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!
Two weeks ago on the Bit by a Fox Podcast we did a deep dive into Japanese rice wine, Sake and this week’s show is a great follow up to that episode – we dive into Japanese spirit, Shochu.
Like Sake, Shochu is native to Japan, has a long and storied history over centuries, and uses koji, the same fermentation starter or mold that is used to make miso or soy sauce. But unlike sake, Shochu is a distilled spirit, is made from everything from sweet potatoes to barley to black sugarcane and, it outsells sake by 50%. It is also the national spirit of Japan but is still fairly unknown in the states.
Paul Nakayama wants to change all that. He and his wife recently started the small brand Nankai Shochu, inspired by a fateful night on their honeymoon in Japan a few years prior. I interviewed Paul at David Chang’s first west coast restaurant – at downtown LA’s majordomo – which turned out to be an important place when Nankai Shochu first launched.
This week’s cocktail recipe is the Yuzu Pop aka Nankai Mule.
Yuzu Pop 2 oz Nankai Shochu 4 oz Ginger Beer Splash Yuzu Juice
In a rocks filled highball glass, add all ingredients and stir.
This week’s guest on the Bit by a Fox Podcast, is Tim Sullivan, an unlikely expert and educator of the Japanese rice wine, sake. After devoting the last decade to this versatile beverage and learning the hands on craft of sake brewing in Japan, Tim is now one of the top sake experts in the US, a national sake educator, and a Global Brand Ambassador of Hakkaisan Sake Brewery based in Niigata, Japan.
In this episode, Tim breaks down the fundamentals of Sake, explains why sake rice is so special, what makes it the most versatile food pairing beverage in the world, and how the process behind making it is most similar to brewing beer.
Over the course of the interview at Downtown LA’s Exchange Restaurant in the Freehand Hotel, I tried two exciting bottles from Hakkaisan Brewery that everyone should know about – Hakkaisan Clear Sparkling “AWA” – made using a secondary in-bottle fermentation…
…and a sake that has been aged for three years buried deep in the snow. The Junmai Ginjo Genshu Sake is matured and chilled by tons of actual snow stored in an insulated room, called a “Yukimuro”.
We may have had a bit of an unusually late start here in Los Angeles, but there’s no mistaking it now – we are in the serious throes of Summer. You know what that means…it’s officially MARGARITA SEASON.
I mean, it’s always margarita season in America where this universally beloved drink remains the most popular cocktail for like 20 years in a row. There’s actually been studies done that reveal people will rationalize spending more money on a margarita than other drinks. She’s popular AND worth it!
How do you make this beauty queen of cocktails even better?! By deepening the flavor profile and increasing the antioxidant intake by like 1000 percent with the addition of Argentine Yerba Mate tea. This margarita got an Argentinian upgrade and her new name is Mate-rita!
As a resident recipe creator for Argentine Yerba Mate, y’all know by now my obsession with using Argentine Yerba Mate as a cocktail ingredient. I especially love it with tequila and it seems to work really well in sour drinks. The tea-like flavors really benefit from the citrus and agave. And that’s before mentioning any of the many health benefits – Argentine Yerba Mate has more antioxidants than green tea, it’s packed with vitamins, reduces inflammation, and even helps to protect your heart. Oh! And it has a slight caffeine boost that gives this Mate-rita that extra energizing zing!
Mate-rita – 8 servings 2 cups Blanco Tequila 1/2 cup Orange Liqueur 1 cup lime juice 1 cup pre-sweetened Argentine Yerba Matetea*
Add all ingredients to a pitcher and fill with ice. Serve in margarita glasses rimmed with salt. Garnish with a thin lime wheel.
* Steep one cup of Argentine Yerba Mate and strain. Add preferred sweetener ( I like agave nectar with this drink) to steeped Yerba Mate liquid, and set aside to cool.
You can find Argentine Yerba Mate brands in specialty tea stores and in select Whole Foods Markets across the U.S. You can also purchase on Amazon.com.
We had the opportunity to dine in the middle of vineyards, hang with winemakers and taste some of the best wines being made in this country.
It felt incredibly special and it totally was, but these magical experiences are fairly accessible to just about anyone interested in learning more about the region…
No one knows this better than long-time Sonoma resident, Beth Costa, Executive Director and host of Wine Road – a website and award-winning podcast devoted to the all things Northern Sonoma wine country.
We spoke about what makes this region so unique, and what Beth’s perfect Sonoma day looks like.
English sparkling wine is suddenly all the rage with wine experts and enthusiasts alike. But it’s been bubbling up for the last 30-40 years, spearheaded by the leading English sparkler (and apparently the royal family’s fave), Chapel Down.
I recently sat down with head wine maker Josh Donaghay-Spire while he was in town, and we chatted about the exciting category of English sparkling wine.
