Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Bitter and the Sweet…

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

When I think about Italy, the first thing that comes to mind is the age of this country.  In respect of course to the USA of course, where everything is new, new, new.  We don’t have a history like they do in Italy, certainly not our liqueurs either.  Sure we have passionate craft spirits, but the recipes are not like what they have in Italy. 

The Italians have a unique product named Amaro and it contains both the bitter and the sweet.  This is the sum of all the emotional and metaphorical history in Italy that came prior, carefully encapsulated into each sip.  There is an emotional attachment of Amaro in everyone who has ever visited Italy.  Amaro is much more than a mere combination of herbs and roots.  Amaro represents good health. 

Amaro is traditionally taken in a multitude of ways, but the most popular is after a meal. 

The ingredients in Amaro were traditionally used in digestive preparations and they are enjoyed both before and after a filling meal.  These Amaro stimulate the secretion of enzymes in the gut to facilitate digestion, just like a good Negroni cocktail stimulates your appetite.  More importantly, back in the days before electricity, most foods were compromised in some way by all sorts of food borne illnesses, so drinking an Amaro could assist in this regard.  Folk medicine healing methods call for treatments using herbs and roots, steeped in alcohol for a period of time, and then combined together and aged in oak.  The end result heals the aching belly.  The fragile herbs and roots contained in Amaro needed preservation, thus alcohol become the chief ingredient in these health tonics or elixirs.  Amaro was born out of necessity!

Just like Vermouth and Absinthe contains wormwood- to rid the belly of intestinal worms from eating unhealthy food, Amaro contains healing herbs and roots along with citrus peels, long known for good health.   And Amaro makes for a lovely base in all kinds of craft cocktails.

I’m a huge fan of Italian bitter liqueurs.  In many ways I find them even more pleasurable to drink than Italian wine.  They are approachable on release whereas many Italian wines take decades to reveal themselves properly.  There is a veritable plethora of Amaro on the market in many different styles and flavors.

Averna is the classic example of citrus meeting roots and herbs in the kitchen, and then translating healing into your glass.  The recipe hasn’t changed since 1868, so as the adage goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.  Averna is just gorgeous in a glass with a tiny zest of blood orange or a splash of seltzer water and a lemon twist.  It takes to gin like nobody’s business and it really shines when you mix it with carrot juice.  Carrot juice?  Yes.  That and a couple drops of Anisette, like the equally brilliant Anisette di Calabria make for a long drink of your dreams.  I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t add a bit more bitter with the sweet of the Anisette and that is achieved by dribbling just a couple drops of the Bitter Truth Orange Bitters over the top. 

The Bitter and the Sweet. 

2 oz. Averna Amaro
1 tsp. Anisette di Calabria (brilliant stuff!)
3 oz. Freshly crushed carrot juice
1 oz. Seltzer water
2-3 drops Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Lemon Zest (cut with a paring knife… NEVER a peeler)

Rub the inside of a Collins glass (the best you can) with the lemon zest (and then leave inside the glass)
Add a couple ice cubes
Add the Anisette, then the Averna
Add the Carrot Juice, and then add a splash of Seltzer
Drip the Bitter Truth Bitters over the top


Semplice Negroni

2 oz. Averna
1 oz. Barr Hill Gin
1 oz. Carpano Punt e Mes
2-3 drops Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters
Lemon zest

To a Rocks glass, rub the inside with the lemon zest
Add the ice 1-2 cubes only!
Add the Averna
Add the Barr Hill Gin
Top with the Punt e Mes
Dot the Grapefruit Bitters over the top


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, July 17, 2014

Great Pairings for Portuguese Wines

By Liza B. Zimmerman

This country’s white wines just get no respect: and boy do they merit it. Let’s start with Portugal’s bright, crisp and sometimes deliciously fizzy Vinho Verdes. Made in the northern part of the country, hard on the Spanish border, these wines are so refreshing and such a bargain.

Most Vinho Verdes are made of traditional blends such as Arinto, Loureiro and Trajadura (try to say that three times fast!). They pair beautiful with a wide range of seafood, both cooked and raw. They are also super-flexible with non-Western foods. The acid levels of these babies and that hint of residual sugar works so well with spicy food like Indian or Thai. They are also great with ceviche and can even stand up to that spritz of lime. Their somewhat, positively, vegetable nature would also make them a great match with hard-to-pair foods such as asparagus or artichokes.

