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Tag Archives: tequila

Gloom LifterRockford, IL – December 2, 2014

Business recently took me to Rockford, IL and there I discovered Alchemy.  It’s part craft beer, part craft cocktails and part craft pizza.  While I enjoyed the pizza I had, I really enjoyed the cocktails!

First was the Gloom Lifter.  It starts with Tullamore Dew as the base, but what really caught my eye was the egg whites.  It also has lemon juice, raspberries and flamed bitters in the mix.  Served in an elegant coupe this was a very well balanced and proportioned cocktail.  Cinnamon and cardamom on the nose the cocktail was light, slightly sweet and smokey.  I was a little disappointed that there was no spiciness in the taste, but it was overall an excellent cocktail and will be sure to lift the gloom of winter!

The second cocktail I enjoyed was the Cold & Heavy Snow.  Using Milagro silver tequila as its base I was drawn to it with the house made ginger beer.  Finishing off the cocktail is lime juice, cider and cinnamon.  I really enjoyed the this cocktail – the ginger beer was spicy and well made and the cider and cinnamon added a bit of holiday cheer.  Another winner.

If your travels take you to Rockford, Alchemy is worth a stop!

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Tequila ShotMinneapolis, MN – May 14, 2013

A couple of weeks before a team meeting scheduled for Minneapolis, my team leader called me and asked me if I could help with a very important assignment that would be right up my alley.  I was excited as I wondered what did he have in mind?  A market study?  New technology?  Ha!

No, the assignment was to put together a tequila tasting at the Mexican restaurant we would be going to for dinner one of the evenings of our meetings.  OK, so he was right, this was right up my alley!

The dinner was to be held at Barrios, a very nice Mexican restaurant in downtown Minneapolis that features small plates and hundreds of tequilas.  I the bar manager a week or so before the dinner to find out what they did have and select two for our tasting.  While difficult, I did manage to select two that covered the broad range of tequilas that are available.

The first was Herradura Anejo.  Herradura represents the tradition of tequila.  The distillery has been in operation since 1870, although is, unfortunately, no longer a family operation, having been sold to Brown Forman in 2006.  However, the old ways are still followed with this lowlands tequila.  It is aged for 25 months in oak, is 80 proof and is a wonderful example of a classic aged tequila.  During our tasting it exhibited a vanilla and oak character with a touch of agave on the finish.

The second tequila of the evening was the Milagro Barrel Select.  Milagro (Spanish for miracle) is a new comer to the tequila scene and has only been in operation since 1997.  Founded by Danny Schneweiss and Moy Guindi, the objective was to have a tequila that retained the character of Mexico.  This is a highlands tequila and was aged in oak for 35 days, although is still considered a Blanco (silver or white tequila).  It is triple distilled which helps create the smooth character and leaves a charcoal flavor on the palate.  Agave, herbal and vanilla notes on the back end round out the flavor profiles.

All in all it was an educational experience – we had an aged and new tequila, we had an old family product and one from a new upstart and we had a highlands and a lowlands tequila.  Only 138 left to go on Barrio’s menu!

Cheers!

Lincoln, NE – March 13, 2012

I feel like I could have just as easily titled this post Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I’ll explain in time, but that’s what my two separate experiences at Marz in Lincoln, NE have been like.

My first visit was last August, and the notes and pictures are still in my Blackberry, just waiting to get published.  So, with a return trip to Lincoln this week I was really looking forward to visiting Marz again and having a some great cocktails and food.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Marz is located in downtown Lincoln and has an incredible hip and cool vibe.  With 20 something foot ceilings, a very long bar lines one side and cozy velour covered half circle booths run down the other side.  With a space age decor and a comfy lounge area at the rear, and a very nifty acid jazz, chill electronic soundtrack going, I liked it as soon as I walked in the door.

During my first visit I had an ongoing conversation with the bartender who was very knowledgeable and into her craft.  She started me with a Smokey Vesper since a James Bond flick was running on the TV over the bar.  For my second drink I had the Martian Sunrise (pictured above), which features Cuervo, pineapple and pomegranate juices in a riff on the Tequila Sunrise.  A strong drink with plenty of punch from the tequila it settled in nicely once some of the ice started to melt.  Interestingly enough I also got a taste of banana from this one, and wasn’t sure if it was from the drink or the banana split I had for desert!

Along with my drinks I had a dinner of the homemade mac and cheese, which was good, very good.  All in all, my visit there last August was quite impressive.  So when I arrived in Lincoln last night I was very much looking forward to eating and drinking there again.

