Raise a (quality) glass to a spirited Father's Day celebration

Dave DeSimone
| Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Want to make Dad happy this Father's Day? Spend time with him while enjoying a tasty cocktail.

Great cocktails begin with a bottle of fine spirits. Offsprings ideally should provide the bottle in honor of dear old Dad's big day. (Hint to my kids, John, Olivia and Ellen — please pay close attention here!) After sharing a drink or two, the remaining spirits in the bottle will be a gift that keeps on giving as he thinks fondly of time well spent with the kinder.

Like many dads, he'll doubtlessly appreciate a bottle of fine brown spirits, such as brandy or whiskey. According to Netherlands-based Rabobank Group, sales for brown spirits such as Tennessee whiskey, Bourbon, Rye whiskey, Irish whiskey, Cognac and Scotch whisky grew collectively in the United States by 6.2 percent in 2013. The popularity of flavored whiskeys, such Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, accounted for 45 percent of the growth.

The latter “flavored” category uses sweet additives that can overwhelm the spirit. So, take it from this dad, for a successful Father's Day gift, follow the purist route. Give traditional “unflavored” brown spirits and allow Dad the decision of going either with cocktails or enjoying the spirit “neat,” without additives.

All brown spirits start with an underlying fermented beverage such as malted beer, wine or a mash made from grains like corn and rye. Heating the beverage in a copper still causes evaporation. As the resulting vapor cools and condenses, the distiller captures the purified, separated alcohol.

The colorless, fiery alcohol emerges with 80 percent to 90 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), thereby earning its nickname “white lightening.” The French, being French, prefer the more restrained eau de vie or “water of life.”

Clear spirits typically age in barrels to add color and refine aromas and flavors. Longer aging in wood generally creates more complexity. It also reduces the ABV.

The art of blending whiskeys of various ages influences the final bottled spirit's complexity and flavors, too. As a result, the awesome variety of whiskey styles around the globe creates endless possible gifts for the Old Man.

If, by the fates, your father no longer shares this mortal coil, do not despair. Consider the following, then raise a glass to his memory and r ecall the good times:

Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey, Pennsylvania (Luxury 30408; on sale: $35.99) carries on Pennsylvania's fine 200-year tradition of making rye whiskey. Until the Prohibition disaster, drinkers the world over prized Pennsylvania rye whiskeys above all others.

Dad's Hat founder Herman Mihalich recalls his father always wearing hats for a sharp, polished look. He named his whiskey for his dad's tradition of “doing things the right way” and aimed to create a rye whiskey with consistent flavors and a smooth, polished finish.

Mihalich succeeded admirably with this tasty bottle. The whiskey uses 80 percent Pennsylvania-sourced rye, 15 percent malted barley and 5 percent malted rye. The spirit is aged a minimum of six months in new American oak barrels, charred on the inside.

The final whiskey offers enticing spiciness and citrus on the nose leading to spicy flavors. The dry, elegant finish lingers pleasantly without a hint of harshness. It works well either neat or “up,” i.e., slightly chilled.

For a real treat, use Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey for a traditional Man-“hat”-tan. Bad pun, but Dad will like it. Simply fill a shaker with ice and shake 2 12 ounces of whiskey with 1 ounce of sweet vermouth and bitters. Strain into a chilled martini glass with a maraschino cherry. Highly recommended.

Courvoisier Cognac VSOP, France (4451; on sale: $34.99) comes from grapes grown in two of Cognac's finest regions, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. Concentrated limestone in the soils gives the fruit incredible freshness, a trait that translates beautifully in this intriguing spirit.

Served neat, the Cognac delights the senses. Lovely floral and vanilla aromas open to lingering fruity flavors and a robust, yet elegant, silky finish.

Or, serve it in a classic Sidecar cocktail. Fill a shaker with ice and shake 2 12 ounces of Cognac, 1 ounce of orange liqueur, such as Cointreau, and lime juice. Strain into a chilled martini glass with an orange slice. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ddesimone@tribweb.com.

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