The Fireside Sour

November 3, 2011

They say that variety is the spice of life. During a recent seminar at the Museum of the American Cocktail, Tad Carducci, a multi-award-winning bartender and founding partner of the beverage consulting firm Tippling Brothers, demonstrated how to use a variety of spices to give new life to some basic cocktails.

While many food enthusiasts are fervent about applying herbs and spices to various foods, Carducci is passionate about using spices to make unique and distinctive cocktails.

The seminar followed the use of spices, herbs and bitters from 2500 B.C. to the present. Carducci discussed the historical importance of spices and herbs as medicine, currency, foodstuffs and flavoring agents for spirits, liqueurs and cocktails.

Carducci mixed five different tipples, varying in flavor from sweet to sour to bitter to fiery hot. The most versatile and striking cocktail of the evening was the Fireside Sour.

Sours are a category of cocktails that consist of a base liquor, lemon (or lime) juice and a sweetener. Carducci’s creation follows this formula by combining Applejack liquor, lemon and tangerine, and a homemade simple sugar and spice syrup. Laird’s Applejack is one of the oldest domestic spirits in the United States, dating back to colonial times.

Carducci tracked the origins of the Fireside Sour back to original concept of punch, which was brought from India to England after colonization. Punch originally consisted of spirits, sugar, lemon, water and spices (often tea), 95 percent of which are grown in India, Carducci noted.

Before mixing the Fireside Sour, Carducci pulled a volunteer from the audience to demonstrate the ease of making the cocktail. The process began with juicing a fresh lemon and muddling tangerine slices for an extra citrus boost. Next, Carducci added his homemade spiced simple syrup and Laird’s Applejack before showing off his cocktail shaking technique.

The “secret” to the Fireside Sour was, without a doubt, Carducci’s spiced syrup, made from a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, ginger cloves and star anise.

The cocktail had several layers of flavor. At first sip, the tangerine provided a fresh and sweet smack, followed by a spiced apple pie flavor from the Applejack and spice syrup and finished off with a clear bite of cinnamon. Its taste resembled a bright and juicy version of mulled cider. While Carducci described it as a wintry drink that combined all his favorite flavors of Christmas, the sunny orange flavor makes this drink ideal for summertime.

Fireside Sour
2 ounces Laird’s Applejack (7 1/2 yr. preferred)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 fresh tangerine, halved
1 oz. spice syrup (see recipe below)

Muddle tangerine. Add all remaining ingredients and shake. Double-strain into chilled glass. Garnish with floating tangerine wheel. Dust with cinnamon.

A simple variation on an Applejack Rabbit, this cocktail embodies all the flavors we associate with cold weather and the holidays and that we associate as being very American. They are actually very exotic.

Spice Syrup:
1 quart simple syrup
3 cinnamon sticks
1 nutmeg seed
1 finger ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 whole star anise pods
2 tablespoons allspice berries
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns

Laird’s Applejack is available at Dixie Liquor (3429 M St.) in Georgetown. For more information about upcoming events from the Museum of the American Cocktail, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org.

The Mermaid Cocktail


Anyone who has seen the newly released “Sex and the City 2” will tell you that there’s nothing quite like vacation with your BFFs. Fans of the original series will also confirm that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha enjoy a good cocktail.
On a recent girlfriends getaway, my posse and I decided to make a themed cocktail to match the mermaid theme of our vacation. The main characters were myself, Miss Pixie Windsor, a Washington antique storeowner and avid collector of Mermaid memorabilia, and Jamye Wood, an upstate New York Web designer who has written a novel about a young girl who becomes a mermaid.
The three of us traveled to Florida’s Gulf coast to visit Weeki Wachee Springs, the town of living mermaids. Weeki Wachee is one of Florida’s oldest and most unique roadside attractions. It is now a state park, where live mermaids (that is, women dressed in fancy mermaid costumes) perform graceful underwater ballet in an aquarium-like setting on the Weeki Wachee River. The mermaids perform to music, using air hoses to stay under water throughout the entire show. Many celebrities, including Elvis, have attended the mermaid shows.

Our group decided to base ourselves in Siesta Key, FL to clock in some beach time. When perusing through a wide choice of beach houses to rent, we were all in agreement on a little cottage dubbed “The Sand Dollar,” mainly because of the heated saltwater pool with a tikki bar in the backyard. The house itself was secondary.

