Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cocktail Goddess of the Rich and Famous?

Well, that's what my NBF calls me. (I love this guy!) His site ain't too shabby either... Sipsters, meet Jeffrey Morgenthaler.
One Week In Bangkok

Day 2: Testing the Waters

Monday: I woke up at 5 am, so I went up to the Executive Lounge for green tea, to watch the sun greet the day, and catch a quick glimpse of the Oscars on TV. (With the time
difference between LA and Bangkok, they were being shown live). Around 7, Jason got up and we managed to get in an hour at the hotel gym.

Today's Thai breakfast soup featured squid and shrimp in a broth with rice. I added the usual - onions, garlic, turmeric, chili powder. Yum! I also had half a plate of ‘English breakfast’ items: fried tomatoes, mushrooms and sausage, then threw in a couple of pieces of octopus sushi and smoked salmon, for good measure. (It is too hot to eat midday, so breakfast holds us until dinner.)

At 10 am, we took the free hotel ferry to the Sathorn Pier (a connecting point for Bangkok’s ferry boats and sky tram). There, we bought a day pass for the “tourist boat” for 100 baht ($3) which travels up and down the down the Chao Phraya River. We chugged up to Pier 8, where we hopped off to visit Wat Pho and marveled at the magnificent reclining Buddha. I had no idea how gigantic it is!! It runs the whole length of the building – guessing here but maybe 100 feet long? And, laying sideways, it is as high as the roof - maybe 30 feet? Just incredible!

Then, we walked along an enormous walled compound searching for the entrance to the Grand Palace and its adjoining Wat Phra Kaeo (or Temple of the Emerald Buddha). The palace is incredible. Every centimeter of the many buildings that make up the compound is decorated with gold, mosaic, statues and there are all sorts of varying Buddhas, everywhere.

The Emerald Buddha sits in a small showcase in an upper level of a museum next to the palace, and dressed in garments made of pure gold. It has three
outfits for three seasons. Winter, Summer and in-between.

It is absolutely obligatory to wear long pants and sleeves while visiting the palace, and many temples, which we had no problem with, understanding it is customary to show respect in this way. However, at 95 degrees Fahrenheit and full humidity…
the heat was stifling! I bought a yellow cap at the palace gift shop, to help shield the sun and get my hair off my neck. The cap has red Thai writing on it, and a heart. Cheesy? Yes, but more practical than the many parasols for sale.

Around 1:00, we wandered down to Pier 9. Jason had work to do and headed back to the hotel. I opted to plug on to Pier 13, Phra Arhit, and hit the famed Khao San Road, or “backpacker ghetto."

At first glance, the peaceful little walk-street lined with 20-something, dreadlocked and tattooed travelers, sipping tea and chatting with one another reminded me of Christiania, a bohemian neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark. However, once I turned the corner, into bustling motorbikes, tuk-tuks, car exhaust, people and overflowing shops in every direction, it became its own thing. Wow - what a lot going on!

Browsing the stalls, I found that most of the clothes were either too bright or too tight for me, but I bought a pretty silk purse for about $5. I looked into getting my whole head braided with lots of different color threads - looked really cute on the girl getting it done - but I know Jason would have a cow because of his conference this week. He already told me that he’d prefer I get anything outlandish done after the conference is over. Whatever. I obliged him, for now...

After wandering around for an hour, I was ready for my new daily ritual and got an hour Thai massage and pedicure. The both together were less than $9. To top it off, I got myself a lychee and strawberry yogurt smoothie. (75 cents)

I don't know if it was the heat or my new $2 flip-flops but wandering through a narrow shopping alley, I tripped and fell flat. (Not very Muse-like). One Thai lady remarked (with a big smile), "It is because you are more fat that you not hurt." Ouch. THAT hurt. But, they just say what they think. Yesterday, the lady giving me a foot massage rubbed my hands a bit, and kindly pointed out how lucky I am to have such small hands with my big body. (Man, with compliments like these, who needs insults?)

I did impress some local people with my new yellow hat, though. One merchant informed me that bright yellow is the King's favorite color, and that on Mondays everyone wears yellow, in his honor. (I had noticed a whole lot of Thai people wearing a specific kind of yellow shirt but had wrongly assumed it was some kind of work uniform). I also learned that the writing on the hat means something like "I (heart) the king."

He asked me if I also loved President Bush, which made me laugh like a banchee. He also told me that he thought Bill Clinton's wife would be good next time because she does not like violence but he wasn't sure if she knew anything about business.

By 4:30, I was ready to leave the bohemian back packers and head back to the lap of luxury (ie: newly remodeled Hilton). I managed to get my apparently whale-sized body back on the boat (without sinking it) and embarked on the long journey back to the hotel. It is not far, mind you, just a tedious trek when traveling on “Thai time.” The filthy water of the Chao Phraya sprayed on my face as the boat sped along the river, and I regretted not getting any shots or Malaria pills before coming on this trip.

Upon return to our room, I had a lovely cool bath, with the jacuzzi jets on. Then made it to the free happy hour, upstairs. Woo-hoo! A Campari and soda, and all was right with the world. I even caught a few post-Oscar highlights on the TV, in the lounge. (This is probably the first year I haven’t watched them, in decades!)

Jason had a business dinner, and I was quite tired after all the sightseeing, so I decided to have a bite at the hotel’s outdoor restaurant, on the edge of the riverbank. I ate a wonderfully spicy green curry with beef, sipped a glass of Australian white wine and indulged myself with coconut ice cream for dessert. Breathing a peaceful and contented sigh, listening to the "lap, lap" of the river and feeling the warm breeze, I thought that if I wrote the day out as a movie script, this would be the perfect Hollywood ending.

