For this tasting I was joined by Kara Newman, a long-time friend who is also a cocktail and spirits writer and author. We had a fun time opening up Bottle #18 – The Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur. This long lost ancestor of modern Domaine de Canton has a great story filled with sibling rivalry – give the old episode a watch to learn all about that, and watch this one to see how it tasted!

Prefer to read than watch? Check out the transcript under the video.

TRANSCRIPT

Teaser

Kara: If I didn’t know there was alcohol in it, I wouldn’t even know.

Tammy: Oh, that’s interesting.

After Credits

Tammy: Hello and welcome to My Tiny Bottles, the project where I’m exploring my grandmother’s legacy of miniature liquor bottles one tiny bottle at a time. I’m your host, Tammy Coxen.

Tammy: And today I am here with somebody I’ve known for a really long time, Kara Newman, and Kara is a writer and a blogger and a cocktail book author, tell us a little bit about yourself, Kara.

Kara: Well, I’m, as you just said, I’m a writer. I’m not really a blogger – it’s been a while since I’ve done that, but yeah, I write for, I review spirits for Wine Enthusiast Magazine, I write for publications including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Punch, whole bunch of different places, and I’m the author of 7 cocktail books.

Tammy: That’s amazing. I think I think of you as a blogger because we met on eGullet and that feels like that blogging time period.

Kara: Oh, I’ve done that. Believe me, yes. Absolutely.

Tammy: Well, we’re at Amor y Amargo. Thank you very much to Souther Teague for letting us use the space to record today. And Kara’s going to taste her choice, which was the original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur.

Tammy: So I talked about this one in its episode. This was kind of the precursor to our modern Domaine de Canton. It was in the market from 1992 to 1995, maybe 1997, depending on who you talk to. It was imported from China, and has of course, a fabulous fake Chinese backstory, like all these things do.

Tammy: It is one of the most beautiful bottles that I have encountered so far and I think because it was in its box also the color is really good. It hasn’t gotten brown and oxidized like some of them do.

Tammy: Did you know about this earlier product to Domaine de Canton? Do you have any prior knowledge of this?

Kara: I, no, I didn’t know about this one. I mean, it’s interesting. It looks like a Cognac bottle.

Tammy: It does. Or a perfume bottle, right?

Karea: It’s really beautiful.

Tammy: So I think most people would associate with this with Domaine de Canton that came out in 2008 and I do have a little bit for us to taste side by side so we can see what the evolution was. But let’s go ahead and crack this baby open.

Kara: I mean, I did know the one that came next.

Tammy: Yeah, yeah, Domaine de Canton, right?

Kara: In the big bottle that looked like bamboo.

Tammy: And this is a bottle of that, which we will taste next and maybe talk a little bit more about how this got from there to there, and maybe talk a little bit more about how this got from there to there, but let’s dive in.

Tammy: Well, a little syrupy, as we’d expect from a liquor. I’m trying to remember what the proof is on this one. (peering at bottle) My eyes are not great and the lighting is not great either.

Kara: It’s a bar, it’s atmosphere.

Tammy: Absolutely! So grab your glass.

Kara: Okay.

Tammy: Certainly smells tasty.

Kara: You can smell the ginger root for sure. And sugar.

Tammy: Yeah, so supposed to have ginger, I think they said 6 different kinds of ginger and ginseng and sort of all these different ingredients. Of course, we know that sort of stuff’s not monitored. I get a really ginger beer, ginger ale kind of thing. Like it’s very ginger forward, in a way that I don’t even think when I’ve had other ginger liqueurs, well with Domaine de Canton anyway, I don’t get that same kind of ginger kick. What are you noticing?

Kara: I think there’s kind of like an earthy note underneath. I guess it could be ginseng.

Tammy: That makes sense.

Kara: I’m not that familiar with ginseng though.

Tammy: Alright, well, promising so far.

Both (clinking glasses): Cheers.

Kara: It’s sweet.

Tammy: It is sweet. Yeah, that is predominantly what I’m getting here.

Tammy: It’s from 1992 to 1995 so about 30 years old. Held up reasonably well.

Kara:  Not getting a lot of ginger or ginger heat. It’s just sort of it’s like faded, you know, it’s like a shadow of ginger.

