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Feb 02, 2015
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Drink This Weekend Edition

Drink This Weekend Edition: Vesper Martini

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

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The martini is best known as the 007 or the official drink of James Bond – though any bartender will tell you it should definitely be stirred, not shaken. This Vesper martini combines both vodka and gin and requires a little finesse to perfect.

The ratio of vodka to gin varies, but most classic Vesper recipes have a 1-to-1 ratio. I prefer a stronger gin pour, particularly a stronger pine-forward gin like St. George Terrior. Sipped straight, it tastes like running through a pine forest with an open mouth. Stir it with vodka, which cuts through the gin botanicals, and Lillet, a French aperitif that balances this simple cocktail the way vermouth does in a classic martini. (Prefer a classic gin martini? Click here.)

 

Vesper Martini
1 serving

1½ oz. St. George Terroir gin
1 oz. Purus vodka
½ oz. Lillet Blanc
Lemon twist for garnish

• In a pint glass or shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Stir to combine and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Natasha Bahrami is a member of USBG St. Louis and co-owner of Natasha’s Cafe and The Gin Room.

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Charlie Chaplin and tea cocktails at Blank Space

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

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{The Charlie Chaplin at Blank Space}

If you dig the inside baseball of the drinking industry, chances are you’ve made your way over to Motown Mondays at Cherokee Street’s Blank Space. The slow-jam sesh at the visual and performing arts venue, according to owner Kaveh Razani, is a confab of the city’s drink-mixing minds and fertile ground for collusion, invention and hip-gyrating fun.

Seeking reinvention, Razani (whose brother Mazi Razani is a partner at Blueprint Coffee) recently called in an industry favor and consulted with cocktail guru Joel Clark at The Purple Martin nearby. The idea was to wed Blank Space’s estimable tea program and its liquor selection, the bottles of which have been gathering dust on a shelf.

“I’ve always wanted to do tea before I wanted to do liquor,” Razani said, explaining that whatever Blank Space is, its customers seldom view it as a drinking destination. He and Clark set out to change that.

“(Kaveh) said, ‘I want to make hot tea cocktails,’” Clark said. “I said, ‘I’ve never seen anybody do that. Let’s do it.’”

The result is a six-item roster of cocktails of a type you won’t find elsewhere in St. Louis, all of them are available hot or cold. Clark described the 20 hours of R&D that went into perfecting what essentially amounts to an ice-less, shaken cocktail. The necessary dilution that comes from ice now is provided by tea.

Clark had help from others – he lost his sense of smell after a seizure – and mixes drinks now using second opinions and a finely tuned sense of dead reckoning.

The spirits are mixed, shaken and strained before fresh hot tea is poured over the top. (Razani sources from the local ReTrailer mobile teamaker and San Francisco importer Vital Tea Leaf.) I tried the Charlie Chaplin – named for a tattoo on Clark’s forearm – a mix of apricot brandy, sloe gin, lime juice and sweet Drop It Like Its Hot hibiscus tea. Garnished with a floating lime wheel, the cocktail is a lovely shade of magenta, bracingly tart and warm all the way down. Also available is the toddy-like Brooklyn Cocktail, made with rye, dry vermouth, Maraschino liqueur, Fernet and mint tea.

You don’t have to wait until Motown Monday to drink the fruits of industry collaboration, mind you. Just be sure to get there this weekend, before the next great idea is conceived.

 

 

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: The Woodsman at 4 Hands’ Anniversary Party

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

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Beer lovers don’t necessarily need a special occasion to try a new beer, but sometimes a celebration just presents itself. Case in point: 4 Hands Brewing Co. celebrates its third anniversary tomorrow, Jan. 16 with a party kicking off at noon and rolling all night long. 4 Hands will feature several draft selections of its limited-release beers, including Volume No. 1, Volume No. 2, Ill Repute, Beyond the Bricks, Madagascar and the very last keg of Blackberry Chocolate Milk Stout.

And that new beer? Presenting 4 Hands’ newest addition to its bottle and draft lineup, The Woodsman. This brew is a 50-50 blend of Imperial oatmeal stout in stainless steel and Imperial milk stout aged in bourbon barrels. The result is a jet-black pour with a mocha head that lends itself to a moderate mouth feel. While there is plenty of chocolate going on, there are also some subtle fruity esters akin to dried cherries and raisins that really make this beer pop. While dessert is the obvious pairing, try this one with a juicy burger with goat cheese and caramelized onions.

