipe and made in James Burrough’s original 268L tiny copper still. The still was brought out of retirement for the Reserve in order to create a truly unique, hand-crafted small batch gin. After distillation the gin is rested in handpicked French Oak barrels, formerly used for aperitif wines and small batch fruit liqueur.

I was initially skeptical about barrel aging gin-a brand new trend that seems to be growing in the gin category. Traditionally gin is never aged, and I was worried it would be moving the spirit into the Geniever flavor profile or even the whiskey world. After a taste (and then several more) I was sold. The spirit has a light golden-pale hue and is bottled at 86 proof. The palate is complex yet soft, with subtle citrus notes (characteristic of the standard Beefeater Gin) mellowed out but still dominant juniper and a spice finish. I believe this is the first gin I have ever encountered that I think stands as a sipping gin. If mixing would only recommend subtle components–you do not want to crush this unique expression. Wisdom will have one of the first shipments in the US early next week.



Desmond Payne

The Reverse Martini


It is no secret I have a healthy obsession with gin. It is the canvas I like to build most of my drinks on. But right after my obsession with gin is my obsession with aperitif wines/vermouth. In my humble opinion it is the least understood and most underutilized cocktail ingredient in our current cocktail rebirth. It is one of two ingredients in a Martini and one of three ingredients in a Manhattan, yet the majority of Americans and even many professional cocktail makers know very little about it and do not place importance on it.

There are three main reasons why Americans shy away from Vermouth. One, the famous haters such as Winston Churchill who declared that the way to make a martini correctly is extremely chilled gin and then bowing in the direction of France. Secondly, it is trendy to order a martini “dry”, although in my seven years experience behind the bar it is scary how many customers order a martini that way but do not really understand what they are asking…but it sounds correct! And finally, most do not realize that vermouth has a shelf life. And if you have ever had wine that has been opened for days/weeks that has oxidized it is horrible. The same thing happens to Vermouth (although it takes longer to turn). But if your first experience with the stuff is oxidized Vermouth, anyone sane drinker would want to keep it as far away from their lips as possible.

If you want to learn the magic of vermouth I suggest you sign up for a class with me, but in the mean time you can come in to Wisdom or Church & State and order a REVERSE MARTINI.

What is a reverse martini? Besides being the favored drink of Julia Child, it is a simple reverse in the ratio of gin and vermouth. It puts the vermouth/aperitif wine on stage and uses the gin for some body and a botanical subtle kick. Much lighter in proof than a standard Martini and yet much stronger than a glass of wine or beer. It may be the perfect drink for the individual who loves the elegance and flavor profile of a classic cocktail but whose tolerance level is not ready for the heat!

One combination that I recently came up with is the BLUE ROSE. The Cocchi Rosé is a new aperitif wine from Cocchi that has incredible depth and a nice layer of bitterness from the chinchona (ken-KEE-nah) bark that is added. BTW the “Americano” does not refer to American but to “Amer” or bitter.


2.25 oz of Cocchi Americano Rosé Aperitif Wine

0.75 oz of BlueCoat Gin

dash of Orange bitters

I recommend stirring over the rocks than straining into a coup glass.

Optional Garnish: Orange Peel

Oh My Tonic!


**Tammy Taylor Manager and head bartender at Church & State in Washington, D.C.**

By Tammy Taylor

I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with liquor, and it’s not just a small obsession. It’s huge and not just with drinking it. Though, I do not deny that’s part of it. I’m obsessed with what I can do to make it different, well, better. So when presented with a recipe to make my own tonic at Church&State, I jumped on it.

Originally, tonic was used for medicinal purposes to ward off against malaria in South America and Africa. The “tonic” was made by soaking the bark from the South American cinchona (kenKEEnah) tree to extract quinine, a natural prophylactic against malaria, and then drinking it as a tea. The quinine tonic was so bitter that eventually the British added lime and gin to tame the bitterness of the drink…so the tonic came first and the gin was the mixer! Thus the beloved “gin and tonic” was born.

