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If you’ve been following my social media recently, then you know that I made a trip out to Louisiana last month to visit the TABASCO® headquarters on beautiful Avery Island.
I was lucky enough to be invited with eight other food and drinks bloggers to experience the unique production of the legendary pepper sauce, TABASCO®, firsthand, in the place where it was birthed by Edmund McIlhenny over 150 years ago. The recipe of crushed red hot peppers, vinegar and salt hasn’t changed in all of that time (except the higher quality vinegar used and the barrel aging is quite a bit longer). Despite its worldwide notoriety and mass distribution, this devotion to consistency and quality control may be due to the fact that the company is still family owned five generations later. And that family, the McIlhenny’s, invited us into their world…
We really got to see and experience the entire process for how TABASCO® is made from seed…
The mash consists of just peppers and salt and is aged up to three years in white oak barrels.
…to barrel aging.
We even witnessed fifth generation President and CEO, Anthony “Tony” Simmons, testing out the pepper mash as he does every morning at 9am. Talk about hands on! Our sinuses were VERY clear after this visit!
Then we went on the factory line.
We were then given a guided tasting of all of the TABASCO® flavors with Tony Simmons and Charlie Chang, TABASCO’S brilliant in-house food scientist and flavor creator.
To get the full Cajun experience, we were taken into town to New Iberia’s Boiling Point restaurant, and treated to massive amounts of crawfish and indulged in Louisiana delicacies like gator balls and po boys. With extra TABASCO® on the side, of course!
Avery Island, is a magical and historic place – home to TABASCO® as well as nearly half the company’s 200 employees, many of whom are 3rd and 4th generation workers themselves.
The Marsh House – original family home and where many of us stayed while in Avery Island.
Ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss, rare birds, and indigenous plants pepper the island. A gigantic nature preserve takes up much of the island and serves as a sanctuary for birds and alligators alike! We saw both! Guess which one I squealed the most about….
It is also a popular destination for visitors coming to tour the TABASCO® factory and have a stroll and a picnic afterwards.
This shrine houses a centuries old Buddha given as a gift to E. A. McIlhenny in 1936.
For our last night on Avery Island, we were treated to an insanely delicious multi-course dinner menu inspired by all things TABASCO® , created by celebrity chef, Aáron Sánchez.
That afternoon, we got a sneak peek at what was to come when Aáron had a cooking demo for us with his gulf snapper ceviche marinated with TABASCO® Green Jalapeño Sauce. Thank goodness we were able to have a full dish to ourselves as a starter later that night!
But, one of the highlights of the trip had to be a cocktail demo with bartender Nick Detrich of New Orleans’ Cane & Table, named one of five best new cocktail bars in America from Bon Appetit last year. He created two original cocktails using TABASCO® as a highlighted ingredient, and they were both amazing.
But, of the two cocktails Nick prepared, my favorite had to be the Scotch and Salt. A stirred Scotch drink with a grapefruit TABASCO® shrub, vermouth and a TABASCO® salt solution. The recipe looks a little involved but Nick made large batches of the shrub and salt solution that made the recipe a lot easier for us to handle individually. Not to mention, this drink is totally worth it! I’ve provided the recipe below so you can try to give this one a shot!
Scotch &Salt – makes one cocktail
Created by Nick Detrich of Cane & Table
For the shrub:
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice, strained
1/2 cup Tabasco® Green Jalapeño Sauce
2 cups demerara sugar
For the salt solution:
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Tabasco® Spicy Salt
1/4 cup Louisiana Smoked Pecan Salt
For the cocktail:
1 1/2 ounces blended scotch whiskey (Dewars preferred)
3/4 ounce Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso
1/2 ounce Kina Avion D’Or
1/4 ounce grapefruit shrub
4 drops salt solution
Orange peel, for garnish
For the shrub:
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine grapefruit juice and Tabasco Green Jalapeño Sauce until heated through. Remove from heat, add sugar and stir to incorporate. For the salt solution: Blend all ingredients in a blender until incorporated.
For the cocktail:
In an Old Fashioned glass with ice, add all ingredients and stir to combine. Garnish with orange peel.
