Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cocktails for a wicked cold

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I’m wicked cold.  That kind of cold that just doesn’t quit.  True there is a fire in the wood burning stove, but that’s downstairs.  I’m upstairs- watching the weather change.  The sky is dappled with gray and blue, the wind has settled down a bit and the temperature is on its way well below freezing for the first time since March.  

For this kind of bone chilling cold I recommend hot liquids.  Preferably with some kind of liquor in them, correcting the non-alcoholic with the blatantly intoxicating.  You see, when I make a drink and I’m on record for this- make fewer drinks but… MAKE THEM STRONG…  

The International Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Show is held yearly at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.  This show attracts a clientele who are professional in nature: chefs, restaurant owners, bar owners and interested students.  There are a few specialty food dealers in attendance as well.  One of the participants in this year’s show was an exuberant young lady named Christina Summers.  She is the CEO of a company named Dolce Vita llc.  What her company makes in Italy is just about the most luscious, thick hot chocolate that I’ve had in recent memory.  This is an ultra-luxury product without any genetically modified ingredients that calls you to task immediately. Why?  After I drank down my first cup, made with some leftover coffee from this morning, there was that desire for another.  And other with the final cup set to be corrected. 

What’s corrected mean?

The last week of September I spent in Abruzzi, Italy.   This is the part of Italy unknown to most Americans.  Heavily damaged in the earthquakes that rocked Italy in recent years, Abruzzi has never been a tourist destination.  That’s probably because until recently that wines have been dismissed as no more than “airplane” wines and the winding roads are too narrow to accommodate tour buses.  The thousand food drop-offs without guardrails might have something to do with that.  At any rate, after driving around in the freezing cold, staring out over mountains and valleys out to the sea, a cup of espresso and hot chocolate seems very romantic indeed.  To that little cup of dreams I looked up on the shelf behind the man patiently waiting for me.   Corrected means just that, your coffee is corrected with alcohol. 

There was a small selection of rum, mostly from Cuba.  One was a vanilla flavored version of the famous Havana Club.  This ingredient went into my espresso and chocolate.  So far, so good but I needed something else for the chocolate, coffee, rum mixture in the cup.  Perhaps a chocolate liqueur would work?  I think you’re on to something, but the patient up to now espresso barman clearly had enough of this American in his shop, taking up space from the throng

of paying customers.  Espresso is quick.  Ordering is faster still.  People run into an espresso shop and throw down 1 oz. or less of a fantastically sweet aromatic espresso faster than anything Starbucks could every imagine doing.  And to have a full bar behind the espresso machine; this experience was virtually bliss to this tourist from New Jersey.  My mind was filled with dreams for strong Cuban rum first thing in the morning.  

Since we cannot buy Cuban rum in the United States I’m substituting rum from Brooklyn, NY.  I think it is darned good stuff.  This rum from the brilliantly talented distiller Bridget Firtle at the Noble Experiment, is truly lovely rum with luscious character.  It’s delicious with hot chocolate from Italy!  I used the vanilla infused rum with Madagascar Vanilla.  This rum is toasty, creamy and lush across the tongue.  

All I could think about was the Chocolatto Hot Chocolate and this rum from Brooklyn.  

But something else was needed.  Another liqueur from Brooklyn perhaps?  Absolutely!  For the missing flavor element I chose the Brooklyn Roasting Company Columbian Coffee Liqueur.  This is a mind-bogglingly good coffee liqueur.  Ripe with notes of toasty, sweet Columbian coffee woven with deeper notes of dark cane sugar and silky infused spirits, the coffee liqueur and the Noble Experiment Vanilla Rum are just a match made in… well Brooklyn!  

I’m sorry in many ways not to have another pouch of this amazing hot chocolate from Italy.  It is a trip to a forgotten section of the Italian countryside in every thick and creamy sip.  Add some vanilla rum and coffee liqueur and time stands still for more than a moment.   A final flourish of Bitter Truth Orange bitters gives that aromatic counterpoint to bitter and sweet in the finish.  

Besides, I love the taste of orange with chocolate, vanilla and strong espresso coffee.  

You can enjoy this treat anytime.  

Drinking Italian hot chocolate on a cold day in November, thickly textured in your mug, woven with Brooklyn made spirits is a gift.  I recommend that you try one. 

