Friday, June 12, 2009




The Liquid Muse Blog Has MOVED!


Please visit: www.theliquidmuse.com - and join the online Cocktail Club, get recipes, read articles, watch videos and interact with other cocktail lovers.

See you there...

xo Natalie (The Liquid Muse)


In Episode 2 of The Liquid Muse's Little Black Book, Natalie takes you to BarKeeper, a funky, hipster vintage barware store in trendy Silverlake in Los Angeles. Joe Keeper, the store's owner shares some history and educational tidbits about cocktails and the vessels which contain them. They even demonstrate the proper way to serve absinthe to your guests! Take a peek into the pages of The Liquid Muse's Little Black Book...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Treat Mom to my Strawberries & Cream Cocktail

Friday, April 24, 2009

Girl Friday Happy Hour: Fat Fish

Because A Skinny Fish Looks Suspicious!
by Kylee Van Dillen, The Liquid Muse Girl Friday

Fat Fish's happy hour menu is the perfect catch, offering delicious deals for everyone from the serious eater to casual drinker, daily 5-7pm and 10-11pm Sunday-Wednesday.

The hip lounge features candlelit couches and corner booths. The bar has a plasma TV for sports lovers, yet retains enough intimacy to still work for date night. Beer drinkers should come thirsty because a large Asahi is a steal at $5 and sake lovers reel in a carafe for $5.

Those with a fancy-and-fruity side revel in premium Saketinis (sake and fresh fruit) for around $6. We love the Mango martini shaken up with rum and fresh mango puree—a frou-frou-yet-fiesty combo. Off the sauce? Bartender Josh offers refreshing iced green tea garnished with an aromatic orange zest—super healthy and super yummy!

Small plates include traditional favorites like “Q-cumber” salad ($4) or spicy tuna tartar ($6) and the list of specialty rolls won’t leave you hungry. (All can be made with multi-grain brown rice.) The Albacore roll (Albacore tuna, green onion, cilantro, avocado and jalapeño) or for Philly Roll (Salmon, cream cheese and avocado) are great to share.

If your fins are feeling a little flabby, don’t worry, we won’t judge. Dive into Fat Fish during happy hour and we promise you’ll swim home happy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Making New Bartender Friends at Hotel Palomar

I love staying at the Hotel Palomar in Washington DC. In addition to being part of the eco-friendly Kimpton Group, Palomar is spacious and stylishly decorated, and rooms have jacuzzi bathtubs and leopard print fuzzy robes, giving it hipster spa appeal. (Some even have treadmills right in the room! No more excuses!) They also have free coffee / tea in the lobby each morning and wine hour in the evenings. Just like home but cooler.

However, the main attraction at the Palomar, as far as I'm concerned is its restaurant / lounge, Urbana. Sleek and inviting, the food is kissed with Mediterranean inspiration. (Try the white asparagus wrapped in proscuitto off the "small plates" menu!) And, the cocktail menu is filled with fun must-try's. I really enjoyed the Pampero Venezuelan rum cocktail made with orange flavored modifiers. My new pal Roberto made it - and it was delicious!

Roberto is orginially from Mexico DF and he has lived in DC for about 10 years. He finished his ESL (English as a Second Language) courses and is now considering college. I admire someone who has the guts to go to another country, work his butt off and sets goals for himself. And, I appreciate that kind of person having such a great, friendly attitude behind the bar - and make a fantastic drink, to boot. Salud, Roberto!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Toast Mother Nature!

In honor of Earth Day, here are a couple of recipes from The Liquid Muse Sustainable Sips(R) eco-friendly cocktail program. Eco-Tip: Save water - drink naked so you don't have to do laundry!

Detox America Cocktail
(c) 2008 Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, The Liquid Muse
pinch freshly grated ginger
1/2 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce raw sugar simple syrup
2 ounces organic pomegranate juice
1 1/2 ounces Bluecoat gin
3/4 ounce Veev acai liqueur

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Grate a little extra fresh ginger over the top of the cocktail, if desired. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Earthy Margarita Martini
(c) 2008 Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, The Liquid Muse
1 slice jalapeno
3/4 ounce 4 Copas agave nectar
3/4 ounce lime juice
11/2 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 1/2 ounces 4 Copas organic tequila
course sea salt

Rub half of a martini glass rim with lime, and dip that half into course sea salt. Set aside. Muddle jalapeno, lime juice and agave nectar in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add lime and grapefruit juices and tequila. Shake well and gently strain into glass.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Food Bloggers Invade STK

Abby from Pleasure Palate had a wonderful idea to gather a gaggle of food bloggers for dinner and drinks at Hollywood hotspot STK. I’m already a fan – so I was excited to go. One of the fun elements of the evening was putting faces with (blog) names. For example, I finally got to meet the Teenage Gluster with whom I’ve been corresponding for a few years, and remain impressed that a high-schooler
(back when he started his blog) could have such passion for all things culinary. You may wonder why I used this blurry photo of the group... Some bloggers prefer to remain "incognito" so I didn't want to expose anyone's "secret identity."

