Friday, August 31, 2007

Today Is The Deadline for the Sqaure Off!

Get out your cocktail shakers and whip up the winning drink recipe in the cocktail contest! I'll keep an eye out for you at the finals in San Francisco on September 25...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't Get Left Out!

If you did not get this week's Cocktail of the Week, it is your own darn fault!

Just go to the homepage of my website and sign up.

Do you really want everyone else to know what to drink and where to drink it, while you sit home on your own wishing you had something fun to do?
Trump This!

The Cocktail...

Want my (not-so) secret recipe from the Trumptini website? Click here, then go to Trumptini recipes.

And, if you want to enter the cocktail contest, click on that button. You may get $10,000, a trip to the Windy City and a pile 'o frozen Trump steaks.

If you win, be sure to let me know so I can feature you on The Liquid Muse homepage's Bartender Diaries!
So You Wanna Be A Bartender?

Miss Charming to the Rescue!

Let's face it. If you live in LA, NYC or Vegas, you know that a good bartending gig is as competitive to land as a regular role on a daytime soap.

If you're a "creative type" looking for extra cash (and bartending is the top of the heap) you may be in for a rude awakening. Just showing up to fill out an application ain't enough anymore. You need a resume. A good one.

In addition to being a published author (8 books under her belt) Cheryl Charming has been a bartender for many years. For a reasonable fee, she can craft your "passport" to a killer "day job." And, who knows, once you're a star behind the bar, you may just tell Hollywood to take a hike!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Get Ready to Square Off!

Do you make killer cocktails? Do you have a way with libations? Here is your chance to show the world! (Deadline is THIS WEEK!)

Co-hosted by and Om Organics, the finals take place on September 25th from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

CHOW has selected Square One(R) Organic Vodka as the featured spirit for this event, and
invites amateur and professional liquid chefs to submit their recipes on (Your recipes must use Square One and other organic ingredients.)

The two final contenders will be brought to San Francisco for a shakin’ showdown before a public audience and a committee of food and wine authorities.

Here’s how it works:

- create an original recipe for a pitcher cocktail using Square One(R) Organic Vodka and at least 75% organic ingredients.

- send recipe to

At the Square Off finals, the contestants will face two further challenges:

*develop one cocktail using ingredients culled from the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building that day
*and a second cocktail based on a mystery seasonal, organic ingredient.

The judges' verdicts on the three total drinks will determine the winner. The Square Off's five-person judging panel includes Jacques Bezuindenhout of San Francisco's renowned Harry Denton's Starlight Room, Jane Goldman of Chow, Natalie Bovis-Nelsen of The Liquid (yes, that’s me!) and one lucky local consumer.

Ticket proceeds from the final event will benefit the non-profit groups Om Organics and CUESA and their mission to promote organic and local foods. Additional event sponsors include Imbibe Magazine, Ideal Bite, Bacar Restaurant San Francisco, and Pro Designs Pro Bar Set.

For more information, click here.
See Christi Naked

Christiania Vodka's Competition

Have an eye for art? Or just like nudie images? Today, Christiania vodka announces the finalists in its "New Nude" competition on its site:

When I first heard about Christiania vodka, I thought it must be from Denmark. I visited Copenhagen's bohemian neighborhood, called Christiania, back in 1999 when backpacking around with some Ozzie fellas I met in Stockholm. The creative vibe, art-filled sidewalks (and sides of buildings) along with the "peace and love" squatters in those buildings and legalized hash kept us there for two out of three afternoons.

However, Christiania vodka is Norweigan (Oslo, Norway's capital was once called Chrisitiana, too). It is made from organic potatoes and crystal clean Norweigan water. (or so says their site...) Judging by the taste, I believe it. It has a clean finish and is smooth on the tongue, which is all I ask of a vodka, after all.

So, pull up a chair, peruse some erotic art, sip a Norweigan cocktail and relive some fancy-free days of your own...
Dangers of Drinking

Booze and Broads

You may just have so much fun sampling cocktails and watching Miss Charming's bar tricks (like I did at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans) that you won't resist the urge to reach out and lick the tip of her nose!

(Or, maybe I was just thanking her for the adorable "girl in the glass" earrings she had just given me...)
Yellowtail Rolls Out Sparkler

You know when your friend Sammie invites you to a party, and you don't want to go empty-handed but you haven't gotten paid yet this month, so you're a little tight on cash, but you want to bring something fun and festive and tasty, which doesn't cost a fortune, but will be enjoyed by all?

The new Yellow Tail sparkling wine knows what you mean, mate.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Backyard Bartender

Are you looking to do a bit more entertaining while we still have long days and warm evenings? Do you want to pick up a few basic skills to delight guests?

Then, make it easy on yourself and pick up a copy of The Backyard Bartender by Nicole Aloni. The cookbook author (she has previously published Cooking for Company and Secrets From a Caterers Kitchen) covers some bar basics, then launches in to 55 fun and easy make-at-home drinks to suit almost any summer occasion.

She covers a few classics like a Negroni, Manhattan and Sidecar. She also covers a few of what she deems will become classics such as a Chocolate Citron and Hot Stuff. (I haven't heard of either of these, yet, but will keep my eyes open...)

There are a few juices for non-drinkers such as pregnant ladies (they're not quite Preggatinis (tm) but they do look refreshing).

