The Barnum (was Right) Cocktail: gin, apricot liqueur, lemon, Angostura bitters

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The Barnum (was Right) Cocktail: Gin, apricot liqueur, lemon, Angostura bitters

For this one, I turned back to Ted Haigh (AKA Dr. Cocktail)’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. It had such a great name that I just couldn’t resist.

And it uses apricot liqueur, too. The only other thing I have used that in is Fish House Punch. So I was happy to have another use for it.

How to make the Barnum (was Right) Cocktail

To make the Barnum (was Right) Cocktail, combine with ice:

shake well, and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

It’s not often that I turn to the older cocktails. For the most part, they seem all played out. The really good ones have been adopted as modern drinks and no longer seem foreign. The other ones, well, there’s a reason they were forgotten.

But this one is good! Really good. Notice that there’s no simple syrup. That’s because there’s an entire ounce of apricot liqueur, which really shines in the drink. I would say that it’s more of an apricot drink than anything else. It just comes through so fruitily.

So my temporal bias against the past may be misplaced, I admit. The Barnum deserves a seat at the bar.

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Don’t let anyone fool you: Barnum was right. I’ll part with my money for this cocktail, any day.

The Cantaloupe Smash! cocktail: Cantaloupe, rum, Aperol, lime, bitters

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The Cantaloupe Smash with rum, Aperol, lime, bitters, and rosemary.

My parents always had a garden when I was little, but they only grew a few things: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and cantaloupe.

We ate a ton of cantaloupe when I was a kid.

And I still love cantaloupe! It’s one of the few fruits that I truly enjoy. The rest of them are just too sweet, but cantaloupe is right there in the middle. It’s not too sweet, and it’s firm, and it feels good in the mouth.

So when Kroger had them for 99 cents each, I knew it was time to try a Cantaloupe Smash.

The Cantaloupe Smash Cocktail Recipe

Take a bit of cantaloupe, and put it in the bottom of a mixing glass. About four cubes of the stuff.

And now smash it.

Think Hulk here.

From Hollywood Nuts! at http://www.beingretro.com/2012/11/hulk-smash-and-meet-castcrew-of.html

Then add to the mixing glass:

  • 1 1/2 oz Flor de Cana white rum
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1/2 oz lime
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 10 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake well with ice, and strain over crushed ice in a tall glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

You can try it without the rosemary, of course, but I highly recommend the combination. The rosemary and the cantaloupe work great together.

I admit, though, that this isn’t the best drink I have ever come up with it. I tried of ton of different stuff, and cantaloupe just doesn’t lend itself to cocktails that well. It’s the lack of sweetness that doesn’t work that well, I think. Therefore, I had to add simple syrup.

But it’s still good, and the group I made them for enjoyed them, or at least they told me they did. And when cantaloupe is on sale for $1 again, you can bet I will be experimenting again.

Hmm, maybe cantaloupe mixed with pineapple juice?

Not sure about that, either.

The El Jimador Texas Margarita Trail event and how to make a true Margarita

Sometimes you can keep it simple!
The real deal Margarita: el Jimador tequila, triple sec, lime, agave

El Jimador Tequila and the Houston Press searched throughout Houston looking for the best Margarita in town. And they threw a party to celebrate it.

A huge, kick-ass party.

With lots of tequila.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThe Texas Margarita Trail finale happened on May 3, 2016 at Winter Street Studios in Houston, and there were five featured margaritas. Each one was different, but they all featured el Jimador tequila and some even held the lime.

How make a traditional Margarita

But first, let’s make a real Margarita. A traditional Margarita with four ingredients: tequila, lime, triple sec, agave syrup.

All you have to do is combine the four. Me, I like the following proportions:

  • 1 1/2 oz blanco tequila (el Jimador is a great choice)
  • 1 oz triple sec (you can use Cointreau, but I think the choice of triple sec doesn’t matter that much)
  • 3/4 oz lime
  • 1/4 oz agave syrup

Build in a glass with ice that has a salted rim.

