Monday, May 27, 2013

The Bobolink Cocktail

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Pavan, a new and most expressive liquor, has captured my imagination. I discovered this liqueur through social media, where many such great discoveries have taken place in recent months.

Years ago I accompanied my family to France. We were traveling up in the mountains and the season was springtime. Flowers burst from the snow in profusions of color against the stark white backdrop. Flowers and White Muscat grapes are the basis for the flavor elements contained in each metered sip of Pavan.

I remember sipping tiny glasses of these liqueurs after dinners of local venison stew served with spring onions and tiny potatoes so perfectly cooked that all others pale in comparison. The liqueurs were crystallized moments in flavor memories. When I opened the top of the Pavan bottle, handsomely designed in an Art Deco style reminiscent of Erte, I smelled my travels from years past. Captured in each sniff is the South of France, expressed through the wine grapes and the herbal preparations that are gathered in the mountainous regions of the country.

Pavan is a dream vacation to France in every small sip. This 18% alcohol aperitif is creative and bold in the glass. I recommend enjoying it iced with (the very French) Perrier in the Lemon Essence as an aperitif with a grapefruit zest, or perhaps combining a bit of Pavan with a teaspoon of orange marmalade and some Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral water in Pink Grapefruit essence. Garnish this one with a slice of wood charred grapefruit for a smoky kick to the glass.

By far my most favorite way (so far) to enjoy Pavan is this one...

Pavan is, in my opinion, most intriguing when mixed with freshly squeezed lime, lemon, grapefruit and orange juices. I love the addition of Casa Noble Reposado Tequila in addition to the perfumed elegance of the Pavan liqueur. The honey-like finish of Casa Noble Tequila shows very well in this drink. This is a hand made, USDA Certified Organic Tequila and it melds into the background adding depth, along with the perkier elements of the always freshly squeezed citrus juices. Then in a tip of the hat to the season of growing fresh herbs, I've included a pinch (no more!) of rosemary. If you use too much rosemary the subtle elements of the Pavan will be lost, so pinch your herbs carefully. 

You don't want your cocktails to taste like a potpourri pillow in your grandmother's house.

The Bobolink Cocktail - influenced by alchemist Jonathan White of Bobolink Farm

• 3 oz. Casa Noble Reposado Tequila
• ½ oz. Pavan Liqueur
• ½ oz. each: orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit juices
• ¼ oz. Agave Nectar
• A splash of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Pink Grapefruit essence
• 2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
• Fleur de Sel (sea salt)
• A pinch(!!) of rosemary

1. Combine all the juices and the liquors into a Boston shaker filled ¾ with bar ice.
2. Add the Agave Nectar.
3. Add a couple hits of bitters.
4. Shake for 15 seconds.
5. Add a splash of the Perrier Sparkling water.
6. Add a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel over the top to balance the flavors.

Serve in a rocks glass with a pinch of rosemary.
Makes two really lovely cocktails.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Negroni

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I love the drink named the Negroni. It's bright, refreshing and quenches the thirst, unlike many cocktails. It never leaves me feeling drab, nor does it take away my appetite like some other cocktails do when sipped before a meal.

In my upcoming book, Apothecary Cocktails, Restoratives from Yesterday and Today, I discuss the correlation of the digestive tract and healing, by using liquors mixed with fresh herbs. If only the pharmacists from years back had known about the Negroni as a healing curative! Well, in a way they did.

The Negroni was invented back in 1919 in Florence, Italy - purposively built to heal what ails you. Orson Wells famously said in 1947 that, "The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other." I don't know about you, but I think gin is good for you. Perhaps Mr. Wells had it altogether incorrect. The entire drink is good for you. Gin, after all, was used during the Middle Ages as a curative for the Black Plague. And Vermouth has long been held as a curative for many internal battles surrounding the digestive glands. 

The history of the Negroni involves a base spirit, like gin, plus bitters and vermouth. I enjoy my Negroni Cocktail with the powerfully intoxicating Caorunn Gin from Scotland. Distilled with a healthy smack of the juniper berry and woven into a backdrop of citrus with a hefty punch of alcohol, the Caorunn Gin just tempts me to have another. Combined with the syrupy and complex Carpano Antica Vermouth and the historically correct Campari Bitters from Italy, the Negroni speaks very clearly of getting buzzed with the minimum of effort. I just sipped my Negroni down and absolutely feel no pain. And why would I, with the application of my finger to stir this magnificent cocktail?

