Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts

Monday, February 21, 2022

Cocktail In A Bottle

If you like cocktails but hate making them - maybe you simply don't have a good bar area in your home - you probably have already tried some of the premixed cocktails that are on the market.  They are convenient, but you do pay a price for that.  Here's one I ran across at Trader Joe's recently.

Trader Joe's Negroni is a premixed, bottled cocktail made with gin, bitter liqueur and sweet vermouth.  It is produced and bottled by Nomad Spirits of Los Angeles and a Redditt thread shows that it has been on shelves since November.  The grocer has also reportedly stocked Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour, premixed and bottled.  Alcohol hits the 22% abv mark, so it is 44 proof and costs $17 for a 750 ml bottle.

It's a decent little negroni, if somewhat off-tasting in the bitter liqueur department.  I have had better from actual bartenders, but for an easy home cocktail, this Trader Joe's Negroni isn't too bad at all.  


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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Gin Designed To Wear Many Hats

Ford's London Dry Gin has a banner on the label which reads, "It doesn’t take an empire to make a gin."  This is somewhat confusing because Ford's is distilled in England.  However, the freshly-distilled gin is shipped to the U.S. - to Mendocino County, to be precise - to be cut with local well water and bottled at 90 proof.

Ford's website declares the gin to be the product of a collaboration between eighth-generation master distiller Charles Maxwell and gin expert Simon Ford.  It is described as a juniper-forward mix of nine botanicals, "deceptively soft, aromatic, fresh and floral." 

Ford designed his gin to be a versatile "Jack-of-All-Trades" which bartenders could use as a go-to liquor for any cocktails which call for gin, no matter what other ingredients were used.

The nine botanicals of Fords Gin are sourced from Joseph Flach & Sons Ltd. That company has been importing medicinal and culinary botanicals from around the world for London gin houses and tea companies "since the days of the British Empire."

Ford's offers a complex flavor profile, with juniper joined by orange, grapefruit and spices.  It makes a great martini and I would imagine a perfectly fine Negroni, although I have yet to try out that recipe.


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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Cask and Kettle Hot Cocktails

The advent of the Keurig coffee system changed the way we think of convenience in coffee.  It used to be no problem to load up a filter for Mr. Coffee and brew a pot, but now… c'mon, man, we don’t have that kind of time!

Just as the K-cup boiled down coffee making to the flip of a wrist, it is now providing boozy hot drinks in the same simple manner.

Cask & Kettle is billed as the only hard coffee cocktail on the market.  Everything needed for the cocktail is in the K-cup, including the alcohol.  All you have to do is pop a single serve cup into your brewing system.  You can also open up the K-cup and add hot water, but … c'mon, man, we don't have that kind of time!  The product is decaf, gluten-free and fully recyclable.

Flavors include Irish Coffee, Mint Patty, Mexican Coffee, Hot Blonde Coffee and Spiked Dry Cider.  They are hot cocktails, perfect for cooler months, but they can also work as iced coffee drinks for warmer weather.

The publicity team tells me that Cask & Kettle - based in Temperance, Michigan - is owned and operated by women, and is certified by the Women's Business Enterprise.

Irish Coffee 

This smells awesome while it is making. No coffee needed, no booze - it's all in the K-cup, all except the whipped cream.  Tastes just like the Irish coffees I used to have at Tom Bergin's on Fairfax.  Cooling it off for a drink that's enjoyable in the summer is a workable idea, too.  I added some of my wife's refrigerated coffee creamer to mine.  The pod is 38% abv.

Mexican Coffee

Tequila, vodka and dark coffee notes join with a hint of Mexican chocolate to provide a sweet drink with a south-of-the-border flair.  The pod is 30% abv. 

Hot Blonde Coffee

The vodka is barely noticeable behind the coffee and vanilla.  There is a great mocha note as well.  The pod is 37% abv.

Mint Patty Coffee

This one is vodka-based, too.  It tastes like a boozy thin mint laced with dark chocolate.  Put some whipped cream on this one.  The pod is 37% abv.


Monday, August 24, 2020

Single-Estate Tequila

Does a single-estate tequila have the same cachet as a single vineyard wine?  It does if you listen to the makers of the La Adelita line of tequila.  A single vineyard often imparts more characteristics to a wine that are inherent to the site.  One might draw a similar conclusion about the selection of specific hops used in brewing - the locale determines the flavor profile.  In tequila, the terroir, if you will, of the plantation where the agave plants are grown is what gives the sip its character.

