Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Liquid Muse PSA

I am happy to say that the beagle featured in this post found a home following the Doggie Happy Hour at Helix Lounge this summer, in Washington DC. Since then, one of the original Sipsters, Tara deNicolas has become the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Washington DC Humane Society. I want to share her worthy plea to spread a little holiday cheer to the furry innocents abandoned (at all times of the year). Tara says:

“The day following Christmas shelters receive a rush of puppies and kittens that people received as holiday gifts but do not want. Wonderful dogs and cats are
dropped off in droves. So, if you are possibly in the market for a loveable pet, now is the time to visit the shelters and web site to meet all the lovely pets waiting to be saved and go to a good home.

Sundae, a 2-year-old Dachshund found wandering the lonely streets of DC one cold December night is a bit timid, but if you get to know him you’ll find he's an absolutely wonderful little boy, who just wants to be loved!”

And, don’t forget about the 5th annual ‘A Sugar and Champagne Affair’ on January 23rd at Hotel Palomar where guests (human and canine) will be greeted by champagne and delicious desserts from the regions top Pastry Chefs. All Proceeds from A Sugar and Champagne Affair will benefit the Washington Humane Society!
Milking Holiday Cheer

“Twelve Cocktails of Christmas” available through Epiphany

This is the cutest holiday cocktail idea. (I only wish I had thought of it!) Luckily, we have 1789 Restaurant to thank for the Twelve Cocktails of Christmas! If I were in Washington tonight, I’d gather some friends for a little sing along at 1789. One-two-three... On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

A partridge in a pear tree
“Sugar Daddy” made with Pear Cognac

Two turtle doves
“Dove Champagne Cocktail”
(Angostura bitters, brandy, orange liqueur, a sugar cube and champagne)

Three French hens
“French 75”

Four calling birds
“Absolut Snowbird”

Five golden rings
“Golden Chain”

Six geese a-laying
“Rob Roy”
GREY GOOSE La Vanille Espresso Martini (Six Geese a Layin)
2 parts Grey Goose vanilla vodka
1 part Irish cream
1 part coffee liqueur

Pour GREY GOOSE La Vanille Vodka into a shaker over ice, add Irish cream, coffee liqueur and a half shot of espresso. Shake until chilled, strain into glass and top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Garnish with espresso beans.

Seven swan’s a-swimming
“Sink or Swim”

Eight maid’s a-milking
“White Christmas Dream”
(Amaretto, heavy cream and vodka into a shaker and strained into a chilled glass garnished with ground nutmeg)

Nine ladies dancing
"Ladies Cocktail"
Several dashes of Angostura bitters
Several dashes of Pernod
1 1⁄2 oz. whisky
1 tsp. anisette
Pineapple stick

Mix all ingredients, except pineapple stick, with cracked ice in a shaker or blender and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a pineapple stick.

Ten lord’s a-leaping
“Leap Frog”

Eleven pipers piping
“Piper at Arms”

Twelve drummers drumming
A “Dram” of premium malt scotch

My only word of advice is not to try all twelve in one sitting. Or, if you do, please email me with all the sordid details… we could end up creating a thirteenth day of Christmas… 13 pounding headaches!

* Photo Credit: Jonathan Quigley

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Big O

Riedel debuts Martini “O” Glasses

It is always a pleasure to encounter something unique. This stylish new design from Riedel Crystal is a creative vessel in which to serve a cocktail. (fyi - I plan to also use them to dress up a dessert… I’m envisioning vanilla ice cream drizzled with Baileys or Godiva Liqueur…). Heck, the “O” glass would even make a cute centerpieces for a cocktail party table!

The only downside with the “O” glass is that the hollow stem makes it easy for the body heat in one’s hand to warm up the drink quickly. So, I’d say these are best saved for drinks which don’t need to be super-chilled for maximum sipping enjoyment. (They might work well for a chocolate martini, which I tend to like less icy and closer to room temperature.)

In any case, San Francisco-based Mixologist, Jason Ebarle, created colorful concoctions for a Campton Place gala, where the Reidel Martini “O” glass made its debut. These cocktails are almost too pretty to drink… and the Jasmine Martini (which smacks of Negroni characteristics) is right up my alley. I intend to make it tonight – YUM!

Jasmine Martini
1 1/2 oz. Beefeater Gin
1/2 oz. Campari
1 oz. Grapefruit juice

splash simple syrup
Shake all ingredients and strain into the “O” glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cucumber Martini
2 oz. Fris Vodka
1/2 oz. Ginger syrup
1/2 oz. cucumber juice

Ginger syrup: Comine 1 cup each water and sugar, with 1” piece of ginger. Heat for 10 minutes (don’t boil) then strain into a container.
Cucumber juice: blend the skins of 1 cucumber with 1/2 of the inside of the cucumber. Strain into another container.
Shake all ingredients and strain into the “O” glass. Garnish with a thin slice of cucumber.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Stephen Sobhani, founder of The Great American Condom Campaign, sends a friendly reminder for the happiest of holidays!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dashing Through The Neige...