Traveler Tip: Keep in mind that Thai women are tiny. It is only normal to feel huge next to them... (repeat three times to self, if necessary)

Monday, February 26, 2007

One Week In Bangkok

Day One: A Gentle Landing

Saturday Night / Sunday: For me, the trip over to Thailand was one of those Machievallian “ends justify the means” experiences. Two very long economy class flights: nearly 12 hours from LAX to Tokyo, a couple of hours layover, then a 7-hour flight to Bangkok. I dreaded them, all week.

The long one, on American Airlines, was fair, at best. Crappy three-year old
in-flight movies and a noisy man, reeking of B.O., sat in front of me. His seat, pushed all the way back, left no room for my laptop, hence no working (which I had planned on…) Additionally, most US carriers charge for alcoholic beverages on international flights. Boo, Hiss.

However, I enjoyed transit in Tokyo’s airport. I bought wasabi-covered peas, a bottled lychee beverage and some bean-paste cakes, in duty free. The airport itself has all sorts of fun comforts and conveniences: electrical massage chairs, long lounge chairs for naps and computer desks with lamps.

I got a super seat on the Japan Air Lines flight (heaps of leg room and a whole row to myself). The flight attendants were smiling, courteous, attentive and friendly. I sampled two kinds of (free) sake. One was called Kiku-Masaune, a dry, floral tasting rice wine made with miya mizu mineral water, and the other was Hakatsuru, which seemed to have slightly higher alcohol content, and hints of green tea flavor. Both were served with little plastic sake glasses - very cool!

I arrived in Bangkok at midnight, Saturday night and Jason was waiting for me at the airport with a big bouquet of flowers (another reminder of why I married this guy). We got into the Mercedes limo and whisked away to the newly remodeled Millenium Hilton. Our room is on the 25th floor, overlooking an incredible view of the river and the city. The bed is big and fluffy and there is a beautiful carved wood panel on the wall. The marble bathroom has a big bath with hot tub jets, and a separate giant shower. Unbelievably, Jason’s conference rate is under $200 per night!

A luscious breakfast is included, and served on the 31st floor, overlooking the river and city, too. I tried a traditional breakfast soup; basically a chicken porridge to which I added chili, garlic, chopped green onion, tumeric and ginger. I also had octopus sushi, shrimp and smoked fish. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! We drank coffee and mango juice.

Next, a little sightseeing! We took a taxi across town ($5) to the Weekend Market. It was too overwhelming to fully take in: over 1500 stalls crammed with clothes, art, buddhas, bags, hair decorations, cooked food and exotic fruit. The horrible part, though, was a section selling puppies. Barely off the mothers’ teats, the tiny dogs were perched on crates, or in small cages, and some lay listless and panting from the heat. I wished I could take home a few. Their sad cries pulled at my heart.

Next, were cages packed with little squirrels with string tied around their necks. The lady in charge had one on her lap. Suddenly, I saw it slip off, and grasp for her skirt, while dangling by its throat. I fought back tears at the knowledge that there is just nothing to do about these animals' situation. So very upsetting.

That's when I'd had enough of the market. We snaked our way through a lost maze of stalls with varying sights, smells and wares, of all kinds. I bought some little fried donut thingies covered in sesame seeds, to taste. (Not worth the calories. Chucked them in the trash.) Finally back on the street - drenched with sweat - and decided to try some of the famous street vendor food. For 30 cents, I got some sort of pork-on-a-stick. (Also quite yucky. Jason wouldn't even try it!)

Upon arrival back at the hotel, armed police looked under the taxi with mirrors, due to terror threats against western hang-outs in Thailand, recently. Soldiers saluted us as we drove in. Odd.

The second half of our day included a water taxi ride up the river. We got off at a shopping area and went into Robinson's, a big department store. In the bottom of it was a grocery store, and in a corner of that was a tiny spa. Jason got a one-hour Thai massage and I had one-hour foot and shoulder rub - both for under $12, including tip!

I finally got some tasty food from the vendors. A stick of 5 shu-mai (little pork pot-sticker type dumpings) cost 75 cents and a skewer of squid, flame-broiled right there on the cart, was about 30 cents. Both super yummy.

We woke up from an afternoon nap in time for Happy Hour in the Executive Lounge and enjoyed free appetizers and cocktails (I had Pernod and Jason had his own creation, which he calls the Nelsen Negroni: Campari, Gin and Grapefruit Juice). We marveled at the nighttime view of the city from the 31st floor.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant recommended by the Concierge. She told us
that President Bush had eaten there, as well as other dignitaries. (No idea if its true, and I didn’t really care where Bush has eaten, anyway…) Still, it was beautiful and we sat outside, overlooking the river. However, the downside is that it was a bit of a tourist trap and cost $50 (with drinks and tip) which is a lot in Thailand, and, frankly, we've had better Thai food in the states.

After dinner, we hit the lounge, back at the Hilton, for live jazz and a cocktail. It is on the very top of the hotel, in a round, glass room, appropriately called 360 Degrees. Again, not surprisingly, we got tourist rip-off prices. My Thai Martini (thai whiskey, cocnut milk and ginger, ganished with lemon grass - fantastic) was $12, and Jason's calvados was $8. Still, we will go back. And, I can’t wait to explore the city, tomorrow!

Traveler Tip: Though the street vendor food is highly praised, keep in mind that it may not always be your "cup of tea." However, it is cheap, so give it a try.
Welcome Washingtonian’s Blog!

