Thursday, May 31, 2007

LA-Based Modern Spirits

A Labor of Love

It’s a typical Hollywood story: Boy meets Girl. Girl doesn’t like vodka.
Boy infuses vodka with all sorts of creative ingredients. They get married, live happily ever after and run a successful business together. The end.

Russian / Armenian Melkon Kohsrovian explains that in his family, every occasion is toasted with vodka. Litty, his then future bride, would put her glass down after toasting and not touch
it. Taking it upon himself to make his national drink more alluring to his lady love, he infused it with enticing flavors.

Not only did the thoughtful libations win her over but his family and friends started requesting bottles of it. Today, Modern Spirits is sold in specialized markets around the country, with Melkon and Litty (a freelance journalist by trade) at the helm. From choosing top-quality ingredients to distillation and flavor control, the pair are hands-on throughout every step of the process.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Modern Spirits’ infusions is their natural ability to pair with food. So intriguing, in fact, that the husband and wife team have been invited to present a vodka dinner at the James Beard House (in New York), in September.

Melkon explains that as hi
gh-end American cuisine evolves, chefs are looking to ingredients from the ethnic subcultures in their cities. He points out that in a balanced dish, fat ‘amps up’ exotic flavors but leaves residue in the mouth. In his words, “It’s like putting 5 coats of paint on a house.” Kohsrovian sees vodka as a natural accompaniment to today’s culinary explorations due to both the flavor-enhancing and palate-cleansing effects.

For non-believers, Melkon suggests trying an experiment at home: Place four creamy cheeses on a plate and pair them with wine. By the fourth one, Melkon surmises, the tastebuds will be so coated with fat that the ability to taste the cheese is diminished. Now, do the same with a distilled spirit. Because it can cut through the fat, the flavor of the last cheese will come through as clearly as the first.

(Note to self: cheese, wine, vodka… yes, this is a taste test I will try. Purely for scientific research, of course.)

Another interesting aspect of Modern Spirits products is that with flavors like truffle, ginger and chocolate orange, when chilled, they make wonderful sipping vodkas – without even being part of a cocktail.

Last night, Jason and I experienced a Modern Spirits tasting dinner at Brass Cap in Santa Monica. Here’s the line up:

First Course:

Four Cheese Ravioli with Summer Truffles
Fresh White Asparagus with Morels and Truffles
Paired With: Modern Spirits Black Truffle Vodka

Second Course:
Bluefine Tuna Tartare with Caviar
Sea Scallops Carpaccio with Sea Urchin
Paired With: Modern Spirits Celery Peppercorn Vodka

Third Course:
Muscovy Duck Breast with Polenta and Green Tomato Marmalade
Japanese Wagyu
Paired With: Modern Spirits Three Tea Vodka

Pain Chocolat (Chocolate Bread Pudding)
Paired With: Modern Spirits Chocolate Orange Vodka
Hot Apple Tart with Caramel Ice Cream
Paired With: Modern Spirits Grapefruit Honey Vodka

I am very happy to have had Jason as a dinner partner. Not only because he is my husband but because we could order one of each from every course and try all the pairings!

My review?

  • The delicate flavor of the truffle vodka lingers lightly in the mouth, which made it a heavenly complement to the white asparagus.
  • The celery peppercorn vodka holds up to the strong flavor tuna tartare and saltiness of fish eggs. It was nice with the creamy scallops and sea urchin, too - although, a softly aromatic sake would work equally well with that dish.
  • The aroma of the three tea vodka is slightly floral, which plays stupendously well with the duck.
  • The hot apple tart was incredible with the grapefruit honey vodka. The chocolate bread pudding paired with the chocolate orange vodka would be a chocolate lovers dream. Personally, I prefer a chocolate dessert with big, bold, spicy red wine.
We also indulged in a ginger vodka after dessert. Oh. My. God. That went directly on this week’s shopping list. I'm also adding the pear lavender, which I did not try last night (LA freeways, and all...). Brass Cap carries the full range of Modern Spirits should you like a sampling.

I strongly encourage you to check the Modern Spirits website for upcoming pairings in your area. I’ve been aware of Modern Spirits for a year or two, now. My only regret is not trying their products sooner.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Young Hollywood Is Officially Cut Off.

First, Nicole. Then, Paris. Now, Lindsay. Not to mention, Britney's kookie behavior. That's it, ladies. Either you gals can't hold your liquor, or you don't know how to dial the limo service... Either way - no more "boozy floosie" drinks for you!

I do, however, have a special something for Lindsay Lohan's upcoming 21st Birthday party. An alcohol-free Liquid Muse Signature Cocktail! Delicious and nutritious with NO chance of being pulled over...

Pop Princess on Parole
2 oz. Guava nectar
1 oz. Freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. Blood orange bitters
blood orange flavored sparkling water
Stirrings © bellini rimming sugar
lime wheel

Shake nectar, lime juice and bitters, with ice. Strain into chilled, sugar-rimmed champagne flute. Top with flavored sparkling water. Add lime wheel garnish.

