Ready, Set, Lunch!

Hidden in the depths of a cozy bar in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, a secret lurks:  A delicious, inventive pop up called Lunchpad SF.  The Lunchpad has been serving lunch and brunch for the last three years, transforming this hip evening hangout in to a great day time destination.

Featured in 7X7 Magazine’s list of San Francisco’s “5 Best Spots for Coffee or Lunch Meetings”, The Lunchpad was created by Adam & Mark Hubbell, and Chris Snowden.  Combining unexpected ingredients with original flavors, this unique hot spot can even be delivered to your door via Postmates, one of the hottest new delivery apps.

During the week, the lunch menu includes a wide range of sandwiches, salads, and…wait for it…habanero candied bacon.  Yes, I said bacon.img_2388

This bacon is tangy, sweet, and spicy, and while it serves as the centerpiece for a few of the sandwiches, it really is best just alone.

Other favorites that I enjoyed were the Chicken Run, served only on Wednesdays when chef Chris comes in to make this special.  How could you go wrong with fried chicken?

Another favorite, and one that spawned a pickle craze at our table of media guests, was the Turkey Drizzle.  A classic turkey sando with so many twists you could be in the Winchester Mystery House, the candied bacon is layered on with cheese, giardiniera, tomatoes, and house

img_2390

made pickles.  These pickles were of divine creation, and take the classic bread and butter pickle and elevate it up three notches.  We were enjoying them so much that we actually ordered a plate of pickles to nibble on – as if we were going hungry.

 

img_2389

We thought we were nearing the end, but then came the Brunch menu!  savory Huevos Rancheros made my mouth water, but the cherry on the cake was the ginormous breakfast biscuit.  Based on a huge fluffy cheddar biscuit, more cheese is melted on top of  a perfectly fried egg, and garlic aioli is added as the finishing touch.  Yum!  Did I forget to mention that the bacon is also hiding in there?

To wash all of these tasty treats down, the Brunchpad Bloody is served only on weekends.  With bacon used as the finishing touch of flavoring, this fresh tomato juice cocktail is savory with just the right touch of sweetness.  Normally I’m not a huge fan of the Bloody anything, however, this was refreshing and delicious.  Other cocktails are available.

If you find yourself hungry while strolling Hayes Valley midweek, or are looking for a fun new brunch spot, check out The Lunchpad at Noir Lounge.  They are open Monday through Friday, 9am – 2:30pm, and weekends 11am-2:30.

On a rainy night you don’t want to go out, order directly from Postmates and enjoy Lunchpad from the comfort of your own home!  Lunchpad also offers pickling classes and other fun events. 
  file-dec-05-3-17-52-pm

Special thanks to Lunchpad for this amazing media preview!  Be sure to stop by and grab a bite when you are doing your last minute holiday shopping on Hayes Street.  

Stolen Fruit – from the minds of Sonoma’s best winegrowers

Stolen Fruit Cocktail Mixers Luscious Lushes I love to create; specifically, I love to create cocktails from amazing ingredients.  Being a Bay Area native and a Sonoma County resident (well, mostly), when I found out about Stolen Fruit Cocktail Mixers, I was excited to get my hands on them.

Created by wine country chef Peter Brown, and Healdsburg grapegrowing royalty Doug & Susan Provisor, these fascinating blends of ver jus (freshly pressed juice) are the perfect base from everything to amped up water, to mock-tails, to elegant cocktails for every season.

Beginning with some pretty spectacular grapes, much of which are used to create some delicious wines, these fresh juice mixers come in exotic flavor combinations like:

  • Lemongrass-Ginger-Sav Blanc
  • Jasmine-Juniper-Viognier
  • Blood Orange-Muscat
  • Fig-Grains of Paradise-Zinfandel
  • Hibiscus-Grenache (not reviewed)

The freshness of these components and creative blends make them perfect for playing in your cocktail bar, or just jazzing up the every day.

img_2705Lemongrass – Ginger – Sauvignon Blanc – I love the lively spice of the lemongrass and ginger, and this would make a perfect addition to your favorite sparkling wine on Sunday morning.  Gin-Mosa anyone?  I also love this with sparkling water.  Just a splash wake up the benign and helps you get those 8 glasses in.  It is also a natural base for any vodka or gin drink, such as the amped up Moscow Mule!

7 Mules for Sister Sara

  • Mix 2 ounces of Stolen Fruit with sparkling water to make a light soda.
  • Add 3 ounces of gin (or vodka)
  • Add 2 ounces of ruby red grapefruit juice
  • Stir over ice

img_2721Jasmine – Juniper – Viognier

The surprisingly piquant flavors of lychee and kiwi, with a floral finish pair perfectly with cucumber.

Juniper Martini

  • Pour 3 ounces of your favorite gin (Hendricks would work well here) over ice in mixing glass.
  • Add 2 ounces of Stolen Fruit.
  • Squeeze 1/4 fresh lemon on top and shake well
  • Strain in to a martini glass with 3-4 slices of fresh cucumber.

img_2720Blood Orange – Muscat

Brilliant fresh orange flavors and bright citrus jump out of the glass with a hint of nutmeg and tropical vanilla.  This reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean, and screams for rum.