Boy, what a difference 7 months makes!  The atmosphere was just as hip, and given that it was in the 70’s, the outside patio was full when I arrived around 9pm.  Unfortunately, that’s about where the goodness ended and mediocrity took over.  I asked the bartender what he makes that’s unique and his.  His answer was pretty much a blank look and then mumbling something about their Manhattan’s being good.  OK, so he’s not really a bartender into cocktails.  I ordered a Sidecar Named Desire from the menu.  Consisting of Raynar VSOP cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice I was surprised when it was served with a sugared rim that had been wetted with a lime wedge.  The first two sips were overwhelmingly lime and that was spoiling the drink – not to mention that anything resembling a sidecar has no business being served in a sugared rim.

At about this time the second bartender (whose best feature, I learned, was her breasts spilling out of the top of her sundress) came over to ask how it was.  I started to ask her about the sugared rim and her answer was that the bourbon – which prompted me to correct her to brandy, she didn’t even know what was in the thing – made it strong and so they thought it should be sweetened.  I told her the lime on the rim was too much so she offered to pour into a fresh glass, which I gladly accepted.  As we continued talking I tried to point out that a cocktail like this is supposed to be strong.  Her final answer was “I just do what they tell me to do.”  So, two lifeless bartenders on duty.

So, without the lime and sugar on the rim it was drinkable, but unremarkable.  It was a bit disjointed and needed, most likely, some work on the proportions of Cointreau and lemon juice, and also, most likely, a dash of bitters.

As for my dinner, I ordered the cleverly named Moons of Pluto which were described as provolone risotto balls served with marinara sauce.  It failed to mention that they were breaded and deep fried, which was disappointing.  The risotto and cheese was good, and I would have enjoyed the balls if they hadn’t been deep fried and just drizzled with a bit of olive oil instead.  As for the marinara, it had the consistency and flavor of slightly thinned out tomato paste.  Again, disappointing.

Finally, as way of adding insult to injury, there was only one dessert item available, a honey lavender creme brulee.  I normally may have gone for it, but was dismayed by only having that one choice and passed instead.

All in all I was very disappointed by the second visit.  When back in Lincoln down the road I may try it again in the hoped of finding the good Marz is back.

Cheers?

 

 

Twilight Lounge – December 31, 2011 / January 1, 2012

Oh boy…another New Year’s Eve party at the Twilight Lounge is in the books, and it was …. fun!

Ok, so I’ll get to the Burning Santa in a bit.  In the past I’ve always had a signature cocktail that I mix up for the party.  This year I didn’t and we instead made it BYOB.  So I cleared out room in the fridge, had the Lounge all spiffed up and the playlist ready to go on the quadrophonic (with the concert hall effect setting on the Yamaha – try it at home, you’ll dig it the most). 

As usual, my music started in the mellower, lounge and jazzy side with selections from Vince Guarldi, Sade, Tom Jones, Air and Nouvelle Vague giving way to Amy Winehouse, the Rolling Stones, Social Distortion and then finally, as the party got cranked up (and our guests liquored up) dance music with heavy doses of 70’s disco (anyone for It’s Raining Men and the Bee Gees) along with Motown and R&B (Gap Band anyone?).

 

                                                Calm Before the Storm

Things stayed pretty mellow until midnight.  Of course (and against my will), we turned on ABC at 5 til midnight to watch that stupid ball drop on tape delay.  A champagne toast and plenty of kissing and hugging ensued.  That always seems to get the New Year’s Eve party into gear.  The dance music and booze kicked in.  The shots we were doing probably helped as well.  The first was a moonshine shot (imported from North Carolina) with moonshine marinated cherry in the bottom.  Poor Andy thought the cherry was going to be nice and sweet and offset the moonshine – little did he know!  The second speciality shot of the night was Cuervo silver with a very hot (and homemade) pickled jalapeno ring in the bottom.  That baby was fiery!

After downing a few of these specials it was time for Burning Santa.  A New Year’s Eve tradition at the Twilight Lounge (see picture above) we burn a little more of Santa each year!  Don’t ask me why – we just do it!  From there the fez came out (you know its a party when the fez comes out!) and it was game on.

Happy New Year – enjoy peace, prosperity and cocktails!

December 7, 2011 – The Twilight Lounge

‘Tis the season to be merry and make merry.  What better way to do that than a good cocktail or two (or three).  If you agree, then you’ve come to the right place.  So fire up Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy”, get the shaker out and enjoy.

My original Christmas cocktail was the Sleigh Wreck.  Originally called the Sleigh Ride it caused more than a few hangovers, thus earning the change from Sleigh Ride to Sleigh Wreck.  Similar to a Cosmpolitan, it is a favorite of the denizens of the Twilight Lounge.  As long as I’m here, another interesting tidbit for you.  Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride was not orginally written as a Christmas song (don’t believe me, just listen to the lyrics).  Nope, Leroy got the inspiration on a blazing hot day in 1948 when all he wanted to do was cool off!

