Showing posts with label sparkling wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sparkling wine. Show all posts

Friday, June 6, 2014

Negroni Week Beckons You Until June 8

Enter Bar Now (or make one of these at home)

 This Whitish Negroni — on the rocks — sparkles with white vermouth and, of course, Campari and gin.

The following Negroni variations originated from other fellow travelers’ books and bars. Each is distinct but embraces the arresting flavors of the original and is perfect for these final days of Negroni Week, the seven-day celebration of the famous cocktail and all its variations. Remember, participating bars across America and other parts of the globe promise to raise money for their favorite charities for every Negroni-style cocktail ordered. If you cannot make it to a bar by Sunday, then by all means have a Negroni-style cocktail at home.

White Negroni
(from Dutch Kills, Queens, NY)

Suze, pronounced like siz, but with a French rounded vowel sound (think Inspector Clouseau), is an aperitif flavored with the bitter roots of the gentian plant. If you try it on its own, it is sweet, as well. It is not for everyone, but is definitely worth a try if you see some behind the bar. Ask your bartender to pour you a sip. In the White Negroni, white vermouth, red vermouth’s milder cousin, rounds out the flavors of gin mixed with Suze in this boozy concoction. Its layered flavors end with a nice bitter finish.

1 1/2 ounces gin (we used Beefeater)
3/4 ounce Suze (a bittersweet gentian aperitif)
3/4 ounce Dolin white vermouth (aka bianco, blanc, blanco)
lemon twist, as garnish

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Recipe reprinted from Imbibe Magazine.

Whitish Negroni
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Since we’re big fans of Campari, we decided to do a riff on the White Negroni. But there’s nothing white about this cocktail. It’s actually a gorgeous pink–orange. Its smooth, slightly sweet, and layered flavors (think Aperol) pair perfectly with bacon-wrapped unsulfured dried apricots and a little sage leaf.

1 ounce Beefeater gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Dolin white vermouth (aka bianco, blanc, blanco)
lemon twist, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add garnish.

❤ ❤ ❤

These next two cocktails are from two books from which we have made drinks over the years and are perfect for the warming months ahead:

Mistaken Negroni
(from The New Old Bar by Steve McDonough and Dan Smith)

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce orange juice
sparkling wine or Prosecco
orange peel, as garnish

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Serve garnished with a flamed orange peel. [Express orange peel through a match flame by holding the match over the drink and, with your other hand, in one quick, sharp squeeze, pinch the peel (outside of peel facing the match) so the oils spurt through the flame, causing a gentle flare-up.]

Grapefruit Negroni
(from Sips & Apps by Kathy Casey)

1/4 large red grapefruit
1 1/2 ounces gin (we used Death’s Door)
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Campari
small grapefruit wedge, as garnish
ice, if on the rocks

Squeeze the grapefruit into a cocktail shaker and discard the squeezed fruit. Fill the shaker with ice. Measure in the gin, vermouth, and Campari. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass or an old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with small grapefruit wedge.

❤ ❤ ❤

So, when all is said and done, you don’t like gin. This is okay. One person’s taste buds differ from the next. here’s something that may stir your whiskey-loving loins:

Red Hook
(created by Enzo Errico, Milk & Honey, New York City)

2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Punt e Mes vermouth
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Recipe reprinted from Imbibe Magazine.

To find out how to make a Punt e Mes Negroni, click here.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Crème de Violette Cocktails for Your Springtime Party

The Blue Moon Cocktail will brighten up your cocktail party with its sweet and sour combination of lemon and violets. 

Finally, spring is here. Warm caresses from the sun. The dewy luminescence from springtime light. Rainbow beauty from early-riser flowers such as crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils. Just walking to the subway brings exquisite joy. This is the time of year when our taste buds turn to floral favors. One such flavor we revere comes from violets in the form of a deep, almost impenetrable purple liqueur called crème de violette. The term crème refers to sugar, and there is plenty of that in pretty much the only crème de violette you can get stateside, Rothman & Winter, which is also made with Alpine violets and Weinbrand (German or Austrian brandy). It became available to us here soon after we started Cocktail Buzz, back in 2007, and we have been smitten with it ever since. Initially, we bought some to fulfill the old recipe for an Aviation cocktail. It’s hard to fathom how this cocktail got its name without the addition of a little crème de violette, which adds a subtle but magical pale purple–blue tint to the drink. It’s a stunner—sourness from the lemon juice, bitterness from the maraschino liqueur, and sweetness from the crème de violette. We created a variation of the Aviation we call the Kitty Hawk, named after the Wright Brothers’ site of their famous flight. The addition of a little Catdaddy moonshine adds a southern sweet-tea charm to the cocktail. On its own, one sip of crème de violette will remind you instantly of violet candies you can find at any candy counter in New York City.