Ice wine to warm your "one-horse-open sleigh" ride!

I tasted this at the DC International Wine & Food Festival in June, and have been waiting for the right opportunity to share this with The Liquid Muse Community. Considering the blankets of frost covering vast regions right now, and carolers crooning for a White Christmas... I think this is it!

Neige (French for “snow”) is an award-winning Canadian Apple Ice Wine produced in wintery white Quebec, Canada. Aged over a year, it has a complex aroma of candied fruit, ripe apples, woody notes and hints of vanilla. It is a delicious accompaniment to lightly sautéed foie gras, a fine piece of goat cheese or warmed apple tart. Mmm...
The Most Christmassy Jewish Home

My friend, Kelly, lives around this “Hancock Park Adjacent” neighborhood and recently drove me past this very house. “It’s Vegas in LA!,” she declared, and we marveled, though her car window, at the elaborate decorations. “Who would spend that much time and money on Christmas decorations?,” I wondered, aloud.

Low and behold: ask the Universe, and the Universe answers back! The above photo, taken by Axel Koester for The New York Times article, is THE house! The Vegas house. The Christmas house. The…Jewish house?

NYT points out that the lady of the house is Mary Loomis-Shrier, “the Jewish heiress to an exotic-lingerie fortune." Trashy Lingerie, is her very sexy, very successful, and rather legendary LA boutique (which Kelly and I know very well, I might add). And, best of all, we were not so far off... there is plenty of trashy lingerie in Vegas.

Happy Hanukkah (and Merry Christmas) to the Loomis-Shriers!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Celebrity Sips

Matthew McConaughey and the 1800® Tequila Tailgate Party

In his February 2006 interview on the Oprah show, Matthew McConaughey declared that 1800® Tequila is his favorite brand of agave and “always kicks off wonderful conversations.” (Rumor has it that he was racing around to find a case of 1800 Añejo - aged - tequila to take with him on a trip to Australia! Additionally, Matt M. requested that 1800® Tequila be served at his own University of Texas Tailgate party, which, btw, buddies Lance A. and Jake G. attended. Screw football! I’d tailgate just to gawk that that crew of hotties!)

Having tasted the incredibly fragrant and buttery Añejo myself, I have to agree with People Magazine’s “2005 Sexiest Man Alive.” Crafted in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, and aged in French and American oak barrels, 1800® Tequila is a true, high-quality sipper.

Given all of the above, is it any surprise that 1800® Tequila was the sponsor of the Hollywood premiere and tailgate-themed after-party of reality-based, football movie We Are Marshall on December 16, 2006? The celeb-studded event was attended by his fellow Marshall stars, including: Matthew Fox, Ian McShane, Anthony Mackie, Kate Mara, Arlen Escarpeta, director McG and producer Basil Iwanyk. Additional celebrities spotted crashing the bash were: Drew Barrymore, Lance Armstrong, Josh Holloway, Harold Perrineau, James Denton and Mark McGrath. (The movie opens, nationwide, this weekend!)

Master mixologist Vincenzo Marianella (of Providence in Los Angeles - touted "One of America's Top 50 Restaurants" by Gourmet Magazine... and one of my favorite Angeleno eateries!) created specialty cocktails to pair with the tailgate themed atmosphere. Why not make like Matt and whip up a couple for your next football party?

The Marshall Margarita
2oz 1800® Silver
1oz Gran Marnier
1oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2oz Simple Syrup
Shake and serve into salt-rimmed glass.

Red’s Cocktail
2oz 1800® Silver
1/2oz Fresh Lime Juice
3oz Ruby Grapefruit Juice
1/2oz Pomegranate Syrup
Shake and serve.
Champagne wishes…

LA’s BottleRock hosts two more 2006 champagne tastings - and a New Year’s Eve Bash!

There are only two Fridays left for the champagne countdown to the New Year! In case you haven’t visited Culver City’s newest winebar, this is the perfect opportunity! Bottlerock has been getting a lot of buzz, and all I can say is that I’ve already waited too long to check it out!

The next two Friday Champagne Tastings take place from 6:00– 8:00 pm on:
December 22 – Comte Audoin de Dampierre
December 29 – Selection of Champagne and sparkling wine

Also… are you looking for something fun to do on New Year’s Eve? Earlybirds can nibble on Bottlerock’s a la carte menu, available from 4– 10 pm. Those looking to toast the midnight hour may want to stay for the New Year’s Eve party (10 pm – 1 am) which features music, small plates and an open wine bar for $50 in advance, and $60 at the door. Talk about a loud pop for a small cork! (bang for the buck… nevermind…) What I mean is that Bottlerock is on my list of NYE options!

Co-owned by wine consultant, Adam Fleischman, and Fred Hakim (who also owns Santa Monica’s Fireside Cellars wine shop), Bottlerock is a combination wine retailer, tasting room and small plates café. Boasting over 800 wine labels ranging in price from $5 to over $600 per bottle, BottleRock complements the beverages with artisanal cheeses, charcuterie and gourmet chocolates. A wide range of beer and sake are also showcased.

