Cocktail Of The Week

August 15, 2013

Folk heroes exist in every culture. Their fame, or sometimes notoriety, varies.In the United States some of our mythical figures like Davey Crocket or Daniel Boone are lauded for their pioneering character. Others like Billy the Kid or Calamity Jane capture the outlaw spirit of the Wild West. In Mexico one the most infamousfigures is Jesus Malverde.

Malverde, a bandit from the northernMexican state of Sinaloa, is often compared with the British legend of Robin Hood. Known as “the Angel of the Poor,” or “The Generous Bandit” Malverde was known to steal from the rich and give to poor, making him popular among the region’s underprivileged highland residents. Due to his renegade reputation, Malverde has also been adopted as the patron saint of drug traffickers and is often dubbed the “nacre-saint.”

While Malverde is not recognized by the Catholic Church, Mexicans pray to him for help or healing. Busts, necklaces and scapulars featuring Malverde’s thick bushy mustache and trademark white shirt and black tie are seen throughout the country. In shrines in Culiacan and Mexico City, Malverde’s followers line up to give homage.

Washingtonians looking to pay their respects to Malverde have the unique opportunity to toast him with his own self-named tipple. At Bandolero, M Street’s latest hot spot, one of the best cocktails on the menu, and perhaps one of the best agave-based drinks in DC, shares it moniker with the celebrated Mexican outlaw.

The Jesus Malverde, created Bar Manager Sam Babcock., is an astonishingly refreshing mixture of mescal, lime, cilantro, agave nectar, cucumber and Pork Barrel Hellfire Bitters.

In a case of which came first, like the chicken and egg, Sam confirms that this delightful drink was born before its name came about. He was researching Mexican gangsters when his interest was piqued by the story of Malverde. And since he had already created a badasscocktail with a cool green hue, he realized that his new drinkliterally fit the Spanish translation of the surname Mal (bad) Verde (green).

Imbibing in Babcock’sluscious concoction is a multi-layered experience for your taste buds. “The smokiness from the mescal and the spice from cilantro and the bitters really play nicely with the fresh cucumber and agave, “ Sam says, “ it starts off nice and fresh and clean tasting with a little bit of sweetness and finishes with a nice little punch from the smokiness of the mescal and the heat of the bitters.”

For me sampling this cocktail is like taking off on airplane, the flavor starts rolling down the runway with the first breezy sip and then really takes off with a bracing smack from the liquor and bitters. The peppery Pork Barrel Hellfire Bitters are produced locally by DC mixologist Owen Thompson, of America Eats Tavern.

While Bandoleer’s cocktail list concentrates heavily on tequila and mescal-based drinks, Babcock would like to stress that Bandolero is an excellent spot for craft cocktails of all spirits
“It’s not just a tequila bar where you go to get shots, he says . “We do lot of craft cocktails with tequila and mescal, but I want people to know that they can come in here and my bar staff will be able to make any cocktail regardless of what spirit it is.” In fact, Sam recently updated the drink menu to include a wider variety of classic cocktails. He has also added a few new gin, rye and pisco drinks, just to switch things up a bit.

So the next time you seeking a little irreverence with your cocktail, make a toast to a Mexican desperado at Bandolero.

Jesus Malverde

1.75 oz mescal
1.25 oz. cucumber juice
.5 oz fresh limejuice
.5 oz agave nectar
2. sprigs of cilantro
4 dashes Hellfire Pork Bitters

Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Double strain, pour into glass and garnish with the sprig of cilantro.
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Cocktail of the Week

The Suffering Bastard is a curious name for a drink that I’ve seen on numerous menus in Tiki bars and Chinese restaurants. Aside from the humorous moniker, I never really gave this drink much thought. But like many popular cocktails, there’s a story behind this concoction, which belongs to a man named Joe Scialom, who was perhaps one of the world’s most famous bartenders.

The Museum of the American Cocktail and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the author of five books on vintage Tiki drinks and cuisine, recently hosted a lecture, “The Suffering Bastard: Joe Scialom, International Barman of Mystery,” at the Occidental Grill.