But, What About the Rum?

  • 2 ounces of Stolen Fruit
  • 3 ounces of dark rum
  • 3 ounces of light rum
  • A few shakes of tropical or Angostora bitters
  • Serve over ice in a coconut.

 

img_2707Fig-Grains of Paradise-Zinfandel

This dark and brooding baby is perfect for the fall.  Nutty with the fig notes, and a winter warmer, this is perfect for a fruity hot toddy.

Winter is Coming

  • 3 ounces Stolen Fruit
  • 1 ounces hot water 
  • 3 ounces bourbon (or, you can use a strong red wine)
  • cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise (to taste) or 1 tsbp mulling spices

 

And for yet another use, the Stolen Fruit mixers are fantastic for culinary sauces, dressings, and glazes!  Thank you to Verdant PR and Stolen Fruit for sharing these great bar items.  Pick some up today for $18 each, or the handy gift set!




In the Navy, I’ll sail to Spirit Works

spiritworks_logo_distressedI’ve long been a fan of Spirit Works, a small craft distillery in Sebastapol’s Barlow. Since their initial launch of vodka and gin in 2012, Tim & Ashby Marshall have been distilling grain to glass spirits that truly have a terroir of their own

Continuing their grain to glass philosophy, Spirit Works recently launched their new Navy Strength Gin.  Navy Strength Gin differs from traditional gin in that it tends to be both higher in alcohol, but also has a brighter expression of botanicals, and juniper.

Originally distilled for the British Navy, to help ease the physical and mental aches of a long voyage at sea, the Spirit Works’ iteration is a delicious departure from their traditional Gin.

Distilled from a red winter wheat base, this gin is much spicier than the more citrus driven Spirit Works gin.  Smooth and sturdy, this is a fine sipping gin with a prominent spice note, and firm backbone.

My picks for cocktails that shine a light on the gin are:

Classic G&T

  • Fill a highball or cocktail glass with ice.
  • Pour 3 oz of Spirit Works Navy Strength gin over the ice.
  • Add 3-4 cracked cardamon seeds.  I love how the cardamon plays with this gin, but you can also infuse with Star Anise to create a more earthy fall flavored cocktail.
  • Top with Fever Tree tonic water, or your favorite tonic (anything that isnt’ make with corn syrup!)

Gin Gimlet

  • juice of 1 lime (please don’t use sweetened lime juice!)
  • simple syrup to taste
  • 3 oz Spirit Works Navy Strength Gin
  • Pour all ingredients in to a cocktail shaker over ice.  Shake.
  • Strain in to a cocktail glass or coupe
Spirit Works is open daily, from 11am – 5pm for tastings, tours, and sales.  Stop by and see them some time in The Barlow, you won’t be sorry!  While you are there, visit some of our local wineries and stop in Zazu for a bacon tasting, and a specialty cocktail made with Spirit Works.
While this sample was provided by my friends at Verdant PR, I buy plenty of hooch from Spirit Works.  Support your local distiller! 

5 Indian Summer Cocktails that the Drapers Would Die For

Redwood Room

The back bar at the Redwood Room

Walking through the doors of the historic Clift Hotel in San Francisco, you can almost smell the years of cigar smoke and high powered financial deals that linger in the wood lined lobby.  Long the bastion of high powered deal making, the Clift opened it’s doors in 1913 by Frederick Clift on a family property, to serve the Pan Pacific Exposition.

Build to survive earthquake and fire, it still stands with the 1924 expansion of three additional floors.  At the time, it was the largest hotel in the state, and today, while it is now owned by the Morgans Hotel Group, it still remains much the same as when it initially opened.

The dark and brooding Redwood Room cocktail lounge feels like you are stepping back in history, with modern touches.  So named for the rich redwood panelled walls, and imposing etched glass and wood bar all pull us back to the original hotel’s glamour and clientele.  Enhancing to the unique flair, the Redwood Room boasts digital art work that will change when you are least expecting it – reminding me of a scene out of the cult movie Clue.

Clift’s famous and hanging array of digital artwork displayed on plasma television screens hung throughout the room. Snack on gourmet bites while sipping on delicious cocktails and enjoying curated music provided by well-known native San Francisco DJs along with world-class talent Thursday through Saturday nights.,

Master Mixologist Anthony Kim created the inventive and refreshing cocktail list just in time for Indian Summer, which is when us San Franciscians traditionally get some suIMG_1685nshine.  Using the freshest ingredients, these 5 cocktails represent traditional drinks that you might find in any bar, but with a twist of fresh, bright, and unique flavors.

A bit like a mai tai, this drink was named for two kings:  Bourbon, and basil.  This was my 2nd favorite of the night, because, naturally I love bourbon, and the addition of strawberries and basil adds a savory but sweet note that hits the spot.