(insider tip: Any bottle of wine in the store, regardless of price, will be opened for tasting as long as two glasses are purchased.)

Customized group tastings, educational wine and beer events and consulting on wine pairings are available. (Still holiday shopping? Sounds like a great place to purchase a gift certificate for just about anyone!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ask The Liquid Muse...

Dear Liquid Muse,
Any ideas where to find a Hot Buttered Rum in Virginia or DC??
Rachel Machacek

Hi Rachel,
That is a pretty easy one. I bet most bars (especially swanky hotel bars like the ones in Firefly, Fahrenheit, the Mandarin, Urbana, Citronelle or Poste) and high-end restaurants with a strong bar clientele (like Alexandria’s Eamonn's or DC’s Rasika, Old Ebbitt, Morton’s or Clyde’s) would be able to accommodate a hot buttered rum. It is a relatively common drink and most bartenders know how to make it. And… just in case you want to make it at home, here is my version:

The Merry Muse Hot Buttered Rum
2 oz. rum (use 10 Cane if you feel like spoiling yourself)
1 tsp. Organic brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove
boiling cider (to fill)
1 tsp. Butter
dash vanilla
garnish: lemon peel swirl

Stir spices, vanilla, rum and cider together. Garnish with lemon peel. Float butter on top.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!
Bartenders Are Gods, Round II

Finlandia Vodka Cup Arizona Winner, Jason Magers

Last week, I mentioned that I’m an ‘official judge’ for Finlandia’s 9th Annual Vodka Cup. The winner from the Tempe competition (where I judged) has been selected and will be attending the finals in Lapland, Finland. Who is this talented “bar star?” If the suspense is killing you, keep reading!

But, first, a little background on the vodka cup: Finlandia’s cocktail competitions take place across the US in Tempe, Denver, Miami, Chicago and Detroit. The winner of each of those events then faces the European winners at the Vodka Cup Finals on January 31, 2007, in Finland. Previous winners include Jan Lindgren from Finland in 2006, Cevat Yildirim from Turkey in 2005, and Stojan Crizman from Slovenia in 2004. World renown Mixologist and Finlandia judge Dale DeGroff says, “It’s an exciting time to be in the cocktail business and this competition undoubtedly brings some new and unique recipes to the world.”

The cocktail competition in Tempe last Monday featured 17 bartenders, each presenting 3 drinks: an aperitif, a long drink and a dessert drink. We nine judges were split into three groups, tasting 17 cocktails (versus sampling all 51). I was in the “long drink” group. We had half an hour to score the cocktails based on appearance, aroma and taste, along with an ‘overall impression’ rating. (To maintain sobriety during judging -and survive the 2-hour drive back to Tucson- I took just a few sips from each cocktail, and drank water before, during and after!)

Other Arizona judges came from local media and related industries. A few I chatted with include: The Edge (103.9) radio personality, Robin Nash. (btw - if you’re in the Phoenix area, you may already know about the competition to name her 90’s music lunch hour), Don Farrell of The New Times and Jonathan Sacks of Scottsdale Models.

After all drinks were tasted and all scores tallied, anticipation built as we waited to see who won. Finally, it was announced that Jason Magers will participate in the international “shake off” in Finland! His three drinks for the Tempe competition were:

Apertif: Starlight Margarita, incorporating Finlandia vodka and blended with mango puree.
Long Drink: Helsinkian Nuclear Wombat built from the glass using blue curaco, Finlandia Wildberries, Bacardi Razz, pineapple cocktail, sprite and a splash of cranberry.
Dessert Drink: Wildberry Joe, a coffee drink featuring Baileys, Frangelico, Finlandia Wildberries, and chocolate berry mocha.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Jason moved to Phoenix to attend ASU and quickly found his way into the bar industry due to the flexible work schedule and “fast money.” Now 29, he has been tending bar for almost eight years. Currently wowing guests at Margarita Rocks, Jason says he maintains the highest volume of sales ($3000 – 5000 per shift) while “providing a quality product every time.” Magen also considers himself a performance bartender, noting, “I incorporate fire shows, tandem acts, and good working flair, along with a bit of crowd participation.”

Jason, who would like to own a bar of his own one day, explains his philosophy on being a successful bartender this way, “Bartending is 20% fundamentals, drink recipe knowledge and pours, and 80% personality. Almost anyone can memorize recipes and, with practice, pour a quality drink, consistently. However, it takes a special person to stay positive and energetic through the course of a bar shift, not to mention being personable and interactive with the clients.”

Jason says he is excited to go to Finland and sees the trip as, “a great opportunity to experience another country and see how cultural influences impact bartending. I visited Costa Rica last summer for a Flair competition. It was awesome to watch bartenders, from all over the world, communicate their bar knowledge.”

