Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
This came from a Mixology seminar on the topic of a quality cocktail...
"You can't build a Ferrari out of Ford parts." ~Tony Abou-Ganim, founder of The Modern Mixologist and host of the DVD "Making Great Cocktails at Home."
Monday, February 25, 2008
I would like to interject, at this point, the definition of “pundit:”
Now, I realize that Jeffrey was not singling me out – cuz I'm neither an "active" bartender nor a pundit, last time I checked - so I’m not going to get all “girly” on you here. However, the sentiment that as bartenders Jimmy and Jeffrey are "awash in a sea of pundits" raised my eyebrows…
Is one to believe that only a bartender holds the esteemed credentials to be a valid cocktail blogger? And, who exactly differentiates a “pundit” from an “expert?” And, to go one step further… let’s talk about the definition of a blog. Is it a “web log” more of a forum of the written word, or one of proving who can slam out '29 cosmos for the bachelorette party on table 10' in five minutes flat?
And, really, does it matter? Isn’t this quibbling over petty crap anyway?
One thing I appreciate about “our little cocktail blogger community” is that every single cocktail blogger brings something to the table. Some report on tiki drinks, or others are passionate about bringing astrology into the mix. Some collect cocktail shakers and others analyze whiskey from one country or another. And, most don’t work behind a bar. This ain’t the Bartenders Guild chat forum, after all.
While some people among us, like Jeffrey and Jimmy, are talented at both mixing drinks behind the bar and writing about them in front of the computer screen, a good many bartenders I know --- skilled, wonderful bartenders I’ve written about on my cocktail blog, in fact --- are not necessarily good writers. Grammar, spelling and good, old fashioned sentence structure is not their forte, and could be a reason they are better at working with their hands than with the turn of a phrase. But, shouldn’t they be welcomed to pull up a stool in the cocktail blogosphere anyway?
And, let’s not forget that a good many cocktail bloggers are indeed not bartenders but freelance journalists with a passion for Mixology who give bartenders, their establishments and the liquor they pour a helluva lot of free publicity! Some bartenders owe their escalating “Rockstar Status” to the people who make less in a week than a bartender does in a weekend, but continue to sit on their asses all day singing the praises of a drink they had at some hole in the wall.
Speaking for myself, I haven’t worked in a bar for a good, long while but I have to say that I love trying out recipes at home and get all lathered up over my little vintage cocktail books. I also love getting paid to create cocktail recipes for events and liquor companies. And, I particularly love writing about a great bartender. Because frankly, there aren’t so many of them out there. And, if one of them sits his or her butt down long enough to write blog post, I say, “bravo!” even if he doesn’t have a degree in Literature or Journalism or has even written his or her own high school term paper.
Isn’t a shared passion for the cocktail what "our little cocktail blogging community" ultimately has in common?
If you like wine, you'll love Adam Leemon.
Funny, knowledgeable and a sweetie to boot, his new website lists his wine-related services and favorite picks.
Watch a webisode on Adam's website or listen to him on the radio at The Tasting Room with Tom Leykis.
Cheers, Adam, and welcome to the worldwide web!
The Bar & Nightlife show kicks off in Las Vegas, today. I am going out tomorrow morning to speak on a panel at 3:30 called "Making the Most of the Media" with Jenny Adams and Ann Rogers (found of Tales of the Cocktail).
Let me know you're coming by leaving a note here, sending me an email through www.theliquidmuse.com ... or just swing by and say hello!
Tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 11:00, Washingtonian Magazine has invited 3 of DC's top Mixologists to speak about the bar scene inside the beltway.
If you have a burning question for a bartender, or merely thirsting for a drink during normal working hours, get online! More info here.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Drinking at the “In” Spots Just Got A Whole Lot More Expensive
Like cocktail trends, bar and nightclubs trends are hopping the pond from London to New York to California. You may recall my recent post heralding the opening of The Doheny downtown. The members-only watering hole doesn’t list its address - I was sworn to secrecy by Manager Aidan Demarest and Owner Cedd Moses when I took a sneak peek over a lovely sparkling cocktail during its first days, a couple of weeks ago. (By now you can probably find the address online but don’t bother going to too much trouble unless you’ve got upwards of $4000 laying around for membership dues.)