*Photo borrowed from this site.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Japanese Single Malt Whisky

Another fascinating Sispster, Chris Bunting, tells us about his passion for his favorite Japanese spirit! After reading his Sipster Submission here on The Liquid Muse, visit his blog, Nonjatta, devoted to Japanese Single Malt. Here's Chris:

My first experience of Japanese single malt whisky was inspired by loneliness. I live over here in a city on the edge of the Tokyo-Yokohama megalopolis with my wife and two-year-old son. She had gone abroad for a conference and I had just put my son to bed. It was a Friday night and I wanted a drink. My wife and I usually share a bottle of wine on a Friday but I didn't feel up to it on my own. I just wanted a glass of something a bit stronger than tea.

I don't remember what I did that night - probably siphoned off a snifter from my petrol tank - but the next day I took a detour round the spirits section in my local supermarket. There were little miniature 180ml bottles of single malt whisky: a Laphroaig, a Bowmore and two Japanese single malts. I went for one of the Japanese ones, called Hakushu, and the Laphroaig. That night I had a glass from each and it was a bit of a revelation. The Laphroaig was damn nice, but so, in a totally different way, was the Hakushu.

That was where my journey in the world of Japanese single malt began. I have been posting everything I have found out on my blog, Nonjatta. Although I've got a long way to go until I really get a handle on this fascinating corner of the spirit world, I've tasted many more Japanese whiskies since that first Hakushu. Not all of them have been great but I can say that Japanese single malts compete toe to toe with anything from Scotland, Ireland or North America. The Japanese are the second biggest producers of single malt whisky in the world and their drams are regularly winning international competitions these days. For anybody who is interested in this near 90 year old distilling tradition, I will finish this little write-up with a bit of bad news and a bit of good news. First the bad: at the moment, particularly in America, it is quite difficult to get hold of anything but Yamazaki single malt. The good news: there are many dozens of expressions from 10 different distilleries on the Japanese market just waiting to get on the boat.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Save Money on Booze

Vodka is Vodka is Vodka...

Do you agree that vodka is tasteless and aromaless? Then why do you buy premium brands?

According to the investigative TV show, 20/20, "liquor snobs" couldn't tell Smirnoff from Grey Goose. In fact, they gave Grey Goose the lowest rating.

My suggestion? Experiment a little and don't get hung up on brands. You could save yourself $3 - $5 per drink!
All Aboard Bombay Sapphire’s “Perfect Pairings” Luxury Train

The setting sun + the California coastline
A luxury train car + an exclusive dinner party

- and -
Tara Weaver, a talented personal chef with Hollywood clientele +
James Moreland,
Bombay Sapphire’s own Master Mixologist.

It is already known that I think highly of Bombay Sapphire, which I used in creating the Billion-Ayre's Bet, a Signature Cocktail for billionaire, Calvin Ayre. So, being invited to join in on a special "Perfect Pairings" experience was extra special, for me!

A dozen of us boarded the Creative Charters Luxury dining and lounge car, attached to the back of an Amtrak train, en route from San Diego to Los Angeles. And, I'll begin by telling you that I was excited to meet James Moreland! The Aussie-born, Manhattan resident began his climb to cocktailian fame behind the bar at Town, which is known for its stunning drinks and trendy clientele. As he puts it, “Once you’ve worked at Town, you will be hired to bartend anywhere.”

James discovered a love of tending bar upon arriving in New York. He had his “a-ha” moment late one evening, while closing. A man came to the door and asked if he could please drink a sherry while James cleaned up. Moreland allowed him in. The man sat at a table, sipping his sherry and cried for 2 hours. It turns out that he had just lost his wife. As the two left the bar in the wee hours of morning, the man thanked James, and gifted him an expensive pen. Moreland never saw the man again but found meaning in being a conduit for
people dealing with life’s celebrations and hardships, and decided to make it his career.

Moreland was invited to join several liquor companies, but felt a connection with Bombay Sapphire. A lover of the 'cocktails of yore,' he felt that working with a high-end gin company fit with his Mixologist philosophies.

Keeping with today’s rules of a quality drink, James uses fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, which happens to complement modern, high-end cuisine. He says he works to “isolate the ingredients,” especially when pairing alongside an a
cclaimed chef. Moreland feels that paring cocktails with food can be preferable to ordering a bottle of wine. He points out that when dining among friends, a particular bottle of wine may not fit well with each person’s meal. Creating individually paired cocktails ensures customized harmony between dish and drink.

Our 3-hour journey between San Diego and LA began on the windowed, upper level of the wood-and-brass train car, where we nibbled on artisanal cheeses and Italian salami.

Soon, our gracious rail hostess, Jenah, brought up our first cocktail of the evening: The Dragonfly. Featuring Bombay Sapphire, Pomegranate Liqueur and a hint of lemon, this cocktail’s tart acidity provides Heavenly balance against the creaminess of goat cheese.

We also nibbled on mini seafood tostadas as we chatted about antique cocktail shakers, classic drink recipes and admired surfers catching waves alongside the railroad.

Soon, it was time to descend to the formal dining room, just below. The gorgeous table setting was the perfect backdrop for the herbaceous, savory, and slightly sweet cocktails we sipped alongside a sumptuous supper.