Bottles and draft will see limited distribution across the metro area, but if you want a guaranteed taste, head to 4 Hands Friday to celebrate three years in the St. Louis craft beer scene – and purchase up to three bottles of The Woodsman to keep the party going at home, too.

Eric Hildebrandt is the moderator and ambassador with STL Hops. Follow him on Twitter at @EricSTL6.

 

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: 2015 wine trends with Jon Dickinson at Parker’s Table

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

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{From left, Parker’s Table manager Jon Dickinson and Jon Parker}

 

The new year brings new talk of trends throughout the food and beverage scene, from those we eagerly anticipate to those we wish would just disappear already. I recently popped by Parker’s Table to chat with manager Jon Dickinson about what’s up next for the St. Louis wine scene – and picked up a few bottles for myself.

What trends did you see here in 2014?
We found an acceptance with consumers of wines outside the areas they were used to … wines from Hungary, Turkey, Greece … wines that are excellent, unique, historical, Old World, really cool wines that just (didn’t) have the exposure before.

Why were St. Louisans interested in these more obscure wines?
A new crop of younger sommeliers (is) getting really excited about obscure wines and actually putting them on restaurant wine lists … It’s a lot easier to get someone to try a cool glass of wine in a cool restaurant than it is to get them to invest in a full bottle. Having cooler glass-pour programs around town has been great in increasing consumer education, getting customers to … open their minds a little bit about wine regions St. Louis has not really seen before.

What can we expect in 2015?
People are getting more acclimated to high-acid wines, more food-friendly wines, understanding that wines and foods go together. The two can play off each other and create really unique flavor combinations.

Why are people interested in higher-acid wines?
People are just getting tired of the big, overdone style with high alcohol and massive oak flavors. They seem to be looking for wines that are more refreshing.

What wine resolutions did you make this year?
I’ve resolved to drink even crazier! Trying new things I haven’t tried before, new grapes, wines from new places, and wines made in unique ways.

Can you share a trade secret for choosing good wines?
Even if you don’t know the wine, pick an importer or two you like, and check the back label for that importer… (I like) Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Louis/Dressner Selections and Rare Wine Company.

Here, my two picks to get into Dickinson’s 2015 trends, both from a suggested importer:

1. Chateau Soucherie Anjou Rouge is a Loire Valley blend of cabernet franc and grolleau grapes that’s earthy and spicy, yet approachable and refreshing.

2. Kiràlyudvar Tokaj Furmint Sec is a delicious dry white from Hungary’s famed Tokaji region. It’s bright and crisp with a high level of acidity balanced by melon and lemon.

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Holiday Flip

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

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Instead of ladling spiked box nog from a punch bowl, wow your guests with customized holiday flips. Traditionally made with liquor, sugar and eggs, a flip is a single-serve cocktail shaken until frothy and is the precursor to modern eggnog. In fact, flips were one of the first cocktails defined by Jerry Thomas’ A Bon Vivant’s Companion, the first bar guide published in 1862.

For this version, I used bourbon and Spirits of St. Louis’ Vermont Night, a whiskey-based spirit infused with winter spices, vanilla, citrus and maple syrup. This liqueur adds sweetness and spice, but if you don’t have a bottle handy, feel free to swap in whatever is available at your home bar. Flips required very fresh eggs for the richest, creamiest texture. If you’re worried about contamination, you can substitute in-shell pasteurized eggs with minimal loss of texture.

 

Holiday Flip
1 serving

1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup water
1.5 oz. Knob Creek or other quality bourbon
1 oz. Vermont Night liqueur
1 oz. half and half
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 whole egg
Cinnamon or fresh grated nutmeg, for garnish

• In a small saucepot, bring the brown sugar and water to a simmer over medium-high until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
• Stack 1 ounce of the brown sugar syrup, bourbon, Vermont Night, half and half, vanilla extract and egg in a cocktail shaker and shake dry (without ice) 20 seconds to mix the egg and create a small froth. Add ice and shake wet 20 to 30 seconds to chill and add more froth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a martini glass, Old-Fashioned glass or goblet. Garnish with a pinch of cinnamon or grated nutmeg.