There’s a new kid on the blog block. Catherine Andrews regularly contributes to Washingtonian.com’s Arts and Entertainment section and keeps readers up to date with what’s happening in her After Hours blog. Be a Sipster-in-the-know and subscribe today! (and, if you really want to be up on things, try their new signature cocktail, a ‘housewarming present’ from The Liquid Muse…)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oscar Foreplay

Bouncers and Parties and Cocktails, Oh My!

It’s Oscar weekend, which in LA, is bigger than Christmas, Hannukuh and New Year’s Eve rolled into one explosion of flashing bulbs, red carpet events and cocktails, cocktails, cocktails!

Last night, I popped into Los Angeles Confidential Magazine’s annual, star studded pre-Oscar bash at Skybar, in Hollywood’s Mondrian Hotel. The soiree honored Academy Award nominee, and March cover star, Forest Whitaker who already took home a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

The party was very Hollywood, in every sense. Hot Spot on the Sunset strip, beaucoup famous people, a fair amount of attitude (some burly guy at the door berated me saying that if I were media, I should be standing by the red carpet, working. I was like, "I’m a journalist, meathead
, not a photographer... hence lack of camera…" Luckily one of the ladies in charge swooped in and saved me from his bear-like clutches).

Apart from that, it was a beautiful event. Yummy hors d'oeuvres, a gorgeous view of the city and… I got to sample Hendrix Electric Vodka! The 100% grain, carbon and crystal filtered vodka comes in original colored glass bottles d
epicting the late musician. Sets the tone for a par-tay, no?

If you are planning an Oscar party of your own, I have a whole slew of fabulous drinks to share. The first five honor the movies nominated:

(Photo and recipe courtesy of Beefeater Gin, in honor of the nominated film The Queen)
2 parts Beefeater Gin

2 parts brewed and chilled Earl Gray Tea
Squeeze of lemon juice
Spoonful of sugar
Serve over ice in a rocks glass garnished with lime wheels.

The Departini
(Recipe courtesy of Tequila Tezon in honor of the nominated film The Departed)
2 parts Tequila Tezon Reposado

1 part Martell Cognac
1 part Cointreau
1 tbsp agave nectar
Squeeze of lime juice
Shake well and serve up in a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Sunshine in Malibu
(Recipe courtesy of Malibu Rum, in honor of the nominated film Little Miss Sunshine)
1 part Malibu Mango Rum

1 part Malibu Pineapple Rum
Fill with orange juice

Combine ingredients in a highball glass over ice.

Babel-On the Rocks
(Recipe courtesy of Kahlua, in honor of the nominated film Babel)
2 parts Kahlua
1 part Stoli Elit
Float 2 parts half & half
Serve over ice in a rocks glass.

Lychee Letters
(Recipe courtesy of SOHO Lychee Liqueur, in honor of the nominated film Letters From Iwo Jima)
.5 part SOHO Lychee Liqueur
2 parts Martell Cognac VSOP
1 part pomegranate juice
1 part orange juice
Spoonful of sugar
Serve over ice in a rocks glass.

Want Even More Cocktails??

Hpnotiq burst onto the scene a few years back as the must-try cool liqueur. Celebs who love it include: Terri Hatcher, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Katharine McPhee, Terrance Howard, Wilmer Valderrama, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Gabriel Union, Kanye West, Busta Rymes.

The Oscar-Tini

2 oz. Hpnotiq
2 oz. champagne

Pour in Hypnotiq, top with champage, and sparkle!

Latin Sizzler
(A salute to rising Mexican cinema, courtesy of Mixologist, Keith Andreen)
2 parts Sauza® Tres Generaciones Añejo Tequila
3⁄4 parts DeKuyper® Triple-Sec
1 teaspoon full of powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 oz. of freshly squeezed lime juice
3⁄4 parts DeKuyper® Pomegranate Liqueur

Shake Sauza® Tres Generaciones Añejo Tequila, DeKuyper Triple-Sec, powdered sugar and lime juice vigorously. Serve up in a salt-rimmed martini glass. Float DeKuyper® Pomegranate Liqueur and garnish with a lime wedge.

The Top of the Pop
(For crooners and swooners nominated for this year’s Academy Awards such as Mark Wahlberg, Will Smith and Eddie “My Girl Wants to Party All the Time” Murphy, courtesy of Mixologist, Keith Andreen)

1 part ABSOLUT® KURANT Vodka
1 part DeKuyper® Wilderberry® Schnapps
Float of Champagne
1⁄2 part Raspberry puree
3 fresh Blueberries
2 fresh Raspberries
1 fresh Blackberry
1⁄2 packet of POP Rocks! ® Blue Raspberry Candy

Neatly, pour raspberry puree into a martini glass, then sinkberries into it. Shake Absolut Vanilla, Absolut Kurant and DeKuyper Wilderberry Schnapps and gently layer over the puree. Top with Champagne. When ready to drink, pour in the POP Rocks! Candy.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

LA Becomes Even More Thrilling

Like Daily Candy For Boys...

For years, we girls have had the upper hand when it comes to whats.hot.now! Ladies across the land (and across the pond) can sign up for daily emails telling us 'who' to wear, how to do it and where to show it off.

Now the boys can have an inside track to all things cool, too. Thrillist is a free service sending daily tips to cool places to eat / drink / buy. Already a hit in NY, Thrillist is coming to LA-LA, and we girls are glad for it! A man "in the know" is a sexy bastard, indeed.
The Luckiest Skydiver in the World… and the Unsung Hero

The rest of the story…

My friend, Ali, emailed me from New Zealand, a week ago, and said she and her husband, Jon King, friend Michael Holmes and his girlfriend, Phillipa, would be in the US. They were going to New York because the boys would be on The Today Show and then coming to LA for The Tonight Show. They had turned down Oprah and Ellen because there wasn’t enough time.

