Friday, January 30, 2009

Twinkle Twinkle Little Spud

They say not to judge a book by its cover. So, is it fair to judge a person by their astrological sign? Are Leos really more egotistical? Will a Scorpio lover love you and leave you after an amazing roll in the hay? Are Geminis two-faced? The next time you ponder the stars, or their influence on the people in your life, why not do it over drinks… made with Zodiac Vodka, for example?

Made from Idaho potatoes, and distilled in-state, Zodiac is only one of a few potato vodkas made in the U.S. This makes a great gift for someone who reads her daily horoscope (or refuses to walk under ladders) because you can choose the bottle which correlates to each sign. (While we’re talking about astrology, don’t forget to check out my pal Gwen Kaiser’s website “Intoxicated Zodiac.” She has a whole slew of cool “star” studded gifts for the cocktail lover.)

If you’re not into all this mumbo-jumbo, you don’t have be a potato head and ruin it for the rest of us believers. We Aquarians, for example, are open minded enough to love you anyway, and maybe even mix you up a vodka cocktail to prove it.
Mystery Dining
by Kylee Van Dillen, Editorial Assistant, The Liquid Muse

The term, “underground” has always piqued curiosity. A secret society conjures up a mysterious air of intrigue... exclusivity... for only a chosen few. So, it comes as no surprise that underground “dinner parties” are all the rage amongst a subculture of foodies.

But what exactly is an “underground dinner party?” They certainly have the mystique of an underground movement; usually one has to “know someone to get invited.” LA-based chef Amy Jurist describes them this way: "I like to say that Underground dinner parties are like food raves. Bootleg ‘restaurants’ in apartments, houses and other private spaces, where you get to dine with other fellow foodies, at locations you don’t find out about until after you’ve paid the entrance price."

Like any great chef, Amy finds inspiration from the ingredients on hand. Texture and flavor, “sauces and crunchy things” and all “decadent unctuous foods” have kept her experimenting in the kitchen since she was five years old, and spending last ten years honing her skills in culinary school, catering fancy private parties and whipping up delivered meals as a private chef for an exclusive clientele.

Along with a certain sense of pride for being a member of a club most people have never even heard of, these underground dinners offer some interesting perks. Unlike typical restaurants, “talking to your fellow diners—most of whom you usually don’t know—is encouraged.” They are also run by chefs whose true passion comes from the food—not the business, and do not generally aspire to become traditional restaurateurs. Without the overhead or investors for which an established restaurant would be responsible, these chefs are given free reign to use their imaginations and ultimately, have fun. They’re not in it “for the money,” they're in it, “for the community and the creative freedom, the opportunity to showcase our food to people who appreciate it,” in a mysterious and unique setting.

So, how does one actually get invited to an underground dining event? Just like when job hunting or trying to score tickets to a sold out show, knowing someone helps. If not, there are a few websites accessible to those who spend most of their time “above ground.” The Ghetto Gourmet, for one, lists local underground restaurants all over the country.

Amy's next event is on January 31st and features a mix of dishes (and drinks) from Thailand, Japan, the Philippines and China, for $65 per person. Chances are this one may already be booked, so email Amy for confirmation, and to pry out when the next dinners might occur. You could be among the first to know. And, you may even be eligible for special tips and discounts via The Liquid Muse. (Welcome to the club.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Epicurean Cultures Collide Outside Downtown Hotspot

We all like a meal to move us somehow, but how about a meal that literally moves? The Kogi Taco Truck brings new meaning to eating-on-the-go. Now, every Wednesday around 9pm, there is a golden opportunity to try it for yourself in downtown LA. Yep, a spicy little bite of Asian-Mexican fusion in a mini tortilla rolls up outside the loungey Golden Gopher, offering Sipsters® simple-yet-sophisticated snacks streetside, each week.

The Kogi Taco Truck is a collaboration between LA natives Mark Manguera (a former F & B director with bountiful experience in some of LA’s most prestigious establishments) and Chef Roy Choi (a C.I.A. graduate who has manned the kitchens of Le Bernardin in New York, and Trader Vic’s and Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen in the City of Angels.)

Choi, who is said to have “flavor in his finger tips” pulls from both Korean BBQ and Mexican street fare to design the traveling late-night menu. Start working off the next morning’s hangover while you’re still partying over a steaming cup of Burnt Rice Porridge with Kimchi. Or, satisfy a snack craving with Korean Shortib, Spicy Chicken or Tofu Tacos.

