This is my sober face.
Awwww, remember that tawdry, pulp mag pic from my very first blog post?? No? Well, you may not be alone! Since more eyes are on this blog than ever before, I figured, in honor of Throwback Thursday, I’d re-post that original manifesto-of-sorts; the very first call to foxy cocktail enthusiasts and seekers of boozy news. At the time, a great many of you answered back with a surprising spirit. So, if you are seeing this for a second time, welcome back! And I love you. But if this is your first time on Bit By a Fox…WELCOME, friend! Let’s get to know each other. And let’s get bit!
Bit By a Fox! Isn’t it a delightful expression? Made all the more appealing, I happen to think, to know that it is an English tavern phrase dating back to the 16th century, meaning tipsy, a wee intoxicated, slightly inebriated, a tad squiffy…or as my mother likes to say, a little lit! Fox-drunk or foxed were also terms that were used more frequently during that time and into the 18th century. But these all eventually disappeared from our lexicon, taking with them other colorful phrases along the way, such as Cork High and Bottle Deep, and my new, personal favorite: Laughing at the Carpet. So much more elegant than shitfaced, no? Let’s bring them all back!
So, let’s say you ARE in England, in a tavern during the early part of the 16th century, and you really want to get Bit By a Fox…like SUPER foxed. Who would blame you? What with the Bubonic plague going around and raw sewage floating down the streets and an average life expectancy of 40….and all the rats, there’s no wonder alcohol consumption was at an all time high. The rats alone, gah! However, if you are hanging around a tavern, looking to get crunked, most likely you are a man (sorry, ladies – you are not a welcome patron…but if you’re the proprietor’s daughter, you probs get to bartend!), and while your average consumption of about 17 pints of beer and ale per week should be enough to get you Bit By a Fox on the regular, you don’t really have many other drink options. Some generic forms of aqua vitae may appear behind the bar, but at this time, drinking spirits is still largely used for medicinal purposes. And wine is rarely served here. You will have to wait a good two hundred years before it gets very interesting.
Sorry, dude. It was a grim time in the history of imbibing. Choices were limited, quality control was extremely lax and you were lucky if the only side effect of that warm, sour ale you guzzled just got you a little foxed and didn’t force you to have a week-long date with the chamber pot. Hello there, dysentery! Point being, there was no artisanal bitters, hand chipped ice, seasonal rosés or temperature controlled cask micro brews readily available. Even rudimentary cocktails were hardly a glimmer in that bar maid’s eye. Thankfully, we don’t live in the 16th century! Ladies are welcome on either side of the bar! And we have actual toilets that flush! (I’m seriously thankful for that, like every day.)
You guys, we are so spoiled! Forget about romanticizing the pre-prohibition era in America, we are living in the golden age of booze RIGHT NOW. From small batch distilleries and microbreweries popping up seemingly overnight in every nook of the country, to wineries in Arizona and Virginia and New York finally coming into their own, there is no question the United States is going through a boozy renaissance. And spirits and cocktails are at the forefront of this movement. The rise in popularity of small-batch distilleries coincides with the popularity of speakeasies and bars featuring classic and specialty cocktails. But it’s taken a while to get here. Although domestic wine and craft beer has been enjoying massive success for a number of decades, spirits production, on a small batch level, has taken longer to bounce back from that less than Noble Experiment. This is mainly because up until about 10 years ago, Prohibition-era liquor laws were Still. In. Place. You read that right. It took 70 years to start adjusting those laws that were clearly a FAILURE and an embarrassment to our country, in order to move forward to form the varied, booze-rich nation that we have grown so accustomed to these last few years. As you can imagine, this shift in legislature has been a huge hit! Since 2005, 200 micro-distilleries in 45 states have launched, and in 10 years time, we are projected to have over 1,000 small batch stills in operation. Yeah, AMERICA!
Watch your step, ladies!