The folks who market La Adelita tequila say a "partnership of distillers, agave farmers and cult wine artisans" crafted this array of spirits.  The line is named after women warriors who took part in the Mexican Revolution in the early part of the 20th century - a decade-long armed conflict which sprang from a rigged presidential election.  The name is also borne by one of the most famous ballads of the revolution and "la Adelita" has come to signify any woman who is fighting for her rights.  

The Blue Weber agave estates - Rancho El Fraile - are in the highlands of Jalisco, where generations of jimadors have harvested the piñas when their time had come, usually after about seven years of growth.  The tequilas are distilled in small copper pot stills that were imported from Cuba shortly after the Mexican Revolution.  

La Adelita Tequila founder and CEO Chris Radomski says, "As the tequila category blew up, it lost its authenticity, and I wanted to do something at a higher level while keeping it authentic," with an affordable price point.

La Adelita tequila comes in five different varieties: Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, Cristalino and Extra Añejo.  I was provided with a sample of Blanco, a bright, clear tequila with notes of lime and a clean finish.  The others in the line are aged in American oak whiskey barrels for three, 18 or 48 months.  La Adelita Blanco carries an alcohol content of 40% abv - 80 proof - and retails for $40.

If you are looking to fashion some cocktails, the margarita is no doubt the top tequila-based drink.  Don’t buy the mix, because margaritas are incredibly easy to make, using only tequila, triple sec, and lime juice.  Experiment with the portions to suit your taste.  Almost as easy is the Tequila Sunrise - tequila, orange juice, and grenadine.  


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Tanqueray Rangpur Gin

From time to time this wine site veers into other areas of interest for imbibers, like beer and gin.  I'm a big fan of a well-made gin, and Tanqueray always delivers.  Just ask Johnnie Johnson.  Tanqueray Rangpur is their latest creation - debuting about 14 years ago. 

This aromatic gin is made with Rangpur limes, which the distillery says are actually a hybrid between lemons and mandarin oranges, looking something like tangerines.  Tanqueray distills this citrus fruit with other botanicals "including bay leaf, ginger, and a fair amount of juniper."  The Rangpur lime itself is named after the Rangpur region in northern Bangladesh. 

Tanqueray is made by Cameronbridge Distillery, owned by Diageo.  They claim it is "arguably the oldest continually operating distillery in Scotland, and could be the oldest grain distillery in the world."  Tanqueray Rangpur clocks in at 41% abv and sold for $20 at a local grocery, where it was on sale at about $12 off the list.

Tanqueray Rangpur offers the zestiness of lime and juiciness of mandarin orange, just as promised by the distillery.  The extremely aromatic nose suggests that no lime is needed for a gin and tonic.  It’s a smooth gin, you can have it on the rocks.  It also fits well with tonic or club soda.  I tried a splash of sweet vermouth in it and was pleasantly surprised.


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Monday, February 24, 2020

Hollywood's Musso And Frank Grill: Wine, Martini, Steak

In the heart of Hollywood, there is a restaurant which has remained a constant for more than 100 years.  Musso and Frank Grill hit the century mark in September 2019, while collecting an "Award of Excellence for a Hollywood Restaurant" from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Musso and Frank has been a favorite watering hole for thousands of Hollywood stars, writers, directors, and studio executives, starting with the one and only Charlie Chaplin.  On a smaller celebrity scale, they also see my wife and I from time to time.

The celebration continues in 2020 with the unveiling of a new signature red wine now being served to diners, the 2018 Peake Ranch Syrah.  The new vintage was blended by Musso and Frank General Manager and Wine Director Andrea Scuto.

The restaurant reports that Musso's 2018 Peake Ranch vintage was marked by the Santa Ynez Valley's "cool temperatures in the late summer and early fall, which provided ideal weather to allow the fruit to have great concentration, with healthy acidity and a good depth of flavor."  The wine was vinified by star winemaker Kevin Law out of Challen Vineyard in Santa Maria.

The Peake Ranch Syrah has a powerful, if mostly fruity nose accented by cardamom and baking spices.  The palate is rich and robust and the tannins are more than able to handle one of Musso and Frank's famous steaks.

The new 2018 Musso and Frank Peake Ranch Syrah is available only at the restaurant, by the bottle ($70) or by the glass ($15) - as long as limited supplies last.  It's perfectly okay to have a glass of it in addition to their world-famous martinis.

