Yet another day to celebrate wine. Why not? Everyday is a day to celebrate wine! I will try to encompass all wines here.
Not only is there the common red, white and rose wines but if you look a little deeper, you’ll find ice wine, fortified wine, sake (rice wine), Lille, sparkling and mulled wine (this has already been covered).
Of the common reds and whites, you probably know of a few types within each, probably your favorites.
A Wee Quiz
Can you figure out which is red and which is a white wine? Hint, there are a few pink ones in there, too.
Agiorgitiko (don’t ask me to pronounce this please)
See Quiz Answers – I’ve made note of the wines with low tannins or acidity for those with sensitivities.
White wines tend to be higher in acid levels especially ones from Europe and Canada, cool climate regions.
Warm climates produce low acid wines such as California, Argentina and Australia.
Ways to avoid tannins:
Wines aged in oak barrels will have tannins so find wines that are aged in stainless steel vats or clay pots. One example is Azienda Agricola found at our LCBO. Believe it or not, concrete is now being used as well. On the other hand, tannin can come from the seeds of the grapes as well.
Tannins leach from the grape skins and thick skinned grapes will create an even higher tannin level so look to purchase light bodied wines as they spend less time in contact with the skin during fermentation.
New Oak BarrelsAre ‘Toasted’.
The inside is torched with fire to carmelize the oak and, if burnt long enough, will turn it to charcoal. The longer it sits in the barrels, the bolder and higher level of alcohol in the final product.
Gluten is also created when wine is placed in oak barrels to age. Until this point, it is gluten-free so again, stainless or clay are the way to go when it comes to sensitivities.
A wine with less than 12.5% is considered a light bodied wine.
Medium-bodied wines fall between 12.5% and 13.5%
Wines over 13.5% alcohol are considered full-bodied. Surprisingly, Chardonnay can be a full-bodied wine with a few brands at the 13.5% mark because they are aged in oak. Ususally, whites are not. Many of the California Chardonnays are full bodied at 13.5% but Chilean Bonterra at 13.6% was the highest content I found at LCBO.
When purchasing, check the labels or bookmark this handy chart I found displaying the lightest to the heaviest wine before heading to the store.
You can avoid red wines altogether (ugh) since whites and roses do not have much contact with the grape skins either.
If it is sulphites you want to avoid, stay away from whites.
Rose wines are made from red wine grapes and exposed to the skins for only a short time to acquire it’s pink color.
Sparkling wines are bubbly due to the second fermentation process.
Fortified wines are made from a still wine with alcohol added to it so that the alcohol percentage is raised to 17-20%.
Examples of fortified wines are the all-familiar port and sherry, which were very popular during our parents generation. Marsala and Madeira are also fortified wines.
Mulled wines are brilliant! Mix and match opened, older wines and simmer with your favorite spices for a delicious way to enjoy wine!
So many varieties, so little time in this 24-hour period but do your best and enjoy it the way that is meant for just you!
No disputing this fact: Whiskey comes from Scotland. There’s more to it, though. No surprise there.
You may have noticed different spellings for the spirit. Whisky is referencing the spirit that is distilled in Scotland, Canada, Australia, Japan and Europe. Whiskey belongs to Ireland and America.
Irish immigrants brought the extra ‘e’ with them to the United States in the 1700’s and has held that spelling ever since.
There are more differences than just the spelling of their liquor.
Scottish distilleries use malted barley in their production. Ireland uses the same but they will add different grains to theirs so it is not pure malted barley. Why, you ask?
Ireland has been a poorer country than Scotland and malted barley is expensive. To be economical, Irish distilleries will use cheaper grains as well. American whiskey distilleries are also very different because of the variety of their grains grown in such fluctuating climates and different soil conditions.
There is also a difference in the distillation process between the 2 countries. Scottish whisky is distilled twice. Irish whiskey is distilled 3 times. Distilling this third time produces a lighter and smoother tasting whiskey. If you find this liquor on the strong side, see if Irish whiskey is any easier to swallow.
In Ireland and America, short, fat, large stills with a round base are used for distilling and creates a softer drink. Scotland distilleries use many different sized and shaped stills.
Scottish distilleries will use peat when drying the malted barley which gives their spirit a smokey flavour. Believe me, it’s a very smokey after taste. Campfire buffs will love it! Different peats, and how long it is used to dry, will all have a different effect on the final product. Ireland and America use fuels, such as wood, leaving the spirit lighter.
There are only 3 distilleries in Ireland. Midleton produces Jameson’s, Powers, Paddy, Tullamore Dew and Midleton, as well as Cooley, Connemara, Kilbeggan, Locke’s and Tyrconnell)
Glenturret is the oldest distillery currently in operation, since 1775. However, Littlemill opened in 1772 but is now closed down.
If it’s called Scotch Whisky, it will be from Scotland. And there are plenty of them! At our local LCBO, there are approximately 40 different brand names of Scottish Whisky, compared to 15-20 Irish and a little less American brands. Scots rule!