Tammy: And that’s been the experience with some of these older bottles. Some of the volatiles and stuff blow off. This one’s kind of the opposite of other ones that I’ve tried where we got a lot on the nose here, like it smells like ginger, it’s just not delivering when we taste it.

Kara: If I didn’t know there was alcohol in it, I wouldn’t even know.

Tammy: Oh, that’s interesting.

Kara: It’s really kind of flat.

Tammy: The bottle was really full. So it’s not like the alcohol is evaporated off like it has with some of the small plastic bottles.

Tammy: So this product in 1992 to 1995, it actually had a really hard time selling. Because ginger was kind of an unfamiliar flavor to people at the time. Fusion cuisine hadn’t hit the market and nobody really knew what ginger was or how to use it. And so then things change, obviously, but it doesn’t do well in the market, it disappears.

Tammy: And then a few years later, 2008, this new product comes out called Domaine de Canton. And it’s kind of interesting, and I write about this in the My Tiny Bottles episode about this bottle, but it’s kind of interesting because they completely pretend this never happened.

Tammy: They have a whole new back story, they have a whole new bottle, that beautiful bamboo bottle, and they come up with the new Domaine de Canton product. So I brought some of that so we can compare and kind of see what the transition.

Tammy (pouring): Okay. This has been on my shelf for a little while, but definitely not 30 years. Much thicker. You see that?

Kara: Thank you.

Tammy: Definitely thicker. This is my experience with the amaretto that Casey Miller and I tasted. That the old bottle was really thin and the modern bottle has a lot more viscosity. I don’t know if that’s a sugar question or if it’s just different ways they make it maybe they’re putting in glycerin or something, I don’t know.

Kara: It smells totally different.

Tammy: It does. See, to me it doesn’t really smell like ginger at all.

Kara: Vanilla.

Tammy: Absolutely! Where the old one smells like ginger but doesn’t taste like it. What do you think?

Kara: It’s got some more kick to it.

Tammy: (tasting) Yeah, I think it is. Oh yeah, definitely it’s higher proof. I know that. Even though I don’t have the numbers right now. But it’s definitely a lot more ginger. So whether that was intentional or just a consequence of age? I don’t know.

Kara: It’s a lot tastier than the other one, that’s for sure.

Tammy: Mmm-hmm.

Kara (holding both glasses, one in each hand): Double fist, okay.

Tammy: That’s right.

Tammy: But that viscosity difference is so interesting.

Kara: The old one now tastes almost sour to me.

Tammy: Right, by comparison. Right, had a little bit of an edge to it when we tasted it the first time too. Like you said it sort of tasted watery but I also like felt it just was a little bit sharper. So I think that makes sense.

Kara (tasting new one again): Ahh, that’s more like it.

Tammy: Well, that’s pretty fun. I wouldn’t have been disappointed if I was drinking this in the nineties.

Kara: I think when it was full strength it was probably quite nice. You could sip it after something and it would be just fine.

Tammy: So when Domaine de Canton came out, that was 2008. Where were you in your writing career at that time?

Kara: At that time I was just getting started in writing about food and drink and I was writing for a magazine called Chile Pepper Magazine.

Tammy: I remember that that.

Kara: And we would do things like salsa competitions and hot sauce asdtings. And I was starting to write for them about spicy spirits and spicy cocktails. And I do remember when Domaine de Canton came out, it was one of the very few commercial products that had any kind of kick to it.

Tammy: Sure.

Kara: And I wound up using it. I think I featured it probably too heavily, because it was a brand, in my first book, Spice & Ice.

Tammy: I have that book and I remember that liked that you took this really expansive perception of spicy drinks, right?  So it wasn’t just chili peppers. It was more expansive than that.

Tammy: It’s kind of an interesting product. The modern one, because it came on the heels of St. Germain and was created by the creator of Saint Germain’s brother, John Cooper. So I talk all about that in the episode, which you can find at mytinybottles.com. And you’ll also find pictures of the bottle. You can get some closeups if you want to see what’s on the back label and hear about those sort of competing origin stories.

Tammy: If people want to find you, Kara, where do they find you?

Kara: Easiest way to find me is my website, karanewman.com.

Tammy: All right. Well, thank you so much for tasting with me today.

Both: Cheers!

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