Berry’s research began after reading Scialom’s obituary in the New York Times, in 2004. He tracked down Scialom’s daughter Collette and recorded his fascinating story.

Scialom, who was educated as a pharmacist, was born in Egypt in 1910. While working as a chemist for Lever Brothers in the Sudan, he began applying chemistry principals to mixing drinks to entertain his colleagues. Here he found his calling and set out to become a bartender. His career began at the opulent Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, which was one of the most celebrated hotels in the world. Shepheard’s welcomed royalty, heads of state, and famous celebrities. Scialom, who spoke eight languages, dazzled the elite guests from near and far. He counted Winston Churchill, Charlton Heston, Charles de Gaulle, Conrad Hilton, and Egyptian King Farouk among his many guests.

During World War II, the hotel served as an unofficial officer’s club for the British and became an informal press club for war correspondents. When there was little news from the war, the media
wrote about Scialom’s amusing antics.

Due to wartime supply shortages, drinks were being mixed with poor quality alcohol, and guests began complaining of headaches. In response, Scialom created the “Suffering Bastard” as a hangover cure. According to Berry, the original recipe for the Suffering Bastard consisted of “Black market gin from South Africa, stolen British army-issue brandy, a homemade lime cordial, bitters brewed by a druggist across the street, and ginger ale from a Greek merchant of dubious character.”

The hotel bar, which was now referred to as “Joe’s Bar,” even featured a chart prescribing the number of Suffering Bastards needed to relieve a hangover based on its severity.

Another amusing anecdote that Berry shared involved Scialom making gallons of the Suffering
Bastard for a hungover British army that fought the battle at El Alamein. When the British won, the ever-present foreign correspondents reported Scialom’s hand in the victory.

Following these reports, the Suffering Bastard became internationally known. Trader Vic’s was the first to copy it. Then it began showing up at Tiki bars everywhere, even though the recipe was nowhere near Scialom’s original. According to Berry, Trader Vic’s version was very similar to a Mai Tai. Scialom was the consummate host at Shepheard’s.

When the hotel was destroyed, during the course of the civil unrest of the Egyptian revolution of 1952, Scialom continued to serve drinks and was one of the last to leave.

But Scialom’s popularity did not go unnoticed by the Egyptian authorities. They were suspicious
because he mingled consistently with so many important people. He was imprisoned as a spy and then later expelled from Egypt by President Gamal Abdel Nasser. While Scialom’s illustrious
bartending career continued in Puerto Rico, Havana, and New York, it was his time at Sheapherd’s Hotel that cemented his place in cocktail history.

The Suffering Baststard
Courtesy of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry
1 ounce gin
1 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce Rose’s lime juice cordial
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Ginger beer

Add gin, brandy, Rose’s, and bitters to an ice-filled glass. Fill with ginger beer. Stir. Garnish with orange slice and mint sprig.

Ingredients to make the Suffering Bastard may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown. Scialom’s story will be published in Berry’s upcoming book, “Potions of the Caribbean: Lost Cocktails from America’s Playground”. For information visit or [gallery ids="99208,99209" nav="thumbs"]

Cocktail of the Week: Yes,We Canton!

This year’s inaugural season will be one of the quietest in years. The Obama-Biden inaugural committee has announced that it is cutting back on the number of inaugural balls. There will be just two official parties plus a concert honoring military families. The cutback on festivities is meant to reduce government spending and the amount of security and law-enforcement personnel needed. This will be the lowest number of balls in the past 60 years.

If you aren’t one of the lucky elite that will be spending the evening of Jan. 21, dancing and toasting with the first family, there will be dozens of unofficial balls and parties and no shortage of restaurants and nightclubs looking to cash in on the influx of celebratory visitors.

Several D.C. hot spots have led the way with inauguration-themed drinks. Just steps from the White House, the Hamilton is offering two potables to honor our nation’s 44th President. The “Perfect 44,” a variation on a classic Manhattan, features FEW Bourbon from Chicago. If you’re Donald Trump, you may want to order the Executive Punch, made with rum from Obama’s birthplace of Hawaii, along with a slice of humble pie.

