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Oct 09, 2015
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Posts Tagged ‘Drinking’

Drink This Weekend Edition: Something for the Fire

Friday, May 29th, 2015



Mezcal and sherry are as appropriate a pairing as Missouri float trips and inordinate quantities of alcohol. With that in mind, I present a fantastic campfire cocktail that can be prepared and enjoyed in a Solo cup. (Of course in less rustic circumstances, the drink can be made as shown.)

First, make a large batch before you leave for camp minus the lime juice. Citrus will lose its bite over time, so if it will be more than a few hours before the festivities begin, I’d leave it out of the batch and squeeze some limes as your friends start the campfire.

Once the drink is concocted, add the desired amount to your cup, throw in some crushed ice and use a locally foraged twig (now it’s a craft cocktail!) to agitate the drink. Hold the stick between your palms and move your hands back and forth as if you were a Scout starting a fire. This is essentially how you swizzle a drink. There is some science behind how long to swizzle, but in this situation just give it a good swig after a few seconds. If it is too boozy or sweet, swizzle more. If it tastes like the last watery sip of a nearly empty whiskey and soda, you’ve gone too far. Drink it quickly and try again.


Something for the Fire
1 serving

½ oz. lime juice
1½ oz. Pedro Ximénez sherry
2 oz. mezcal (I recommend El Buho and Del Maguey Mezcal Vida.)
3 dashes Angostura bitters

• In a serving glass, combine all the ingredients. Add crushed ice and swizzle about 15 seconds. Taste and swizzle a few seconds more if too sweet or boozy.

Matt Osmoe is a member of USBG St. Louis and a bar manager at Blood & Sand.

Drink This Weekend Edition: A cocktail crush at Sasha’s on Shaw

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Red or white? Neither. The newly introduced cocktail menu at Sasha’s on Shaw gives spirit lovers at least eight different ways to kick back at the wine bar. Developed by local barman Joel Clark, this selection of boozy elixirs keeps in the theme of the wine bar by utilizing grape-derived ingredients including sherry, pisco and even a vodka distilled from the fruit of the vine.




Clark described the Reverse Absinthe Old-Fashioned as an “absinthe slap in the face,” and he wasn’t lying. But the licorice flavor pairs well with the Camus Cognac and Angostura bitters and finishes mildly sweet thanks to dissolved sugar cubes. It’s a very accessible slap in the face, so turn the other cheek and take another sip.




For a more whimsical drink, try the Night Flight to Peru, a pisco-based cocktail that is a little sweet and a little tart when combined with Luxardo Maraschino, lemon juice and violet liqueur.




If you’re a whiskey fan like me, sip on the Fleur de Rieger, a floral and savory whiskey concoction that marries J. Rieger Kansas City Whiskey, Pimm’s No. 1 and Crème Yvette.

Peruse all the new offerings on Sasha’s new interactive menus on iPad minis. Select your category – trust me, start with Spirits – select your drink, and save it to a short list and even email the recipe to yourself.



Drink This Weekend Edition: 3 grapes you’ve probably never heard of – and why you should try them

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015



I’m constantly looking for the most exciting wines available in St. Louis. Here, three obscure grapes you’ve probably never heard of but should definitely seek out. Try one – or all three – this weekend.

1. Picpoul: This grape is originally from the Languedoc area of southern France. “Picpoul” is an Occitan word meaning “mouth bitter” or “lip stinger” – how cool is that? This brilliant, clean wine tastes of citrus with perfect dryness and acidity. If you enjoy New Zealand sauvignon blanc, give this wonderful wine a try.
Buy this: Domaine La Croix Gratiot Picpoul de Pinet. Available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton, $10.

2. Bracetto: This wild grape, one of the rarest in Italy’s Piedmont region, is usually made into sweet wine. However, the dry version is quite amazing with brilliant raspberry tones and intense minerality. This versatile wine pairs with anything from dark chocolate to smoked fish or balsamic vinegar.
Buy this: Matteo Correggia Anthos Vino da Tavola. Available Parker’s Table, $20.

