Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beer of the Moment: Maredsous 8 Dubbel

Some of the best things in life are brown: espresso, bitter liqueurs, Manhattans and rich Belgian beers like one of our new favorites, Maredsous 8 Dubbel. With its velvety body, floral aroma and deep, nuanced flavor with sweet notes of dark chocolate and wine, it’s just the thing to help weather the last rainy days of spring. Try it with a hunk of fresh, buttered, whole-grain artisan bread. Check maredsous-usa.com to find a distributor near you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

World Cocktail Week Wrap Up

May 13, 1806 is historically known as the first use of the word "cock-tail" to describe a spirited drink. Now, May 13 is celebrated as World Cocktail Day. This year, in honor of The Museum of the American Cocktail's grand opening in New Orleans (July 21st during Tales of the Cocktail), many establishments around the world stretched the celebration into a full week. From New York to New Zealand, people gathered to celebrate.

San Francisco Cocktail Week (May 13 - 19) was the second annual celebration in the City, and we were thrilled to attend this party, founded by local legends H. Joseph Ehrmann, Jeff Hollinger and Duggan McDonnell. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market hosted a sold-out event Wednesday, May 14 focused on fresh produce and cocktails, with illustrious members of the San Francisco Chapter of the US Bartenders Guild mixing up seasonal sips. Saturday May 17 brought a discussion of cocktails in literature, led by author & historian David Wondrich along with other panelists.

Everybody was ready to celebrate the success of Cocktail Week when it came time for the Finale Party, which we co-hosted with the wonderful Absinthe Brasserie & Bar. The restaurant filled up with a veritable who's who of the City's best bartenders, local fans and representatives from the week's spirit sponsors. Chef Jamie Lauren of Absinthe put together delicious bites for the event, including fried pickles with rémoulade and curried lamb burgers. No one went home empty handed, thanks to the goodies provided by our friends*. The Imbibe Cocktail Jeff created for the event was a big hit and we cannot wait to do this again next year!

*Special thanks to our finale party product sponsors:
Averna | Christopher Elbow Chocolates | Dry Soda | Espresso Parts | Freshies Premium Cocktail Mixers | Museum of the American Cocktail | Partida Tequila | SakéOne | SKYY Spirits | The Roasterie | Widmer Brothers Brewing

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Remembering Robert Mondavi

Legendary California wine pioneer Robert Mondavi passed away yesterday at age 94. The Minnesota-born Stanford grad got started early in the wine business and made it a family affair when his parents purchased the Charles Krug winery in St. Helena. After an infamous feud with his brother Peter in 1965, Mondavi struck out on his own at age 52 to build the first post-Prohibition winery in the Napa Valley.

The new start paid off and Mondavi has been credited with putting Napa on the global wine map. From branding Fumé Blanc to creating international partnerships bringing together Old and New World styles to touring the world as a wine ambassador in the 1990s—Mondavi dedicated his life to his work. His legacy lives on through his children Michael, Marcia and Tim who all work in the wine biz today.

If you have a bottle of Mondavi on hand, now's the time to open it up and raise a glass to this larger-than-life man in the history of California wine. To Mr. Mondavi!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Imbibe This: Our Signature Cocktail Week Recipe

San Francisco Cocktail Week kicked off Tuesday at Harry Denton's Starlight Room. This is going to be an incredibly fun week of cocktail celebrations, and if you’re in town for the festivities, be sure to join us for the Grand Finale Party at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar on May 19. This will be a fantastic evening of signature cocktails created by the talented Jeff Hollinger and surprise guest bartenders, classically prepared absinthe, delicious nibbles from Absinthe’s Executive Chef Jamie Lauren and special gift bags filled with great take-home goodies, from cocktail shakers to artisan chocolates. Get a full schedule and ticketing information at sfcocktailweek.com.

If you can't make it to the party, you can still join us in spirit and pour yourself a spicy, sweet Imbibe cocktail, created by Jeff Hollinger for the event:

The Imbibe Cocktail
2 oz. Glenrothes Select Reserve Scotch
1 oz. blackberry liqueur
2 dashes Bittermens Mole Bitters (or substitute 2 dashes cinnamon-chile
tincture, recipe below, and 1 dash Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters)
Tools: mixing glass, strainer
Glass: cocktail
Garnish: blackberry

Stir ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass for 15 to 20 seconds, or until well chilled. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Cinnamon-chili tincture
4 1/2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup cacao nibs
1 red bell peppers, diced
3 small sweet peppers, diced
2 Fresno chilies, diced
1 1/2 dried Thai dragon chilies, diced
1 bottle blanco tequila

Combine and allow flavors to steep for several days to taste. Strain and store.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Glasses for Geeks

Now when someone mentions your nerdy glasses, they won't be talking about the ones on your face. Laser Wolf’s glassware series, etched with the words “wine glass” or “beer glass” written in binary code, take the term “drink geek” to a whole new level. As creator Will Stansfield points out, “Entertaining friends these days often involves interactive technologies through gaming systems and computers,” so shouldn’t you be using appropriate glasses? Plus, with an understated, minimal design, they are way less tacky than coffee mugs that say “Byte Me.” Wine glasses start at $7.50; call 937-609-3812 or email stansfieldw (at) gmail dot com for more info.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Coffee in Your Cheese?