Penn Quarter’s Brasserie Beck is serving an Obama-tini cocktail with a Democratic blue hue. This festive drink is forged from Ketel One vodka, Hypnotiq liqueur, and a float of blue Curacao. Nearby at D.C. Coast, the drink-du-jour is the Sparkling Second Term made with Averell damson plum gin, Leopold Brothers New York apple whiskey, lemon bitters and a splash of bubbly cava wine. This refined sparkler is served in a cinnamon-and-sugar-rimmed Champagne flute.

If these cocktails sound a bit too stuffy for you, swing by Hill Country Barbecue where they will be offering $1 POTUS-pop Jell-O shots all day Jan. 21.

Many folks, going with the subdued nature of this year’s festivities, will choose to host soirees in their homes. In additional to the décor and menu, one of the most important elements of any Obama-themed fiesta will be the choice of cocktails. Toasting the Commander-In-Chief with a sparkling wine or Champagne is a given, but a signature tipple is a special added touch that will make your party memorable.

One of the most obvious choices to serve is the classic El Presidente cocktail. While technically a Cuban creation, this full-flavored rum cocktail includes Curacao, vermouth and grenadine. Another clever choice is the retro Blue Hawaii tiki drink. This concoction made with blue Curacao, pineapple juice, sour mix and either rum or vodka, pays both homage to the Democrats with its color and Obama’s Hawaiian roots.

My choice for a private party would be the “Yes, We Canton,” an opulent sparkling sipper created for Obama’s first inauguration by D.C. celebrity mixtress Gina Chersevani. It was the star cocktail at the Peace Ball in 2009. I was first introduced to this dignified drink at a presidential drink seminar, sponsored by the Museum of the American Cocktail. The stellar ingredient in this cocktail is Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. Forged from baby Vietnamese ginger, Cognac. Tahitian vanilla, Provencal honey, and Tunisian ginseng, Domain de Canton adds an exotic and a dash of winter warmth and spice to this mixture of pineapple juice and sparkling wine. Elegant and easy, this recipe can be multiplied and served as a punch, freeing up time for the busy host or hostess.

No matter what your plans may be for the inauguration or political affiliation, on Jan. 21 let’s all raise a glass to what we hope will be four years of peace and prosperity.

Yes, We Canton!
½ oz pineapple juice
½ oz Domaine de Canton
2-3 oz. brut sparkling wine or Champagne.
Serve in flute. Can also be made as a punch.

Cocktail of the MonthAugust 7, 2013

August 8, 2013

**VINCENT: Did you just order a five-dollar shake?
MIA: Sure did.
VINCENT: A shake? Milk and ice cream?
MIA: Uh-huh.
VINCENT: It costs five dollars?
MIA: Yep.
VINCENT: You don?t put bourbon in it or anything?
VINCENT: Just checking.**

Movie aficionados will recognize this conversation from Quentin Tarantino?s 1994 cult favorite ?Pulp Fiction.? Hit man Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta, is taking out his boss?s wife, Mia Wallace, played by Uma Thurman, for a night on the town while the big man is away. Vincent is questioning the high price of Mia?s choice of beverage. While he does later recant after sampling it, ?I don?t know if that shake?s worth five dollars but it?s pretty damn good.?

Well, if Vincent would have lived through the movie, he would have been able to indulge in an adult milkshake that bears his name at the Satellite Room bar near the 9:30 Club in D.C. The ?Vincent Vega? is a creamy vanilla shake, spiked with Bulleit bourbon. Although Vincent may have gone into sticker shock at the $10 price tag. Yes, prices have risen since 1994. But just like the movie, the same shake can be ordered without alcohol for only $5.

Adult milkshakes have been one of the hottest trends in D.C. in recent years, a perfect have-my-dessert- and-cocktail- too treat, for the area?s scorching summers. These concoctions are basically your cherished childhood treat boozed up with liquors ranging from rum to Kahlua to cr?me de menthe.

[Ted?s Bulletin]( on Capital Hill started the trend. Their Baileys caramel macchiato will make you wish that Starbucks could add a lethal shot to their frappuccinos while their white Russian shake, would probably earn the approval of ?the Dude.? If fruit is more your style, Ted?s offers the buzzed berry forged from raspberry schnapps and rum.

