Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wines for Labor Day : Spice Up the Last Holiday of the Summer with Some Fun, and Food-Friendly Wines

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Labor Day when I grew up in New York was either meant for picnics in the Park or a sultry, long weekend on the Jersey Shore. It was always about simple food, hamburgers off the grill or some fresh seafood salad someone brought from home. Ideally everyone was sent home with shoes full of dirt or sand.

Bubbles are divine for all occasions but as the weather gets cooler Lambrusco, slightly chilled, is always apropos. It is as flexible as Pinot Noir in terms of its pairing potential; it is great with light meat, works as an appertivo and is even delicious with tomato-based seafood salads. Lini has long been a great producer, who has upped the ante on classic production styles. The wines often cost a bit more but are worth it. I also had the Sorelle Casa “Secco,” which ironically is not that dry although that is what the name means in Italian, and it was lovely and refreshing.

Something for Those Burgers
I don’t always love classic Sangioveses as I often find them too fruit-forward and lacking in acidity and structure, but Morellino di Scansano is great—and quite affordable—producing area. The town is also home to some great local food and wine festivals, including the Sagra or festival of Morellino, which takes place in the town’s Medieval Center an hour or two’s drive from Florence. It is worth taking a detour to, I went many years ago and it was unbelievably fun.

The innate fruitiness of Zinfandels pairs well with meat, particularly fatty meats such as hamburger or ribs. Their generally high level of alcohol also lends them a hint of sweetness that helps them synergize incredibly well with tomato- or fruit-based sauces. Texas or Kansas City ribs will do well with these wines. South Carolina mustard-based BBQ might need something with a little more acidity and “sass.”

A Malbec, particularly from Southwest France, or the cooler climes of Mendoza might do the trick. Cahors—which is primarily produced from Malbec—has long been a favorite French region for me. How could a visitor not enjoy piles of duck confit and foie gras? The wines from this region are also particularly good values, as they are lesser-known than many other regional French wines.

Pairings for Seafood
Crisp Sauvignon Blancs are almost always wonderful with seafood. I don’t like them too grassy, so I generally adore the French and Chilean styles much more than some of the New Zealand brands. The South Africans are also doing a solid job of making some food-friendly and well balanced Sauvignon Blancs. Sancerre and lesser-known areas of the Loire Valley, such as Touraine are making some great wines. 

Fairly dry Gewürztraminers can also be amazing with seafood. Alsace is well-known for making some divine, pretty dry examples of this wine. Anderson Valley, a handful of hours north of San Francisco has also been doing an excellent job. Drier Rieslings are also great to share before or with a light meal. A handful of them may be among the best with which to share a toast after a lovely, long and casual meal on Labor Day.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza 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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cocktail: Ben Gunn’s Treasure

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Of all the wonderful, handcrafted sodas on the market today, one of my favorites is from Q-Drinks in Brooklyn.  Their Kola (yes, spelled with a K instead of the usual C) is remarkable and it tastes nothing like the usual corn syrup, garden-variety cola in the red can.  The Q-Drinks Kola is spiced assertively from the Kola nut as well as cinnamon, cloves coriander, lemon, lime, orange and nutmeg. The sweetness comes from agave and that makes this drink very low calorie.  Agave is just the thing for day drinking when you don’t want to drink too much sugar. 

Rhum JM is the perfect thing for Kola of this quality.  When I’m drinking Agricole Rhum there are but only a few ways I like to drink it.  The first way is in a Ti-Punch (ponch), the second is with high quality cola.  Q-Kola is so unlike anything on the market that even with an elevated Rhum Agricole like JM, you have something truly luxurious in your hand.  Q-Kola and Rhum JM VSOP is my idea of cooling off during a particularly invigorating sail out on the Long Island Sound.  But I don’t stop there because the most exciting part of a Rhum and Kola is the ancillary ingredients.  The first is Sorel made with hibiscus and Caribbean spices.  The second is a new product, not yet to market, but every bit as intriguing as the Rhum Agricole, Sorel and the Kola elements of this tropically scented cocktail.