A mimosa that is splashing out to play, the passion fruit and mint play off of each other in a dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, while the vodka adds a cool touch.  A smooth and refreshing aperitif.

Celebrate American Whiskey with Basil Hayden Bourbon

I did it!  Last month, after a year and a half, I passed my Certified Spirits Specialist exam.  PHEW!  A must do for anyone who is serious about spirits, this credential, administered by the Society of Wine Educators was more rigorous than I anticipated, but delves deep in to the history and production of spirits from around the world.

That said, I’ve always had a bit of a passion for whiskey, ever since I visited Scotland for the first time.  Today, I am learning more and more about American whiskey.  Today, I am playing around with Basil Hayden Kentucky Bourbon.

The first time I tried Basil Hayden Kentucky Bourbon, I wrinkled my nose and said to my friend “thanks for smoking me out”.  As a whiskey girl who shies away from peaty Scotch and smokey whiskey in general, I wasn’t sure about the flavor profile back then.  Today, that has changed as I have experienced a wide variety of bourbons and American whiskey in general.

This is a great beginner’s drink, as it’s affordable and an easy drinker.  With lemon, fresh cream, and yellow cake mix on nose, classic vanilla and mild campfire smoke mesh with the baking spice and anise on the palate.

Introduced by Jim Beam brands in 1992 as part of their small batch collection, the mash bill is said to be similar to the original Basil’s, and thus is his namesake.The primarily corn based recipe lends itself to a clean but richer style, and it’s perfect for a cocktail or over an ice cube or two.

Tonight, enjoy some Basil Hayden Bourbon in a Country Lawyer, or celebrate Whiskey Sour day on Friday!

Country Lawyer

original recipe adapted from the classic Park Tavern drink

  • 3 oz Basil Hayden Bourbon
  • 1 oz Rhubarb Amaro (Zucca is the most common but I used Art in the Age.)
  • 1/4 oz Benedictine
  • 1/4 oz Vya Sweet Vermouth
  • 3 dashes Fee Bros Aztec Chocolate bitters
  • shake well over ice, and pour neat and garnish with lemon.

To celebrate Friday’s Whiskey Sour Day, why not try a Basil Hayden‘s® Summer Sour brought to you by San Francisco Mixologist Matt Grippo.

  •  1 ½ parts Basil Hayden’s®  Bourbon
  • ½ part Fresh Lemon Juice
  • ¾ part Sweet Vermouth
  • ¼ part Tonic Syrup
  • 2 dashes of Angostura® Bitters
  • Orange Twist (for garnish)

I’ll be testing this one and will get back to you with my tweaks!

 

This bottle was provided for consideration, and I considered it so much I went out and bought another!

Cy-a-nar-a!

Ah amaro, how I love thee!  With hundreds of unique amari to choose from, Cynar is unusual in that it’s make from artichokes.  While it might seem odd that a beverage would be made from what is basically the flower of a thistle, there are so many uses for this!

From sipping straight, “like an Italian mama”, my friend would say, to using it as a bittering agent in cocktails, it was originally intended to be a digestif.  The unique bitterness combined with the sweetness of the chemical cynarin, as well as thirteen different botanical, it is quite versatile.

Now, Cynar comes in two versions:  Original Cynar,and the new Cynar 70 Proof.  Cynar 70 Proof is really just a more intense version of the original, and stands up to more complex cocktails.

This week, try out a couple of fun cocktails using Cynar!

 

The Cy-Groni

In a twist on the classic Negroni, substituent original Cynar to add the bitter complainant that Campari would normally occupy.  I am not the biggest fan of Campari as I find it almost too bitter, so I often use Cappalletti Aperitivo.  Here, the best of both worlds comes in to play.

In a cocktail shaker, add over ice:

  • 1/2 oz Cynar
  • 1/2 sweet vermouth
  • 3 oz gin (I love Ransom Old Tom)
  • 3 dashes orange bitters (try the Fee Bros Gin Barrel Aged)
  • 1 dash 5 by 5 Aged Citrus Bitters

Shake, and pour over ice, with an orange twist.  For fun, I used a blood orange rind.

A variation on the Negroni with bourbon, is the classic Boulevardier.   My friend Emma actually introduced me to this cocktail (I know, I should have know about this ages ago!).  The Cynar 70 Proof is perfect in this recipe because it is a bolder flavor and holds up to the whiskey.

Boulevard of Dreams

In a cocktail shaker, add over ice:

  • 1/2 oz Cynar 70 Proof
  • 1/2 sweet vermouth
  • 3 oz bourbon (Knob Creek Single Barrel knocked my socks off here!)
  • 3 dashes bitters (Fee Bros whiskey barrel aged cocktail bitters are the bomb)
  • 1 dash cherry bitters (check out Carlton Cocktail Company’s woodland cherry)
  • 1 dash fig bitters (for a bit of depth, again try Carlton Cocktail Company)
  • Shake, and pour over ice, with an orange twist and a good marachino cherry.

