The New Cocktail Vernacular: LDI & MGPI


I taught an American whiskey class a couple months back and all of the young people asked about LDI.  It was like they had heard rumors that Santa wasn’t real, but the didn’t want to believe the hurtful whispers.

“Tell us, Mr, Whiskey Man, is it true that there are whiskies out there that don’t have their own distillery?”

Rather than take the Woodward & Bernstein approach to LDI, how about we tell the story from the creator mother point of view?

“Gather ’round young people and let me tell you of the mother distillery, it is in Indiana and since way back in 1933, it was run by the mythical people of the north (Canadians/Seagram’s), it made whiskey for all the little boys and girls but then the north people traded (sold for parts) the mother distillery to the fancy people from across the sea (French/ Pernod Ricard) and they made whiskey until they lost their way and neglected the mother distillery and it almost died until a magic angel (MGPI) breathed life into it again once restoring whiskey for all the land”

And the world was green and verdant

And the world was green and verdant

Does that make sense?  There is a company called Midwest Grain Products and Ingredients or MGPI that owns one of America’s biggest distilleries called Lawrenceburg Distillers of Indiana or LDI.  MGPI is a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ if you want to get in the alcohol futures game.  LDI likely makes over 100 american whiskies, parts for scores of Canadian whiskies and more industrial grain alcohol than you’d need to clean every aircraft carrier engine in the US Navy and leftovers to get every kid in the PAC 10 drunk.

Why am I not railing against this?

Because I don’t give a fuck.

Blending is an art all by itself and if you buy celebrity vodka brands (often also made at LDI) then you have worse problems than ethical purity for distilling.  Many people buy old stocks of aged whiskey from LDI, blend it to perfection, and create a brand.  Many more just buy, bottle and say “fuck it.”  Your opinion of the bourbon/rye/american whiskey is all that matters.  Ask Sku to tell you where things come from, he has a great blog explaing who makes EVERY American whiskey.


The last note on this is when you read a bottle, understand that “produced by” does not mean “distilled by.”  If it’s important to you, or if some asshole is talkin’ ’bout his ol’ pappy’s secret 95% rye mash bill to can always ask, “where was this distilled?”

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The New Cocktail Vernacular Mexi-Wrap-Up-Rant -The acronym suite is next

The New Cocktail Vernacular Mexi-Wrap-Up-Rant

So there were a few new words you, as an avid and constant drinker, should know.  But don’t let Mezcal, Pechuga or Raicilla fall victim to what happened to tequila in the 90s.  That is to say, don’t let them get so bogged down in minutia & mediocrity that they don’t matter anymore. One of the ways to prevent this is with the stories we tell.

Some worthless piece of shit recently asked me “how long is the fermentation process on that specific tequila?”  I bullshitted my was out by explaining that most agave naturally ferments for 7 to 14 days but what I wanted to say was:


When I write in this blog, I write to give you basic information.  People writing encyclopedias need information like that, it’s relevant, but only to 1 out of 100 people.  If you are into quantification, I applaud your brain and there will be more computers for you to talk with everyday.  However, the only stories worth telling about a bottle are anecdotes to sell, briefly explain said bottle or tales of what happened after drinking said bottle.



For a while, tequila (and wine) was really proud of listing brix levels.  This does not matter to the end consumer, brix are correlative to flavor and is something that farm hands are concerned about.

If the most interesting thing, about your tequila (or wine) is its brix level, then you have already failed.

As soon as someone mentions a tequila’s (or wine’s) brix I then know “I’m going to judge the shit out this tequila (or wine) numerically and conquer it.”

Tell stories, not numbers.

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The New Cocktail Vernacular: Raicilla

Up until 2014, there was really only 1 way for Americans to get raicilla:

The Legos pictured above are actors and were over 21 at the time of this photo shoot.

The Legos pictured above are actors and were over 21 at the time of this photo shoot.

When I first had raicilla, it was because I was looking for mezcal in a shitty beach bar in Sayulita.  I actually had the 1 bartender (in a town of 50 bars) in the town that didn’t speak (perfect) english but I used the might of my high school/ restaurant  Spanglish to communicate:

“Yo soy un cantinero.”

All of a sudden an unlabeled milk jug appeared and we started doing shots of raicilla.  I was told

“Is like tequila.”