Home from our visit to the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America show in Minneapolis, we've been thinking a lot about how great it is to see coffee popping up all over the culinary map. But did you ever think it would end up in cheese?

Utah-based Beehive Cheese Company stays true to their name with an coffee-coated cheese they call "Barely Buzzed." The nutty, full-bodied cheese is aged on Utah Blue Spruce and then rolled in a mixture of lavender buds and a blend of ground coffee from Legacy Coffee Company in Grand Junction, Colo., owned by the cheese maker's brother.

The cheese has notes of caramel that are imparted by the rub, whose flavor is more noticeable near the rind. Barely Buzzed was honored with First Place in the Flavored Cheddar category by the American Cheese Society in 2007 and Al Roker even tried it recently on this Today Show segment about cheese.

Photo by: Out of Bounds Creative

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Making a Mint Julep

Mint juleps are one of those cocktails that evoke strong opinions—everyone you talk to will insist their way’s the best. Personal variations on recipes can be great, but this being Derby Day, we do have some simple do's and don'ts for enjoying the traditional Kentucky Derby cocktail.

- Use fresh mint. Accept no substitutes. Since mint grows well (in some cases, aggressively) in most regions, it should be easy to find.
- Use coarsely crushed ice. Many blenders will do the trick in a few seconds (drain any water and re-freeze crushed ice for about a half hour for best results), or a try a vintage ice-crusher.
- Use the right glassware. If you don’t have the customary stainless steel julep cups, use a highball glass.
- Use a high-quality bourbon; it will make a huge difference in the flavor.

- Use whole ice cubes. This bears repeating. Juleps are all about the crushed ice, so do it right!
- Muddle the mint beyond recognition. Gently bruise the mint to impart its fresh flavor.
- Use soda water; this is one of the easiest ways to ruin what may be intended to be a mint julep.

Like most recipes, mint juleps are all about the fine details. Here's an Imbibe-tested and approved recipe (isn't research fun?), adapted from Denise Gee’s book Southern Cocktails: Dixie Drinks, Party Potions and Classic Libations:

Mint Julep
6–7 fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp. simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated to dissolve, then cooled to room temperature)
2 oz. bourbon
Crushed ice
Tools: bar spoon
Glass: silver julep cup (or highball)
Garnish: mint sprig

Combine mint leaves, syrup and bourbon in a glass. Press the bar spoon into the mint to release its essence into the liquid. Fill the glass with ice. Gently press the spoon into the ice, shaking it to incorporate the mixture. Garnish.

We’d love to have bourbon historian Mike Veach, featured in our current issue weigh in, but we’re pretty sure he’s busy today. Enjoy, and feel free to chime in with your own julep tips!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Averna Cocktail Contest Finalists

At long last, the finalists in the Averna Cocktail Competition have been narrowed down through a series of great regional events that took place around the country over the past few weeks. The competition drew amazing talent from across the U.S., and the finalists represent an impressive cross-section of bartenders. San Francisco's Cantina hosted the western regional semi-finals, where Thomas Waugh of Alembic Bar and Jeff Hollinger of Absinthe Brasserie emerged as the top two finalists. Thomas's Hierba Buena Cocktail combined Averna with reposado tequila, creme de cacao, heavy cream and mint, while Jeff's Midnight in Sicily mixed Averna with gin, "Sicilian style" blood orange agrodolce and mint.

On the East Coast, semi-finalists converged at Devin Tavern in New York to put their best Averna cocktails to the test, with Don Lee of PDT and Damon Dyer of Death & Company (pictured right) coming out on top. Damon's Tuesdays with Mole combined Averna, Goslings Black Seal, Demerara, lemon juice and egg white, while Don's La Cola Nostra matched Averna with Zacapa 23, lime juice, simple syrup, pimento dram and Champagne.

The lone female finalist emerged at the Miami regional competion. Debbi Peak of the Drawing Room in Chicago (pictured left) won the judges over with her Anima Bella: Averna, gin, Mineola citrus juice, orange juice, simple syrup, fresh raspberries and fresh blackberries. Now the finalists will prepare to travel to Sicily where they will compete against each other for the grand prize later this summer.

Congrats to everyone who entered the competition and especially to those heading to the finals—should be a fantastic final event! In the meantime, here's one of the finalist recipes to enjoy yourself.

Thomas Waugh, Alembic Bar

1 1/4 oz. Averna
1 1/4 oz. Don Julio reposado tequila
1/4 oz. white creme de cacao
1 oz. heavy whipping cream
3 dashes Fee Brothers mint bitters

First, to make bitter mint cream: add mint bitters and heavy cream to a cocktail shaker. Dry shake (no ice) for 30 secs. Set aside. Then stir Averna, tequila and cacao in a mixing glass full of ice for 45 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Using a bar spoon, carefully layer the cream on top of the cocktail. Garnish with shaved chocolate and fresh mint sprig.

Photos by J. Avery Wham and Sid Hoeltzell