Tag: cocktail

Weekend In Review


If you follow the Winekindasseur on Twitter, you may have noticed my Monday morning Tweets called Weekend In Review. In the weekly photo, a few empty wine and booze bottles are lined up, ready to head out to the recycle bin. A concerned friend tweeted, “Did you guys really drink a whole bottle of Limoncello over the weekend?” No, but it’s funny you should ask…

Just as we were inspired to clean out the pantry a few weeks ago, we’re attempting to reduce our liquor bottle count as well. The motivation isn’t expiration dates, since most spirits last for years, but rather that we’ll be moving eventually. Now you’re probably wondering, why don’t we just pack up the liquor and wine and drive it to our new place? To some extent we will do just that, but our problem is that there are hundreds of bottles.

Prior to becoming liquor store entrepreneurs, we had an average size collection of spirits. In order to be knowledgeable for our customers, part of our ‘homework’ was to try products at home. After the store, our curiosity led us to continue trying new products and testing in the drink lab. Oftentimes, we made a few cocktails from one bottle and then put it aside to move on to the next experiment. This behavior has resulted in every nook and cranny of our kitchen and dining room being occupied by a partly-consumed bottle of booze. Open a cabinet door and you never know what you’ll find.

I can imagine some less thrifty readers may want to suggest that we pour the bottle contents down the drain and be done with it.  Blasphemy!  This dilemma has delivered an opportunity to revisit our prior mixology dabbling and encourage friends to help us with our project. Certain bottles are ‘targeted’ for completion. When the goal of emptying each bottle has been accomplished, they are collected on the counter for a final farewell photo in memoriam.

Here are a couple of highlights:

Lemon Sorbet

We originally made this cocktail with Dr. McGillicuddy’s Intense Lemon Drop Schnapps. Since the shapely Limoncello bottle was targeted for completion, we’ll substitute it for the Schnapps. We give ourselves a pat on the back for our efficiency because finishing the Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka is next on the project timeline. I just love achieving my milestones!

  • 1.5 oz. Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka
  • .5 oz. Limoncello
  • .5 oz. lemon juice
  • .5 oz. simple syrup

Shake over ice and pour through a strainer.


Our friends who like to travel to bourbon and whiskey country in the south brought us a souvenir bottle from a distillery they visited. Davy Crockett Whiskey was a gift that kept on giving but after a year or so, it was time to bid farewell to our Tennessean friend. We’ve made a couple of minor changes to the traditional preparation of the Sazerac cocktail: using simple syrup in place of a sugar cube, and shaking instead of stirring.

  • Splash of Absinthe
  • 1.5 oz. whiskey
  • .25 oz simple syrup
  • Few dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • Lemon rind
  1. Prepare the glass with a wash of Absinthe and fill with crushed ice. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, peel some lemon rind.
  3. Fill a shaker with ice and add the whiskey, simple syrup, and about 3 dashes of bitters. Shake vigorously.
  4. Pour out the crushed ice from the glass. Strain and pour the whiskey into the glass. Twist the lemon rind and garnish the drink.


May The Fourth and Cinco de Mayo

May The Fourth and Cinco de Mayo

When we got married on May 4th twenty years ago we had no idea that our anniversary date would be hijacked by Stars Wars, “May The Fourth Be With You”. Likewise, May 5th was just an ordinary day; not the Cinco de Mayo holiday that’s so popular today. As much as I love tequila and Mexican food, Cinco de Mayo will have to wait until after our two-day anniversary celebration.

A local steakhouse, Rails, serves uniquely delicious appetizers, premium steaks cooked to perfection, wonderful sides, and sinful desserts. Quality food, nice atmosphere, and professional service come with a fairly hefty price tag so we save our visits to Rails for special occasions like our anniversary. From my longtime practice in the art of the Boozy Lifestyle, I’ve become pretty familiar with retail wine pricing. This knowledge makes it difficult to order wine with a 400% markup so we put the wine list aside in favor of their creative craft cocktail list. The bourbon-based drinks we order are refreshingly full of fresh herbs and muddled fruits.