 

Being a bourbon lovin’ gal, I was really interested to try the Game, Set, Match

Courtesy of Basil Hayden’s recipe page, (more on that next week!) this delicious variation of the classic Manhattan, it packs a punch with the bittersweet addition of Cynar.  Bourbon on it’s own can have the perception of being sweet, and sweet vermouth is also sweet.  The Cynar adds a delicious bitter note that tones down the classically sweet Manhattan and makes a refreshing afternoon pick me up!

In a cocktail shaker, over ice add:

  • 3 oz bourbon
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz (I used a bit less)
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Shakes, and strain.  Add a cherry or lemon garnish.

Thank you to Gruppo Campari, who owns Cynar, and MBooth for sharing these interesting sippers!  All recipes are my own, except the Game, Set, Match, originally sourced from Basil Hayden Bourbon.

 

Coco Frio – Modern Veneuzualan in the heart of San Francisco

I love food.  If you take one look at my Instagram account, or follow me on Facebook, you can probably figure that out.  I’m very fortunate that I live in a food capital, where there are literally dozens of world class (Michelin starred or not) restaurants to choose from.

There is a problem however; new restaurants open and close like a revolving door.  It’s no secret that opening a new restaurant is a challenge – something like 80% or more fail within the first year.  Even established restaurants can close their doors in twist of the economy.

But I’m not here to talk about the negative, I’m here to talk about the positive!  Last fall, I was introduced to a new restaurant in the heart of our Latin Quarter, The Mission.  A blend of many different Latin American culture, The Mission has a plethora of both ethnic and uniquely American food choices.

Enter Coco Frio.  Coco Frio Restaurant and Bar is uniquely Caribbean, based on the food culture of Margarita Island, located off the Venezuelan coast.  Using the freshest seafood and a Venezuelan flair, the food is taste tantalizing fusion of Caribbean and Latin cultures.  Topping it off, unique cocktails and a pretty stellar wine list will set off the cuisine.

On our visit, we opted to start with a cocktail, before having the tasting menu, with wine pairings.  In addition to the classic tasting menu, Chef Manny Torres Gimenez added in a few extra dishes to ensure that we were fully immersed in the Margarita culture.  The wine fishlist, curated by Katie Brookshire, focuses on affordable, unexpected, and unusual pairings.

First Course:  We started with the Fish Fume (Siete Potencias) a delicious fish soup, with
fresh mussels and clams.  This paired perfectly with the Kerner, which was fresh and unique with a mineral finish.

Second Course:  Scallops on the half shell.  Sadly not pictured, the scallops were perfectly cooked with fresh tomatoes and spices of the region.  I think this might have been my favorite.

meatThird Course:  Meat!  This amazing steak was so tender, you could have cut it with a spoon.

Fourth Course:  Free Range Chicken (Pollo Frito) with Yuca, downloadwhich paired surprisingly well with Austrian Zweigelt.

 

 

 

With many additions to the menu, we lost track of what came next, but suffice it to say we were stuffed.  With so many delicious wines and experiments to try, I highly recommend you take time to visit Coco Frio when you are in San Francisco.

The large by the glass selection of wines ranges from Vino Verde and Gruner Veltiner, to Rioja and Garnacha.  Most glasses are $8, and the wine pairing for the $30 – 3 course prix-fixe menu is only $15, which considering the large half glasses, is a steal.  Additionally, there are several beers if you want to have an inventive beer paring for some of the spicier dishes.

The final component of Coco Frio is the lengthy and creative cocktail list.  With Chef Manny’s recent acquisition of Santa Teresa Rum, the oldest rum in the Caribbean, the cocktails are, naturally rum based.    From the party packed Pisco Punch to the Venezuelan classic El Coco Frio, served in a coconut and meant for 2, this is not your mother’s Pina Colada.

I look forward to a return visit to taste more of the cocktails and dishes!  With a menu that focuses on fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, it si sure to be different every time you go.

Special thanks to Natalie from Bread & Butter PR for not only setting this up, but hanging out with us for a drink!  

 

Vermouth: The Spirit that Created Amerca’s Cocktail Culture

Vermouth, that mysterious wine based beverage that lingers in the minds of our grandparents, Don Draper, and Downton Abbey.  Today, vermouth is part of an ongoing cocktail-culture revolution.  

In Adam Ford‘s new memoir of the beverage, Vermouth:  The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture, the long, and somewhat forgotten history of vermouth is recalled, meandering through time from somewhere around 10,000 years ago to the present day.

Vermouth is a special elixir that has stood the test of time.  An aromatized wine (wine that has had herbs, spices, and other ingredients added to it before being fortified), that is similar to gin in it’s methodology of creation.  Similar to Gin, Vermouth can be made with botanicals, typically those considered to have health-promoting properties.

Unlike gin, there are no specific requirements as to what must be contained within.

