On this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast, we’re talking about Shots! Shots! Shots! And the occasional shooter. They’re never a good idea….Or are they?
Many of us have lots of feelings about shots and shooters and visceral, albeit, patchy memories associated with those little devils. How did the shot even come to be? And how have the trends evolved through the years, and what are people shooting dirty nowadays?
This Week’s Recipe is inspired by my favorite “Bartender’s Handshake” – a miniature daiquiri adorably called a snaquiri. It originated with bartender Karin Stanley at Dutch Kills in Queens, New York about 8 years ago and it’s guaranteed the best shooter around. It is meant to be gulped in one fell swig.
Snaquiri – served in a mini coupe or cordial glass
1 oz dry white rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
¼ oz simple syrup
Garnish: lime wheel
Add all ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until well chilled. Strain into the glass. Garnish with lime wheel. Shoot that Snaq!
This week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast episode is a really fun one. I sat down with my friend, food and drinks writer, Jason Horn and talked with him about his most recent story as drinks contributor for Playboy magazine. It’s a fascinating one; It involves booze! Penguins! Negative 80 degree temps!
The article (published next month on Playboy.com) titled “Drinking at the Bottom of the World”, is about the bars, booze and drinking culture at McMurdo Station, a US-run scientific research station in Antarctica.
One of Jason’s sources for this article was Laura Gerwin, a travel adventure guide and photographer who has spent 6 summers on the ice between 2009 and 2016. During that time, she captured these incredible pictures.
We discuss the three bars that operate at the research station, the (limited) products are available to the residents, and what the drink of choice is at the “bottom of the world”.
Which brings us to this week’s recipe: a highball with a heavy pour of Jameson Whiskey and ginger beer – with an indulgent squeeze of lime (not readily available in the Antarctic): The McMurdo Mule.
McMurdo Mule – served in a highball glass with ice
3 ounces of Jameson Whiskey
4 ounces of Mac’s Ginger Beer or Bunderberg is a good replacement
1 lime wedge (for authenticity, you can use bottled lime juice but I don’t think we have to go that far)
Fill your highball with ice. Add the whiskey & a squeeze of lime and drop in the glass. Then add the ginger beer and give it a good stir. Pretty sure a garnish is not necessary in this low maintenance high ball. So just enjoy.
Yeah, yeah, Valentine’s Day is in a few days and it’s totally a silly Hallmark holiday and LOVE should not be relegated to commercialization and candy hearts…but c’mon! I’m a sucker for that crap! Look at this pretty cocktail that I named The Red Velvet because it’s red and velvety and tastes like a bunch of ripe, luscious berries made sweet sweet love to a smooth as heck whiskey. The egg white gives it that velvety mouthfeel and the generous amount of lemon juice lends a tartness to counteract some of the sweet.
Speaking of sweet…I have just come to the end of my new favorite grenadine from Sonoma Syrup Co., which worked beautifully in this cocktail. I usually like to make by own but because I’ve been so busy recently that hasn’t really been an option. And this Pomegranate Syrup may just be better than anything I’ve ever made. It’s incredibly thick and concentrated and deeply flavored. Also great in non-alcoholic drinks, btw.
Whether you are coupled up or flying solo for this Valentine’s Day, I think we can all agree that a sumptuous cocktail that is essentially a sexy make-out sesh with a bunch of boozy berries, should be in all of our hands.
2 ounces Bourbon
3/4 ounce Chambord
1 ounce Lemon Juice
1/2 ounce Grenadine
Garnish: edible flowers or berries
Shake all the ingredients without ice first to emulsify the egg white and integrate all the ingredients. Add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with edible flowers or berries.
On this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast we’re talking about one of the most misunderstood elixirs ever created and consumed – The Green Fairy, La Fée Verte, Absinthe! The social lubricant of choice for 19th century bohemians, artists and creatives – said to have aided their creativity and yet, driven them mad. It has been made all the more mysterious by a worldwide ban of the stuff for nearly 100 years. The ban was lifted in the states almost eleven years ago now, but a lot of misunderstandings still surround this spirit.
Most likely, you’ve heard the dark stories…about how “real” absinthe will make you hallucinate, turn you violent and drive you mad if you have too much. But what is the real story of absinthe? Can we get an authentic version in the states? And why was it banned for so long if it is truly harmless? Hopefully we’ll be clearing all that up over the course of this podcast.