A Violet Sparkler, simple and beautiful
For all of you who like to get the party started with a little bubbly, you’ll be happy to know that crème de violette mixes exceedingly well with champagne or any sparkling wine. Just a little splash (1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoon per 3 ounces of champagne) in a flute or coupe is all you need to experience the floral aromas and tastes of a Violet Sparkler. Top with some reposado tequila and you’ve just made yourself La Violeta. Something elegant for a Cinco de Mayo cocktail party.

Cousin Barbara turned us on to the Blue Moon, a gin and lemon juice Jazz Era cocktail laced with a healthy dose of the violet liqueur. The Blue Moon glows anywhere between heliotrope and lavender depending on the gin you use (try several to see which one you like best), and is perfect for any time of year, but spring seems just about right. Perfect if you want to serve something a little boozier to your guests. Just provide a few nibbles to keep the partiers satisfied and sober.

Blue Moon
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce crème de violette
1/2 ounce lemon juice
lemon twist, as garnish

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add garnish.

Another cocktail resplendent with a smoky gray hue was created a few years back, when Phil Ward was behind the stick at Death & Co. Paul and his friend Shelley were lucky enough to have Phil make one up on the spot while we were talking about a cocktail Paul had made for his mom that featured scotch and crème de violette. Phil grabbed a bottle of this Compass Box blended whisky called Asyla, gave it a deep sniff, then immediately grabbed a bottle of crème de violette, gave that a quick sniff, then put both bottles near his nose and gave both a deep inhale. The first thing he grabbed was Lillet blanc. The clincher was absinthe, but just a little. The verdict, well, neither Shelley or Paul can recall the exact details, but rest assured, they liked the results. Each ingredient working to enhance the others. Try it up, as Phil intended, but feel free to have it on the rocks, or with a splash of soda.

Smoke and Violets
(created by Phil Ward)

2 ounces Asyla Compass Box scotch whisky
1 ounce Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce crème de violette
2–3 dashes absinthe
lemon twist, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add garnish.

For after dinner, you may want a Marianne at Midnight, the drink referred to above that Paul created for his mother. We’ve altered our recipe a little, adding a half ounce less crème de violette, to this scotch and Tuaca sipper.

If you’d like to harvest the essence of crème de violette and create a bitters, all you need to do is find some gentian (a bitter root), cinnamon bark, and grapefruit peel. Letting these age a few days in an ounce and a half ounces crème de violette is all you need to do. Then get creative and come up with your very own cocktail.

Violet Bitters
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces crème de violette
1/4 teaspoon gentian
piece of cinnamon bark
piece of grapefruit peel

Mix together ingredients and let sit for a few days. Strain into a small bottle or dropper.

We don’t know which is prettier: the heliotrope glow of a Blue Moon (left) or the bubbly lavender of a Violet Sparkler? We think you should make both and decide for yourself.

Well, there you have it all. A crème de violette cocktail for any time of the day or evening. Start with a Violet Sparkler and end with one of the many drinks we love and have shared with you. Or create your own using your new homemade violet bitters. Happy spring. Embrace renewal.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kir Royales To Jump-Start Your Valentine’s Day

Two Kir Royales, made with champagne and crème de cassis, will pave the way for a romantic Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day presents a conundrum: How best do I spend this most romantic of evenings with the one I love? We think a lot about this abstraction we call ROMANCE, and how it relates to Valentine’s Day. We start with flowers, quickly followed by chocolates and other confections accompanied by a champagne toast, then follow that with drinks and dinner out, then follow that with a nightcap back home, then follow that with the most mind-blowing sex we’ve ever had. Phew. With that itinerary, we got exhausted during dinner. If this is not how you want to misspend this Valentine’s Day, pay attention.

All you need to do is follow these two simple rules, and you too can achieve bliss this February 14.