Their martinis are possibly even more famous than their steaks.  I had one that was made with St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin.  It's an interesting and offbeat gin, made with a base spirit of unaged rye, then rested in oak barrels which had previously held Grenache, Syrah, and Tannat wines.  The lightly tinted gin comes off a little spicy, with a hint of peaches and a whiff of wine.  It would probably be more suitable for an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, according to head distiller Dave Smith.  St. George started small - as in "one guy" - in the California Bay Area in 1982.  Founder Jörg Rupf was that "one guy" and has since retired.  Master distiller Lance Winters now oversees St. George and its production.


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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Hops Liqueur, Distilled In L.A.

This bottle of Grand Hops California Liqueur was a Christmas gift from one of my more adventurous alcohol friends.  Marge is always willing to try a new grape, style or brew.  She doesn't always turn in a glowing review but, for those of us like her, it's not about finding a new favorite - it's about the search for one.

Grand Hops is made by Greenbar distillery, established in 2004, Greenbar was the first distillery to open its doors in Los Angeles since Prohibition.  They were on the leading edge of craft spirits then and, apparently, now.

Greenbar's Litty Mathew says the Grand Hops spirit was handcrafted to bring "the spicy, citrusy flavors of hop flowers found in California IPAs."  He recommends trying it with "whiskey, rum, gin, tequila, soda… even beer."

What's in it?  I'm glad you asked.  Grand Hops contains molasses, aromatic and bittering hops, quillaja - a Brazilian flowering plant - and cane sugar.  The product is certified organic by the nonprofit Oregon Tilth, based in Corvallis, Oregon.  Alcohol hits a Port-like 20% abv.

This liqueur is unlike any I have ever had.  It smells extremely herbal - not unexpected since it is made from hops - and has aromas of pine, citrus and sour beer.  It is not a very pleasant nose, but not an off-putting one either.  Mathew calls it "funk... the good kind."  The palate brings grapefruit into a scenario reminiscent of Retsina, the Greek resin wine.  To call Grand Hops offbeat doesn't do justice to the drink or the word.  I am glad I had the chance to try it, but I don’t envision ever seeking it out again.  Maybe my opinion will change after I've had a chance to use it as an ingredient in a cocktail.

Update:  The Grand Hops label shows a recommended recipe using it with whiskey and simple syrup.  I had no whiskey in the house, so I used gin.  To sweeten it a tad I used Italian chestnut honey.  Pouring it tall with club soda (tonic water even sweeter) produced a cocktail that isn't going to make me forget about martinis, but was actually pretty good.


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Monday, December 2, 2019

Wine-Based Cocktails For The Holidays

The holidays provide us with a perfectly acceptable reason to add a little booze into our daily lives.  You can hear the corks popping off sparkling wine bottles at every lunch, brunch and after-work social in town.  Our friends at the Wine Institute remind us that wine - particularly California wine - is a great way to start a cocktail.

Me, I prefer to start my cocktails with gin.  I am, however, open-minded enough to give wine a chance to serve as the basis for a lighter beverage.

California Wines has released a new free ebook, California Wine Cocktails for the Holidays.  It features recipes for creative seasonal drinks like the California Gold Rush - a blend of Chardonnay, lemon juice and lemon-thyme honey - and the Cranberry Rosé, made with dry rosé wine, cranberry juice and orange bitters.

Christopher Longoria, beverage program director at Che Fico in San Francisco says, "Wine can create a lot of versatility in a cocktail.  It can bring characteristics such as fresh and dried fruits, tannins, roundness and structure." 

The ebook allows everyone to be a bartender, to create a savory drink with complex, spicy notes, or a light cocktail brightened with winter citrus.  The Wine Institute promises that the reference will come in handy not just now, when spirits are naturally high, but all year long.

Recipes include:

California Gold Rush: An herbaceous blend of Chardonnay, lemon juice and lemon-thyme honey

West Coast Warm Winter Wine: A fruit-forward spin on mulled wine, accented with pomegranate and fresh citrus

Cranberry Rosé: Dry pink wine meets cranberry juice and orange bitters

Red Apple Sangria: Red wine and apple cider get a spicy twist with cinnamon and fresh fruit slices

Vineyard Mule: A refreshing take on the Moscow Mule, featuring white wine

Raspberry Port Sparkler: Port-style wine and bubbles mingle with muddled raspberries

Red Wine Hot Chocolate: Chocolate and full-bodied red wine chase away winter chills

To download a free copy of California Wine Cocktails for the Holidays, visit http://discovercaliforniawines.com/holiday-cocktails

Friday, October 11, 2019

Fogo de Chão Fall Menu

The Texas-based Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão is now serving new menu items for the fall season.  Fogo has introduced a New York strip steak for autumn, as well as one of their wine partner's bottlings which is now available in all Fogo locations.  I was invited to sample the offerings with the manager of the Beverly Hills Fogo de Chão, Sevenir Girardi.