But the tonic we drink today is a far cry from what the British drank back then. The first commercial tonic was produced in Britain in the 1850s by adding soda water and sugar. In 1953, Schweppes Beverage Co. brought to the American market. The quinine in the American tonic is produced by a chemical extraction; not by soaking tree bark. It also contains a lot less quinine because the U.S Food and Drug Administration limits the amount of quinine to 83 parts per million. This dilution, along with the high fructose corn syrup that is added, makes it a lot less bitter. It can be argued that American tonic produced for bars on the rail is so far removed from the original formula that it shouldn’t even be called tonic water.

How awesome was it to find out that it was not only better, but easy to make. I found the cinchona bark online without much trouble so I bought it and began experimenting. The earthiness you get is amazing and I, a non-bitter drinker, don’t even mind how bitter and sour it tastes. I haven’t had a gin yet that hasn’t been complimented by my new obsession. I have since modified the recipe and created the “tonic of the month” for our bars. So far, I’ve steeped in lavender, rose hip and the current tonic is hibiscus.

Here is a basic tonic recipe from Imbibe Magazine that you can try at home. If you’re not feeling that adventurous, come to Wisdom or Church&State to give my fresh tonic of the month a try.

4 cups water
3 cups pure cane sugar
3 Tbsp. quinine (powdered cinchona bark)
6 Tbsp. powdered citric acid
3 limes, zested and juiced
3 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil until the sugar dissolves, then turn the heat down to low. Add the quinine, citric acid, lemongrass, lime zest and lime juice. Stir well and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the powders are dissolved and the syrup is thin and runny. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out the large chunks through a colander, then filter through cheesecloth or coffee filters to refine. This step can take a while—and many filters—as the bark is a very fine powder, so be patient.

*Gintender’s drunken wisdom*

If you are a fan of gin and tonics and you are sipping a super premium gin opt for a better tonic. It makes a dramatic difference! Schweppes is a solid choice as are artesian products such as Fevertree or Q tonic out of Brooklyn. If you are in a bar and have no options other then harsh rail tonic, consider choosing a heavier juniper London dry style gin versus a “New Western style” softer juniper spirit, that will be able to stand up to the tonic.

The Wisdom-Genever Cocktail Competition-18 July 2013


Wisdom is hosting its first cocktail competition of Diep 9 Genever for industry and non-industry folks!

Why genever (Juh-nee-vur)? It is the precursor of Gin and has a flavor profile that has been described as a mix between gin, whiskey, and vodka. Before prohibition in 1920, Americans were drinking up to 7 times more genever than gin and today the spirit is almost completely unknown in the States.

It is free to enter, and if your recipe is accepted you will have a chance to win some great prizes including bar and restaurant tabs!

Every Sunday starting this Sunday (June 9th) you can visit Wisdom to try free samples of Diep9 old and young genever. Just tell the bartender you are interested in the competition. All recipes must be submitted to dcwisdom@gmail.com by Friday July 12th.

New to genever?  Check out our last post with Diep9’s Veronique Beittel and her new book Genever: 500 Years of History in a Bottle.

The nitty-gritty details:

Diep 9 Official Cocktail Competition Rules, Hints & Tips

1. Two entries per person maximum
2. Entries must be in the form of a long or short drink, not a shot and be a maximum of 4oz
3. Entries should be submitted by email to dcwisdom@gmail.com but are not officially accepted until email notice of acceptance is sent by the organizers.

