Forces of Nature

November 3, 2011

 

-Organic wine is a hot concept in this age of green, but a survey of some area wine stores and restaurants turned up a paltry few venues that carry more then one or two offerings. Most wine bars I’ve surveyed carried none.

Then I hit pay dirt one Saturday at Vinoteca’s, located at 1940 11th Street. They offered a whooping eight organic or green wines by the glass.

For those interested in not only practicing environmentally responsible living but drinking will have to search for green wines. Luckily there are varying degrees of “greenness” to choose from so the field of choices widens. There are two types you will encounter: organic and biodynamic wines.

Organic wines are produced using organically grown grapes without pesticides, herbicides or anything ending in “-cide” or added sulfites. A truly organic wine is not only expensive to produce, but hard to bring to market in a stable and palatable condition because no chemicals are used. The number of truly organic wines available is small, hence the challenge in finding wine bars who carried more then a few.

Biodynamic wines are also made from organic grapes but, according the www.theorganicwinecompany.com, the farmer also employs principals that cause the grape vines to respond to “all the forces of nature.” Biodynamics is based on the concept of a holistic system of “living agriculture” whereby the soil is nurtured through the “natural forces and rhythm of the cosmos,” writes Karen McNeil, author of the book “The Wine Bible.” The vineyards are viewed in a year-long growing cycle where nutrients and special preparations are added to the soil at the right time and season. Therefore soil nourishments and farming techniques take into account the flow of energy emanating from the sun, moon and stars. The practice is said to have begun in France in 1959, based on the principles of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

Wines that are organic or green are said to have brighter and fresher tastes and colors. They are purported to express better connectedness to the region or land they are grown from, their “terrior.” Intrigued that there might be something to the healthy growing of grapes and all the sun, moon and stars talk, I explored a few mentioned below.

So you can judge for yourself, here are a few to try:

Alma Rosa chardonnay, 2008
Santa Barbara, CA
Made in the French Chablis style with a hint of oak. The chardonnay shows classic notes of pineapple and orange peel with a minerally finish. Crisp and refreshing.

Alexander Valley Vineyards gewürztraminer, 2009
Apple, lemon, grapefruit flavors with a beautiful floral aroma.

Gavala Vineyards assyrtiko, 2008
Santorini, Greece
Made from one of Greece’s most popular grape varieties. Yellow gold in color. Aromas of peaches and candied fruit are evident. Lanolin-like mouth feel. This wine exhibits the assyrtiko grape’s signature minerality.

Telmo Rodriguez Dehesa Gago tinto de Toro, 2007
This Spanish tempranillo-based wine is dark red and rich. First sips experience spicy pepper, then a hint of chocolate. This wine is top rated by several notable wine critics for its quality and value.

Campos de Luz Old Vine garnacha (grenache), 2008
One hundred percent grenache, which normally is a thinner-skinned red grape that produces a thin light red wine; however, this Grenache is rich and supple. Exhibits dark cherry, black plumb and blackberry flavors.

For organic or green wines close to home, try these local vineyards:

Pearmund Cellars, Fauquier County, VA
Blenheim Vineyards, Charlottesville, VA

Wine and the City


With all the hype surrounding the opening of “Sex and the City 2” that has hit this city, I accepted an invitation to attend one of the exclusive pre-screenings and VIP receptions heralding its opening. Moet et Chandon, a promotional partner to the movie, sponsored a reception at the Georgetown Ritz followed by a private prescreening last Wednesday at Georgetown AMC Lowes theater. Although the characters of the movie are known for drinking the ubiquitous Cosmo, Moet appeared to be the official wine of the movie, (product placement notwithstanding). During the wedding scene, Moet White Star was in the ice bucket, Dom Perignon was served in the desert scene, and champagne appeared in beautiful glasses almost exclusively during the entire movie.

As I sat in the theater watching fans file in, dressed to the nines, some like their favorite character, I thought about the distinct personalities of four main characters: Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda. The costume designer, Patricia Field, subsequently dresses them in four distinct styles. Carrie is all haute couture and eclectic; Charlotte is very ladylike and preppy; Samantha pulls off chic and sexy; Miranda, of course, is all business. They even have four different hair colors- a blond, a burnett, a redhead and a mix of sort.

