Tag Archives: wine

Red, White and, um, Sangria?

It’s summer.  We’re lazy. As my late best friend Ian Hartman once wrote, “I feel the urge to sleep even as I write this.”   And as Alice Cooper said, “We can’t even think of a word that rhymes,” as you saw from the headline. This is a lazy column too, a couple hundred words compared to the usual [long] length. Hey, I want to go home, too.

So it makes sense that in summer, the fancy craft cocktails we carefully concoct with skill and measuring equipment and fancy ingredients give way to something…easier. And the easiest way to avoid repeat trips to the bar is to a) give your guests “a choice of one” and b) batch up some stuff. Bloodies. Sun tea. Or, a pitcher of sangria.


Our friends over and Bow and Truss in North Hollywood are totally on board the craft cocktail train and at one time had a host of cocktails made with Spanish sherry, many of them served in cute little Marie Antoinette glasses: coupes modeled, legend has it, on the shape of the queen’s breasts—possibly giving rise to the adage, “anything more than a cupful or a handful is wasted.” We lament the loss of the Spanish-themed drinks menu but they still move a lot of this stuff out on their raked sand patio in the long afternoons of air light they’re enjoying now. If circumstances prevent an in-person visit, Bow and Truss’ sangria is a cinch to make at home.


Red Sangria 

1 750ml bottle malbec

1/2 cup Spanish brandy

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup simple syrup

sliced apples, oranges, and lemons (vary with season e.g. stone fruits add nicely in late summer)

Mix all ingredients. While the sliced fruits look best freshly sliced, they TASTE best after they’d infused the mixture for a while.


White Sangria

1 750ml bottle Chardonnay

1/2 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup orange liqueur

3oz fresh lemon juice

3oz fresh orange juice

1/4 cup simple syrup

Mix all ingredients and add fruits and let stand for an hour.

Fruits change with seasons but this batch was made with lemons, apples and oranges; throw in a few strawberries for color contrast!

Each makes one big pitcher. Serves from 2 to 6 people.

Have at it! Summer Friday!

PS and if you can, and happen to have a lot of money, check out our friend Ian Blackburn’s Laftite Wine Dinner at Josie Santa Monica in July 17.


We can’t make it because a) we can’t afford it and b) we will be downtown watching Chop and Quench at Grand Performances…it’s FREE.



O Canada!

It’s no secret. I love Canada.

Canada is like a whole country full of Chicagoans: hearty, super friendly, polite people who always make visitors feel like they want them to move here. And like Chicagoans, Canadians are hiding a very dark secret: winter. Visitors to Toronto during, TIFF, the film Festival, are beguiled by generally balmy weather, significant architecture (though they seem to be racing to erase it), an international culture and outlook, and Tim Hortons coffee. But chat up a native for long and they reveal that for months of the year, Toronto is bitterly cold and inhospitable; my Serbian transplant colleague Sonja said she preferred the winters in Belgrade or even Sarajevo. Winters like that, you could use a drink!

Canada has had thirteen more years than the US to develop its drinks culture, having skipped the years we Americans devoted to the great social experiment of Prohibition. Whole some brands are ubiquitous the world over—like Absolut—some international brands do seem to invest in the Canadian market more than the US’s for one reason or another. For example, Grolsch beer, which is pretty rare in the US after being quite popular in the 70’s and 80’s, is huge here, with as much visibility as Heineken as the official beer of TIFF. It’s so handy too, with the re-closable ceramic “swing top” bottle. At bars and events bartenders put it in chilled flat two-case bins right on the bar, so that guests wanting a beer can just…take one, leaving the bartender to sling cocktails and wine. They wouldn’t dream of self-serve beer at a fancy drinks party in the States.

Another case in point is Scotch. As huge rye whiskey producers, you wouldn’t think Scotch would make huge inroads into the Canadian market. I figure Americans only developed a taste for rye during Prohibition, when it was what was available smuggled into New York and New Jersey, Boardwalk Empire style. My mother’s lifelong drink of choice—Seagram’s V.O.— (She’s since gone down-market to Windsor Canadian) was about as appealing to me as her cigarettes (Carltons). She could safely leave the kids at home knowing with confidence we wouldn’t ever dip into either of these.

But Johnny Walker Scotch Whisky, available in only red and black label varieties in 90% of US bars, does a brisk business in both gold and blue labels in Canada. And at AMC Storys, the gorgeous four story (er, storey)1810 post-and-beam building downtown we’re lucky enough to take over each TIFF, these two varieties were de rigeur and skillfully mixed.

Now I know when you think of a specialty cocktail, if you’re like me, the first ingredient that comes to mind is beets. Johnny Walker had mixed up a huge batch of this stuff to serve at Storys and one glass and I was hooked. Two glasses and I was flopping on the floor of the boat. Three glasses and I was gutted and filleted on the premises. I was getting up to thinking about putting beets in a Bloody Mary. But let’s stick to the matter at hand. Try this at home!