Set the Tivo so you can watch the new season of Lost when you get home, suck down a cocktail or two at the Golden Gopher (while you’re there, buy a top shelf bottle to take home for later) and pull up your own little piece of sidewalk in front of Kogi. Sounds like the golden ticket to a completely satisfying Wednesday night to me.
Sparkling Recognition for Prosecco

While attending Italian Wine Week, I ran into New York-based writer pal Amy Cortese who wrote an informative piece on Prosecco (Italian bubbly) for the New York Times. Given that I've spent the last few days learning about and tasting Italian oenological delights, I wanted to share Amy's article with TLM readers. Cin-cin!

Italian Makers of Prosecco Seek Recognition
by Amy Cortese

IN 1984, Fabio Zardetto, chief winemaker at his family-run vineyard in northern Italy, leapt at the chance to become one of the first bottlers to export prosecco, the sparkling wine, to the United States. The Bisol family’s vineyards, where prosecco grapes are grown. The grape has been grown for 300 years in northern Italy, originally for still wines.

At first, his efforts on behalf of his bubbly fizzled. “I had to push people to taste the prosecco,” recalled Mr. Zardetto, now 50. “I would run behind them with a glass saying, ‘Please, taste this.’ ” Read more here...

*Photo and article come from this NYT Article.

On the GoGo

It is costing me $12.95 to write this blog post. But, the novelty of blogging from 38,000 feet on an American Airlines flight between NYC and LA is worth it. (We're currently somewhere over upstate New York.)

Sure, in- flight internet is probably not a surprise to some. I first saw the GoGo In-Flight Internet stands in airports about 5 or 6 months ago. I picked up a flyer and thought "Gee, I'll have to blog about that sometime." And, as these things go, time slips by... I get backed up on work... and the topic gets buried in my "to blog" folder.

However, today, I am compelled to finally take the plunge, sign on to GoGo and tell you all about it! Here are my pros and cons:

  • Quick & easy enrollment
  • Although I'm loathe to pay for internet, particularly at a fancy hotel or sitting in an airline seat that cost several hundred dollars, the $12.95 price tag to have Internet access all the way across the U.S. airspace doesn't seem out of line.
  • I can use this time to catch up on emails without other distractions
  • Being on trapped on an airplane is a wonderful excuse to "disconnect" from the world for a while. I'm forced to "step away from the compter," watch a movie, read a book or write something in a Word document, rather than get caught in the usual whirlwind of nonstop email conversations on as many as 5 topics at once. (I call it my "technological schitzophrenia.") Having Go-Go at my fingertips, I am consciously aware that I CAN catch up on emails, am 'contactable,' and am once again glued to my computer.
  • While I can retrieve my messages from my mail application, I am not able to connect to my inbox on Yahoo.
I believe that GoGo is not yet available on all airlines, but it is on my U.S. carrier of choice, American... so now a travel day doesn't have to cost me precious 'business time' and I am relieved to know that I won't have to work double-time to catch up on all the correspondence I missed while en route to or from a far-flung destination. Not to mention, that being a member of the 'mile high club' now has an additional meaning. Have YOU GoGo'd? C'mon, join the club of uninterrupted global connection.

But, a word to the wise, I will be watching the online movie and enjoying my $6 mini bottle of Pinot Grigio for the next couple of hours. So, if Idon't get back to you right away, you'll have to catch me on the ground. Once in a while, I need to step of the Merry GoGo Round.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

W Hotel, NYC = WTF at the Bar?

I’ve been to W Hotels in many cities around the U.S. and have generally enjoyed them. Rande Gerber, the force behind the W’s cocktail program makes a nod to quality mixology with muddled herbs, fresh juices and the like. My usual drink at the W Hotel chain is made with Bombay Sapphire gin, muddled basil and fresh grapefruit juice.

Noticing some new drinks on the menu while at the W on Lexington Ave, last night, I asked the bartender for the Green Dream (or something like that) made with Right gin, basil, lime juice and simple syrup. The gal behind the bar said looked confused and read the ingredients off the menu. I don’t judge that – I don’t even mind a bartender consulting a bar manual. If someone cares enough to look up a drink to make it the right way, I’m all for it.

First, last night’s bartender asked if I’d like it on the rocks or in a martini glass. I said I’d like it up, and she chilled a martini glass with ice, which I noted as a good sign. However, what she did next is where the cocktail it went horribly wrong.

After filling a large shaker tin with ice, she poured in what seemed to be an extraordinary amount of gin for one cocktail, without measuring. Then she grabbed the simple syrup and poured in about as much simple syrup as gin. As she answered the ringing phone, she reached for a stem of basil - a day or two past its prime - then tore off a few leaves – and stems – and casually chucked them into the melting ice-and-liquid filled shaker. Next, she added lime juice from a bottle and closed the lid of the tin.