The meats are all carved tableside at Fogo de Chão.  The New York strip is cooked perfectly and drips with flavor, while the top sirloin is tender and delish.  The beef ribs are tender and moist and my favorite, the spicy Linguiça Sausage, is perfect for a sausage lover.  The specialty of the house is Brazilian center cut beef picanha

Fogo's CEO Barry McGowan says "Brazilian cuisine focuses on harvesting and serving fruits and vegetables when they are in season and have reached peak flavor."  That approach shows on the salad bar, or Market Table.  Fogo's butternut squash soup is perfect for fall, full of flavor and creamy rich.  The sweet potato with miso is charred to delight, and the roasted cauliflower is as autumnal as it gets.  Don’t miss the Bosc pear slices with bacon, onion and feta cheese.  Lift the lid on the big pot for the feijoada, a black bean stew with generous hunks of meat in it.

To drink, the 2013 Seven Falls Cellars Merlot, from Washington’s Wahluke Slope is $13 by the glass.  It has a beautiful fruit and floral nose with a lush palate of black cherry, plum and earth.  Fogo's wine partner, VIK, has their La Piu Belle available everywhere now.  It's a blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from Chile's Cachapoal Valley.  At $17 by the glass, you get black fruit, leather and lavender aromas, with savory flavors highlighted by earthy plums and great tannins.

The Fogo de Chão 2017 Gran Reserva is a product of Mendoza, Argentina.  It shows spicy fruit on the nose and a deep, dark palate which is on the savory side.

For a fall cocktail, try the Brazilian gentleman.  This sweet and delicious drink sports passion fruit puree, Knob Creek rye bourbon, Ramos Pinto ten-year tawny Port, lemon and honey.  You can open your meal with it, but I enjoyed mine as dessert.


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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Italian Scores With Spanish Sherry Cocktail

Courtesy Tio Pepe
Spanish wine company Tio Pepe sponsors a yearly contest to see which bartender around the globe can come up with the best cocktail utilizing their Tio Pepe Jerez Xérès Sherry.  I'll admit, I was sort of pulling for the barkeep from Las Vegas, who made it to the finals.  In the end, Europe took the honor.

Italian mixologist Marco Masiero, left, was proclaimed the winner of the International Final of the Tío Pepe Challenge 2019.  Masiero's signature cocktail is called "El Beso de la Flaca."

The Bodega Gonzalez Byass has been in Jerez - southern Spain, the Andalusia region - for nearly 200 years.  Tio Pepe Jerez Xérès Sherry is named after the founder's uncle Pepe.  The vineyard soil in Jerez is chalky, all the better to hold moisture during the long, hot summer.

Tio Pepe is made from 100% Palomino Fino grapes, and is fortified to 15% alcohol.  Any higher and the flor could not form, the yeasty layer that covers the wine while it's in American oak barrels and prevents oxidation for the four to five years of aging.  The Solera method is used, with wines blended from vintage to vintage.  The types of sherry and their production is much more complex than my limited knowledge.  If you're interested, please read up online.  You'll be glad you did.  The sherry sells for $20.

This sherry has a golden-yellow tint and a forceful nose.  That wonderful resinous sherry smell is there in spades, along with walnuts and anise.  The sip offers similar wonders, with a completely savory approach.  It's as dry as a bone, provided the bone was lying in the desert sun for a while.  There's not a lick of sweetness, so it's not Grandma’s sherry.  The chalky vineyard soil seems to speak through what these Palomino Fino grapes have wrought.  There are notes of hazelnut, lemon and the all-important yeast layer - flor - that sits atop the wine in the barrel for five years.  The acidity is decent, but not too forceful, and afterward, the finish lingers with anise lasting the longest.  Wow, is all.



Tuesday, August 20, 2019

California Vermouth

Vermouth is an aromatic, fortified wine which is flavored with such things as herbs, roots, flowers, bark or practically anything that grows.  It originated in the 18th century as a medicinal aid.  Over the years, vermouth dropped from the pharmacy to the bar, where it became an aperitif and now resides as a necessary component of cocktails like martinis, Manhattans and negronis. 