Food bloggers and cocktail bloggers obviously have a lot in common. (How many other people at a dinner whip out a camera as each course arrives - to take photos of the food and drinks instead of the people?) It was also interesting to me, as the only "official" cocktail blogger in the group, to see how people outside the liquor industry relate to alcoholic libations.

Food writers, in general, are not always schooled in mixology, so to say that writer likes or dislikes a drink is fair enough. However, when someone is comparing Classic Cocktails (ala The Varnish, Cole’s, Doheny, Seven Grand and other downtown classic cocktail spots) with Pablo’s self-proclaimed “Calif
ornia Fresh” style --- they are comparing apples and oranges. Maybe one prefers apples or oranges – and that’s fine. But, I don’t think its fair for someone outside the spirits profession to simply not like a drink and deem it a bad drink. (They are also not allowed to make “bans” on terms like "mixology" or "mixologist"… But I digress.)

Our STK dinner menu was carefully thought out by Chef Todd Mark Miller, and paired with cocktails by Pablo Moix, a head mixologist for the One Group. Pable paired some of the drinks ‘on the fly’ which speaks to his talent behind the bar. The dozen or so bloggers piled into side-by-side tables – and the dishes began rolling in like a gorgeous Southern California tidal wave of food.

My favorite starter dishes were the Tomato 4 Ways and the Roasted Beets with coriander, micro mint, yogurt and curry. We also had a Jumbo Lump Salad and a simple Arugula salad with apples.

The La Cienega cocktail (corzo silver, lime juice, cucumber slices, mint leaves) came with the above starters, which was a great choice because a blanco (silver) tequila opens the appetite and the fresh lime and mint get the stomach juices moving.

That was a good move because next up were succulent Lil’ Big Macs (Japanese Wagyu beef) and a buttery, fresh California standard: Tuna Tartare.

With this course came the Capsicum Mojito (bacardi, lime juice, mint leaves, bell pepper rings). Bell pepper is becoming a popular ingredient in cocktails these days and I like the freshness with both the tuna and to cut through the fat of the beef in the Lil’ Big Macs.

Of course, STK is all about the meat. The Cowboy Steak was to-die-for (pink yet slightly charred) even without the 8+ accompanying sauces. I skipped the Organic Chicken (why eat chicken when steak is on the table?) but I did try a sliver of the Red Snapper topped with ponzu and shitake brown butter.

I loved Pablo’s Great Gatsby – essentially, his version of a Sidecar featuring Hennessy, cointreau, lemon juice, orange juice. I thought the cognac and steak were a natural combination, and the drink wasn’t overpoweringly sweet. This would have also been fantastic with the chicken, had I tried it. I wouldn’t put it with the fish… but then I rarely have anything other than white wine with fish…

I found the Mac&Cheese rather bland – but the Sweet Corn Pudding is pure, sinful, food-porn ecstasy at its finest. It could easily be on a dessert, its so good (and fattening). Do I have to say anything about the thickly cut, crisp yet juicy Parmesan Truffle Fries? I didn’t think so.

Pablo’s dessert drink was the STK's Delicious (patron xo, raspberries, mint leaves, lime juice). Of the cocktails, this one was my least favorite, only because I found the coffee flavor in the Patron XO a little overpowering. I believe this could be remedied by pulling back on the quantity of the coffee tequila liqueur, or by adding more mint and lime, perhaps. Either way, I found it very creative, and I am always willing to try something new.

Of course, all of this leaves me with baited breath (and a hearty appetite) for next week’s dinner at One Sunset. I haven’t been there for a while and really enjoyed it when it first opened. It will be interesting to see if it continues to live up to the hype… If its anything like STK, we are in for another little bite of blogger paradise.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

B.A.R. Comes to LA, Tequila Flows

In addition to being some of the coolest cats in the biz, the B.A.R. team is also one of the most knowledgeable assemblies of spirits aficionados imaginable. So, the excitement among the 40 attendees at an all day tequila immersion at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, sponsored by Partida Tequila, was palpable. Some of us have already taken the B.A.R. course and had an idea of what to expect. The uninitiated seemed unaware of just how much we would learn over the next 8-hours.

After mingling over a continental breakfast, Steve Olsen began the journey through tequila history, Mexican tequila-growing regions’ topography and geography. He ran through types of agave plants (there are literally hundreds) and showed photos of burros laden with 6 – 8 agave “pinas” sometimes weighing 200 kilos (over 400 pounds) each. Steve ran through methods of distillation and aging, and Paul Pacult also likened tequila to wine in that its “terroire” and the altitude at which the plants grow directly affects the final flavor of the product.

