It’s National Vodka Day

Vodka, an Eastern European spirit stems from the Russian word voda which means little water.

Polish Vodka is traced back to the 11th Century and was referred to as gorzalka. This translates to “to burn”. Hmm, how proper.

Today, it is more commonly called  Woda in Poland.

I’m not so sure I like Wikipedia’s description of vodka where it states that it is made up of water and ethanol. Think I’ll steer clear of drinking vodka and maybe put some in my gas tank instead.

But really, it is fermented cereal grains, and sometimes, potatoes. Some brands use fruit or sugar.

In 1405, the first written mention of the word vodka comes from court documents  from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. It refers to medicine while gorzalka was still meant as the distilled drink.

The Age of Vodka

The oldest distillery, Sobieski, dating back to 1864 in Starogard Gdańsk,  Poland.

Made from 100% Dankowski Rye.

In the fields of nearby towns, Freda, Lubichowo, and Osowo Leśne, the grain, specifically for their vodka, is grown. Rye is their specialty and has received a Gold medal for their product.

Despite all this greatness, the cost is very comparable to the ever popular Smirnoff.

A point of interest, if you’re in Poland, visit the largest castle in the world, the 14th Century Malbork Castle, near the Baltic Sea coast.

Also in Poland is the Wierzynek, a restaurant in Kraków, which showcases its long running heritage. The building originates back to the 1300’s!

On opening night in 1364, 5 kings and 5 princes attended the affair. It has maintained upper status ever since.

Smirnoff History in Short

Made from Fermented Corn.

Pyotr Smirnov began his distillery in Moscow in 1864 and labelled it as PA Smirnoff. He pioneered the charcoal method of distillation. His third son, Vladmir Smirnoff took over when Pyotr passed away in 1898 and made it a huge success. For awhile.

In 1904, Vladmir was forced to sell. He re-established the distillery in Constantinople in 1920 after having to flee Russia, escaping, luckily with his recipe, from an anti-alcohol campaign . He moved again to Poland and renamed the vodka, Smirnoff, the French spelling. A second factory opened in Paris in 1925 with marginal success. He joined with Rudolph Kunett but ran into financial trouble. Enter John Martin, of A1 Sauce fame who bought the rights to Smirnoff in 1939. Martin marketed the corn-based spirit as the “white whisky” with no taste and no smell.

A Soviet-based Vodka made from wheat and rye.

They, too, use the charcoal method which they believe mellows the spirit and removes impurities.

Something to make note of: Regular Smirnoff is gluten-free whereas, the flavoured Smirnoff, all 31 of them, are not.

Żubrówka is a pale yellow vodka distilled from rye. Translated, it is Bison Grass Vodka. The Bison Grass is grown in Białowieża Forest, Poland.

Gotta love wikipedia. They have compiled a list of vodka, the country they’re  from, and from what they are fermented.

I dare say, Canada has one of the coolest looking bottles in the list! You’ve probably seen it in your liquor store?

Not on the list, however, is Beattie’s which is made from potatoes. They are situated in Alliston, Ontario but the family-owned business has Scottish heritage.

Wherever you are, there is likely a distillery nearby to  try out for National Vodka Day.

Some may drink this spirit straight but personally, I prefer to mix it, especially in a Caesar.

Mix it up with almost anything! Cranberry juice, 7-UP, I hear Mountain Dew is quite good, too, lemonade, even throw some in your Sangria for an extra kick. Add a mix of pineapple and orange juice or each on their own. Not that I’m promoting it but Red Bull is a staple mix for it now. It does taste good but so not good for you for so many reasons. But that’s another blog….

The dangerous thing about mixing with vodka is how it sneaks up on you. It is virtually tasteless so you think you’re drinking juice, or whatever your mix is, then drink a ton of them. End of story. We know where THAT leads….to a day after hangover!

So please drink responsibly.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on October 4, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Daiquiri Day

The Daiquiri is more than just a refreshing slushy summertime cocktail.

All I Need Is A Daiquiri In My Hand!

It is a beach in Santiago, Cuba…..

There is also an iron mine there….

Translated from Spanish to English, it simply means Beverage.

How do you pronounce Daiquiri? Dack-er-ree? I always did. I’ve been corrected. Properly, it is Dye-ker-ree.