Through this book, Ford takes us around the world, from China, to the Middle East where it gained exotic spices, to modern day America, where it is undergoing a strong revival,  vermouth has evolved, changed, and developed in to the atypical beverage that it is today.

The definition of vermouth varies widely globally, and some are even created from botriticized wine.  With so many flavor variations, the possibilities and pairings are endless.

This book is a beautiful illustration of the history and development of vermouth, but is also a modern encyclopedia and shopping guide.  From small wineries producing vermouth (Sutton Cellars) to larger, commercial operations that are producing boutique cocktail mixers, there is a vermouth for everyone.

When, after World War II, many producers took short cuts and used cheaper, more readily available ingredients, the new trailblazers created high end vermouths from the finest of ingredients.  Like any other beverage of quality, you will see this reflected int eh price point, but also in the flavor.  Have you experienced a high end spirit mixed with a low end vermouth?  The combination just doesn’t work.  While some might be tied by distributor requirements, a handshake agreement or other systematic problems with the three-tier system we have in the U.S., I am of the mind that with quality must go quality.

To that end, Ford discovers a litany of different craft vermouth producers to experiment with.  While you will probably know Cinzano, Martini & Rossi and maybe even my current favorite Carpano Antica, have you experienced Vya or Imbue?

While perusing this must have cocktail textbook, you might see a familiar cocktail or two, but you will also see some long-forgotten cocktails that bring images of The Cotton Club and the Roaring Twenties, as well as re-imagining what they might be like today in the speakeasies of the new millennium.  I am partial to a Manhattan, as well as a Martini and, while friends are partial to Negronis.  Have any of us you heard of a Hanky Panky?

Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth

Hanky Panky

Ingredients

2 oz. sweet vermouth (I like Carpano Antica)

¾ oz. London dry gin

¼ oz. Fernet-Branca

1 orange peel

Instructions

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir.
until on the verge of freezing. Strain into a small cordial or sake
coupe. Garnish with a raspberry in the spring or summer, or a fig in the fall and winter.

This book has been on my cocktail shelf for several weeks now, and I keep a running list of new vermouths to try from my local purveyor.  When the mood strikes me, I look for a new recipe and experiment, which is what any good bartender is about.

Vermouth is available on Amazon.com for $17 and is worth every penny!

For more information:  vermouth-makes-a-comeback/

With a Blade & Bow – History in a glass

Recently, the good folks at Diageo invited me to experience the re-launch of an iconic brand:  Blade & Bow.  Unique in it’s production technique, using a Solera system that is classical used for Sherry in Spain, no year is a single vintage. Instead, it is an ever evolving blend of many vintages as they tumble down the cascading pyramid of the solera.  In this case, the Blade & Bow solera is 5 barrels, with the oldest being from the original Stitzel distillery where blade & bow was originally born.

 

Stitzl-Weller was founded in 1935 in Louisville, and was distilling continuously until 1992.  When they shut down, the bourbon stock was sill aging, and therefore made it possible to create the oldest solera tiers that are available today.  The 22 year old Limited Release is a blend whiskies, distilled at both the historic location at 17th and Breckinridge in Louisville, Ky. and another historic distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, creating this complex beauty.  This blend is then aged and bottled at Stitzel-Weller.

A beautiful expression of caramel, brown sugar, baked apples, and baking spice.  Sip this beauty straight, or make a killer Manhattan!  It’s fairly hard to put the glass down once you start drinking this sexy little number, and on these foggy summer nights, I am happy to have my little friend. $150

 

  I’ll Take Manhattain (with a Bow)

2 oz. Blade & Bow 22 Year old
.25 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Bob’s Abbot’s Bitters
1 Dash Fee Brother’s Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1/2 dash Aged Citrus Bitters
1/2 Dash Meyer Lemon Bitters

Shake over ice and strain in to a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a slice of lemon and a bourbon soaked cherry.  The Aztec Chocolate adds a sweet richness, while the lemon garnish adds enough acid IMG_9090to make the flavors pop.   This is a treat that you will get addicted to!

For those looking for a more affordable treat, the Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is  a lighter and fresher bourbon, perfect over ice, or in your favorite cocktail.  The Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a  fine sipping bourbon, and is made from the solera stocks from Stitzel-Weller, blended with other whiskies to create the completed product.

Fresh and fruity, with notes of vanilla, fresh oranges, ripe pears, marzipan and gingerbread why not try an Old Fashioned Ginger?  $50

 

 Ginger Old Fashioned
2 oz Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1 oz Ginger Liquor
splash ginger beer (preferably a dry one)
dash orange bitters

Muddle 1/2 tsp of sugar with the bitters and ginger liquor.  Add ice, and top with bourbon, and ginger beer.  Garnish with an orange wedge.

 The use of the solera cask system allows Blade & Bow to carry on a tradition that was once thought to be lost, preserving some of the oldest golden nectar for future generations to come.  I highly recommend the 22-year old, and if you are out at a bar and see the Kentucky Straight, give it a shot! Pun intended, of course.