The first one opened in the late 18th century in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
There are 7 distilleries located in Kentucky but the one in Bourbon County is now closed. These are Bernheim, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve.
In nearby Tennessee, the 2 distilleries, George Dickel and Jack Daniels, are in major operation.
Single malt whisky, I’ve discovered, have a distinct taste of their own. A preferable one, actually. After taste testing a few, these have the smoother flavour, no bitterness that makes you shiver as it makes it way down the gullet.
It is differentiated by the fact that the barley is distilled at one distillery and matured and bottled. Whereas, other whiskys are blended at different distilleries and mixed with other whiskys of different ages.
The popular Forty Creek is Canadian made, with the distillery in Grimsby, Ontario in the Niagara region, and plenty of new distilleries pop up all the time.
Now when you are choosing a whiskey/whisky you will know, by name, where they are from.
Now, you just need to choose the type. Single malt, bourbon are a couple, and probably the better ones.
After sampling American, Irish and Scottish, we agreed on the bourbon, with it’s smoother taste. And were disappointed at the loss of the Ottawa Senators to the Pittsburgh Penguins. There’s one more to go!
This special drink has no name yet but it’s made with bourbon, cognac and a wine called Lille and packs a smooth punch. It’s a must try at Ace Mercado.
The long weekend is coming up and that is exactly why National Caesar Day is celebrated on the Thursday right before the May holiday weekend. What else says celebrate, relax in the sun and let’s get summer started quite like a Casear?
This amazing drink is such a personal thing. Everyone likes theirs a little different, right down to the amount of spice added. When you’re drinking rum and coke, for example, the only variation you will get is the choices of rum or whether or not to add a lime.
How Do You Garnish Your Caesar?
Caesar’s can be garnished in so many different ways. Bartenders are getting crazy creative with them. They are opting out the exhausted, boring celery (sorry, celery, you’re great, too) and embellishing with spicy green beans more often.
Some are downright beautiful such as this Kimchi Caesar at Das Lokal. Some border on the ridiculous, from pickles, to lobster tails even sandwiches!
I’ve included a link below to a site of photos that showcase this insanity. No matter how you like them, they are perfect for those Sunday morning hangovers.
The high salt content in a Caesar helps you retain water and battle the dehydration. If Hair of the Dog is not for you, though, try a poutine! Speaking of hangovers, did you know the scientific term for your hangover? Veisalgia. It comes from the Norwegian term “uneasiness following debauchery”
The so-called hangover cure was created in Calgary, Alberta. Walter Chell, the Italian Bartender created the drink for the opening of the Calgary Inn in 1969. It is now the Westin Hotel.
As the story is told, the flavours of the traditional clam pasta, Spaghetti alle Vongole, gave him the inspiration to create a drink to mirror the taste when asked to create a signature cocktail for the opening.
How Did It Bloody Get In There?
Chell named it the Caesar, for an ancestor in Italy. It’s full name is now Bloody Caesar. While Chell worked to perfect the drink, he had patrons sample for him. One referred to it as “A damn good bloody Caesar!” Or were they just keeping in line with the vodka and tomato juice beverage, Bloody Mary?
Great story but it is believed that clam cocktails already existed. Not to take anything away from fellow neighbours in Calgary but a recipe was found in The Artistry of Mixing Drinks. This was published in 1936.
A virtual page-turning copy can be found here under Bartender Guides. The first 19 pages contains very interesting reading but if you want to jump right to this mysterious recipe that was found, enter page #28 in the upper box and hit enter. It’s not exactly the same as today’s version since Mott’s provides an easy mix of tomato and clam juice.
Starting on page 123, there are handy pages of useful information, anecdotes for poisons and emergency clean up methods. Also quite interesting to read, if you’re so inclined.
Over 350 million Caesars are consumed annually. Much of these numbers could very well be Canadian and Mexicans. Some Americans are not overly familiar with the drink.
Odd, because Mott’s is an American name brand but is only now being seen more often in stores across the States. Maybe the craze of Caesars will soon catch on.
In 2010, Parliament officially named the Caesar Canada’s National Cocktail. This weekend enjoy the beautiful blooms at the Tulip Festival at Parliament and do your own experimenting of Caesars!
Since we are on the topic of Parliament which is in Ottawa, Canada’s Captial City, one other place to find a fantastic Caesar is at Ottawa’s Oldest Tavern, The Lafayette on York Street in the Market. Again, it is a personal preference unique to you or me, just offering a favorite of my helpful taste tester.
The Mimosa, that delicious breakfast drink that is so popular on holidays, special family events or any old Sunday brunch, and is so easily prepared with equal parts champagne, or sparkling wine, and orange juice.
Champagne and sparkling wine are really the same. If this wine is made in Champagne, France then it can be labelled as Champagne. If it is produced anywhere else it gets titled sparkling wine.
Many accounts name Frank Meier as the inventor of The Mimosa in 1925 while he worked at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, France. Meier tended bar at the American Bar, preparing cocktails, one being his signature drink, the Bees Knees. Perhaps you know his published book The Artistry of Mixed Drinks.