“Isn’t the basil muddled?,” I asked. She looked at me like I was a pain in the butt, opened the tin, hung up the phone, snatched a bar spoon and fished out the soggy bits of basil which she proceeded to put into a rocks glass, douse with yellow liquid from a big plastic bottle marked “sour,” gave it a quick once-over with the muddler. That glob was then dumped back into the watery gin mix in the cocktail tin. Her shake was a half-hearted, limp-armed toss of the hand (for about 1 or 2 seconds) and strained it into a martini glass.

“Did you want to start a tab?” she asked as she placed the sorry-looking giant martini glass in front of me. I coughed up $15 for the drink, added a minimal tip, and took a sip of the worst cocktail I’ve had in years. It was sickly sweet, there was no hint of basil at all, the gin was completely overpowered by the sugar and citrus, and it left a worse aftertaste than a sugary soft drink.

As much as I wanted to drink it (get my money’s worth and kill 20 minutes before my evening appointment) I could only choke down about half the glass.

I partly blame the bartender for her lack of skill and technique but I mostly blame the bar. Training is essential to quality control. The W Hotel enjoys a reputation as a hip hangout and better-than-average cocktails, but anyone in hospitality knows that as soon as a restaurant or bar starts resting on its laurels and quality slips, its hard to earn back its good reputation.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snag Snazzy New Real Estate (Cheap!)

If you've visited lately, you may have noticed something new...

Yep, I'm referring to those flashing banner ads for Fre Alcohol-Removed wine in the left column, and Cherry Heering snuggled right beneath their Cocktail of the Week feature. (Previous features on the new Cocktail of the Week have included Cabana Cachaca, Boca Loca and Pinky Vodka.)

And, given today's economic climate, you'll be getting a steal of a deal. Just have your people call my people and we'll tawk...
Dispatch from the LUPEC Boston “USO SHOW”
by Pink Lady, LUPEC Boston

To my left, a tuxedoed man tips his fedora back on his head and slides an arm around a blonde in a birdcage-veiled hat. A flash illuminates their pearly white camera-ready smiles. To my right, a gentleman in a three-piece suit pulls the seat out for his wife as they settle at a round cocktail table to wait for the “USO Show” to begin. A dame in cat’s eye glasses weaves through the dense crowd on roller skates offering chocolates. In the center of the room a legion of swing dancers lindy hop in acrobatic time with ‘40s-era swing spun by cocktail historian and Boston legend, DJ Brother Cleve.

One step across the threshold into the grand ballroom of the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center feels like a leap several decades back to a USO Officer’s Club, circa World War II. This is the LUPEC Boston “USO Show”, the centerpiece of our fall fundraising campaign to benefit women at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans. I never imagined we’d reach the venue’s 450-person capacity, but now the room seems almost full. And every single guest is dressed to impress.

Doors to the event opened at 7 p.m. with a free swing dance lesson kicking off the night. Then emcees Cathleen Carr and Daiva Deupree of the critically acclaimed New York-based sketch comedy burlesque Two Girls for Five Bucks took the stage. Burlesque dancers from Thru the Keyhole turned up the heat with pink balloons and feathers, followed by a short break to cool off and grab a drink before act two featuring Boston-based actor, improviser and stand-up comedian Harry Gordon as Bob Hope and a rowdy prize raffle.

The wait for the bar is long from 8 o’clock on but the vibe remains positive. Perhaps it’s because the swing dancers are dancing in the hallway to lighten the mood? A sailor twirls a tall, slender brunette: the top of her stocking peeks ever-so-slightly from below her hemline as she dips. Distracting in the best possible way.

When the clock strikes 11 p.m. the crowd is in no rush to leave. I can’t blame them. The LUPEC ladies spend lots of time talking about the cocktails: the ingredients, the preferred recipes, the obscure bitters, syrups and liqueurs making their way back to market after many dormant decades. But it’s all born of a shared love: for the romantic feeling that steals over us when sipping drinks from a bygone era, cocktails our grandmothers may have sipped, with a story and social significance bigger than our own. Imbibing such drinks in a room full of guys and dolls in period dress? Somehow, it’s extra intoxicating.

We can’t wait to do it again next fall.



1 oz tequila
1 oz Campari
.5 oz Italian vermouth
.5 oz French vermouth

Stir with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve over rocks in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with orange oil.

2 oz gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters

Stir in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon oil.

