Monday, February 3, 2014

New Book Teaches How to Make Classic Cocktails at Home

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 7:55 AM

It's easy to get in a rut when it comes to home mixology. When you find a few favorite go-to cocktails, you tend to purchase the ingredients for those drinks and make them over and over. A repertoire of a good martini, a perfect Manhattan, the Old Fashioned and a Sazerac will take you a long way when you're entertaining with friends. Plus you can always make a "something and something" for your less adventurous visitors.

But it's also nice to experiment with classic cocktails and new variations to add a little spice to your home menu. Jeremy LeBlanc and Christine Dionese have put together a nice little guide to home mixology titled The Best Craft Cocktails and Bartending with Flair that should be tucked between the bourbon and rye bottles of any home bar.

If the phrase "bartending with flair" brings to mind Tom Cruise in that horrible movie Cocktail or a suspender-adorned TGI Friday's bartender, put those images out of your mind. (Well, except maybe the waterfall scene in Cocktail.) The flair in these cocktails comes from the use of fresh ingredients and interesting techniques.

Two helpful sections at the end of the book highlight how to make inventive syrups, mixes and foams plus a collection of tips of the trade. If you're a fan of the Bacon Manhattan at The Patterson House, try making your own bacon wash at home and adding it to a simple cocktail called the Whiskey Pig. There's also a concise explanation of all the different types of ice you might see while out drinking and why you might want to use a particular variety at home for a specific cocktail. There's not an essay about the awesomeness of Sonic ice, though.

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Some Valentine Beverage Options for You

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 7:30 AM

The pressure is on, kids. Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching, and it's time to consider whether you're eating out or in and what you'll serve. I'm kinda thinking about a couple of these Sweetheart Steaks from Porter Road Butcher! --->

But what to pair with such a lovely piece of meat? That's the poser. On Bites' colleague Lesley Lassiter's recommendation, I had the chance to sample the lovely Damilano Barolo Cannubi 2008 last week and was duly impressed. This is a boy-dog wine, big and thick with a deep, dark garnet color and some serious tannins. I took the extra step to decant it for an hour to let it open up, and the wine was still changing considerably in the glass from the first to the last.

Although it was a full-bodied red, the years in barrel did soften the mouth feel enough to serve with either wine or pasta. In fact, it would be a great pairing with those PRB steaks if I hadn't already finished the bottle with some homemade lasagna.

More novel, but less adventurous is the idea of serving a nice light apertif wine with your Valentine's meal. My current favorite apertif is the French classic, Lillet, which blends Bordeaux wines and citrus liqueurs to create what is essentially a pre-made cocktail. Served chilled and up before a meal, or over ice with a wedge of citrus fruit, Lillet is an excellent start to any party, like prosecco without the bubbles.

Specifically for Valentine's, Lillet Rosé would be a fun choice. Pink and playful, this particular version of Lillet is a blend of the varietals that they use in their red and white incarnations, but with a little berry liqueur added to the mix. You can also substitute Lillet for vermouth in a traditional martini recipe to create a Vesper, one of James Bond's favorite cocktails. Because face it, James Bond probably never had a bad Valentine's Day.


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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Nashville Spot Makes Draft Magazine's Best Beer Bar List

Posted By on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Draft Magazine put out its list of the 100 best beer bars in town and, lo and behold, the Gulch's Hops & Crafts was a surprise entry on there.

We say surprise because it hasn't been open as long as some more established spots. Because of its proximity — a mere half block from Bites World HQ — Hops & Crafts has a lot of fans here. We like that they serve affordable pints and have a well-honed list, but it's also a good space to hang out when the weather's nice and the big garage door is open to the patio.

What were the criteria? Draft editors talked about what they look for in a great place:

Having well-cared for, thoughtfully selected beer with an eye toward variety, trends and tradition, in the kind of place you’d want to stay awhile, delivered by someone who knows their stuff. We don’t want to send you to a place where the server doesn’t look up from her texting when you ask questions, or where you’ll be told a saison “is basically a lager.” (And yes, both of those things happened on our visits.)