It has been recently discovered that Frank had become a spy for the French Resistance yet continued working at the bar during WWII while Hitler Occupied France. Many of The Ritz’s staff doubled as spies for the French and British. He fabricated false documents for Jewish individuals, staying at The Ritz, to avoid concentration camps, passed notes for the attempted assasination of Hitler. He later disappeared when he was caught embezzling money.
A surprisingly captivating book I read not too long ago, The Last Time I Saw Paris, is a story about the French Resistance set in and around the Hotel Ritz during the 40’s. If you’re interested in reading this great book, I would be happy to loan it to you. (If you are in the Ottawa area, of course).
If you’re in Paris, seek out these interesting sights:
Pere Lachaise – an estimated 300,000 to one million people are buried at this cemetery and park. Visit the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Chopin.
Of course, another story exists. Captain Herbert Buckmaster opened a gentleman’s club, Buck’s Club, in 1919, to rival the other “stuffy” bars, and is famous for Buck’s Fizz which debuted in 1921. The bartender at the time, McGarry, created the more potent drink with 2 parts champagne to 1 part orange juice.
A Gentleman’s Club is a members only establishment. By the 19th Century, over 400 of these clubs were in operation in London. They provided an escape for the British elite from their ‘open book’ lives to relax, gamble, socialize with friends, play parlour games, such as charades, or get a good, hot meal.
Interesting to note, Buck’s Club uses a josper grill It is an oven and grill in one unit and is soley powered using charcoal. To experience this, you can find them at 18 Clifford St., London, England. Good luck finding much information on this club. Their ‘website’ offers only an address and contact information as they are by invitation only.
While in London, tour the reconstructed outdoor Shakespeare Globe Theatre. The original was demolished due to a miss fired cannon during a Henry VIII performance.
I made an exciting discovery! The Torchlight Shakespeare Festival will be playing here in Ottawa this summer. I have never experienced an outdoor play and now have the chance to see one. Plays will be featured at various parks throughout the city each night this summer from July 3 August 19 at 7pm. Believe it or not, this company has been setting up their plays in parks for the last 15 years and have never charged a dime, only asked for donations (suggested amount $20). Use the link if you want to receive emails on locations or even if you want to join their ranks as an actor. I actually did.
Perhaps, the Frank Meier concoction was truer to today’s equal parts version, and less intoxicating. Also worth mentioning, Alfred Hitchcockcock claims to have popularized drinking mimosas as a brunch specialty in the 1940’s.
In Ottawa, you can enjoy a Mimosa at The Red Lion, in the Byward Market, or the Wellington Diner at 1385 Wellington Street and at Stoneface Dolly’s on Preston St., just to name a few. You may have to wait for the weekend breakfast to get one, though.
I found these handy single serving bottles at the LCBO for $12.95. Great for those days when you only want one Mimosa instead of feeling pressured to polish off a full champagne bottle because now you’ve opened it!
Well, sort of. In 1586, English privateer, Sir Francis Drake, lead his men to Havana where things took a bad turn.
The good news? They managed to steal a pile of gold.
The bad news? Many men suffered from malnutrition and scurvy, leaving the entire crew stranded in Havana.
Knowing citrus aided in the prevention, Sir Francis Drake sent a small party of men to shore to find some natives who could direct them to medicinals to administer to the sick men. They arrived at Matecumbe, Florida which is roughly in the centre of today’s Florida Keys.
The concoction they brought back to ship was made up of chuchuhuasi bark soaked in distilled sugar cane juice (rum), then mixed with lime and mint. Voila, El Draque.
The good news? They became well again.
The bad news? They continued to plunder and pillage.
To England, he is a hero, to the Spanish, he is a pirate.
Moral of the story?
We can be grateful to those who paved the way for the vast array of cool drinks we have access to today. By the way, which drink does Drake’s 1586 brew most resemble?
And why the name cocktail?
Apparently, the crew drank the mix from a long spoon with a cocktail handle. An image of this type of spoon brings up a bartenders mixing spoon which only holds about a teaspoon. I would doubt a teaspoon of El Draque would amount to much healing. My guess, they used something that resembled a ladle. The real question is why is the handle of this spoon called a cocktail?
Whether this story is the true origins of the cocktail drink, no one can really know for sure. As with many drinks, there are conflicting stories of who made the first one. This is no exception. Let me continue…
In 1731, James Ashley ran a Punch House in London, England and claims to have made the first cocktail, or rather, punch.
A recently opened Punch House in Chicago features pre-made punch served by the glass, by the carafe or, if you’re a larger group, by the punch bowl. Hmm, gives me an idea for Rum Punch Day.
Sadly, there are no Punch Houses in Canada. Pity.
Another story features Antoine Peychaud, of New Orleans, as the originator of the cocktail. Peychaud served mixed drinks in a coquetel, French for an egg cup. It was difficult for the English to pronounce and instead referred to it as cocktail.
