Nine Questions About Fine Agave Spirits w/ Revel

 

 

Despite there being some very good tequilas, it’s a spirit, not unlike rum, that has a fairly workaday reputation. Old money still prefers brandy, port or a good scotch for those evenings of long-winded pontificating at old money hotel bars and such. Mezcal, of course, brought a dose of the hipsteriffic into the category—but it never really elevated above its Brooklyn-y sort of cool.

But Revel Spirits has been crafting fine agave spirits that are neither tequila nor mezcal since 2012, steadily winning over the sipping classes with their elegant trio of offerings. Of course, being aesthetes as we are, we ourselves were instantly seduced by the cool, modernista bottle design. In fact, at first glance, it’s not hard to imagine one has possibly encountered a new Tom Ford fragrance, with bottle styling by Zaha Hadid Architects.

 

 

But what is contained within is what really made our tastes buds flutter. The seductively clear Blanco is smooth as silk, offering a sort of herbal, citrusy mellowness—it’s as clean as the Arctic sea. While the Reposado is all rustic, earthy elegance and warmth—and we detected hints of nutmeg, porcini, and even a wisp of banana. And finally, the Anejo just might be the most luxurious product of the agave plant since, well…ever. And its stately, urbane packaging would likely be enough to bring the Tiffany design department to tears.

But with National Tequila Day upon us (today, July 24 to be exact), we asked Revel CEO and founder Micah McFarlane to further enlighten us on the differences between agave spirits. They were also kind enough to grace us with the recipes for a few signature specialty cocktails—the perfect change up for your Tequila Day celebrations.

 

 

What is an agave spirit? 

Any distilled spirit made from an agave plant. The most commonly known agave spirit is tequila. However, many consumers are not aware that tequila is just a subcategory of agave spirits, and there are several others with unique flavor profiles, such as mezcal, bacanora and avila.

How are the others distinguished from tequila?

By law, tequila must be produced in a specific region of Mexico, primarily Jalisco, in addition to four other states—it must be made from only one variety of agave, Blue Weber, and is required to contain at least 51% agave. The traditional production method for tequila is steaming the pinas (heart of the agave) in autoclave ovens, which differs from mezcal (pinas are roasted in earthen pits) and avila (roasted and steamed).
Mezcal and avila, on the other hand, can be made from different varieties of agave. Mezcal can be produced in nine different areas of Mexico, while avila is made in the state of Morelos.

So that is where Revel is from?

Yes, Revel Avila is made in Morelos, a state which is crowned by an active volcano, making the lands that surround it rich with minerals—a fertile environment for growing agave.

What are the individual characteristics of the Blanco, Anejo and Reposado?

Blanco: Unaged, which leaves it with a very clean and crisp agave flavor. It also displays notes of citrus and lemongrass and can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or goes great in almost any type of cocktail.
Reposado: It’s often referred to by fans as the whisky of agave spirits. It picks up its traditional whisky notes of smoke, wood and caramel both from the once-used American Oak Whiskey barrels that it rests in for 12 months, as well as the production method of roasting/smoking 70% of the pinas underground before fermentation and distillation.
Anejo: Rests for 24 months in New French Oak barrels, giving it its beautiful amber color, as well as its deep and robust flavor. Some of the tasting notes associated with it are vanilla, caramel and cardamom, which are all intensified by the higher proofing on this expression (96 proof).

Can you reveal something unique about the process of making an agave spirit?

During the distillation process three compounds are released from the still, the apparatus used to distill liquid mixtures:
  • the heads (the poisonous compound of the distillate that is disposed of)
  • the hearts (the compound that is collected – it’s primarily ethanol and the good flavors)
  • the tails (the remaining biproduct which is lower alcohol content and usually consists of bad flavors and aromas – it is often redistilled).
The order in which these three compounds are released during distillation for all other spirits is first the heads, then the hearts, then the tails. But with agave spirits it’s the opposite, the tails are first, then the heart, then the heads.
Furthermore, like wines, the region and terroir impact the quality and taste of the spirit. Avila for example uses agave that is grown in mineral rich soil at the base of a volcano, and the land hasn’t been over-farmed like the soil where tequila is made, which produces a higher quality product.

The bottle design is stunning – how did that come about?

As a new brand catering to a higher-end audience, we wanted to break away from the stereotypical “Mexican” imagery you see from many tequila brands. We wanted to create a bottle that was more contemporary and luxurious, to match the quality of the juice inside. We wanted to make sure it stood out on the bar cart.
Additionally, we didn’t want to forget our roots, which is why the closure pays homage to a Mesoamerican Pyramid, a nod to the ancient tradition of agave spirits in that region.