We launched into the tasting, starting with the unaged or “blanco” tequilas first. Words such as “green pepper,” “cilantro” and “lime rind” were used as adjectives. As we moved through the next 7 blancos and into the 8 reposados, descriptors such as “creamy,” “white pepper,” “earthy,” “licorice,” and “rosemary” came into play. When we hit a bad tequila (the team threw in a couple so that we could pick one out of a line up) aromas such as “plastic,” “medicinal” and “methanol” were descriptors.

Once we ran through 16 blancos and reposados, out came three spicy sangritas. The one they called “traditional” was made with pomegranate juice, orange juice, lime juice and habanero sauce. The next blended Cholula sauce, lime, grapefruit, tomato and orange juices, slat and jalapeno. Finally the Green Sangrita (from Green & Red in London) was my favorite of the three, made with pineapple, mint, coriander, lime juice, cane sugar syrup and sea salt.

David Wondrich and His Highness Dale DeGroff ran through some historic tequila cocktails and how to make them. The old-school and new-school Tequila Daisies (or traditional margarita) and the original Tequila Sunrise, which in a fancy Tijuana resort made popular during prohibition touted the drink as the “sure cure for colds.” After all that, well, we had lunch.

If you haven’t already had lunch at Whist, you should know that you’re missing out. And, in this case, the 4-course, tequila cocktail pairing lunch blows the 1950’s style 3-martini lunch out of the proverbial water:

Luscious scallops were paired with the Spicy Abbey (Partida Reposado, Lillet, fresh OJ, angostura orange bitters and pepper jelly). The St. Rosemary (Partida Blanco, St. Germain, apple and lime juice and fresh rosemary) was perfect alongside zucchini blossom with bellwether ricotta and charred tomatoes. The braised leg of duck with artisan chocolate mole and corn tamale came alongside a Holy Mole (Partida Anejo, Aperol, Madeira, crème de cocoa, barrel aged bitters with a Gentleman Jack rinse with a flamed orange peel.) Dessert featured a crisp plantain with chipotle ice cream and caramel.

How do you top a lunch like that? You go back in to the conference room and taste about 16 more tequilas. Only this time anejos and extra anejos. To be anejo, the tequila is aged in wood for 1-2 years. The “extra anejo” category kicks in after 2 years and lasts until 5 years in the barrel. It seems a crime to sip-and-spit them but, lets face it, if we drank them all, we’d have died from alcohol poisoning. And, that would mean we’d never get to enjoy another tequila cocktail again. That would be a shame.

Andy Seymour, Willy Shine, Aisha Sharpe, Leo DeGroff, Jacques Bezuidenhout and Damian Windsor prepared and demo'd cocktails for the group, as well. Even Gary Shansby, the President of Partida tequila was on-hand to share enthusiasm about the tequila category, in general. It was an amazing array of old-and-new-school talent, and we were all damn lucky to have been part of a wonderful and educational day. B.A.R. may be the most prestigious spirits training in the U.S. but one thing is for sure. These guys know how to have a good time.

And, isn’t that what cocktails are all about?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Liquid Muse's Little Black Book!

I am very excited to share the first episode of my new online show "The Liquid Muse's Little Black Book," sponsored by Pinky Vodka. Over the coming months, I will share some of my favorite places to raise a glass in Los Angeles, as well as easy-to-follow cocktail tips for you to try at home.

In Episode 1, you are invited for a sneak peek inside downtown LA's hottest new "old-time" speakeasy style bar, The Varnish, tucked inside the back of the historic Cole's French Dip. Eric Alperin shows us his classic bartending techniques as he makes (the perfect!) Manhattan and shares insight into the "ice trend" sweeping high-end cocktail bars. Eric came to LA from NYC, where he worked at the legendary Milk & Honey and Little Branch. We are thrilled that he has teamed with his former boss, cocktail bar mogul Sasha Petraske, to bring this style bar to Southern California.

Big "ups" to Ané Vecchione who filmed and edited hours of footage into an easily digestible 3-minute segment for your viewing pleasure. And, without further ado, step inside the pages of my Little Black Book...


video


Friday, April 10, 2009

Casa Noble In Da House

A regal drink in a stylish atmosphere is among my favorite indulgences. So, this week’s tasting with Casa Noble’s own David Ravandi at Maison 140 in Beverly Hills
made my hot-list of to-do’s. One of the unique aspects of this tequila event was the pairing of Mexico’s beloved export with luscious European cheeses.

Casa Noble has been a family-owned distillery since the 1700’s in the town of Tequila, Mexico. The blue agave spirit is triple-distilled and the reposado (rested) and añejo (aged) versions are aged in slightly charred new white French oak casks. Ravandi calls his unaged tequila “crystal” rather than blanco, and feels that it shows off the integrity of the Casa Noble brand. In his opinion, the quality of a tequila should be judged by the least aged tequila.

