Drink of the Week: The Firework Fizz

the Firework Fizz.We’ve been missing/ignoring a lot of holidays lately here at DOTW. However, with everything that’s been going on our country lately — a time when it’s tempting to pull out the Charles Dickens and talk about it being both the best of times and the worst of times — I don’t think it would be right to avoid the annual celebration of all that’s really good about our nation.

Moving on, regular readers may be happy to now that, beyond this link to a cocktail from three months back, I’ll make no references to any musical comedy-dramas featuring our founding fathers. Instead, I’m pleased to present a drink that some nameless genius associated with Hornitos Tequila has come up with.

While I’m fond of presenting cocktails that are, well, way old, the presumably rather new Firework Fizz is truly classic in its simplicity and thoroughly delightful in its flavor. Really, it’s not the free booze from the Hornitos people talking when I say it’s good enough to join any list of classic cocktails. With a relatively low amount of booze and a very high level of flavorful refreshment, not to mention two actual entire pieces of fresh fruit, it’s about as perfect a cocktail as you make on a hot July 4th. Let’s not waste any more time.

The Firework Fizz

1 1/4 ounce Hornitos Plata Tequila
2 strawberries
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 2 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 big splash of soda water

Combine the tequila, one of your two strawberries, lemon juice, and sweetener to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the strawberry into a gorgeous, juice-laden pulp. Add ice and shake very vigorously. Strain into a collins or highball type-glass filled with fresh ice — be sure to use a traditional bar strainer. The strainers that come with home cocktail shakers won’t work because the strawberry pulp will block the tiny holes and, for this drink, I think you want as much strawberry pulp as possible to end up in the beverage.

After the straining is done, top off with soda water, add the other strawberry as a garnish, sip slowly and toast a country that’s big enough to allow that tequila is every bit as American a base spirit as bourbon, rye, or applejack. It just is.

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I tried this with a Brand X tequila fairly comparable to Hornitos in terms of price, and it wasn’t terrible. Still, it does seem to work especially with the brand that brung it.

My one major suggestion with this drink is to ignore the temptation to stir the thing, though it won’t be the end of the world if you do. Indeed, the photography Hornitos sent, and that I chose not to use, had a light pink hue that seemed to imply that you’re supposed to stir it. I used my own, much less professional image because it’s closer to the way I think the Firework Fizz should look. I found it much more interesting to let the soda sit on top and gently make its way down. That way you start off with a slightly strawberry/lemon/tequila flavored soda and slowly find yourself enjoying a delightful candy center.

Happy Independence Day everyone and, remember, no one can “get their country back” because it already belongs to all of us.

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Brancott highlights the diversity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

I recently participated in a digital tasting of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. With one exception, they were from Brancott Estate. The outlier was from Stoneleigh, which is a sister winery. Pinot Noir from New Zealand has been making a strong mark throughout the world over the last decade, with good reason, but it was with Sauvignon Blanc that New Zealand first made its mark internationally. This quintet showcases a variety of styles and choices made by growers and winemakers. The weather is warm and the time is right for keeping some Sauvignon Blanc standing by in the refrigerator. One of the five choices below should quench your thirst.

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Brancott Estate 2013 Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc ($15)

Grapefruit and gooseberry aromas leap from the nose here. Lemon zest, minerals and spice fill the palate, which is even-keeled and fresh. The finish shows off hints of yellow melon, white pepper and continuing citrus elements. This wine is also made to be 20 percent lower in calories.

Brancott Estate 2014 Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($14)

Year after year, this particular release stands as one of the great Sauvignon Blanc values in the world. It’s a wine of consistent style and quality. Citrus and tropical fruit aromas abound on the nose. The palate is generously laced with tons of gorgeous fruit flavors and tiny wisps of grass. Papaya, yellow melon and white pepper emerge on the lovely finish. It’s a middle-of-the-road Sauvignon Blanc in the way you want an entry level wine to be. It has good varietal character and lots of drinking pleasure. It’ll appeal to a wide array of taste buds. Stock up and drink this all summer.