 

Thank you to Blade & Bow and the Diageo team for a great night of cocktails and a dinner of Southern specialties with a twist, at Dirty Habit – a peach of a bourbon bar in the heart of San Francisco.

Seven Stills for 7 Cocktails: Don’t be bitter!

A few years ago, at my first Craft Cocktail Carnival here in San Francisco, I was fortunate enough to meet Tim Obert and Clint Potter of Seven Stills Vodka.  Masters of the craft cocktail movement, I was fortunately enough to taste through some of the unique creations that Tim had lurking in his cabinets.  One of those creations was the recently released Meyer Lemon Bitters, a zippy little number just waiting for a cocktail to show it’s beauty.

 

 Now, that first bitter moment has given rise to the new line of bitters.  To fund this project, they have turned to both a new Bitters Club (which, I clearly  need to join given my bitters obsession), and a Kickstarter Campaign for the ages.

 

When Seven Stills started making bitters, they set out to be both unique, and to use fresh, seasona, ingredients nad herbs that aid in digestion and overall health.  After all, that is what bitters were created for.

Each one of these unique creations is crafted with a base of non-GMO grain spirits (well there’s a new thing to watch for GMOs in!  Do you know if Monsanto sponsors your vodka?), and the secret recipe of over 30 herbs and spices, plus the primary flavor of the bitter.

This year, they are starting out with Prickly Pear, Cranberry, and classic Cocktail Bitters, to go along with the aforementioned Meyer Lemon Bitters.

dcole cocktail

 

dcole cocktail 4

dcole cocktail 3

Remember, bitters is for more than just cocktails!  Add a few drops to your water to add some interesting elements.  Water does get boring after all..  Suffering a hangover?  Add some bitters to tonic water and drink up.  The digestive effect of the bitters and the quinine in the tonic (if it’s real tonic) will soothe you in no time

Want to know more?  Check out the videos and recipies on the Kickstarter Page!

Happy drinking!

 

To your health! Cocktials as health food

I love a good cocktail as much as the next gal, but did you know some cocktails can be good for you?  Taking a cue from the elixirs, tinctures, and tonics of yesterday, and putting a new twist on them, the new book Apothecary Cocktails delves in to the history of some restoratives libations, and creates new recipes for today’s trendy bartender. When we look at some of the key ingredients in the modern bar, we can see behind the bourbon, vodka and other liquors to the mixers that were traditionally used as medicine.  Love a gin & tonic?  Tonic (real tonic, not this corn syrup flavored water that passes today) is made with quinine, a well known remedy for influenza.  Love to use bitters to flavor your cocktails?  Bitters were created as a digestive aid, originally in Angostura, Venezuela, as a tonic.  Brandy has long been carried by St. Bernard mountain dogs in the Swiss Alps for warmth and revival in the cold winter nights. I love to experiment with cocktails and flavors but Apothecary Cocktails categorizes their recopies by aliment:

  • Have a digestive issue?  Try a Sazerac.  The Peychaud’s bitters from New Orleans was originally used to heal stomach problems.
  • Cold to the bone?  Try some Navy Grog.  With Scurvy being a critical issue in sailors, this winter warmer with rum and lemon juice was used in the 17th & 18th centuries.
  • Sweltering in a sticky summer?  Almond Pastis is your cure.  Pastis is the cool drink of southern France, with cold anise flavored liquor that turns white when mixed with ice water.
  • If you’ve had all of the above and are feeling a bit green, restoratives hair of the dog cocktails like the Corpse Reviver, full of Caribbean flavors as well as spices and alcohol it will help you to forget.
  • Hot toddies have long been used to relax you after a long day.  How about Mexican Sleep Cure for your insomnia?  That Mescal will certainly help you sleep.
  • When I have a cold, I make my own Nyquil:  3 oz whiskey, healthy squeeze of lemon juice, 1 TBSP of brown sugar, cloves, and hot water.  Stir with a cinnamon stick.    You could also try a Lemon Balm Gin & Tonic.  Lemon Balm has been a popular herban pain killer for centuries, and is used in many digestives such as Amaro and Chartreuse.
  • Finally, if you’re in a bad mood – snap out of it!  Cheer in a glass, the Milk Thistle Spritz takes a commonly used herbal elixer detoxifies the liver and is a tasty treat.

Apothecary Cocktails also includes several recipes for syrups and infusions used in the cocktail creations, like Cardamon simple syrup, and Shrubb simple syrup. I’ve tried, twisted, and tweaked several of these recipes and it’s a great addition to any bar.  Enjoy!

The book was provided by the publisher for consideration but all cocktails were created from my own hooch!

 

Battle of the best: Cocktail Wars

Are you over turkey and cranberry sauce?  Done with wine pairings?  Well, Dishcrawl is at it again!  Bringing cocktail deliciosuness everywhere!  This season, they are launching Cocktail Wars, where North American mixologists from all over the country compete for the best, most creative, most delicious cocktails in 11 cities.