1.5 oz white rum
.75 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz simple syrup

Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Scoff Law
1 oz Rye
1 oz French Vermouth
.5 oz Green Chartreuse
.5 oz Fresh Lemon
1 dash Orange Bitters

Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Moscow Mule
Squeeze .5 lime into a Collins glass (or traditional copper mug) and drop in the skin, Add ice and:
2 oz vodka
1 shot fresh lime
Top with cold ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Most Beautiful Latte in the World

We've had a revolution in cocktails. Respected modern mixology is marked by not only the taste and presentation of the drink but also the process: quality ingredients, bartender knowledge and masterful technique are all part of the "well-rounded cocktail." And, we in the world of spirited beverages are not alone...

Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea originated in that sometimes-under-the-radar hipster city whose friendly residents are also on the cutting edge of culinary and lifestyle trends. Yes, I know when we hear "coffee" our Pavlovian reaction brings "Seattle" to mind. However, in this case, I'm talking about Chicago.

Founded in 1995, Intelligentsia aims to pour environmentally- and socially- responsible coffee into our cups. Once the beans are sourced from respected importers (or sometimes the growers, themselves) they are roasted in "vintage German roasters," and infused with an abundance of focused attention to not only the outcome but the process.

Just as our mixologists and high-end bartenders seek out professional training courses and seminars (such as B.A.R. and Tales of the Cocktail), barristas looking to move into the sphere of craftsman rather than simply 'part time coffee slinger' can take part in Intelligentsia's Training Lab.

When I first came across Intelligentsia coffee shop at Sunset Junction in Silverlake, I was immediately struck by the ridiculously long line of people patiently waiting for their cuppa joe, and next by the seriousness with which the barristas executed the orders. It brought to mind the bartender / mixologist types who toil behind the bar in our most revered drinking establishments, the ones who are intent on exploiting every ounce of their knowledge and training for every drink they make. I was both surprised and delighted.

The Silverlake location is the only store outside Chicago (where they have three locations) and I feel quite lucky that we are the chosen city for Inteligentsia's expansion. I see it as less-than-ironic that it sits next to the Cheese Store of Silverlake (an emporium for world-class cheeses and small batch olive oils) and only a few doors down from our beloved Bar Keeper, a mind-boggling cocktailian fantasy land filled with vintage bar ware and the most extensive collection of bitters-for-sale on our coast.

We've come to understand that quality ain't cheap, so coffee for two can set you back almost 8-bucks. But, when we're willing to fork over $15 for a muddled, hand-shaken cocktail, does it seem so strange to pony up for a cup of coffee made with the same level of attention? In our economic crunch, we may eat and drink out less often, but when we do, it should be worth the effort and price. It should be special and it should be good quality. Aren't those the pillar principles of the beautiful revolution at hand?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Lavender Pisco Daisy

Pisco is one of my little darlings. The distilled grape spirit native to both Peru and Chile has blasted its way onto worldwide cocktail menus, stirring up a few fans along the way. Yes, I’m a lover of all things Latin including cachaca, tango, salsa, flamenco, tapas, carnival, the running of the bulls – you name it, I probably love it and devour it whenever possible. So, when the lovely sisters (Lizzie and Melanie Asher) behind Macchu Pisco sent me a bottle of their Diablada pisco, I was excited to crack it open.

I was going to make a Pisco Sour – and then a wave of creativity hit me. Ok,
a little wave… I just changed a couple of things from the Pisco Sour recipe and left out the egg white. What a wonderful result. I just had to share it with you Sipsters!

1 1/2 ounces pisco
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce Sonoma lavender syrup
Dash peach bitters Edible flower (garnish)

Shake all liquid ingredients with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Float an edible flower on the surface of the drink.

My second round of this drink included the egg white, and excuse me for saying that it was pretty freakin' fantastic.
Rub The One You're With

Remember the old adage: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

Well, the artsy and sophisticated Hotel Palomar has put a romantic slant on that philosophy and created a special DIY escape for you and your main squeeze for Valentine’s Day. You not only get a hotel stay package but also a private massage class for two. Their hands-on romance escape lathers up as of February 1 and runs through March 31, 2009. The “Rub the One You’re With” getaway package at Hotel Palomar in Westwood (Los Angeles) includes:
  • Deluxe overnight accommodations
  • Private one-hour massage instruction class with a personal massage therapist
  • Take-home massage kit featuring Kerstin Florian organic lavender massage oil, lavender & lemon aromatherapy candle and aromatherapy bath salts
  • Welcome bottle of champagne
  • Complimentary overnight parking
While at the Palomar, don’t forget to indulge in a delicious, healthy meal made with herbs from the chef’s personal rooftop garden, and a well crafted cocktail or two at its restaurant, BLVD, which I reviewed on The Liquid Muse Blog in December.