At first, I was amazed by the news, given that they are not movie stars, best-selling authors or political figures. They are laid back folks who live in Taupo, New Zealand who happen to be skydivers. Well, ok, a bit more than that. Mike and Jon happen to be champion skydivers and ranked among the top in the world. It was amusing (and charming) to me that the crew had no idea how big these shows are – and that like, oh… nearly everyone in America watches at least one of them!

So, NBC flew them over biz class, first-rate hotels, limos – the whole star treatment. What I found astonishing though, listening to Matt Lauer and Jay Leno interview Mike about his death-defying accident, is that only 1/2 of the story seemed of interest to the media.

At 24 years old, Mike came face-to-face with death. He and Jon work at Taupo Tandem, a skydiving center in New Zealand (that’s down by Australia, folks. While here, most Americans they met had no idea where it is...). Anyway, when Jon and Mike are not competing in canopy flying competitions or doing “fun jumps,” they work filming tourists doing tandem jumps (strapped to a professional).

On a routine jump, in December, Mike pulled the ripcord to open his chute, and had a problem. With 7000 jumps under his belt, he knew what to do in case of emergency: free himself of the main canopy and release the reserve chute packed beneath it. But, there was a glitch. The main chute got caught in the hood of his jacket and didn’t release. This meant that opening the reserve would be even more dangerous because it would tangle with the first one, and Mike would fall even faster.

Already moving at almost 100 miles an hour, and spiraling out of control, Mike made his peace with the idea he only had seconds to live. He waved good-bye to the camera and hit the ground with a horrifying “thud.” Then silence. Miraculously, he was alive, with a collapsed lung and broken ankle.

This is this is where the US media ends this story. And, though I may be a lowly freelance journalist and cocktail blogger, I say, “Tut-tut, shame on you, Today Show and Tonight Show. You did not do your research. There is more.”

I do have the advantage of knowing these people. In 1999, I went to Taupo for the Millennium Boogie, a skydiving meet in New Zealand (the first place the year 2000 ticked over). There I met Jon and Ali. Jon and his jump partner, Ashley Crick, had just won the World Meet in Australia. In other words, they were the skydiving World Champions. Drop Zone royalty.

After that trip, I went back to Empuriabrava, Spain, where I was living and working at Europe’s biggest skydiving center. I was a massage therapist at the Drop Zone, and worked on the aching backs of skydiving teams in training, in my big blue trailer called “Cloud 9 Massage.”
I was only ever a “baby” skydiver (fewer than 100 jumps) but when hanging around a drop zone all day, it is impossible not to absorb an understanding of the incredible skill, experience and guts it takes to become a world champion.

In 2000, Jon and Ashley traveled to Eloy, Arizona, and won gold in the Skydiving World Cup. They even created a new move called the Swan Dive, which became their signature. World Champs, again.

The following year, Jon and Ali (and Ashley and his wife) moved to Empuriabrava so the fellas could train for the 2001 World Cup, in Granada. In the midst of hard training (more than 10 jumps a day) Ashely had a serious accident. He lived but his foot was split open and, after emergency surgery in Spain, he was airlifted back to his native England. Their dream of securing the World Championship for the third year in a row was dashed.

However, Jon and Ash were so well liked and respected by the skydiving community, that during the competition Empuriabrava’s team, Babylon (also freeflying champions) wore sweatshirts bearing Jon and Ashley’s names.

Around that time, a dashing young English skydiver named Mike Holmes showed up in Empuria. Already empassioned with the sport after jumping in Florida, California, Hawaii, Australia and Italy, he quickly became part of the Drop Zone community in Spain and, like many of us, stuck around for a few years.

There is a lot of fascination about Mike continuing to jump, post-accident, and his first one back will be televised, in April. While in LA this week, I asked Mike what he likes best about skydiving. Thoughtfully, he explained, "It's the feeling of freedom, being able to throw yourself toward the ground and be in control. You don't have any boundaries up there. No speed limits. No stop signs." Indeed.

In 2003, the World Cup rolled around again. Healed from his accident, Ashley reunited with Jon, and the two took Silver at the competition, held in Gap, France. They got second place in the world championship. Jon also went on to compete in swoop matches (canopy flying) and won many solos.

Meanwhile, all the people I have mentioned moved back down under. Jon’s former partner, Ashley has quit skydiving and is now a musician in Australia. Jon and Ali got married and had two kids. And, Michael Holmes swept girlfriend, Phillipa, off her feet and to New Zealand.

The day that Mike had his now famous accident, Jon was also in the plane. Both of them were filming tandems. When it was time to open the chutes and glide down to land, Jon noticed, across the sky, that his friend, Mike, had a problem. Jon guided his chute in Mike’s direction, watching his buddy spiraling out of control, and land away from the safety of the Drop Zone, and smash into a thicket of prickly bushes.

Jon, 32, has over 15,000 jumps, and is training to be a paramedic, followed Mike to the crash site, risking his own life and safety. Many people would have landed themselves safely, first, then called for help, but Jon put himself in peril to be the first one on the scene and help his friend, an integral contributor to his rescue.

As I watched the Today Show, last week, I wondered why that part was left out. Doesn’t Matt Lauer realize that this extra important piece of information makes an already fascinating story even more interesting?

Worst of all, the Tonight Show cut Jon out of the interview all together. Mike was awarded a coveted (and profitable) sponsorship by Go Fast! energy drink, which he deserves, undoubtedly. Still, I was dumbfounded that Jay Leno would interview “The Luckiest Skydiver in the World” and not have any thing to ask Jon King, who risked his own safety to help a friend, and who was sitting in the audience.