Stoneleigh 2013 Latitude Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

The aromas here are slightly more reticent than on the other wines, but white flower and ruby grapefruit aromas are evident. The palate has tons of minerals and spice along with fruit flavors that fill a somewhat subservient role. Wet limestone, lemon ice and a touch of chamomile tea are all part of the substantial finish, which has memorable length and depth.

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Brancott Estate 2013 Letter Series Sauvignon Blanc ($26)

A bit of mesquite appears on the nose along with bright stone fruit. Peach, nectarine and apricot flavors all appear on the palate, along with hints of grapefruit. All of those characteristics carry through to the finish and are joined there by a refined core of minerals and elements of spice. The finish is long and impressive.

Brancott Estate 2010 Chosen Rows Sauvignon Blanc ($65)

Chosen Rows is a tiny production from a producer that makes, well, a lot of wine. This selection is limited to a grand total 3,500 bottles which are hand numbered. Gooseberry and grapefruit aromas are dominant on the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is gently layered with tons of depth and complexity. The fruit flavors are joined by bits of savory green herbs. This wine has remarkable persistence, and a prodigious finish which goes on for an impressive length of time. Continued citrus fruits, bits of grass and white pepper are all in play as things come to a close. On its own, this Sauvignon Blanc is delicious and mouthwatering. When it’s paired with the right foods it’s simply stunning. Quite simply, Chosen Rows is one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in the world.

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most adaptable grapes in the world. Some grapes only work in a limited range of styles; Sauvignon Blanc is more of a chameleon. This quintet showcases some of those styles through the lens of New Zealand Winemaking. Each and every one of these wines is delicious and fairly priced. Even Chosen Rows, at $65, is a fair value when you consider its quality and relative scarcity.

Check out Gabe’s View for more wine reviews, and follow Gabe on Twitter!

  

Drink of the Week: The Parisian Cocktail

the Parisian Cocktail.A while ago, I picked up a half-size bottle of Mathilde brand cassis (black currant) liqueur. Often referred to with some pretension as “creme de cassis” in recipes, the distinction between creme de cassis and just plain cassis seems vague at best. Anyhow, though extremely sweet, my plain old cassis had a nice flavor and I decided it was time to give it a whirl in an appropriate cocktail setting.

Also known as the Paris Cocktail, the Parisian shows up in the 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book and Dale DeGroff’s much more recent The Craft of the Cocktail. However, a 2009 Savoy Stomp blog post by Erik Ellestad traces the drink to a slightly earlier 1929 recipe published by Harry MacElhone. He’s the “Harry” of Paris’s famed Harry’s New York Bar, so I guess this drink might actually be consumed by actual Parisians.

French cocktailing bonafides or not, I did find the original recipe a bit overly sweet. So, partly by accident and partly inspired by the slight monkeying with the recipe Mr. Ellestad performed, I came up with a version I prefer. It’s a bit lighter and more refreshing — and still plenty sweet; almost a high end gin and juice, if you will, even if this version has more vermouth than gin.

The Parisian Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth (aka French vermouth)
3/4 ounce cassis
3/4 ounce gin
1 lemon peel (optional, but I think very desirable, garnish)

Combine your liquids in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Since cassis is so fruity, the cocktail gods seem to agree that this drink demands to be shaken. Do so vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and, I say, add a traditional twist of lemon to cut the sweetness just a bit.

As for your toast, toast Paris, of course. People who’ve been there say it’s amazing and the rest of us have the dreams of Paris we get from the movies and what not. That’s pretty okay, too.

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If you want to try the classic version of the Paris/Parisian Cocktail, just use equal parts of all three primary ingredients, i.e., one ounce each. You’ll find that it’s a fairly tasty drink but very, very, sweet. Definitely use the lemon twist garnish in tha case. (Dale DeGroff suggests using his signature flamed lemon peel, if you’re feeling brave.)