We asked one of our favorite beer fanatics, Friend of Bites David Wingo, who else he might recommend from Nashville for the list ...

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Tamiflu Supply Running Low? Try a Hot Toddy

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 8:14 AM

I have failed you, Bitesters. I went and let National Hot Toddy Day slip up on me without notifying you that it was actually last Saturday, Jan. 11. Fortunately, even if you failed to celebrate formally, it's never too late to whip up a nice warm cup of spirits to boost your spirits when you might have a touch of the ague.

Hot toddies have a long history in the world of cocktails as well as a wide variety of recipes that usually revolve around brandy, whiskey or rum mixed with lemon and a sweetener, often honey. More modern iterations include the addition of spices or hot tea, and frankly, these are all positive developments to what was already a pretty fine concoction.

But if you want to whip up an old standard, here's a recipe from Tullamore D.E.W Irish Whiskey, a product that's been around since 1829. Word is the polar vortex is supposed to take another dip south before this month is over, so you might want to keep this recipe handy.



2 ounces Tullamore D.E.W. Original
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup (1 part sugar/1 part water)
1/4 ounce Fresh Lemon Juice
6 ounces Hot Water

Mix all in a mug or Irish Coffee cup and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel and cinnamon stick or feel free to add some fresh ginger or infuse the simple syrup with seasonal flavors like cinnamon, orange, apple or ginger.

This will surely cure what ails you!

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Woodford Reserve Helps Make Your Old-Fashioneds New

Posted By on Fri, Jan 3, 2014 at 7:29 AM

Baby steps. That's how I've been addressing my bourbon intake. I still like a drink or two after dinner, but as I've aged, the heartburn and general fogginess of drinking two fingers of whiskey straight up just causes more discomfort than it's worth. So I've learned to mix up a classic Old-Fashioned recipe or a nice Manhattan to at least slightly dilute the sweet brown elixir. This change has also stretched my bourbon budget quite a bit, as a bottle can now last weeks instead of days.

So I'm always on the lookout for new accoutrements to dress up my whiskey cocktails. Woodford Reserve is definitely one of my go-to raw materials, and a half gallon is usually prominently displayed on my home bar. When I saw that Woodford had entered the cocktail accessory business, I was immediately intrigued and ordered up a couple of examples of their wares.

The first product that excited me was their Spiced Cherry Bitters at $18.95 for a 100 ml bottle. Since I add only a couple of dashes of bitters to most cocktails, this bottle should last a long time, despite the fact that I'm using the hell out of it. These bitters are made with sweet cherries which remind me of Luxardos. The addition of vanilla and clove characters and bitterness from gentian root make this a nice substitute for Angostura bitters in a Manhattan or Old-Fashioned. The fact that the bitters are aged in used Woodford Reserve barrels adds a nice note of oakiness to the whole proceedings and perfectly complements the bourbon.

But why not go all the way and use Woodford Reserve Bourbon Cherries as a finishing garnish? No reason, that's why. At $16.95 for a jar, they cost about the same as Luxardos and are a nice change of pace. Please don't ever ruin a perfectly good cocktail by using those neon bright Maraschino cherries as a garnish! Feh.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tip One Back for Repeal Day

Posted By on Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 8:04 AM

If you're looking for a reason to raise a toast tonight (because being a disappointed Vol/Tide/Titan/Preds fan might just not be enough), take solace in the fact that today is the 80th anniversary of Repeal Day, when the 13 years on national Prohibition finally came to an end in 1933. Actually, in Tennessee it was longer than 13 years because our state had jumped the gun and started banning alcohol in most of the state as early as 1907.

Ironically, buttoned-up Utah was the state that tipped the balance on the 21st Amendment by voting for ratification and putting it over the required three-quarters majority to repeal the 18th Amendment. There's a fascinating infographic here that shows how far we have and haven't come since 1933 and how attitudes have changed over the years. I was unaware that there were only 10 other states that share our "no sales on Sunday" law. I would've though it was more widespread than that, but maybe that will be addressed as part of the grocery store wine sales debate next year.

