Bar Review: Teleféric Barcelona Restaurant, Walnut Creek, California

Teleféric Barcelona
Teleféric has three bars/restaurants in Spain. The one we visited in Walnut Creek, California is their first venture in the United States, having opened in January 2017. Their menu is filled with dishes from Barcelona, created by chefs from Spain. The pricing is a bit high, but worth it for a special luxury meal such as an anniversary or birthday dinner. What first drew our attention to this restaurant is a peek at their signature sangrias. They graciously gave us a recipe to share with you.

Everything done at Teleféric Barcelona is done with flair, from the friendly and talkative staff to elaborate garnishes on food and drink abound. First we were offered appetizers from a cart. In Spain they are called pinchos, meaning ‘little bites.’ The best of these was a chorizo bite. It was sweet and paired with a nice crema-like cheese and a pepper which we expected to be hot but was pleasant instead.

Pisco cart

To go with our pinchos, drinks were in order. First up was a cocktail called a Cortez, Teleféric’s version of a Manhattan. It was surprising to find mezcal in it because we typically think of that with more Mexican dishes. The signature smokiness was there but not overwhelming. Other ingredients included Carpano Antica, maraschino liqueur, and flaming sweet orange. Very nice.

We also had a cocktail served alongside dessert called In Spanish Fashion. Its ingredients include Bulleit Rye whiskey, brandy, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, bitters, lemon, and hand cut ice. This was a pleasant combination of ingredients and a great end to a wonderful evening.

But sangria is really the main event here: Our host explained how every region of Spain has their own signature style of sangria. We decided to try Teleféric’s three sangrias with our meal. They were kind enough to bring us small tastes so we could try them all.

First was the white sangria called Sangria Ibiza. Its light bubbly and mild dry taste came from Verdejo Wine and Pisco from Peru. The slight sweetness is from the addition of elderflower liqueur, Licor 43, peaches, and pineapples.

Next up: A pink sangria called Barceloneta. Among its ingredients are prickly pear juice, lemonade, and a jumble of fresh fruits such as orange, blueberry, and raspberry. It came garnished with a small sprig of rosemary. Its taste was reminiscent of a Grenache wine.

The third, and our favorite, sangria was the Sangria Teleféric. Right off the mint from the garnish tickles the nose. This sangria was also garnished with a cinnamon stick, blueberries, and raspberries. The cinnamon gave the drink a nice spiciness to it.

We wanted to make it ourselves — here’s the recipe:Signature Sangrias

Sangria Teleféric
Spanish red wine
orange juice
apple juice
4 oranges (chunks)
4 ripe pears (chunks)
4 big cinnamon sticks
Brandy de Jerez “Solera”
Nolet’s gin

There aren’t measurements because you can make these in large or small batches and mix everything to taste. Mix all these ingredients , except the red wine. Then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. The purpose is to obtain a balanced and unique flavor so neither the gin nor brandy will be overpowering. Throughout these 24 hours the pears and oranges release their flavors enhancing the fruity, but not too sweet flavors. Once the mix is ready, combine it with red wine. Let it rest for another 24 hours so the wine can absorb the sweetness and flavor of the fruits. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, berries, and fresh mint sprig.

telefericbarcelona.com

Cocktails for Father’s Day 2017 – Plus Bourbon Balls!

Diablito

Dads deserve to kick back with an action flick (or whatever their preferred genre) and a cocktail made just for them. Give him a break from the honey-do list this Father’s Day with these ten cocktail choices. And hey, we didn’t forget his sweet tooth either. Let’s say it together: “Bourbon Balls!”

Let’s start with a martini for the James Bond fans among our dads.

Golden Hour
created by Edwin Medina, No 8
2 parts elit Vodka
1 part Contratto Vermouth Bianco
¼ part Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 dashes of orange bitters
absinthe spray
edible gold flake garnish

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass that has been sprayed (or coated like a rinse) with absinthe. Garnish with edible gold flakes.