Overall, it is a lovely addition to the home bartender's collection. And, the gorgeous photos by Colleen Duffley add colorful visuals. (Remember, Christmas is only 4 months away...)
No Mercy for Vick

I'll raise a glass when that sadistic animal abuser, Michael Vick, is behind bars. During the trial, it was reported that if a pit bull did not become vicious enough after the cruel "training" it endured, it was killed, in very inhumane ways. According to prosecutors, "dogs were hanged, drowned and electrocuted."

Someone who bankrolled a dog fighting ring, as he did, should get 5 years in prison. Because he apologized today, and admitted he did wrong (duh!) he will get 12 months, if that.

Unfortunately, as we've learned from watching OJ Simpson, Kobe Bryant (sorry Laker fans) and numerous other celebrity sports stars gone bad, he'll probably walk with a slap on the wrist, and a big, fat, lucrative career.

These are the frustrations that drive a gal to drink!
Sustainable Sips Cocktail Class

It's So Intoxicatingly Easy Being Green...

For those of you who missed it in July, I'll be at it again on Friday, September 7!

Joe Keeper, owner of the uber-hip and popular Bar Keeper in Silverlake, presents cocktail classes to his patrons once a month, featuring a different bartender or mixologist, each time.

During my "guest appearance" at Joe's place, you will mingle with other eco-minded drinkers, learn how to craft an organic cocktail using Square One organic vodka, nibble on a few hors d'oeuvres - and guess what people -- its FREE!

Let me know if you're coming so I can save you a cocktail. They're gonna go fast!

Trump This!

So, there's this little old cocktail contest over at The winner gets 10K and a trip to Chicago. Oh yeah, and a pile o' frozen steaks shipped to their home.

I've entered. Oh yes, I did. And, I'm not gonna tell ya what I made... I will only tell ya that you'll have a hard time 'trumping' my Trumptini!

Let's see whachu got, suckas!
Celebrity Sips

Rebecca Gayheart Gets Cozy at Abode

Red carpets, famous faces, paparazzi hiding in bushes - in LA, attending a restaurant opening is not too different from attending a movie premiere.

Take, for instance, the splashy, flashy opening of Santa Monica's lovely Abode Restaurant and Lounge, in April. The wall-to-wall glamorous crowd included actors, musicians and high-end beach dwellers.

I hear that TV and movie actress, Rebecca Gayheart (pictured here with Abode's owners, Anastasia and Kelly) particularly enjoyed their green tea martini made with tea, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and topped with edible flowers. (It's one of my westside faves, too!)

Subscribe to The Liquid Muse Cocktail of the Week to get the full recipe - and a drink special just for mentioning The Liquid Muse...!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Coming Un-Corked

Cork vs. Screw
Top: A 'Sustainable' Debate...

I admit that, at first, the thought of screw top wine conjured images of my mom and her girlfriends in 1970's San Francisco, chatting over cigarettes and syrupy sweet "white zinfandel" while listening to Helen Reddy records. It also reminds me of when we moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a few years later, that screw top
Thunderbird or Mad Dog "wine" was the drink of choice for the Indi-bums who hung out in the alley behind my parents' bead shop.

However, in the last few years, when I finally put the stigma aside and screwed the top off some fine vintages from around the world, I learned that they are increasingly used by winemakers to ensure their wines don't become "corked." (Not to mention, they are damn convenient on a picnic!)

Today, though, thoughtful consumers go beyond both style and substance aside... to ask about sustainability. This article by Sarah Skidmore (AP) addresses how screw top wines affect workers in the cork industry, the environment and the future of acres of cork trees.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Big Fat Hearty Welcome to the Youngest Sipster Yet!

Three cheers for the bean! Who already appreciates the effects of a well-crafted spirit!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Speaking of Style...

Born in Nice, France, Clothing Designer Nicole Farhi launched her design career in Paris before moving to London in the early 70's.

Today, I wandered through her flagship store on the incredibly chic New Bond Street, London's most exclusive shopping district. I quickly realized I was severely under-dressed for clothes shopping, in my lucky jeans, button down shirt and gold shoes. Luckily, I was wearing a rain coat, which helped hide my "uncouth" and badly matched outfit!

Once inside, I was impressed by the feminine, classic pieces. Not fussy or overly "trendy," the cashmere sweaters, linen trousers and breezy chiffon dresses typify the modern, well-to-do sophisticate. Her clothes are equally appropriate in the boardroom, an elegant restaurant or a popular nightspot.

The store also has a fab bar, downstairs, which boasts a signature cocktail called The Flirtini made with Bombay Sapphire gin, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime. (Is there any other way to kick off a shopping spree??)

Farhi has added a line of fabulous accessories, so I couldn't resist taking home a couple of little souvenirs... Like this fabulous playful pair of heels and an adorable little leather bag (both pictured above). My new friend, Tara, got a super cute swing cut black raincoat, which works out well as the drizzle is a constant since we've arrived.

But, no complaints. I'm sure I speak for both of us to say that our new duds fill our hearts with sunshine...
London Rocks

On one trip to London with my mom and sister, when I was a kid – circa 1981 – I remember seeing a group of teenagers walking down the street. One of them wore tight black pants and his hair stood straight up, like a porcupine, with purple on the tips. Another had on dark black eyeliner – a guy, I might add. And, this girl had on a red plaid skirt with steel toe boots, laced up to her knees.