Beautiful.

But sometimes you want something different. That’s why El Jimador went on their quest.

The Jolly Jimador from El Big Bad

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetFirst, there was the Jolly Jimador from El Big Bad, a tequila bar and restaurant in downtown Houston that has a tequila elevator with all of their infused tequilas on display. I admit I have never been there, but I want to take a ride on that elevator pretty badly.

The Jolly Jimador, created by Zachary McClendo, included

  • 1 1/2 oz El Jimador Reposado
  • 1/2 oz fresh strawberry puree
  • 1/4 oz agave nectar
  • topped with ginger beer

It was good. The ginger didn’t come through that strongly, for it was just a splash of it, but it gave it a different texture from the rest, more of an effervescence.

The Jim Jim Miel from La Grange

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetMatt Ainsworth from La Grange restaurant in Montrose featured ginger and vanilla bean in his take on the Margarita:

  • 1 1/2 oz El Jimador Silver Tequila
  • 1 oz lime
  • 1/2 oz raw honey
  • 2 slices muddled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • splash of apple cider

Tasty. I hoped the vanilla bean would be stronger, but all of the flavors came together nicely.

The Tuscan Sun from Batanga

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Anthony Taye of Batanga in downtown Houston made a traditional Margarita but then included a bit of bitters and some wine:

 

  • 1 1/2 oz El Jimador Silver
  • 1/2 oz lemon
  • splash of simple syrup
  • dash of Angostura bitters
  • layered with birbet (a red, sweet, sparkling wine)

In the little taste I had, I couldn’t place the wine or the bitters, though. I think this is a drink that has to be experienced in the larger quantity. Otherwise, the nuances get lost.

The Flor de Menta Margarita from Pistoleros

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Joel Luna’s For de Menta Margarita was one of my favorites. Luna is from Pistolero’s in Montrose, and, while I’ve never been there, I really want to go after trying his Flor de Menta. If all of their drinks are this good, we should meet there for happy hour.

 

To make one, combine

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  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • 2 dashes peach bitters
  • muddled mint
  • 1/4 oz lime juice
  • fill with sour (lime and syrup)
  • float hibiscus liqueur on top

It was the hibiscus and the peach that made this one stand out.

Mango Habanero Margarita from La Fisheria

Steven Rodriquez-Ferreira’s Mango Habanero Margarita was the night’s winner. Of La Fisheria retaurant in downtown Houston, Rodriquez-Ferreira combined everyone’s two favorite things: fruit and spice. Man, they worked perfectly together. I would drink this thing all night.

To make your own:

  • muddle cucumber, cherry, and habanero
  • 1 1/2 oz El Jimador
  • 1 oz mango puree
  • 1/2 oz tamarindo juice
  • splash of lime
  • 1/2 oz orange liqueur

I wouldn’t hesitate to try each of these at the restaurants themselves. Let’s just hope they include them on their menus.

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The Tastemaker Awards Event, May 18, Houston, Texas

Tastemaker Awards 2016 - SponsorsTequila HerraduraIf you’re reading this blog, and you don’t know about the Culturemap Tastemaker Awards sponsored by Tequila Herradura next week, you must not be from Houston. This is THE foodie party of the year.

Where else can you try beverages from

and food from

all for $40 to $60 for a ticket?

Nowhere, that’s where.

So go right now to the Tastemaker website and order your tickets.

And I will see you there. After all, all the cools kids will be there.

Houston Big Texas Beer Fest on May 21, 2016

Unfortunately, my wife is going out of town to go to a graduation on May 21. Otherwise, I would totally be at NRG ready to drink good beer at the Houston Big Texas Beer Fest!

If you’re in town, you should go. And if you go, send me a report. I want to know what crazy, funky beer you tried.

Cheers!