Diablito
courtesy of El Sapo, Austin, TX
1 1/2 oz. pineapple habanero infused El Jimador Reposado
1/2 oz. Juanita’s Homemade Chamoy (see below)
1 oz triple sec
1/4 oz. orange juice
1/2 oz. hand-squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. agave simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in mixing tin with ice. Shake and strain over 2 X 2 inch ice cube into 8.5 oz mason jar rimmed with El Chile Group chile salt rim. Garnish with dried, chile spiced mango slices (horns) on either side of glass.

Homemade Chamoy
by Steve Cylka
2-3 morita or ancho chiles
1 cup apricot jam
1/2 cup lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Soak the dried chile peppers in warm water for about 30 minutes. Once soft, remove the stems and the seeds. Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until very smooth. Serve as a dip for fruit and vegetables or as a glaze or barbecue sauce for meat.

Drambuie Elixir 
¾ part Drambuie
¾ part Milagro tequila
¾ part pink grapefruit
¾ part strong brewed coffee

Build into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a grapefruit twist and serve.

Man CandyMan Candy
from Cedar Grove bar in Dallas, TX
1 oz. Slow & Low Rock and Rye
1 oz. house brandy
1 oz. mint infused 1:1 simple syrup
Jamaican rum.

Add mint syrup, Slow and Low, and brandy, to a rocks glass with crushed ice. Give it a quick stir. Top off with additional crushed ice and spritz the top with several sprays of Jamaican rum. Garnish with a healthy sprig of mint.

Tequila and Absinthe Cocktail
courtesy of The Bone House in Guadalajara
2 oz. Herradura Ultra tequila
½ oz. agave nectar
½ oz. absinthe
lemon twist for garnish

Put all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Give it a good shake and then pour everything into a rocks glass. Garnish with the lemon twist before serving.

Nikolaschka
from Cocktail Recipe World
1 ½ oz. cognac
1 peeled lemon disk
1 tsp. powdered coffee sugar
1 tsp. powdered coffee

Pour the cognac in a brandy snifter or the short-stemmed glass and cover the top of the glass with the lemon disk. Place the powdered coffee on one half of the disk and the powdered sugar on the other half. No garnish is needed because of the lemon disk. The way to drink this is to eat the lemon disk—coffee an sugar included. Then drink the brandy. The flavor of the cognac will be enhanced by the sweet and sour combination of the lemon disk. This is recommended as an after dinner cocktail.

Lions TailLion’s Tale
recommended by CJ at Catelli’s
2 oz. bourbon
¾ oz. pimento (allspice) dram
½ oz. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. gomme syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice, and strain into a cocktail or coupe glass.

The Layover
courtesy of Cork and Plough restaurant
2 oz. Jameson Caskmates whiskey
¼ oz. Dubonnet
¼ oz. Agwa de Bolivia
2 dashes Angostura bitters
¼ oz. absinthe

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake 20 seconds, then strain into a tumbler with ice. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Mai Tai UnigroniMai Tai Unigroni
created by Josh Campbell at Leyenda, NYC
3/4 oz. Campari
1 1/4 oz. Appleton Reserve
1/2 oz. Cinzano Bianco
1/2 oz. Cinzano 1757
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 oz. Bonita Biz (a mix of mango, coconut, vanilla, and yogurt)
¼ oz. red wine
Butterfly Pea tea glitter ice

Ahead of time, brew two bags of Butterfly Pea tea. Let cool; then add edible glitter and pour into ice cube trays.

Build ingredients in a shaker tin, and fill shaker with ice. Hard shake and double strain into a rocks glass filled with Butterfly Pea tea/glitter ice cubes. Float red wine on top and garnish with mint sprig.

Sugar East PistacioPistachio Cocktail
inspired by Sugar East Lounge
1 oz. Royal Elite vodka
1 shot pistachio orgeat (see below)
1 oz. matcha tea
lime wedge
nutmeg

Put all ingredients except the lime and nutmeg into a shaker. Shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze lime juice into the cocktail and then toss the lime wedge in. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top to garnish. Note: you can rim the glass with sugar if you like.