 

Justin Cardwell is a member of USBG St. Louis and general manager at BC’s Kitchen.

Drink This Weekend Edition: The Nightmare Before Christmas at iTap

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

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Head to Soulard and explore the big, scary side of beer at iTap’s Nightmare Before Christmas, one of its biggest parties of the year this Saturday, Dec. 20. The fourth annual event is a chance to try some high alcohol, highly sought-after brews brought up from iTap’s cellar beginning at 11 a.m.

This year’s lineup has something for everyone, whether you’re into local offerings or a beer nerd who lines up hours in advance for hard-to-find brews. Half-pours will be available to try some these sought-after beers. A full list of everything on draft can be found here. My two picks:

2nd Shift LSD with Blueprint Coffee is one of the best Imperial stouts brewed with coffee. Thick, rich and delicious, the big coffee notes are a perfect way to start your day at this event.

For something big but not black, try Firestone Walker Sucaba. With notes of caramel, toffee, butterscotch and brown sugar, this barleywine warms your belly and stands out among the stout offerings.

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: ’Tis the season for rich reds and bubbly whites

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

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The holidays are fast approaching, which means two things: roasted roots and meats to eat and lots of celebratory gatherings. Of course, you’ll need a bottle for each.

For holiday meals, try R. López de Heredia Bosconia Rioja Reserva. This complex, satisfying wine is a blend of four grapes: Tempranillo and Garnacha with a bit of graciano and Mazuelo. The Bosconia can stand up rich winter dishes with flavors of wild berries and cranberries, a hint of harissa that reminds the drinker of a fire in the hearth. It’s brilliant on the palate with minerals and red fruits, has little tannin, and finishes with just a hint of saline. Pick up one bottle for dinner and another to gift; The Wine Merchant in Clayton has a particularly ripe 2003 in stock.

Of course for a holiday celebration, you can’t go wrong with Champagne. In the last few years, there has been a bubbly revolution in the U.S. regarding what we Champagne we can import, moving from big brands to artisanal grower Champagnes. Grower Champagnes, produced by the same people who grew the grapes, can be identified by a small “RM” (Récoltant-Manipulant) on the label as opposed to a “NM” (Negociant-Manipulant), which identifies a large production house that sources its grapes from across the Champagne region of France.

Pierre Peters Cuvee De Reserve Blanc De Blancs is a fantastic example of what a grower Champagne can be. Crisp, rich and brilliant, this wine pairs with any food and creates a festive atmosphere as soon as you pop cork. If you bring it to a party, be sure to pour your glass right after the host’s – you may not get any otherwise! You can find this bottle at The Wine and Cheese Place and Parker’s Table.

 

Ben Wood holds more than 10 years experience in the wine industry. He currently works as a sales representative for St. Louis-based wine importer Terra Firma.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Dandelion cocktails at Water Street

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

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{From left, Water Street’s Bobby Burns, The Lion Who Came to Tea and a Dandy Lion}

 

“All the railroad men just drink up your blood like wine,” Bob Dylan croons over the speakers at Water Street in Maplewood. Here, Dylan recycles an old folk apercu, a surprisingly good fit for Gabe Kveton’s petite eatery in a still gritty industrial part of this burgeoning community, where railways crisscross the landscape like scars and the storefronts are a dim-lit miscellany of contracting firms, car rental lots and dining establishments.

While the warm environs of Water Street are an antidote to all that cold and dark outside, up the ante further with one of the bar’s craft cocktails made with Lion’s Tooth, the small-batch dandelion liqueur ginned up by Kveton, his sister and executive chef Maria Kveton and friend Bethany Holohan. Now that the first bottles perch on a shelf above the bar, Kveton said he plans to add Lion’s Tooth cocktails to the menu next week – though if you pay the bar a visit this weekend, he’ll shake up one by request.

“I haven’t seen a liqueur like this before with the dandelion flavor,” Kveton said. “The brandy base brings a little bit of sweetness to the dandelion root. Brings a bit of earthiness.”

While I had a nip of the liqueur neat, bartenders Christy Lucido and Brett Bell mixed up a pair of Lion’s Tooth cocktails (the recipes for which are available here) for me, explaining some of the lore as they went.