First Houston Big Texas Beer Fest set for May 21, 2016

Houston, TX – May 8, 2016 – The Big Texas Beer Fest (BTBF) takes its festival on the road for the first time, landing in Houston at NRG Center on May 21. After 5 consecutively sold out festivals in North Texas, the festival has chosen to expand to Houston as its first city outside North Texas. The event was first founded in 2012, and has raised over $45,000 for the North Texas Food Bank since inception. The event expects to draw 3-5,000 attendees in its inaugural run in Houston. Expected to attract 70+ breweries with 300+ beers to sample, BTBF always has unique selections that you can’t normally find at your neighborhood bar or bottle shop.

One of the festival organizers, Chad Montgomery, co-founder of the festival was asked why Houston was chosen. “We like a lot of what is going on in the Houston beer and food scene. There are some really innovative things happening, and we wanted to try and be part of that community which connects brewers, small businesses and consumers together in a unique indoor/outdoor GABF-style festival. We have sold out all of our events in north Texas, and hope to do the same in Houston.”

The success from the first five festivals has helped garnered national attention from various publications, and continues to draw in more people from out of state. Montgomery says, “we had people from 4 different countries, and over 35 states attending this year’s North Texas event. It’s become somewhat of a destination.” Chad’s wife and event co-founder Nellie added, “My favorite thing about our event is making connections between brewers and other vendors. When we see local breweries do collaboration beers, or a local brewery teaming up with a coffee vendor for instance, that’s really exciting for us.”

In addition to award-winning beers from all over the world, the festival will also feature 9 of Houston’s best food trucks including Wokker TX Ranger, the Waffle Bus, Cousins Lobster and more. When asked about the music, Chad added, “we always try to pick out bands that are good beer-drinking music. We’ve always liked Shotgun Friday, and those guys are making the trip down to Houston also.” In addition, Matt Tedder from The Voice will headline, and The Roomsounds will kick things off in the outdoor food and music pavilion.

As always, a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit a local charity, in this case the Houston Food Bank. Nellie noted, “while everyone is gathering info about craft beer, they should know they’re also helping feed hungry north Texans. My other favorite aspect of this event is that we can do some good, while everyone has a great time.” Tickets for the festival are on sale now at http://www.bigtexasbeerfest.com. VIP tickets are very limited at this point, but can still be had. General admission tickets are $39 and VIP for $65. General Admission tickets will also be available at the door for $50. VIP tickets enable attendees to gain entrance to the event one hour early to enjoy all the rare and unique beers with minimal lines.

The festival’s hours are Saturday from 2:00-6:30pm. The VIP session is set to begin at 1pm. Parking will be available at NRG Park for $12, but the Montgomery’s recommend people use the METRORail Red Line, or use a ridesharing partner like Uber or Lyft. The METRORail Red Line has a stop at NRG Park, dropping attendees a quick jaunt away from the venue.

For all of the details, including participating breweries, vendors, and much more, visit the official event website. To schedule an interview with Chad or Nellie Montgomery, send an email or reach out via phone at the contact details below.

Chad Montgomery, Co-Founder chad@bigtexasbeerfest.com

Big Texas Beer Fest 214-531-4001 http://www.facebook.com/BigTexasBeerFest

http://www.bigtexasbeerfest.com

The Lounge Machine Cocktail: Lillet, cognac, Hornitos Spiced Honey

Don't forget to lounge.
The Lounge Machine Cocktail: Lillet, cognac, Hornitos Spiced Honey Tequila, and a lemon peel.

I’m a big fan of Lillet. I bought a bottle years ago to try making a Vesper Martini. You know, the one James Bond orders in Casino Royale.

While that drink is not my favorite, by any means, I have used it to great effect in the Gin de Provence, and it’s great in Drink.Well’s Spring Awakening Cocktail, and I even enjoy the stuff straight.

This time, I reached into my refrigerator (yes, you should store Lillet in the fridge), and was about to pour myself a refreshing glass of the stuff, when I decided to turn it into a cocktail.

