World Cocktail Day

Making of The Last Word

Americans will try to claim the fame of inventing The Cocktail but the origins are European. After all, what is being used? Gin – made in Europe, Vodka – made in Europe, Vermouth – made in Europe.

-“Though fermented beverages had dominated for centuries, 17th century London turned from drinking ale and cider practically overnight. When King William of Orange was enthroned in 1688, he was faced with a dilemma. Years of good harvests left the nation with a grain surplus, driving down prices. To take advantage of this bounty — and “for the health of the nation” — he reduced taxes on distillation. British distillers produced around 500,000 gallons of neutral grain spirit the following year.”-

By the 1720s, London distillers alone produced 20 million gallons of spirits, not including an equally staggering amount of illicit alcohol. It was estimated that one out of every four habitable structure in London housed a working gin still.

The earliest use of the word “Cocktail” was discovered in the March 20, 1798, edition of The Morning Post and Gazetteer, a London newspaper no longer in operation.

The paper had reported a story of a landlord who won a lottery and went to his establishment and erased the tabs of the regular patrons. The newspaper then listed who owed what, including a certain William Pitt who owed for “L’huile de Venus”, “perfait [sic] amour”, and a less French drink: “‘cock-tail’ (vulgarly called ginger).”

The most common use of the term “cocktail” at the time was in reference to a horse with its tail cut short to indicate it was of mixed breed.

A colic remedy for horses consisted of water, oats, gin and ginger.

A Mere $10 on Amazon

America can stake its claim to the cocktail’s surge in popularity in part through the work of Jerry Thomas, a Connecticut resident who, in 1862, wrote the first book in the United States with a section dedicated for cocktail recipes. Historians have gone so far as to call him the American Father of Modern Bartending but he actually worked in London prior to writing the famous book plus he wasn’t born American.

American tourists were on the rise in London, England. London cashed in on this and opened numerous ‘cocktail joints’. The creative bartenders constantly dreamed up new drinks. Many of which were brought back to America and made an official drink. A few years later that particular drink was introduced in Europe labelled as an “American Drink.”

Then, in 1869, the first British book, Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinkscontaining cocktail recipes, was published by William Terrington.

The Savoy, one of those swanky Cocktail Joints, became notorious for American Bar Nights masking as charity fund raisers in the early 20th Century.

The first female bartenders of London were Ruth Burgess and Ada Coleman, better known as Kitty and Coley. Ada’s first cocktail  she prepared was a Manhattan, taught to her by Fisher, the wine butler at the Claridge Hotel. However, “Kitty” had been tending bar a few years before Ada arrived on The Savoy scene where together they flourished.

The Hanky Panky

Ada brewed up some Italian vermouth with a few dashes of Fernet Branca (a form of Bitters) for one of her regulars, actor Sir Charles Henry Hawtry who requested ‘something with a punch’. He downed the drink and exclaimed, “Why, Ada, this is the real hanky panky!” The name stuck and is still on The Savoy’s menu today. Ada was promoted to Head Bartender in 1903.

Their heyday would end with the American Prohibition. American bartender, Harry Craddock, returned to London, looking for work since the Prohibition pushed him, and other bartenders, out of the US. Harry was hired at The Savoy and instilled his belief that women should not work in bars. Thirsty Americans swarmed London, listened, and eventually, agreed with him. The phrase bar wench goes back a long way because women were quite dominant, and respected, in taverns.

The owner, Rupert D’Oyly Carte, let Kitty go and transferred Ada to the hotel’s flower shop, using the story that she “retired”. He then promoted Harry Craddock (you might remember the mention of his Savoy Cocktail Bookwritten in 1930, in an earlier post of mine), to Head Barman.

Harry was thought to be American but he was born near Stroud, Gloucestershire. He moved to America, married an Irish widow then returned to England. He claims to have invented 240 cocktails in his career but were some of these actually Ada’s inventions? Did he use what she was forced to leave behind? She gets credit for only 1 cocktail invention in her 20 year career with The Savoy?

Today, The Savoy boasts 7 in-house restaurants and pubs, of British and a touch of French cuisine. For some Wow factor check out the photo gallery. Aside from The Savoy, some renowned establishments, as suggested by The Telegraph Newsletter, where incredible cocktails are concocted:

Tokyo: Bar High Five, 4th Floor, No.26 Polestar Building, Tokyo, 7-2-14 Ginza, +81 3 3571 5815

Barcelona: Boutique Bar in the Ohla Hotel, Via Laietana, 49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, +34 933 41 50 50 New York: Pegu Club, 77 West Houston Street,

New York: Pegu Club, 77 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10012, (212) 473-7348

Havana: La Floridita (According to The Telegraph: Ask the doorman if Alejandro is working. If he isn’t, go elsewhere. When he is behind the bar, you can understand why this bar is so widely celebrated). Obispo No.557 esq. a Monserrate, Habana Vieja, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba, (0)7 8671300.

Hamburg: Le Lion. Rathausstraße 3, 20095 Hamburg, Germany, +49 40 33475378 ext. 0,

Meanwhile, here in North America, I’ve done a little digging. In Conneticut, home of Jerry Thomas, visit the unique Gillette Castle. Yes, a medieval castle in America! Built by William Gillette, the stage actor most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.

Gillette is the son of former U.S. Senator Francis Gillette and Elizabeth Daggett Hooker Gillette, a descendent of Thomas Hooker, the founder of Hartford. No wonder he could afford to build a castle!

Then there’s the quaint Mystic, Conneticut, a small town, near the castle, with interesting sights. When it’s summer in town, rent bikes, paddle boards, kayaks or take in the many festivals throughout the year. With no lack of things to do, Mystic offers vineyards, beaches, museums, casinos, the popular geo-caching, farmers and art markets with plenty of shops and nightlife. The historical seaport and Olde Mistik Village  are a must see!

Ottawa houses its own Savoy Brasserie on Richmond Road, leaning towards French cuisine, with a flair for original cocktails and high class decor. Order the oysters. Please!

See you on the next round!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on March 24, 2017

 

Saint Patrick’s Day – Have A Whale Of A Time!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Let’s get some things straight.