One bottle Johnny Walker Gold
8 liters beet juice
Juice of 10-12 lemons
Maybe 300-500 ml Bianco Vermouth
Simple syrup to taste

Serves 20. That’s it. If you want to go beet overboard, you can freeze beet juice for beet cubes. If not, freeze the biggest ice cubes you can make.

* * *

Then on to the “Holiday 2013 Buying Show” née New York Bar Show at the Javits Center (http://holidaybarbuyingshow.com). They held their annual cocktail competition–yes the one I talk about all the time. This year, my friend Arthur Shapiro from Soyombo Mongolian Vodka hosted it http://www.mongolianvodkas.com/soyombo/. Shapiro, as former boss of Seagram North America Marketing, knows what the heck he’s talking about, seeing as he was in charge of Absolut when it was under Seagram’s aegis. So if he says the next big thing is Mongolian vodka, we should put aside our natural skepticism and believe him. He’s also the publisher of the respected spirits blog Booze Business.

Voila! Here are the winners, their drinks and prize money.

Dimitrius Zahariadis, a Connecticut-based mixologist called The Cocktail Chemist, took first place and a whopping $2,000 prize for Alexander Meets Genghis.


• Soyombo Vodka
• Honey fig syrup
• Mastiha tincture
• Fresh lemon
• Egg white
• Fee Brothers walnut bitters
James Menite the leading bartender at John DeLucie’s Crown in Manhattan, took second place and $750 with his Dynasty Digestif.
• 1.5.oz. Soyombo Mongolian vodka
• .75 oz. Galliano Ristretto liquor
• .25 oz. Fresh Meyer lemon juice
• 1 egg white
• Rinse of Auchentosen Three Wood single malt scotch
Glass: Chilled coupe/ coupette
Garnish: Shaved chocolate and 3 espresso beans
Vincenzo Cangemi, with Ovest Pizzoteca in Chelsea, Manhattan, got third place and $250 for the Ulaanbaatar Sling.


• 8-10 Arugula leaves
• ½ oz. lime juice
• 2 spoons of Bonne Maman fig preserve
• ½ oz. Saliza Venetian Almond Liqueur
• 1 ½ oz. Soyombo vodka

Prep: Shake well and top up with Prosecco in a tall glass
Garnish: Arugula

Here are the lucky winners here: L-R, second place winner  James Menite , first place winner  Dimitrius Zahariadis    and third place winner  Vincenzo Cangemi, (credit) Remember Forever – Photographer: Luke Ballard


Finally, if you want to know the best of what the judges were drinking at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition, look no further because here, two months after the fact, we got your Best in Show results right here:

  • Herradura Selección Suprema Extra Anejo, Mexico (Double Gold Best Anejo Tequila, Best Tequila in Show)
  • Yellow Rose Blended Whiskey, USA (Double Gold Best Blended Whiskey)
  • Balcones Straight Bourbon Whisky Fifth Anniversary, Single Barrel Double Gold Best Bourbon, USA (Best In Show- Brown Spirits)
  • Balcones True Blue 100 Proof Corn Whisky, USA (Double Gold Best Corn Whiskey)
  • Balcones Texas Rum Special Release, USA (Double Gold Best Dark/Gold Rum)
  • Breckenridge Bitters USA (Double Gold Best In Show- Liqueur)
  • Palmetto White Lightning, USA (Double Gold Best Moonshine, Best in Show- White Spirits)
  • Pisco Estirpe Peruana Mosto Verde Peru Double Gold, Mexico (Best Pisco)
  • Tequila Agavales Reposado, Mexico (Double Gold Best Reposado Tequila)
  • Knob Creek Rye Whiskey Small Batch, USA (Double Gold Best Rye Whiskey)
  • Byeong Young Sedseong Sotto Republic of Korea, (Double Gold Best Soju)
  • Red Star Vodka, USA (Double Gold Best Vodka)

And here’s some of the winners on display:


I’m always as grateful as heck to take part in this event and wheeled some VERY precious leftovers down from the Javits on a broken office cart to my friend Ivy Brown’s gallery (Ivy Brown Gallery http://ivybrowngallery.org ) in the Meat District. The folks at her most recent opening, Zoobs (http://www.wsimagazine.com/uk/diaries/agenda/arts/zoobs-consolidate-the-experience_20130731155749.html#.Un7w85FSAks) were probably surprised to be drinking award-quality wine rather than the usual Yellow Tail or other gallery plonk. You know what she told me when I dropped it off? “Couldn’t you get more white?”

This is a total non sequitur but as I was walking back to my hotel the second night of the show, a group of motorcycles came across 42nd street.  Then another, and another, and another until bikes were stretched the length of the street for the width of the island.  An amazing procession…I realized the clock had ticked over and it was September 11….

photo-1 photo-2

PS: If you’ve read this far, and you’re in Los Angeles, support Ian Blackburn’s Learn About Wine’s Stars of Cabernet at the Peninsula Hotel Wednesday, November 13, 2013. A very grand tasting indeed! http://www.learnaboutwine.com.


A Big Convention, Bar None

I think I see the fun! Notice the notice for IS Vodka’s cocktail competition. This humble scribe was one of the judges.