The Lounge Machine Cocktail Recipe

To make a Lounge Machine, combine with ice:

stir it really well, and strain into a chilled coupe. Spritz a lemon peel into the drink, rub it around the outside, and bam! you have a very easy drink.

It’s strong, sure, but it’s still quite drinkable and even refreshing.

The Lillet is sweet on its own, and it complements the cognac nicely. The Spiced Honey adds just a tad more sweetness and a complex spice note that works well.

I admit, though, that I can’t explain how or why the drink works. Wine mixed with cognac and spicy sweet tequila does not sound appealing.

But it works, and it’s perfect for spring. So make yourself one. You don’t even have to juice anything. Just whip it up, and lounge on the back patio.

That’s me, after all: the Lounge Machine.

The new Four Seasons Houston Spa Menu (now with liquor!)

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The Bulleit rye Old Fashioned cocktail at the Lobby Lounge, Four Seasons Houston. With a side of nuts, too. Better than Utz, I’m sure.

I’m just kidding about the liquor part, although I did get to imbibe a bit when the Four Seasons Houston hosted the Houston Food Blogger Collective, an organization of all the best Houston food bloggers. Sure, I mainly blog about drinks, but sometimes I talk about the food, too.

The food at the Four Seasons Houston Spa

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The signature power bowl, the southwestern smoked chicken and quinoa, and the spinach and chayote squash salad. All were tasty.

First, the food. Let’s just get that out of the way. The renovated spa features a special menu served at the pool deck from the renowned Vinoteca and Quattro restaurants, which are featured in other areas of the Four Seasons Houston. We got to sample quite a few of the dishes, including the

  • Southwest turkey wrap
  • Bulgur and mushroom burger
  • Signature power bowl
  • Southwestern smoked chicken and quinoa
  • Spinach and chayote squash salad
  • Grilled verlasso salmon
  • Tandoori ginger chicken

all with a very complementary Monterrey Vineyards Chardonnay.

Take a dip, enjoy a power bowl!
The covered pool deck bar area on the fourth floor of the Four Seasons Houston.

And they were all good. Absolutely everything. I could go on about the salmon and tandoori chicken, which were cooked perfectly, or talk about the crazy, pleasing consistency of the signature power bowl.

At $18, it's a pretty good deal.
The southwestern smoked chicken and quinoa was the highlight. With a bit a chickpeas and a bit of squash.

But the one that stood out was the southwestern smoked chicken and quinoa. The first bite hits you with smoke, which seems unnatural in quinoa, but then it settles down into a hearty, fulfilling, tangy, and a little fiery salad that made me want to keep eating. I would order that dish every single time. It was seriously that good.

The Four Seasons Houston Lobby Lounge

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The Lobby Lounge menu focuses on classics with a only a few variations.

The Lobby Lounge on the bottom floor is the place to go for drinks, though. They specialize in the classics. The menu actually includes not only an Old Fashioned (which any respecting hotel bar should include, dammit!), but also a Vesper, a Blood and Sand, the Last Word, and a Hemingway Daiquiri.

Now that’s unusual.

In fact, I will venture to say that I have never seen those drinks on a signature cocktail menu, especially one as small as the Four Seasons Houston Lobby Lounge (it’s only a one-page menu). What it tells me is that these bartenders know what they’re doing when it comes to making cocktails. I would have no problem going in and asking for a gin martini and expecting one of the best martinis I have ever had. Probably stirred. With a lemon twist.

The Old Fahsioned with Bulleit rye whiskey was great. Sure, the bartender muddled the orange and cherry, but heck, even Dale DeGroff does that. And they used simple syrup, I believe. But that’s okay. It’s not the way I make them at home, but we’re talking about a hotel lobby here, people! And the drink was good, I must say. The bartender was friendly and knowledgeable, and I would go back anytime.