First Course: Sapphire White Ginger Martini (Fabulous with a crab cake in sweet pepper and lime vinaigrette)

1 part Bombay Sapphire
Slither of Fresh Ginger
8 White Grapes
1/2 part Fresh Apple Juice

Muddle ginger and grapes at the bottom of a shaker, add remaining ingredients with lots of ice. Shake and double strain into chilled martini glass.

Main Course: Sapphire Melon (Presented with Idaho Nut-Crusted Trout, Wild Mushroom Rice with Fresh Herbs and Grilled Asparagus With Garlic and Shallots)

1 1⁄4 parts Bombay Sapphire
4 pieces of honeydew melon
Juice of half a tangerine
Dash of simple syrup
Dash or orange bitters
1 mint leaf
Splash of soda

In stirring glass, muddle melon with the juice of tangerine. Fill glass with ice. Add bitters, syrup and mint leaf and give it a royal shake. Pour into rocks glass and top off with a splash of soda or ginger ale, or serve up, double strained into martini glass. (Works both ways.)

Dessert: Sapphire Bubbles (Served alongside strawberry crepes with midori, kiwi reduction.)

1 1⁄4 parts Sapphire
1 tsp fine sugar
Juice of half a lemon
2 parts Dry champagne (prosecco is great!)
1⁄2 part Mandarin liqueur

Mix lemon juice and fine sugar into stirring glass, then fill stirring glass with ace add Sapphire and Mandarin Liqueur and shake. Strain into chilled martini glass, or champagne flute and top with dry champagne.

Try some of these pairings for your next dinner party! And, subscribe to the Liquid Museletter to get updates for Bombay Sapphire’s Perfect Pairing Events, from coast to coast, this Fall! I know DC is already scheduled for September 27… Sipsters will get more details as I do!
"Lechayim" to Kosher Wine!

One of the interesting aspects of having a site such as The Liquid Muse is meeting all sorts of different people who all have one thing in common: a love of libations!

I recently met a writer named Sara Shereen Bakhshian, who is particularly interested in writing about topics related to religion. We got to
chatting about where religion and wine intersect, and she expressed interest in writing a piece on kosher wines. I was very excited, as this is a topic I know nothing about (being a Catholic school girl myself, which surely fostered my love of wine. When else is it ok to underage drink - in front of one's parents - than at Mass?)

And, now, drumroll please... Here is Sipster Sara's article:

Vino in Kashrut

“Where is the Manishevitz?” is a common question in American Jewish homes at the Friday Sabbath dinner table and the blessing of wine is done with the brand’s sweet Concord Grape.

In the past, kosher wine meant sugary vino from the American Northeast. Today, there are multiple varietals found from vineyards across Israel, the U.S., Europe, South America, South Africa, and Australia. Yarden is the flagship series of Golan Heights Winery in Northern Israel.

Wines from the Golan Heights Winery have kosher certification and follow the Jewish dietary laws of
kashrut. Only observant Jews are in contact with it during the winemaking process. While most wines don’t have any forbidden ingredients, a part of kashrut is that the wine should not be used for idolatry or come in contact with anyone using it for those purposes.

Some kosher wine consumers, particularly those who follow the Orthodox tradition, drink only wine that is mevushal: “cooked” or “boiled.” After the wine goes through a process similar to flash pasteurization, it remains kosher no matter who touches it. However, Golan Heights Winery doesn’t flash pasteurize their wines because they believe the process could alter quality.

There are 16 vineyards in the Golan Heights (a plateau on the border of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) — as well as one in Upper Galilee (as in Sea of Galilee). The Golan is known for rolling green hills, dry summers, snowy winters, volcanic basalt soil (left by now-extinct volcanoes) and plentiful water sources.

Golan residents planted the modern vineyards in 1976 and the first grapes were sent to Central Israel in 1982. The
Golan Heights Winery was established for the 1983 harvest, with its first release being the 1983 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc.

The Yarden series was given the name after the Jordan River, which cleaves the Galilee and the Golan Heights. Chief winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, a California native whose résumé includes Baron Wine Cellars, Robert Mondavi Winery and Champagne Jacquesson & Fils has seen the winery through many medals in international competitions since joining it in 1992.

Art also plays a factor in Yarden, with its mosaic ancient oil lamp symbol and smooth and clean typography. A key to this wine series is the grape, which it calls an artwork of nature. This fruit is a basis for 20 varietals available in the U.S. such as the following four tasted for this piece:
  • Yarden Gewurztraminer 2006 ($18), from vineyards in Northern Golan, with touches of litchi, passion fruit, cinnamon and a floral bouquet simply evaporates in the mouth. The wine’s smooth taste can be attributed to its extremely cold and long fermentation in stainless steel. The wine’s light sweetness pairs nicely with spicy foods like a horseradish cheddar.
  • Yarden Odem Organic Vineyard Chardonnay 2004 ($17), a medium-bodied wine from a Northern Golan vineyard, retains the flavor of the French oak barrels it was fermented in for seven months. Filled with the smells of a rainforest, the Chardonnay has traces of apricot and pear. Compared with the Gewurztraminer above, the Chardonnay comes out second in the white wines tasted.
  • Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($28), from Central Golan and Upper Galilee vineyards, also includes a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In addition to the tastes of dark berries, cherries and vanilla, the Cabernet has hints of the small French oak barrels it was aged in for a predominate portion of 18 months. The Cabernet is pretty bold with its spice but the Syrah takes first place among the red wines.
  • Yarden Syrah ($28), with the sleek shade of dark purple, comes from vineyards in Central and Northern Golan. The soft French oak taste complements the berries and chocolate with a hint of anise sensed in the Syrah. The wine pairs pleasantly in one sense with dark chocolate and then in another with herbed goat cheese.
So, raise a glass of Yarden wine and toast, “Lechayim — to life!”