This was an incredible trip! A gorgeous immersion into southern Louisiana and a peek into the production of one of the most iconic brands in the world. I loved meeting everyone associated with the company as well as getting to know the other bloggers invited on this trip. Over the course of the next couple of months, you’ll see cocktail recipes from me inspired by TABASCO® and the captivating world of gators and bayous. Look out for a classic cocktail this Friday with a decidedly spicy twist!
Y’all come back now, y’hear?!
Disclosure: This trip and this post was made possible by TABASCO® in conjunction with the TABASCO® Tastemakers program. This is the first in a series of posts over the next several months that will feature the Tabasco Family of Flavors in cocktail recipes. As always, all opinions are my own!
Photo by Getty Images for AMC
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Men World! The countdown has begun on the final seven episodes of one of the most acclaimed and stylish television shows of all time, Mad Men. And, in anticipation of the final season, there has been a number of initiatives around New York City to help us immerse ourselves in the sexy, glamorous, and boozy world of Don Draper, and the men and women of Madison Avenue. The Museum of Moving Image is hosting creator Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men Exhibit through June, and there has been an installation of a Don Draper bench as well as a change in street signs (Mad Men Ave/Don Draper Way) right outside the Time & Life Building, the home of fictional advertising firm Sterling Cooper & Partners.
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for AMC
But, to really get all of our senses prepared for next Sunday’s premiere episode, this past week New York City has been in the throes of Mad Men Dining Week, where many of us ate and drank our way through the 1960s. From last Monday, March 23rd up until yesterday, the 29th, 34 New York City restaurants participated in this lunchtime promotion that featured 60s style menu items and “liquid lunches” for a cool $19.69.
Since I am a HUGE fan of the show and I have always been aesthetically drawn to the 1960s, AND I also happen to work in the Time & Life Building…I’m pretty sure all of these festivities leading up to the finale were designed JUST FOR ME. In case you haven’t been following me on social media, I DID in fact, partake in many a liquid lunch last week. Let’s talk about it!
Last Monday, my introduction to Mad Men Dining Week was at the classic seafood restaurant, Blue Water Grill in Union Square…
…where I parked myself at the bar for a good hour and a half while, Jason, my skilled and attentive bartender, treated me to my very own Joan Holloway experience. Pardon my fuzzy iPhone pics while I take you on this boozy journey…
Staying within the theme of 1960s style cocktails, Blue Water Grill’s “Liquid Lunch” offerings were two tipples inspired by the era: a Whisky Sour type cocktail and a Vesper:
1 oz Gin
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Lillet
Stirred. Strained into a Martini glass. Onion garnish.
2 oz Canadian Whisky
1 oz Blood OJ
1/2 oz fresh lemon
1/2 oz simple syrup
Shake all ingredients and strain over a large cube in a rocks glass. Brandied cherry garnish.
While both cocktails were delicious, I was partial to the Mad Sour. You can’t go wrong with whisky and blood orange juice. And, you could make a meal out of those brandied cherries! After one Vesper and very little lunch, however, you’d be behaving as inappropriately as Roger Sterling in no time!
The next day, I headed to PJ Clarke’s, the historic saloon on East 55th street that can be seen in episode 8 of the first season Mad Men, “Hobo Code.”
The upstairs dining area, Sidecar, was serving a lunch and drink special. I thought it wise, since I had to go back to work, to keep the cocktails to a minimum this time.
By filling my belly with their signature cheeseburger, famously dubbed “The Cadillac of burgers” by Nat King Cole in the late 1950s, I guaranteed my ability to handle my one boozy indulgence…
While their drink specials included an Old Fashioned and a delicious sounding whiskey, rum and brandy cocktail, I knew I had to get a Sidecar…while I was at Sidecar!
I’m so glad I did! Emily, behind the bar, lovingly prepared this drink like she was making it for Peggy Olsen herself!
1 1/2 oz Cognac
1 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lemon juice
Add the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake 8 to 10 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is well chilled. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist. Sugared rim optional.
While the 21 Club has never actually made an appearance in Mad Men…
…the place is an New York institution, synonymous with classic cocktails, well-heeled patrons and power lunches. It’s no wonder they participated in Mad Men Dining Week! I knew exactly where I wanted to sit – on one of the newly appointed stools at the bar in the back Bar Room.