White vermouth - dry - is sometimes called French, while the red, sweet kind is called Italian.  Those two countries produce most of the vermouth that you'll find on the shelf, although it's also made in Spain and the U.S., as we will see.

T.W. Hollister and Company makes these vermouths using ingredients sourced in Santa Barbara County, whenever possible.  They say they’re perfect for sipping on their own over ice or in your favorite martini on a hot summer night.  They promise that American vermouth is about to have its moment.

Ashley Woods Hollister describes drinking Oso de Oro vermouth as sipping a bit of California history, sourcing the finest ingredients available and wild foraging select native botanicals from her family's historic ranch in Goleta, on the California Coast.

Their first round came out early this year and reportedly sold out in just one week, prompting an expanded production effort.  Both the red and the white are handcrafted in California, reach 16% abv and sell for $35.

Oso de Oro Dry Vermouth is made from white wine and infused with a dozen botanical ingredients, including orange peel, chamomile and rosehip.

Oso de Oro Red Vermouth is infused with 19 botanicals, some of which grow on the family homestead. White wine is infused with herbs, roots and flowers, then finished with caramel, enhancing the texture and imparting a sweetness to balance the wine's natural acidity.  Blood orange, chamomile and hummingbird sage lend fruit-forward and herbal notes to the complex layers.

The dry Oso de Oro dry (white) vermouth smells as herbal as it gets.  Juniper comes across as well as the rosehips, chamomile and orange.  The palate shows a bit more orange peel and is, as promised, dry as a bone.  The sweet (red) vermouth has an herbal nose with a caramel backbeat.  That treat comes through stronger in the sip.  It's negroni-ready. 

I used these vermouths in cocktails made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, which contains botanical elements like juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and seed, licorice, almond, and orris root.


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Monday, July 1, 2019

Spanish Vermouth Deserves Larger Role

Vermouth is an aromatic, fortified wine which is flavored with such things as herbs, roots, flowers, bark or practically anything that grows.  It originated in the 18th century as a medicinal aid.  Over the years, vermouth dropped from the pharmacy to the bar, where it became an aperitif and now resides as a necessary component of cocktails like martinis, Manhattans and negronis.

White vermouth - dry - is sometimes called French, while the red, sweet kind is called Italian.  Those two countries produce most of the vermouth that you'll find on the shelf, although it's also made in Spain as we will see.

The Jerez firm of Gonzalez Byass produces a pair of fine and surprising vermouths, dry white and sweet red.  The winery claims the century-old recipes are kept under lock and key.

La Copa Vermouth Extra Seco - the white - is made from 100% Palomino grapes - Fino sherry, actually - which was aged an average of three years in American oak casks in the traditional Solera system.  In addition to the grapes, La Copa Extra Seco includes wormwood, clove, cinnamon and the herb called savory.  Red fruits were added for a "balsamic aftertaste."  Alcohol in the extra dry vermouth tips in at 17% abv and it retails for $25.

This is completely different from every other white Vermouth I've tried.  It is aromatic and flavorful to a fault.  I smelled smoke, I smelled burnt caramel, I smelled thyme, cinnamon, clove, jasmine.  I tasted a burnt caramel or maple sap note.  It was actually one of the more expressive and interesting wines in my experience.  It sure as hell livened up a martini.  Don't spend extra on the gin - let La Copa white vermouth do the work.

La Copa Vermouth Rojo is made from 75% Palomino grapes and 25% Pedro Ximénez variety.  It's produced from Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez soleras, more than eight years old.  As in the Extra Seco, wormwood, savory, clove, and cinnamon are in the mix, along with orange peel and nutmeg in the sweeter blend.  Alcohol sits at 15.5% abv and it retails for $25.

The red vermouth smells of burnt raisins and tangerine.  The palate is sweet with a savory sword cutting down the middle.  The fact that it’s made from sherry is inescapable.

I used these vermouths in cocktails made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, which contains botanical elements like juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and seed, licorice, almond, and orris root.  In a three-to-one gin blend, the white overpowered the gin.  I used the red in a one-to-one blend, which let the gin speak for itself but still allowed the sweet vermouth to contribute amply.  Both are also fine to sip all on their own.