Sara Shereen Bakhshian is a reporter, writer, editor and photographer with experience covering entertainment, the environment, local news, politics, current affairs, religion and other topical issues at major dailies, community newspapers and on the radio.
TLM Goes on a Diet!

What a rude awakening. My summer clothes are staying in storage – cuz their too dang tight.

Since switching to writing full-time, about a year and a half ago, I’ve packed on more than 20 pounds. Think about it: I sit on my butt writing about cocktails, wine and dining by day, and sample them by night. It is a wonderful existence - don’t get me wrong – but my waistline is suffering.

And, I am close to launching The Liquid Muse YouTube cocktail show so within a few weeks, I want to start to look as good as the cocktails taste! (Besides, given my Muse-y tendencies, squeezing into my designer duds is a necessity!)

So, here are my Liquid Muse tips for shaping up (and I’m gonna do my best to follow them!)

1) Join a gym (hubby and I did that recently)
2) Eat lots of fruits and veggies
3) Drink water AND low-calorie cocktails

Yes, there is such a thing as a low-calorie cocktail. Here is my favorite recent creation:

The Liquid Muse Grapefruit Diet!
2 oz. Grapefruit juice (24 calories)
1 oz. Grapefruit-flavored vodka (68 calories)
grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (0 calories)
squeeze of lime (2 calories)
dash orange bitters (4 calories)

Shake vodka, juices and bitters with ice. Pour into chilled cocktail glass. Top with flavored water. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Total calories: 98

So, here’s to you, skinny jeans, and squeezing myself back into a size 6…
“I’ll Drink To That!”
The Healthy Voyager

Are you one of those people who gains weight on vacation? Do you indulge in extra dessert, pasta with cream sauce and sausage, and or fast food on a road trip - then throw up your hands saying, "Oh well, I'm on vacation!"

I am one of "those" people! I love to indulge, especially when I travel. And, I travel a lot.

So, when LA-based Carolyn Scott told me she was starting the Healthy Traveler blog and online show, I had to check it out! Carolyn journeys around the country and shares her healthy finds with us - so eating out doesn't have to be synonymous with pigging out.

Scott's focus is not only on low-calorie food but healthy food. As she puts it,
“Being a 9 year vegan and traveling for work, family, etc., I developed a way to seek out the best places for me to eat while not sacrificing fun or ruining my travel partner’s trip either. I knew that many people shared my problem and thus The Healthy Voyager was born!

Here is her latest installment from Watercourse Foods cafe, bistro and pizzeria in Denver, Colorado:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Boca Loca

This hand-harvested artisnal cachaca calls itself "Crazy Lips" Brazilian rum. After winning a prestigious Double Gold medal in the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, I suppose it can call itself whatever it likes!

I've already sung the praises of my Carnaval experience in Rio de Janeiro. Boca Loca hails from a small sugar cane plantation near Sao Paolo. Its full taste and creamy finish will make you feel like doing a little Samba right in your own home! Pick up a bottle and see what I mean...

I find Brazilians quite warm, so I'm guessing the name of this drink is an inside joke. However, it was the most unique recipe on the Boca Loca website, so I wanted to share it with you!

Brazilian Bitch
1 oz. Boca Loca
1/2 oz. almond liqueur
cranberry juice
splash cola

Pour Boca Loca, almond liqueur and juice into glass. Top with cola.

Worldly Spirit

I love to travel as much as I love to write about it. Food, wine and spirits are my main focus in foreign lands, these days, and yes, it makes me so happy, I just want to dance.

Hats off to Matt, who dances his way around the world. I'll drink to that!

Glitter City Getaway (Part Two)

Dining and Dancing in the Fantasy Tower in Vegas

In the cabride from Caesar’s Palace, Carly and I noticed a little camera just below the rearview mirror, pointed toward the back seat, which spurred us to ask the driver about Taxicab Confessions,
and if he’d ever had any wacky scenarios back there. With great condor, and considerable enthusiasm, he recounted stories of being paid to drive around while couples did things in the back of his cab that would make ladies at the mustang ranch blush. One story in particular – which he merrily shared in far too much detail – involved two women, him, a banana and a generous tip.

(Suffice it to say that by the time we reached The Palms, I had pretty much lost my appetite, particularly for anything even vaguely resembling a fruit salad.) Luckily, once whisked up to the 51st floor of the Fantasy Tower at the Palms Hotel, and snuggled up to a Pink Pussycat rose champagne cocktail at Nove, I forgot all about the cab ride over.