My friend Gary Regan stirs his with his finger so why shouldn't I? 

Well the reasons are numerous why you should not stir your cocktail with your finger. Cleanliness has something to do with this. But I suppose if you dipped your finger in your tri-sink filled with disinfectants and cleansers, you'd really have nothing to worry about as long as you were in your own home. I always use a cocktail spoon when working behind the bar so not to upset my customers! The drink shown was mixed with my own finger… far away from any paying customers!

The best Negroni is also the simplest one to make. I do only a couple of things differently:

1. Wash glass out inside and out with cool water.
2. Dry carefully with a soft towel.
3. Pack with ice and water.
4. Carefully measure out your ingredients, pour out the bar ice and water.

I also use a couple large hand-cut cubes of ice from the Williams Sonoma silicone ice cube tray. But most importantly, I filter my water first with ice made from from my Mavea "Inspired Water" filter. With this magical device, my ice nearly freezes crystal clear. A far cry from the ice that comes out of the ice machine in the fridge. 

The Negroni Cocktail

• 1 oz. Campari
• 1 oz. Carpano Antica
• 1 oz. Caorunn Gin
• 2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters


1. Add Campari.
2. Add Sweet Vermouth - I ALWAYS USE Carpano Antica for the second step.

3. Add your choice of Gin. In this case I used Caorunn Gin from Scotland. Caorunn is liberally flecked with citrus fruit woven around the haunting elegance of the moors at night.

4. Add The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters.
5. Add ice.
6. Stir all ingredients together… (And no, you don't have to use your finger!!!)

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Grenache, the Go-To Grape

By Amanda Schuster

Grenache is a true classic. Think of it as the little black dress of red grapes. It is not only extremely versatile and adaptable, but looks good dressed up or down.

There is a lot of evidence that indicates that Grenache originated in the Aragon region of north-east Spain. Not least among that evidence is the fact that some of the many synonyms for Grenache are "Uva di Spagna" and "Aragones". As the kingdom of Aragon grew, so did the range of where Grenache began to grow. It also has a long history in farther-reaching regions such as Roussillon and Sardinia (where it is known as "Cannonau").

Grenache has a thin skin, though the wines tend to be lightly colored, more of a medium red. It's also low in acidity, which can cause what color there is to fade unusually quickly for a red wine. Which is not to say that as a single varietal release it lacks any lustre, just that it's somewhat light and meant to be consumed young. This can be a great thing, especially if you enjoy reds with a slight chill on more casual occasions or in warmer weather. Cannonau, in particular, is fabulous with a weekday pasta or summer barbecue.

However, the key to Grenache's global success is the fact that in the right places - hot, dry, and with a long growing season - the grapes ripen easily, and keep a fair amount of residual sugar and higher levels of alcohol. These traits make Grenache the perfect blending grape, letting the other more rustic grapes do the work of the tannins, color and additional flavors. In these circumstances there is immense staying power as a flavor component. GSM - Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre - is one of the great grape trifectas of all time, found and known all over the world.

Grenache traces its roots back to Spain, where it continues to be a vitally important grape to this day. Over the past several years, many plantings of Grenache in Spain have been replaced by other varieties, but it still is the third most prolific producer of Spanish wine after Tempranillo and Bobal. Grenache can be found complementing Tempranillo in Rioja and Navarra, as well as in up-and-coming regions such as Campo de Borja and Montsant, among others. The real jewel in Spain's Grenache crown is the wine of Priorat, where ancient bush-trained vines produce tiny quantities of amazingly rich, dark fruits.

While Grenache may be Spanish, its greatest success story is probably in France, where it is also the third most planted red grape variety, after Merlot and Carignan. But here it has more prestige. Grenache is a key component in some of France's greatest and most famous wines, including: Côtes du Rhône (major GSM territory that includes Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas); the rosés of Lirac and Tavel; and the dessert wines of Banyuls, Roussillon, and Rivesaltes. Many of these appellations and styles using Grenache are known for their elegance and endurance in the cellar, particularly the Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the dessert wines, the latter of which have been known to last several decades.