I had not yet heard of punk rock, and it certainly hadn’t hit Santa Fe, where our family lived at the time. Intrigued and a little appalled, I could only stare.

As proven by the Beatles, the punks and the British version of The Office, the English are drenched in forward-thinking style. Just take a peek at The Haymarket Hotel, open since May 2007.

Centrally located in Piccadilly Circus, the Haymarket is in the heart of London’s theatre district. The master architect, John Nash, is the same designer behind Buckingham Palace and this hotel’s adjoining Haymarket Theatre Royal.

The interior of the hotel reflects an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic, exotic and traditional, ornate and simple.

Gold couches, the indoor pool bar, the "honesty bar" in the living room lounge (where guests help themselves to everything from mini Bombay Sapphire bottles to splits of Krug) are unusual touches and constant reminders of the uniqueness of the space.

Interior Designer, Kit Kemp - also one of the owners - has left her stylish fingerprint throughout the property. Everything from the refreshingly happy wallpaper to the mini bar inside a huge walk-in closet suggest attention to detail. At once playful and sophisticated, this boutique hotel leaves both the corporate traveler and touring Rockstar feeling like they’ve found a home away from home.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

London Calling...

Don't Hate Me because I'm Dutiful (to reporting on the world's hottest cocktails!)

The wanderlust in my little Musey heart is all a-flutter. I just love packing a suitcase. The anticipation of travel, the intrigue of a new adventure, the cocktails just waiting to be consumed...

And, if anywhere is a cocktail destination, its London!

The birthplace of the classic cocktail resurgence, the stomping ground of top-tier Mixologists, the epi-center for new cocktailian trends - London is the place to poke around.

I can tell you how much I love England (my mom is from London) and how whenever I go, I feel a deep connection with the imperial island. I'm obsessed with the Arthurian legends (my alter-ego is named Avalon); I drool over Bentleys, Jags and Rolls Royces; and my enthusiasm over having England's hottie captain playing for my home-town soccer team is almost too explosive to contain.

But... all that aside, the topic which gets me all lathered up is London's Cocktail Culture. I'll be visiting several intriguing places - the Library Bar, the American Bar at the Savoy, Lonsdale, Montgomery Place, St. Mary Axe at the "Gherkin," and Fifty are on the agenda. Tune in to read my interviews with the respected Mixologists, reportage of their
mind-blowing cocktails, and some overall observations of London's cocktailian world compared to our own.

And, if I get a moment to squeeze in another spot, or two, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. You, the great and mighty readership of The Liquid Muse, are part of this experience, after all! (I'll be blogging along the way.)

So, to get myself in a groovy kind of mood, I'm mixing up a good, old classic martini with - what else - Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin.

Chip, Chip, Cheerio, lads!
The Next Internet Millionaire

To say I didn’t find this show particularly compelling is being polite.

The host / brains behind this show, Joel Comm, comes across as arrogant, and lacks the charisma of Donald Trump, whom he is obviously trying to emulate. And, while the concept of his show is modeled after The Apprentice, there are several major differences:

- Joel Comm (who tells us he's made millions on the internet, sold a site to Yahoo and had a book on the NYT Best Sellers List) is not exactly a household name, like Donald Trump. He seems like a clever, though rather dull, computer nerd who dreams that his cash (and self-manufactured "fame") will make up for his lack of sex appeal and wit. (I almost laughed out loud when Joel was giving the contestants tips on "stage presence." Puh-lease!)

- It wasn't immediately clear what job the person would "win." Joel says that the person will work with him in his next venture but I would have been more interested if he said what that venture was, or how much money they would make doing it. They get $25,000 if they win the contest - which I'm guessing is some sort of 'signing bonus.' Of course, the catch to receiving it is participating in this lackluster internet show. (Frankly, all I could think about is how much having to listen to this Joel guy everyday would totally get on my nerves.)

- The cast members (sorry, "contestants") are a barely a step up from Joel, as far as "star quality." (how did they find these people? why does the one guy hate the word "blog?") Again, compared to the hot-looking, well dressed folks on The Apprentice, well, let's just say this crew fits well with The Next Internet Millionaire. What's worse is the obvious maneuvering by the producers of this so-called reality show to create a little drama - like highlighting the staunch Republican spouting his views, and the girl who says that when her family watches this show they'd understand what she does alone in bed all day. She then falls into a fit of embarrassment and begs the camera guy to cut that part. Yawn.

I was hoping to learn something from episode one, as I would love tips on internet marketing, etc. It would be very helpful to learn how to get The Liquid Muse website further out to the world and bringing in more moo-la. (Cocktails ain't cheap, these days!)

But, by minute 15 of the 51 minute show, I couldn't take it. I wanted to rip my hair out from sheer and utter boredom. Anyone else watch it?

*photo from Joel's website

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Good News For California Wineries...

The Golden State's vintages, under $39, are top sellers across the U.S., according to Winemetrics LLC. Beringer, Kendall-Jackson, Robert Mondavi, Beaulieu Vineyard top the list. Read more here.
Yo Ho Ho - Happy Rum Day!

Have you noticed the rum trend? Pull off the eyepatch and take a look around. Rum is big! From a classic Pina Colada (not the crappy pre-mixed kind but a real one) to Tiki Drinks to quality sippers, rum is an ingredient no self-respecting bar can be without.