The people of this country are more sophisticated and enthusiastic than ever. Y’all are home brewing, infusing your own spirits with lavender and bacon, guiding wine tastings in your living rooms, tricking out your home bars with extensive bourbon collections and bitters and tonics and potions, oh my! It is arguably over the top. Pairing tequila flights with cupcakes probably shouldn’t happen. But, then again, maybe it should!
While we’ve come a long way from bathtub gin and warm, sour ale as our only option, it still seems like we may have a ways to go in terms of widespread knowledge about the good stuff. Skinny Girl Cocktails, which includes inferior alcohol and is loaded with preservatives, is the fastest growing spirit brand in America. People are still nuts about Red Bull and vodka. And there are entire Pinterest boards devoted to the most heinous looking, neon colored cocktails, with no root in anything remotely food-like. While I feel like the small batch, local and craft cocktail movement has reached a fever pitch because I happen to live in an obsessive (and occasionally, obnoxious) bubble surrounded by these kinds of businesses, (Brooklyn in the HOOOUUUSE!) not everyone is feeling it. And maybe they don’t want to get on board. Some people are perfectly content with and prefer their Boone’s Farm Wine Coolers and using Crystal Light as a mixer. Hey, I’ve spent entire summers worshiping at the altar of Gin and Fresca and I have my very own brief but ugly experience involving Boone’s Farm Fruit Punch “wine”. Those Pinterest boards filled with bright blue cocktails and bubble gum garnishes are appealing to a LOT of people (Disclaimer: I HAVE used Pixie Stix to rim a champagne cocktail). But I love the fact that there is a trend towards producing the good stuff, and that we are taking our knowledge of the past and building on it to create an exceptional, boozy landscape with more choices than ever before. In fact, there is so much out there, from new spirits launches to seasonal cocktail trends to the hand crafted mixers and bitters flooding the market, it’s difficult to navigate it all. Hopefully, that’s where this blog comes in!
Come along with me to discover the ever-burgeoning spirits scene that continues to sweep the country (and globe). Let’s figure out if any of the cocktail trends are worth practicing, the venues are worth dropping our dough on and what the difference is between a Daisy and a Flip! Let’s delve into the history of the stuff we’re pouring down our gullets and unearth rare cocktail recipes and get the stories behind them! And let’s also create original, seasonal cocktails with simple step by step guides while creating our own syrups, bitters, mixers and shrubs along the way!
Whether you’re a skilled mixologist, obsessing over ice and schooling (annoying) your friends on the history of the Sazerac or you’re someone who is brand new to all this mixing, shaking and stirring and just want to know what all the fuss is about…there should be SOMEthing for you here. Pretty drinks! No rats! I can guarantee at least that.
So, I welcome you to my first, (and longest ever, I promise,) blog post.
And I invite you to get Bit By a Fox!
The readers have spoken…and clearly they’re Bit By a Fox! We won, you guys! We WOOOOONNN! Bit By a Fox blog has won Readers’ Choice Best Cocktail Blog for Saveur Magazine’s Fifth Annual Best Food Blog Awards 2014!!!
This was obviously a group effort and I cannot thank you all enough – for voting, trying to vote twice and failing, attempting to vote on your phones and getting frustrated, voting despite having to register and only complaining about it a little bit…and spreading the word far and wide these last couple of weeks. I have been so moved by all of your incredible support. You like this boozy blog, you really like it! With more eyes on it than I ever imagined, I guess I better step up my game! Not even a year old yet, I am so proud of what this blog has become and I look forward to growing even more with all of you.
Thanks again for being the foxiest friends around.
A few weeks back I made a hibiscus syrup for a Hibiscus Pisco Sour cocktail I created to feature the delightful Capurro Pisco. And because my Italian side is dominant when it comes to portion size, I made enough syrup to sweeten up a small village. I’ve been living in hibiscus town ever since. It’s a tarty, magenta colored dream. Come along with me, you guys. I’ll show you around!