Jennings Cox, an American engineer, labelled the mix of rum, lime juice and sugar The Dacquiri around the year 1900 but the mixture itself has been used long before.

It is a Taino Indian word believed to reference this drink made up of rum, lime juice and sugar. The Taino people made up the indigenous communities of the Caribbean.

There were different variations using different rums but the Carta Blanca, a Cuban aged and filtered rum, transformed the flavour of the cocktail and became the preferential choice.

Ernest Hemingway, living in Cuba beginning in 1940, enjoyed his Daiquiris with 4 ounces of rum. The Cubans labelled them as Papa Doble. His record in one sitting: 16 Papa Dobles.

The variations of a daiquiri are endless: Banana, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry. Choose any frozen fruit, toss in the rum, ice and lemon juice and call it a daiquiri but remember to follow the format of the classic.

When the blender is “broken”, this is what you get.

When ordering a daiquiri out on the town, choose your establishment well. Not every bar has a blender. Even the ones that do, you may hear it’s “broken”.

Take it from a former waitress and bartender, some servers would rather not put the extra work in to make those slushie drinks so you’ll get the “Our Blender’s Broken” story. So opt for places that specialize in fancier drinks or they contain slushie type drinks on their menu.

Regardless, you can still get a daiquiri by asking for it shaken. Same ingredients, different blending method.

If you plan to be in Santiago, perhaps you prefer to stay at an AirBnb, if you’re not the all-inclusive resort type, where you can get the true flavour of the region.

In addition to things to do in Santiago de Cuba, I thought I would provide a list of things NOT to do in Cuba.

Don’t wear expensive bling – you’ll be a target to pickpockets.

Don’t take pictures of the police, military or airport personnel -it’s illegal.

Don’t blow your nose in public – it’s  very rude – go somewhere private.

Don’t spit in public – for the same reason.

Do I need to mention the water?

Don’t bother bringing your American Express card – it may not be accepted.

Don’t use unlicensed taxis – they’re illegal, so find the licensed ones.

Did you know Canadians can bring back 20 Cuban cigars without documentation?

Don’t get hustled – whether it’s for directions, restaurant ideas or story-telling, you may get asked for payment.

Don’t order a papaya daiquiri – papaya means a ladies ‘private part’ and is considered quite vulgar. Order a fruta bomba.

Don’t forget to tip your hotel staff – money is always good but practical gifts are great too. Bring extra toiletries: toothbrushes and paste, shampoo and conditioner, mouthwash even pantyhose.

Don’t watch the clock – everyone is on Island Time.

Any tips or warning from your experiences you would like to add, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Enjoy your day with your favorite flavour in a Daiquiri. Cheers!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 19, 2017

National Grand Marnier Day

 

Jean-Baptiste Lapostolle began his distillery in 1827 in Neauphle-le-chateau in France where he produced a liqueur using a variety of fruit.

Along came Louis Alexandre Marnier, from a family of wine-makers in the Sancerre region of France. Louis married Monsieur Lapostolle’s granddaughter in 1876. I like to think he stole her heart but maybe he persuaded her with the delicious liqueur her grandfather made.

The Lapostolle and Marnier went into business together and put the name Curacao Marnier to their new orange flavoured liqueur.

Marnier insisted on importing the finest oranges from the Caribbean.

Interestingly, there is an island in the Caribbean, off the northern coast of Venezuela, named Curacao. It makes up the ABC Islands: Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. Very much under the radar, give it a try.

Curacao actually means a liqueur flavored with the peel from bitter oranges.

Meanwhile, back in 1880, Marnier’s friend, hotel owner, Cesar Ritz, yes THE Ritz, tried the liqueur and declared it should be called Grand due to its grand taste and to disregard the trend of everything being ‘petit’ all over France. Petit Café, Petit Chateau, etc.

Thus, we now know it as Grand Marnier.

Compliments of the home of Christine Hamel

Great in so many drinks: B-52’s, Margaritas or The Batiste which is made with 1 oz gold rum, 1 1/2 oz GM in a chilled glass.

Or try it simply with ginger ale.

To enjoy it in a dessert, try a Grand Marnier Souffle! See the recipe for a Chocolate GM Sauce, too.