Markku Raittinen, a Finlandia Brand Ambassador says, “The bartenders that create these unique cocktails deserve to be celebrated and there’s no better place to do it than the birthplace of Finlandia Vodka.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Tastiest Balls in the World!

Holiday Bourbon Balls

Sipster, Kelly Osburn, in Los Angeles sent in this festive holiday recipe. (By the way, Kelly is a dear, long-time friend and I look forward to getting a batch of these Bourbon Balls every freakin’ year!!! They are delicious!)

“This recipe, originally penned in sky blue Crayola, was phoned in by Mary Slawosky to her daughter (and my roommate) Kristin Slawosky in December, 2003. The original copy has since made it to Chicago and back, been misplaced several times, and is finally bastardized to this below:

Bourbon Balls
1 cup crumbled vanilla wafers
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup good bourbon
2 Tbsp melted butter
dash salt

In a mixing bowl, combine the crumbled wafers, nuts, sugar and salt. Combine the bourbon and butter, then add to the dry mixture. Stir well, form 1 inch balls and roll each in powdered sugar.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fellas: Bushmills Has Got Your Back for Holiday Shopping!

Giving men a fun Black Friday event of their own (while their wives and girlfriends hit the stores) Bushmills Irish Whiskey hosted “Shop on the Rocks” at bars in Boston, Chicago and NYC. The event offered men a place where they could watch sports and participate in bar games with buddies, while shopping online and sampling Bushmills. Representatives from DETAILS were also on-hand to offer tips on shopping and holiday gifts.

The hosts of this event were kind enough to compile the Bushmills Top 10 “Do’s and Don’ts” tip sheet for a fellow to use when buying holiday gifts for his wife or girlfriend, ensuring a positive reaction and the appreciation he deserves! (by the way, the only one I don't agree with is #7 - I love when my husband buys me perfume... as long as it is one of the few brands I actually wear...!)

1. If your gift idea makes cleaning, cooking or any household chores easier, kill it. Even better, get her a maid.

2. When buying clothing for your girl, don’t trust your own fashion sense. It’s not that good. Ask your little sister for help.

3. If you’re unsure what size to get her, always assume the low-end of the scale. Remember: she never looks fat.

4. Never buy jewelry from a store located in a strip mall or whose advertisement you heard on sports radio on the drive into work. Get a reference from a good female friend.

5. Keep sports, fishing and video games out of the shopping equation: she’s not interested … she’ll never be interested.

6. Don’t bust the bank for her gift; it makes you look desperate and weak for affection. Sometimes the most thoughtful gifts don’t cost a penny—think scrapbooks, CD song compilations of music that makes you think of her, giving her (rather than the NFL) your Sunday afternoons for an entire season.

7. Never give her perfume: it’s very high school.

8. Anything tied to her hobbies and passions. It shows that you’re actually paying attention to what she is saying over dinner. (She thinks you’re ignoring her, by the way.)

9. If you order something online, take it out of the box. She doesn’t need to know that you were watching TV while surfing for her gifts online.

10. When in doubt: ask mom.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mommies Who Drink

I've been aware of Brett Paesel, a woman after my own heart, for some time now. Her book Mommies Who Drink has gotten warm reception from mommies worldwide. Now, she even has a song on You Tube... check it out!

"...honest, affectionate, and smartly written...a welcome antidote to every serious pregnancy and child-rearing guide out there...raunchy, real, and laugh-out-loud funny."
Boston Globe
Tequila Christmas Cookies
(Courtesy of Sipster, Susan Grentzinger of Los Angeles)
1 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup each sugar and brown sugar
1 tsp salt
lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups dried fruit
1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila

Sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a good, long sip. Turn on the electric mixer... Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Check Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality. Pour one level cup, and drink. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat mixture again. At this point it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still OK, try another half cup ... just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs in bowl and chuck in dried fruit, picking up pieces of frigging fruit from the floor... Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, just pry loose with a drewscriver. Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Who giveshz a sheet. Check the Jose Cuervo. Now shift the lemon juice with your nuts. Add one table, a spoon of sugar, and somefink else. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to eat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.

CHERRY MISTMAS ! ! (hiccup)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Save The Mistletoe?

I am happy to support social and environmental causes. However, I'm not quite sure what this one is all about (other than marketing). I'm not saying I'm against it... only that cheesy can be "campy cool" and cheesy can be just plain cheesy. This one is merely confusing...

Smirnoff ICE has joined with an array of 80's "Where are they now?" types (Erik Etrada, Tiffany, Joyce Dewitt... if I need to explain who they are, then you already get my drift...) in support of MASA (the Mistletoe Appreciation Society of America).

I guess the upside of the hoopla is that Trees For Life gets $5,000.00 from Smirnoff ICE on behalf of the Save the Mistletoe mission, while the rest of us stand here scratching our heads muttering, "huh?" (Downside to this campaign: As a consumer, I can't say I feel any more inspired to drink Smirnoff ICE than I did before which, I guess, would have been the goal...)
Bartenders Are Gods...

