April 19, 2009

Remember that Italy fix I was in desperate need of last week? I found the cure at the Hotel Gansevoort. A fine man named Vincenzo helped, but what really did the trick was this tasty elixir:
Inocente Italiano
1.5 oz. Inocente tequila
1/2 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup

Shake all ingredients, serve in a rocks glass over ice. Add a twist.

Molto bene


In serious need of an Italy fix…

April 13, 2009

It started in West Hollywood. In search of the cast from Grey’s Anatomy, my friend took me to Cecconi’s for breakfast. We sat on the patio (shown), enjoyed amazing coffee, and enjoyed a little slice of la dolce vita. This place reminded me of so much of the venerable San Domenico restaurant in NYC, and if it wasn’t before noon, I would have loved to have been sippin’ some Campari.

Then last week, I went to see the Valentino documentary. Most of the movie took place in beautiful Rome and the next day I found myself on Kayak looking up flights to Milan. Unfortunately, flight prices are still a little steep for my budget, so I’ve decided to transport myself to Italy in a more economical fashion: by consuming as many blood orange cocktails as possible. According to New York, ’tis the season for this native Italian fruit.

Blood Orange Bellini
Courtesy of Stirrings
1 part Stirrings Blood Orange Mixer
4 parts dry Chandon Sparkling Wine
Garnish: Stirrings Blood Orange Rimmer

Rim chilled Champagne flute with Blood Orange Rimmer. Pour in Mixer and top with Chandon Sparkling Wine.

Baby Showers = Shots

April 12, 2009

The title of this post may seem a bit dramatic, but if you are a career gal (read: single) over 30 who needed to attend two baby showers in one day, sit through the movie Baby Mama with your parents, and do it all in your old hometown where ghosts of ex-hookups past pop up around every corner, you’d understand. Yep, that was my weekend, complete with all the family drama you’d come to expect from planning a baby shower for your soon-to-be nephews with you own mother.

I’ve never done well with showers — wedding or baby. No matter who they are for, I always seem to break out in a sweat upon arrival. Usually its nothing a glass of wine can’t cure, and the wine is usually flowin’ at a wedding shower. But at a baby shower, not so much, especially when the shower is a brunch (watered- down mimosas can only help so much). So after this weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that every baby shower should come with its own signature shot — for the guests, that is (the mom-to-be can sip a Preggatini). I think any one of these will do just fine:

SoCo and Lime
1 1/2 oz. Southern Comfort
Splash of sweetened lime juice

Lemon Drop
1 part Absolut Vodka
1 part triple sec
1 part lemon juice

Straight up Patrón

Orange County

April 4, 2009

I’m being lazy this week folks….not really, but my friend Kira Kohrherr recently visited the Combier Distillery in France, so I asked her to guest blog about it. So without further adieu…

Combier Liqueur d’Orange is new to the U.S., having just launched in New York and Pennsylvania in 2008. However, it is actually the original triple sec, created over 175 years ago! The distillery’s hometown of Saumur is situated in the serene Loire Valley and is an easy two-hour train ride from Paris, so I packed my bags and headed across the Atlantic to find out what it was all about.

On the day I visited, it couldn’t have been scripted better. Mist floated above the cobblestone streets as I walked through town, and I arrived at the gates of the famed operation just as the golden sun was peaking over the river. I met Master Distiller, Franck Choinoise (the perfect French gentleman!), who guided me through the process. Walking inside, I peered through the hiss of rising steam and was transported back in time to 1834 when the distillery first opened its doors. Amazingly, the historic copper stills and the lacy gold-and-maroon wrought-iron passerelle (walkway) are the original design of Gustave Eiffel who also designed the Eiffel Tower in 1887.

The process begins with bitter orange peels shipped from Haiti. The peels soak for 24 hours to rehydrate. The white pith is then removed by hand and discarded. Next, the peels soak for 2-3 days in alcohol to macerate. Precise measurements of the peels, alcohol, and water are then added into the stills to begin the first round of distillation. The stills are then heated, and the heat produces a vapor that travels through the unique “swan neck” pipes. The vapor is cooled and condenses into a concentrate the drips slowly down to be separated. The “head flame” and the “tail flame” are discarded and the middle portion, the “heart,” is retained. That batch (an astounding 185 proof!) goes through the distillation process again, and then is stored in vats for a number of months to oxygenate. That final batch is distilled once more to create the crystal clear final product we sip today.

Want to try some Combier cocktails? Stay tuned — Kira is hosting a tasting in NYC in early May. Watch this space for details!

LA Cocktails and Dreams … and Sunsets

March 29, 2009

Some cities are like good albums — you just have to grow into them. Such is my experience with LA. I’ve been there half-dozen times before and this time it started out in typical LA fashion: a hotel with a girl in a box, rubber walls, a trying-to-hard-to-see-and-be-seen scene. My Ginger-mint Margarita (just add Domain de Canton and a few mint leaves) was The Standard hotel’s only saving grace.

So it was off to Koi for some dinner and the possibility of star sightings. No celebs here, but I did enjoy the Berry Bliss (gin, raw agave, pomegranate juice, and fresh raspberries).

The following night, it was time to brave “the scene” once again at the new SLS Hotel, where the bartender served me a tangy Pisco Sour (grape brandy, lemon and lime juice, egg white, sugar, and swirls of bitters) – no celebs here either btw.