Our tasting began with the cleanly distilled crystal paired with a creamy goat cheese. The flavorful reposado (aged 364 days) was lovely with a Roquefort, and the layered nuances of the newly released 2-year aged añjeo were wonderful with the Stilton. After the pairing, we sampled the Single Barrel Reposado and Single Barrel Añejo – which we sampled on their own so as not to interrupt the purity of each sip.

In a few weeks, Casa Noble will celebrate its official status (by the USDA) as a Certified Organic product. And, at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Casa Noble’s Single Barrel Añejo was awarded with a “Double Gold” medal in the Best Extra-Añejo Tequila category. While this tequila is lovely on its own, these signature cocktail recipes served at Maison 140 will help you sip dignified Casa Noble tequila drinks in your maison.

Nobelita
2 parts Casa Noble Organic Crystal
3 parts Fresh Pomegranate Juice
1 part Organic Orange Juice
1 lemon wedge

Shake with ice, strain into a champagne flute or martini glass.

Casa 140 (The CN version of a tequila mojito)
1 oz. Casa Noble Organic Crystal
Fresh Mint (plucked from Maison 140’s back garden)
Lime Juice
1 sugar cube

Muddle mint, sugar and mint in the bottom of a wine or Rocks glass. Fill the remainder of the glass with ice cubes and a dash of Sprite
Girl Friday Happy Hour: Riva Bene!
by Kylee Van Dillen, The Liquid Muse Girl Friday

Two blocks from the beach and only a few steps from the Third Street Promenade, Riva brings a little Italian charm to Santa Monica.

The urban-rustic interior features with high ceilings, exposed beams, and Tuscany stone walls. Young business sophisticates chill out on couches in front lounge area, or sip cocktails at the candle-lit bar
. The vibrant Latin music adds an upbeat energy throughout the space, and the extensive “Bar Bailout” happy hour menu—served all week from 5-6pm, and 10pm-12am - provides a little taste of la dolce vita.

“Aperitivi” include draft beers at $3, and Italian wines “Bianchi o Rossi”—red or white—are $4. Three specialty cocktails from their full menu, normally $11-14, are available for $4 as well. Our favorite is Sois Sage: a refreshing cooler of muddled sage, Sagatiba Cachaca, lime and soda.

And what would Italy be without the food? For $3-10 you can mangia with the best of them. The Eggplant Parmesan Pizza ($8) has a crispy-soft perfect crust and a sweet marinara sauce that pairs perfectly with the Mozzarella and Gruyere melted on top. For a savory treat the trio of Warm Olives ($3) is a perfect light bite.

If your sweet tooth needs some attention, take a glance at the amazing dessert menu. The “Ricotta Fritters” should not be passed up; hot donut-like balls coated in cinnamon sugar, served with balsamic strawberries and whipped cream. Although Riva’s food and drinks may inspire you to sing a song of Amore while strolling down 3rd street, we encourage you to try your best not to dance in the fountains too!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Toasting Prohibition with Templeton Rye Whiskey

There was a moment in the history of our fair land, when liquor was outlawed. It now seems inconceivable that the minority of “moral-wielding, self-righteous” extremists could inflict their small-minded views on the rest of the country. (Or does it…? Hmm… Ok, let’s leave that topic for another time). In any case, today, whiskey - along with all of our other distilled friends - is readily available and widely enjoyed from coast-to-coast. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pay tribute to that little period between 1920-1933 when the extreme right had their way.

The resurgence of classic cocktails, speak-easy style bars and the glamorization of Prohibition-era drinking has had an impact on cocktail culture for the last few years. Old-style recipes and how we drink them (carving chunks of ice from frozen blocks in perfectly modern bars, for example) has been at fever pitch among cocktailians and mixologists for a while now. Meanwhile, drinks like the Sazerac and Manhattan are being demanded with rye whiskey at bars – not bourbon or other types of corn whiskey. In turn, these trends influence the spirit companies to return to their old-skool recipes when thinking about new products. This is happening in all kinds of spirits such as genever, and so on. And, it isn’t only popular only among the trendy big-city folk, either.

Templeton Rye whiskey was made in Iowa in small batches when “hooch” went underground. In those days, it sold for the modern-day equivalent of $70 per gallon! The Templeton website attributes Al Capone’s bootlegging gang as helping to distribute the whiskey in cities like Chicago and San Francisco, where it is rumored to have even been smuggled into his cell on Alcactraz.

Today, Templeton is attempting to infiltrate bars everywhere with the return of its old style bottle and cork closure, recalling days of yore. The label boasts “Prohibition Era Recipe,” and the back of the bottle has a hand-written bottling date on it. (Mine was bottled “05-07-2008.” How cool is that?)

Crack it open and take a whiff of the strong and spicy aroma, then prepare your tastebuds for a journey to yesteryear. I have a feeling that what was drunk in the 20’s was as smooth as today’s version, despite the hearkening to authenticity. Templeton Rye is aged in charred oak barrels, and has a rich amber color. It is smooth on its own and would lend itself nicely to a short, chilled whiskey cocktail.