1. Champagne, or any sparkling wine, is aphrodisiacal.

The act of pouring bubbles into a slender flute, one with a little black currant liqueur pooled at the bottom, creates total sensory satisfaction. The smell immediately infects you with its luscious fruit. The bubbles pop in a continuous hush, leaving trails that rise to the surface, as if on a constant gif loop. Some escape the flute in a pointed arc, bursting on your thumb and fingers. These sensations are surpassed only by the anticipation of the night ahead. You make a toast, raise the flute to your lips, feel the tiny pulsating bubbles tickle your lips. Since bubbles allow for faster absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, you may begin to feel euphoric after a few sips. This in turn will make your date’s eyes sparkle, their beams piercing you with the power of love.

More important, impressing your amor with a champagne-based cocktail shows that you went the extra step instead of just decanting.

Kir Royale
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1/4–1/2 ounce crème de cassis (black currant liqueur)*
at least 5 ounces champagne
lemon twist or peel, as garnish (optional)

Pour crème de cassis into champagne flute. Fill with chilled champagne. Add garnish, if using.

* Pierre-Marie Chermette maxes a kick-ass crème de cassis. With a deep, almost tannic fruitiness in both aroma and taste, this black currant liqueur makes bubbly even livelier.

If you and your partner are not fans of crème de cassis, you can substitute any other liqueur, really, to create your own bubbly cocktail.

Other Light & Bubbly Cocktails
Violet Sparkler (crème de violette)
Bird Nest (blue curaçao, with a splash of tequila)
Sofia Mimosa with Galliano
Passion Fruit Bellini

❤ ❤ ❤

So, you’ve followed the first rule and are scoring high marks on the romance meter. To score even higher marks, you must obey the next rule:

2. Do not go out for dinner.

If you’ve been there/done that, you know that dinner out on Valentine’s Day sucks. That unnerving get-em-in-get-em-out mentality is palpable upon entry, the menu is usually a slimmed-down version of the actual bill of fare, and servers are constantly being reminded that they have to work like yoked oxen while watching you and your date ocularly undress each other.

Anyway, champagne is cheaper at home.

So, stay in and have a few hors d’oeuvres prepared that aren’t too taxing and will provide a nice accompaniment to that second Kir Royale you’re about to make for your date/mate.

Hors d’Oeuvres Suggestions
Deviled Quail Eggs
Kale Chips
Spiced Nuts
Stuffed Mushrooms
Cheddar Blue Fricos

If you get hungry after lovemaking, there’s always delivery.

photo ©Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Campari Presents the James Beard Awards Chef’s Night Out 2012

Recently we attended Chef’s Night Out, a Campari-sponsored evening of tasty cocktails and tempting nibbles, which acts as a prelude before the final day of the James Beard Foundation Awards at which chefs and restaurants are rewarded for their excellence. Check out the slide show below, as well as a few Campari recipes that are perfect as the temperature starts to rise.


Bar chef Tad Carducci hit us up with some Plymouth Gin Negronis upon entering, and he shared with us a few tips when making Negronis with this one-of-a-kind slightly lighter gin: use a big ice cube for slow dilution, and bump up the proportion of gin to the amount of Campari and sweet vermouth (Negronis are typically 1:1:1) for a more balanced experience. As the ice slowly melted, we commented on how smooth this Negroni was, a little atypical for such a boldly flavored cocktail, but delicious.

Plymouth Gin Negroni
(adapted by Tad Carducci)

1 1/2 ounces Plymouth gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
orange peel, as garnish

Stir in ice and strain into a glass with one large ice cube. (We’re sure Tad wouldn’t mind if you substituted two or three regular ice cubes if that is all that’s available :) Garnish with a swath of orange peel.

❤ ❤ ❤

We then moseyed down the corridor through the Chelsea Market, deciding which bites to pair with our Negroni. We stumbled upon some folks serving up Dehesa Cordobesa 100% acorn-fed Ibérica ham. It melted on our tongues like butter. You can actually taste the nuttiness of the acorns. Behind them, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats was serving up the best deviled ham you never thought you needed to have, along with some lardon spread and some of the savoriest red chili–braised beef, with a finishing topper of cilantro leaf that contrasted nicely with the spiciness of the braise.