Here’s a sampling of Rails’ wine list. The Library Reserve Selections has some of the giants of Napa; Caymus, Silver Oak, and Far Niente. If you’re willing to spend big, the Nickel & Nickel Tench Vineyard is about the best deal on the wine list since it sells in local liquor stores for about $100.

Rails Wine List

With day one of our anniversary celebration complete, day two is set for uncorking Baldacci’s Four Sons Fraternity 2012 to pair with our steak doggy bags. Fraternity is a red blend from Stag’s Leap District in Napa Valley, California. I couldn’t locate documentation of the varietals in the 2012 blend, but my guess is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.

I open the wine for an hour of decanting and notice that the freshly popped cork is full of sediment. We purchased this bottle about eight months ago and it has been stored on its side ever since. It’s a good idea to stand a bottle upright the day before opening it, and maybe I’ll remember next time. I pour the wine into the decanter through a small strainer to remove the remaining grit.

The nose is full of ripe cherry fruit, oak, and vanilla with floral and tobacco notes. The fruit is dominant but not overpowering. I don’t detect much in the way of earthy or vegetal aromas. Acidity and alcohol seem a little harsh on the back of the throat at first sip, but disappear over time. The palate is full of juicy plum, cherry, and blackberry. Dark chocolate and coffee flavors add a trace of bitterness, along with subtle notes of graphite that become more noticeable after swallowing.  The finish is long and leathery. Overall, Baldacci Fraternity offers a balanced structure from start to finish.

Mexican food and margaritas may just as easily be enjoyed on Seis and Siete de Mayo.

Premium Margarita

  • 1 oz. Don Julio Anejo
  • 1 oz. Patron Citronge
  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice and simple syrup (half and half)

Shake over ice, strain into a margarita glass, and say Salud!

Panini Style Black Bean and Chicken Burrito


  • 1 red pepper, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic
  • ¼ Teaspoon cumin
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 oz. chicken breast (1 large or 2 small), cut into small cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
  • ½ cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • Pinch of pepper or crushed red pepper for more heat
  • 2 large flour tortillas


  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and cook the garlic and cumin for 1 minute. Add the minced red pepper and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. (If I don’t have a red pepper, I use a small onion or a stalk of celery.) Add the rinsed black beans. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the chicken.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag. Add taco seasoning and pepper to the bag and shake until chicken is coated. Brown the chicken in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add ¼ cup of water and continue cooking until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  3. Pre-heat the Griddler (panini press) to Grill/Panini between High and Sear.
  4. Brush olive oil on the outside of the wraps. Flip them over and fill with cheese, chicken, and the bean mixture. Fold them up and cook in the Griddler for a few minutes until the outside shows some nice grill marks.

Top with sour cream, taco sauce, and cheese.

Happy Hour People


The last few times we’ve been to Atlantic City, New Jersey, the weather wasn’t very cooperative. It rained so hard one day that if we hadn’t been driving an SUV with high clearance, the floodwaters would stopped us in our tracks. But this sunny, mild day in early November is a perfect day for a stroll on the boardwalk. Taking in the glorious sunshine followed by an IMAX 3D movie is a perfect way to spend a vacation day.

Atlantic City, on New Jersey’s Atlantic coast, features miles of white sandy beaches and an iconic boardwalk. High-rise hotels provide magnificent views of the coastline. Casinos and nightclubs offer a variety of entertainment. Shoppers will find an array of stores from high end boutiques to factory outlets. Restaurants of celebrity chefs include Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri, Wolfgang Puck, and Bobby Flay as well as other renowned steakhouses such as Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris. And yet, with all Atlantic City has to offer, when I mention going there to “outsiders” they tend to say things like, “Do people still go there?” It’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of resort cities; it gets no respect. That’s o.k. It’s a good thing that we keep all to ourselves.