They say that every dark cloud has its silver lining. If Templeton Rye is something good that came from the gloomy Prohibition era, I’ll raise a glass to the law-avoiding citizens who didn’t let Uncle Sam (and the conservative regime of the day) dictate their simple life pleasures.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Eating Bacon Underground

If you missed the latest underground dining experience from Amy's Culinary Adventures, you will be sorely bummed out. When Amy first mentioned a 5-course bacon dinner, I knew I'd want to go... but would a city full of health-conscious, figure-obsessed Angelenos feel the same way? The answer was an astounding "Hell Yes!" Not only was the word-of-mouth private affair sold out... it had a waiting list 30 people long!

The secret location was disclosed only a few days before the dinner, and in this case it was a swanky penthouse apartment on the top floor of the La Fontaine building in West Hollywood. The airy, all-white space has amazing views, and a terrace (perfect for entertaining). It also happens to be available for rent. The Futas Design Group filled the space with stylish furnishings for the dinner party.

Amy teamed with Tim Coles from Grateful Palate for this dinner, as he runs the Bacon of the Month club as well as a business specializing in Australian wines. As you'll see below, each course was paired with an appropriate Ozzy vintage. Here is the menu - so you can not only eat your heart out - but also get on Amy's email list for the next one! See you there...

The Bacon Affair

Cocktail Hour: Amy's homemade bacon vodka in the "Bacon Mary" and tray-passed amuse bouche - 'Apple Wood Smoked Bacon' with goat cheese and balsamic drizzle and 'Inside Out Potato Skins' featuring a bacon cup stuffed wtih crispy potatoes, gruyere, fried onions, sour cream and chives.

Soup & Salad: 2004 Paringa Sparkling Shiraz (yes, that's bubbly red wine) alongside a bacon & blue cheese mousse napoleon upon baby spinach, avocado, tomatoes and bacon dressing. Followed by a bacon-potato-onion-cream chowder.

Entree: 2005 Boarding Pass Shiraz paired with bowtie pasta topped with carmelized onions, peas, crimini mushrooms and bacon crumbles.

Dessert: Burge Family Old Sweet Wine came with the most memorable course of the meal... candied bacon chip ice cream with chocolate covered bacon sprinkles & Plush Puffs Maple Pecan Bacon marshmallows. (Everyone wished for seconds!)

Needless to say, we were happy little piggies who went "wheee, wheee, wheee!" all the way home.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Travel Buzz: Door 74, Amsterdam

Spring Has Sprung Behind Door 74

While much of Northern Europe remains shrouded in grey skies and chilly temperatures,
the sun is spilling out into a small street from behind a nondescript entryway, in Amsterdam. Door 74, one of the continent’s newest – and one of its most notable – cocktailian watering holes has just unveiled its new spring menu.

The worldwide trend of intimate, dimly-lit, “reservations-only-please,” speak easy-style drinking establishments has made its way from London and New York (ie: Milk & Honey) to Washington DC (PX) to San Francisco (Bourbon & Branch) to Chicago (Violet Hour) to Amsterdam (Door 74) to Los Angeles (The Varnish), just to name a handful. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting nearly all of the venues mentioned above – with Door 74 being the latest notch on my belt.

Irish-born Philip Duff, a dapper globe-trotter with a reputation for enjoying fine liquor - and all the perks that come with it - has teamed with Sergej Fokke of Feijoa fame, to establish the newest spot on the ‘style-and-substance’ driven drinking map. Duff has maintained residence in Amsterdam over the last several years, and has an arsenal of bartender training and consulting gigs behind him. He has also won awards in Flair Bartending and led seminars on Molecular Mixology.

Admittedly, I do find the whole “make reservations to pop in for a drink” a bit of an inconvenience, in any city in the world. (Do I really have to structure my leisure time that much?) However, if it is a hoop one must jump through to sample a fine tipple, it is worth playing along, from time to time.

The cocktails at Door 74 are worth that extra step in merrymaking, if you are a person who appreciates a fine drink. There is not a bottled juice to be found and the elegant spectacle happening while each cocktail is created is a sight to behold. Timeless bartending techniques, by friendly (yes, friendly) bar staff make the extra 30 seconds or so per drink well worth the wait. The all-stars behind the bar include Timo Janse, Anthony Pullen and Andrew Nicholls. These boys know their stuff and serve it with a smile.

My timing in Amsterdam was impeccable, as it turns out, because our own lovely LeNell Smothers has been exploring her inner-mixologist in Amsterdam. Not only is she under the tutelage of Mr. Duff, himself, but she has been educating the crowds on whiskey. Who better than a cool-as-heck chick from the Southern US to do such a thing? LeNell had run her immensely popular bar store, “LeNells” in New York until recently … but don’t despair NYC, I have a feeling she will be back and better than ever before too long.