I asked Jon if he felt slighted at being left out of the Tonight Show interview. He just shrugged and said, "Aw, nah. It's about Mikey. I just did what anyone would do."

A world champion's modest heroism, my friends, is the rest of the story.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Fox That Rocks Hollywood

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Caroyln Fox, the velvet-voiced vixen at KHZ radio, invited me to speak about Mardi Gras Cocktails on her radio show, last week. Our interview aired in LA on Friday, February 16. I am not sure how to upload it into my blog… so here is a link to download our 9-minute MP3 recording about Mardi Gras Cocktails, Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro and Hang Over Cures!

Her show's focus is playing "tomorrow's hits today" and, man, did she spoil us with some hot tunes... N.O.L.A Jazz, a few sultry LA-based singers and some show-stopping tracks like “Sex is Back” and “Stoned, Drunk and Naked.” (I did mention the topic was Mardi Gras, right?)

Carolyn is a bundle of energy - sassy, fun - and she plays cutting edge, up-and-coming and seriously “cool” musical artists. Catch her show "KHZ Radio with Carolyn Fox" on Fridays at midnight in Los Angeles (and the OC) on 1580 AM. It also plays in heavy rotation in Ocean City/Salisbury, Maryland on 1590 AM. And, it is always streaming on KHZTV.COM.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Creamy Mango Cocktail

Been playing around in my home bar and just made something delectably indulgent... had to share...

2 oz. vodka, plain or flavored (Finlandia has a mango-infused vodka)
3 oz. frozen mango pieces

1 tsp. blood orange bitters

1 heaping tablespoon vanilla ice cream

Blend on low until smooth. Pour into champagne flute. Indulge!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fed Up With Snow and Ice?

Have a drink (or a weekend) at Acqualina...

Miami beach: home to paparazzi, glitterati and the glamorous life.
Just outside Miami: Five star resort, Aqualina, an escape from the pressure of constant fabulousness.

Open only a few months, rumor has it that Aqualina's spa, ESPA, is 20,000 square feet of pure Heaven. (And, if you book a stay through one of their travel partners, you will get a complimentary bottle of champagne on arrival.) Hmm... I'm thinking that after a couple of days at Aqualina, you can't help but feel pretty darn glamorous, despite yourself.

BabsieD raves about their beach bar, and shares a couple of highlight cocktails with The Liquid Muse Community.

17875 Collins (also their address)
1 1/4 pour of Gin
Grapefruit Juice to taste
Splash of Lime Juice
Caramelized orange slice

Shake with ice, pour into cocktail glass.

Tequila Lime Frappe
1 1/4 pour of tequila
1 scoop lime sorbet
1 sprig of fresh mint
Splash of Sprite
Ice (if necessary; served frozen)

Mix the tequila, sorbet, sprite and 1/2 of the mint in a blender; add
ice to thicken if necessary. Garnish with remaining mint.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Blogger On Blogging

Someone recently pointed out that using blog as a verb was a head-slapping embarrassment. I thought, “Really? I do that all the time, and I’m not embarrassed at all.” In fact, upon thinking about it, I realized that I use "blog" / "to blog" in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

Noun: "This is my blog." (duh)
Verb: "Yeah, I blogged him." (wrote about ‘him’ on my blog)
Adjective: "That new bar - it's super bloggy." (worth blogging about)
Adverb: "I'd describe my Valentine's Day as bloggily uneventful." (so utterly lame, possibly worth blogging about)
Identity: "Bloggers, Unite!" (blogger pride)
Way of Life: "Give me blogging, or give me death." (first amendment and all…)

I'm just sayin...
Carnaval: One Sip at a Time…

Leblon Cachaça

Named after one of Rio de Janeiro’s districts, LeBlon Cachaça conveys the spirit of Brazil. With a slogan like “Live, Love, LeBlon,” what else would you expect? This top-notch sugar cane liqueur sambas its way into any celebratory cocktail, especially this time of year!

I like everything about this product. The cachaça itself is superb. The packaging conveys “cool” and “fresh.” And, they have an awesome CD featuring soothing Brazilian beats, super for a party or one-on-one chill-out time. Check out some of the music on their website. I’m not the only one to like it. LeBlon has gotten rave reviews… I strongly encourage you to try it for yourselves!

I’ll jump right in and share some of their drink recipes. I didn’t include the basic Caipirinha (lime juice, cachaça and sugar) but am highlighting some more unusual cocktail ideas. Their website has many more.

If you are interested in experiencing Carnaval vicariously through my trip to Rio, a few years ago, keep reading… (oh, and speaking of LeBlon, if you make it down to Rio, go hang gliding in LeBlon. There is no view of that gorgeous city that beats jumping off a cliff, soaring through the air and landing on the beach. I call it “experiential tourism…”)

Brazilian Rose
2 oz. LeBlon cachaça

3 oz. Guava Juice
Splash Triple Sec

Shake together, with ice. Pour into cocktail glass. Garnish with a rose petal.

Watermelon Smash
1 1/2 oz. LeBlon achaça
1/2 oz. lemoncello
1/2 oz. simple syrup

2 wedges watermelon

Muddle melon and syrup in mixing glass. Add LeBlon and lemoncello, shake and serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with watermelon.


2 oz. LeBlon cachaça
1/2 oz. Fresh lemon juice

1 oz. Tamarind concentrate
10-15 rosemary needles
1 1/2 oz. ginger beer

Muddle rosemary, slightly, releasing some of the oils. Add LeBlon cachaça, lemon juice and tamarind concentrate. Shake and strain into a glass, over ice. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro

Do you think that all the major holidays are over after Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve and Valentines Day? Well, you are wrong, wrong wrong! Call it what you willl – Mardi Gras, Carnaval, Carnival, Fat Tuesday… the biggest party of the year is upon us. (The photo on the right depicts the 2007 Carnavale King, Queen and Princesses!)