And by asking for more everywhere I went, and later finding out about its dubious legal status, almost strictly an illegal moonshine, I found out I was basically saying the cultural equivalent of:

“Hello, I am a bartender from America.  I understand your town makes a lot of artesian meth or crack, either way, do you know anyone who makes it and if I can buy some?”

Raicilla, is a type of mezcal, that much like American moonshine, was born out of a desire to dodge taxes.  In the 1780s, the term “raicilla” was coined to avoid taxes that were being levied on tequila.  This ruse worked on the Spanish crown at the time and later became an illicit tradition.

Raicilla is made of many different agaves like inaquindens, augustifolia, rhodecantha and more!  I have only ever had 1 type that actually had a label on it, but of the many I’ve had (cross referenced with other agave-philes) raicilla is normally rustically distilled, once or twice in pot stills and clay/copper/wood hybrids thereof.  It has flavors like eating smoked bacon that was fried in fino sherry.

And, it will be imported into America for the first time later this year. Stay tuned for more, or go to Mexico, hop onto a bar stool, and start asking for illegal hooch and see where the night takes you.

Stoned surfers really helped grow the raicilla industry

Stoned surfers really helped grow the raicilla industry

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The New Cocktail Vernacular: Pechuga

Pechuga has the ferocity of a toddler’s finger painting and the purity of a forest fire. And with that metaphor in mind, let the standards of judging a pechuga be equally complex.  Specifically, a pechuga is a harvest celebration mezcal.  Think of its production the same way gin is made, a completed spirit is reintroduced into the still with botanicals and redistilled.  There are 2 twists: the “botanicals” in pechuga’s case are fruits, grains and/or nuts; each recipe is unique to each Palenque and instead of gin’s constant: juniper, pechuga’s constant is a chicken breast.



This is the “Lucky Charms Cereal Box” diagram of pechuga


A chicken breast is hung inside of the still from the top of the swan neck*, supposedly, to mellow the spirit as the evaporated distillate passes over it.  You won’t really see pechuga  in cocktails, but it’s on more back bars everyday.  The reason that it’s important (aside from trendiness & peculiarity) is that pechuga is a spirit that inspires the drinker to look for new flavors in their dram, other than vanilla-harsh-smoky-smoooooooth.  Using those adjectives for spirits are  like calling water –moist-wet-slippery-watery. And in revisiting a pechuga, you get a field guide to the flavors you are searching for.


When you say "pechuga" try to say it like Al Pacino would

When you say “pechuga” try to say it like Al Pacino would

Pechuga also changes with each harvest, this technique bridges the gap between vintage wines and artisanal spirits.


*So much as there is a swan neck in mezcal, rustic stills take many forms and not often that of the copper giants of single malts

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It’s not that tequila isn’t important anymore but it got really boring compared to its junkyard dog cousin – mezcal.  Mezcal isn’t necessarily more rough n’ tough by definition, but before I get into that, wouldn’t it be better if dogs explained it?

mezcal vs tequila explained with dogs

mezcal vs tequila explained with dogs – P.S. Espadin is the Wolf

mezcal vs tequila explained by dogs 

Mezcal is that parent classification that tequila is within; tequila is a very specific type of mezcal.  Mezcal is for bartenders &  bartrenders, so if you don’t like it, no big, I bet a lot of the cool kids can’t tell when it’s shit or shinola either.  Traditional mezcal is going to have a very aggressive flavor due to its, well, traditional method of production.  But, if the base level gnar-gnar, acidic, smoky, astringent or oily spirit is your jam, you’ll find infinite options in single varietal expressions of all ages, terroirs and distillation styles. Fuck conformity.


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The New Cocktail Vernacular

The New Cocktail Vernacular

I hate to burst your bubble but when you are using a new “word-a-day” calendar, all your co-workers can tell.  All of a sudden, the new marketing plan is “insipid” instead of a “shit box.”  But hey, it’s alright, you are looking to better yourself and there are great words out there and seemingly new words created everyday.  In the sprits world (where I skulk about) there are as many new trends as there are bloggers to write about them.


The “information” of so many new drinkables is crushing and worse yet, we don’t really know how to talk about them.  All of these new products, terms & trends are confusing but demystifying them is important because I don’t want a 37th tequila brand owned by some rich asshole made at the same distillery that already made a cheap tequila I liked .* And if that trend is going to keep happening, it’s good to have a way to articulate my/our irritation via a prodigious lexicon – instead of just saying “fuck that guy.”