Here in the Bay Area, the first battle will be in San Jose on December 10th, which is co-hosted by Sacramento’s own Andrew Calisterio, current frontman at Maven San Francisco.

At the show, you can sit back and watch the panel of celebrity judges and hear the inspiration behind the drink while you sip some of the contenders.

But wait!  In January, to beat those mid-winter blues, you can also join the battle in San Francisco!  Stay tuned for more on that soon.

If you like a good, creative, inspired cocktail as much as I do – be sure not to miss it!  I’ll be there voting!

For tickets and more information please see Cocktail Wars!  Packages including tasting menus are available starting at $29.

Cheers!

Google

 

 

When good wine gets…better

Ah vermouth, that mystical beverage that started it’s life as wine, and was elevated with aromatics and botanicals.  Vermouth varies so widely, it might as well be called the gin of the wine world!

While there are two distinct types of vermouth – dry, or white, and sweet, or red, the flavor profiles within each realm vary so widely that it is akin to determining who your favorite wine is.  For me, it’s impossible.

You have probably heard of, and used, the classic Martini & Rossi vermouths in your cocktails, be it a Manhattan or a Martini.  While these are inexpensive and readily available, there remind me of white zinfandel.  Fine, if you must, but must you?

Recently, I had the good fortune to taste a local vermouth by Sutton Cellars.  This delicious example of a craft vermouth is made from a white wine from Sonoma, and infused with a burst of citrus and baking spice, this is the perfect sipper of choice on these warm fall afternoons.
While most vermouth is used in cocktails, this beauty should be enjoyed alone, or with a minimum of other ingredients.

My two favorite cocktails with craft vermouth:

Sutton & Soda

Made by Carl Sutton himself, this was a gorgeous interlude before we completed our wine

tasting.  Simple, yet elegant, vermouth on the rocks with a splash of soda water and a grapefruit twist.  Delicious!

Not so French Kiss

I found this recipe online, and it uses both dry and sweet vermouths.  My version kicks it up a notch with the addition of some aromatic bitters for flavor emphasis.

Mix half sweet and half dry vermouth over rocks.  My choice for the sweet (or red) is the Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth.  While sweet is a bit of a reach, this rich red vermouth is dark ruby and complex, with orange marmalade, coffee, and spice.  Yum!

Add a dash of bitters and orange bitters, and top with a lemon slice.  Ahhh refreshing!  For extra fun, try cardamon bitters!  the earthy exotic spice works perfectly.  This is like a gingerbread man, smoking a cigar, in Marseilles.

Sutton Cellars is hosting a vermouth tasting in San Francisco, at 18 Reasons, on December 2nd.  If you are in the area, check it out!

 

Google

 

 

 

Cocktail of the week: Gintonica

Put on your yalmulka, here comes gin-tonica,
Its so much fun-akkah to celebrate gin-tonica!

With all due respect to Adam Sandler and his holiday chuckles, a well crafted Gin & Tonic is one of my favorite cocktails.  The wide Gin tonic isolated on white background. Stock Photo - 7066244variety of gins available these days is far reaching, and goes beyond hte bathtub varieties of Prohibition, and past the mass market varieties that resemble little more than nail polish with a fancy label.

Blade Gin

Before I delve in my three favorite Gin & Tonic recipes for your Friday enjoyment, let’s look a little bit at the history at gin.  I first became fascinated with gin when I first went to Spain, where the Gintonic has long been held as a sacred ritual and art form.  As it turns out, filed under the heading strange but true facts about booze, Spain boasts the third highest per capita consumption of gin around the world, after (oddly enough) the Phillipines and the United States.  Britain, which is what pops in to most minds when you say gin, falls fourth in line.  Considering that Spain produces world class wine, this is a pretty crazy statistic – but this Luscious Lushes is happy to have stumbled in to the country where a gin & tonic is a creative outlet for even the most back country bartender takes pride in.

Gin was originally derived from juniper berries in the Middle Ages, and was used as an herbal medicine.  Today, gins are any clear spirit that is made from botanicals, and can be floral, herbal, woodsy, or juiper-y.  The key difference here, is that while vodka is a flavorless spirit, gin has a ton of flavor, and distillers pride themselves on a unique and secret combination of herbs, flowers, and spices, to give their own special twist to their version.

legance in a glass.  There are two distinct types of spirit that can be called gin:Today, with the craft cocktail craze sweeping the US and the world, gin is no longer a medicinal beverage or a poor man’s drink – it is e

  1. Gin – This is a juniper flavored spirit made by adding natural flavors to a neutral spirit.  The predominant flavor must be juniper.
  2. London Gin – must be at least 70% ABV and cannot have any added sugar beyond .1 grams per liter.  Because there is not
    added sugar, London Gin is usually called London Dry Gin.