Or, so says Finlandia vodka. (and, I absolutely agree!)

This is why I am so excited that Finlandia vodka invited me to be an Official Judge in their 9th Annual International Finlandia Vodka Cup Competition. The finals for this coast-to-coast competition culminates in the award ceremony in February, in Finland. (I'm in the market for a new parka, as we speak!) There, the top-dog will be hailed, revered and bestowed with honors by all.

Tonight's competition takes place in Tempe, Arizona... you'll get full disclosure on The Liquid Muse, tomorrow!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The flava of Jose...

Tequila is getting in on the 'flavor-infusions' vodka has been cornering. Jose Cuervo has three new takes: Oranjo (orange), Citrico (lime) and Tropina (pineapple). The three are very nice. Lime, obviously, is a natural. Orange is quite tasty - a tequila sunrise all in one! My favorite, though, is the Tropina. Mmmm!!

The Liquid Muse Tropical Margarita
1 1/2 oz. Jose Cuervo Tropina
1 oz. lime juice
2 1/2 oz. guava juice
dash simple syrup or pinch sugar

Rim a glass with salt. Shake Jose Cuervo Tropina with ice, sugar, lime and guava juices. Serve... and disfrutalo!
Unexpected Guests for Dinner?

This table can accomodate two or twenty... pretty amazing design...!

(Thanks again to Sipster, Michelle Sites!)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pretty In Pink, or Debbie Downer Stink?

Italitans make everything pretty. The 2005 Folonari Pink Pinot Grigio is no exception. 100% pure Pinot Grigio grape, the pink hue comes from fermenting the juice with the darker-than-most wine producing grapes. It is slightly sweet, goes well with cheese or berries, and at $7.99, the price is great for people on a budget.

It truly pains me to get all Debbie Downer on this product but… what turns me off the Folonari Pink Pinot Grigio is not what’s in the bottle but the cliché and patronizing marketing language used on it. One of their selling points is the “fanciful pink label depicting a stylish young woman walking a perfectly coiffed pink poodle.” Um, are they trying to sell this to Paris Hilton wannabe’s? I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but most of her fans aren’t old enough to buy wine. (Besides, the Paris glamour-pooch is sooo two years ago…)

On the back of the bottle, it gets worse. The company claims the “juicy taste of Folonari Pink Pinot Grigio makes life a breeze. The easy screwcap does, too. So your pretty pink nails can stay that way.”

My reaction: (Gasp.) “What?!”

Maybe in Italy that quip inspires female wine enthusiasts to run out and buy a bottle (though I doubt it) but frankly, I think most American women would find that downright chauvinistic. The ironic thing is that I don’t consider myself to be “politically correct” or a hyper-feminist. However, as a consumer, if you want my money, give me the minimum of respect when marketing to me.

My opinion? If Folonari wants want to be taken seriously by the international female wine-consumers, it should stop talking down to its target demographic. Or our pretty pink nails will walk our perfectly-coiffed pink poodles on down the wine aisle…

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ask The Liquid Muse...

"That's Hot!" - Drinks Du Jour

Sipster, Michelle Sites, from Los Angeles, recently inquired about which cocktails are “hot” right now. That is a big question! Where to begin?

Vodka is still hot. While some people are dissing vodka these days, I have to stand up for it. It is a versatile spirit which lends itself to all kinds of cocktails. And, vodkas are fascinating! They can be made from potato, rye, or varied grains. They hail from Finland, Russia, France, Poland, Hawaii (and many other US states) and beyond. Some are organic and some are infused with fruit, color, even bubbles! Sweet, savory, straight up boozy – vodka cocktail possibilities are endless. Therefore, vodka cocktails will always be popular.

That said, there is a whole world of spirits beyond vodka to be explored. One of the missions of The Liquid Muse is to broaden Sipsters’ cocktail horizons through informational, experiential posts. Booze for Broads (tm) cocktail tastings and seminars are focused primarily on exposing women to new concepts in “drinks with the girls.”

One thing to keep in mind: “what’s hot” is subjective. What YOU like is always in. I may think its time to move past the Cosmo, but if vodka, cranberry, triple sec and lime is your thing, more power to you. Everyone has a unique palate. For example, no matter how “hip” PBR may be, I refuse to drink it. I simply refuse.

As far as popular trends go, Classic Cocktails have enjoyed a resurgence. Just like with fashion, Hollywood Glamour is back - in the glass. The Negroni , Manhattan, Gin Collins and Sazerac – all popular with previous generations - are popping up on bar menus coast to coast. Also, Latin drinks are always sexy – the Caipirinha and Mojito craze is still quite strong.

My advice? The best way to spot a new trend (or start one yourself) is to talk to the bartender. I find that most bartenders have their own special concoctions. They are creative people who take pride in what they do. I always ask the guy or gal behind the bar if they've created something unusual lately. With very few exceptions, a talented Mixologist is happy to show it off!