In honor of Rum Day, I am featuring a rum near and dear to my heart, Old New Orleans Rum. I first came across this rum at Tales of the Cocktail. Ben Gersh, the main dude, gave me a sample and I was hooked. (get it? pirate hoo... forget it.) I love this product, not only because it tastes to dang good but also because it represents the people
of New Orleans: strong, spicy and rich in character.

Old New Orleans Rum is not only the oldest rum distillery in the United States but the onlyhave won a bunch of awards. Along with his band of bon-vivants, James Michalopolous, a celebrated New Orleans artist, founded the Celebration Distillery where Old New Orleans rum is made.

The hand crafted, small batch premium artisan blends made from only Louisiana sugar cane molasses employs their own unique distillation process, of our creation, that is part pot still and part column still. Want to know what that means? I asked Ben to explain:

“A pot still is a simpler instrument that distills a less concentrated alcohol, but with more complex flavor. A column still is a more complicated still that actually redistills many times at once and produces a more refined, higher proof alcohol.

A pot still is just as it says…a pot. It is covered, is has a tube inserted that runs to another vessel. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature then water. When the alcohol boils and vaporizes it is released through the tube into the second vessel where it condenses. And there you have your alcohol. A pot still will give you an alcohol with a very robust flavor, however leaving impurities in the alcohol.

With a column still, there is a column that acts as the vehicle for the vaporized alcohol. As the alcohol rises it condenses and settles on graduating plates that taper up the column. This creates a more pure alcohol."

If you are in NOLA, celebrate with the folks from the Celebration Distillery at Restaurant Anatole for the Celebrity Bartender Bash where each celebrity bartender will create a specialty cocktail featuring New Orleans Rum. A portion on the proceeds will be donated to Deuce McAllister's Catch 22 Foundation, which is dedicated to enhancing the lives of under-privileged youth and adolescents in the Gulf South Region.

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
How To Plan A Picnic

Option 1: Spend half the day planning a menu, food shopping, cooking. Then, pack everything into the pieces of tupperware which actually have matching lids. Search the back of the kitchen cabinets for paper plates left over from last year's holiday party. Stuff it all into that backpack you've had hanging around since college.

- OR -

Option 2: Pick up your phone and call Napa Valley Grille, in Westwood.

Whether your favorite LA outing is spending an afternoon at the beach, an evening at the Hollywood Bowl or catching dinner-and-a-movie amongst the dead, bring along a wine-country worthy bag of goodies:

*The Napa Menu features a crunchy sweet pea and wild arugula salad with shaved fennel in a lemon vinaigrette; a large lobster and jumbo crab salad sandwich and an assortment of artisnal cheeses. $37

*The Sonoma Menu has a sweet corn and mushroom salad; sliced pink-in-the-middle roasted prime sirloin with roasted fingerling potato salad and a shortcake surrounded by plump berries and cream. $35

*The Carneros Menu presents a sweet-and-savory chopped salad of romaine and radicchio, smoked blue cheese and tart apple in a honey-sherry vinaigrette; a Harvest Platter featuring a gorgeous assortment of salami, proscuitto, buratta cheese, marinated olives and eggplant tapenade, and house-baked cookies for dessert. $27

(Insider Tip: Although the prices are suggest "per person," these picnics are easily big enough for two.)

Each of the above also includes plates, silverware, bread and butter and the restaurant's signature sugared nuts. The restaurant can also pair a bottle of wine with your picnic - and even include a complimentary corkscrew!

Per Option 2, this place is going on my speed-dial...

*Picture courtesy of Kappa Mikey

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tea Cocktails To Go

If you want to experiment with the tea trend but don't want to do it yourself or hit up a skilled bartender to do it for you, grab a bottle of Smirnoff's latest pre-bottled cocktail product - Raw Tea. Between Raspberry, Lemon and Green Tea flavors, there is sure to be something to satisfy an on-the-go tea cocktail lover...
Getting Artsy With Van Gogh Vodka

Is it possible to paint with flavors? If so, then Van Gogh vodka takes the proverbial cake for creativity and range of flavors. I recently received a little sampling of their products. Among the flavors are: coconut, double espresso, pineapple, acai-blueberry, pomegranate and banana.

I immediately used the banana flavored vodka in some No Pudge Fudge low-cal brownies. (A delicious enhancement.) As far as cocktails go, there are infinite possibilities. I suppose its up to you, and your own creative imagination...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hollywood Forever

I’ve been dying (no pun intended) to watch one of the movies in Hollywood’s most famous cemetery since I first heard about it, a few years ago. Back then, I believe they showed all classic movies. People could relaxed-ly show up with food and wine and casually wander in, meander down the cemetery path and lackadaisical plop down any old place to enjoy a movie projected against the mausoleum wall.

Like everything in our fair city, cool stuff doesn’t stay underground for long. I finally made it out two Saturdays ago, with my hubby and a group of friends. Dawn and Ben showed up around 6:45, like we did, but Dawn’s friend Roxanne had staked out our prime spot in the two-block-long line a couple of hours earlier!

When the gates opened at 7:30, hoards of people filed in, each handing over $10 to the gal at the front and nearly raced each other past headshot-bearing tombstones to snatch up a little parcel of land. Our asses securely “par-terre,” we did what any respectful people would do in a cemetery - and uncorked the wine.