I got to experience Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, in 2002. It was the most colorful, spirited, memorable spectacle I have seen in my life. A blur of feathers, drumbeats and gyrating flesh is how I’d describe it in a few words. Simply amazing.

At the time, I was visiting a friend, who grew up in Barra, just on the outskirts of Rio. Tropical and lush, the whole area is paradise. And, don’t even get me started on the beaches…

I had always imagined Carnaval to be something like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a parade through the city streets, people throwing beads from floats, interacting with the breast-flashing spectators. In fact, it was not like that, at all.

The Sambadromo is Rio’s special place where the parades happens. It looks like an elongated football arena. Tickets are purchased. Excited crowds pack themselves into the stands. Music blasts, in all directions. Everyone is smiling,
dancing and shouting. The anticipation mounts. Then…

An explosion of energy, below. The star dancer from the first samba school bursts into the arena. Usually, she is tall, beautiful and covered with strategically placed beads, feathers and sequins. The rest of her is tanned, toned and bare. Dancing with fervor, hips moving at the speed of machine gun fire, the clock starts ticking the moment she steps foot into the Sambadromo.

In fact, the carnavale parade is a competition, which lasts three days and nights, in a row. The top samba schools in Rio compete against one another, every year, for top billing. Cariocas (residents of Rio) breathlessly scan the newspapers each morning, searching for the results from the night before. This year’s contestants are: BEIJA-FLOR, ESTÁCIO DE SÁ, GRANDE RIO, IMPERATRIZ LEOPOLDINENSE, IMPÉRIO SERRANO, MANGUEIRA, MOCIDADE, PORTELA, PORTO DA PEDRA, SALGUEIRO, UNIDOS DA TIJUCA, VIRADOURO and VILA ISABEL. The year I went, Beija-Flor won.

Each samba school has its own song, its own colors and its own fans. Think about the passion with which Brazilians follow their favorite soccer teams, apply that to their favorite samba school, and you will start to get an idea of the hysteria packed into these three few days.

From the time the head dancer places her foot inside the Sambadromo, the samba school has one hour and fifteen minutes to make it all the way through, and out the other end. Each minute longer or shorter than that amount of time results in a deduction of points. Behind the head dancer, rows of drummers march in. Boom-ba-boom-boom. After them, an ornate, gaudy, grotesquely exquisite float pulls in, featuring half a dozen smiling, samba-ing showgirls, stirring up the crowds. Behind that, lines of costumed dancers – male and female – some with swirling skirts, some with large masks, all with a lot of spirit.

Almost anyone can be one of these dancers, if they are willing to pay their way in. Sometimes, supporters of the samba school are invited to walk in the parade. Sometimes, tourists fork over the bucks to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Behind those people, come more floats, more samba dancers, more drums. As each school passes, its fans sing their ‘fight’ song. This You Tube clip will give you an idea of what its like.

The year I went, my friend took me to the Salgueiro samba school, a couple of weeks before carnaval got underway. The whole place was bustling and draped with its colors. It was loud, and it was hot (in every sense of the word!) He asked a female friend to teach me to samba.

At first, I felt a bit intimidated, but once her hips were swinging and shaking, and she was having a damn good time doing it, I just let myself go. Whatever I lacked in technique, I believe I made up for in enthusiasm! And, at least I had some basic moves when watching the flurry of celebration in the Sambadromo. And, I think that pretty much sums up Carnaval and the Brazilian way of life. Let loose, have fun, drink a caipirinha and dance!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

TLM Interviews Square One Vodka CEO, Allison Evanow

Against The Grain

Allison Evanow has a long relationship with the spirits industry. She began by bartending while working on her MBA at Thunderbird Business School, in Arizona. Upon completion of her studies, Pepsico offered her a position in Mexico City, where she lived for two years. After spending the next five years in Spain, Jose Cuervo came calling, in need of an
Executive who spoke Spanish and had a strong understanding of Latin American and Hispanic cultures.

Today, Allison lives in Novato, California with her husband, Bill, and twin boys. After becoming a mother at 39, she decided to parlay her know-how and experience into her own business. Driven by the concept that a sound
business can have “soul,” Allison conceived the idea for Square One vodka.

Her organic spirits company is an expression of socially responsible meeting modern lifestyle. Allison defines herself, first and foremost, as a foodie. Alison calls Square One "a great vodka for foodies.” She explains, “I had worked with Domain Chandon - and I love wine - but as a business person and consumer, I find spirits more fun. Wine is someone else’s end product. With spirits, you create your own.” She warns that one has to be careful mixing spirits and food, and it helps to be knowledgeable bout food and balance. For example, she suggests a straight martini to complement oysters, while a slightly sweet vodka cocktail made with fresh ginger, agave nectar and vermouth is fabulous with sushi or ahi tuna.

Allison also enjoys taking her passion for creating in the kitchen to the bar, cooking up new combinations resulting in mind-blowing cocktail recipes! While doing this interview over the phone, she was cooking up persimmons, nutmeg and ginger to use in drinks for a party, that evening. (recipe below) She jokes, “My husband says, I bet CEO’s of other liquor companies don’t spend time cooking up herbs in their kitchens.”

And, this type of personal touch is exactly what makes Square One vodka shine. As I preach in my cocktail seminars, the quality of the ingredients makes or breaks the cocktail. Also, as a proponent of sustainable lifestyle, I feel good about supporting these rare companies that follow through on their promises. Allison says that 80% of the emails she receives are from women, who are choosing which bottles to buy in the stores, taking cocktail classes and expressing interest in companies who ‘walk the walk’ of their marketing campaigns.