A few other cocktailians also happened to be in the neighborhood, during my visit: John Lermayer, (fresh from his Domaine de Canton cocktail contest win); Christian (another Miami-based bartender/ mixologist) and Angus Winchester. Although I apparently traumatized Angus and Philip with my view on revisiting the vodka ban in many high-end cocktail bars, we were a happy crew of traveling sipsters. Most happy because Door 74’s new spring cocktails launched that very night – and we got to try them first!

Door 74 prides itself on “classic cocktails, champagne
and proper late night drinking.” It also lists ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ in the very menu, so no one is confused as to the comportment expected in such an establishment. Gentlemanly behaviour (with a ‘u,’ of course) is encouraged as are “high heels” and a mouthwatering array of spirits and drinks. Things banned include: “non-alcoholic cocktails, cocktails with childish names, “bar chefs,” talking on the cell phone, or being overly nerdy about cocktails.” Nevermind that the people behind Door 74 can be as nerdy as they come with regard to cocktail snobbery. Not in a bad way, mind you. I quite enjoy a passionate professional in our field.

I also got a special, pirvate tour of the back room by Mr. Duff. (Minds out of the gutters, folks, it was all ice-related!) Like a proud papa, Philip showed off the amazingly crystal clear cubes (ie: top quality) coming out of his state of the art machine and the plastic molds in which the staff makes the spherical rocks glass ice. (A great drink is but the sum of its parts, after all!)

On the topic of drinks, if you make it to Amsterdam’s upcoming bar show, here are a few of my recommendations off the spring menu at the Door:

Jack Sees Stars: This wonderful concoction, created by Timo, features calvados, dry vermouth, violette, pomegranate and lemon is fantastic. (I had 2 of them.)

William & Mary: This tribute to Prince William of Orange to Princess Mary Stuart is one of Philip’s creations using genever, elderflower (syrup – NOT St. Germain), mint, lemon and “oranjebitter”

The Heavenly Daisy: Created by Andrew, this drink sneaks a little yellow chartreuse in with Rittenhouse Rye whiskey, citrus, sugar and soda.

There are many more fantabulous drinks on the menu and I truly hate to make you green-as-absinthe-fairies with envy, so I encourage you to hustle on over to Door 74 for yourselves. Amid the trendy speak-easy pomp-and-circumstance, the drinks are enlightening, the service sublime and set in happy Amsterdam, the experience is a breath of fresh Spring air.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Flor de Maria Cocktail

My Gran Centenario Rosangel Drink's Name and Recipe (for those who asked...)

Last night, our own "Chick Behind the Stick" Christine D'Abrosca hosted a wonderful tequila event with Gran Centenario Rosangel at Malo, in Silverlake. There were four featured female mixologists taking turns at the bar: myself, Kim Hassarud, Kylee Van Dillen and Tina Brandelli for an hour at a time. Our friend, Marleigh Riggins was supposed to be on, as well, but due to an injury, she couldn't make it. (We missed you, Marleigh!)

Meanwhile, the five finalists in the cocktail competition made their concoctions for guests and judges to vote on: Matty Eggleston won the judges vote. ( One of our judges even came in drag to support the "females in the industry" angle - guess who that might have been...?)

The Peoples' Choice award went to Silamith Weir, brand manager for Martin Miller's gin. Her tequila cocktail was an exotic pineapple, basil, condensed milk mixture. Definitely a decadent way to enjoy the last sip of the evening.

Way to go
everyone!

Finally, although I was honored to be part of this event, I got my recipe in just under the deadline, and hadn't yet decided on a name. So for those who were asking for both the name of my drink and the recipe, here is for my featured cocktail, which I served from 7-8 pm.

Salud!

Flor de Maria
Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, The Liquid Muse

1/4 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce homemade hibiscus cabernet syrup (hibiscus tea syrup with a cabernet reduction)
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1 1/2 ounces Gran Centenario Rosangel Tequila
Spritz orange flower water
lemon zest for garnish
1 - 2" piece orange zest

Muddle orange zest in the bottom of a cocktail glass. Add maraschino liqueur, syrup, lemon juice and tequila. Shake, with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Spritz with orange flower water. Garnish with a sliver of lemon zest.

*Thanks to Caroline On Crack for this photo of me shaking it up!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Juleps Are Better Than None

Maybe Tales of the Cocktail has started a new craze with their Julep Competition, which is sure to bring many variations on the traditional mint, sugar, bourbon. And, maybe its a good thing. Standardized recipes are important - but so is creativity. Cocktails are about good times, not stressing over every last historic detail. That's why I want to share this interesting recipe from Ben Jones of Rhum Clement. Life without tasty variations gets quite boring...


