Used an Absinthe Spoon (97/366)

“Let me be mad… mad with the madness of Absinthe, the wildest, most luxurious madness in the world.”
Marie Corelli

A few weeks ago when I visited the St. George Distillery, I got to try their absinthe for the first time. It was lovely, but our bartender mentioned they don’t prepare absinthe the way that it used to be prepared traditionally, which was by dripping ice water onto a sugar cube through a special slotted absinthe spoon, into the drink. The sugar cube was used because the absinthes that people drank back then were extremely bitter, but the St. George Absinthe was not at all, and they wanted to make sure that the delicious, natural flavors in their absinthe weren’t masked by the addition of sugar. Fair enough – I thought it was very nice!

But a while ago, I had purchased some absinthe and a beautiful absinthe spoon for our friend Laurie, for her birthday. Since we’re hanging out this weekend, I thought it would be fun to finally use that spoon! Here are some more shots of it – really, isn’t it pretty?

Absinthe used to be very popular among artists like
Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, and many others – there is even a special “Toulouse-Lautrec” design spoon that is modeled after the one he fashioned for himself, and when Nick and I visited New York last year, we saw a sculpture that Picasso did of an absinthe glass, which was a ground-breaking mixed media piece, incorporating an actual absinthe spoon:

As noted above, the traditional method of preparing absinthe is done by dripping ice water onto the sugar cube on the slotted spoon, into the drink.
Pasted Graphic 93

The water is added little by little, until the drink becomes a bit cloudy, which lets you know that the essential oils from the herbs in it are emulsifying as the spirit is diluted (absinthe is usually around 60% alcohol, or 120 proof). Then, you sip!

This was fun. While the absinthe was a bit sweet for me, I could have added a little bit more water too – maybe that’s why people used to drink it with a sugar cube! So that adding the water could stretch it out further as well. Ha ha ha. This spoon really was beautiful, and though if I buy absinthe in the future it will probably be from St. George Spirits who are vehemently against preparing their absinthe in this method, I think it’s nice simply to at least have an absinthe spoon, even if only in homage to the fascinating culture that once drank it this way. Salud! Santé! Cheers!

Related Links:
Absinthe Spoon Set (3)


Tasted an Açaí Spirit (92/366)

“A better way to drink.”
~ Veev

The Girls and I had an awesome five days together in Los Cabos, but now it’s back to the Best City in the World! I mentioned in my first post of our vacation to Mexico that Maddie had scored some great seats on Virgin America, but I left out the part about the seats being “Main Cabin Select”. What that means, is that we got priority boarding, have a bit more legroom, and, the pièce de résistance … complimentary movies, TV, food, and drink! Maddie, seriously, you are my hero.

Here are some of the goodies I enjoyed on the flight out – and my personal screening of “Tower Heist” – a fun movie, by the way:

During our flight to Los Cabos, Maddie tried a specialty cocktail that had Margarita mix, ginger ale, and Veev Açaí Spirit, and she loved it. I was totally intrigued – I’d never tried an Açaí spirit before (Veev’s the first one). The
açaí fruit comes from a palm that is native to the Brazilian Rainforest and it’s known for not only being a “superfood” (it’s packed with anti-oxidants), but also for being very tasty. On our way back home tonight, I decided to try some Açaí Spirit.

Here were my rations for the flight home:

The Veev spirit was intriguing. It’s not only açaí liqueur, it’s also mixed with prickly pear and cherry. Also interesting is that the Veev company donates a part of the proceeds from sales of this spirit to Brazilian Rainforest Preservation.

I ordered my Veev with a club soda mixer and lime wedge. I tried the spirit neat (on its own) first, and then mixed with the water. On its own, it’s pretty sweet, but not syrupy, which I appreciated. In the mixer it was very refreshing. It’s got a nice, fresh fruit flavor. I also tried it in my sparkling wine, but I didn’t have much left so I don’t think I added enough for the flavor of the Veev to come through. I wanted to place another order and try the drink Maddie had, but it looks like Veev is pretty popular – they ran out during our flight! Overall I think it’s a great, unique spirit – I’m going to pick some up and try to recreate Maddie’s cocktail!

Related Links:

Ordered From a Swim Up-Bar (91/366)

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming … “
Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, from “Finding Nemo

Swim up bars are awesome. Seriously, how cool is it that someone came up with this idea? When it’s sweltering outside, and you just want to relax in the pool, but you’d also like to enjoy a frosty beverage, what do you do? You swim up to the swim up bar!