Mezcal became very popular in the last several years. Do you see a trend now towards something else?

Mezcal is the second agave spirit, after tequila, to gain popularity in the United States and globally, which can only lead to an uptick in interest in other agave spirits. Just the fact that consumers are beginning to understand the differences between tequila and mezcal is a huge milestone and success for agave spirits across the board, and we certainly anticipate the trend to extend to other agave spirits.

How are Revel spirits best enjoyed? On their own, of course. But do they also pair well with food?

Revel Avila is best enjoyed neat; however they can be mixed. Additionally, Revel Avila Anejo is an amazing after-dinner drink, paired with a decadent dessert like pumpkin pie or chocolate.

Who is the Revel drinker?

Drinkers of Revel Avila are those who are interested expanding their palate, and above all else, enjoy a quality spirit. The bottle attracts drinkers who are interested in high-end products, but at the end of the day, it’s the taste and quality of the juice inside the bottle that brings people back.

 

 

 

Recommended Revel Specialty Cocktails

 

Last Mango In Morelos

  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz spiced mango and coconut puree
  • 3/4 oz Paranubes Oaxacan Rum (we used Paranubes Oaxacan rum because of it’s funky, tropical flavor profile)
  • 1 1/2 oz Revel Blanco
**Garnish with fresh mango fan, lime wheel and a generous dusting of Tajin (If you don’t have Tajin, mix cayenne pepper with sea salt as a substitute)
**Spiced mango and coconut puree:
  • 2 champagne mangos puréed
  • 1/2 of a 13.5 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup of filtered water
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • Pinch of salt
**Combine all ingredients in a pan over medium heat until emulsified**

 

En Mi Casa

  • 1/2 oz Fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz Pomegranate Juice (We used POM Wonderful brand which is easily accessible at most grocery stores.)
  • 3/4 2:1 Rosemary Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz Revel Blanco
**Garnish : Expressed orange peel and flamed rosemary
**Make your rosemary simple syrup by combining 1 cup of cane sugar or granulated with 1/2 a cup of filtered water in a pot over medium heat, add in 3-4 rosemary sprigs (leaves removed) and allow sugar to dissolve. Once the sugar has dissolved turn the heat to low and let the mixture sit for at least 20 minutes to achieve adequate potency, then strain out the rosemary and it’s good to go!

 

Stuck in Emerald Bay

  • 1 oz Revel Blanco
  • 3/4 oz G.E. Massenez Crème de Gingembre
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • 2 oz FeverTree Ginger Beer
  • 5 oz Prosecco
**Build all ingredients over ice in the largest wine glass you can find. Garnish with lemon twist and candied ginger.

 

It’s Bastille Day: And Here is a Truly Extravagant Way to Celebrate

 

 

 

With the modern history of our countries so inexorably intertwined, you’d think France and America would play a little nicer in the geopolitical sandbox. The latter’s Independence Day—which celebrates something the French helped us win—has just come and gone, and the former’s Bastille Day (July 14), which was influenced by the latter, is now upon us. Let’s all get along, no?

Alas, the Stateside tradition of celebrating the turning point of the French Revolution is mostly confined to our major urban areas. And now this insidious pandemic has even made that nigh impossible. But American Francophiles with a taste for more than just a classic salade Lyonnais or simple bavette steak can now get their Gallic on Michelin style, via an opulent new partnership between NYC’s Gastronome Catering—headed by Pop Burger founder Jonathan Weizmann—Studio3, and beloved French elderflower liqueur St-Germain.

 

 

Indeed, the aforementioned three have combined their epicurean and stylistic acumen to create a special Bastille Day gourmet tasting kit, aptly titled Menu du Quatorze Juillet. The exquisite four-course dinner, by venerable Gastronome Chef Alex Ureña, starts with uni & caviar, moves elegantly on to peekytoe crab with avocado, gets serious with roasted chicken avec oyster mushrooms and spinach/parmesan puree, then finishes beautifully and sweetly with an irresistible pamplemousse custard. And all paired with delectable St-Germain Spritz cocktails.

“It was not me alone,” Weizmann explains of its inception, “but it was reaching out and seeking to develop an idea, and then using the potential of the talent, from Studio3 to St-Germain and on to Chef Ureña. This is something deeper than simply a menu; it is about people coming together and creating something unique in this difficult time.”

The special packaging, by Studio3, is also an essential element of its epicurean/aesthetic appeal.