And, I am always happy to share it with The Liquid Muse community… so send your "hot list" of drinks in!
Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyards

Virginian Elegance, Bottled

Virginia’s winemaking tradition stretches as far back as 1607, when Jamestown colonists made wine from native grapes. A century later, Thomas Jefferson, who traveled extensively in Europe during his Ambassadorship to France (1784-1789), developed a passion for wine and imported over 24 varieties of vine clippings back to his home in Monticello, Virginia. Unfortunately, the European vines were destroyed by American diseases and pests, and died before they could ever produce any wine.

However, later in history, grafting techniques (combining European vine stock with American roots) made viticulture a reality. In the last 25 years, Virginia’s wineries have grown from 6 to 75, making it the fifth largest wine producing state in the nation.

Kluge Estate founder and Chairwoman, Patricia Kluge, is a native of London, England but feels Virginia (where she has resided for 20+ years) is her true home. A life-long wine enthusiast, Patricia believed her land in Charlottesville, with soil similar to that of Bordeaux with red-clay, sandy-clay, limestone and gravel, could be prime vineyard material. In 1999, she made that dream a reality. Charles Gendrot, a16 year winemaking veteran from a well-respected oenological family, joined the Kluge team. Consultant for over a hundred chateaux in the Bordeaux region, including Margaux, St. Estephe and Pauillac, Gendrot believes in using the latest technology to create high quality wine.

I recently had the deliciously pleasant experience of sampling the Kluge Cru, a unique New World aperitif wine. Naturally sweet Chardonnay grapes are fortified with Virginia-distilled brandy then aged for six weeks in Jack Daniel barrels, developing complex and spicy aromas. Layered with notes of pear, peach, vanilla and almonds, I served the Kluge Cru with cheese, pate and crackers. I can only say I was sad to empty the bottle – that stuff is addictive!

I also sampled their bubbly, the Kluge SP 2003 “blanc de blancs.” Using the methode traditionelle with Kluge’s best hand-picked Chardonnay grapes, the first press (or cuvée) is fermented in stainless steel tanks and added for 21 months. Vibrant and zesty, with a creamy mouth feel, this Virginian sparkler was a happy surprise.

Patricia Kluge’s husband, William Moses is Kluge’s CEO and her daughter, Kristin Moses Murray is Kluge’s Director of Marketing and PR, keeping the vineyard’s success “in the family,” Mr. Moses sums it up best, “Not only are we making wines of high quality that showcase the uniqueness of the Albemarle region, we literally see the fruits of our labor becoming a family business that will last for generations to come.” Judging by the Cru and SP 2003, I can see why they are optimistic about the future.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Get Saucy With Champagne Saucers

Marketing companies must love me. I buy what I see. In other words, I remember champagne being served to me only in 'flutes' since I was old enough to order it in public. So, when I got married last year, I made sure to register for a whole slew of beautiful champagne flutes at Crate and Barrel. Saucer shaped glasses didn't even enter my head. In fact, I'm not sure I even remember seeing any of them in the store. Besides, the round champagne glasses are very easy to spill (especially after a few glasses). Something I am prone to do.

I do see full sets of dusty champagne saucers in thrift stores (which I scour for my cocktail shaker collection, and array of antique blue and green glass bottles.) I've always passed the cobwebbed glasses by, imagining them newly arrived from the estate of a little, old granny. If even the relatives didn't want them, why would I? I sip bubbly from my gorgeous wedding flutes.

Well, once again, I have learned something worthy of sharing with the Sipster Community...

Flutes are actually meant for inexpensive, less complex sparkling wine. They are also ideal for champagne cocktails and mimosas, both of which call for 'the cheaper stuff.' (Never bother to use expensive champagne for the above - it would be a waste to "pollute" fine champange with anything.) There is absolutely nothing wrong with flutes. Tuliped champagne flutes are more versatile than the long, skinny ones. I'm not suggesting not to use flutes. However, here is something to keep in mind...

Saucers are designed for expensive, fine champagne. Just as many aged and complex red wines are decanted or served in big, sexy, grapefruit-shaped wine glasses, a high-end champagne needs to 'open up.' It needs to breathe. Give the good stuff some space for goodness sake!

And, one more thing. Avoid the hollow stemmed flutes at all costs! The body heat from your hand makes the bubbles go flat. Besides, like beer, warm champagne is just not the same. The same goes for "stemless" champagne glasses. Just like stemless white wine glasses, it is simply a bad idea. Stemless glasses are fine for reds, though, as they become more flavorful when going from a cool wine cellar to room (or body) temperature.