I’m excited to share with you syrup like none other, made from hibiscus flowers and Bulgarian Roses.  The Wild Hibiscus Flower Company weaves dreams with pure flavors that say: experiment with me.  Deep blood red in color, the rose and hibiscus syrup inject flavor deeply into your Rhum and Q-Kola.  The Sorel adds a fifth sensation into each sip and the finish is pure Caribbean Islands just as soon as it hits the back of your throat.

I chose the Creole Bitters from Bitter Truth to finish up this Rhum, Sorel, Hibiscus and Kola.  They add just the right touch of spice to the sweet elements of this hand-held pleasure cruise. 

But first, why use Rhum Agricole over molasses based rum?  The difference is clearly personal in nature.  I find that the Agricole varieties possess an inner sophistication that only comes from using freshly crushed sugar cane juice instead of molasses.   It’s mostly a personal preference that comes from sailing in down island where French is spoken and Rhum is spelled differently… 

The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters are also deeply colored with a crimson hue, perhaps the color signifies strength?  That’s up to you because this drink is anything but weak!

The red color of several of the ingredients makes this drink pop right down your throat!

Ben Gunn’s Treasure

1.5 oz. Rhum JM Agricole VSOP
½ oz. Sorel (from the Liquortarian)
4 oz. Q-Kola (from Q-Drinks in Brooklyn)
4 drops Rose & Hibiscus flower concentrate from the Wild Hibiscus Flower Co. (stay tuned for these!)
2-3 drops Creole Bitters from The Bitter Truth

Combine the ingredients, Rhum JM Agricole, Sorel and the Q-Kola:
except for the Wild Hibiscus Flower Co. and the Creole Bitters in a Collins glass with ice
Stir with a long straw to combine
Drip the Creole Bitters over the top
Drip the Rose & Hibiscus flower concentrate in to finish
Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint


Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow 
Author of: Apothecary Cocktails-Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today- Fair Winds Press- Beverly, Massachusetts. Apothecary Cocktails was nominated for a Spirited Award, 2014 Tales of the Cocktail.  His forthcoming book, Whiskey Cocktails will be released October 14.  Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails follow with publication in spring ’15.  Warren is a master mixologist for several craft liquor companies. 

Warren consults about mixology and spirits, travel, organic wine and food.  He’s written for web-blogs and magazines like: Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods: Dark Rye, Distiller, Total Food Service Magazine, Beverage Media Group, DrinkupNY, Edible Publications, Foodista, Serious Eats, Mechanics of Style and Beekman1802.  He was in the Saveur-100 in 2010.

Warren is a former, mostly self, trained cook from the pot sink on up.  J&W and ACF were thrown in for good luck.  Warren was the former owner/co-founder of Olde Charleston Pasta in South Carolina: *Dissolved his business after Hurricane Hugo in 1989* - to a career in private banking, (nearly 20 years; “a very grand mistake”) to this reinvention in 2009 as the Warren he's finally become. 

Warren is available to do highly personalized, interactive mixology events, local, national and international.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What’s Your Call to Action?

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

As we move headlong into the late summer months the reflection of dark liquors across our palates make a stunning resurgence.  But we call out for new flavors with the waning days of the month and these flavors signify change.  Cooler nights signify the shortening of daylight, a traditional trigger point for my palate to move over to darker liquors.  One such liquor that I really have been enjoying as of late is Templeton Rye.  Said to have been the favorite of a renowned gangster during Prohibition, this recreation of “the good stuff” is perfectly delicious when mixed.  Templeton is a high rye whiskey.  It’s well over the required 51% rye grain so the flavor is quite peppery from the rye.  It is said that you can plant a field of rye with what fits in your pocket.  (Unless your pocket has a hole in it!)

That is why rye was so popular in the early days of our nation.  It is easy to transport and even easier to distill with very basic resources available.  The heartier flavor of rye, especially Templeton Rye makes for a robust drink with the zippy and spicy cinnamon notes along with pain grille and wet stones. 