Reserve the "Rub the One You're With" package on the Hotel Palomar website and enter RLS in the rate code box, or call 800.472.8556 and request the “Rub the One You’re With” package. Package rates start at $399 per night. For more information on the Kimpton Hotel Group, visit their site.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Aviator of Hope Cocktail

I created this drink in honor of President Barack Obama during the elections. Luxaholics ran it again as a suggestion for your Inauguration Party!

Here's to the dawning of a new era of optimism and, yes, hope for a better world.

Cheers, Mr. President!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where to Get a Mojito in Miami?

Why not go glam at the newly re-opened Fontainbleau Hotel? I remember staying there on a family trip to Florida when I was a kid. I can assure you, it was nothing like this!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Preggie Provençe(C) Satisfies Reviewer

When you throw a party, you spend time making drinks you hope your guests will love. When you write a drink book, you are really crossing your fingers! So, today's post on hailing the Preggie Provence nonalcohlic cocktail from my book "Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-To-Be" made my day! See why they liked it ... and here's the recipe for you to try!

Preggie Provençe

  • 5-6 rosemary leaves
  • 3-4 white grapes, halved
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp fresh lavender flower petals
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 2 oz lemonade
  • 3 oz DRY Soda Co. Lavender soda
  • 1 lemon wheel
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  1. Muddle rosemary leaves with the cut grapes, simple syrup, lavender flower petals, and grated lemon peel in the bottom of a mixing glass.
  2. Add lemonade, then shake well with ice.
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass.
  4. Top with lavender soda, and garnish with a lemon wheel and a sprig of rosemary.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Celebrity Sips - Counting Down the Days...

Maybe you can relate to actress Erinn Hayes if you are currently "with child!"

While visiting the Ferrari Sparkling Wine gifting suite prior to this past weekend's Golden Globes, she jokingly held up this bottle of Ferrari sparkling wine and looks forward to toasting her new baby with a glass of bubbly...

Catch Erinn every Monday night in the hilarious sitcom "Worst Week" ... in which she plays a pregnant lady. Would you call that "type casting?"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Organica? Totally!

Most people start out gung-ho with their New Year’s resolutions. Work out more. Eat healthily. Drink less alcohol. Blah, blah, blah. Luckily, a few new beverage products help make that a little easier.

Since the release of “Preggatinis,” my book offering nonalcoholic cocktail alternatives for pregnant women and other non-boozers, I’ve had more liquor-free products submitted to The Liquid Muse Blog. And, I have to admit that it’s a nice change of pace. For one thing, I can ‘get to work’ first thing in the morning and sample the new beverages without feeling like I have to pull down the shades. (Swiging bourbon – even for professional purposes – before my morning coffee could raise a few eyebrows among my neighbors.)

Totally Organica ™ calls itself “a line of organically infused beverages…with zero sugars, carbs, calories, sodium or artificial flavorings, sweeteners or color.” Essentially, its flavored sparkling water dressed up in colorful packaging and spruced up with organic essences such as lemon lime, cranberry, berry, green apple, raspberry, pomegranate, melon and mint.

I am particularly enjoying them because one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to (surprise) shape up, and that means cutting my calorie intake. But, I am cocktail and wine lover, and have gotten into the habit of having a little tipple after dinner while watching TV or relaxing with the hubby. So, now when I’ve hit my caloric max for the day, a champagne flute filled with Totally Organica is a tasty treat, which won’t undo my butt-busting workouts, when I actually make it to the gym.

So, if you’re looking to work a little more water into your daily routine, cut down on ‘the sauce,’ and ‘go organic,’ this might be something for you to try. At least for the first few weeks of the year. And, if you fall off the wagon by March, feel free to come ‘round to my place for 9 am happy hour…

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ben's Chili Bowl Benefits from Obama's Visit

Anyone who has partied in DC (no its not an oxymoron) has made a late-night stop at Ben's Chili Bowl. Its a hole-in-the-wall filled with an eclectic clientele. One person could be in a suit-and-tie while munching on chili-smothered fries, and next to him a person you'd likely avoid in a dark alley might be tucking into a chili dog with onions. At the counter, a tipsy college girl on a date teetering alongside her preppie blueblood boyfriend might be in need of a little sustainance after seeing Ben Harper play at the nearby 9:30 Club. Its a great cross-section of DC society at any time of the day. And, apparently, now it even has Presidential street cred.

This article showing our soon-to-be President Barack Obama sharing some lip-smacking chili goodness with DC Mayor Adrian Fenty gave me a tickle. And, I can only imagine that the already shoulder-to-shoulder hotdog joint is only going to become more packed! Yay Obama - helping the economy one chili-laden sausage sandwich at a time!

*Photo: AP Press, from this article

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Naughty Noel

The coolest holiday card I got this year was from (you guessed it) a fellow cocktail blogger. On top of actually sending out real paper snail-mail cards (something I lament not having time to do) he custom designed both the drawing on the front and the recipe on the back.