3. Nero di Troia: Italy’s Puglia region doesn’t produce a lot of wine, but the obscure varieties created from its Nero di Troia grape are fantastic, holding notes of olives and citrus fruit. This is a rich, wild red wine perfect with a grilled meats or brisket. My pick from the great Michele Biancardi is one of the best single-varietal Italian wines with flavors of wild fruit, complex oak notes and just a hint of pepper and straw.
Buy this: Anima di Nero. Available at The Wine Merchant in Clayton, $19.

Ben Wood has 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: Malt-tease-Fashioned

Thursday, March 26th, 2015



Combine your love for beer and the harder stuff by using homemade beer syrup in a cocktail recipe. Use a big-flavored, hoppy beer, such as an ESB or IPA, to maximize flavor. The syrup complements a galaxy of cocktails, like the Tom Collins, Sazerac, pisco sour and Old-Fashioned, including the reimagined one here.

Beer Syrup
6 ounces

12 oz. hoppy beer, such as an ESB or IPA
6 oz. sugar

• In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer the beer until reduced by half.
• Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Syrup will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 month.


1 serving

2 oz. Spirits of St. Louis Regatta Bay hopped gin
½ oz. beer syrup
4 dashes Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
2 grapefruit twists

• Combine the gin, beer syrup and bitters in a stirring glass with ice. Squeeze 1 grapefruit twist over the glass to release the oils, then drop it into the glass. Stir and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with the remaining grapefruit twist.


-photo by Carmen Troesser

Drink This Weekend Edition: Square One’s Social Devyat

Friday, March 13th, 2015



I was three sips in to my inaugural glass of Square One Brewery’s Social Devyat, a complex Russian Imperial stout, before the man who brewed it told me he was drinking it for the first time, too. I shot him an incredulous look.

“I’m surprised that there’s this interesting smokiness to it,” said Square One’s brewmaster John Witte, sounding like someone tasting someone else’s beer. The barrel had been tapped a mere 20 minutes before.

What made Witte’s revelation so startling was that Square One’s ninth anniversary party, which took place Feb. 25, was already well underway. The Devyat (Russian for “nine”) and a single keg of barrel-aged barley wine, held in reserve from last year’s shindig, were being poured and passed around the tables in the already full bar room. Now that’s confidence.

In our moment of high-concept beers (peanut butter-chocolate milk stout!), it seems risky to expend the malt and barrel space on high-gravity, unsessionable styles like barley wine and Imperial stouts. But wait until you take a sip. Aged in Square One’s J.J. Neukomm’s whiskey barrels, the Social Devyat begins with a rush of deep malt that gives way to the oakiness imparted by the cooperage. Stormy, even king-like in character, it’s not surprising this style is ascribed monarchical qualities – Russia’s Catherine the Great was such a fan she special ordered it from Britain throughout her reign.

“It’s like marrying a stout and a barley wine together,” he said. “You pick up flavors that have been impregnated into the wood.”

The more fruit-forward but slightly less distinctive barrel-aged barley wine is, at 11.2-percent ABV, the stronger beer. It’s also a collaboration between homebrewer Troy Woodburn and Witte, who called it a “pro-am beer.”

Well, perhaps I should say “was.” With such a strong turnout to raise a glass to another year of Square One’s fine brewing efforts, there isn’t likely to be much of the barley wine left. The Devyat, however, awaits you in all its fine Imperial glory. Na zdorovie.

Drink This Weekend Edition: 4 steps to ordering the perfect glass of wine

Friday, March 6th, 2015



Everyone should be able to peruse a restaurant wine list with confidence. Personally, I love when someone hands me a heavy leather-bound wine bible, but I realize that even a simple one-page list can be daunting for some. Here, how to order your perfect glass of wine in four simple steps:

Step 1: Order a glass of bubbly. Look for something from one of the traditional European sparkling wine regions: Spanish cava, Italian prosecco and French Champagne. The crisp, dry flavors in a sparkling wine whet your appetite, and bubbles always make the evening a celebration. Choosing one will be easy, as most wine lists only include one or two options. The budget-conscious can sip a cava or a fruity prosecco, while those looking to indulge can try a slightly more expensive glass of Champagne.