Second on my list of Christmas cocktails is the White Christmas.  Inspired by the Danny Kaye (Danny F—ing Kaye for you fans of Christmas Vacation)/Bing Crosby/Vera Ellen/Rosemary Clooney holiday extravaganza of the same name, this cocktail features gin and peppermint schnapps.  When properly made it even looks white as it first hits the glass.  Similar in style and taste to the White Christmas is the cleverly named Christmas Cocktail.  Also made with gin and peppermint schnapps, this has the dry vermouth of a martini in it as well.

For the naughty set I suggest the Bad Santa.  This vodka based cocktail has pomegranate juice as its primary flavor, making sure it goes down nice and smooth – and is sure to put you on the couch if you’re not careful!  According to my former official Christmas cocktail taster, Andrea, this is just as good as the Sleigh Wreck!  Of course, that other Christmas bad boy is also represented with the Grinch cocktail.

If you’re planning on spending the holidays in Mexico then the Christmas Mule is a light, refreshing cocktail that will hit the spot when you’re belting out Feliz Navidad.  Just be sure you remember where you left your flip flops.

So there you have it, a primer on Yuletide cocktails.  Of course, there are many more out there, but these all have been thoroughly tested and have recieved the Twilight Lounge stamp of approval!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a Good Night!

 

When in Mexico I can only drink so many margaritas (even of the avocado variety) and palomas…so what to do?  At the house we were staying at we had both silver and reposado tequilas, along with Grand Marnier (for making margaritas).  So….one night after dinner and enjoying a fine Cohiba on the patio the inspiration for the Mexican version of the classic Manhattan hit me.  And it was soooo good, especially with the fine cigar I was enjoying with it (yes, it was Cuban).  So, without further adieu, the Mexican Manhattan.

  Mexican Manhattan

  • 3 oz reposada or anejo tequila
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir.  Pour into a rocks glass.  No garnish needed.

Upon my return home I mixed this up using the Cazadores anejo that I brought home from Puerto Vallarta (oh, so smooth) and used Cointreau (I also don’t actually have any Grand Marnier at the moment).  The orange of the Cointreau is a very nice, slightly sweet complement to the Cazadores anejo. 

Another option if you have a really good reposada or anejo is to just add a couple of dashes of orange bitters instead of Cointreau.  This will give the orange flavor without the added sweetness of the liqueur.

So, when I need to escape winter I’ll be getting that bottle of Cazadores out and reliving the sun and sand of the beach at Puerto Vallarta!

Cheers!

Has it really been four months since my last post?  I guess there was just way to much gin, bourbon and scotch during the last 120 days.  However, the good news is that I’m tanned, rested and ready!  A week in Puerto Vallarta will do that for a guy!

Of course, there was more to the vacation than family, sun and beach.  There was tequila!  One advantage to renting a house for the week was the opportunity to mix up cocktails for everyone using great, fresh local ingredients.  One of those cocktails was the above pictured Avocado Margarita.  It’s more like a cross between a smoothie and a margarita.  But with fresh limes and avocados at my disposal, I couldn’t pass this one up.

      Avocado Margarita

  • 1-1/2 oz silver tequila
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup diced avocado
  • 1 oz half and half
  • 1 tsp sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a blender with one half cup ice and puree until smooth.  Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lime wedge or lemon peel.

I used Patron silver since that’s what we had, and used Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau (again, that’s what we had – and, oh, by the way, makes excellent margaritas!).  This was served with a dinner of grilled shrimp, mahi mahi and rice with poblano pepper and chorizo.  It was delicious – smooth, not to sweet, not to avocado flavored and just a hint of tequila.

Unfortunately, I only had enough avocado for one round the night we did these, but I’m sure this will find its way into my glass again!

Adios amigos!

Day 362, Cocktails 361 & 362

…but it turned out I was mistaken.

So tonight’s mea culpa is that I had a miscount on my days.  I’ve actually been off by two days, and it’s two days the wrong way, meaning I have 2 less days to complete my journey.  Fortunately I was ahead of the count in terms of cocktails, so all is well.  However, I’m sure Andy will have something to say about all this!

Now, back to the fun stuff – the cocktails!  I did two last night, the first a recipe from Dale Degroff’s “The Craft of the Cocktail” that I selected for its ease of mixing and cool sophistication.

  Black Rose

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 dash grenadine

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a rocks glass over an ice ball.  Garnish with a flamed lemon peel.

