Listen to Episode 46: Aberlour Single Malt Scotch with Callum O’Donnell”
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.
Pineau des Charentes is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of Cognac, France. In all likelihood, you have never heard of this incredibly versatile fortified wine produced in the Charentes region of France for over four centuries. But I have a feeling, once more people try it, they will be as obsessed as I am with it!
Pineau des Charentes is a unique type of fortified wine made by combining freshly pressed grape juice with Cognac eau de vie that was distilled at least one year before blending.
Legend has it that in the 16th century, a winemaker poured grape must (the unfermented juice, pulp and skin of the grapes) into a barrel that he thought was empty but instead had cognac still left in it. Not realizing his mistake, the barrel was aged and it wasn’t until years later that the delicious discovery was made! The result of this serendipitous combination is a sweet, spirited, fruit-forward wine with an alcohol content of about 17%.
For hundreds of years, winegrowers and cellar masters in France’s Cognac region have produced this spirited wine for their own consumption, and have passed down their techniques through generations. Up until fairly recently, however, it was rarely seen outside of France’s Charentes region. It has since become available through a handful of brands in the states, and is already making a splash in the cocktail world.
Pineau des Charentes is incredibly versatile and food-friendly; It is made from a variety of grapes with the same terroir as Cognac, and can be white, rose or red. It will also reflect different experiences depending on its age – Young, Old and Very Old. Flavor profiles range from fresh, bright fruits to honey, baked fruit and tobacco.
To highlight the range of flavors and versatility from three different variations of Pineau des Charentes, I created three different ways to consume this adaptable elixir…
I thought an aged Pineau Blanc was the perfect choice for a pre-dinner aperitif; I used a 5-year old Pineau Rouge as a beautifully rich digestif, and a bright young Pineau Blanc as a fresh ingredient in a cocktail.
Réviseur Vieux Blanc, aged at least five years in French oak barrels, is perfect for a simple aperitif – on the rocks with just an orange twist. The age shows complexity on this golden sweet Pineau Blanc, with dried fruit, honey, nuts and savory notes coming through. The vibrant acidity balances out the sweet fruitiness to make for a delightful sipper all year round. This would also be an amazing cocktail base.
Pineau des Charentes is also an incredible after-dinner sipper. The Chateau de Beaulon 5 Year, a red Pineau, has the richness to be had on its own own, or paired with a rich dessert. Black cherries, dried apricots and honeysuckle and smoky tobacco will be reminiscent of young Port but even lighter on the palate.
For a fresh, vibrant iteration of Pineau des Charentes, I decided to use Domaine de la Margotterie Pineau Blanc Tradition, as a cocktail ingredient to elevate one of my favorite drinks. This youthful variation also has some mature aspects, such as honeyed fruit and toasty almonds. I loved this in a 50/50 martini, subbing out the dry vermouth for this sweet spirited wine. The Martini des Charentes is simplistic in terms of ingredients, but it has incredible depth of flavor. The dried fruits and acidity will bring out the botanicals in the gin to create a martini like you’ve never had before. And with a little lemon zest, this cocktail is next level.
Martini des Charentes
1.5 oz Gin
1.5 oz Pineau des Charentes – Pineau Blanc
garnish: lemon peel
Pour ingredients into a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass, express oils from lemon peel over glass and garnish.
Note: This post was sponsored by Pineau Academy. All bottles were supplied, however, all opinions, as always, are my own!
Listen to Episode 45: The Scotch Malt Whisky Society with Paul Skipworth”
We took a brief break from the Bit by a Fox podcast last week for Thanksgiving but we are back to talking about Scotch! The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is an international community of whisky lovers, where members have access to some of the finest rare and limited edition whiskies in the world.
My guest this week is Paul Skipworth, former CEO of Ardbeg and Glenmorangie, and now Chairman of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Based in Edinburgh, Paul was briefly in town last month to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Society. I caught up with him right before the event at the British Consul General’s Residence in LA.
The cocktail recipe this week is one of my favorite ways to enjoy scotch when I’m not having it on its own – in a Whisky Highball.
The key to a quality made whisky highball is quality ice, a chilled highball glass and the proportions that work for you. I like 2 oz of whisky to 4-5 ounce of soda, and a lemon wedge. You can add mint or other garnishes as you would a gin and tonic. Listen to Paul Skipworth and drink it how you like it!