To me, one of the best things about The Doheny is that it doesn’t cater to the stumbling “celebutard” gang. Britney and crew are not courted, and most likey, not allowed. The intimate drinking club’s concept is a bit more grown up and high-brow, which is refreshing because, frankly, this town could use a little sophistication.
Simultaneous with The Doheny’s christening, London’s SoHo House has temporarily set up shop on the Sunset strip in Hollywood during Oscar Week. (In addition to revving up to the Academy Awards, it was also the site of Drew Barrymore’s birthday party.) There is a permanent SoHo House in New York City, which caters to the Entertainment crowd rather than the financial district money wizards, according to the LA Times article by Monica Corcoran, today. I have to mirror her wondering if celebs and other VIP’s – especially in Los Angeles – who are not used to paying for drinks will cough up for memberships.
I’d say the the jury is still out to see how this trend will take hold in La-La-Land. And, in the meantime, I’ll be dropping extra pennies into my piggy bank...
Friday, February 22, 2008
During the pre-awards Red Carpet telecast, Oscar nominees are repeatedly bombarded with the same tired question: “Who are you wearing?”
If I had my druthers, there would be a Post-Awards show live from the dinner and parties. And, if I were holding the microphone, the first thing I’d ask is: “Who are you drinking?”
Well, dear Sipsters, I can tell you which wine the stars will be drinking at the Governor’s Ball gala after the 80th annual Academy Awards are doled out…
Sterling Vineyards’ VP of Winemaking Mike Westrick and Winemaker Chris Millard will lavish A-Listers with their specially-created - in very limited quantity - Red Carpet Reserve Cabernet and Gold Standard Reserve Chardonnay. The wines will be paired with a multi-course gala dinner whipped up by Celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck, for more than 1500 guests.
Sterling has been providing the wine for the exclusive dinner for the past five years. They started making these specialty wines, especilly for this event, four years ago. There are only a few hundred cases of this wine in existence, and each bottle is numbered. The back label also bears the signatures of both Millard and Westrick.
I have the exceptional honor of receiving my very own bottle of Red Carpet Reserve Cabernet, this week. (It is number 0970 out of 3948 bottles produced.) I had to grapple with the decision to open in so I could tell you all about it, or save it, as it is surely a collector’s item.
Out of dedication to Sipsters everywhere and for the integrity of this post, I opened the bottle so as to report in all honesty that this 2004 vintage is one of the most wonderful wines I’ve had the pleasure to sip – and knowing I got to try it even before the movie stars do made it that much more delicious!
The Red Carpet Reserve blends the finest pick of Sterling's Cabernet Sauvignon lots mingled with Petit Verdot and Merlot. When poured into the glass, the first outstanding characteristic is the dark, rich plum color… almost chocolatey, in appearance. Just looking at it made my taste buds stand on end! When swirled around the glass, taunting aromas escape the swarthy elixir foreshadowing what's to come. Fruity, spicy, earthy… I had to bite my lip to force myself to let it sit in the glass for a moment. (I like to let a special red wine settle in the glass before I take a sip.)
When I finally allowed myself to indulge in the first taste, my senses went reeling. Rich layers of black cherry with hints of vanilla and clove? Nutmeg? Allspice? Something that reminded me of Christmas dinner and a roaring fire… The tannins finish left my tongue feeling like it was swathed in a little velvet evening wrap.
Ah. Heaven. I suddenly felt guilty for not saving this for a special occasion, or sharing it with someone I love. Jason is in Singapore, and I was sorry that by the time he gets back this wine will be long gone.
I drank one glass. I corked the bottle and set it aside.
All through American Idol, that bottle sat staring at me in my most cozy plush pajamas. I stared back at it. Finally, I reached over and poured myself a second glass.
I didn’t feel guilty anymore. Instead, I relished that I could be spoiled in such divine luxury all alone on a weeknight. Sieze the moment, Carpe Diem, as they say.
I awarded myself the Oscar for true and absolute decadence.