Peychaud Bitters is produced in the States but not in Canada. Perhaps they are promoting their product with this story which may or may not be true. If anyone has any proof, please share.
In the end, google translates coequetel to cocktail. No matter where it came from or who started it, the result is a tasty and refreshing drink, just in time for summer.
A number of hands went into the making of the cocktail as we know it today so cheers to you while you enjoy your cocktail on National Cocktail Day.
What will be your cocktail of choice this season? Need some ideas for something new? See The Cafe Royal Cocktail Book or have some fun with the 1930 version of The Savoy Cocktail Book located on the sidebar.
If you’re looking for a new taste, visit your LCBO and pick up the new Bacardi Raspberry and mix it with any fizzy drink. Let your imagination run with it.
Also new on the scene is Luxardo’s Bitter Bianco which is made up of cardamom, rhubarb, quinine, bitter orange, and three secret herbs to give it it’s aromatic scented and slightly bitter, citrus-y flavour. Luxardo developed this liqueur to rival red bitters. Similar flavour but clear in colour. It is most popular mixed with vermouth but there are plenty of recipes available.
Everyone probably knows someone like my dear friend, Heidi, who LOVES Moscato. I’m proud to say she is spreading her wings and enjoys white wine and even a red now and then. That would be my influence, good or bad, you be the judge.
A couple days ago, I brought up The Cosmopolitan and it’s popularity in the 90’s. Past tense. Replacing it in popularity is Moscato which can be found in 3 different colors.
White, Pink and Reds are usually made from Muscat grapes. They are grown in Piedmont, France which borders Italy and Switzerland. It is the only wine grape that is also produced as a table grape and some are made into raisins.
In some cases, a splash of red wine is added to white moscato to create the pretty pink shade.
A slightly different version is Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling white wine and is commonly made using Muscat Blanc grapes in the province of Asti, in the northwest hills of France in Montferrat.
If you browse your nearby LCBO, you will notice variations of the name but they are referring to the same beverage. There’s Muscatel (Spanish), Muscat Blanc, Muscadel, Muscandeni.
30% of Moscato consumers are Millenials. It is a sweet, lightly bubbly drink low in alcohol and high on flavour, making it very drinkable. Twitter averages 250 tweets per hour of people drinking it.
Popularity for Moscato boomed, in 2009, when Drake quoted it in on of his songs. Was it for the sake of a rhyme or does he actually drink it?
“It’s a celebration – clap clap bravo. Lobster and shrimp and a glass of moscato.” – Drake
But he’s not the only one.
“Still over in Brazil sipping Moscato, ya must have forgot though, so I’mma take you back to the block yo.” – L’il Kim
Origins of the Muscat name could be Persian: muchk or Greek: moskos or Latin: muscus or Italian: mosca which means fly since these grapes’s sweet scent attracts many fruit flies.
Ancient Romans referred to it as apiana and early documents date back to the 14th Century.
As with regular wine, it is possible Moscato came from ancient Egyptians but there is no documented proof.
Would you believe a search in LCBO brings up 386 different bottles of Moscato?
Here are a couple ideas for each color type to get you started.
Barefoot from California
Bartenura from Italy
Madria Sangria – California – Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery – yummy recipes using Moscato
Forward from Ontario
Jeunesse – USA
Jacob’s Creek – Australia
Ascheri Grappa from Greece – a vintage at $42.75 per bottle
Barefoot – California
Yellow Tail – Australia
Due to it’s sweetness, any type should pair well with spicy food. Summer is coming and it’s a perfect time to sip on a refreshing glass of chilled Moscato.
Or drop in to the Wine Rack in the Byward Market and ask to sample a couple blends. They are usually pretty accommodating.
For a twist, let’s find out some things NOT to do in France. Normally, I throw some ideas of things TO DO in the city/country of origin or places to see locally. Not this time.
You know those annoying slide shows that take 12+ pages of refreshing just to find out the next tip or fact? They can take 10-15 minutes!
Skip the slideshow. Here is a condensed list from destinationtips.com:
Keep your hands on the table. If you think you’re being demure and lady-like by keeping them in your lap…forget it. Your companion will be wondering what you are doing down there.
Don’t assume the shops will be open like they are here in North America where the consumer is catered to. In France, shop owners take long 2 hour lunch breaks, 2 or 3 week summer holidays in July or August, and then there’s the strikes. Don’t expect them to be open Sundays either.
Don’t expect the dog owners of France to pick up after their pets. They are not on the same page of ‘poop and scoop’ as the rest of us. Please don’t suggest they do either. Just leave your good shoes at the hotel, or watch where you walk.
Please don’t squeeze the produce! Fruit and vegetables in France markets sure look appealing but it’s a big No-No to poke, prod, touch, squeeze or to pick it up to smell it. Ask the vendor to bag it for you. Just point to it!
Don’t order the salad as an appetizer. In France, it is meant as a digestive and palate cleanser to be eaten after your main meal, before the cheese or dessert.
