Monday, February 20, 2017

Kings County Distillery Chocolate Flavored Whiskey

By Warren Bobrow

Oh, of course by the name alone- I disagree.  This rare form of joy in a tiny 375ml. bottle is not to be believed if you just read chocolate.  If you were to further read the label, unfortunately it speaks of some confection, a sweet flavor-untarnished by smoke or char, that above said, chocolate.  So I disagree in point, but not in effort.  Not at all.  Because the chocolate element is not candy and it’s not sweet.  It’s bitter.  I love bitter chocolate.  It’s from the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory, a place famed for their craft chocolate.  They evidently do some milling of raw cacao in their Brooklyn chocolate effort, and there is some waste product that makes a way into the expressive ‘moonshine’ whiskey lurking over there in the light.   All you need is a clean glass, a paring knife (thanks to Gary Regan for keeping me on the straight and narrow regarding cutting an orange zest) and an orange that is not green and bruised.  Some good ice is a start- don’t go offering me quarter cubes- they are the worst- taking advantage of your guest?  Don’t even get me started on bad ice.

I’m a huge fan of those cheap silicone trays that go in the freezer.  You should be double bagging them so they don’t taste like that plate of garlic shrimp that went into the blue phase weeks ago...  You know the one.  When working with fine spirits your efforts are only as good as your ice.  And if your ice smells like feet or ammonia, well too bad for you.  I tried to teach you to make it good or not make it at all. 

Kings County is making some of the most authentic ‘flavored’ whiskey I’ve ever tasted.  The composition is organic New York corn and malted Scottish barley.  It’s dry on the finish- has some pepper in there, a touch of caramel.. some smoke follows quickly, a touch of milk sugar- the corn is pronounced but not overly assertive.  There is a tactile sense of foreboding, like something will be coming down the road and it might not be what you expected.  That would be the dry nature of the corn whiskey itself.  It’s flavored for a reason though.  And the aging time is shorter than you might want to know.  As long as it takes to walk from the distillery to your car?  So, what is Chocolate Whiskey?  It’s not like flavored vodka, although the basic ingredients are virtually the same.  Different gravities at work.  Kings County gets it.  This is not flavored vodka! They absolutely have my support since I don’t write about flavored vodka.  Ever!

I love it in the following drink.

The Navy Yard: Be is to Bop 
Ingredients:
3 oz. Kings County Distillery Chocolate Whiskey
6 oz. Roasted Blood Orange Juice- split blood oranges, sprinkle with sugar and Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters, roast for ½ hr. at 350, cool and juice
2-3 large cubes of ice
2 oz. plain seltzer
Blood Orange Zest

Preparation:
To a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with bar ice:
Add the Roasted Blood Orange Juice
Add the Whiskey
Add the Aromatic Bitters
Cap and Shake hard for 15 seconds

Pour into two coupes
Test for bitter- add more if necessary
Splash of seltzer, pinch the blood orange zest over the top and serve

Cheers from all of us at DrinkUpNY!

Warren Bobrow is the celebrated author/bar man and mixologist responsible for the 1st book on the topic, Cannabis Cocktails.

Warren has written to date four books, Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktails and Bitters/Shrub Syrup Cocktails.  His first book, Apothecary Cocktails was nominated for a Spirited Award at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail. Warren has been a dishwasher, and a pot scrubber- a cook- and a saucier.  He cooked professionally around the country, Portland, Me., Charleston, Sc., Scottsdale, Az., New Hope, Pa., He owned and lost his fresh pasta manufacturing company located in Charleston, SC in 1989- Hurricane Hugo.

Then came a twenty-year career in Banking.  Don’t ask!  Demoralizing yet, essential. 
Fortunate to do what he is passionate about, Warren has five books in May 2017 and more ideas on the way.  Ministry of Rum judge, Rum XP associate, American Distilling Institute, Saveur 100, Oxford Encyclopedia, Sage Encyclopedia, Whole Food/Dark Rye, Liquor.com, Barrell Bourbon.   He taught a deep dive on rum at the Moscow Bar Show, taught at Stonewall Kitchen, Attended the Fetes Gastronomie in Burgundy, traveled to Abruzzo in Italy for wine and Michelin starred foods, just to name just a few.  From failed-executive assistant in a bank to tastemaker to the world. 
Never working yet never not working.  Smoke and Mirrors.  Authentic.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Wines for Valentine’s Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman

One of the biggest, and most commercial, holidays is just around the corner. Whether you are single or happily engaged in a relationship you will want to have some wine on hand for the occasion.