“It is so important to choose and work with people who are experts at their craft,” Weizmann insists. And Studio3 are amazing at what they do. This luxury meal kit was packaged with TLC…every detail was handled with care and branded to perfection. All the senses are awakened, with the goal of transporting the recipient to another place. In this case, France!”

And certainly, 231 years of ironic distance means that we can, indeed, celebrate Bastille Day luxuriously.

To purchase a Menu du Quatorze Juillet Bastille Day gourmet tasting kit, visit Gastronomecatering.com. At just $250 for two people, it will be delivered directly to your door. And, because why not, it will be available through August 14.

 

National Tequila Day: Three Singularly Sultry Cocktail Recipes from El Tequileño

 

 

Like champagne, tequila has a denomination of origin, meaning that it must be produced in one of five Mexican states:  Guanajuanto, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Jalisco, the main tequila producing region, where you can also find the town of the same name. It’s located about 320 miles from Mexico City. And aren’t we all interested in origin these days?

This is at least the most basic of information you’ll need to properly celebrate National Tequila Day, this year landing on Friday, July 24. It’s also necessary to select a sip that exhibits your knowledge and good taste…one of which is most definitely small maker El Tequileño (pronounced “El Tek-Eh-lane-yo”). It has only been available in the States since 2019 (a venture now under the direction of Florida’s Paradise Spirits), though its history reaches back to 1959, when the US and Mexico had, shall we say, significantly better relations.

 

 

And from their smooth Blanco, on to their luxurious Platinum, and further on to their coveted Reposado Rare, the taste and textural spectrum is decidedly impressive…and inclusive.

This August, flying in the face of a pandemic-plagued travel biz, the brand will also open a chic little bolthole, directly adjacent to the distillery, and pithily names the Casa Salles Hotel Boutique. It will feature just 25 rooms, a pool, a spa and restaurant—and is just the sort of place to sub for the stays in charming little palazzos in Florence that we won’t be having.

But for now, with National Tequila Day fast approaching, we asked the good people of El Tequileño to grace us with three of their most interesting cocktail recipes, so that we might celebrate in style—because, of course, we would never do anything less.

 

 

El Tequileño Blanco | Cocktail: La Batanga

Ingredients:
2oz El Tequileño Blanco
1oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Top with Mexican Cola
Method: Coat the rim of a highball glass with coarse sea salt, fill the glass with cubed ice, add El Tequileño Blanco and freshly squeezed lime juice, top with Mexican Cola. Stir with knife.
About: Created by the late Don Javier Delgado, founder of world famous Cantina La Capilla in the magical town of tequila, La Batanga has been the signature drink of his establishment since the early 60s and has always been made with El Tequileño Blanco. It is always stirred with the same knife that is used to cut the limes, as Don Javier would say it added flavor.

 

El Tequileño Reposado | Cocktail: Mango Margarita

Ingredients:
1.5oz El Tequileño Reposado
2oz Mango Puree
1oz Mango Liqueur
1.5oz fresh lime juice
Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker over fresh cubed ice. Shake until ice cold. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with a piece of dehydrated mango
About: Located within the El Tequileño distillery grounds are 14 mature mango trees around 150 years old. These mango trees have a natural influence during the open fermentation process and positively impact the resulting flavor profile of El Tequileño tequila. During the months of June & July the mangos are ripe to pick and we like to create fresh mango margaritas

 

El Tequileño Platinum | Cocktail: El Dragon Rosado

Ingredients:
2oz El Tequileño Platinum
1oz Lime Juice
1oz Agave Nectar
1 whole dragon fruit flesh
Method: Add all ingredients to a blender, add one cup of ice and blend until smooth. Serve in a rocks glassed with a salt rim, garnish with dragon fruit slice and mint sprig
About: Throughout the region of Jalisco, you can find an abundance of a specific Cactus species that produces a fruit that locals call ‘Pitaya roja’ aka ‘Dragon Fruit’. Around the town of tequila there are many of these cactus plants which produce fruit which is harvested during the summer months!

 

Harold’s SoHo Perfects the NYC Restaurant Re-Opening

 

 

 

From sea to other shining sea, a tragic impatience in the face of real casualties saw restaurants and bars rush to re-open, only to have coronavirus cases escalate—forcing a defeated retreat.

But, after being the original American epicenter of the pandemic, New York City rose up to be a paragon of responsibility, and the resulting significant slow down of new cases was its reward. Gotham, of course, is one of the most social places in the universe, where small apartments drive people steadily into bars and restaurants—and so no one needed a return to that “normal” more than did it.