Save the hugs for your lover. When greeting your friends and acquaintances, please air kiss both cheeks. You might think a great big bear is a good sign of friendship but you’ll startle them, especially if it’s your boss. They will misunderstand your intentions! Yikes.
It’s not BYOB! If you’ve been invited to a dinner party, do NOT bring a bottle of wine as a friendly gesture. The host will be offended. He/She knows how to select the proper wine for their own fete. And let the host do the pouring, too.
Recently, I tried a mix of gin, moscato, lemon and cranberry juice which wasn’t too bad. Add a couple splashes to your favorite summer cocktail to liven it up. Any cocktail will do!
Try a Honey Bee (from Stella Rosa Wines) using 3 oz white moscato, 1 oz rum, lemon slices and little honey, shaken and poured over ice. I used rye since I had no rum on hand to attempt this.
The origins of this drink is a hard one to pin point. It’s possible the Cosmopolitan is based from The Daisy which was created in the late 19th Century. The Daisy is a combination of spirit, citrus drink, simple syrup and an orange infused liqueur. Many drinks use this blend as a base, one other being a Margarita.
Up until 1968, Ocean Spray’s largest market targeted children. They decided to expand their market to adults and began printing the recipe on every label for the cocktail named The Harpoon: vodka, cranberry juice and lime. However, this is missing the essential cointreau.
Jigger of Gordon’s Gin (11⁄2 oz Beefeater)
2 dash Cointreau (1⁄2 oz Cointreau)
Juice of 1 Lemon (1 oz Lemon Juice)
1 tsp Raspberry Syrup (1 tsp homemade)
Cheryl Cook, a bartender in 1970 South Beach, created the new blend for consumers who requested something easier to swallow than a traditional martini, something sweeter.
Neal Murray claims to be the first to have made the drink in Minneapolis at the Cork and Cleaver in 1975, He added a splash of cranberry to a drink called the Kamikaze. The Kamikaze is vodka, triple sec and lemon juice.
Story #4 (My personal favorite)
John Caine lived in Provincetown, Massaschusetts, which is near a huge cranberry producing region. It makes sense that, when he moved to San Francisco in the 1970’s, he brought the recipe for the cosmo with him since he claims to have been experimenting with cranberry juice.
He now owns numerous bars in San Francisco and believes the increase in popularity of the cocktail happened during the 70’s when it was being served in Fern Bars. This is a slang name for preppy/yuppy bar (remember these terms from your younger days?) that catered to singles and were decorated with ferns and tiffany lamps.
Read more on John Caine, nominated for Man of the Year by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.
In 1987, Toby Cechini created this drink while working at The Odeon in Manhattan. This establishment was THE place to be in the 80’s and 90’s so the cosmo skyrocketed to success along with the Odeon. Even Saturday Night Live held casting parties here. Oddly, the current menu does not contain the drink however, any server there will how to make it. They’ve created a new variation with the Ginger Martini.
From there, Madonna and the popular tv show, Sex and the City brought the drinks’ notoriety to new levels.
Worth noting, Melissa Huffsmith also worked at The Odeon in 1987-88 and used Absolut Vodka, cointreau, cranberry and lime juices which is today’s standardized version.
Generally, a Cosmo is made with vodka and there are so many variations.
Your guess is as good as mine. The popularity of the Cosmopolitan has worn off in recent years but lucky for us, it spawned a generation of talented mixologists.
At Ace Mercado, in Ottawa, I recently encountered Marty (no last name). Hey, when you’re THIS good, you don’t need one!
You can play with the colors by swapping out the triple sec/cointreau and using blue curacao to make a purple cosmopolitan or white cranberry juice for a white cosmo. A Francilian substitutes sangria for the cranberry juice.
For fun, watch Marty, of Ace Mercado create his frozen dacquiri, where ALL of his drinks are his specialty and performed with flair!
Do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Do you know what it represents? Are you already IN Mexico (I’m jealous if you are!) If you plan to celebrate this year, I have outlined a few ideas for you to consider for this Friday. I know it’s not in the style of my usual posts, since its not a National Drink Day but May 5th is a National Drinking Day celebrated by many, mostly Americans.
It’s NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. That is in September. Nor is it Day of the Dead.
On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army, outnumbered by thousands, defeated France at the Battle of Puebla under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.
Money: The Root Of All Evil
Just coming out of 2 consecutive wars, the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 and the Reform War (1858-61), Mexican President Benito Juarez found his country in deep debt. On July 17, 1861, he suspended all foreign debt payments for two years.
France, Britain, and Spain, outraged, since Mexico owed them all money, sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, ruled by Napoleon III, used the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico.
Later that year, a well-armed French military stormed Veracruz. Juarez and his government were forced to retreat. The French army, considered #1 in the world, swept into Mexico City. They met with heavy resistance from the Mexican army, near Puebla, at the forts of Guadelupe and Loreto. Mexico was outnumbered by four thousand men yet somehow managed to defeat the French army on May 5, 1862.