To celebrate the famous liqueur, find yourself a cozy French restaurant anywhere in the world, perhaps a ‘Petit Cafe’ to enjoy a Grand Marnier.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on July 14, 2017

 

 

 

National Orange Blossom Day!

So simple to create, even easier to drink, but don’t let the Orange Blossom fool you. Delicious but deadly….

1921

During Prohibition era, Virginia Rappe, famed for being on the cover of the sheet music for You Can Call Me Sweetheart, met her demise on the night she downed way too many Orange Blossom Gin Cocktails. Bootleg gin was used in making the cocktail at Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco at that time. But that’s not what killed the poor girl. The wild and infamous Labour Day party of 1921 ended on a sour note. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, perhaps having had too many drinks himself, allegedly crushed Virginia beneath him.

What was she doing underneath him, you ask? Must I explain?

According to another party-goer, Maude Delmont, “They were in the room a quarter of an hour when we heard a terrific scream.” Miss Delmont found her on the bed. She claims Virginia cried out, “I’m dying. He did it, Maude.”

Five days later, she passed away due to an infection in her ruptured bladder.

However, the story doesn’t end there. After Fatty Arbuckle’s trial, a letter, written by Miss Delmont, came into being. It read, “We have Roscoe Arbuckle in a hole here. Chance to make some money out of him.”

In the end, he was acquitted but ruined as an actor.

1922

Wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald and fellow drinker, Helen Buck, wandered, lost and singing, through a golf course in New York. They had polished off a full pitcher of Orange Blossom at lunchtime then proceeded to the golf course with a full thermos of more before being found by Ring Lardner who drove them home.

1922

Right around the time of Fatty Arbuckle’s trials, Silent Film Director, William Desmond Taylor and his friend, Mabel Normand, enjoyed an evening of Orange Blossoms together. Hours later, he was found dead. His murder remains unsolved.

The Leftovers of Some Orange Blossoms
The Leftovers of Some Orange Blossoms

One loose theory puts Mabel, herself, in the spotlight. Miss Normand, allegedly went to his home to retrieve love letters that she had written to him. Ones, she thought, might be misinterpreted. A little on the wild side, Mabel would spend about $2,000 per month (in the 1920’s!) on drugs. Mr. Taylor had arranged for her to stay at a rehab facility. Would she have arranged to eliminate him so she wouldn’t have to go? Her chauffeur is witness to her getting into her car after the party, leaving Taylor behind. But hitmen existed then too.

Another possibility could be from a drug ring directly. Mr. Taylor fought against drug use at the studios and was Chairman of the Board of an organization to eliminate them. Could the drug dealers off the man that threatened their lucrative business?

The crime scene at Mr. Taylor’s home itself was heavily compromised. The studio executives had stepped in before the police and cleaned up the scene. With botched evidence, the only answer might be in those letters from Mabel Normand.

Mary Miles Minter, another writer of love letters to Mr. Taylor, was in the spotlight for a short time. Mary’s letters were the only ones made public since they were the only ones found. Passed off as schoolgirl crush jargon, they were proven invalid. She was, after all, only 20 years old, 29 years his junior.

Fresh OJ, vermouth and gin
Freshly squeezed OJ makes a wonderful difference!

Read the full, fascinating story here.

1925

Charlie Chaplin and Louise Brooks, plastered on Orange Blossoms, spent a wild night in their hotel suite, chasing each other, and no doubt disturbing the peace and damaging property. Thankfully, though, on this occasion, no one died.

1934

Esquire magazine names the Orange Blossom one of the worst drinks of the decade. Personally, I enjoyed it. The juice does a good job of masking the harsh taste of gin which is what it was intended to do.

1955

“The reason there were so many hasty marriages during Prohibition.”                                                                             – Authentic and Hilarious Bar Guide by Ted Shane

The Original:

1 oz gin

4 oz of freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 oz grenadine. But any flavour of simple syrup will do.

“This was invented at the old Waldorf to honor a visiting Irish poet. He never got to his dinner.”                                      – An excerpt from Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book.

See The Bartender Guides on the side menu for his full vintage book for page turning fun.

An Orange Blossom with Vermouth
Delightfully refreshing! The Gin and Vermouth cut down the sweetness.

The Waldorf-Astoria’s version:

3/4 oz gin

3/4 oz vermouth

3/4 oz fresh orange juice

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I much prefer this version. The vermouth cuts the bitterness of the gin and the sweetness of the orange juice.

If you’re planning a visit to New York in the near future, scratch The Waldorf off your list. It is currently closed due to major renovations. They are restoring historical parts and creating condos and luxurious guest rooms. It is set to re-open in a couple of years.

Walk three blocks down 50th Ave., you will pass the St Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Centre and the infamous Radio City Music Hall.

I remember going to Radio City Music Hall as a child with my parents. Back in those days, there were more live shows and they presented movies on a huge screen. The biggest I’d ever seen! It was Cybil Shepherd and Burt Reynolds. Now I have to google the darn thing. Ah, that’s it, At Long Last Love.  Burt Reynolds fans, if you like the idea of him singing, check out the musical number, Well, Did You Evah.

During Prohibition, the Orange Blossom became popular due to the lower quality of bootleg gin being produced. Orange juice was a good choice to mix with gin to cover up the poor taste.

For now, let’s stick with New York as the locale for this cocktail since Prohibition was such a big deal here.

Who invented the drink remains to be determined. If you have any knowledge of where or who originally made this cocktail, please leave me a comment.

But make sure to have an Orange Blossom or share a pitcher of it today in honour of those who suffered at the hands of this cocktail.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 27, 2017.

 

The Classy Martini

Shaken, Not Stirred

This is the most popular way to request a Martini. But is it better this way?

Shaken Stirred
Cloudier  Appears clearer
Dissolves the vermouth, less oily + lighter, refreshing Velvety smooth texture – the oils are left behind.
Becomes very cold, very fast – shake for only 10-15 seconds Becomes chilled slower – stir for 60 seconds for best results.
Aerates – creates small bubbles Lack of bubbles leaves a different taste

Try swapping methods the next time you put together this or any other drink. If it’s meant to be shaken, stir it and see how different it tastes.

A Traveller’s View Of Florence

Who is Alessandro Martini?

Born in 1834 in Florence, Italy, Alessandro Martini became one of the founding fathers of the Martini & Rossi company.

The owners of a vermouth making company, Michel Agnel Re and Baudino, hired Alessandro Martini and Teofilo Sola, an accountant, in 1851. When these founding fathers had all passed away, Martini and Sola created Martini, Sola and Cia in 1863.

Enter Rossi     

Luigi Rossi was born in the small village, Val della Torre in Italy, but moved, later in life, to Turin to begin his studies of winemaking and herbology. He soon opened his own in Via Dora Grossa, now Via Garibaldi.

His brilliant work of blending herbs caught the attention of Martini and Sola. In 1863, they invited him to join the team. We can thank Rossi for the actual flavoring of their vermouth. Martini was the marketer.

Only in 1879 did the company become Martini & Rossi. Sola passed away that year. The company flourished along with the fashion houses and Italian car industry and Puccini who was composing the opera, La Boheme.

In 1884, they opened branches in Buenes Aires, Geneva, Barcelona and a steam distillery in Montechiaro d’Asti.

Rossi passed away in 1892. Alessandro Martini passed away in 1905 and by then the company had been distributing to 70 countries. In 192, the company name changed to simply, Martini.

World War II caused some losses. The German plant was destroyed and the Turin, Italy plant was evacuated. The company maintained their workforce during the war but has since re-built it into a huge success.

To note, Juventus Stadium is located in Turin. An Italian football game would be an exciting addition to your Italian trip. Catch their next game on August 13, 2017!

The Varieties Are Endless

A Martini is made up of 2 parts gin and 1 part vermouth.

Marty Will Have a Wonderful Martini For You At Ace Mercado!

Dry Martini uses dry, white vermouth.

Splash a little olive juice in it and it’s called a Dirty Martini.

Perfect Martini uses equal amounts of sweet and dry vermouth.

Garnishes are an optional olive or lemon peel twist.

Look online for a martini that strikes your fancy. Here are few refreshing ideas.

Another option is bitters, such as orange bitters. Some versions call for this ingredient. Bitters are made from alcohol, or glycerin, with barks, fruit peels, roots, seeds, spices, herbs, flowers or other botanicals.

Bitters can get expensive. They range from $25 and up for an average sized 750 mL bottle at the LCBO. Not to mention all the additives, so here is a recipe with plenty of ideas if you would like to try making your own.

The Big Experiment of 2017

After scratching around my own kitchen, I started my own botany corner. The mixes I used are listed on the side. My next step is to buy the dropper bottles and begin mixing flavours. I think they’re ready because they smell delicious!

Ace Mercado in Ottawa has a selection of bitters in tiny bottles that they keep handy on their counter. If Marty is on shift, he will fix you something absolutely wonderful with them.

Alot of times, if you’re mixing up a new drink and find the taste lacking something, drop in a few dashes of any bitters. The taste will likely have a beneficial effect. This theory will be tested soon and I will post the results.

There are other stories from San Francisco where patrons believed the drink originated at the Occidental Hotel in the 1860’s. Or the other story that that the people of Martinez believe it originated in their town.

Wherever you are in the world, enjoy your Martini, today, the way YOU like it!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 19, 2017

 

National Mint Julep Day!

The Mint Julep was a total mystery to me. The only ingredient I knew for sure….mint. And it’s not my favorite. Not a fan of mojitos either.

In light of my new appreciation for bourbon, I figure, why not give it a try. First, I would have to get my head around the word julep. It’s a negative word for me. I associate juleps with The Orange Julep my family went to in Montreal when I was a child. Everyone, except me, loved orange juice pulp and lots of it! All that pulp? Disgusting. Still is.

Now that I know the main ingredients of a Mint Julep, I can tackle where on earth to find these strange drinks.

Still Can’t Get Over It’s Beauty!

Ways to Enjoy a Mint Julep

As a dessert.

In a pitcher on a patio. If you’re lucky to find a Punch House to make it or make your own at home. See below.

Definitely at The Moonroom on Preston Street in Ottawa. They served it up in the traditional copper cup which kept it frosty beyond finishing it. To my surprise, no pulp, and I loved it’s fresh, crisp taste! So much that I had a second one.

Many places on this strip are closed on a Monday but The Moonroom rocks it until 2 am. A small  establishment with massive atmosphere and superb service. I’ll be going back.

No food menu here, it’s on the wall. Very cool and I didn’t need my glasses to read it!

How about at the Kentucky Derby? The Mint Julep is the state’s national drink. During the 2 day race, 120,000 juleps are sold at Churchill Downs.

The glasses became a souvenir glass in 1939 during the Kentucky Derby which began on May 17, 1875.

You can find out more at the Kentucky Derby Museum.

Pewter and copper mugs are making a comeback. HomeSense carries a nice variety.

The Fame of Kentucky

Not only is Kentucky home of bourbon, you’ll find many famous people related in some way or other to this state.

Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr, grandson of William Clark, leased the 80 acres used to hold The Kentucky Derby and named the track, Churchill Downs, for his uncles, John and Henry Churchill.

Perhaps not interesting to everyone, but it caught my attention since the story of Sacajewea, their Indian Guide, is my all time favorite book.

Things To Do In Louisville

Take a tour of the baseball bat factory at Louisville Slugger Museum.

Shop in the downtown district and if you’re there on the last Friday of the month, you can take advantage of the free trolley known as FAT Friday Trolley Hop. You’re shopping on the famous Frankfort Avenue overtime and you realize, oh no, our reservation for the distillery tour at Angel’s Envy starts in 10 minutes, hop on the trolley, do the tour then hop back on and finish the shopping!

Browse a four storey antique shop at 615 East Market Street. Joe Ley Antiques holds weird and wonderful oddities.

Zipline through the Underground Mines. Yes, zipline, see it to believe it!

After all this, you’ll be famished so head to the rooftop restaurant, 8UP, for dinner and a beautiful view of the city.

There is no shortage of cemeteries, if that’s your thing. Colonel Sanders and Harry Collin, of FritoLay fame are both buried at the Cave Hill Cemetery. And it you want REAL creepy, visit the abandoned Eastern Cemetery where bodies were buried upon bodies.

Not creepy enough, dare to explore Waverly Hills Sanatorium at 440 Paralee Lane, known to be the most haunted place in the world. You be the judge.

The Kentucky Derby has already passed, earlier this month but not all is lost. Plan your visit between September 11-17 this year to catch the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Since bourbon originates in Kentucky (more on this on Bourbon Day next month), choose from the many distilleries. If you’re downtown, visit Angel’s Envy. However, you do need a reservation. Keep in mind, they age their spirits in oak barrels, for those with a sensitivity or allergy.

Seeking The Stainless Barrel?

Sad news if you do enjoy bourbon, for it is not bourbon if it has not been aged in an oak barrel. So take a Benadryl to avoid your allergic reaction! Once bourbon is aged, though, it can be transferred to a stainless barrel for freshness.

News footage from 2015, name the ringleader in the theft of a stainless steel barrel full of bourbon. The story is not a 1920’s Prohibition story. It’s current! Wild Turkey Distillery and Buffalo Trace (both an hour from Louisville) suffered the loss (at the hands of it’s own employee!) so if you’re sympathetic, show your compassion and help them rebuild by visiting their distillery.

Or, pick up a bottle at your local liquor store, if you can’t be in Kentucky but would like to support their efforts to recover.

LCBO carries their brand:

Wild Turkey straight bourbon (aged once) is $32 per bottle. The Rare Breed is $60.

Buffalo Trace straight bourbon is $43 per bottle.

Also at LCBO is the new Jim Beam, Kentucky Straight Bourbon. I happened to pop in when they were offering tastings and wasn’t it delicious!

Out Of Fresh Mint?

If you’re like me and you don’t have a mint plant lazing about on your balcony, this makeshift Mint Julep isn’t too bad. An ounce and a half of bourbon, a dash of creme de menthe topped with Fresca and voila, a decent cocktail. The lime makes a difference too, so if you have one, squeeze in a quarter section and stir.

Make pitcher size by adjusting the amounts by, oh let’s say, a bottle of bourbon, 2 L of Fresca, a few limes and half a cup of mint liqueur. Just a guess. As I said, I would hold back on mint because I’m not a fan.

Bourbon is quickly becoming a new favorite. Until next time.

Happy Mint  Julep Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 30, 2017

 

The Long Awaited National Wine Day

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.

Zinfandel                           Grenache                      Chardonnay

Pinot Grigio                       Madeire                        Gruner Veltliner

Riesling                               Pinot Noir                    Sauvignon blanc

Syrah                                   Burgundy                     Carmenere

Cabernet Sauvignon        Merlot                            Cabernet Franc

Gewürztraminer                Sparkling                      Port

Bordeaux                            Blaufrankisch              Malbec

Gamay                                 Barbera                        Chenin Blanc

Gewurztraminer               Merlot                          Petit Sirah

Moscato                              Nebbiolo                      Rioja

Shiraz                                 Sherry                           Rose

Sake                                    Marsala                        Chianti

Sancerre                            Tempranillo                 Semillon

Viognier                             Schiava (sorry, not found at LCBO)

Too easy?

Muscadelle                        Auxerrois

Romorantin                       Godello

Negrette                              Lagrein

Touriga Nacional

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.

Wine 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.

Tannins

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 Barrels Are ‘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!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 25, 2017

 

 

World Whiskey – May 20

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.

The Flavour Wheel at The Highlander

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.

The Oldest Distillery in Ireland?

Bushmills has been in production since 1608.

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)

In Scotland?

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!

American Distilleries

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.

Served Up By Matt at Ace Mercado

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.

My opinion.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 20, 2017

 

It’s National Mimosa Day!

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 Cemetery

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 usesjosper 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.

Got a little off topic.

Meanwhile back in London, the obvious places to see are, of course, Westminster Abbey, the Thames River and Kensington Palace. However, here are a few unusual things to see and do in the London area.

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.

Made in Germany

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!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 16, 2017.

 

The Mystery of the Cosmopolitan

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.

Who morphed it into the Cosmopolitan?

Story #1

A very similar drink is in print in The Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Barspublished in 1934.

Jigger of Gordon’s Gin (1 12 oz Beefeater)
2 dash Cointreau (12 oz Cointreau)
Juice of 1 Lemon (1 oz Lemon Juice)
1 tsp Raspberry Syrup (1 tsp homemade)

Story #2

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.

Story #3

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.

Story #5

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.

Story #6

The Cosmo makes it first actual literary existence in 1993 in New York City according to Sally Ann Berk, author of The New York Bartender’s Guide and Bob Sennett, author of Complete World Bartender Guide.

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!

Marty hard at work-Ace Mercado

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!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 7, 2017