2 oz Scotch whisky
4-5 oz club soda
Add both the whisky and the soda to an an ice filled highball glass that has been well chilled, stir gently and garnish.
Listen to Episode 44: Scotch Whisky Master Blender Dr. Rachel Barrie”
What does it take to be one of the greatest whisky blenders in the world? According to Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender for historic single malt scotch brands BenRiach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, it takes a complex blend of traits, much like her creations.
She is part scientist, part soothsayer, composer, and artisan. Besides nosing and tasting thousands of casks every year, Rachel has to anticipate exactly how a whisky will age, if and when to blend, and how the wood she selects will affect the final product. Despite the many variables, she considers her role to be an artistic one. Her warm approach and affection for her precious creations has an almost maternal quality. And her passion for Scotch is infectious.
I caught up with Rachel while she was in Los Angeles celebrating the release of the much anticipated The GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival.
The GlenDronach brand is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, and is most noted for their sherry cask aging. Rachel and I sipped through this new release as well as two other expressions, while we discussed her journey over the last three decades to become Scotch Whisky’s First Lady.
This week’s recipe is Rachel’s favorite scotch-based cocktail…
Blood & Sand
3/4 ounce Scotch
3/4 ounce Cherry heering
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
Garnish: orange peel
Shake all ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish.
Listen to Episode 43: Aquavit with Malina Bickford”
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.
The Trinity cocktail at Redbird features Åhus Akvavit and bright vegetal flavors. So good!
For this week’s featured cocktail, Malina shared with us a simplified version of Tobin’s aquavit gimlet.
2 oz aquavit
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
garnish: lime wheel
Shake all ingredients over ice until well chilled, strain into a cocktail glass. garnish with a lime wheel.
Thanksgiving always has a way of sneaking up on me every year. I mean, I could say that about pretty much every holiday, but Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE. It makes zero sense. I should be Pinterest-ing recipes and tablescapes months in advance. WHY AM I NEVER PREPARED?
I’ve got my go-to dishes that I always make (boozy cranberry sauce, anyone?!), but for some reason I’m always scrambling at the last minute to figure out what to drink. I know, I know, even I struggle with this dilemna. Because this is NOT the time for crazy bespoke craft cocktails for all of your guests throughout the night. That’s why large format drinks and punches are a perfect idea for the most epic meal of the year.
Since you know it’s going to be an indulgent afternoon and evening of supping, why not make something that has a little good stuff sneaked in?! Like the antioxidant powerhouse that is Argentine Yerba Mate! Along with a multitude of vitamins like B and C and zinc and potassium, it also has that zip of caffeine similar to a cup of coffee that will surely counteract whatever food sleepies creep in by the end of the meal.
Did I mention that Argentine Yerba Mate is also a yummy addition to cocktails? Oh yeah, I have! Many times! Haha. I feel like a broken record, but it’s all true, guys. I’m a fan. It can add tannins, a touch of smoke, and a slight earthiness to a drink. And when paired in this winter punch with mulling spices, ginger beer, and dark rum, you may just want to make a gigantic batch of this, hole up for the winter and sip your way to spring!
I may not be as prepared for Thanksgiving as I’d like, but I DO know what I’ll be making an enormous punch bowl of in a few weeks – this Argentine Yerba Mate Winter Punch. Take that, Turkey Day!
Argentine Yerba Mate Winter Punch – serves 10-12
In a large punch bowl add the following ingredients:
1 750 ml bottle of Dark Rum
3 cups Argentine Yerba Mate Tea, cooled
1 cup Mulling Spiced Syrup*
1 cup lemon juice
Immediately before serving, add ginger beer and ice cubes. Garnish with sliced orange wheels, cinnamon sticks and star anise.
*Mulling Spiced Syrup
In a large saucepan, make a syrup by boiling 1 cup of water, 1 cup sugar and mulling spices for 10 minutes. Cool. Save extra for later.