For this drink I used Knob Creek bourbon and it was a winner!  The deep, charcoal flavor of the bourbon was mellowed ever so slightly by the grenadine and Peychaud’s.  It was reminiscent of a Manhattan, but without the sweetness and allowed the bourbon to still be the star.  I really liked this drink and will definitely be having it again!

Unfortunately, Gwen didn’t really appreciate the Black Rose.  She asked me to make something with cucumber, so here’s what I put together for her.

  Cucumber Mule

  • 2 cucumber slices, about 1/4″ thick
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup
  • 2 oz Cazadores tequila
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1-1/2 oz Old Ballycastle ginger
  • Seltzer water

Muddle the cucumber and bar syrup in the bottom of a collins glass.  Add the tequila, lime juice and ginger and stir.  Fill the glass with ice and top with seltzer water.

Mmmm, a nice variation of the Monterrey Mule that lets the hint of cucumber compliment the ginger and tequila.  I thoroughly enjoyed this refreshing cocktail and can’t wait to have it on a warm summer evening – assuming summer does show up around here sooner or later….

Cheers!

Day 354, Cocktails 357 & 358

Friday night and both Gwen and I were ready for a fun evening.  I had been in Texas for the bulk of the week and it was hectic getting started up on the new job.  It had also been a busy week for Gwen with lots of activities for the girls that had to be taken care of.  So when Friday rolled around we were ready to celebrate our birthdays in style (Gwen’s is coming up next week). 

Our first stop of the evening was the Firefly Urban Bar + Grill for dinner (using my trusty Groupon!) and a drink.  Firefly is located in Wauwatos and has a very hip and slightly upscale vibe – so definately wear your best t-shirt when you go, as the one of the girls at the table next to us did.  The food is varied and ranges from appetizers to sandwiches to full dinners that are twists on traditional comfort type foods.  The pork chops that we both ordered were good, and the speciality cocktails were very good.  Gwen had the White Cosmopolitan, which I won’t report on (since I only tasted it) while I went with the Metaxa Side Car.  Consisting of Metaxa, a greek brandy that is a blend of brandy and wine, Patron Citronage, orange and lemon juice, this was a very nice, mellow cocktail.  It’s flavors were multilayered with the orange and just a hint of lemon made dark, silky and almost chocolatey by the Metaxa, with a hint of the Patron lurking in the background.  Very smooth and not too sweet but not boozy either.  I definately recommend this cocktail if you visit Firefly.

After dinner we headed back to Germantown and stopped by the Klavier Lounge.  We both had their special for the night, a Berry Mojito.  Consisting of Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, simple syrup, grapefruit, lime and garnished with a mint sprig this was propietor Kris Peters’ twist on the classic mojito.  This cocktail had a nice, sweet flavor that goes over big with the girls.  I also enjoyed mine, but one was enough for me on the sweet scale and I moved on the a Rusty Nail and then Monterrey Mules for the rest of the night.  As usual though, it was a lively time at the Klavier and we enjoyed ourselves immensely!

Cheers!

Day 281, Cocktail 280

Gwen was prepping to get the hell of out of Dodge ahead and down to Cancun with a bunch of her friends tonight.  They originally weren’t supposed to leave until Wednesday, but the “big blizzard” headed our way they moved their travel plans up a day.  So I figured that something with tequila was in order tonight.

Besides Gwen’s trip, the inspiration for tonight’s cocktail was a drink I saw on the Cooking Channel show Drink Up.  My inspiration was made with rum and cardamom syrup which I replaced with tequila and Old Ballycastle ginger.    The rest of the ingredients are in the original, although I played around a bit with the proportions.  Let’s see how it turned out.

  Mexican Hat Dance

  • 3 slices of cucumber
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz bar syrup
  • 1 oz Old Ballycastle ginger
  • 2-1/2 oz Cazadores tequila

Toss the three cucumber slices into the bottom of your shaker, then add 4-5 ice cubes.  Add the rest of the liquid ingredients and shake, shake, shake.  You need to work this hard because you are muddling the cucumber at the same time that you are mixing your drink.  To prepare your collins glass cut three more slices of cucumber.  Place an ice cube in the bottom, then a cucumber slice, then another ice cube…create a stack three ice cubes / cucumber slices high.  Strain the drink over the cucumber / ice stack in the glass.

I know the drink is good when Gwen asks for seconds and thirds (it’s probably a good thing Andrea wasn’t here).  The flavors are multilayered with cucumber and ginger playing together, supported by the Cazadores.  There is just a hint of spicy heat from the ginger and the syrup keeps the drink from being too tart.  As an alternative, you can just dump the contents of your shaker into a collins glass.  This gives you bits of cucumber mixed in with the drink.  But, you don’t get the neat effect of the layered ice and cucumber slices.

Cheers!