Next time, though, I plan on tasting some of their whiskey library. They had quite the whiskey selection, and they let you make your own flight. I don’t know what the price is for that, but I would love to go in and try five Japanese whiskeys. Yes, I do believe they had five Japanese whiskeys.

While a hotel lobby bar may not be the place you think of when you’re going downtown for a night on the town, I think the Four Seasons Houston may have changed my mind. It’s right down the street from the House of Blues, so why not stop in before I go see a show?

I wish we still did the three-martini lunch thing, for I would totally do that here, but I would be very happy with a pre-show drink.

Or stop in after I get my next pedicure and massage in their quite opulent spa on the fourth floor.

Not that I’ve ever had a massage…

Mixing with Tekeen’s Passion Fruit Lime Premium Wine Cocktail

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The Gallery Cocktail: 3 oz Tekeen Passion Fruit Lime, 1 1/2 oz grapefruit juice, 1 1/2 oz cachaca, 1/4 oz syrup

Tekeen is a new premium pre-mixed cocktail that you can drink straight out of the bottle over ice. I can attest that it’s pretty good that way. We’re not talking about some crappy wine cooler here. It uses actual fruit, has actual flavor, and is sweetened with agave.

If you generally don’t like bottled mixers (like me) or like pre-mixed cocktails (like me, usually), then you may want to try Tekeen. It’s changed my mind. Something in a pre-mixed bottle can actually be pretty good.

But I’m here to mix with it.

Two cocktails using Tekeen Passion Fruit Lime

The Gallery Cocktail

First, we have the Gallery Cocktail pictured above. To make one, combine in a shaker:

  • 3 oz Tekeen Passion Fruit Lime Premium Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz cachaca
  • 1 1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 /4 oz simple syrup

shake well with ice and strain into a tall glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a DIY bourbon and maraschino cherry and a large swath of grapefruit peel.

I never use cachaca anymore, since I don’t usually drink Capirinhas, but something about the tropical flavor of the Tekeen Passion Fruit made me reach for it immediately. The grapefruit is the obvious choice, too.

The Amerikeen

Tekeen Passion Fruit Premium Cocktail
The Amerikeen Cocktail: 1 1/2 oz Tekeen Passion Fruit, 1 1/2 oz Applejack, 1/2 oz lemon juice, 1/4 oz cinnamon syrup, top with ginger beer.

The Amerikeen is a different animal. To make one, combine with ice in a shaker:

  • 1 1/2 oz Tekeen Passion Fruit Lime Premium Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz Laird’s Applejack
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz cinnamon syrup

shake well, and strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with a few ounces of ginger beer.

This one is fruity and spicy in a way that makes me happy. And with Laird’s Applejack, it seems like Americana. Hence, the Amerikeen cocktail.

Finding Tekeen

Tekeen is available all over Texas (it’s made in this great state, in Dripping Springs!), so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a bottle. Check their website, which has a handy “Find It” feature if you want to make sure your local Spec’s or HEB has it before you go.

How to make your own DIY bourbon and Maraschino cherries

The real thing! DIY cherries!
Homemade bourbon and Maraschino cherries are so much better than the red things that have passed for the moniker for generations.

Don’t ever buy those nasty bright red things from the grocery store. The only thing those are good for is to put on sundaes for the kids. Even if you have discerning kids like mine, they still like those abominations usually called Maraschino cherries.

I guess you can buy actual Maraschino cherries from some place like Amazon, or you can follow my advice and just make your own. It’s a lot cheaper, and they’re just as freaking good.

DIY Bourbon/Maraschino cherries

To make ’em, use frozen cherries. I like the large dark red cherries. Just make sure they’re not in some sugar bath or anything like that. Don’t worry, though. If they’re anything like the ones I got, they’re super sweet on their own.

From Kroger.
Frozen cherries are just fine, trust me. Just try to buy some good ones. I think these cost $4 or so. And there’s about two quarts in the bag.

Fill up your jar with cherries, and then add two cinnamon sticks, four cloves, and two star anise. Then fill halfway with bourbon and the other half with Maraschino liqueur.