Bubbles are a classic. Everything from Prosecco to Champagne is always festive and perfect for the occasion. A little something red and bubbly, like a Lambrusco or a sparkling Shiraz from Down Under, would also be fun alternatives.

Jill Zimorski, the former wine director at Chicago’s Alinea restaurant, says that she always loves “Particularly Rose. It's great with everything but there's no denying it's a wine of occasion and the sound of a bottle of champagne being opened is one of the sexiest sounds ever.”

She prefers the classic over “obvious choices like Beaujolais St. Amour or Chateau Calon-Segur with the heart on the label.” I agree but think the Beaujolais Crus are pretty delicious to share with wide range of foods on Valentine’s Day or pretty much any other day of the year.

Big Reds for the Evening
Big, heady reds are always sensual for this day of the year. I find Rhone Syrahs to be some of the sexiest choices out there. The same could be said of the Syrahs from Eastern Washington and the Columbia Valley.

“I think a lot about aroma, so wines with really great, distinctive aromatics are super romantic/sexy to me--really good Barolo with age...where it's all truffley and heady...Brachetto, sweet or dry versions that straight smell like roses, but not in the cloying way that Gewurtztraminer sometimes does,” adds Zimorski about her favorite picks.

The earthy, dark-fruit driven wines of the Loire and the salt-of-the-earth Barberas of Piedmonte are always delicious. They are great pairings to open up a meal with slices of prosciutto or some mushroom-filled puff pastry snacks.

South African blends are also some of my favorites. They can combine tantalizing notes of earth, berries and cassis. While we are over in Africa Morocco is also making better and better wines, some of which feature my beloved Syrah.

End it Off Sweet
You may want a vino da meditazione, what the Italians call a wine to ponder to finish the evening. Marsala and Madeira, from Southern Italy and Portugal respectively, are two of my favorites. Their caramel notes seem to go on forever as the wine slides down your throat.

Passito di Pantelleria, another Southern Italian pick, is also a gem. There’s also always Port for a classic nightcap.

Cheers from all of us at DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wines to Warm You Up after Ice Skating

By Liza B. Zimmerman

When I was a little kid I used to love to go to Wollman rink in Central Park and do loopty loops with my friends. When that closed for renovations we went, on special occasions, to Rockefeller Center. It would a special treat to have a hot chocolate or even breakfast at one of the restaurants that facing the ice skating rink.

Now that I am a grownup my post-skating choice of beverage has changed a little. Nothing says winter, and celebration, like sparkling wine. I am really enjoying exploring cremants from different areas in France: although the Loire and Alsace remain favorites.

A little rose bubbly is never bad either, and pairs with so many kinds of foods. Some of the classic California sparkling houses make lovely versions as do many of the great Champagne houses.

Other Winter Whites
As oysters are so good and fresh—and great for lunch after a twirl on the ice—another festive way to celebrate would be pairing them with some of the wines with which they go best. The sea-smacked flavors of the whites of the Loire, especially Muscadet, are always great with them. The layers of salinity in the mollusks and these wines are phenomenal when they mix in the mouth.

Other favorite whites include those clean and fresh Northern Italian gems such as the well-known pinot grigio and the esoteric—and delicious—Kerner. A little bone-dry Riesling from Alsace or one with a hint of residual sugar from Germany is always a delight.

Big Reds to Warm You Up
When it gets colder out I do shift to drinking more hearty reds. If you are heading in for a lunch by the fire—at home or a cozy restaurant—after skating earthy reds are a great way to start a meal. The tobacco-infused and tangy, red fruit-driven reds of the Loire, almost any region, are always favorites of mine to start a meal. The Beaujolais Crus are also such gems and sometimes don’t get the respect they deserve with all the ruckus in fall over the Beaujolais Nouveau.

If you want your reds even bigger go for some Syrah-based blends. While this gem of a grape is often misunderstood in the states, producers in the Rhone know just how to produce these fruit-and earth-packed wines. Walla Walla is also making some stunning examples as are many producers in California. An interest in the grape certainly seems to be on the rise as when I judged the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January we had a big group of Syrah-based, domestic red blends: many of them were delicious.

Cabernet Sauvignons are also great after a little workout on the ice. I tend to prefer the blends from California and Right Bank, Merlot-heavy versions from France. All of these are good with rich meat dishes like stews and roasts. Zinfandel is another great, cool weather grape that pairs with lots of hearty winter food.