While in the Campari Red Lounge, we saw one of our favorite bartenders, Damon Dyer, who runs the bar program at The Rum House, pouring some simple Campari and tonics for those who needed a quick jolt of bittersweet bliss. That encounter was followed by a chat with another one of our favorite people behind the stick, Death & Co.’s Joaquin Simo, always friendly and always informative. He was offering Negroni Sbagliatos, equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and sparkling wine (sbagliato means incorrect). What a delight. This should be the opening drink at your next cocktail party. Make sure to have some strong cheeses on hand to pair with this effervescent, bittersweet libation.

Negroni Sbagliato
(adapted by Joaquin Simo)

1 1/2 ounces Campari
1 1/2 ounces Cinzano sweet vermouth
1 1/2 ounces Mionetto prosecco

Stir Campari and sweet vermouth in ice. Strain into champagne flute. Top with prosecco.

❤ ❤ ❤

It was also a pleasure to see writers Bruce Watson and Laren Spirer, chatting it up with bartender Pamela Wiznitzer of the recently opened Bishops & Barons on East 14th Street. We all realized that we hadn’t yet experienced dessert, so we went in search for some sweetness to bring wider Campari-laced grins to our beaming faces.

Jane Danger, from Jane’s Sweet Buns, offered three bite-sized desserts that all had Campari as an ingredient. As we stood around her table, we debated with other pastry lovers what our favorite was: The shortbread cookie topped with Campari lemon rose buttercream? The strawberry sticky bun with rhubarb bitters? Or the bitter mai tai macaroon? Actually, they were all amazing.

Thanks to Bon Appétit and Hanna Lee Communications for letting us experience the versatility of Campari, and congratulations to all the 2012 James Beard Foundation Award Winners.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gravlax Is Easy To Make, and Will Impress Your Guests

Salt, sugar, white peppercorns, and dill are all that’s needed to make the divine Scandinavian cured salmon dish known as gravlax.

When I was in my twenties, I lived with a woman named Erika Worm (it’s pronounced vorm) who showed me the way around a professional kitchen. We lived in her family’s big house on a lake, and Erika cooked as if she were made for the task. As a result of her mom’s catering spell, not only was she blessed with the skills to rival a Top Chef, we had the run of a two-Viking-range kitchen with all the bells and whistles. I would watch her make dish after dish, probing her with questions about temperature, taste, and plating. Later in life, when I was the master of my own kitchen (read nonprofessional), I would try to replicate her dishes. One dish that stood out — one that did not even involve any cooking — was her recipe for gravlax.

Gravlax, slices of salt and sugar–cured salmon that have lightly soaked up the essence of fresh dill, is actually quite easy to make, and I remembered this distinctly. I think Erika called it a no-brainer that looks really impressive on the buffet table. All one needs to do is obtain a fresh piece of salmon, preferably one with the skin still on, and with a close-to-uniform thickness (the center cut works best), rub it with the cure, cover it with fresh dill, and let it sit for a day. How’s that for a no-brainer? I can already hear the wheels spinning in your head. You’re asking yourself where you can buy the freshest piece of salmon because you want to make this for your New Year’s Day brunch.

After you blanket the salmon with the salt and sugar cure, cover it with bunches of fresh dill.

Slicing the gravlax once it’s cured is really the only tricky part. Just make sure you have a thin-bladed and extremely sharp knife at the ready. Have some chilled champagne ready, as you will want to serve your beautiful creation with some bubbly. We recently enjoyed some gravalax with a passion fruit bellini made with thawed passion fruit (maracuja in Portuguese or lilikoi in Hawaiian) puree we always get from a Brazilian shop on 46th Street in Manhattan called Buzios. It also comes in a bottle. You can probably get it at a specialty market that stocks ethnic foods, but if not, you may have to ask your grocer to stock it.

Gravlax with Mustard Dill Sauce
(inspired by recipes by Erika Worm, Marcus Samuelsson, and Ina Garten)



1 1/2 – 2 pounds salmon fillet (skin on, thick center cut)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups salt
2 tablespoons white peppercorns, coarsely ground (use less if you only have black peppercorns)
2 bunches fresh dill (reserve a handful for the sauce)
optional ground spices (such as cumin, caraway, coriander, aniseed, dill seed, juniper berries), in any combination and amount (this is not necessary, and is only suggested if you like to experiment)

In a bowl, mix the sugar, salt, and peppercorns (and any other spices if you are using them). Place the salmon in a glass dish and remove any pin bones. You can locate them by running your fingers over the flesh where the natural separation occurs. Remove with your fingers or a pair of clean bottlenose pliers. Scoop up some of the mixture with your hand and rub all over the salmon, skin included. Place the salmon in a glass dish, and cover with the remainder of the mixture. Then, cover the salmon with the dill so that you don’s see any of the salmon. Press down gently. Let stand at room temperature for 5 hours, 6 maximum. Cover, and refrigerate for about 24–48 hours, the thicker the salmon, the longer the curing time.