I think I’d seen one in person before, but I can’t remember where – but I had never had the fantastic experience of actually swimming up to, and ordering a drink from one of these wonderful, wonderful inventions. What kind of awesome resort did Maddie find for us – an infinity pool AND a swim up bar?! Maddie, you are my hero. No joke.

Today, Maddie and I visited the swim up bar for happy hour, and got some refreshments for ourselves, Kim, and Joanna. Here’s another shot of the bar, from where Maddie and I hopped into the pool:

Maddie and I waded on over, had a seat, and perused the menu. We chose the “Tropical Diamond” which was a frozen drink with mango puree, and a special drink we created for Maddie – kind of an adapted Mojito with pineapple juice instead of the muddled mint and simple syrup. Thanks, Kim for taking pictures of us sitting at the bar! Isn’t that awesome?! They have bar stools sculpted into the pool floor at the base of the bar so you can hang out, have a seat, and still be in the water! Outstanding! Punny exclamation totally intended!

After Maddie snapped the pic of me looking very accomplished, we waded back over to deliver the drinks to the shore. Yay for happy hour!

This swim up bar was so cool. I loved the set up and the look – the other half of the bar was above ground, directly behind this setup. This pool, even with the swim up bar, isn’t as popular as the
infinity pool (they have poolside service there, too), which means it’s nice if you want to escape the crowds, but for us, it did feel a little weird being almost the only ones there. It probably is pretty neat to see when both sides are all filled up (but that’s totally not our scene anyway). Really though, it was a super cool experience just being able to order a drink without even getting out of the water … or rather, getting into the water just to order a drink!

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Visited The The St. George Spirits/Hangar One Distillery (85/366)

“Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.”
Ogden Nash

Today Nick’s parents are in town and they decided it would be fun to head over to Alameda for a tasting at the St. George Spirits distillery, where they make (among other wonderful things) Hangar 1 vodka. I’m always game for a tasting, so I was super excited to go!

When you arrive at the distillery, your ID is checked, and you get a cool souvenir dog tag that lets the staff know you’re of drinking age, and it’s just a neat little touch. The tasting room area is under construction, but they’ve still kept it fun and cute. It’s decorated with cool old-time military touches, the check-in station is hilariously labeled, “Emotional Support Begins Here,” and seriously, who can beat that view of the San Francisco skyline:

You can see where the magic happens through large windows in the tasting room. Tastings are currently $15, and you get to taste about 10 different spirits. St. George stuff is high quality and not cheap, so the cost for the tasting really isn’t bad at all.

First, we tried their pear brandy, which was lovely. It had a very nice, true pear flavor, and it wasn’t as sweet as we thought it would be.

Next, we had their traditional “Botanivore” gin which was great, and then a special “Terroir” gin that had ingredients like Douglas Fir and California Bay Laurel and Coastal Sage, literally harvested from nearby Mt. Tamalpais; this was supposed to taste “like a hike” … and whew, it did. It was very green, which I picked up a bit more soapy flavor from than I’d have liked to – almost like an industrial cleaner – I think if it were in a mixed drink (our bartender said it’s great in a dirty martini) the flavors would be complimented better though. Then we had their “Dry Rye” gin, which we thought was great. It had notes of caraway and pepper which gave it a nice warmth and fantastic character.

After the gins, we moved on to their Hangar 1 “Straight” and it’s pretty freaking magical. Our bartender explained that they blend a Viognier eau de vie with spirit made from midwestern wheat, and that marriage produces their balanced, fruity, buttery, “straight” vodka. In a word, it was glorious. I love that stuff. I didn’t even realize vodka (or any spirit for that matter) could be so unbelievably smooth. Just magical. I love it so much I DIDN’T even buy it. Because I don’t want it to have to share the liquor shelf with the other crap vodkas I have on it. I’m waiting until those are used up so that I can buy a beautiful bottle of Hangar 1 Straight and I will proudly display that bad boy on my bar. And no one can drink it but me. Ha ha ha! Kidding … kinda …

Then we had their “Spiced Pear” vodka, which was delicious as well. Hangar 1 does a lot of seasonal vodkas – Nick’s parents said their raspberry one is great – it wasn’t a part of the tasting (I think they save it for the summer), but it is available in stores. They’ve done an excellent job of keeping that true pear flavor in their offerings, and this was another nice example. We were actually pretty lucky to be able to taste this because they actually only make it once a year and in small batches.