So how should you celebrate Repeal Day? The official website makes it easy:

There are no outfits to buy, costumes to rent, rivers to dye green. Simply celebrate the day by stopping by your local bar, tavern, saloon, winery, distillery, or brewhouse and having a drink. Pick up a six-pack on your way home from work. Split a bottle of wine with a loved one. Buy a shot for a stranger. Just do it because you can.

That sounds like something I can handle. Cheers!

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Who Makes the Best Manhattan in Nashville?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 7:05 AM

The brave judges at work
  • The brave judges at work
I love a good Manhattan, and I usually make them at home with Woodford Reserve. So I was intrigued when I heard that Woodford was joining forces with Esquire magazine to find the best Manhattan in the country, and that a Nashville event in the grand ballroom of the Hermitage Hotel was a stop on their competition tour. The usual suspect mixologists from local watering holes like The Oak Bar, Husk, No. 308, Cork & Cow and others joined newcomers Pavilion and Gray's to compete for the title of King or Queen of Manhattan. The winner's recipe will be judged among winners from 30 cities around the country, and six bartenders will then be selected to showcase their cocktails during the Manhattan Experience finale in New York City on Jan. 13, 2014.

The esteemed panel of judges was made up of an official taster from Woodford who was joined by local tipplers Kim Totzke and Tom Wood. Totzke is the director of operations at Provence, but has probably introduced more Nashvillians to good whiskey during her career in Nashville bars and restaurants than anyone else in town. When asked what her two favorite drinks are, Totzke usually responds "A Manhattan on the rocks and a Manhattan straight up." So she knows of which she drinks. Wood, a distinguished author whose name may be familiar from innumerable stories over the years in the Scene, City Paper, Nashville Post and various other publications, is also known as the wonderful husband of Friend of Bites (and Scene contributor) Nicki Pendleton Wood. Nobody in town looks more natural with a Manhattan in his hand than E. Thomas Wood.

After tasting their way through numerous cocktails, somehow the judges managed to come to a cogent decision. In the end, the winner was Ben Clemons of No. 308. You might recall that Ben had some success with clear liquor earlier this year, but his nutty take on a traditional Manhattan was pretty straightforward save for the addition of some walnut liqueur. If you want to try it at home, here's his recipe for what he calls the "Woody Allen."

Woody Allen

1.5 oz. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon
.75 oz. dry vermouth
.25 oz. cherry cordial liqueur
.25 oz. walnut liqueur
3 dashes Woodford Reserve spiced cherry bitters
Brandied cherry, for garnish

In a mixing glass, combine Woodford Reserve Double Oaked with liqueurs and bitters. Add ice and stir. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with brandied cherry.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Grays on Main Rolls Out a New Cocktail Menu for Fall

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 5:56 AM

I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't yet made it down to Franklin to try out Grays on Main. Folks who have been there seem to be pretty pleased with the experience, but feel free to share yours in the comments below so we'll all know what we're getting into.

If you're looking for a reason to visit, perhaps the new seasonal cocktail menu will get you (me) off the couch and onto I-65 South. The previous menu was already innovative, with a special emphasis on 19th century brandy-based cocktails. For autumn, they have created new drinks featuring the flavors of the season like apple, ginger, fig and molasses.

Other new additions are special French press hot cocktails which serve two people in an interactive fashion, as patrons watch the infusion being created right in front of them. One particular cocktail that employs this process is the Herringbone, which heats vintage Armagnac, sweet vermouth, and rare Madeira with house-made Earl Grey tea and Angostura bitters in a French press at the table.

Grays is also whipping up half-liter batches of punch drinks which can be shared by up to eight people. (Or just one if you've been out shopping for holiday presents.) Grays also recently launched an online cocktail tutorial series that can be found at youtube.com/GRAYSonMain and plans to offer cocktail classes at the beginning of 2014, taught by PourTaste owners Jon and Lindsay Yeager.