In Adams Morgan, the weekend gathering hub, the [Diner]( has four adult milkshakes on its menu. The apple bottom is creative mixture of Sailor Jerry?s rum, vanilla ice cream whipped together with apple pie. The peppermint shake combines, cr?me de menthe, with ice cream and crushed candy canes. But perhaps the most interesting concoction merges the adult shake trend with the ?bacon in everything? craze. The bacon bourbon float takes and old-fashioned brown cow (or root beer float) spikes it with Jim Beam and tops it off with fluffy head of whipped cream covered in freshly made bacon bits.

I recently indulged on the Diner?s bacon bourbon float for a late-afternoon pick-me-up. The D.C. heat index was 105 degrees. I had spent two painful hours at the dentist, and I was looking for something satisfying, cooling and numbing at the same time.
Like so many other bacon foods, it may sound strange, but the hearty salty smoky bacon, merges well with the spice of the root beer, with the bourbon lending a sweet, oaky and powerful bite. My companion Dan Breen, a Baltimore-based artist and music promoter, gave it a thumbs up as well.

[The Satellite Room]( has the longest list in town, with ten celebrity-named ice cream elixirs. In additional the Vincent Vega, customers can say ?cheers? with the Norm Peterson shake, made with Murphy?s Irish stout or an ?Absolutely Fabulous? Patsy Stone made from pineapple, coconut, orange and nutmeg with Captain Morgan spiced rum.

If you are looking to give your childhood treat an R-rated makeover many of these ice cream cocktails can be easily made at home with a blender, a pint of Haagen-Dazs and your favorite spirit. Get creative, or use a popular cocktail as a guideline. For example, for a pi?a colada mix together rum, pineapple juice and coconut ice cream.

**If you would like to replicate the Diner?s sinful treat, here is a simple formula:**

Add two ounces of bourbon to a parfait or pint glass. Add one large scoop of vanilla ice cream slightly softened. Fill the glass with your favorite root beer. Cover with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle generously with bacon pieces. ?

Cocktail of the Month: Mezcal Part II, Creamy Cocktails

May 9, 2013

Cream liqueurs have been popular for decades. The most well known is Irish Cream, a mixture of Irish whiskey, cream, sugar and other herbs and flavors. Bailey’s, introduced in 1974 was the first on the market. It was followed by, among others, Carolans, Brady’s and Saint Brendan’s.

Many people are fond of Amarula, with its eye-catching exotic elephant label. Amarula uses a distillate of fermented South African marula fruit, cream, black tea and spices. In the Caribbean rum creams are the rage. Jamaica likes to brag about Sangster’s original Jamaica rum cream liqueur while St. Croix produces Cruzan Rum Cream.

During my recent travels through the mezcal-crazy Mexican state of Oaxaca, I was not too surprised when I encountered a wide variety of mezcal-based cream liqueurs. You may remember from last month’s column that mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant, a type of agave, similar to tequila.
As I was hitching from Mazunte Beach, along the Oaxacan Riviera, to the nearest commercial town, San Augustine, I noticed the collective transport truck passed a mezcal distillery. When my local bodega in town ran out of mezcal, I decided to take a ride back to the tienda and investigate.

During a scenic ride along the coast in the back of the truck, my thirst was raging from the hot afternoon sun. As I spied the spray-painted plywood sign outside the shop, I yelled for the driver to drop me off. As I walked toward the small shack, I didn’t see anyone on the premises, except for a friendly dog.

I ventured further down the gravely path towards a table lined with bottles of various colors and flavors. My next reaction was one of disbelief. Not only was there a plethora of bottles on display, there was also a sign offering, “Pruebas Gratis” (free samples) while the owner was sound asleep in a hammock.

My first thought was, “Am I in heaven?” I briefly considered loading up my backpack and catch the next truck out of Dodge, but considering how bad that could be for international relations, I timidly helped myself to a sample glass from an open bottle and woke the man who was clearly enjoying his afternoon siesta.