A drinks convention seems like an awkward combination of work and play, as serious-minded bar and restaurant owners ply the aisles of vendors that feature copious wine and spirits along with food, drink, digital basketball and a host of other activities that people do…in bars. Come June 26 and 27, there’s the 13th Annual Bar and Restaurant Show at the Javits Center in New York City, billed as a showcase of 300 exhibits of all kinds relating to the industry, and I’m here to exhort you to check it out. http://www.newyorkbarshow.com

I’ve been to this show three times, twice as an exhibitor and once, unwittingly, as a judge, reported briefly way down below. Rather than rehash, I will, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, sum up: it was FUN. Now I am back as a publicist, so I am going to get to see the show from the inside out. I’ve already made as much of a fool of myself as is possible to document in previous visits, so I am coming to the show with a combination of humility and sobriety this time around I might not have had on somebody else’s dime.

Organizer Steven Wesler clued me into some recent changes in the show that could have applied to people just like me. He moved the show to midweek—at the risk of cutting his audience, as he explained—to raise the caliber of the crowd; in a nutshell, taking a day off from work to come to a drinks convention prevents just anyone from turning up, so they are seeing a lot more bar and restaurant owners, executives, buyers and basically, professionals than ever before. A mocktail competition hosted by Ocean Spray and dating site One2One.com has replaced the cocktail contest I helped judge. Of course, the show still involves drinking at midday so there’s hope for some bonhomie among the delegates and possibly, even some unscheduled shenanigans.

Wesler had this to say about the mocktail competition. “One of the hardest things to do when you go out with friends and family is to be a teetotaler. Our mocktail competition is unique and the first of its kind. It allows customers to feel like they are drinking but with no alcoholic side effect. Is it trend? According to The Hero Campaign, designed drivers are looking for more than soda and fruit juice. The mocktail competition will feature many new recipes that quite tasty.” The judges rate the cocktails on taste, appearance, originality, aroma, and overall impression. Participants have only six minutes to make four drinks. I couldn’t drink four drinks in six minutes. The winner walks away with a $1000 prize.

On the other end of the spectrum, the show features a pretty stupendous wine and spirits competition. More than 400 entries are vying for titles, as well as Best in Show. In addition to bragging rights, 28 categories of spirits, and white, red, rose, sparkling, fortified and “miscellaneous” wines will gain increased exposure, greater recognition over their competitors and have an opportunity to use their prize in their marketing.

It’s run by Anthony Dias Blue of Tasting Panel, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on Koloa Rum, IS Vodka, Spectrum Wine Auctions and a bunch of other events. “It’s a peer review competition,” he says. “We’ve assembled a panel of judges that span all categories of the industry—buyers, producers, restaurateurs, salespeople and pundits—and between the members of this expansive, capable group we can ensure a balanced, reputable result.”

Anthony isn’t drinking alone, as it happens. He’s got eighteen other judges alongside him, including these people from some of the most prestigious establishments in the East:

• Michael Feil, GM/Wine Buyer, Westchester Country Club
• Orr Reches, Head Sommelier, Corton
• Zita Keeley, All I Do is Wine
• Tim Campbell, Founding & Managing Partner, New Vision Wine
• Olivier Defeu, Beverage Director, Junoon Restaurant
• Charles Mara, President, The Mara Wine Group
• Michael Schaefer, CWE, Director, Society of Wine Educators
• Jules Bianciardi, Wine & Beverage Manager, Landmarc Tribeca
• Philip Kampe, Wine Journalist, The Wine Hub
• Anthony Dias Blue, Wine & Spirits Editor, Blue Lifestyle & Tasting Panel Magazine
• Scott Rosenbaum, VP of Procurement, Vitis
• Jeffrey Pogash, The Cocktail Guru
• Brian Van Flandern, Owner, Creative Cocktail Consultants
• Frank Cisneros, Beverage Director & Co-Owner, Bourgeois Pig & Gin Palace
• Bill Marsano, Poured With Pleasure
• Max Messier, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
• Pamela Wiznitzer, Blogger/ Bartender, Liquid Encouragement Blog / L’oubli Gourmet Bar
• Stephanie Schneider, Co-Owner & Beverage Director, Huckleberry Bar
• Ivy Mix, Clover Club/ Speed Rack, Bartender/ Founder

Plus, there’s twenty seminars. Experts from across the city and across the world will share their knowledge on all things on-premise from fire safety to craft beers. Finally, the Brazilian Trade Bureau is showcasing all things Brazilian. with ten brands in the show and co-ownership of InBev, the world’s largest beer concern, Brazil has taken a prominent place in the spirits and beverage industry, and they’ve come to showcase their ascendancy.

So, there you go. Admission is $45 for show floor exhibits only before June 20 and $55 after June 20 and at the door. Admission for the seminars PLUS plus show floor exhibits is $150 before June 20 and $175 after June 20 and at the door. Visit http://www.thebarandrestaurantshow.com or call (800)243-9774. You can also find a list of exhibitors, seminars and the whole kitchen sink on the web site.

See you there!