As many folks in subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world know, hibiscus flowers are not just lovely to look at, when they are dried, they can be a delicious addition to all kinds of recipes. But they are most commonly used to brew a refreshing tea served both hot and cold and known by different names throughout the world: “Sour Tea” in Iran, “Agua de Jamaica” in Latin America, “Sorrel” throughout the Caribbean and “Karkadé” in Egypt and Sudan. This bright, tart, and tangy tea has been enjoyed for centuries, is said to have been the preferred beverage of the pharaohs, and is commonly used for a variety of health benefits, most notably to lower blood pressure and support upper respiratory and heart health. These pretty, little dried flowers can also be steeped in sugar and water to produce the most gorgeous looking syrup, perfect for all of those spring cocktails that you’ve been wanting to whip up! Tea and spice shops often carry dried hibiscus flowers, but if you are having trouble finding it, you can always go online!
Hibiscus Cocktail Syrup
1 cup of sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers
Tbsp lime zest
Pinch of salt to taste
Combine sugar, water and hibiscus over med-high heat in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring until all sugar is dissolved. With the heat off, let steep for another 20 minutes. Add lime zest and pinch of salt. Double strain through wire mesh and let cool. Will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.
You can substitute most simple syrups with this ruby-hued delight to liven up your springtime cocktails. In fact, just last week, while visiting sunny Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of mixing up a few batches of hibiscus French 75s for some foxy Angelenos. They were a huge hit!
Hibiscus French 75
1.5 oz dry gin
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz hibiscus syrup
Build the first three ingredients in the glass. Then top it all off with bubbly.
In a pinch, you can add a spot of this syrup to sparkling wine on its own for some extra color and zip! And you can call it the Hibiscus Royale. You’re welcome!
And because I didn’t include a recipe for the Hibiscus Pisco Sour a few weeks back, here it is!
2 oz Capurro Premium Pisco
1 oz lime juice
1 oz hibiscus syrup
1 egg white
2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Dry shake – shake first four ingredients without ice first to emulsify egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into coupe glass and top with bitters.
Welcome to hibiscus town! You may never want to leave. Now, tell me what you end up doing with this tarted up syrup while you’re here!
Hey, guys! Did you hear the news? This here blog is up for Best Cocktail Blog for Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blogs of 2014. Pretty exciting stuff! Especially considering the talented folks that are in this category with me. Here’s the thing, as much as getting to be a finalist has been such an incredible honor, and I can’t quite believe the savvy editors at Saveur Magazine have even chosen this boozy blog from thousands…I’d REALLY like to win!
I know many of you have already cast your ballot for Bit By a Fox, and I am so grateful to all of you who have taken the time to do so. Thank you!!! For those of you who have not had a chance to vote yet, you have until midnight TONIGHT!!! You have to register your name but you DO NOT have to sign up for anything. I promise. They are just trying to make sure that everyone gets to vote only once per category. Vote here!
Thanks for being so damned FOXY. xo
BIG DEAL ALERT, Foxy Friends! I did a Q&A with the lovely Lea Faminiano from the arts and urban culture magazine The Couch Sessions. And it’s now up on their site! We really covered everything…from my background, what brought me to New York City and how I got into cocktails in the first place, to how Bit By a Fox was born. We even went over how I’d envision a perfect day spent in Red Hook, Brooklyn (spoiler alert: a lot of food and drinks are involved). I talked a lot, you guys! So, if you have any interest in getting a little inside scoop on Bit By a Fox and how it came to be, now’s your chance! Read my yammerings HERE!