Remove the gravlax from the dish (it will be swimming in all the liquid the salt cure has leached from it, and it should smell slightly metallic and briny underneath the dill). Discard the dill, and quickly rinse the gravlax under cold water until the mixture has been washed away. Do not saturate the gravlax. Place the gravlax on a cutting board and with a sharp knife cut thin slices across the grain.

Serve with mustard dill sauce and slices of bagel, or brown bread, or crisp rye bread. Sides of capers, sliced red onion, and lettuce leaves will be appreciated as well. Best eaten within 4 days.

Mustard Dill Sauce (aka hovmästarsås or gravlaxsås)


1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup oil, such as grapeseed or other neutral-tasting oil
salt and white pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

In a bowl, or preferably a standing mixer, add all the ingredients except the oil. While mixing vigorously or with the mixer on high, slowly drizzle the oil in steadily. Mix until it thickens.

Passion Fruit Bellini

1/2 tablespoon passion fruit puree
1/2 teaspoon simple syrup*
3–4 ounces champagne, prosecco, or any sparkling wine

In a champagne flute, add the passion fruit puree and the simple syrup. Top with chilled champagne.

* In a sauce pan over low heat, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water, stirring occasionally until all crystals have dissolved. Let cool and transfer to a clean, airtight container. May be kept in refrigerator for up to a month.

Text by Paul Zablocki
Photos by Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bold New Campari Recipes That Go Way Beyond Negronis and Americanos

How beautiful. The Black Currant Sparkler gets its kick from Campari, the classic Italian aperitivo.

If you’re familiar with Campari, that glowing red aperitivo that’s used in a classic Negroni and Americano, you know it pulls no punches. It’s either love at first sip, or, well, let’s not even go there. For you see, knowing how to mix this bittersweet orange amaro is a skill worth seeking out, and we have five recipes, from five of New York’s most noteworthy mixologists, sure to make your trip to the liquor store worth it.

The lovely Hanna Lee, of Hanna Lee Communications, a lady who knows how to throw one helluva party, invited us to attend Campari’s “Life with a Twist: Aperitivo and Beyond” at NYC’s Silver Lining, where these five esteemed bartenders shook and stirred their creations for an eager crowd of thirsty (and hungry) imbibers. Creative and traditional food, along with some holiday flash, adorned each bar, and Campari revelers got the chance to chat with the men and women behind the sticks to find out how they came up with the recipes (each created three drinks).

Paul got to shoot the breeze with Dushan Zaric, mastermind cocktail creator at Employees Only and the Macao Trading Co., whose Malena cocktail blew his mind. Dushan, who has a strong culinary background, revealed to Paul two secrets behind the success of this drink’s ever-changing long finish: using an easy-to-mix rye that does not impart too much oakiness, and the few drops of orange blossom (or orange flower) water that unite the ingredients, thus extending the finish. We tried making this at home with another rye just to see how different it could possibly be, and it indeed was. We will be using Wild Turkey 101 exclusively for this drink from now on.

Steve spoke with the charming Christy Pope, of Cuffs & Buttons Cocktail Catering, who explained that she approached her dessert cocktails with a light hand on the sugar. Most of us associate dessert drinks with heavy cream and lots of sweet liqueurs, but Christy decided to focus on flavor rather than calorie content. Her Black Currant Sparkler lit up the bar with its blend of gin, prosecco, and Campari, lightly embellished with a purple orchid and a spritz of white crème de cacao and vanilla extract to add aroma. Heavenly.

So, if you love Campari, dive right in to these five glorious recipes, all perfect for different occasions. If you’ve had reservations in the past because you thought Campari was too bitter, don’t be afraid. You’ll wipe away these fears with a few sips of these masterly cocktails.