The west side of SoHo had in the last several years had become more of an epicurean destination than it had ever been, really. And its more notable dining spots have been valiantly springing back to life. Houseman Chef/Owner Ned Baldwin—formerly of Prune—had taken to (legally) setting up tables between parking spaces, creating a whole new sort of…installation art. And trendy Westville had come alive on the sidewalk, where we downed a Sunday afternoon bottle of prosecco just before a spectacular thundershower. It did indeed, feel a bit normal.

 

 

But Harold’s restaurant at the Arlo SoHo hotel, which had become as popular as the hotel’s very, very popular rooftop bar A.R.T. SoHo, was blessed with a “hidden” garden area, complete with two fully functional rustic cabins, where one can feel shut away from all the towering edifices just beyond. So we booked a table on its first night back in biz (it had been doing takeout for guests and locals since the lockdown), and the sheer exhilaration of having a waiter ask “Can I take your order?” could not be over-exaggerated. But it took some real work to get there.

“Forecasting of all our costs, redesigns of our floor plan, and a very different approach to our product,” Arlo Director of Food & Beverage Gary Wallach explained. “We have only been able to bring back a minimal number of staff members. With that comes restrictions on what we can accomplish, especially when our main goal is the safety of guests.”

Still, we had strolled confidently into the aforementioned garden to a well-chosen funk / R&B soundtrack, including Tinashe’s groovalicious cover of “Genius of Love.” A good start indeed.

 

 

The menu was limited, a reasonable decision; but food choices at Harold’s were never too difficult. They make one of the city’s best cheeseburgers (with an “impossible” option as well), and their prosciutto & fig pizza, as well as their healthy cobb, with crispy farro and pumpkin seeds, were both always flawless. But we inquired about the hot chicken sandwich, and unhesitatingly received a knowing nod from our server.

Tables were thoughtfully spaced more than six feet apart, and a good-looking crowd began to filter in, giving it the energy we so exigently needed to be around again. The first notes of Sade’s “Never as Good as the First Time” came through the soundsystem, and we were utterly contented.

Back to that hot chicken sandwich…confession: we ate it with a fork and knife, just to more fully replicate a typical restaurant experience. But it was also a sublime mix of textures and flavors, just hot/spicy enough to jolt us into a higher consciousness…though not too hot for anyone with a sensitive constitution. And we decided that the fries, skinny, soft and crunchy, with three heavenly tasting dipping sauces, might be the best we’ve ever, ever had. Even the cole slaw was chopped and tanged to perfection. And—this is a really big thing for us—they mixed an exemplary dirty martini, with high quality olives.

“It’s been nice to see guests within our space,” Wallach enthused. “A full restaurant equates to a feeling of fulfillment. We do this to bring people together. It’s nice to do that again.”

Yes…it definitely is.

The Arlo SoHo is asking guests to book through OpenTable for both Harold’s and the A.R.T. SoHo.

Aspen Has Re-Opened for Summer: A Report From the W Aspen & Sky Residences

 

 

Though the near future of travel remains a maddening riddle, it’s safe to say we’ve got a good six months to begin to tell exactly how the ski season will be shaping in a world still haunted by the coronavirus crisis. Colorado was not hit terribly hard (though nearly 1500 deaths have been reported), so expect an urgency for the major resort towns to get back some measure of normalcy—Aspen especially, which officially resumed business on May 29,

Last August, of course, we reported on the notable opening of the new W Aspen & Sky Residences, which quickly became one of the region’s hottest destinations, with its Wet Deck, Living Room, and 39° nightlife hotspots. As its first summer season approaches, the hotel has undertaken its post-pandemic re-opening, with restaurants and bars, of course, operating at 50% capacity.

To better understand how this was accomplished, we caught up with General Manager Greg Durrer for the lowdown.

 

 

What are the safety measures you’ve put into place for re-opening?

W Aspen & the Sky Residences at W Aspen have closely coordinated with the Pitkin County Board of Health, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Marriott International to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 cleanliness and safety plan for all of our overnight guests, residence owners, local customers and employees. We have extensively modified and elevated our cleaning processes and procedures prior to our guests’ arrival, during their visit and post departure. Upon arrival, we have installed protective plexiglass barriers at high contact spaces, including our registration desks. In accordance with Pitkin County Board of Health Guidelines, all guests wear masks when traveling through hotel common areas.

And employee / guest interaction?

Employees wear masks and, in some cases, gloves, as positions require. Currently, our pools, hot tubs and fitness center remain closed in accordance with published guidelines*. Overall, there is a heightened focus on employee training, cleaning, and following all social distancing protocols and providing our guests with peace of mind so they can truly enjoy their visit to our beautiful mountain destination.

What is different about the sort of bookings you’re getting for this summer?