Who was I wearing? Victoria’s Secret
Who was I drinking? My very own numbered bottle of Sterling Vineyards Red Carpet Reserve
Monday, February 18, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Have you picked out the perfect bouquet for your Valentine? Be original this year and think beyond flowers. The stylish suitor wins hearts with a Bouquet of Rosé cocktail!
Domaine Carneros (Taittinger) requested a Liquid Muse Signature Cocktail to launch its Brut Rosé, a few months ago. This delicately balanced sparkling wine is undeniably romantic, so I aimed to make my bubbly libation complement the dry sparkler's wild strawberry and apricot notes with hints of rose and lavender.
Whether simply popping a cork this
- or popping the question - whip up the Bouquet of Rosé and toast to love with rose-colored glasses.
Get this recipe (and more!) by subscribing to The Liquid Muse Mixology Museletter!
Photo by Claire Barrett
Monday, February 11, 2008
Trendsetting: Wedding Cocktails
If you are a bride-to-be, or know one, Marissa Conrad's wonderful write up on The Liquid Muse Signature Cocktails in Washingtontian Magazine's Wedding Blog might interest you...
Photo courtesy: Washingtonian.com
Is anyone really drawn to a Valentine's event that uses this cheesy photo as promotion?
The "voodoo" idea caught my attention as a cool idea but then I scrolled down to read that this event advertises "groups of girls" in attendance and shows this doofy guy - wearing sunglasses, no less - grabbing the asses of these girls in shiny stripper clothes. Classsy.
For the sake of Washingtonian singles, I really hope DC has more going on than this...
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I always love giving a shout out to my first mentor, Tony Abou-Ganim, aka: The Modern Mixologist. He has already had his own TV show and is one of the busiest men in the bar industry.
So, it wasn’t surprising to hear that he was tapped to create this drink for the 2008 Grammy Awards. He named it “Sweet Escape” after Gwen Stefani’s song with Akon (produced by Interscope Records), and rumor has it that it will be served at tonight’s after party.
Pop Gossip Sidenote: I’m a total Gwen Stefani fan … but rather less impressed by “Akon the Molester of a 14-year old girl” (according to several angry reports such as this one). Well, let’s face it, taking advantage of inebriated young girls is nothing new where rockstars are concerned. Thank goodness bartenders are always on the up-and-up. ;-)
I whipped up the "Sweet Escape" for myself while watching the Grammy’s tonight. The only adjustment I made was a 1/2 ounce less simple syrup than this recipe calls for because I prefer my ‘sweet cocktailian escape’ a little less sweet.
And, I actually like lime with mango more than lemon... But I digress. Give it a shake and rock on witchor bad self!
1 oz fresh mango puree 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 oz simple syrup 1 1/2 oz Ultimate Vodka Chilled Seltzer Water Shake puree, juices and vodka. Pour into a cocktail glass and top with seltzer.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Hollywood’s Latest “It” Spot, from Bi-Coastal Celebrity Chef Michel Richard
I happen to have personal enthusiasm for this particular restaurant opening. For over a year, I wrote a monthly column called “Cooking With Michel” in a Washington DC publication. I also wrote an article on the gastronome’s corkscrew collection for Capitol File (LA Confidential’s sister magazine in the US capital city). And, Michel and I spent the better part of Spring ’06 taking walks around Washington DC, while he commented on the city’s cultural and culinary landscape, and I trotted along behind him, taking notes and marveling at his unabashedly cheeky sense of humor.
In case you don’t already know, Michel Richard’s decades of cooking aesthetically-pleasing and palate-dazzling cuisine; opening numerous restaurants from coast to coast; and busting out a very successful cookbook toward the end of 2006 called Happy In The Kitchen – not to mention winning the James Beard Award, last year – have secured him a seat as a world-recognized A-Lister. How fitting that he returns to L.A. to team up with the very successful restaurant team from China Grill, and open doors just in time for Award Season.
Chef Richard’s former L.A. outpost, also called Citrus, topped the best restaurant list a decade ago. Since then, he changed coasts and is growing a Franco-American empire which includes high-end eateries in Washington DC, San Francisco, Carmel, Los Angeles, I hear Las Vegas could be in the works – with more to come.