So, whether you are registering for a wedding, spoiling yourself with new stemware or want to indulge your friends in a bit of cocktail trivia... your champagne saucers could be part of a new (retro) trend!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Glendale's Tasting Table... and Rueda, Home to Spain's Verdejo White Grape Varietal

Every Thursday, 12 Angelenos have the opportunity to pull up a
chair at the Tasting Table, presented by Rosso Wine Shop, in conjunction with next door neighbor Bistro Verdu. Guests mingle around the bistro’s Chef’s Table and enjoy a weekly themed 4-course menu paired with 3 unique wines. Jeff Zimmitti (guitarist-cum-wine-shop-owner) says, “The idea is to experiment with combinations of food and wine while keeping the price reasonable. We are looking to have fun and create a relaxed atmosphere of exploration.”

This week’s Tasting Table explores the delights of Spain. Seafood delicacies, traditional paella and saffron-poached pear with manchego cheese are a few mouthwatering highlights off the menu. Featured Spanish wines include a crisp white from Rueda, a well-balanced Ribera del Duero Tempranillo and a robust Navarra, which is a 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo blend. At only $40 per person (before tax and gratuity), it’s worth marking your calendars every week!

Thirsty for a little knowledge with that wine?

Highlighting the region of Rueda, and the Verdejo grape

Rueda lies northwest of Madrid and southwest of the mythical Ribera del Duero red wine region. Having suffered greatly during Moorish invastions during the 10th century, Spanish ruler Alfonso XI (ruler of the Castilla Y Leon region) declared that anyone working the land of Rueda would gain ownership of it, as a last effort to save the region from complete destruction. Soon, several monastic
orders settled in the region and immediately began wine production. The native Verdejo grapes were used in making a sherry style wine, particularly adored by the Royal Courts.

Like other European wine regions, Rueda faced hardship during the first half of the 20th century. The wine industry withered during the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship. In 1971, Marques de Riscal (the famed Rioja winery) came to Rueda and the region came back to life. Revolutionized with new ideas and technology, Rueda is now known for delightfully fresh and fruity white wines (versus sherry) using the Verdejo varietal. Sauvignon Blanc (which blends sublimely with Verdejo) is now also grown in the region.

Today, Rueda is successfully producing affordably-priced whites which are often compared to French Sancerres and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Top Rueda wineries producers include: Marques de Riscal, Castilla la Vieja, Yllera and Aura.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

O2 Vodka - A Breath of Fresh Air

Like many of you sipsters, I love a little bubbly. I indulge in champagne as an apertif, with dessert, or all on its own. Oh hell, who am I kidding? I'd bathe in the stuff if it didn't leave my skin so sticky.

Now, though, there is a new way to revel in the light tickle of tiny bubbles. O2, touted "the world's first sparkling vodka," adds extra glamour to any ordinary vodka cocktail.

The Brits (who have introduced us Yanks to pop-culture phenomenons like James Bond, Coldplay and The Full Monty) are at it again! Produced by International English Distillers and due to reach our shores by January 2007, O2 Vodka's crisp taste, extensive distillation (the Premium version is thrice distilled and the Super Premium version is distilled five times) and high alcohol content (Premium is 80 proof and Super Premium is 94 proof) are sure to grab thirsty American party-goers' attention.

Who knows? By 2008, we may be ringing in the New Year, drinking vodka mimosas with brunch and toasting newly marrieds with O2 Sparkling vodka. Not to burst champagne's bubble but it suddenly seems there's a little competition for sparkling cocktails on the horizon...

Here is one of my the results of my playtime with O2:

The Liquid Muse Vodka Royale
2 oz. O2 Sparkling Super Premium vodka
1 oz. Chambord
1/2 oz. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Pour vodka into a fluted champagne glass, slowly add Chambord. Top with a squeeze of lemon and garnish with swirly lemon twist. DO NOT shake or stir this drink, or the carbonation goes flat more quickly.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Zen-Out at the Mandarin

Another wonderful highlight from my last trip to Washington was the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I went to check out the Empress Lounge cocktails, yet marveled at so much more!

Obviously, any Mandarin Oriental, worldwide, is expected to feel stunningly opulent and luxurious, and DC's is no exception. As I whisked through the front
doors and into the Mandarin’s tranquil elegance, it was like being slowly submerged into a warm, jasmine-scented bubble bath, a parallel reality on the Potomac. The dreary cloak of heavy energy (which occasionally envelops me while in the Nations Capital) melted away. Marbled floors, exotic floral arrangements bursting with color and fragrance, and the sprawling depiction of a Chinese goddess swinging over the city immediately transport the visitor from the first step into the lobby.

My fun little jaunt around the hotel included popping into the AAA five-diamond award-winning featured restaurant, CityZen. The luscious surroundings where Executive Chef Eric Ziebold (formerly of Napa’s French Laundry, LA’s Spago and NY’s Per Se) treats diners to his internationally recognized cuisine was immediately added to my husband’s list of “Suggested Holiday Treats For Wifey…”.

Being a sushi addict, I was excited to meet Master Sushi Chef Minoru Ogawa of the Mandarin’s sophisticated yet accessible other culinary hot-spot, Café Mozu. Featuring Asian specialties for power lunches and relaxing dinners, it also has a private dining area (for holiday parties or business meetings) and views of the tidal basin.