Pistachio Orgeat
recipe by Imbibe Magazine
3 cups near-boiling water
7 oz. shelled, unsalted pistachios
2¼ cups granulated sugar
xanthan gum (optional, see note)
Ticaloid 210s (optional, see note)

In a blender, combine the water and pistachios; blend on high for 2 full minutes—the longer you blend, the more refined your finished syrup will be. Turn on a food scale; place the quart jar on the scale and zero it out. Fine-strain the nut mixture through a nut-milk bag or a fine- mesh strainer lined with multiple layers of cheesecloth into the jar on the scale and record weight. For every 500 grams of liquid, add 1.75 grams of Ticaloid 210s and .2 grams xanthan gum (stabilizer) to the nut milk and blend on high for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and blend again for an additional minute. Pour into a glass jar, cap, and keep refrigerated for up to 1 month. Makes 1 quart.

Note about Xanthan and Ticaloid: Together, these two powders work to create a smooth emulsification that keeps solids suspended and the syrup from separating. That said, they’re completely optional. If you decide to omit them, just be sure to shake the orgeat before each use.

Most dads love bourbon and chocolate, don’t they? Here’s an easy to make bourbon ball that everyone will love. Make two batches, so Dad doesn’t have to share his.

Bourbon BallsClassic Vanilla Bourbon Balls
courtesy of Maker’s Mark
1/2 cup Maker’s Mark bourbon
9 oz. shortbread cookies
1/2 cup of pecans, toasted
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup white chocolate chips

In a food processor, finely grind the shortbread. You should have 2 cups of crumbs. Add the pecans and  confectioners sugar and pulse until the nuts are chopped. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a small sauce pan, bring the bourbon to a boil. Re move from the h at and add ¾ cup white chocolate chips. Stir until smooth. Pour into the pecan mixture and stir until well-combined. Form into sixteen 1 1/2-inch balls.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips in a resealable plastic bag. Microwave in 20-second increments until melted, squeezing the chocolate in the bag to evenly melt. Snip a small hole in one corner and drizzle the chocolate onto the balls. Refrigerate in an airtight container until firm, at least 2 hours. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Making Cocktails with Fizzy Tickle Water

Tickle Water
We’ve all heard the jokes about wine being referred to as “Mommy’s juice.” Today, we’re bringing you a way to “adult” Tickle Water with cocktails to give your Mommy’s juice a sparkly spin.

Tickle Water is a carbonated beverage which is flavored naturally; it has no sugars or other preservatives. The label shows zero carbohydrates, calories, or sodium. It comes in five types: unflavored, green apple, watermelon, cola, and grape. The flavors are all very light, they don’t overpower your senses. We rate them all a B+. Cost is about $1.50 per 8 oz can.

Although Tickle Water is marketed as a kid’s beverage, don’t let that deter you from using it in adult cocktails. Right off it’s easy to say, “Hey, watermelon sounds like a margarita.” Or, “Unflavored makes as gin and tonic.” While those are true, we wanted something more. Here are several cocktail recipes we created with Tickle Water — with . But note, these are not sweet like a flavored soda. If you like your cocktails on the sweet side, then add simple syrup to give them more sweetness.

First is a Stengah, which comes from Britain and was popular in the early 20th century. Traditionally made from whiskey and soda water, we used the green apple Tickle Water for a nice effect. The recipe is pretty easy, too.

StengahStengah
2 oz. whiskey
2 oz. green apple Tickle Water

Pour both ingredients over ice in a highball glass.

This next cocktail is an original we’re calling a Watermelon Tickle.

Watermelon Tickle
3 oz. watermelon Tickle Water
1 ½ oz. pineapple rum
1 oz. coconut rum
3 oz. cranberry juice
½ oz. ginger simple syrup

Shake everything except the Tickle Water with ice. Pour into a tall glass with ice and serve. Who needs a garnish with something this yummy? If you really need one, then use a slice of candied ginger on a skewer.

Flowers and Fruits Refresher
4 oz. grape Tickle Water
2 oz. raspberry vodka
½ oz. crème de cassis
½ oz. crème de violet
3 dashes lavender bitters

Add all ingredients to a tea glass and gently stir. Add ice. Garnish with seedless red grapes.