So, when I got a call from his right-hand woman, the effervescent Mel Davis, before the new Citrus even opens its doors to the public, I dropped everything and zoomed over to Sunset Boulevard. Here’s how I’d sum it up, so far:
Let’s start at the first place I look to evaluate a new “hotspot” … the bar. After running hipster hangouts in San Diego, Citrus Bar Manager Jason Lara has developed some interesting cocktails to whet Angelenos’ appetites.
The Cu Cu Cocktail, featuring cilantro, cucumber and tequila brings an herby nuance to a margarita-style refresher. (You have to like cilantro, of course, which I do.)
The other interesting and pleasing concoction is the Valentino which starts with muddled green grapes and basil blended with Effen Black Cherry vodka. I always enjoy basil in a cocktail and use it often, myself, and I liked the creative spirit that went into this drink, so it scored high points with me.
Citrus’s bar, however, could use a bit more pizzazz. It is less than comfortable to sit at and lacking atmosphere. The bartenders were quite friendly and adept at making drinks but the bar itself has yet to become its own destination. (This might be on the agenda, though, given that the place isn’t even open yet!)
Do take a look at the bar on the direct opposite side of the building, though, in the sultry Social lounge. Its a marvel to behold. Old-school carved wood and mirrors stand beneath eye-drawing film projections, and gorgeous light fixtures throughout. Its not a bad backdrop for this hipster mix-n-mingle scene. I have yet to try their drinks...
The Dining Room
My two favorite elements of Citrus are the vaulted, decorated ceiling and the jade green satin-and-velvet dining room chairs. A base of solid, historic architecture punctuated with luxuriously glamorous frivolities is like a metaphor for Hollywood itself, these days, which is a melting celluloid strip of Old World Glamour and millisecond digital bytes of superfluous-ness. According to Michel and crew, the dining room is not quite finished yet… which becomes pretty obvious once you look around. But, like any new Hollywood arrival… the potential is enthralling…
Well, being a fan and (almost) aficionado of Michel’s cooking on the East Coast after writing about it regularly and tasting it at every opportunity, it was almost strange to eat delicacies like the creamy nut-crumble Escargot, mousse-like Chicken “Faux Gras” and my fave: Begula Lobster “Caviar” in a setting less formal than suit-and-tie Michel Richard Citronelle. However, the creativity of Monsieur Richard and his “trompe l’oeiul” masterpieces such as the carpaccio Mosiac prove that he has the eye of an artist and the palate of a king, even if the clientele is more of an expensive jeans-and-heels crowd.
To get his new West Coast crew up to speed, Michel brought along Citronelle’s Executive Chef David Deshaies - leaving me to wonder just how the big-wigs inside the District of Columbia Beltway are managing to feed themselves, this week!
The Kick Off
Luckily for us all, the Grammy Awards show will go on this Sunday. So, tonight, I’m heading back to Citrus and Social to take a peek at the star-studded pre-Grammy party which christens Sunset Boulevard’s new darling.
Given that cameras will surely be frowned upon, I snapped a few photos of the VIP private rooms on the second floor of the popular nightclub, and a photo of the ballroom in preparation for tonight’s event. I’m sure it will be unrecognizable by the time the event crew is done… and filled with people whose lives we can only imagine.
After all, isn’t that what the Hollywood Dream is all about?
Monday, February 04, 2008
Meanwhile, I've been collecting antique cocktail glasses to use in the various photo shoots for my upcoming cocktail book. So... tonight I brought these elements together and made my first experiment from the book!
I may not have done it 100% correctly. The recipe called for “French vermouth” and I used Italian Martini & Rossi extra dry vermouth. And, I used a pretty flavorful Bombay Sapphire gin. I also used Lucid Absinthe, which many pooh-pooh as not real absinthe.
Anyway, I gave this recipe a whirl and the one thing I really like that about classic cocktails is that they are not overly sweet dessert drinks like far too many “tini” drinks these days!
This is the one I made, straight from the book. Try it at home and tell me what you think:
1 part French Vermouth
Stir. Strain and serve with a Lemon Twist.
Tickle the tastebuds of your beloved with a healthy heaping of citrus. Ok, it may have more citrus flavor than actual vitamins… but who cares? It’s delicious.