The owner sleepily wandered over to the table and began to give me a half-awake lecture on the different flavors of mescal creams in his collection I started off with a coffee flavor, which tasted like a white Russian with a smoky kick. The next was a minty green-colored pistachio which did not translate well. The powerful mezcal overwhelmed the delicate pistachio. My next selection, banana, went down with a sweet easy slide, like a frozen daiquiri at a swim-up bar.

The samples kept coming. There were two coffee varieties – mocha and cappuccino. While very rich, they were also heavy on the sweet side. Coconut cream, with its nutty creamy texture, made me long for some pineapple juice. As though he could read my mind, the proprietor immediately poured me a sample of a pina colada that was decadent but strong.

A brightly colored purple mixture followed. Cloyingly sweet, grape, cream and mezcal is not a flavor combination that I wanted to continue imbibing. The lines of bottles on the table seemed to be expanding. So, I knew I was going to have to cut my tasting flight short, before I forgot my way back home. I capped off the afternoon, with a taste of Oaxaca kiss, a pink tropical fruit punch flavor, reminiscent of a TGIF’s blender drink.

I thanked the owner, who had spent the last half hour entertaining me as he wrapped my purchases — a bottle of coconut cream to be enjoyed from my hammock at my beachfront cabana, mocha as a gift for my Peruvian shaman who loves his coffee with lots of sugar and a bottle of aged mezcal for nighttime fiesta on the beach.

While mescal is often noted for its high alcohol content, mescal creams are generally low-proof, averaging between 12 and 18 percent alcohol. Their strikingly pleasing flavor make them a perfect after-dinner treat. Some folks like to enjoy them over ice cream for dessert. Mezcal creams are not widely sold in the USA, but they can be purchased online. Relíquias de Oaxaca, ( has a huge selection that includes, maracuya and guanabana (tropical Latin American fruits) pina colada and coffee varieties. [gallery ids="101285,149564" nav="thumbs"]

Luxury in a Glass

April 9, 2013

The email’s subject read, “Invitation to a Champagne Conversation with Krug and Louis Vuitton.” I blinked at my computer screen and read it again. Yes, it did indeed contain the words invitation, Krug, champagne and Louis Vuitton. I thought I was surely dreaming. Krug and Louis Vuitton together, in one setting? I was all in!

Days later, on a rainy, cold January afternoon I slipped into the cozy environs of Quill at The Jefferson Hotel. Along with an exclusive group (less than a handful) of D.C. food and wine tastemakers, I was treated to a conversation and tasting by Krug and Vuitton. We were called together to discuss the current state of luxury. The two luxury brands are companies held under the LVMH Corporation and partially owned by Christian Dior. LVMH owns numerous luxury labels including Moet, Hennessey, Thomas Pink, and Fendi. Vuitton and Krug epitomize luxury brands that are evolving to capture the hearts of the contemporary luxury lover.

Krug’s ideal demographic consists in part of the 35 to 50 year-old entrepreneur (male or female) who doesn’t know about wine but wants the best and wants to be shown it without much fuss and fluff. They are contemporary and optimistic. They have savior faire and a joie de vivre. So does Krug champagne.

I often talk about styles of wines in relationship to human personalities. To me Krug represents contemporary freshness and finesse. The flavor profile of a Krug champagne is lemon or citrus, fresh bread, almond and richness without sacrificing freshness.

Their entry level, standard release, non-vintage champagne (basic level) is called Grande Cuvee. This retails around $150. Why the higher price for a non-vintage standard release champagne? It is a higher quality entry-level bottle than other champagnes. All of Krug’s champagnes are “prestige” and come from the harvest’s first pressing, i.e., the best juice. Also, it takes seven years to bottle Krug non-vintage champagne. Grande Cuvee can also include still wines from great harvests from 20 years ago. This particular afternoon the Grande Cuvee did not disappoint with its classic citrus, honey, and almond croissant flavors. I was delighted to see that Quill lists Grande Cuvee by the glass, (one of the few, if not only, place in the city that does).

Quill also provided wonderful accompaniments for the champagnes we tasted. We were served shrimp cocktail with horseradish crème fraiche, cheese plates with sweet “wine pearls” and seasonal fruit chutney; and local charcuterie. All are currently available on the Quill menu.