Bitter Orange Julep
2 ½ oz. Clément V.S.O.P. Rum
1 oz. Clément Créole Shrubb
¾ oz. Dry Sack Especial 15 year old Oloroso Sherry
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
5 dashes of vanilla extract
3 dashes of Fee's West Indian Orange Bitters
1 teaspoon of orange marmalade
One large orange wheel cut in half
6-8 mint leaves

Muddle one large orange wheel cut in ½ with 5 dashes of vanilla extract and ¾ oz. of Dry Sack 15 Year Old Oloroso. Add 1 oz. of Clément Créole Shrubb, 2 ½ oz. of Clément V.S.O.P., ½ oz. of fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of orange marmalade, 3 dashes of Fee's West Indian Orange Bitters and 6- 8 large mint leaves to the mixing glass along with several large ice cubes. Shake vigorously for a minimum 15 to 20 seconds and strain into a Julep Cup filled with fresh crushed ice. Garnish with mint and orange peel.

My New Favorite : Red Stag

Ok, all your whiskey snobs out there, get ready to sneer, scoff and fall down in convulsions… yes, there is a flavor-infused bourbon on the market. Black cherry, in fact. It is called Red Stag by Jim Beam. And, I'm diggin' it.

Excuse me while I get a bit sexist on you for a minute… but I have to say that the marketing is quite clever with this one. The label smacks of masculine pastimes: A pair of red antlers (as if they’ve just be carved of some poor buck’s head), bold lettering, no pretty pictures of animals or fruits. The bottle looks true to the Southern Good Old Boys’ bourbon, made at Jim Beam. However, the luscious black cherry-infused, slightly candy-esque elixir might be strong enough for a man (at 80 proof) but it is oh-so made for a woman. If there are any ladies out there who are still too intimidated to cross over to the “dark” side and try the brown spirits, this is your gateway drug.

Red Stag is a no-brainer option for Manhattans and Muddled Old Fashioneds. (Yes, rye-lovers, I said it. Black cherry bourbon in your drink. Open your minds.) Its flavor profile also opens up a million avenues for new bourbon cocktails, considering its high mixability factor. I, personally, cannot wait to start serving some of my new concoctions to friends. Oh screw the friends, I’m making one for myself, this afternoon. Why wait?

The name is a tribute to the red stag elk who were hunted to extinction in the wilds of Kentucky (and surrounding areas) over the last two centuries. However, in 1997 conservationists (otherwise known in the South as freedom-hating liberals from the North) re-introduced the native mammals to the region. The Jim Beam company pays homage to the majestic animal with their fine, new product.

Fight me to the end, whiskey purists everywhere, but I’m giving Red Stag black cherry-infused bourbon 'thumbs up.'

Monday, March 30, 2009

LA Celebrates One Year of The Sporting Life

Now, let me ask you a question, and think
about an honest answer...

Los Angeles is known as the center of the entertainment industry. It
is full of beautiful, trendy people who want to be part of the latest cool thing. Angelenos expect to have the best of everything – weather, restaurants, high-profile glamour. Did you really expect this town to settle for sub-par cocktails?

Long ridiculed as the “vodka / redbull” city by cocktail snobs everywhere, our fair City of Angels is making the world stand up and take notice. Not only do we have an incredibly talent crew of bartenders / mixologists / enthusiasts / writers / what-have-you in our midst, we also have the people who do it with style.

Oh yeah, I’m bias. Ridiculously so. But, I also know LA deserves to be a little cocky when it comes to cocktails. And, I’m not alone.

I first met Marcos Tello at Tales of the Cocktail in 2007, and immediately recognized that we shared a passion for both mixology, and highlighting the people in LA who do it best. I’ve been presenting some of my favorite bars and bartenders on this blog for the past 3 years so my readers can know where to find them. Meanwhile, last year, Marcos went right out and rallied our local bartenders into action.

Tello says that after returning from the “Cocktails in the Country” (Gary Regan’s former bartending academ
y in New York state), he felt “heartbroken” at not finding the kind of “secret underground” society of mixology enthusiasts that NYC has. In his words, “I vowed to at least start a society of bartenders who loved cocktails, so when someone like me came along, they would have a community to belong to.”

A year ago, Marcos founded “The Sporting Life.” The 7 or 8 of us at the initial meeting (in the back garden of BarKeeper) are still active in the group. However, the monthly meeting are now sponsored by liquor companies, and anywhere from 30 – 60 people show up, which is saying a lot for a Sunday afternoon when many bartenders (and drinkers) are usually sleeping, chilling on the beach, or waking up next to a sexy somebody from the night before. Tello also points out that because we don't have the advantage of all living right next to each other like in other cities, individuals have to make a concerted effort to attend "community" functions and competitions in order to connect. In his words, “We have to want it more!”