It dawned on me that wines are the same way. Wines can be light and blond colored, like a chardonnay. They can be dark like a cabernet, or rich red like a shiraz. And wines undoubtedly have their own personalities, express different characteristics, and evoke different emotions – not unlike the Sex and The City foursome.

If Carrie Bradshaw and Co. were wines, what wine would they be? And what wines would match their personalities? Each of the SATC women have strong personalities and quirky nuances, much like great wine varietals. This is our casting call:

Miranda: Australian Shiraz

The saucy redhead, a lawyer, strong, blunt, and all about business. But she is still a mother and wife who, in the movie, revels her fun side. I immediately think of an Australian Shiraz. This red wine is peppery, serious, and complex. It is full bodied with strong tannins. The aromas suggest smoke, tar and sometimes even rubber. It’s serious business, but it can be fun too. On the lighter side, Shiraz can express strawberry and dark plum fruit flavors-kind of like Miranda, who realizes that all work and no play is boring.
Try: Penfolds Kalimna, Bin 28 Shiraz 2006 (approx. $22)

Charlotte: Pinot Noir
Delicate, traditional, well structured. Prim, proper, and sensitive. Nurtured and kind. Pinot Noir would suit Charlotte like a velvet glove. This light red wine is made from a thin skinned grape and is thus very temperamental, like Charlotte. It is sometimes a challenge to grow, so climate and soil conditions have to be ideal. The wine expresses aromas of black cherry and raspberry. It is the wine of Burgundy, France, but Oregon and Chile have produced some shockingly good lighter-styled efforts.
Try: Terranoble Pinot Noir Reserva 2008 (approx. $15. Wine Advocate gave it 90 points.)

Samantha: Chardonnay

I often think of chardonnay as the Marilyn Monroe of wines, particularly California chardonnay. Like Samantha, it is a big, bold, blond, sexy and often times loud. But chardonnay, particularly from Chablis or South America, can also be elegant and intriguing, just like Samantha.
Try: 100 Tree Hill Chardonnay California, 2006. (approx. $17)

So, what about Carrie?
Carrie is not like other women. She is not traditional. A quirky dresser, she loves France and couture. She’s spontaneous, fun loving, and a bit fickle. My first reaction would be Rose or Blanc de Noirs Champagne. It’s fun and fruity but elegant. Definitely not traditional in the realm of American drinking habits. The obvious producer given the movie would be rose from Moet. But also try: Taittinger Brut Rose (approx $70) or G.H. Mumm Brut Rose (approx. $55)

And let’s not forget something for the boys.

Mr. Big: Barolo

He’s the tall, dark, handsome, and brooding husband of Carrie. He is strong and steady, and Barolo is too. This rich Italian red is made from the nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region.
Try Boroli Barolo 1999 (Piedmont), $38.

For a fun night out, go see the movie and then seek out a glass of wine that matches your favorite character’s personality. Have a great night of wine and “Sex and The City.” Cheers.
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10 Summer Fruits for Your Face

August 10, 2011

Besides backyard barbeques and weekends at the beach, summertime is a great season for fruits that not only make for healthy, refreshing snacks but also have purifying and cleansing properties that make them ideal for skin and hair treatments. A simple web search will turn up a plethora of recipes for facial and hair solutions made with any imaginable fruit or vegetable, but what’s going on beneath the mask once you are fully slathered in these all-natural ingredients?

1. Banana

The oils and vitamins in ripe bananas naturally condition hair when mashed and applied as a mask, adding gloss and moisture to dry or chemically-treated hair. Bananas are also said to prevent wrinkles and help maintain a healthy skin tone when used in facial treatments. Many recipes combine bananas with avocado, which has similar nutritional qualities.

2. Papaya

Like many tropical fruits, papaya is rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants that reduce acne, fine lines and redness in the face. Papaya is particularly effective as an exfoliating treatment because of the enzymes naturally present in the fruit that have the capacity to eat away dead skin cells. The fruit also contains antioxidants and compounds called flavonoids, which are known to help reduce the formation of lines and wrinkles.

3. Lemon

The citric acid in lemons acts as a mild bleach for blondes and light brunettes when lemon juice is applied to hair and exposed to sunlight. We can take advantage of the acidic properties of lemon juice for restorative purposes as well, namely the removal of product residue and swimming pool chemicals. Lemon juice can tone and control oily skin as well.

4. Pineapple

They may not be the prettiest fruit to look at, but the enzyme bromelian has the capacity to cleanse and beautify skin by exfoliating dead cells, healing sun damage and reducing swelling. The fruit can be used mashed and raw or combined with other fruit such as papaya for a deep purifying face mask.

5. Oranges

Forget the hassle of a messy mask – rub fresh orange slices across your face and let the rich vitamins work their cleansing magic reducing blemishes and clearing your complexion.

6. Cucumber

As with oranges, there’s no need to mash and mix cucumbers in order to use them to soothe and cool your skin. Besides feeling great placed over our eyes, when rubbed on our skin cucumbers reduce swelling and restore facial tissue – a perfect solution to a bad sunburn after an afternoon under the summer sun.

7. Green tea

After cooling down with a refreshing glass of iced green tea, treat your dry scalp and hair with a green tea rinse. Green tea contains vitamin C and pathenol, which both condition hair and protect it from UV damage. Green tea has been used in homemade sunscreens as an alternative to heavy, oily lotions and helps clear pores and moisturize skin.

8. Coconut

Coconut oil contains lauric acid and capric acid, which fight microbes that can cause hair loss, as well as an abundance of vitamin E, making it an ideal hair conditioner and anti-dandruff solution. In addition to acting as a powerful moisturizer, coconut oil can be used as a styling gel. The oil can be melted and applied to the hair, where it will cool and solidify to hold your “do.”

9. Strawberry

Strawberries naturally contain salicylic acid, an active ingredient in many facial washes and soaps, which cleanses and exfoliates skin to clear clogged pores and reduce redness and shine.

10. Mango

Mangoes possess many of the same vitamins as do papaya and therefore have the same capacity to alleviate dry, peeling skin. The fruit contains carotene, which replenishes skin and makes the tissue more elastic. Mango hair treatments also help with hair elasticity and strengthening root growth.

A Window into Wine

July 26, 2011

People have a rampant misconception that East Coast wines are sweet, simple, and unrefined. They say that our land is not suited for the growth of proper wine grapes. The truth is, we just got a late start.

We are California thirty years ago. The potential has always been there, but not until recently did we begin to pinpoint the “appellations” of the East, and the specific grapes destined to change the tide of Atlantic-coast wine. A rapidly growing contingency of our winemakers produces high-quality dry wines, and the world is beginning to take notice.

The wine revolution, whose ripples are just now reaching our shores, was sparked in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. As winemaking began to spread beyond the walls of monasteries, villages sprung up to support the new agricultural progress. Growers began to recognize which vines flourished under certain conditions, and gradually the viticultural traditions of each growing region became integrally linked to the facets of their developing cultures.

We often take for granted that Burgundy, France is acclaimed for Pinot Noir, or the Rioja region of Spain for Tempranillo, or the banks of the Mosel in Germany for sweet, juicy Rieslings. But there is a centuries-old understanding among winemakers of the dynamic relationship between the vines and the land, summed up by the French word terroir.

Terroir was a foreign concept in the United States until the early 20th century, when California began its own viticultural transformation. Winemakers in Napa realized that hardy Cabernet Sauvignon thrived in their sunny climate, producing intensely bold and tannic wines. A new wave of growers was unlocking the vast potential of their own soil.

These winemakers were pioneers of their era. They ripped out underperforming varietals, planted new rootstocks, tried new pruning methods, aged the wines in American oak barrels, all to produce wine that would rival the best of the Old World.

But it still took generations of experimentation—even one who spends forty years in this pursuit has only forty tries to create their masterpiece, and each vintage inevitably brings new obstacles to conquer.

Not until the 1970s did wine experts begin to view these “New World” wines with unclouded vision. It began with a now-famous blind tasting in which a few Napa wines were rated above their French counterparts. California winemakers, formerly looked down on as hillbilly farmers making lowly table wine, were now revered and respected.

Soon other regions appeared on the scene; by the 1980s the world was singing the praises of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and South African Chardonnay, among many others. And the door was left open for more to follow.

As it would seem, East Coast winemakers are on deck. There has been a great deal of hype in the growing number of wineries in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. The most prominent frontrunners may be the wineries of the Finger Lake region in New York, who are being recognized for first-rate Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

Simultaneously, the Monticello area of Virginia has been persistently cranking out luscious Viognier and rich Cabernet Franc. And in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, where I work for a rapidly growing family-run winery, several winemakers have found the Burgundy-like climate to yield lovely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A growing number of education programs for enology and viticulture on the East Coast ensure that these wines will only continue to excel in quality.

Yet East Coast wines are still largely considered third-rate (we’ll get into the reasons for that later). Although some individual producers have received notable acclaim, it would be unlikely to spot them in a store or restaurant outside of their state, much less on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list. The only way to combat this trend is to discover for yourself what the East Coast wine country has to offer.

There is a long way to go, but all it takes is a few stellar vintages to ignite the buzz. If you ask me, it won’t be long before “Monticello Viognier” will be as common a phrase as “Napa Cab” or “Australian Shiraz.” Now you can say you saw it coming.

Sip of the Day

Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2009
Available at Calvert Woodley, 4339 Connecticut Ave, N.W.

A vibrant and well-balanced wine from one of New York’s oldest and most renowned producers. With just a touch of residual sugar for softness and body, it’s crisp citrus notes in the front of the palate are followed beautifully with a light but lingering floral finish.

Caroline Jackson is the Assistant Winemaker at Blair Vineyards in Eastern Pennsylvania. She has a degree in English and a background in wine retail. Visit her blog, Sips and Sounds, which pairs daily music selections with a wine or craft beer.

The Nica Libre


Rum and Coke may conjure up memories of college fraternity parties or youthful nights sneaking drinks in your parents’ home. It was probably one of the first mixed drinks you tried, back in the day when Natty Boh and Milwaukee’s Best were your choice of beers.

But if you head 90 miles south of Florida, the rum and Coke has a more romantic vibe. On Castro’s island, it’s called the Cuba Libre and includes the addition of lime juice.

In Cuba, the rum and Coke can trace its earliest beginnings. While the exact circumstances of its birth are unclear, Wayne Curtis, author of “And a Bottle of Rum,” offers a plausible explanation involving Americans soldiers in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. A group of Americans and Cubans were gathered in a bar where the soldiers mixed rum and Coke and called out “Por Cuba libre!” – “To a free Cuba!”

The drink migrated north. During Prohibition, Coke was an easy mixer used to mask the taste of bathtub alcohol, and during World War II, when rum was plentiful and whiskey scarce, its popularity
increased further.

But it was a popular song that blasted the drink into the apex of pop culture. In 1945 the Andrews Sisters’ song “Rum and Coca Cola” entered the charts, where it remained in the number one spot for 10 weeks. The song, which was based on a Calypso song from Trinidad, sold 7 million copies and made rum and Coke an iconic drink for years to come.

Its prevalence endured throughout the generic 50’s into the age of Wonder Bread and canned foods. The drink was simple to mix and required no exotic ingredients.

Going back to its origins, a proper Cuba Libre, made with fresh squeezed lime, can be a refreshing
elixir, especially in the muggy hot Cuban climate. However, while rum flows freely in Cuba, Coca Cola, thanks to the trade embargo, is not readily available everywhere. When your order a Cuba Libre, most bars will mix it with Fiesta Cola, a soft drink packaged in a red can with a white logo that looks suspiciously similar to Coke’s trademark script.

A true Cuba Libre should be mixed with Cuban Rum, which is illegal in the states. Luckily, I found a pleasant alternative during a holiday in Nicaragua. While many Americans associate rum with the Caribbean islands, Flor De Cana rum is as ubiquitous in Nicaragua as Bacardi is now in Puerto Rico.

Whether you are sitting at an open-air restaurant along the Pacific in San Juan del Sur, a colonial
courtyard in Grenada, or at a reggae club on Corn Island, the liquor of choice across the country is Flor de Cana. Any bartender will mix you a “Nica Libre” with Flor de Cana, fresh lime and Latin Coca-Cola. In Latin America, Coke tastes slightly different than what is produced in the states; it’s made with real sugar instead of corn syrup.

But there’s no real need to travel afar. This classic highball can be easily mixed at home. However, if you prefer going out (way, way out), I recommend seeking out Isaiah at the
Best View Hotel on Big Corn Island.

The Nica Libre
2 oz Flor de Cana rum
Juice of ½ lime
Coca Cola
Lime wedge
Add first two ingredients in a tall glass. Fill with ice and coke and stir. Garnish with lime wedge.

Ingredients to make the Nica Libre may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.

Plymouth Julietta


 

-The most recent Cocktail column focused on the early career of Joe Scialom, who tended bar at the celebrated Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo during World War II, where he invented the tiki-bar staple, the Suffering Bastard as a hangover remedy for his clientele of royalty and celebrities.

Because Scialom spoke eight languages fluently and entertained diplomats and journalists, he was suspected of espionage and eventually expelled from Egypt. He went on to tend bar at famed hotels around the world, including the Ritz in Paris and New York’s Four Seasons. Scialom is the subject of an upcoming book by Jeff Beachbum Berry, a cocktail connoisseur and tikki historian. Berry, along with the museum of the American Cocktail recently hosted

“The Suffering Bastard: Joe Scialom, International Barman of Mystery” lecture at the Occidental Grill.

During Scialom’s time in Egypt one of the many wealthy guests he befriended was Conrad Hilton. When Scialom left Egypt, Hilton tapped him to work for him in Puerto Rico. The Caribe Hilton, built in 1949, was in first grand tourist resort on the island. Its famous guests, included Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor and John Wayne.

At the Caribe, Scialom began applying his trade to rum drinks. One of the most popular cocktails Scialom took credit for was the Tropical Itch. It was a colossal drink, designed to cater to thirsty tourists, made with 5 oz of booze, Curacao, mango and lime juices. It was served in an oversized
hurricane glass with a backscratcher.

When the AFL-CIO held a convention at the hotel, a Time magazine reporter spied some of the delegates enjoying Tropical Itches at the hotel
and used the drink by name in his article.

Scialom’s next stop was Cuba where Hilton was trying to muscle his way into the established luxury hospitality market. With 630-rooms, the Havana Hilton was the largest building in Latin American. Hilton took a unique approach and positioned his resort as the only hotel-casino not being run by mobsters

Scialom’s success in Havana was cut short by the Cuban revolution. Just as in Egypt, where Shepheard’s hotel was considered the symbol of British dominance, The Havana Hilton became the symbol of American imperialism in Cuba. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara entered Havana in 1959 and took over the Hilton. One of the restaurants that Scialom managed became a mess hall.

Once again Scialom found himself displaced. He moved to New York and worked for Hilton at the Waldorf Astoria where he entertained clients at the private Marco Polo Club, an exclusive circle whose members were required to have a net worth of $2 million. It was here that Berry joked that “Scialom found himself serving Suffering Bastards to rich bastards.”

Scialom’s fame continued to grow. He traveled frequently opening bars for Hilton Hotels including Paris, Rome, London and, locally, the Statler Hotel in Washington.

He was contracted by alcohol companies to create drinks. One very notable cocktail Scialom
made was the Julietta for Plymouth Gin. The result was a very light and delicately balanced elixir.

Back in New York, Scialom continued his odyssey at the Four Seasons and eventually made his final call at Windows on the World, a restaurant located in the then-newly opened World Trade Center. Scialom retired to Florida where he lived into his 90s. He survived to see the fall of the twin towers, which, according to Berry, he likened to the bombing of Shepheards hotel and the takeover of the Havana Hilton.

While the Suffering Bastard may be Scialom’s most well-known concoction, the Julietta is a forgotten gem. Its recipe was unearthed by Berry for his upcoming book.

Plymouth Julietta

1 1/4 ounces Plymouth Gin
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce orgeat syrup
2 ounces grapefruit juice
2 ounces orange juice

Shake well with plenty of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a tall glass. Garnish with an orange slice, cocktail cherry, and mint sprig.

Plymouth Gin may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M Street in Georgetown.) For more information
books by Beachbum Berry visit http://beachbumberry.com or http://museumoftheamericancocktail.
com

Blue Hawaii


Blue Hawaii may be one of Elvis Presley’s most iconic movies. In the 1961 musical, Presley plays a young man, newly released from the Army, who is enjoying Hawaii with his surfboard, beach buddies, and girlfriend. It could be argued that this film set the tone for Presley’s film career: gorgeous women, pretty scenery, dull plots, and plenty of upbeat tunes. The soundtrack for this movie became Presley’s most successful chart album.

The cocktail that shares its name follows the same basic formula. The Blue Hawaii is a visually stunning drink due to its radiant, deep blue hue. Often enjoyed by vacationers in an idyllic beach setting, it is composed of unremarkable ingredients, and when served at a tourist spot, it usually contains plenty of alcohol to keep the good times rolling. It’s one of the most requested libations in its native state.

According to Jeff Berry, author of “Sippin’ Safari”, a bartender named Harry Yee invented the “Blue Hawaii” in 1957, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa in Waikiki. Yee was asked by a representative of Bols to create a drink using the company’s new Blue Curacao liqueur. After a little experimentation, the Tiki classic was born. Berry also credits Yee with being the first to use paper umbrellas and orchids as garnishes.

If you follow this timeline, the drink predates the movie by four years. It is believed that Yee named the cocktail after the film’s title song, a piece first composed for the 1937 Bing Crosby film Waikiki Wedding.

Few cocktails are as recognizable by their color. The brilliant sea tone comes from Blue Curacao.
According to the Bols website, Curacao is a sweet liqueur distilled from a blend of herbs, sweet red oranges, bitter Curacao oranges, and Kinnow oranges. However, its distinctive tint is artificial. Curacao is also available in orange, green, and clear varieties.

If you wish to try the sweet and frosty drink in context, take a trip to Honolulu where every watering hole near Waikiki serves cocktails in ornamental glasses garnished with umbrellas and tropical fruit.

Visitors may sample the Blue Hawaii at its birthplace at the beachfront Hilton Hawaiian Village. The resort, which boasts multiple bars, is enjoying a recent renaissance, with scenes from the new television series Hawaii Five-O being shot on the hotel’s property.

Wherever you choose to enjoy your Blue Hawaii,
pick a spot with an ocean view, where you can sip your cocktail and compare its color to the vivid cerulean-colored Pacific. As you gaze at the romantic Polynesian scene of Waikiki, you’ll suddenly realize you’re a long way from Rehoboth. Normally, I don’t care much for sugary
cocktails, but when caught up in the moment, this drink fits perfectly into the dreamy Hawaii experience.

One word of caution, when consumed in quantity the Blue Hawaii will leave you with a temporary
souvenir, much like the white mustache celebrated by milk advertisements. If your lips turn purple, don’t worry about your health. Wipe your lips with a napkin and keep drinking. Aloha!

The Blue Hawaii

3/4 oz Light Rum
3/4 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
3 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Sweet & Sour Mix

Combine ingredients and mix well. If using ice, mix in a blender. Serve in a tall glass. Garnish with a pineapple slice. (Recipe from Hilton Top Chef)

Ingredients to make the Blue Hawaii may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.

Jameson, Dublin Style


George Bernard Shaw once said, “Whisky is liquid sunshine.” If that is the case, then the Emerald Isle of Ireland would be one of sunniest places in the world. While the land of James Joyce has a reputation
for rainy weather, the friendly country makes up for its meteorological woes with its world-renowned whiskey.

From the Bushmill’s distillery north of Belfast to the lyrically named Tullamore Dew, tourists have a wide choice of whiskey distilleries and museums to visit in Ireland. One of the most frequented spots is the old Jameson Distillery in Central Dublin.

I head to Jameson’s Old Bow Street distillery on a notably overcast morning looking for a way to brighten my day and ease my jetlag. Even though the sky is gray, I feel my spirits lighten as I reach the front entrance, which is tucked away in a courtyard on the West side of the River Liffey.

The visitors’ center is located inside the original Jameson distillery. Whiskey was made here for nearly 200 years, until its closure in 1971. Jameson is now distilled in Southern Ireland in Middleton, in County Cork.
The center has recreated the old distillery on a smaller scale. A cordial guide walks us through every step of the whiskey-making process, from malting and storing barley, to mashing and fermentation, to distilling and maturation.

While I find the tour both interesting and educational, I am eager to enjoy the tasting sessions that follow. For the first part, we are presented with three distinct whiskeys—a Scotch (Johnnie Walker Black), an American bourbon style-whiskey (Jack Daniels) and Jameson.

We’re encouraged to savor and compare each one. The scotch has a dry, slightly smoky taste, while the American whiskey comes in with a sweet, faintly harsh finish. Finally we try the Jameson. It boasts a smooth and full taste with floral and fruity characteristics. It finishes with a hint of vanilla. I feel like Goldilocks eating porridge, proclaiming, “This one is just right.”

Before bellying-up to the bar for another sample, we are shown a flashy commercial about the different ways Jameson is served throughout the world. In Moscow Jameson is popular on the rocks while New Yorkers prefer theirs neat. Londoners drink it with ginger ale, and in Paris Jameson and Coke is a fashionable tipple.

The most popular mixer in Dublin is cranberry juice. Although this seems like and odd combination,
I order my drink this way.

I am pleasantly surprised. The twang of the cranberry works as a delicious foil to the rich sweetness of the whiskey while not covering up its slightly oaky flavor. A squeeze of fresh orange adds a touch of warmth. This simple highball would make a great Thanksgiving or Christmas cocktail.

When I leave the visitors’ center, I feel a slight spring in my step, I am ready for my remaining day of seeing the seeing the sites of Dublin – cloudy or not.

As the weather in Washington begins to turn chilly and darkness comes earlier in the day, I’ll catch myself peeking over to my liquor cabinet and eyeing up my bottle of Jameson I brought home as a souvenir. Just a quick glance, gives me warm and sunny feeling.

Jameson, Dublin Style
I part Jameson
2 parts cranberry
Squeeze of orange or tangerine

Pour Jameson into a highball glass. Add ice and cranberry juice. Squeeze fruit. Stir to mix

Jameson Irish Whiskey may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.

The Northern Spy Cocktail


The holiday season is in full swing. Our calendars are quickly filling up with festive parties, from elaborate formal events to cozy family gatherings. For those who plan on hosting their own soiree, I’ve asked my friend Jerry LeNoir, one of the men behind the ultra cool Mr. Booze website, for some entertaining tips.

Mr-Booze.com, which is dedicated to creating the perfect cocktail vibe in your home, features numerous drink recipes, historical anecdotes, music suggestions and a how-to guide for setting up your home bar.

According to Jerry, the key to hosting a successful party is setting the mood and prepping ahead. “Especially during the holidays, guests should feel they’re someplace special the moment they enter the door,” he says. “Sure, it’s just a house or apartment, but with just a bit of decorating and set-up, the music on and ready to go for a couple hours, your guests can feel like they’re having a true night out.”

The Mr. Booze website features Jerry’s top Christmas music picks for 2010. He describes the list, which includes tunes from Dean Martin, Ramsey Lewis and Harry Connick Jr., as, “So covered in silver tinsel and December snow that you’ll have no choice but to try a few, mix a fatty, and drift off to a time when holiday parties were called Christmas parties and candle-lit living rooms overflowed with little black dresses, sport coats, cheese puffs and pipe smoke.”

Hosting a party is hard work, and in order to free up your time to mingle with your guests, Jerry suggests creating a set cocktail menu so you aren’t stuck mixing drinks all night long. Then prepare a batch or two ahead so you’ll have more time to socialize. A punchbowl is also another convenient option.

One of Jerry’s favorite holiday drinks is the Northern Spy, a recipe he found in Imbibe magazine. The cocktail, which consists of Lairds Applejack, apricot brandy and cider with a cinnamon sugar rim, was invented by by Josey Packard, a bartender at Alembic, one of San Francisco’s top creative cocktail bars. Its combination of warm flavors makes it a perfect tipple to serve from Thanksgiving all the way through winter.

“It’s a great looking drink for the holidays.” Jerry says. “It smells wonderful as you take your first sip; the cinnamon, applejack and cider combine in fantastic ways. It tastes just like a Christmas drink should taste: rich, spicy and flavorful. The cinnamon and sugar rim lets the drinker know that the season’s well under way.”

