News Archive

  • Where Would I Be Without Citrus?


    Here it is yet again, that time of year when our produce markets abound with celestial citrus fruits. Fresh, floral, fragrant, family Rutaceae - your bergamia, your paradisi, your aurantium and of course my dear heart’s namesake, clementine…  terpene- rich oils, hesperidium heavy with lith, and locule laden with liquid gold. Ardent awareness of agrumi revives, with daily introduction to its intoxicatingly- perfumed zests.

    I confess: my devotion to its impeccable and utterly ubiquitous nature seasonally ebbs with autumn, when the necessitous force of vitis provisionally usurps my deliberation. But in my remissness, a cyclic obsession quietly germinates…

    December comes and I am again reminded that grape berries, while occupying nearly all of my waking efforts in the autumn months, are but one narrow slice of the fruit spectrum. Atop my present fulcrum (grape harvest on the one side, citrus season on the other) creative visions flourish. From simple sangria, to infinitely complex vermouth, the marriage of these two titans, vinifera and citrus, couldn’t be more flawless. Indeed, it is a congress upon which I rely to communicate so much of my life’s perspective. My canvass, my stage, my pen and ink… of all the creative materials at my disposal, these two are the foundation. So, with the onset of Winter’s cold looming, and nascent wines comfortably coopered away, I will seek safe haven in the harbors of citrus, reacquainting myself with the familiar, and shamelessly searching out new hybrids with hidden nuances.

  • A Tale of Two Harvests

    In this trade, it is not entirely uncommon for one to work multiple harvests in a year by following the ever- alternating seasonal shifts between the northern and southern hemispheres. Typically, this is done so with a measure of time spent in leisure, as well as in transit, amid the two turns of the same vintage. Such stretches of time are characteristically registered in many of months, separated by thousands of miles, and often by deeply contrasting climates. Indeed I too once embarked upon such an ambitious pursuit in my younger years, finding myself knee- deep, as it were, in ripened wine grapes on the vast continent of Australia, only months after finishing harvest in our beloved union of States.

    Rarely though do the more stationed of us experience such multiple, distinctly different harvests in a single year, particularly without leaving the region.  Vintage year Two Thousand- Thirteen however, asserted itself as conditionally dichotomous…  a near- record, hot and early start to harvest, transitioning to a long, cold wet spell, followed by a very late, but thankfully cool and dry end to the vintage. We started the “first harvest” early in September picking a rapidly ripening Syrah for our L’Afrique, under blazing hot and dry conditions. Shortly thereafter thirsty vines were slaked with several sodden weeks of relentless rains. This torrent effectively signaled the end of one harvest before ushering in the beginning of another. We had fairly finished fermenting everything from the first round of picking, and had fixed our site on the mid- point of October, before the “second harvest” set in. Cool and dry days dwindled while the Pinot Blanc for our Sac’Résine was brought in from the fields.

    Typically while waiting between two distinct harvests, ones travels might convey them to Dordogne (for a visit to an old university chum), or bring about an excursion to the spice markets of Istanbul (research and inspiration of course). However, the furthest my travels carried me between these “two harvests”  was to the old Mission city of Los Angeles in the south of California State. Though not nearly as exotic, the jaunt was suitable stimulating, if not decently enchanting… a bit like the two harvests of Vintage year Twenty- Thirteen.


    29 AUG 2013
         CHICAGO IL 60647
  • Wall Street Journal

    There is a printed journal, relatively established I'm told, whose press turns out a great volume of sheets, the pages of which command the attention of vast numbers of the reading public. This week it was brought to our attention that said periodical published an essay on the topic of "American Aperitifs", wherein was featured vermouths (and such) created by several domestic producers. Among those brands being championed, was none other than our very own Hammer & Tongs L'Afrique. A certain journalist responsible for illuminating the topic, one Ms. Sarah Karnasiewicz, correctly observed that "a stateside aperitif conversion is underway.” Ms. S.K. went on to survey sundry styles and brands produced here in these United States, by Calisaya, Cana's Feast, Ransom, and Uncouth Vermouth to name a few. Of our L’Afrique, she pronounced it to be “a dark and alluring Rosso-style vermouth, with earthy notes of incense and spice” and opined that it is “beautiful with Seltzer and a small splash of bourbon.” Thank you Ms. Sarah… We couldn’t agree more with your findings.

  • Tales of the Cocktail

    NOLA! What countless inspirations have you elicited upon my soul! After last year’s epic experience I could not feel more obliged to repay your tremendous kindness, and what better way to exhibit my appreciation than to devote a morning to inspiring others. On the Tuesday the 17th day of July, I shall endeavor to astound and delight as many of your inhabitants (transient and resident alike) as a man could expect to, with the mysterious charm of vermouth. Put in my path, as is your way, a qualified individual proficient in the arts of enchantment, and I will leave not a soul unstirred by the remedial draw of this bewitching beverage, should they set foot in the Hotel Monteleone. Already I feel the beautiful enigma of your powers at work as you have for this occasion, woven together 8 producers of vermouth to convene for this affair. For 2013, Tales of the Cocktail will have a new story to tell… a tale of New Vermouths.

    The New Vermouth Tasting Room

  • The Fairer Sex

    BRILLIANT! Our dear and exceedingly clever Ms. Clementine was possessed with the insight to pre-submit the label images we had conceived with the incomparable man-of-design, Mr. C. Noud. Part stroke of genius, part well-timed delivery (thank you Ms. Seville), we are most pleased to proclaim our Sac’Résine COLA was consented to by the Federal agencies concerned, and with very few changes in the operation. As such, we will be only a short time in bottling this pleasantly pungent palliative. I do believe it will be for the first time revealed in New Orleans at the great convening of concoctions known as Tales of the Cocktail.

  • Seattle City

    After a good deal of wrangling with numerous state officials to the north, we are gladdened in the extreme to proclaim our fair neighbor, a friend to you who live in the Evergreen State. While it did take some not insignificant exchange of documents and a small bribe known as a "permit fee", it is now possible for men and women in the greater Seattle Metropolitan area to find for purchase, a bottle or two of L'Afrique. Moreover, some of our esteemed bartenders and stewards of fine cocktails will be have this unique ingredient in their tool kit. For those who would take their restoratives in such public parlors, our agents in the urban district report that among other fine establishments, L’Afrique may be working its way into your cocktails at Vessel, Skillet, and Liberty, Smith, and Terra Plata for a start.

  • Lucky 13

    Nearly 5 months after submitting the first formula for our Sac’Résine, we have finally been granted the authority to forge ahead with this vermouth. After spending more than a year developing and testing our formulation, we were pleased that only a few minor modifications were needed. What remains to be achieved before we can sell it in open commerce is the obtainment of a Certificate of Label Approval (or COLA) from the Labeling Division of that very same organization as what brought us the approval of the formula. Let us now abide by whatever superstitions govern our irrational fears, so that the label approval process might be less of a tribulation than the ordeal that finally did yield a formula approval!

  • Another decided victory for discerned men and women of the State of Oregon

    Hammer & Tongs will be distributed by the very capable associates at Strong Water Beverage. Not only does this provide us with more time to work on new formulas, etc., it places our very limited supply in the most capable and desiring of hands.

  • L’Afrique Now Available in Chicago

    On this day, we watched with great pride as our agent in the city of Chicago, Illinois, took-up our cause and began efforts to forge a new vermouth culture in that famous of places. If what we were made to believe is true, we shall be in fine company at Lagniappe with our L’Afrique being sold alongside Letherbee Gin and Leopold Brothers Spirits. If not, I understand there is always Jepson’s Malort…

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