Nove Italiano melds classic Italian elegance with sparkly Vegas kitsch into one seamless dining and people-watching experience. Rococo meets Louis XIV meets modern opulance, and hulking crystal chandeliers glow pink, then violet, then blue. Dapper waiters, hosts and managers waltz around the room, performing a ballet of impeccable service.

And, might I add that Hugh Hefner himself, and a slew of Playmates, celebrated his 81 st birthday there, just a month earlier...!

We started with a copious seafood platter, overflowing with oysters, crab legs, clams, jumbo shrimp, and other delights della mare. Next, we sunk our teeth into a buttery, succulent steak. Another Pink Pussycat, thank you very much, and I was ready to curl up on the exotically upholstered booth and not move for the rest of the night.

But, that would have been a terrible mistake, as the night was far from over. After dinner, we visited to the glamorous Playboy Club, another floor up. The allure of Bunny croupiers and waitresses (sporting ears and tails) is second only to the stunning and ever-expanding view of Sin City, itself.

Though posing for a photo with these
Bunnies may not be the best thing for my "mid-30's-vanity" I couldn't resist grabbing Carly and getting a shot with the lovely ladies of the Playboy Club. (Eat your hearts out, fellas!)

The club is comprised of several Playboy themed rooms with much attention to detail.

One wall of the lounge is a digital mosaic of magazine covers, which fade from one image into another. Behind one bar, the Playboy logo lights up the liquor shelves. An intimate corner of the club is lined with leather wall panels studded with tiny silver rabbit heads. And, the bathroom is wall papered with the magazine’s pin-ups.

Yet another ascent to the 53rd floor of the tower, Moon Bar pumps dance music into the wee hours. Scantily-clad pole dancers loosen up the crowd with syrupy dance moves that leave eye-candy oglers with a cavity, or two.

After getting your groove on, cool off with an icy cocktail on the outside deck. Towering above Las Vegas, surrounded by sexy people and the desert breeze, you may even find inspiration for your own Taxicab Confession…

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The 24-hour Glittering Get-Away
(Part One)

Accomodations and Happy Hour to Get in the Vegas Mood...

For Angelenos, Vegas has been ‘the playground down the block’ since the Golden days of Hollywood. Today, people know it has more to offer than lounge acts and card games, and are drawn in by the luxurious spas, esteemed art collections, eye-popping entertainment and an awe-inspiring abundance of fine dining and cocktail culture!

A couple of weeks ago, Carly Milne (LA’s AOL Style List blogger) and I went to check out a few hot spots. Between us both, you'll get plenty of juicy tidbits for planning your own “glitter-city getaway!”

The first thing I loved about the Platinum Hotel was the absence of the “ding, ding, ding” as we walked in the lobby door. Yes, the Platinum is a stone’s throw from the Strip but does not have a casino. Hallelujah!

The next rave is about the apartments, upstairs. ( Ok, officially they’re a “hotel rooms” but they may as well be apartments.) Wrapped in a fluffy white robe, wander from the marble bathroom (with Jacuzzi tub, large shower and good bathroom products) through the full kitchen, large living room (with fireplace and flatscreen TV) out onto the big balcony overlooking the city. And, the room is big enough to share - huge king sized bed and a fold-out sofa – so if you’re going with a friend, take the money you would have spent on a second room to Platinum’s spa.

Extra Summertime bonus: chill on plush mattresses with a martini and a flick during Platinum’s weekly poolside movie night!

After poking our heads into Stir, the swanky hotel bar, where stylish cocktails are designed by Mixologist Niles Peacock, we eventually got a cab (the cocktail hour is busy in Vegas) to Caesar’s Palace. Once inside the labyrinth of rowdy craps tables, cocktail-toting waitresses and Gladiators posing with tourists from Alabama, we followed the winding path through the Forum shops, all the way to the end, upstairs and straight into Sushi Roku. (What can I say, you can take the girls out of LA but you can’t take the LA out of the girls…)

But… the Vegas location has something neither LA Roku has… an amazing view of the Strip! And, the sumptuous appetizers and refreshing cocktails we sampled are worth their weight in gambling chips! A mouth-watering array of toro, yellowtail, salmon and a million more kinds of fish are beautifully presented (hard to believe its in the desert!)

Also, the cocktail menu changes often (Sneak preview: summer will feature a special 7-7-7 drink in honor of Japanese numerology and superstition!) Here’s we tried from the current menu:

Sweet Poochi: Poochi Poochi sparkling sake, Hanger One mandarin, tangerine, lemon and lime juices.

Secret Crush: 42 Below vodka, lychee puree, lemon and orange.

Very Sexy: Bevedere Cytrus vodka, Marie Brizzard Cassis de Bordeaux, Grand Marnier-soaked berried and prosecco.

Pear Blossom: Grey Goose Pear vodka, lychee puree, lemon and orange.

The Sushi Roku staff in Vegas is as charming and accommodating as the folks in LA. (possibly even a smidge more) so you are guaranteed a good time. We could have easily stayed all night but we had more to see… (Part Two of Glittering Getaway – Dinner at Nove and the newly opened Playboy Club!)