This may not appeal to everyone, just like not everyone enjoys rye bread.  The same holds true for rye whiskey. 

Templeton Rye works so well with assertive ingredients like freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice.  There really is no excuse not to use the best ingredients possible at all times.  For anyone who has ever suffered and barely tolerated themselves through a screwdriver made with orange juice from concentrate would attest, fresh makes much more interest.  Using fresh juices will keep your friends coming back for more. 

Not a bad thing to have happen!

I recently used the Templeton Rye in a twist on the Whiskey Punch with both freshly squeezed orange and lemon juices.

Through research for another article, I was able to source out some handmade shrub syrups from different producers around the country.  One of these, a vividly flavored strawberry, black pepper and balsamic shrub handmade by “Shrub Drinks” in Texas, added some unexpected nerve to my traditional punch recipe.  Something marvelous happens when you mix sumptuously textured fruits and sugar with balsamic vinegar and a healthy dose of freshly cracked black pepper.   Shrub Drinks also makes other concoctions like the tomatillo and lime and serrano shrub that just screams out for Mezcal.  I haven’t tasted my way through their line, but the strawberry, balsamic and black pepper is just otherworldly in the presence of fresh juices and the Templeton Rye whiskey. 

I suppose that a sizzling hot sandwich is in order as well.  Make mine a Rueben.  Make it on rye with plenty of freshly sliced pastrami and spicy mustard along with the Russian dressing and crunchy sauerkraut.  This is the kind of food that screams out for Templeton Rye whiskey!

Punch is a most misunderstood beast.  You have to make drinks that go into a punch bowl with balance.  No single ingredient can overtake another.  They need to work together in harmony.  That’s why shrubs are so important in the punch bowl.  The discovery of the product, Shrub Drinks makes my life really easy!

You really don’t have to try to hard to make professional quality drinks at home with the best ingredients possible. 

First of all squeeze your citrus juices just before you use them.  Then keep them cool, but not cold- don’t
add ice to them, but you can sit them on ice.  I find it a best practice to add the spirits in last, and then only ½ as much as you think you are going to use, tasting the punch and adding more as needed.  You cannot subtract from the beginning forward or add more fruit juices if you have none left.  That is why it’s essential to add the spirits slowly and taste often for balance.  I always start with the juices and the syrups first, get their flavors right- and then add the spirits.  It’s just how I do it.  Ice is also a going concern for a well-crafted punch.  You may find it helpful to go to a restaurant supply house and buy a stainless steel insert.  Ask, they’ll know what you’re talking about.  An insert fits in a cold-line table.  They are roughly 6 inches by 9 inches and at least 10 inches deep.  This is the best way that I know to make blocks of ice in your freezer.  The stainless steel will not taste like everything in the freezer, nor will it give off any bad flavors like plastic does.  So use stainless steel!

A twist on the term plain ice would be to add some Bitter Truth Creole Bitters to the ice, for flavor and for color as the ice melts.  Adding flavor and color is a fun idea to add a bit of spark to the final equation.

Since this is a rye whiskey based punch-style drink, just multiply the final number of ingredients by the number of people you are serving.  This recipe is for two persons.  You don’t have to make so much ice, but it’s nice to know how to if needed so you won’t have to go out and buy supermarket ice. 

What’s Your Call to Action?
4 oz. Templeton Rye Whiskey
3 oz. Shrub Drinks: Strawberry, Balsamic and Black Pepper Shrub
2 oz. Freshly squeezed Orange Juice
1 oz. Freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
2 oz. (in each glass) Seltzer Water
2 Shakes (in each glass) Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
Long Orange Twist
Mint Sprig for spark!