Aged Spirits Cocktail
(created by by Dushan Zaric)

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Wild Turkey 101 rye whiskey
3/4 ounce ruby port
5 drops of orange blossom water (aka orange flower water)
2 dashes of orange bitters
ground cinnamon, as garnish
orange half-wheel, as garnish

Stir all ingredients, except orange blossom water, in a mixing glass briefly. Add 5 drops orange blossom water over ice in rocks glass. Strain liquid in mixing glass into rocks glass. Garnish with ground cinnamon and an orange half-wheel.

Brunch Cocktail
Roasted Orange Sbagliato
(created by Joe Campanale)

1 1/4 ounces Campari
1 ounce sweet red vermouth
1 1/4 ounce Lambrusco Bianco, or other sparkling white wine
1 roasted orange wedge

Place the roasted orange wedge in a mixing glass and add vermouth. Muddle the two so that the charred bits are released into the vermouth. Add Campari and ice, and shake hard. Strain into a wine glass filled with ice and add sparkling wine.

Winter Entertaining Cocktail
Gaspare’s Winter Punch
(created by Julie Reiner)

3/4 cup Campari
3/4 cup orange liqueur
2 bottles medium-bodied red wine
6 cups cranberry juice
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
6 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
10 whole allspice
6 whole star anise
1 whole nutmeg
1 teaspoon almond extract

Sort cranberries discarding bruised fruit. Rinse and place in a six-quart pan with raisins, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, nutmeg and cranberry juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes to blend flavors. Add wine and sugar and heat until steaming (6-8 minutes). Do NOT bring to a boil. Add Campari, orange liqueur, and almond extract. Strain out cranberries and ladle into punch cups. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and star anise.

Summer Greenmarket Cocktail
Red Square
(created by Dave Wondrich)

1 1/2 ounces Campari
1/4 ounce wildflower honey syrup*
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4 fresh raspberries
2 ounces brut champagne

Place ingredients (except champagne) in a mixing glass and shake hard with ice. Double strain into chilled champagne flute and top off with 2 ounce chilled brut champagne. Add a raspberry for garnish.

*To make wildflower honey syrup, stir 1 part organic wildflower honey with 1 part hot water until honey has dissolved. Bottle and refrigerate.

Dessert Cocktail
Black Currant Sparkler
(created by Christy Pope)

1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce gin
1 tablespoon black currant preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white crème de cacao

Place ingredients (except prosecco) in a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a coupe glass and top with prosecco. Garnish with an edible pansy.

How does Campari get its unusual vermilion hue? Well, originally the dye used to color it was derived from crushed cochineal insects. We can assure you that the bottles reaching American shores do not have such a distinction (at least that’s the word on the street—Campari, like any spirit that has managed to stay popular over the course of time, keeps its recipe hush-hush).

Photos of cocktails courtesy of Hanna Lee Communications; photo of Campari bottle courtesy of

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sparkle, Neely, Sparkle! Pouring Fun at Fermented Grapes, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Many people believe that New Yorkers lack a sense of community, that we’re constantly rushing to and fro, hither and yon, and as a result, we don’t get to know the people round us. Well, that may be true for some, but most people who work in New York live somewhere within city limits, in a section of one of the five boroughs, perhaps on a small block, or a busy high rise. They say hi to their neighbors with a wave of the hand, or a polite nod. Some even hug.

There was a whole lot of hugging happening recently at a gem of a wine and spirits shop on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Debbie Summer of Fermented Grapes asked us if we would pour some delicious sparkling wine, among other elixirs, for the neighborhood patrons that were willing to brave the cold last Saturday at one of Fermented Grapes’s well-attended tastings. We were happy to take on the challenge. In the lineup: a relatively unfamiliar sparkling Grüner Veltliner, Dolin White Vermouth, and Winter & Rothman Crème de Violette. The lovely Eudocia Rodzinak of Theo Chocolate was on hand to offer samples of some amazing organic, fair-trade delights.

We decided on pouring the sparkling Grüner first, as it was light and effervescent, like a frizzante, a perfect way to get this party started. Most patrons loved its light crisp fruit, the aroma of freshly peeled apples, and a finish that tasted of a lovely fruit salad. This sparkler’s name is Punkt Genau,which translates as “On the dot,” and it lived up to its name. For those who need to know, it is produced exclusively from Grüner Veltliner grapes grown in the heart of Austria’s Weinviertel. It can be served to celebrate any occasion, including something as simple as getting home from work. (We love sparkling wine, and don’t feel the need to drink it on special occasions. Have it with dinner!)