As business returns, we have noticed that our drive leisure markets are returning first. We are also seeing a wide diversity in travelers from individuals and couples to extended families reconnecting as quarantines are lifted around the country and globe.

 

 

How do you feel the social experience at the hotel will play out in the coming months? Including bars and restaurants.

Guests are looking to escape and enjoy all that Aspen has to offer in the way of outdoor activities, fresh mountain air, a vibrant culinary scene and world class galleries and shopping. There is a high desire from travelers to see that restaurants are following all published safety guidelines and protocols and outdoor dining is in high demand. We have made significant adjustments to our dining spaces to ensure that we are able to accommodate every guest in a clean, comfortable and safe environment. W Aspen is very fortunate to have an 8,000 sq. ft. roof top WET Deck that offers stunning 360-degree views of the Aspen skyline and the surrounding Rocky Mountains. Our WET Deck is unparalleled in Aspen and offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Our acclaimed Executive Chef, Jackie Siao, prepares globally inspired and locally sourced cuisine. This fare, combined with our views, creates an unmatched mountain lux experience.

What do you think the Aspen experience will be like this summer? What will be different?

The Aspen experience this summer will be focused on the outdoor adventure and access to the magnificent spaces that surround Aspen. Breathtaking views, the abundance of outdoor activities and an opportunity to reconnect and recharge with loved ones, extended family and friends. Hiking Maroon Bells, Hunter Creek Trail, Sunnyside Trail or Ute Trail offer our guests the chance to clear their minds, while taking in natural landscape that has made Aspen one of the most desirable summer destinations in the world. People travel from all over the globe to take on some of the most challenging mountain bike terrain and these trails are all just steps away from the resort that sits in town directly at the base of Aspen Mountain. W Aspen & the Sky Residence at W Aspen is perfectly positioned to host guests looking to enjoy the clean, fresh mountain air and wide-open spaces that the Rocky Mountains offer to all of our guests this upcoming summer.

 

(*Update: Beginning on June 8th, the Pitkin County Board of Health has allowed pools to reopen with limited capacity and social distancing guidelines. We are glad to be able to make one of our most distinguishing features available again to our resort guests. Enjoying a crafted cocktail or glass of rosé while soaking in the sunshine on our rooftop WET Deck, poolside with 360-degree views & fresh mountain air, this is one of the defining moments of an Aspen Alpine experience.)

 

Sunshine Calling: Summer Cocktail Recipes from Absolut Elyx

 

 

Let’s face it, we’ve tried so many new drink recipes in the last three months, we’re likely verging on some or other sort of unofficial mixology certification. And in most cases, despite partial re-opening efforts in a number of states, our nightlife is still mostly going to be taking place in our living rooms for the time being.

But our friends at Absolut Elyx have emerged from their prolific product development lab with several very good reasons for us to take the party to the beach—though they and we urge all to do so with the utmost social-distancing caution. Their new Sunshine Calling Edition collection (created in conjunction with Sydney’s Sunnylife) is headed up by a pair of super-chic, pool-safe copper cocktail cups—which are an especially elegant alternative to sipping Moscow Mules out of the sort of cheap plastic throwaways that usually accompany us to sand and sea. Hosana!

 

 

Rounding out the collection are banana leaf print towels and visors, a cocktail pool floatie, and, we kid you not, cocktail ice-pop moulds which produce perfect little Martini-pops…something we’d previously never even dared to imagine.

“We always endeavor to challenge the normal conventions associated with luxury vodka,” says Miranda Dickson, Global Brand Director of Absolut Elyx, “to create new things that are uniquely playful, luxurious, and eclectic. In Sunnylife, we have found a spirited partner whose ethos perfectly complements ours.”

Of course, with summer less than two weeks away, it’s also time to forego the old fashioneds and whiskey sours for cocktails more brightly suited to the season—and Absolut Elyx drinks alchemist Gareth Evans was kind enough to share these six Sunnylife Signature recipes with us.

Mango #5

Ingredients: 
1 oz Absolut Elyx
1 oz Mango Juice
1 oz Grapefruit Juice 
3 oz Lemon Tonic 
Garnish: 
Mango Slices 
Method: 
Build all ingredients over cubed ice in a Copper Beach Cup and stir to combine. Garnish with mango slices. 

Hey Maracuya 

Ingredients: 
3 oz Absolut Elyx
2 oz Passionfruit Nectar 
3 oz Ginger Beer Squeeze lime 
Garnish: 
Lime Wheels 
Method: 
Build all ingredients over cubed ice in a Copper Beach Cup and stir to combine. Garnish with lime wheels. 