Our visit to Weeki Wachee did not disappoint. We enjoyed a day of retro fun, watching live synchronized mermaid shows that included a replay of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and a patriotic number with mermaids performing underwater flips with Old Glory. While we were unable to find a cocktail bar inside the park, one of the snack bars served drinks in mermaid-shaped souvenir cups that we took back to our beach house for later use.
Our first criteria in building our cocktail was that it had to be bubbly — sort of like the upbeat mermaids blowing bubbles underwater. We therefore decided to use sparkling wine as one ingredient.
Next, although the mermaids’ costumes at Weeki Wachee included bright red and gold attire, we decided that our drink should be the traditional green color. I determined the bright emerald hue of melon liqueur would fit the bill.
Jayme insisted that we include local ingredients, so we purchased fresh oranges at a nearby farmers’ market for juice. She even scouted out a starfruit to make celestial-shaped garnishes. In order to highlight the orange flavor, Pixie purchased Stoli Orange vodka for an added citrus boost.
Our finished cocktail turned out to be deceptively light and refreshing. The bright and sunny flavor from the fresh juice and sparkling wine masked the taste of the vodka. The melon liquor added a perfect hint of sweetness while giving our drinks a cool green glow. Not bad for improvising on vacation!

The Mermaid Cocktail
1.5 ounces Stoli Orange vodka
1.5 ounces orange juice
1 ounce melon liqueur
Sparkling wine
Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a long glass over ice and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with sliced starfruit.

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

The Josephine Baker


Cuba is many things to many people. For vacationers from Canada and Europe, it is a tropical Caribbean getaway. For cigar aficionados the island is renowned for its celebrated stogies. For music lovers, Cuba is a jazz hotbed that spawned legendary performers like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and the Buena Vista Social Club. It is a place to step back in time and wander the narrow streets of Old Havana and watch the antique cars cruise along the oceanfront Malecon roadway.

For drinkers, not only is Cuba the rum-soaked first home of Bacardi, it also holds an important spot in cocktail history. The daiquiri and mojito are two noteworthy drinks that trace their earliest roots to Cuba.

The Museum of the American Cocktail hosted a seminar at Georgetown’s Mie N Yu restaurant in June celebrating the rich cocktail history of Cuba. Phil Green, a founding member of the museum, and Charlotte Voisey, an internationally renowned mixologist, emceed the event. Attendees were treated to a range of drinks, including the historical El Presidente cocktail and the Moveable Feast, a Hemingway-inspired punch that Charlotte created for a Cuban-themed lounge in New York.

Charlotte and Phil discussed the history of Cuba, as a Spanish colony, during independence and post-Castro. Much of the evening was focused on Cuba’s role as a drinking destination during Prohibition.

When alcohol became illegal in the states, Havana became the unofficial U.S. saloon. It was easy for Americans to travel there. Airlines offered non-stop flights and steamer ships transported merrymakers from Florida. Popular bars such as the Floridita (Hemingway’s favorite), the U.S. Bar and La Bodega del Medio catered to American travelers.

During this time, a myriad of talented bartenders fled the U.S. in order to work in their professions. Phil described Cuba, along with England, France, Italy and others, as being one of the “carriers of the torch,” keeping the craft of the cocktail alive. In an effort to appeal to tourists, many cocktails were named after celebrities like the E. Hemingway Special, the Mary Pickford and my favorite cocktail of the evening, the Josephine Baker.

Famous for her risqué costumes and no-holds-barred dance routines, Baker, an American expatriate, became the talk of Paris during the Prohibition era. Her namesake tipple lives up to the hype of this notable entertainer.

The concoction is forged from a mixture of cognac, Port wine and apricot brandy, combined with an egg yolk for a frothy texture. The cocoa-colored cocktail has a sophisticated taste and a thick, smooth consistency. Its multi-layered flavor is subtly fruity and not overly sweet. A dusting of cinnamon adds a spicy kick.

While it may not be possible for U.S. passport holders legally travel to Cuba on a cocktail pilgrimage, the Josephine Baker is an easy drink to whip up at home.

Josephine Baker:

1 1/2 ounces Cognac
1 1/2 ounces tawny Port wine
1 ounce apricot brandy
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 egg yolk

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel and dust with cinnamon. If you are concerned about consuming raw egg yolks, use pasteurized eggs.