The recipe is a fairly simple infusion of dandelion roots with Crown Valley brandy. By itself, Lion’s Tooth smells almost like – there’s no other way to say it – a Band-Aid, that kind of invasively floral aroma you smell when rubbing out dandelions on your hand. This shouldn’t deter you, though. After all, the best Gruyere still smells like mold and kimchee like, well, nothing pleasant.

What matters is that first taste: the sweet fruitiness from the brandy, the delicious herbal notes and that strong rush of alcohol at the end to cleanse the palate. This is a versatile liqueur that destabilizes, then reunifies whatever it’s mixed with.

The Lion Who Came to Tea combines Jeremiah Weed sweet tea, Lion’s Tooth and a brace of lemon wheels for garnish – think a boozier, more botanical Arnold Palmer. The inevitably named Dandy Lion is a tart concoction of vodka, Lion’s Tooth, lemon juice and simple syrup upon, which floats a tiny skiff of a mint leaf. Like Dylan and his folk repertoire, Water Street’s cocktail program riffs courageously on old standards like sours, sangria, Collins and more.

Of course, there’s plenty else to explore on the rest of the cocktail menu, including the vintage cocktail of the week – which is currently a Bobby Burns, a smokier Manhattan that opts for scotch instead of rye, and a splash of Benedictine. Shelter from the storm? Yes, you’ll find it here.

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: I Don’t Want No Shrubs

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

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One of the most exciting things about creating cocktails is rediscovering old techniques and ingredients. Shrubs have been around since the Colonial period and were enjoyed by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Martha Washington.

Consisting of vinegar, sugar and fruit, shrubs were originally used to preserve and incorporate fresh ingredients in the days before refrigeration. Now they add excellent flavor and dimension to cocktails. I Don’t Want No Shrubs combines a homemade apple shrub with rye whiskey, Benedictine and Velvet Falernum to create a sweet-yet-tangy, boozy, smooth drink that’s perfect to warm you on a chilly day – and it makes dealing with your crazy uncle just a little bit easier during the holidays.

 
I Don’t Want No Shrubs
1 serving

2 oz. Rittenhouse rye whiskey
½ oz. Benedictine
½ oz. Velvet Falernum
½ oz. apple shrub (recipe follows)
2 dashes Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters
Orange twist to garnish

• Combine the whiskey, Benedictine, Velvet Falernum, apple shrub and bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until cold and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Apple Shrub

4 to 5 apples, cored and sliced
Sugar to coat
Apple cider vinegar

• Toss the apple slices in a bowl with enough sugar to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 day.
• Strain the sugar syrup into a measuring cup. Reserve the sweetened apples for another use or discard. Add an equal amount of apple cider vinegar to the sugar syrup, pour into a resealable jar and let sit 1 day. Apple shrub will keep up to 1 year.

 

Drew Lucido is a member of USBG St. Louis and bar manager at Juniper.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Mother’s Winter Grind

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

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St. Louis loves its craft breweries, but the state of Missouri has more to delicious brews to offer outside the county lines. Take, for instance, Mother’s Brewing Company in Springfield. Mother’s opened just four years ago inside an old bakery and has grown at a rapid pace ever since. Mother’s isn’t available in St. Louis city or county (yet!), but the 20-minute drive south on Interstate 55 is well worth the trip to find out what the rest of the state is talking about.

November brings one of Mother’s best-known seasonals. Winter Grind is a delicious coffee stout made with a cold brew-espresso blend from another Springfield anchor, Mudhouse Coffee. The result is a wintery treat to please lovers of both coffee and beer. Winter Grind pours jet black with a beautiful light brown head, and the aroma packs a big espresso punch with hints of malt and smoke. The first sip hits the palate with big black coffee notes, and if you dig deeper, you’ll detect cocoa and chocolate. The medium-bodied mouth feel means this beer is rich without cloying, and at 6 percent ABV, this is smooth and easy to drink.

Winter Grind is a perfect beer to sip as the temperatures drop, but St. Louis city and county residents will have to travel a bit to find it. It’s available bottled at most grocery stores in Arnold, Imperial and much of Jefferson County, and Weber’s Front Row in Arnold pours draft Winter Grind as long as the season allows. Until Mother’s expands its distribution, take the short drive and see what the (coffee) buzz is about.

 

Eric Hildebrandt is the moderator and ambassador for STL Hops. Find him on Twitter at @EricSTL6.

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