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
This post was sponsored by National Institute for Argentine Yerba Mate
Listen to Episode 42: Documenting Cocktail Culture with Gabi Porter”
For this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast, our guest is Gabi Porter, New York-based documentary photographer and barfly, whose work is featured in nearly every boozy publication the world over.
pic by Adam Aleksander
Gabi specializes in taking photos at bars and restaurants, and has made a name for herself as one of THE go-to cocktail photogs in the industry.
pic by Jessie Gibson
She recently had a gig in LA and we caught up while she was here, and I realized her story in this cocktail world had to be told on the Bit by a Fox Podcast. From creating headshots for NASA scientists, to documenting rock stars with a point and shoot, and then moving on to the stars of the cocktail world, Gabi has had an important perspective behind the lens, and is certainly not short on stories!
pic by Chris LaPutt
The pic that launched Gabi’s photography career – the legendary pic of Iggy Pop taken with a point and shoot camera.
Gabi’s favorite drinking buddy, Jason Littrell.
For this week’s cocktail recipe, Gabi chose the cachaça based stirred drink, Rabo de Galo. This shot, by Gabi, was taken at Frank’s Bar in São Paulo – named after Frank Sinatra who used to hang out there.
Rabo de Galo
2 oz Cachaça
3/4 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
Garnish: orange twist
In an ice-filled mixing glass, add all ingredients and stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with one or two large ice cubes. Add a twist of orange and garnish.
Listen to Episode 41: Cognac Pt. 3″
We’re now in the final episode of our three-part Cognac series on the Bit by a Fox Podcast. If you’ve been following along here, my social media or the podcast, you know that I visited the Cognac region in the Southwest of France at the beginning of harvest season last month.
It was as amazing as that all sounds! I cannot recommend going to this part of the world at this exact time of year ENOUGH. I was able to visit a variety of Cognac houses, I ate my weight in delicious French food and drank some of the finest brandies in the world. So, yeah it was pretty much a win. In this week’s episode I again sit down with two Cognac houses, both with a rich heritage and British DNA but again, very different from one another.
Hardy Cognac the “Haute Couture of Cognac” has a decidedly feminine flair.
The packaging is known for its graceful elegance with some high end expressions bottled in Lalique crystal carafes and delivered in a hat box style with purse handle.
Bright magentas and violets color their branding but even the juice inside the bottles is designed with a female palate in mind, according to Maison Hardy’s 5th generation cognac producer and international brand ambassador, Benedicte Hardy.
To visit with Benedicte at her incredibly stylish headquarters and to taste through the legendary vintages is to truly understand the power of the feminine in Hardy Cognac.
Benedicte, herself is fantastically chic She greeted us with her perfectly coiffed hair, Dior pink lipstick, an elegant pantsuit & kitten heels. She was warm and welcoming but as she led us through production and a tasting with cellar master Mickael Bouilly we got to see that fierce boss lady there as well. By the end of our visit, each one of us had major girl crushes on Benedicte Hardy for life.
While both Cognac houses featured this week have British origins, it is Hine Cognac that continues to maintain strong ties to its British past.
With a portion of their Cognac aged in the UK, and as of 1962, the only house that supplies Cognac to the Queen of England, they are considered a British house in France. Hine is particularly known for their vintage Cognacs and their distinctive style.
Their contemporary packaging even has a British flair. The stag logo, bold graphics, and clean, modern design keeps this 255 year old Cognac house young and fresh.
Per Even Allaire, Director of International Sales for Hine Cognac, led us on a tour of their cellars dating back before Cognac even – to the 1500s and tasted us on some truly remarkable Cognacs. He also sat down with me to discuss Hine Cognac’s distinctive approach.
For this week’s cocktail recipe I thought I’d include a simple Cognac based drink that I ended up falling in love with on my visit. It is also a local favorite – Cognac & Tonic.
Cognac & Tonic
2 oz Cognac
4 oz Tonic Water
In a Highball glass filled with ice, stir in ingredients and squeeze the lemon wedge and drop in the glass.
Listen to Episode 40: Cognac Pt. 2″
For this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast we are continuing on to Part 2 of our Cognac series.