Our long walk in the fresh air and sunshine has primed us for happy hour. At the center of the boardwalk, located on the second floor of the Pier Shops at Caesar’s we have our choice of four different restaurants with happy hour menus. Buddakan, with its $5 appetizers, cocktails, and wine, is our bar of choice. I’d pay twice as much for one of their specialty cocktails like Blossom, made with gin, Cointreau, honey syrup, and orange bitters. The drinks are always delicious and well-balanced no matter which bartender is on duty. Scrumptious appetizers include edamame ravioli, various dumplings and spring rolls, and tempura vegetables.

As happy hour progresses, we strike up a conversation with strangers at the bar. This evening, we meet two ladies, one a local, and the other, her visiting friend from New York City. After a bit of small talk, the conversation turns to politics, not about the upheaval of the presidential election, but an elected office much closer to home.

The local lady, Hazel, tells us that her husband was supposed to join them, but that he was upset over the anniversary of a past event. She goes on to say that her husband is a good man who served his country in the Vietnam War. He was a lifeguard and eventually became the beach patrol chief. With pride in her voice, Hazel tells us that he never lost anyone on his watch.

We’re surprised by the candor in her next self-revelation, since we’ve only just met. She and her husband are an interracial couple who married in the 1960s and his family was very much against the union. Little by little they came around, even her father-in-law whom she helped care for in his elder years. Despite the hardships, Hazel expresses no regrets about her marriage.  

As the conversation returns to Hazel’s husband, her friend comments that he never should have run for mayor. They both agree that nothing good came of it. Being out- of-towners, we’re not aware of the incident to which they are referring but finally Hazel says, when you read what they say about him in the newspapers, remember my husband is a good man.

In our hotel room that evening, we find Hazel and her spouse, former mayor of Atlantic City, Bob Levy, on Wikipedia. According to Wiki, Levy resigned as mayor in 2007 after admitting that there were false entries on his official military service record which he did not correct and that he used these false entries to obtain benefits. He pled guilty in court, was sentenced to probation, fined, and ordered to pay restitution.

There are (at least) two sides to every story, but we don’t often get to hear one as personal as Hazel’s.


Goslings Black Seal vs. Bacardi Black Rum


In the beginning of the summer when I had a hankering for a Dark n’ Stormy we conducted cocktail lab (It Was A Dark and Stormy Night http://wp.me/p4rcsv-bq) pitting Goslings Black Seal against our collection of dark(er) rums. Since there was much discussion online about the importance of using Goslings as opposed to any old dark rum, we wanted to test this theory for ourselves.

Our conclusion was that none of the other rums delivered similarly to Goslings in the Dark n’ Stormy. Black Seal neat is dry and smooth with notes of molasses and coffee. Although Brugal Extra Viejo blended well with ginger beer, the rum’s wonderful nuances were wasted by mixing. Bacardi Gold was just about acceptable, but nowhere near as complex as Goslings.

We just added Bacardi Black to our selection of rums so let’s give it a try! Excitement is building as we note the pretty burnt amber color in the pour. High alcohol in the nose blows off to reveal wood fire, oak and vanilla aromas. My expectations mount as I swirl and sniff, anticipating something splendid in the sip.

But in place of the dreamy euphoria I found in Goslings is a rude awakening. An overwhelmingly bad medicinal flavor engulfs my entire mouth. There are a few nice caramel notes on the finish but I can barely notice them as I try to recover from the heinous assault on my palate. Did rum and botched moonshine get mixed up in the bottling line at the Bacardi distillery?

I had intended to make a Dark n’ Stormy with the Bacardi Black for comparison with the Goslings, but it’s so bad, I don’t want to waste the ginger beer. I really hate to trash any product. After all, we all have different tastes and to each his own. But for me, this one was so awful it may actually get poured down the drain. At least the bottle is attractive…

Dark and Stormy Cocktail Recipe

  • 4 oz. Ginger Beer
  • 1.5 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
  • Lime wedge (optional, I liked it better without)

Pour the chilled ginger beer in a glass over ice. Top with rum and admire the variations in color. Stir, swill, and talk like a pirate, matey.