Sure, we’ve all been there. You’re super psyched to be out with a group of friends or on a hot date at some swanky, new cocktail-bar-of-the-moment where you hear that they hand carve their ice cubes into diamonds, rinse their cocktail glasses with angel’s sighs and rim with genuine 14K gold dust. (Ok, as far as I know, no one is doing the above ridiculousness, but you’d think this were the case at some of these places given the, often-times, bonkers prices we are faced with in order to get top-notch cocktails down our gullets. Those steep prices are usually justified by the expense of fresh juice and quality ingredients, not to mention the labor and attention to detail you may get at a place that really cares about their cocktail program.) But, what happens if, after all the pomp and circumstance and zesting and flaming of orange rinds, your cocktail arrives and you can barely drink it. But you don’t want to spoil the night, insult the bartender or bother the cocktail server, and you decide to, unhappily, suck it up. Literally.
I, for one, am willing to pay a premium to do away with the crap and get the good stuff. But if a cocktail is not working out for me for some reason, I rarely hesitate to speak up. No one wants to be that asshole – the persnickety, high maintenance guest who is ruining everyone’s evening, causing a stir over the dryness of their martini (see what I did there?). And I’m not suggesting we treat the cocktail menu like our own personal box of chocolates sampler, taking a swig from each one in order to decide which one we like. But, I’m of the mind that if you are paying main course prices for a few ounces of liquid, you should thoroughly enjoy what you’re drinking. The bar and drink slingers should want the same thing. It is only good business to make you happy so that you order more, have great things to say about the place and come back again. But I know that expressing your dissatisfaction with a cocktail to your bartender or server can be very difficult for a lot of people. I’ve seen it with almost all of my friends. What is the proper etiquette?
I may feel more comfortable saying something to my server or bartender because I am usually able to identify what might make the drink more palatable for me and how it could be tweaked without having to order an entirely different one. A smidge more simple syrup or citrus or a splash of soda can do wonders to a drink that just tastes a little off-balance to you. These requests are rarely met with anything other than a willingness to make it right. If you’re not able to articulate what you don’t like about a drink, and you want to send it back to get a new one, however, that is often not very helpful and particularly annoying. But, sometimes that lack of articulation can prevent people from piping up in the first place. And they choose to just drink something that they don’t like! So, my advice? Drink more! That is, try different things and be more mindful when you DO drink. Pay attention to what you like or dislike about certain flavors and spirits, and hone your palate. Also, be informed before you order. Get to know what those fancy ingredients are. That doesn’t mean you need to become a bona-fide cocktail nerd like me (I love researching weird booze!), it just means that when you are reading a cocktail menu and you come across something you’re not familiar with, ask your bartender or server what it is. I guarantee that they will be so jazzed to talk about it. Or, if you are painfully shy or don’t like interacting with humans, you can always pull out your smart phone and Google that shit.
There may be times, however, when you order something that you can tell is a well made cocktail but just isn’t your style. In this case you probably should just suck it up. But you can look at it as an experience to help you better identify what IS your style. Once you get to know your own palate better, you can figure out pretty quickly whether or not that fancy pants drink you ordered is your new cocktail crush, something that may need some adjusting, or is just an unusual tipple that is helping to expand your cocktail horizons. But at the end of the glass, everyone deserves to be happy.
Find the recipe HERE!
What exactly is pisco, you ask? You’ve definitely heard of it. You might have even tried it. Probably in the form of a Pisco Sour. And you probably know that it comes from Latin America. But, what is it made from? Is the flavor like tequila? Or is it neutral like vodka?
First of all, what you need to know about pisco is that it is a brandy made from grapes. But unlike grappa or other aguardientes made from the solid part of the grape – byproducts of wine production, the leftover pulp, skin and seeds – pisco is made by distilling the fermented grape, the solid and liquid together. It is essentially wine that is distilled.
Pisco is produced in designated regions in both Peru and Chile with both countries claiming ownership of the spirit. The dispute is fierce and even the etymology of the name pisco, is still hotly debated. Since both countries were once part of the same Spanish viceroyalty when the conquistadores first brought grape vines to the region in the 16th century in order to make this beloved spirit, it makes sense that there is some confusion as to its exact genesis. The point is, pisco has been so incredibly popular for centuries in Peru and Chile that they’ve BOTH adopted it as their national drink. Update: Peru wins, according to the EU.