I’m such a fan of Gran Gala Triple Orange Liqueur (made with VSOP brandy) that I almost never buy Triple Sec anymore. It has been relegated to situations where I’m making a pitcher of margaritas for a group of people who wouldn’t notice the difference, and only if I were using a run-of-the-mill tequila. (I would, however, throw in a little extra freshly squeezed lime juice in that circumstance to add a little extra integrity to the drink…)
However, if I were making a martini-style orange cocktail for my honey on Valentine’s Day, I would reach for the good stuff and grab the Gran Gala. I was recently sent this recipe – which I plan to make tonight. Why don’t you make one, too, and we’ll have ourselves an early Valentine's Day cyber-lovefest!
1⁄2 oz GranGala Triple Orange Liqueur
1⁄2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz Fresh Blood Orange Juice
Blood Orange Slice for Garnish
Pour vodka, liqueur, lime juice and blood orange juice in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with slice of blood orange.
Then I may have just the website for you…
Buy Absinthe has exploded onto the web offering not only the opportunity to buy the French and Swiss “green” and “white” absinthe it distributes but is also highly informative.
For example, I have tried green absinthe during a clandestine ritual with good friends, a couple of years back. And, given absinthe’s nickname “The Green Fairy,” I had no idea it comes any other way but green!
This site is a great resource to me, so far, because the FAQ page gives a great broad-strokes overview for the first-time visitor. The Absinthe History page gives interesting narrative into this centuries-old spirit, and the page labeled “Recette” (French for “recipe”) has some simple drink ideas for those wanting to mix it. (Personally, I suggest mixing sparingly and with caution. It is always a shame to spoil a perfectly luxurious spirit with lesser quality ingredients…)
Buy-Absinthe-Alcohol even has a blog for those of us into that kind of thing…
It is possible to buy individual bottles via airmail, and this site breaks down each brand’s contents by Tujone (“active” ingredient), percentage of alcohol and place of origin, and gives more detailed information.
For example, Lemercier has several products and has won numerous awards, Versinthe ‘La Blanche’ has no sugar added and is clear as a bell in the bottle while Rodnick’s is as green as grass and made in one of my favorite countries in the world ... Spain!
I can only tell you how excited I am that this site has come along as Absinthe is again legal on U.S. shores. It’s already bookmarked as one of my “favorites.” Because, after all, inquiring minds want to know…
Here’s a hint: Look for softly-lit exposed brick walls, a few cozy booths in the back of a split-level restaurant with a bar on the top floor and live jazz on Thursdays.
Sound like I’m describing a character-laden den in downtown Brooklyn? This little detail might give it away… J Restaurant & Lounge’s whiskey-vermouth-bitters-cherry-orange drink is called the Los Angeles, instead of the Manhattan. (Yet another New Yorker-turned-Angeleno.)
In an effort to stay up on downtown, I recently wined and dined at the newly remodeled J where Chef Oz Ramuco prepared a multi-course meal to show off the new digs.
Course One featured a rich butternut soup topped with crispy leeks and luscious tarragon oil paired with a floral Gainey Vineyard 2006 Riesling from the Santa Ynez Valley (which comes from just up the road, near Santa Barbara).
The second course was my favorite - a mouth-watering, creamy textured giant raw scallop with trout caviar and drizzled with a citrus sauce on a bed of micro arugula. That was paired with Nobilo from the Northern part of the South Island of New Zealand. J’s Sommelier, Frederic Hemon, suggested that one may notice a grassy nose and notes of green pepper. My nose didn’t pick up the grassy thing but I was delighted that I totally got the green pepper! Yum!
For the main course, I chose the flat iron steak, which came out medium instead of medium rare accompanied by lukewarm (eh) fingerling potatoes. However, the meat was paired with a delicious Spanish 2005 Finca Antigua La Mancha Syrah whose dark, rich color and deep layers of flavor is practically a meal unto itself.
Dessert was a yummy warm almond torte alongside a glass of 1998 Sainte Croix du Mont. (Decadent!)
