It seems like people in the drinks industry, me included, have been singing the praises of wine based aperitifs for a number of years now. Bartenders and hard core cocktail nerds have been serving up and sipping on various amari and fortified wines since the craft cocktail resurgence this past decade.
It’s an incredibly versatile cocktail ingredient, pairs well with food and is a lovely low ABV option to have it on its own. But it’s taken the average consumer a hot second to wrap their palates around this product that’s not quite wine…not quite spirit. The spritz craze has helped to change all that, and new kid on the block Lo-Fi Aperitifs are HERE FOR IT.
Founded in 2016 in San Francisco as a collab between the world’s largest family owned winery, E&J Gallo and designer and drinks industry veteran, Steven Grasse – creator of Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum – Lo-Fi’s roots have some serious gravitas behind it. Not to mention, the bottles are major eye candy.
But what about what’s INSIDE those swoon-worthy bottles? While Lo-Fi Aperitifs has been testing out the market since their launch in 2016 in northern California and the east coast, they only recently officially launched in Los Angeles, and I was able to try all three of their products – a Dry Vermouth, a Sweet Vermouth and a wine based Gentian Amaro. I was blown away by how delicious each of these was on its own and immediately inspired to work them into cocktails.
Vermouth has gotten a bad wrap for too long. Those dusty bottles in the back bar that turned when you weren’t paying attention? Recent history, folks! I’ve seen the future of vermouth and Lo-Fi is doing some magical things with the category.
There are two vermouths in Lo-Fi’s product line, both are incredible on their own, and I HAVE to emphasize that, but I also love playing with them in simple cocktails where they really shine. I’ve always been a fan of a 50/50 martini with an aperitif that can stand up to a quality gin. The Lo-Fi Martini is no exception.
Lo-Fi’s Dry Vermouth skews slightly sweeter with tons of citrus, a touch of elderflower and anise and subtle spice. It pairs well with a London-style dry gin and a lemon twist. For this iteration, I thought I’d bring out the savory aspects a bit more by adding a green olive garnish.
LO-FI MARTINI 1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin 1 1/2 oz Lo-Fi Dry Vermouth dash of aromatic bitters
Stir ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with green olives.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite from the three Lo-Fi products, but I have to say their Sweet Vermouth has got to be one of the most delicious fortified wines I’ve ever had.
The flavor profile is surprisingly complex and easy drinking at the same time. Cocoa, orange peel, cinnamon, and stone fruit – namely apricot – are just some of the many nuanced flavors that come through.
With its wine roots, and the incredibly bright stone fruit coming through, I thought of pairing it with brandy right away. A splash of tonic makes for a refreshing sipper that doesn’t mask the beautiful fruit and spice flavors.
LO-FI SWEET BRANDY TONIC 2 oz Lo-Fi Sweet Vermouth 1 oz Brandy Splash Tonic (to taste) Lemon Twist
Build in rocks glass with ice. Garnish with lemon twist.
Oh! Did someone mention a spritz earlier?!
Like everyone on the planet who likes deliciously refreshing beverages, Lo-Fi has recognized the popularity of the spritz cocktail. They have realized its potential, and with their incredibly quaffable Gentian Amaro, they are taking it to the next level.
At 40-proof, their amaro packs more of a punch than some of the traditional liqueurs used to make a spritz. The bitterness is also beautifully balanced by ginger, sweet citrus and exotic flowers. Like all of Lo-Fi’s products, it is incredibly luscious and easy to drink.
All three of these drinks are perfect for the sweltering summer months, but the spritz is especially made for this kind of weather. Now that you’ve gotten to know a bit about Lo-Fi, you have no excuse. Pick up a few of those photogenic bottles, make your new favorite thirst quencher, and spread the word – National Spritz Day is gonna be a thing!
LO-FI SPRITZ 3 oz Sparkling Wine 2 oz Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro 1 oz Soda Orange Slice Garnish
Build in wine glass over ice. Garnish with orange slice.
This post was sponsored by Lo-Fi Aperitifs. As always, all opinions are my own!
On this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast we’re talking about one of MY favorite spirits, GIN. And one of my favorite London Dry style brands, Sipsmith Gin.
The launch of Sipsmith Gin in 2009 was a critical moment for craft distilling in the UK. Not only was it the first copper-pot based distillery to open its doors in London since 1820, but with this historic birth of a new London Dry style gin, Sipsmith helped to usher in a slew of other small batch distilleries across the country. They especially helped to change the landscape for handcrafted, small batch gin in the UK. From the moment the gin arrived in the states, it was embraced by the bar community…that is when and if they could get their hands on it.
Since becoming a subsidiary of Beam Suntory in 2016, Sipsmith has gone from hard to find to seemingly everywhere overnight. Bartenders and booze nerds alike had been waiting for this accessibility for years. Sipsmith Gin also owes a good deal of its popularity to the hardworking brand ambassadors that have made sure to get those bottles into the market, behind the bar, and directly to consumers.