PS - for you Angelenos, if you are still feeling homesick after visiting Sushi Roku Vegas, Boa is right next door…

Friday, May 18, 2007

Chatting With The Girls Next Door

My #1 Guilty Pleasure on Larry King Live

I've mentioned a few times, now, that I love watching The Girls Next Door. Much to my husband's dismay (he can't stand the show... though I can't imagine why... hot chicks everywhere!) So, I'm taking a break from cocktails, tonight, to cover my favorite junk-food TV.

When I was at the Playboy Mansion (keeping an eye on the Signature Cocktails I created for the Celebrity Poker Tournament) I was sooo hoping to meet Hef, Holly, Bridget and Kendra but, alas, they were out of town.

Watching CNN tonight, I can understand why it is hard for someone like Larry King to have a hard time presenting Hugh Hefner and his girlfriends to the public on his show. He is used to asking questions to people who are public figures, groomed to give the "right" answers. But, where politicians and movie stars often lack in genuine sincerity, Hef and the girls are completely candid, 100% comfortable in their own skins and lifestyles, aren't trying to win an election or keep ratings high. Despite their show (and its enormous popularity) they don't come across like they're merely promoting.

Holly is Hef's main squeeze, with my favorite, Bridget, in the Number Two slot. Until tonight, I've not been too crazy about Kenda, ranked third in the pecking order. Although she had to ask Larry King what "fidelity" meant (which I must respect because, again, she was real) she came across as more articulate than usual when she explained that where most reality shows are staged, The Girls Next Door captures their day-to-day lives. Basically she explained that things happened so quickly that they didn't have time to become 'fake' before their reality show.

I also applaud Hef for saying that he doesn't like Girls Gone Wild because of its "exploitive" nature. Amen! Where Playboy presents nudity with pin-up class and style, Girls Gone Wild is merely a string of cheap and tacky T & A shots of drunk (and sometimes underage) co-eds. He also chuckled when King asked Hef what he thought about Joe Francis's arrogant boast that one day he would buy Playboy.

Playboy's EIC also said he doesn't particularly care for Hustler magazine but hails Maxim, GQ and Esquire as quality "laddy" publications, closer to his own.

The girls had charitable words to say about Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Briney Spears. Unlike the usual spoiled pop culture princesses in Entertainment, Hef's girlfriends come across friendy and compassionate... the All-American model of the Girl Next Door.

And, what does Mr. Hefner have to say about all this? "I'm a lucky cat on many, many levels. At my age, it doesn't get any better than this!" No kidding!
In The Mix

Fever Tree All Natural Mixers Go Back to Basics

Would you marinate a beautiful filet of beef or fish in Crisco? Or, present organic veggies fresh from the Farmer's Market alongside Spam-in-a-can? Probably not.

So, when choosing mixers for a well-crafted cocktail, why would you blend a premium spirit with a second-rate tonic or ginger ale?

All-natural Fever Tree premium mixers appear to be the only product on the market addressing this very dilemma. And, the world is taking notice.

Shortly after winning first prize at the World Gastronomic Festival in Spain, Uber Celebrity Chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli invited Fever Tree co-founders Tim Warrillow and Charles Rolls for a 36-course meal at his acclaimed restaurant ("acclaimed" as in the BEST restaurant in the world, second year running)! Chef Adria even incorporated the Fever Tree tonic into a chilled palate-cleansing soup. (Need I say more?)

Warrillow, a resident of London, was in Los Angeles, recently, and I had the opportunity to sit down with him (at the gorgeous Beverly Hills Luxury Hotel - also known as the "Pretty Woman" hotel to movie buffs) and taste his product alongside competitors, such as Schwepps. There is no denying that the subtle flavors of Fever Tree mixers lack the unpleasant and sickly sweet, mouth-coating that corn syrup and preservatives leave behind.

Leading up to the first sip of his celebrated tonic water, Tim whipped out four vials of essential oils (African marigold, Tanzanian bitter orange, lime oil and coriander) and suggested I take a whiff of each. (btw - There are 8 botanicals total in their tonic but as Tim beguilingly pointed out, “We must keep some secrets.”)

After running down a brief history of quinine as medicinal remedy for British officers staving off Malaria in India during the early 19th Century, Warrillow went even further back in history to the root (or shall I say “bark”) of quinine’s origins…

He explained that around 1620, European explorers in Peru took note of the Chinchona, or “Fever Tree.” Native people chewed on the bark of the tree (high in quinine) to help cure gastro-intestinal problems. Warrillow points out, “Quinine is as important to medicine as gunpowder is to war.”

Tim and his business partner, Charles (former owner of Plymouth Gin) spent several weeks in Peru, exploring quinine’s history. They discovered that, in fact, Chinchona trees are essentially extinct in Peru, from over-harvesting of the tree. The quinine in Fever Tree mixers comes from Africa, where European colonialists planted Chinchonas along the Rwanda - Congo border.

Fever Tree’s ginger ale is equally exotic, and features four kinds of ginger: Nigerian, Indian and Ecuadorian, which each have a highly distinct smell. (Tim brought those essential oils, too!) Blended together, the spice and aroma complements darker spirits such as whiskey or rum.