To a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice
Add the Templeton Rye
Add the citrus juices
Cap and Shake hard for 10 seconds

Strain into a Collins Glass with a few cubes of ice
Add some Seltzer over the top
Dot with the Lemon Bitters
Garnish with a long orange twist and mint sprig

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys. His first book, Apothecary Cocktails has been nominated for a Spirited Award at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail!  Warren’s forthcoming second book, Whiskey Cocktails is now in pre-sell from Fair Winds Press. His third book, named Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails will be released in Spring 2015. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Four Types of Washington Wine you Have to Experience

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Washington State is home to a huge number of microclimates and may be best known for its off-dry Rieslings and red blends. However I just returned from the three-day auction of Washington Wines and a visit to Walla Walla in Eastern Washington and had a chance to retaste old favorites and discover new ones.

Some of the state’s cooler-climate regions are making some stellar sparkling wines. The Grand Dame and the state’s largest producer Chateau Ste. Michelle has long made great, and well-priced, bubblies from both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Treveri is the state’s only just-sparkling wine house and is making some stunning rosés and a yeasty and food-friendly Müller-Thurgau (thanks to the family’s German heritage).

Other esoteric, and often Germanic varietals, are popping up across the state. I had a Grüner Veltliner from W.T. Vintners, and was told that some growers are even producing Bläufrankisch.

Terroir-focused varietal wines are also cropping up. Hedges made a special auction Magnum of 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain that has the funk and dust of a Syrah. This flavor profile, according to family member Christophe Hedges, shows how the some of the growing areas of Eastern Washington have terroir that trumps varietals. It also may show how many producers in Washington are still figuring out what grows best in many areas of the state.

Rhône red blends from Washington have also been astounding. Avennia’s 2011 “Justine” Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blend was smoky, rich intense and superb with meat.  Other red Rhônes to try include DeLille Cellars 2008 Chaleur Estate Rouge. It is a pity so few of these wines are available outside the state boundaries.

Other Wildcards and Trends for Which to Watch
A handful of vintners are even growing Pinot Noir to pair with the local salmon in hopes to complete with Oregon Pinot Noir. A handful of producers are also making some great White Bordeaux-style wines that are a blend of Chardonnay and Sémillon. Many of these run dry and food friendly.

One of the biggest challenges most of the hotter regions in Washington is facing is growing alcohol levels. I tasted a Zinfandel that hit 17 percent alcohol-by-volume and its producer was proud that it smelled like a Port. 

Part of this is natural given the hot, arid growing conditions in much of the state but much of it seems like a growing trend to “Napaize,” the Washington State production. I had a handful of roses that had alcohol levels topping 14 to 15 percent and tasted like dessert wines. Wine writer Paul Gregutt, who also produces the decidedly low-alcohol Waitsburg Cellars brand, says that alcohol levels are chosen by winemakers and not dictated by climate.

Another unfortunate occurrence seems to be the increased residual sugar levels in many of the state’s off-dry wines, particularly its stunning Rieslings. While it is completely true that sweeter wines are going to pair better with spicy food and have a wider appeal, I see no need to amp up the sugar quite this much.

The one hundred-percent varietal Syrahs that I have long thought of as the calling card of this state were less interesting to me this visit than in the past. They seem to have lost some of their fetid animal notes—which make them pair so well with meat—and also many have skyrocketed in alcohol levels.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza 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.

Monday, August 11, 2014

To Charles Baxter

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

When I contemplate a refreshing cocktail for the hot weather there should be a cooling element that is included.  Sweat is one of those cooling elements that come to mind, that veneer of moisture on your skin and a bit a air blowing over it gives the impression of coolness.  Or so it should be when it’s hot without air conditioning. 

I suppose I don’t like to be overly hot.  That’s why the summer months are a drag for me- but don’t despair!  This drink has some spiciness to it, leading to that sweat on your skin and the final element is so refreshing that you’ll want another one, right after the first one. 

I’ve always been fond of day drinking and this hand held cooling system works because it doesn’t contain that much alcohol.  That makes for a few drinks before lunch and a few more in the afternoon.  Of course you can bring up the rear by having them all in the evening, but then you wouldn’t understand why this drink is so pleasurable during the daytime hours.  It requires the sun over your toes to understand why.