Square One is truly organic, not ‘organic-lite’ like many other things we are sold. Allison explains, “All vodkas talk about filtration. I thought, rather than cleaning up the vodka on the back end, why not start at ‘square one’?”

Allison points out that making Square One “organic” happens at two levels. First, they start with 100% certified organic rye, no herbicides, no genetic modification, etc. Next, the distillation process is organic. Finding that rye is a more difficult grain to distill, Square One loses 50% of the yield. However, the result is a creamier, softer flavor.

Square One even uses non-toxic ink and recycled paper made from bamboo, cotton and sugar cane pulp for their labels. Allison points out that it costs more money to produce vodka this way but she prefers a smaller profit for a product which makes her proud. She says, “We took a big hit on our profit margins to present Square One, on the shelves. We ask our distributors to do the same.” (With an average cost of $30, Square One vodka runs $2 - $8 more than Grey Goose.)

Allison sums up her approach to spirit-making like this, “We are literally trying to go against the grain but we are up against the big boys.” She says that the deep pockets of large liquor companies can afford to put a lot of money toward marketing, and differentiates Square One this way, "Our philosophy is not just inside the bottle."

Square One is served worldwide but if you find yourself in Allison’s neck of the woods, a few Bay Area restaurants serving it are: Fifth Floor, Frisson, Rye and NOPA.

Here is a special recipe created by Allison, herself! :

Square ‘simmon (aka: “Golden Gate”)

Persimmon Puree
fuyu persimmons, chopped (remove seeds)
1 fresh vanilla bean, split down the middle to open
2 Tbsp. Crystallized ginger, cut into small cubes
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 c. sugar
3 c. water
Juice of 1 lemon

In a medium-sized stock pot, melt sugar over medium heat until amber/golden brown, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Once color is achieved, remove from heat and pour water slowly down the sides of the pot. Water will bubble, steam and sputter and sugar will immediately harden. Return to medium-high heat and cook until sugar is melted again, stirring occasionally. Once completely melted again, add chopped persimmons, vanilla bean and crystallized ginger. Cook on medium-low heat (strong simmer) for about 2 hours, or until persimmons are completely soft and liquid is reduced by almost half. Stir in a pinch of nutmeg. Cool, then remove vanilla bean, discard pod, and scrape any remaining pulp from inside bean into mixture. Add lemon juice, then puree until finely pureed. Working in small batches, pour puree into a sieve strainer. Use the back of a large spoon to press the puree solids against the sieve. Use the fine liquid puree to make the cocktail. The remaining thick puree in the strainer can be jarred for a few days and used as a delicious jam.

Golden Gate Cocktail
2 oz. Square One Organic Vodka
2 oz. Persimmon Puree

Shake vodka and puree vigorously for 30 seconds. (This cocktail needs dilution or it will be too thick, so shake away!) Strain into chilled martini glass. No garnish required as the vanilla bean specks float beautifully in the glass!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

You Give Me Fever...!

Anyone tried this new "stimulation beverage?" Apparently, it tastes of ginger and vanilla, and its herbal blend is supposed to be liquid Viagra. It launched within the last month. I'm dying to get my hands on some... gotta know, gotta know! Sipsters, I'd love to hear your reports...
Chicago Warms Up With Valentine’s Day Drinks

The Windy City's N9NE Steakhouse shares these delicious-looking libations with The Liquid Muse community. (Flirtation looks particularly temping, to me… yum!)

1 oz. White Godiva
1 1/2 oz. Stoli Strawberry
1/2 oz. heavy cream

Shake in a shaker and serve on the rocks with a strawberry garnish.

Kama Sutra
1 1/2 oz. Level vodka
1 1/2 oz. peach sake
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. mango puree

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake once, and pour into a wineglass over ice. Garnish with edible orchid, orange slice and cherry.

Love Potion #9
1 oz. Stolichnaya vodka
1 1/2 oz. Alize Passion
1 1/2 oz. Alize Gold Passion
splash of fresh orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an orange slice.
Bubbling With Love – With or Without a Guy!

Every Sipster knows that nothing sparkles like champagne. (Well, ok, diamonds, sparkle more but let’s stay on topic here…)

Personally, I could drink champagne, prosecco, cava (basically, any sparkling wine) any day of the week… but today is the day of the year to really indulge. And, just because my husband is on a business trip, don’t think that I won’t enjoy a champagne cocktai
l! No man is necessary to indulge in a nice hot bubble bath, a few luscious chocolates and a chilled glass of champagne (or two). This post is devoted to the sparklers, and I have a several to share with you!

Let’s start with a couple of sparkling cocktails from MARTINI & ROSSI® Asti to get you in the

Eternal Kiss
1 / 2 oz Strawberry Puree
1 / 2 oz Rose Syrup
Strawberry Slice
Pour puree and Rose Syrup into champagne flute and mix with a stir
stick, add MARTINI & ROSSI Asti. Garnish with strawberry slice.

Cupid's Arrow
1 oz Pink Lemonade
Splash of Grenadine
Lemon Slice
Pour Pink Lemonade into champagne flute, add MARTINI & ROSSI Asti
over top of lemonade. Garnish with Lemon Slice.

Want to try something unusual? How about this “manly” twist on a champagne cocktail…

Black Velvet
5 oz chilled Guinness
1 1⁄2 oz chilled Champagne
Pour Guinness into champagne flute. Add champagne carefully, so it does not mix with Guinness, and serve.