Grays on Main
332 Main St., Franklin
(615) 435-3603
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Treat Yourself With This Tricky Cocktail

Posted By on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 6:07 AM

In my household, Halloween is always a little problematic. Since we live near Belmont, we never know if this will be one of those years when a bunch of college-age trick or treaters will decide to visit our street and raid our candy bowl, or whether it will be just a few neighborhood kids or vanloads of cute children bused in from over on Edgehill. We try to stay prepared with an adequate stash of candy, but we also don't want to get stuck with lots of leftovers that we will invariably eat ourselves over the next week.

Add to that the fact that we have two high-strung poodles who go berserk every time the doorbell rings (sorry, UPS man), and Hallow's Eve turns into an evening where we sit around on the couch with one hand on a dog's collar and the other wrapped around a stiff drink.

So this year, I was pleased to discover a new fall cocktail from my friends at Tullamore that I intend to use to steel myself against the holiday. Tullamore has always been a favorite of mine, and the town and distillery have a fascinating history. Tullamore is located about and hour from Dublin and Galway and was the site of the world's first air disaster, as a hot air balloon fire in 1785 burned down most of the town. The town was rebuilt, including the construction of a distillery in 1829 right where the balloon went down.

Daniel E. Williams is the namesake of their most famous product, Tullamore DEW. His earliest days in the distillery were spent shoveling malted barley, and he slept in the hayloft during the nights. In 1887 he became general manager and ultimately owner of the distillery. After developing his (literal) signature product, he proudly marked every bottle from the Tullamore Distillery with the initials D.E.W.

Tullamore D.E.W trades on "the power of three." Three natural ingredients, three varieties of grain, three distillations and a blend of all three types of Irish whiskey — pot still, malt and grain. This forms the first triple-distilled, triple-blended Irish whiskey that is both complex and exceedingly smooth.

It also serves as a fine base for this great fall cocktail, the Apple Dew. Find yourself some good fresh squeezed apple juice or cider and mix up a few to enjoy while you wait for the doorbell to ring.

Apple D.E.W.
2 ounces Tullamore D.E.W. original
pressed apple juice
lemon wedge

Optional twist: Try adding a dash of Angostura bitters for a hint of warm apple-pie spice notes.

Into a tall ice-filled glass add the Tullamore D.E.W.
Top up with pressed apple juice.
Garnish with a lemon wedge.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Promised Land All-Natural Dairy Products Show Up at Publix

Posted By on Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 7:31 AM

I'm probably not the best person to comment on milk. I grew up a 100 percent Purity guy with delivery to the door. As I got older, I progressed from whole milk to 2 percent to nonfat, so now whole milk tastes like pure butterfat to me. So when the folks at Promised Land Dairy asked if I wanted to try some of their products, I warned them that most of the milk I drink is spooned into a cup of coffee.

Still, they persisted, since they have recently launched at local Publix stores. So I gave them a try, and now I know what I've been missing. I do occasionally get the chance to enjoy local artisan milk, but I just never seem to be in need of any when I encounter Cruze Farm or Hatcher Family Dairy products. The convenient availability of Promised Land's all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free milk varieties might just get me to up my intake.

Of course, just drinking whole milk after a half life of nonfat is a real treat, but when you get Promised Land's more exotic flavors like Cookies-and-Cream and Peaches-and-Cream, these rich milks are like dessert for breakfast. And they're also a great substitute for the non-dairy creamer I've been known to resort to.

Promised Land's chocolate milk is a relatively high in calories and fat content, but dang, I just couldn't help myself and finished it straight from the bottle as a recovery drink after a run. And then went for another run the next day to burn it off. ... A reduced-fat version of their chocolate milk has about half the fat and a third less calories, but I didn't try that out. You gotta splurge somewhere.

So how about you Bitesters? Have you tried Promised Land yet? Do you have another favorite brand of milk that doesn't require a trip to a farmers' market or a dairy to get it?

If you'd like to learn more about these products, Promised Land's Gordon Kuenemann is going to be going on Talk of the Town tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 24. The broadcast is from 11-11:30 a.m. He'll be talking about Promised Land and will be showing how to make a "Midnight Craving Chocolate Banana Pudding."

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