Apparently, the bar stools were such new additions to the back bar, that I had the honor of being bartender Mark’s first lunch patron! Perched up on one of the best seats in the house, overlooking the entire dining room, I felt even closer to the toys and artifacts dangling from the former speakeasy’s ceiling, that dated back to the 30s, including a toy torpedo boat from John F. Kennedy and a baseball bat from Willie Mays.
I went for the lunch special with a traditional Caesar salad and melt in your mouth braised short ribs over whipped parsnips. And, a Manhattan, of course! Don Draper, eat your heart out!
2 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
4-5 dashes bitters
Add ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir well, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
For my final Mad Men Dining Week experience, I decided to go all out, and headed to famed French restaurant, Le Cirque.
I’m not kidding around when I say we went all out…
Escargot á la Bourguignonne!
Brisket of Beef with pomme au gratin!
“Ile Flottante – floating island”! (a delicious meringue, cream and berry delight!)
We went for the lunch AND drink special, because…Friday. So, we each started with a Champagne cocktail and then ordered the heavy-duty cocktails second.
Look at that gorgeous Stinger! That cocktail doesn’t look so bad, either! Zing! I ordered a Sidecar for my second drink, but I couldn’t help capturing my lovely lunch date with her perfect Stinger. It’s also a cocktail that has been out of fashion for so long, it was a fun one to be able to try off of the menu. This cocktail, composed of just Cognac and Créme de Menthe, tastes exactly like a grown up after dinner mint. And it was a perfect one to cap off our Mad Men Dining Week.
1 oz Créme de Menthe
Add ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
What a great idea to introduce new clientele to these time-honored restaurants, and such a fun excuse to dress up, explore some classic New York establishments and indulge in some liquid lunches! I don’t know how those ad men and women did it back in the day! But I’m willing to bring back the boozy tradition every now and again!
Oh, hello gorgeous. I didn’t see you there. Don’t mind me. I’m just hanging out here in these lonely woods, surrounded by candlelight, and smelling like a GD gingerbread man. Would you like a…taste?
♪ ♫ Bow chicka wow wowwww. ♪ ♫
We’re taking cocktail porn to a whole new level with this little number. The spiciness is off the charts, people!
Perhaps the incessant, bone chilling cold that has had a grip on New York City for the last three months is finally getting to me. Do I have a little case of cabin fever? Likely. Do I have a house full of booze to keep me company? Affirmative. Am I creating 70s Cocktailsploitation films in my kitchen to keep me entertained? Maaayhaps. I do have a sheepskin rug and a penchant for low lighting. It’s been a long ass winter, you guys! What’s a girl to do?
In any case, this little ménage á quatre below made some magic happen a few nights ago when thrown together…
Ok, the ingredient list was a little more than quatre. There was a touch of maple syrup and an entire egg to tame those flavor beasts – BACARDÍ Black, the richest, darkest and fullest bodied rum from the worlds biggest rum branch, Ancho Reyes, a kick-y ancho chile liqueur, a savory Aged Citrus Bitters from Five by Five Tonics Co., and an intense chai tea concentrate from Dona Chai. Boom! The rich, creaminess of one whole egg was a necessary component to this dark flavor bomb in order to round out the edges. And, in the end, it really did taste like a voluptuous cup full of boozy gingerbread.
I’d been wanting to play with all of these ingredients, but the Dona Chai tea concentrate had been on the top of my list for a while now. Hand crafted in Brooklyn in small batches, with an emphasis on sustainability, everything in this bottle screams cozy, winter, fireside yumminess – cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, cloves, black peppercorns, ginger, and black tea. In fact, it was so perfect in this cocktail, I’m curious to see if I can experiment with some lighter, warm weather concoctions to go in a completely different direction. That is, once it finally thaws…in a million years.
Five by Five Bitters is also made in small batches by hand in Chico, California, using organic or wild crafted botanicals. I got my hands on a few bottles of these recently and found the very versatile Aged Citrus Bitters a lovely addition to this cocktail.