Of course, the first bottle of wine went down way too easily. So, we opened a couple more. My new favorite, easy to drink wine (and easy to take along with its screw tops!) is Eleven Tongues. This delightful, South African wine is named for the 'eleven tongues' spoken in that country. I've tried the Shiraz, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and really enjoyed them all.

As we noshed on Roxanne’s fried chicken and nibbled on humus, guacamole and salad. Sitting there amongst good people, both living and dead, I breathed a sigh, happy to be in LA, living the oh-so-glamorous life.

Shortly thereafter, the wine had played its part and I grimaced at the thought of standing line the 50-person long line for the port-a-pottys. This is where I was really impressed with Cinespia, the organizers of this event. Not only were there security guards keeping everything rolling along in an orderly fashion but the portable poopers were clean and didn't even smell bad. THAT alone is worth ten bucks!

The surprise of the evening was when the star of the featured film showed up to speak before the movie. Paul Reubens (aka: Pee Wee Herman) co-wrote the film with Phil Hartman and Michale Varhol. I didn't realize that it was also one of Tim Burton's early directing gigs. Nestled comfortably in cocoon of blankets, it was hard to leave. Then again, looking back, it is a cemetary, after all. I guess leaving is a luxury for which I should have been grateful...

There are only a few screenings left for the summer, so grab a blanket, a picnic and some buddies and head over to Hollywood Forever. Life is too short to waste time...
The Bartender Diaries – Dr. Tea

I arrive at the Tea Garden at 11:15 am. I was supposed to be there at 11:00. I hate being late. I take a deep breath and put on my “professional face,” which was just contorted into my “stressed out LA driver face,” 25 seconds earlier. I walk in with a big smile, shake Dr. Tea’s hand, note the orange lab coat, pull out my notebook and get my pen poised for action.

“Let’s sit down and have some tea,” he says. I’m ready to start scribbling interview notes when I look up to see he’s calmly peering down at me, with a little smirk. I’ve barely had a chance to focus my eyeballs after speeding along the 101, tearing down La Cienega and fumbling through my purse for bottom-feeder change to stuff in the meter. I only came up with a nickel and three dimes. Crap.

“A lot of the passion is centered around reading my clients,” Dr. Tea explains, knowingly. “Ninety percent of the time, I’m right.”

Yeah, he’s right. I could use some tea, and a minute to “center.” I take a cool sip of a pomegranate-strawberry-raspberry-hibiscus-rooibus blend placed in front of me, and the muscles between my shoulders and neck drop down about an inch.

He steps behind the counter to begin the demonstrations and asks, “Have you tried a Capa-tea-no?” I shake my head. It’s still a little groggy. If a capa-tea-no is anything like a cappuccino, I want one.

Dr. Tea eyes me as if he’s heard my mind’s grumbling. “I was a 15-cups a day coffee drinker,” he says, buzzing between the cupboards and hot water machine and tea canisters lining the walls. “Drinking ‘coffee-tea’ will change you -mentally, physically, spiritually.”

My defenses go up and I inwardly assure myself that I’m not seeking to change. Apart from losing 20 pounds, sleeping though the night and re-connecting to inner-peace-loving-Goddess, I have no aspirations to change a thing.

“Roasted oolong is the closest to a coffee bean. Instead of coffee every day, people could have “coffee-tea,” he says and goes on to explain that unlike our favorite Starbucks or Coffee Bean drinks, the Tea Garden’s “Capa-tea-no” has only 45 calories, 0 grams of fat. Ok, he’s got a point.

Dr. Tea’s "real" name is Mark Ukra. He claims that his family has been in the tea business for more than 240 years - specifically in the area around Baghdad, until the 1930’s. His personal goal is to take tea from being the 6th most popular drink in the U.S. to the 2nd most popular, as it is in the rest of the world.

Ukra first opened the Tea Garden in Venice Beach in the late 80’s, then expanded to Brentwood in 1993. Less than two months ago, he opened doors to its current location on Melrose (former site of Elixir). Watching him behind his "bar," pouring, swirling, blending, stirring, concocting liquid delights, the similarities between what he does at Tea Garden and what a skilled bartender do are very similar: charm, entertain, satisfy. Dr. Tea has become a "Teatender" in my notes.

Referring to himself as a “nose and palate man,” Ukra says he’s enjoyed cooking since childhood and considers himself somewhat of an expert in champagnes, wines and scotches. He’s also got a romantic streak, which comes out when he sings the praises of his favorite beverage:

“Little did I know how sexy tea is! I found that when I ordered a pot of tea on a date, instead of an espresso, women saw me as kind, gentle, a listener.” His smirk returns, with a hint of mischief, “Tea became my secret ‘sexy’ weapon.”

Speaking of sexy, how about the faux-desserts Dr. Tea whips up in his blender? His Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (made from chocolate mint tea, soy milk and ice) has only 60 calories. And, his Orange Sherbet has only 50.

In addition to health benefits from its anti-oxid
ants, Dr. Tea sees tea as a useful culinary and cocktail ingredient. “Tea brings out the flavor in everything,” he declares. “It is the single most perfect plant nature created.”

He explains that people seek stimulation from unhealthy sources such as caffeine, nicotine, marijuana and cocaine may want to consider tea’s pleasure enhancing qualities. “Tea has L-Theanine which enters the body from the small intestine and stimulates a feeling of happiness and bliss.”