Stone Cold

Ingredients: 
2 oz Absolut Elyx
2 oz Apricot Liqueur 
1 oz Lemon Juice
6 oz Chilled Black Tea 
Garnish: 
Edible Flowers 
Method: 
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake with cubed ice. Strain over fresh ice in a Copper Beach Cup, then garnish with edible flowers. 
 –

Espresso Martini Ice Pops 

Ingredients:
2.5 oz Absolut Elyx
5 oz Cold Brew Coffee 
2 oz Maple Syrup 
Method for 4 Icy Martinis Moulds:
Add all ingredients to a container, divide mix between Icy Martini Moulds, add cap and freeze for 2 hours or until frozen through. To eat, remove the cap, run the outside of the mould under a little warm water, and press gently from the bottom

 

 

Pineapple Grapefruit Ice Pops 

Ingredients: 
2.5 oz Absolut Elyx 
2.5oz Grapefruit Juice 
2.5 oz Pineapple Juice 
2.5 oz Coconut Water 
1⁄4 cup White Sugar 
Method for 4 Icy Martinis Moulds: 
Add all ingredients to a container and dissolve sugar. Divide mix between Icy Martini Moulds, add cap and freeze for 2 hours or until frozen through. To eat, remove the cap, run the outside of the mould under a little warm water, and press gently from the bottom. 

Watermelon Basil Ice Pops 

Ingredients: 
2.5 oz Absolut Elyx
5 oz Watermelon Juice 
1⁄4 cup White Sugar 
10 each Basil Leaves 
Method for 4 Icy Martinis Moulds: 
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and sugar is dissolved, then leave to settle for 10 minutes. Divide mix between Icy Martini Moulds, add cap and freeze for 2 hours or until frozen through. To eat, remove the cap, run the outside of the mould under a little warm water, and press gently from the bottom. 

Mango Chili Ice Pops 

Ingredients: 
2.5 oz Absolut Elyx 
2.5 oz Lime Juice
5 oz Ginger Beer 
1⁄2 cup Diced Mango 
1 pinch Chilli Flakes 
Method for 4 Icy Martinis Moulds: 
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and sugar is dissolved, then leave to settle for 10 minutes. Divide mix between Icy Martini Moulds, add cap and freeze for 2 hours or until frozen through. To eat, remove the cap, run the outside of the mould under a little warm water, and press gently from the bottom. 

Hibiscus Raspberry Ice Pops 

Ingredients: 
2.5 oz Absolut Elyx
2.5 oz Lime Juice
2.5 oz Chilled Hibiscus Tea 
2.5 oz Raspberries
1⁄4 cup White Sugar 
Method for 4 Icy Martinis Moulds: 
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and sugar is dissolved, then strain to remove pulp and seeds. Divide mix between Icy Martini Moulds, add cap and freeze for 2 hours or until frozen through. To eat, remove the cap, run the outside of the mould under a little warm water, and press gently from the bottom. 

Lychee Pear Ice Pops 

Ingredients: 
2.5 oz Absolut Elyx 
5 oz Lychee Juice 
5 oz Pear Juice 
Method for 4 Icy Martinis Moulds: 
Add all ingredients to a container and divide mix between Icy Martini Moulds, add cap then freeze for 2 hours or until frozen through. To eat, remove the cap, run the outside of the mould under a little warm water, and press gently from the bottom. 

Yes, There Will be Summer: Dante Pops Up in the Hamptons w/ the ‘World’s Best Cocktails’

 

 

 

There is something to be said about not giving up on a rite of passage, even in the face of a global pandemic. And while Memorial Day weekend has been dubbed the unofficial “start of summer” for as long as we have been looking forward to the arrival of summer (we think since three years old), 2020 will go down in the history books as a much more subdued, but not defeated, welcome to the plethora of road trips, dining al fresco, sun-worshipping, and plein-air cultural happenings that make up the season in our grown up lives.

Keeping true to NYC cognoscenti tradition, the beach hamlets of the Hamptons kicked off the holiday weekend with a green light for beachgoers, albeit with modifications to the normal frenzy that would typically accompany the commencement. Salty air, verdant gardens and lingering sunsets are indeed offering Gotham dwellers a respite from the urban lockdown of the last two months. And as a show of resilience, seasonal restaurants and city outposts are open for your takeout pleasure.

 

 

And have no fear if your liquor cabinet is not happy-hour ready. West Village hotspot Dante, in 2019 voted the World’s Best Bar (that’s right, best in the whole world), is setting up a Hampton’s pop-up in classic style, and serving up traditional and groovy riffs on negronis, martinis, and the regular contender for drink of summer, Aperol spritz, out of a vintage Cooper Classics car in East Hampton.