Cheers from all of us at DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Wines for the New Year

By Liza B. Zimmerman

We all like to celebrate the passing of any year with memorable wines. However this year--given its combination of political and cultural loss of beloved musicians and other icons combined with political friction worldwide--is one to which many of us may be happy to say goodbye. So let's send it out with some festivities, including great wines.

We should all toast the New Year with wines that we love. For me, my favorites of all time would range from Champagne to the Loire Valley's austere whites and gracious reds and dipping down to Piedmont's simple Dolcettos and Barberas. Let's not forget about South Africa and Chile's stellar red blends and almost anything made anywhere in Portugal.

I encourage you to seek out and experiment with new wines and food pairings. It is always better done in company, so you can veto and embrace what you like about wines in a group. A great retailer can provide you with a mixed case to do just so.

Advice from a Sommelier
Jill Weber, owner and founder of Philadelphia's Jet Wine Bar and Rex 1516, loves to have big meals to celebrate the  holidays. She says that she "always pair the wine to the food. If I’m making a Bagna Cauda [a typical Piedmontese dipping sauce made of olive oil, anchovies and garlic] for a celebratory meal, I’ll pair that with a Barolo from Piedmont."

She adds that an intensely local dish such as Bagna Cauda is not one  that everyone would make all year long as it is super-garlic driven. Above and beyond serving wines linked to specific culinary pairings she adds that Proseccos produced in Congeliano, in North-Eastern Italy, are also another favorite of hers. It is also a favorite of mine.

Most Proseccos have a fair amount of finesse but those from Congeliano do even more than some of the best in the bunch. I would equate them with some of the  best sparkling wines produced outside the Champagne region of France: think Alsace and the Loire Valley.

For Weber most types of bubbles are phenomenal with tamales. However with her carnitas tamales, "I recommend a Lambrusco. And for the chicken green chili tamales, a Prosecco is perfect." Light meats, such as pork, with a hint of chilies do brilliantly with  fizzy wines of either color. Lambrusco is also an ever-ideal match for most  holiday  foods.

Weber is also a fan of "oysters with something sparkling or a crisp white that’s rich in saline and minerals." My favorite wines with these babies from the sea would include Muscadet, because you can almost smell the sea salt in it, as well as Loire Valley Whites and most sparklers (particularly Champagne).

Happy New Year from all of us at DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Wines for the Feast

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Whether you are planning on a traditional turkey for your dinner or something unusual, I have some great wine suggestions for you. Be sure to start the day out with bubbles: who doesn’t love them?

I am a fan of roses myself and dozens of regions are making spectacular versions. Some of my favorites this time of the year tend to be cremants from the Loire Valley. They are bright and fresh and are more affordable than Champagne. Some of the California houses are also making some great sparklers as are many regions of Northern Italy.

Wines for the Meal
When you sit down and eat you will want to offer a mix of whites and reds to pair with all the meats and side dishes. Crisp whites, like Sauvigon Blanc, are always flexible. Rhone whites, whether from France or California, will be great choice as well.

Emily Horenian, the sommelier at the new San Francisco restaurant Saratoga shared a few of her strategies. “For white wines, I tend to prefer two different styles.  One could select an off dry white wine like a Kabinett Riesling from Germany: something to refresh the palate during the rich meal.  I also think a more austere Chardonnay would be very complimentary; something with a bit of body but with balanced minerality. “

For turkey and other game birds Lambrusco is an amazing pairing. I would go for a fairly dry one; a hint of sugar is fine but not too much. It is what most Italians have with their holiday meals (which is often a bird for Thanksgiving).

“For reds, I would recommend cru Beaujolais all day. Something fruity with a bit of grit,” says Horenian. I couldn’t agree more. Whether it is the super-light Nouveau which debuts a week before Thanksgiving or the Crus, their fresh, fruity style is perfect with turkey. They also have the acid structure to cut through some of the fattiness of the potato-driven side dishes. 

“Lighter-style Pinot Noirs would also work well with the meal,” she adds. I agree and would stay away from high-alcohol versions. Cool climate Oregon and Burgundy are the way to go.

Alternatives to the Bird-Route
I was never a fan of turkey or the stupor it induced in me after I consumed too much of it. My family in New York has long made a big steak or a rack of lamb for the holiday. Pork is not a bad choice either as it is so wine friendly.

With a bigger meat, you will want to go with a more robust wine. For steak think Zinfandel, a big Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux. A beautiful big, red blend from the Douro Valley in Portugal would also be fantastic.