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Monday, April 1, 2019

Fogo De Chão Unveils Spring Menu Meats, Drinks, Wine

The fantastic, Dallas-based Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão is now serving new menu items for the spring season.  If you've never been to a Fogo location, it's been described as a "meat parade," in which servers keep those choices coming until you throw out the stop sign. 

Fogo has introduced seven new seasonal dishes, a new cocktail and a new red wine.  The new meats include Pork Picanha - butchered and prepared with the same simple style as traditional Picanha, then carved tableside - and a new spicy Linguiça Sausage - pork with red pepper, garlic and fresh onion.  I was invited to sample the menu recently at the Beverly Hills location, with manager Sevenir Girardi guiding me along.  Girardi told me the BH store was the fifth in the nationwide chain when it opened 14 years ago.

The new pork meats are excellent, especially the Linguiça, which was an overwhelming favorite for a sausage-lover like me.  The sirloin was done to perfection, as was the Frango - chicken marinated in beer and brandy and wrapped in bacon.

Fogo's CEO Barry McGowan says "Brazilian cuisine focuses on harvesting and serving fruits and vegetables when they are in season and have reached peak flavor," and the revamp also shows up on the salad bar, or Market Table.  I'm not a particularly big fan of carrot ginger soup, but I'll have the Fogo version anytime.  It's vegetarian, gluten-free and delicious, with a bit of a spicy kick to the coconut milk.  The Brazilian kale and orange salad is also fresh, as is the roasted cauliflower salad.   The Bosc pear slices pair nicely with bleu cheese.

Dessert also got a new dish, one that Girardi says came straight from Brazil.  The Crème de Coconut combines freshly-shredded coconut with condensed milk and cream, baked in the oven and served warm with ice cream and a little lime zest.  I had this instead of my typical Key lime pie, and was glad I did.

There's a new cocktail at Fogo de Chao for spring, the Blood Orange Manhattan.  The bartender mixes Buffalo Trace Bourbon with a splash of Carpano Antica, a dash of blood orange and angostura bitters.  It is served over rocks, and the loads of citrus and its easy-drinking nature make it a great seasonal choice that should be a fave right through summer.

Fogo also unveiled Eulila, a Chilean red wine blend from the Cachapoal Valley (Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) specially created exclusively for Fogo by the award-winning winemakers at Viña Vik that pays tribute to Eulila "Selma" Oliveira, Chief Culture Officer of Fogo de Chão.   It's a great pairing with Fogo faves like the dry-aged steak offerings: Bone-In Cowboy Ribeye, 24-ounce New York Strip, 32-ounce Tomahawk Ribeye.

Born and raised in Brazil, Oliveira moved to the United States in 1985, determined to achieve the American dream. Following a chance encounter with the founders of Fogo de Chão while in Dallas, she joined Fogo as the brand's first female manager and, eventually, executive.  She's considered today to be the heart and soul of the organization, affectionately known as the Fogo matriarch. 

Created by Viña Vik for the Fogo de Chao restaurant chain, this wine blends 48% Carmenere grapes, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Syrah into a food-friendly delight.  The wine smells of earth and dark fruit and has a savory edge to the fruitiness on the palate, with excellent acidity and tannic structure.  It hits 14% abv on the alcohol scale, a little lighter than wines of this type usually are, and it sells for $76 bottle in the restaurant. 

Fogo de Chao is not a seasonal choice for me - I’ll go anytime, no arm-twisting required - but their springtime focus adds a few new reasons to stop by.


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Monday, October 1, 2018

Ready-To-Drink Cocktails In Little Bottles

We've all been in situations where there's no bartender and one is badly needed.  Airliners, hotel rooms, seventh-inning stretch.  A Southern California booze company has come to the rescue.

BTL SVC Cocktails - pronounced "bottle service," by the way - sells pre-mixed, ready-to-serve cocktails that have everything included but the ice and the garnish

The company operates out of West Hollywood, and I ran across their tasty bottles at The Cocktail Lab, also in Los Angeles.  BTL SVC says they make "classic cocktails taste as good as you can get at your favorite bar," and that's right on the money.  The company has their product in many good  local wine and liquor stores and a smattering of L.A.'s ritzier hotels.

BTL SVC makes such bottled delights as a Gin Martini, Negroni, Manhattan and Old Fashioned.  If you’re looking for something really different, they have a Ginger Buck, 1934 Cosmo, Matador and Spicy Maid to offer.