Personally, I am most excited about Fever Tree’s Bitter Lemon. Commonly found in Europe (so refreshing on a hot Meditrranean afternoon! I like to add a dash of my other bitter favorite Campari to it), Bitter Lemon is not as known in the US, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that changed soon…

So, just as you pay attention to the ingredients in a dish, consider what goes into your cocktails. A quality drink is only as good as what goes in the mix!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ask The Liquid Muse

Sipster, Tzvi from Israel is looking for some unique liqueurs for his bar. Here is his question, and a few of my recommendations. If anyone has any to add, please do so in the comments!

Hi Natalie,
My name is Tzvi. I live in israel and I’m a bartender for the last 5
Years. I got a little bar in my home and now i got a great opertunity to make it bigger my aunt is coming back from NY. Can u recommend some liquers she can bring me? I’m lookin for something special like the St Germain liqueur.
Thanks, Tzvi

Hi Tzvi,
I’m happy to hear you read my post on St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. It is one of my favorite new discoveries! Other fun new and / or unusual products you may like to try out are:
  • Zen Green Tea Liqueur is very unique.
  • Amarula is from South Africa and is a delicious creamy liqueur.
  • Bailey Irish Cream has a decadent new Mint Chocolate flavor.
  • Gran Gala is an orange-flavored liqueur made with VSOP brandy. I used this as an ingredient in the Bodog JetSet Julep I created for’s Kentucky Derby promotion.
  • G’Vine is a newcomer with a delightfully fragrant and floral bouquet.
  • Finlandia Vodka has a new flavor – grapefruit! Personally, I love using grapefruit in cocktails, and this product is really versatile. Fresh and lightly citrus. Yum!
I hope that helps!
Natalie (aka: The Liquid Muse)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Is Designer Pet Water Going Too Far?

Sure, we love our pets but are we doing enough to encourage them to drink more water?

According to the French company, Special Waters, our animals are not sufficiently hydrated due to the unpleasant taste of cholrinated water we offer them from the tap. Their products contain "natural ingredients of vegetal origin" which entice the animal to drink more, resulting in better digestions and a "positive effect on the intestinal flora."

Revolutionary health supplement or marketing ploy targeted toward obsessive cat -and dog-lovers of the world? Let your furry friend be the judge and check it out.

Derby Hats, Eats and Blue Bloods?

Ok, I promised some of you Kentucky Derby photos. Between my new website (still polishing it), creating a Signature Preggatini for a baby shower in LA, and a zillion other projects, I'm a bit behind on posts again!

(Sneak Preview of other Upcoming Coverage: "Vegas in 24 Hours," and a special wine tasting with Winemaker, Philip Shaw)

So, back to the Kentucky Derby, which was not entirely what I expected...

Wading around the stadim in ankle-high trash - cups, beer cans, stray julep glasses - surrounded by rowdy drunks felt more like being at a football game than the esteemed Kentucky Derby.

I had envisioned genteel Southern civility and high-brow folk. Something like Scarlett O'Hara goes to the races. Instead I'd describe it this way:

The Derby Cocktail
One Part Fun-Lovin' America
n Tradition
One Part Blue Blood Pow-Wow
One Part Drunken College Kids Who'll Party Anywhere
One Part White Trash in Sundresses

Shake and Spill into overflowing slop bucket.
ish with a glimpse of the most beautiful horses in the world running by, from time to time.

I have no idea where the Queen and celebs hang out. There must be some secret luxury chamber...

Anyway, upside were the hats AND the flutter in my heart everytime the horses ran by! The magnificent Street Sense won - and would you believe that two people I was with bet on that very horse!

Overall, Louisville is a friendly place, and has some bubbles of hot spots. Definitely check out Bardstown Road for shopping and dining. And, I recommend the two restaurants I visited while there:

Bourbons Bistro is nestled into an historic building and features more than 130 whiskey and bourbons - with bourbon flights available. Brilliant idea! I wanted to taste test three of the current leading luxury brands side-by-side, so I had Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek and Bulleit, with my personal preference in that order.

The dining area felt a bit like a wedding reception where extra guests suddenly showed up. I'm sure the Derby weekend is their busiest time of year, and taking the service into account, I'd say they hired a few "extra" servers who may not work there year 'round. Also, I'd say the exposed-brick bar would be more fun as it seemed pretty happening with the 25 -40 crowd.

What Club Grotto lacked in ability to
honor reservation times, made up for in wine selection. The steak was good, too. I'd like to go back sometime when it isn't Derby time, as I imagine it would be a more relaxing experience.

In any case, enjoy these hat photos! I know there are some fashion mavens out there... These will surely get your tongues a-waggin'!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Can You Spot Taste?

Visit Tastespotting and you don't even have to answer that question...

When I notice a spike in TLM traffic, I follow the link back to see from whence it came. Tastespotting's Entry #1659 links to my post "Shut Up and Drink Your Sushi" reporting on Smirnoff Mixologist, Cameron Bogue's De-Constructed Cocktail.

Man, am I glad to have come across that site. If a stylish food and drink website appeals to your sensibilites, Tastespotting is definitely one to bookmark!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Is $100,000 Lunch Too Rich For Your Tastebuds?

Magic, Martinis and Mario doesn't think so...