We then decided to pour the Winter & Rothman Crème de Violette, but wanted the patrons to try it mixed with the Grüner (we tried this the night before and were pleased with the results). A little crème de violette goes a long way—it tastes of old-school violet candies you still see at corner bodegas in the city. Most sippers were tickled by the combination (we weren’t sure if it was the exotic flavor of the violets, or the bubbles hitting their noses), and many felt like the combo produced a pleasant grape flavor, with a hint of violets. We’ll call this drink the “Violet Sparkler.”

Violet Sparkler
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1/2–1 teaspoon crème de violette (your taste buds will let you know)
3 ounces sparkling Grüner Veltliner (Punkt Genau), or other sparkling wine

Add crème de violette, then chilled sparkling wine, to a champagne flute. Toast.

Paul talks shop with two delightful sisters, Emily and Melissa Elsen, who opened Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a bake shop in Park Slope/Gowanus.

We informed Debbie that we went a little crazy the night before with our friend Curt when we decided to top the Violet Sparkler with some resposado tequila, so she came back to the tasting station with a bottle of Corazón Reposado. For a spirit to mix well with crème de violette, it needs a strong character, so scotch, aged tequila, and gins with high juniper notes blend well—the violet flavor is chastened, but not lost). So we added about a half ounce to start and loved the results, and dubbed it “La Violeta.” If you really love the taste of 100% blue agave tequila, go ahead and add a bit more. It’ll be a great way to start a fiesta!

La Violeta
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1/2–1 teaspoon crème de violette (your taste buds will let you know)
3 ouncessparkling Grüner Veltliner (Punkt Genau), or other sparkling wine
1/2—1 ounce resposado tequila

Add crème de violette, then chilled sparkling wine, to a champagne flute. Top with chilled reposado tequila. ¡Salud!

❤ ❤ ❤

We poured the Dolin White Vermouth next. Many of the guests at Fermented Grapes that night were confused by this vermouth—they had only heard of and tasted dry and sweet vermouths—so this one was a revelation. Imagine sweet vermouth made with white wine, not red. The herbs and spices used to fortify white vermouth play very well with tequila. As barkeep Phil Ward once exclaimed to us about mixing the two, “It’s a no-brainer.”

Luckily Debbie opened that bottle of Corazón Reposado, because after she sipped a little of the white vermouth (aka blanco or bianco vermouth), we topped her glass with some of the tequila. As she proclaimed, “This is my new favorite drink,” others took notice and extended their empty glasses out to us. We were more than happy to oblige them. One of our favorite cocktails, Cut Flowers, uses white vermouth and tequila, and it’s a terrific alternative to a margarita.

Steve, happy about tasting Theo Bread & Chocolate with Dow’s vintage 2004 Port. Thanks, Eudocia.

So after each patron sampled the wares, they looked to Eudocia and her ten samples of chocolate with eager smiles. If they had a little of their vermouth and tequila samples left, she encouraged them to taste it with the spicy chocolate that started with hints of orange, then finished with a chile bang. Of course we sampled most of the bits she had on hand, and our favorites were the dark chocolate with fennel seeds and figs, and the dark chocolate with french breadcrumb bits. (The slightly saltiness of the bread worked wonders on that bit of chocolate.) Also try the milk chocolate. It’s making a big comeback and Theo’s version is mouth-watering. And paired with Dow’s late bottled vintage 2004 Port, the smiles grew even wider. We had a splendid time meeting some of our neighbors, some newbies and some old friends.

When you’re in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and if you see us walking around, stop to say hello. We can exchange neighborhood faves, and point you in the direction of Fermented Grapes where you can give Debbie and her partner Jan McGill a visit. (If we’re cooking, say, a Turkey Tetrazzini or grilled lamb chops, they know exactly what’ll dance perfectly with it.) The entire staff (including Mathew, Donna, and Eileen who all got to taste that night) is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, the store has the feel of a laid-back pouring room, and nobody leaves empty handed, including the patrons that night who never in a million years thought they would need a bottle of créme de violette and white vermouth for their home bars.

Steve, calm before the crowd at Fermented Grapes, 651 Vanderbilt Avenue (between St. Prospect Place and Park Place), Brooklyn NY 11238, (718) 230-3216.