It is now also very popular in the New World, finding its way in GSM's and single varietal releases or with other grapes in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and the US. The Côtes du Rhône style of producing Grenache is particularly prevalent in Australia, and in parts of California, where it figures heavily into the Rhone Ranger wine movement.

The great thing about Grenache is that it's almost impossible for it to be actively bad. And when it's good, it's fabulous. Take some out tonight and see what we mean!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Amanda Schuster is a native New Yorker, but without much of the accent. The mobile landscape of the city has taken her on a whirlwind journey from Medieval historian, photo archivist, jewelry designer and invitation specialist to earning her sommelier certification in late 2005. After working as a retail wine and spirits buyer and freelance brand promoter, she turned to the one thing that has stayed a constant all these years – her love of writing. She has published dozens of articles on cocktails, spirits, wine and other culinary interests, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favorite cocktail is a Manhattan.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Caipirinha Classica

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I love Brazil. The people make up the social thread, the food fills their bellies and the music fills their hearts. Their heads are filled with the particularly potent liquor named cachaça. Now with an AOC for purity, cachaça has become a world player in the rush for flavor and nostalgia alike.

It completes the equation of the soul meeting the heart through the influence of the earth.

 Avuá Prata Cachaça is made in Brazil. It cannot be made anywhere else on the planet by the force of law. Cachaça is a complex beverage that takes great passion to make. This passion runs through the veins of the Brazilian people. When Caipirinha cocktails are made, people come together. They dance, they sing - it seems to help solve problems in life and make people come together for a common good. You cannot drive anywhere in Rio and not see offerings to the spirits, both physical and metaphysical. They are everywhere in Brazil.

When I was a boy my parents took me to Brazil to experience the Caipirinha cocktail up close. And yes, I had several while there. One too many perhaps, but as the theory goes - once you've enjoyed a Caipirinha cocktail, you will always remember it. The flavor of freshly cut lime, the burst of cane sugar sweetness from the cachaça intermixed with the haunting flavor of the wooden cask, all mingle to create a truly unique product.

Cachaça is the soul of the people of Brazil and Avuá Prata Cachaça is one of the best I've ever tasted. It speaks clearly of the cane, that hauntingly sensual liquid that coats the back of your throat and swirls around your mind. Two or three cocktails and you are out on Copacabana Beach, soaking up the Equatorial sun, slathered with coconut oil and iodine for a deeper tan than you ever thought possible. I spent two months in Brazil and came back to winter in NJ as a different person. The food and the music would never leave me. When I wrote restaurant reviews for NJ Monthly Magazine, I made sure that I reviewed a Brazilian restaurant in Newark, NJ named Seabra's. They make an extremely fine Caipirinha right in front of you. I'm a big fan of in-your-face bartending.

Yesterday I was fortunate to spend some time in the company of Daniel Bull, the mixologist for his families' restaurant named Brasilina located near Hell's Kitchen on the West Side of NYC. He is passionate about his ingredients, insisting on fresh and freshly sliced whenever possible. He hasn't been a bartender for too long, but his hand is steady behind the stick and the passionate Brazilian spirit flows readily through his fingers into his handcrafted cocktails.

Daniel made me the classic Caipirinha cocktail with Avuá Prata Cachaça and what transpired was less a lesson in making the cocktail, but more a view into the sense of taste. Avuá is sold at DrinkUpNY and you can take the easy to follow directions (below) and make your own cocktail. I do have one suggestion. When you make this cocktail, make sure your hands and your heart is warm first. Warming your hands is easy, by holding them under warm water until they are warm. Your heart may be more difficult to warm, but you can start by thinking of a place like Brazil and the affectionate sunshine that bathes this country in her perpetual glow. 

Do you think that it is the Avuá Prata Cachaça talking?

Daniel says it is essential to slice your limes fresh, as in right before using. He also stressed not muddling the lime too much. Muddling releases the oils, yes - but it can release the bitter from the skin just as easily. Be gentle and smile while you make this cocktail!

Make your drink like a Brazilian, with passion!