By the time I checked into the Hotel Palomar near Beverly Hills, LA was beginning to grow on me. I no longer needed Garmin Electra to get around West Hollywood, and I saw Marissa Tomei driving in the car next to me (score!). So I thought it was time to try out the freeway. I hopped on the 405 and headed down to Manhattan Beach.

When in LA, you have got to experience an LA Sunset. Mine came in the form of Absolut LA Vodka, pomegranate juice, blood orange juice, and pineapple juice — best cocktail in LA so far, being served up with a twist at Sashi Sushi. Backup. Absolut LA Vodka? Yep. The City of Angels has it’s own limited-edition flavor: a blend of acai, acerola, pomegranate, and blueberry (see below for a tasty cocktail from mixology master Dale DeGroff).

Finally, I wrapped the week up with drinks with LA cocktail blogger The Liquid Muse at BLVD 16, where I tried the bar’s signature sip: the BLVD 16 martini (tarragon-infused vodka, Domain de Canton, and citrus juices). Next time I’ll be sure to build in some time for a cocktail safari tour of the city.

Absolut La La Land
1 parts Absolut Los Angeles
1 part cranberry juice
1 part pomegranate juice
1 part lemon-lime soda
Build ingredients into a hi-ball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Backlash to Elderflower

March 14, 2009

Oh, Philly – I’ll give you an A for effort, but i have to say, a little disappointed on the cocktails consumed last night. I’ve been wanting to try this place Apothecary Bar + lounge (above) eversince reading about it in Food & Wine. The have a cool concept: bottle service cocktails. If you don’t want to shell out $50+ for a full carafe, you can order just one of their signature Elixirs or a Classic, which is an old-school sip with an Apothecary twist. Most of the cocktails at Apothecary are made with quality spirits, bitters, fresh juices, and herbs. It was a little hard to choose one from the menu (and, unfortunately, the bartender wasn’t much help). I picked the Immunity Idol (it is AI season, after all). The menu describes this sip as “an analeptic of high style for all systems needed” – whatever that means. The problem: too much St. Germain. I should have known, but I was so impressed by my last St. Germain cocktail that I thought the liqueur had redeemed itself. Not so much. You might feel differently though, so here’s the mix: Hendricks gin, St. Germain, fresh pineapple and orange, orange bitters, echinaecea, hawthorn root, and elderberry liniment. I don’t recommend trying to make this one at home – but check it out if you’re in town.

I do, however, recommend the Abricot from Parc (below) – can’t go wrong with a Stephen Starr sip. This one was made with Ricard Pastis (think licorice), apricot liqueur and puree, lemon juice, and cloves. It was delicious…wish I could have eaten there too.

Diamonds and pearls, Melissa.Diamonds and pearls.

March 8, 2009

No, I’m not talking about a Prince song. And if you don’t know the dear, sweet Melissa Mariola you won’t get the title of this blog post either. But needless to say, I could not stay away from the juice this weekend, and it was so worth it. I do believe that last night I found the single best cocktail in New York City. I may have said this before, but its going to be pretty tough to top the Diamonds and Pearls martini at the Jade Bar inside the Gramercy Park Hotel. As I said after the first sip: I just want to make out with my drink right now. Here’s the mix: Reyka vodka and Lillet Blanc shaken with freshly muddled blackberries and a touch of coconut. Fair warning: It’s $19 a pop – but worth every penny.

Closed for St. Patrick’s Day

March 7, 2009

No cocktails this weekend for Martini Talk. It’s all about beer, thanks to Hoboken’s St. Patrick’s Day and Earl’s Beer Pong Birthday Bonanza. I’ll be back next week, but until then, I’ll leave you with this little secret, courtesy of Mr. Al Vagnozzi (my dad):

Sunshine in a Coupe Glass

March 1, 2009

I’m back in New York for a little more than a minute, and I’ve decided that since I’m not here so much anymore, I need to take advantage of the time I’m home. So this weekend I made it my mission to visit Little Branch, a speakeasy-style bar in the West Village. And it just so happened that I made it there twice! What was I drinkin’? Well, at Little Branch (below), the actual cocktail menu is fairly limited to sips w/ lots of brown spirits (think juleps, cognac-infused concoctions, etc.). If just the thought of sippin’ whiskey gives you headache, take a leap of faith and order the Bartender’s Choice. Little Branch’s talented mixologists will ask you what you like and whip up something delicious. My sip was the Sunflower: a lip-puckering blend of gin, St. Germain (yes, it’s back), Cointreau, and absinthe. It was a lovely preview to Spring, which can’t get here fast enough.

Oscar, Oscar!

February 21, 2009

I haven’t seen 90% of the movies nominated for Academy Awards this year (that’s because going to the movies in New York, well, sucks), but that’s doesn’t mean I won’t be tuning in to see Hugh Jackman take his turn as host. Here are my picks for the winners, along with a signature cocktail just for the occasion.

Best Picture: Milk
Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Night
Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

The Milk Man
Courtesy of Grey Goose
1 1/2 parts GREY GOOSE® Original Vodka
1 part peppermint schnapps
1/2 part simple syrup
1/2 part cream
1 chocolate-dipped peppermint stick

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until outside of shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with peppermint stick and sip with pride.