When we tasted the rosé, my mind reeled at the thought of how good it will taste when it ages. Krug’s rosé is the only prestige rosé champagne that blends wines from all three traditional champagne grape varietals. The use of all three grape varieties gives Krug rosé a richness unlike any other. It releases raisin on the nose and has a refreshing finish.

That stormy afternoon, we also had the opportunity to taste a quite appropriate treat in light of weather, the latest Krug vintage release. The 2000 vintage is affectionately named, the “Gourmandise Orageuse.” Krug indicates it means “stormy indulgence.” The climate in Champagne, in 2000, was unusual and chaotic. Hence, the grapes produced an extraordinary Krug vintage. Apple flavors and acidity make it very drinkable. However, the 2000 reflects the chaos of the climate the grapes were grown with a resulting rare style and elegance. But, isn’t that why we seek luxury? It provides a little needed comfort and elegance in our sometime chaotic, stormy contemporary world. Cheers to Krug! And cheers to you! Enjoy

Fire and Spice-Cognac: a Distilled Wine

February 1, 2013

Some people, around this time of year, may have the idyllic vision of themselves sitting in a high back chair by a fire, a cashmere throw over their lap, snow falling outside, and a snifter of fine cognac in their hand. But what is cognac? And why do we sip it?

Cognac is distilled white wine made in Cognac, France. The wine is made from ugni blanc grapes. It is a thin and highly acidic wine, but when distilled, it is perfect for making brandy. This brandy is distilled again in the Cognac region and “cognac” is born. Just remember: Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.

Cocktail of the Week, Pisco

November 6, 2012

Superfluous holidays such as Sweetest Day, National Grandparents Day and Boss’s Day are often referred to as “Hallmark Holidays,” because many believe they exist primarily for commercial reasons such as increasing the sales of greeting cards and not to truly appreciate significant people. There are other celebrations that seem downright silly, such as International Pancake Day (Feb. 21), National High Five Day (April 19) and Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sept. 19).

In the country of Peru, there is one holiday that may appear excessive at first, but is truly a celebration of national pride. This is National Pisco Day, which is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in July.

Pisco, which is considered a symbol of Peruvian nationality, is a type of grape brandy or Aguardiente, distilled from Muscat grapes. Pisco is produced and exported from both Peru and Chile, and both countries claim to be the original producers. It has become a fierce source of contention between the two nations. According to, the Spanish conquistadores brought grape vines to South America in order to make wine for their own consumption and export. Distilling Pisco was an easy way to use leftover grapes that were undesirable for wine making.

The patriotic spirit surrounding National Pisco Day is amplified because the holiday falls very close to Peruvian Independence Day, celebrated on July 28, often with a toast of pisco.

I was fortunate enough to be in Cusco, Peru, to take part in the festivities for both holidays. To kick off the merriment, I was given a shot of Pisco from Lizardo Valderrama Gilt, my host in whose home I was staying. The shot had a strong and powerful grape nose to it, but it went down surprisingly smooth. Its dominate flavor was grape with notes of earthiness, spice and tart fruit with a clean and bracing finish.

To further explore this spirit, I met up with my newly minted friends, Suzanne Harle and Sabrina for a few rounds of cocktailing. We started off with the most popular Pisco tipple, the Pisco Sour, a mixture of Pisco, lemon, bitters, a sweetener and an egg white. We headed to the Crown, a second-story restaurant with a gorgeous view of the Plaza Des Armas for their two-for-one happy hour. The egg white gives this cocktail a smooth, full body while tart lemon citrus flavor is a nice compliment to the woody pisco. So good that it is hard to detect the amount of alcohol in the drink. That may explain why we left the bar wearing balloon hats.
Our second stop was the upscale Limo, one the most highly-regarded restaurants in Cusco, which boasts a three-page menu of creative pisco cocktails. Just watching the scene behind the bar proved to be entertaining, with men squeezing, pureeing, muddling, and juicing fresh ingredients.