However, a year later, the French tried again and won. They captured Mexico City and installed French President, Maximillian, which lasted 3 years.
In the 1860’s in California, where Colombia State Park now sits, Mexican miner workers eventually got word, on May 27 via stagecoach delivery of a San Francisco newspaper, of the incredible victory and fired off their rifles, lit fireworks, sang patriotic songs and, of course, drank.”
Californians have been celebrating Cinco de Mayo continuously since 1863.
In the US, the celebrations have become geared towards American-Mexican traditions. It gradually spread from California to the rest of the States in the 50’s and 60’s.
“The Journal of American Culture states that there are at least 150 official Cinco de Mayo celebrations that take place every year.”
– José Alamillo, Professor, Washington State University
However, in Mexico, the celebration is mostly ceremonial with military parades to honour the fallen heroes and soldiers, andre-enactments of the Battle of Puebla.
The largest celebration is held at Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles. At its peak, in the 1990’s, 500,000 people attended but numbers have recently been decreasing.
In 2005, a proclamation was issued by United Congress to the people of the United States to recognize Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
At the Plaza del Pueblo de Los Ángeles, festivities include mariachi band demonstrations and Baile Folklórico,traditional Mexican folk dances. With the many styles of dance in Mexico, to determine if it is folklorico, watch the arms and legs. If the dancer raises her hands above her head, exposing her legs, it is folklorico.
These dances are the ones I love. As a child, I wanted to be a dancer with the brightly colored costume, the extravagantly swooping dress. That part of me still wants to become a Spanish dancer when she finally grows up.
Aside from the bigger Cinco de Mayo festivities in the western part of the United States, I have put together a list of humbler festivities, by city, in Canada and the US for you to consider.
Ottawa – With May 5th on a Friday this year, most establishments will see an increase in patrons. and you’re sure to have a good time. For some real Mexican music, a margarita or two and delicious food, celebrate at Feleena’s at 742 Bank St., or Ahora on Dalhousie. Any of them will be glad to have you.
Or, in Westboro, enjoy some great eating at The Piggy Market at 400 Winston Ave. You never know what party could ignite!
To become more involved in the Spanish community in general, visit Ottawa Hispanic Business Centre. Here, you can learn and practice the Spanish language, Spanish guitar and even the salsa. If you don’t live in Ottawa and would like to participate, google will lead you to the Hispanic Community in your city.
Enjoy Amaretto on the rocks or with select mixes. I discovered a couple delicious ways to enjoy it aside from downing it in a two second shot. Tasty but very anti-climatic. The literal translation of amaretto is a ‘little bitter’ and is from amaro which means ‘bitter’. Not to be confused with another Italian liquor, Amaro.
The only mix I had ever tried it with is orange juice which is very good. However, after asking bartenders what common requests they get for amaretto drinks, the usual response was on the rocks or an Amaretto Sour. The first one I tried, at Two Six Ate on Preston turned out to be scrumptious! I highly recommend it! The food menu is also unique, very worth the trip.
Their version is made with amaretto, lemon mix, bitters and an egg white. The egg creates the froth on top. Yes, it sounds disgusting but give it a try. I practically licked the glass clean. Think of the egg’s added health benefit to an already nutrition-less beverage!
They are open until 2am so if you’re on your way home, stop in for a night cap and catch some music. Better yet, spend the whole evening. Flossy Fridays feature DJ’s and dancing.
Back in my bartending days, a customer would ask for something different, not sweet but with a bit of a kick. They received my go-to shot, the Sicilian Kiss. Half amaretto and half Southern Comfort.
To enjoy this as a cocktail, try an Alabama Slammer:
1 oz amaretto
1 oz Southern Comfort
1 oz Sloe Gin
2 oz orange juice
Summer is coming fast and a full pitcher of this would be a perfect patio treat with friends! 1 cup of each liquor topped with 6 cups of OJ. It will fill a water pitcher perfectly.
Pub Italia is an amazing establishment, boasting a huge drink list. The staff will welcome you whether you’re staying to eat or drink or just browse through to discover every nook and cranny of their beautifully decorated monastery-style restaurant.
Amaretto’s Romantic History
Amaretto’s legend goes back to Saronno, Italy in 1525 when a widowed innkeeper created a concoction of brandy and apricot kernels as a symbol of
love, devotion and gratitude for Bernardino Luini, one of Da Vinci’s art students. He chose the beautiful widow as a model for his church frescoes of the Virgin Mary. His paintings can still be viewed in the chapel of Sante Maria delle Grazie in Milan and in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Miracles in Saronna. The church is most famous for their depiction of The Last Supper.
Saronno is well known for its production of amaretto and almond kernel biscuits and is home of the Church of St Francis Assisi, the oldest church in town.
Visit the distillery to learn how the famous liqueur is made. Sort of. You will learn only what THEY want you to learn. And good luck finding a video of how they make it. The writer of the Alcademics article was not allowed to photograph or videotape inside the production section of the factory during his tour. It’s all very hush hush.