The Dolce Vite Spicy Toddy
1 oz. Dolce Vite Chocolatto Hot Chocolate Mix (extra thick and creamy, European style from Italy)
½ oz. Brooklyn Roasting Company Columbian Coffee Liqueur
½ oz.  Owney’s Vanilla Bean Small Batch Rum
½ oz. Espresso Coffee
2 oz. Steamed Whole Milk (Regular, not skim- please)
Extremely tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (less than that!)
Bitter Truth Orange Bitters

Preheat a ceramic mug with boiling hot water and pour out when thoroughly hot
Add the steamed milk and espresso to the Dolce Vite Chocolatto mix
Add the Rum and the Coffee liqueur to the hot chocolate
Add the tiny pinch of cayenne pepper over the top
Add a shake or two of the Bitter Truth Orange bitters over the top of the cayenne pepper… And sip.

Preheat another mug for your second drink.  Do it!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

World's first Cinnamon Tequila: Peligroso Cinnamon

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I’m never one for flavored liquors, but imagine my surprise when I discovered Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila.  This artisan product is infused with pure cinnamon and it tastes like sunshine in a bottle.  I remember the first time I had infused tequila.  It was down in the Yucatan peninsula.  The high season is winter, with warm temperatures; occasionally cooler breezes make their way down from the northern reaches of the continent.  For this rare occasion the Mexican people are ever resourceful, even with their intoxicating spirits! 

World's first Cinnamon Tequila Peligroso Cinnamon is crafted using their 100% Weber Blue Agave Silver Tequila and infusing it with 100% natural cinnamon extract without any artificial color or fragrance. These agaves are grown on a private estate in the highlands of Jalisco Mexico, steamed in authentic brick ovens and distilled twice in copper and stainless pots. Every bottle is hand made, certified and numbered. This high proof Cinnamon Tequila has a warm, spicy aroma and light sweet expression at the finish.

With no sweaters packed and only down jackets for the plane trip back home in a week the circumstances appeared grim.  Where there is a will, there is a way and we discovered along with the exceptional fresh juice Margarita cocktails, there were infused Tequila! These infused products gave the needed burst of heat to warm our sun-burned bodies against the 80 degree temperatures.  It’s important to understand that the daily temperature in the winter months barely gets out of the 90’s so the low 80’s were practically a blizzard! 

But first back to the Tequila.  Tequila is a wonderfully, artisan made (in some circumstances) product that speaks clearly of the passion of this arid country.  Without water plants cannot survive very long in this environment.  Agave is the chief ingredient in Tequila and it does very nicely in this harsh climate.  The natural sugars of the plant actually concentrate in flavor in the brutally dry heat.  Further roasting caramelizes the sugars creating the base flavor for the distillate.  Tequila when infused further with flavors of the region becomes part of the background.  It’s important to understand that Peligroso is not so much a flavored product that it is infused with the cinnamon.   This goes back to culinary techniques of making sauces.  
The first way to add flavor to a sauce or a soup would be to place a cheesecloth bag of herbs inside the cooking stock.  Making infused Tequila is very much the same proposition.  A bag containing the cinnamon is dropped into the aging vats and the beguiling aromatics infuse the Tequila completely.  What results is quite well balanced in both hot and cold experimentation.  Here are two that will resonate with you.  

First, you must stave off the cold that leaks into your bones.  

The Widow’s Walk- named for those peculiar porches set on top of New England style houses, and some Southern house roofs.  They are built for widows looking to the sea for their lost husbands. 

The Widow’s Walk
2 oz. Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila
4 oz. Mexican Hot Chocolate- or regular hot chocolate with a pinch of chili powder added for good measure
2 oz. softly made, hand whipped cream- not fluffy, more liquid than puff… and NEVER use that stuff from a can! 
Fresh Nutmeg

Pre-heat a sturdy mug with boiling water (pour out)
Add the Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila
Add the Mexican Hot Chocolate
CAREFULLY spoon the hand whipped cream over the top of the mug
Scrape some fresh nutmeg over the top of the softly whipped cream 

And a cold one. 

Foliage of Six
2 oz. Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila
3 oz. Ginger Beer- I used the Goya variety with hot peppers
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
1 oz. Fresh lemon juice

To a tall Collins glass, fill with hand cut ice (yes, it’s important)
Pour the citrus juices in first
Follow with the Tequila
Top the Tequila with the Goya Ginger Beer

Add a lime pinwheel and a straw and sip up from the bottom! 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A conversation with David Ravandi of 123 Organic Tequila

By Ria Soler

The trend in the wine world of late is to turn away from pesticides and chemicals and make organic wine created through sustainable practices. Now the very first spirit to embrace those principles has arrived. 123 Organic Tequila (Uno Dos Tres) is a 100% certified organic line of tequilas created by tequila expert David Ravandi. Recently I sat down to talk with him about the brand, what sustainability means to him, and to learn the differences between Uno, Dos, y Tres. Andale!