I recently got to catch up with Sipsmith Gin’s West Coast Brand Ambassador, the very charming Lucy Ellis. She oversees all of California and Pacific Northwest territories for the brand. She is also a spirits industry veteran, having worked in notable bars in the UK, New York City and right here in Los Angeles.
This week’s cocktail is Lucy’s take on a very booze forward Gin & Tonic named after her husband’s grandparents, Dar & Elmer.
This week’s cocktail recipe – Gaby’s Carrot + Cardamom cocktail – includes the “Clean” and “Dirty” version
1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp of fresh carrot juice
2 Tbsp of Cardamom Simple Syrup*
1 Tbsp fresh yuzu juice or fresh lime juice
1 drop of alcohol-free gentian root tincture
Ice cubes for shaking and serving
fennel frond, parsley sprig, or pea shoot for garnish
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add 5 ice cubes, and shake hard for 3 seconds. Fill a stemless wineglass or double Old-Fashioned glass with ice cubes. Using a Hawthorne strainer, strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with the fennel frond, parsley sprig, or pea shoot.
3 Tbsp Old Tom Gin or other dry gin
3 Tbsp fresh carrot juice
1 1/2 Tbsp Aperol
1 Tbsp fresh yuzu juice or fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Simple Syrup
2 dashes of Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters
Ice cubes for shaking
fennel frond, parsley sprig, or pea shoot for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, carrot juice, Aperol, yuzu and lemon juices, syrup, and cardamom bitters. Add 5 ice cubes, and shake hard for 3 seconds. Follow the same instructions for the Clean version, garnish and enjoy!
*Cardamom Simple Syrup
First make a simple syrup with 1 cup sugar & 1 cup water.
Add 1/4 cup ground cardamom to 4 cups warm simple syrup. Stir and let sit for 2 to 3 hours to get a full infusion before using.
LA is one of the most exciting places for food & drink culture in the world right now, and has been underrated for years. I decided to shine a light on my chosen home and make this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast episode local. I focused on a bartender, a drinks program, and a restaurant that has made an incredible impression on this city in recent years. Bartender, Tobin Shea, my guest for this week’s episode, has been making an impression on LA pretty much since he landed from rural Pennsylvania 20 years ago.
We talked about his journey from college bartender to the Los Angeles rock, club and cabaret scenes, and into the craft cocktail world he now helps to lead. Tobin now heads one of the most inventive bar programs in Los Angeles. As Bar Director of Redbird restaurant, an architectural gem in downtown LA owned by celebrated chef Neal Fraser and wife, Amy Knoll Fraser, Tobin has helped to create one of the most exciting cocktail menus in the city.
A cocktail collection of 31 different drinks, titled The Plain Truth About the Best Seeds, is inspired by the first growing season and harvest from their recently opened garden. And is designed to mimic the vintage Burpee Seeds catalog with beautiful illustrations to match the inventive and delicious cocktails.
The cocktail recipe this week is Tobin Shea’s lower alcohol cocktail from The Plain Truth About the Best Seeds cocktail menu at Redbird: Chrysanthemum. (second from left, yellow/clear-colored)
2 ½ oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
¼ oz. Bénédictine
¼ oz. Pernod Absinthe
2 dashes orange bitters
In a mixing glass add all ingredients and ice. Stir until chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy.
We are continuing our Scotch whisky streak with this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast. I recently interviewed Scotsman, Callum O’Donnell, the brand new, fresh faced global brand ambassador for Aberlour, the beloved Single Malt Scotch produced in the heart of Speyside, and known for their sherry cask aging. We talked about his time in the Dominican Republic getting his brand ambassador legs, the small town of Aberlour’s magical Druid history, and the new Aberlour release, Casg Annamh. Be sure to listen for a surprise cameo from one of downtown LA’s great bartenders.
The cocktail recipe this week is one of Callum’s favorites, a scotch-based Whisky Sour.
Scotch Whisky Sour
2 oz Scotch Whisky
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Lemon twist for garnish
Add the whisky, lemon juice, simple and egg white to a shaker with one large ice cube and shake vigorously until chilled. Add more ice and shake some more. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass until the drink develops a foamy head. Add the aromatic bitters. Express the oils from the lemon twist and garnish.
Aquavit, aqua vitae…”Water of Life”. This Scandinavian spirit has been produced since the 15th century and yet, here in the states, we’re still getting to know it. Bartender, writer and brand manager for Åhus Akvavit, Malina Bickford is making it her mission to spread the good word about this centuries old spirit of the Nordics.
For this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast, Malina takes us through a bit of the history and production of aquavit, we try Åhus Akvavit, a contemporary Swedish brand that is becoming a favorite among bartenders, and discuss Aquavit Week, a week-long celebration of the signature spirit of Scandinavia, now in its seventh year.