The city is approximately a 20 minute drive from Milan. Much more to see and do here but to appeal to your sense of humour, visit the Italian Stock Exchange Centre (Parent Advisory).
Disaronno was originally called ‘Amaretto di Saronno’. In the 1600’s, the Reina family came in contact with the recipe of the liqueur and turned it into what we know as Disaronno. This brand is an infusion of apricot kernel oil, absolute alcohol, burnt sugar and 17 various, unknown, herbs and fruits. What, no almonds?
Almonds are not always necessary in the making of amaretto. The main ingredients are sugar, apricot kernels, spices, alcohol, benzaldehyde (this creates the almond scent) and amygdalin (only in the more expensive amarettos). Interestingly, the cheaper amarettos contain more benzaldehyde, and the more expensive ones contain more amygdalin. It has proven to be difficult to find out what spices are used in the production of amaretto as well. It is a well guarded secret. But I did discover a few spices that are added: rhubarb, ginseng roots and vanilla beans.
The famous square bottle debuted in 1942 and evolved in the 70’s, by a master glass maker from Murano, Italy, to what it is recognized as today.
The company purchases 300 tonnes of bitter almonds (Prunus dulcis var. amara) to make the oil. They actually call these almonds, apricot pits. This oil goes into the production of Disaronno. The trees grow in the Middle East and Asia.
Would you believe you can find Disaronno memorabilia and vintage bottles on Ebay. Empty! Full, I could understand. Who would buy this?!
CEO of Disaronno, August Reina, has released a new blend of their product. Amaretto and Scotch whisky. You’ll have to fork out $450 for it, though! ‘The Godfather’ cocktail is made up of these 2 ingredients. Don’t be surprised if this new bottle becomes known as the Godfather.
Where Do Almonds Come From?
The almond that we are accustomed to eating is the sweet version and is a dried seed from the Prunus dulcis tree. You can grow almonds in your home quite easily. Whether it bears fruit remains to be seen. Soak a 3-5 almonds in water for 48 hours, replacing with fresh water every 12 hours. Break the tiny tip to expose the inner almond. On a small plate, layer tissue paper and place the almonds on top, adding another layer of tissue paper. Fold up the sides and spritz with water to moisten. For 7-9 days, keep it moist but not soaking wet. This germinates the almond into its seed form and can be planted. Watch the video to see how to plant them.
How Are Almonds Harvested?
This has got to be the one of the coolest ways to harvest produce. The first minute of the Bella Viva Orchards video made my jaw drop so at least watch that much of it. You’ll be glad you did!
Amaretto & Hot Drinks
Blueberry Tea is all the rage lately. It’s showing up on more and more menus. I expected it to be prepared with Blueberry flavoured tea. Wrong. An ounce each of Amaretto, Grand Marnier topped with a hot cup of orange pekoe tea.
It’s great in coffee, too!
A Toasted Almond is made using amaretto and kahlua, a good choice of winter holidays or just plain winter time!
Why Stop At Just Drinking Amaretto?
If an Amaretto Sour is mixed with lemon sour mix, it must be delicious in a Lemon Bread/Cake. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Tiramisu can be made to look very different from one version to another. Any variation of liqueur can be used, this one is made with amaretto.
Pancakes – for the adults, not necessarily to feed to the children Sunday morning. Add 1/4 cup of amaretto to your favorite pancake recipe. Be sure to cut back on the amount of milk you use by a 1/4 cup.
Almondine Sauce is most commonly used on Sole or other white fish such as Halibut, Perch, Walleye and is also good on chicken.
If you prefer not to use up your delicious bottle, amaretto flavor can be purchased online for baking purposes. If I can find store locations in Ottawa that sell this, I will update.
I found recipes for homemade amaretto but many call for 2 cups of vodka and 1 cup of brandy. Seems like alot of work and using alot of liquor, may as well just buy a bottle, crack it open and enjoy. The LCBO’s least expensive amaretto is a Canadian version at $20 for a 750ml bottle. Whereas, Disaronno is $30 and Luxardo is $25. Luxardo is becoming increasingly popular in local pubs. Nonetheless, a simple recipe using only 2 cups of vodka, if you’re interested in concocting your own.
Where To Find Fresh Pasta in Ottawa
For years, I thought the only place to get fresh pasta was a little place on Somerset. Ottawa has many great choices to get delicious pasta.
Arturo’s on Beechwood. They are also a licensed establishment with a full restaurant. All entrees and desserts, right down the salad dressing, are homemade and au naturel.
Parma Ravioli on Wellington is a large shop to find interesting ingredients for your next pasta night.
Farmer’s Pick, on Prince of Wales, is another store with a wide range of staples.
There are 2 Nicastro’s located in Ottawa, one on Preston and the other in the market at 64 George St.
With so many wonderful ways to use amaretto, I will be sure to have a constant stockpile of it on hand!
Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Happy G & T Day! In this version, pictured left, it is made with the colorful Jack’s Tonique, made local, in Quebec, by Joel Beaupre and Mathieu Guillemette. It has a crisp, unique bitter taste but rich and delicious. My tastebuds quickly accustomed to the unusual flavour and I, soon, realized I downed it quite easily.
An official Gin Day will arrive later in the year when I will explore Gin’s exact origins.
Today will be dedicated strictly to G & T.
Compare this robust colored version with the clean and clear one that is most commonly made with carbonated tonic water.
With a little help, we can spread the word of more flavourful and healthier Tonics, such as Jack’s, to use instead. You only use an ounce or 2 max per drink so the 500ml bottle will last quite awhile. Mix that with 1 1/2 ounces of gin and top it with club soda and it will be a beautiful rich, golden color, as above.
Quinine – Pro or Con?
One of the ingredients in the final product of tonic water/syrup is cinchona bark. By boiling this bark, quinine is created. There are health benefits to this, however, too much of it can be hard on the system. It has been known to treat leg cramps, lupus (an autoimmune disease) and arthritis.
Quinine can help to relax muscles and ease muscle spasms. Originally, quinine was administered as an anti-malarial drug in the 17th Century.
On the other hand, a large build up of quinine can be serious with side effects ranging from headache to vomiting. People have been hospitalized with symptoms lasting a few weeks. Keep in mind, they didn’t have just a couple of gin an tonics on a Friday night. They overdosed on it.
From what I’ve discovered, it’s easier to overdose on it if you’re trying to make your own at home. In many of the cases, cinchona bark powder, and too much of it, was used. The powder is harder to filter so you end up with more grains in your actual drink. Leave this to the professionals. Today’s tonic water has very little quinine.
The Food and Drug Act banned quinine treatments in 2010 due to it’s serious side effects. Now there are restrictions on the amount of quinine allowed in tonic. If a doctor had prescribed it, the recommended dosage might have been 500-1000 mg.
In the carbonated drinks, do not exceed 2.48 mg of quinine per ounce of liquid. Therefore, if a gin and tonic is 1.5 oz of gin and 4.5 oz of Schweppes tonic water, you’re looking at 11.16 mg of quinine.
Now that I was concerned about the quinine content in homemade tonics, I emailed Jack’s Tonique to inquire.
Joel Beaupre promptly responded to assure me the levels were safe.
“The amount of quinine in our artisan tonic slighty fluctuates from batch to batch as we steep it from a natural bark that contains the quinine. Too many variables are involved to give a definite number. That being said, we use very little bark and have a low level of quinine compared to the big brands!” -Joel Beaupre
I can’t wait to try their new Ginger Beer! The only sweetener they use in their soda is pure Quebec honey. Again…..healthy!
Who Made the First Gin & Tonic?
Now I have THAT out of my system, we can get on to Britain, home of the Gin & Tonic.
Gin originates from London and word spread to the British Army of tonic’s benefits. In the 17th Century, quinine was used to combat malaria. A British officer realized alcohol, gin in particular, would help the bitter tonic to go down easier. Little did they realize it would save hundreds of lives.
However, the tonic had already been discovered. In the 1630’s an Augustinian Monk found a tree with possible remedies, in the forests of the Andes Mountains. He published a notice regarding the treatment, burying it in a work on the Augustinian Order.
“A tree grows which they call the fever tree, in the country of Loxa, whose bark of the color of cinnamon, made into powder amounting to the weight of two small silver coins and given as a beverage, cures the fevers and tertiana; it has produced miraculous results in Lima.
-Antonio de Calancha, Monk of the Augustinian Order
The bark from this tree, known as cinchona, or Jesuit’s Bark, was boiled to gain the medicinal properties of what is now called quinine. Some cinchona tree species grow to about 18 feet and span 1 to 2 feet in diameter.
Juniper Berries, The Super Food
Gin is produced from these berries which combat bacteria and can be treated for rheumatism, arthritis and cystitis. It can help with bloating and water retention and improves digestion since it increases saliva and digestive enzymes.
If crushed, it can be used topically on wounds as an antiseptic.
However, excessive use of the berries could lead to kidney irritation.
Today’s tonic contains artificial sweetener so it is much more pleasant to drink.
Any establishment in Ottawa will serve up a Gin and Tonic but if you’re looking to try the homemade tonic before you purchase the full bottle, visit the following and make sure you ask the server to make it with Jack’s Tonique.
12 restaurants in Ottawa serve it with Jack’s including the following:
When you’re ready to purchase a bottle of the tonic, choose from 14 different establishments including:
North of 7 Distillery – 1733 St. Laurent Blvd.
The Red Apron – 564 Gladstone St.
Viens Avec Moi – 1338 Wellington
Thyme & Again – 1255 Wellington St.
The relatively new company, Jack’s Tonique, has launched their products from its origins in Quebec to as far east as New Brunswick and to western Canada, with much of the concentration in Montreal and Ottawa.
I discovered another tonic and have yet to find an establishment that uses these Split Tree tonic in their drinks. But you can still purchase the bottle at these locations, as well as Thyme & Again.