Step 2: Now that those bubbles have boosted your confidence a bit, turn your attention to the rest of the list and decide how much you are willing to spend on a glass (or bottle). Don’t be swayed by the first bottle of cabernet sauvignon you see; they can often be pricier, while more unfamiliar wines are often better values.

Step 3: Go outside your comfort zone. Order something outside of your usual repertoire. If you’re enjoying a steak, skip the cabernet or Bordeaux and instead try a red from South American or France’s Cahors region. The more obscure picks are often gems on wine lists, with a little more age and a much better quality for the price ratio.

Step 4: Still confused? Ask for help. Servers at quality establishments are trained to guide you toward a great wine pick. Ask for something special and out of the ordinary, then enjoy what comes.

Put your newfound skills to the test this weekend at Bar Italia in Central West End or Truffles in Ladue; both establishments have amazing by the glass and full wine lists – and attentive staff in case you get stuck. Choosing a wine should be fun; don’t let it stress you out.


Ben Wood has 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: Heavy Riff and Excel Brewing’s Two Frenchmen

Thursday, February 19th, 2015



Even a brew-savvy city like St. Louis can overlook a beer style every now and then. Heavy Riff Brewing Co. in Dogtown and Illinois-based Excel Brewing set out to change that with their bière de mars Two Frenchmen, debuting Saturday, Feb. 21 at 5 p.m.

Bière de mars, or “March beer,” is related to the more common saison and bière de garde. This classic French style is often floral, slightly fruity and was traditionally made in late winter or early spring for quick consumption. Two Frenchmen is brewed with orange peel and a touch of elderflower for added complexity. This amber beer is mildly malty with a slightly dry finish. The French farmhouse ale yeast strain gives the beer an added spicy character. The restrained hop character puts the focus on the fermentation characteristics and the subtle spice additions.

If you haven’t been to Heavy Riff lately, this is a perfect opportunity for a visit. The brewery, which celebrated its first anniversary last fall, now regularly has eight to 10 of its beers on tap. In addition to the bière de mars, Heavy Riff will also feature a cask of its new IPA Left Coast Envy and its Dark Days American rye stout. Excel is bringing its new double IPA, Plague Bringer.

If you miss the party, you’re in luck – Two Frenchmen will soon be on tap at better craft beer establishments around town.

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


Drink This Weekend Edition: Get schooled on sherry

Thursday, February 5th, 2015



Sherry is one of the greatest values in the wine world right now, but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding these fortified Spanish wines. Here, a crash course on three types of sherry – and why you should drink them:

1. Fino: These sherries are not oxidized, which makes them crisp, clean and beautiful. They are a perfect start to a meal with olives and charcuterie or even a more substantial fish course. A fino labeled “Manzanilla” means that sherry was created exclusively in the costal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

2. Oloroso: The aging process for this sherry allows for plenty of oxidation. This means they are rich, complex and often some of the oldest wines you can get for the money. Olorosos are aged in a solera system, a series of barrels that contain different ages of wine. The average oloroso solera is well over 30 years old. Some date back to the 1800s; this means that some portion of every bottle in that solera is that old. At least 17 percent ABV, oloroso is one of my favorite wines to enjoy with cheese plates loaded with strong varieties, honey, nuts and quince paste.

3. Pedro Ximénez: Got a sweet tooth? This classic dessert wine is the one sherry made with the Pedro Ximénez grape instead of the palamino. So dark they appear brown or almost black, these are amazingly sweet wines. My favorite way to enjoy PX is poured over vanilla ice cream (just like grandma used to!), but it’s quite good with honeyed desserts like baklava or halvah.