Since I only have one brand of cassis and dry vermouth on hand, I didn’t get to play around with different brands as much as I might have. However, I did find that this version of the Parisian works very nicely with either Bombay Dry Gin or the very inexpensive, but still quite decent, Gordon’s Gin. The latter variation especially reminded me of a classier, more drinkable version of the first alcoholic beverage I ever consumed.

Yes, if you were ever wondering what Manischewitz Concord Grape would taste like if it were actually good, the Parisian Cocktail is close as you’re likely to get. And Paris, Las Vegas is as close to Paris as I’m likely to get any time soon. C’est la vie.

  

Drink of the Week: The Bacardí Maestro Collins

The Bacardí Maestro Collins.It’s great to go out to a really good high-end bar and have drinks made with the bartender’s own personally crafted cumquat-and-cardamon bitters or her special thyme-parsley-and-Meyer-Lemon infused syrup. At the same time, there’s nothing like a super simple drink that you can easily make as home as well, and usually better, than your typical overworked bartender.

That definitely applies to this ridiculously simple and refreshing recapitulation of your basic Rum Collins, which differs from a Tom Collins only in changing the base spirit from gin. The only real difference in this version is the use of Bacardí Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron, a new super-premium expression from the creators of the USA’s most ubiquitous and time honored rum brand.

The super-premium rum scene has actually been one of the most exciting areas in contemporary boozing for some time. So, I was naturally very curious when the Bacardí people came knocking with a free bottle of product. It’s a worthy entry, definitely more flavorful, sweet, and smooth than your typical white rum. It’s very easy drinking and not too high priced, so I can imagine this going over very well on the current market. That’s particularly so as it seems to work very nicely in a number of cocktails. I enjoyed it in a daiquiri, a rum old fashioned, and, naturally, this.

 The Bacardí Maestro Collins

2 ounces Bacardí Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron (white rum)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
Seltzer or club soda “to fill”
Lemon wheel or twist (optional garnish)
Cocktail cherry (my suggested optional garnish)

Combine the rum, lemon juice and super-easily dissolving sugar in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake and double strain, using a food strainer to get rid of pulp as well as ice, into a collins or highball-sized glass stocked with fresh ice. Top off with the fizzy water of your choice, I liked adding a very thin lemon wheel and a cocktail cherry for a garnish. Toast anything you like, but try to keep it simple.

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The main trick to this drink is not to poo-poo the instruction to double strain/fine strain the drink. I’ve been a skeptic about this practice in the past. In this case, however, I’m here to tell you it can make all the difference. Straining out the lemon pulp also appears to strain out some of the harsher, more tart flavors. The result is a more mellow and finely balanced drink…and a very nifty booze beverage for what promises to be an extra hot summer.

  

2015 Father’s Day Gift Guide: Booze

Walk into any liquor store and you’ll see hundreds of options. You can zero in on your dad’s favorite drink when picking a gift, or you can get creative and choose something he wouldn’t buy for himself. And for more great suggestions, be sure to check out the other categories in our Father’s Day gift guide.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

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The good folks at Crown Royal have introduced the brand’s first-ever blended rye whisky, so this is something delicious and unique that you can pick up for dad. As you would expect from Crown Royal, this whisky is very smooth. It’s crafted from 90% rye and tastes great either neat, on the rocks, or in traditional rye cocktails like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. It also comes in that beautiful Crown Royal bottle that makes any bar look classy.

Patrón XO Cafe Incendio

This is an awesome gift for anyone who appreciates premium tequila or enjoys flavored liqueurs. This delicious new offering from Patrón is a spicy and sweet liqueur that is perfect as a sipping drink to savor and enjoy, or as a shot to get the party going. Patrón XO Cafe Incendio starts with Patrón Silver tequila and draws its flavor from the spicy Mexican arbol chile along with the sweet richness of Criollo chocolate. We recommend drinking it straight after chilling the bottle in the refrigerator. You can also use it for cocktails, and as a kicker, to spice up your coffee or hot cocoa in the winter months. You can keep a bottle in your fridge year-round as a permanent addition to your home bar.

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