You may have noticed that BACARDÍ bottle may look a little different from what you’re used to…
That’s because BACARDÍ has recently launched their first packaging update in more than a decade. These beautiful Art Deco inspired bottles are taller, slimmer, and more bartender friendly. The design also reflects their Cuban heritage, with a look to the past. Personally, I love the new retro bat logo!
(For more info, or concerns about using eggs in cocktails, the necessary ‘dry shake’ & what a flip cocktail technically IS, read my previous post, Using Eggs in Cocktails.)
The Foxy Chai Flip
2 oz Bacardi Black Rum
1 oz Ancho Reyes Liqueur
3/4 oz Maple Syrup
1/4 oz Dona Chai Tea Concentrate
2-3 Dashes Five by Five Tonics Bitters
Dry shake all ingredients for 15-20 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 15-20 seconds. Strain slowly into a well chilled large coupe glass. Dash of bitters on top.
Did you know that Bit by a Fox provides a custom cocktail design service for special events? It’s true! Original cocktails include a consultation, extensive research, recipe testing, and fun, conceptual names that fit thematically, of course! Bit by a Fox custom cocktails are fully comprehensive. And we want to make YOU look like a fox.
Maybe you want to elevate your wedding cocktail game with craft cocktails…
Or impress your clients and guests by taking your corporate event to the next level…
…Or perhaps you’re a brand that wants to highlight a product, stay true to the brand aesthetic, and get the most out of social media. We love to bring it all together for a beautiful, successful and memorable event.
Bit by a Fox offers a soup-to-nuts Brand Events Package that includes custom cocktail designs based on brand concept and theme, full customized bar and staff, promotion on the Bit by a Fox social media channels prior to the event, bartender training day-of, social media posts in real time during the event – Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, as well as a blog post and social media follow-up.
We also offer in-person tutorials, brand pics, and video of the event as well.
For rates and further information, please contact: email@example.com
If you’ve never had the chance to sidle up to the curvy swervy, beyond sexy bar at Manhattan’s Employees Only, and witness the beautiful precision and dance that occurs on the other side of that gorgeous slab of wood, and experience everything it takes to create a single drink made purely for your enjoyment, you are truly missing out, my cocktail lovers. Part of me does envy those of you who have yet to experience this; because that first time is like no other. And you’ll never forget it. Or…you might, depending on how many drinks you pour down your gullet.
Employees Only is considered to be one of the best bars in the world. It is a pretty special place. But if it’s your first time, make sure you go early in the week and earlier in the night. You’re more likely to have the chance to chat up one of the handsome blokes decked out in chefs jackets behind the bar, pore over the carefully curated menu, reflect on that perfectly balanced creation in front of you, and savor it for as long as possible. Most likely, however, that cocktail will disappear much faster than you expected. And that quiet reflection won’t last long. Because that place gets turnt! Even on a Tuesday night. It may start out as an elegant and sedate speakeasy. But that well-mannered atmosphere is guaranteed to turn on a dime. The mood and temperature gets elevated a few drinks in and a few people deep. Something hypnotic happens when that pressed-tin ceiling heats up, the psychic in the front starts doling out some real world wisdom and the 80s tunes are on blast. The inhabitants crammed inside that railroad style bar all start to feel like they’re on the ride of their lives. THIS is a night to remember. If you can. It’s no wonder people often get lucky after spending a night at Employees Only. This bar is made for “connecting” with your fellow neighbor…if you know what I mean.
A huge part of why a night at EO can be so damned enjoyable can be attributed to those dapper dans behind the bar. They may be having more fun than you are. This place is their stage and this is where they shine. One of their brightest stars right now is principal bartender, Steve Schneider. Check out this beautiful video in the Bacardi Untameable Series about how bartending at EO literally helped to save his life.
Steve’s story is an inspiring one. So much so that he ended up being one of two bartenders profiled in last year’s, Hey Bartender, a movie about the re-emergence of the craft cocktail, and the folks behind it. Beyond the inspiring story of a former marine who comes back from near death to become an international bar superstar, Steve is the real deal – a dynamite bartender, well respected in the community and sweet as pie.
While I’ve frequented EO since their opening ten years ago and Steve and I both live in New York, I hadn’t formally met him until we both were on a private island in Puerto Rico last weekend.