The Wine and Cheese Place in Creve Coeur and Starrs both have excellent sherry selections. Ready to try a bottle? Look for Valdespino Fino Inocente, an excellent start for sherry novices.

Prefer to shake that sherry instead? Try our recipe for a Tongue & Cheek cocktail featuring fino sherry and click here to learn more about this resurgent wine.


Ben Wood has 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: 2015 wine trends with Jon Dickinson at Parker’s Table

Thursday, January 8th, 2015


{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.


By the Book: Charles Phan’s Hot Buttered Rhum Cider

Saturday, December 27th, 2014



Flushed and teetering slightly, I executed my final By the Book dish of the year more liberally than others, multiplying the yield by many times, swapping some ingredients, fudging others. If the writer’s occupational hazard is drinking, I’ll ration the danger by making my poison in batch form, thank you very much. Heaven forbid I drink alone.

The opportunity came to me at Sauce’s holiday party this past weekend, where my potluck contribution was a steaming jug of Hot Buttered Rhum Cider. The recipe for the festive concoction came from Charles Phan’s The Slanted Door, the cookbook inspired by his eponymously named Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco which happened to win Outstanding Restaurant honors at the 2014 James Beards.

Phan – who claims no professional culinary training – styles himself a home cook, and his recipes show it. Each dish is engineered in a straightforward single page of instructions opposite stark, colorful photography. Think uncomplicated dishes like halved lobster tossed in melted herb butter, an easy Vietnamese fisherman’s stew and a stout lineup of simple cocktails.

Mulled cider makes an amiable base for this drink, which masks (and yet is enhanced by) the flavor of the dark rum. For additional texture and richness there’s the spiced compound butter, a degenerately sugary concoction that I stopped eating with a spoon only because our party guests began to arrive. Into the drink the rest of it went, forming a soupy froth on top. The final product needed a few minutes to steep and recalibrate itself to unify the flavor. When it did, I simply left it on low for the roaring duration of the party, guests ladling steaming cupfuls for themselves throughout.





The recipe outlines the proportion for making one serving, but it’s easily scaled up as needed. I again summoned my ancient Crock-Pot from a few months ago, using it first to mull the cider with spices, then to warm the finished batch of grog. Leave cider to mull for at least an hour in the slow cooker on high.




Let the butter rest at room temperature for a few minutes so it can soften enough to cream with a fork or spoon.





The finished batch totaled approximately three quarts, the mere dregs of which remained at party’s end. The recipe is quite customizable. Leave the mulling spices in or out, add more rum or butter as your palate desires. This is holiday time, people – you get to decide. Just make sure you don’t spill any on that nice sweater.


Hot Buttered Rhum Cider
Makes 1 cocktail

1½ oz. aged Haitian Rum, preferably Barbancourt 8 year
1 Tbsp. spiced compound butter (recipe follows)
6 oz. mulled apple cider (recipe follows)
Cinnamon stick
Star anise

• To prepare this drink put the alcohol, mulled cider and compound butter into a saucepan and heat until the butter has dissolved and the drink is steaming. Pour into a 10-ounce handled heat-proof mug. Garnish by floating a disc of orange peel studded with a clove, star anise and a cinnamon stick.

Mulled Cider
• We juice apples on a hydraulic press daily for this drink. Unless you have an apple press at home, you should find the best unfiltered apple juice available. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Philo Apple Farm Bates and Schmitt makes a good one. Add apple juice to a pot with the skin of an orange studded with the clove, cinnamon stick and star anise. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Spiced Compound Butter
• Soften and cream 8 ounces of unsalted butter with a paddle in a mixing bowl. Slowly add 2 ounces of brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and allspice, a pinch of ground ginger, cloves and kosher salt. Scrape the sides to ensure that all of the spices are blended. Roll the butter into a log and wrap it in wax paper. Refrigerate.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

What’s inside those glasses you clink with family, friends and loved ones during the holidays? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Slanted Door.


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