Which brings us to cocktails. Dr. Tea’s version of a Pina Colada (pineapple and coconut teas) would be a more healthful (and lower calorie) version of a traditional drink. Just blend the tea, soymilk and a little rum, garnish with a pineapple wedge and pink umbrella - and voila!

Basically, any of his teas can be incorporated into tea cocktails, and several bars around LA have been taking heed. I’ve developed a few for recent events – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. In fact, the tea trend has been going strong around the country for a while now, as you’ll see in the May issue of my monthly cocktail column in Northern Virginia Magazine, and this Liquid Muse Blog write up on Zen Green Tea liqueur, from February.

“Everything here is a mirage,” says Dr. Tea, spreading out his orange arms, gesturing toward the four walls of his tea store, and the beautiful Zen garden in the back. “The Tea Garden about teaching and guiding. It’s not about selling.”

“Yeah, suuure,” I think, as I walk out of the Tea Garden with 2 free samples of tea, a bunch of new drink ideas and a joyful heart. (Doh! His point is well made, again!)

I reluctantly admit to myself that by the end of this interview with Dr. Tea, I’ve become a believer. I didn’t even cuss (too loudly) when I peeled the parking ticket for an expired meter off my windshield.

Tea may have already changed my life.

*Want to recommend a subject for The Bartender Diaries? E-me at:

** Keep an eye out for The Liquid Muse Cocktail Show’s upcoming Webisode, featuring this visit with Dr. Tea, filmed by Margaret Howell.
Acai - the Wonder Fruit - in a Bottle

Just as pomegranate became the new coconut water, so acai becomes the new pomegranate. In reality, acai has been revered and enjoyed for generations in cultures around the Rain Forest. Most notably, in Brazil, which is where I first tried an acai "slushee" while taking in Carnavale, a few years ago. Deep purple-red, with a bit of tang, the "wonder fruit" is said to be packed with anti-oxidants and boosts energy. Taking a look around at the sexy, samba-ing population in Rio, I figured a million Brazilians can't be wrong...

Fast forward 5 years, and I'm sitting in a corner of Sunset Tower bar, in Hollywood, overlooking the
sprawling, twinkling LA landscape with Carter Reum, Co-founder of VeeV Acai Liqueur. He's explaining that his brother and business partner, Courtney, has just returned from the Rain Forest in Brazil, where he shimmied up trees to pick acai berries, for himself. He was also getting a first-hand education on Rain Forest preservation and environmentally friendly acai farming, as their company donates $1 from each bottle toward these causes.

Apparently, the little acai berries are something like 95% pit, so considering the flesh and skin are needed to "juice" the little suckers, it takes barrels of them to get a glassful. (Ok, I'm exaggerating but you get my point.) Therefore, the Brothers Reum are setting standards in place with regard to their product, so as not to contribute to further pillaging of the area.

In only three months since their launch, Carter and Courtney have managed to secure some of LA's most prized, high-end venues as clients: Les Deux, Nic's, the Peninsula Hotel, Dolce, Ketchup, Bar Nineteen 12, Katana, Sushi Roku, X bar, Citizen Smith, Skybar, Charcoal, etc.

The Sunset Tower, for example, has even come up with a cocktail called The Demitri, the namesake of their well-known, local personality. Its a delicious, refreshing drink, and you'll be hearing about it from me again soon... Here's a hint - sign up for The Liquid Muse Cocktail Club's Cocktail of the Week, and you'll get the whole scoop!

VeeV Liqueur is a blend of all-natural acai, prickly pear and B-vitamins. While the suggestion that these ingredients leads to a night of hang-over free drinking seems somewhat dubious to an experienced drinker, like myself, Carter says he has a whole folder full of people who support the theory. My suggestion is to enjoy a yummy cocktail, or two, made with VeeV, and drive home safely. (This will ensure no hang-over, and guarentee that you won't rub orange-suited shoulders with the celebs who hang out at the places which serve it.)

After chatting with Carter, I was enthused enough about the product to whip up a little drinky, last night, when I got home. (see below) In the meantime, get thee to a LA hotspot, and try a VeeV cocktail for yourself, before the next "wonder fruit" comes along...!

The Liquid Muse Sunset Samba
1 ounce VeeV Acai Liqueur
1 ounce cachaca
2 1/2 ounces peach-mango juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
sparkling pomegranate juice

Shake Veev, cachaca, lime and peach-mango juices, with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Top with sparkling pomegranate juice. Samba the night away.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mixology Monday!

I finally got it to together and am participating in a Mixology Monday with my fellow cocktail bloggers. Created by Paul at the Cocktail Chronicles, a while back, these little gatherings have, apparently, captured the attention "big boys," like Food & Wine Magazine blog. (However, MxMo invitations continue to be passed around by the movers and 'shakers' of the Cocktailian Webosphere, so you Sipsters reading this are still getting the inside scoop!)

This month's "cocktail party" is hosted by the lovely Gwen at Intoxicated Zodiac. Her blog blends drinks and astrology - a niche within a niche! As a salute to the sun in Leo, Gwen has chosen "orange" as the theme for this month's cocktails. (And, might I add that I happen to be particularly partial to this sign. My husband, sister, mom and childhood best friend are all Leos. In fact, so are my mother-in-law and a few other good friends. Which reminds me, I'd better get out some birthday cards...!)