4. Drinks must not contain more than seven ingredients, including fruit juices, syrups, drops or dashes. Solid garnishes are not considered ingredients. It is acceptable to additionally spray a citrus fruit zest over the drink if specified as a garnish. With a few exceptions it is the simple drinks that have gone on to become ‘classics’, and due to this the judges will be instructed to favor simple drinks with fewer ingredients.
5. Hot ingredients, premixes of any kind or home preparations are forbidden without advance written authority of the competition organizers. Competitors wishing to use these should submit their request at least 5 days before the day of competition but are advised to seek permission as soon as possible.
6. Recipes which can be easily replicated are preferred so unless judges give advanced written authority (rule 5 above) ingredients must be readily/widely available proprietary products, fruit and commonly found bar products.
7. Recipes must contain a minimum of 1.5 oz of Diep 9 Old genever or Young genever
8. Ingredients may be measured using a jigger or similar measure or freely poured.

9. Recipes entered must be the original creation of the competitor and if a competitor is thought to have plagiarized a known, existing cocktail they will be disqualified.
10. Recipes entered must be expressed in ounces or with the use of ‘dashes’ and/or ‘drops’ limited to bitters, hot pepper sauce and the like. Fruit juice quantities must also be stipulated, e.g. “squeeze of lime” is unacceptable.

Drinks & Preparation
11. Drinks must be assembled in front of the judges.
12. Drinks may be hand stirred, hand shaken or blended in an electric mixer.
13. Competitors must supply their own bartending utensils (shaker, bar spoon, strainer etc.). An electric blender will be provided by the organizers.
14. Cocktails may be presented in any shape of glass, cup or other hygienic and safe receptacle. The organizer will supply limited basic glassware but competitors are advised to bring their own. Note, points are awarded for presentation. No brand name or logo other than the regular discrete mark of the glassware manufacturer should be visible (sponsoring brand excepted).
15. The organizers will supply ice
16. Drinks may be served hot (with organizer’s written consent), straight-up, or over cubed, cracked or crushed ice.
17. Each competitor must make at least two identical drinks for the judges to sample.
18. Competitors must be able to prepare drinks within a maximum of 5 minutes but will additionally be given a further 5 minutes, prior to making their drink, to familiarize themselves with the bar area and prepare equipment and ingredients.
19. Competitors serving drinks which appear inedible or working with unhygienic methods will be disqualified and their drinks discarded without being sampled.

20. Garnishes must be edible but may be mounted on sticks, skewers, straws, forks or other such common bar accessories. Use of edible fruits, herbs, leaves and spices my include sprigs, peels, barks, fruit shells etc. Any flowers and petals used must be of an edible variety.
21. Fruit for garnishes may be peeled in advance, but not sliced, wedged or pre-cut in any other way. Garnishes must be assembled within the five minute allotted drinks preparation time.

22. By entering this competition, competitors agree to assign copyright of their recipe and drink name to the competition organizers.
23. Competitors and drinks presented during the competition may be photographed (still or motion picture) by the organizers and copyright of these images for any use, including advertising, will be retained by the competition organizers.

Drink Names
24. Drink names including rude, lurid, sexual words, or words associated with narcotics or motor vehicles are prohibited.
25. Competitors are encouraged to talk to the judges while making their drink. Points will be awarded for general presentation and working methods.
26. Competitors using rude or swear words will be disqualified.

27. The competition organizers reserve the right to have the final decision on any matter relating to the judging of the competition.
28. The competition organizers will appoint the panel of judges and reserve the right to replace or appoint new judges before or during the competition.
29. The judges must remain impartial and declare any vested interest they may have in the competition or competitors. They must judge each competitor on their competition presentation and drink alone.

30. While every reasonable effort will be made, the competition organizers cannot guarantee the safe return of glassware, equipment or any product supplied by a competitor. Therefore competitors are advised to house their tools and product in bags/boxes which enable them to efficiently gather and hold their equipment and ingredients immediately after competing.
31. Competitors considered by the organizer to be practicing or promoting any form of irresponsible drinking, including ‘shots’ will be disqualified and may be asked to leave the venue.
32. Competitors must conduct themselves in a safe manner and any action considered by the organizers to endanger fellow competitors, judges or spectators will result in instant disqualification and possible ejection from the venue.


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