Things I didn’t know. (That’s what I love about this. I’ve become a human sponge!)

Which facts are you aware of? And what will come as a surprise?

Not Commonly Known

Saint Patrick wore blue, not green. Most paintings depicted him in blue robes. Only after the Irish Independence movement in the late 18th Century did the green color get pushed.

He wasn’t Irish. Patrick’s parents were Roman citizens living in England, where he was born (though a few sources say Scotland).

He was born Maewyn Succat in 385 AD. By that time, many Romans were Christians and Christianity was spreading rapidly across Europe. As a boy, christianity was the least of his worries.

Saint Patrick ended up a slave. At the age of 16 , he was kidnapped by Irish raiders who sold him as a slave. He spent 6 captive years in Dalriada, Ireland, herding sheep where he found comfort in God.

At the age of 22, he managed to escape (a voice told him it was time). He spent 3 days sailing then walked 28 days to the point of near starvation and was reunited with his family.

He gained his priesthood and later returned to Ireland (when, again, the voice told him to go back), changed his name to Patricius and spent the rest of his life converting Irish Pagans to Christianity.

The odds of finding a four-leaf clover are about 1 in 10,000. The myth that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit is likely not true. Instead, it is believed monks made this claim.

Patrick is also renowned for coming up with the Celtic cross, which combined a native sun-worshiping ideology with the Christian cross.

Sadly, after a harsh life of being constantly beaten by thugs, harassed by the Irish royalty, and admonished by his British superiors he died quietly, in Saul, Ireland in 461 where he had built his first church.

On a positive note, he founded monasteries, built churches, organized Ireland into dioceses, created councils and supported church officials, all during his life’s work.

The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was basically invented by Irish Americans.

What You May Already Know

Saint Patrick’s Day is the day of the saint’s death, not his birth. Early biographers state that he was buried near the Down Cathedral in the town of Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, or Dun Padraig, meaning Patrick’s Stronghold. A memorial stone stands over the supposed approximate location of his remains….well most of him. Apparently, a jaw and tooth are on display in the Dublin Museum.

Also, you can visit the Saint Patrick’s Visitor Center, also near the Down Cathedral, to learn more and pay tribute to him at his memorial site.

Saint Patrick is often portrayed with a Crozier, known as the Baccal Isu, his golden staff. A hermit was instructed, by Jesus, to give it to Patrick. Could this also be the staff of Jesus? Patrick used this crozier to banish the snakes. The Crozier was later denounced as superstitious and publicly destroyed in 1538 by order of the archbishop, George Browne.

The banning of the snakes is considered a myth since snakes never populated Ireland due to icy ocean conditions. It is believed to be another metaphor for cleaning up the streets of Ireland.

Patrick’s copy of the four gospels is held at the The Royal Irish Academy where his writings, referred as His Confession, can be viewed. The original writings are lost except for what is written in the Book of Armaghat the Trinity College Dublin Library.

Okay, school’s out, now for some fun…..

Parades, Beer, and Green Rivers!

The world’s first recorded Saint Patrick’s Day Parade took place in Boston on March 18, 1737, followed by the New York Parade, comprised of Irish military soldiers marching through the streets of New York, which first took place in 1762.

Today, 150,000 people take part in the New York parade, with 2 million people cheering them on. No motorized vehicles or floats are allowed in the parade, marching for Ireland only!

I have to mention this….the shortest parade occurred annually from 1999 to 2007 in Dripsey, an Irish Village. The parade spanned 26 yards, from the front door of one pub to another!

Rough translation of Erin Go Bragh!….Ireland Forever!

There are more Irish in the USA than Ireland. 34 million Americans have Irish ancestry. There are 4.2 million people living in Ireland.

In 1961, business manager of Chicago’s Journeymen Plumbers Local Union, Stephen Bailey, received permission to turn the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day. They used 100 lbs of vegetable dye! Today, they only use 25 lbs. The dye lasts for about five hours.

“The environmental impact of the dye is minimal compared with sources of pollution such as bacteria from sewage-treatment plants.” – Margaret Frisbie, the executive director of the advocacy group Friends of the Chicago River.

What’s with the Leprechauns?

This Irish fairy of supposed supernatural powers has no real connection to St Patrick. There are a couple of loose theories, one being everything Irish was rolled into this one holiday.

Oddly, there are no female leprechauns. No wonder the breed died out!

No Drinking On St. Patrick’s Day?

Irish law, from 1903 to 1970, declared St. Patrick’s Day a religious observance for the entire country. All pubs were shut down for the day, no beer for that day. The law was overturned in 1970, when St. Patrick’s was reclassified as a national holiday – allowing the taps to re-open. Not to mention cashing in on the tourist and beverage industries!

Speaking of beer:

Murphy’s Irish Stout – Light and sweet in flavor compared to the rest, Murphy’s Irish Stout has become increasingly more popular especially in the US.

O’Hara’s Irish Wheat – flavors of bananas, peaches and plums are blended with traditional hops. It’s perfect for those who prefer a lighter, easy-drinking option.– Something I prefer!

Neither of these can be found here in Canada but these are popular:

Kilkenny – smooth and creamy, the result of hops combined with fruits, malt, coffee and roasted barley.

And of course, there’s Guinness – A pint of Gat – The rich, dark, most popular Irish brew that comes in three varieties.

5.5 million pints of Guinness are sold on any given day, but this figure rises to an astounding 13 million on St. Patrick’s Day!

In 2012, it is reported an estimated $245 million is spent on beer on this day.

Going Local

Home to Ottawa since 1875 is St. Patrick’s Basilica, located on Kent St between Gloucester St. and Nepean St. It was the first English speaking Roman Catholic Church in the city. Free parking is available on all 3 of these streets Saturdays and Sundays.

Another St. Patrick church is in the Nepean district, at 15 Steeple Cres. It’s history began in 1833 and was rebuilt and blessed in 1866.

Game of Thrones

Plan your next trip to tour Northern Ireland, many of the filming locations of Game of Thrones. Lose yourself in the set, dressed in traditional robes and learn archery from the actors’ trainer.