Marcos attributes The Sporting Life’s popularity to the great cocktail culture here, which had been long dormant. He points out, “If [New York and San Francisco] could resurrect their communities, I knew we could do
the same with ours. Plus, LA is such a great vast market, that it was received with a huge amount of support.”

He thinks that having a ‘bartender club,’ if you will, gives Angeleno bartenders a sense of identity and elevates the awareness of good cocktails, which has a trickle-down effect into bars all over town. Marcos also believes that the LA cocktail scene is just beginning to define itself, declaring , “In the next few years there will be a definite "LA Style" when it comes to the bartending world.”

It was only fitting to have The Sporting Life’s One Year Anniversary Party back at Bar Keeper. Afterall, Joe is a good friend to the bartending community, and he is one of the heartiest enthusiasts to be found. Not only was the afternoon-long event filled with happy cocktail-swigging revelers, but some of our top talent took turns manning the bars set up for the party, showing off to each other (upping the ante for awesome cocktails for all of us!)

Marcos aims to keep expanding the group in an effort to support cocktail culture in LA. He has been pushing hard for bartenders to join the USBG (the national bartender union) and he would also like to bring in a Los Angeles Cocktail Community Board that will put on The Sporting Life from now on. He says, “This way, the group builds a community that supports itself and continues to do so for many years to come.

Raise a glass to Los Angeles, and three cheers for The Sporting Life!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Westside Tavern Opens

Once upon a time, on the sprawling streets of West L.A., it was difficult to find a decent cocktail – and the last place one would look was (gasp!) the mall. Well, its time to throw out the history books and start living the fairy tale – Westside Tavern has changed the way we think of drinking on the Westside.


Tucked inside the annex of Westside Pavillion (on street level, just below the movie theaters) is the sleek-yet-accessible, cavernous-yet-cozy, softly-lit-yet-not-too-dark Westside Tavern. Smiling faces greet patrons at the door; patrons sip and nibble happily at the long bar; friends gather around high-top tables in the lounge; and couples canoodle pre- or post- movie watching in the dining area. A more formal dining room, with a second bar, is just around a corner and available for private parties.

One of the most exciting reasons to visit Westside Tavern is the high-quality cocktail program. Respected Mixologist / Bar Consultant Ryan Magarian designed the program which highlight unique choices such as the Pepper Smash (spearmint, red bell pepper, dry gin and honey syrup) and the Blood Orange & Sage Gimlet (pressed sage & blood oranges, dry gin, lime juice and egg white). The menu also boasts classic cocktails such as the Sazerac, Blackberry Julep (served in proper pewter julep cups), Corpse Reviver No. 2, and the Martinez, among others. Most surprisingly each of the fresh-ingredient, mixology-driven cocktails are only $9! These drinks blow away many of the $16 cocktails found around town.

Admittedly, one of my biggest motivations to rush down on the first night to sample a few of these wonderful concoctions is Kylee Van Dillen – our very own “Girl Friday Happy Hour” columnist – who can be found behind the bar. Kylee is an expert at both making drinks, and explaining the fresh mixology concepts to guests, enhancing the experience for the professional cocktailian and the novice, alike. Ask for her, and treat her well.

And, speaking of “professional cocktailians,” I had the pleasure of pulling up a barstool next to fellow LA-blogger Caroline on Crack, who was also eager to be among the first Angelenos experiencing this new landmark on our culinary landscape. Caroline and I are birds of a feather – photographing everything before we take a bite or sip – so she didn’t mind when I asked for a shot of her scrumptious Cantaloupe Sour (dry gin, lemon & cantaloupe juices, Gary Regan’s No. 6 orange bitters and clover honey syrup), a must-try.

Just when things couldn’t get any better, another familiar face emerged – Chef Warren Schwartz – formerly at the helm of Whist in Santa Monica. Chef Schwartz is a master at taking simple comfort food and giving it some high-brow polish, or does he take high-end food and make it comfortable? Either way you look at it, he is renown for his eye toward sustainability and his skill in the kitchen. Warren also believes that quality can come at an affordable price. He explained that when eating at a new hotspot means shelling out $10 for valet, $15 per cocktail, then meal, wine and tip, the average person might go once to be able to say that they’ve eaten at “X” place, but they probably won’t go back. Chef says, “We want people to return to us again and again.”

On that note, I could not resist sampling an order of mussels, topped with chorizo and smothered in garlic ($13). The grilled ciabata bread and drizzle of flavorful creamy sauce made this appetizer a meal in itself. Caroline and her pal ordered the Grilled Portabella, Tomato & Burrata Sandwich ($14) as well as the copious Lamb French Dip ($16). For dessert, we indulged in a luscious Brown Butter Apple Pie ($9) large enough to share with the table next door!

I’m sure Angelenos will also appreciate another benefit of Westside Tavern - the free parking garage! So, friends, put away the fantasy book. Whether looking for the perfect dinner-and-movie date spot, or a fun night out with pals – the Westside Tavern is a dream come true.