Fluffy Duck
courtesy of 1001 Cocktails
1 oz. advocaat liqueur (see below)
1 oz. crème de cacao
1 oz. natural Tickle Water

Pour the crème de cacao into a chilled margarita glass one quarter filled with crushed ice. Next add the advocaat . Top off with the Tickle Water and serve. No garnish is necessary.

Note: We know advocaat is more commonly found around the winter holidays but don’t let that stop you. Here is the recipe we used to make our own.

Fluffy DuckAdvocaat
10 eggs
1 ½ cups brandy
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. You won’t use the whites so feel free to use them for something else. Add the vanilla, salt, and sugar in a medium sized pot. Whisk well and then add the brandy slowly. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly to prevent the eggs from forming clumps. Once the mixture coats the back of your spoon, then remove the pot from the heat.

Fill a large bowl half way with ice and water. Set the hot pot in the ice bath to let it cool. Once cool, strain out any lumps and pour the remaining liquid into a bottle. Refrigerate before use. It should keep for a couple of weeks.

The Dutch and Germans like to put advocaat atop their ice cream and on pancakes, as well as use it in cocktails.

drinkticklewater.com

Review: Lavazza Coffees – Santa Marta, Kilimanjaro, and Intenso

With coffee cocktails all the rage now, having a good cup of java as the base for a great drink is more important than ever. Lavazza’s two single origin coffees and its Intenso dark roast all bring something different to the table, and each will make a great base for a different style of coffee cocktail.

Lavazza Santa Marta – A single origin Colombian coffee from the oldest coffee growing region in the country, Santa Marta has a subtle smoky flavor, evocative of slightly burned sugar or burned toast. This coffee has a very nice acidity and balance and a smooth mouthfeel with nuts and caramel in the finish with very little bitterness. This coffee would be a great mate for bourbon, bonded whiskey, or Scotch, because it has the body and the sweetness to create a great balance between the spirit and the coffee. B+

Lavazza Kilimanjaro – Another single origin coffee, this time from high in the mountains of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. The coffee has a balanced fruit undertone, with notes of cherry and blackberry. There is a slight sweetness to the coffee which compliments the acidity of the berry flavor. This coffee is extremely smooth and flavorful, and because of the inherent fruitiness, this coffee will work very well with rum-based coffee cocktails. B+

Lavazza Intenso  The darkest roast of the three, Intenso is a traditional Italian dark roast coffee. With unmistakable notes of dark chocolate, this well-crafted coffee has a wonderful mouthfeel. Underneath the chocolate is just a hint of oak, making for a complex yet thoroughly enjoyable cup of coffee. A great use of this coffee would be a brunch cocktail made with limoncello instead of a Bloody Mary or Mimosa… such as the one below. A

each $10 per 12 oz bag / lavazza.com

How about one of those new coffee cocktails, then?

The Coffeecello
6 oz cup of Intenso
1 oz Limoncello
1 sugar cube (optional)
Ice as needed

While the coffee is still hot, dissolve a single sugar cube in the coffee if desired.  Once the coffee is room temperature, put coffee and limoncello in a cocktail shaker, mix and pour over ice. Garnish the glass with a zest of lemon or a sugared rim.

Cupping Coffee with Intelligentsia

Intelligencia Coffee
There is no scent warmer and more inviting than that of coffee beans roasting. The moment we stepped through Intelligentsia’s front door, all traffic woes were forgotten in favor of a good mood. We knew the afternoon would only get better. We walked past huge bags of newly roasted coffee beans and paused a moment before an enormous roasting machine with its large paddles for stirring the beans as they roast.

Large roaster machineHave you ever experienced cupping coffee? During our visit to Intelligentsia Coffee’s San Francisco facility, we learned how to perform this delightful ritual used by coffee roasters to determine the quality of their newly roasted coffee beans. There are elements each bean is rated upon with regards to types of aromas and initial flavor profiles. We discovered that each roaster has their own proprietary checklist they work from.

Cupping coffee — a tasting system that involves a significant amount of protocol — isn’t quick and there’s a specific way to sip the coffee from the spoon. Loud slurp noises are acceptable! However, it is worth the time because fine beverages meant to be savored — including coffee.