If you are looking for a place to stay in Northern Ireland, Airbnb is very popular and can be inexpensive for travellers. Prices can be as low as $50 per night. Keep in mind, Europe tends to charge a minimal traveller’s fee, so inquire.

Here are a few beautiful options in and near the tour:

Stay in this breathtaking castle

City living in Belfast 

Wow– is all I can say!

A little more casual

On the water

My first choice, after touring Downpatrick

Great beachfront but you share the bathroom with the owner

Best bang for the buck

Last one, I swear

It would be so hard to choose…a cottage by the water or an amazing castle.

Enjoy your day however you choose to celebrate it!

Please Drink Responsibly

 

 

Posted on March 17, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

National Absinthe Day

A distilled highly alcoholic light green colored beverage considered a spirit and not a liqueur. A spirit, or liquor, has been distilled from grains or plants, sometimes flavoured but always unsweetened. Once a spirit, or liquor gets sweetened and flavoured, ie mint, it then becomes a liqueur.

Artemesia Absinthium
Artemesia Absinthium

Absinthe is made up of the flowers and leaves of the perennial Wormwood plant (Artemesia Absinthium) and flavoured with green anise (similar taste to licorice), sweet fennel and other herbs. The plant originates in Europe and grows well in Canada.

The French word, absinthe, translated to English is wormwood, and comes from Latin absinthium and from Greek apsinthion.

Revelation 8:10-11 states: “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” Revelation was written in the year 95AD.

The use of drinking absinthe is mentioned in Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (I 936–950) book of poems, where Lucretius indicates that a drink containing wormwood is given as medicine to children in a cup with honey on the brim to make it drinkable.

The first known use of the liqueur, laced with wormwood, was in 1612. Back then, the taste was highly potent and men needed a lot of courage to drink it. Today’s Absinthe alcohol content ranges from 45% to a whopping 74%.

Van Gogh painted Still Life with Absinthe during springtime in Paris, France in 1887. Reproductions of the painting range from the $200 figure for smaller sizes and as much as $1,000 for larger ones.

Wilfred Niels Arnold, a Kansas City, Kan., biochemist wrote a study on the artist in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He believes Van Gogh was addicted to chemicals in the terpene class. Terpenes are present in camphor, absinthe and turpentine, which he was known to drink, yes, even the turpentine. A tree planted over Van gogh’s grave, in Auvers-sur-Oise, happens to be a Thuja tree, a classic source of thujone, the toxic element in absinthe. Thujone is a chemical compound found in a number of other plants, one of them being Artemesia Absinthium so it naturally ends up in Absinthe.

Absinthe was so popular in France before it was banned (for its highly intoxicating effect) that bars even had “the hour of absinthe” like today’s cocktail hour, says Arnold. Despite the origins of the drink being in Egypt, France has claimed the fame. Dr Pierre Ordinaire, while living Couvet, Swiss, designed Absinthe, as it is known today. It had been rumoured to cure flatulence and anemia.

Five years after his death, in 1797, Henri-Louis Pernod opened a distillery in Switerland. Later, he opened Pontarlier near the Swiss border in France. Production of absinthe stopped in 1915 when it was banned because of its believed psychoactive and hallucinogenic qualities. It switched to the production of pastis, an anise flavoured spirit. When the ban lifted in the 1990’s, they continued with absinthe, too. It is currently a commume but there are many distilleries in Couvet.

The hallucinogenic qualities, some think are false. People would get very drunk on it because they loved the taste so much, they drank too much of it. The high alcohol content contributed, too, I’m sure. Some believe the intoxicating effects also were due to the other herbal qualities found in absinthe. Some of the herbs have heightening qualities and some have lowering (especially since liquor is a depressant) to give something more than an alcoholic buzz.

Europe lifted their ban in the 1990s since it is now believed to not be as harmful. Their law dictates a maximum 35 mg of thujone per kg are allowed in absinthe.

US lifted their ban in 2007 on the condition it contains less than 10ppm of thujone, Apparently, today there are no traces of it in bottles sold in the US.

Made in France $64.95 at 62% Alcohol Content

However, another source states that it is not legal in the US but as a food, not a drug. The US does not allow the distillation or commercial production of absinthe but you can legally own a bottle or make your own as long as it is not distilled.

Our LCBO sells absinthe but is costly. It is best served chilled with a little water and sugar.

There is a restaurant in Ottawa called Absinthe, located at 1208 Wellington St. I have eaten there once a little over year ago. Patrons pay a base amount, for example, at that time, it was $20, to receive a 3-course meal. You choose from their options of appetizers, entrees and a dessert. They offer vegetarian dishes as well. I don’t remember what I ordered, I think a soup to start, but I do remember the taste. Delicious!

After spending 15 minutes calling MANY restaurants offering French cuisine, I finally found the brand new Sur Lie, that sells Absinthe. They serve it in the traditional format with a sugar cube!

Located at 110 Murray St., it is out of the main hub but is a hidden gem. The friendly and knowledgeable staff make it a great place to relax. The Amazing Matthew knows his stuff when it comes to the products they offer at the bar. He was kind enough to let me video tape his preparation of my drink. To my surprise, he lit it on fire! Three weeks ago, they opened their doors and this Tuesday is the grand opening. Please show your support and try to make it.

Their unique menu is a must see. The not-often-seen beef tartare, duck and scallops are on my list when I attend Tuesday’s opening. Organic salmon is on the menu, too. So many great choices!

There are promises of a superb patio this summer. See you out back!

Have A Great Absinthe Day!

Happy Absinthe Day! Who knew there was such a procedure to this drink!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on Sunday, March 5, 2017

 

 

It’s Margarita Day!

Posted on February 22, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

We will start this off right.

#1 – Click the Link.

#2 – Press Play (or skip the ad)

#3 – Turn up the Volume. Now you’re ready. You’ll understand why……

Hot on the heels of National Drink Wine Day comes my second favorite drink…The Margarita. Literal translation of margarita is the daisy flower. Early in the 20th century, the Tequila Daisy cocktail contained a spirit, citrus juice, a sweetener or liqueur and a fizzy drink. Did they reverse The Daisy into it’s literal translation?

Finding who invented it is the challenge. A popular story is of Carlos Herrera, the owner of, Rancho La Gloria, a restaurant located between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico, who created the drink, in 1938. A customer, former Ziegfeld dancer named Marjorie King, requested a drink but knew she was allergic to many types of spirits but not to tequila. He used the same ingredients previously used for doing tequila shooters. Lime and salt.

However, the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, published in 1937, contains a drink called the Picador. The list of ingredients is tequila, cointreau and lime juice. Perhaps Carlos Herrera knew of the drink but changed the name on the spot for her.

Don Pedro Sanchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira was the first to mass produce tequila in a region that is now called Jalisco.

Don Jose Maria Guadalupe de Cuervo was the first person to receive a documented license, in 1795, to produce tequila.

Typically, the people of Mexico do not drink Margaritas so is it an American influence?

Another possible inventor might have been Danny Negrete. He is credited with producing the drink for his sister in law, Margarita, as a wedding present at the Garci Crespo Hotel in 1936. He later worked at the Agua Caliente Race Track where a famous actress whose real name is Margarita (read further for her identity) performed in her teen years in the early 1930’s. He may have named it for her.

Some establishments are now adding agave nectar, a sweet and syrupy liquid which does have to be watered down. Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco boasts 400 varieties of tequila and uses the nectar in their Margaritas. Julio Bermejo is the first person to use an organic version of the nectar. The tiny bar in the middle of nowhere has become renowned across the world thanks to him. The nectar has one of the lowest glycemic indexes of any sweetener which is a healthier option for diabetics. They use freshly squeezed lime juice – no sour mix in a bottle in this bar! It’s a great year to go as they celebrate their 50th year.

I couldn’t be happier with the number of Mexican restaurants on the rise in Ottawa. Burrito Gringo type places are popping up all over the city. I thought there weren’t any authentic Mexican restaurants here, however, with a bit of footwork, I discovered a few of these establishments have been here for many years.

The first day of my research took me to Taqueria Kukulkan, at  1730 Montreal Road, which has been open for about 3 years. It’s humble in appearance. You expect a fast food experience at first sight by the size of it. When you see the tables set with wine glasses, napkins with cutlery and a foil-wrapped heart shaped chocolate  on top, you know you’ve misjudged.

The quality of staff, food tableware and cleanliness will blow you away. And they’re licensed! Their liquor cabinet houses mostly tequila of many brands. One of the most amazing aspects, in my opinion, is the fact that the chefs are preparing and cooking your food literally in the same room as the clientele but you wouldn’t even know it. They work quietly, attentively and in sync with each other. You can hear the mariachi music playing in the background.

I fell in love with the place with it’s Mexican colors, flags, paintings, engravings that differ from table to table, and I hadn’t even received my food yet!

Well, I am partial to Spanish style and that love blossomed with every trip I made to Mexico and California where I was very fortunate to vacation over the years since childhood. In restaurants in Mexico, you are served complimentary guacamole with corn chips, while here, in North America, many places offer you bread and butter. Need I say more?

As a kid, the moment the guacamole dish hit the table, I dove in. Kukulkan didn’t disappoint with it’s heaping serving and home made corn chips. I highly recommend giving this place a try for it’s homey feel and deliciously authentic meals. You will find me here today since, by coincidence, it is Margarita Wednesday, a weekly event.

Ottawa needs more authentic Mexican restaurants, not necessarily those Tex-Mex places, which are great, too, but I’ll take getting swept away to Mexico any day.

My love for mariachi music has spanned most of my life so I had hoped to find a Mexican restaurant  that showcased a live Mariachi Band once in awhile. Enjoying dinner with trumpets, acoustic guitars and a whistler, you can’t go wrong! In Mexico, a band of 3 or 4 musicians weave their way among the patrons and play for your table. It’s festive and lifts your spirits. If you’ve had the YouTube music link, I supplied, playing, maybe you agree? After visiting 5 Mexican establishments, I had yet to find a live mariachi band. My 6th option finally brought me positive results.

Variations

The most famous Margarita I know of is Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) whose real name is Margarita Carmen Cansino.

Had enough of the mariachi music? Switch to the song, Margarita, or the classic Jimmy Buffet but please, do continue.

Oddly enough, Rita Hayworth leads us to the movie, the Shawshank Redemption so I had to find out why. The film is based on Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which is in print in the short story collection of 1982’s Different Seasons. The novella is far from being about Miss Hayworth. In the movie’s production stages, they dropped the Rita Hayworth since so many actresses submitted their resumes, thinking it was a biography of the actress/dancer. An agent, representing an unnamed supermodel, even called to say it was the best script he’d read and that the part (which was non-existent) would be perfect for the supermodel. Someone didn’t do their homework.

The first great great grandchild of Queen Victoria is Princess Margarita of Greece and Denmark.

And, there is the pizza, Margherita, with the simplest of ingredients:  your favorite pizza/tomato sauce, basil and cheese. A couple of years ago, I had this type of pizza for the first time in the Niagara-On-The-Lake region. An absolutely delicious but simple pizza with bocconcini cheese balls sliced and scattered over the pizza.

Feleena's on Bank St.
Feleena’s on Bank St.

Feleena’s Cantina, at 742 Bank St., is in the heart of the Glebe, which is close enough to catch a football game or while shopping. They receive many patrons daily. Not just for it’s convenience but for it’s truly authentic dishes, decor and tasty Margarita’s. Their trusted recipe has been the same for the last 25 years, using Triple Sec and have been operating in this location for the last 38 years. They have many types of tequila and you can choose any of these to add to your Margarita. The cost is $10.95 and is a generous serving. Please ask the server. The experienced staff is very accommodating especially when requesting off menu items. I was in the mood for chips and dipping but did not find a similar variety plate, except for chips and guacamole. She offered to bring that order with 4 additional dips. The chips are made fresh daily on site.

The colors are true to tradition and the owner paints the chairs, walls and doors. It’s easy to spend 20 minutes browsing the restaurant to see all of the original artwork. In the menu, there’s a full welcome page with the owner’s origins.

Pancho Villa, in the hub of the Elgin Street pubs, houses so many varieties of tequila, there’s a separate menu of 65 types, most are 100% agave. Enjoy their smoothness straight up on ice for optimum flavour. Their Margarita is $12.95 for the 3 ounce option and $8.50 for the 1 1/4 ounces. It has been operating on Elgin since 1984.

I had the opportunity to speak with the owner’s wife and learned a great deal. The statues on display throughout the restaurant originate from the markets in Mexico but the creator is unknown . There are over 200 types of tequila. More on this when it is National Tequila Day. To keep the dishes true to the heritage, they have an 80 year old gentleman, from Peru, work with the kitchen staff on a regular basis.

If you are planning to learn Spanish, they also offer language courses on site.

Still looking for that Mariachi band…..

The subdued but classy decor at Agave Grill, in Westboro, is not a reflection of less quality. The favorite here is the Margarita, with it’s special blend, similar to the one made at Tommy’s in San Francisco. The popular fajitas are half price on Mondays. They have been on the map for 14 years and know, by opening their doors on a holiday Monday, they will bring in many customers looking for good food and rich ambiance. Oh, and try the Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Soup!

The Ahora Mexicaine Cuisine, in the Ottawa Market, had a unique approach. They didn’t lack on colors and hand painted murals but the method of service differed. You are taken to your table where you decide on your order then approach the cash to place your order and pay. There is a free, self serve salsa bar and water decanter with lime wedges to pour your own water. The waitresses aren’t lazy. They are hustling everywhere, greeting customers, serving Margaritas (which are $7.95), removing plates, cleaning tables and answering customer questions. Their workload would be too great if they took orders as well. It’s a clever method and it works very well.

Now, for the best of all. Without looking at reviews, I can tell you Taqueria La Bonita, on Ogilvie Road between the Aviation Parkway and the Gloucester Centre, will be a hotspot in Ottawa this summer. They bring in Mariachi Bands!  I asked the waitress about their Margarita’s and she said they are cool. So I ordered a glass of cool and the most amazing, most beautifully decorated drink was placed before me. Pineapple and watermelon and strawberry, oh my!  You have to go! They are open 2 years now and for a Tuesday, they were full! I would recommend making a reservation for groups larger than 4. The Enchiladas Verdes proved to be scrumptious! The owners are a wife and husband team. She is from Mexico and her portraits (see below) decorate the walls. The many other pieces throughout the restaurant are all from Mexico. Enjoy the Spanish music as you take your time to browse the unique wooden menu with rustic hinges, also made in Mexico. It describes each dish and where is originates.

If I visit there once a month, it will take me about a year and a half to conquer each dish. Did I mention, you must go there?

With 2 of the newest Mexican restaurants, that you can definitely rave about, located in the east end, I think it should be renamed “Little Mexico!” Think it will catch on?

In July, I will bring you all the dirt on tequila. I hope you can join me!

#4 Now get out there and have yourself a Margarita! Salud!

"Door" Man at Ahora
“Door” Man at Ahora

“Please Drink Responsibly.”

As the man on the left says, “Por Favor Beber Responsablemente.”


	

It’s National Drink Wine Day!

Posted February 18, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

Vino

I thought it would never get here! Thankfully, there are over 14 national days of the year associated with wine so it shouldn’t be too long before the next one.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to come back. Now, let’s get to it, I’m too excited to hold back and there’s so much ground to cover.

There won’t be too much about this flavour of grape or white vs red vs rose. Anyone who knows me, knows I gravitate to the unusual and unconventional so that’s where I’ll go with this.

Working from the outside in, take the wine bottle itself. Why are some of them green?

To protect the contents from light which can damage the wine. If it wasn’t stored in a cellar, it could be exposed to harmful lighting. Previous to the invention of the dark wine bottles in the 1600’s, goat skin bags were used. Darker green bottles are used for red wines and lighter green bottles are used for whites.

Now for the indentation at the bottom of your bottle, called the Punt. Glassblowers form the glass this way so it will stand up straight. Not like us once we drink the contents of one! The depth of the punt does not indicate a good quality wine or cheap wine. It varies on the desires of the producer.

Ah the Cork. I have a box full of these little babies. Sadly, we take them for granted. We tend to smell the cork, after opening, but why? And why should we?

Check it for cracks, dryness, breaks or mold. If it smells musty, like wet cardboard, toss it. Yes, the wine, too.

On the other hand, it can be used as a fabric dye or as a fruit fly trap. Removing a red wine stain with white wine seems a tad wasteful to wine lovers but if you’re going to toss it, use it as a cleaner, too.

Below are 2 different videos, one short and one a little more in depth. In a rush? Click the first video which is 2 1/2 minutes. It shows how cork is harvested from trees in Portugal in huge pieces.

Harvesting Cork Bark

If you’ve already cracked open a bottle, you might have a few extra minutes to watch this video showing you the process from bark removal to the cork’s finished product:

5-Minutes Video

Both are very interesting and well worth the few minutes. It depends on how much time you have on your hands right now.

Statue of Dionysus in the Gardens of Versailles, France.
Statue of Dionysus in the Gardens of Versailles, France.

Where did it all begin?

The origins date further back than what is currently documented. However, this might give you an idea as to how ancient wine is:

Georgia, in The Caucasus region, mountains that span from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea with Russia to the north – as far back as 6000 BC!

Armenia – just south of Georgia – 4100 BC – where the oldest winery to date was discovered.

Myth or Truth? This story is from 7000 BC in Persia:   A young princess, despaired over her rejection by the King, decided to commit suicide by drinking the spoiled residue left by rotting grapes. After experiencing the effects of intoxication, she passed out. The next day, she realized life was worth living and reported her discovery to the King who rewarded her find. 

In Iran – 5000 BC – Pottery vessels found at excavation sites in the Zagros Mountains in Iran, dates back to 3100-2900 BC. They were determined to contain tartaric acid which would indicate the presence of wine. How ironic that there is a city called Shiraz! It is formerly the captial of Iran.

The World’s Oldest Wine Bottle dates to AD 325 which was found inside one of two sarcophaguses near Speyer, Germany. It is now displayed at Historiches Museum der Pfalz.

In Greece – 4500 BC

Of course, as a wine lover, I have to mention Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine, Fertility of the land, and Ecstacy, pictured above, in the gardens of Versailles, France. Ah, to have wandered the earth, spreading the love of wine and sharing the art of viticulture as he did…..

Tutankhamun

Henry Carter discovered his tomb in 1922 in the Valley of Kings. Various pitchers located in King Tut’s tomb are now known to be wine decanters. They had been labelled with Year 5 and the name of the vintner, Khaa. Tutankhamun, born in 1341 B.C, had reigned from 1332 B.C. to 1323 B.C., and died at the age of 19. Some say he died of gangrine.

Also in King Tut’s tomb, residue found in other jars previously indicated a drink, called Shedeh, made from pomegranates. Recent methods discovered by scientists suggest this residue is from red wine made from grapes, not pomegranates.

All contents of his tomb are on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It is currently under construction so maybe wait awhile if you plan to go.

Oldest wineries, still producing wine:

Chateau de Goulaine, The Loire, France, since the year 1000 –  Believed to be the oldest known wine business still in existence, today it produces a Muscadet, Sancerre and Vouvray.

One of many vineyards along the Rhine River in Germany.
One of Many Vineyards Along the Rhine River in Germany, taken from Rhenus Cruise Ship.

Schloss Johanisberg, Germany, circa 1100 – bombed in 1942 but now restored by Princess Tatiana and her husband, Paul Alfons Fürst von Metternich.

Schloss Vollrads, Rheingau, Germany, established in 1211. Best known for Riesling. The winery and castle are open to the public.

Barone Ricasoli, Tuscany, the oldest winery in Italy, 1411. Best known for Chianti. Not in Italy? Get the flavour of Tuscany at your local LCBO.

Boschendal Winery, Franschhoek, South Africa began in 1688.

Rustenberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa, established in 1682.

With this new knowledge, I know I’ll be taking tours of at least one of these wineries the next time I get to Europe.

Castlehotel Schonburg - Price Range: 120-330 euro/night
Castlehotel Schonburg – Price Range: 120-330 euro/night

Also, worth mentioning are the castles, among all these vineyards, transformed into hotels along the Rhine River in Germany. The website pictures of Shoenburg are breathtaking…..just for fun, have a look! To get a feel for the surroundings, go into the rooms section. My favorites are Turmzimmer (Tower Room) No.22 and No.23. There are other castle hotels, at a lesser cost, here and all over Europe, but Schoenburg has amazing appeal and charm.

If you’re vacationing in northern Mexico this winter, visit Casa Madera, the oldest winery in the Americas. It is situated in Parras de la Fuente which was established in 1568 in the state of Coahuila, in northern Mexico.

Or, in August, plan a trip to Parras for it’s annual Grape Fair. Casa Madera is not the only winery in this area. Hint, hint: Wine Tours.

Codorniu, Spain, 1551 – “the Codorníu cellars at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia were declared “a National Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest” by King Juan Carlos I”.

If you’re suffering a good old Canadian winter like me, our options:

Visit the local LCBO.

Make your own, there’s a wealth of wine-making shops across the city. I’ve been privileged to be offered a few different ones over the years and J & J Wines, on Walkley Road, in Ottawa, has great tasting red wine, in my opinion, and a good reputation.

Book your own wine tour in Ontario. Choose from Lake Erie, Prince Edward County, and Niagara On The Lake. Use the route planner to choose the wineries you wish to visit plus your accommodation destination and they map it out for you.

 

The Largest Wine Vat, of its time, sits in the Heidelberg Castle in Germany. Built in 1751, it holds 221,726 litres but is rarely used for wine. It stands approximately 6 metres high and 8 1/2 metres wide. Green people, please skip this next sentence. It is said 130 oak trees were used for it’s construction. A dance floor was built over top of it. When Napoleon’s army invaded, the soldiers thought it was full of wine. Their hatchet marks are still visible on the bottom section. If the angle of my shot had been from the front, you would see them better. If I spoke or read German, I would also have known what to photograph when I was there. Such as this little guy. It seemed picture worthy but I really didn’t realize his importance. Perkeo, the Eternal Keeper of the Tun, was once a court jester and master of the castle’s spirit production. The only liquid he poured down his throat was apparently wine until the age of 80 when his doctor advised him to stop. When he did and tried water, he died. Google the Heidelberg Tun to see more. Being the most famous castle in Germany, the massive ruins attract millions of tourists per year. The only way to access the castle is through a guided tour, done in German and in English and run all year. Specialized tours and events run regularly. Today, if you’re in Heidelberg, take part in Life At Court. The whole family can dress up in costume.

Note: The Tun was the largest in the world until 1934 when a larger barrel was built in Bad Durkheim, Germany which sits at 13.5 metres in diameter. It is located on the edge of the German Wine Route. Go figure.

There is another barrel, recently built in Languedoc, France, that outsizes both of these but, in my opinion, lacks the Old World charm. The owner claims it will never be filled but may be used for special events and perhaps a shop.

Onto Other Parts of the World

Cheers!

The custom of bumping glasses is an Ancient Roman greeting. The wine would spill from one glass into the other. It seems this method assured no one is trying to poison the other. In my opinion, if your wine glass is clean and it’s “bumped” by a medieval knight, I’m not drinking it anymore.

A Toast!

The first recorded toast in England took place in 450 CE, at a feast given in honor of British King Vortigern by Hengist, the leader of his Saxon allies.

Offer your glass up and, literally, a piece of spiced, charred or stale toast would be dropped into your wine. Apparently, it soaks up some of the acidity and it made the wine taste better. It could be an h’or d’oeuvre since they were not in the habit of wasting food.

In Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he mentions putting toast into spiced wine.

A Toast, To Your Health!

In those times, The Host would have to drink first to prove the wine he served was not poisoned. Thus, drinking to your health!

Wine as Income

Churches and Monasteries earned income from wine but did you know hospitals and universities did as well?

The most famous  Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, in France, is a hospital, museum and a vineyard. Built by Nicholas Rolin, in 1443, it was intended for the poor and disadvantaged after living through the 100 Years War. Also on the estate grounds is a 60 hectare vineyard. It’s world famous wine auction takes place every third November of each year. There’s lots of time to book your tickets for the festival this year! The proceeds from sales are used to improve hospital equipment and maintaining the Hotel.

Regarding Monasteries, there’s a cool story about Champagne coming up later in the year.

Cool Facts

During Prohibition years, concentrate manufacturers put warning stickers on their product:

After you mix the concentrate with water, please do not keep the mix in a barrel longer than 20 days-it will turn into wine.

If wine has a low sugar content, it will be a dry, or very dry wine. Labels at the LCBO display the sugar content so you can determine it’s dryness. For example 4g will be dry and 14 will be much sweeter.

An individual who is afraid of wine has oenophobia.

Oenology is the study and science of wine and wine-making. Algonquin College and Brock University offer this course.

Sulphites do not cause headaches. They can, however, cause asthma symptoms. You may want to consider natural/organic wines as they have a lower sulphite content. To avoid a vino headache, stay away from the sweeter wines. The sugar depletes the liquid in your head which causes your headache.

Only the men of Ancient Rome were allowed to drink wine. If they caught their wife partaking, he was allowed to kill her.

For those vampiric types, order a Cobra Wine in Vietnam. They will serve you rice wine topped with the blood from a freshly killed cobra.

Germans invented Eiswein, wine made from frozen grapes.

Doc Hendley founded the company Wine to Water, an organization that uses wine tastings to improve the quality of water in under developed countries. What an inspirational story, check it out sometime.

Wine instead of gas? Prince Charles converted his vintage Aston Martin to run on surplus English wine. He cut carbon emissions by 25%!

How Healthy Is Wine?

One ounce of red wine contains:

2% potassium – for heart health ;  smooth muscle contractions, digestion.

2% iron – helps to carry oxygen to your lungs

5% vitamin B-6 – brain, cardiovascular, digestive and muscular health

2% magnesium – nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood coagulation,                       energy production, nutrient metabolism, and bone and cell formation.

Hmm, not bad, there’s more….

Some doctors believe one glass of red wine per day can lower the risk of alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes, and you’ll look better.

Wine drinkers (1-2 4oz glasses per day) have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers. Taken from a Finnish study of 2,468 men over a 29-year period, published in the Journals of Gerontology, 2007.

Red-wine tannins contain procyanidins, which protect against heart disease. Taken from a study at Queen Mary University in London, published in Nature, 2006.

Must I go on?

Read all 8 benefits

Anti-Aging Face Mask

WebMD states the reservatrol in wine is great for anti-aging!

1 tablespoon red wine (reservatrol, see below)

1 tablespoon honey (reduces blemishes and redness)

1 tablespoon greek yoghurt (for the probiotics)

Pour a glass of wine. Mix the 4 ingredients in a bowl. Spread on face and neck using a cotton ball. Enjoy your glass of wine for 15 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. Apply your usual face cream.

I would love to hear if anyone tried this and what your results were! As an eczema sufferer, I was very excited to try it. It seemed a little watery but actually stuck to my face, no problem, only a couple of drips. Keep a towel handy (preferably a wine colored one!). It tingled my skin and smelled delicious. Yes, I licked the spoon. You probably will. too. Soon I could feel it tightening. After rinsing and applying moisturizer, my skin was so soft! There may not be a noticeable difference after one application but after a month, who knows?Pictures are below because I don’t want to scare anyone off by having them right here. Beware, glamour pictures they are not!

Soy Sauce Healthier Than Red Wine?

Deciphering Your Wine

European wines are named for their region, such as Bordeaux, France or Sancerre, which is also in France. Even though they use the same grapes as Americans might use. They don’t put the name of their grape on the bottle either.

Whereas, non-European wines are named for their grape variety, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Red vs White

Ok, I lied. Let me make one comparison.

Darker shades of reds and yellowish white wines come from warm climates and have a lush body to it. Lighter colors are from cooler climates and will taste lighter.

Ok, two.

Why is red wine known to be heart healthier than white? The grape skins are rich in antioxidants. Red wine is fermented with the skin. White is fermented without the skin. A few studies I looked at are actually showing an increased risk of contracting cancer, especially of the digestive tract. This is if you are indulging in more than 2 glasses per day.

All the more reason to come to the dark side………

Since I’m on the topic of antioxidants, I learned something new. You’re probably way ahead of me on this. Polyphenal and Reservatrol, the antioxidants found in the grape seeds, prevent oxidization. Oxidization (the loss of electrons) occurs when an element, that loses electrons more easily (an apple, for example), is exposed to another element, that is reluctant to lose electrons (oxygen is one of these).When the insides of the apple are exposed to the air, it turns brown almost instantly. An antioxidant will slow this process. Oxidization can cause cell damage, even death.

Therefore, to help your wine last longer, transfer it into a smaller bottle and re-cork it. You’ve now eliminated that damaging oxygen in your bottle. For those who don’t polish off a bottle in one sitting.

Women get drunk faster than men because of their water to fat ratio, even if they are of the same weight and size. Sorry, ladies, it seems we have a higher fat content; men have more blood and water volume. Fat does not absorb alcohol so it spreads, in it’s highly concentrated form, throughout our body resulting in a higher blood alcohol concentration. It’s not all about the fat! Apparently, we have lower amounts of dehydrogenase, an enzyme in the lining of our stomach, men have more of this to help break down alcohol.

Just For Fun….

What do you call someone who talks about the wine he or she will open but never does?

The answer is hidden in the “tags” section. Unless you’d rather cheat and google it.

If you made it this far, I’m flattered. Thank you for taking part! See you soon…..

Before
Before
During
During

 

 

 

 

After - Redness Gone!
After – Redness Gone!

PS: I Hate Selfies!

Happy Irish Coffee Day!

Welcome to the Debut of Travel By The Glass!