Last month, I had the great honor of visiting the Cognac region in the Southwest of France at the very start of harvest season. It was truly a magical time to be there. That familiar shift from summer to fall was a palpable feeling, the light was especially golden in the vineyards, and the grapes were heavy with juice. One could really sense that this was first and foremost a wine region. And to truly understand Cognac, you need to understand wine. Over the course of the week, I was able to visit a variety of Cognac houses and sit down with cellar masters, family distillers and representatives to discuss what makes their approach just a little different from the next house. The beauty of this visit was the diversity in how each Maison approached their process. I loved how varied each one was from one another. But the common thread with all of those I spoke to and visited was the passion behind the process.
In this week’s episode I sit down with two very different Cognac houses. One house, in the heart of the Grand Champagne region, is rooted in tradition, and the other is a young brand that is shaking up the category with some modern techniques.
My first guest is Patrice Piveteau, deputy general manager and cellar master at Cognac Frapin.
The Frapin family has been in the heart of the Grande Champagne region in the SW France since the middle ages first as wine growers and then distillers of Cognac. They’ve continued this tradition for 20 generations. They are considered a smaller house but have the unusual good fortune of owning all of their vineyards over 200 hectares or Ugni blanc grape vines. After a tour of the vineyards A cellar whose framework was created by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame and a tasting of their incredibly varied line up. It was a privilege to sit down with Patrice, one of the most well regarded cellar masters in the region.
My guest this week is also winemaker, distiller and Bourgoin Cognac family member, Frédéric Bourgoin.
The Bourgoin family has been wine growers servicing the cognac industry since 1930. Frederic’s great-grandfather was a grape-grower, who worked with many of the most highly regarded Cognac houses in the region. But it wasn’t until recently that they’ve decided to produce their own brand. Their approach is especially connected to the family land, producing organic grapes and employing biodynamic techniques. Minimal intervention and zero chemical interference is key their grape to glass philosophy. They’ve already started to gain a cult following with their modern packaging and hyper hand-crafted approach.
This week’s cocktail recipe is the classic French 75 made with Cognac:
1 oz cognac
1/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
4-5 oz champagne
Pour cognac, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a very cold Champagne glass, top with bubbly, and garnish with a lemon twist.
Listen to Episode 39: Cognac Pt. 1″
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve teased about this series of episodes about Cognac. Last week, we spoke about a new American Brandy and how the entire category is actually having a resurgence in popularity and a real moment in cocktail culture. We touched on the history a bit. It’s a spirit created by distilling wine, and it dates back to the beginning of distillation. But it was mostly in the context of brandy in America. We all know the most famous brandy, the benchmark to which we have looked to for generations is Cognac – The grandaddy of brandies, that oh so elegant spirit named after a small town in Western France and produced for centuries.
I was lucky enough to visit the region recently with the BNIC – the professional organization behind Cognac. The goal was to expose us to as many varied Cognac houses as possible, to soak in the region, learn about the history, techniques and traditions. And we did. It was incredible and overwhelming and has made for a very difficult editing process for this podcast. Since this is such a huge subject, I thought it best to have a series devoted to all things Cognac.
Over the course of my visit, I was able to sit down with a cellar master in the center of Grand Champagne who oversees a cognac house for a family in its 21st generation, I spoke with a young first generation producer of experimental Cognacs whose father and grandfather farmed grapes for other houses for years, and I met with the house of Cognac that services the Queen of England.
In this first episode, we meet two gentleman. First up is David Boileau, a Cognac educator and ambassador for the BNIC since 2006. We star with some basic Cognac 101, the phylloxera infestation that nearly destroyed the wine and Cognac industry, and the signature cocktail of the town of Cognac…
My second guest is Jacques Blanc who is the house historian and tour guide of Maison Ferrand of Pierre Ferrand Cognac. This was our first Cognac house that we visited and toured and it made for a great welcome to the region. We talked about Pierre Ferrand’s history of experimentation, Dry and Wet Cellar aging, and how he was able to recover the lost history of the Ferrand family.
This week’s featured cocktail is the signature drink of Cognac:
1.5 ounces Cognac VSOP
2 ounces lemon-lime soda
4 thin slices fresh ginger
1 lime peel
1 long piece cucumber
Put lime peel and ginger into glass, pour in 3/4 oz Cognac, lightly muddle. Fill half the glass with ice, and stir. Pour in the remaining Cognac. Top off with lemon-lime soda and garnish with cucumber, stir well and enjoy