Ingredients to make the Josephine Baker are available at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown. For more information about the Museum of the American Cocktail, check out their Web site at www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org. [gallery ids="99158,102944" nav="thumbs"]

Rumor Has It: Free Wine


So rumor has it among “the trade” (that’s wine industry speak for people who work in the industry) that there is a group of local wine lovers who taste wine every Saturday — for free. Want to get in on the action?

There are three great inexpensive ways to taste wine in the District: wine stores, local grocery store chains and wine bars/restaurants. The following is a list of recommended places that offer free or inexpensive tastings locally.

Grocery Stores:

Whole Foods in Georgetown on 2323 Wisconsin Ave. has periodic in-store wine tastings for free called “Wine on Wednesdays” from 5 to 7 p.m. The store often offers wine samples, along with a bite of their favorite food pairing.

On March 25 from 7 to 8 p.m. there will be a “Wine Basics” class held in the 1440 P St. Whole Foods store for $15. To register contact tim.hayes@wholefoods.com. $15 will be collected at the door.
Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s have local stores with a surprisingly wide selection of wines from around the world, given their limited wine department space. Wine importers and distributors do free in-store tasting periodically at both chains. Call the store you are interested in visiting to check the date of the next scheduled wine tasting.

There is also a rumor that the new “Social Safeway” being built on Georgetown’s Wisconsin Avenue has planned a large wine department. [Editor’s note: It’s true. Current renovation plans include a expansive wine section, staffed by two experts.]

Wine Shops:

Pearson’s Liquor and Wine, 2436 Wisconsin Ave.
This Washington institution has since 1933 exuded the impression of a liquor store that sells wine. They offer daily tastings and have a knowledgeable, albeit intimidating wine staff. Beginners may not appreciate the curt reception and the “I don’t have a lot of time to spend with you” wine education, but knowledgeable wine enthusiasts will do fine here. Come for the free tastings and a chance to sample wines you may not get exposed to otherwise.

DeVinos, 2001 18th Street
This trendy wine shop is located at the lower tip of Adams Morgan. It’s a fun place to stop in to quickly select a bottle to go with Friday night dinner at home or on your way to a Saturday evening party when you are the one bringing the wine. Their selections run heavy on South American and Italian reds. Staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They offer free tastings Thursday and Friday evenings from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

The Wine Specialist, 215 M Street
This store has a great selection of Old and New World wines, a surprising amount of half bottle selections and some unusual finds (try a gewürztraminer from Italy and a red zinfandel from Australia). The staff is friendly and enthusiastic for you to taste. Their next tasting is being planned now for Italian wines on March 12. Check their Web site for a calendar of upcoming events or call the store at 202-833-0707.

Restaurants:

There are more and more wine bars popping up all over the city and too many to mention here. Wine bars and restaurants are a great way to explore wine in an unrushed, relaxed setting, though there is usually a cost involved. These restaurants offer wine flights (usually one- to two-ounce servings of three different wines based on a theme or region) for a typical cost of less than $15:

Cork Wine Bar, 1720 14th Street
If you can tear yourself away from people watching, Cork offers several wine flights each weekend. On our recent visit they offered four wine flights, ranging in price from $10-15, which consisted of French and Italian wines including prosecco, southwestern French whites and a red wine flight made from montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Cork also has a retail wine store located up the street that offers daily tastings weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m.

Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar, 1736 Wisconsin Ave
The venerable French bistro located at the top of Georgetown offers free tasting every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m., and all wines by the glass are half price Wednesday to Monday 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Some parting tips:

Most wine shops have one or two days a week they have bottles open for complimentary tasting. Call around to local shops near you to check their schedules to verify tastings are being held and which day.

Sign up for your favorite store’s wine department e-mail notices. You will often be the first to learn about in-store or special tastings.

Don’t be afraid to talk to the person serving the wine. They are usually the wine distributor representative or importer responsible for placing the wine in the store. They get paid to educate you and stir up interest in the wines they offer free samples of, so use them as a source of information. Ask them where they will be doing their next in-store tasting. If you have more questions or don’t have time to get all your questions answered, ask them for their contact information or business card.

Use the dump bucket! It’s okay to spit and/or pour the wine out into the dump bucket, especially if you are going to be driving around afterward.

And one last tip: Enjoy!

Forces of Nature


 

-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