Since it's cocktail week here in San Francisco, I have spirits on the brain. When I was in my early 20s, I always took shots of tequila; however, now if someone offers me a shot, I ask for whiskey. Which do you prefer?
Earlier this week I was invited to attend a very special alcohol launch for Fair Spirits. Fair is the first line of premium spirits to be produced with fair-trade-certified ingredients. It consists of three spirits: a vodka and two flavored liqueurs, goji berry and coffee. The smooth, easy-to-drink vodka is made from quinoa farmed in the mountains of Bolivia; the gojis for the sweet and versatile goji berry liqueur are grown by Tibetan monks; and the coffee beans used to make the fragrant coffee liqueur are harvested in Mexico. Each of these communities is positively benefiting from the production of these spirits. Cool, right?
To learn more about the brand and the event, please browse my photos after the break.
On Tuesday night I found myself at a Macallan scotch tasting, where we got to sample five of the brand's award-winning whiskeys. My favorites were the 10-year and the 18-year. While I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Macallan and Scotland in general, I was surprised when I scanned the crowd and noticed it was mostly men. I sip the caramel-colored spirit often, as do several of my best female friends. How about you? Is it too strong for you?
A couple of weeks ago I attended a cocktail pairing dinner hosted by Plymouth gin. Since the pairing of cocktails and food is a growing trend, I wasn't surprised when I was invited to another dinner. This time the spirit of choice was Pernod Absinthe and the evening was an exciting cocktail crawl. We started at Comstock Saloon — a highly anticipated new bar that has yet to open! — and moved on to the Fifth Floor. There, bar master Steven Liles served three stellar drinks paired with three amazing courses. After that the night finished at the famed tiki bar Smuggler's Cove.
To take a closer look at the cocktails and see the fabulous vintage cars that drove the group from location to location, check out my images after the break.
When it comes to spirits, I don't discriminate. It really depends on my mood, but I enjoy vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey, and everything in between equally. When I was younger, my go-to shot was tequila; however, now that I'm a little more refined, I like to shoot whiskey! It's also what I fill my flask with. Since St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, I'm wondering, how do you feel about whiskey?
I'll be the first to admit I'm not the biggest fan of Valentine's Day, and generally not the cheesy romantic type at all. But I must say, I was intrigued when I received a bottle of purportedly passion-inducing Agavero. Agavero ($30) is a 100 percent blue agave tequila that's infused with damiana — a small, aromatic flower that, for centuries, has been believed to be a potent aphrodisiac.
Although Agavero has the brilliant gold color of a traditional tequila, it possesses more sugar and viscosity, and is more like a liqueur. As a result, agave aficionados will probably dislike it. But for the same reason, it's a good gateway choice for those who don't tend to like tequila.
Now to the most important question: when drinking Agavero, will one truly experience a flurry of unbridled passion? After a shot and some delicious tequila sunrises, I decided the answer is no — which left me wondering if I didn't drink enough to see a real effect. There's only one way to find out: keep on drinking the stuff. After all, it goes down incredibly smooth. Have you ever tried a damiana-infused spirit?
With apples and artisanal apple cider replacing peaches and melon agua frescas at the local market, my thoughts have turned to applejack, one spirit that truly captures the essence of Fall in a bottle. But what exactly is it and is it really made of apples?
First enjoyed over 300 years a go, applejack is an alcohol beverage made by concentrating hard cider. It was extremely popular among early settlers of North America, including Johnny Appleseed and George Washington, and was thought to have originated from the French apple brandy known as Calvados.
Today, commercially produced applejack — like the one produced by New Jersey's Laird & Company, America's oldest family-run distillery — is composed of apple brandy diluted with grain spirits.
Much like the name implies, the tipple relies heavily on apples: a single bottle is produced with six pounds of the fruit, which imbues the spirit with a natural apple flavor. Have you ever had applejack? How did you enjoy it?
A couple of weekends ago, for FabSugar's technicolor luau, I made a batch of Pineapple Pimm's Cup. Created by Duggan McDonnell of Cantina, this punch recipe consisted of pineapple vodka, Pimm's No. 1, ginger beer, ginger syrup, and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice.
The refreshing and unexpected cocktail was a major hit and everyone was inquiring about the ingredients. While I was able to tell them what was in the drink, I wasn't able to answer when they asked, "What's Pimm's?" My lame reply, "Oh it's a liquor popular in England." But really, I had no clue what it was!
Until now. Pimm's, an aperitif, is a brand of alcoholic beverages that was created in London in 1840, with the most popular being Pimm's No. 1 Cup. Each number of Pimm's has a different base spirit; No. 1 is a gin-based, No. 2 is scotch-based, and No. 3 is brandy-based (only No.1 still exists). Other elements (spices, citrus, etc.) are added to the base spirit to achieve a characteristic floral flavor and rich tea color. Pimm's is often mixed with soft drinks or as in the classic Pimm's Cup, with lemonade, cucumber, and fresh fruit. Do you enjoy Pimm's?
- Chef Eric Ripert brings his cool cuisine to PBS.
- Chef Eric Ripert brings his cool cuisine to PBS. — W
- Top Chef season two winner Ilan Hall has finally opened The Gorbals, a restaurant in Los Angeles. — Eater LA
- Meet Brooklyn's new backyard farms. — Serious Eats
- Moving past the burn: how to taste spirits. — Chow
- The chairman from Iron Chef America will compete in the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars. — Eat Me Daily
- Tips for cooking on college campuses. — The Epi-Log
In my continuing quest to think outside the spirit box, I have developed not only an appreciation for gin, but also one for rum. Well not just any rum, Jamaica's finest Appleton Estate rum. Earlier this week I was invited to an tasting at Spruce restaurant in San Francisco, and I got to sample the rich caramel-colored liquor neat in four different cocktails.
Appleton is Jamaica's oldest producer of rum and they've got rum-making down to a science. The sugar cane is environmentally estate grown and distilled and blended in small batches by Joy Spence, the industry's first female master rum blender. Spence describes Appleton as a "playful, but serious rum" that "should never see the inside of a blender." Instead we were instructed to "sip it up!" Spence, who was on hand at the tasting, guided us through the four steps to properly enjoy fine rum. To find out what they are, keep reading.