Why isn’t pisco as popular over here? Pisco gained popularity in San Francisco and other parts of California during the Gold Rush era in the late 1800s and early 20th century, but after prohibition, for many years, it was difficult to find this South American liquor. Most pisco producers are very small and don’t export outside of their countries. But that’s slowly changing. Pisco is making a comeback! Let’s be a part of it!
Tonight at Atlantic Cellars from 6-9pm, I’ll be making a Hibiscus Pisco Sour cocktail with the incredibly smooth, versatile and delicious Capurro Premium Pisco from Peru:
The Capurro family has been producing premium pisco for 5 generations and over 100 years. They even received a double gold medal at the San Francisco world spirits competition in 2008. But it’s only in the last few years that they have had distribution in the states. In September 2012, they had a limited release of their product in Miami and the South Florida area, and then eventually made their way up the East Coast.
Capurro Premium Pisco is made in the Nazca desert, using a secret family recipe. The especially warm weather makes the family estate-grown grapes sweeter and riper than most pisco grapes. It is also, apparently, the only vintage dated pisco on the market, making this hand-crafted and terroir driven pisco, one of the most special.
I hope you’ll join me tonight anytime between 6-9pm at Atlantic Cellars to taste this premium pisco on its own as well as in my delicious, ruby hued cocktail – the Hibiscus Pisco Sour! Pick up a bottle of your own Capurra Pisco as well as the recipe to this yummy drink. Salud!
It’s TRUE! Spring has officially arrived just in time to rescue all of us from what has seemed like a never-ending Game of Thrones winter of pain. You know what that means?? Spring Cocktail Fever! I don’t know about you, but I am full-on cocktail crushing all over town. Take last night’s Cocktail Crush at The John Dory Oyster Bar, for instance. The Rattlesnake cocktail is a sublime mix of flavors that is the perfect transitional cocktail from winter to early spring. Old Overholt Rye whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, with an absinthe rinse, this cocktail straddles the colder season and yet ushers in a hopeful, warmer one. The absinthe and bright citrus lightens up the spice in the rye and the creamy, egg white smooths out the overall drink. The addition of egg white also creates a lovely, thick foam on top of the coupe glass. The Rattlesnake is also gorgeous to look at. It was so swoon-worthy, in fact, that I had two, thankyouverymuch! Rattlesnake, you’ve done bit me…and I liked it!
Here’s to longer days, brighter spirits and many more spring crushes. Cheers!
It’s St. Patrick’s Day today. Are you covered in shamrocks, chomping on a green bagel yet? Here, in New York, it is very much a thing. From the parade down 5th Ave (which has lost some notable sponsorship this year), to the swarms of four-leaf-clover-clad revelers that pack the pubs, “liven” up the streets and manage to peak by lunch time, it can feel like the whole city is Irish-ish (or, rather an enormous frat party) for the day. I have had some lovely corned beef and cabbage dinners, have attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and can even get into a little Riverdance action, but I have never really embraced the green beer and bacchanalia insanity that takes over our city this time of year. I am a big fan of the Irish people and culture, however, and a HUGE fan of their whisky. So instead of creating a weird, green cocktail for the day, I recommend sipping on the good stuff from the land of green.
Bushmills is one of my personal favorites, and it happens to come from the oldest licensed distillery in the world. Liquor.com has also come up with some Irish Whiskys that you may not be familiar with here. So, leave the car bombs and green beer to the amateurs and toast the Emerald Isle with some truly old school “water of life”. Sláinte!
Start your weekend out right: Listen to this, make this, and do whatever that lady in the fly, plaid, yellow jumpsuit of joy is doing because it looks like a good time. Pro tip – Try to do all of these things at the same time. You’re welcome!!!