We’re looking forward to getting out of our tippling comfort zone (and impressing our socially distant guests) with a lavender negroni, or a white port enhanced Smoke on the Water, packaged in 8oz and 750ml bottles for take out convenience. Order by noon Friday through Sunday and your evening libations will be ready to go by 5pm.

And regarding all those predictions that summer 2020 would be a wash…wrong.

The Dante Pop-up will be set up in the parking lot of the Highway Restaurant & Bar, 290 Montauk Highway, East Hampton, through July.

 

To Go Drinks

The Negroni Sessions

$112
4x 8oz bottles (one each)
– Dante’s Classic Negroni
– Chocolate Negroni
– Lavender Negroni
– Mescalito

 

Dante’s Martini Hour

$112
4x 8oz bottles (one each)
– Dante’s Martini
– Olivette
– Upside down ramp Gibson
– Smoke on the water

Complete Dante Sundowner Pack

$210
– Full Negroni Sessions set
– Full Martini Hour set

Large Format Cocktails

$93
750ml bottles (Serves 10)
– Classic Negroni
– Dante’s Martini

 

Cocktail Kits (Serves 15)

– Dante’s Margarita Kit $95
– Aperol Spritz Kit $75
– St Germaine Elderflower spritz kit $75

 

 

Ginning Up the Quarantine: Cultivated Cocktail Recipes From SF’s Coit Spirits

 

 

 

Gerry Rowland isn’t your typical Napa winemaker. Yes, he studied Methode Champagnois for ten years, the standard how-to for putting the bubbles into the bottle. Yes, he trained hands-on in wineries in Napa after studying viticulture in his homeland of Australia. And yes, his bottles at Rowland Cellars are known for capturing the rich terroir and heritage of Northern California in each sip. But this Aussie maverick, with winemaking in his blood, started his own label in 1991 by combining two skills that come second nature: good taste and innovation.

Wine will indeed always be Rowland’s first love; yet he reveals, “I’ve always had a passion for gin. But there are not a lot of resources to learn about it [in the US].”

That led to a stint in London studying under top ginsmiths, where he learned the craft.

Ultimately, and with inspiration from 19th Century San Francisco heroine Lillie Coit, he created Coit Spirits. Firebelle Lillie was known as the patron of the firefighters; bucking convention, she dressed in men’s clothing to sneak into bars, drink, and play cards.

Rowland enthuses, “Lillie became our banner and our brand.”

Gin, of course, requires the incorporation of botanicals, traditionally juniper. Rowland was drawn to the unusual flavor profiles only found in tea blends such as Rooibos red tea, Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong. And thus were born three very distinctive gins.

While Coit’s Earl Grey is the most well known, the Caravan Tea gin is a lesser known gem. With cardamom and orange blossom for citrus, according to Rowland, “They dry the leaves on burning pine needles and it gets smokey, much like using peat in whiskey. It’s great for negronis.”

The Cape Tea gin, made with Rooibos, is unique in that, “there is a bit of fermentation in the leaf before it’s blended, similar to wine. It makes for a subtle yet delicate balance. Especially with notes of bergamot and citrus.”

 

 

 

What other drinks has he been experimenting with during quarantine? “I’ve been balancing between cocktails good for summer, and ones good for cooler nights, since we’re still in spring. Gin sours, ginnaritas…with the Caravan, the slightly smokey gin, we do a Malbec cocktail. Since the it has hints of cardamom and Indonesian long pepper, there’s a little orange blossom note, and the pepper rounds out the smokey flavors.”

Of course, nothing beats the classics; and gin plays spectacularly well at home. But Rowland’s most surprising discovery was actually a buzzy local ingredient. “Honey is really strong, and it can dominate in a Bee’s Knees. We call ours the Smokey Bee.”

For the record, Coit Spirits also makes a classic high rye bourbon using four grains, including corn, wheat and barley. According to Rowland, “The wheat, rye and corn are very spicy, and the barley rounds out those flavors.”

So what’s next for Coit?

“To make a truly indigenous gin from North American botanicals. We use a bit of seaweed and some fun flowers for citrus notes; but no citrus is native to America.”

But for now, for those sheltering-in happy hours, Rowland was kind enough to share some of his fave gin cocktail recipes with BlackBook.