Orange Crush Memories

Does a certain cocktail inspire memories of a terrific vacation or event? Drew Lazor’s article, “The Rise of Baltimore’s Orange Crush Cocktail” in Punch, brought us back to a delightful trip to Rehoboth and Baltimore a few years ago.

In a six day car trip, it was easy to combine beach and city in the Delaware/Maryland area. From Rehoboth, Delaware to the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula are miles of beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches. We stayed at the quaint Boardwalk Plaza Hotel in a room with a small balcony and ocean view.


Dogfish Head Brewery, based in Milton Delaware, also operates a brewpub in Rehoboth Beach where they offer their “off-centered ales for off-centered people” as well as a new line of 100% scratch-make spirits.

Beer sampler for me and Orange Crush for hubby.

A scenic drive across the peninsula, over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and through Annapolis gets you to Baltimore. Stop for lunch at “The Narrows” restaurant in Grasonville, Maryland, whose signature crab cakes make various “best of” lists every year.

Baltimore’s harbor area is scenic and safe with so much to do. Harbor boat tours, restaurants and bars, historic Fort McHenry.

Our favorite activity was our Charm City Food Tour of Federal Hill with David Kinder. He delivered historic information very eloquently as well as including plentiful and delicious food at four varied food establishments. Charm City set the bar so high that future food tours proved to be a letdown!

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

And so begins a sailor’s tale, torrents of rain and winds agale…

A few weeks ago we purchased ginger beer with the intention of making Dark and Stormy cocktails but after learning the importance of using Gosling’s Black Seal rum, I decided to put the idea on hold until we bought some.

In the US, the name “Dark ‘N Stormy” is a trademark of Gosling Brothers Ltd of Bermuda. Luckily, our local store carries Black Seal having read on Gosling’s website that it “has been one of the finest rums widely unavailable”. Black Seal’s unavailability led to much debate online about substituting another rum, so we’ll test a few from our liquor cabinet to see if anything we have on hand will prove to be an acceptable substitute.


I’ve assembled just about our entire rum collection, but since the Dark and Stormy recipe calls for dark rum, we’ll take the lighter rums out of the equation. We know from previous tastings, for example, that Depaz Rhum Agricole is probably too grassy and Appleton too oaky to mix with ginger beer in our Dark and Stormy cocktail.

Pouring five rum samples side by side, I’m surprised at how uniquely colored they are!


Black Seal neat is dry and smooth with notes of molasses and coffee. While Myers is similar in color, it tastes nothing like Black Seal. We’ve struggled with finding a use for Myers (other than rum cake) and found that its best purpose is to splash it on top of a Mai Tai or our rum sangria. So while Myer’s looks the part, its medicinal overtones make it a poor choice for the Dark and Stormy.

I picked two spiced rums, Kraken and Sailor Jerry, to compare with Black Seal. They both have much more spice flavor with Kraken presenting a vanilla essence and Sailor Jerry revealing caramel notes. In a recipe from Food Network called “Vanilla Dark and Stormy”, vanilla extract is added to the original recipe, and I imagine some of the vanilla spiced rums, including Captain Morgan, would work well in it. For my taste, vanilla and ginger don’t play well together.

It may be unfair to include the fourth rum candidate, Brugal Extra Viejo, because it’s also “widely unavailable” in the US. However, Brugal Anejo is well-distributed so we’ll call this one close enough. The Brugal is mellow and well-balanced and blends really well with the ginger beer. Although it would make a fine substitute for Black Seal, I hate to waste it by diluting it. Better to drink this rum neat or on a couple of rocks.