For cupping, the first thing you do is lean over the cup to take in the aromas. You can use your hand to wave the scents toward your face. Aromas range from floral to leguminous; the goal is to identify additional scents, such as botanicals, floral, or citrus.

Next you sip the coffee and determine the following factors:

  • Taste – There are sixteen types of taste descriptors, ranging from acrid to delicate; then from soft to creosol. Elements like saltiness and bitterness levels are notated on a checklist.
  • Sweetness – How prevalent or how missing sweet notes are present in the brew. The type of sweetness can vary as well; honey-like or sugary or syrupy if overdone.
  • Acidity – Varying types of acidity can enhance a coffee’s flavor or add to bitterness. Acidity ranges from lactic to acerbic with the harshest being kerosene like.
  • Complexity – Complexity involves the balance of the flavors present in a cup and whether elements in the flavor profile complement one another or compete, creating odd or negative tastes.
  • Aftertaste – This is typically used to describe negative tastes at the end of a beverage. While it is often a sign of something wrong with the bean or during the roasting, it can be a pleasant association as well.

A Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel put out by the Specialty Coffee Association shows all the common elements to look for.

Our host, Mark Cunningham explained how any coffee is at its finest during the cupping and that it will never be better than at that moment. He told us that a good coffee will still taste good after it’s gone cold, but lesser quality coffees get bitter and harsh.

Our cupping completed, we came back to our coffee after touring the roasting floor to discover the truth in his statement. The cups of varying roasts tasted just as amazing as when we first sipped from the spoon. The big chain coffees’ burnt-tasting dark roasts are no longer palpable. Strong doesn’t need to be bitter or charred; in fact, it is much better when it isn’t.

Cupping RitualIntelligentsia also offers a variety of artisan teas called tisanes. We sampled two of them at the cupping. Both were wonderful blends of tea, spices, and botanicals such as cardamom, rose hips, and turmeric. They are expanding in the tea area by continuing to produce new blends.

Just how does Intelligentsia obtain their high quality coffees? By working with small, family owned coffee bean farmers around the world. Their buyers are very hands-on in their search for the best beans to purchase, taking the time necessary to visit the farms and sample the raw product. With the climate and soil compositions determining the flavors of the coffee after roasting, this is an important step. It makes sense when you realize that beans mature at different times of the year, depending upon where in the world the plants are growing. One thing Intelligentsia insists on are beans properly matured on the plant before harvesting. We liken that to the taste difference between garden grown tomatoes and those picked early and expected to ripen on the way to the grocery store. Most fruits and vegetables stop ripening once harvested so their flavors aren’t robust as those garden grown. Coffee beans wouldn’t be any different.

Just recently opened to the public (previously their clients were bars and restaurants), Intelligentsia has red coffee trucks which make appearances around town in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Follow them on Twitter to find out where you can catch them. They also recently opened a monthly coffee subscription service. Additionally, Intelligentsia offers classes on brewing for barista training.

In closing, we learned that Two Sisters Bar and Books in San Francisco created a couple of cocktails featuring Intelligentsia coffee. They were kind enough to share those recipes with us. We made them with the Intelligentsia coffees and found them both to be amazing cocktails. Give them a try and let us know what you think.

The Bluegrass BuzzThe Bluegrass Buzz
created by Mikha Diaz for Two Sisters Bar and Books
3 oz. Intelligensia Cold Brew from cold brew concentrate (diluted at a 6:1 ratio)
1 1/2 oz. Old Forester 86 bourbon
1/2 oz. brown sugar simple syrup (equal parts brown sugar, gently packed, and boiling water; stir to combine)
lightly whipped heavy cream

Combine cold brew, bourbon and brown sugar simple syrup in a small tin or pint glass. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into a small rocks glass. Top with 2-3 tablespoons of lightly whipped cream.