No, we weren’t taking part in some debaucherous reality show, although, the abundance of booze, beautiful people and cameras might tell you differently as the party footage slowly emerges; We were there for a little thing you might know something about from my giddy hashtag abuse on social media last week – a gigantic music and rum event set in the tropics called the Bacardi Triangle. The night we met was the last night of the event and he had just finished helping to set up all of the bars on Palomino Island that would service a crowd of 1,862 guests. It should also be noted that he capped off each night that week working the after party until 5am. Needless to say, this dude didn’t get many zzzs in those 5 days. But I have a feeling he’s a little used to this kind of schedule, crowds and hard work. This is someone who loves what he does. He actually seemed energized by the whole thing.
Steve and I had a chance to connect again three days later, this time, in his “home”, Employees Only. While he would only be there for a day or so before he was to jet off to his next international bartending adventure, he made it clear that this is where his heart was. This is the place where he was reborn after a life threatening injury put his military career on hold. This is the place where he served and charmed filmmaker Douglas Tirola, who then put him in a starring role in his documentary, Hey Bartender. And this is where he plans to stay until he eventually opens up his own place down the road.
Since we had just come off of this fantastical rum-infused adventure in Puerto Rico, it was only appropriate that we continue the theme. Steve made me one of his signature, award-winning Bacardi cocktails, Signal Fire.
This is a fantastic cocktail with Bacardi Heritage Rum, pineapple-honey-pink peppercorn syrup, pineapple juice, lime and Hellfire Bitters. It’s got a kick and is surprisingly not too sweet. It can also be recreated at home pretty easily. Steve was kind enough to share the recipe!
2 oz Bacardi Heritage
1 oz honey syrup (2:1)
3/4 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
3 dashes Hellfire Bitters
3 pink peppercorns
Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, shake until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dusting of pink peppercorns.
Thank you, Steve, for taking time out of your regular booze slinging, globe-trotting calendar to hang out and fix me a drink! And letting me get my hands on one of those signature ice hammers! Look out for a custom line of these suckers in the coming year. How else are you going to crush your ice and feel like a powerful Norse god?!
I look forward to returning soon for one of those epic Employees Only nights. Maybe I’ll bring someone who’s never been…
Many apologies for this belated post. I attended this lovely event right before my vacation and I’ve been dying to share it ever since. But, like a good vacationer (and bad blogger!) I’ve been pretty unplugged for the last few weeks. Here it is, finally!
On June 17th, beloved French spirit, Cointreau transformed two floors of Soho’s Broome Hotel into La Maison Cointreau, a whimsical, orange-filled Parisian fantasy!
This immersive, one night only event was to celebrate the brand’s partnership with Grey Area founder Kyle Dewoody, interior designer/chef Athena Calderone and artist Kate Schelter, our hosts for the evening.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BFA/SAMANTHA DEITCH
This painfully cute orange Fiat, parked outside the hotel, set the tone for a fanciful eve…
And this belle homme, who greeted us upon our arrival, didn’t hurt the eyes either. Comment allez-VOUS!
A three story orange tree was constructed in the middle of the hotel’s courtyard.
And surrounding this towering homage to citrus, was a customized bar, filled with handsome French-y bartenders serving Cointreau cocktails all night long. Can I move in, please?
There was a pop up café serving macarons, delicate tea sandwiches and more Cointreau cocktails.
In another one of the rooms downstairs, Kyle Ford, Rémy Cointreau’s Cocktail and Spirits Expert and co-founder of Ford Mixology Lab, was instructing guests on how to make Cointreau Rickeys. (I put mint and strawberries in mine. Yum!)
The interactive event didn’t stop there. Upstairs, one room was transformed into a custom library where guests were invited to learn about Cointreau’s impressive history as told through vintage cocktail books…
While another room was transformed into an art and food station, where guests were encouraged to create watercolor paintings, pin sepia-toned pictures to mood boards and indulge in crostini recipe tutorials…Did I mention that I wanted to move in?
Seriously, what do I need to do so my life looks more like this?? I clearly need to drink more Cointreau! Mission accomplished, Rémy Cointreau! Count this lady a super fan!