Byejoe is a relatively new product from China made from Sorghum.  Sorghum accounts for most of the ingredients in the Dragon Fire version, along with tropical fruits and hot chili peppers for a sweat inducing finish.  That’s good for cooling your body from the inside out.  In typical fashion, I’ve concocted a sort of Shandy for the Byejoe and Doc’s Hard Pear Cider.  They just mix well together, especially with an ounce or two of Royal Rose Saffron Syrup.  I like the exotic element of Saffron along with sparkling cider and the potent finish of the Byejoe Dragon Fire- made of Dragon Fruit and hot chilies. 

Combined together, shaken hard and served over crushed ice, this is your new go/to for day-drinking.   Of course you’ll need some freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice to bring this drink a fever pitch of amusement as it slides down your gullet.   And if it isn’t too many steps, may I suggest freezing some of the Pear Cider into your ice cube tray? 

This adds a concentration that water ice alone can never do alone.  It needs awareness.   Another way to increase this sense of potency is to add Grapefruit Bitters from The Bitter Truth directly into the ice cube trays made with 50% hard pear cider and 50% water.  I’d use about 10 drops for a standard ice cube tray- more or less as desired.  As the ice melts the drink expands in cooling and strength. 

The first time I tasted Byejoe with the Dragon Fruit and hot chilies the depth of flavor more than took me.  This is not your typical flavored vodka nor ill-tempered Moonshine.  What Byejoe is escapes reason because you have never tasted anything like it?  Lucky you!  DrinkupNY carries both varieties of Byejoe, the plain- yet highly flavor driven and the Dragon Fire, redolent of exotic spices and fruit. 

Now there are no more excuses to not taste this extremely cooling beverage.  While it’s true that Byejoe is strongly flavored, there are reasons why you’ll fall in love with Byejoe.  First of all it’s different than vodka or gin.  There is nothing like it on the market.  Secondly, Byejoe is extremely well made.  Sorghum, as the main ingredient produces a smoothly textured liquor that rolls over your tongue and makes for a perfectly potent beginning or invigorating end to your day. 

The Doc’s Pear Cider is the essential foil against the fire of Byejoe.  The pear element is crisp and thirst quenching.  It makes you thirsty for more!   Saffron lends a sweet and sultry element to the cocktail and the cane sugar syrup base melts across your tongue.  The fizz of the pear cider weaves its way into your dreams and the Byejoe makes it a memory you won’t soon forget.   Tangerine is the last element in this cocktail and perhaps the most essential.  There is something indescribable about Fruitations and the deft hand shown in the citrus world.  Tangerine and Saffron along with hot peppers and dragon fruit with a fizzy pear laced finish? 

Say it isn’t so? 

Are you ordering a bottle yet?  Yes?  The bitters and the cider too, absolutely.  

To Charles Baxter
2 oz. Byejoe Dragon Fire
3 oz. Doc’s Pear Cider
½ oz. Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Saffron
½ oz. Fruitations Tangerine Soda and Cocktail Syrup
Pear/Grapefruit Bitter Truth Bitters ice… freeze 50/50 with about 10 shakes of Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters over the top
Freshly picked spearmint 
Lime pinwheel 

Fill a large Old Fashioned glass with ice made from Pear Cider and filtered water frozen together 50/50 blend

To a Boston Shaker, fill ¾ with regular bar ice
Add the Dragon Fire and the Pear Cider (yes it’s sparkling, so shake softly)
Add the Saffron syrup and the Tangerine syrup
Cap and shake gently to combine and cool

Pour over the infused ice and garnish with fresh mint and a lime pinwheel. 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys. His first book, Apothecary Cocktails has been nominated for a Spirited Award at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pairing Wine with Steak

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Pairings are so completely personal. Mario Maccioni, Sirio Maccioni of New York restaurant Le Cirque Fame’s oldest son, once told me he loved to drink an oaky Chardonnay with his steak. It wouldn’t be my top choice; however appeal is in the eye of the beholder.