 

 

 

 

San Francisco Days 

2 Parts Coit Earl Grey Tea Gin
1 Part Lemon Honey (Equal parts fish lemon and honey)
1 Part Condensed Hibiscus Tea (2 Tea Bags per 4oz of water ratio)
Topped of with Sparkling wine
Garnished with Edible flower (prefer orange or yellow in color) and rosemary sprig

 

The Telegraph Game

1.5 Part Coit Earl Grey Tea Gin
Twisted Alchemy Fresh Pressed Organic Grapefruit Juice
2 Fresh Basil Leaves
1 Sugar Cube
Squeeze of Lime from 1 Sliced Wedge
Garnish with Fresh Basil Leaf on top

 

Alcatraz Views 

2 Parts Coit Earl Grey Tea Gin
.25 Part Mandarine Napoléon Orange Liqueur
1 Part Fresh Lemonade
1 Part Regatta Ginger Beer
Garnish with Fresh Mint and Tajin Rim

 

Smoky Negroni

1 oz Coit Caravan Gin
0.75 oz Campari
0.5 oz Carpano Antica
0.5 oz Amaro (Lo-Fi Amaro preferred)
Serve over a large ice cube
Garnish with Orange peel and smoldering rosemary sprig

 

 

 

 

 

World Whisky Day: An Irish Intro to the Good Scottish Stuff

 

 

 

Obviously, Scottish heritage is steeped in tall tales of its most famous dram: Scotch Whisky. Appropriately, the moniker comes with a laundry list of prerequisites to maintain its integrity, like a minimum of three years in oak barrels, and being processed and aged at the same distillery in Scotland.

One of those, Aberlour Distillery, is located in the heart of the Speyside region (and titled for the town in which it’s located), having been built in 1879 by grain merchant turned philanthropist James Fleming. Historically home to an ancient Druid community, the name comes from the Gaelic “mouth of the chattering burn,” and refers to the Druid belief that the trees and burn, or rivers, all talked to each other.

Gemma Cole, American Brand Ambassador for Aberlour, was born in Ireland…which could make proving loyalty a challenge. But is the choice between Irish and Scottish a difficult one? “I’m an Irish person,” she admits, “so I lean a little towards Irish whiskey, I would say. But now I mostly drink Aberlour.”

 

 

 

Still, she emphasizes the need to, “spread my wings and check out the whole range of whisk(e)y that’s available. “There’s lovely Canadian whiskey, there’s really great Japanese whiskey. There’s so much for people to choose from at the moment.”

But since Scotch is meant to be taken neat, which does she think is best for mixing? “I think American whiskey is great for cocktails. I’ve been drinking a lot of Jefferson’s Bourbon, that’s coming from Kentucky…and it’s got a really lovely, rounded flavor to it.”

Still, for World Whisky Day (Saturday, May 16), Gemma concocted two sensational cocktails in the spirit of experimentation. The Aberlour 12-year-aged Scotch whisky may seem like a sip and savor dram, but it is actually great when paired.

 

 

“It’s a whisky sour, so you can definitely go with Aberlour 16,” she explains. “That would make it more of a full bodied cocktail. There’s an optional egg white part of it, but you can simply take that out, put all your ingredients into your shaker, give it a good shake, strain it into your glass, and easy peasy.”

But don’t forget, she says, “If you’re going to do that egg white, which I highly recommend, just make sure you do that dry shake first.”

While Aberlour 12, 16 and 18 year expressions, double casked in bourbon and sherry, are what they’re known for, the cask strength A’bunadh, which is matured exclusively in first fill Oloroso sherry casks, and Aberlour’s two newest non age statements, Casg Annamh and A’bunadh Alba are highly recommended.

If you prefer something Irish? Powers Classic Gold, Three Swallows, or new John’s Lane, named after the historic distillery’s location and aged 12 years, are the way to go.

But how does she feel about celebrating World Whisky Day on the couch this year? “I’m excited. I’m definitely going to be having a little toast here in California. I hope that you’ll be raising a glass with us as well.”

 

 

Aberlour Sour

2oz Aberlour 12yr Scotch Whisky
1oz Lemon
0.75oz simple syrup
1 egg white from 1 egg (Optional)
If using egg white – to get a beautiful froth, dry shake all ingredients (no ice) for approx. 10 seconds.
Add ice in and shake vigorously for another 30 seconds until cold.
Strain into a coup glass or over ice in a rocks glass.

Powers Honeyball High

1.5oz POWERS Gold Label
.75oz Honey Syrup (1:1 Ratio)
1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Combine all ingredients in a Tall style Collins glass and stir until honey is dissolved with the liquid. Fill your glass with ice right to the top and pour over Soda or Tonic, whichever you prefer. Garnish with a lemon wedge and enjoy!