Truth be told, I’ve been a lover of Cointreau for most of my adult life. What’s not to love? This 160 year old French spirit is one of the original triple secs, a liqueur made from dried bitter and sweet orange peels from all over the world. And, while a beautiful addition in cocktails, can stand on its own, neat or on the rocks. And at 80 proof, this liqueur can also be used as a base spirit in many classic cocktails, as in their signature cocktail, the Cointreau Rickey. Also to be noted, their early advertising utilized some of the most beautiful and avant garde artwork in the spirits industry at the time. And in terms of marketing themselves now, they clearly have not lost their touch! La Maison Cointreau was an orange-tinged dream…
Read about the history of Cointreau here. And pick up one of their beautiful bottles, lime & soda to make up some of your very own Cointreau Rickeys! Maybe you’ll be inspired to watercolor as well…
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NILAYA SABNIS
Negroni Week is almost upon us! And I’ve been tasked to come up with my own spin on this near perfect and increasingly popular cocktail from the folks helping to sponsor this fun and charitable event, Imbibe Magazine. Pretty tall order, since the original recipe is basically flawless: 1 part gin, 1 part Campari and 1 part sweet vermouth. But, I love a Boulevardier, and I’ve had other variations on this classic recipe that I’ve been into, so I was more than willing to give it a shot!
As I mentioned a few days ago, the Negroni is rumored to have been created in the 1920s when Count Camillo Negroni asked his favorite bartender at Cafe Casoni in Florence, Italy to stiffen up his Americano with gin, and to take out that silly bubbly water, because…more booze. Duh. You know that dude was just getting bit by a fleet of foxes on the regular. But what about Countess Negroni? Did she exist? Was she fabulous? (I suppose I could research this…but, that’s an internet wormhole I think I’ll stay away from now.) In any case, I like to imagine she had a bit of fun too. This cocktail was created with her in mind. Take that, Count! Your lady, who may or may not have existed, has a drink now too!
The Countess Negroni
1 1/2 oz Owney’s Rum
1 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz Campari
3/4 oz Armadillo Cake Atsby Vermouth
grapefruit peel for garnish
All ingredients can be stirred with ice until well chilled. Strain into a short glass with a few rocks and garnish with grapefruit peel.
Even though most Negroni fans can agree that this drink can be sipped year round, since Negroni Week is from June 2nd to June 8th, I wanted to put more of a summery spin on my version. Grapefruit and Campari is like a marriage made in citrus heaven. And white rum always makes me think of summer! Naturally, I wanted to use a BBaF favorite, Brooklyn-made, Owney’s Rum. This deliciously smooth rum works so well in this riff on a Negroni because it’s not overly sweet, has a little spice and works well with citrus and bitter flavors. It also happens to be made by my favorite lady booze maker, Bridget Firtle from The Noble Experiment. It seemed like the perfect fit for this viva la femme cocktail. Keeping it local, I was excited to use a different kind of vermouth, instead of the standard Italian sweet vermouth. And I opted for Atsby “Armadillo Cake” Vermouth. This modern, aromatic vermouth is less sweet and bitter than what most people are used to. It’s earthy and sexy and floral, with a hint of chamomile. I’ve also paired these two local spirits before and loved the result!
photo by luciebelle photography
I hope you get out there next week for Negroni Week! Bars around the world will be mixing up this beloved cocktail and donating proceeds to their favorite charities. Check out the participating bars and drink your charitable ass off!
Happy Memorial Day, everyone! If you’re in New York, I hope you’ve been basking in the heaven-sent sunshine that decided to make a comeback just in time to usher us all into the summer season. While it’s not technically summer, this is the weekend that always kicks things off. And, it also marks the beginning of my months long obsession with the Aperol Spritz. Or “spreetz” as they are called in Venice, Italy. (You have to say that, when ordering, with a super heavy Italian accent, by they way, otherwise it won’t be as fun.) Normally, during this time of year, I’m sampling this traditional Italian aperitif cocktail all over town, and this year is no different, except my obsession is exacerbated by the fact that I’m heading to Italy in a couple of weeks…and I can’t get enough. Aperol Spritzers all day every day! I’m having a hard time NOT telling my bartender/server/person I’m with every time I order one of these that I’m just prepping for when I can get a “real” one in Venice in a couple of weeks. But…I try not to be an asshole when I’m in public, so I’ve been abstaining from commenting at all.