1. What prompted you to start 123 Organic Tequila? Have you always had a passion for tequila?

When I envisioned 123 Organic Tequila (Uno Dos Tres), I was inspired to create a brand specifically with wine enthusiasts in mind.  In doing so, we focused on crafting ultra premium tequilas using artisanal, small-batch distillations to capture the delicate floral aromas and complex mineral flavors that are characteristic of 123 Organic Tequila.

Tequila is an authentic spirit and it’s one that I’ve always enjoyed. My desire was to connect tequila’s cultural heritage through illustrating and retelling the ancient folklore about its origin with a truly superior product.  123 Organic Tequila is uniquely authentic in that way and very much a tribute to the rich heritage of Mexican culture. 

2. Why did you choose to make the brand organic and sustainable? Do you find that to be a unique choice in Tequila? Or do you find that the trend is leaning towards more sustainable practices?
I have always been a huge supporter of organic farming and all things organic.  I’m proud to say that our tequila is Certified Organic by USDA and EU as well which makes us the ONLY fully sustainable spirits in the world.   Anyone can claim sustainability but these certifications guarantee consumers that our products are grown and made according to rigorous standards.   Also, the adoption of sustainable practices will lead even more producers towards organic certification. Also, all our bottles are individually hand blown from 100% recycled glass. The labels are made from 100% recycled paper and printed with soy ink.

3. 1,2,3- can you walk us through the differences between the three tequilas you produce?
123 Organic Tequila Blanco (Uno) is the mother spirit from which Reposado, Anjeo and Extra Anjeo are created from, so it’s essential that we start with a superior spirit.  Blanco is unaged tequila that has clean, intense aromas of fresh agave and vibrant flavors of lemon peel, black pepper and minerals. It’s silky smooth and has a slight sweet kick on a lengthy finish.   

123 Organic Tequila Reposado (Dos) is Blanco that has been aged six months in oak, which gives it a very light color and flavors of salted caramel, creme brulee and toffee notes but no real hint of wood.  You can detect agave on the nose, but it quickly dissipates as the flavors deepen and conclude with a minty anise finish. Dos is a very complex and versatile tequila.

123 Organic Tequila Anejo (Tres) spends eighteen months in oak so the wood character is more prominent, and on first blush it’s heady on the nose with tannin and wood oil notes. These fade after some time in the glass to reveal richer versions of the characteristics found in the Reposado: caramel and some chocolate notes. A lovely anejo, it really opens up when you give it some time.

And our recently released (Only 1,000 bottles) 123 Extra Anejo Diablito is aged for forty months. The nose reveals deep vanilla notes, along with plenty of fresh black pepper.  The flavors are textbook extra aƱejo, a seductive melange of deep vanilla, racy spices, and chewy, roasted agave all in harmony. The body is rich and creamy, and the finish surprisingly long lasting, offering citrus-focused tartness and plenty of bite.  Extra Anejo demonstrates a level of complexity that few tequilas ever achieve making it dangerously easy to drink.

4. I know that the agave used to produce 123 Organic Tequila has an interesting terroir aspect to it, not unlike the vineyard’s soil mineral content effecting the outcome a fine wine. Can you explain how it influences the flavor profile of the different tequilas?
The flavor of the tequila has direct relationship to the terroir. The higher the terroir the more delicate flavors in your tequila. The estate where we grow the agave for 123 Organic Tequila is at an altitude of 4,800 feet. For Diablito, our agave is grown at an altitude of 6,000 feet.
Ideal conditions for agave include average temperatures of around 80 degrees F, well-drained soils, like the Tierra Roja soils on our estate, and very dry conditions.  The maturity of the agaves and the production process also have an influence on flavor.  Agaves are harvested when they reach 10 years of age and only the highest quality plants are used.  Production methods some of which are proprietary also contribute to the pure and complex flavors of our tequilas.

5. 123 Organic Blanco (Uno) being an un-aged, or Blanco style of tequila, I imagine it to be pretty versatile in cocktails.  Of course a margarita is a natural choice, but what other cocktail do you think it really shines in?

Blanco really shines in cocktails made with fresh, organic fruit juices- particularly citrus (orange, lime, grapefruit), pomegranate, pineapple and fragrant spices like ginger and cardamom.  Citrus juice and muddled citrus really play up the bright flavors in Blanco and earthy spices compliment and add even more complexity to the agave flavors.  On our website you can find recipes for the Uno Dos Tres which combines orange and pomegranate juices and the Uno Cardomomo with grapefruit juice, cardamom bitters and ginger ale, along with many seasonal cocktails. But my favorite is a Paloma!

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk, David. Salud!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Ria Soler is a spirits and wine professional with an extensive background in education, events, marketing, and writing. She loves a martini, two at most...