This week’s cocktail recipe is an English winemaker’s twist on the classic French 75…
English 75 1.5 oz of London Dry Gin .5 oz lemon juice .5 oz simple syrup Chapel Down Brut
Shake the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup over ice. Strain into a chilled flute or coupe glass, and top with Chapel Down Brut.
A few summers back – an especially scorching one from what I remember – a pink frothy frozen libation swept the country and, seemingly overnight, every restaurant and bar had their own version of blush colored concoctions to please the masses.
With the rising temps, the feverish interest in all things rosé, and the perfect portmanteau of frozen + rosé, the stars aligned and Froséwas born.
Three years later, the trend seems to have slightlychilled (sorry!). The interest has dipped partly because people were finding out that many of these frozen versions of wine cocktails contained far more sugar than expected. As many of us know, massive amounts of sugar combined with wine and hard alcohol results in a superslushiesized hangover the next day. Talk about brain freeze!
The beautiful thing about this adultslurpee, however, is it doesn’t even need all that sugar. I mean, it has blended fresh fruit and juice in it, so you can practically treat it like a smoothie…with wine! I really took that idea to heart and even added a powerful boost of Argentine Yerba Matetea for my version of Yerba MateFrosé. Welcome to your summer future, guys.
For this recipe, I created a simple yerba mate tea syrup for that bit of sweetness and earthy depth of flavor.
We’re on the other side of Memorial Day weekend, June 8 is National Rosé Day, and there is no better time than the present to ready those blenders, chill TF out of your favorite dry rosé, and commit this recipe to memory for all of your al fresco fetes!
Yerba MateFrosé 1 Bottle Full-bodied Dry Rosé Wine 1/4 cup Argentine Yerba Mate Simple Syrup* 2 cups Frozen Strawberries 2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice 1 cup Ice Pour bottle of Rosé Wine into ice cube trays and freeze 6-12 hours. Once frozen, combine rosé cubes in a blender with the simple syrup, strawberries, lemon juice, and about a cup of ice. Blend until it is a smooth,slushielike consistency. Serve with fresh, edible flowers.
* Steep one cup of Argentine Yerba Mate and strain. Add steeped Yerba Mate liquid to a small saucepan with one cup sugar. At medium-high heat, whisk until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 months. (good for about two batches of Yerba MateFrosé)
You can find Argentine Yerba Mate brands in specialty tea stores and in select Whole Foods Markets across the U.S. You can also purchase Argentine Yerba Mate on Amazon.com.
The Bit by a Fox Podcast is now on its fourth episode in the Bartender Interview Series – The Master Blend. In collaboration with BERTOUX Brandy, the Bit by a Fox Podcast is hosting a series of interviews with some of America’s most acclaimed and innovative bartenders.
This week’s interview is with Christine Wiseman, Bar Director of LA’s most fabulous rooftop cocktail bar, The Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. We discussed her 20 year journey through the industry, from managing the busiest Outback Steakhouse in the country to creating scratch and sniff cocktail menus, and spearheading the LA cocktail scene with a heavy dose of her signature sparkle along the way.
Hobbiest mixologist, viral video personality, and cocktail book author of Suck It Up: Extraordinary Cocktails for Everyday People, Dan Magro has a real-talk and hilarious approach to mixing drinks. We gabbed and laughed about the proliferation of multi-hyphenates in LA, his deep love of brunch…as a LIFESTYLE, and his ultimate, if unexpected, drinking buddy to get bit by a fox with!
This week’s cocktail recipe is a brunch favorite from Dan’s book, Suck it Up, Lavender Mimosas.
Lavender Mimosa – served in a champagne flute Brut Champagne or Sparkling Wine Lavender Honey Infusion* a lemon, quartered Garnish: fresh lavender
Rub the lemon slice around the rim of the flute, squeeze the juice into the glass, and the drop the wedge in. Fill the glass with 3/4 of bubbly, top off the remainder of the glass with the lavender honey syrup. Garnish with lavender.
*Lavender Honey Infusion Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add 1/3 cup of honey and stir for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. Add 1/4 cup of dried lavender, and stir for 1 minute making sure all lavender is immersed in water. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit overnight. Strain the cooled liquid, discarding the solids. Store in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
The Bit by a Fox Podcast is now on the third episode in the Bartender Interview Series – The Master Blend. In collaboration with BERTOUX Brandy, the Bit by a Fox Podcast is hosting a series of interviews with some of America’s most acclaimed and innovative bartenders.
This week’s interview is with Devon Tarby who discusses her bartending beginnings at famed cocktail bar The Varnish where she met her future partners in the highly successful hospitality firm, Proprietors LLC. We talk about her music background and how she incorporate that into her cocktail creations, how she stays sane with such a busy scheduled, and what it’s like to be nominated for a James Beard Award.