Let it sit a few days and you have something worthy of a Manhattan. Me, if I don’t have any homemade ones, I’m not putting anything in my Manhattan. I would rather have nothing than one of those gross neon atomic bombs. And the real Maraschino ones are just too freaking expensive. These, they may cost about four dollar for a quart. And when you run out, you just fill it up with more cherries. Use the same liquid.

It’s the power of DIY cherries!

The Jack Daniel’s House No. Siete in Houston, March 31, 2016

You may not give Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey that much thought. That’s the thing you order when you want a Lemmy, right? You know, a Jack and Coke. The drink that costs twice as much as it would have if you had just said “Whiskey and Coke.”

Some people love Jack and Coke. I know at least one person who ALWAYS orders one. I mean every single damn time he goes to a bar, he orders one. And if I’m buying, I’m paying for two whiskeys by ordering a Jack and Coke.

But.

And here’s the big but.

Jack Daniel’s is actually pretty good. It’s $23 for a 750mL bottle, which isn’t that much more than my own personal mixing standard, which is Evan Williams at $13 a bottle. Well, I guess that’s a pretty big difference, but here’s the kicker. People respect Jack Daniel’s. It has a cache that Evan Williams just doesn’t have. Or even Jim Beam, which is $16 a bottle. People may sometimes ask for a Beam and Coke, but not nearly as much as they do for a Jack and Coke. I mean, a Lemmy (see, I want people to start calling it that. Lemmy is a fucking legend, man.).

Not only is Jack Daniel’s more well-respected, but it’s actually something I can drink straight. It’s pretty good for a mass-produced whiskey.

And the people at Jack Daniel’s know how to throw an awesome party.

Last week, they invited me to the Jack Daniel’s House No. Siete here in Houston, Tejas at the Revention Music Center.

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They transformed that space into something pretty awesome that tried to mimic what it would have been like if Jack Daniel himself were still alive.

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And he, you know, liked to play pool and Foosball.

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Yes, they had a DJ and a half-DJ/half-band, and then a full band that all played throughout the evening. It was all pretty fun.

But you can see a bunch of photos about that event here at the Houston Press site.

Me, I wanted to try the whiskey, and the downstairs in the Jack Daniel’s VIP lounge was where the fun really happened.

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They had a great jazz duo who played all night. And they were great. But check out the drink menu!

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Unfortunately, none of the drinks adequately captured the flavors of the different Jack Daniel’s liquors. I got to try them straight, though, and they were quite good.

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There’s the regular Jack Daniel’s black label, which is your standard stuff. Decent.

But then there’s Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel. The Single Barrel is what it sounds like; from a single barrel, and it has a typical single barrel price of $43 a bottle. Me, I prefer the Gentleman Jack, and I always have. It’s one of the first whiskeys I ever bought. It’s what my dad and brother always drank when it first came out. At $29 a bottle, it’s a damn good deal. Always tasty, always trustworthy.

What I didn’t know, though, is how they make it.

All they do is filter the regular Jack Daniel’s twice. That’s right. Sounds easy, huh?

But we’re not talking about a coffee filter here. We’re talking 10 freaking feet of Jack Daniel’s-made maple charcoal. Holy shit, dude! They slow drip this stuff through tons of this charcoal. It is the best-selling whiskey in the world, after all.

Besides the Gentleman Jack, there’s the Fire and Tennessee Honey, which are good on their own. Both are tasty entries into the burgeoning flavored whiskey category. But Jack doesn’t just put some cinnamon oil in it. Nope, they steep real cinnamon. And it makes a difference.

So here are a bunch of pictures, not of the party itself, because I’m not that kind of guy, but of the space and drinks.

So next time you’re buying a bottle of sipping whiskey, don’t fear to try Gentleman Jack. You might be pleasantly surprised.

And listen to fucking Motorhead while you drink it.

Bitches.

 

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