We sampled three concoctions, one forged from eucalyptus, another from lemongrass and one made with tumba fruit. The tumba is a relative of the maracuya fruit, which is commonly eaten in Peru. The eucalyptus had a cool soothing effect, while the lemongrass mixture was refreshing and uplifting. The tumba had an exotic tropical flavor similar to passion fruit but with a little more punch.

The evening continued with more flavorful cocktails, including a fresh strawberry concoction, one blended with Peru’s potent coco leaves and a South American version of the classic Negroni with pisco substituted for the gin. The evening was capped off with a night of salsa dancing to burn off all the excess alcohol.

If you cannot make it to Peru and would like to try pisco in Washington, I recommend whipping up a few Pisco sours at home. Most liquor store will carry at least one brand of Peruvian Pisco, such as Porton, or Macchu Pisco. This classic tipple is a great way to try this interesting and versatile liquor. If you would like to try something more exotic, Las Canteras in Adams Morgan has a full menu of delicious pisco cocktails.

The Pisco Sour

Place 4 cups ice cubes
1 cup pisco
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg white
A dash of angostura bitters

Blend on high speed until finely pureed. Pour into two glasses and garnish with an additional dash of bitters.


When I was invited in mid-June to have lunch with the CEO of the renowned California winery, Silver Oak, I was all for it. He was in town for the Silver Oak Tower Tour and would be celebrating the winery’s 40th Anniversary with some customer events. The opportunity to taste David Duncan’s cult-status Cabernets along with some steaks from Morton’s is the stuff that red wine fans—and meat eaters—dream of. But, when the temperatures in D.C. began to rise and the appointed day’s temperature hit the high 90s, my resolve to tuck into steak and wine over lunch started to waiver.

When I arrived at the restaurant and was shown to the table, I was immediately confused by the series of glasses at each of our place settings. I quickly assumed that David and I were going to be doing a vertical tasting of his cabs. Vertical tastings are when several vintages of the same wine are tasted in succession. But I soon learned, and happily so, that we would not be just tasting cabs. David explained that we would be tasting wines from Silver Oaks’ California sister winery, Twomey Cellars. Twomey is named after his father’s family and produces wines other than California cabs at separate vineyards and wineries.

We order a Caesar salad to split, tuna tartar and shrimp cocktail. Having both succumbed to the heat outside, we opted out of having heavy steaks.

The first wine we started with was the Sauvignon Blanc. I loved hearing the story behind the only white wine in Twomey’s portfolio. Apparently, all the women in the family told the men who made the wine that they were tired of always drinking red wine and the next new wine introduced better be a white. Well, apparently the men behind Twomey are smart and quickly came up with this offering.

I was so surprised by this wine. I expected it to be mundane coming from a Cabernet maker, but it was full of citrus fruit flavors that burst in the mouth. It was vibrant yet comforting. The comfort comes from “typicality” like Karen McNeil talks about in The Wine Bible. This wine has the typicality of a California Sauvignon Blanc and that is comforting. It also has the complexity that I know is there when I taste a wine because it makes me say “Hmm…” It compelled me to take another sip, and another and another. It went beautifully with my shrimp cocktail.

We then moved on to the 2007 Twomey Merlot. First off, I noticed the dark berry color of this wine. It looked like a jewel in the glass. It was very food friendly and it went perfectly with tuna tartar. Expressing classic dark berry and cooked dark berry flavors, it did not disappoint as a Napa merlot. It showed complexity but not too much tannin.

Next on the tasting list was the 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. This wine was austere with definite floral notes. If you enjoy classic French style pinot noir, this is your wine. The wine is aged in French barrels, which helps this pinot achieve most of its character. Of all the wines, it seemed out of place in Twomey’s line up though. All the other wines were fruit forward and this was not.

After the pinot noir we moved on to the Big Boys— Silver Oak cabernets!

The 2007 Silver Oak Anderson Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was poured. Upon tasting this wine one understands the reason for its cult following. It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in barrel and then bottle for a total of 15 to 16 months. It is amazingly food-friendly and luscious. It reminded me of berry cobbler.