We recorded this episode at Redbird restaurant in downtown Los Angeles – one of the biggest supporters of Aquavit Week in LA. Bar Director Tobin Shea has led an award-winning bar program that features a variety of aquavit brands and aquavit cocktails. Tobin also joins us later into the episode, shares the Åhus Akvavit cocktail featured on the menu for Aquavit Week, and helps to explain how he likes to incorporate aquavit into cocktails.
Brandy is having a moment. Well, it’s had many moments over the years but it’s definitely having a moment again.
Brandy, a spirit created by distilling wine, dates back to the beginning of distillation. It also plays a pivotal role in American history. It was once a fundamental part of daily life during the Colonial era, was extremely popular into the 18th and 19th Centuries, and during the The Golden Age of cocktails was THE go-to spirit for crafty libations. The idea of aging whiskies in America was even inspired by brandy. The very first Bourbon in the states was put into charred oak barrels to mimic the taste the brandies coming out of France. But then Prohibition came along and the brandy industry was nearly all but destroyed in the states. And even when this current golden age of cocktails rose up, and out of favor spirits were suddenly in vogue again, it failed to totally bring brandy back to its original heyday. But with American consumption of Cognac on the rise, continued interest in classic craft cocktails, and brandy distilleries once again dotting our country, brandy is having a moment.
On the Bit by a Fox Podcast this week, our guest is veteran bartender Jeff Bell from legendary drinking den PDT in New York City. Jeff is the consulting master blender of an exciting new American born brandy called BERTOUX Brandy. It recently launched in New York and here in California where I caught up with Jeff at their recent launch party. Coming off of my visit to Cognac, this was great timing to introduce you listeners to all things brandy and prep for our Cognac series coming up soon.
This week’s featured cocktail is a Sidecar with specs from Jeff Bell
Bertoux Brandy Sidecar
1.5 oz of Bertoux Brandy
3/4 oz of Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Simple syrup
lemon wedge, granulated white sugar
To sugar a rim on a coupe glass, swipe a lemon wedge around the top edge of the glass and then dip into a sugar filled saucer to coat the rim with sugar. Place all cocktail ingredients into an ice-filled shaker and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass with sugared rim.
This week’s podcast guest has been a long time coming – New York-based spirits and cocktail writer, Kara Newman. Kara is the Spirits Editor for Wine Enthusiast and is the author of multiple cocktail books including the forthcoming little gem: Nightcap: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening – available October 16th.
I caught up with Kara at the recent BevCon drinks conference here in LA – her very first visit to LA! – and we might have indulged in a few nightcaps of our own at my place in the middle of the day. Whoops!
Open & Shut
1 1/2 oz Amaro Lucano
1/2 oz of Cognac
Combine Amaro and Cognac in a rocks glass with no ice, and stir. Garnish is optional, a lemon or orange peel is nice. In Julia Momose’s words: “Simply build in the glass, retire to bed, sip, and ease yourself into slumber.”
For this week’s Bit by a Fox podcast we’re getting a little less boozy. Or rather, not boozy at all! In this latest episode we talk about one of the most successful spirit launches out of the UK in recent years – Seedlip – a product that bills itself as the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit.
What does that even mean? How do you drink it? And why has it been so wildly popular in the craft cocktail community? Bartenders Aaron Polsky and Laura Lashley explain it all in this fun interview. They’ve been working with the brand here in LA, and have been singing its gospel since it landed stateside and has gained buzz across the country. This is our first interview with multiple guests and we did this on location at Aaron’s home bar, Harvard & Stone in Hollywood.
Seedlip East Side – makes 1 drink
2 ounces of Seedlip Garden 108
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 cucumber slices
small bunch mint leaves
In a cocktail shaker, muddle a cucumber slice and 5-6 mint leaves. Add the Seedlip Garden 108, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and ice. Shake until well-chilled, then double-strain into a an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice and mint sprig.
Gay Pride Month is coming to a close, and our three part series on the Bit by a Fox Podcast devoting episodes to LGBTQ stories is also wrapping up. In this third and final episode, we bring the focus to Los Angeles. My guest this week is Garrett McKechnie, bartender and co-owner of the award winning Bar Mattachine, a gay bar in downtown Los Angeles that has successfully merged gay bar culture and history with craft cocktails.
We discuss Garrett’s evolution working in gay bars in both NYC and LA, the significance of LA’s role in the story of American gay rights, how the scene has evolved, and where we are today.
This week’s featured cocktail is Bar Mattachine’s signature cocktail named after the leader of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles, Harry Hay.
2 Oz Rittenhouse 100 proof Rye
1/4 Amargo Angostura Vallet Liqueur
1/2 Oz Dolin Rouge Vermouth
1/4 Oz Maraschino Liqueur
Stir all ingredients over ice until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Flame a lemon peel over glass and discard. Garnish with a brandied cherry.