My favorite gins are all quite different, and I continue to explore and disvoer new versions that are as widely varied in falvvor as a Bordeaux is from a California Pinot Noir:

  • St. George Spirits Terroir Gin – St. George Spirits, the makers of Hangar One Vodka, is across the bay from me and prouces three gins.  Terroir is my favorite, with earthy, forest flavors, minty goodness and cedar notes.
  • Old World Spirits Blade Gin – fruity and spicy, with ginger and hot pepper notes this is a citrus driven gin with earthy bones that really sing.
  • Hendricks Dry London GIn – clean, crisp, dry.  The perfect classic London gin.

Now on to the cocktails!  The key to a good cocktail is having the right flavors, blended together perfectly.  In this case, for my three favorite Gin & Tonics, I like to use bitters to enhance the flavor of the gin, along with different tonics which highlight key notes in the gin.  Tonic makes all the difference!  There are so many craft tonics out there these days, step away from the mass market brands and branch out to Fentimans, Q, or Fever Tree.  If you’re very adventerous, try making your own tonic!

First up:

Terroir Terror

  • St George Terroir Gin
  • Fentiman’s Tonic Water
  • 1 dash lime bitters
  • dash lavender bitters
  • dash cardomon bitters
  • slice of lime

The aromatics of the lavender bitters plays particularly well off of the Terroir; the herbal notes of the bitters and the forest floor qualities of the gin are a stunning combination.  The cardamon adds a hint of exotic spice that you wouldn’t otherwise expect, dancing off of your tongue, while the lime enhances the natural compliment of a fresh slice on top.  The tonic of choice for this is Fentimans, as Schwepps is to flat in flavor, and the Fever Tree, while a tasty tonic, doesn’t pack the punch that makes this Gin & Tonic speical.  I prefer the Fentimans for the lemongrass notes and citrus burst.

Blade Trinity

  • Blade Gin
  • Fentimans Tonic Water
  • Slice of lime

A simple classic, the lightness of the Fever Tree enhances the Blade gin.  Pure and simple.

Sliced Blade

  • Blade Gin
  • tonic syrup, mixed with sparkling water to make tonic water
  • dash grapefruit bitters
  • C&B Old Fashioned Quinine syrup, mixed per directions
  • Antica Fomula vermouth, a premier sipping quality vermouth

The tonic syrup is a unique flavor, and naturally brown, as quinine turns when it ages.  The adition of the grapefruit bitters pop the flavors up in this mixture, and the touch of vermouth brings a roundness and a caramelized sweet note that is pleasing on the palate.  Make sure you don’t use white vermouth or an inferior quality!

I hope these drinks inspire you, and I encourage you to go out and make up your own drinks!

Happy Friday!

Hum – smallest little city in the world

00000042Hum is a tiny little hamlet, still surrounded by it’s hilltop walls, in the middle of Istria.  A small remnant of medieval life clinging to it’s roots, it has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest town in the world.  While it might not be the smalled in size, it’s officially a town and has it’s own government.

Getting to Hum can be a challenge, and we found ourselves backtracking the highway on local roads with signs pointing in every direction.  There is no GPS out here, so we just threw caution to the wind – and maybe said a small prayer to the rakija gods – to find this hidden treasure.

Seventeen turns, 3 misguided dead ends, and one near miss with a local, and we were on the right road to rakija!

How’s that for the little guy!  But there is more to Hum than meets the eye.  This castle (really, that’s what it is, a castle and the court around it), is a center point for the now lost Glagolitic script, which is considered to be the earliest form of the written Croatian language – and be the forefather to modern Cyrillic.

But…since this is a post about wine tourism, what about the wine?  All around the steep and sloping hillsides, you can see the vineyards that roll on to the coastal borders of Istria.  Here in Hum however, they are more known for Rakija.  Rakija is the Croatian word for Grappa, and is typically made from distilling the alcohol that is produced from the leftovers of wine making, like grape skins.  Here in Croatia, Rakija can also be made from a base alcohol of brandy, applejack, or other forms of fruit liquor.

As we meandered around Hum, Mladen – our intrepid Funky Zagreb driver, tour guide, comic relief, and all around Mad Max replicant, pointed out the Rakjia museum & shop.  Yipee!  What a way to break up a long drive!hum - mladen

Here, we tasted many of the flavors, including Biska, the most famous – made from mistletoe, or Medcina, made from honey, red wine, apple, pear, and so many more.  In Croatia as well as other parts of this region, everyone makes their own Rakjia.  It is a point of pride as to who makes the best, and the secret recipes are a much guarded treasure.  Try as we might, we just couldn’t get the secret out, although Mladen did give us a sample of his famous walnut upon our return to Zagreb.

After imbibing in several flavors, we all left, happy, warm and well stocked.  And, according to legend, rakjia cures cancer, and can be used as liniment for sore muscles.  I think I’ll try it!

And, if you’re in the mood for a real treat, Hum hosts an annual Rakija festival every October.  Bring your best attempt and share in the fun!

After Hum, we were back on the road to Rovinj, and the coast.  Stay tuned for the continued adventures of the Bourne Wine-Premacy!

1 2