Next, we shifted gears a bit and tried their “Breaking & Entering” Bourbon Whiskey. It’s named that because they didn’t actually distill the spirit in-house (or else it wouldn’t be bourbon anyway), but used a hundred or so “lifted” barrels of bourbon from a collaborating distillery in Kentucky, then made their own special “California” blend with them. I like bourbon, and this one was good. I appreciated how they were coordinating the tasting to showcase the different bodies and styles of spirits we were moving from and to. We went from that nice, fresh, green pear flavor, to the herbal gins, then had the wonderfully smooth, “Straight” palate-cleanser, and then into some warmer tones like this bourbon.

Next, we tried their “Firelit”coffee liqueur, made with brandy and the Bay Area’s own
Blue Bottle coffee. It was fantastic. It had a nice kind of burnt character in it that enhanced the notes of the coffee. It wasn’t syrupy thick and sweet like most coffee liqueurs, and it had a really nice coffee flavor. This was another one I’d like to have on my shelf.

After the coffee liqueur, we had some sweeter stuff – their “Qi”, an interesting white tea and citrus liqueur, which had a nice floral note to it from the tea, and a delicate, fresh orange essence. Then we had their Pear Liqueur – looks just like the brandy we started with, doesn’t it? But it’s not – it’s a liqueur! This was a bit darker and had a more concentrated flavor and sweetness than the brandy. I should have asked to taste them both side by side just to get the more subtle differences – that pear brandy seemed so long ago!

The last thing we tasted was their absinthe, which was also very nice. As they say on their
website, “STEP AWAY FROM THE MATCHES AND PUT DOWN THAT SUGAR CUBE.” Absinthe used to be prepared by pouring water into the absinthe over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon, because original absinthes were remarkably bitter. Apparently in some bars and movies, pouring the absinthe over the sugar cube and then lighting the sugar cube on fire (absinthe has an over 50% alcohol content) for a show is sometimes done. They do neither of these things here – just an ice cube is added, and as the ice melts, the “louche” forms – this happens when the essential oils in the absinthe separate and emulsify as water dilutes the spirit. A beautiful milky quality emerges, and that’s when you know the absinthe is ready to drink. After we had a few sips, the bartender added some organic root beer to our glasses so that we could enjoy the melding and mixture of the herbal qualities in the absinthe and the root beer together.

This was a fantastic tasting, through and through. I only wish we had planned better and could have gotten here in time for the tour which, on Sundays, is only offered at 1pm. The tour is free, and they make sure to have space in the tasting room if you want to taste afterwards, so that’s really cool. I’ll definitely be back for a tour soon to be able to see more of the distillery, and I’ll be looking forward to the other treats they’ll be showcasing in the tasting room!

Related Links:

Made An "Irish Blacksmith" (77/366)

“Between you and me, a few pints of Guinness and I can go even faster, you know,”
Michael Flatley, “Lord of the Dance

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Well, the corned beef I brined is cooking away in the crock pots, and it smells heavenly in the house. The only thing that even comes close to some delicious corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day is a nice pint of Guinness. Today, I wanted to make a drink with Guinness (last year, Nick made me a “Shakin’ Jesse”), so I thought of a “Black & Tan”, but realized that’s not an Irish concoction, but a British one. In Ireland, they combine Smithwick’s Dark Ale and Guinness to produce an “Irish Blacksmith” – sounded delicious, so I made one tonight.

You start with half a pint glass of the Smithwick’s, then slowly pour the Guinness in, over a spoon (I used a rice paddle) to layer. Since the Smithwick’s is a dark ale, the result is darker than a “Black & Tan” so it might be hard to see the color difference there – it’s pretty subtle – but the taste is rich and delicious.

In doing the research for drinks with Guinness, I found that there’s also a “Black & Blue” which is Guinness with Pabst Blue Ribbon. I thought the combination (basically for the sake of the name) was pretty funny, and the Pabst reminds me of our friend Christy, so I had to make this one for her, too. It’s made the same way, just starting with the Pabst. This one of course shows the layers better:

I also had a third themed beverage that I’d never had before – Irish Pear Cider. The neat and different thing about this one is that it’s not an apple cider flavored with pear (which is more common), this cider is made completely with pears. Really cool. And it was delicious. Crisp and refreshing – and it came in a green bottle. How perfect could it get?