The Sharp Shooter
created by Kathryn Kulczyk for Two Sisters Bar and Books
1 1/2 oz. Cold Brew Cognac (4 oz. El Diablo blend, ground for cone drip filter, infused into 750 ml. Maison Rouge 100 proof cognac)
3/4 oz. Ancho Reyes liqueur
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica vermouth
3 hard dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

Combine cognac, liqueur, and vermouth in a small tin or pint glass. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into a small rocks glass. Top with three whole coffee beans.

intelligentsiacoffee.com

Memorial Day Cocktails, 2017

Spiked Cherry Lemonade Slushies
If you’re like us, this long Memorial Day holiday weekend is much anticipated. We want to kick off this holiday of remembrance and thankfulness with a set of cocktails to serve your veterans and those who honor them. What are cocktails without food to serve alongside? We’re sharing a chicken and chorizo dish you can cook indoors or out. Now, on with the drinks!

Playa Fortuna
created by Ryan Wainwright
1 1/2 parts Bacardi Superior
3/4 part lime juice
3/4 part coconut cordial (equal parts of coconut water and sugar)
1/4 part Falernum
4 drops tartaric acid (1 part cream of tartar and 5 parts water)
edible flower for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with an edible flower and serve.

Rose Basil MartiniRose Basil Seed Martini
The original Strawberry Basil Martini recipe came from foodandwine.com. However, we discovered a rose basil seed drink at a convenience store which also sells Indian food items and decided to give it a shot. The drink is sweetened so the simple syrup is intentionally omitted.
3 strawberries plus one slice to use as a garnish
3 fresh basil leaves
1 oz. gin (We used Brockman’s)
1 oz. vodka
2 oz. Rose Basil Seed beverage (you can add more if you want a stronger rose taste)
½ oz. fresh lemon juice

Put the strawberries and basil leaves in a cocktail shaker and muddle them. Add ice, gin, vodka, and lemon juice; then shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with the Rose Basil beverage, garnish with the strawberry slice, and serve.

Spiked Cherry Lemonade Slushies
2 oz. Blue Ice Vodka
1 tsp. Crystal Light Lemonade mix
1/2 tsp cherry syrup
3/4 cups water
1 cup ice
maraschino cherries

Add all ingredients , except the cherries, into a blender and blend until the drink has a smooth and slushy texture. Pour into 2 glasses. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Auchentoshan Berry White
1 1/2 parts Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky
1/4 part fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 parts Shrub & Co. Strawberry w/ Meyer Lemon Shrub
3 1.2 parts Belgian witbier (wheat beer)
4 dashes rhubarb bitters

Build the drink in tall glass with ice. Then fill the remaining space with Belgian wheat beer. Garnish with a lemon peel before serving.

Laphroaig Back Yard CollinsLaphroaig® Back Yard Collins
recipe by Ivy Mix, NYC
1 1/2 parts Laphroaig Select
3/4 part Cherry Heering Liqueur
3/4 part lemon juice
1/2 part orange juice
1/2 part vanilla syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 vanilla bean split open; boil together and cool before using)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
light lager beer
lemon wheel (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients except the lager in a cocktail shaker; shake and strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Next, top with the beer and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Banana Beach
created by mixologist, Jane Danger
3 oz. Baileys Almande
2 oz. coconut puree
1/2 oz. agave syrup
1 1/2 ripe bananas
banana slices and grated nutmeg for garnish

Combine Baileys Almande, coconut puree, agave syrup, bananas, and ice into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour the contents into a tall glass. Garnish with banana slices and freshly grated nutmeg.

Svedka's Imperial BlueSvedka’s Imperial Blue
1 1/2 parts Svedka Blue Raspberry Vodka
1 1/2 parts black tea
3/4 part fresh lime juice
3/4 part simple syrup
1 part sparkling wine
3 raspberries

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the raspberries. Then combine with the remaining ingredients, except for the sparkling wine. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Top with sparkling wine and stir. Garnish with raspberries and loose black tea.

Modelo Summer Crusher
cocktail by Betsy Maher and Austin Hartman, New York
12 oz. Modelo Especial
1 1/2 oz. strawberry chipotle syrup (recipe below)
1 oz. blanco tequila
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
Modelo Summer Crushersalt
ground chipotle
1 strawberry for garnish

Rim a mason jar with salt and ground chipotle pepper mixture about half an inch down the jar. Fill the jar to the top with crushed ice. Combine tequila, strawberry chipotle syrup, and fresh lime juice into a shaker with ice. Shake 18-20 times. Strain over the crushed ice and top with Modelo Especial. Garnish with a strawberry.