Last on our tasting tour was the 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This vintage is 90% Cabernet
Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot round out the cabernet sauvignon and give the wine suppleness and finesse. Luscious black fruits and chocolates flavors characterize this wine. The 2007 Napa Valley Silver Oak Cabernet is a California Cab lover’s Cab.

If you are one of the many fans of Silver Oak that have enjoyed the wines over its forty year legacy, you will be pleased to know that the beautiful quality and lush flavors continue as the winery’s hallmarks with the 2007s. And you will be happy to know that the 2008 will be released early next month. If it is too hot to drink cabs, try some of their sister winery Twomey’s offerings. There is something for everyone and who knows, you might get in on the ground floor of another cult following.

Trending Now: Rosé!

When the weather gets warm my taste for red wine changes (although I am sipping a beautiful La Linda Malbec in this first week of June, as I write this), the wine that satisfies the need for fruit and complexity is Rosé aka “Blush,” “Rosato” in Italy, or “Rosado” in Spain.

What is Rosé

Rosé is a wine style. It is made from the same red wine grapes that make the red wines like zinfandel, pinot noir, syrah, and grenache. The only major difference in rosé vs. red wine is that the grape skins have not had long contact with the juice in the wine making process. Yes, white zinfandel comes from a red wine grape-zinfandel. Thus, rosé can range from very dry, off-dry or sweet.

How do you figure out what style Rosé is for you?

Try them all. But here’s a little tip: try rosé from those regions and red wine grapes you already know and like. If you prefer a particular red wine like Grenache or Syrah, try rosés from Europe made from these grapes. These rosés are a treat for those who like dry or off-dry reds. If you don’t like dry wines, try U. S. based rosés made from grapes produced in the U.S. like pinot noir, zinfandel and merlot. Oh, and terminology: should you use “blush” or “rosé”? They mean the same thing. Leave it to your personal preference. Enjoy!

What to try from area restaurant wine lists?

If are you looking for a wine to bridge the gap between red and white this summer, try some of these found on area wine lists:

Heidi Schrock “Biscaya”. Austria. 2011. This is a beautiful jewel-colored sustainable rosé. It danced and glittered in the glass recently at Ripple in Cleveland Park. It is off-dry and complex. Pair with shrimp, tilapia, chicken piccata or goat cheese at home.

Matello Rosé Pinot Noir. Willamette Valley, OR. 2011. This wine has Jolly Rancher’s watermelon candy aroma, but it doesn’t taste like candy. It has wonderful strawberry flavors but it is an off-dry rosé with the only hint of sugar coming from the well pronounced pinot noir fruit. A beautiful, sustainable, wine with nice acidity at the finish. Available at Ripple in Cleveland Park. Pair with vegetarian dishes and grilled summer vegetables.

Baudry-Dutour Cuvee Marie Justine Chinon, France 2010. Cabernet Franc’s rosé has a pink-tawny peach color. Notice the slight herbal flavors that add to its allure. Slight sweetness and wonderful balance. Goes well with oysters. Pair with shrimp salad, white fleshed fish, and mushrooms at home.

Charles & Charles Rose, Columbia Valley, Wash. 2011. A Syrah- based Rosé blended with shiraz. The wine maker’s tasting notes suggest aromas of watermelon, grass, wet stones and citrus. Available on the wine list at Poste Brasserie in Penn Quarter. Pair with fish and chips and pork loin at home.

Jean-Maurice Raffeault Chinon Loir Valley, France, 2011. According to Vinoteca on 11th Street, NW’s wine list, this pale blush Cabernet Franc rose is “tart, funky” with under-ripe raspberry flavors. Well, I didn’t find it funky, but it was spunky with a wonderful minerality. Pair with cheeseburgers.

Dom. de la Courtade ‘L’alycastyre’, Côtes de Provence, France, 2011. This richly colored French rosé is an good example of how refreshing European-style rosés can be. It is made of grenache, tibouren and mourvèdre. Notice the strawberry flavors. It is refreshing as a cool drink of water. On the list at Vinoteca Wine Bar on 11th Street, N.W. Pair with grilled chicken and red snapper at home.

At home, chill and serve your rosé between 40 and 48 degrees, and you will seeing through rosé-colored glasses all summer long. Cheers! ?