When sampling a flight of bourbons at the incredible Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon, I came up with the idea of doing the same with many of the great base spirits for cocktails and adding accoutrements that would serve to highlight the often subtle flavours of the spirits, a bit the way the Stilton accentuates the fig-infused gin in the Blue Fig created by Chambar in Vancouver. Anyway, the sky is obviously the limit. I used The Flavor Thesaurus for pairing ideas. It is an absolutely indispensable reference.
This is obviously a moment to use your best spirits, the bottles that normally are hidden at the back of your cabinet. Dust them off, because you really want to impress. I served the flights in small, chilled shot glasses on three matching cutting boards. You could also use long, rectangular plates if you have them. I think three is a good number at once and keep the actual alcohol servings to about 3/4 of an ounce. The idea is to provide a fun experience for the palate, not get everyone smashed. Below are my first three attempts. They went over very well with my guests.
Vodka (potato ideally): chilled with lemon zest. Serve with cracked pepper and a bit of za’atar, dill foam and chopped dill. Karlsson’s Gold is the vodka I use but it’s hard to find. Luksusowa Polish potato vodka is available at the LCBO.
Cognac: room temperature, no citrus. Serve with coarsely chopped walnuts that have been glazed in Nocino, topped with freshly grated nutmeg. Nocino foam as well. Allow the nuts to cool. Pierre Ferrand 1840 is a great Cognac for this flight but any VSOP or XO Cognac will suffice.
Gin: chilled with orange zest. Serve with chopped dried apricots lightly sauted in apricot eau-de-vie and a tiny bit of apricot liqueur. Top apricots with a small amount of fresh sumac. Serve with Cointreau foam. I used Tanqueray 10 but any great London Dry gin would be a good choice. Beefeater 24, Sipsmith, The Botanist, Hendrick’s are all excellent gins available at the LCBO.
*The foams are easier than they sound though not entirely necessary. You can make foam a few ways. The simplest method is to shake the ingredients in a shaker with egg white. You can also use an Isi canister with gelatin sheets. Lastly, a bit of soy lecithin (available at health food stores) and the foam ingredients (including a liquid) can be whipped up with a hand blender. I would recommend experimenting.
Other spirits perfect for flights include Tequila, Mezcal, fruit brandies including grappa, bourbon, rye, sake, aquavit, scotch, Grand Marnier, Italian vermouth and rum.