Big, fatty dishes like steak tend to pair well with tannic, spicy reds. I spoke to Alex Berlingeri, corporate beverage director at the New York City-based ESquared Hospitality—the parent company for BLT Steak—about some of his favorite wine and steak synergies.

Berlingeri says that specific pairings depends “on the type of steak and the amount of fat [it has]. For example, Filet—which has almost no fat compared to a sirloin or Rib-Eye—can be paired lighter- to medium-bodied red wine because it doesn’t need to cut through fat.”

Some other examples he suggested include Pinot Noir and Sangiovese. The other night I had a Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir with a fairly rare Porterhouse and it worked well. I was surprised that the alcohol level of the wine didn’t throw off how the two flavors interrelated. I usually prefer Older World and somewhat funky wines, like Barbaresco—such as Produttori’s delicious and affordable selections—as well as Gigondas and other Rhônes with steak.

“Fattier meats need tannins to cut through the fat and a bigger-bodied red like a Cabernet [Sauvignon] is needed,” says the wine director. I personally find many hot climate Cabernet Sauvignons overwhelming with meat because of the heat that their alcohol levels can bring to the palate. 

Left Bank Bordeauxs are another story as they “will have less fruit up front and more earth tones,” he notes. Dusty notes and more balanced alcohol levels also make them more meat- and generally food- friendly in my book.

Beyond Pinot and Cab
Another great pairing, of which both Berlingeri and I are both fans, is Syrah “with all grilled meats because its black pepper finish compliments the char.” I will add that you can probably go Old or New World with this grape, mixing up pairings from everywhere from the Sonoma Coast to Walla Walla and the Rhône and South Africa.

Berlingeri makes the distinction that, “Syrah from new world will taste of jammy fruits with a black pepper finish but from the Rhône will have a less jammy fruit taste, with a nice blend of fruit, earth tones and black pepper finish.” I lend to love those earthy, spicy and pepper-inflected notes of the Old World Syrahs.

Countries with great BBQ traditions tend to make fantastic wines to go with them. South Africans love to sit down to a Braai, or traditional barbeque, and their Bordeaux blends and Syrahs are up to the pairing task. Perhaps no one does steak better than the Argentines and their Malbecs’ complex and accessible fruit and tannin structure soar with grilled meat.

Sangiovese has earth tones, fruit and medium bodied tannins. Many of those grown in California can be a little too tannic for my taste, but Tuscany and the neighboring region of Umbria make some lovely ones.  Sagrantino and Rosso di Montefalco in Umbria are also great choices for steak. Sagrantinos often need more time in bottle to age and a little air before serving to do them justice.

The Sauce Factor
Using rubs or sauces on steaks is going going to affect how they interact with different wines. “The earthier the preparation [with garlic or rosemary or a mushroom sauce], the earthier the wine,” you will want to serve, says Berlingeri. “A barbecue sauce is fruitier so you’ll want something with fruits or pepper like a Syrah,” he adds.

Berlingeri isn’t quite sure about white wines’ ability to pair with meat. “Even the heaviest white, Chardonnay, will only work with a lean meat: the wine won’t cut through the fat and the steak will always overpower the wine,” he notes.

The bottom line with pairings is always subjective in both the meat and wine selections. As Berlingeri notes, “It really comes down to how the steak is prepared, and then whether you prefer New versus Old World Wines.” I couldn’t agree more.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza 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, August 5, 2014

A Fast Retort: a Branca Menta Milkshake

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

At the recent Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, trends were aflutter in many of the tasting rooms.  One of these cocktail trends caught my eye and my palate because it was so darned refreshing given the heat and humidity of New Orleans in the summer. 

Ice cream based drinks are my go/to for adult (read: alcohol based) refreshment.  And what tastes even better when it is frozen?  Mint of course.  And there is nothing that I find more adaptable to liquor than ice cream milkshakes.  Maybe this is because I’m a huge fan of the classic Milk Punch.  As it was, in 2013 I made my famous Milk Punch for an appreciative audience at Tales of the Cocktail.  But given the fact that my Milk Punch was made with Bourbon, it holds a very special place in my heart. 

