Humans learned long ago that they could ferment pretty much anything that contains natural sugar and turn it into alcohol, the easiest options being fruit and grain. Perhaps it was for this reason that many of the seven species of the Land of Israel were selected!
These ancient ingredients surely made for some tasty pre-dinner libations. Wheat becomes vodka, grapes turn into wine, barley is the only ingredient in true Scotch whisky and grenadine syrup is made from pomegranates. And olives, while not typically a fruit that is directly turned into a beverage, make a lovely cocktail garnish.
A few variations in the main alcohol can dramatically alter the finished flavor of your drink. The best wine to use for your Fig & Fizz is the one you think tastes the best. Most good wine shops and a growing number of grocery stores will have a good selection of sparkling wines and staff to help you make a good choice.
Here are some of the most readily available sparkling white wines:
• The most well known is champagne, which can only be called champagne if it is made from certain grapes from the Champagne region of France. They range from the very dry extra brut to very sweet doux styles. It can be aged for several years.
• Prosecco is a sparking wine from Italy. It uses a different secondary fermentation method from champagne to make those tiny, tiny bubbles, which tends to make it less expensive in general. Unlike champagne, it does not need to age in the bottle. Flavors will also vary based on the brand.
• Similarly, cava is a sparking wine made in Spain. Flavors again range from dry to sweet. Most come from Catalonia, and the name “cava” comes from the old tradition of aging the wine in caves.
Just like sparkling wine, scotch whiskies vary greatly by region and brand. Be sure to try a few different ones in your Smokey Pom cocktail. Some scotch basics:
• Scotch comes only from Scotland and is made from malted barley. Other grains may be added.
• It must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years.
• Scotch must not contain any additives aside from some water and certain caramel coloring, though many distilleries do not add color at all.
• Single malt scotch may contain only one grain (barley) and must be made at only one distillery.
• Blended scotch is a blend of different whiskies from different distilleries.
Different styles come from different parts of the country. Some have that smoky flavor that is so closely associated with traditional scotch, but others are sweet and light. Your local liquor store should be able to guide you here.
• Highland is the largest whisky-producing region in Scotland. Many styles can be found here, but most of them have rich, smoky flavors.
• Speyside single malt scotches are usually described grassy or sweet. This area has more distilleries than any other, and is part of the larger Highland region.
• Lowland whiskies are single malts that are usually distilled several times to give them a mild flavor.
• Islay whiskies have a deep, rich, smoky flavor that comes from peat in the malting process.