The country also produces great wines in other wines such as the Douro and Setúbal (an easy day trip from Lisbon). There are some great cooperatives in these areas as well such as de Pegoes. The wine is another white blend that is primarily Fernao Pires.

Red Delights
The Northern region of the Douro has continued to make a name for itself with rustic, yet elegant reds made from the traditional Port grapes. Many of the best producers are—thankfully—using more of their grapes to produce still wines. These are blockbuster wines that can pack a lot of punch and tannins, and benefit—even while young—from a little air. So decant one and have a glass of Vinho Verde while it breaths.

The intense dustiness of many of these wines makes them a diving pairing with meats. You could stew or grill them: everything from a rare lamb chop to a crockpot full of oxtail strew would work. The charred flavor of the grill is also something that would create pairing synergies with meaty vegetables like mushrooms or eggplant as well.

The Dão region in the far south of the country also makes some extraordinary reds. Aliança’s “Quinta da Garrida,” is one of them. This one is much more fruit-forward and international in style. The fruit chewy style of some of this region’s wines might well work better with sweeter-style American BBQ sauces.

I am thinking Memphis tomato-inflected or South Carolina mustard-based sauces all the way. It is a shame so many BBQ places don’t serve wine. I made my mother go to one of the best BBQ joints outside of Charleston where they wouldn’t even let us bring in a tipple. I am not sure if she has entirely forgiven me: but I can still taste that BBQ to this day. If you are in New York, order in from Daisy May’s in Hell’s Kitchen and drink what you love with it.

Port Pairings
Those same types of slightly sweet reds sauces can pair surprisingly well with a Port-based cocktail or Tawny Port. Fonseca’s 10-Year-Old Tawny is a delight. It is probably too good to be mixed in a cocktail but if you want to be daring you could pour it over some tonic water and ice. Add a slice of orange and you have a beautiful, low-alcohol cocktail. This type of drink is perfect for porch sipping and will work with a range of grilled meats. Turkish-style meatballs—dust them with plenty of the dark, brown spice sumac and use a mix of lamb and beef—will also show their savory side with this type of cocktail.

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, July 14, 2014

Lassi with a Twist

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There are plenty of places in this world that are hotter in the summer than New York City.  A veritable cauldron of humidity and heat all year round enrobes many other nations of the equatorial, Southern Hemisphere forcing the residents to do something, anything as a tonic against the relentless heat and humidity. 

In America’s steamy South, sweet tea and lemonade have become part of the social thread, sometimes even mixed with whiskey and ice.

If you were in Texas, you’d concur that an ice-cold Lone Star beer is all you need to both quench your thirst and to cool your brow.  

In Brazil, the sugar cane spirit named Cachaça is mixed with lime, sugar and ice to pack more than a bit of kick to the refreshment of the hand-held, hand grenade. 

In Central America and the Islands they have the infamous Rum Punch that has cooled the lips of many a sailor. 

In Mexico, Tequila is woven together with lime, Damiana (a type of citrus tinged liqueur) and the requisite ice, making for air-conditioning from the inside out. 

Vietnam has Bubble Tea and freshly pressed (preserved) lemonade against the heat and humidity that just doesn’t go away, ever…. 

So as New Yorker’s, why are we bent out of shape after only a few short days of hazy, hot and humid with all these refreshing beverages available at our disposal?  I’m not certain why, but anyone who has spent any time in the subway system on a blistering hot day will know that it takes much more than a mere can of soda or a glass of lukewarm water to refresh you from the inside out.

Take the far reaches of India.  The heat becomes much more than a mere metaphor in both the large cities and the sweltering countryside of this highly diverse, ancient country.  The heat is just unremitting.  There is no nice way to describe how the body just drips sweat in its vain attempt to get cool on a sizzling hot summer’s day. 

 That is until you spy the Lassi vendor.  But first what is a Lassi and how does drinking one help you get revitalized? 

The history of the Lassi is murky at best, but what is known about the regions where the Lassi is enjoyed is quite remarkable. This area is known as the Punjab.  It’s hot most of the year and in the summer months it’s even hotter and more humid with temperatures soaring over the 100-degree mark on a daily basis!  

The Lassi drink itself is a tangy affair, sweet and sour and quite thirst quenching as it goes down.Yogurt, lime juice, some kind of sweet fruit (or savory as your desires might require) is mixed with a ginger beer and sometimes Arak, which is a grape based, Middle Eastern, anise treated liqueur.  El Massaya Arak is a fine brand, available at DrinkUpNY, as it is used in my somewhat twisted version of the classic Lassi. 

My recipe calls for mango, the sultry-sticky/sweet fruit that smacks of summer and unrequited thirst.  In keeping with the passion element, I’ve included Koval’s Rose Hip liqueur because it is Kosher, Organic and quite beguiling.  Traditional Lassi might contain a hit of rosewater for fragrance, so I’ve included that too.  Roses just add a hint of romance to this luscious and bracing slurp. 

I’ve also added a bit of ginger beer for a brightly fragrant and fizzy finish along with a few drops of my favorite Jerry Thomas style Decanter Bitters.  Why bitters?  Because you may need to heal your belly with these highly aromatic drops- as was their original medical purpose!

Drinking my version of a Mango Lassi is even better in a go cup. 

Why?  Because you can take it with you and no one needs to know that you’re calmly getting soused!

2½ oz. fresh mango purée
3 tbsp. Whole Milk Yogurt
1 oz. whole milk
2 drops Rosewater
2 tsp. freshly squeezed and strained lime juice (essential)
1 tsp. Rock Candy Simple Syrup (Fee Brothers makes a great one)
1 oz. Arak (Lebanese Anise liqueur)
1-2 ounces Ginger Beer (offsets the sweet ingredients)
1 tsp. chopped pistachios  
Slices of Fresh Mango for garnish

Place all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled ¾ with ice
Shake well and strain the cocktail into an insulated cup
Top up with ginger beer, dot with the Decanter Bitters
Garnish with mango slices and sprinkle the pistachios over the top
Put a wide (bubble tea-style) straw into your Lassi cocktail and sip to deep thought and inner coolness.

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, July 10, 2014

Cool Wines for Tropical Weather

By Liza B. Zimmerman

I drink a lot more white wine when it is hot out. Dry rosés are also divine in the heat as long as they don’t have too much residual sugar. Bring on the bubbles while I am at the beach and reds that can be served somewhat chilled: I love you Lambrusco in the heat and some of those simple Beaujolais.

Here’s a bit of a roadmap for what you will want to be drinking this summer. Keep in mind this list is focused on traditional summer climates like those you find back East, in the Midwest and almost anywhere but my current hometown of San Francisco. Frankly in the fog belt out here we can bring out the Barolo in July as it rarely gets over 60+ degrees in the summer. So if you want an excuse to drink corpulent reds hop a flight out here and drive up or down the coast.

Ideal Summer Whites
Crisp wines with ribbons of acidity are so refreshing in the heat. Let’s start with some of the foreign picks. Grüner Veltliner is delicious. You will want a little food with it: a good excuse to have a picnic as acid levels can get quite high. The Austrians don’t make huge volumes of wine, and drink a lot of their own production, so some of these elegant choices can run a bit expensive. The Berger Grüner Veltliner is a good wine and a solid value that comes in a groovy 1970s-inspired, one-liter bottle.

Sancerre is like a bottled hunk of the cool green countryside of the Loire Valley. A food writer once called the sub-region “Green Acres à la Française,” and she’s right. There’s also a fair amount of biodynamic work going on both here and in other sub-regions of the Loire. Heading to the Western shores of the Loire Muscadet is also unbeatable in the summer, with that hint of sea salt in the palate.

White Bordeaux just gets no respect and boy does it merit it. The consumer focus on the region’s reds arereflected in the wonderfully affordable prices of many of these whites, made by the same skillful hands that in some estates produce reds. Chateau La Mouliniere is delicious and food friendly. The Bordelaise also make some feisty rosés, mostly from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Spanish region of Navarra is also dynamic with its dry rosés, such as Bodegas Nekeas “Vega Sindoa.”

If I had to pick three, actually four, Italian wines and regions they would be Soave; Arneis; and the native Campanian whites along with the Sicilians. Falanghina is not only fun to say but delicious to drink.

Closer to Home and Reds
Half way around the world and right on our border Canada excels at producing impressively dry and mineral-packed Rieslings. Keep in mind flights from New York to Toronto are really affordable and easy. If you haven’t been to Niagara-on-the-Lake it just might be time to go. The view of Niagara Falls really is better on that side.

Sauvignon Blanc is endlessly appealing in the summer. Domestic producers tend to produce fruitier styles that are more quaffable without food. Joel Gott is a favorite of mine. Dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes are also perfect outdoor sippers. Konstantin Frank makes some stellar examples. Washington and Oregon are both producing some fabulous dry Rieslings.

Few things are more fun on a sunny day that a sparkling bottle of Lambrusco. The drier ones are really making a make for themselves these days. Serve them with some nuts or dried fruits to really bring out those fruit-chewy flavors. The Beaujolais Crus are also bewitching and benefit from a little chill in the bottle all year long.

As we have long said in the wine business room temperature always referred to that of a Medieval Castle not your over-heated kitchen. So history is just another excuse to enjoy some fresh and palate-cleansing wines this summer.

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, July 7, 2014

Little Village, Big Wines: Le Salette

By Catherine L Luke

Valpolicella, like much of what is now northeast Italy, used to be covered by water.  What was once sea is now blanketed in fertile green hills, vineyards, quaint villages, and people who seem to go about their days knowing what used to be.  It is not only the region’s people who keep their marine history alive, remnants of the days of water show up from time to time in the form of massive fish skeletons and fossil-rich soil from which everything grows.

In relatively more recent times, Valpolicella has become known for its production of a rich style of red wine called Amarone.  Amarone is traditionally made using a blend of native varieties such as Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta, Molinara, and Croatina.  Following harvest, grapes are laid out to dry for about 4-6 months in the region’s generous breezes.  The dried grapes, luscious with sugar, are vinified into a voluptuous wine perfect for roasted meats and post dinner life-is-strange-and-mysterious-and-beautiful type meditation.  It is wine that can stand up to time, often growing more elegant with some years in the cellar.

Valpolicella Classico, a specific area of Valpolicella, brags the highest elevation in the region.  It sits around 300/350 meters above sea level, a height that provides ample soil drainage and perfect balance between temperature variation of night and day.  Constant winds blowing in from Lake Garda create a naturally well-ventilated, mold-resistant microclimate.  There is hardly a better equation for grape growing.  The area’s soil is rich in complexity thanks to sandiness from leftover sea skeletons.  Clay and basalt runoff from the Dolomites add to the mix.

Valpolicella Classico is the place where the Scamperle family farms their 49 acres of vines.  Their winey is called Le Salette and is located in the little town of Fumane.  Its vineyards are scattered in and around the town in some of the most respected growing areas of the region, places with names like Fumane Ca’ Carnocchio, I Progni e Ca Melchiori, Sat’ Ambrogio Conca D’Oro, and San Floriano Monte Masua.   Le Salette produces a basic Amarone, along with a few single vineyard Amarones, as well as some typical local styles like Valpolicella Classico Rosso, Ripasso, and Recioto.

Le Salette’s vines are mainly trained in the local pergola style, which is placed pretty high up so that clusters of grapes can hang down, making it easy to cut whole bunches for the drying process.  The height of the vines inspires a hometown joke that this is the reason people from the area are so tall.  Knee-slapper!  Le Salette’s practices in the vineyard and cellar are very much in rhythm with nature, achieving quality wines produced in the healthiest way.  The Scamperles know that this is very special land that they have the privilege to cultivate.  They cherish it, so au naturel is the way they go.

You may be wondering why this very Italian winery sounds...a bit...French.  Le Salette is the name of a small village in southern France.  It was the home of two Frenchmen who were around Fumane in the late 1800’s when phylloxera was ravaging so many of Europe’s vines.  These two men had already witnessed what the disease could do in their own region and were able use what they’d learned to to teach the people of Valpolicella Classico how to protect their vineyards.  Their knowledge proved so valuable as the area’s vines- a major agricultural, cultural, and economic staple- were saved.  Local farmers constructed a chapel atop the highest peak in Fumane to show their gratitude.  It is called the chapel of Le Salette.  One of the vineyards that the Scamperle family has owned for many generations sits just beneath the chapel, and so it was only appropriate to lend its name to their establishment.

The vineyard beneath the chapel is a piece of three of Le Salette’s vineyards that sort of line up in a triangular shape, or as they call it, a “Bermuda Triangle”.  Another unique vineyard they own grows within a walled garden, or a brolo,  Le Salette’s brolo is one of very few left in all of Italy. The garden was once planted to vegetables and now fosters a field blend of grapes.

Standing guard near the gates of the brolo is a gigantic, ancient cyprus tree.  The story goes that there once were many more cyprus trees, but during the Second World War German soldiers cut them down to use as winter firewood.  It eventually whittled down to one tree left to chop.  A brave young woman from the village bargained with the soldiers.  She offered wine for a promise to spare the tree.  Wine would keep them warm.  They agreed and, thanks to her, the tree lives on.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Catherine lives in Brooklyn, and has worked in the wine industry in Napa Valley and NYC. She is certified by the WSET, as well as the school of "wine in real life".  Understanding the patchwork of little-known Italian regional wines, dishes, and customs excites her most of all. She (sometimes) muses on her blog GrapesofCath.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Urban Meditation Fizz Cocktail

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

When the weather starts getting really oppressive outside, getting bombed is the last thing on my mind.  Sure, it’s fun to get a little buzz on to keep the feeling of the humidity at bay.  I know this sense of relaxation is just the thing to keep the hounds of summer at bay.  Simplicity is the key to summer drinks.  There is nothing more revolting to me than an mélange of disparate, garbage pail quality ingredients, thrown together into a blender with stinky ice and much less than high quality spirits.  This kind of drink is just not going to be memorable and please let me assure you that the hangover that ensues will certainly be memorable! 

(Calling Fernet Branca please! !)

High quality spirits such as Casa Noble are even more pleasurable when less it done to each sip.  Covering up (expensive) expressive spirits with candy flavored artificially flavored mixers IS NEVER OK!  So don’t do it.   LISTEN UP!

Casa Noble makes some of the most delightfully aromatic and potent Tequila expressions that I’ve ever had the chance to enjoy.  Each sip is an countenance of passion for my thoughts.   And with the approach of the hottest weather of the year so far, I love to taste what I spend my money on. 

That’s why after a week of shooting pictures in the studio for my third book up in Massachusetts, all that I want is simple, simple, simple!  Why?  It’s going to get really hot in a few days and sharing this refreshing thirst quencher is the way that it is done.

The Casa Noble Blanco is the perfect base for craft cocktails that don’t come off as being too crafty or  too complicated.  What do I mean about that?  Well, there are the ingredients.  As few of them as possible, that is for sure- but also the quality of the ingredients.  That is essential.  Casa Noble makes it easy for me to do great work because of the quality and simplicity of their ingredients.

Fruitations is a marvelous fresh fruit soda and cocktail syrup made with love up in New England.  Well, syrup is a misnomer, what Fruitations represents to me is condensed affection in a bottle.  There are three handcrafted flavors, Tangerine, Ruby Grapefruit and Cranberry.  The New England in me loves the Cranberry for rum cocktails, the Grapefruit is a burst of Florida, perfect for gin and the Tangerine is like a trip to Mexico, screaming out for Tequila…  Fruitations is exotic, bold and highly intriguing.  For this cocktail, I chose the perfectly adept, Tangerine flavor. 

Each sip is like biting into a perfectly ripened citrus blast. 

To give this drink a bit of lift I used Polar Seltzer.  The miniscule bubble that Polar encapsulates in each sip makes the Casa Noble Tequila and the Fruitations Syrup scream out for more, more…  And to the finish, may I suggest a few drops of the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters?  Why?  They just work to heal your body. 

With hot weather you want to heal what ails ye, your head, your heart, whatever is bothering you.  What ails ye is what I printed in my best-selling 1st book, Apothecary Cocktails.   This is the phrase that means- drink something, drink anything with bitters and this becomes an elixir for good health of your belly. 

Drinking this little gem is nice.  And drinking anything with the splendid liquid named Fruitations simply as a mocktail will make the steamy summer seem much further away.    And the healing?  Have a few and call me in the morning.. 

Urban Meditation Fizz

2 oz. Casa Noble Blanco
1 oz. Fruitations Tangerine Soda and Cocktail Syrup
4 oz. Polar Seltzer (Plain is fine- and preferred!)
2-4 shakes Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

(It’s so easy to mix a simple drink; you really should try it sometime…)

To a tall Collins-type glass:
Fill with 3-4 ice cubes
Add the Casa Noble Tequila
Pour over with the Fruitations Tangerine
Top with the Polar Seltzer
Mix with a funky straw and serve with a few shakes of the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters


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! 
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