The same holds true for the Fernet Branca-esque product named Branca Menta.   Branca Menta hails from the 1960’s when younger crowds would demand an extra dose of sweet peppermint syrup in their short glasses of the normally assertive Fernet Branca.  Fernet as many know has a prickly and herbaceous fragrance that gives way to the decidedly potent finish. 

Branca Menta with its refreshing hit of spearmint just screams to be unleashed into a few scoops of ice cream with freshly spun milk and cream…  I’m convinced that a couple ounces of Branca Menta when added to a milk shake made with richly flavored coffee ice cream is one of life’s simple pleasures.  

The first time I tasted Branca Menta I was a wee lad of about 12 years of age.  I had accompanied my family to Italy.  It was one of those one-month trips when my mom and dad pulled me out of prep school to travel around the countryside, absorbing the living culture that said Italy.  We would stay off the beaten path, renting a car and staying in historic hotels and castles around the countryside while visiting WWII battle sites and art museums. 

Of course as I’ve written in the past, wine was always on both our lunch and dinner table for these trips and Italy was no exception.  What I didn’t expect on this journey was the first taste of Branca Menta.  It seemed as if Branca Menta was aimed at a younger crowd, so it wasn’t too far out of place to find Branca Menta added to a tall glass of seltzer water or a glass of cola.  I also found, completely by accident that Branca Menta was delicious when poured into a milkshake.  It’s not that difficult to imagine tasting and smelling liqueurs that my peers would not be tasting for decades to come- because my parents never begrudged me a taste of anything alcoholic in nature.   This probably explains why I never drink to excess, since alcohol was never denied to me while growing up; it wasn’t such a big deal to have a few sips now and again as a boy. 

Branca Menta, woven with hand-gathered herbs and freshly cut mint is emblazoned into my memory of childhood.  The refreshing finish and stomach warming ability of the herbs and roots plays well with all kinds of desserts, both savory and sweet!  I remember clearly the first time I tasted Branca Menta and that was poured over a few scoops of coffee gelato.  The Branca Menta reaches out and grabbed my attention, never letting it go.  Even to present day, each taste that I take of Branca Menta is reminiscent of the past, a past that was memorable not only for the flavor, but for the aromatics of the mint.  Scent is one of those things that you remember and Branca Menta is memorable for its simplicity!

Tasting Notes:
Bruised, freshly cut mint gives way to hand gathered herbs and exotic roots/spices.  There is a certain sweetness that fools your tongue into drinking this elixir a bit too fast alone in a glass; it’s nearly 80 Proof, so be careful!   One of the ways that I like mine is directly out of the freezer in a snifter.  Then the snifter is filled with a scoop of freshly made coffee gelato.  You may like yours another way, woven into a milkshake with good strong espresso coffee making up the backbone of the blended and frozen cocktail. 

Whatever way you choose to drink Branca Menta, do so with a smile on your face.  This makes each sip memorable and locks the aromatics deeply into your brain where you will always remember the pleasure of Italy and the art of hand gathered ingredients, made by modern day alchemists. 

A Fast Retort: a Branca Menta Milkshake
3 oz. Branca Menta
2 oz. Espresso Coffee (cooled)
2 oz. Whole (regular) milk
1 oz.  Heavy Whipping Cream
2-3 scoops Chocolate or Coffee Gelato (or ice cream)
5 dashes of Bitter Truth Spiced Chocolate Bitters
Fresh mint for garnish

Blend all the ingredients together except for the Spiced Chocolate Bitters
When combined, add to a parfait glass
Shake the Spiced Chocolate Bitters over the top
Garnish with fresh mint 
Serve your friend one, and then make another for yourself! 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys. His first book, Apothecary Cocktails has been nominated for a Spirited Award at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail!