The Stone Fence

July 26, 2011

What would you think if a man named Mr. Booze lived next door to you? Would you be concerned or curious? Or delighted, like the residents of Jerry Lenoir’s neighborhood? Jerry, along with his business partner Bill Flannery, is the man behind the super fun and retro-hip Mr-Booze Web site.

Jerry’s home has turned into the local gathering spot. “I love making cocktails and entertaining guests” he gleamed, “I know all my neighbors .”

The Mr-Booze Web site is a pleasant trip back in time when home bars were the norm and fashionable people enjoyed classic cocktails as soothing lounge music floated in the background. It pays tribute a time when martinis were martinis and drinks had names like the Old Fashioned and Singapore Sling.

Jerry has become quite an expert on entertaining over the years. “I fell in love with home bars when he was 8-years-old, watching “Bewitched.” Darren would come home and Samantha would make an ice-cold pitcher of martinis.”

His passion for cocktails continued throughout adulthood. “ In college while everyone else was drinking Natty Boh I was whipping up gin martinis,“ he recollected. “I found an apple crate and created a bar. Girls would come over. It was neat.”

The trend continued until he and his wife bought their current home. “I was getting depressed looking at houses, until I walked into the basement of one home and saw the built-in bar. I knew this was our house!”

Mr-Booze.com, along with the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC), recently hosted a seminar at the Occidental Grill on how to set up a home bar. While Phil Greene, a founding member of MOTAC, covered the basics such as proper barware, liquors and mixers, Jerry focused how to make your personal watering hole into an enjoyable place to relax and socialize.

“Your home bar should be an oasis for you,” Jerry says, “a place where time stands still.” The Mr-Booze Web site is dedicated to teaching people how to create that classic cocktail vibe through décor, music, and lighting.

It features information about where to find bar accessories. Jerry recommends scouring eBay, antique shops, thrift stores and estate sales for items. His basement refuge is brimming with kitschy decorations, stemware, celebrity photos, cocktail menus and books. “Good cocktails lead to good conversation, Jerry says, “and good talk can often erupt from the bric-a-brac, souvenirs and what-nots that you have around your set-up.”

And because a drink enjoyed with a beautiful tune simply tastes better, Jerry’s Web site features reviews and recommendations for stimulating cocktail melodies. Most obviously, Mr-Booze.com is overflowing recipes, from cocktail classics to updates on old favorites.

During the seminar, Jerry fixed one of his favorite tipples, the Stone Fence — a fruity mixture of apple brandy, cider and angostura bitters. Jerry discovered the drink in a 1912 recipe book and says it’s spiced apple flavor makes it a perfect elixir an for upcoming fall day. Mix one for yourself or make a large batch and invite your neighbors.

The Stone Fence
3 oz Lairds Applejack
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
Apple Cider

Fill tall glass or mug with ice, add Applejack and bitters and stir. Fill glass with cider. Dust with nutmeg and serve with a swizzle stick.

For more information visit www.mr-booze.com or www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org. Ingredients to make the Stone Fence may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M St.) in Georgetown.

Cocktail of the Week


Root beer conjures up pleasant childhood memories for most people. Whether it’s thoughts of a simpler time and a tall frothy mug at a soda fountain café or a creamy root beer float on a hot summer day, many of these remembrances take us back to our younger days.

While liquor companies have tried to corner the adult market for root beer with sugary schnapps and cloying sweet vodkas, it wasn’t until recently that a truly mature twist on this youthful treat was available.

The same company who revolutionized the gin world with their multi-layered botanical rich Hendrick’s gin has created Root liqueur, which is based on the historical recipe for root beer.

According to Root’s website, ArtInTheAge.com, root beer can trace its origins back to the 1700’s. Back then it was called root tea, a folk recipe made with birch bark, wintergreen and other wild roots and herbs. The recipe was passed from the Native Americans to the colonial settlers. As the years went on, it grew in potency and complexity especially in Pennsylvania where the ingredients grew naturally in abundance.

Root beer did not become commercially successful until it was discovered by Charles Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist, who tried root tea while on his honeymoon in New Jersey in 1875. Hires worked in his laboratory to improve the flavor and remove the alcohol, and then reduced it to a powdery concentrate that could be mixed in drug stores. He began serving his beverage cold, instead of hot.

Have you ever wondered have why root beer is called “beer?” According to Art in the Age, Hires called his beverage root “beer” so that hard working Pennsylvania coal miners and steel workers would enjoy the beverage in place of an alcoholic one.

Hires’ root beer made its debut at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, where it was touted as “the greatest health-giving beverage in the world.” Sales took off. By the 1890’s Hires began selling the concoction in pre-mixed bottles.

Cocktail of the Week

July 12, 2011

Saint Mark’s Square, The Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge are must-see sights for visitors to Venice, Italy. Another top attraction for foodies, literary types and cocktail lovers is Harry’s Bar.

Many know the famed watering hole as a hangout for celebrities including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen. Harry’s made also its mark in the culinary word when they invented carpaccio, a dish of thinly sliced raw beef.
But Harry’s most enduring gastronomical contribution may be the Bellini, a bubbly cocktail fashioned from white peach puree and Prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine.

According to their website, HarrysBarVenezia.com, the landmark bar was opened in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani, a bartender at Venice’s Hotel Europa, after he received financial assistance from a rich, young American named Harry Pickering.

Cipriani named his famous tipple after Giovanni Bellini, the fifteenth century Venetian artist, because the color of the drink resembled the pink glow in one of Bellini’s paintings.

Arrigo Cipriani, Guiseppe’s son, discusses his father’s innovation in his book “Harry’s Bar: The Life and Times of the Legendary Venice Landmark.”

“Peaches are in abundance throughout Italy from June through September, and my father had a predilection for the white ones. He experimented by puréeing small white peaches and adding Prosecco,” he writes. “Those who tested this new concoction gave it rave reviews.” Since then, this evanescent sipper has become an elegant brunch staple across the globe.
The general rule for mixing a Bellini is to use one part peach puree to three parts Prosecco. While it’s best to use fresh white peaches, commercially prepared brands are acceptable.

If you are making your own puree, Harry’s website advises not to use a food processor because it aerates the fruit. They recommend shredding the peaches with a cheese grater and using a strainer to collect the maximum amount of juice. If the peach mixture is too sour, add a splash of simple syrup or sugar.

Harry’s is perched on the water, a quick stroll from St Mark’s. When my mother and I made our cocktail pilgrimage there, we arrived in the evening as a golden light streamed though the decorative windows.

The crowded bar was small and decorated in wood and butterscotch hues. While there was a certain austerity about the place, it was teeming full of tourists, guidebooks in hand. The room was filled and mom and I seemed to get lost among the other patrons. When we finally received our Bellinis, they were served in simple juice glasses, not the fancy flutes that usually hold champagne cocktails.

The elixir was light with a refreshing simplicity. Its balance of dry and sweet made for a lovely aperitif. While I enjoyed sampling the original, it didn’t taste any more special than the Bellinis, I have enjoyed at Paparazzi or Brasserie Beck back home in D.C.

However when the bill arrived, I realized the high price for my sip of history. Each Bellini cost 18 Euro or about $52 for two after the conversion. While I wasn’t expecting “happy hour” pricing in notoriously expensive Venice, mom and I decided to put our next $50 toward a nice bottle of wine and dinner at less famous, less crowded and quiet restaurant.

The Bellini
1.5 oz White Peach Puree
4.5 oz Prosecco

Add puree to glass. Slowly add Prosecco, gently blending with long spoon.

Dixie Liquor, 3429 M Street NW sells a variety of Proseccos.

Cocktail of the Week

June 13, 2011

A perfectly crafted cocktail can be considered a work of art. But what about a tipple inspired by a work of art? At Café Atlántico, already known as one of the premier spots in Washington for handmade cocktails, the “The Daisy If You Do” was sparked by Frederic Remington’s sculpture ”Off the Range (Coming Through the Rye).”

The drink, conceived by lead bartender Owen Thomson, was created for an annual competition held at the Corcoran gallery. The city-wide cocktail competition, poetically named Artini, called on area mixologists to invent a potable inspired by a piece in the Corcoran’s collection. Thomason was assigned Remington’s sculpture.

The piece is an animated representation of the Old West, consisting of four rowdy cowboys shooting off their guns while rollicking their way on horseback. The sculpture invokes the rugged, bronco-busting spirit of adventure and wrangler masculinity.

Thomson’s coordinating cocktail does not disappoint. The ingredient list is one of carefully calculated vision – leather-infused tequila, 16-year-old single malt Scotch, lemon, and St. Germain elderflower liqueur flavored with toasted rye.

When Thomson first examined the sculpture, he immediately thought of crafting a drink with either leather or gunpowder. He decided leather would be a fun flavor to work with because it is often used a descriptive term for tasting wines or liquors.

However the difficult part, it turned out, was not finding a way to infuse the leather flavor into liquor but finding the actual leather. According to Thomson, most commercial methods of tanning are chemically based, but originally, leather was made using vegetable oils. Thomson had to track down a saddle-maker in Tennessee who still tans hides using this traditional method. Once he acquired the food-safe leather he steeped it in tequila overnight to impart a smoldering woody flavor that combines beautifully with the smoky agave.

The drink is formulated after the classic daisy cocktail – which is essentially a basic sour (liquor, citrus and sweeter,) topped with soda water. The “Daisy If You Do” moniker is borrowed from a line from the legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday.

For the citrus portion of the drink Thomson uses fresh lemon juice, and for the sweetener, St Germaine elderflower liquor. In order to match Remington’s sculpture title of “Coming through the Rye,” Thomson, toasts rye berries then soaks them in the liqueur for three days. While St Germain normally has a cloying honeysuckle flavor the rye infusion tempers the liqueur with toasty orange-like nuance. Thomson finishes his work with a dash of Lagavulin 16-year Scotch which yields rich peaty finish.

While the name Daisy sounds delicate, this is definitely a drink worthy of a beefy cowboy. Thomson’s piece boasts a multi-layered, slightly sweet, yet deep smoky flavor without becoming heavy. It has the substance to stand up to a Texas-size steak, but light enough to be refreshing in the summer heat.

Daisy If You Do

1 1/2 oz Leather infused tequila
3/4 oz. St Germain infused with toasted rye
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
Dash of Lagavulin 16-year-old Scotch
Soda water.

Combine first four ingredients in a tall glass, top with soda water, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Readers may try the Daisy If You Do at Café Atlantic located at 405 8th Street NW Washington DC. Tequila, St Germaine and Lagavulin Scotch may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown.

A Window Into Wine

June 10, 2011

If there is one tool most vital in propelling the East Coast wine industry towards a West Coast level of prestige, that instrument is education. This applies for both the consumer and the producer. As the next generation of winemakers gains a more extensive understanding of the science behind the techniques, the Mid-Atlantic States are producing wine of an increasingly high caliber. Simultaneously, the desire of the consumer to learn more about tasting, pairing, and international wine continues to spread, guiding the entire regional industry towards a more sophisticated focus.

In response to this progression there are more opportunities for wine education in the East than ever before. Because of the wide array of classes, programs, and certificates now available, it can be confusing to differentiate between types of training. Whether you are a potential viticulturalist, a sommelier-in-training, or merely hoping to feel a little more confident perusing a restaurant’s wine list, there are finally accessible programs geared to your goals.

In 1880, the University of California Davis launched the very first accredited Viticulture and Enology program in the United States, only to be shut down in 1919 with the establishment of Prohibition. The department was reinstated in 1935, and for years it remained the only prominent resource for a comprehensive education in winemaking or grape growing within the US. Gradually, a few other West Coast institutions also began offering degrees in the field, but it wasn’t until 2008 that Cornell reformed its long-running viticultural research division into its own freestanding department, becoming the first Enology and Viticulture degree in the East. This was an essential step not only for the education of future winemakers, but also in the acquisition of expertise and the establishment of a venue for research specific to local conditions.

The quality of East Coast wine has greatly benefited from this resource, directly apparent in the advancement of vineyard management and winemaking techniques. But only recently have other Universities in the region begun to offer alternative programs. Virginia Tech now offers an Enology and Viticulture concentration within its Food Science and Technology department, and just this year the community college in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania began accepting students to its new undergraduate department. Most programs now offer online extension courses as well.

If you are more interested in the sale, service, or discerning consumption of wine, there are often multiple privately owned wine schools in any metropolitan area. There are a few “academies” right in D.C. that offer a variety of educational opportunities for anyone, from the casual buyer to the aspiring professional. Both the Capitol Wine School and the Washington Wine Academy offer classes connected with the WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust), which provides a widely accepted measure of proficiency. Generally, one can earn WSET Certificates at the Intermediate or Advanced Level, which can be helpful if you hope to get a job at a restaurant or wine retail store.

These programs usually charge an entry fee specific to the certificate level you’re aiming for, and then may have classes once a week or so for several weeks. The classes may start out with more general tutorials on global wine regions and basic winemaking knowledge, but will progress toward more specific tasting comparisons of different varietals and styles.

Additionally, the WSET also offers a more official Diploma, which is often considered the first step towards becoming a Master of Wine. This distinction is achieved by only a handful of people in the world and takes an additional minimum of three years to complete. The Master of Wine exam is said to be an arduous ordeal of essays and taste tests, including a section that requires the participant to name the vintage, region, and exact producer of several wines in a completely blind tasting—a sort of ultimate wine challenge.

Sounding a little beyond your personal ambition? Are you looking for a more recreational atmosphere, where you might choose to learn about a selected topic now and then? As the industry recognizes the growing consumer interest in a deeper understanding of wine, some wine-focused restaurants and boutique retail shops are offering their own classes and educational events. One example can be found at the Philadelphia-based wine, beer and tapas bar Tria. With three locations downtown as well as a separate “classroom” location, Tria’s staff hosts educational seminars often focused on a different varietal each week, as well as periodic food-pairing classes and specialty flight tastings that you can sign up for in packages or as a one-time experience.

Despite this plethora of available outlets, the best place to start is at your local wine shop or wine bar. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I guarantee you that most wine industry employees live for those moments when they can “nerd out” over their passion for vino with a customer who is genuinely interested in the subject. People get into the business because they love to drink, learn about, and talk about wine—they’re sure not in it for the money, I can tell you that much—and I think you may be surprised at the enthusiasm and aptitude that may be sitting right there at the corner store.

Caroline Jackson now works for Chehalem Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. She has a degree in English and a background in East Coast wine sales and winemaking. Visit her blog, Sips and Sounds, which pairs daily music selections with a wine or craft beer.

Window Into Wine

May 31, 2011

Whether it’s local wine, craft beer or fine cuisine, these bourgeoning industries are always benefited by producers and consumers developing a broader understanding of the product. In other words: Education. East Coast residents have come a long way in aiding the growth of these industries through knowledge and general interest, and yet there are still many common misconceptions about wine and how it is made and marketed that hamper the progress of East Coast wine promotion. To understand more about what’s in the bottle, what better place to start than what’s on the bottle.

We all know what it’s like to walk into a wine store and feel a little overwhelmed by the choices. Maybe your original goal was to try something new, but then the eight-syllable hyphenated French classifications and various ranches of Napa start to blur together, and you end up just grabbing your regular go-to Cab. As you may already know, there are two main styles of wine labeling, largely considered Old World vs. New World. European wines will rarely tell you the grape varietal of the wine, so it is up to you to become familiar with which regions (Bordeaux, Rioja, Piemonte, etc.) produce what kind of wine, and furthermore which sub-regions and specific producers or “Chateaus” you prefer. It is then up to the buyer to become familiar with what kind of wine is made in which region to know what each bottle contains, although a few French and several Spanish and Italian producers are moving toward a more modern style. New World wines (anything not from the original Western European regions) will generally state the grape or the name of the blend right on the front label, and may often provide additional varietal information or tasting notes on the back.

Another common source of label confusion is the designation of “Estate” wines. In general, if a wine is labeled “Estate,” that usually means that the grapes used are grown in vineyards owned by the winery within a certain distance from the production site. It gets tricky, however, because the bottle may not say “Estate” for this to be the case. Many smaller production wineries exclusively use their own estate-grown fruit, but may not advertise as such on their labels. I always recommend visiting a winery’s website to find out more about where they are getting their grapes.

Many larger production wineries may have several acres of their own estate vineyards and then source the rest of their grapes from neighboring growers, and then will often produce a separate smaller batch solely from estate grapes that may go into a special reserve bottling. However, non-estate wine does not always mean it is lower quality. There are many excellent winemaking operations that carefully choose only the best vineyards to source from and have developed close simbiotic relationships with specific growers. Just as some of the best vineyard owners don’t make wine at all, some great wineries don’t own any vines and still manage to produce world-class wine.

If a winery is not diligent in its involvement with a source vineyard during the growing season, they may end up with some unpleasant surprises come harvest time that will negatively affect the quality of their wine. However, there are many highly respected winemakers that have long-running relationships with the vineyards they source from and are well versed in the importance of communication between winery and growers. Many of the most prestigious wineries in the country buy grapes from several different vineyards, all with premier growing sites and acclaimed viticulturalists. When it comes time for production, wineries often keep grapes from specific vineyards separate through the fermentation and aging process. Then, when it’s time to blend, each barrel is tasted and assessed; here, the winemaker may set aside a few barrels that are most expressive of a specific vineyard’s terroir to be bottled as a “single vineyard” release.

For example, Oregon is famous for it’s Pinot Noir and cool climate white wines that come from the Willamette Valley. Then the greater Willamette wine region is separated into more specialized AVA designations that group together topographical areas with comparable climate and soil composition. Beyond that, there are many specific vineyards that are renowned for the caliber of their particular site. If a wine is made from grapes that came from several places throughout the valley, the bottle will then only be a general “Willamette Valley” designation; others some may specify, for example, the Dundee Hills AVA and may showcase characterstics of its particular soil type, or even further, state the exact name of the Vineyard that it came from (i.e. Temperance Hill, Palmer Creek, Stoller, Bryan Creek, etc.).

This somewhat parallels the traditional European system of classification, where a Pinot Noir from France may not only tell you it is a Bourgogne, but also from the Côte de Nuits region, and furthermore from the Grand Crus vineyards of Romanée-Conti. In France (and paralleled throughout Europe), the Appellation d’origine contrôlée laws decided long ago which wines deserve the most prestigious title of Grand Crus, which may be called Premier Crus, which may only use the “village” name, and which are merely to be considered generic Bourgogne. The New World regions are young enough that this kind of quality distinction is not so set in stone, and therefore it is up to you to read, taste, and decide which wines stand out in the ever-growing pack.

Caroline Jackson now works for Chehalem Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. She has a degree in English and a background in East Coast wine sales and winemaking. Visit her blog, Sips and Sounds, which pairs daily music selections with a wine or craft beer.

Washington Harbour Restaurants Reopen

May 26, 2011

The businesses and restaurants of Washington Harbour are slowly returning to normal after being engulfed in 10-12 feet of flooded waters over a month ago. Tony & Joe’s and Nick’s Riverside Grill have opened their outdoor bar and seating patio with a limited menu including grilled fish, shrimp, burgers & hot dogs. Owner of both businesses, Tony Cibel, hopes to re-open the indoor dining areas within the new few months. Sequoia, having less water damage than their neighbors, was able to re-open their full restaurant. Cabana and Farmers & Fishers remain closed until further notice. Despite the slow, yet steady recovery, all restaurants are determined to regain their loyal cliental and urge everyone to come out and show their support. [gallery ids="99755,99756,99757,99758" nav="thumbs"]

Cocktail of the Week

May 17, 2011

While most drinkers are familiar with beer, wine and spirits, sake, a rice-based alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin, has an aura of mystery about it. Pronounced Sah-KAY, many view it as an exotic and foreign elixir. Known as “The Drink of the Gods,” sake is the national spirit of Japan and has been consumed for over 4,000 years.

Sake is often referred to as rice wine. However, it is made through a brewing process similar to the way beer is made.

Many people are first exposed to sake in a sushi bar or Japanese restaurant, and never try it elsewhere. The most common sake served is Futsu-Shu, which would be equivalent of table wine.

But like wine, sake comes in a variety of premium categories. These types are distinguished by the degree to which the rice has been polished and the added percentage of brewer’s alcohol or the absence of such additives. More and more of these sake styles are breaking into the US market. According to Imbibe magazine in 2007, for the first time ever the dollar figure for sales of premium sake in the US exceeded that of generic Futsu-Shu.

As the popularity of sake increases, it has begun to appear on cocktail menus as bartenders and mixologist discover its versatility.

Market Watch magazine reports in April 2011 that bartenders are combining sake with distilled spirits in cocktails as a way of enhancing their flavor profiles. Todd Richman, corporate mixologist for Sidney Frank Importing Co., which markets the Gekkeikan portfolio, sees sake cocktails as an emerging category.

“It has a lot of finesse,” he says. Richman believes that sakes fit well with the handcrafted cocktail movement, which touts fresh-squeezed juices and house-made ingredients.

A spattering of Washington restaurants serve sake cocktails. A popular item at Zentan is the Spicy Thai Martini made with Nigori unfiltered sake, chili infused Russian Standard vodka, St. Germaine and a splash of cranberry. At Poste Brasserie, the Plum Blossom is a cherry-infused sake cocktail finished with plum soda.

Another popular trend is using sake in place of the base spirit in familiar cocktails. For example, in a Saketini, the classic martini is given a new twist when sake is substituted for vermouth and mixed with gin. A sake screwdriver and Zipang mimosa combine sake and sparkling sake respectively with orange juice.

These reinvented cocktails are popping up on menus not just at Asians spots, but steakhouses, tapas bars and conventional restaurants as well. According to Market Watch, Ruby Tuesday is one of Gekkeikan’s largest customers due the chain’s use of Gekkeikan sake in their sangrias.

One of my favorite sake libations is an updated version of the Sex and the City favorite, the Cosmopolitan. The Sake Cosmo replaces limejuice with sake. I like the way the acidity of sake blends with the tart flavor of cranberry. The orange sweetness is highlighted with a touch of earthiness. It’s just enough difference to give this fading favorite a breath of new life.

Sake Cosmo

1 oz Vodka
1 oz sake
1 oz orange liqueur
1 oz cranberry

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Pour into a martini glass.

Different styles of sake may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M Street in Georgetown)

The Laurel Park

May 5, 2011

As we slug through one of the hottest summers in memory, Washingtonians have been seeking creative ways to have fun and cool down.

A clever and inventive antidote can be found at Art and Soul on Capital Hill, where the latest rage is their uplifting and invigorating Sno-Cone cocktails. Your childhood favorite is back, but with a decidedly adult twist.

Art and Soul, a welcoming lounge located in the Liaison Hotel, offers a menu of four icy cocktails designed by general manager Jay Poblador. These treats feature crushed ice layered with seasonal fruits and vegetables, mixed with liquor and served in cone-shaped glasses. The resulting tipples are light, stimulating and absolutely refreshing.

Jay, who recently moved to DC from New York, is experiencing his first Capital summer. “I didn’t realize it was so hot and humid here,” he said. “I designed these cocktails to be refreshing and appeal to your childlike primal urges.”

Bartender Heejin Shubbuck mixed up four frosty selections – the Laurel Park, the Rehoboth, the Savannah and the Washington Bite.
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Perhaps the most visually appealing is the Laurel Park, which arrives looking like a beautiful rainbow of ice and fruit including the pinkish hue of strawberries and cool green cucumbers. The layers are doused with gin and Saint Germaine elderflower liqueur before being topped off with rose sparkling wine.

Jay designed the Laurel Park to showcase a wide range of flavors including fruitiness, sweetness and bitterness. “All around it’s a nice flavor profile,” he said. “The flavor of St Germaine is so nuanced, and gin provides a perfect pairing .”

As I sipped my cocktail and the ice melted I noted how the flavor changed and evolved. When I reached the bottom of my glass, I enjoyed spearing the now frozen (and alcohol infused) fruits.

The Rehoboth Sno-Cone proved to be equally as complex. This treat is built from pineapple soaked with cachaca, a Brazilian sugar cane rum. It’s garnished with fresh spearmint for a rejuvenating effect. Jay rims the glass with a smoked sea salt rim, which enhances the subtle smoky flavor of the cachaca.

The Savannah, forged from fresh peaches, is the sweetest of the bunch. It starts with a full and luscious flavor, but finishes light and spicy thanks to vodka infused with African black nectar tea. “The tea imparts a bit of bitterness and nice tannins on the back of your tongue,” Jay says.

The final frozen concoction highlights the exotic flavor of Yuzu, a Japanese juice that tastes like a concentrated mixture of lemon, lime and orange. It imparts a tart flavor with no lingering aftertaste. It is rimmed with a cinnamon, sugar and cayenne for a sweet and spicy essence.
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These delightful coolers are a seasonal offering at Art and Soul, so hurry before the temperature drops. Sno-Cone cocktails are half price during happy hour- Monday –Thursday, 4-7 pm.

The Laurel Park
1.5 oz Hendricks Gin
.5 oz St Germaine
.25 oz Simple Syrup
Splash Sparkling Brut Rose
1 oz diced Strawberries
1 oz diced cucumbers
Shaved or Crushed Ice

Assemble a martini glass with layers of ice, cucumber, and strawberries, placing layers of ice in between the fruit for color contrast. Shake Gin, St Germaine and Simple Syrup. Pour over ice and fruit. Top off with sparkling rose.

Ingredients to make the Laurel Park may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown. Readers may sample this cocktail at Art and Soul at 415 New Jersey Ave.

Cocktail of the Week

May 4, 2011

As Cinco de Mayo rolls around, many will celebrate the holiday by hoisting margaritas. However, these two traditions, the party and the cocktail, may actually be more American than Mexican.

Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for the fifth of May) commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the French-Mexican War. According to National Geographic, the anniversary of the victory is celebrated only sporadically in Mexico, mainly in the southern town of Puebla and in a few larger cities. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and ancestry, similar to the way that St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest celebrate the Irish and German heritage.

While the margarita is the #1 requested tequila cocktail in the U.S, the paloma is more popular in Mexico. Spanish for “dove,” the paloma is a refreshing highball made with tequila and grapefruit soda. According to Brown-Forman, which markets the El Jimador and Herradura tequila brands, 100,000 palomas are consumed each hour in Mexico.

While colas dominate the soft drink market in the United States, tropical fruit-flavored sodas are popular in Mexico. These preferred refreshments are believed to have evolved from agua fresca, or fruit waters, sold by street vendors throughout Latin America.

Mexican soft drinks differ from domestic sodas in two main ways. They are sweetened with natural sugar instead of corn syrup, which gives them a brighter flavor. They also tend to taste more like juice than the highly carbonated drinks favored in the U.S.

Squirt is a well-known brand of grapefruit soda in the States, however it has more of a lemon-lime flavor than the Squirt sold in Mexico. Jarritos, a popular Mexican soft drink brand, is available in many unique flavors, including Toronja or grapefruit. It can be found in Latin American markets.

Knowing these differences, one could make a paloma with Squirt or Jarritos, but for deliciously brisk version, I recommend using freshly squeezed grapefruit and lime juices topped with soda for a bit of fizz.

Just like a margarita, the paloma may be served with or without salt on the rim. The salt adds an additional layer of flavor: sweet, sour, and salty, with just a pinch of bitterness.

The paloma can be found at a few Washington Mexican restaurants including Oyamel and Rosa Mexicana. Chief mixologist Jon Arroyo at Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom offers a different take, with an added kick most don’t have.

Arroyo uses house-made chipotle syrup to add seasoning and the drink is topped off with a mescal floater to give it an extra agave punch. These smoky elements provide one more level of complexity.

“I’m a big supporter of spice mixed with fruits,” Arroyo says. “I like the balance.” Arroyo’s cocktail starts out crisp and refreshing, then it hits you with spicy smack.

Founding Farmers is a perfect place to try the paloma on Cinco De Mayo if you want to avoid the rush at area Mexican restaurants. Or if you prefer to dine-in, try this easy-make paloma at home.

The Paloma

1/2 oz fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
3 oz fresh grapefruit juice
2 oz tequila
1/2 oz agave nectar (or simple syrup)
Salt
Soda

Rim a Collins glass with salt. Mix first four ingredients and pour over ice into glass. Top with club soda or grapefruit soda.

Dixie Liquor in Georgetown will host a tequila tasting on May 5, from 5-8 pm.