My guest Ted Breaux is a researcher, scientist, artisan distiller, and leading authority on absinthe. He created Lucid Absinthe Supérieure – the first genuine absinthe made with real Grande Wormwood to be legally available in the United States, and he had a major role in overturning the ban in America eleven years ago. He’ll be talking about how he first got interested in absinthe, was the first person to disprove any claims that absinthe was dangerous, and how he helped to overturn the ban.
Kellfire Desmond Bray, absinthe educator and co-host of a monthly absinthe celebration and awareness party in New York City called The Green Fairy at the Red Room, will be joining us towards the end of this episode to describe the Continental Pour – the proper way to consume this boozy elixir.
According to Bray and Breaux, you don’t really need the sugar. However, the traditional French Method does involve diluting sugar in the glass to sweeten it up a bit. This ritual is such a lovely one, I thought I’d share that as well.
This is what you’ll need to prepare absinthe using the traditional French Method:
Bottle of genuine absinthe
An absinthe spoon – a flat, perforated spoon or even a large fork can work!
Tall glass, large enough for 6 ounces
Carafe of ice water
Pour about one ounce of absinthe into the glass
Place a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon and lay the spoon across the rim of the glass
Slowly pour the very cold water over the sugar and saturate it
Wait a moment for the sugar to dissolve a bit
As the water dilutes the spirit, the botanical oils are released, herbal aromas “bloom” and the clear green liquid turns cloudy, a result that is called the “louche”
Continue to slowly pour the water over the sugar until you have poured in about 5 ounces and the sugar is mostly dissolved
Allow the louche to rest, and then stir in the remaining undissolved sugar
Soooo, my life has clearly been taken over by this weekly podcast and I PROMISE to post other content on the blog besides these podcast posts, buuuut in the meantime…It’s FriYAY! And that means there’s another Bit by a Fox Podcast heading right towards your earholes! I hope you’re having as much fun as I am. If you ARE, then please write a snappy review, give it all the stars, and share with your frennnz. Self producing is a hustle!
This week we’re talking about The Dark Ages of Cocktails – that ill-fated time period between the late 1960s all the way through the late 1990s. When people happily drank garbage drinks like the ones pictured below.
Since launching the podcast, we’ve already talked a lot about the craft cocktail resurgence over the last 20 years, and we’ve touched on what it was like to come out of the sour-mix-drenched 90s where vodka was king and everyone’s palates were deadened by preservatives and sugar. But how did we get there in the first place?
In this week’s podcast, I go all the way back to prohibition and the following years that made it possible for drinks with names like Sex on the Beach, The Fuzzy Navel and Slippery Nipple to…become a thing. Hoo boy, it was a sexy and gross time.
For this episode, I thought I’d feature a cocktail that has a special place in my heart. One of the first drinks I’d order on the regular when I first started drinking cocktails, and at the time, was never NOT made with sour mix: The Amaretto Sour. But I wanted to share a better version – with fresh juice and more of a kick. This creation is from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the famed Portland, Oregon bartender of Clyde Common and Pepe Le Moko. Jeffrey is considered to be one of the best bartenders out there, and I love the fact that he has made it a point these last few years to bring back the cocktails from the dark ages and improve upon them. I love his explanation for this version of his Amaretto Sour.
I’m really excited for you all to listen to this week’s episode of the Bit by a Fox podcast. It’s a special one. I spoke with my friend and author, and someone who has seen first hand the bloom of the cocktail movement in New York City and internationally, Georgette Moger-Petraske. Georgette is also the widow of the late Sasha Pestraske, the legendary bartender who opened a little speakeasy cocktail bar in the lower east side of Manhattan about 18 years ago called Milk & Honey. Sasha and his bar are really responsible for much of what we’ve come to know about modern day craft cocktails. Milk & Honey has been called one of this century’s most influential drinking dens. Sasha was extremely well regarded as a leader in the industry until his untimely death in 2015. He was 42.
Georgette and Sasha had only been married for a few months at the time of his death – interrupting their life together as well the cocktail book they were to create together. Only a brief outline existed when Georgette made the decision to write what was to be Sasha’s first cocktail book, Regarding Cocktails. I wanted to talk to Georgette about her story, how she met Sasha, her husband’s legacy, his iconic bar Milk & Honey, and how Regarding Cocktails is a tribute to him as a man and also a love letter to all he contributed to the cocktail world.
A girl and her book. Georgette and Regarding Cocktails outside Paris bookstore La Belle Hortense. (taken by moi)
Recent photos from Paris Cocktail Week taken by Philippe Levy.
We ended our episode this week with the Gin & It cocktail, a favorite of the couple’s – so much so it was passed out in mini mason jars at their wedding.
Gin & It – served up in a coupe glass
2 oz Gin
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
garnish: lemon twist
Stir the gin and vermouth in an ice-filled mixing glass until sufficiently chilled. Strain into an chilled coupe glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass to extract the oils. Then garnish the drink with the twist.
How is it Friday already?! This week has sped by at such an unusually fast clip that it’s already time for another Bit by a Fox Podcast! Can you believe it?? The 30-ish minutes you never knew you needed so desperately in your life! This week is a treat. Boozy journalist, mad scientist and all around cocktail nerd, Camper English has joined us to talk all things Gin & Tonic.
His recent book Tonic Water: AKA G&T WTF dives into this surprisingly fascinating subject with equal parts intense research, fun facts, and silly doodles. Over the course of our half hour conversation we discuss the medicinal roots of tonic and its ties to malaria, how the combo of gin and tonic came to be, and what country is the largest consumer of gin in the world (hint: it’s not in the UK).
With each episode we’ll include a cocktail recipe at the end. This week was clearly the Gin & Tonic, so I made one of my favorite versions – a 1:2 ratio of Beefeater London Dry Gin and Bitter Lemon Fever Tree Tonic, with a generous squeeze of lime. Check out the recipe below.
Gin & Tonic – served in a highball glass with ice
3 ounces of Beefeater London Dry Gin
4 ounces of Fever Tree Tonic Water (Bitter Lemon Tonic)
3 lime wedges
Fill your highball with ice. Add the gin & squeeze two limes for a little juice before plopping them in the glass. Then add tonic and give it a good stir. You can garnish with a lime wedge or an orange to bring out the Seville oranges in the Beefeater Gin.
Drumroll please! Get ready to listen to the dulcet tones of someone attempting to avoid the dreaded vocal fry as much as possible…because Bit by a Fox is now a weekly podcast!
It’s true! As an extension of this boozy blog, I’ll be giving you all a weekly dose of audio realness. This has been a long time coming and we are SO stoked to finally get this baby out there. “We” meaning me and my producing partner, Anna Tivell, who is also editor, engineer and all around badass. She makes me sound so much better than IRL! It’s like she’s Facetuned my voice and I never want to speak in real life again.
Why a podcast? The thing about this subject matter is that it’s so rich. The history and culture of drinking lends itself so well to the storytelling medium that podcasts have become. We have a lot of exciting episodes in the works, including interviews with some of my favorites in the cocktail and spirits industry. It’ll be a little mix of history, alchemy and geekdom. And FUN, of course! This inaugural episode is short and sweet, an intro to me and the show.
I’ll be posting the episode link and info here every Friday along with a cocktail recipe that is featured at the end of each episode.
For our first end-of-episode cocktail, I thought it only fitting to feature the OG of classic cocktails, The Old Fashioned. See below for my recipe and then listen to the podcast! Give it a million stars and rave reviews and tell your friends and post to all the social medias!
Old Fashioned – served in a rocks glass
2 oz rye or bourbon
1 sugar cube or teaspoon of loose sugar or ¼ oz of simple syrup
Place the sugar cube in rocks glass, add 3-4 dashes of bitters and a splash of club soda. Muddle to assimilate into the liquids. Add a large ice-cube or a couple smaller ones. Pour in whiskey. Stir until well mixed and chilled. Garnish with an orange peel, a lemon peel, or if you’re old school, an orange wheel and cherry.
Can you believe it? We are just days away from the year coming to a close and a fresh new one beginning. Such a great time to create a clean slate! Begin anew! And mix things up a little! I thought this New Year’s post should follow suit!
While I love, love, LOVE creating sparkling cocktails for a New Year’s celebration, and I’ve made a few in the past for this here blog, we all know that when the clock strikes midnight, most people turn to the bubbly stuff all on its own. This year I decided to focus on those bottles that will be the most bang for your buck – those that look festive and taste special, but won’t break the bank, especially if you want to get multiple bottles for you and your guests.
My picks range from the number one selling Prosecco in Italy priced around $15, to an award-winning Blanc de Blanc Champagne priced under $50, to a Spanish Cava made in the traditional Champagne style that you won’t believe is under $15.
The sparkling wine category has grown steadily year after year, especially in the U.S. almost primarily due to the Prosecco trend. It has nearly eclipsed Champagne in recent years. Clever marketing and the lower price point has been key, of course. And while there has been a glut of questionable quality Proseccos that have flooded the market, there are still many brands that have been able to rival Champagne in taste.
Out of the five featured sparklers featured here, I’ve included two Proseccos. They are both from the same producer – Valdo, crafted in the heart of Prosecco–Valdobbiadene, are both made from 100% Glera grapes, and are priced similarly – around $15. But each one has a slightly different appeal. The Valdo Brut Prosecco DOC is the number one Prosecco consumed in Italy and it is pretty clear why. It goes down incredibly easy; It is slightly drier and has a touch higher alcohol content than the Valdo Oro Puro Prosecco DOCG – the fruitier and toastier of the two. The Oro Puro is aged a bit longer in the bottle and delivers a more complex profile than its modest price might suggest. The fat, elegant shape of the bottle also gives it a little more gravitas than the Brut. Spring for both and serve the Brut with food and then graduate to the Oro Puro to toast afterwards.
If you want to go French but would like to explore something other than traditional Champagne, a good quality Crémant may be just what you’re looking for. It is made using a second fermentation method like Champagne, but is not from the Champagne region. There is more freedom in terms of what grapes to use for Crémant, but they still adhere to fairly strict guidelines during production. The “Côté Mas” Crémant de Limoux Brut St. Hilaire from Languedoc in southwest France is the kind of bottle that Champagne producers don’t want you to know about. In fact, the Limoux appellation has been producing sparkling wines even longer than the Champagne region, having produced the first sparkling wine on record. The Côté Mas has silkier and more delicate bubbles than a traditional Champagne. Citrus, honey and stone fruit come through reflecting the dominant grapes of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. This delicious sparkler is just under $15 a bottle and your guests will never be the wiser.
Spanish Cava has long been known as the poor man’s Champagne substitute. (Prosecco has since taken that title but they somehow have made it sexier!) While Cava production has increased over the years, it still does not get the love it deserves. This is by far the most bang for your buck that you’re going to get. The Paul Cheneau line, produced in the Penedès region, takes a lot of influence from the French style and is made in a classic Champagne method but using Spanish grape varietals. The result is a lively and fresh, almost floral quality. The lengthy age comes through in a silky mouthfeel and a nice round finish. At about $14 a bottle this may be one of the best deals in the bunch.
Of course a list of sparklers to ring in the new year would not be complete without mentioning a Champers. Almost all Champagnes are made with a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, but Blanc de Blancs are made entirely from white grapes. It may not be traditional exactly, but it happens to be my Champagne of choice!
Because Blanc de Blanc is made with only white grapes, it tends to be a little more austere and crisp and have a little more minerality than most other Champagnes. But André Jacquart Champagne Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru Brut Experience goes in a different direction. It is lush and rich, heavier than you’d think when just using 100% Chardonnay grapes. The minerality is still there and it even has a touch of green apple but the depth of flavor and complexity in this Blanc de Blanc belies its single grape. Consistently rated in the top percentage of wines in the world, the $50 per bottle price tag seems like a steal.
Whatever you pick to toast the new year, I hope you get your hands on some if not all of these bottles at some point. With these prices, you can do your own taste test and see which ones are your faves. Because there is always an excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly!
I’ve hiked the Rockies, danced all night in Spanish ruins, and soaked in secret lagoons in Iceland surrounded by wild horses and bubbling earth; I’ve toured swamps deep in the bayou, broken bread with the locals in the mountains of Galicia, and kayaked the bioluminescent waters of Puerto Rico. I count myself lucky to have visited the places I’ve been – much of it through my role as a blogger for Bit by a Fox. With each new adventure I realize how much of the planet I have yet to see, and it leaves me wanting to discover more. After a trip I remain on a high for weeks, if not months, continuing to summon up the food and drink and people and culture that I was just immersed in.
My recent trip to Armenia was an especially extraordinary one that continues to sustain me. I was there to visit the 130-year-old ARARAT Brandy company with four other writers.
This trip was as much about experiencing the ancient city of Yerevan and the Armenian culture as it was about familiarizing ourselves with a spirit that is so intrinsic to its home country.
Having never been to that part of the world, I was a little nervous about what to expect. But, once there, I was surprised by how quickly I’d fallen for it. I found myself trying to compare Armenia to other places I’d been…
There was something familiar about the massive European-like plazas and bustling sidewalk cafes, the vineyards akin to Southern Spain, the dramatic mountain ranges much like the Pacific Northwest, and the Mediterranean-style olives and cheeses and spreads.
But so much was unlike anywhere else I’d ever been. As the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, the Armenian capital of Yerevan wears its political history in its architecture, like layers of clothing in different states of repair; A mix of ultra modern structures all built within the last 20 years is juxtaposed against buildings dating back to the Russian Empire through the Soviet Era.
Yerevan is known as “The Pink City” because many of the buildings were constructed from pink stones taken from lava rock found in the surrounding area, giving the impression of a rose-colored city set aglow at that magic hour before sunset.
It’s only been 26 years since Armenia was granted independence from the Soviet Union, and Yerevan feels very much like a city that is going through an exciting metamorphosis, still undiscovered by American tourists.
Despite this cosmopolitan transformation, the soul of ancient Armenia remains – modern art sits alongside sacred structures, sophisticated boutiques share space with traditional rug vendors, and while acapella voices fill ancient temples with classical music during the day, jazz clubs light up the night.
Ok, so Armenia is beautiful and special and this trip was an exciting one and all but…how is the brandy?! The thing is, I can’t talk about the brandy until I talk about Armenia. ARARAT Brandy claims to be the “Symbol of Armenia” and if ever there was a spirit that represented a culture, this is it. Ask any Armenian, it is the pride and jewel of the nation.
From the moment you land in the Zvartnots International Airport, you are inundated with billboards, and banners above the gates, and sexy videos of slow-mo brandy flowing into snifters playing on loop hovering just above each ticket line. Upon entering the city of Yerevan, some of the first buildings you see clustered high on a hill, looming large over the capital city and the Hrazdan river, will most likely be The Yerevan Brandy Company. This is where the parent company of ARARAT Brandy has its headquarters, distillery and ARARAT Museum and Visitor Center. It made sense that this was our first stop on what would be an epic, brandy-filled visit.
The ARARAT Museum and Visitor Center is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Armenia. Guides conduct tours 7 days a week in Armenian, Russian, English, French and German.
People from all over the world leave their mark here.
Now, about that brandy…
While ARARAT’S brandy range spans 3 years to over 30, a tasting at the visitor center will most likely include three of their most popular: Akhtamar (10 years), Nairi (20 years) and Dvin (Collection Reserve) – said to be Winston Churchill’s favorite brandy.
ARARAT is made in a Cognac style, double distilled and matured in oak barrels made in Yerevan Brandy Company’s workshop from trees over 70 years old. Each expression has its own personality, but I’ve found ARARAT in general to be slightly softer and floral than a lot of Cognacs. The ten-year old Akhtamar is rich, with dried fruit and big exotic spices coming through. The Nairi is my personal favorite. It is voluptuous and complex and intense with delicate oak lingering. Winston Churchill’s favorite brandy is said to have been the exclusive ARARAT Dvin. Aged longer in oak casks, it has a heavy tobacco quality, not unlike Churchill’s other favorite vice, cigars! Nutty, coffee notes and rich cooking spices come through.
The day after our distillery visit and tasting, we spent an afternoon in a vineyard under the commanding presence of Mount Ararat, the symbol of Armenia, said to be the resting place of Noah’s Ark.
Only Armenian grapes can be used in the production of ARARAT Brandy.
We had the opportunity to get acquainted with these native grapes fed by 300 days of Armenian sunshine that thrive in high altitude and their dry climate.
Our visit was just after harvest season and we were able to witness truckloads of these small, sweet white grapes get pressed. Exciting stuff!
After familiarizing ourselves with everything that goes into the production of ARARAT Brandy, we were led on a comprehensive tour of Yerevan and its countryside, with stops at historic monuments and ancient temples.
Each meal better than the next. With plenty of ARARAT Brandy involved.
Our last night culminated in a dinner with the international ARARAT team and Russian media celebrating ARARAT’S 130 year anniversary, and an unveiling of its Single Cask bottle. A special end to a trip for the ages.
I’ll be carrying this visit to Armenia and my experience with ARARAT Brandy with me as I do all of the places that have touched me and changed me so profoundly. The people, the culture and the heart of its nation, their brandy, will forever stay with me.