Some of my favorite pairings with lamb are the Rhone reds. They have a lush, gaminess to them that works so well here or with venison. Pork can take much lighter reds, such as a Chinon or you could hop back to the Beaujolais Crus and they would be perfect.

For dessert a little sweet Moscato would go well with fruit. If you are going to indulge in pecan or pumpkin pie I would go for a well-aged Tawny Porto.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wines for a Full Moon

By Liza B. Zimmerman

You have a chance to see the entire face of the man on the moon about once a month. As the cycle between full moons is about 29.5 days some months we even see two of them. According to Space.com they all also have unique names: such as the Full Worm Moon in March or the Full Pink Moon in April.

December’s full moon is called The Full Cold Moon and the Full Long Nights Moon. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule since it comes right before Christmas. Buddhists think that these evenings of the full moon are sacred while I think they give us all a great excuse to sample different wines.

Full Moon Pairings
Since, “The Farmers Almanac calls December’s full moon a ‘Cold Moon,’ so what could pair better with that than a chilled glass of pink Champagne?,” asks Terry Berch, owner of Philadelphia’s London Grill. She adds that “I especially like the way that rose Champagne matches the rosy tint of the moon’s surface as it rises.”

I couldn’t agree more and rose sparkling wine goes with practically anything besides big, fatty meats. Sipping ice cold bubbles from anywhere seems particularly right while admiring this moon that escorts us into the height of the holiday season.

“I celebrate the full moon every month,” says Berch. She claims not to be superstitious but it just “awed by the grandeur of our planet. Again, it feels like a cause for celebration to me, so a sparkling wine is always a good choice and feels a little like the stars twinkling around the moon.”

Cool-Climate Choices
Since December brings cold weather to most of the country you might want some bone-warming wines. A luscious red like a Spanish Garnacha or a spicy Rhone would do the trick. Elegant Bordeaux blends from both sides of the Gironde River and California would also hit the spot.

Berch shares that, “In the winter, I like the leisurely feel of a rich Port wine paired with a cigar – it’s a perfect little luxury to make the occasion of the full moon.” An aged 10- or 20-year-old Tawny is always a treat. A little dram of Sherry would also work well.

If you are superstitious about the occasion you could make a roast or stew with lots of garlic to ward away bad intentions. Italian Sangiovese and Tempranillo generally work well with garlic-inflected food. If you want to pump up the volume of the pairing Malbec and Syrah would also be good choices. Cheers and happy moon gazing.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wines for Cyber Monday

By Liza B. Zimmerman

If you are not totally exhausted by from the epic meal on Thursday and all that running around in big department stores the day after, Monday is a day to focus on those great online deals in the comfort of your home.

Since most of these deals come from smaller stores and there are lots of them, you will want some wines that keep the brain humming and clear. In Italian we say there are certain wines that are vini da meditazione. There are wines worthy of lingering over by the fire or in company, wines that may go down easily but demand your attention to be fully understood.

I would break these wines into several categories. Let’s start first with Marsala from Sicily: those sweet vicious caramel notes demand you attention as you savor them. Just one sip can get your palate primed to concentrate on those deals and see if that toaster that prints designs on your morning bread is really worth all that cash.

Sherry is another fortified wine that merits your full attention when you drink it. Those nutty, maderized notes continually change on the palate and as you sip from your glass. The relatively low alcohol level of many of these Sherries, which hovers from 15 to 20 percent on average, will also keep you clear minded in front of the computer.

Last but certainly not least are Portugal’s beautiful Madeiras. This island has long produced fortified wines with notes of dried stone fruits, nuts and hints of toffee. They are delicious and relatively affordable given some of the age statements going back to the ‘70s and ‘80s that are still easily available on the market.

Other Wines for a Busy Monday
You may just want wines that warm the body, and the soul, as you sit home trying to stay toasty in front of the computer. Fruit luscious reds will do the trick. Some of my favorite winter reds are Rhone blends and tannic and complex reds from Piedmonte.

While Barolo may get all the attention, I prefer its softer and more complex cousin Barbaresco. Gattinara is another great 100 percent Nebbiolo choice. Barbara is also another great, affordable, every day, easy-drink red that goes with so many foods. Alcohol levels on Barberas can also be nicely balanced at below 13 percent alcohol by volume to keep you focused on that screen and finding what you need for your home.

If by chance you are sneaking in a little leftover turkey sandwich at the keyboard, Lambrusco is always a great choice. There is no need to meditate over it and it so refreshing and the fizz is so holiday festival. Happy shopping and drinking!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.