Staying with the Playboy theme, I've decided to feature the Orange Shell Cooler, featured in the Playboy Host & Bar Book (1971). I even mixed one up last night, as an "encore" after the Champagne Manhattan. I took a photo, which didn't come out too well. But, as they say, don't judge a book by its cover. Like a Playboy Centerfold, its what inside that counts.

1 extra large California orange
1 ounce 151 proof rum

1/2 ounce curacao

1/2 ounce lime juice

1 teaspoon

1 slice cocktail orange in syrup

“Cut a cap off top of orange about 1/ 2inch from top. With a sharp grapefruit knife, gouge out the meat, leaving orange shell intact. Squeeze enough juice from meat to make 1 1/2 ounces of juice. Shake orange juice, rum, , lime juice and sugar well with ice. Strain into orange shell. Place orange shell in a bowl or sup dish about 7 inches in diameter. Pack finely crushed ice around orange. Fasten orange slice onto cocktail spear and place across orange cup. Serve with a short colored straw. A show- off concoction for drink hobbyists and rum specialists.”

Natalie's notes: I used 10 Cane rum instead of 151. And, I didn't bother with a cocktail orange in syrup. (Not sure where to find one of those, anyway. Sounds yucky.) I love mixing fresh juices and rum. (duh, right?) I am definitely going to play around with this recipe some more and find the perfect Liquid Muse twist...

Cheers, Gwen and all you other MxMo participants!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Celebrity Sips

Toast The Girls Next Door With Me, Tonight!

In honor of my favorite junk-food TV, I'm featuring a cocktail recipe from my very special cocktail book: Playboy's Host & Bar Book, published in 1971. This collection of recipes is compiled by Thomas Mario who became Food and Drink Editor at Playboy Magazine in 1953.

If you've followed The Liquid Muse for a while, you know I was super excited to create drinks for a fete at the Playboy Mansion, swooned over the Playboy Club in Vegas and even covered Larry King's coverage of the happy foursome.

As an avid Girls Next Door viewer, I learned Hef likes to include an element which hints at "the presence of a man" in the magazine's Centerfold pictorals. In other words, somewhere in the photo of the featured Playboy Playmate, there is a baseball cap, or a man's jacket, or something that suggests a man is nearby...

So, building on that concept, tonight at 10:00 pm, when The Girls Next Door airs in LA on E!, I'll be sipping something quite feminine, with a hint of masculine influence...

Champagne Manhattan (from aforementioned book)
1 ounce Canadian whisky
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash bitters
3 ounces iced brut champagne
1 brandied cherry

Stir whisky, vermouth and bitters well, with ice. Strain into prechilled champagne glass. Add champagne and brandied cherry.

Cheers, Girls!

*Photo from E! Online pix

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Get Fresh – and Furry – At the Fireplace Lounge in Monterey!

As if we needed another reason to pause with friends for happy hour (or another reason to visit one of the most beautiful parts of California) the dog-friendly Hyatt Regency Monterey features "Paws For a Cause."

Guests are invited to bring their four-legged pals to mix and mingle on the outdoor patio of the newly renovated Fireplace Lounge from 4:00pm until sunset. And, Carmel Dog Parties provides natural, gourmet treats for pampered pooches, many of
which are dipped in carob or yogurt for extra canine enticement, and made from 100% human grade ingredients.

For those of us who wander the earth upright, Margaritas and Mojitos are "fresh- squeezed" tableside. Featured drinks rotate each week, and the line up includes: a Cîroc Fresh Cosmo, Don Julio Watermelon Margarita, and the Sparkling Fresh Strawberry Lemonade.

Best of all, 15% of the proceeds from the sale of the specialty cocktails from the "Get Fresh" menu during “Paws For A Cause” will be donated directly to The SPCA of Monterey County. In addition to adoptions and vaccinations, The SPCA offers Petmeals, delivered pet meals to individuals who are unable to care for their pets, and, Hug-A-Pet, wherein certified companion dogs visit care facilities to provide healing companionship and affection.

I’m heading up tonight, so if you’re in the Monterey area, let’s share a drink and a tail wag!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tea-Tottling in Tinseltown!

Find out where to find soothing and refreshing tea cocktails around Los Angeles in my article featured in this week's Metro Mix LA!

Dr. Tea—A.K.A. Mark Ukra of Tea Garden—believes that when a man orders tea instead of coffee on a dinner date, the lady is more likely to see him as sensitive. "Tea has become my secret sexy weapon," he says. "It is the single most perfect plant nature has created.” Bartenders all across town must agree because these days, you're as likely to find tea steeped in a martini glass as you are in a tea cup.

X bar marks the spot for creative cocktails in Century City. Their aromatic Green Tea Martini blends high-quality Japanese green tea leaves and premium herbs infused with neutral spirits.

The brand new Hollywood hotspot One Sunset refreshes the “in” crowd with a herby-lemon Green MarTEAni made with Skyy Citrus, Zen Green Tea Liquor, and Fresh Lemon Juice.

Santa Monica’s Abode Restaurant & Lounge has the ladies swooning over its nectar-like Elderflower Green Tea martini made with organic green tea-infused vodka, elderflower liqueur garnished with edible Flowers.