Craig Mrusek, known as Dr. Bamboo in these parts of the blogosphere, is well known for blending both his art with the “pen” and his art with the cocktail shaker. His holiday card featured a saucy lass seductively looking over her shoulder, and the drink on the other side proved equally tempting. So, today’s blog-a-day post is in tribute to the talents of one of my favorite cyber drinking buddies.

And, can I tell you, Naughty Noel is not just good, its “OMG” good. Spicy, a little sweet, rich with mahogany. (Ok, I know there isn’t mahogany in it anywhere but, to me, it tastes silky, dark, a little rustic yet very elegant.) Bravo, Doctore.

His actual recipe calls for 2 ounces dark rum, 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur and 1/2 ounce Torani ginger spice syrup. I followed Craigs advice on the rum and used Bacardi 8 (see below), and I pulled out my good ole Luxardo Maraschino liqueur. (See the holidays aren’t so bad, after all!)

A tip about rum from Craig himself, if you decide to create this drink at home: "Something like Cruzan aged/single barrel, Bacardi 8, or any dark Virgin Islands or Puerto Rican-style rum would be a good fit. I originally made the drink with (Cruzan Estate Diamond 5-year-old) but its no longer available, otherwise I would have specified it. Such are the travails of the booze nerd *sigh*"
ONE Delicious & Healthy Drink

Every once in a while, even the most ardent cocktail lover reaches for a thirst quenching, healthy, nonalcoholic beverage. Water is great but can be a bit, well, dull. Ice tea is fine but kind of blah. Sodas don’t hold much interest to a more refined adult palate. What to do?

Why not pack an 11-ounce single serving of Coconut Water in your gym bag? Or add a carton of Cashew Juice to your lunch? Perhaps, some antioxidant-rich Açai Juice, or a little sip of
Coffee Berry will tickle your fancy? Each of these is available to you from ONE beverages, a healthful alternative for the thirsty-yet- environmentally-conscious consumer.

ONE was started in 2005, and has a lot of things going for it. Besides intriguing (and tasty) pre-packaged drinks, ONE supports the Brazil Foundation (committed to preserving the Rain Forest) and Healthy Child Healthy World (dedicated to protecting children from harmful environmental exposures).

Additionally, ONE has an eye toward renewability and conserving fossil fuels by packaging the drinks in paperboard, whose wood fibers (accounting for about 70% of the Tetra Pak carton) come from responsibly managed forests. (Each tree cut down for use is replaced with a new one.) And, of course, they are recyclable.

I was especially excited to try the Coconut Water and Açai Juice as one of the recipes in my new book “Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-To-Be” calls for them. This Preggatini™comes from the section on CelebriBaby

Kingston Krush
(© 2008 Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, excerpted from “Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-To-Be,” Globe Pequot Press)

Ska/pop star and designer diva Gwen Stefani and her hunky hubby Gavin Rossdale rock more than the music studio, as proven by their expanding family. With baby Zuma stealing the spotlight, this drink was created in honor of big brother Kingston, one of the coolest little kiddos in the public eye.

3 ounces coconut water (or 2 ounces coconut milk)
2 ounces açaí juice (or pomegranate juice)
1/2 ounce ginger-infused simple syrup
1/4 ounce lime juice
1/2 teaspoon coconut flakes

Pour all liquid ingredients into a mixing glass, shake with ice, then strain into a cocktail glass. Sprinkle with coconut flakes.

*Photo of Kingston: Flynet

Friday, January 02, 2009

Zesty Black Bean Soup

So, I have this idea for 2009... I want to try more new things. And, what better resource than other lifestyle blogs? Topics ranging from spirits, wine & cocktails to travel, fashion, restaurants, home cooking, spirituality, exercise, and more, will be covered and the inspiring blog will be linked to.

While on Twitter, today, I saw that The Hungry Mouse had posted a recipe for Black Bean Soup with Orange and Cilantro. Kismet was at work as I had just soaked dried black beans overnight with the idea of making a soup. (Under 60 degrees is chilly for us Angelenos!) I made some adjustments to her recipe to make it work for our tastes / dietary needs and served it to Jason as the first course of a three course dinner:

Zesty Black Bean Soup
by The Liquid Muse, inspired by The Hungry Mouse

1/2 lb. dried black beans

2 chicken andouille sausages, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
15 baby carrots, diced

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from the tree in my backyard)

2 heaping tablespoons ground New Mexico red chili powder

4 cloves garlic, diced

2 cups chicken broth

5 cups water

1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 orange, juice + zest

1 tablespoon garlic salt
splash of red wine

Soak dried beans overnight. Drain, rinse, refresh water. Make soup base following these steps:
1) saute onions, garlic and sausages on high heat
2) add carrots, lower heat

3) allow carrots to brown slightly and onions to become translucent. Add orange juice and red wine to deglaze, stir. 4) add garlic powder, chili powder, stir.