To make Strawberry Chipotle Syrup
12-15 medium to large strawberries
3 cups of water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground chipotle

Boil the water and add ground chipotle. Blend strawberries in a blender. Lower the water temperature and add the strawberry mixture. Let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off heat, add sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Let cool before using.

Cool Mule
1.5 parts Three Olives Cucumber Lime Vodka
.75 parts lime juice
.75 parts simple syrup
3 cucumber slices
10 mint sprigs
ginger beer

In a mule mug, muddle cucumber and mint. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and shake well. Pour into the mug and top with ginger beer. Use a cucumber slice or lime wheel to garnish. Serve!

Sweet and Smoky
We took a typical mezcal cocktail and changed it up.
3 oz. mezcal
1/2 oz. agave nectar
3 dashes Orleans bitters
2 maraschino cherries plus 1 Tbsp. syrup from the jar.
ginger ale

Place the two cherries inside a rocks glass. Then combine all remaining ingredients except the ginger ale in a shaker glass with ice. Shake well to thoroughly mix in the agave nectar. Strain into the glass and top with ginger ale. Note: if this is too sweet for your tastes, add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice.

Many of us fire up the grill for the first time of the year on Memorial Day weekend. Use an iron skillet with a lid or an iron Dutch Oven to roast this chicken dish on the grill. If your grill has three burners, light the outer two and place the skillet on the unlit center portion. Then you can sit back and enjoy your cocktails while it cooks.

Basque Roast ChickenBasque Roast Chicken
original recipe courtesy of Canadian Living.com; of course we put our own spin on it.
3 sweet red peppers, halved and cored
1 sweet onion, thickly sliced
1 28 oz. can of stewed tomatoes, drained (use whole tomatoes if you like your meal chunky)
5 oz. cured chorizo sausages, cut in chunks (We had problems finding chorizo in sausage form so used what was available. It worked but the chorizo blended in with the tomato sauce more than it should have; the taste certainly didn’t suffer.)
10 cloves garlic
¼ cup mezcal
8 small chicken breast pieces (half-breasts, thighs or drumsticks)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

On the grill, roast the red peppers, cut side down, until blackened. Let cool enough to handle. Peel off blackened skins and slice into strips. Then put the peppers, onion, tomatoes, chorizo, garlic, and mezcal into the skillet.

Toss chicken with oil to coat. Combine thyme, salt, sweet and smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper; rub all over chicken. Place on top of the vegetable mixture in the pan.

Cover with the lid and roast for about 45 minutes. If you prefer to cook this in an oven, then bake for the same amount of time at 450°F. Serve with flour tortillas.

Review: Winc Wine Club

Winc subscription box wines
Winc is a monthly wine club from Northern California that, like most, works via an online subscription service. We had the opportunity to give them a try and were fairly impressed with the offering.

First, a bit about Winc. When you first sign up, you are asked several questions to determine your “Palate Profile.” They ask about how you like your coffee; your salt and citrus preferences; how much you like berry and earthy flavors; and how adventurous you are with trying new foods. The wine recommendations sent are based upon these questions. Most of their wines are around $13 a bottle but can be as much as $35. Rate the wines you get and you’ll improve the next set of recommendations. If you don’t want any wine this month, you can skip it.

A basic subscription includes three bottles plus a flat rate shipping. We received four bottles and a copy of the Winc Journal. The journal is particularly interesting. This one contained articles on terroir and an interview with winemaker Markus Bokisch. The journal talks about their featured wines with food pairing suggestions and rates the wines with regards to body, fruit, woodiness, earthiness, and sweetness.

Inside the journal are also cocktail recipes, using wines from your subscription box. Of our four, two were featured in cocktails in the journal and so we gave them a try as well. (See below.)

But first, on with the wines.