The evening closed with a port-style Grenache Noir from Banyol (also referred to as Banyuls) in the Western part of France. The Sommelier explained that this wine is unusually aged in glass exposed to the heat of summer and cold of winter – which I’d never heard of before. (I just love learning new wine facts! Don’t you?)
So, grab your GPS and head downtown. One pleasure filled night at J will leave your senses more than satisfied.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
And, You're Not Invited
Along with our generation's renewed enthusiasm for classic cocktails, so comes a desire for the right kind of place to drink them.
Cedd Moses, who has almost single-handedly revived the art of the cocktail in the 213 via his whiskey bar Seven Grand, has established downtown's first members-only drinking club called The Doheny. The address is as-yet undisclosed to the public, and only 200 people have received invitations to shell out the nearly $3000 fee to join the exclusive watering hole.
I was tempted to swing by tonight for the first of several look-see's... but opted to instead hold off until the paint dries and the second round of drinks is served, in a few days. I look forward to bringing you the low-down on the coolest new hotspot in town...
Friday, February 01, 2008
It is always so much fun to meet kindred souls... those people who love to eat, drink and enjoy the bounty and talent our city has to offer. Last night at Whisper Lounge I met "Foodie HC" who covers things that you say "Yum!" from L.A. to the O.C.
When HC told me that he had been watching Alberta Straub's "Cocktails on the Fly" and decided to create his own libation creation called the Triple Citrus Drop. Cheers!
So, as I climbed the steps into the lobby of the five-star Raffles Hotel in the heart of that infamous zip code (and only Raffles in North America), I hoped for the best but braced myself for the worst. Given that I’m in the midst of writing my first book, the time had come to see how it felt to stroll into The Writers Bar with my lil’ MacBook tucked under my arm, fling my trench coat over a chair (as the sky threatened rain) and take a seat in the swanky lounge. With delight, I can say that it felt good. Very good.
Elegant and serene, cozy and sophisticated, The Writers Bar is smack-dab in the midst of everything… but feels a million miles away. I don’t think a single member of the staff walked by without sharing a pleasant word or showing a friendly face. And, the framed scripts gracing the wall inspire and excite film enthusiasts.
The place ain’t cheap but frankly, I don’t mind shelling out for a luxuriously pleasant environment. A glass of champagne ranges from $14 (Domaine Carneros) to $50 (Dom Perrignon). Cocktails start at $16 for the Clemetine Cocktail (vodka, oj, ginger and Clementine) and soar to $50 for a Platinum Margarita. Complimentary wasabi peas and an assortment of nuts are brought to each table, and appetizers such as truffle fries ($14), pizza-style flat breads ($20) and sushi (around $30) can be had for those with rumbling tummies.
(Mixology Sidebar: The classic "Singapore Sling" was created at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.)
Something that celebrities must love about The Writers Bar is the obvious lack of paparazzi. (Eat your hearts out Four Seasons and Chateau Marmont!) I practically bumped into Dave Chappelle chatting on his cell phone, and later spotted a nearly 7-foot tall Laker ordering a cognac. Both seemed as at ease as if they were in their own living room.
Cameras are strictly frowned upon, which is why I don’t have a photo of my delicious Sunsation Cocktail or Bruce the bartender who whipped it up for me, but that’s a small price to pay to uphold the right kind of ambiance. However, L’Ermitage’s new Food and Beverage Director, Albert Charbonneau (who ‘shook and stirred’ at former L.A. landmark L'Orangerie and the Paris Casino in Las Vegas, early in his career) created the drink. He is kind enough to share this recipe – his twist on a “Sunsplash” - with The Liquid Muse readers:
1/2 oz Patron Citronge
2 oz Orange Juice
2 oz Pomegranate Juice
1 oz Sweetened Fresh Lemon and Lime Juice
Served on the rocks and garnish with lemon slice, lime slice and orchid flower.
So, here’s my rundown on The Writers Bar: The prices are a bit steep, so those writers marching in picket lines may want to hold off until their paychecks are reinstated. That said, an exceptional experience in a comfortably easy-yet-glamorous atmosphere is worth a few extra pennies. And, a high-end hotel bar that remembers why the word “hospitality” is key to its industry is, in a word, priceless.