Classica Caipirinha

• 4 fresh cut lime wedges
• 20ml simple syrup (2 parts of refined sugar to 1 part boiling water - blend it in the blender)
• 2.5 ounces of Avuá Prata Cachaça

1. Add lime and simple syrup to your glass.

2. Muddle 5 to 6 times - make sure you don't extract too much of the oil from the lime skin.

3. Fill your glass with ice & add the cachaça.

4. Stir with a swizzle stick.
5. Complete the glass with more fresh ice.
6. Garnish with lime wedge, freshly cut is essential!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Last Train to Brownsville

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I can picture in my mind's eye the first time I tasted Mezcal. I was down in Mexico - specifically in the Yucatan Peninsula, visiting the Mayan ruins with my family. Overflowing pitchers of green-tinged, icy cold drinks were set upon broad tables shaded from the tropical sunshine by the lush vegetation. Down in this part of the world an icy drink is a welcome diversion against the burning rays and the inferno-like heat of the sun.

I was perhaps sixteen and already well acquainted with Tequila from childhood forays into the seedy underbelly of overindulgences. But these pitchers held something more than just mysteries. The vessels contained fever-dripped dreams of another world, linked together with a thin veneer of char and smoke. It was a heady brew for anyone, much less a teenager with a serious thirst from the heat. After several cocktails in the hot sun, the world took on a deeper dimension - the Mayan temples seemed a part of my experience and the Mezcal spoke to me. But please don't ask me what it said, because I don't remember a thing!

Roasting agave at San Luis Del Rio
Mezcal is made with similar ingredients as Tequila but it takes a twisted path up the side of the mountains through a method that involves the use of smoke. Mezcal is to Tequila as Scotch Whisky is to Bourbon. They both use similar ingredients but one is sweet in the nose and mouth while the other can be vividly smoky to the palate and especially the nose. I love Mezcal for precisely that reason. There is an obviously sophisticated method of making Mezcal. Although it mimics Tequila in the flavor profile, Mezcal takes on a characteristic all its own through the potent application of fire and earth.

As a rule, I'm very fond of Mezcal, in this case one named Mezcal Vida from Del Maguey. What Del Maguey has done is get high quality Mezcal into the hands of more consumers at a much lower price point.

During this mostly cool spring, citrus is at the forefront of my palate. I cannot seem to get enough of it. Oranges are at their peak right now and I love to lightly sear them in a dry sauté pan, let them cool, then juice them, releasing a perfume and spark that makes me salivate.

Perrier, you know - the pink grapefruit sparkling natural mineral water happens to work very well with grilled orange. Brightly aromatic, the citrus weaves around each bubble. The spark of the bubbles rises through the smokier elements of Mezcal and the grilled orange juice.

To make a Last Train to Brownsville Cocktail you must first get all the ingredients. Each comes together in a bold, multi-layered event in your glass and soon your mouth. My ice is the most important part of the Last Train to Brownsville (Texas) Cocktail. I ALWAYS filter the water through a Mavea "Inspired Water" pitcher and you should too - water just tastes better, soft, creamy almost. There is sensuality about the water that I cannot explain… You must drip it into your mouth or suck on an ice cube made with Mavea filtered water.

So, without further adieu…

The Last Train to Brownsville (Texas) Cocktail

Ingredients for two VERY STRONG DRINKS:
• 4 oz. Del Maguey "Vida" San Luis Del Rio Mezcal
• 3 oz. Grilled Orange Juice (reserve a few slices for garnish)
• 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters
• 4 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (Pink Grapefruit essence)
• 3 oz. Valley Girls Grapefruit Soda Syrup*
• One very large hand cut cube of ice made from Mavea "Inspired Water" for each cocktail

1. To a Boston shaker add the liquors and the bitters.
2. Add the grilled orange juice and the Grapefruit Soda Syrup, then fill ¾ with plain ice.
3. Shake Boston Shaker for 20 seconds, it's going to be quite frosty.
4. Pour into short rocks glasses with one really large hand-cut ice cube made of the Mavea filtered water ice. (There might be enough for a couple of shots as well, unless you use a tall glass then no shots for you.)
5. Top with a couple splashes of the Perrier Pink Grapefruit Sparkling Natural Mineral Water.
6. Garnish with a slice of grilled orange and a couple of shakes of Angostura bitters over the top.
7. Sip very carefully and have another immediately afterwards.
8. Marvel at the visual elements of this strikingly beguiling cocktail.

*Valley Girls from Sonoma are dedicated to handcrafted, small-batch cooking that preserves old-school methods of making food that tastes, tasty! The sales benefit Sonoma Valley Teens Services "Skills For Life" programs which benefit at-risk teens.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.