The Americano cocktail (Campari, Sweet Vermouth, Club Soda) is also a delightfully low alcohol, refreshing tipple during the warmer season. But I can never remember to order it. It’s the Aperol Spritz that always comes to mind when I’m craving orange-y, bitter Italian liqueur and bubbles. But, I thought for this Memorial Day post, I’d do a mash-up of an Aperol Spritz and an Americano cocktail. Fun fact: The Americano was the first cocktail ordered by James Bond in the very first book, Casino Royale, and is so named because of its popularity with American tourists during Prohibition. And…is rumored to have been the inspiration behind the Negroni cocktail. Supposedly, Count Camillo Negroni asked his bartender to strengthen his favorite cocktail by adding gin instead of soda water. Dude really wanted to get bit by a fox!
3-4 oz Brut Prosecco
2 oz Aperol
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Club Soda
Pour the Aperol and dry vermouth into a large, high ball glass with some ice. Top with prosecco and club soda. Garnish with cherry, lemon wheel or little flag!
Make this drink today or any day this summer. Also, it’s your patriotic duty to watch Little Edie perform her flag dance. Enjoy!
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.
Today, I woke up to the news that our beloved Shirley Temple Black has taken her final bow on this here third rock from the sun. But she’s left us with a very sparkly legacy.
My mother is a lifelong fan and when I was little, she passed on her love and appreciation for Shirley Temple and all of her gobsmacking talent as a singer, actress and dancer. She was my absolute favorite and made an incredible impact on me as a child. Subsequent years of me singing, acting and dancing followed this childhood fascination with Curly Top, and I blame a lot of my interest in all of that on those early experiences watching her movies over and over. I would have given anything to have my impossibly straight hair curled into fat sausages on top of my head. And I remember, at 6, being so envious when Sue Soto, my neighbor and best friend who was from a huge Mexican Catholic family, got an outfit for her First Communion that I thought was EXACTLY like something Shirley Temple would’ve worn – white patent leather baby doll shoes, lacy ankle socks and a multi-tiered, frothy, crinoline party dress resembling a puffed pastry. I was CRUSHED that my hippy mom didn’t go in for that kind look for me. I was stuck in earth tones and beaded vests.
As a tribute to Shirley Temple Black, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought I’d provide a recipe for the popular, pink-hued, booze-less “cocktail” named in her honor. The origins of this fruity beverage are a little fuzzy, as many have claimed its invention. According to Hollywood lore, however, a bartender from Chasen’s, a historic Beverly Hills restaurant, created the drink especially for the child star in the 30s. This place was filled with these kinds of stories. Too bad it closed in the 90s!
I recently had a horrible version of one of these at the American Girl Store when I had a date with one of my favorite 7 year olds. And, believe it or not, I’ve been wanting to post a recipe with quality ingredients on here ever since! The problem with most Shirley Temples is the grenadine. The store-bought stuff is usually filled with such garbage and more often than not, people are too heavy-handed with it. You only need a dash of the sweet stuff! Especially when you are mixing with an already sweet soda. My version uses ginger syrup and seltzer in place of ginger-ale, so it’s even easier to pull back on the sweetness. And instead of providing my own grenadine recipe, I’m supplying you with the best one I’ve found out there from bartender and cocktalian whiz Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s blog here. It is easy and delicious. Can’t beat that!
(Makes 4 Glasses)
2 oz Homemade Grenadine
1.5 oz Ginger Syrup
1 oz Lemon Juice
32 oz Club Soda
4 Natural Maraschino Cherries
In a pitcher, mix the syrups, juice and soda over ice. Pour into 4 glasses. Enjoy!
If you DO want to booze this up, you can easily add a few ounces of your favorite spirit. White rum is especially good with this flavor combo. You can also go a little easier on the grenadine and throw in some Maraschino liqueur for a sweet kick!
Rest in peace, sweet Shirley. I’m sure you’re already hoofing up a storm alongside Bill “Bojangles” Robinson on that stairway to heaven!