Also, there is a terrible trend in the service industry I call “burdening your guests.” Recently we have gotten to a point where chefs say:

Rocket, Sunchoke, Gold Sultanas, Acetic Acid & Sucrose

And they shouldn’t have to explain more to an experienced dinner, but it’s rude to not say more (or just say less).

just a fucking salad with fucking raisins

just a fucking salad with fucking raisins

Bartenders, in an effort to cultivate their own worth & mystery have started to follow suit with things like:

Small Batch Bourbon, Wormwood Infused Wine, Cinchona Tincture & Preserved Maraska

manhattan cocktail

just a fucking manhattan

But I’ll help you decode.

What I have in store for you is a “word-a-day” blog post so you can catch up with the new words featured on your favorite cocktail menus.  This list is basically harvested from a word bubble of my  “most interesting or rant worthy” questions from the past 2 years of teaching. And in word-a-day calendar style, I’ll try to keep these definitions short, you can research more on your own and feel free to explain-a-brag further in my comments section.


*see entry #4 that explains “NOM” coming soon

Here are the 1st 12:

New Mexican Suite

  1. Mezcal
  2. Racilla
  3. Pechuga

New Acronym Suite

  1. LDI & MGPI
  2. NOM
  3. TTB & FDA
  4. NGS or GNS
  5. FNG

New Vodkas

  1. Complex Character Vodka
  2. Moonshine
  3. Charcoal Filtration
  4. Juniper Vodka

And many more to follow…

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The Tom & Jerry Cocktail

Every year I like to chef-up a batch of Tom & Jerry cocktails.  The Tom & Jerry is a classic Thanksgiving drink and I must admit, I have to look up the recipe every year.  Normally this is what happened when I look up a Tom & Jerry recipe.



If you actually read the recipe above, you may see what the problem is and thus why this drink isn’t popular: thinks that scrambled eggs & water is ok if you add brandy. It is not.

The Tom & Jerry isn’t a cocktail, it’s a baking project.  And you need to read the recipe like a baker.  Even a quality recipe, like the one by Charles Joy on Chow, is tough for a kitchen novice.  I come from the non-measuring school of bar tending and was never trained as a baker, so I got out my crayons and pencils to illustrate it for us mere mortals.

Start with a recipe, I like Wondrich’s (but I add vanilla and butter*):


  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bottle brandy
  • 1 bottle dark rum
  • ¼ lb butter
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Milk
  • Nutmeg
  • Vanilla extract
gather everything before you start, because I know you forgot something, I always do

gather everything before you start, because I know you forgot something, I always do

Then I annotate the ingredients:

  • 12 eggs – how about free range
  • 1 cup sugar  –  make it super fine baker’s sugar, not confectioners sugar or powered sugar, that is different
  • 1 bottle brandy  –  I’d cheap out and get something sweet here, a vs or a vsop under $30
  • 1 bottle dark rum  –  I’d stick with the good stuff here, well aged and over $30
  • ¼ lb butter  –  leave it out at room temp, you rarely need cold butter in baking
  • Pinch of ground allspice  –  buy new spices, yours are old
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon – grind your own, the flavors will pop, splurge on true cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves  – see above
  • Milk – all in, full fat, BUT reserve until the end
  • Nutmeg – whole nutmeg berries microplaned over the drink
  • Vanilla extract – real costs like $2 more than fake and it’s not made in a factory that also makes chicken nuggets taste “fresh”


The next thing you need to do is gather your tools.  I use a whisk because my time has no value, but unless you are a pro fluffer I would recommend a mixer.  Otherwise, you’ll need tools:

An old mixer is $5 at Goodwill and should be right next to the Tom & Jerry sets also at the Goodwill

An old mixer is $5 at Goodwill and should be right next to the Tom & Jerry sets also at the Goodwill


  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • 2 small bowls
  • Whisk
  • Whisky

You need to set everything out. The whisky is to sip while working. After you’ve gathered everything, here are the instructions:

If you bought your mixing bowls at Ikea, your Mise en Place will look like this

If you bought your mixing bowls at Ikea, your Mise en Place will look like this

Start by grabbing your ¼ lb of butter also known as 1 stick of butter.  Put it in a mixing bowl and go watch TV for 2 hours while it warms up to room temp.