5) strain beans, add to pot, stir.

6) add chicken broth and water, stir, bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours
7) add 3 tablespoons cilantro, orange zest as well as juice from orange

8) simmer for another half hour, add more water if necessary

Ladle into bowls, top with grated parmesan cheese and cilantro. Serve as a first course or a main dish.

I served it as a first course followed by a second course of baked salmon (marinated in lemon juice, a splash of soy sauce, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of red chili). We paired the meal with Estancia Pinot Noir and had chocolate cake for dessert.

Guest Writer, Karen Loftus, Does Seattle

I'm excited to bring you all another guest writer, my friend in foodie and cocktailian fantasies Karen Loftus. An international comedian, Karen took a break from touring the world on the funny front and now globetrots as an LA-based travel and lifestyle writer and contributes to: The Gulf News, NY Times, Zink Magazine, Arizona Foothills, Nuvo, Curve, Lucire, Grazia, New Woman, Food and Beverage, Wedding Vow, Travel Age West and Travel Mole. She recently visited the Pacific Northwest and shares a few of her favorites with The Liquid Muse readers!

The Best in the Pacific Northwest: Seattle's fresh cocktail and culinary culture and award winning wines by Karen Loftus

Seattle, like it’s Pacific No
rthwest neighbors Portland and Vancouver, has a thriving wine, cocktail and culinary culture. It’s no surprise as each region is producing some of the world’s best wines. Washington has more than doubled its production in the past five years and is second nationally with more than 500 wineries. Like the world-renowned regions in Italy and France, great pours naturally lead to some great plates.

Here’s a small sampling, two of Seattle’s top spots where chefs are pushing the culinary envelope, pouring new world wines while adhering to the old world ways of daily shopping, locally sourcing and if and when they can, growing it on their own.

A City Slicker
BoKa – in downtown Seattle is perfect for tech sexy tipplers and diners alike, and a great place to experience all Seattle has to offer from the culinary to cocktails and the Pacific Northwest’s best wines.

Inspired cocktails: The Ginger Thai made with muddled ginger, shaken with vodka, lime sour and sugar, is a perfect
way to awaken the palette. My friend had the White Peach Cosmo with peach puree and fresh rosemary. We argued over whose drink was better. Seduced by his Cosmo; he continued on course with cocktails opting for The Retreat made with Martin’s gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, lemon sour and Tazo passion tea.

Executive Chef Angie Roberts is committed to organically grown, sustainably produced and locally grown products. Her talent came across from "bite one" with the bread plate, served with her own balsamic jam and olive oil butter. We had to remind ourselves it was just the beginning.
Next up were the Sugar Cane Skewered Crab Cakes and the Ahi Tuna Poke with ponzu dressing. Each dish was pitch perfect, rich with flavor, yet wildly light. The Grilled Tenderloin Steak served alongside fingerling potatoes with bacon, tempura fried blue cheese and red wine au jus was lovely, but the standout was the succulent Scallops with Spiced Carrot Mouse and veal glace. Our server steered us in all the right wine directions with a Wilamette Valley Adelsheim Pinot Noir (2006), a Novelty Hill Cab (2005) and a Gifford Hirlinger red blend (2005). Bliss!

A Fine Time to Wine
The Barking Frog - at Willows Lodge in Woodinville’s Wine Country is next door to the famed Herbfarm Restaurant. That’s a lot to live up to, but the Frog isn’t fazed, as it’s a super star in it’s own right. It’s no wonder wine director Jeffrey Dorgan and his list have won many awards, as the nineteen page list is an enlightened tour of the forty local Woodinville wineries and makers, the nine Washington wine regions, other local stars (Oregon, California and Canada) as well as offers of both new (Argentina and Australia) and old world wines (Italy and France), to name but a few of the eono-features. Executive chef Bobby Moore and sous chef Jonathon James together with precise pairings of Dorgan make for a complete culinary adventure. With many Wine Spectator Awards adorning the walls, safe to say they knew their way around their menu and wines.

The Hudson Valley Fois Gras Terrine complemented with apricot and sultana agrodolce was divine, as is another chef specialty: mouth-watering Grand Marnier Prawns. The warm Dungenesse Crab Timbale with lightly butter-braised leeks was heavenly, but the Olive Oil fresh Poached Walu, another signature and direction I was lead in, was one of my best fish dishes to date, carefully prepared with Finnochiona Salami and Leek Foam. In a truly celestial setting, it was by far the star. The mix of flavors was seductive to the palette. There was little room for the Braised Kobe Beef Cheeks, yet I managed a taste of the rich dish.