First up is 2015 Forma di Vida Graciano, a Spanish style red wine. Light on the sweetness, this wine has fruit flavors like dark cherry and plum. If you like your wine with lots of body, you’ll want to try this one, though it may be too heavy for people who don’t like strong flavors like we do. A / $13Summer Water cocktails

Next, we have 2016 Summer Water Rosé, which is aptly named as it is so light the alcohol content is barely noticeable. The cocktail included using Summer Water would be nice for the warmest summer days ahead. It gives the impression it would be right at home poolside. B / $15

Summer Water Shim
½ oz. fresh tangerine juice
1 ½ oz. Jardesca or Lillet Blanc
3 oz. Summer Water
1 fresh Bay Leaf

Chill the cocktail glass. Fill a shaker with ice and pour in the tangerine juice and Jardesca. Shake until the shaker feels frosty to the touch. Then strain into the glass and top with Summer water. Garnish with a Bay Leaf before serving.

Our third wine is 2015 Field Theory Abariño, a white wine from Andrus Island Vineyard. This one is extremely fruity and a touch sweet, but not overly so. It might be a favorite of the ladies. B /$18Finkes Widow cocktails

The fourth wine is 2016 Finke’s Widow Sparkling White Blend. A little sweeter than the Field Theory, it has a slight earthy undertone (like mushrooms) which gives way to the fizziness. B- / $13

Avocado-Do Slushy
¼ avocado
1 oz. shiso syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice
¼ oz. fresh cucumber juice
4 oz. Finke’s Widow
2 shiso leaves

Shiso is Japanese basil but has a mixture of basil, anise, and mint flavors with grassy elements. You can substitute fresh mint if need be.

This recipe called for cucumber juice in the ingredients but coconut juice in the instructions. We chose to make it with the cucumber and adjusted the instructions. You could probably substitute coconut instead.

Puree a cucumber in a blender and then strain to extract the juice. Then combine all the other ingredients, except the shiso leaves, with the juice and stir. Pour into a medium sized glass and garnish with the leaves.

Negroni Spritz
3 oz. Finke’s Widow
2 oz. Campari
splash of soda
1 orange slice

Fill a rocks glass with ice, along with the orange slice. Pour the Campari and sparkling wine into the glass and top with a dash of soda. Mix gently before serving.

Winc’s website includes a recipes section for great food to serve with your wine. Here’s one example:

Garganelli with Lobster and Caramelized Fennel PureeGarganelli with Lobster and Caramelized Fennel Purée
serves 4
1 lb Garganelli pasta
1 1/2 pounds of lobster meat
salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. red chili flakes
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup white wine
¼ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¾ cup toasted slivered almonds
4 Tbsp. butter
½ cup torn basil leaves
lemon zest

Find a pot that is large enough to fit two live lobsters and fill it with water. Set the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Lightly salt the water. Add the lobsters to the pot, reduce the heat so that the water is gently simmering, and cook for 7 minutes.

Remove the lobsters and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Extract the meat from the lobsters—kitchen shears work great for this task. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Store the lobster meat in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the olive oil and the red chili flakes. Wait one minute while the skillet gets hot, and then add the onions. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the fennel. Season with salt. When the fennel begins to soften, turn the heat down to low.

Slowly caramelize the fennel and onion, transforming them into something very soft and sweet. When the vegetables are sufficiently caramelized, add the garlic and the white wine; increase the heat, and cook until the wine has almost entirely evaporated. Add the heavy cream and cook until the cream has partially reduced.

Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender and add the lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Add scant amounts of water if the puree is too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. If you want, you can store this puree in the refrigerator for a day or two ahead of time before completing this dish.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, except under cook the pasta by one or two minutes. While the pasta is cooking, set a large skillet over medium heat and add the fennel puree, stirring occasionally.

When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the skillet with the fennel puree, making sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water. Add a little of the pasta water to the skillet and stir. Add the butter and the lobster. If you know how to flip the pasta in skillet with your wrist, do that now. Otherwise, keep stirring. Add the almonds and basil. If the pasta looks too dry, add more of the pasta water.

Taste the pasta while it is still in the skillet and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Before serving, garnish the pasta with lemon zest.

winc.com

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