All of these drinks were very tasty, and perfect pours for St. Patrick’s Day – speaking of which, I’ll end this post with an Irish toast:
“May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint!”


Related Links:
Smithwicks Irish Ale 6pk Btls
Guinness Draught 4pk Cans
Pabst Blue Ribbon 12pk Cans (USA)

Tried A Bacon Brown Ale (75/366)

“Uncommon beer for uncommon people”
Uncommon Brewers, Santa Cruz, CA

If you know me, you know I’m a fan of interesting flavors. A few new ones I’ve experienced this year:
Jan. 11 ~
Tried a Kumquat (Delicious!)
Jan. 12 ~
Attended a Scotch Tasting (Awesome.)
Jan. 15 ~
Tasted a Bacon Chocolate Bar (Pretty good! Could stand more bacon.)
Jan. 21 ~
Had Star Wars “Dark Side Roast” Coffee (Thanks, Ryan!)
Jan. 26 ~
Eaten Bibimbap (Mmm Bap)
Feb. 13 ~
Tasted a Thai Coconut Curry Chocolate Bar (Surprisingly yummy!)
Feb. 17 ~
Tried Iskiate, the Tarahumara Superfood Drink (A new staple!)
Feb. 24 ~
Tasted All the Flavors of San Francisco’s Iconic It’s-It (How could you go wrong?)
Feb. 28 ~
Tried Pei Dan (Chinese “Thousand-Year Egg) (An egg by any other name … is still an egg.)
Mar. 2 ~
Tasted Chili Pepper Ale (YUM. YES. YUM.)

When I saw this Bacon Ale at the Ferry Building while Eyebombing on Saturday, I was so excited. Bacon and beer. Two of my favorite things. Excellent.

The can had a funny design – a wild boar looking pretty happy – and I was pleased to notice that this brew was also organic.  Nice!  It has a beautiful color – rich and dark:

The verdict?  Definitely a delicious brew. Like I said, beautiful color and body; there’s also a pleasant, light sweetness in the nose and on the palate. But … I couldn’t taste the bacon! I wish the beer were smokier – I really dig smoky beers and actually  remember having a very nice, smoky beer at Strong Beer one year that I specifically picked up a bacon essence in, and that one wasn’t even described as “bacony”.  While I really did enjoy this beer, I also really did miss the bacon flavor.  I’ll have to try it again another time to see if maybe I just missed it in this batch, or maybe my taste buds weren’t working properly. In any case, I’d still say if you get a chance, pick this one up and taste for yourself.  Cheers!

Related Links:

Tasted Chili Pepper Ale (62/366)

“A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.”
~ Czech Proverb

Browsing on the other day, I found California Brewery Six RiversChili Pepper Ale. I’m always looking for interesting or new flavors and this one totally caught my eye. Nick made me pepper-infused vodka last year to make my Bloody Marys with, and I really do love anything spicy, so I had to try this brew. Tonight, a bunch of friends came over for our friend Laurie’s birthday, and after a short chill, Laurie and I cracked this one open.

Six Rivers has a cool logo on their bottle caps, and the label was pretty interesting – I noticed that this ale won the silver medal in the Fruits & Vegetables beer category at the Great American Beer Festival, too:

After pouring, we noticed the distinct aroma of jalapeños in the beer. I was a little worried that it would have an artificial, kind of “imitation jalapeño” type flavor. The beer didn’t have time to chill too much, so that may have been why the smell was so strong – it wasn’t a bad thing, I just felt that “Chili Beer” might a pretty easy thing to mess up. We took a sip … and it was GOOD.

Clean, fresh flavor, no fakey jalapeño extract taste; and then came the heat. It was fantastic! A nice, true pepper heat that filled the whole mouth and delivered that “kick” they talk about on the label – not for you if you don’t like spicy stuff – they didn’t wimp out on that heat, which was really great. This would be fantastic in a Bloody Beer, which is another favorite of mine … but I couldn’t bear to mix this wonderful find, tasting it for the first time. We savored the rest, sharing *tiny* sips with our friends. I will definitely be stocking up on more of this. Cheers!

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