At blue on blue in Beverly Hills, the bartenders blend two cocktail trends into one delicious drink with this twist on a classic. The boldly flavorful Earl Grey Negroni is made with Earl Grey-infused gin, Campari and sweet vermouth shaken, not stirred, and served on the rocks.

Blue Velvet soothes downtown hipsters with a kiss of sweetness in its Chamomile Martini. Tanqueray gin and chamomile-infused simple syrup are served in a sugar-rimmed martini glass with a chamomile flower as garnish.

And stylish Cameo Bar at the Viceroy Santa Monica serves a floral and fruity Jasmine Lychee Tea Tini, which is made with an organic jasmine and green tea blend and mixed with vodka and a splash of lychee juice. The garnish? Whole, succulent lychees. Yum.

Try this at home: Zen Green Tea Liqueur is the first tea-infused spirit on the market and it makes for this very refreshing Cooler, courtesy of The Liquid Muse.

1 ounce Zen Green Tea liqueur
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce lemon juice
2 kumquats
2 teaspoons, sugar
Freshly-brewed green tea

Muddle 2 kumquats, sugar and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, Zen Green Tea Liqueur and vodka, then shake. Strain into tall glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with the third kumquat on a drink pick.
Style Will Save Us

Do you love fashion and the environment? Are you altruistic with materialistic tendencies? Would you like to shop and save the world?

Then take a little trip to StyleWillSaveUs and get tips on how to look good, eat well, party like a rockstar and indulge in lavish decadence while supporting those who support our world.

They even a few eco-friendly drink recipes, like this Cranberry Cooler, featuring Snow Queen vodka. And, don't forget to check out Stella McCartney's new eco-friendly skin care line, and Galahad Clark's Terra Plana enviro-conscious shoes.

These days, everybody looks good in "green"...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cocktail Tips

When I turned 21, my parents paid for me to go to bartending school. (I was, after all, moving to LA to pursue a career in the dramatic and written arts...) I remember that the 2-week course was a lot of fun and full of information. (And, I didn't even yet realize I was a cocktail geek back then.)

I thought I'd share some quick-n-easy little reminders I enjoyed going over. (It's been a while...) For example:

Choosing A Garnish:
- If you are making a drink featuring a light liquor and light vermouth, you want to garnish with an olive. If using a dark spirit and dark vermouth, garnish with a cherry. If you're using a mix of light and dark, garnish with a lemon twist.

Less Is More:
- A champagne glass should hold only 3 ounces of liquor. A brandy snifter should hold only one ounce of spirit. And, a cocktail glass (ie: martini glass) should hold only 2 - 3 ounces. (Helloooo... Yes, I'm talking to you 10-ounce, $14 mocha raspberry "martini" makers!)

Off the Ice:
- Cordials and Liqueurs should be served "up," not chilled. Brandy should be served in a glass that has been warmed by running it under hot water.

Multiple Liquors:
- When using more than 2 liquors, use 1/2 ounce measurements.

I hope some of these prove helpful to you home bartenders (and possibly even a few pros...)

*Photo from Tales of the Cocktail, Courtesy of Autumn Boh
Attack of the Tiny Trumps!

I got this shipment of Trump vodka minis to play around with for their cocktail competition. Anyone want the 4-1-1 on that, give me a shout - natalie (at)

Meanwhile, these tasty little suckers are made from potatoes and are rather smooth going down the hatch. Can't wait to play...!

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Bartender Diaries

Beth Scherr: Bartender at Katana, and Funny Mother Fucker

“Yes, I’m the cliché!” says Beth Scherr who moved to Los Angeles from the Midwest to pursue a career in Entertainment. Eight years ago, she left St. Louis to seek fame and fortune. After considering
the Windy City, she settled in Los Angeles, enticed by the great weather.

Scherr, who has been behind Katana’s bar for two years, likes the fast pace of her job. “I couldn’t imagine going to a cubicle,” she explains, “and just thinking…’now its Monday, now its Tuesday, now Wednesday...’” Beth says she also prefers slinging drinks to sushi because, “There’s a lighter dialogue between a bartender and a customer than with a server.”

Despite working at a Hollywood hotspot, right down stairs from a major movie studio, Beth doesn't actually see many of the celebrities who dine at the restaurant because they usually sneak by the crowds, and go right to their table. As she puts it, “They’d get swamped at the bar!”

When not mixing up good times on Sunset Boulevard, Scherr devotes time to her sketch comedy troupe of four years, FMF (otherwise known as – you guessed it – Funny Mother Fuckers). The group writes and performs everything themselves, and squeeze in short runs of shows in between their hectic schedules filled with side jobs and auditions.

Katana’s fruit-and-vodka fusions are popular, as are their fancy mixed drinks. However, Beth is proud of her skill with
the tried and true classic cocktails. “I’ve had older people give me that (doubtful) look and ask if I can make a real Manhattan. I like to prove them wrong,” she quips, with a smile.

She also likes to create her own special recipes, which sometimes end up on the drink menu. Here is one of her latest (and tastiest) inventions:

Pomegranate Saketini

1 ounce Pama
Extra dry sake
Splash sweet & sour
Splash triple sec

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Join The Liquid Muse Cocktail Club, and Katana's Liquid Muse Cocktail of the Week will be sent to you, later this month!

*Photo credit: Claire Barrett