Now using your 2 small bowls, begin by separating egg yolks from whites or by separating yolks from albumens if you’re fancy.  The ideal way to do this is to crack each egg on, or if you are bad at it, in a small bowl.  Use this 1 small bowl to crack each egg and then pour your albumens** into a mixing bowl and the yolks into the other small bowl. Keep the 1 bowl clear after you separate each egg, that way, if you mess up you won’t ruin the whole batch.

1 bowl has egg yolks, butter and sugar, eventually, it will have spices to taste

1 bowl has egg yolks, butter and sugar, eventually, it will have spices to taste

You should now have 3 bowls, 1 of whites, 1 of yolks and 1 of butter.   At this point I like to mash up the butter a bit and add the yolks and sugar to the butter.  It’s ok and expected for the yolk, butter & sugar mix to be thick, but it can’t be chunky. Here is another time when it’s good to have and electric mixer or burr mixer.  At this point, I don’t add any spices.

You’ll read the phrase “beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.”  I didn’t learn what this meant until I actually got it right.  It should look like this:

Egg whites are stiff when you can hold them in your hand and toss them across the room like and egg white snowball.

Egg whites are stiff when you can hold them in your hand and toss them across the room like and egg white snowball.

On the way to this you’ll fluff the whites to a point where they’ll double in size and turn white, you aren’t done.  Once they triple in size, and stick to the whisk when removed, and look like this drawing, then you are done.

You can now fold the whites into the yolks. Which means they need to be completely amalgamated until the batter is thick and no albumen can be seen.  I’ve seen this be called “cake batter thick,” and if you don’t know what that means, I’m sorry that you had a shitty childhood.

Now, you make lick the spoon.

Now, you make lick the spoon.

Now is when I add the cinnamon, allspice and  vanilla. The correct amount to use is “less” because the spices will continue to infuse into the batter and the flavors of these spices are the flavors of the booze you’ll use. You can always add more to taste. I’d start with 1 tsp of each spice and taste as you go.

These brands have never paid me to draw them any better than this.  That being said, you can get these anywhere and they will work well for this recipe.

These brands have never paid me to draw them any better than this. That being said, you can get these anywhere and they will work well for this recipe.

When choosing booze, I like 1 part aged dark rum*** to 1 part brandy.  Mixing these spirits add different complexities.  Pick a rum that has a huge flavor. Many are cheap and even low quality, but I’d go better, bigger and maybe something with an age statement.  Cognac is important but I prefer a lame brandy of indeterminate origin, the bad stuff is overly sweet and artless, and it’s the surprisingly appropriate backbone of a drink like this.

For the booze portion, I don’t mix it into the batter.  Because, why bother?  The Tom & Jerry tastes great without the booze, I keep it separate to include everyone.  However, when I do add booze, I make the Tom & Jerry with a ratio of about:

I have a dozen Tom & Jerry mugs, this is the classic look that roughly costs $1 each

I have a dozen Tom & Jerry mugs, this is the classic look that roughly costs $1 each

Tom & Jerry Assembly Instructions

  • 2oz booze mix
  • 2oz batter
  • 4oz hot water

Pour hot-water-and-milk-blend into a mug and top with batter and booze. Give a little stir and the drink will naturally froth up.

No one makes a Tom & Jerry to order, you make batches for groups of friends or worst case scenario, customers.  To do this pre-batching is essential.  I make a carafe of booze mix, a Tom & Jerry mixing bowl (found at your local Goodwill) and an electric tea kettle to have hot water to order.  Mix this hot water with milk  to order.  If you are a restaurant or have access to a church basement, you can premix hot water into a coffee carafe. You could also buy one.

I would also write down the instructions so you don't have to man the station, teach other people how to mix them so you can enjoy the party.

I would also write down the instructions so you don’t have to man the station, teach other people how to mix them so you can enjoy the party.

Lastly use a microplane fresh nutmeg atop the completed drink. I know, microplane has never paid me either, but they have no competition in their market. I own their extra special “hard herb” plane (not pictured here) and about 3 others.  Just buy one.  The Tom & Jerry isn’t much for aromatics, so this step is very important.

These 72 detailed steps will make a perfect, easy (to serve) cocktail for after Thanksgiving that will put you to sleep by 7pm.

And if you need help falling asleep early, you can read all about the history of this fine drink in a post I wrote during the year of the cocktail advent calendar.

*my version skirts the line of “hot buttered rum” but I’d remind you that authentic doesn’t always mean “best”

**I’m fancy

***Dark is a hue, aged means it actually had time in wood

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