Nathan Oliver is the Master of Cocktails for BTL SVC, described as "a well respected artisan in the world of mixology."  His decade behind a bar produced the classic recipes used for their drinks. 

The drinks are a little smaller than I would make at home, but I find that's the case in bars, too.  Each little bottle costs $12, less than what I generally pay for a cocktail in a good Los Angeles bar.  The taste is great for the Martini and the Negroni, and I'm still working my way through the others I bought.


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Friday, April 13, 2018

New Orleans Drinking

In search of classic New Orleans cocktails on a recent trip to the Crescent City, I happened into the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel Sazerac Bar.  Expansive and done up in as much art deco as they could get their hands on, the bar is worthy of being included on a visitor's itinerary.

Having already had a Sazerac at another French Quarter watering hole, I decided to go with what the bar describes as a New Orleans classic on its own, the Ramos Gin Fizz.  Sweet and frothy with egg whites,  the making of the drink allows the bartender to put on quite a show, shaking heavily and dripping the concoction into a tall glass from on high.  The term "don't try this at home" does not apply, but you’ll likely need to bolster your bar first.

All ingredients except the soda - gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream and orange flower water - are poured into a mixing glass and shaken with no ice for two minutes.  Then, ice is added and shaken hard for another minute.  Think of it as an aerobics session for lushes.  Then, strain it into a Collins glass and top with soda.  Easy, right?

They say it's the orange flower water and the egg whites that turn a regular gin fizz on its head and make it an entirely new beverage.  The cocktail was reportedly created by Henry C. Ramos in 1888 at his Imperial Cabinet Saloon on Gravier Street.  Back in the day it's said to have taken 12 minutes to make one, so a whole crew of 20 or more bartenders had to be on duty during peak hours just to shake it.

The Roosevelt made the drink popular, and former Governor Huey P. Long liked it so much, they say he brought one of the hotel's bartenders to New York to teach another hotel's staff how to make it.  Then the governor could enjoy it when was doing business in the Big Apple.  The Roosevelt Hotel owns the trademark to the name, Ramos Gin Fizz.

Punch offers a scaled-down two-minute version of the Ramos Gin Fizz, if you're in a hurry to get your fizz on.


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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Martini Time

The martini. It's a classic cocktail. It's the classic cocktail. The martini is described as a drink made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. It sounds so simple, and it's so good. It's perfect, already. No vodka martinis for me, please. I love the aromas and flavors of the herbs and botanicals found in gin, and vermouth for that matter.

As for the recipe, I don't adhere to it. I stopped using measuring devices years ago and just eyeball the amounts based on how I feel at the moment. That may not work well in baking, but it does in mixing drinks. The 2:1 ratio of dry gin to dry vermouth is fairly easy to guesstimate. I like a 3:1 mix if I'm making the martini at home, a little heavier on the gin. If I'm out of vermouth, that's okay too. Lots of people go with a much higher ratio, so make it to your taste. The less vermouth, the drier the martini. There's an old joke about drinks so dry there was dust in the urinals, although I've never noticed any evidence of that. I like Hendrick's, a Scottish gin that is infused with rose and cucumber.

As for the vermouth, it should be dry, too. The white kind. Vermouth is actually fortified wine blended with botanicals, like roots, bark, flowers, herbs, and spices. The name is an Anglicization of the German word for wormwood, which has been used in making vermouth. Without the gin, vermouth is a very nice aperitif all on its own. It was once thought to be good for what ailed one, and was used like Granny Clampett used her home-distilled concoction, for "medicinal purposes." I've had Cinzano, Martini and Rossi and Noilly Pratt, and all are fine. I 'm currently using Dolin de Chambery, and it's tasting very nice.

I like to add a dash (or twelve) of bitters to mine. I ran out of Angostura bitters recently and bought a bottle made in New Orleans, Peychaud's bitters are based on the gentian flower, and are similar to Angostura bitters. Peychaud's has a lighter body, a sweeter taste, and more floral aromatics. It's used in making that New Orleans treat, the Sazerac cocktail.

Shaken, not stirred, like James Bond? Experts say no. On TV's "The West Wing," President Bartlett said 007 was not only ordering a bad martini, he was being snooty about it. The shaking, while providing a good way for bartenders to show off, reportedly "bruises" the gin and makes the taste have more of a bite. Can't have that.

Garnish with olives, of course, or a lemon twist if you're afraid of olives. Toss in a splash of olive juice to make it a dirty martini.

Cheers!


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