Thus far unsatisfied with the substitution aspect of our Dark and Stormy lab, I give the old standby, Bacardi Gold, a try. It’s not horrible. No major conflicts of flavor. But it’s lacking in all the subtleties that Black Seal added to the cocktail; burnt caramel, licorice, and the bitterness of coffee. The Dark and Stormy recipe seems to be one of those that brand does matter.


Dark and Stormy Recipe

  • 4 oz. Ginger Beer
  • 1.5 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
  • Lime wedge (optional, I liked it better without)

Pour the chilled ginger beer in a glass over ice. Top with rum and admire the variations in color. Stir, swill, and talk like a pirate, matey.

Ararat Brandy, Winston Churchill, and Bob

In 2010 my brother-in-law married a British girl and their wedding gave us the opportunity to meet her family from across the pond. One thing we remember about her father, Bob, is that he talked about Winston Churchill and WWII. Churchill isn’t as well-known in the US, we might think of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instead. But Churchill is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century. As a boy growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, Bob admired Churchill, who lived until 1965.

Fast forward to 2015 and we are invited to Bob’s birthday party. How do you choose a gift for someone you don’t know very well? We’re watching “The Armenian Trail” episode of Booze Traveler while the question of a gift is percolating. Host Jack Maxwell visits the Yerevan Brandy Company in Armenia and while he is tasting, learns of the Churchill connection to Ararat Brandy. The story goes that Churchill developed a taste for Ararat when it was served by Stalin at the Yalta conference in February 1945. After the war, Stalin arranged for Churchill to be sent 400 bottles every year.

After a bit of research, there is no evidence to support the Churchill/Ararat connection, but the myth is so widely known that it still makes a great gift idea!

Ararat brandies have been around since 1887. The line includes 3 Stars, 5 Stars, Ani, Otborny, Akhtamar, Vaspurakan, and Nairi. We’re doing a tasting comparison with Ararat 5 Stars, Hennessy VS Cognac, Jacques Cardin VSOP Cognac, and E&J VSOP Brandy.


Of the four, Ararat has the most vanilla taste, while the Hennessy tends toward oaky. Both can be appreciated neat as well as mixed with Cointreau in a Sidecar cocktail. Jacques Cardin, a moderately priced cognac, is best when sipped in a brandy snifter to enhance the nice nutty nose, and toasted, spicy flavor. Mixing Cointreau or other triple sec with JC creates an unpleasant aftertaste so it’s not our cognac or brandy of choice for a Sidecar. E&J is a lower priced brandy with a sweet caramel flavor. There isn’t much complexity to it when sipped neat, but it works well with a syrup-y triple sec like Hiram Walker, especially if you like the sugar level of a mixed drink bumped up a notch. (Tasting notes with Hennessy and different triple sec can be found in my Sidecar Drink Lab post.)

In retrospect, Remy Martin would have been a valuable addition for our cognac and brandy tasting so expect an update after our next trip to the liquor store!

May 20, 2016 Update:

Not long after this post we tried a bottle of Remy Martin V.S.O.P. and have been drinking it ever since. It became our cognac of choice for a premium Sidecar.

Premium Sidecar Recipe (makes 2 drinks)

  • 4 oz. Remy Martin V.S.O.P.
  • 2 oz. Cointreau
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. simple syrup

We tasted each of the brandies neat to verify and update our tasting notes. Jacques Cardin is full of toasted nuts and oak on the nose but loses out on the finish when the flavor turns to an alcoholic burn. Impressions of Hennessey and Ararat were about the same as our last tasting, Henny being oaky with a few caramel notes, and Ararat showing the most vanilla. It wouldn’t surprise me if the sweet caramel taste in E&J is added flavoring.

The star is Remy Martin. Now we know why it’s the most popularly stolen item in a liquor store. The nose has aromas of oak and fruit. The palate is well-balanced with oak, raisins, vanilla, spices and roasted nuts. Remy has a long smooth finish that demonstrates its dry champagne origins.