The celebrated "Modern Mixologist" (and my cocktail hero) Tony Abou-Ganim is one third of the entertainment-foodie-cocktailian wet-dream-team. Tony designs cocktails for high-end restaurants, liquor brands and his own cocktail videos. (Volume 1 of his new Modern Mixology series focuses on "Mixing the Classics," and Abou-Ganim's charisma drives home my theory that personality is 50% of cocktail presentation!)

Billy Harris calls his act "part laughter, part illusion and part motivation." Billy oozes glitzy Vegas showmanship, and stirs up fun for corporate gigs, serves as an MC-for-hire and, when not on the road, kicks it with the wife and baby.

One of America's most-loved celebrity chefs, Mario Batali, provides the grub for this over-the-top culinary experience, rolling out course after course of customized delicacies to suit the tastes of each client (each complemented by Tony's libations, of course). Who knows - with a good tip, Batali may even let you try on his famous orange clogs!

In this CNBC clip, the Tantalizing Trio demonstrate how the ultimate cocktail and food pairing sprinkles a little magic to your life...

*Photo borrowed from
Shut Up and Drink Your Sushi

Do you remember this Reeses peanut butter cup commercial?

“You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!
You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!”

Now, substitute "sushi" for "peanut butter" and "cocktail" for "chocolate" and you are close to describing the concept behind Mixologist, Cameron Bogue’s new cocktail.

It is one of the most crazy (as in crazy cool) things I have seen, heard about or tried in a long time.

As Grand Prize winner of Smirnoff Vodka’s cocktail competition, last year, he became their official company Mixologist for a 12+ month term. With that time drawing to a close, I was intrigued to hear some of the cocktail trends he has come across during his travels around the world.

Among the many fun things he is trying out, his Deconstructed Mixology is particularly intriguing.

A Vegas resident, Bogue was in LA a couple of weeks ago. During our meeting at a divey bar in Los Feliz, Cameron asked if I’d like to try one of his new cocktails and referenced a sushi tray which has been sitting on the table throughout our chat. Baffled, I watched him pull off the plastic lid, and hold it out to me, offering me a piece of what looked like tuna.

“This is the cocktail?” I incredulously marveled.

Ok… I apologize in advance for not being able to explain all the technical jargon Cameron pulled out while he was explaining how he did this. Frankly, I was so busy being blown away at how neat (yes, NEAT) this was that I only half heard. (Lord knows, I don't intend to try it at home, anyway…)

Basically, the “rice” is lychee puree, the tuna is made from Smirnoff’s new blueberry (antioxidants!) vodka. He used other flavored vodkas for the other kinds of sushi. He even used alcohol-soaked apple slices to create something that looks like ginger. The ingredients all together make one big martini – type drink.

All I can say is “Wow.”

Reeses ain’t got nothing on this guy.

*Photo courtesy of Sminoff vodka

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Pegu Gets Confidential in the AC...

No, not The OC... The AC... (as in Atlantic City - duh!) keeps its residents in
style with the shiny new AC Confidential.

Thanks to David and Brian for the shout out. And, seriously guys, your post featuring the Pegu Cocktail made me thirsty!! A timeless classic, for sure.

btw - if any of you Sipsters find yourselves in The AC this summer, check out Nikki Beach. I was there for its opening weekend and liked it a lot. It is very similarly laid out as the one in St. Tropez - big white mattresses - which I loved suntanning on in France... no tan lines, if you catch my drift! You may have to keep your tops on in New Jersey but the mojitos and caipi's are still great.
How Does Paris Look In Orange?

Sign the Petition to Stop Her Pardon, and Make LA Streets A Little Safer

Sure, I write about cocktails and wines, and the “sizzling” restaurants, bars and events at which they’re served. Sipping them is fun and games. Driving afterward is not.

People who are rich or famous or – worst of all – both create a fantasy in their ego-inflated heads that they are above the law. Paris Hilton seems to think that being punished for her drunk and reckless driving, and subsequent driving on a suspended license, is "cruel." Huh?

Referring to her sentence to spend 45 days in jail, the girl who bought her way into fame stated, "I feel that I was treated unfairly and that the sentence is both cruel and unwarranted and I don't deserve this,” according to USA Today.

Hilton seems to think she is a victim in this situation due to her perceived harassment by police, as explained in Harpers Bazaar, “The cops … pull me over to hit on me. It's really annoying. They're like, 'What's your phone number? Want to go to dinner?' … I have so many cops' business cards.”

Yeah. Uh, like, whatever… Drunken heiresses serving all over the road, endangering others, is sooo attractive. Especially to LAPD.

The really tragic thing in all of this is that by yesterday morning, nearly 1000 “Paris fans” signed a petition asking the Governator to pardon her because she brings "beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives."

If you find that as sad and pathetic as I do and, even worse, have vague recollections of celebrities getting away with, oh, say murder (ahem, OJ) take out a little extra “justice insurance” and sign the petition to render this birdbrain diva’s life a little less simple…

At least ,with Paris Hilton behind bars the Los Angeles Police will no longer be distracted by her magnetic charm and compelling beauty and can get back to fighting crime in the city. Whew. What a relief.

*Photo from IMDB