The many wines were equally divine from the 2006 Riesling Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica (Columbia Valley) the 2007 Viognier Alexandria Hill Crawford (Columbia Valley) to 2005 Red Wine Baer Ursa Columbia Winery, a 2004 Syrah Des Viogne Cellars. It was a well-told culinary tale I will not soon forget.
When Crack Ain't Whack...

If you live in LA and don't already follow Caroline On Crack, its about time you get with the program, bubs! Hipster-in-the-know, Caroline spills the beans on coffee, fashion, food, drinks et al. She's a cool gal with a penchant for sharing. (Awww.)

I am also giving her a warm 'thank you' for helping to spread the word about my "Preggatinis" both on her website and on LAist, to which she regularly contributes.

Thanks, chickie. After all, what's a cocktail without a little crack on-the-side?
My Hometown Gets Quality Mixology!

One of the many things I was looking forward to doing while Jason and I visited our families and friends in Santa Fe, NM was stop in at La Casa Sena. There are many reasons why I like it. It is one of those "special" restaurants I got taken to for special occasions growing up, including my 20th birthday.

It is also where Jason and I had our first date after randomly running into each other during Thanksgiving weekend 2003. I remember sitting in Casa Sena's cantina and thinking... "Wow, this could be THE one!" as we talked, over a bottle of wine, about all the things we had done since we'd last seen each other around town 12 years earlier.

So, when my BFF Kristin and her husband Mark were celebrating their wedding anniversary during Christmas week, I suggested we head to La Casa Sena for drinks in the bar, followed by dinner in the Catina where servers double as show tune singers. One of my motivations was to meet Chris Milligan, a bartender with whom I'd been corresponding on Facebook. He seemed to know a thing or two about mixology (a rarity in a tourist town like Santa Fe) and was a nice guy to boot.

Not only did we have a great time, yummy dinner and run into our old high school friend Joe Ray Sandoval - another Santa Fe native who is a poet, filmmaker and part time bartender in the City Different) but we also had some of Chris' amazing drinks! Here are the recipes and a big bravo to our new friend. Check out his new blog here.

Ruby Slipper
2 oz Hendrick’s Gin
1oz Dry Vermouth
1 oz Lucien Jacob Creme De Cassis

Combine in a mixing tin with ice, Stir, then strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with Lemon Twist.

Manhattan in Autumn
2 1/2 oz Knob Creek Bourbon
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
Autumn Tincture

Combine bourbon and vermouth in a mixing tin with ice, stir. Spray inside of a cocktail glass with Autumn Tincture, then strain bourbon/vermouth into the glass. Garnish with orange peel.

Autumn Tincture: in a 5 oz jar (old spice jars are great for this), place 4 cinnamon sticks, 1 T each of clove and nutmeg, add 4 drops of pure vanilla, then fill jar with 100 proof vodka. Leave at room temperature for 2 weeks, shaking the jar twice a day. After two weeks, strain out liquid into a small spray bottle or atomizer (a mesh strainer and coffee filter work great). *This drink will also be a part of an article in Chilled Magazine in the first part of 2009. Keep you posted!
Get 'In The Know' in 2009!

Remember when we had to subscribe to newspapers to stay informed? Well, today, the web makes it easy - and FREE - to stay on top of fun things going on in the cocktail and foodie spheres. Below are a few of my favorite online newsletters. If I've missed some that you love, feel free to leave them in the comments section!

The Liquid Muse Mixology Museletter: Just in case you aren't arleady signed up, I want to let you know about my monthly Museletter which highlights liquor reviews, cocktail recipes, fancy-schmancy events and other fun cocktailian tid-bits.

Charming Cocktails: My gal-pal and fellow cocktail mover-and-shaker, Cheryl Charming, has written numerous books and has been circulating a newsletter for a decade. Sign up and see why!

Tablehopper: This Bay Area-based newsletter written by Marica Gagliardi keeps San Franciscans up to date as to where to eat, drink and savor the good life.

Alcademics: Blogger / journo Camper English offers great give-aways when you sign up on his mailing list.

Intoxicated Zodiac: Gwen Kaiser is one of the nicest cocktail bloggers on the web and has a very cool concept of blending what's in the stars with what's in the glass. Intrigued? Get it here!

Ardent Spirits: If you're a bartender or cocktail enthusiast, you probably already get Gary Regan's newsletter. But, if you don't, get it now!