Then, there’s the Mandarin Oriental’s 10,000 square foot, four-star spa... I didn’t see actual treatment rooms but judging from the greeting area, I feel confident in saying that it would be well worth spending the time (and $) to indulge. Clients experiencing a full day of pampering also get nourished on the inside with a healthy bento box lunch.

Finally, this brings me to the original excuse for poking around the lavish lodging… the cocktails! In addition to alcoholic libations (a couple of highlights, below) the Empress Lounge offers non-alcoholic, health-conscious Elixirs. Every bit as fun and fancy as liquor drinks, a few colorful Elixirs to try are: Virtual Buddha (enhances awareness, bestows serenity), Depth Re-charger (replenishes, re-hydrates, helps with jetlag), and Tame the Elements (strengthens immunity, eliminates toxins). The lounge also features live entertainment 5 nights a week.

Now for the booze:

Gillespie Chocolate Martini
2 oz. Godiva Chocolate liqueur
1 oz. Pomegranete Juice
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
splash Cointreau

Shake ingredients and pour into chilled martini glass. (This drink is soooo delicious. It has a nice blend of sweet and tart. It tastes just like an éclair hard candy with the creamy chocolate center.)

The Monk
1 oz. Raspberry Vodka
5 fresh basil leaves
4 fresh raspberries
3 fresh Black Berries
Splash Simple Syrup
Splash Sour Mix

Muddle basil and berries in a rocks glass. Shake vodka, simple syrup and sour mix, then pour over muddled mixture. Top with Sprite and garnish with lemon, strawberry, and grape.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Classic Jack

The Jack Rose

Riding the wave of classic cocktails, I want to share a little about the Jack Rose, a refreshing 'sour.' There is a bit of mystery surrounding the origin of the name of this drink. One school of thought is that ‘Jack Rose’ is derived from a combination of its color (similar to a Jaquemont rose) and it main ingredient, Applejack. The second theory links the drink with notorious gangster, Jack Rose, involved in the 1912 Manhattan murder of gambling house operator, Herman Rosenthal.

The main ingredient in this staple of yore is American apple brandy, or “Applejack,” which dates back to the 1700’s. To make it, juice from Pippin, Red Delicious, and Winesap apples is fermented, distilled, then aged in bourbon barrels. Though much of today’s applejack is mixed with neutral grain spirits, a ‘bonded’ applejack contains 100% apple brandy.

Jack Rose
(This recipe is from Audrey Saunders, owner of Pegu Club in Manhattan. Photo and more info on
2 ounces applejack
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce homemade grenadine (3/4 ounce if using bonded applejack)
Thinly sliced apple, for garnish (optional)

In cocktail shaker filled with ice, add applejack, lemon juice, and grenadine. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds, then strain into a 6-ounce cocktail glass. Garnish with apple slice.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Warm cocktails for chilly nights

Make the most of the season! If you're in the DC-area, these fine establishments take the chill off with Holiday Cheer. If elsewhere, fire up these cozy cocktails at home.

Cinnamon Toast
(Courtesy of Matchbox, downtown DC)
3/4 oz. Chambord
3/4 oz. Frangelico
6 oz. Freshly-brewed coffee

Pour ingredients into a coffee mug, top with whipped cream. Sprinkle with raw sugar and garnish with a cinnamon

Henry Morgan (aka: Grog)
(Courtesy of Eamonn’s, Old Town Alexandria)
1 1/2oz Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
Lemon Verbena Hot Tea Mixture
Tea Mixture
5 Cups Boiling water
5 Tbs. Lemon Verbena
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Pour rum into a mug. Fill with tea mixture. (At the restaurant, this is additionally garnished with a flaming lemon peel!) Serve hot on a chilly night!

White Hot Chocolate

(Courtesy of Restaurant Eve, Old Town Alexandria, VA)
1/2 oz. Meyers Rum
1 oz. Cardinal Mendoza Brandy
Chocolate mixture
Garnish with Jalapeno dust (air dry jalapenos 5 days, then put through a coffee grinder)

Chocolate Mixture
1/2 oz. Ghirardelli Classic White Flavored Syrup
1/4 oz Red Jalapeno Syrup (boil 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar 15 jalapenos)
5 oz. Steamed Milk

Pour rum, brandy, chocolate mixture into an Irish coffee glass, lightly rimmed with the jalapeno dust. (At the restaurant, this is additionally garnished with Jalapeno Foam!)

Island Cider Hot Toddy
(Courtesy of Cafe Atlantico, downtown DC)
10 oz. fresh Virginia apple cider
2 oz. Captain Morgan spiced rum
1 thin slice of lime
1 thin slice of lemon
1 star anise
2 cloves
1 medium cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon of Papelon brown sugar

To make The Island Cider Hot Toddy: In a glass pitcher mix all dry ingredients with Capitan Morgan spiced rum and apple cider. Very carefully steam mixture to a boiling point, and serve in a tea cup.

*All photos taken by Moshe Zusman