Posted January 25, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

Nuts & Bolts

If curiosity got the better of you, you’ve landed on Travel By The Glass. It’s fun, informative and will take you to quaint, off-the-beaten-path places. On your next vacation, add a little spice to your trip with interesting detours to your travel itinerary. Mingle with the locals. Discover a whole new world while you’re globetrotting.

In the months to come, this website will showcase unique, maybe even unheard of, places. The country of choice will depend on what is the national “drink” of the day. I’ll even attempt to make the drink, too! (Scroll further or use the Facebook link in sidebar.)

Happy Irish Coffee Day!Who Concocted the First Irish Coffee?

To celebrate National Irish Coffee Day, we discover the origins of this scrumptious drink all the way to, of course, Ireland.

Foynes to be exact, a small village near Limerick. It’s considered a fairly new town, being less than two centuries old. The Foyne’s Air Base, in affiliation with Shannon Airport, handled many passengers, including political VIP’s and celebrities, on their Flying Boats to and from Canada and the United States.

In 1942, a flight bound for North America had to return to Foynes due to extreme winter weather which was not an uncommon occurrence. The restaurant, located at the Foynes terminal, had just acquired a new manager, Joe Sheridan. Faced with these chilled, travel-weary passengers, Joe created a special drink. As the story goes, a hush fell as they tasted it for the first time. It became the main staple included on Joe’s menu for travelers in Foynes.

Travel writer, Stanton Delaplane  brought the recipe back to America to Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco. Their early attempts to recreate the brew saw the cream sinking to the bottom of the glass. Jack traveled to Foynes to catch up with Joe to learn the proper method. He eventually found him at Shannon International Airport.

In 1952, Buena Vista Hotel offered Joe a position. Joe’s popular story is commemorated in the Foynes Flying Boat Museum.

Today, the Buena Vista proudly makes 2,000 Irish Coffees daily.

Watch To See If My First Attempt Was Successful.

I would love to see your picture posted having an Irish Coffee! A follow up post will feature your photos.

Flying through San Francisco on February 25? Stop in for a brew at the newest location of the Sheridan at the San Francisco airport.  The original is at the Buena Vista in the fisherman’s wharf area in San Francisco where it’s made to classic perfection. This is on my agenda next trip to Cali!

View the events from 2016 Foyne’s Flying Boat and Museum and to plan your visit for 2017. Be sure to watch the 10 minute video for a taste of what’s in store – the music finishes about the 3 minute mark then gets into the commentary. 

For a more adult geared excursion, download the free app for Ireland’s Whiskey Trail available at Google Play Store. The tour guides you to Ireland’s distilleries, the best whiskey pubs and shops.

The Irish Based Flight Company, Ryanair has some exciting offers for it’s passengers:

Ryanair Flights for Free In Europe?

An Example of a Recent Ryanair Special

If you’re in Ireland this time of year, re-live the past at the Sheridan Food Pub, named after you-know-who.

A wealth of Irish pubs are in the Ottawa Market and downtown area. All priced the specialty coffees around $6.95. I visited a few, including the following:

The Aulde Dubliner makes 2 versions of Irish Coffee. Barman Luc made the Bushmill’s Irish Coffee with flair and so generously gave his attention to all of my questions. Ask about the new drink menu geared for Winterlude. If the Carrot Parsnip soup is on tap, I strongly urge you to have one, it’s out of this world! Kudos to Chef Dave Rosa.  

The Irish Village consists of 4 pubs meandering from the front of the Heart and crown to Mother McGinty’s at the back. The specialty coffee selection is the same as the Aulde Dubliner so I if you’re in the market tonight, you’ll find one, no problem.

Patty Boland's

Patty Boland’s, in the market, hosts great music almost every night of the week so check out the dj tonight for some mid-week dancing. I consider myself somewhat of a poutine connoisseur and theirs is definitely a 10!

The newly opened Starbucks on York Street sadly is not yet equipped to make today’s national drink; they do serve beer and wine. If we all request a specialty coffee, they may come around!

Lunergan’s Pub in Ottawa East, made a lovely Irish Coffee with Kahlua. Yum. Ask for the Irish stew either today or on St Paddy’s Day, they make it fresh on site.

Connor’s Gaelic Pub, on Bank Street, provided me refuge on a freezing rain evening. They offered a good variety of coffees but I opted for a soup for some reason. Was I missing that carrot parsnip soup? For a pea soup non-lover, it was quite good! Served in a giant bowl, it seemed quite thin which I discovered is the correct way.

Quinn’s Ale House, in the Glebe, has a lively, intimate atmosphere. The lovely Alli informed me they don’t make Irish Coffees but I could slip across the street, purchase a fresh brew and bring it back for a shot of rye. Voila, makeshift Irish Coffee!

Celtic Cross, two blocks away, is back on Elgin Street! The week kicks off Wednesdays for Open Mike so drop in for your specialty coffee tonight and catch the entertainment. Into Trivia? Every week, they host a trivia night and music Fridays and Saturdays. Each Sunday, they present a different movie, unless there’s a big game on. Planning your own event? Inquire within. The cool picture of the cross and Irish flag I give credit to Dave, the bartender with the most awesome hairstyle! Without his help, I wouldn’t have achieved that angle.

Woody’s on Elgin has a beautiful fireplace tucked away at the back surrounded with 4 comfy chairs. A great place to enjoy an Irish Brew.

Fireplace

Wherever you are, find your local Irish pub, preferably one with a fireplace to cozy up to, for a tasty, hot drink on this cold winter day. Distracted by delicious soups (Hey, if it fits in a glass, I’ll include it!), I still managed to visit 10 Irish pubs and feel I accomplished my goal.

If you enjoyed this bit of information, at least found it interesting and know someone who has a passion for airplanes or coffee, Irish style, share this piece with them.

I invite your feedback to help grow this site. Feel free to make requests. I’ll dig and research the hell out of anything (I live for this!) to bring to future posts. All suggestions welcome.

Most of all, please return for the next National Drink Day! Stay Tuned!

Respect Your Brothers and Sisters…     Please Drink Responsibly