Do you like to color coordinate your cocktails with the holiday? If so, you will love this I tasted this Pommery Pink POP Rosé Champagne. I really enjoyed tasting it. It isn’t overly sweet (a danger with pink champagne sometimes) but has lovely fruity tones.

If you are cooking for your sweetie, or friends or spoiling yourself, tonight, this is super with grilled or smoked salmon, proscuitto and melon or poached lobster. Or, transition into dessert and serve this with fruit tarts, crème brulée or berries and cream.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


The Tea Trend Hits the Bottle...

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Tea-tinis are becoming the latest cocktail craze, coast-to-coast. Later this week I will be highlighting places you can find some of those exciting libations…

In the meantime, I want to share this fab new product: ZEN Green Tea Liqueur. Known for healing and protective qualities, green tea is one of the most popular new health crazes in America. ZEN liqueur takes the battle for enlightenment to the bar!

ZEN has the taste of green tea (but yummier). It is a little herby, rather sweet and absolutely unique. It is a tiny bit reminiscent of Midori (melon liqueur) but not as fruity. It has the slightest hint of wheatgrass juice (but without the nasty aftertaste). If you like mate, green tea or other herbal flavors, and if you like being on the edge of ‘what’s hot now,” it’s a must try!

Here is a recipe, courtesy of ZEN:

1 part ZEN Green Tea Liqueur
2 parts SKYY Citrus
Splash of Lime juice
Shake and serve in a martini glass

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mardi Gras Cocktails

Focus: New Orleans (Carnavale cocktails coming...!)

Carolyn Fox invited me to be a guest on her radio show on KHZ radio, to talk about Mardi Gras cocktails. We are recording it today, and it will run later this week. I am very excited about this topic, as there are so many fun cocktails from New Orleans and a rich history behind them. It is even rumored that the term "cocktail" was coined in New Orleans, itself.

The Original New Orleans Cocktail
Legend has it that in 1838, French Quarter resident, and pharmacist, Amadee Peychaud played around with brandy, bitters and an egg cup (called a coquetier in French). Nearly 2 centuries later, this concoction is still popular in the Big Easy and known as The Sazerac:

2 oz Straight Rye Whiskey (or Bourbon)
Dashes of bitters
1/4 oz Pernod (licorice and herbs)
1 tbsp Simple Syrup (or 1 sugar cube)

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Feeling Fizzy
Another popular drink from NOLA was invented in the 1880’s by Henry C. Ramos, in his bar at Meyer's Restaurant. It is rumored that Louisiana governor at that time, Huey P. Long, took hs favorite New Orleans bartender with him to New York so he could enjoy a well-made Ramos Gin Fizz whenever he pleased!

2 oz. gin
3 drops orange flower water
1 egg white
1 tsp. bar sugar
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 oz.cream
Soda water

Shake very vigorously for at least one minute. Strain into a tall thin glass, or a very large old fashioned glass, and top with some soda water. Stir.

The secret of its flavor and texture is orange flower water and egg whites. If you don’t find orange flower water in your favorite liquor store, try a Middle-Eastern markets.

Hot Stuff
The French word for “burn” is bruler. Brulot refers to burned with spices or sugar. This Café Brulot recipe is attributed to Dominique Youx, top lieutenant to the pirate, Jean Lafitte.

1 lemon
1 orange
6 whole cloves
2 small cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 ounces triple sec
1 ounce brandy
1 1/2 cups black coffee

A brulot bowl is any silver or copper bowl that can be heated with sterno or candle flames from the bottom. Over your brulot bowl, peel lemon, then orange, allowing any juice to go into the bowl. Add cloves, cinnamon stick, triple sec and brandy. Bring the liquid to a slight simmer, stirring constantly. Ignite the mixture inside the bowl with a long match. Slowly add hot coffee, pouring around the edges of the bowl so that the sizzling sound may be heard. Continue stirring until flame dies out. Ladel into cups.

Hold On To Your Hats - It's A Hurricane!
2 million people come to New Orleans, every year. The city's population is about a million inhabitants and it has more than 3000 bars. Alcohol laws are, shall we say, “fluid” and booze flows every day of the week, at any hour of the day. “To-go” cups are even permitted, so revelers can sip a cocktails while strolling down the street. I've walked right up to a sidewalk vendor and bought this New Orleans classic, myself! The Hurricane, said to have been invented in the 1940’s at Pat O'Briens bar in the French Quarter, and named after the shape of a hurricane lamp.

2 oz light rum
2 oz dark rum
2 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 tbsp simple syrup
1 tbsp grenadine

Shake (or blend) all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a hurricane glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice. (Photo courtesy of Acadiana.)

In the mood for a beer?
Try Abita Beer (also called the Mardi Gras beer) A local brew, it is made in Abita Springs, Louisiana

Sunday, February 11, 2007

When the Valet Farts in Your Car...

What would you do?

Had it happen last night. Very awkward. He pulled my car up, took the money from my hand, grinning all the while. We got in - Kelly, Sue, George and I - and we nearly jumped back out! The most vile, putrid odor filled the car... (And, I know it wasn't one of us. We know each other well enough that we would have admitted it...)

I've never had a valet fart in my car before. What is the appropriate protocol? Take back the tip? Say something? I imagine it wasn't intentional so I didn't want to be too mean... but it was nasty. Does the Valet Training Guide outline that this is not appropriate behavior?

So, do you:
a) just pretend nothing happened and pull away from the curb?
b) act like an A-Hole and shame the valet?
c) complain to someone about it?
d) just roll down the windows and drive down Sunset Blvd. practically puking up the Thai food and beer you just enjoyed moments before...?

Really, just in case it happens again... I want to be prepared! What would you do?