While the story behind the drink’s moniker is unknown, Jerry projects a holiday theme into the name. “It sounds Christmassy, “ He says. “Isn’t Santa himself, when he’s spying on who’s naughty or nice…something of a northern spy?”

So whether you decide to be naughty or nice this year, mix up a merry northern spy and enjoy the party.
The Northern Spy

2 oz Applejack
1 oz Apple Cider
½ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Apricot Brandy

Rim a cocktail glass with lemon juice then cinnamon sugar. Mix ingredients together with ice in shaker until cold and pour into glass. Garnish with fresh cranberries.

Jerry LeNoir will be one of the presenters at the Museum of the American Cocktail’s third annual Holiday Cocktail Seminar, Dec, 12 at PS-7. For more information visit Mr. Booze.com or The Museum of the American Cocktail

Ingredients to make the Northern Spy may be purchased Dixie Liquor located at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.

7-Up Emerald Punch


When I was a child my mother had a punchbowl that came out on special occasions, usually around the December holiday season. The snowy white centerpiece and matching glasses where formed from Indiana milk glass molded into a leaf pattern. The cups had little red hooks that were used to hang the glasses on the side. The collection was rounded out a ruby red clear plastic ladle.

It was back in the 1970’s, my mom would dress in a polyester pantsuit with flared legs and my dad would wear a plaid sport jacket with wide lapels and an even wider necktie. Mom would make Chex mix from actual cereal and the adults would nibble on deviled eggs, Jell-O salad and Ritz cracker hors d’oeuvres. While the men would stick to beer, the ladies would ladle out brightly-colored drinks with floating garnishes.

If I was well-behaved I would be treated to a small cup of watered-down punch to enjoy before I was sent to bed. It sent me off into a slumber where I dreamed of hosting my own parties as an adult.

When the punchbowl wasn’t in use, I begged to play with it. Unlike most young girls who hosted tea parties with their dolls, I threw lavish cocktail soirees with my eclectic group of plush animals, including an alligator, a blue elephant and a smiling watermelon. (And you thought the bar in the original Star Wars was weird.)

Punchbowls were a popular entertaining vehicle for people in my parents’ generation. But the origin of punch dates back hundreds of years. According to Wayne Curtis’ 2006 book “And a Bottle of Rum,” the English made punch in India as early as 1673. The name punch most likely came for the Hindu word panch, meaning five. Ancient punches were forged from five ingredients traditionally tea, lemon, sugar, water and arrack, an Asian spirit distilled from palm sap.

My mom’s punch recipe came curiously enough from 7-Up. During a recent visit, while sifting through mom’s recipe books, I came across a stained and well-used magazine insert tucked away in a cookbook. The small advertising brochure cheerily entitled “Merry Punch Bowl to You!” featured four punch recipes with photos – each in a distinctive hue – red, green, yellow and orange.

The ad copy was notable dated, proclaiming, “Gay parties just naturally center around a sparkling punchbowl,” and touting 7-Up as the “magic ingredient.”

Like many recipes of that era, the components concentrated on canned and premade ingredients. The 7-Up was measured in 7 oz bottles, a far cry from 20 oz super-sized single serving plastic bottles of today. However the recipes weren’t that different than the original five-ingredient “panch” formula.

Just for fun during the Thanksgiving weekend, my mom and I whipped up a green batch of 7-Up Emerald Punch. We garnished the colorful mixture with pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and mini-marshmallows. We dragged out the punchbowl from storage, decorated the table festively and talked about holiday memories. This time though we left the polyester in the closet and I stayed up to finish the last glass.

7-Up Emerald Punch

1 can (46 oz) sweetened pineapple juice.
4 cans (6 oz) limeade
¼ cup honey
1 bottle gin (1/5 gallon)
12 bottles (7 oz each) 7- Up

Combine pineapple juice and concentrate in punch bowl. Add honey; stir. Add gin; then 7-up. Add a few drops of green food coloring if desired; add ice. Garnish with fruit.

Ingredients to make punch may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, 3429 M Street in Georgetown.